When it comes to Christmas Markets, sometimes the best ones can be found either in the suburbs of a big city, like Magdeburg, or in rural communities. Why? There are many reasons to support this argument, as we look at the example here on our stop in Buckau. Located four kilometers south of Magdeburg’s Alter Markt along the Elbe River, the suburb of Buckau has 5,000 inhabitants and borders the other suburbs of Salbke, Westerhusen, Fermersleben and Altstadt. It is integrated into the railway and tram networks, making access to the suburb from Magdeburg easy. The suburb was created in 937 and was once the primary settlement for Slavs before they emigrated eastwards. And while the suburb has so many people, mostly between the ages of 25 and 40 and with families of their own, the suburb is one of the most densely populated in all of Magdeburg. While many historic buildings dating back to the 1800s are characteristic of the region, Buckau’s main commerce is the famous Engpass, consisting of one narrow street surrounded by historic buildings housing businesses and apartments and their lone church, St. Norbert. That street was named after German author Erich Weinert and connects the church and the adjacent Thiemestrasse to the south, where one can access the local tram service.
The Engpass was the main attraction of the Christmas market as we spent an hour touring Buckau. The Christmas market there created a sense of hominess as there was a small crowd of people conversing and dancing around the bonfires that existed, “angels” serving hors d’oeuvre to visitors and friends, people singing Christmas songs while watching their main buildings change color, and lastly, local goods being sold that are typical of the suburb, whether they were books, local specialties or even toy replicas of the Buckau Water Tower. Yet one can be very lucky to get one of them for free by visiting Santa Claus, if you are a child. Many of them received toy water towers for free and were happy. However, the catch for visiting the smaller Christmas market is the fact that one has to be lucky to visit it when it takes place, for many of them like the ones in Buckau took place for only one day. There is something special about having those one-day or one weekend markets in these areas. Apart from the fact that it reduces the chance of massive tourism and damages done to historic buildings and other places of interest, it also brings people together for one time to appreciate and take pride in what they have and what they can offer to people wishing to visit or even live in the region. It is family friendlier and more local than having Christmas markets that are commercialized, where people can see the same products and places of amusement in places like Nuremberg, Berlin, Frankfurt, etc. It creates a sense of identity that should be preserved and not exploited and perverted. While some towns and villages have such Christmas markets that take place once during the month of December, the one in Buckau represents the one of the best examples of local Christmas markets that fits this theme. It leads to the question of whether other communities that do not have Christmas markets can use locality and identity and host a Christmas market for a day or weekend. This applies to communities in the USA, especially those whose names are typically German, like the ones in Minnesota: Fulda, New Trier, Flensburg and New Germany, just to name a few. While these communities have a few hundred inhabitants, they also have grand ideas on how to make the community fun and more attractive for passers-by, and such a Christmas market would bring families and friends together and have them take pride in what the communities have done with them.
After an hour of Gluewein, socializing, pictures and all, it was time to return to the main market in Magdeburg’s Alter Markt for typical delicacies of Saxony Anhalt followed by a day trip to Quedlinburg the next day. But before moving on, here are some impressions of Buckau’s Christmas Market at Engpass and some facts for you to enjoy.
Flensburg Files Fast Facts:
1. Erich Weinert (1890-1953) was a German writer who was actively involved with the Communist Party and later with the Committee for a Free Germany. He was active in World War I as a soldier, the Spanish Civil War (1936-39) as a front line correspondent and World War II (in exile) creating propaganda to encourage German soldiers to leave the Nazi Movement and join the Soviets in forms of poetry and other written genres. Many streets, buildings and statues still bear his name today.
2. The Buckau Water Tower was one of a classic example of architecture that was built during the period of the Industrial Revolution in Buckau. It was built in 1913 and served many functions, including waste treatment and water storage. It was abandoned in the early 1990s but later converted into a park complex, as seen here. Other places of interest in Buckau that are worth seeing include the Water Works Building, the Rayonhaus and the House of Society, in addition to the Engpass.