Görlitz Photo Marathon 2017

I decided to take part in the first photo marathon in Görlitz during the Fotofestival 2017. We were given eight photo assignments, all having to do with the bigger theme of the festival which was “Lebenswelten” (living environments). We were told that they were looking for photos to be cohesive and have an overarching theme. When I got the photo assignments I immediately came home to brainstorm & try to come up with a theme that would set my photos apart. I decided that my photos would all be taken in the Nikolaivorstadt – my favorite neighborhood in Görlitz, where we are renovating a house. I did my best with what I had: my talent level, my equipment and the weather in Görlitz. No cell phones were allowed and we had to use a digital camera – absolutely no editing was allowed outside of the settings on your camera. The photos had to be taken in the order given, so you couldn’t go back and redo any unless you wanted to redo them all. We had six hours to finish and turn in our SD cards for judging. I (mostly) enjoyed myself – I like taking pictures of Görlitz! But it also got quite exhausting towards the last few pictures and a bit frustrating when they didn’t turn out like I’d hoped.

1. Start-Nummer fotografisch in Szene setzen. Beginne deine Serie mit deiner Startnummer. / Stage your starting number. Begin your series with your starting number.

I tried for a while to find the number thirteen in a cool style on houses in the neighborhood but quickly realized I was wasting far too much time and not finding anything so I gave up and took a picture of my lanyard with starting number hanging on the entrance gate to the Nikolaizwinger, a green path between the former city walls.

2. In jeder Stadt gibt es unzählige Türen, in Görlitz gibt es sehr viele alte Türen und Portale. Finde einen EINGANG, der dich besonders anspricht und setze ihn so in Szene, wie du es magst. / In every city there are countless doors, in Görlitz there are many old doors and portals. Find an entry that appeals to you and stage it as you like.

I took this photo inside the Nikolaifriedhof, the super old cemetery beside the Nikolai church. This is the door to a crypt. I decided afterwards that I would prefer all of my photos to be in landscape orientation but this is the best photo I had for the door theme and what I ended up going with.

3. Wasser – ist das Lebenselixier einer Stadt. Du findest es in vielfältiger Form. Stelle das Element WASSER im Bild dar. / Water is the lifeblood of a city. You can find it in many forms. Present the element WATER in your image.

I initially wanted to take pictures at a fountain near the Nikolai church but the lighting was not right and I didn’t like the pictures, so I ended up going to Ölberggarten (Mount of Olives Garden) which is part of the Heiliges Grab – Holy grave replica in Görlitz. I was happy with the amount of reflection I got at the pond in spite of the mostly overcast skies.

4. Heilige Stätten – viele mittelalterliche Kirchen zeugen von einer bewegten Vergangenheit. Sie sind aber auch Orte der STILLE. Halte einen Moment des Innehaltens und der Besinnung fest. / Sacred sites – many medieval churches testify to a turbulent past. But they are also places of SILENCE. Hold a moment for pause & reflection.

Because I had decided to focus on the Nikolaivorstadt, the choice of church was easy – the Nikolaikirche. The inside has long been used as a memorial instead of as a church, so I decided to take a picture in the graveyard because it is always so peaceful and quiet there. It happened to be quite noisy and full of people setting up for an event while I was there photographing but at least that isn’t evident in the photo I took!

5. Görlitz – die Stadt der Türme. Es gibt bestimmt an die 100 Türme und Türmchen. Türme bieten ungewöhnliche PERSPEKTIVEN. Zeige uns deinen Blick durch den Sucher! / Görlitz – the city of towers. There are certainly hundreds of towers. Towers offer unusual perspectives. Show us your view through the viewfinder!

The Nikolaiturm wasn’t open during the marathon and I thought taking a picture of it might be too obvious and what everyone would be doing. Then I realized that from our favorite little park in the Nikolaivorstadt you have a really nice view of the church towers.

6. “Wem die Zeit ist wie Ewigkeit, und Ewigkeit wie die Zeit, der ist befreit von allem Streit.” (Jakob Böhme) Fotografisch bietet sich ein Spiel mit der Verschlusszeit an. Versuche das Thema ZEIT im Bild umzusetzen. / “To whom time is as eternity , and eternity as time, is liberated from all strife.” (Jakob Böhme) Playing with shutter speed is an idea. Try to implement the topic TIME in the picture.

There are no clocks that I’m aware of in the Nikolaivorstadt so I had a hard time coming up with something for this. I decided I wanted to show the changing colors of the leaves to represent time passing. I  tried to get some pictures of the leaves falling when I dropped them to play with shutter speed but it didn’t work out how I wanted, so this is what I came up with. I actually collected the leaves and arranged them there, shh! Don’t tell anyone.

7. Görlitz – bereits seit 1869 wird das köstliche Landskron-Bier gebraut. Der Genuss gehört heute zum Lebensgefühl vieler Görlitzer. Spuren der LANDSKRON -Braumanufaktur findest du überall in der Stadt. Spüre sie auf und halte sie in einem Bild fest. / Görlitz – since 1869 the delicious Landskron beer has been brewed here. Today the enjoyment belongs to the feeling of many Görlitzer. Traces of the Landskron brewery can be found all over the city. Find them and show them in a picture.

I really don’t think there are any signs of Landskron brewery in the Nikolaivorstadt so I decided to bring a beer with me to enjoy somewhere on my long walk. This was taken inside the Nikolaizwinger.

8. Pflastermüde – das Görlitzer Kopfsteinpflaster hat es in sich. Wahrscheinlich geht es nicht nur dir so? Wie FÜHLST du dich kurz vor dem ZIEL des Marathons? Wie geht es deinen Füßen? / Tired from walking – the cobblestones of Görlitz pack a punch. Probably not just you? How do you FEEL just before reaching your end goal of the marathon? How are your feet?

I was indeed very worn out by the time I got to this picture. I felt like taking a shot of my feet on the ground was a bit too “instagrammy”, so I noticed this cool view from Steinweg, one of the prettiest and oldest streets in Görlitz. I waited until no one was around and then I laid down in the middle of the street on my belly to get this shot.

I’m glad that I participated in the photo marathon, even though some of the participants and the judges were overall more serious & professional than I anticipated. I think it would have been nice to have a few laymen on the jury in addition to the photography experts and would have made it less intimidating for more casual participants like me. It was nerve-wracking to have to take the photos in order and to not be able to touch them up at all – these are photos I normally wouldn’t post to my website without touching up a bit. I also think my theme was not apparent to the judges & feel that I would need to do something more obvious next time to stand out. You can see the winners of the marathon at this website. There were some really beautiful photos taken that made me feel out of my depth, and a few others that had me scratching my head a bit. I’m not sure if I’ll take part next year – we’ll see how I feel when the time comes!

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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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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