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