LEIPZIG- There are five things about German culture that are considered sacred and should be handled with care: cars, soccer, punctuality, perfectionism and last, but especially, books. To Germans, books are like the Bible: you read them, handle them with care and give them to the next person, hoping that that person handles it with as much care as you did.
Even more so with books, one is expected to produce a book with high quality in terms of content. In some cases, if you are not into writing fairy tales but more into Krimis and politics, the themes have to be controversial and worth discussing at the table.
The Leipzig Buchmesse (Book Fair) is one of two central places where fairy tales, comics, newspapers and books come together for one weekend. Dating back to 1632, it is the second largest book fair behind the one in Frankfurt/Main (has been since 1945) in terms of the number of books presented and sold.
As many as 300 publishers from Germany and 40 different countries, including the United States present their products every year at the end of March, as well as organizations representing writers, teachers, publishers, musicians and even antique book sellers, attracting visitors in the hundreds of thousands.
Since 1995, the book fair has taken place at the Leipzig Messegelände and for a good reason: six convention halls full of book displays, including Fachbücher (books on specialized areas), antique books, newspapers, comics, German literature and others. During my visit this past weekend, I underestimated the number of halls the fair was hosting and ended up spending two hours in one hall! One needs a whole weekend to spend at the fair (luckily for me, it was spent in the Fachbücher section, where English (teaching) literature was on display).
In each hall, there is a forum on various topics as well as reading lectures and sometimes a bit of music. The convention is spacious, allowing people to manoever around. The people are friendly and willing to share some experiences and tips. And one can come away with free books, broschures and even card games if you find the right place.
While Frankfurt’s book fair is still larger than Leipzig’s in terms of books and things being found and sold there, the potential for Leipzig to surpass the Frankfurt Book Fair in terms of number of visitors is there.
Over 260,000 people attended the book fair this year- an increase by 9,000 from last year’s total. And given what the fair has to offer combined with its location within the fastest growing city in Germany and the continuous interest in reading books, it could be that maybe next year at this time the Leipzig Buchmesse will surpass Frankfurt’s, taking the top role for the first time since 1945. The 2017 book fair will take place March 27-30.
More on the book fair highlights as well as German’s passion for books will be found on the Files’ wordpress website. This Areavoices site will undergo a makeover in the coming weeks and therefore, all newsflyers and forum topics will be posted in the wordpress site until the work is completed. You can click here to follow the Files.
LEIPZIG- More than 35 people from different aspects of the globe were on hand last night at the first annual Intercultural Blogger Conference, which took place at the Poniatowski Polish Bar and Restaurant, located outside the city center of Leipzig. Hosted by Ana Beatriz Ribeiro, founder of the online column Leipzig Glocal, the conference featured presenters of eight different blogs, together with good company among people either from Leipzig or just passing through to visit. Of the eight, the Flensburg Files was one of the blogs being presented by founder Jason D. Smith that evening. However other blogs based in and around Leipzig were presented as well, one of which included a book that was recently released in time for this weekend’s Leipzig Buchmesse. Here are the highlights of the event from the author’s point of view:
The Leipzig Glocal: Ana Beatriz Ribeiro started off the conference with her story about the creation of the Leipzig Glocal, where according to her speech and a video, an English-speaking guide to the events in and around Leipzig was needed, especially for those new to the area. Since its launch in March last year, the Glocal has attracted over 1200 followers on facebook and even more visitors on its website, which you can click here.
Alexandra Köpplingtalked about the importance of food in Europe and how and where people can find food products (for vegans, organics, etc.) in and around Leipzig, let alone make some yummy entrées, as she contributes to the Glocal as a food correspondant.
Alexander and Juliane Klinger talked about goats and things to do in Leipzig, especially for families with little income, through their blog Heldenstadtbewohner, one of a pair of German-speaking blogs featured at the conference. The audience took very kindly to the goats, asking if they thought about a blog about that as it is a hobby. 🙂
The first presentation that spawned interest and discussion on creating blogs came with the presentation on the Flensburg Files by Jason D. Smith. The origin and development of the Files can be found here. This is minus the film and a couple other tricks. After the presentation there were questions about audience visits and discussions on articles as well as questions and advice to people wanting to create a blog for their interest, such as Italian food recipes, African themes and art. Nice to know that the interest is blogging is really high. 😀
Stewart Tunnicliff (a.k.a. the Linguo Guy) presented a Prezi-style topic on how to create a blog with wordpress, one of the most popular platforms for blogging. During this most colorful presentation of the evening, Stu walked the audience through the steps of creating a wordpress site, while reemphasizing the importance of “backing up your shit!” In other words, have back-ups and protection against hackers and potential disasters online. 😉 He has two blogs: The Lingo Guy and The Leipzig Writers. .)
The Stadtschwärmer, featuring Babett Börner, Franziska Müller, Katrin Hofmann und Stephanie Schmidt, presented a combination blog and book of their own, one that is highly recommended when visiting Leipzig. In comparison to the mainstream places and events, their most recently released tour guide features the sides of Leipzig that many don’t see except from their point of view. Some of that has to do with the job of two of the members as city planners, the others because of the other blog founded by the other two members of the quartet, going by the name of Kiss and Tell. Some ideas for another book are being sought and created, so stay tuned. 🙂
The last presenter was Kerstin Petermann, who talked about her blog, Peterfrau, an online blog which almost solely focuses on pop music and interviews with musicians. For people loving music, this one is a treat. 🙂
The conference ended with a combination of book exchanges (an article will come afterwards), donations for the event, good food and drink and some lively conversations among presenters and audience members, as well as those interested in creating a blog. One of the lessons learned from this conference is no matter how interested the people are, if one has an idea and will to present a topic to the open, then there is a way to do that, no matter what platform is used and how it is designed. In the end, the best columnists are the ones who are most informed of the topics surrounding them (even if it means looking up some information), and the most confident and able to market onesself to the audience. The more confidence and ways to get your audience’s attention, the more likes and followers you will have. You just need to find out what you like in comparison to what they like (also to read about). For this conference, it gave many, including the author of the Files, an idea on how to further develop their blogs further. For those who have not started one, it gave them a few ideas on how to start theirs.
This leads to my closing remark on this conference, which will continue to be hosted, and to the bloggers out there:
TO BE SUCCESFUL IN LIFE, AIM HIGH AND LET THE HEAVENS DO THE REST! 🙂
The Flensburg Files has a gallery of photos taken by the author and several people who were at the event, with some highlights of the events. Please check back often as more will be added. If you are interested in participating in or helping out on the next blogger convention, please contact Ana Beatriz Ribeiro at the Leipzig Glocal. The contact info is on their webpage.
And BTW, the film in connection with the Files’ presentation….. 🙂
TIP! 🙂 Located on Kreuzstrasse 15 near Augustusplatz, the Poniatowski Bar and Restaurant offers a wide array of Polish food and drink, inlcuding the famous Stille Josef vodka, which comes in many different flavors. (The author tried one with wild berry which was really fruity). The restaurant was named after a patron, who visited the restaurant very often until his untimely death. The owners renamed the place in his honor. To be acquainted with Polish food, drink and culture, as well as know the patron, click here and check it out while visiting Leipzig.
….with many thanks for what you have done. There’s one less light in the city of Leipzig tonight but one more light in the skies, one that is singing songs of praise, freedom, joy and love, one that is leading the stars to a better hope for us down here on Earth. Going from doing an doing work for your father as an electrician to a musician and a revolutionary, you provided us with a sense of hope when the people were suffering from repression by the East German regime. You may have collected many years of experience conducting orchestras in Halle (Saale) and Erfurt, but your heart and soul remained in Leipzig, where you studied music at the academy, took over the Gewandhaus Leipzig Orchestra in 1970 and made it famous, and even taught music at the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy College of Music and became honorable professor at the University of Leipzig. Yet despite all the honors and accolades you received by the city and the East German government, your biggest award was the love and respect you received by the people in Leipzig, by being the first to lead the non-violence protests at St. Nicholas Church on 9 October, 1989, keeping the security police force at bay and allowing people to demonstrate peacefully. 100,000 people were on hand demanding change, all done peacefully. Peace leads to progress, and oppression to openness, as we saw with the Fall of the Wall on 9 November, 1989 and subsequentially, the Reunification of West and East Germany on 3 October, 1990. It was through your merit that you were honored by the City of Leipzig by being the first person to receive the Order of Merit on 27 December, 1989. After 26 years conducting the Leipzig Orchestra, you leave for bigger challenges in New York, Paris and London, taking with you your diligence, courage and creativity along with the memories of your days in Leipzig, yet your heart still remains with us. And now, we mourn you but also honor you, as you take your place in the heavens, conducting the pieces of Beethoven, Brahms, Liszt and Mendelssohn in front of the audience consisting of the likes of Vaclav Havel, Alexander Dubcek, Lech Walesa and all those who undertook efforts to free the countries of the Communist Bloc but left us too soon. We will be listening to the likes of the following below…..
…..and in the end, with all that you have done, we thank you for your contributions not just as a musician, but also one of the revolutionaries who set us free from the grasp of totalitarianism. Leipzig, Germany and the rest of the world are saluting you tonight, but will also miss you.
Kurt Masur passed away today in Greenwich, Connecticut after a long battle with Parkinson’s Disease. He was 88. There are many obituaries going out in his honor and memory. But the City of Leipzig has one depicting his career and contribution, which can be found here.
How long does a person take to walk from a major train station to the nearest Christmas market? Let alone bike there? And if you had a long waiting period for the next train, would the Christmas market be worth the visit? In the case of the Christmas market in Leipzig, located in western Saxony near the border to Saxony-Anhalt, it would not take long at all: five minutes by foot, not even two minutes by bike, and the visit is worth the layover! 🙂 While having a layover at Leipzig Central Station awaiting a train connection, I figured an hour or two at the Christmas market would kill the time needed before moving onto my final destination. Sure, one can see some booths and stores in the station shopping mall, let alone look at seven generations of trains arriving and departing the station platforms…..
…..the question is would you make haste and see something new from the market or twittle your thumbs for an hour? I wouldn’t. So I left the historic Central Station building- well decorated, even at night, and decided to take a look.
Two minutes later, thanks to my bike companion Galloping Gertie, I was at the first stop at the market: Nikolaikirchhof, where two rows of huts and lots of space to explore can be found next to the church. While rows of huts have mainly eateries and some items traditional of the German Christmas markets, such as candles, Christmas pyramids, hand-made clothing, etc., the setting takes a person back 25 years. The St. Nicholas Church, built in 1165 but rebuilt in the 17th and 18th Centuries, was the site of the famous Monday demonstrations, which took place from 1988, until the Wall fell on 9 November, 1989. The demonstrations continued beyond that until the two Germanys were reunited on 3 October, 1990. Markers indicating events that occurred during that time can be found throughout much of Leipzig’s City Center near the church as well as along some of the major streets.
Before going further, the Leipzig Christmas market is perhaps one of the most centrally located markets in Germany. It features five markets located inside the ring that surrounds the city center. A map of the market provides you with a background on how centralized the market is (click here). One will find the markets at Nikolaiplatz, Augustusplatz, Salzgässchen, Grimmaische Strasse and Petersstrasse- all of them are interconnected. If one was to walk through all of the markets from north to south, or even east to west, without even stopping at any of the stands, one would need at the very most an hour.
But when you see booths, like this one- an original incense oven where the incense cone in a pan is warmed up with a tea light, coming from the Ore Mountain region- it would be a sin to not visit them. While one may find them at smaller Christmas markets in the Ore Mountain regions, the Huss stand on Peterstrasse, which sells incense ovens and candles, is one that is a must-see. Located in Sehmatal-Neudorf, the company, founded by Jürgen Huss, has been producing incense cones and ovens for over 85 years and has many commercials on how to have an enjoyable Christmas, like this one:
But of course, it is along the same street where one can find the St. Marienthal booth, where one can purchase a local microbrew and other local goods, with proceeds going to the church and its activities. The microbrew comes in regular and dark, both having a rather herbal taste. A fruit mulled wine (Glühwein) stand is also located a couple huts away towards the Market Place where one can try various flavored mulled wine, locally made. And while the row of huts along the street end after 300 meters, one should marvel at the architecture of the city center, as countless restored buildings can be found not only along this street, but in many areas of Leipzig’s city center. This includes the Deutsche Bank building, which was built at about the same time as the bank’s founding in 1872.
Going north, to the market at Marktplatz, one can assume that with the setting: a Christmas tree with a manger set with rows of huts with unifor colors of acorn brown in front of the town hall, the scenery is typical of the Christmas market in Germany.
This part of the market in Leipzig is not only the fanciest in terms of design but also the most multi-cultural and perhaps the healthiest and most natural of the markets in the city. Fanciest because of the huts being decorated with garland, connected with green arch settings making it look like a person was walking through a green tunnel looking at finest products.
But the multi-cultural part comes from the various stands selling goods originating from France, Great Britain, Hungary, Italy, Austria, Ukraine, Iceland, Scandanavia and parts of Africa. Much of which has to do with food, such as fudge, licorice or even the Galette- a cross between La Croque Madame and Crepes. Made of buckwheat dough, one can choose his topping, such as eggs, rucola, cheese or other vegetables, before folding the crepes dough into four corners as seen below:
The French saleswoman, knowing that I was American by my accent and that I was a writer, convinced me to try it. All I can say is, healthy and highly recommended if one digs French specialties and healthy foods. 🙂 <3
And while the market is also the hub for various types of hand-bread and stollen, mostly made from Dresden (although based on the popular recipe and not that of Naumburg’s), one section of the market that is a must-see are the healthy natural products…..
….and they do not necessarily refer to the corn on the cob, as I saw entering the Markt from Grimmaische Strasse. Nor odes it only refer to the fruit and vegetable stand. It refers to the organic and home-grown products. This is where Fairgourmet comes in. Located on the northwest side of the market, Fairgourmet has its headquarters in the western suburb of Leipzig, but its main focus is selling only products produced locally. This includes a wide selection of spices and beverages. However their specialty is selling the unknown products that one normally does not see at other markets. This includes stollen in a glass jar, jams with bergamot and quitten flavors, and even bread spreads with various vegetables, such as red beet, orange and pepper, shalotte, pumpkin and ginger, or even parsley, apple and mustard. One will not see these spreads on the table during a traditional German cold-plate dinner, but they are worth a try- and a perfect gift idea. <3 <3
The lone caveat with this market is its narrowness of the rows going between the huts, thus making it difficult to look at the places at night because of the mass of people. This is speaking from experience visiting the market both in the afternoon as well as the evening of the same day. Therefore, it is recommended to see the market and shop for the product in the daytime to keep the flow going. If compared with the other sections, especially the one at Augustusplatz, the one at Markt is probably the crowdest at night, except at the eastern entrance where the tree and manger set are located. There one can find a nearly life-size set made of metal, with the depiction of the birth of Jesus Christ, all under the Christmas. It is a site to see, even among the children.
Moving away from the market along Grimmaische Strasse, one will see a row of huts dividing the street into two parts, allowing for passage in either direction. There one will find mostly goods from the region in Saxony and Thuringia, including the bratwurst, Glühwein, Glühbier (mulled beer) and Baumkuchen, a cylinder layer cake resembling a tree trunk. One stand in particular that sells this is one located in Zschopau, where local Baumkuchen of many types and size can be found there.
One can also see a similar setting along Salzgässchen, where many stands selling local pastries, roasted nuts and the like can be found, together with a double-decker carousel and a Ferris Wheel- and this in addition to the cafès and restaurants found along this stretch. Finally, there is the largest of the five markets- Augustusplatz, where a combination of amusement, fairy tales from the Grimm Brothers, and Finnish folklore meet, providing entertainment for visitors of all ages. Featuring the largest Ferris Wheel at the market, Augustusplatz has a great background setting, as the market is in front of the Opera House. One can see the market from the opposite end of the market along Grimmaische Strasse. It may take 10 minutes by foot, but the stay is well worth it. 🙂
Inspite of the maze of historic architecture the city center features, the Christmas market in Leipzig combines localities, history, culture and delicious delicacies, into one, placing them all inside the ring and making them really accessible. It is a market that is pleasing to the tourists because of rows of huts against the backdrop of historic buildings, and from my visit, very convenient to get to. Everything that is typical of the city is inside the ring encircling the city center, thus making the market the place to see. A word of advice to the next traveler passing through Leipzig having a long layover: If you have an hour to spare, visit the city and its historic city center. Especially during Christmas one should take the time to visit the city’s Christmas markets. Believe me, an hour layover in Leipzig exploring the city center is better than waiting at the train station. That is, unless you want to see ICE’s arriving and leaving on the Neubaustrecke Leipzig-Erfurt, that is…. 😉
Information on the new line can be found in the Newsflyer here.
The author would like to thank the crew at the newspaper Leipziger Glocal for providing some further tips regarding places to visit at the Leipzig Christmas market. To subscribe to the Glocal for further news coverage in and around Leipzig in the English language, click here.
Also useful is a website on Leipzig’s food culture, the Leipziger Lebensmittelpunkt. While much of the article has to do with Leipzig’s local specialties and other foods from different countries, this blog provides you with a look at that plus many current event themes affecting Leipzig, all of which in German. More here and you can subscribe as well.
Apart from the architectural scene, one can look at the art scene in Leipzig by clicking here.
And lastly, there are more photos of the Christmas market taken by the author, which you can see on the Files’ facebook page. Click hereto have a look. 🙂
ERFURT/LEIPZIG/HALLE(SAALE)- It took 25 years of planning, of which 19 years of construction and delays, but now, the new ICE Train Line has become a reality. Several prominent politicians, including German chancellor Angela Merkel, the ministers of Thuringia, Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt and the CEO of the German Railways (Die Bahn) were on hand at Leipzig Central Station to open the new rail line between Erfurt and Leipzig/Halle to rail traffic. According to information from German public radio/TV MDR, the ceremony featured two special ICE-T trains, carrying invited guests, travelling side-by-side from Erfurt to its final destination in Leipzig, where they were greeted by hundreds of people including those involved in the 2.9 billion Euro project. “The new ICE line is a gift for the 25-years of German unity,” said Merkel at the ceremony in Leipzig. Thuringian minister Bodo Ramelow considered this day a historic one and the line would turn Thuringia into a economic hub. The Erfurt-Leipzig/Halle line is part of the project to connect Berlin and Munich via Erfurt and the Thuringian Forest, and the northern part is half of the two-part project, which will start serving passengers beginning on Sunday. The southern part from Erfurt to Nuremberg via Suhl is expected to be completed in 2017, even though all of the bridges and tunnels have been completed already.
The opening of the northern half of the new line will mark the beginning of the end of long-distance train service for Weimar, Naumburg and Jena, for Weimar will lose its ICE stop by year’s end and will have InterCity trains stopping in the city. Jena and Naumburg will still have their ICE stops until the end of 2017. Afterwards InterCity trains are expected to serve the two cities with Jena-Göschwitz train station to become Jena Central Station and serving InterCity lines between Karlsruhe and Leipzig (after 2023) and between Chemnitz/Gera and Cologne (after 2017). Also planned after 2017 is ICE to Berlin from Jena twice a day. The cities will also lose its night train network, as Die Bahn plans to decommision the City Night Line service altogether by 2017. A CNL line connecting Prague and Berlin with Basel and Zurich runs through Naumburg, Weimar and Erfurt. Whether another international line connecting Paris and Moscow via Erfurt will use the new line or the old one remains open.
Here are some interesting facts to know about the northern half of the ICE line between Erfurt and Leipzig/Halle:
The new rail line is 123 kilometers long, which is half the distance needed with the older line going through Weimar and Naumburg
One can reach Leipzig in 40 minutes and Halle (Saale) in 35. This is half to a third as long as with the old line, counting the stops, regardless of what type of long-distance train used.
The trip to Berlin from Frankfurt (Main) is reduced by up to 50 minutes.
ICE Trains travelling the new line can maximize their speed to 300 kilometers/hour (187 miles/hour)
The opening of the line will also usher in the ICE-Sprinter connecting Berlin with Frankfurt with stops in either Erfurt or Leipzig. Before, the Sprinter travelled north to Hanover before heading east to the German capital.
Seven bridges and two tunnels serve the new line. The longest tunnel is the Finnetunnel, which is 6.9 kilometers long and located at the border between Thuringia and Saxony-Anhalt near Bad Bibra. The longest bridge is the Saale/Elster Viaduct, located south of Halle (Saale) near Schkopau. The 8.5 kilometer long bridge features a 6.4 kilometer long viaduct (Leipzig-bound) crossing the two rivers and the 2.1 kilometer long branch viaduct going to Halle (Saale). The viaduct is the longest of its kind in Europe.
Freight trains can also use the new line, but will be restricted to night time use only due to less train traffic.
Die Bahn plans to install a automated man-less train system on the line in the future- most likely when the entire line is finished in 2017. Basically, trains would be operated automatically from the train stations, and can stop automatically when problems arises. The Shinkansen high-speed train in Japan is the only system known to have this function.
Citizens in Halle (Saale) will benefit from the connection as its train station is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.
The opening will mark the total completion of the renovation of Leipzig Central Station, which included an underground tunnel connecting the station with the Bavarian railway station south of the city, and the introduction and expansion of the City Lines (S-bahn) connecting the city with Bitterfeld, Halle, Geitahin, Altenberg and Zwickau.
The opening of the line will also usher in the introduction of the Abellio train service to serve Erfurt and points to the east. Abellio is owned by the Dutch Rail Services.
More information on the ICE-Trains can be found here. Otherwise, here’s a question for our travellers: which is better: train lines that get you to your destination directly without any chance of seeing much of the view because of speed and time or train lines with stops in between to provide some scenic views? It depends on which line has to offer, but what is your view?