german history

The Kurpfälzisches Museum in Heidelberg

The Kurpfälzisches Museum in Heidelberg
By 4028mdk09 (Own work) CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Kurpfälzisches Museum, i.e., the Palatinate Museum, in Heidelberg possesses some of the finest examples of archeological artifacts as well as superb examples of paintings, graphic arts, sculptures, and applied arts in the greater Heidelberg area.  The museum occupies the Morass Palace, named after its first owner, the attorney Johann Philipp von Morass, who was briefly the rector of Heidelberg University in 1700-1701.  Von Morass contracted with the renowned baroque architect Johann Adam Breunig to build the palace on the site of the former “Elende Herberge” (Hotel of Woes), which had been a hospital for the poor since 1693.

In the mid 1870s, Heidelberg city authorities purchased the art and antiquities collected by Count Charles de Graimberg, which were to become the initial pieces of the museum’s collection and established the Kurpfälzisches Museum.  In 1906, the museum relocated its collection to the Morass Palace, where it has remained to this day.

The graphic arts collection can be considered the jewel in the crown of all graphic arts collections in southwest Germany.  It contains more than 7,000 sketches and watercolors and more than 13,000 prints, all of which date from ca. the late 8th century through the 20th century.  The collection has a strong section emphasizing Romanticism, including such artists as Andreas Achenbach, Philipp Otto Runge, Anselm Feuerbach, Eugene von Guerard, Christian Ezdorf, and Carl Friedrich Lessing.  The collection also includes many unique and imaginative items and memorabilia commemorating Heidelberg.
The museum’s sculptures include items dating from the mid 12th century all the way to modern times.  This collection is especially known for the many early 17th-century baroque statuaries collected from houses in Heidelberg’s old town, a narrow strip of land beneath the magnificent Heidelberg Castle ruin on the Neckar’s left bank.  Perhaps its two most famous pieces are The Altar of the Apostles (1509) by Tilman Riemenschneider and Rückblickende (Retrospective), a profoundly evocative cast-stone statue of a woman on foot, hesitating, then turning to look back.  For many people, the woman represents Lot’s wife just before she was turned into a pillar of salt.  In addition, the collection even has gravestones from a now defunct Augustine monastery and sculptures both of Minerva, the goddess of wisdom (indicating how wise it was to build the bridge), and of Prince-Elector Charles Theodore (the ruler who exercised his wisdom in so many ways) from the so-called old bridge across the Neckar.

The applied arts are an important part of the overall collection and occupy many rooms in the palace.  Indeed, four rooms are dedicated to a recreation of the 18th and 19th centuries’ “feel” and have been specifically furnished to represent that time period.  Some of the features in that portion of the collection include typical family costumes showing how individuals dressed from the mid 18th century to just prior to Hitler’s rise to power.  There are excellent examples of furniture of that time as well as bric–a–bracs and curios, e.g., cutlery, glassware, medallions, coins and buttons, porcelain, especially Frankenthal porcelain, remind us of the important, but simple, components of everyday life more than two centuries ago.  Do not miss the Frankenthal pieces, for Frankenthal was, without question, one of the premier porcelain manufacturers in Germany in the late 18th century.  To top it all off, there are portraits of select Price-Electors of the time and Countess Palatine Elisabeth Auguste’s household silver.

The museum’s paintings include works spanning the centuries from the 15th through the 20th, particularly of renowned local prominent individuals, e.g., Perkeo, the dwarf and favorite court jester of Charles III Philip, Elector Palatine in Heidelberg and who, because he was also the official guardian of the Great Heidelberg Tun, a huge wine barrel with an original capacity of more that 221,000 litres, he became Heidelberg’s unofficial mascot.  Other paintings include Frederick V, Elector Palatine, and Elizabeth Charlotte, Princess of the Palatinate, works by the Dutch painter Rogier van der Weyden and the German Renaissance painter Lucas Cranach the Elder, many Dutch still lifes, numerous rococo paintings, works by the German landscape painter Carl Rottmann, the leading German classicist painter Anselm Feuerbach, and the German realist Wilhelm Trübner.  It also includes notable 20th-century works by Alexander Kanoldt, a so-called magic realist and an important figure in the New Objectivity school of art.  Two of Kanoldt’s more distinguished works are The Red Belt and Still Life II; the Russian expressionist Alexei Jawlensky whose 1905 self-portrait and Young Girl in a Flowered Hat stand out as a particularly fine example of Jawlensky’s synthesis of the post-impressionist avant-garde artistic principles espoused by Jan Verkade and Paul Sérusier and the rich use of color advocated by Wassily Kandinsky and others caught up in the Munich New Artist’s Association; and the multi-talented German painter, draftsman, sculptor, and printmaker, Max Beckmann, a post-expressionist and also a proponent of New Objectivity.  Beckmann’s 1940 Self-Portrait with Horn is a justifiably popular piece, as are The Night and Carnival (a triptych).

Seven rooms in the museum’s ground floor are devoted to its archeological collection and traces Heidelberg’s history from about 600,000 years ago through modern times.  Naturally, an entire room and a great deal of attention is paid to the presence of the Romans in Germany.  The next most popular archeological section is the Heiligenberg, a low sandstone mountain east of Heidelberg, atop of which are the ruins of an early Romanesque church and two monasteries:  the Monastery of St. Michael (1023 A.D.) and the Monastery of St. Stephen (1094 A.D.).  The mountain is about 440 above sea level and the so-called philosopher’s way leads up the mountain about two kilometers.  If you plan to explore the mountain, be on the lookout for remains of a Celtic fort, the Heidenloch, a 55-meter deep pit, the Heiligenberg Tower, built as a lookout from the stones of the razed Monastery of St. Stephen, the Bismarck Tower, a 1903 monument to Otto von Bismarck, and the Thingstätte, an open-air theatre created by the Nazis in 1935.  The notion behind creating the Thingstätte or amphitheater (400 were planned, but only 40 were built) was that they be community gathering places as much for entertainment as for the neighborly exchange of gossip and as opportunities for government officials to ballyhoo their propaganda.  Artefacts from the dark ages round out the museum’s archeological exhibitions.

The Morass Palace, i.e., Kurpfälzisches Museum der Stadt Heidelberg, is at Hauptstraße 97, 69117 Heidelberg; Tel. 06221 58–34020.  It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 1000 until 1800 and is closed on 24, 15, & 31 December and 01 January & on Shrove Tuesday and 01 May.  Entry fees vary based on many criteria.
Visit the museum’s website for further information .  Go < a href="http://www.museum-heidelberg.de/pb/site/Museum-Heidelberg/get/params_E360325778/1274233/Eintrittspreise%20ab%201%204%202009.pdf" target="_blank">here to get a list of fees.

live in germany

Day Light Saving Time – Sommerzeit

Day Light Saving Time - Sommerzeit
© Pixabay

Summertime in Germany

The first modern suggestion of “summertime” came from a humorous observation by Ben Franklin.  Franklin’s insight was sparked by Paris’s latitude being about 1,100 kilometers north of the latitude of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.A., Franklin’s home town.  According to The Economist,

“. . . , he [Franklin] woke (sic) early one morning and was surprised to see sunlight streaming through his windows.  He wrote a humorous letter to a local journal, proposing to wake Parisians at the crack of dawn to save on candles.” (The Economist, “The World in 2016”)

The streaming daylight surprised Franklin because longer days between the spring and autumnal equinoxes are more pronounced at greater latitudes.  Paris is about 49° north and Philadelphia is only about 40° north.  The idea is that, the more hours of daylight available in the evenings, the less energy needed to provide light—candles in Franklin’s case, incandescent lamps later on.

The New Zealander George Hudson first suggested (1895) setting clocks forward in the spring to make better use of daylight and then resetting them in the fall.  Hudson wanted more daylight after his workday so that he could collect insects for his collection.

The introduction of Sommerzeit

Hudson’s idea of setting the clocks ahead in the spring sparked great interest in some quarters, but never really caught on and the idea languished fitfully for more than 20 years until Germany and Austria-Hungary introduced “Sommerzeit” in 1916 for strategic reasons.  Better use of available daylight by the civilian and industrial sectors would make that much more coal available for military use and would reduce the incidence of air-raid blackouts.  The United Kingdom immediately saw the pragmatism of a policy its parliament had frequently discussed but tabled and introduced daylight saving time a month after Germany adopted it.  Two years later, despite opposition by railroads and agricultural interests, the U.S. adopted daylight saving time, too.

Germany’s adoption of daylight saving time, i.e., “Sommerzeit,” paved the way for energy savings around the world.  That Germany should be the international leader for the spread of daylight saving time is quite striking.  After all, until the end of the 19th century, most small German towns and villages calculated their own time, i.e., local time based on the sun.  Even within larger, more sophisticated areas, there were time differences.  For example, Munich time was quite different from Berlin time.  The difference was no more than 10 minutes, but it must have been maddening for rail travelers, banks, etc.  Of course, the difference was not as significant as the time difference between the Minnesota, U.S.A., twin cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.  The cities are divided only by the Mississippi river, but, for at least a year, the time difference between them was one hour.  Imagine a one-hour time difference between Mainz and Wiesbaden!

Germany kept the routine of “Sommerzeit,” the period from March through September, for three years, but, in 1919, the Weimar Republic discontinued the practice and the Third Reich did not restore the practice until the outbreak of World War II.  Its rationale, of course, was to prolong the work day in order to supply Germany’s military requirements.  Following the war, the division of Germany brought about the use of Central European time and “Sommerzeit”once again, but only in the British, French, and U.S. zones.  The Soviets imposed Moscow time in the zone it controlled.  Whenever someone crossed from or to the Soviet zone, they had to adjust their watch by two hours.  In many ways, when a so-called West German looked across the frontier between West Germany and East Germany, they were looking into the past, literally and figuratively.  As for the use of “Sommerzeit” in West Germany after the war, it was unsurprisingly a pragmatic decision: more daylight hours conserved energy that would otherwise have been used for light and it promoted rebuilding West Germany.  Despite the logic and practicality of daylight saving time, the war had imbued it with the odor of occupation and humiliation and many counties abandoned it as a matter of national pride and self-determination.  The oil crisis of the early 1970s gave rise to a fresh use of daylight saving time for the very sensible reason that nations needed to conserve energy that would otherwise be used to fuel lights and daylight saving time did that.

The mixed feelings of nationalism, self-determination, and practicality were debated, sometimes acrimoniously.  Different nations in the European Union had various versions of daylight saving time, so, while each was able to conserve energy within its own borders, there was still confusion as to which parts of the year were covered.  This hodgepodge of national rules frustrated commerce, transportation, and tourism.  Finally, in 1996, the European Union established daylight saving time to run from the last Sunday in March through the last Sunday in October throughout the EU.

Most nations of the world have adopted some version of the concept of daylight saving time that Germany brought to the world scene almost a century ago and the world is better for it.  As we look back on the world’s laborious establishment of daylight saving time, we should recall Cicero’s comment that “History is the witness that testifies to the passing of time; it illumines reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity.”

leisure activities

The Germanic National Museum – Nürnberg

The Germanic National Museum - Nürnberg
Von KaterBegemot – Eigenes Werk, CC BY 3.0

We’re in the 164th year of this superb museum’s glorious history and, if you want to immerse yourself in German culture, regardless of the particular cultural or regional strain in which you’re most interested, e.g., Prussian, Bavarian, Austrian, Swiss, etc., this museum will provide you with the best examples and interpretations of what has brought German culture, traditions, mores, and enviable work ethic—assets that continue to influence the descendants of 18th-, 19th-, and 20th-century emigrants in far-flung lands as well as contemporary Germans throughout Germany—to the forefront of international respect.  It has been a struggle, to be sure, but the struggle has been worthwhile.

The museum’s noble founder, Hans Baron von und zu Aufseβ (1801-1872)), studied law at Erlangen and worked in the courts in Bayreuth and Gräfenberg.  The Baron’s interest in German culture and history led him to establish the museum in 1852.  Ironically, a group of enraged students at Strasbourg University, mistaking the baron for a loathed Francophile, attacked and injured him so badly that he died 20 years later.  German nationalism and Romanticism were integral components motivating the baron.  That he should die as a result of his two favorite themes, while sad, is poetically fitting.
A trip to Germany demands that one spend several days in Nürnberg and, if you’re in Nürnberg, you owe it to yourself to visit this museum, which embodies all things German.  The museum’s published doctrine to fulfill its inherent duty to both history and humanity is that “As a museum dedicated to the culture and history of German-speaking regions, we collect and preserve cultural, artistic, and historical artifacts ranging in date from the dawn of Germanic cultures to the present day.”

The museum has 23—count them, 23!—distinct collections:

 

19th century

  • Old Jurisdiction
  • Library:  Manuscripts and Rare Prints
  • Museum of Applied Arts and The Design Collection
  • History of Crafts
  • Judaica
  • Painting up to 1800 and Glass Painting
  • Numismatic Collection
  • Sculpture up to 1800
  • Textiles and Jewellery
  • Prehistory and Protohistory

 

20th century

  • Historical Building and Construction
  • Deutsches Kunstarchiv
  • Department of Prints and Drawings
  • Historical Archives
  • Decorative Arts up to 1800
  • Furniture
  • Musical Instruments
  • Toys
  • Folk Art
  • Arms, Armor, and Hunting Culture
  • Scientific Instruments and the History of Medicine

Go to http://www.gnm.de/en/collections/ for in-depth information about each of these collections.

On your visit to the museum, be sure to see these five very important works:

 

The “Cloth of St. Gereon,” a seven-color mural tapestry (the second oldest known) from the early 11th century, that shows a griffin (a mythical creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle) attacking a bull.  The cloth’s provenance seems to be from St. Gereon’s Basilica in 11th-century Köln.

The “Portrait of Barbara Dürer” by Albrecht Dürer (21 May 1471-06 April 1528).  This selection is one of a pair of oil on pine panels Dürer painted in 1490 of his mother (Barbara) when she was about 39 years old and his father (Albrecht the Elder) when he was about 63 years old.  The panel of his father is at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.

The “Lamentation of Christ” by Albrecht Dürer (21 May 1471-06 April 1528).  This selection is also an oil on wood panel and was painted in 1498.  Dürer is thought to have painted the panel for Karl Holzschuler’s family chapel in the church of St. Johannis in Nürnberg.

“Germania” by Philipp Veit (13 February 1793-18 December 1877), a German Romantic painter.  “Germania” was painted in 1848 during the many revolutions, now known as the Springtime of the Peoples, when people throughout Europe, and, to a lesser extent, other nations, rebelled, revolted, rioted, and essentially took matters into their own hands to end the feudal systems that oppressed them and to establish democracies.  Most of the unrest was quelled within the year and no substantive changes came about as a result.  Germania’s unfettered shackles symbolize the freedom sought by those who struggled against their masters; the colors are the colors of the German flag; and the upright sword symbolizes leadership, defense, nobility, justice, and truth.

“The Drinker—Self-portrait” was painted in 1915 by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner (06 May 1880-15 June 1938), a German Expressionist painter and printmaker and one of the founders of Die Brücke, one of the 20th-century’s chief founding elements of Expressionism.  The self-portrait reveals Kirchner’s despair prior to his military training in Halle in the run-up to World War I.  The training, combined with his alcoholism and dependence on Veronal, a barbiturate, precipitated a mental breakdown from which he never fully recovered.  The Nazis branded his work degenerate in 1933 and he committed suicide five years later in Davos, Switzerland.

There are certainly plenty of additional reasons to visit this museum, which was moved to the grounds of a 14th-century Carthusian monastery in Nürnberg in 1857.  As the collections increased in size and importance, the original building and museum complex has been expanded relentlessly.  The research library contains more than 650,000 volumes covering European art and cultural history and its overall holdings include more than 1.3 million items, including more than 22,000 original items that date from the Stone Age to the 21st century.  Also, there are always so-called special exhibitions which bear repeat visits.  At the moment, the exhibit “Between Venus and Luther/Cranach’s Media of Seduction” is scheduled for the 21st & 22nd of May.  The “Historical Models—Works of Art, Media, Visions” is scheduled to run for a bit more than seven months from 30 June 2016 through 05 February 2017 and will mark the so-called Leibniz year (2016).  From 20 October 2016 through 05 March 2017, the “Charles IV” exhibit, a joint exhibit with the Free State of Bavaria and the Czech Republic, will display material dealing with Emperor Charles IV, “. . . one of the most important and multifaceted rulers in Bohemian and Germany history.”  Check out the museum’s website.

The museum is located in the Kartäusergasse 1; 90402 Nürnberg; telephone: +49 (0)911 13310.  Permanent and special exhibitions’ hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 1000 until 1800 & Wednesday from 1000 until 2100.  The museum library is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, & Friday from 0930 through 1800 and Wednesday from 0930 through 2000.  The Archive, Department of Prints and Drawings, and Numismatic Collection is open Tuesday through Friday from 0900 through 1600.  Special arrangements are made on public holidays, so please call ahead to confirm hours.  Admission fees are:
adults @ €8; school children, disabled, unemployed, and groups of 10 or more @ €5 (reduced rate); small groups & families (a least 3 persons & no more than 6 persons, with a 2-adult limit); school classes or youth groups @ €1.  No admission fees on Wednesdays between 1800-2100, except for special exhibitions.  If you’re coming to Nürnberg, check out the so-called Nürnberg Card. It could save you a lot of money!

leisure activities

Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden

Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden
© Pixabay

The Dresden State Art Collections, officially the Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden, comprises 14 distinct museums owned and maintained by the Free State of Saxony and headquartered in its capital, Dresden, which is also Saxony’s second largest and best-known city.  This article will give a historical overview of all 14 associated museums, some of which have their own buildings and some of which share buildings with sibling museums. I will also highlight particularly interesting examples of each of the various museums’ collections.

First, however, a bit about Saxony

Saxony is one of Germany’s 16 states.  It borders Poland on the east and Czechoslovakia on the south.  It is mostly hilly and somewhat mountainous (as much as 1,200 meters!), about 50% agricultural and 25% forested, but leveling off near Leipzig at the North European Plain.  The main cities are Leipzig, Dresden, Chemnitz, Plauen, Zwickau, and Meissen. The history of Saxony spans almost two millennia and refers to different land areas over the centuries.  Before 1180, it included the land conquered by the Germanic Saxon tribe between the 3rd and 8th centuries, i.e., the region from Germany’s far north, including Holstein, mainly west and southwest of the Elbe.  In the late 8th century, Charlemagne conquered the Saxons and incorporated their territory into the Carolingian Empire.  Between 1180 and 1423, the duchy was dissolved into several independent and widely separated fiefs.  After 1423, it comprised a large area in central Germany, from Thuringia to Lusatia, next to contemporary Czechoslovakia.  The history of Saxony is long and complicated, filled with intrigue and subtle political ploys, especially following reunification in 1990.

The first nine of the fourteen discrete museums beneath the umbrella of the Staatliche Kunstsammlung Dresden are:

 

The Zwinger

The Zwinger is an extraordinarily beautiful baroque building complex housing pavilions and galleries, with balustrades, statues, and vases, and hosting the museum’s Porcelain Collection, dating from China’s Ming Dynasty, through Japanese wares of the 17th and 18th centuries, and Meissen porcelain from the early 18th century.  The museum contains numerous examples, more than 20,000, of porcelain craft, including a special section of animals.  Its Mathematical and Physical Salon, i.e., a collection of historical and scientific precision instruments of all sorts, and the Zwinger Courtyard, a former garden and orangery originally dedicated to court festivities are nearby.  It is joined by the Semper Building, designed by Gottfreid Semper and opened in 1855.  It houses the Art Gallery of the Old Masters, a gallery which amazed even Johann Wolfgang Goethe “beyond words.”

 

The Albertinum

The Albertinum contains art from the age of Romanticism to the present.  Two major collections share the vast exhibition hall.  The Art Gallery of New Masters and the Sculpture Collection.  The Art Gallery of New Masters includes works from the 18th century on and is based on the wise notion that we in the 21st century can still relate to many of the day-to-day experiences of our forebears from three centuries in the past.  New acquisitions include Kirchner’s Street Scene in front of a Hair Salon.  According to the Gallery’s director, Hans Posse, this painting “. . . was shown in the infamous ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition in the atrium of the Neues Rathaus, was confiscated in 1937 as “degenerate,” and sold in 1939/40 in the course of its so-called disposal.”  The painting is once again “home.”  The Sculpture Collection primarily offers works from the beginning of the 19th century to the present, including such recognized artists of the former GDR as “Wieland Förster, Werner Stötzer, and Helmut Heinze” and unique emphasis on the so-called turn of the century, i.e., 1890-1910, including from Arnold Böcklin and Max Klinger down through Franz von Stuck and Sascha Schneider.  The collection also includes works that date back more than five millennia, from classical antiquity through the European Middle Ages.

 

The Dresden Royal Palace

The Dresden Royal Palace houses four museums:  The Green Vault; The Cabinet of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs; The Armory; and The Coin Cabinet.  The Green Vault contains opulent artistic and craft treasures commissioned by and for the aristocracy and royalty of days gone by.  There are two main exhibition areas, the historical green vault, and the modern green vault.  The works displayed within the two vaults include works by renowned jewelers, goldsmiths, silversmiths, and craftsmen of all stripes.  There are spectacular works of amber, ivory, e.g., scrimshaw, as well as cameos, vessels, and statuettes.  Most of the works of art incorporate many diamonds, rubies, pearls, sapphires, emeralds, and other jewels. The works betoken a level of decadence that is almost unimaginable nowadays.

 

The Cabinet of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs

The Cabinet of Prints, Drawings, and Photographs contains artistic drawings, lithographs, engravings, illustrated books and portfolios, and photographs of both high quality and significance by such eminent artists as Dürer, van Eyck, Rembrandt, Michelangelo, Jean-Honoré Fragonard, Caspar David Friedrich, Toulouse-Lautrec, Picasso, and Baselitz.  There are also engravings by Schongauer and woodcuts by Cranach and rare examples of historic photographs.

 

The Armory

The Armory boasts of 16th-century antique Belgian horse and rider armor and its Turkish chamber offer eight 150-kilogram life-sized carved and uniquely decorated wooden horses.  There are hundreds of different weapons throughout The Armory, so be sure to miss none of them—from Saxon Dukes and Electors—they include “. . . 10,000 ceremonial weapons—armor, helmets, shields, swords, rapiers and daggers, sabers and maces, pistols and rifles.”  It’s an embarrassment of riches!
The Coin Cabinet includes ancient coins struck to commemorate a significant even or a special occasion as well as medals fashioned to honor war heroes and famous persons; of course, there are numerous examples of ancient coins, nearly 300,000 of them—including almost 30,000 Saxon coins—used in trading throughout the ancient world up until modern times.
Part Two of the introduction to the Dresden State Art Collections will introduce the Japanese Palace, the Art Hall in the Lipsius Building, the Jägerhof, and Castle Pillnitz among other worthwhile destinations.

german science

Alfred Wegener – The Theory of Continental Drift

Alfred Wegener - The Theory of Continental Drift
© Pixabay

During an early summer after-concert party at Carnegie Hall in 1971, a clearly relieved Carole King, riding an emotional high after the successful reception of her very first pop concert, told a Rolling Stone stringer, perhaps jokingly, that Alfred Wegener inspired the lyrics for her classic hit (“der Schlager”) I Feel the Earth Move! We’ll probably never know if Ms King was serious; however, who can say the claim itself is not on firm ground?

Alfred Lothar Wegener (01 November 1880 ― ?? November 1930) was a German meteorologist and geophysicist who carefully devised and articulated (1910-1915) the concept of continental drift, a scientific hypothesis that other scientists rejected for several decades, but which ultimately gave rise to the theory of plate tectonics―now accepted almost universally by scientists and laymen alike. Continental drift is defined as the large-scale horizontal movements of continents relative to one another and to the ocean basins during one or more episodes of geologic time. This concept was an important precursor to the development of the theory of plate tectonics, which incorporates it.

Alfred Wegener’s university Career

The University of Berlin awarded Wegener a Ph.D. in astronomy in 1905; however, Wegener developed an enthusiastic and abiding interest in paleoclimatology, the scientific study of the climates of past ages.  He focused on the arctic regions and polar air circulation, particularly in Greenland, and took part in several expeditions to that remote, ice-covered island, first in 1906, then in 1912, 1929, and, finally, in 1930, during which expedition he died at only 50 years of age.  His body and effects are supposedly now covered by more than 100 meters of ice and snow.

When not trudging through Greenland’s ice and snow, Wegener taught meteorology, first at the University of Marburg, beginning in 1909, where he covered meteorology, astronomy, and a topic he called “astronomic-geographic position-fitting” for explorers, i.e., how not to get lost in unchartered territory.  In 1921, Wegener accepted the position of meteorologist at the German Naval Observatory in Hamburg and the University of Hamburg appointed him senior lecturer; however, the worldwide scientific community continued to sneer at his continental-drift hypothesis and writings on continental-drift and he keenly felt the academic isolation at the University of Hamburg.  In 1924, he took up the position of professor of meteorology and geophysics at the University of Graz, in Austria, where he continued until his death in 1930.

First international Recognition

The New York Times wrote about Wegener’s theory of continental drift in an extensive article on Sunday, 25 March 1923, commenting that “. . . records indicate Greenland is . . . running wild.  It has moved west by almost four-fifths of a mile (1,300 meters) in 37 years.”  The article also cited “The almost universal distribution of many families of animals, birds, insects, and plants as proved both by fossils and surviving specimens . . .” as evidence that Wegener’s theory had merit.  Nevertheless, the then collective received wisdom of the world’s scientific community was skeptical at best, offering various counter-theories to explain or refute the arguments Wegener put forth, yet tempering their criticisms with the safe argument that “. . . it becomes very apparent that the surest test of its [Wegener’s theory] validity lies in the domain of geology.”

Critics of the Theory of Continental Drift

One of the most consistent critics of Wegener’s continental drift theory was Thomas Chamberlin, a prominent U. S. geologist with the American Association of Petroleum Geologists.  Chamberlin, a very intelligent, well educated, and experienced academic, proved to be quite stupid, i.e., someone who thinks he knows it all and who absolutely refuses to keep an open mind, particularly in the face of credible scientific research.  Chamberlin did not use a point-by-point refutation of the theory of continental drift.  Rather, he based his appeal to fellow scientists to reject Wegener’s theory by appealing to their egos and to their innate supposed laziness.  He said, “If we are to believe Wegener’s hypothesis, we must forget everything which has been learned in the last 70 years and start all over again.”  In other words, “let’s tell ourselves that we already know the truth and save ourselves the effort of examining the validity of what we think we know.”  Years later, Chamberlin’s group would also oppose acceptance of the theory of plate tectonics, a theory that is now a well-established scientific fact.  There are none so blind as those who will not see.

When one compares a map of South America with a map of Africa, it’s quite obvious that the bulge of South America more or less corresponds to the bight of Africa.  It is that phenomenon that first struck Wegener as being too odd to be a mere coincidence; there had to be more to it.  From a practical point of view, one is inclined to ask:  “Are there diamond fields and veins of gold in that part of South America which corresponds geographically to South Africa, i.e., southeastern Uruguay and northeastern Argentina?”

The Breakthrough of the Theory of Continental Drift

The scientific community wrangled about Wegener’s theory for more than four decades before the theory of plate tectonics evolved.  The breakthrough came about in the early 1950s when the imprints of the Earth’s magnetic history, the study of which is called paleomagnetism, were closely examined.  There was no adequate explanation other than continental drift to account for the otherwise erratic occurrences of incompatible magnetic imprints.  Researchers realized that, only if there had indeed been only one continent in the beginning, the oddly occurring magnetic imprints would result only by that huge continent’s breaking up and the pieces drifting off in different directions.  That significant research and discovery prompted even more intense scrutiny of magnetic imprints around the world.  The increased interest among geologists and geophysicists, coupled with ever more sophisticated techniques and measuring instruments, established beyond doubt that plate tectonics and continental drift are indisputably valid.

german food and restaurants

Konditorei Secrets – Das lebendige Brot

Konditorei Secrets - Das lebendinge Brot
© Pixabay

Certainly St. John did not have German Konditorei delicacies in mind when he wrote his Gospel, but, given the attendance at German Konditoreien every Sunday afternoon following religious services, it’s entirely possible that his phrase puts a majority of Protestant and Catholic churchgoers in mind of their local pastry shop.

What makes a Konditorei special?

Konditoreien are more than pastry shops.  They are a German cultural tradition, and their patrons deem their particular Konditorei to be both unique and the paragon of their class.  Regardless of how old one becomes or how far they now live from the Konditorei to which their parents took them as children, no Konditorei measures up to the mouth-watering delights of their first Konditorei experience.  One remembers one’s first Konditorei as one remembers their first kiss, the first time they rode a bicycle without training wheels, and their first Christmas.  It is that sort of memory.

The Development of Bakeries

Like everything of quality in Germany, Konditoreien developed gradually and deliberately over many, many years.  It all began with bakers’ refining their bread-making techniques.  Starting with hearty farmhouse bread (“Bauernbrot”), the bakers gradually added ingredients to create bread that would delicately tempt many different palates.  Always experimenting, the avid bakers first added sugar, then raisins, then other candied fruits and zests.  Indeed, the word Konditorei comes from two combined Latin sources:  conditure, which means candy, and condire, which means flavoring.

As the bakers’ skills improved and as their rivalries and competitions arose, the bakers’ imaginations seemed to be boundless. Until now, we’ve reached a point that, at the end of a hearty meal, diners can enjoy a wide selection of gorgeous, well-frosted cakes made with many eggs and nuts, coffee cakes made from sweet yeast dough, cookies, many other pastries, and even ice cream to top off their meal along with plenty of hot, fresh, strong coffee or steaming hot chocolate.

What began as a desire to improve the craft of baking morphed into an artistic endeavor that fed the soul as well as the body.  The enjoyment of the delicacies of one’s local Konditorei with family and friends became a rite of passage, almost a religious ritual, that encapsulated family and, by extension, German society in a cocoon of well-being—and it all tasted sooooooooo good!

These specialist bakers began to call themselves Lebküchler, perhaps an awkward blending of Leben (life) and Kuchen (cake).  Whatever the derivation, these former craftsmen had become artists and their creations have become an integral part of German culture.  These artists founded a guild in 1643 in Nürnberg and, eventually, their shops became modern-day Konditoreien.

The Introduction of Spices and Herbs from Overseas

What we now understand as globalization is not a modern phenomenon.  It existed millennia ago, as early as the 5th century, and is now distinguished more by its rapidity than by its pervasiveness.  Perhaps the most interesting and well-known example of early globalization is Marco Polo, who traveled in the 13th century to and from China over a period of 24 years, from 1271 until 1295.  The so-called age of discovery, which spanned the 15th-18th centuries, brought sugar, herbs, and spices from around the world to Europe and the Lebküchlern adapted them to their art.  They had many home-grown flavorings, e.g., honey, that they used efficiently and imaginatively. The chief interest of the Lebküchlern was not only for sugar, but also for herbs and spices that improved their pastries, e.g., cinnamon, aniseed, cardamom, ginger, turmeric, clove, nutmeg, coriander, allspice, and various nuts, e.g., almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts.

The introduction of almonds in the 14th century was a boon for both the Lebküchlern and their customers, for it brought about marzipan, a delightful paste of ground almonds and either honey or sugar.  It is probably the most versatile and most anticipated sweetmeat on its own as well as a much-loved component of icing for cakes, for fruitcakes, wedding cakes, and Christmas cakes and stollen.  It’s often fashioned into animal figurines, covered with chocolate, and stuffed into tartlets.  A typical German use of marzipan is forming it into the shape of a loaf of bread, known as Marzipanbrot, during the Advent and Christmas season, and shaping it into a pig as a New Year’s present referred to as a Glücksschwein, i.e., a lucky pig.  One of the most popular uses of marzipan is in conjunction with the classically famous Window Cake or Battenberg Cake, a light sponge cake, constructed with pieces of yellow and pink cake held together with apricot jam and covered with marzipan.

An Overview of the Authors personal Favourites

All of these wonderful desserts and more are available regularly or seasonally at Konditoreien throughout Germany.  Here are some of the most famous delights Konditoreien offer.  I hope they entice you to visit as many Konditoreien as possible whenever you’re in Germany.  These include Aachener Printen, a pastry available only in Aachen; a Berliner, a jelly-filled specialty of Berlin; Zwetschgenkuchen, a plum short-crust sheet cake; Black Forest Cake, comprising several layers of chocolate cake interlaced with whipped cream and cherries; Welfenspeise, a layered pudding with a bottom layer of beaten egg, vanilla, and milk and a top layer of an egg-wine sauce; Donauwelle, a marble-like sheet cake with sour cherries, buttercream, cocoa, chocolate, and layered batter; Spaghettieis, a unique German ice cream fashioned to look like spaghetti; Gugelhupf, a marble-like Bundt cake; Rote Grütze, a fresh red-berry fruit pudding; and Mohnklöße, a poppy-seed based dessert that includes dried figs, raisins, apricots, dates, etc., almonds and hazelnuts, flavored with sugar, honey, vanilla, cinnamon, and rum combined with a boiled milk-bread base.  These are just a few of the treats on offer.

By now it should be crystal clear that Konditoreien are a big deal in Germany.  In fact, they’re such a big deal in German culture that the Austrian composer Strauss, as loved in Germany as in Austria and Switzerland, paid homage to Konditoreien with his 1922 ballet Schlagobers (Whipped Cream), inspired by the cultural joy and love Germans have for their Konditoreien.

german sports

Germany on Ice and Snow – Skiing and other Sports

Germany in Ice and Snow - Skiing and other Sports
© Pixabay

If it can be done on ice or snow, not only have the Germans done it, but they’ve also perfected it.  So, if you prefer the exciting, heart-racing challenge of winter sports to the relaxed pace of most warm-weather sports, Germany is your ideal tourist destination.

Let’s start with Alpine (downhill), Nordic (cross-country), and freestyle skiing.  The best online listing of ski areas in Germany seems to be http://www.bergfex.com/, so, while I’ll list my favorites, check out this web site’s listings to see all the skiing goodies available to you.

Alpine Skiing

My overall favorite is Oberjoch in Bad Hindelang-Oberjoch, about a two-hour drive from Munich or about four hours by train via Garmisch-Partenkirchen.  Instructors in both Alpine and Nordic skiing are readily available and the resort offers six lifts, Alpine skiing on over 32 km of groomed trails, 16 classic Nordic cross-country runs, & 4 Nordic high cross-country skiing courses.  Oberjoch also offers snowboarding, ice skating, curling, sleigh rides, canyoning, winter hiking trails, dogsledding, and a very challenging 3.5 km toboggan run.

Nordic Skiing

My recommendation for the best in Nordic skiing is the Bodenmais Bretterschachten cross-country center, quite near the Czechoslovakian border, about a 2½-hour drive from Nürnberg.  The center offers 114 km of 9 well-groomed classic cross-country runs and a well-groomed 60 km high cross-country run as well as 8 skating courses covering 110 km.  Both rentals and ski-touring services are available.  For those who want to include Alpine skiing, there are two nearby ski resorts:  Grosser Arber and Bodenmais Silberberg, both of which are delightful and worthwhile.

Freestyle Skiing

Freestyle skiing is something special:  it can be simultaneously dangerous and artistically magnificent because it blends Alpine (downhill) skiing with acrobatics.  One might as well combine gymnastics with skateboarding!  Freestyle skiing’s mélange of acrobatic elements include 2-4-meter jumps that can end in a vertical-drop landing of as much as 20-meters, giving the skier a chance to twist and somersault before landing.  Breathtaking!  Other elements that are added to or substituted in the freestyle skier’s repertoire include mogul skiing, ballet skiing, cross skiing, half-pipe skiing, and slope-style skiing.  All elements of Alpine skiing are employed and pressed to their limits.  If you want to learn how to ski freestyle or if you want to get professional help to hone and improve your skills, contact Skischule Thoma; Dr.-Pilet-Spur 13; 79868 Feldberg im Schwarzwald; telephone 49 7676 92688; www.thoma-skischule.de.  The ski school is about two hours by car from Stuttgart and about one hour by car or train from Freiburg (a city on the edge of the Black Forest and well worth visiting on its own!).  It has all the equipment you might need and the village is invitingly romantic for couples of all ages.

Snowboarding

If you delight in snowboarding, head for Garmisch-Partenkirchen, mentioned above.  Only an hour and a half by train from Munich, this ski area gained worldwide renown as the venue for the 1936 Winter Olympics.  First and foremost for snowboarders is the Zugspitze Glacier Ski Resort, which averages 2,360 meters above sea level.  It now offers more than 19 kilometers of well-groomed trails for snowboarders.  The neighboring Garmisch Classic Ski Area comprises three linked mountain ski areas:  Hausberg, Kreuzeck, and Alpspitze maintains 17 ski lifts, including two gondolas and two tramways, all feeding into 40 kilometers of well-groomed trails as well as four downhill runs with artificial snow-making equipment.

Bob Sledding

Bobsledding is a rather specialized sport for enterprising adventurers who enjoy the rush as much as they enjoy the accomplishment.  To indulge this urge, go to the bobsled track at Königsee near Berchtesgaden, where you can ride with an experienced pilot on the World Champion 1,200-meter ice track down Watzman mountain.  Here’s an excerpt from a recent participant’s thrilled comments:  “We took a bobsled ride down the world cup track at Konigsee . . . in a 4-man bobsled with a professional driver. . . .  The 1 minute . . . was amazing! . . . 120km/hour and . . . 4-5 Gs around the bend. . . .  What a rush!”  Contact Berchtesgadener Land Tourismus GmbH; Bahnhofplatz 4; 83471 Berchtesgaden; telephone 49 (0)1805 865200; e-mail: info@berchtesgadener-land.com.  Other bobsled sites include Altenberg bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track at http://www.wia-altenberg.de/;  Oberhof bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track at Rodelbahn Oberhof; and Winterberg bobsleigh, luge, and skeleton track at Veltins Eisarena.  Gute Reise!

Ice Climbing

Bear in mind that ice climbing is one of the most exciting, risky, and intoxicating endeavors one can undertake.  Proper training is an absolute requirement; one mistake can doom the individual as well as companions.  Probably the foremost ice climbing school and venue in Germany is in Ohlstadt, a quite small town (fewer than 3,500 residents) in Upper Bavaria, about two and a half hours by train or car from Nürnberg; an hour by car or train from Munich.  You first stop in Ohlstadt, if you’re interested in learning ice climbing from true professionals, is die Bergführer; Hauptstraße 20; 82441 Ohlstadt; telephone +49 (0)8841 627 08 52; info@die-bergfuehrer.de.  As a bonus, you can take advantage of ice climbing instructions and experiences in both Germany, on the Zugspitze glacier and in the area around Lenggries on the Isar, and into Austria, specifically to the Pitztal and Sellrain valleys.  Ice climbing courses include a single day for groups of at least two and no larger than seven people, weekend courses, or intensive courses in the Karwendel range in Germany or the Jochberg Nordwand (Austria).  The more experienced you are, the more ice climbing opportunities can be made available to you.

Winter sports are an excellent cure for those of us who go all out in the warm months, particularly those of us who want to exercise for health reasons, with tennis, soccer, bicycling, swimming, etc., but, when the cold weather sets in, we shut down.  From daily exercise to no real exercise.  That’s unhealthy and a shock to our system.  Consider winter sports as an alternative to wearing out the television remote and the electronic games.

german science

Heinrich Schliemann – 19th Century Trump?

Schliemann - Archeologist or 19th century Trump?
© Pixabay

Heinrich Schliemann was quite possibly an early version of Donald Trump, German style. On the one hand, he certainly contributed to archeological knowledge and progress; on the other hand, the man was an incorrigible, self-aggrandizing, irresponsible liar.

Schliemann’s Origin

Heinrich (06 January 1822 – 26 December 1890) was born in Neubukow, Mecklenburg-Schwerin, a little more than 30 kilometers south-southwest of Rostock, quite near the Baltic Sea, and died in Naples, Italy. He traveled extensively during his lifetime, driven, perhaps, by his utter boredom with life as he found it and by a relentless desire to excel at something that would raise him from what he deemed the “muck of mediocrity.”

Schliemann’s Inspiration

Over the years, he had many explanations for his interest in archeology. He claimed that, when he was seven, his father, a Lutheran pastor who was later defrocked for having embezzled church funds, had given him a history book showing Troy in flames, probably Ludwig Jerrer’s Illustrated History of the World. Schliemann claimed that the image affected him so much that, for the rest of his life, he believed Homer’s stories from The Iliad and The Odyssey. He also claimed that, when he was eight years old, he vowed to excavate Troy. He also insisted that, after he had begun an apprenticeship under the direction of a grocer in Fürstenberg at the age of 14, he heard a drunk recite passages from Homer’s poems and it was that experience that inflamed his passion for discovering and excavating Troy. As with many charming psychopaths, their stories are tailored for their audience rather than to relate to the truth.

Schliemann’s Sense for Business

Despite his chronic deceitfulness, fakery, and downright crookedness, he did have some objectively valuable characteristics, e.g., a true gift for languages. He could easily converse in English, French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Polish, Italian, Greek, Latin, Russian, Arabic, and Turkish as well as German. Schliemann also had a businessman’s knack for getting things done. This skill was particularly valuable after he inherited his brother’s estate in 1850 and parlayed the fortune (more than $1 Million in gold) into marriage with the daughter of a wealthy friend. He further parlayed his increased fortune into cornering the market in important commodities (saltpeter, sulfur, and lead) needed by Russia to prosecute the Crimean War as well as cornering the market in indigo dye. He was a prescient opportunist.

Schliemann’s first Steps as an Archeologist

In 1868, Schliemann positioned himself as a serious archeologist by first excavating a hilltop, Pinarbaşi (also known as Bunarbashi), at the edge of the Trojan plain. This hill was widely assumed by many to be the likely site of Troy; however, Schliemann’s colleague Frank Calvert, a disaffected English national and fervent amateur archeologist, had sought Troy for seven years at the location known as Hisarlik, before he collaborated with Schliemann. Based on Schliemann poaching Calvert’s seven years’ work to identify Hisarlik as the likely site of Troy and by his plagiarizing another author’s notes regarding the area’s topography, the University of Rostock awarded Schliemann a Ph.D. in absentia.

Schliemann’s archeological “Legacy”

Since archeology was more of a passionate endeavor pursued by amateurs rather than a professional and rational science in the mid 19th century, the excavation activities of those enthusiasts were quite ham-handed, even destructive. His sloppy excavation of the site in 1871, which at the time was thought to comprise seven layers of cities (actually, there are 13 main and sub-layers) atop one another, mistook what we know now as Homeric Troy (Troy VIIa) for a later Troy. Schliemann’s overconfidence and self-promotion drove him to make claims that, while reluctantly accepted by many of his contemporaries, proved to be invalid. That didn’t stop Schliemann from smuggling precious booty, which he nonsensically named Priam’s Treasure, from Turkey to enhance his wealth by selling the artifacts to museums in Berlin. To this day, their authenticity and, in some cases, provenances are deemed questionable. Had Schliemann been left to his own devices, none of his successes at Hisarlik would have come about had it not been for the persistent research and enthusiasm of Frank Calvert, yet Schliemann deliberately neglected to credit Calvert with any significant contribution to the discoveries. In her book Finding the Walls of Troy: Frank Calvert and Heinrich Schliemann at Hisarlik, Susan Allen included the following in a flyleaf blurb: Schliemann was a “relentlessly self-promoting amateur archaeologist” and subsequent archeologists routinely condemn Schliemann for having destroyed many remnants of the original layers of the real Troy irreparably. Contemporary archaeological experts even go so far at to assert that Schliemann destroyed Troy far more efficiently than the Greeks.

german culture

Christmas Markets in Germany – 2

Christmas Markets in Germany - Part II
Germany has a long Tradition of Beautiful Christmas Markets / Image from Pixabay.com

Christmas Markets in Germany – Part 1

Part two of three

Because there so are many Christmas Markets in Germany, it’s impossible to visit them all unless you want your memory of them to be nothing more than a blur. If you have 10 days to two weeks to devote to the pre-Christmas season, then select three or four Christmas Markets that are not too far from one another, and set out by car or train. You’ll never regret your tour.

Berlin has more than five dozen Christmas Markets of various sizes, so you can pick and choose at will and get a flavor for what’s important to the residents of Berlin’s many unique neighborhoods.

One of the most popular in Berlin is the market at the three-centuries-old Schloß Charlottenburg on Spandauer Damm, the largest palace in Berlin (http://www.wvdsc.de/). The market runs from 23 November through 26 December. Its hours are from 1400-2200 (Monday-Thursday) and 1200-2200 (Friday-Sunday) and is reachable via bus lines 145, 109, & 309, S-Bahnhof “Westend,” and U-Bahn (7) at Richard-Wagner Platz. Paid parking is available, but why drive? Who needs the hassle? Also, Schloß Charlottenburg officials install a special lighting arrangement for the Christmas Market, bathing the palace and grounds in spectacular holiday colors that will take your breath away. Multiple stalls and marquees offer local beverages and traditional seasonal snacks to delight one and all, and crafts of all sorts will tickle your fancy. Near the palace’s greenhouse, the so-called winter-forest section offers a carousel. There are also special tours of the palace scheduled during this Advent season.

Another quite popular Christmas Market is “Christmas Magic” at the Gendarmenmarkt (www.gendarmenmarktberlin.de), a square in Berlin and the location of Berlin’s renowned Konzerthaus, Leipziger Straße 65, is flanked by the Französische Friedrichstadtkirche on the north and the Deutsche Dom on the south. In effect, you can spend a few full days exploring not only the Christmas Market itself, but two superb churches and Berlin’s center of orchestral concerts and chamber music. It’s reachable via U-Bahn (2) at Hausvogteiplatz. It’s open daily between 23 November through 31 December, inclusive, from 1100-2200 (until 1800 on 24 December). More than 600,000 people visit this Christmas Market every year, so be prepared for some stiff competition for the many handmade products, art of all sorts, delicacies, and cheeses,
that are the specialty of this market, with ample opportunity to sample before you buy. “Christmas Magic” also boasts a huge, magnificently decorated Christmas tree and live plays every day to bring the meaning of Christmas home for children and adults alike. There is a modest (€1.00) entrance fee after 1400 daily. If you take the S-Bahn to the Friedrichstrasse station, you can enjoy the lighted shops along Friedrichstrasse as you walk to the Gendarmenmarkt.

Berlin’s 150-year-old Red City Hall (“Rotes Rathaus”) on Alexanderplatz hosts a superb Christmas Market, Berliner Weihnachtszeit, (www.berlinerweihnachtszeit.de) in Central Berlin, adjacent to the 368-meter Television Tower (“Fernsehturm”), completed in 1969, and the 50- meter Ferris Wheel, 23 November through 29 December, from 1200-2100 weekdays and 1100-2200 weekends. This market caters particularly well to children and includes an area with several domesticated farm animals with which children can interact, schedules several daily visits by Father Christmas (“der Weihnachtsmann”), and offers ice skating in a large, 600-square-meter outdoor rink. The entire market, insofar as possible, is reminiscent of the early 1900s and presents a nostalgic, even romantic, picture of Berlin life. There’s no shortage of music, food, beverages, and a breathtakingly broad selection of gifts for both children and adults. On average, more than 800,000 pedestrians and S-Bahn and U-Bahn travelers pass through Alexanderplatz every day.

On the other side of Alexanderplatz is the much more modern, even glitzy, Wintertraum am Alexa (www.blume-service.de), which includes several rides traditionally associated with fairs. There’s a Ferris Wheel, a roller coaster (“die Achterbahn”) nicknamed “the wild mouse,” and other spinning and bumping rides favored by children and the young-at-heart. Especially popular is the so-called voodoo jumper which is not nearly as daunting as its name implies, but which teens love. In fact, most teens favor the Wintertraum am Alexa more than any other Christmas Market in Berlin. This market offers opportunities for parents and children to share experiences or for them to take part in separate activities if they prefer. All the traditional Christmas market stalls, foods, drinks, etc., are available in addition to the special activities laid on for the younger generation. Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to Jannowitzbrucke/Alexanderplatz.

Two more Berlin Christmas markets should be mentioned. The first is the Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedachtniskirche, Kantstraße, running 23 November through 03 January, from 1100-2100 (Sunday through Thursday) and 1100-2200 (Friday & Saturday). This market is located quite close to the Kurfurstendamm, the most elegant shopping boulevard in Berlin, and offers the opportunity for extensive shopping and a chance to see the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Seeing the memorial church is a very moving experience and, if you’re lucky enough to visit when the bells are rung, your experience might well approach the ethereal. Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to the Zoologischer Garten. The second additional Berlin Christmas market is the
Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz (used to be www.winterwelt-berlin.de but the link is dead). Because it opens on or about 01 November and runs through 03 January, this market sets the pace for all the Berlin Christmas markets. The hours are 1000-2200 daily (1000-1400 on 24 December). Take the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn to Potsdamer Platz. This market is much more than a Christmas Market. It offers visitors the chance to slide down a snow-packed hill on a tire (think toboggan/luge), go ice skating, and—get ready!—Eisstockschießen, a cross between curling and bowling. Of course, there are also plenty of stalls, beverages, foods, and gifts to delight both casual and jaded shoppers. More than 2,500,000 visitors pass through this market every year.

german culture

Christmas Markets in Germany – 1

Christmas Markets in Germany
Zimt = Cinnamon / Image from Pixabay.com

Christmas Markets in Germany – Part 2

Part One of Three

Advent (“der Advent”) is the Christian religious period beginning four Sundays immediately
preceding Christmas and, to the Christian residents in many European countries, the approach of Advent means the so-called Christmas Markets are in the offing.

Christmas Markets comprise all sorts of retail stalls offering traditional Christmas-related items as well as food and drink, e.g., Christmas pyramids, carved nutcrackers that are both useful and superb examples of naïve art, i.e., art that celebrates a simplicity of subject matter and technique, incense burners, music boxes, candles, baubles, glühwein (SEE my recipe for Mulled Cider below), bratwurst, Stollen, a dried bread containing dried fruit and often covered with sugar icing or a dusting of powdered sugar, and Lebkuchen, also known as Pfefferkuchen, which is a cookie with a close resemblance to gingerbread. Seasonal candy, usually incorporating almonds and almond paste in varying degrees, is a popular item for locals and visitors alike.

All the markets feature a nativity scene that recounts the story of the birth of Jesus when Mary and Joseph return to their home village for the census.

Of course, there is also a great deal of singing and dancing, sometimes spontaneous, but usually organized by various of the sponsoring towns’/cities’ religious and civic groups.

Christmas Markets’ popularity started in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland in the early 15th century and slowly spread and peaked over much of Christian Europe during the subsequent 150 years. Of course, there’s still controversy as to which was the first Christmas Market in Germany. Imagine a lively debate nowadays about that unimportant point after six centuries! Dresden routinely claims the honor, arguing that its Christmas Market opened in 1434, but Bautzen, in eastern Saxony, rejects Dresden’s claim in light of having its own Christmas Markets fifty years earlier. Munich points to its Christmas Markets having begun in 1310 and Frankfurt enters the argument by claiming a Christmas Market in 1393. The debate has all the passion and importance of a schoolyard controversy and is always a great deal of fun for the newspapers.

All the various cities pooh-pooh each others’ historical claims, but it’s mostly well-meant community spirit and loyal fans merely cheering for the home team. The important point is that each of the more than three dozen chief Christmas Market cities sincerely believes that its Christmas market is the best and the only way to judge is to visit them all. Oh, that that were possible!

Arguably, the Christmas Markets of Stuttgart, Frankfurt, Dresden, Nuremberg, Erfurt, and Augsburg are the best known and most popular, but, since Germany has more than three dozen Christmas markets—indeed, Berlin has four quite large Christmas Markets of its own—one needn’t be too concerned if schedules and weather preclude your visiting them all. It’s safe to assume that, whichever Christmas Markets you visit, your experiences and memories will delight and buoy your spirits. For a list of the 39 main Christmas Markets in Germany, see Wikipedia.

Be prepared for crowds when you visit a German Christmas Market. Each Christmas Market features a huge decorated Christmas tree and hundreds of stalls selling everything you can imagine for the Christmas holidays to the millions of visitors. The most famous are also the most crowded. More than two million visitors pass through both the Nuremberg and Dresden Christmas Markets every year, but the Christmas Markets at Frankfurt and Stuttgart host more than three million tourists and shoppers every year. The largest of the German Christmas Markets are in Dortmund, with more than three and a half million visitors, and Cologne, with more than four million tourists and shoppers. The Christmas Markets are very, very popular.

Nuremberg Christkindlesmarkt’s Mulled Cider

150 g brown sugar (real brown sugar!)

¼ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon whole cloves

1 teaspoon allspice

3 Cinnamon sticks

Dash of nutmeg

1.9 liter sweet, clear cider (“der Apfelmost” [alkoholfrei])

Combine cider and brown sugar in a double boiler (“der Wasserbadtopf”). Heat until the sugar is fully dissolved. Add the remaining ingredients and simmer (double-boiler water should boil robustly) for at least 10 minutes. It should become quite aromatic.

Strain and return to the double boiler. Turn off the heat, but cover to keep warm. Serve “as is” (“Istzustand”) to children; add a jigger of peppermint schnapps to adult cups. Make sure you have enough of everything. It’s ideal for blustery winter days and nights.