Christmas Market Tour 2017: Hof (Bavaria)


Little is known about the first stop on the Christmas market tour of 2017. Hof is located in Bavaria near the Franconian Forest and the Fichtel Mountains. The city of 47,500 inhabitants is located along the Saxon Saale River near the border of both the Czech Republic to the east and the German state of Saxony to the north. In fact, the city is 13 kilometers west of the former Communist Triangle at Trojmezí (CZ). Hof was the symbol of freedom as tens of thousands of East Germans entered Bavaria by train in 1989. It was followed by the opening of the gates and and tens of thousands of Trabants and Wartburg cars entering Hof when the Berlin Wall fell on 9 November of the same year. All of those fleeing the country wanted nothing more but either freedom to move and live, or the removal of the communist regime led by Erich Honnecker or even both. They eventually got their wish and then some with the German reunification. Almost 30 years later, the borders and fencing have all but disappeared with the exception of a section of a preserved watchman’s tower and fencing north of Hof near Mödlareuth. Hof is now situated at the three-state corner with Bavaria meeting Saxony and Thuringia both former states of East Germany.

When looking at Hof more closely, one can see the historic town center and many antique houses and buildings in other suburbs in one piece. Hof survived almost unscath by the air raids during World War II and has prospered since then, thanks to tourism, agriculture and small industry. The city center is 150-200 meters above the river, anchored by a combination of shopping and religion- the later featuring the twin finial towers of the St. Marion Catholic Church. The shopping mile at Altstadt connects Post Street with Lorenz Church and street via the Catholic Church- a span of over one kilometer.

And this shopping mile is the focus of the Christmas Market at Hof’s Altstadt. Getting to the market by car, let alone by foot is difficult- perhaps the one of the most difficult of the Christmas markets to date. It has nothing to do with the maze in getting to the market, as was the case with the Christmas market in Chemnitz, when I wrote about it in 2015. While the street plans are mainly gridded- similar to a typical American town- the main problem was finding a place to park in Hof, for the parking lot and places along the streets were filled to the brim. When they were not occupied by cars, they were reserved for the handicapped, delivery trucks and bikes. This was compounded by speeding cars, traffic lights and even traffic jams. These are typical scenes of a typical southern German town as the region is the fastest growing in the country in terms of people, houses, and even transportation.  When finding a place to park, it is highly recommended to take your time, find the right spot to park without getting ticketed and impounded, and expect to walk to the Altstadt from your parked car.

This was the case during my visit, but despite this, the walk to the market was well worth it.  🙂

The market itself was really small, stretching from the Catholic Church to Post Street along the upper end of the shopping mile going past the Gallerie Kaufhof. Its aesthetic features include Christmas trees (some decorated) wrapped around street lamps along the shopping mile, LED lighting illuminating the sidewalks with Christmas slogans and light brown pinewood Christmas huts with gabled roofing and decorated with natural pine nbeedle garland and Christmas figures, such as the snowman, Santa Claus (or Weihnachtsman in German) and reindeers. The main attraction is a nine meter high Christmas pyramid, with angelic figures, whose dark brown color with white paintings resemble a gingerbread cake. Yet it is not like in Hansel and Gretel because it holds the largest of the Glühwein (mulled wine) stands at the market.  The backdrop of the market is both the church as well as the historic buildings, minus the rather modern Kaufhof. Still the market is a great stop for a drink and food after a long day of Christmas shopping.

Approximately 40 huts lined up and down the shopping mile as well as the pyramid and neighboring carousel on one end, but gallery of fairy tales and a Children’s train station on the opposite end.  The stands sold many handcrafted goods originating from the region, including the lighted Christmas arch from the Fichtel Mountains, ceramic manger sets that include a real lantern hung over the crib where baby Jesus was born and woolen clothing made in time for skiing. 🙂

But inspite this, one should pay attention to the food and drink available at the market because they are either local or multicultural. Local in this case means, in terms of food, the hot pot Schnitz and the Hofer Bratwurst (the thin version of the well acclaimed Bratwurst whose taste reminds a person of the Nuremberg Bratwurst); for the beverages, there is the local Glühwein from the nearby wineries in and around the Franconian region. Most importantly, one should try the Franconian Punch: an alcoholic drink that features orangesrum and other spices. Some include red wine and are thus renamed orange Frankenwald wine, yet just punch with the rum alone makes it the real thing worth drinking. 🙂

Yet multicultural food and drink mean that stands originating from several different country serving their own form of homemade local delicacies can be found at the Christmas market. From my own observations, stands with goodies from six different countries are worth trying while in Hof. They include those from Mexico, Belgium, Czech Republic, Turkey, Italy and Syria. Ironically, these specialties come from three of the countries that US President Trump detests (both officially and behind closed doors), one of these three is a royal pain in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s neck. I’ll allow you to figure out which three countries I’m referring to. 😉

While I never had a chance to try all of the delicious delicacies from those stands, I tried the Gözlem (a Turkish Yufka tortilla that is filled with feta (sheep) cheese and spinach) and several small bars that contain pistachio, a nut most commonly found in Syria. The Syrians baker at that stand had a wide selection of pistachio bars, rolls, spaghetti-style bars, etc., that contained lots of these nuts plus sugar, eggs and other sweet spices. It tasted really good- enough to take it home to try with the family, especially my daughter, who is friends with a Syrian in school. 🙂 Syrians, who fled the region because of war and famine and have made their homes here in Europe, are one of the most overlooked groups when it comes to their heritage. From mainstream media, they fled to find a new life but struggle to establish their existence because of hate crimes and fake news from neo-conservative, far-right “news” sources, such as Britain First and Breitbart (US). Yet inspite of attempts of instilling fear and forcing others to turn away and against them, the majority of the public believe that the refugees have as much right to live in Germany as the Germans themselves, let alone other expatriates, like yours truly, who have escaped their home countries and found a better life.  And when looking at them even closer, one can see their special talents and food specialties, the latter of which brought out the Mr Food in me because of their secret ingredient of pistachio and its “Ooh, it’s so good!” comment.

Given the situation they are in, we have to put ourselves in our place and ask ourselves, what would we have done if we were in the crossfires? What talents and special characteristics can we take with so that we can use it for others? After all, every country has been in a war in one way or another. Germany’s last war ended 72 years ago. America’s home turf soil happened 152 years ago, focusing on slavery of the minority.  Both cultures are still alive and stronger than ever before. For refugees, like the Syrians, Turks, Kurds, Iranians and others affected by the war, they too have a right to live and shine for others and therefore, we must respect their rights and talents like we have for our own. We can learn from each other through our actions. 🙂

Summing up the Hof Christmas market, the first in Bavaria since starting my Christmas market series in 2010, I found that despite the problems with traffic, that the Christmas market in the old town was a cool place to visit. Accessible by going up the hill to the church and turning left, the market has a small hometown setting that is appealing to locals and regionals alike. One can try all the local and multi-cultural specialties and talk to people from different regions, while listening to music played or sung on stage (located at the entrance to the mall passage). And while Hof and Bayreuth have some equal characteristics in terms of having a university and similar population size, the arrangement and offer of the Christmas market falls clearly in favor of Hof this time, although admittedly, perhaps Bayreuth has changed since my visit seven years ago.

In either case, as you can see in the pics below and here per link, Hof is one city worth a visit, especially during the holiday season. One can learn culture, history and heritage for one day and come away with a small town feeling, learning a bit and enjoying that Christmas feeling.



This slideshow requires JavaScript.


fast fact logo

Mr. Food, going by the name of Art Ginsburg, started a short TV show bearing his nickname in 1975 and continued to run it until his death in 2012 due to cancer. Howard Rosenthal now runs the show bearing the name.




Year of the Beer Day 35: Ur-Saalfelder Dark Beer


Day 35 of the German beer marathon, and I’ve decided to open this entry up for forum, especially with regards to this candidate, the Ur-saalfelder.  This beer is produced by the brewery located in the southern Thuringian city of Saalfeld, located 40 kilometers south of Jena along the Saale River. There is a unique history behind this brewery, but there is another beer produced by the same brewery that will be tasted later on, and I intend to play the mosquito and suck the information out of the people at the brewery about that and this beer! 😉

The Ur-saalfelder represents an example of a typical “Märzenbier” which if translated, means strong dark beer. This terminology is cloudy because it can be mistaken for a “Schwarzbier,” which also means dark beer, but with a black color and in most cases, with a strong alcohol content. So the translation and definition alone are rather confusing. In the case of the Ur-saalfelder, the beer is not as dark as it is described, for the beer has a copper-like color, a decent clearness, a persistent head, very lively carbonation and a thick full body. The alcohol content is between 5.7 and 6%, and when drinking it, it has a slickness to it, coating the mouth, and leaving an everlasting taste to it.

However, as far as aroma is concerned, despite its rather sweet smell thanks to bread malt and floral hops, the aroma levels are rather low, meaning one can hardly smell it when opening it up. The flavor on the other hand is a bit different. When tasting it, the Ur-saalfelder has at least four different malt flavors (grain, bread, sweet and toast) and is quite hoppy with herbal and floral dominating. The end result is a clash between sweet and bitter, creating a strong intensity where it is unknown what exactly is in there and what ingredients outdo the other. Nevertheless its excellent craftmanship combined with its balance between neutral and bitter has this beer becoming a tasting experience one should try, and one where a lot of questions are open and need to be answered, such as:

  1. What is the real difference between a Schwarzbier and a Märzenbier, when both mean dark beer?
  2. What are the exact ingredients in the beer? Are they what was sensed while drinking or are there different/additional ones ?
  3. Is having too many hops and malt flavors really that good for the beer?

To our German and/or beer experts, this one is for you to answer, even if it means trying the Märzenbier like the Ur-saalfelder to figure it out. So go for it and let the author know what you think. 🙂

And as for the people at the Saalfelder Brewery, I’ll be back! 😉

Grade: 1,7/ A-

FLFI 500 beer

Germany Quiz Nr. 7: What you need to know about Saxony-Anhalt


Saxony-Anhalt-the state with two faces, but loaded with some interesting facts and friendly faces. With a population of 2.37 million inhabitants and a land area of 20,452 squared kilometers it is the most sparsely populated region in Germany and one of the most sparsely populated areas in Europe, with over 70% of the people living in cities with more than 30,000 inhabitants, including Dessau-Rosslau, Weissenfels, Halle(Saale) and its capital, Magdeburg. The rural areas, once laden with industry from the days of East Germany, are now places dominated by nature and agriculture. Yet despite this, Saxony-Anhalt has some jewels that are worth mentioning. Cities and towns pride themselves on their history and heritage; despite being landlocked by four states, the landscapes vary between hills and mountains in the western half and plains in the northern and eastern areas, thus encouraging tourism in the region. And thanks to the new ICE line through Halle (Saale), train connections are enabling the establishment of new commerce and business partnerships with nearby cities, such as Leipzig, Hanover, Jena, Erfurt and even Berlin, thus helping keep much of the population from emigrating to the western and southern parts of Germany and beyond.

But what do we know about Saxony-Anhalt in reality? This is where the seventh quiz on the Germany series on this state comes into play. Like in the first six, the object is to test yourself on the knowledge of the state, with the answer key to come before the end of June. Both of which will appear in the Files under the page Interesting Facts about Germany. 

So quiz yourselves and knock yourselves out with these Guessing Quiz questions about Saxony Anhalt 🙂  :

  1. Which of the four states does Saxony-Anhalt border?

a. Thuringia   b. Brandenburg   c. Lower Saxony   d. Saxony   e. all of them


2. List the following cities in Saxony-Anhalt in order of population, beginning with the largest:

Quedlinburg     Zeitz     Halle(Saale)   Halberstadt   Naumburg (Saale)   Weissenfels    Magdeburg    Lutherstadt- Wittenberge   Dessau-Rosslau   Bernburg   Merseburg       Sangerhausen


3. Match the following photos with the cities listed in Nr. 2. (Hint: Two of these belong to one city.)


The cathedral churches and the statue of George Friedrich Handel at Halle (Saale)'s city center. Photo taken in 2012





4. True or False: No police commissioners from the German mystery series Tatort has ever covered Saxony-Anhalt.


5. True or False (2 answers): The slogan for Saxony-Anhalt is Frühaufsteher, which stands for people going to work early in the morning (_____).  The people who do that (mainly farmers) are proud of that heritage (_______). 

6. True or False (3 answers) Martin Luther, the Protestant who presented the 95 Thesis harshly criticizing the Catholic Church, was born in and died in the same city (_______). His wife Katherina von Bora was not from Saxony-Anhalt originally (_______). She crafted the first champaign for him as a refresher for the brain (________).

7. Walter Gropius is famous for this (choose one):

_The founding of Bauhaus Dessau-Rosslau

_The creation of Worlitz Park near Dessau-Rosslau

_ The Nebra Arch

_The creation of the East German Museum in Bernburg


8. Which of the following concertos was written by George Friedrich Handel, a composer originating from Saxony-Anhalt in the city of (____________)?


9. True or False: Johann Sebastian Bach originated from Magdeburg.


10. True or False: The late Hans Diedrich Genscher, one of the founding fathers of the Free Democratic Party of Germany originated from Halle (Saale).


11. True or False: Sven Köhler, one of the longest tenured soccer head coaches from Halle FC, grew up in and played for the team in Halle.


12. True or False: Halle FC and FC Magdeburg are the only two teams in Saxony Anhalt which marched through the regional soccer league in one season enroute to the national stage (counting the 3rd tier of the German Bundesliga).


13. True or False: The handball teams of SC Magdeburg (men) and the Halle Lions (women) compete in the premere league.


14. Which of the following beers originate from Saxony-Anhalt?

Porter              Hasseröder                 Gessener                     St. Moritz                   Glauchauer


15. Which of the following specialties are NOT considered a pastry?

Bienenstich                Nähstänge                  Garley             Baumkuchen            Streuselkuchen


16. True or False: The Nähstänge is a pastry that originate from  Tangermünde.

17. What constitutes a typical Bauernfrühstück in Saxony-Anhalt?

18. The Weinmeile is an annual event that takes place in ___________________________, (region or city will suffice)  famous for the production of ________________ and ___________________ (pick two from the selection below)

champaign           brandy            wine                sherry             sect                 champaign            beer


19. What is a Feuerstein from Schierke?

20. If legend is true (and it still is), salt is the most priceless commodity that exist in Saxony-Anhalt. Which areas can you find salt production?


21. Salt is used for what purposes?


22. Which of the cities in Saxony-Anhalt does NOT have a castle?

Halle (Saale), Naumburg (Saale), Magdeburg, Sangerhausen, Quedlinburg, Dessau-Rosslau, Tangermünde


23. Which of the following cities have a cathedral?

Naumburg (Saale),  Magdeburg,  Halle (Saale), Havelberg, Lutherstadt Wittenberge, Arendsee


24. How many churches and “klosters” does Magdeburg have?


25.  How many bridges do the following cities have? Name two of them per city you know.

Magdeburg: ________

Halle (Saale): _______

Quedlinburg: _________

Zeitz: __________

Merseburg: __________


26. Match the pictures of the bridges with that of the locations below.  Name the bridge if you know it.

Halle (Saale)    Magdeburg    Zeitz    Bad Kösen    Saale-Unstrut Region    Merseburg   Quedlinburg    Tangermünde    Köthen



The Answer Key to this Quiz you will find here.



Now accepting Mystery Buildings and Places


It is a sight that many people do not want to see in their backyard: A derelict building like the one in the picture above near their backyard because it is an eyesore and a hazard. Yet such buildings and places like this one have a character of its own- a history that is unknown to the public, but when researched thoroughly, is unique and a valuable asset to the community. We’re seeing many historic buildings like this one being abandoned and eventually demolished without knowing more about them, let alone looking at options of restoring them. In the case of places of historic interest in Germany, much of the records were destroyed during World War II and in the case of the eastern half of the country (where the former German Democratic Republic or East Germany existed), they were either altered or destroyed by the Communist government, thus leaving oral histories as the lone source. But where are these sources and how can we bring these sites to light, attracting many to visit them, even restoring them if needed?

In response to a successful story on the Prora near Binz in Mecklenburg-Pommerania and a large demand for more stories of these mystery places, The Flensburg Files is now starting a page on Mystery Places in Germany, which you will find here on this website, and is therefore accepting any inquiries of places of unique value but in need of the necessary information to solve their mysteries. This includes former factories, railroad stations, parks, apartment complexes, and even remnants of old motorways (just to name a few that are acceptable. The page will run parallel to the Mystery Bridge page provided by sister column The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles (which you can view here). That means, the mystery building article will be posted in the Files and forwarded to various sources who might be able to help. Follow-ups will be posted, and all information will be placed in the Files’ Mystery Places page for readers to look at.

If you have something historic that you want to know more about, please send the information to Jason Smith at the Files. The e-mail address is The Files is on facebook and you can also contact him through that channel. Please note all mystery bridge inquiries will be posted in the Chronicles, which is also on facebook and like the Files, you can like to follow.

Keeping this in mind, let’s have a look at the next mystery place, this time in a small community of Halle (Saale) in Saxony-Anhalt. While this city has prided itself on George Friedrich Händel, well-restored architecture, many historic bridges, a small but unique Christmas Market, a green and diverse zoo, and rows of parks along the Saale River, it also has some buildings and historic places worth inquiring about, even if they are abandoned like this building. Located south of the city center next to the Saale River between the Hafenbahn and Genzer Bridges, this building resembles a covered railroad turntable, used to redirect trains that terminated here at the starting point of the Hafenbahn. Yet the building seems a bit too small for that function, for steam locomotives were huge during the 1800s, the time the Hafenbahn existed- approximately 100-150 feet long (33-50 meters) and about 15-20feet wide (5-6 meters). It does however make sense, given its proximity to the Hafenbahn Bridge, which was once used as a railroad bridge before it became a pedestrian crossing.  The question is, if this was a turntable house, when was it built and how often did trains use this facility? If it was not that facility, what was the function of the building? Judging by the roof being gone, it was most likely damaged severely in World War II and was never used again afterwards. But then again, could the Communist government afford to leave buildings like this, as it is, abandoned all the way up to the present?

What do you think? Your comments, ideas and information will help a great deal towards solving this mystery….

FF new logo