Posts from the ‘Germany’ category

GTM15: Germany Travel Mart 2015 in Erfurt

GTM 2015 Thüringen, Erfurt-Weimar, Deutsche Zentral für Tourismus, German National Tourism Board

Germany Travel Mart 2015 : Erfurt & Weimar, Thuringia

I’m excited to return “home” to Germany next week.

Thanks to an invitation from the Canadian office of the German National Tourism Board (Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus), I’m pleased to participate in the annual Germany Travel Mart (GTM) as a representative of the Canadian contingent of travel trade and press. The 41st version of this meeting takes place in the state of Thuringia with the hub of activity at the Messe Erfurt (Erfurt Exhibition Centre). They write about the GTM:

Der GTM Germany Travel Mart™ 2015 findet vom 26. bis zum 28. April 2015 in Erfurt und Weimar statt. Bei dem größten Incoming-Workshop für den Deutschlandtourismus treffen rund 350 deutsche Anbieter mit über 600 „Hosted Buyer“ und Journalisten aus rund 45 Ländern zusammen, um das Reiseland Deutschland gemeinsam weltweit optimal zu vermarkten. „Wir freuen uns sehr, dass wir unseren wichtigsten Incoming-Workshop 2015 zum ersten Mal in Thüringen veranstalten werden“, betont Petra Hedorfer, Vorsitzende des Vorstandes der Deutschen Zentrale für Tourismus. „Ich bin überzeugt, dass unsere internationalen Teilnehmer in Erfurt und Weimar mit großer Gastfreundschaft und Professionalität empfangen werden“, so Hedorfer weiter. Die Verkaufsveranstaltung für das Reiseland Deutschland wird jährlich in wechselnden Orten und Regionen Deutschlands ausgetragen.

My approximate translation:

The GTM Germany Travel Mart 2015 takes place in Erfurt and Weimar from April 26 to 28. In the largest incoming workshop on tourism to Germany, over 350 German suppliers will meet with over 600 “hosted buyers” and journalists from 45 countries worldwide to collaborate in targeting and marketing Germany as a travel destination. “We are very pleased we will be hosting our main incoming workshop in 2015 for the first time in the state of Thuringia,” says Petra Hedorfer, CEO of the German National Tourist Board. “I am convinced our international participants will receive in Erfurt and Weimar the greatest in hospitality and professionalism.” The sales event for Destination Germany is held annually in different locations and regions in Germany.
Erfurt, Merchants' Bridge, picture 5739, photo by Toma Babovic, Thüringer Tourismus GmbH, German National Tourism Board

Erfurt: Merchants’ Bridge, by Toma Babovic for Thüringer Tourismus GmbH (DZT)

Weimar: Schloss Belvedere and Park, picture 6479, photo by Maik Schuck,, Weimar GmbH, German National Tourism Board

Weimar: Schloss Belvedere, by Maik Schuck for Weimar GmbH (DZT)

I’m looking forward to meeting many people representing city, state, and regional destinations throughout Germany. This trip helps with my ongoing wish to spend more time in the “former East”. I’m also looking forward to visiting Erfurt, Weimar, and Thuringia for the first time.

With 2015 particularly special as the 25th anniversary of German reunification, I’m hoping to learn about Cranach Senior and Junior whose birth is marked by the 500th anniversary this year, to wrap my head around the early 20th-century Bauhaus art and design movement, and to uncover more about Martin Luther in the lead-up to the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017.

From 22 to 25 April, I’m in Eastern Saxony on a pre-conference tour to learn about a number of traditions and customs in the area. From 26 to 28 April inclusive, I’m in Erfurt for GTM. From 29 April to 1 May inclusive, I’m in Weimar.

I’m blogging and on social media during the pre-conference tour and during the conference. Stay tuned for updates: here on my blog, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

GTM2015 Networking Tool, Germany Travel Mart, German National Tourism Board

The first three images above are provided courtesy by the Deutsche Zentrale für Tourismus (DZT, German National Tourism Board); none of these three images may be distributed through social media as stipulated by the DZT. The fourth image is a screen capture from the GTM Networking Tool.

Sunday TravelerThis post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as, and is part of the Sunday Traveler series.

Leipzig: impressions of the Heldenstadt, Messestadt, and Musikstadt

I’m on express train ICE 791 southbound from the German capital. When my nose isn’t stuck against the window, I’m stationed at the exit doors, swinging back and forth with the train, gazing out to familiar scenes in the German countryside: hills, farmlands, little towns, and rows of towering wind turbines.

I’m on my way to Leipzig.

From the moment I was introduced to the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, Leipzig has never strayed far from the imagination. As my train races to Leipzig, I’m looking for help with the following questions. Why is Leipzig being compared to Berlin? How do Leipzig’s historical experiences shape the city today? There are no promises for any answers, but there are plenty of places to begin.

As Leipzig celebrates a milestone millennium, the city has quietly left its mark on Germany and Europe with religion, trade, books, music, and the 1989 “peaceful revolution”. Recent attention on the art scene in Leipzig has drawn comparisons with Berlin. Some disagree and bristle with labels such as “Hypezig” or “the new Berlin.” But the people of Leipzig carry on, unfazed and perhaps bemused by the attention. Fact is Leipzig can be described in at least three ways: a city of heroes, a city of trade fairs, and a city of music.

Stepping off the train upon arrival, I stroll into a mammoth concourse in one of the largest train stations on the European continent. I’m completely in my element here in the station’s spacious hall, setting me in a proper frame of mind to kick off my time here in Leipzig.

ICE 791 south to Leipzig, Deutsche Bahn, InterCity Express,

Leipzig als Heldenstadt | Leipzig as the City of Heroes

Leipzig: St. Nicholas Church, by Schmidt, Leipziger Tourismus und Marketing GmbH

St. Nicholas Church: photo by Schmidt for Leipziger Tourismus und Marketing GmbH

With origins dating to the 12th-century, St. Nicholas Church is better known today for its connection and origins to demonstrations against communist rule in 1989. Because unapproved public assembly was against the law, churches were safe places to gather, although all who entered were photographed and monitored. Weekly Monday prayers began in the early-1980s, developing into public assemblies. They grew and spilled out onto streets as peaceful marches. October 9 became a “Day of Decision” as East German authorities countered with massive police and security presence. An estimated 70 thousand people appeared and the demonstration proceeded peacefully with security forces staying back. The size, scale, and importance of these protests became apparent to everyone after video footage took a circuitous route out to the West. 120 thousand people appeared in a demonstration the following Monday, and 300 thousand were in attendance on 23 October.

Demonstrations began in other cities in East Germany, and by 4 November, an estimated half million attended demonstrations in East Berlin. The Wall dividing East and West fell on 9 November. What’s remarkable is that the internal revolution remained largely peaceful, especially with people and authorities very aware of the massacre months earlier in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Runde Ecke, Leipzig, Germany,

The photo above is at the Museum Runde Ecke, which housed the Leipzig District Administration of the Ministry for State Security (Bezirkverwaltung für Staatssicherheit, Stasi) from 1950 to 1989. Even with the fall of the Wall and the collapse of one-party rule, weekly Monday street demonstrations continued with people demanding open access to their security files. About 150 thousand marched on 4 December 1989 towards the local Stasi administrative offices. People crashed through the doors, pushed their way inside, and occupied the building, protecting countless Stasi files from destruction.

While most think of Berlin as primary staging for the fall of the Wall, Leipzig is where peaceful demonstrations driving the push to end communist rule began.

Leipzig als Messestadt | Leipzig as the City of Trade Fairs

In the Middle Ages, Leipzig was at the crossroads of two major trade routes in the Holy Roman Empire: the east-west “Via Regia” (Royal Way) and the north-south “Via Imperii” (Imperial Way). Throughout the centuries, Leipzig welcomed goods, people, and traditions from throughout Europe. Leipzig was granted market rights by Otto the Rich (Magrave of Meissen) in the middle of the 12th-century, and the city was granted imperial fair privileges by Emperor Maximilian I in 1497.

Riquet Kaffeehaus, Leipzig, Germany,

The Riquet family emigrated as Huguenots from France to Germany and in 1745 they established in Leipzig a company trading in tea, coffee, and spices in the Far East. Built at the present location in 1909, the Riquet coffee house is a unique example of Jugendstil or Art Nouveau architecture in the city.

Specks Hof, Leipzig, Germany,

Specks Hof is an example of one of the oldest shopping complexes dating back to the middle of the 15th-century where a building with living space and brewery once stood.
The merchant and art collector Maximilian Speck purchased the corner building in 1815, naming the building Specks Hof (Speck’s Courtyard). In the early 20th-century, the architect Hansel redesigned the building as an exhibition house for the Leipziger Messe trade-fair. Post-war reconstruction took place in 1947 with additional renovation in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, Specks Hof is a prize-winning example of the city’s architecture.

Leipzig als Musikstadt | Leipzig as the City of Music

Like many fond of classical music, one dreams of walking in the footsteps of famous composers, musicians, and artists. I’ve followed them along the Leipzig Music Trail (Leipziger Notenspur). To stand in the same places where Bach and Mendelssohn once played and led their respective choirs in song is a big thrill.

Johann Sebastian Bach, Thomaskirche, Leipzig, Germany,

From 1723 until his death in 1750, Johann Sebastian Bach was choir director of St. Thomas Church (Thomaskantor, Thomaskirche). His responsibilities included arranging music for a number of churches in the city and teaching Latin. Bach led the church’s choir, the Thomanerchor, in existence since the early 13th-century. Bach’s remains were moved in 1950 to the present resting place in the nave of St. Thomas church (shown above).

Gewandhaus, Augustusplatz, Leipzig, Germany,

The building on the south side of Augustusplatz is the city’s Gewandhaus, home to the Gewandhausorchester. They’re the world’s oldest civic symphony orchestra, having been founded as a society in 1743, and playing in the Gewandhaus for the first time in 1781. The original Gewandhaus was a “garment house” or a trading house for textile merchants. Between 1835 and 1847 (except for one year), Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy was Music Director (Gewandhauskapellmeister). Other notables including Mozart, Beethoven, Wieck, Liszt, Schubert, Schumann, Brahms, Wagner, Tchaikovsky, Strauss performed at the Gewandhaus. The present-day Gewandhaus was completed and inaugurated in 1981, the only dedicated concert hall ever built in former East Germany. Visibly illuminated through the glass facade and hanging above the front entrance is the giant mural “Gesang vom Leben” (Song of Life) by Sighard Gille. Appearing at the Gewandhaus since 1781, a quote attributed to the Roman philosopher Seneca summarizes the city’s music history:

“Res severa verum gaudium” (“True pleasure is serious business”.)

Leipzig millennium, 1015-2015

Leipzig is first mentioned in 1015 as a trading settlement, “urbs Libzi”, in the chronicles of Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg. Along with year-long celebrations in 2015 marking Leipzig’s millennium, the city will also celebrate the 850th anniversary of the Leipzig Trade Fair and the 850th anniversary of St. Nicholas Church.

Lipz Schorle, Leipzig, Germany,

“Lipz” or “Lipsk” are early names for the city of Leipzig from the Sorbian (Slavic) word “Lipsk”, meaning “place of linden (lime) trees.” The Czech name for Leipzig is “Lipsko”. This bottle of Lipz Schorle is a non-alcoholic fizzy drink made and bottled in Leipzig.

It’s easy to be carried away by the stories. The sense of knowing civic pride mixed with quiet humility. That there’s much less historical baggage and less attention than the sharp focus on the capital city.

I’ve barely scratched the surface over the short time here. I must come back to meander along the “Karli” (Karl-Liebknecht-Strasse), to explore the Musikviertel and Mediaviertel, the former Industriegebiet, and the green belt; to sit among the linden trees next to the pit-lakes; to absorb the day-to-day in the “Lipsk”.

I leave Leipzig recognizing her people aren’t very concerned by the “Hypezig” label or declarations as “the new Berlin”. Leipzig is a place whose people have always recognized change, always been a city about publishing, of coal, of food and drink, where trade and commerce intermingle freely with open culture.

To paraphrase my new friends about the ongoing history of Leipzig:

“Wie Phönix aus der Asche, ist die Stadt immer über den neuen Leipzig gewesen. Man tu’, was man will; man mach, was man kann.”

(Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, the city has always been about the new Leipzig. Anybody can do whatever they what; they’ll create whatever they can.)

Hourly trains with Deutsche Bahn’s InterCity Express service go between Berlin and Leipzig in 70 to 80 minutes. Frequent rail service from Dresden to Leipzig take anywhere from 70 minutes (IC, ICE trains) to 100 minutes (RE trains). customI made seven images above during my 2-4 December 2014 visit, graciously hosted by Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH (LTM). Thanks to Christine Horchheimer, Michael Luderwig, and Simone Feldmeier for their tours, and to Jane Langforth and Steffi Gretschel at LTM for their help. This unpaid post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as

Fotoeins Friday: Cuxhaven’s Kugelbake tower by Wadden Sea

Fotoeins Friday: Bremerhaven’s Neuer Hafen (New Harbour)

Leipzig’s Auerbachs Keller: devilishly comfortable

Auerbachs Keller, Maedler-Passage, Leipzig, Germany,

Goethe’s Faust meets Saxon comfort

If I didn’t know any better, I’d think I was giving away my soul for a good warm Saxon meal.

In the city of Leipzig, Germany, the name and influence of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe doesn’t stray far from conversation. Three more words are at the tip of the tongue: Faust. Pact. Devil.

Near the city’s central square at Markt, the Mädler-Passage beckons with bright lights and the promises of goods and riches within the shopping arcade. At the arcade’s north entrance, all are greeted by statues representing figures from “Faust”, the most famous published work by Goethe.

Signs to Auerbach’s Cellar lead downstairs on either side of the main passage. One thought remains as I walk into the basement. Am I sealing my own deal with the devil, setting foot in the Cellar’s chambers to sign away my freedom for some food, drink, and hospitality?

I’m sure the evening won’t be that dramatic. But the moment I walk in the door, I’m in the midst of culinary and literary tradition spanning many centuries.

Auerbachs Keller, Maedler-Passage, Leipzig, Germany,

Scene in Auerbach’s Cellar from Goethe’s Faust: Mephistopheles casts a spell on the students.

Auerbachs Keller, Maedler-Passage, Leipzig, Germany,

Scene in Auerbach’s Cellar from Goethe’s Faust: students bewitched by Mephistopheles.

Auerbachs Keller, Maedler-Passage, Leipzig, Germany,

Entering the ‘Großer Keller': what could possibly go wrong?

Dr. Heinrich Stromer von Auerbach began to sell wine secretly to students from the cellar of his home in 1525. Leipzig University professor, doctor, and philosopher, Dr. Stromer was known in the city as “Doctor Auerbach” for his origins from the town of Auerbach in the Oberpfalz (northeast of Nürnberg). Between 1530 and 1538, he gathered enough funds to begin construction of his new home, Auerbach’s Hof, which housed a much larger basement for a tavern. Paintings included the legend of Faust riding out of the cellar on a wine cask:

Doctor Faustus zu dieser Frist
Aus Auerbachs Keller geritten ist,
Auf einem Fass mit Wein geschwind,
Welches gesehen viel Mutter Kind.
Solches durch seine subtilne Kunst hat gethan,
Und des Teufels Lohn empfangen davon. (1525)

Doctor Faustus at this tide
Out of Auerbach’s cellar did ride;
Upon a wine-cask up sped he,
As many a mother’s son did see.
This by his subtle art he did,
And the Devil’s wages got for it.

– “Faust: A Tragedy”, by J. W. von Goethe (Translated 1880)

As a student of Leipzig University, Goethe began visiting the cellar in the middle of the 18th-century and seeing the 16th-century paintings of the barrel ride in the tavern inspired him to write his version of “Faust” based on the life and times of late 15th- to early-16th century German magician Dr. Georg Faust (Faustus). Goethe included a scene within Auerbach’s Cellar, memorializing the tavern for posterity.

In 1911, merchant Anton Mädler purchased the entire Auerbachs Hof building to construct his own functional building for the trade fair. His original plans to demolish the historic building were met with worldwide outrage and protest; he compromised by retaining and enlarging Auerbachs Keller. The present-day shopping arcade bears the name of Mädler-Passage.

Grosser Keller: Sächsisch köstlich

Translated directly, “Sächsisch köstlich” is “Saxon delicious”, but the phrase sounds much better in German with the hard consonants and rhyming syllables. The online description of the Grosser Keller is:

Built in 1912/14 together with the Mädler-Passage, meals served within the “Großer Keller”are primarily simple dishes & Saxon specialities, as well as dishes accompanied by beer.

I’m very happy to see that the traditional tavern – pub – restaurant tonight is busy but not rowdy. Inside the front door, I announce my arrival, and soon Mr. Rothenberger arrives to greet me, welcoming me to their restaurant. He leads me towards a table at the back of the restaurant. While I’m seated for the next ninety minutes, Mr. Rothenberger is on the floor tonight for the first part of the dinner hour, greeting the evening’s guests and escorting them to their tables. Mr. Rothenberger and his wife have operated Auerbachs Keller Leipzig Rothenberger Betriebs GmbH since 2006.

I’m suddenly hungry, once I’m enveloped by the warmth of the underground restaurant. The many choices on the menu paralyze me with indecision. Conscious deliberation leads to decision, and a server responsible for my area arrives to take my order.

Auerbachs Keller, Maedler-Passage, Leipzig, Germany,

Rear table with a view

Thirsty and Cold: Beer and Soup, But Not All At Once Because That’d Be Wrong

A short time later, the server returns with a tall glass of cold Ur-Krostitzer Schwarzbier dark beer. There’s a chill in the air tonight, but truth is, I really like dark beer. (The Krostitzer brewery is located 20 km north of Leipzig.)

But it is a cold evening, and I’ve been craving soup while I’ve been wandering the streets of Leipzig’s Old Town over the last couple of hours. From the description, I’m confident the mushroom soup will be a dark creamy mix.

Arrival of a white porcelain bowl confirms my educated guess.

Auerbachs Keller, Maedler-Passage, Leipzig, Germany,

Wildrahmsuppe mit Champignons und Kräterschmand, Auerbachs Keller, Leipzig, Germany,

Wildrahmsuppe mit Champignons und Kräterschmand | Wild cream soup with mushrooms & herb cream

Rich, creamy, earthy and chunky with a generous portion of mushrooms and fresh herbs, I make quick work of the soup. The soup deserves a portion of bread, although bread and butter are clearly listed as an extra. That’s too bad, because I think soup this good should come with a good chunk of bread.

I take a big quaff of my Schwarzbier to clean my palate. Down down the dark liquid goes, and a third of my beer is gone. Aaaaaah, refreshing.

Main (entrée): Chicken & Noodles, Just What I Needed

The soup has filled and warmed my belly, and the beer’s giving me a good small buzz. Something hearty must be followed by something equally filling …

Auerbachs Keller, Maedler-Passage, Leipzig, Germany,

Panierte Hähnchenbrust auf Pilz-Zwiebel-Gurkenragout mit Gemüsenudeln in Kräuter-Sahnesosse, Auerbachs Keller, Leipzig, Germany,

Panierte Hähnchenbrust auf Pilz-Zwiebel-Gurkenragout mit Gemüsenudeln in Kräuter-Sahnesosse | Breaded chicken breast on mushroom, onion, & cucumber ragout, with noodles in herb cream sauce

The chicken breast is lightly breaded, but I find the breading oversalted, even though I’m very familiar with how much salt fits the German palate. Fortunately, the thin crispy crust gives way to tender and juicy white meat within. The vegetable ragout and noodles provide a “lighter” counterpoint to the meat. The breading, ragout, and herb cream sauce could also do with more black pepper, but that’s not traditionally German. I had expected this main dish or entrée to be too “heavy”, but a typical “meat and starch” done up Saxon-style with my plate of “chicken and noodles” does its job well.

“Typische Sächsische Gemütlichkeit” (Typical Saxon Coziness)

Auerbachs Keller, Maedler-Passage, Leipzig, Germany,

There’s crowd noise but it’s not obnoxiously loud. People seated in adjacent tables are clearly having meaningful conversations without having to bellow at the top of their lungs. Behind me are round tables surrounded by many in lively yet hushed conversations, accompanied by the sounds of glass mugs “klinking” and “klunking” against wood tables. I ask my server about these people, and he confirms my hunch. One last sip of my beer summons up a bit of courage. I stand up, walk over to one of the tables, and I ask in passable German whether these tables are reserved for long-time regulars (“Stammtisch”).

A woman in her sixties kindly answers some have been coming for years, others over decades. We chat for a little and when she asks about me, I tell her about my first time in both Leipzig and the Keller. With a smile, she wishes me well, and that she hopes I find my way back to Leipzig sometime soon. “I’d like that very much” is my parting reply.

At the front door, I tell the night manager the evening has been an excellent experience: “leckeres Essen aber etwa zu salzig, bequem und gemütich, gute Stimmung.” (“good food though a little too salty, comfortable and cozy, great mood”). The night manager nods and smiles, and hopes I return to the Keller soon.

The Final Word

Back up the stairs, I stop by the statue to give the shiny brass shoe a rub for good luck. As I exit the building for the lively streets of the “Weihnachtsmarkt”, I feel a gust of wind at the back of my neck, a short whisper, but a quick turn reveals there’s no one behind me.

“Komm ma’ wieder zurück (come back again) …”

I’ve generally traveled alone over the last twenty years with pursuits reaching far-flung places under the guise of astronomical research and personal writing. Although a few reasons have changed and evolved naturally, I’ve come to terms with how and why I travel. Fact is, I’m “always” coming back home to Germany. And now, I’m already thinking about coming back to Leipzig, even if I have to make a pact and give up my soul in the process.

Auerbachs Keller, Maedler-Passage, Leipzig, Germany,

Auerbachs Keller, Maedler-Passage, Leipzig, Germany,

“Wer nach Leipzig zur Messe gereist, ohne auf Auerbachs Hof zu gehen, der schweige still, denn das beweist: er hat Leipzig nicht gesehen.”

“Whoever goes to the trade fair in Leipzig without visiting Auerbach’s Cellar should remain silent, because this only proves they haven’t seen Leipzig at all.”

Auerbachs Keller is roughly in the middle of Leipzig’s Old Town, near Old City Hall, S-Bahn Markt station, and Augustusplatz. The place is divided into three main areas. On the ground floor is the coffee and cocktail bar, Mephisto Café. In the basement are the Great Cellar (Große Keller) and the Historical Wine Bar Restaurant (Historische Weinstuben). The latter consists of separate rooms: the Cask Cellar (Fasskeller), the Goethe Cellar (Goethe-Keller), the Luther Room (Lutherstübchen), and the Old Leipzig (Alt-Leipzig). customI made the photos above on 2 December 2014 during my visit which was graciously hosted by Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH (LTM). My thanks to Auerbachs Keller for the provided food and drink, and to Jane Langforth and Steffi Gretschel at LTM for their help. This unpaid post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at as


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