Flensburg Files Accepting Stories of Christmas’ Past

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While Christmas is over five months away, it is the season that creeps up faster than any of the other holiday seasons of the year. It is also one that is laden with stories of presents, families, friends and lots of surprises.

 

Christmas also means learning about the history of how it was celebrated and this year’s Christmas  Market Tour Series will focus on just that- History.

 

During my Christmas market tour in Saxony last year, some recurrent themes came up that sparked my interest. In particular in the former East Germany, this included having Christmas be celebrated with little or no mentioning of Jesus Christ. In addition, we should include Räuchermänner (Smoked incense men) that were a rare commodity in the former Communist state but popular in the western half of Germany and beyond, traditional celebrations with parades honoring the miners, and lastly, the Christmas tree lit with candles.  Yet despite the parades along the Silver Road between Zwickau and Freiberg, a gallery of vintage incense men in a church in Glauchau, church services celebrating Christ’s birth in Erfurt, Lauscha glassware being sold in Leipzig and Chemnitz, and the like, we really don’t have an inside glimpse of how Christmas was celebrated in the former East Germany.

 

Specifically:

 

  • What foods were served at Christmas time?
  • What gifts were customary?
  • What were the customary traditions? As well as celebrations?
  • What did the Christmas markets look like before 1989, if they even existed at all?
  • How was Christ honored in church, especially in places where there were big pockets of Christians (who were also spied on by the secret service agency Stasi, by the way)?
  • What was the role of the government involving Christmas; especially during the days of Erich Honecker?
  • And some personal stories of Christmas in East Germany?

 

In connection with the continuation of the Christmas market tour in Saxony and parts of Thuringia this holiday season, the Flensburg Files is collecting stories, photos, postcards and the like, in connection with this theme of Christmas in East Germany from 1945 to the German Reunification in 1990, which will be posted in both the wordpress as well as the areavoices versions of the Flensburg Files. A book project on this subject, to be written in German and English is being considered, should there be sufficient information and stories,  some of which will be included there as well.

 

Between now and 20 December, 2017, you can send the requested items to Jason Smith, using this address: flensburg.bridgehunter.av@googlemail.com. 

 

The stories can be submitted in German if it is your working language. It will be translated by the author into English before being posted. The focus of the Christmas stories, etc. should include not only the aforementioned states, but also in East Germany, as a whole- namely Saxony-Anhalt, Brandenburg, Berlin and Mecklenburg-Pommerania, the states that had consisted of the German Democratic Republic, which existed from 1949 until its folding into the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October, 1990.

 

Christmas time brings great times, memories, family, friends and stories to share. Over the past few years, I’ve heard of some stories and customs of Christmas past during my tour in the eastern part, which has spawned some curiosity in terms of how the holidays were being celebrated in comparison with other countries, including my own in the US. Oral history and artifacts are two key components to putting the pieces of the history puzzle together. While some more stories based on my tour will continue for this year and perhaps beyond, the microphone, ink and leaf, lights and stage is yours. If you have some stories to share, good or bad, we would love to hear about them. After all, digging for some facts is like digging for some gold and silver: You may never know what you come across that is worth sharing to others, especially when it comes to stories involving Chirstmas.

 

And so, as the miners in Saxony would say for good luck: Glück Auf! 🙂

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World’s Longest Pedestrian Suspension Bridge Opens in Saxony-Anhalt

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The hanging bridge is in front of the dam. Photo taken by MDR Sachsen-Anhalt

The Rappbodetalsperre Brücke near Elbingerrode (Harz) is open to pedestrians wishing for a view of the dam and lake.

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ELBINGERRODE (HARZ)/ MAGDEBURG, GERMANY-  The Harz Mountains in Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony is famous for its antique, sometimes Medieval villages with Fachwerk houses (like Quedlinburg), hiking and skiing. It picturesque landscape makes it one of the most visited places in central Germany.

In Elbingerrode, south of Wenigerode, there is now another reason for visiting the Harz Mountains, but in the form of the world’s longest pedestrian bridge. The Rappbodetalsperre Suspension Bridge has been open since May 7th, breaking all records that had been set most recently. The bridge is located just 80 meters northeast of the dam, overlooking the Bode Reservoir to the southwest and the Schiefeberg Mountains to the east and north, in the direction of Quedlinburg and Wenigerode. With a height of 100 meters above the Bode River, one can take a breath-taking view of the region, while enjoying the swinging motion the bridge offers. The bridge overtakes the Sky Bridge in Sochi, Russia in terms of length and height, but is comparable to some of the longest and highest bridges in China and Malaysia.

Workers needed a total of five years to build the structure- three of which consisted of planning, which was followed by almost two  years of construction, where towers were constructed on both ends of the valley, then the wire cables were draped over the towers. Suspender cables were erected both between the roadway and the main cables, as well as some support cables that were anchored between the bridge and the cliffs. Workers tok advantage of the slate rock to solidify the foundations and towers, which made spinning the cables and constructing the roadway much less complicated. Some photos taken by German public radio station MDR shows you in detail the contraption of the structure (click here).

Apart from walking across the bridge, in the near future, people can also bungee jump 75 meters toward the river from the bridge deck. The only caveat is that the suspension bridge is a toll bridge, where people can pay six Euros to cross the unique structure.

This might scare away acrophobes even more, in addition to the height, yet it will definitely not dissuade bridge enthusiasts, naturalists and tourists from visiting the bridge. Even a fellow pontist in the US is looking forward to a post card of the bridge.

Put that on your memo sheet. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Rappbodesperre Pedestrian Bridge has a total length of 483 meters, with the main span of 458 meters (1502 feet), with a height of over 100 meters above the dam and river. The cable construction has a pulling force of 947 tons with the cables themselves being anchored into the rocks. The bridge took five years to be built and it overtakes the Sky Bridge in Sochi, Russia in terms of main span length by 20 meters.

This article is co-produced with sister column, The Bridgehunter’s Chronicles, which you can view the wordpress version here.

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Axel Slams Deutschland

View of Flensburg’s skyline from the Restaurant Heimathafen. Photo taken in December 2016. This area as well as at Hafenspitze and along Schiffbrücke were all underwater

Record Flooding along the Baltic Sea Coast- Flensburg, Hamburg, Lübeck, Wismar and Rostock among others underwater

Snowfall in most of Germany- heaviest in Saxony and Brandenburg

Pure Chaos on the Roads

Arctic Blast to Follow

FLENSBURG/CHEMNITZ/USEDOM- Much of Germany is cleaning up from a hurricane that broke 10-year old records along the Baltic Sea Coast, while others are bracing for one of the coldest spells in over seven years. That is the theme of the Low Pressure front Axel, as the weather system wreaked havoc through much of Germany yesterday and last night.  High winds combined with storm conditions resulted in water levels along the Baltic Sea coast to rise above the dikes and flood barriers, causing widespread damage. The hardest hit areas were in the Lübeck area as well as areas in Mecklenburg-Pommerania. According to information from NDR and SHZ, high waves overwhelmed dikes in areas, like the island of Usedom, destroying houses and businesses and flooding streets. The historic districts of Wismar and Lübeck were blocked off as many streets and pedestrian paths were underwater. Even Hamburg was not spared from the flooding and damage as much of its market Fischmarkt was underwater. The same applied to Rostock and Kiel, where automobiles were diverted away from their respective business districts. Cars parked along the water were flooded and/or swept away in Flensburg, Kiel and Lübeck while businesses and residents experienced flooding in their basements and ground floors. Flood levels surpassed those set in 2006 and 2002, respectively- an eye-opener to many who had expected less.  To see how bad the situation was, here are some samples:

More information can be found here:

http://www.shz.de/regionales/schleswig-holstein/panorama/gesperrte-strassen-volle-keller-sturmflut-2017-hinterlaesst-schaeden-an-der-ostseekueste-id15756981.html

http://www.ndr.de/nachrichten/Schwerste-Ostsee-Sturmflut-seit-2006-trifft-Norden,wetter2644.html

The storm front has also affected much of Germany with up to a foot of snow (30 cm) to be seen in the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge) in Saxony, Thuringian Forest and the mountain regions in Bavaria. Low-plain areas also received some snow, but with that, ice and the result of numerous accidents. Over 200 accidents were reported in Saxony, according to the Free Press in Chemnitz, including many in Chemnitz and Freiberg as well as along the Motorway 4.  Like along the Baltic Sea coast, high winds in places like the Harz Mountains in Saxony-Anhalt and the Fichtel Mountains in Bavaria resulted in blowing snow and fallen trees. Here are some samples of the events in that region:

 

More information:

http://www.mdr.de/nachrichten/vermischtes/schneesturm-mittelgebirge-100.html

http://www.freiepresse.de/NACHRICHTEN/TOP-THEMA/Sachsen-Weiter-Behinderungen-durch-Schnee-und-Glaette-artikel9802250.php

While the storm front Axel will leave Germany by Friday, the system will bring another component many in Germany are preparing for: icy-cold temperatures. With temperatures going down to as far as -25°C, many places in Germany will experience cold weather in this fashion for the first time since early 2012, with records expected to be broken. After four winters with above-normal temperatures and some tropical Christmases, Old Man Winter is making a comeback with a vengeance, and right after the holiday season is over. That is unless you celebrate Epiphany, like in Bavaria and parts of Saxony-Anhalt. Then tomorrow will be a treat for children and families starved of white holidays. 🙂

Germany Quiz Nr. 7: The Answers to the Quiz on Saxony-Anhalt

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After doing some research on the things that are typical and stand out for the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, many of you are wondering what the answers to the Guessing Quiz on the most sparsely populated state in Germany but also one with lots of surprises. Well, here are some facts that are worth thinking about:

  1. Which of the four states does Saxony-Anhalt border?   a. Thuringia   b. Brandenburg   c. Lower Saxony   d. Saxony   e. all of them

ANS: e. all of them

  1. List the following cities in Saxony-Anhalt in order of population, beginning with the largest:

 

ANS:  1. Halle (Saale)-232,470 

  1. Magdeburg- 232,306
  2. Dessau-Rosslau- 83,061
  3. Lutherstadt-Wittenberge- 46,621
  4. Halberstadt- 40,440
  5. Weissenfels- 39,918
  6. Bernburg- 33,633
  7. Merseburg- 33,317
  8. Naumburg (Saale)- 32,756
  9. Sangerhausen- 30,648
  10. Quedlinburg- 24,742
  1. Match the following photos with the cities listed in Nr. 2. (Hint: Two of these belong to one city.)
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A.   Magdeburg: The World Clock Statue
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B. Magdeburg: Hundertwasser House
C. Quedlinburg: Typical Fachwerk House
The cathedral churches and the statue of George Friedrich Handel at Halle (Saale)'s city center. Photo taken in 2012
D. Halle (Saale): The City Center, Cathedrals and Statue of Handel

IMGP8921E. Naumburg (Saale): City Hall

 

  1. True or False: No police commissioners from the German mystery series Tatort has ever covered Saxony-Anhalt.

ANS: False: The nearest Tatort episodes were taped in Leipzig and Hannover. Interesting Fact is that another police series Polizei 110 has its venue in Magdeburg

 

  1. True or False (2 answers): The slogan for Saxony-Anhalt is Frühaufsteher, which stands for people going to work early in the morning (_____).  The people who do that (mainly farmers) are proud of that heritage (_______).

ANS: False on BOTH counts. The slogan Frühaufsteher refers to people commuting to bigger cities for work during the week but have their residence in Saxony-Anhalt. It is easy to have a word-for-word translation for this slogan and refer this to the farmers getting up at 5:00am to start their work, yet it is not true in this case.  Most of the people in Saxony-Anhalt (farmers included) hate the slogan so much that after five years, it was removed from the highways this year.

 

  1. True or False (3 answers) Martin Luther, the Protestant who presented the 95 Thesis harshly criticizing the Catholic Church, was born in and died in the same city (_______). His wife Katherina von Bora was not from Saxony-Anhalt originally (_______). She crafted the first champaign for him as a refresher for the brain (________).

ANS: True for the first answer- Lutherstadt Eisleben. He was born there in 1483 and died there in 1546

True for the second answer. She was born in Lippendorf in Saxony. It’s located near Leipzig.

False for the third answer. She created the first handcrafted beer for Martin Luther (see article here)

 

  1. Walter Gropius is famous for this (choose one):

_The founding of Bauhaus Dessau-Rosslau

_The creation of Worlitz Park near Dessau-Rosslau

_ The Nebra Arch

_The creation of the East German Museum in Bernburg

 ANS: A. Walter Gropius (* 1883) founded the Bauhaus University of Architecture in Dessau-Rosslau in 1919. Despite leaving his mark in architectural designs of his buildings and memorials, he emigrated to the US in 1934 after the Nazis attacked and condemned his architecture as a work of Marxism. He resided there until his death in 1969.

 

  1. Which of the following concertos was written by George Friedrich Handel, a composer originating from Saxony-Anhalt in the city of (____________)?

ANS: Halle (Saale). Handel (* 1685; died 1759) was famous for the following pieces: Alexander’s Feast, Messiah, Water Music, Music for the Royal Fireworks, and others in the Baroque Era.

 

  1. True or False: Johann Sebastian Bach originated from Magdeburg.

ANS: False.  Bach was born in Eisenach (Thuringia) and died in Leipzig.

 

  1. True or False: The late Hans Diedrich Genscher, one of the founding fathers of the Free Democratic Party of Germany originated from Halle (Saale).

ANS: Genscher, who established the FDP as a liberal party in East Germany, was born in Halle (Saale). He was an influential figure for the people of the former East Germany at the time of its reunification with West Germany. He died in 2016  in Wachtberg. The party itself was established in West Germany in 1948 and has been the longest running party on the German scene, having had members in the Bundestag for every year until 2013.

 

  1. True or False: Sven Köhler, one of the longest tenured soccer head coaches from Halle FC, grew up in and played for the team in Halle.

ANS: False. Köhler coached Halle FC for eight years, yet his origin is in Chemnitz, where he is now head coach of Chemnitz FC (since March 2016)

 

  1. True or False: Halle FC and FC Magdeburg are the only two teams in Saxony Anhalt which marched through the regional soccer league in one season enroute to the national stage (counting the 3rd tier of the German Bundesliga).

ANS: True. Halle achieved this in 2012/13 and Magdeburg in 2014/15.

 

  1. True or False: The handball teams of SC Magdeburg (men) and the Halle Lions (women) compete in the premere league.

ANS: False. Only the SC Magdeburg has a men’s handball team in the premere league. The Halle Lions have a women’s basketball team in the premere league.

 

  1. Which of the following beers originate from Saxony-Anhalt?

Porter              Hasseröder                 Gessener                     St. Moritz                   Glauchauer

 ANS: Hasselrödaer beer originates from Saxony-Anhalt and is brewed in Wenigerode

 

  1. Which of the following specialties are NOT considered a pastry?

Bienenstich                Nähstänge                  Garley             Baumkuchen            Streuselkuchen

 ANS:  Garley. Garley is not only a traditional soup for Saxony-Anhalt, but also the name of the oldest brand named  beer in the world, having been brewed in Saxony-Anhalt from 1314 until its closure in 2013.

 

  1. True or False: The Nähstänge is a pastry that originate from  Tangermünde.

ANS: True. Consisting of a burro-shaped pastry filled with chocolate, the Nähstänge is a local specialty of Tagermünde, in northwestern Saxony-Anhalt.

 

  1. What constitutes a typical Bauernfrühstück in Saxony-Anhalt?

ANS:  This one consistes of potatoes, onions and eggs. More on the recipe here.

 

  1. The Weinmeile is an annual event that takes place in Freyburg (in the Saale-Unstrut Region),  famous for the production of wine and sect  
  1. What is a Feuerstein from Schierke?

ANS: The Schierke Feuerstein is a half-bitter herbal liquor with 35% alcohol and is 70-proof. Best served cold and in combination to form long drinks, the beverage was developed by Willy Drube and the name was derived from the redness of the color of granite, located in the Harz Mountain region. Still exists today and highly recommended. 

 

  1. If legend is true (and it still is), salt is the most priceless commodity that exist in Saxony-Anhalt. Which areas can you find salt production?

ANS: True. Salt is still being mined today in areas west and south of Halle (Saale) and has a lot of value as a mineral.

 

  1. Salt is used for what purposes?

ANS: Salt is used for spicing food, as an inhalant for colds and other ailments, and for various forms of physical and psychological therapy.

 

  1. Which of the cities in Saxony-Anhalt does NOT have a castle?

Halle (Saale), Naumburg (Saale), Magdeburg, Sangerhausen, Quedlinburg, Dessau-Rosslau, Tangermünde

ANS: Magdeburg 

 

  1. Which of the following cities have a cathedral?

Naumburg (Saale),  Magdeburg,  Halle (Saale), Havelberg, Lutherstadt Wittenberge, Arendsee

 ANS: All except Arendsee have at least one cathedral. Arendsee is a lake and resort town.

 

  1. How many churches and “klosters” does Magdeburg have?

ANS: One cathedral and 13 churches exist in Magdeburg. Before World War II the number of churches was 20.

 

25.  How many bridges do the following cities have? Name two of them per city you know. (Click on the names of the cities for more information on the city’s bridges)

Magdeburg:  70+ 

Halle (Saale): 131

Quedlinburg: 20+

Zeitz: 15

Merseburg: 3- including the Leuna Arch Bridge, the stone arch bridge and the railroad overpass at the train station. 

 

26. Match the pictures of the bridges with that of the locations below.  Name the bridge if you know it.

Click here and scroll down to find the answers.

Halle (Saale)    Magdeburg    Zeitz    Bad Kösen    Saale-Unstrut Region    Merseburg   Quedlinburg    Tangermünde    Köthen

 

Check out sister column the Bridgehunter’s Chronicles for more on the bridges in Saxony-Anhalt, including those in Quedlinburg, Magdeburg and the Saale-Unstrut Region. In the meantime, onto the next German state…… 🙂

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Germany Quiz Nr. 7: What you need to know about Saxony-Anhalt

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Saxony-Anhalt-the state with two faces, but loaded with some interesting facts and friendly faces. With a population of 2.37 million inhabitants and a land area of 20,452 squared kilometers it is the most sparsely populated region in Germany and one of the most sparsely populated areas in Europe, with over 70% of the people living in cities with more than 30,000 inhabitants, including Dessau-Rosslau, Weissenfels, Halle(Saale) and its capital, Magdeburg. The rural areas, once laden with industry from the days of East Germany, are now places dominated by nature and agriculture. Yet despite this, Saxony-Anhalt has some jewels that are worth mentioning. Cities and towns pride themselves on their history and heritage; despite being landlocked by four states, the landscapes vary between hills and mountains in the western half and plains in the northern and eastern areas, thus encouraging tourism in the region. And thanks to the new ICE line through Halle (Saale), train connections are enabling the establishment of new commerce and business partnerships with nearby cities, such as Leipzig, Hanover, Jena, Erfurt and even Berlin, thus helping keep much of the population from emigrating to the western and southern parts of Germany and beyond.

But what do we know about Saxony-Anhalt in reality? This is where the seventh quiz on the Germany series on this state comes into play. Like in the first six, the object is to test yourself on the knowledge of the state, with the answer key to come before the end of June. Both of which will appear in the Files under the page Interesting Facts about Germany. 

So quiz yourselves and knock yourselves out with these Guessing Quiz questions about Saxony Anhalt 🙂  :

  1. Which of the four states does Saxony-Anhalt border?

a. Thuringia   b. Brandenburg   c. Lower Saxony   d. Saxony   e. all of them

  1. List the following cities in Saxony-Anhalt in order of population, beginning with the largest:

Quedlinburg     Zeitz     Halle(Saale)   Halberstadt   Naumburg (Saale)   Weissenfels    Magdeburg    Lutherstadt- Wittenberge   Dessau-Rosslau   Bernburg   Merseburg       Sangerhausen

  1. Match the following photos with the cities listed in Nr. 2. (Hint: Two of these belong to one city.)
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A.
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B
C
The cathedral churches and the statue of George Friedrich Handel at Halle (Saale)'s city center. Photo taken in 2012
D.
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E.

4. True or False: No police commissioners from the German mystery series Tatort has ever covered Saxony-Anhalt.

5. True or False (2 answers): The slogan for Saxony-Anhalt is Frühaufsteher, which stands for people going to work early in the morning (_____).  The people who do that (mainly farmers) are proud of that heritage (_______). 

6. True or False (3 answers) Martin Luther, the Protestant who presented the 95 Thesis harshly criticizing the Catholic Church, was born in and died in the same city (_______). His wife Katherina von Bora was not from Saxony-Anhalt originally (_______). She crafted the first champaign for him as a refresher for the brain (________).

7. Walter Gropius is famous for this (choose one):

_The founding of Bauhaus Dessau-Rosslau

_The creation of Worlitz Park near Dessau-Rosslau

_ The Nebra Arch

_The creation of the East German Museum in Bernburg

8. Which of the following concertos was written by George Friedrich Handel, a composer originating from Saxony-Anhalt in the city of (____________)?

9. True or False: Johann Sebastian Bach originated from Magdeburg.

10. True or False: The late Hans Diedrich Genscher, one of the founding fathers of the Free Democratic Party of Germany originated from Halle (Saale).

11. True or False: Sven Köhler, one of the longest tenured soccer head coaches from Halle FC, grew up in and played for the team in Halle.

12. True or False: Halle FC and FC Magdeburg are the only two teams in Saxony Anhalt which marched through the regional soccer league in one season enroute to the national stage (counting the 3rd tier of the German Bundesliga).

13. True or False: The handball teams of SC Magdeburg (men) and the Halle Lions (women) compete in the premere league.

14. Which of the following beers originate from Saxony-Anhalt?

Porter              Hasseröder                 Gessener                     St. Moritz                   Glauchauer

15. Which of the following specialties are NOT considered a pastry?

Bienenstich                Nähstänge                  Garley             Baumkuchen            Streuselkuchen

16. True or False: The Nähstänge is a pastry that originate from  Tangermünde.

17. What constitutes a typical Bauernfrühstück in Saxony-Anhalt?

18. The Weinmeile is an annual event that takes place in ___________________________, (region or city will suffice)  famous for the production of ________________ and ___________________ (pick two from the selection below)

champaign           brandy            wine                sherry             sect                 champaign            beer

19. What is a Feuerstein from Schierke?

20. If legend is true (and it still is), salt is the most priceless commodity that exist in Saxony-Anhalt. Which areas can you find salt production?

21. Salt is used for what purposes?

22. Which of the cities in Saxony-Anhalt does NOT have a castle?

Halle (Saale), Naumburg (Saale), Magdeburg, Sangerhausen, Quedlinburg, Dessau-Rosslau, Tangermünde

23. Which of the following cities have a cathedral?

Naumburg (Saale),  Magdeburg,  Halle (Saale), Havelberg, Lutherstadt Wittenberge, Arendsee

24. How many churches and “klosters” does Magdeburg have?

25.  How many bridges do the following cities have? Name two of them per city you know.

Magdeburg: ________

Halle (Saale): _______

Quedlinburg: _________

Zeitz: __________

Merseburg: __________

 

 

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