….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?
This article is part of the series on Germany at 25: The 25 things that makes Germany, the country celebrating 25 years, special.
School time is the right time. When the children reach six or seven years of age, the time is ripe to leave the bird’s nest, known as the Kindergarten, and enter the first grade of elementary school (in German: Grundschule). There are many ways of making that transition for the children. In the United States, many schools have introduced graduation ceremonies for children leaving Kindergarten, using the structural format similar to a typical graduation ceremony in high school and college: children dressing up in gown and cap, teachers making speeches about the successes of kindergarten and the joys of entering the first grade, and lastly, children lining up to receive their diploma. This trend is becoming the norm, even though it is considered overexaggerated and more to the benefits of the parents than their own children. From my own past growing up in rural Minnesota, such a ceremony never existed and it was not necessary to have these extravaganzas, especially given the fact that Kindergarten is integrated into the school system, and the concept of a Kindergarten is different in the US than in Germany (as you can see in this article).
Keeping this in mind, how do the children celebrate the transition into the Grundschule in Germany? Easy peasy: children have their own festival which combines fairy tales with a concert and features a tree full of gifts. The Zuckertütenfest (translated into English as the School Cone festival), takes place at the end of the school year, and children entering the first grade at the Grundschule are treated to a cone full of sweets, picked off the cone tree (Zuckertütenbaum) when they are ripe enough for that. Legend has it that when the tree is full of cones that are fully grown and ripe, it means that the children are ready to go to school. It is unknown who was behind this festival, but records have indicated the states of Thuringia and Saxony were the origins of this festival, with Jena being the first known place to introduce it in 1817, followed by Dresden in 1820 and Leipzig in 1836. Although the concept of the school cone (or Schultüte) was only common in the eastern half of Germany during the 19th century, it eventually spread to the rest of Germany in the 1950s, and has since become a part of the new German tradition. Even Erich Kästner in his book “Als Ich ein kleiner Junge war,” (When I was a young boy), mentioned about how he received his cone- and dropped it, spilling all the contents on the floor: candies, dates, figs, and the like. His childhood days were spent in Dresden, where one can still see his place of birth as a historic site to this day. Today these cones are filled with less sweets but with more practical items, such as writing utensils, erasers, markers, calculators and even writing pads, just to name a few. Some small toys can also be included in the cone, whose standards range up to 85 cm in length- big enough to fit everything in there! 🙂
Going back to the question, how is the festival celebrated? I had a chance to check it out at a Kindergarten in Jena, where my daughter is graduating and moving onto elementary school. Unlike graduation ceremonies, this event is informal and private. That means only the parents, siblings and close relatives of the child “graduating” are allowed to participate and watch the event. While the event varies from Kindergarten to Kindergarten in terms of structure, most of the activities take place outside, which is logical because of the Zuckertütenbaum. At the one I was at, we had a potluck dinner (where everyone brought food and/or drink to share with others) combined with the tradition of the Thuringian bratwurst. But we started off with a concert lasting 30 minutes and featuring some soloists, like my daughter and her best friend. After the ceremony, each graduating child receives a small folder with a poem and best wishes from the teacher. In my daughter’s case, as she is bilingual, the teacher tried out her school time English, which ended with “Did I get this right, Mr. Smith?” 🙂 Then it was time to pick the school cones off the tree and give them to the kids. The trees come in different shapes and sizes, like the picture below (By the way, Charlie Brown would approve this concept, as it would not kill the tree):
Dinner, cake, teacher appreciation and entertainment usually follows the picking of the cone. As a general rule, children receive as many as over a half dozen cones prior to entering school, which usually begins in August, some through the festival and the rest through another celebration, the Schuleinführung (entry into elementary school), the largest of which comes from the parents. The size of the cones received through the Zuckertütenfest varies but are normally smaller than the big ones. In either case, the cones provide the children with enough tools and sweets to last through the first year in school- that is if the parents can get them to go sparingly on sweets and use the practical things instead. 😉
Zuckertütenfest and the cones are still common today as Kindergartens are using these festivals not as a way of graduating the children, like in the US, but as a way of saying farewell and thanks for all the years of learning together and being a family. After all, the teacher has the same group for five years, beginning at the age of one and ending when they leave to enter school at six. Unlike in school or even in college, these teachers are the most attached, as the kids rely on them for love and support while their parents are away. They are also called to duty to teach them the bare basics of friendship, fairness, working together, creativity and other key talents, which they can utilize in school. And when they are honored with a scrap book containing the pictures of the kids they taught, along with their drawings, together with other gifts that are typical of the events that happened over the years, then it is a sign that these teachers received what they deserved: honor, love, respect, and appreciation. And for the kids, they will leave the Kindergarten one by one, thanking them for what they did, yet the memories of their time there will remain for others to learn about. This is something that graduation ceremonies from Kindergartens cannot hold true. Sometimes, less is more. And when they can learn to be creative with the fewest items, they can go a long way as they enter school, then high school and lastly beyond.
This takes me to the end of the article on this unique festival, but not before making this quote: It takes kids to make a difference in our lives, yet it takes the teachers to make the difference in the lives of these kids.
If the teacher gets honored for his/her work, then it is because the kids leaving for the future, with a school cone in the hand, have learned a lot from him/her, already using what was taught for future purposes. When the Grundschule teacher welcomes the kids this fall, they will be amazed at what they have learned so far and what they can achieve even further in the future.
25 years ago, there were two Germanys- the German Democratic Republic (better known to many as East Germany) and the Federal Republic of Germany (better known as West Germany). It was a Germany that for 44 years was the chessboard for international conflict between two heavyweights- the United States on the western side and the Soviet Union on the eastern side. It was a Germany that should have been a whole country, but wasn’t because of the Berlin Wall (erected in 1961) and the weapons that were stationed on both sides, waiting to be used. It was the divided Germany that tore families and friendships apart. And for a long time, it was a divided Germany whose citizens were restrained from reuniting with family members and friends on the opposite end. It would have remained that way- until 9 November 1989.
This Sunday, all of Germany will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, and throughout the rest of the year and well into next year, celebrations commemorating the Revolution of 1989 and German Reunification of 1990 will take place, giving residents and tourists in Germany and Europe a chance to learn more about how 1989 set the stage for the end of the Cold War, the reestablishment of one Germany and the establishment of a New World Order for international politics both in Europe and beyond. The hottest spot for the 25th anniversary celebrations of the Fall of the Wall will take place in Berlin, and here’s why:
A row of lights have been erected along the border of what used to be the Berlin Wall, which had surrounded the western part of Berlin for 28 years until its fall in 1989. These lights (encased in balloons) will line the borders and will be released into the skies on the evening of November 9th with millions of people including prominent people on hand. In addition, information pavillions will be available at the former key crossings, such as Checkpoint Charlie, East Side Gallery, Potsdamer Platz and Brandenburg Gate to provide visitors with a chance to learn about the history of the Wall. A pair of concerts will take place both at Brandenburg Gate and the Philoharmonie Hall that evening, and a permanent exhibit will be commemorated at the Bernauer Strasse former border crossing. More on the events can be found here.
In addition, four museums in Berlin and six museums located along the former East and West German borders will be open for with exhibits commemorating the opening of the borders. This includes Checkpoint Bravo and Marienfelde in Berlin as well as museums in Mödlareuth, Point Alpha, Eichsfeld and Kühlungsborn. More informationhere.
In Leipzig, two photo exhibits looking at the peaceful revolution of 1989 and the disarmament of the East German State Secret Police (Stasi) are taking place between now and December, The former can be found at the Deutsches Photomuseum in Markkleeberg through 28 December (more here) while the latter will be on display until 31 December at the former Stasi Building at Dittrichring 24 in Leipzig (see here for details) Leipzig was the starting point of the Revolution of 1989, which saw its largest showing on October 9th, triggering the downfall of Erich Honecker and setting off the sequence that culminated with the fall of the Wall.
You can also find more information on other events and places of interested in connection with 1989 here: http://www.germany.info/fallofthewall
Between now and 3 October of next year, the Flensburg Files will look at the factors that led to east and west becoming a whole Germany. There are many reasons that made Germany is what it is today, most of which will be mentioned here. This will include some Q&A with people who contributed to the remaking Germany, as well as some items that are typical of today’s Germany in comparison with what it was before 1989. Some books and other works will be featured here. If you have some items that are typical of Germany and would like to see posted here, let the author know at: email@example.com. The Files also welcomes photos of the November 9th events as well as places along the former border for people to look at and/or guess at where they are located.
It has been 25 years since the Revolution, and a lot has changed over time. But the events of 9 November and the factors leading to German Reunification are events that one must never forget, regardless if one lives here in Germany or elsewhere. This leads to the final question for the forum:
Look at the pictures below: Where do you think it was located? Hint: Lauenstein in Bavaria is one of the villages where the border once stood. But what was the purpose of the house and the memorial in the form of a wave? You can place your answers in the comment section.