Christmas Market Tour 2011 Nr. 2: Weimar

The Statue of Goethe and Schiller at the National Theater

Weimar is one of those hidden treasures that we never know about until the first words come to mind: The Weimar Republic, the period between 1919 and 1932 where democracy was in its trying times because of hyperinflation and the rise of xenophobia, which reached its zenith when Adolf Hitler marched on Berlin and took control of the country starting his 13-year reign of terror. The name’s origin came from the fact that an assembly took place in and near the National Theater in 1919 to create the new constitution, which was passed on 11 August of that same year. The statues of Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller that stand in front of the theater symbolizes the meeting of the two scholars in the late 1700s.  The city is one of the most artistic in the country because of its architecture and fine arts, plus the fact that a music school and a Bauhaus University are both located there.  And lastly, an average of 2-3 million people visit the Onion Market, taking place at the end of September each year.

The signature of Weimar today that can be seen at the Christmas Market: The Onion Plait

Yet one should not forget the Christmas Market, for reasons that are stated on the Flensburg Files’ next stop on the Christmas Market tour for 2011. Weimar is located between Jena and Erfurt, both of which have large and very popular Christmas markets. Yet one should not underestimate what the town has to offer for goods that will make everyone happy. It is only a matter of 10 minutes by foot down the hill from the train station along Meyerstrasse, past various multi-cultural eateries, including El Nino (a Spanish Restaurant), a Greek specialty store, an American diner, and Subway, just to name a few. Then a couple twists and turns past the old Goethe Gymnasium and Musikschule, as well as the Atrium shopping center, plus various store-window art galleries and you will arrive at Goethe Platz- and the entrance to the market consisting of St. Nick selling Christmas trees near the post office.  While Weimar’s commerce is concentrated at or near the National Theater and Goethe Platz, most of the action is to the south and east of there, and if one believes that the Christmas market is located just at the National Theater and that is it, one is sorely mistaken.

National Theater and the Theater Square

In the past, most of the action did take place at Theaterplatz, where numerous huts, a carousel, Ferris wheel and other Midway-style places could be found. But today, most of the action can be found to the south and east of the National Theater, along the Wielandstrasse and Marktstrasse, where one can find numerous huts offering various products, some of which can be found outside Germany, like Finnish honey and specialties originating from the East. Part of the reason for the multicultural booths was in connection with the Advent Festival, which took place on the 3rd of December in all of Weimar, which featured entertainment by music groups originating from Weimar and elsewhere.  During the recent trip to Weimar with my wife and daughter, there was a vintage carousel located along Wielandstrasse which was operated by hand and the children can ride them for a small fee, while enjoying a few minutes of riding inside a relict of history which one will never see elsewhere.

The antique carousel on Wielandstrasse

With the book stores open even on weekends, one can purchase works from artists and poets who either originate from Weimar or happened to pass through, or even a tour guide to some of the most spectacular places of interest in the city, including Belvidere Palace and points of interest connected to Schiller and Goethe.
But the hottest spot on the Christmas market tour is the Market Square, located just off Marktstrasse to the southeast. While most of the booths offer traditional goods from Thuringia, including the food and the amphitheater, where most of the entertainment occurs during the market on a regular basis, the highlight of the place is the Gothic Weimar Town Hall, where building was converted into a life-size Advent Calendar with its 24 windows, one of which is open every day by the children selected at random and each one representing a theme of the day at the Christmas market. On this day, the number 11 was located on the third floor and therefore, a fire truck was needed to hoist two children selected and two firemen to the window. There, the kids who opened the window were greeted by St. Nicholas and were presented with a present for the day. What a way to make the Second Advent a memorable one. (Please refer to the Flensburg Files’ Fast Facts about Advent and Advent Calendars.)

Market Square and the Town Hall (left) masquarading as an Advent Calendar. The Pyramid Candle is on the right.

 

Kids being greeted by Santa Claus at the door to the 11th day of December

It would be a sin not to try any of the specialties at the Christmas market and therefore, at the conclusion of the tour of the Christmas market in Weimar, we tried one specialty that originates from the Medieval times, but one can easily make at home, which is “Handbrot.” It is a roll made of sourdough bread with filling inside it, namely cheese and one other ingredient, and topped with sour crème. One has to roll the sourdough out on a cookie sheet, add the filling, roll it back in, put it in the oven for 30-45 minutes and when finished, cut it up into slices. At the booth, there were three types of Handbrot one could try: cheese with ham, cheese with salami, and cheese with vegetables. And the dinner should not be complete without a cup of Met- honey wine with a high alcohol content (12%).  After two helpings and some met, we were full , but given the sites and sounds of the Christmas market, it was an afternoon worth spending in a small town of Weimar on the second Advent.

One of many booths along Wielandstrasse offering Christmas goodies from the region.

Weimar may be a small and somewhat quiet town, like Bayreuth, Bamberg and other medium-sized towns in Germany, but the city of 65,000 inhabitants is full of surprises. One should not only associate the city with its history, architecture, and the Onion Market, as they are the only characteristics of the city. There is much more to the city than meets the eye, and the Christmas market is definitely one of those surprises one will see when walking through the city during the holiday season.

Weimar had its annual Advent Festival on 3 December. Still one can see the posters and the programs around as a theme is presented every day until Christmas Eve.

 

FLENSBURG FILES’ FAST FACTS:
Advent is a big celebration in Germany as the Advent wreath, consisting of four candles and decorations resembling a Christmas wreath, is used to celebrate on each of the four Advents taking place on Sunday before Christmas. One candle is lit every Advent beginning with the first Advent until all four candles are lit on the fourth Advent, which is right before Christmas Eve. Most stores are closed on these days, leaving the huts as the main place of commerce. However, the laws regulating the store hours have been laxed over the years so that on one Sunday every month, the stores can open their doors to the customers, but these regulations vary from state to state.
Also common during this period is the Advent calendar, where there are 24 doors, each one representing a day beginning on 1 December and ending on Christmas Eve. Every morning, a door is open and a small gift appears for the taking. It is a treat especially for the children to open a gift every day in December. Weimar’s life-size Advent calendar at the District Court Building was the first one ever seen while on the Christmas market tour, yet there may be other towns that have similar calendars of that size.

Flensburg Files News Flyer: 12 October 2011

While away at the German Horticulture Show BUGA in Koblenz this past weekend, we have some dedications to mention from both sides of the Atlantic and a mind-boggling story which might keep Germans from leaving the country and Americans from entering it- that is unless they take the train. Here’s another batch of Flensburg Files News Flyer stories to pass along to you.

 

Shooting Star in Minnesota:

For those following women’s basketball in Germany, one may be interested to know that the Minnesota Lynx women’s basketball team, coached by Cheryl Reeve and loaded with extraordinary talent, swept the Atlanta Dream to win its first ever WNBA basketball title. To make it even more special, this came at the time that the spinoff of the men’s basketball league NBA was celebrating its 15th year in business. The team, in its 13th year had never won a championship and only had two seasons where they reached the playoffs. The victory is bittersweet in a state which has been rattled with professional teams coming off dismal seasons, including the Minnesota Twins in baseball, the Minnesota Timberwolves in basketball and the Minnesota Vikings in American football, just to name three examples. The Twins, coming off their worst season in team history this year, were the last team that brought a championship to Minnesota, which was 1991.  The Flensburg Files would like to congratulate the team on its successful championship run and may it be the start of another dynasty.

Link: http://www.wnba.com/games/20111007/MINATL/gameinfo.html  (Sublinks available here as well)

 

The Loss of a Rebel in American Football:

While we’re on the same page with American Football, the world is mourning a loss of a rebel in the making, when Al Davis, owner of the Oakland Raiders in the NFL, died this past weekend at his home. He was 82. Davis had owned the team since 1963, raking in three Super Bowl championships (1976, 1980 and 1983) and making it to the last one in 2002, only to lose to Tampa Bay. Davis, in the eyes of many, was a rebel with a passion for football, which was felt throughout both Oakland and Los Angeles (the latter was only a temporary venue from 1982 to 1995), which caused many, even the lawyers who challenged him in court, to fear him and fans and other team owners to adore him. While there are many who believed that the Raiders played dirty in professional football- especially since some of the players like Lyle Alzado and John Matuszak beefed themselves up with steroids (and paid the price in the end with their own lives as they died of cancer in the early 1990s)- Davis created a legacy which no one in the right mind at that time would had ever imagined and further more, went beyond hiring the first female executive, African American and later Latino football coaches, and so on. He is survived by his wife and son, the latter of which will now run the organization.  Our deepest condolences goes to the family, players and those who knew him for the loss of a passionate football rebel, whose motto will forever be “Just Win, Baby!”

Link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Al_Davis

 

The loss of a computer icon:

There is no corner of the world that has not been touched by the loss of another true legend- this time in the computer industry. Steven Jobs, with the innovation of the personal computer to first fit the desk and later the palm of the hand, helped encourage society to create for the benefit of the community, even if they may be crazy at first. Unfortunately, the world lost not only the founder of Apple Computer, but also a thinker and man who encouraged us all to be creative this past Thursday at the age of 56. The Flensburg Files has a tribute to the great icon and thinker, which can be found here:

Link: http://flensburgerfiles.areavoices.com/2011/10/12/flensburg-files%E2%80%98-tribute-to-steven-jobs-apple-founder-thinker-innovator-and-the-source-of-inspiration/

 

The loss of air traffic:

German air traffic may be grounded as early as Wednesday of this week, should there not be a solution to the problem of higher wages and benefits on the part of the air traffic controllers. Talks broke down over the weekend between the union and the Air Navigation Services DFS over the increase of pay in two different steps- for this year as well as in 2012. This may force people to take other forms of transportation or even choose airports outside of Germany to fly within and away from Europe and create chaos for the first time since the train strikes in 2007 and 2009, which grounded  train service to a halt in many places. More on this story as it develops.

Link with details of the demands: http://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/Fluege100.html

http://www.dw-world.de/dw/article/0,,15445836,00.html (in English)

 

Onion Market in Weimar:

Over 300,000 people convened on the small Thuringian city of 60,000 that is filled with history, philosophy and architecture this past weekend to celebrate the 366th annual Weimarer Zwiebelmarkt. The Onion market takes place every October and features many arts and crafts as well as foods using the onion as its main ingredient. This includes the onion bouquet, which can be sold in different sizes but at a decent price. Apart from that, one should not walk away from the market without trying the Zwiebelkuchen (baked onion bars) with Federweisse (carbonated white wine). Interestingly enough, there is another onion market that takes place not far from Weimar in a smaller city called Apolda. That took place during the last weekend in September and draws some thousands annually.

Link: http://www.apolda.de/kultur_und_tourismus/veranstaltungen/maerkte_und_stadtfeste/zwiebelmarkt_bockbier.html (Apolda)

http://www.thueringer-allgemeine.de/startseite/detail/-/specific/300-000-Besucher-beim-358-Weimarer-Zwiebelmarkt-dabei-1826947470 (Weimar)