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. 🙂

2016 Christmas Market Tour: Zwickau (Saxony)

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The next Christmas market on the tour takes us back to the Erzgebirge Region- or should I say the gateway to the mountains to be specific?  Zwickau is located in the southwestern part of Saxony, 17 kilometers south of neighboring Glauchau along the Zwickauer Mulde River. Access to the city of 100,000 inhabitants is easy, thanks to access to the Autobahn 72 that connects Hof (Bavaria) and Leipzig via Chemnitz and two key railways: The Nuremberg-Hof-Dresden Magistrate operated mainly by the Mitteldeutsche Railway (MRB) and the Franconian-Saxony Route connecting Leipzig-Halle and Hof with a branch extending to Zwickau from Werdau. Another rail route to Karlsbad (Karoly Vary) in the Czech Republic provides direct access to the mountains.  Zwickau is the gateway to the Erzgebirge region (Ore Mountains) with the historic Silver Road being the western terminus that provides access through the mountains enroute to Freiberg (Saxony), offering tourists a glimpse of the story of the miners and how they lived, in places like Annaberg-Buchholz, Schneeberg, Schwarzenberg, and Tharandt.  Zwickau is also the gateway to the heavily forested and hilly Vogtland region in the south, where Plauen, Greiz and Hof are located, but also the agricultural regions to the north, where Glauchau, Gössnitz and Altenburg are located. The landscape changes when passing through Zwickau, enabling people to choose which region to hike (or bike if you have two wheels). 🙂

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Zwickau is also the birthplace of automobiles and infrastructure. Audi Motors, which was created in 1932 thanks to the fusion with Horch, had its start in the city. The beloved East German car Trabant was manufactured in Zwickau until 1990. Now Volkswagon handles most of the manufacturing of cars at its headquarters between Zwickau and Glauchau. The city is home of very unique bridges stemming from six different eras, including the Paradiesbrücke, Röhrensteg and Zellstoff Bridge (a tour guide of the bridges can be found here). It is unknown whether the largest bridge builder in Zwickau, whose history goes back 160 years may have had something to do with it, but it would not be a surprise.  Yet a surprise to musicians and Germanists would be if they never knew that composer Robert Schumann was born in Zwickau and had his start there before becoming a famous pianist and music writer. The house where he was born is still standing and can be seen while in the city center.

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A specialized oven cooking Mutzbraten at Kornmarkt

Then there is the Christmas market in Zwickau. When compared to the markets in the Erzgebirge or Vogtland regions, let alone in the western half of Saxony (minus Chemnitz), the market is the largest with over 300 stands in two markets plus four different streets connecting them. From the author’s perspective, Zwickau’s market is one of the most centralized markets ever visited on tour, as one needs only two minutes walk between the two markets. It’s comparible to the ones in Leipzig, Halle (Saale), Nuremberg, Quedlinburg and to a certain degree, Freiberg.  Yet in terms of access, when compared to the likes of Chemnitz, Glauchau, Freiberg, Frankfurt (Main) and Weimar, it is very difficult to reach, especially by bike but also by car.  While one can be daring enough to bike the Zwickauer Mulde bike path and access it from Paradiesbrücke, which takes only three minutes to reach, from the train station, let alone the main highway B93, one needs 10-15 minutes to reach. The reason: The market is located deep inside the walls of the historic town, and that is located right next to the river! Allow some time and patience to find it and have your Google Map app handy.

I had two different opportunities to visit the market this year because of my commitments teaching English nearby combined with my plan to visit the markets in the mountain. Both times I came away with the same impression as before, which was very local but diverse, very historical but fancy, very religious but educational, and very wide in selection but also very tasty.  In short, if you want a taste of Erzgebirge and Vogtland and have a time and money budget, you should take some time in Zwickau, as the city provides you with a glimpse of the markets you could (and should) visit when going deeper into the regions.

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As mentioned earlier, the market is divided up into two different ones. The larger of the two markets is located at Hauptmarkt, which is between Alte Steinweg and Marienplatz. At this place, one will find everything typical of Saxony and the Erzgebirge. Like in Chemnitz and Freiberg, this market has its usual black Lichterbogen (lighted arch), laden with stands made of wood from the mountains, all of which have the usual yellowish-brown and mahogany colors and resemble log cabins and huts. The backdrop of the market features the Historic Theater (Gewandhaus) with its white and light brown Fachwerk design, the City Hall and the Robert Schumann House, where he was born.  Looking towards the theater, one will see the large pyramid with its figures of the miners in the foreground; the Christmas tree is in the background. The former is a key eatery, serving traditional delicacies but also a dozen types of Glühwein (mulled/spiced wine), including apple and spice, sanddorn (sea buckthorn) and wildberry. It is also one of three places where a person can find a Christmas market cup in several different colors and designs. Two of them I have at home as souvenirs, btw. 🙂

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View of behind the manger set with a light resembling the star that led the three wisemen to Baby Jesus. Photo taken at St. Mary’s Church.

Crossing Marienplatz and going adjacent from the Hauptmarkt, there is St. Mary’s Cathedral (the official name is St. Mary’s Evangelical Lutheran Church). While visiting the church, one really needs to see the manger set, located behind the church in front of the museum and Brauhaus restaurant and brewery. While the market has more manger sets than any of the markets in eastern Germany (at least five of them are located at the Christmas market in general), this one is the largest as the figures are life-sized and depict the scene where the three wise men visit and bless Joseph and Mary, the proud parents, and baby Jesus. While the site is more visible in the daytime, one can play with photography at night, using the lights to depict the actual scene and the lighted church as the backdrop.

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Side view of the manger set with the church in the background

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South of the church, going 300 meters, is Kornplatz. This section is the smaller of the two markets but serves as a symbol of the more traditional Christmas market on a wider German scale. This goes beyond the pyramid, which has a more modern mahogany appearance, as several gabled dark brown houses sell local clothing and cooked goods, including the Mutzbraten, which is smoked marinated pork that is cooked for 2-3 hours in a wooden stove and is a Thuringian tradition, like the Bratwurst. However there are two more local cooked specialties to be mentioned later that are even local than the Thuringian specialties offered at this Christmas market (no offense to those from Thuringia.) The market has a carousel and children’s railroad track for them to ride the train through the market. The market area itself is more suitable for families with children because of the space and some stands that are children friendly. Also as an incentive to visit the market is the children’s story alley. Located along Münzstrasse connecting the Korn and Haupt markets,  it features a display of 3-4 fairy tales which are decided upon annually by the planning committee.  The artists then construct the mural and the figures depicted in the story, which is recorded by the narrators and played by the tourists.

LOOKING AT THESE DISPLAYS, CAN YOU GUESS WHAT THEY ARE?

Other amusement rides can also be found at the Hauptmarkt, but across the streetcar tracks and on the opposite side of the statue of Robert Schumann. They were purposely placed there to provide better access for children and to avoid overcrowding. The planning of the Christmas market was perfect in a way that the children’s section was placed in the outer portions of the Hauptmarkt while the market itself can focus on local goods from the region. This plus its openness- meaning no fences and key entrances like at the one in Freiberg- enables people to enter and exit the market anywhere freely without overcrowding. It’s convenient and most importantly, it’s safe. This is probably the main reason why Zwickau’s market is so centralized- not to mention well organized. 🙂

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The stand across St. Mary’s Church which sold Zwickau Brühlette. There were three at the market that sold this unique specialty that is typical of the city.

As mentioned before, Zwickau’s Christmas market has a wide selection of food and drink- the more traditional Christmas market foods are at the Kornmarkt, while the more local goods from the region is found at the Hauptmarkt, with a few exceptions of foods from Switzerland and France at a couple booths, including Cheese Fondue.  One of the prized goods worth trying is the Zwickau Brühlette. Based on a recipe dating back to the 1950s, the Brühlette is simply a meatloaf made of ground meet combined with flour, breadcrumbs and spices, but what exactly goes into there and how it is made has remained top secret since it was presented by a married couple who invented this in light of the food shortage during the days of Socialism in East Germany. After the Fall of the Wall in 1989, the unique delicacy became nearly an overnight hit among “Westerners” that eventually, a restaurant was established, which still sells the Brühlette- with or without bread and with or without topping. I tried one at the stand across from St. Mary’s Church during my visit with mustard and it topped all the Leberkäse (basically meatloaf slices) I’ve tried since moving to Germany in 1999! It was a bit spicy but really tasty and one that stands out! When visiting Zwickau, it is recommended to put this food on top of your list of delicacies to taste.

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Not far from the top of the list of foods to taste is horse meat. Regardless of whether they are meat slices or sausage, horse meat is different from other forms of meat that people eat as it has a tender, hearty and somewhat tart-like flavor, regardless of how it is served. The place selling this is Ulrich Engelhardt, and the business has been selling horse meat since 1990, the same time the Zwickau Christmas market started up again! I tried one during my first visit in a form of a sausage on a bun and it tasted similar to Polish sausages, a common commodity sold in American supermarkets. Having that with my dad and brother while growing up, that was quite addicting and tasty! 🙂

Also recommended is the Dresden Landbrot. Originating from the capital of Saxony, the Landbrot is baked bread with filling, cooked in a wooden oven. Filling included cheese and meat, and can be served with sour creme and chives, just to name a few. This bread is best served hot with a good Glühwein to go along with that.  🙂

Despite all that is offered at the Christmas market, sometimes it hurts to say good-bye, especially when the market closes at 8:00pm. Zwickau usually ends its market day on a musical note, singing Christmas carols and a farewell song as a way to signaling the visitors mulling over some Räuchermänner made of Erzgebirge wood, accessories for a doll house, lanterns with a wooden frame, miner figures made of silver or wood and other typical local products to make the purchase and allow the merchants to close their doors to prepare for the next day. Believe it or not, I witnessed this on my visit, especially as the number of visitors had already reached its peak.  But it was a way to look back at Zwickau’s market and summarize it in simpler terms:

Zwickau is one of the largest Christmas markets in a region where the city sits at the gateway to three different landscapes: Vogtland, Erzgebirge and the agricultural plains. Like the markets of the past, Zwickau’s Christmas market provides people with an opportunity to try and purchase products locally. In other words, the market is one of the more local ones when looking at the themes mentioned and the heritage that goes along with that. While some markets are really spread out, Zwickau is one of the more centralized of the Christmas markets, with two key markets, two corridors with only a three minute walking distance and a large church with the largest of the five manger sets to see. Even if it takes a long time to get to the city center where the market is located, the visit in the end is well worth it. Given its access to the three regions and its western terminus to the Silver Road going through the Erzgebirge, Zwickau’s Christmas market provides the tourist with a whiff of the city’s history with the miners and perhaps encourages the person to explore the other Christmas markets and places along the path to look at their history and heritage and learn a bit more about the history of Saxony and to a greater extent, Germany.

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Because of that, I have a lot of towns along the Silver Road to explore, in addition to the Vogtlanders. And what will be interesting is seeing how these markets, like Annaberg-Bucholz, Schwarzenberg, Schneeberg, etc. celebrate Christmas and their miners. Will it be different or similar to what I visited during the tour? My bet is each market will be different but the miners’ legacy will be the same, affecting the lifestyles of the people in the Erzgebirge that is different than the rest of the country. And sometimes a different lifestyle opens new doors to knowledge and understanding. 🙂

Check out the Flensburg Files’ photo album with additional photos of Zwickau’s Christmas market, which you can click here. An ongoing collection of Zwickau at night, taken by the author, can be accessed here. Stop here occasionally as the collection will be bigger. Enjoy! 🙂

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2016 Christmas Market Tour: Freiberg (Saxony)

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The next Christmas market to visit on this year’s tour takes us to the far eastern part of Germany. Specifically, what we are talking about is the city of Freiberg in Saxony. Located between Chemnitz and Dresden in the eastern part of the state, Freiberg is located in the top half of the Erzgebirge (translated freely as Ore Mountains), one can feel the ascension to the top while travelling by train or car. But when arriving in the city, one sees a maze of streets and historic buildings, where if one finds a way to go down hill, fighting curves and cars, one will reach the market square- Obermarkt. This is the stage of the Christmas market, where the city hall serves as a backdrop and the statue of Otto the Great is surrounded by 90 different huts, a stage, one of the tallest moving Christmas pyramids in the region and lastly, one of the tallest Christmas trees in the mountain region. Since 1989, the time of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Christmas market has been held here, which is ironic for most of the products a person will find at a German Christmas market come from the mountain which had once been part of East Germany and the socialist regime. This brought a question to mind: what was Christmas like during that period between the end of World War II and German Reunification, especially as the western half quickly reestablished its tradition? This would require some research which will surely mean some history lessons in the Files in the near future. 🙂

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And as Freiberg is located directly in the Erzgebirge, everything a person will see is clearly in connection with this theme: Gabled housing with several shades of brown and mahogany, statues of miners as well as chisels and lanterns, wooden products made locally such as pyramids, Räuchermänner, Lichterbogen (Christmas arches) and other Christmas decorations, local drinks including spiced wine and punch, and local eateries including Stollen and Pulsnitzer Kuchen (a fruitcake with cherries and almonds). In other words, simply Erzgebirgisch!

 

To read further, please go to the wordpress version of the Files by clicking here. Thank you! 

Moving On Up in the East in German Soccer

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RB Leipzig, Dynamo Dresden and Erzgebirge Aue, all in Saxony, are going up one league in the coming soccer season.

The German state of Saxony is celebrating this week, for despite having a week left in the regular soccer season, three teams are being promoted to the national level, one of which will make its debut in the German Premere League (1st Bundesliga). The automatic promotion only applies to the top two teams in each flight of the soccer league, with a relegation playoff match taking place between the third place finisher in the lower league and the third to last place finisher in the upper league. Dresden and Aue finished in the top two respectively in the third league, thus automatically qualifying for the second league or what Germans call the Unterhaus der Bundesliga. Würzburg can join them if the team defeats the third place finisher in the playoff match once the regular season concludes. Despite its placing in second behind SC Freiburg, RB Leipzig will enter the top tier of the German soccer league next season after its victory today. How they got there? Here is a brief summary:

SG Dynamo Dresden-  The team carrying the colors of Germany will make its debut in the second tier of the German league for the first time since 2014. After finishing sixth in the standings in the third league last season, the team under head coach Uwe Neuhaus and assistant coach Peter Nemeth started the season strong and on top and never looked back for despite having 20 wins, 15 ties and two losses, the team advanced to the second league two weeks ago after tying Magdeburg 2-2. The team set the mark for being the earliest promoter with four games left in the season. Another reason to celebrate is the team being debt free for the first time since 1995. Acquiring players and coaches, combined with the construction of a new soccer stadium in 2009 contributed to the team’s financial woes. However, despite this, the team utilized a variety of players from many parts of Germany and eastern Europe to pull it off. The question is how to advance in the next stage, for the team had struggled mightily in the second league before being demoted to third league play in 2014. But with a clean slate and high quality players, it is possible that the team might achieve its next goal: the return to the Oberhaus for the first time since 1995. Whether it is in the next season or the 2017/18 season depends on the team’s developments but things are looking really good for Dresden at this point…..

Erzgebirge Aue- Located in the Ore Mountain region in southern Saxony, the 72-year old club is no stranger to the second league as it had been competing in that league for 10 out of the last 13 seasons since 2003. After being relegated in the third league last season, the team and its head coach, Pavel Dotchev made it clear that it wanted to go back. The team’s wish came true yesterday, after Aue defeated Fortuna Cologne 2-0, solidifying its second place finish and forcing third place finisher Würzburg to play in the relegation playoff game at the end of the season. This with one game left in the regular season.

RasenBallsport Leipzig- People in the city of Leipzig are celebrating its return to the big times for the first time since 1994. That was the last time a soccer team had competed with the likes of Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and Berlin. VfB Leipzig was the last team to compete in the Unterhaus before being demoted after the 1993/4 season and subsequentially beginning its gradual demise, which ended in the team being dissolved through bankruptcy in 2004. Other teams in Leipzig have made attempts to climb back to the national stage, such as the (now defunct) Saxony Leipzig and Loc Leipzig but with no success. However Leipzig is returning to its glory days this fall with RB Leipzig making it to the first league! After defeating Karlsruhe 2-0 today, the team under Ralf Ranick has placed the city back on the map again. The team, which is owned by Red Bull Beverages in Austria, has been the darling of German soccer, as it has marched its way through the ranks since its inception in the fifth league (Oberliga) in 2009, having advanced every season except last year, where it finished sixth in the second league. However this season, the team upgraded its talent and finished in second place with 20 wins, six losses and seven ties, two wins less than SC Freiburg but two more than FC Nurnemberg, which awaits its opponent from the 16th place finisher in the Oberhaus. Leipzig will receive new faces come this fall as Ralph Hasenhuttl will take over as head coach of RB Leipzig, while Ranick, whose storied career included creating a winner in Premere league team 1899 Hoffenheim, will continue operations as manager. In either case, after being the first of 90 German soccer teams that formed the Bundesliga in 1900 but being absent from the top league for 22 years, Leipzig is back, and with that, tens of thousands of fans will storm the stadium this fall to watch them annoy the well-established Bundesliga teams! 🙂

 

With these three teams already going up, we may have another one after this month if FSV Zwickau in the Oberliga North East Division maintains its course. With three games left, the team in first place has more or less locked up its regular season championship. It must participate in the relegation playoff game with the first place finisher in the western division of the Oberliga after the regular season ends. The team with the highest goal ratio in their favor after two games will advance. The team failed to achieve this last season with Magdeburg advancing to the third league. However, this team has a greater chance of achieving this goal this time around. If so, there will be four teams from Saxony moving on up, thus making the eastern German state an attractive place for people to go for soccer. More on this development to follow.

In the meantime, the Flensburg Files would like to congratulate Dresden, Leipzig and Aue for making it to the big times. Best of luck in the coming season! 😀

 

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The Flensburg Files at the Leipzig Buchmesse

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LEIPZIG- There are five things about German culture that are considered sacred and should be handled with care: cars, soccer, punctuality, perfectionism and last, but especially, books. To Germans, books are like the Bible: you read them, handle them with care and give them to the next person, hoping that that person handles it with as much care as you did.

Even more so with books, one is expected to produce a book with high quality in terms of content. In some cases, if you are not into writing fairy tales but more into Krimis and politics, the themes have to be controversial and worth discussing at the table.

The Leipzig Buchmesse (Book Fair) is one of two central places where fairy tales, comics, newspapers and books come together for one weekend. Dating back to 1632, it is the second largest book fair behind the one in Frankfurt/Main (has been since 1945) in terms of the number of books presented and sold.

As many as 300 publishers from Germany and 40 different countries, including the United States present their products every year at the end of March, as well as organizations representing writers, teachers, publishers, musicians and even antique book sellers, attracting visitors in the hundreds of thousands.

Since 1995, the book fair has taken place at the Leipzig Messegelände and for a good reason: six convention halls full of book displays, including Fachbücher (books on specialized areas), antique books, newspapers, comics, German literature and others. During my visit this past weekend, I underestimated the number of halls the fair was hosting and ended up spending two hours in one hall! One needs a whole weekend to spend at the fair (luckily for me, it was spent in the Fachbücher section, where English (teaching) literature was on display).

In each hall, there is a forum on various topics as well as reading lectures and sometimes a bit of music. The convention is spacious, allowing people to manoever around. The people are friendly and willing to share some experiences and tips. And one can come away with free books, broschures and even card games if you find the right place.

While Frankfurt’s book fair is still larger than Leipzig’s in terms of books and things being found and sold there, the potential for Leipzig to surpass the Frankfurt Book Fair in terms of number of visitors is there.

Over 260,000 people attended the book fair this year- an increase by 9,000 from last year’s total. And given what the fair has to offer combined with its location within the fastest growing city in Germany and  the continuous interest in reading books, it could be that maybe next year at this time the Leipzig Buchmesse will surpass Frankfurt’s, taking the top role for the first time since 1945. The 2017 book fair will take place March 27-30.

The Flensburg Files has a gallery of photos taken by the author who  visited the book fair on the 18th in connection with the Intercultural Blogger Conference at the Poniatowski Cafe that evening in Leipzig. They are at the end of this article.

More on the book fair highlights as well as German’s passion for books will be found on the Files’ wordpress website. This Areavoices site will undergo a makeover in the coming weeks and therefore, all newsflyers and forum topics will be posted in the wordpress site until the work is completed. You can click here to follow the Files.

 

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