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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Germany Quiz 8: Part II

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

General Information:

What is the capital of Saxony?

Leipzig               Meissen                   Zwickau                Dresden                 Görlitz           Wilkau-Hasslau

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

Dresden          Zwickau          Zittau              Leipzig           Meerane         Waldenburg

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

Glauchau      Dresden      Freiberg     Leipzig    Zwickau   Riesa

Which rivers do NOT flow through Saxony?

Elbe             Mulde                Saale            Neisse              Danube

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

Leipzig                   Glauchau                  Plauen                 Meissen                Reichenbach

Which city does NOT have a castle or palace?

Zwickau            Dresden             Leipzig        Glauchau        Markkleeberg      Schneeberg

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

Zittau         Bautzen          Oberlausitz           Cottbus        Görlitz       Grimma

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

Meissen             Riesa             Hoyerswerda           Werdau           Crimmitschau            Leipzig

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chemnitz              Meerane                Zwickau             Leipzig                   Dresden              Plauen                  Reichenbach         Zittau

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

The three states: ______________,  __________________, & ___________________

The city:

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

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

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

Dresden            Chemnitz            Leipzig              Glauchau           Riesa               Bad Schandau

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

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

Aue        Dresden         Leipzig          Meerane        Zwickau            Chemnitz           Glauchau

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

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

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Information about the Christmas markets in Saxony:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which Christmas market does NOT have a castle setting?

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

 

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Germany Quiz 8: Saxony Part I: How to Speak Sächsisch

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Sächsisch Deutsch is probably the most local of regional dialects in Germany. Consisting of a mixture of dialects from the regions of Lausitz, Vogtland, Franconia and the Ore Mountains (Erzgebirge), people living in Saxony use this dialect with stresses on the short A and long O for vowels as well as consonant sounds mainly of sch, g, k and b. When compared with the high German, it’s like speaking a completely different language, like one sees with the Low German,  Franconian German, local Bavarian and even some northern German dialects in Schleswig-Holstein and Lower Saxony. Some like Franz Xaver Kroetz find this dialect somewhat fremdschämend (embarassing):

 Dialekt ist die Unterwäsche des Menschen, Hochdeutsch ist die Konfektion, die er darüber trägt. (EN: Dialects are like underwear, high German is the ready-made clothing a person wears)

or when they love to chat with one another:

Der Sachse hält nich de Gusche (Mund).  (EN: The Sachse never shut up)

However, like all the dialects, the Sächsisch des have some bright spots, apart from winning the hearts of a local woman in a village in the Ore Mountains or Vogtland region. Especially if you are a miner in the mountains along the Silver Road between Zwickau and Lichtenstein, a yodeler in Little Switzerland south of Dresden or even a farmer in the green valley near Glauchau, if you can sing the Sachsenlied, as written by Jürgen Hart, you can expect a bouquet of wild flowers and a mug of local beer from an admireress to go along with the chisel and hard hat  😉 :

Der Sachse liebt das Reisen sehr. Nu nee, ni das in’n Gnochen;drum fährt er gerne hin und her in sein’n drei Urlaubswochen.Bis nunderhinunter nach BulgarchenBulgarien, im Ostblocksystem war das bereits eine Weltreise dud er die Welt beschnarchen.Und sin de GofferKoffer noch so schwer, und sin se voll, de ZücheZüge,und isses Essen nich weit her: Des gennt er zur Genüche!Der Sachse dud nich gnietschennörgeln, quängeln, der Sachse singt ‘n Liedschen!  (!: Click here for the entire song and below to listen to the melody sung by him 🙂 )

Either way you interpret it, Sächsisch Deutsch is the most local of all German dialects and one where if you have a dictionary, CD on how to learn it and (for the men), a beautiful local woman to teach you the language, you will open the doors to its local pride and heritage. And even if you have a partner from another part of Germany, Europe or elsewhere, having an opportunity to listen in on the locals will help you get a grasp of the language and perhaps open up new business ties with them, as they hold a treasure of inventions and patents of products we still use today.

As part of the series on German states and the quizzes and concentrating on Saxony itself, the Files has comprised a quiz, testing your knowledge of Sächsisch Deutsch and teaching you the tricks of the language, with the exception of the first part, all of the tasks consist of multiple choice questions, so you have at least a one in three chance of getting the answer right. The answer sheet will come in May.

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So without further ado,  😉

Activity 1:

The following words are written in Sächsisch German. Find the equivalents in high German and English. The first 10 are quite easy to find, yet the last 10 has a hint given in one of the two languages. 

Sächsisch Hochdeutsch English
Fläscher
Radscho
Bargblad
Gliewärmel
Daschendicher
Biordäggl
Nachellagg
Breedschen
Beefschdeeg
Glemdnor
Lorke Dünner Kaffee
Reformande Strafpredigt
Dreiche Dry
Blembe Weak soup
Bliemchen (-kaffee) Ersatzkaffee
Kääbsch Picky (eater)
Iezch Angry
Motschgiebchen Marinekäfer
Quatschen Shooting the breeze (oral)
Rumbläken Herumschreien

Activity 2.

In your honest opinion, what is the Sächsisch equivalent to the following cities in Saxony. Mark the best answer. In some cases, none of the answers apply and therefore, you need to choose other and write it in (and also mention in the Comment section here)

  1. Zwickau (Saxony)     a. Twigge    b. Zwigge      c. Zwick          d. Zwish
  1. Leipzig     a. Leice       b. Liken          c. Leib            d. Leibz’sch
  1. Dresden    a. Dräsd’n       b. Driez      c. Drisch         d. Dreeb
  1. Chemnitz      a.Chemmik      b. Gemmnidz       c. Gemmit        d. Dammit
  1. Plauen     a. Plowing      b. Plaue     c. Plau         d. Plau`n    e. Other ________________
  1. Mylau   a. Mi-low    b. Meow        c. Moolah       d. Meela     e. Other __________________
  1. Bautzen    a. Pausen       b. Other ____________  c. Bauz’n         d. Baussen
  1. Meissen   a. Mice      b. Miken              c. Maise          d. Mei’ sn    e. Other ______________

Activity 3.

Now look at the pictures and choose the best of the three words in Sächsisch German and identify the English meaning. 

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a. Pieramidgerzen      b. Bieramidngärdse     c. Booramidskärze      EN:

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a. Bleedma      b. Duummann    c. Blodmama        EN:

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a. Seegeboot      b. Sähschelboud     c. Sälhboot      EN:

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a. Chim-Cheroo      b. Feierrübel     c. Firebookman         EN:

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a. Pomguberschbärde     b. Geeschma     c. Gombschudoreggsbärde      EN:

Now that you have an idea how Sächsisch can be spoken, we will move onto the Quiz on Saxony itself, but not before listening to a pair of songs in Sächsisch- one of which by German comedian, Rainald Grebe.

Viel Spaß und los gehs oufz Dai’l zwee! 😉

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Leipzig Book Fair Sets New Record

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LEIPZIG- There are two ways of looking at the new record that was set at this year’s Leipzig Book Fair (Buchmesse). According to information provided by public radio station MDR, about 208,000 visitors paid homage to the convention during the weekend of 23-27 March, which takes place at the Leipzig Messe, breaking the 200,000 mark for the first time ever. About 285,000 people attended the largest in-city book events in Europe- Leipzig Liest (Leipzig is Reading), where restaurants, libraries and other public places held reading lectures by guest authors. Over 3,400 events occurred this past weekend, which is also a new record. And even the Manga convention, where tens of thousands can dress in costumes and buy products made in Japan, saw the mark of 100,000 guests get cracked by as many as 5,000. Over 2,500 booths filled all five convention halls, ranging from publishers, teacher organizations, media firms and even the antique book stores in and around Leipzig to electronic gaming companies, food vendors selling foreign goods and even costumes shops. Over all, people took advantage of both the spring-like weather and the start of Daylight Savings Time to make a pilgrimage to the Buchmesse to check out some cool items. 🙂

There are two ways to look at the record. The first one is based on the traditional way, where the stereotype of books being part of the German culture and true and more stressed than ever before. A while back, I had written about how Germans treat their books like the Bible, having shelves full in their homes and collecting even more books to read and share with others (this article can be found here.) Regardless of age or profession, everyone took their share of opportunity at the books, picking out their favorites as well as some interesting books worth taking home with, regardless of where.

As for the second way, that has more to do with the Manga convention than the book fair itself. While Lithuania was this year’s guest at the convention, and much of the literature was found in the second convention hall, the Manga convention in the first hall featured booths laden with Japanese-style comics, fashion clothing, electronic goods and even food- all coming from Japan. A lot of events dealing with this theme, including the costume contest, were also found in the hall, which explained the reason why one in ten people dressed up as Japanese comic figures. Many scenes at the Book Fair resembled scenes in such American films, such as Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Space Jam. It felt like being in a Hollywood studio, either at Warner Brothers or Universal. It was……simply……awesome! 😀

Together with my wife and daughter, we hit the market on Saturday, the peak day of the convention and came away with some great books. Even some books commemorating Martin Luther’s 95 theses, whose 500th anniversary celebrations are in full swing. These books will be highlighted in the later articles. In the meantime, we wanted to give you some highlights of the events at the Buchmesse, which you can click here and it will take you to the facebook version of the Files. There, you can see what you can expect from a really great book convention in Germany and plan for the one in Frankfurt (Main) in October. The 2018 Leipzig Book Fair will take place 15-18 March. In case you want some tips on how to plan ahead,….. 🙂

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  1. While the Leipzig Messe (convention center) is easily accessible by S-bahn (light rail) especially from Leipzig Central Station, some long-distance trains also provide you with direct access. When booking for the next Leipzig Buchmesse, talk to the ticket personnel at the train station regarding some deals. However, be forewarned for the trains can get crowded in the afternoon hours.
  2. Book a hotel as early as possible and plan an overnight stay. Especially in the months before the Buchmesse, hotel prices can skyrocket by as much as 500%. So instead of an overnight stay for 50 Euros a night, you could pay up to 450 Euros at the time of the book fair. Look for the best deal and ask a friend living in Leipzig to stay a night. It will help a great deal.
  3. Although family rates for the book fair are really affordable (this year’s rate was 37.50 Euros), it is highly recommended to visit the Manga first- and in the mornings. The reason: In the afternoon and early evening, it can be awfully crowded- and exhausting if there is not much air inside the convention hall.
  4. Check out the rest of Leipzig for a weekend. While the readings and lectures are good, spending time in the city as well as its parks are even better. It’s OK to buy a good book, go to Clara-Zetkin-Park and read for the rest of the afternoon, while enjoying the best in Japanese snacks. My tip for the next convention. 😉

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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. 🙂