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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The Flensburg Files at the Intercultural Blogger Cafe Conference

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LEIPZIG- More than 35 people from different aspects of the globe were on hand last night at the first annual Intercultural Blogger Conference, which took place at the Poniatowski Polish Bar and Restaurant, located outside the city center of Leipzig. Hosted by Ana Beatriz Ribeiro, founder of the online column Leipzig Glocal, the conference featured presenters of eight different blogs, together with good company among people either from Leipzig or just passing through to visit. Of the eight, the Flensburg Files was one of the blogs being presented by founder Jason D. Smith that evening. However other blogs based in and around Leipzig were presented as well, one of which included a book that was recently released in time for this weekend’s Leipzig Buchmesse. Here are the highlights of the event from the author’s point of view:

The Leipzig Glocal: Ana Beatriz Ribeiro started off the conference with her story about the creation of the Leipzig Glocal, where according to her speech and a video, an English-speaking guide to the events in and around Leipzig was needed, especially for those new to the area. Since its launch in March last year, the Glocal has attracted over 1200 followers on facebook and even more visitors on its website, which you can click here.

Alexandra Köppling talked about the importance of food in Europe and how and where people can find food products (for vegans, organics, etc.) in and around Leipzig, let alone make some yummy entrées, as she contributes to the Glocal as a food correspondant.

Alexander and Juliane Klinger talked about goats and things to do in Leipzig, especially for families with little income, through their blog Heldenstadtbewohner, one of a pair of German-speaking blogs featured at the conference. The audience took very kindly to the goats, asking if they thought about a blog about that as it is a hobby. 🙂

The first presentation that spawned interest and discussion on creating blogs came with the presentation on the Flensburg Files by Jason D. Smith. The origin and development of the Files can be found here. This is minus the film and a couple other tricks. After the presentation there were questions about audience visits and discussions on articles as well as questions and advice to people wanting to create a blog for their interest, such as Italian food recipes, African themes and art. Nice to know that the interest is blogging is really high. 😀

Stewart Tunnicliff (a.k.a. the Linguo Guy) presented a Prezi-style topic on how to create a blog with wordpress, one of the most popular platforms  for blogging. During this most colorful presentation of the evening, Stu walked the audience through the steps of creating a wordpress site, while reemphasizing the importance of “backing up your shit!” In other words, have back-ups and protection against hackers and potential disasters online. 😉 He has two blogs: The Lingo Guy  and The Leipzig Writers.)

The Stadtschwärmer, featuring Babett Börner, Franziska Müller, Katrin Hofmann und Stephanie Schmidt, presented a combination blog and book of their own, one that is highly recommended when visiting Leipzig. In comparison to the mainstream places and events, their most recently released tour guide features the sides of Leipzig that many don’t see except from their point of view. Some of that has to do with the job of two of the members as city planners, the others because of the other blog founded by the other two members of the quartet, going by the name of Kiss and Tell. Some ideas for another book are being sought and created, so stay tuned. 🙂

The last presenter was Kerstin Petermann, who talked about her blog, Peterfrau, an online blog which almost solely focuses on pop music and interviews with musicians. For people loving music, this one is a treat. 🙂

The conference ended with a combination of book exchanges (an article will come afterwards), donations for the event, good food and drink and some lively conversations among presenters and audience members, as well as those interested in creating a blog. One of the lessons learned from this conference is no matter how interested the people are, if one has an idea and will to present a topic to the open, then there is a way to do that, no matter what platform is used and how it is designed. In the end, the best columnists are the ones who are most informed of the topics surrounding them (even if it means looking up some information), and the most confident and able to market onesself to the audience. The more confidence and ways to get your audience’s attention, the more likes and followers you will have. You just need to find out what you like in comparison to what they like (also to read about). For this conference, it gave many, including the author of the Files, an idea on how to further develop their blogs further. For those who have not started one, it gave them a few ideas on how to start theirs.

This leads to my closing remark on this conference, which will continue to be hosted, and to the bloggers out there:

TO BE SUCCESFUL IN LIFE, AIM HIGH AND LET THE HEAVENS DO THE REST! 🙂

The Flensburg Files has a gallery of photos taken by the author and several people who were at the event, with some highlights of the events. Please check back often as more will be added. If you are interested in participating in or helping out on the next blogger convention, please contact Ana Beatriz Ribeiro at the Leipzig Glocal. The contact info is on their webpage.

 

And BTW, the film in connection with the Files’ presentation….. 🙂

http://goanimate.com/videos/0jyP_uPJ5kd0?utm_source=linkshare&utm_medium=linkshare&utm_campaign=usercontent

TIP! 🙂  Located on Kreuzstrasse 15 near Augustusplatz, the Poniatowski Bar and Restaurant offers a wide array of Polish food and drink, inlcuding the famous Stille Josef vodka, which comes in many different flavors. (The author tried one with wild berry which was really fruity). The restaurant was named after a patron, who visited the restaurant very often until his untimely death. The owners renamed the place in his honor. To be acquainted with Polish food, drink and culture, as well as know the patron, click here and check it out while visiting Leipzig.

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“Wir sind das Volk” als illegale Ansage?

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“Wir sind das Volk!-” literally translated as We are the People: A phrase that is universal. We stand together as one group, one republic, to all mankind.

Although its origins date back to the time of the 1848 Revolution and it was used during the Third Reich, this phrase was introduced during the Leipzig Demonstrations in 1989, protesting against the East German regime and their control over their rights and passage to the west. The peace demonstrations were the key to opening the Berlin Wall on 9 November of that year.  It resonated when the population of both Germanys demanded that there is only one Germany. Germany was reunited a year later on 3 October. You can imagine what the phrase meant during that time:

 

Fast-forward to the present, and we see the phrase being used in a totally different way:

In the past three months conflicts involving the housing of refugees in Germany have reached their boiling point where we have seen people taking arms against the will of politicians. Especially in the German state of Saxony, attacks against planned apartments for refugees have been reported in cities, like Dresden, Chemnitz and Freiberg, but also in smaller communities, like Meerane and Bautzen.

The videos posted here consist of a fire at a former hotel reserved for refugees in the town of Bautzen. People there tried to hinder the firemen from putting out the blaze. In Clausnitz, a suburb of Chemnitz, a bus full of refugees heading to a shelter, was blocked by numerous protesters. Both times, the phrase “Wir sind das Volk!” was used.

This has resulted in numerous reactions from politicians and others on state and national levels, ranging from disappointment to appalling. The phrase has been used very often and in an increasingly way during the PEGIDA demonstrations as well as with the right-wing extreme groups.

This has resulted in the need to question this phrase. While “Wir sind das Volk” is used to unite the people for a better Germany that is free and democratic, it appears that this phrase is increasingly being used for patriotic purposes, which in German terms can be compared to the Third Reich and Hitler’s greeting “Sieg ****!”  This phrase has been declared illegal since 1945 because of its association with Hitler and the atrocities he and his people did against millions of people of his disliking.

While Germany prides itself on its culture and technology, especially both after 1945 and German Reunification, it is a country that takes its pride seriously and does not use patriotic slogans as much as the US does, for it brings back memories of this dark period. In case one is wondering, for the US, we have “One Nation Under God, Indivisible, With Liberty and Justice for All,” as our patriotic slogan. Given our religious beliefs and how they have shaped our history, this is justified.

However, the phrase “Wir sind das Volk,” is becoming one that should be deemed illegal because of its misinterpretation in the eyes of the PEGIDA and those opposing housing and helping refugees. It has become a phrase that is enhancing a German nationalism that the majority of the population does not want at all- a nationalist state where Aryanism is the norm.

And contrary to the fact that immigrants and refugees have helped develop Germany into an economic power, especially when dating back to the 1950s where labor shortages were noticable because of the after-effects of the war, opponents seem to not care about these benefits which far trumps the cleansing of the German population with this slogan “Wir sind das Volk.” And in the eyes of the typical German, this is not what Germany is about.

Keeping all this in mind, this leads to a plea to the German Supreme Court in Karlsruhe and to Chancellor Angela Merkel: Do away with the slogan and replace it with a more neutral but friendlier version, like “Wir sind Deutschland! Ihr seid (herzlich) wilkommen!” or “Wir sind Deutschland! Wir sind eins!”

As Germany has become a melting pot with lots of multiculture, I think such a slogan will have a more international taste than the slogan, which I now have added to the ones not to be spoken in Germany ever again, let alone to any German. It will present more of a sense of home to the people who really, and desparately need one, even if it is for a limited time. If you think this will work, then carry it out. I’m sure every person living in Germany and having listened to the events happening recently will be greeted with a proactive decision.

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What do you think? Should the slogan “Wir sind das Volk” be considered an illegal one and banned by law, similar to that forbidden slogan used by Hitler?  Why or why not?

Place your votes here but you are also free to explain (in German or English) why you feel one way or the other.

 

 

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And to the people who committed the atrocities against the refugees or have supported PEGIDA: As I’m a Christian of mixed faith (Catholic, Lutheran and Methodist), allow me to quote a couple passages worth considering before you join another demonstration or hinder the right of others to live in your neighborhood:

Romans 14:1-4 As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.  One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him.  Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

Mark 12:31 – And the second [is] like, [namely] this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

It doesn’t matter where the people come from, it does matter as to accept them into their community and integrate them, for they have a future like we do, and a right to live as we do. Think about it. And purgatories do exist, indulgences not!