Traditions

Schlesischer Tippelmarkt 2017

The Schlesischer Tippelmarkt in Görlitz is a Silesian pottery market where pottery makers from all over Germany come to show and sell their creations. There’s an incredible variety of different styles of pottery, something for everyone – from traditional to more modern looking pottery in many different colors & forms.

Silesia is an ethnic region that lies in present day Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. The city of Görlitz is in Lower Silesia, the Silesian flag is proudly displayed at the Tippelmarkt.

Source: Wikipedia

Tippel is the way they say Töpfe in the Silesian dialect. Töpfe means pottery in German.

Not interested in pottery? No problem! The Tippelmarkt has a lot more to offer – beginning with the traditional opening of the Tippelmarkt, when people in traditional dress, the pottery makers and the Landskron-Herolde parade down Brüderstraße. The traditional opening includes music, canon-fire, skits and Silesian dialect. I found the entire procession & opening ceremony extremely cute and entertaining.

This cute family in traditional clothes headed up the parade at the traditional opening.
The Landskron Heralds (Landskron is the local brewery in Görlitz)
Silesian Flag at the 19th Schlesischer Tippelmarkt

In addition to beautiful pottery and cultural traditions, there are -of course! – delicious things to eat and drink at the Tippelmarkt in Görlitz. There is also a program filled with scheduled performances by Silesian dance groups and musicians.

The drums were too loud for this little boy in traditional outfit

Watch this video I made of impressions from the opening ceremonies of the Tippelmarkt.

The Rathaus (Town hall) on the Untermarkt in Görlitz

This is a little souvenir I purchased at the Tippelmarkt with something written in Silesian dialect – in standard German it would be Daheim ist am schönsten. In English this means “at home is the nicest” or something like “home, sweet home”. I look forward to hanging it in my new home…someday!

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Each year the Schlesischer Tippelmarkt is celebrated in Görlitz with beautiful handmade creations & fascinating Silesian traditions. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to experience it yourself while you are in Görlitz!

Karl May Fest in Radebeul

When I heard on the radio that there was a Karl May Fest in Radebeul (about an hour away from Görlitz) and was promised that it would have “echte Indianer” (real Indians!) I couldn’t resist the temptation to check it out. Naturally, being from Arizona, I have seen real Native Americans and this ad on the radio made me chuckle. But people living in Germany, and especially in East Germany, have most likely not seen Native Americans “up close” and this festival is a chance for them to experience the Wild West and Native American culture. Although, how does one even begin to describe a culture that includes hundreds of different tribes and traditions? There are over 560 tribes in the US recognized by the government! This is where things get a little bit…awkward at the Karl May Fest.

But let’s back up – who is Karl May? (last name is pronounced like “my” not like the month)

Karl May (1842-1912) was a prolific German author who wrote adventure novels set in the American Old West. His main protagonists were Winnetou and Old Shatterhand.

Old Shatterhand and Winnetou Source: www.kino.de

May’s stories differ from the typical westerns that most Americans grew up with because the Native Americans in his stories were the heroes instead of the villains, and they fought against the nasty European settlers to protect their land and culture. May wrote all of these novels about the American west in spite of never having been there himself until later in life. His books and the characters are hugely popular all across Germany, but the fascination with Native American culture seems to be even stronger in East Germany. I’m not entirely sure why this is, perhaps because people couldn’t travel or perhaps because the GDR government found the narrative useful in criticizing US policies.

Whatever the reason, East Germans love Native American culture – they love collecting items like bows and dream catchers and they even like camping in teepees and trying to live “like the Indians did”.

In Radebeul, the Karl May Museum has gotten into a bit of hot water over their collection of scalps, which they have insisted on keeping although a tribe has requested they be returned to them.  As an American I am very aware of the controversy surrounding misuse of Native American culture because it’s a big topic here, but this topic hasn’t reached Germany and I don’t think most Germans are aware that it could be offensive for them to wear headdresses and camp in teepees. They are simply showing admiration for a culture that they are fascinated with. And while some moments at the festival had me squirming a bit, such as the Germans wearing headdresses and doing rain dances while a “real Indian” chanted a song with dubious lyrics, it reminds me of something like the Renaissance Festival, which we have back home. For the Germans, the Wild West is a distant place, romanticized and fictionalized, instead of a recent and violent past like it is for those of us living in the current American West.

Karl May Fest in Radebeul

The location of the festival, Radebeul, is a beautiful suburb of Dresden with vineyards on hills and lots of shady valleys and trees. It’s a beautiful spot for a festival. If you come from the train station Radebeul Ost you can take an antique train to the festival grounds (festival tickets are available on the train and the ride is included in the price). The festival has various stands selling Native American objects and souvenirs as well as food & drink. There is a schedule of shows, including reenactments of stories from Karl May, Native American dances and songs, and country, western & bluegrass bands. I was already curious about the festival but when I heard that the bluegrass band The Dead South (from Canada) would be there and that the show was free with admission to the festival, I knew I had to go. They sounded really great live and as usual, the banjo player was an inspiration.

The Dead South perform at Little Tombstone

After their show we took a walk through Radebeul. In spite of the heat, it was cool & refreshing under the trees. We found the campground and area where they do horse riding shows. We enjoyed checking out the beautiful horses and the teepees where people were camping, and all the costumes. We were amused and confused to see American, Canadian and Confederate flags flying.

View from Radebeul

I’ve been told that Karl May was ahead of his time, and that his stories are entertaining and fun – I’ll be adding them to my reading list.

If you get the chance to check out the Karl May Fest, you definitely shouldn’t miss it, it’s quite the experience! Whether you go in for the “authentic” experience, for the beautiful surroundings or because you are fascinated by the hobbyists, it’s a day well spent in Radebeul!

The Karl May Fest takes place every year in Radebeul at Lößnitzgrund on the weekend after Himmelfahrt/Männertag.

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Birds’ Wedding – Sorbian Traditions

Lusatia is a region that is found in the area where Germany, Poland and Czech Republic meet and is home to the ethnic group of Lusatian Sorbs. The city of Görlitz lies in this region.

Today is Vogelhochzeit

There is a cute tradition celebrated in this region called “Vogelhochzeit” (or birds’ wedding) that takes place each year on January 25th.

There is also a popular children’s song called “Vogelhochzeit” that tells the story of the wedding of two birds: a male thrush (die Drossel) and a female blackbird (die Amsel).

On the evening of the 24th of January, children put plates out on windowsills or in front of doors with the hopes that the birds will leave some of the treats from their wedding behind. In the morning they find sweets and baked goods in the shape of birds and birds’ nests on the plate.

Naturally, once I heard about this tradition I had to rush out to the bakery to purchase some bird-related treats. I was sadly too belatedly informed to put a plate out so that my treats could be delivered by the birds instead!

Treats from the birds’ wedding

Old Town Festival Görlitz 2016

The 22nd Altstadtfest (old town festival) in Görlitz has come and gone. This was my second time at the festival and we attended on Friday evening. The first time was nine years ago (!) when we had just moved to Germany to live in Dresden for two years. Somehow I feel like those two years went by in a blur of homesickness & confusion, so I was very excited to get to experience the festival again this year!

View from the Ferris Wheel at the Altstadtfest
View from the Ferris Wheel at the Altstadtfest

I planned out the things I wanted to see, do and eat and dragged my semi-willing husband and Schwager (brother-in-law) along for my program. We were lucky to have beautiful weather and the sun was shining when we arrived at the festival quite early. We started by just generally checking things out and catching the traditional Anblasen at the Untermarkt, the start of the festival with the blowing of horns. There were many people dressed up in middle-ages or renaissance style costumes and vendors were selling things like local products & art, costumes, & toy swords for the kids. Next we headed to the Altstadtbrücke (old town bridge) to see the opening of the festival with the mayors of Görlitz and Zgorzelec and the firing of the cannons. The bridge was crowded with people and they spoke about the partnership between the two cities, releasing balloons that were in the colors of the German and Polish flags. In Zgorzelec they also had a festival coinciding with the Altstadtfest, the Jakuby fest. Jakub Böhme is a prominent figure in the history of Görlitz/Zgorzelec, so if you are at the festival next year make sure to cross the bridge so you don’t miss this part of the celebration!

Onlookers waiting for the cannon firing along the Neiße
Onlookers waiting for the cannon firing along the Neiße

After that we were ready to try some food and drink. The beer was flowing freely in our group of three and so I stood in line to try a Heurekaner, which was a pocket of bread filled with cheese and ham and topped with sour cream. My husband had a huge piece of meat on a skewer. For dessert I had Quarkbällchen, fried balls of quark dipped in sugar. Both were delicious!

Next on my agenda was to ride the Riesenrad (ferris wheel) for beautiful views of Görlitz. We even rode twice because the view was so nice! Beware – if you are not riding with someone very young or elderly they will give your car on the ferris wheel a good spin before you go up! Luckily I did not become ill and lose any of my Quarkbällchen.

Moments from the 22nd Altstadtfest
Moments from the 22nd Altstadtfest

The next thing we did was to catch one of the many live musical acts at the festival. We headed to the stage at Untermarkt and saw the band Triple Trouble play. They were a three man group and I was very excited to see that one of them was playing the banjo! If you don’t know, I have just started learning to play the banjo this year, so this made me very happy. The band was hilarious and I felt proud for understanding all of the jokes they told inbetween playing many well-known cover songs. I can remember when we first came here in 2007 not being able to understand such things, so it’s nice to relish in my hard-earned German abilities! I enjoyed the band so much that I purchased their CD and will be following them to see where they play next.

Because of our jet lag we did not celebrate as heartily as we might have but now I expect to be able to go to the Altstadtfest every year and look forward to the 23rd (and my third) festival in 2017! It’s a great experience to see all of Görlitz out enjoying the beautiful sights, weather and entertainment. And entrance to the festival is completely free! To support the Altstadtfest you can buy collectible pins, there were two on offer this year. The gold pin cost €10 and the colored pin cost €5. I look forward to collecting more!

Collectible pins from the 2016 Altstadtfest
Collectible pins from the 2016 Altstadtfest

Resources:
Altstadtfest Görlitz
Triple Trouble

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