The Characteristics of a Great Teacher

56300162_2361454753885160_5384407100912828416_o

What is a great teacher? What makes a teacher great? What is typical of a great teacher? If there was a secret ingredient to being great, it would be great to know about it. Yet if we knew, and we would try and follow it like textbooks, life would be boring, both in the classroom as well as on the street. Perfectionism would bring out the worst from those who strive for it and those who rebel against it. Life as a teacher would be portrayed as inflexible, intolerant and inhumane.

What is a great teacher? Can we follow the footsteps of those who had once ruled the hallways and classrooms of our school? Or read about their lives as we stumble across them on the sidewalks through monuments and Stolpersteine? Or reminisce about the teachers of our time growing up, over a beer or wine at a class reunion? Some say that our teachers set great examples and play a role in our development, but only a few remain close friends for life.

What makes a teacher great? It’s about what you learned from the teachers you had in school; from those who were close and helped you succeed. It’s about learning from your own personal experiences, remembering the stories told to you while growing up, embracing in your own faith, and developing your passion for the job. Molding it together and being prepared to share them with others.

What is typical of a great teacher? It can be best described as follows:

A great teacher enters the classroom like it’s a concert at Carnegie Hall……

……..and comes away with a standing ovation at the end of class.

A great teacher shows competence in his subject and confidence in his class….

…..and never falters to those who think they are better than he.

A great teacher is communicative, humorous and open-minded….

…..and the same goes to the students if it applied correctly in class.

A great teacher always listens to the needs of others……

…..and finds ways to cater to them.

A great teacher devotes his time and effort in his subject with a passion…..

…..so that the students can do the same when learning it.

A great teacher teaches the students what is good and what is bad in life…..

……and follows these examples, both on and off campus.

A great teacher is a great storyteller……

…..and uses it to teach the students the morals in life.

A great teacher always embraces in new things for the classroom……..

……and is never afraid to part ways with the old.

A great teacher is flexible and spontaneous……..

……and never follows the rules like a textbook.

A great teacher never holds back on his opinions and truths…..

……and is not afraid of the opinions and truths from his students.

A great teacher is always creative and tries new experiement….

…..as long as he and his students profit from them.

A great teacher always makes mistakes in class……

…..and should not be afraid to admit being human.

A great teacher is also a great mentor….

….being the guiding light for those who need it.

A great teacher is always there if the student needs help……

…..whether it’s big or small, in school or outside,

….a  great teacher will always be your friend for life.

And when you have a chance to meet your great teacher- your mentor, friend and all- many years down the road, always remember what he taught you and why he got you to where you are today. After all, what he passed down to you, it’s your job to pass it down to your children of the next generation.

That is what defines a teacher a great teacher. 🙂

 

Author’s note: I had some great teachers growing up in Minnesota, but this one goes out to one who was an elementary school teacher and close friend of the family. I had her for the last two years before entering middle school and we became great friends afterwards. Many people knew her for the characteristics that I’ve pointed out here and it was through these key points where people like me took them and made use of them, both as teachers as well as parents and beyond. In her memory, this one’s for you with many thousands of thanks! 🙂 ❤ 

 

cropped-FF-new-logo1.jpg

Advertisements

Speed Limits in Germany: Should they be enforced nationally?

IMGP9323
Entering the Autobahn in Hamburg. Photo taken in March 2017

It is one of the main anchors of German culture. It is a place where you must try when visiting Germany. It is also one where if you don’t know how to take care of yourself, you could end up endangering yourself and others too. It’s the German Autobahn. Introduced over a century ago and expanded during the 1930s, the Autobahn became the quickest way to get from point A to point B. It also became the shortest way to get to your destination. With its famed unlimited speed limits, as seen on the signs, you can get from Munich to Berlin in five hours without any traffic jams; seven when going from Cologne to Dresden. In some cases, travelling by the Autobahn is faster than traveling by train, especially when the Deutsche Bahn (DB) has to handle delays and cancellations on a daily basis. 70% of all Autobahns in Germany do not have a speed limit, whereas speed limits are enforced in blackspots, construction areas and in big cities, and they limit based on the density of traffic on the highways.

Sadly though, it is one of the deadliest places to drive because of reckless driving, disobeying traffic regulations, disregarding other road-users and sometimes, poor conditions on the pavement themselves. In comparison to other European countries, the German Autobahn has the highest fatality rate of all the member states, plus Great Britain. The rate of deaths on the Autobahn per 1000 kilometers is 30.2%, according to data provided by the European Union. The European average is 26.4%. Per billion kilometers, the fatality rate in Germany is 1.6 is double that of Great Britain’s. Comparing that with the US, the fatality rate per mile is still less but the rate may become on par with the Americans in a few years. On 25 of the most dangerous interstate and federal highways in the States, the average death rate is 0.62 per mile. Along the six deadliest, the rate per mile is 0.9!  Given the increase in cars on German Autobahns, combined with distracted driving and even reckless driving, the statistics are sobering.

 

1024px-World_Speed_Limits_svg

Attempts were made in January 2019 to introduce a “blanket-style” speed limit on all German Autobahn to ensure that people obey the speed limits. The reason for the proposed enforcement is to ensure that drivers stay within the limit and not race with speeds of up to 250 km/h (in the US: 155 mph.  While this proposal was dead on arrival in the German parliament, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be resurrected at a later time. There are several arguments for and against a nationwide speed limit:

Proponents for the Speed Limit Opponents of the Speed Limit
Other countries in Europe have them: Poland has the 140 km/h limit (85 mph). The Czech Republic, France, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, and Austria, have the 130 km/h (80 mph) limit (which had been proposed by the German government) Belgium and Switzerland have a 120 km/h (75 mph) limit.

 

A map of the countries with the speed limits can be found above.

The enforcement of the speed limit would increase the cost for mobility in Germany, especially with the subsidies involving e-cars, tax hikes for gas, introducing incentives to replace old diesel cars with newer ones conforming to standards and enforcing a ban on diesel cars in big cities.
“Reducing speed limits would bring down the number of fatalities, which is one in four-“  an argument presented by Michael Mertens, Chair of the German Police Officers Union in an interview with the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Money should be spent on expanding public transportation services, such as trains and busses, as well as bike trails for they provide healthier choices.
He adds further: “By even reducing the speed limit to 130, it would help prevent serious accidents and tailbacks (traffic jams)” To add to his argument: A report showed that 2018 was the worst year regarding traffic jams as over 745,000 were reported, an average of 2000 per day. This was a 3% increase since 2017. The Autobahn is a tourist trap and visitors to Germany would like to experience driving the Autobahn and stop at well-known rest areas and eateries along the way.
Speed limits would reduce carbon dioxide emmissions- in 2017 alone, 115 million tons of CO2 released in the atmosphere in Germany came from cars. The rate has increased steadily since 1990. Reducing the speed on the Autobahn would hurt car sales, especially with the likes of BMW, Audi, Porsche, Volkswagen, etc.

 

A report on mobility was expected to be released at the end of March, outlining the details on how Germany can reduce carbon dioxide emissions without being penalized millions of Euros by the authorities in Brussels. Already the government has come under fire for admitting that its goal of reducing emissions by 8% by 2020 would not be reached due to several factors, including weening itself off of coal by 2038, lacking support for European measures to tackle climate change and the like. Yet the report is expected to include the enforcement of speed limits on Germany’s Autobahn system. While a general speed limit already in place on most streets and two-lane roads, the question is why not introduce it onto German highways, just like in every other state?

This is where the question between culture and conformity come to mind- Are we ready to rein in speeding at the cost of tradition or do we have bigger environmental issues to tackle and speeding “…defies all common sense,” as mentioned by German Transportation Minister, Andreas Scheuer?

 

 

Questionnaire: Should Germany enfore its speed limit on its Autobahn system? If so, what speed is acceptable?

Feel free to vote and also write your thoughts in the comment section. Click on the highlighted links to read more about the speedlimits. 

=”text/javascript” charset=”utf-8″

 

fast fact logo 16131_tempolimit_130_km_h_zulässige_höchstgeschwindigkeit:

  1. According to German Traffic Laws, drivers are allowed to speed up to 100 km/h on all roads and 130 km/h on expressways and designated stretches of the German Autobahn. When in town, the speed limit is 50 km/h unless posted. Some speed limits allow for 60 km/h.

60 kph

2. Beware of the magic number! The 60 km/h limit is the most commonly used speed limit in Germany, used on many different occasions. One will find it inside the city,  on speed limit signs designated for trucks (although the maximum speed is 80), and in construction zones- even on Autobahns.  The second most common speed sign is the 70 limit, which is found in cities but is required at all highways intersections.

3.  Blackspots are defined as areas that are most proned to accidents. They can be found construction sites as well as areas along the highway- curves, intersections, built-up areas in the city and other dangerous spots where accidents  most often occur.

 

flefi-deutschland-logo

 

Photo Flick 12

56949326_2370623509634951_8111033012507901952_o

This rather interesting black and white photo was taken at night right in the middle of Dresden’s Neustadt, with lights illuminating the birch trees lined up on both sides of the bike and pedestrian route which cuts the city center into half.  What can you make out of this story? Good luck with that! 😀

 

ff-new-logo1

The Use of Time Markers Part IV: Reviewing the Difference Between Present Simple and Past Simple

The Wacken Black Stage during the Kreator performance at Wacken Open Air 2014; Photo taken by H3rrMann3lig-GER; wikiCommons

The next comparison we have is the difference between Present Simple and Past Simple. Here one needs not much for explanation for the difference is sometimes too easy to see. Present Simple deals with three key aspects: statement, routine and fixed scheduling. An example for each one can be seen below:

There are many people at the rock concert.

The Wacken Rock Festival takes place every summer in July.

Thousands of rock fans travel there every year to cheer their favorite band on.

Werner the motorcyclist goes there with his friends.

 

To help with the difference, one should keep in mind of the time markers that are used, which is below:

Time Marker Present Simple

always, mostly, mainly, often, never, sometime, occasionally, (un-)usually, normally, traditionally, frequently, seldom, rarely, hardly (ever), certain days, weeks, months and years, each/every (day, week, month, year,….), daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, annually, bi-annually, regularly, and the numerical frequency (once, twice, three times, etc.)

 

For past simple the purpose of that is describing the event that is finished. One however needs to pay attention to the fact that present perfect can be used as well. The difference between the two, as described in this post (here) is that past simple is used solely for confirmed and/or exact time; present perfect is only for an undescribed time.

 

Difference between past simple and present perfect:

Active:

20,000 fans have attended the rock concert. – present perfect

20,000 fans attended the rock concert last night. – past simple

 

Passive:

Tickets for the 2019 Wacken Festival have been sold out–  Present Perfect

Tickets for the 2019 Wacken Festival were sold out three months ago.- Past Simple

 

Past simple verbs can be divided up into regular and irregular verbs, which also applies for the present perfect verb tenses. A link to the list of irregular verb tenses can be found here. A guide on pronouncing regular verb tenses, known as Ted is Ded, can be found here. It is very important when learning the English language is to know the difference and to conjugate the irregular verb tenses for they have no clear rule in terms of endings in English.

 

Time Marker Past Simple

ago, last (night, week, month, year, decade, century & millenium), yesterday, at, in, on, for, during, suddenly, (un-)expectedly, from (a) to (b), in the course of (…), when (used as a subordinate clause), sequential order (first, second, lastly, finally, etc.- also after), other adverbial phrases (surprisingly, quickly, slowly, etc.)

 

Sadly though, many students mix up the verb tenses for many reasons. One of the main reasons is the inability to make the distinction between regular and irregular verb tenses and as a result, the inability to conjugate the verbs in English. Another is not paying attention to the verb form, especially with regards to the third person singular, which requires the “S”, if and only if the verb is present.  But there are other reasons as well and therefore, some exercises are here to help you.

So let’s start and we’ll focus on rock music in Germany!  🙂

 

Exercise A.

The following statements, dealing with the Wacken Open-Air Rock Festival, has a verb tense in brackets. Look at each one (and the time markers) and put in the correct verb tense (present or past).

  1. The first Wacken Rock Festival __________ in 1990. (start) 800 people __________ the event. (attend)
  2. The festival _________ the largest ever in the world. (to be) Tens of thousands __________ the 4-day event every year, which _____________ at the end of July. (attend; take place)
  3. 86,000 people ___________the Wacken Open-Air Festival in 2011. (visit)
  4. The festival traditionally _________ on the first Sunday in August. (end) Tickets _______ on sale for next year’s event the next day and _________ booked out within 24 hours (go; to be)
  5. 197 bands _________ at Wacken in 2018. (play)
  6. People usually _________ black clothing as their first choice at the Wacken Rock Festival. (wear)
  7. It _________ matter who is on stage. (do not) People just __________ fun every time a rock band is on stage. (have)
  8. A home for the elderly of Itzehoe frequently _______ field trips to the festival, to celebrate their over-70 parties. (take) Hosts _________them free passes. (grant)
  9. People _________ watch the rock concert with virtual reality for the first time in 2016. (can) In 2017, the public channels __________ the the concerts available for the first time in the mediathek. (make)
  10. After Lenny Kilmister of the rock music band Motorhead ________in December 2015, the Wacken Open Air Festival _________ a tribute to him during their 2016 concert. (die; pay) The tribute _________ 24 minutes. (last)

 

Exercise B: 

Determine whether these statements, all dealing with the Rock am Ring and Rock im Park Festivals are true or false, in terms of verb use. If false, please correct them.

  1. The Rock am Ring (“Rock at the Ring”) and Rock im Park (“Rock in the Park”) festivals were two simultaneous rock music festivals held annually.
  2. Rock am Ring started in 1985 and it later became an annual event.
  3. The festival go on hiatus for two years after fewer people show up in 1988.
  4. In 1993, Rock im Park take place for the first time in Vienna.
  5. Munich hosted the festival for three years until 1996.
  6. Between 145,000 and 155,000 fans attend the two festivals every year.
  7. Each year, the Nürburgring and the Zeppelinfeld in Nuremberg held the duo-concert.
  8. Over 200 bands stepped on stage for one of the two concerts between 1985 and 2018.

 

Exercise C.

Use the following time markers and construct a sentence, using the correct verb tense.

  1. often: ________________________________________________________________________
  2. yesterday: ____________________________________________________________________
  3. Monday: _____________________________________________________________________
  4. rarely: ________________________________________________________________________
  5. last year: ______________________________________________________________________
  6. never: ________________________________________________________________________
  7. three months ago: ______________________________________________________________
  8. normally: _____________________________________________________________________
  9. every day: _____________________________________________________________________
  10. each week: ___________________________________________________________________
  11. in 1990: ______________________________________________________________________
  12. suddenly: _____________________________________________________________________
  13. During the holiday season: _______________________________________________________
  14. a week ago: ___________________________________________________________________
  15. once a week: __________________________________________________________________

 

Any questions?  If not, we will look at the progressive forms of the two and compare them to simple tenses. In the meantime, rock on!  🙂

 

flefi-deutschland-logo

Christmas Market Tour 2018: Plauen (Vogtland)

Our last stop on the 2018 Christmas market tour keeps us in the state of Saxony but takes us way out west, to the wildest of west, namely the Vogtland. The reason we say this is for three reasons: 1. The Vogtland region is laden with rich forests, a large number of reservoirs and lakes and hills. For some of the rivers in the region, such as the White Elster, Zwickau Mulde, Eger and other notable creeks, the region is their starting point. 2. The region is rustic with wooden houses along the countryside, buildings with wooden facades, etc. Despite it being a part of East Germany with its communist housing, the region has a lot of attractions, competing with the likes of the Fichtel Mountains in Franconia (Bavaria), Thuringian Forest and even the Ore Mountains (Czech and German sides). 3. As far as activities are concerned, the Vogtland is filled with outdoor activities year round, including skiing, horseback riding, biking and hiking, just to name a few. And lastly, the Vogtland is the archrival to the Ore Mountain regions in terms of woodcrafting. Especially with regards to Christmas arches (Schwibbogen), pyramids, and other figurines typical of Christmas, the Vogtlanders pride themselves on their work and there has been a debate as to which regions these products were made, let alone their origins.

But that is for another time.

47380584_2221794007851958_4025422342573260800_o

The largest city in the Vogtland is our focus of the Christmas market and is one that has a tradition and a history. Plauen has a population of 65,400 inhabitants and is the second closest city in Saxony to the Czech border behind Oberwiesenthal. At one time, the population had been hovering over 120,000 inhabitants before the two World Wars decimated much of it. Since 1945, it has been under the mark and decreasing steadily as people have emigrated away for better jobs in neighboring Bavaria and in bigger cities. It is 30 kilometers northeast of the nearest city of Hof (also in Bavaria) but 45 kilometers southwest of Zwickau. The White Elster River as well as the Syra and Mühlgraben flow through the city, and the city is rich with historic bridges, big and small, spanning them in and around the city. They include (in the city) the Friendensbrücke, the second oldest known bridge in Saxony in the Alte Elsterbrücke (built in 1228) and the brick stone viaducts at Syratal and Elstertal. The Göltzschtalbrücke, which is located 10 kilometers to the north, is the largest viaduct of its kind ever built.  Apart from three federal highways, Plauen is also served by the Motorway 72, as well as three different raillines, including the Dresden-Hof-Nuremberg Magistrate, the Elster route going to Gera and Leipzig as well as the Vogtland route going to Cheb (CZ).

Despite having lost 75% of its buildings during the waning days of World War II through ariel bombings, much of Plauen’s architecture has been rebuilt to its former glory and still functions for its original purposes. This includes several churches, such as the Johanniskirche, Lutherkirche, and Pauluskirche, the Nonnenturm, the castle ruins of Schloss Plauen, the two city halls- one built in 1385; the other in 1922 which features a tower with clock- and several other historic buildings flanking the two market squares- Altmarkt and Klostermarkt.

Plauen has a lot to take pride in- its green hills and valleys, its beer, its theater and  orchestra, but it is world famous for its Plauener Spitze, a type of pattern fabric that is carefully orchestrated by needles and other cutting tools. An example of such a Spitze can be found here:

Source: Tex8 [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, from Wikimedia Commons
Inspite of this, Plauen is also famous for its Christmas market, which is the largest in the region. It covers three-fourths of the city center, covering Altmarkt, extending along Obere Steinweg and Rathausstrasse, part of Klostermarkt and ending at the shopping center Stadtgallerie. Yet most of the shopping and eating possibilities can be found at Altmarkt and the shopping center. Because of parking issues, only the tree and some street performances were found during my visit at Klostermarkt.

47577588_2221840074514018_2502676769069334528_o
At Klostermarkt

Another area in the city center that was somewhat left out was the area around the church, Johanniskirche. While church services commenorating the birth of Christ, combined with concerts, were taking place there, the lot was empty with no cars around. Given its size, there could have been some potential to have some religious exhibits and/or booths in and around the church to encourage people to visit them before or after visiting the church. This was something that was found at some other Christmas markets, most notably in Glauchau and Zwickau as well as in some places in Berlin, Dresden and Nuremberg.

47349095_2170830066280964_3142781454866448384_o
Johanniskirche and Kirchplatz, next to Altmarkt

To summarize in that aspect, the space availability for Christmas market booths and events is somewhat misaligned and the focus should be less on consumption and more on the holiday and religious traditions that Plauen offers and what is typical for the Vogtland region. That means aside from the church area, Klosterplatz should be filled in a bit with some booths and other holiday events and less glamour for the shopping area for Christmas markets are an outdoor event and not indoor.  A note to some of the city planners for future reference.

47386215_2221840304513995_8322165732104208384_o
Stadtgallerie Shopping Center

Aside from this, the market itself features a combination of shopping possibilities in the Stadtgallerie and traditional products and foods in the Altmarkt. Both market appear to be well-decorated, with the Stadtgallerie having somewhat too much glamour with the Christmas decorations, thus creating more traffic for shoppers than what is needed at the market itself. Again, an imbalance that needs to be corrected. The Altmarkt itself is perhaps the nicest of the Christmas market in Plauen. The booths consist of small mahogany huts made with real wood from the Vogtland region, all decorated with spruce and pine tree branches as well as other forms of decorations. There are several picnic tables and benches, all made of cut-up wood; some of them have shelters in case of inclimate weather.

47380584_2221794007851958_4025422342573260800_o
Altmarkt

Much of what the Christmas market at Altmarkt offers is local specialties, such as the woodwork products made in the Vogtland, such as the pyramid, Christmas arch, incense products and figurines that are religious based. For eateries, the market offers not only local foods and drink, but also some international products. Most popular at the market include the Bemme- a bread with fat and pickles, in come cases with liver sausage. Then there is the Baumkuckenspitze, a layered, donut-shaped cake covered in chocolate; some of which with a thin-filling. Holzofenbrot that is cooked in a wood-burning oven is one that is most recommended, and one of the booths had a mixture of both local and international specialties. Especially in the cold weather, these bread products with are really good and filling.

47449794_2221839657847393_2127805950390697984_o

As we’re talking about international specialties, the market offers products from the Middle East and parts in Europe. Included in the mix is from the Netherlands, where I had a chance to try different kinds of Gouda cheese- those that are sometimes 2 years old and more than ripe. Regardless of what kind, the cheese is highly recommended, and the salespeople selling them, we had a chance to talk about different cultures between Germany, the US and the Netherlands. Their booth features a good place to chat, where even Father Christmas and the angel can entertain themselves over cheese:

47322856_2221843931180299_430787577725845504_o

Apart from two different pyramids- one of which is over a century old, one can also spend time at the Spitzenmuseum at the older city hall, which by the way provides a great backdrop to the market together with the tower of the newer city hall, which one can tour the place and enjoy the view of the city and its landscape.

46855684_2170835382947099_2305849997125484544_o
Christmas tree on the side of the Old City Hall/ Spitzenmuseum with a century-old pyramid

Plauen’s Christmas market features a combination of culture and history all in a historical setting. Culture is in reference to the local products that are offered, especially at the Altmarkt, and history is in reference to the historic setting the market has- to the south, the church and to the north, the two city halls. The market is well-visited and is not so crowded, although my visit was after the first Advent. Yet the magnet of the shopping center next door does raise some concern as to how to balance out the visitors and better utilize the space of Plauen’s city center. Having open but unused space makes a city center rather empty, especially at the time of the Christmas market. However, when planned better and through cooperation with retailers and property owners, Plauen can have a well-balanced Christmas market that is well-balanced in terms of visitors but also whose themes would make it attractive to visitors coming from Saxony, Germany, Czech Republic and beyond……

47291553_2221839794514046_4412394102759358464_o
Rathausstrasse going to Stadtgallerie

Photos of the Plauen Christmas Market can be viewed via facebook (click here) and Google (click here)

FLFI Holiday logo

Christmas Market Tour 2018: Meissen (Saxony)

47576395_2181947618502542_7531010435235971072_o

December 5th, 2018- the day before St. Nicolas Day. It is a quarter past five in the afternoon, the city center is lit with a wide array of colors, from the buildings flanking the Market Square to the City Hall, to the Church of our Lady. The tree is lit but in a much greener fashion. Huts are filled to the brim with people drinking mulled wine, hot chocolate and tea using the cups that are locally made.  Mushroom Hotdish and Hirtenkäserollen (a meat roll with cream cheese filling) are being dished out and people are having a great time, talking, eating and drinking. The mood is very cheerful and there is not much crowding.

IMG_20181205_162535856

Suddenly, the attention turns to the stage and the city hall- each window converted to a day in each month of December, thus turning the entire building into a giant Advent Calendar.  The window of the Fifth opens and a unique form of artwork is presented with the question: From which fairy tale does this piece come from?

47294965_2226336497397709_4444083187513032704_o

 

The Answer: The Princess and the Pea, a work written by Hans Christian Andersen.

Each open window has a unique drawing and/or painting, all of which are homemade just like the postcards and paintings done by a family that has resided in the community for at least three centuries.  The backdrop of the market is the castle and cathedral on the hill, overlooking a major waterway and the rest of the community. It used to house a royal dynasty until a century ago when they were forced to abdicate because of the Treaty of Versailles.

47688075_2182098415154129_1339947444649066496_o

People associate the city of Meissen, located 23 kilometers along the River Elbe northwest of Dresden in the German state of Saxony, with its world-famous ceramics, as the Meissen Porcelain Company produces and exports pottery worldwide. Yet they still don’t know what they are missing. As a tip, if one visits Dresden to see the Christmas markets there, one can afford a half-hour trip to Meissen to see this one. There are many reasons to visit Meissen in general, aside from the ceramics:

  1. Albrechtsburg and Meissen Cathedral (Meissner Dom): One cannot miss seeing this tall Gothic architectural artwork which is right next to the Elbe. The castle needed 53 years to be built, having been completed in 1525. It housed the House of Wettin, a dominant force that played a role in the Kingdom of Saxony and later the German empire before 1918. The castle houses the Meissner Dom, which was completed in the 13th Century and is the tallest cathedral in the eastern half of Germany.
  2. The Church of Our Lady (Frauenkirche): This is located on the western side of the market square. The official name is the St. Afra Church and the church is famous for its organ and especially the bells, all made with Meissen porcelain. The bells play every quarter hour. That church is one of over a dozen that have a historic flavor for Meissen.
  3. The Historic City Center: Featuring the City Hall, several restaurants that have existed for over a century, the Theaterhaus and countless historic houses, people can spend a whole day window shopping, visiting ceramic and painting exhibits and enjoying the culinary dishes that are typical for Meissen and the region.
  4. Domherrenhof: Dating back to the Baroque period (and even further back), this area features a series of walls, steep steps, walkways and bridges surrounding the historic city center and extending from the St. Afra Church, all the way to the Alrechtsburg and Cathedral. The whole pathway provides visitors with a splendid view of the entire city from down below, as well as regions along the Elbe and beyond.
  5. The Meissen Vineyards: This is the signature of the region along the Elbe. Known in Europe as the northernmost vineyards, this area extends for over 60 square kilometers, along the Elbe and deep into the Spaargebirge. Festivals in the spring and fall are dedicated to the planting and harvest of grapes and the production of the wine, most of which you can only find in Saxony.

48051490_2226335564064469_5318362486859104256_o

But when it comes to Christmas markets and the like, Meissen brings out the best, not just in terms of its porcelain but also in the form of artwork. It goes all the way down to artwork on the Christmas market cups, where each year has a commemoration of some sorts, a different design that includes anything typical of Christmas and Meissen and the writing which turns the standard fonts of Times New Roman into shame. You can have a look at a pair of cups I got from there to find out.

47576600_2182662778431026_5608954841620545536_o

If you collect Christmas market cups, then Meissen is the place to stop for them.

Another feature of Meissen that one will not see is when visiting Brück and Sons, a store that was established in 1723 and still serves today as not only a bookstore- one of ten that serve the city of 28,000 inhabitants- but also a publisher.  Brück and Sons’ bookstore also has a function as a Christmas specialty store and a local shop. In other words, the store has everything but all homemade.

What does the store have? Nicht leichter als folgendes:

The store features homemade Christmas cards, Advent Calendars and other paper items, all handpainted and all have different themes, whether it is with a Christmas market scene, or a historic place of interest or even a general theme. The artwork there is genuine and is as good or even better than the works of the late Tom Kincade because of its realistic setting and the use of lighting.  If one is looking for something for Christmas, this is one of the seven wonders of Meissen that is worth seeing, especially as the store also offers homemade products, such as liquours, jams (some with whisky in it) and praline candies. The lone exception of products offered at the store are the products imported from Sweden, yet they appear to be homemade.

IMG_20181205_163425670

But the store is not the only place where a person can stop to shop. Homemade products can also be found at the St. Afra Church. Open every day until 6pm, the church’s  basar sells a wide array of products that are handmade by several different groups, whether they are homemade Christmas stars, paper stars for the Christmas tree, homemade jam, Christmas cards and even some winter-wear, even though during my visit, the temperature was a couple degrees above zero and quite mild.  As a bonus, one can be greeted with some organ music from time to time.

IMG_20181205_162753777

The booths at the market itself offers a lot of Christmas products that are made from the Ore Mountain region as well as the Vogtland, mostly from the latter. A real treat are the mini-Räuchermänner at a stand at (….). These are mini-incense men which uses mini-cones, half the size of a Räuchermann on average. Also found there are the Christmas Gnomes, which use the normal cones. In Germany, gnomes are becoming popular year round for they used to be found in most gardens in the summer time. Yet in the past five years, the gnomes have found their way to fame on the Christmas stage, either as incense figures or decoration on the Christmas tree.  Yet at the main market, one will find most of the city’s culinary foods, such as mushroom hotdish and Hirtenkäse-Rollchen, and pastries. Yet much of the mulled wine are produced locally, in addition to the hot chocolate.

IMG_20181205_174503865

The only caveat to Meissen’s Christmas market is the parking. Because of the narrow streets and the close proximity of the buildings, parking and even driving is restricted when going through the Meissen Christmas market. Even the streets leading to the two markets- the smaller one included, is blocked off to ensure the safety of the visitors passing through. Henceforth, it is recommended to use the parking garages to the south and the east of the Christmas markets, including those along the Elbe, and walk to the places directly. They will save the person a lot of time and headaches, especially as the areas are restricted as is. Because most of the buildings are rather historic, there is no leeway in terms of providing better parking possibilities.

However, this may not be even necessary given the charm that Meissen has in general. When walking through the city center for the first time, there was a sense of going back into time where cars were non-existent, and the only way to get around anywhere was on foot. Even the bike trail system is rather restricted because of the narrowness of the streets, combined with the steep grades. Just add the Christmas market in Meissen to the scenery of the old town and one will be in Winter Wonderland. It’s like leaving the stresses of city life and entering a different world when walking through Meissen.  While one could add another theme to the market, such as something Medieval, etc., but it would be somewhat overkill, given the sittiing Meissen has to offer, combined with the points of interest the city has.

47571330_2182106741819963_7338425995763908608_o

To sum up this visit, there are enough reasons to visit Meissen and spend the day there. The Christmas market is one of the key reasons. It features locally handmade products that go beyond the ceramics the city prides itself on- namely artwork, clothing and anything related to paper. It offers food and drink that is based on what is offered in the region. It has a large, life-sized Advent Calendar that people can look forward to everyday. Even the market itself features events that extend until January 6th. And lastly, the market has a small-town feeling which is atypical for a town as big as Meissen itself is. One does not need to have an overcrowded but popular Christmas market, like in Nuremberg, Berlin and even neighboring Dresden. It just needs that perfect touch that makes the market the place to spend the whole day in. And Meissen is just that when looking at just the Christmas market, alone. The rest is already a given.

IMG_20181205_165604164

More about Meissen can be found through the following links:

http://www.meissner-weihnacht.de/

https://www.stadt-meissen.de/Advent.html

More photos on the Christmas market in Meissen can be found via facebook (here) and Google (here)

FlFi Christmas 2018

Buß- und Bettag: Saxony’s Version of Memorial Day…… Or is it?

44342898_2111358415561463_8155377171154599936_o (1)

In America, we have two different types of memorial days- Memorial Day itself, which honors those who passed on, and Veteran’s Day, which honors and also memorializes those who fought in all the wars that the US has been involved in to date.  The first one takes place on the last Monday of every May and is considered a statutory non-working holiday. There, flowers are lain on the graves of those lost. Parades honoring the fallen and church services are held on that day.  Veteran’s Day was introduced over 100 years ago as part of the Treaty of Armistice, thus declaring World War I officially over on the 11th of November, 1918 at the 11th minute of the 11th hour. Governmental offices and most businesses and schools are closed on that day, pending on the individual state’s guidelines,  and the holiday is celebrated in many ways- be it parades or other ceremonies, public addresses or other civil gatherings.

In Germany we have one holiday that has the equivalence to Memorial Day but has, as one person had put it in an interview, become a long-forgotten holiday.  Buß und Bett Tag, known as the Day of Repentance and Prayer if translated into English, was first introduced by the Kingdom of Prussia in 1878 and got its origins from the days after Martin Luther’s Reformation in 1532 as Emperor Charles V proclaimed, at the behest of the Protestants, to commemorate the Ottoman conquest of the Holy Roman Empire in 1354. When the Prussian Empire succumbed to the German Empire in 1871, the day was later adopted in all of the newly-formed German states, where the Day of Prayer was to take place either 11 days before the first Advent and/or before the 23rd of November- as originally declared during Prussia’s existence.  That day was abolished in 1934 by Hitler and was only partially lifted in the 1960s, where only the western half celebrated it and the eastern half was banned from celebrating it by the SED_dictatorship.

It was not until 1990 when a newly-reunified Germany reintroduced it to all the states, but only temporarily. In 1994, the government under Kohl introduced a bill to reform the health care and social security system, requiring more payments into the system and people to work more hours. As part of the package, all the federal states voted to add a day onto the working schedule, hence the elimination of Buß und Bett Tag.

All of them except Saxony.  In Bavaria, it is still a working holiday but the children have the day off from school.

While Buß und Bett Tag is practiced today in those two states, there are many theories as to how people still interpret this day. It is a non-working holiday in Saxony, going by the proclamation by the book, yet the residents are required to pay 13-15% more into the health care fund for that day. When asked what people do on that day, the response: We travel to the Czech Republic, or to the neighboring states because there are businesse open there.

Has Buß und Bett Tag become the long-forgotten holiday, as forgotten as the Sunday ritual of going to church? I decided to find out how it is celebrated to this day. Being a member of a church choir for the day, I earned a free pass to see how the holiday is observed, and this is what I found:

46488626_2160867127277258_1565086945950826496_o

It turns out, Buß und Bett Tag is not only the time to remember the people who died, but it is a time of reflection of our own past actions and what we can do to right the wrongs done onto others. Pending on which church a person attends in Saxony, the holiday brings people together for over an hour of church service. Yet in other cases, concerts are added to the mix, using songs that honor the people and their relationship with the Lord.  At a church in Zwickau, the congregation was treated to a short skit in connection with the Lost Son (the book of Luke 15:11-32)  but in modern form, followed by a sermon on how forgiveness and reconciliation far outweigh the sins committed onto others. Lessons on how to treat others well despite their backgrounds reinforce the meaning of the holiday  in terms of reflection.  At a church in Glauchau, a choir concert, featuring two choirs and an orchestra, rocking to the tunes of John Rutter and Antonin Dvorak honor the dead and those retiring from the years of hard work, thus stressing the meaning of the holiday in terms of honor.

Still, the number of people participating in these events are relatively small, running parallel to the problems America is currently facing with a decline in church attendance and the forced consolidation of two or more congretations.  And while the majority of church-goers in the US are over 50 years of age, in Germany, there seems to be an even proportion of people paying respects to the Lord, including families (especially with children), friends and strangers.  From the view of the majoirty, when looking at the scene on this day, one can see children playing, families catching up on housework and even small businesses doing overtime to set up the huts for the Christmas market, which starts on the following weekend in the first Advent.  Despite this trend, it does not mean one needs to follow the suit of the other states by “getting with the program” and abolishing this sacred day.  Granted unions have been striving to push for the abolition of extra pay into the health care and pensioner’s fund citing its irrelevance to today’s standards.

Judging from my observations, having a day like Buß und Bett Tag could be a blessing even if it is considered the official day of rest. Most countries in the western hemisphere have a special day commemorating the living and the dead, honoring them for their work. If each state in Germany was to follow what is being followed in Saxony, it would serve as an opportunity for all people to honor and pay tribute to those who deserved it, pray for those who are in need (and find ways to help them), and repent for the sins done onto others (and again find ways to forgive them).  One doesn’t need to have a fancy ceremony, like parades and the like, as seen in Memorial Day celebrations, but simply church services, charitable events and concerts with the themes of reflection and tribute, as seen here in Saxony. Anything more than that would be considered overkill.

Many of us seem to forget the real meaning of family and friendship, respecting and honoring some and helping others because we are all consumed by work, individual gratification and materialistic items. In fact some holidays, like Christmas and Easter have become so materialistic and sometimes ignored, that their underlying meanings have become very irrelevant.  When we think of only Father Christmas/ Santa Claus/ Der Weihnachtsmann and the presents we receive from them, then it is time to reexamine ourselves and look at the real meaning of these holidays, which means the life of Christ, and the meaning of the people in our lives whom we care about.

Therefore, we should keep this day of remembrance and reflection, so that we can remember the people who made a difference in our lives, reflect on what we have done and what we should do differently and especially, reconsider some things in our lives because of the potential for failure. Buß und Bett Tag has a much thorougher meaning than what has been perceived. It’s not just a day of rest, but a day to look back and look forward. While Germany has many holidays, these holidays are meant for a time of rest, reflection, reunions and gatherings and refueling ourselves for work. By eliminating even one day for the purpose of work,  we take away more than that day to spend it for ourselves and our families and friends.  Therefore, when having another day like this one in the future, think about what we have and what we have done (or should be doing). A little time of reflection and remembrance will help a person go an even longer way.

44319286_2111361068894531_442849340541632512_o (2)

 

fast fact logo

The biblical origin of this day stems from the book of Jonah, which states the following:

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown. 5So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 6For word came unto the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily unto God: yea, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 10And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not

Jonah 3:4-10

 

FF new logo1