Christmas Market Tour 2017: Hof (Bavaria)

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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.

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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.

 

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Germany Quiz 8: Part II

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After getting warmed up with the Sächsisch Deutsch, as shown in Part I of the Quiz (click here to get to the page) Part II takes us to the state of Saxony itself. Having spent quite a few months there as well as having a few contacts from all over the state, I found that there is more to Saxony than meets the eye. If you ask someone who has yet to visit Germany (or even has passed through there once) the first thing that comes to mind when we think of Germany, 90% of the respondents would say Bavaria. Sure, Bavaria is home of the beer, the Oktoberfest and the sports club Bayern Munich. It would be considered the German version of Texas and would better off being on its own if the likes of Edmund Stoiber and Horst Seehofer had it their way.  😉  

However, we have the German version of California in the state of Saxony- yes, that’s right, Saxony! 🙂

Saxony used to be part of the Kingdom of Saxony, which includes present-day Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony. Since 1990, it has become a free-state after having spent 40 years being part of East Germany and having been divided up into districts.  With the population of 4.1 million inhabitants, Saxony is the birthplace of many products that we use everyday, both at home as well as on the road. Many personalities that have become famous and placed their names in the history books were either born in Saxony or have passed through leaving their mark. The Christmas market got its start in Saxony, most of the automobles we know started its business in Saxony because of its proximity to the mountains and its natural mineral resources. And most recently, many professional sports teams are climbing their way up the ladder in soccer, handball and even basketball! 

Now that’s a lot right there about the state! 

But what do we know about the state? This is where Part II of the quiz comes in. Dividing it up into general information, personalities and its infrastructure (which was difficult enough as is, by the way), this guide will give you a chance to test your knowledge and do some research about the state, especially if you wish to visit the region someday.  As Saxony is the where many people made their inventions, especially for the household and for the highway, a part III will be devoted to the inventors. 

But for now, let’s test our knowledge and get to know the Saxe, shall we? 🙂  Good luck!

Author’s Note: Only the first half of the quiz will be shown here. To see the entire quiz, you need to go to the Files’ wordpress page. Click here to access it. 

 

General Information:

What is the capital of Saxony?

Leipzig               Meissen                   Zwickau                Dresden                 Görlitz           Wilkau-Hasslau

Which city in Saxony does NOT have an equivalent in the USA? Mark all that apply.

Dresden          Zwickau          Zittau              Leipzig           Meerane         Waldenburg

Which city in Saxony does NOT have a sister city in the USA?

Glauchau      Dresden      Freiberg     Leipzig    Zwickau   Riesa

Which rivers do NOT flow through Saxony?

Elbe             Mulde                Saale            Neisse              Danube

Which city does NOT have nearby lakes/reservoirs? Mark all that apply.

Leipzig                   Glauchau                  Plauen                 Meissen                Reichenbach

Which city does NOT have a castle or palace?

Zwickau            Dresden             Leipzig        Glauchau        Markkleeberg      Schneeberg

Which city in Saxony is located at the Polish-German border and is named in both languages?

Zittau         Bautzen          Oberlausitz           Cottbus        Görlitz       Grimma

Which city is the hub of the porcellain industry- you can see their products at the pottery markets throughout all of Germany?

Meissen             Riesa             Hoyerswerda           Werdau           Crimmitschau            Leipzig

T/F: The village of Amerika (near Penig) was created in 1839 and was based on the founder’s visit to the USA.

Germany has one of the oldest race tracks in the country, where race cars and motorcycles convene yearly to this city in Saxony……

a. Görlitz               b. Hohenstein-Ernstthal                     c. Leipzig       d. Hoyerswerda

Which of the two cities in Saxony were the site of the infamous beer war in 1731?

  1. Werdau and Crimmitschau
  2. Meerane and Glauchau
  3. Zwickau and Aue
  4. Leipzig and Halle

Mark the following cities that have a brewery with a check mark and circle the cities that have a liquour distillery.

Chemnitz              Meerane                Zwickau             Leipzig                   Dresden              Plauen                  Reichenbach         Zittau

The Black Triangle, infamous for years of pollution and environmental destruction caused by strip mining, consists of three states meeting near which town in Saxony?  Identify the three states and choose which city.

The three states: ______________,  __________________, & ___________________

The city:

  1. Bautzen
  2. Görlitz
  3. Zittau
  4. Dresden

 Hint: A beverage named after the region and this city, consisting of  (10%) vodka, (40%) Vita Cola and (50%) Czech beer was created by the author in 2005.

Which cities are served by the ICE-train line?  Which ones will be served by the InterCity line beginning in 2023?

Dresden            Chemnitz            Leipzig              Glauchau           Riesa               Bad Schandau

T/F: The Leipzig-Dresden Railline, the first railroad line ever built, was completed in 1839

Mark the following cities that have a professional soccer team (1, 2 and 3rd leagues) with an X, a professional handball team (1st and 2nd leagues) with a check-mark, and check-mark the cities that have an American football team.

Aue        Dresden         Leipzig          Meerane        Zwickau            Chemnitz           Glauchau

T/F: FC Dynamo Dresden is the only team from Saxony that has defeated FC Bayern Munich in a soccer match.

How many soccer teams does Leipzig have, including the Red Bull Team?

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Information about the Christmas markets in Saxony:

The oldest Christmas market known to man can be found in which city?

a. Dresden    b. Leipzig    c. Bautzen       d. Nuremberg             e. Glauchau

The origin of the Stollen (the German fruit cake with raisins and powdered sugar) originated from which city?

a.  Plauen   b. Naumburg (Saale)    c. Dresden      d. Rochlitz      e. Flöha

The shortest Christmas market in Germany can be found in this city?

a. Glauchau     b. Crimmitschau     c. Werdau       d. Meerane     e. Aue

Which region in Saxony was the birthplace of the Schwipbogen (Christmas arch)?

a. Ore Mountains      b. Vogtland        c. Lausitz Region       d. Black Triangle

T/F: Customary of a Christmas market in Saxony is the parade of miners in the villages Ore Mountains.  If true, name at least one town that does host this.

T/F: Räuchermänner were common but rare decorations during the East German Communist era.

T/F:  Pulsnitzer Kekse is a cake with a jelly filling that can be found at a Christmas market in Saxony.

Which Christmas market does NOT have a castle setting?

a. Wolkenburg          b. Glauchau         c. Zwickau                  d. Crimmitschau                             e. Waldenburg

 

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