Genre of the Week: Summer 1995 by Evelyn Dykhouse Halverson

sunset

Summer: The best time of the year.
It’s a time to travel to meet family and friends living far away. It’s a time for bike tours and fishing, while amusing ourselves with entertainment from the county fair and amusement park. It’s a time for baseball and golf, but also the best place for grill fests where we feast on steak, fries, corn and a good beer.

Having grown up in southern Minnesota and being not far from the Iowa Lakes Region, where Okoboji was the main tourist trap for four months in the year, the best thing about the summer months is being next to the water, where a tour along West Lake Okoboji on the cruise ship Queen II was as obligatory as going to church- but with a lot of entertainment and facts about the lake. It also meant an annual visit from my two cousins in California, where we clowned around on Big Spirit Lake in inner tubes, while playing card games and making my great aunt laugh- she was a great host as she had a cottage on the north end for over 50 years. 🙂 It also meant golf and jetskiing with friends from high school, while keeping the neighborhood in Loon Lake awake with parties until 2am in the morning! 😉

But there is more to summer than just water and wheels. To this author, summer means listening to nature and watching the trees change colors as it provides fresh air and shade. Even if we switch off the air conditioning for a night, we can listening to the sounds of crickets chirping, secadas sawing in the trees and a herd of deer galloping about. And this with the hum of other air conditioners and cars passing by.

This poem was one of many that local historian Evelyn Halverson wrote for the newsletters of the Lyon County Historical Society in Rock Rapids, Iowa. Halverson always opened the newsletter with a poem about one of the four seasons- after all, the newsletter was published four times a year at each season. From 1985 until 2007 she was the writer that inspired others to read up on history and become writers as well, as the newsletter was laden with facts that tied local, national and international history together, be it locals having fought in World War II and sharing stories about their experiences in Germany or Japan, or about the Bonnie Doon Railroad, which cut Lyon County into two (a bridge along the route was profiled recently, click here). In either case, the newsletters were fun to read and the lady was a great poet. A collection of poems were put together in a book, published in 2008, two years before her death.

One of these poems I wish to share with you in this genre of the week, which fits the summer mood for the reader and the author. Enjoy!

Pause to catch the wonders of summer

See the cornstalks stretching toward the sky

As a symphony of bird songs greet each dawn

And gentle breezes stir the tree leaves with a sigh.

 

The roadsides are colorful with wildflowers.

The apple trees flaunt red apples, crisp and sweet.

Thunder and lightning announce a sudden shower,

All a pettern of summer’s annual treat.

 

Listen to the crickets serenade at night time

As the locust chorus buzzes through the day.

The monarch butterflies glisten in the sunshine,

Catch the wonders of summer before it passes away!

 

 

Have a great summer everyone! 😀

flfi heading wordpress 1

Advertisements

The Day When the Temperature Went Under Zero

165535_177086372322020_7514036_n

fast fact logo

Prepositions. They can serve as a compliment to an adjective or verb, yet with over three dozen of them in the English language (more in German and other languages), they can be a nuisance as the meaning and usage of them are sometimes confusing, especially when a person learning English as a foreign language wants to know the equivalent in the native tongue. Sometimes there are pairs of prepositions, which mean the same in general but are used for different purposes, such as over and above, through and via, ….

or this one: under and below.

While both prepositions mean anything below average, below the line or even below zero, one deals with moving down towards and beyond the threshold- which is under- while the other stays under the threshold- below.

For example, one can say “I went under water” or “I crawled under the bed”, for movement and “The sunken ship is 300 meters below sea level”, or “The neighbors living below us are noisy”, to describe something stationary and still. Yet, can we make the difference with the thermometer?

164034_182102658487058_4545080_n

As a general rule, a temperature can be below zero or a certain degree because it implies that the mercury is constantly at this mark and cannot move at a fast pace. This is independent of the real air temperature which can be warmer or colder, pending on the humidity and the dew point.  That means the temperature may be -1° Celsius (34° Fahrenheit), but can be warmer because of the high humidity and the sun, or colder because of the dry air, low humidity and the wind. Since the 1990s, the Real Feel Temperature Index has been using several factors to compare the temperature on the thermometer and how it feels on the person in reality, based on light, wind and moisture.

But can a temperature go under zero?

As a general rule, you cannot use under when you describe the temperature because the mercury is so slow that it would take many hours for it to fall. The same applies to over and above when describing the increase in temperature, which is why we use above only. However, as history presents itself, there are some exceptions to the rule.

If a student asks you (as a teacher) why we use below zero, instead of under zero, you can share him/her a pair of stories of how certain regions actually went under zero- in a very short time, during two very tragic events in the United States. Here they are in summary:

  1. November 11, 1911:   According to weather historian Jim Lee, a very strong cold front carrying first strong thunderstorms with rain and tornadoes, and afterwards sleet, snow and blizzard conditions struck the Central Plains region, causing temperatures to plummet by double digits within an hour. This included Springfield, Missouri, where temperatures dropped by as much as 40° F in 15 minutes. From 80°F (27° C) before this drammatic drop at 3:45pm, to 40° F (4° C) fifteen minutes later, to its bottoming-out low of 13° F (-11° C) by midnight, the city was one of over two dozen, whose record high and low temperatures were recorded on the same day, which included Oklahoma City and Kansas City. Over a dozen tornadoes followed by blizzards in this Great Blue Norther, caused over $3 million in damages- the heaviest hit areas were in the Ohio River valley, as well as in Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan. 13 people lost their lives with over 50 people injured.
  1. November 11, 1940:  Known as the panhandle hook, this tragic  event reshaped the way forecasts are given. On this day, hundreds of people took the day off from work to go hunting for ducks and pheasants with temperatures in the mid to upper 60s Fahrenheit (18-20° C), many of them were underdressed for the occasion. During the afternoon, the temperatures dropped dramatically to a point where by midnight, they were at or below 0°F (-20° C)!!! Many hunters were taken by surprised and tried to seek shelter from the cold, icy wind, combined with heavy snow and white-out conditions. Fifty degree drops were recorded in a region of over 1000 kilometers long, including states like Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin, where 1-2 foot snowfall combined with 20 f00t (6 meter) drifts were recorded. Collegeville, Minnesota set a record for the most amount of snow in a storm with 27 inches (69 cm). 145 people perished in the snowfall, many of whom froze to death. 49 of the deaths were recorded in Minnesota, of which half of them froze to death. Rescue efforts by pilots Max Conrad and John Bean by locating stranded hunters and providing aid saved many lives. The storm resulted in changes in weather forecasting as 24-hour mandatory coverage and improved technology was later introduced, which is still in use today but with advanced technology.

These two events show that temperatures can go under zero if the mercury moves quicker than it should, even though in a grammatical sense, one should use below as it shows consistency on a longer termed basis. If your students ask why below is best used for temperatures below the mark instead of under, it is best to say that under is used for movement purposes but in quicker form and also on a temporary basis. It is unknown how (long) a mole can live and dig under the ground, but treasure and cellars can be found below the ground (level) because they are permanent. Yet when it comes to temperatures, especially after reading the examples of the storms that occurred on Veterans Day in the States, some exceptions do apply, although they very rarely happen. So use below zero instead of under zero unless you want to be that brave duck hunter wishing to hunt while in the snow. 😉

163262_182100298487294_3578679_n

FF new logo1

Mystery Building 3: A Water Tower with Windows

GCMP3

This next mystery building feature has enquiring minds wanting to know what this unusual building is. This is located along the Zwickauer Mulde west of the town of Glauchau. The community of 24,000 is located near the Thuringia-Saxony border near the cities of Zwickau and Chemnitz, and prides itself on agriculture, religion, nature, serenity and open-mindness- at least that is what a person originating from there once told me a while back. It has two castles, a small town center which is very empty and quiet at lunch time, several schools (including an international one) and lastly, this unique but very unusual building.

Located at the South Dam and Bridge, this building is made of brick and features a decagonal design. It has six stories with windows lining up along every second side. Biking past there enroute to the bridge, there were some hunches I had that may have something to do with its unusual shape. They include:

  1. It is a water tower.  Several German water towers have similar designs, including one west of Glauchau in the city of Jena near the train station Göschwitz. However, there are a couple arguments against this theory. The first is that Germany has more universally standardized water towers than the old ones, as today’s towers are mushroom shaped with the head having water storage. An example of this can be found in Halle (Saale):  IMGP0065

Some water towers are similar to a typical one found in the United States, like the one in Jackson, Minnesota for example:

IMGP5680

The second argument against this theory has to do with the windows, where it is obvious that storm windows- or windows that are water resistant never existed at the time the Glauchau tower was built in the 1900s. Otherwise water would have leaked out, and the nearby residents would awake to flooding, caused by the release of water. Therefore, the first theory has to be taken out.

IMGP7147

My next theory was that the building looked like this one in Iowa: a grain elevator or silo, used to store crops for use. This would make the best sense, given Glauchau’s location in the agricultural region, plus its crops bringing in revenue. The problem with this theory is the building is much smaller than even the house located in front of this grain elevator, thus allowing little room for storing crops. It is also doubtful that the brick siding would hold the crops without breaking apart, spilling them into the Mulde, and creating an environmental disaster that would reach the city’s history books. And of course, the windows would make this theory look ridiculous in writing.

So, my last theory would be either an apartment (flat) complex or nursing home. It would look practical given its appearance. Yet the building appears too small to house the residents, even if there was one apartment per floor (story). In addition, the building is fenced off, owned by a private agency, thus rendering this theory as false.

This leads to the question: What kind of building is this, when it has six stories with windows, but as small as a silo and on the same level as a water tower? Any ideas?

If so, please place them here in the comment section as well as in the Files’ facebook page, as it is open for the forum. Your comments can be made in German or English. If you wish to contact me directly, please use the form by clicking on this link.

Germany has a lot of unusual architectural works that have survived two wars and even the Cold War. While most of the records are lost for good, there are a few left that are significant for research, including this one. What do we know about it? The answer awaits from readers and locals, like you. 🙂

Link with Map of the Place:

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1Apmla5YpaNqA1S7aJmoo-krqYEo&usp=sharing

 

Author’s Note: Check out the other sides of Glauchau including the bridges by clicking on the following links below:

THE BRIDGES OF GLAUCHAU (SAXONY) by the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles

THE CITY OF GLAUCHAU (SAXONY) via Files’ facebook page

 

flefi-deutschland-logo

Christmas Market Tour 2015: Pella, Iowa

p1

Author’s Note: This stop was taken last year during the tour through the United States. Due to illness on the part of the author upon his return to Germany, the decision was made to include it into this year’s tour.  Sincere apologies for the inconvenience. 

The next stop on the Christmas tour in the US is Pella, in south central Iowa. Located 45 miles southeast of Des Moines, the city with 10,400 inhabitants was established in 1847, when 800 settlers, led by dominee Henry Scholte moved to the area to make a living. The name Pella was derived from the village Perea, where Christians found refuge during the Roman-Jewish War of 70 A.D.  Today, Pella maintains its Dutch heritage in many ways than one. One can see that with the architecture, when driving past the town square and its Dutch-style facade and its double-leaf bascule bridge spanning an artificial canal. The Vermeer Mill is the largest Dutch-style windmill in North America. The Dutch “S”, a pastry with marzipan filling that is typical in the Netherlands, can be found at the Vander Ploeg Bakery, along with other Dutch-style pastries. And when visiting the city’s two meat markets (Ulrich and Veld), one can find imported cheese and meat products from the Benelux Region (Benelux consists of the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg).

And while the city is located north of Red Rock Lake, an artificial lake created in 1969 that is laden with recreational activities all year round, Pella has two important holidays that the people celerbate: Tulip Days in May and Christmas. Tulip Festival is a typical Dutch festival where tens of thousands convene for a weekend of celebrations and the crowning of the Tulip Queen.  Christmas in a Dutch setting, like Pella, on the other hand, is typically American- Christmas lights display in the city center as well as the countryside, as well as a display of Christmas trees in one house. There’s no Sinterklaas coming into the harbor by ship- how could they if the ship meets the Red Rock Dam and he has to take a truck up the road past Wal-mart and into the city? Even with his Black Peters as his helpers? 😉  A look at how Sinterklaas is celebrated (naturally on the day before St. Nicholas Day in Germany) can be found via link (here) and in the video below:

p6

But just because the Christmas season is more or less Americanized and makes Pella un-Dutch, does not mean a person should stay away from the city because it is not European enough nor has some European flair in the holiday season. There are many reasons to spend a few hours in this Dutch community which is anchored by three different Dutch institutes- Vermeer Manufacturing, Pella Windows and Central College, along with other Dutch-style stores. The Files has the top five places to visit during the holiday season that are worth visiting:

p8

  1. Vermeer Mill: Built by the Vermeer Corporation in 2002, the Vermeer Mill is the largest functioning flour mill in North America. Tours of the mill and demonstrations on how the mill works are available, but this place is a keeper for one can see how the mill works. Furthermore, as you can see in the picture above, the mill has a viewing platform where you can see all of Pella’s city center, including its famous Market Square. The Mill is part of the Museum Complex, which also features a miniature display of towns in a Dutch setting in the Interpretive Center section of the Mill. The model has existed for over 30 years, and one needs an hour to look at the details of the display.
p5
Grinding geers in the mill
p10
Winter scenery at the Interpretive Section of the Vermeer Mill

2. Historic Village: Inside the Museum Complex is a must-see attraction in the Historic Village. The Village consists of 24 buildings, many of them have existed since the founding of Pella in 1848, including the church, blacksmith shop and shoemaker. Others, such as the log cabin, one of the first built in Marion County, were brought in and restored. Even the street lamps at the complex originates from the bygone ear. Most likely gas-powered, the bulbs displayed are from the 1930s.

p17
One of the first log cabins in Marion County
p13
Vintage street light with 30s era light bulbs

Each building features a display or a demonstration, pending on which building has what. For instance, the shoemaker shop produces and displays wooden shoes, which are typical of Dutch culture. Examples and displays of these shoes, including a jumbo pair at the museum shop, can be see everywhere. Some places have displays with mannequins dressed in their Dutch apparel. The bakery offers a display and a plate full of cookies to try. And even a gallery with the displays of all the Tulip Festival dresses and a hall of fame of all the queens are a treat to see. We were welcomed with Christmas trees in the majority of the houses and buildings on display

p12
Dutch-style shoes after being wood-carved

3. Scholte House and Gardens: Located on Washington Street, the house is the first in Pella, being built by Hendrik Scholte in 1848 for his wife. One can see the rooms and exhibits pertaining to their lives and the history of Pella. While the house and the gardens are best seen in the spring time during the Tulip Festival as well as during the summer, the house itself has a wide display of 15 Christmas trees to see, each one has its own taste and history. While we saw the house but not the display because it was closed, a columnist visiting the house at Christmas time found the displays very impressive. Yet with the holiday season one should look at expanding their opening hours to include weekends and 2-3 more days in the week instead of only one day a week. But in either case, the house has maintained its original form and is impressive even from the business district.

4. Jaarsma Bakery and Smokey Row Café: Both located along Franklin Street, the shops are literally a block apart, but each one serves the finest pastries, bars and coffee products. The Jaarsma Bakery, located across the street from the Public Gardens, offers a wide variety of Dutch pastries, including the Dutch apple cake, almond bars and the Dutch “S”. They are excellent to take home for the holidays to share with family and friends, as we did just that.  The Smokey Row Café provides travellers and tourists alike with a wide selection of coffee with pastries to eat in a historic coffeehouse setting, as you can see in the pic below. The café is also a great meeting place for the young and old alike and has a family setting that makes a person stop there again and again.

p20

5. Market Square: Behind the Jaarsma Bakery is the Market Square, one of the most modern places in Iowa and one that mimics a Dutch setting, with its famous red brick buildings and Dutch facade . The square is the central point of entertainment, as the Opera House, the Cinnema, The Amsterdam Hotel and Conference Center and the Pella Showroom are all located in one block, divided by a man-made canal that is crossed by a double-leaf bascule bridge, typical of the bridges in the Netherlands. While the square is laden with flowers and other floral decorations, it would be a perfect place for a Christmas market, if city officials are willing to at least experiment with it. As Christmas markets are popular in Germany, France and the Netherlands, the city can benefit from having one at least for a couple week(end)s during the holiday season.

p7

p19

p18

After a few hours in Pella, it was time for us to move on, but not before collecting some thoughts and recollections on the city and its settings around Christmas time. Although Pella does have a lot to offer for Christmas events and places to visit during the holiday season, it is clear that the Dutch community is more focused on the Tulip Festival and other events in the summer months, which means the holiday events are like the ones in an American town: light festivals, music concerts in churches and shopping. But can you imagine what Pella would look like if they had a Christmas market in the Market Square and Public Gardens and events similar to what the Dutch have at home in the Netherlands? Could you imagine how Pella would stand out among the rest of the communities in Iowa during the holiday season? And can you imagine how it would be a big of a magnet for tourists?

Check out the photos and think about it. 🙂 ❤

p15

p9

p11

p16

Flensburg Files logo France 15

Author’s Note:  Sister column the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles did a series on the historic bridges in Marion County, including the bascule bridge in Pella, as well as historic bridges that existed over the Des Moines River before the Red Rock Lake was created in the 1960s. More on the bridges here:

Horn’s Ferry Bridge

Bridges at Red Rock Lake

Old Hwy. 14 Bridge near Cordova State Park

Pella Bascule Bridge

Fast Fact:  Pella was the birthplace of Wyatt Earp, famous US marshal. All his brothers except Virgil were  raised near Pella.

Christmas Market Tour 2015: Chemnitz

chemnitz2
Christmas market at Alte Markt next to City Hall. Photos taken in Dec. 2015

The first place on the 2015 tour we’ll have a look at is Chemnitz. Located in western Saxony near the Ore Mountains between Dresden, Hof, Leipzig, Zwickau and Glauchau- in other words, smack in the middle of all the action, Chemnitz was first recorded in the 12th Century when Kaiser Lothar III established the Church of St. Benedict. The city plan of the town was presented over a century later. The city’s origin comes from the river running through it, whose name was derived from a Sorbian name meaning stone. The city was substantially destroyed in World War II and the people suffered a great deal afterwards, as it became part of the Soviet Zone, and the city was subsequentially renamed Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1953, named after the founder of Socialism. Like many cities in the former East Germany (German Democratic Republic), the cityscape was transformed rapidly over the next 30 years, as architects placed high rise after high rise wherever the Socialist Party (SED) pleased. That is the reason why the city center and its churches surrounding them are flooded with more high rise buildings than necessary. Can you imagine looking at the city without these concrete slabs just for a second?

chemnitz11hbf
Chemnitz Central Station: looks like an East German gym for sporting events. One needs to subtract the tracks and the platforms.

1990 and the people, fed up with the importance of Marxism and Leninism, were granted their wish, and the name Karl Marx Stadt was converted back to Chemnitz. Yet much of the architecture from the East German period remains today, and people can see them while driving past, especially the statue of Karl Marx at the corner of Brückenstrasse und Street of Nations. Even the Central Railway Station, despite its lounge looking more modern than 25 years ago, looks like a hangar gleaming with yellow sodium lighting. If one takes away all the platforms, it would resemble a sports center, with a wrestling ring and matches featuring the likes of Velvet McIntyre and Mathilda the Hun, two of the many professional wrestling stars during the 1980s. Yet it could also look like an ice skating rink, featuring the likes of Katarina Witt, Germany’s beloved figure skater who was born in the city.

However more modern architecture is popping up in an attempt to drown out the  architecture the SED wanted there at any cost. This includes the expansion of the Technical University in Chemnitz, where because of the increase in students, the campus has expanded to the south, thus leaving the former main campus next to the train station with a purpose of having extra space for classes.  Check your Googlemaps app if you have an appointment at the TU, to ensure you are at the right campus, please, or you will certainly get lost.

IMGP8717
The 1884 Chemnitz Viaduct serving the rail line connecting Dresden and Nuremberg via Hof

Yet despite the concrete settings, which resembles the scenes from the dystopian film The Cement Garden, Chemnitz has several features that standout. The city has the Opera House, Roter Turm at Neumarkt, historic buildings at Schillerplatz and several museums focusing on technology, archeology and art, as well as churches and castles. Even the river Chemnitz features many parks and historic bridges, namely the Railroad Viaduct built in 1884.

And lastly, the city is famous for its Christmas market. Located in the city center at Neumarkt, the market is laid out in three areas: Between the apartments along Am Neumarkt, between the Old and New City Halls and at Roter Turm.  Yet, getting there from the train station or other parts of the city, thanks to the maze of concrete one has to go through, takes lots of navigating, regardless of what kind of Verkehrsmittel a person uses. In my case, despite having my bike companion Galloping Gertie, which always gets me from point A to point B, my sense of orientation was lost in the concrete. So to the city council officials who want a word of advice from me: signpost the directions to the market next time, please!

Barring the author’s critique, I was told that the city had won the prize for the best Christmas market in Saxony. Given the architecture that drowns out the historic nature of the city center- at least the ones that were built before 1914, it was hard to believe at first glance. But then again, learning from my visit in Halle (Saale) and its Christmas market in 2012, one cannot judge the book by its cover but should read the first few pages before making the first judgements. This was why I wanted to take an hour to look through the place.

chemnitz1

After fighting through the concrete maze, my first stop was at Neumarkt. Located adjacent to the Roterturm, the market is the second largest of the city’s Christmas market. Visitors are greeted with the black gate, flanked with Christmas angels holding candles and a large black Schwibbogen, resembling the miners and angels. As mentioned in a previous article, the color of black represents the color of the ore found in the Ore Mountain region, the birthplace of the arched candle-holder. To the right is another typical Christmas figure found in the households in Germany, the Pyramid. More on that in a later article.  The market is at the doorsteps of two major shopping centers, one of which is named after a popular historic landmark, Der Roter Turm. Built in 1230, the tower served as a watchtower overlooking the town as its original purpose. It was later a watchtower for the prison complex, which existed in the 17th to the 19th century. It later became a gateway, welcoming people to Chemnitz before it became a historic landmark in the 1990s. The shopping center, located next to the tower, opened in 2000, mimicking the architecture of the tower and the adjacent city hall.

chemnitz5
The market at Altmarkt. The New Town Hall (left) and the Old Town Hall (right) are in the background

Going left one will find the rest of the market and then some, located at the Market Square. The one at the Alte Markt is the largest and features the Christmas tree and the Spielwerk, a Christmas merry-go-round-like featuring Santa Clause, an Angel, a Snowman and gifts.   Counting the extension along Rosenhof, which has a line of huts, the markets are surrounded by apartment complexes from the GDR era. Judging by the appearance, these modernized apartments are well occupied, which means the families have front-row seating on each floor, especially during the holidays.

chemnitz7
A Christmas market surrounded by high-rise flats.

When looking at the huts, one can see a unique uniform pattern- namely gabled huts with mahogany siding. The color is typical of the wood found in the Ore Mountain region, and most of the products sold at the market- whether they are Räuchermänner, Pyramids, Schwibbogen or even figures for the Christmas tree, are handcrafted with this unique type of  wood originating from the region. Add the red and white lining and lettering and the place looks really Christmassy, even without the snow, as I saw in my visit. Admittedly, it would make the market look really romantic with the snow, even viewing it from the apartments above.

chemnitz3
Das Spielwerk at Altmarkt: another typical feature coming from the Ore Mountain region. 

Most of the huts are lined up into long rectangular islands with the backs to each other. The purpose behind that is to provide more space for people to maneuver towards the stands without the feeling of being crowded. Despite having to fight a maze to get to there, the market itself is rather spacious, enabling the people to move around more freely than in some markets visited until now. That means between rows, the width is equivalent to the width of 3-4 cars, pending on location. Lots of space and less risk of injury by pushing and shoving, or even getting smacked in the face with a heavy backpack. It’s lesson that markets in some cities, like Dresden and Nuremberg should take note, even though the problem with the former is with the Striezelmarkt as Neustadt has a concept similar to this one.

chemnitz4
Typical Christmas market huts with lots of space. 

Despite all the Chemnitz features, many people are sometimes of the opinion that the market is just like any other market: selling items from the Ore Mountain region, having amusements and a large Christmas tree. If that is the opinion, I beg to differ, especially when it comes to food. The market in Chemnitz offers several delicacies one will rarely find at other markets in Germany. Some of the items I tried during my brief stay at the market. Highly recommended is the Bohemian smoked sausage (Böhmischer Rauchwurst), with  or without the cheese filling.  Similar to the Thuringian Bratwurst and the Frankfurter, this sausage comes from the Czech side of the mountains and are smoked to perfection. The sausage has a really tangy taste when biting into it. With the cheese filling, it is even heartier. 🙂   Another delicacy that is a must-eat is the Wickelklöße. Similar to the dumplings, this Sächsische recipe features a combination of dough and pressed potatoes, rolled out and filled with either something sweet, like apple and cinnamon or hearty, like peppers. The recipe on how to make it is here unless you wish to visit one of the booths in Chemnitz to try before doing:

IMGP8726

The market also offers delicacies from the Medieval Ages and from different countries, many of which can be found at the market in Dusseldorfer Platz, whose setting matches the Middle Ages with dark-colored huts covered with darker-colored roofs. This includes the Turkish specialty that sells kebaps and kofta.Koftas are mini hamburger patties with special spices imported from Turkey. When placed in a pita bun and adding all the fixings, they look like the typical kebap but without the sliced meat. Yet they taste like Jennie’s Grinder, a submarine sandwich found at the Iowa State Fair.  And like the sandwich, the kofta is best eaten hot. Taking it to go will mean the loss of taste when it is even lukewarm. This was a lesson I learned upon buying it at the booth to take for the trip home. But in any case, the kofta is one that is recommended if one wants something spicy at the market.

chemnitz9
The Medieval Market at Dusseldorfer Platz

After more than an hour at the markets, it was time to leave for the next market, but not before taking with the impressions from the market. Despite the city’s concrete settings and scars that still remain from the Cold War era, Chemnitz has salvaged much of its pre-1933 past and has built off from it, with modern technology that is attractive and serves as a source of inspiration for future engineers and architects, most of whom are students at the TU. The Christmas market itself, despite being surrounded by many high rises still caressing the city center, definitely deserved the title given out this year. The market offers many local goods and food and beverages from the region and all points in the Ore Mountain region to the south. With its settings, the market is rather spacious, accomodating the residents and visitors. But most importantly, the market does provide a sense of Christmas and hominess for those who love a good Bohemian sausage, mulled wine, kofta and pastries typical of Saxony. If one ignores the concrete settings and imagines the historic places, such as the Town Halls and the churches, one can conclude that the market is typical of the markets one can find in Saxony. It is just the question of finding the way through the maze. But if you do it successfully, the hunt for the market is well worth it. 🙂

chemnitz6chemnitz8

schwibbogen1

Flensburg Files logo France 15

The Mystery Christmas Piece: The Three Candles

bsport

The Schwibbogen, one of the landmarks a person will see while visiting Germany at Christmas time. Consisting of an arch with holders for candles, the Bogen is more commonly known as the Lichterbogen, and has its traditions going back to the 18th Century. The first known Bogen was made in Johanngeorgenstadt in the Ore Mountain region in Saxony, in 1740. It was made of black metal, which is the color of the ore found in the mountain range, was made out of a forged metal piece, and was later painted with a series of colors, adding to the piece 11 candles. This is still the standard number for a normal Bogen, but the number of candles is dependent on the size. The smaller the Bogen, the fewer the candles. Paula Jordan, in 1937, provided the design of the Bogen, by carving a scene. At first, it featured 2 miners, 1 wood carver, a bobbin lace maker, a Christmas Tree, 2 miner’s hammers, 2 crossed swords, and an angel. The light shining in represented the light the miners went without for months as they mined the mountain. However, since World War II, the scenes have varied. Nowadays, one can see scenes depicting the trip to Bethlehem, Jesus’ birth, a historic Christmas village, and nature scenes, just to name a few.  Here’s a classical example of a Bogen one will find in a window sill of a German home:

 

Photo courtesy of Oliver Merkel.
Photo courtesy of Oliver Merkel.

One will also find Schwibbogen at the Christmas markets, including the Striezelmarkt in Dresden and the largest Schwibbogen in the world at its place of origin in Johanngeorgenstadt, which was erected in 2012 and has remained a place to see ever since! 🙂

Going from the Ore Mountains, 7,400 kilometers to the west, one will see another form of the Schwibbogen, but in the state of Iowa. During the Christmas trip through Van Buren County, Iowa, and in particular, Bentonsport, several houses were shining with candles of their own. But these are totall different than the Schwibbogen we see in German households and Christmas markets. Each window had three candles, with one in the middle that is taller than the two outer ones. This is similar to the very top picture in the article, even though it is a mimic of what was seen at the village. When attempting to photograph the houses, the author was met with this:

IMGP4837

Even though there is not much to see from there, it shows how the candles are arranged in front of the window, closed with a curtain. Van Buren County was predominantly Dutch (more on that will come when looking at the Christmas villages), but it is unknown what the meaning behind the three candles are, let alone who was behind the concept and why. Could it be that the Dutch were simply mimicking the Schwibbogen from Saxony but just simply using three candles instead of eleven and subtracting the designed arch holder? And what does the design of the three candles stand for?

Any ideas are more than welcomed. Just add your comments or use the contact form to inform the author what the difference between the three candles and the Schwibbogen are in terms of origin and meaning. The information will be provided once the answers are collected and when looking at the Christmas villages in the county. They are small, but each one has its own culture which has been kept by its residents. The three candles are one of these that can be seen today at Christmas time, even while passing by the houses travelling along the Des Moines River, heading northwest to Des Moines.  Looking forward to the info on this phenomenon. 🙂

 

Author’s Note: Check out the Flensburg Files’ wordpress page, as a pair of genres dealing with Christmas have been posted recently. They are film ads produced by a German and a British retailer, respectively. Both are dealing with the dark sides of Christmas, as the German one looks at loneliness without family (click here) and ways to get them home for the holidays (even though the technique presented is controversial), and the British one deals with a girl meeting a man far far away (click here), who is lonely and wants company, which is given in the end.  Both have powerful messages, so have your tissues out. 🙂

 

Flensburg Files logo France 15

Don’t break with the past, learn from it

Author’s Note: This is a throwback article from October 16th, 2012 that looks at a person’s dealing with the past. People love to forget the past, yet little do they realize, that it can come back in a different form. There it is important to embrace it and learn from it so that a person can do things differently. Here’s the author’s take on it:

A short while ago, a relative of mine decided to leave everything behind and move on into the future. By leaving behind her husband of 20 years for a guy she met at a seminar at a university in Wisconsin, and giving away many items that belonged to previous relationships, gifts given to her from friends and family, and some personal items dating back to her childhood, she decided to leave the life she knew in a small town in Iowa and move on to the future, despite the fact that she recently retired from teaching art in high school and pursue a degree in history.

If people were to read this, they would say that it is totally insane, preposterous and rather mad. Yet many of us have been in that situation at one point or another, where we had lives that were once enjoyable but now were no longer satisfying and wanted to break away from everything that had something to do with us in the past and start over from scratch. I can understand the stories of many people who either wished for something new or  have experimented with that. Some have succeeded and moved on, but some have realized that their experiment was a total failure and have returned to their roots, where they were once successful in their lives. Learning from their past and the mistakes that go along with it, they find themselves again and move on, doing something that is typical, deemed worthy of their character, and that people can like them for, as they had done in the past.

History can work in the strangest ways. We not only learn about the events that shaped our lives, but we also learn about our own surroundings and how we became part of it in one way or another. Our past can help shape our own lives and influence others, regardless of how they judge these actions. The more we do for others and ourselves, the more we will be remembered by them. It is impossible to separate the past from the present in order to pursue a future under a new identity for we will always end up having the past come back to remind us of who we really are. The past can serve as a tool for learning about ourselves and plan for the future, giving us a clearer perspective of what is good in life and what is bad. To break with the past would mean to break with one’s identity for one that does not exist. This is impossible to do, and if there was a possibility, it could be potentially fatal to the person himself. We need our past to learn about ourselves and to love ourselves for who we are. Only then will we be liked by other and we can find a way to succeed in what we are doing.

While I understand the reason for leaving things behind and moving on to a new life elsewhere, if there was a word of advice I would give to that relative who is now residing in Wisconsin or to anyone who is in that particular situation, it would be this:  Keep your past. To break with it means to reinvent it in a different form. Learn from it and you will learn more about yourself.  Those are my words to the wise.

five years flfi