Fotoeins Fotografie

questions of place & home

Posts from the ‘Christmas’ category

Austria’s Silent Night: 200 years, 300 languages

One of my early childhood memories surrounding Christmas is learning and singing “Silent Night”. This humble melodic carol is known around the world and sung in over 300 languages and dialects. 2018 is the 200th anniversary of the hymn’s first public performance, and that’s why I’m on a train traveling north from Salzburg to the Austrian town of Oberndorf.

With over 5000 residents, Oberndorf lies opposite the German town of Laufen along the winding flow of the Salzach river. Laufen-Oberndorf was once a single community whose people derived their greatest business and wealth with salt carried on barges from upstream in Hallein and transferred onto larger ships for transport downstream to the Inn river and Passau. After the arrival (and departure) of Napoleon’s French troops, the river became a border, and the town was split in two after over 1000 years as a single community#. Although Oberndorf and Laufen remain in separate countries, the European Schengen treaty has helped reforge their common bonds with the abolishment of border controls.

Short History

Between 1817 and 1819, Joseph Mohr lived and worked in Oberndorf as curate, minister, and schoolteacher for the salt-barger community. The organist for Oberndorf’s St. Nicolas Church was Franz Gruber, a fellow schoolteacher and sexton at a parish in nearby Arnsdorf. Mohr and Gruber tended to spiritual and education needs for their towns, and with their common zeal for music, they quickly became friends. On Christmas Eve 1818, Mohr brought his song to Gruber who added the melody. That very evening after evening mass at Oberndorf’s St. Nicholas Church, Mohr’s completed song, “Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht” was performed for the first time with Gruber on his guitar as the only accompaniment.

Over years and decades, the song had generally been considered to be Tirolian in origin, but handwritten letters show Joseph Mohr composed the song by 1816 when he lived in Mariapfarr, a town 120 kilometres southeast from Salzburg. The original German-language version of the song has six verses; the English version has three which are translations of verses 1, 6, and 2.

At Oberndorf’s Stille-Nacht-Platz (Silent Night Square), the two key elements are the Kapelle (memorial chapel) and the Stille Nacht Museum. The original St. Nicholas church was in bad shape and torn down in 1906. To maintain the memory of the first performance of the Christmas song, construction began in 1928 for a chapel at the same location, and the townspeople celebrated the chapel’s inauguration in 1937. With the museum’s opening in November 2016, exhibits describe the history of how the song came to be, highlight the lives of Mohr and Gruber, explain the context of culture and place of the times in the late-18th to early-19th century, illuminate the importance of the salt trade on the neighbouring Salzach river, and celebrate the song’s longevity and popularity around the world.

Every year, evening mass on Christmas Eve from the Silent Night memorial chapel is broadcast to the world on webcam.

# The 1814-1815 Congress of Vienna enforced the Salzach river as the border and separation between the nation-state of Bavaria (Laufen) on one side and the Austrian Empire (Oberndorf) on the other side.

( Click here for images and more )

Potsdamer Weihnachtsmarkt, Blauer Lichterglanz, Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: Potsdamer Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market)

Located about 30 kilometres southwest from Berlin, Potsdam is the capital city of the German federal state of Brandenburg. The proximity with Berlin means it’s an easy afternoon- or day-trip to visit Sans Souci Park and a relaxed wander through the city’s Old Town. But there’s also an easy half-mile (800 metres) walk through the heart of the Old Town to see and sample the city’s Christmas market during the holiday season by day or at night. Accompanied by sparkling (blue) lights, the sights and smells of mulled wine, hot chocolate, grilled sausages, roasted nuts, and sweets from various market stands are sure to tempt even the most stubborn of passers-by.

Potsdamer Weihnachtsmarkt, Blauer Lichterglanz, Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany, fotoeins.com

Christmas pyramid

Potsdamer Weihnachtsmarkt, Blauer Lichterglanz, Potsdam, Brandenburg, Germany, fotoeins.com

This Brandenburg Gate (1770) is smaller but older than Berlin’s version.


Click on the arrow-window icon at the upper-left corner of the map below to view the legend.

I made the photos above on 8 December 2015. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-9d6.

Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt, Christmas market, Markt, Leipzig, Germany, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: A Christmas star shines on Leipzig

It’s time once again for the Christmas markets, and in Leipzig, I found this beautiful illuminated star at the Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt at the city’s market square. Leipzig has continued the tradition of a Christmas market for the last 500-plus years (since 1458). It’s a reminder for me to find the nearest market and get me some Glühwein. You can read much more about the Leipzig Christmas Market (in English) here.

I made the photo above on 2 December 2014 with Canon EOS6D, EF 24-105 zoom-lens, and the following settings: 1/1000s, f/5, ISO10000, and 58mm focal length. Leipzig Tourismus und Marketing GmbH (LTM) hosted my visit on 2-4 December. Access to public transport was kindly provided by LTM and the MDV Mitteldeutscher Verkehrsverbund regional transport authority. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotografie at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-7aj.

Lucia Weihnachtsmarkt in der Kulturbrauerei, Prenzlauer Berg, Kulturbrauerei, Berlin, Germany, fotoeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: Christmas at Berlin Kulturbrauerei

In Berlin’s “Kollwitzkiez” neighbourhood within the area known as Prenzlauer Berg1, a big Christmas market takes place inside the site of the former brewery Kulturbrauerei2. The Christmas market has a decidedly Scandinavian feel with the Swedish Lucia legend as the bringer of light at the beginning of a dark northern winter.

The 2016 version runs November 21 to December 22 inclusive. There is no charge for entry with operating hours: Monday to Friday from 3pm to 10pm, and weekends 1pm to 10pm. The nearest metro station is Eberswalder Straße (U-Bahn U2) with connections to rams 12, M1, and M10.

1At present this is contained within the Berlin administrative borough of Pankow.

2 The Kulturbrauerei is listed in the European Route of Industrial Heritage.

I made the photo above on 6 December 2015 with the Canon 6D, 24-105 zoom-lens, and the following settings: 1/50s, f/4, ISO16000, 24mm focal length. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-95G.

Weihnachtsbaum, Berlin Hauptbahnhof, Washingtonplatz, Berlin, Germany, footeins.com

Fotoeins Friday: happy holidays from Berlin

Happy holidays 2015 from Berlin, and the best wishes for 2016!

I made the photo above at the south entrance to Berlin Hauptbahnhof at Washingtonplatz on 27 November 2014 with the Canon EOS6D camera, EF 24-105 L zoom-lens, and the following settings: 1/40s, f/4, ISO4000, and 24mm focal length. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com as http://wp.me/p1BIdT-7qi.

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