20th Anniversary of the Berlin Wall's Fall

Monday, November 9, 2009

Twenty years ago, the Berlin Wall fell this was surely a watershed moment for mankind. Amongst other things this means that there is at least one generation of people alive today that have no recollection of a divided Germany and the Berlin Wall. How do you explain to them what had happened and how Germany was divided? The Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany recently tried to do just this as part of the Children's University 2009 Program in the topic "Eine Mauer in Deutschland- order: Eins plus eins ist eins!" (A Wall in Germany- One plus one is one!, in English)

I've attended two of the Kiddie Uni programs so far and have been quite please and plan on attending other in the future. Parents need to see if they think that the children are old enough to attend and if they'd be interested in the topics covered but they do a good job and it can be a fun an educational experience for your kids. They set up one lecture hall where the kids sit to take part in the topic while parents wishing to stay can view the lecture (and keep an eye on their kids) from another room as the event is televised and they pan to the kids from time to time (to ease the minds of the parents) and to get the reaction of the kids. It should be noted that the programs are in German

There was some explanation of how Germany was divided at the end of World War II, without a lot of detail about the war itself. Uncle Sam and Uncle Ivan played the parts of America and the U.S.S.R during the lesson. The kids were told about the freedoms that people had in West Germany and how the party decided what was best for the people in East Germany. They even made their own wall between the kids and dived them into East and West.

Uncle Sam passed out Gummi bears (something most all kids in Germany know and love) to the kids in West Germany, while the kids in the DDR didn't get any. You can imagine that this got a reaction out of the kids and some were ready to "defect" to get their Gummi Bears. There was genuine concern among their parents about if their kids were in the DDR or in the West, and you could see them looking intently to determine if their kids were in the DDR or not.

A little later on there were calls to tear down the wall and Uncle Ivan disappeared, while they told the kids about President Reagan's call to "Mr Gorbechev, tear down this wall..." the wall came down and all the kids got to have Gummi Bears. Gummi Bears for all.

In honor of the 20th Anniversary of the Fall of the Berlin Wall, I'm playing Pink Floyd's "The Wall" on Blip.fm. I recently wrote an article about 19 Years of German Reunification And the Fall of the Berlin Wall 20 Years Later, if you'd like to read more about this topic.

Photo Credit: "American Sector" courtesy of Lietmotiv.

Rothenburg OBT And Leyk Lighthouses

Sunday, November 8, 2009


I recently made a trip to Rothenburg OBT, Germany and the nearby Leyk Lighthouse outlet in nearby Woernitz. Rothenburg is one of the most famous walled medieval cities still exiting today and There is a good chance that might have seen a Leyk Lighthouse and not realized it. If you happen to be in the area it is worth the visit.

Leyk Lighthouses

Leyk Lighthouses arranged in a tribute to Rothenburg ODT

Leyk Lighthouses are hand-made ceramic houses that are fashioned after the famous German Fachwerkhaus (half-timbered house) that many people think of when they think of Germany. The Leyk Lighthouses are referred to as "Lighthouses" because you can put a tea-light in them (probably not the lighthouse that first came to your mind I'm sure. Some of these houses are modeled after famous building in Germany, while others are inspired by actual buildings, but they all have a certain charm about them. We've been collecting them for a few years now, so we were excited to see the outlet where they actually do produce some of them. Before heading up to the shop, we peaked into a room where several houses were in various states of production, some were drying, waiting to have color added to them, while others had varying degree of color painted on them. In the shop there was a huge table displaying the houses as one big city. Unfortunately, I couldn't capture the impressiveness of the spawling city, but I did take several pictures of the Leyk Lighthouses and I've posted them to a folder at Flickr.

Rothenburg Ob Der Tauber

A view of part of the city's wall from outside.

Rothenburg ODT (Ob Der Tauber), Germany is a very memorable place. In fact I've heard it described as a place that time forgot. The name of the city can be translated at Rothenburg above the Tauber (Wikipedia). This walled medieval overlooks the Tauber river. Rot is German for red, with burg being "a fortress, in which the villagers from the surrounding area seek refuge in case of an attack. It's a military structure, either located on top of a hill or surrounded by a moat (or both), with thick walls and tiny arrow slits..." (Leo.org/forum). Many of the roofs on the houses in Rothenburg are red and the process of retting flax for linen production is rotten in German. Rothenburg was once very prosperous as a result of the textile industry.

Notice the cobble-stone street (one of many in the town)

This place is special to me because shortly after I got married, we took several members of the wedding party there. I was charmed by the city back then and have fond memories of the charming older gentleman that the drove our group's carriage through the cobble-stone streets making a pass at one of the women in our group, while nature was taking its course and the horse relieved itself. He told us lot of stories of the various buildings and the the town's history. We were their on a Sunday and the Christmas store was closed so I made a personal vow that I would one day go back to at least see the Christmas store. I was excited to hear that my wife and a friend were planning a trip to visit the nearby Leyk outlet.

The Marien Apothek (Pharmacy) shown here is a popular Leyk Lighthouse

One of the things that makes Rothenburg so unique is that it remains on a very few walled cities in the world. When you look around the city there are various entrances through the walls but their aren't so many, so you can imagine how this could have protected the town from invaders in the past. We took the Nightwatchman's tour, which is normally offered nightly from April to December with one tour in English and another in German. A very entertaining and informative man is dressed as a night watchman might have been back in the day and he talks about some of the town's history and what it mush have been like to live in the city. He told us that one of the reasons the city is so well preserved is that time kind of passed it by at one point only for it to later be re-discovered by tourists with millions of visitors since. He also told the story about how the city was saved from being totally destroyed during World War II, even though their had been orders given to do so.

A gift bus parked in front of the Christmas Store

I mentioned earlier that I wanted to go the Christmas store, well I finally did it and I was not disappointed! Käthe Wohlfahrt is the name of the famous Christmas store in Rothenburg. Having been to a few famous Christmas store before (Bronners in Frankenmuth, Michigan and the Canterbury Village in Michigan) and having a general fondness for Christmas and Christmas decorations, I was excited to finally be able to go in. Visitors aren't permitted to take pictures inside, so unfortunately I don't have any but it is hard to describe the wonders that you see inside, so I leave this up to your imagination. The assortment of all things Christmas is amazing and worth seeing.

A view from the Market Place in Rothenburg ODT

I really enjoyed our overnight stay in Rothenburg. I had hoped to be able to climb around and see the wall from inside and to climb one of the town's taller towers to see the magnificent view but I guess those are all more reasons to return there again. Rothenburg is full of Bavarian charm and this German Disneyland if worth checking out.

Here are some links related to Rothenburg and Leyk that you might want to check out...
Photo Credits: All the pictures displayed above are located in the Leyk and Rothenburg folders at Flickr.