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Mr. & Mrs Annhig go east - to eastern Germany that is.

Mr. & Mrs Annhig go east - to eastern Germany that is.

Oct 10th, 2011, 12:06 AM
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Thank you for this posting, Annhig, especially the observations, comparisons and opinions.

It truly amazes me how many Germans under 60 speak English, and speak it well, no matter their social status. The U.S.'s shortsightedness on teaching foreign language is a huge frustration for me. We really are "dumbing-down" our children/grandchildren imo.

Can hardly wait for the rest of your report!
klondiketoo is offline  
Oct 10th, 2011, 12:09 AM
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Yay an annhig TR, topping to read at leisure.
aussiedreamer is online now  
Oct 10th, 2011, 01:37 AM
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thanks for all the encouragement!

I had previously been to "west Germany" many times, but never to the "east" [apart from Berlin] and we loved it. DH had rejected my previous plans to do a touring holiday based around Dresden, as he felt there wouldn't be enough to do....he now accepts that he was wrong and that there is loads to see and do all over this area. We are particularly keen to see the Harz, but there is also Weimar, Erfurt, ..the list goes on.

On this trip we were of course particularly privileged by being able to stay with our host families, and to spend a lot of leisure time with them and various german members of the host group, so we had a lot more interaction with local people than one can normally get on a holiday.

Klondike - the situation re language teaching is similar in the UK. German, which used to be almost on a par with french, is being removed from curricula in favour of spanish, russian, chinese - the list goes on. Having myself benefitted from very good german language teaching, and having encouraged both my children to learn it, I think that this is a very regressive step. especially in its early stages it's relatively easy to grasp, has a nice regular pronunciation and spelling, and can appeal to those who have found french and spanish too "intuitive". Whilst none of us may get to the stage of being able to read Goethe or Schiller, it has formed the basis of a huge european culture to which fewer and fewer britons have any sort of access or even knowledge that it exists.

By contrast, our hosts told us that german school children are exposed to english at a very early age, and by 11 are having formal language teaching in a language with which they are already familiar. this presumably goes a long way to explain the facility that so many of them have. In fact the only one of our hosts who really felt uncomfortable speaking english was our hostess - being an "ossie", she had learn russian at school, and only picked up english later - in the last 20 years in fact. Her children could chat quite happily in english.

This leads to another advantage of visiting what was the DDR - you get far more opportunities to practice your german!
annhig is offline  
Oct 10th, 2011, 08:09 AM
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ok - as our itinerary said "a day off - the German Way".

the implication of course [who says that germans have no sense of humour?] was that our free day would be action packed from dawn to dusk, but fortunately our hosts were somewhat laid back, so we had a lovely leisurely breakfast with them and getting to know their two student children, and discussing our plans for the day. While we'd been exchanging e-mails, i had mentioned my interest in choral singing, and that my choir was presently rehearsing the Bach B minor mass [H moll in german] and as our hostess had been brought up in Leipzig, she suggested that we spend our day in her home town, including a visit to the famous Thomaskirche where Bach was choirmaster and tickets for the concert held there on Saturday afternoons.

of course that sounded like an idea that was too good to miss, and by 11am were we bowling down the motorway at a speed that i have never before experienced on land - i think that the highest the speedo got to was 220kms/hr but my eyes were shut for a good part of the time!

First stop [or was that screech?] was the Völkerschlachtdenkmal, which was about as ugly as its name, to be honest. Erected in 1913, it looks ilke a giant red termite mound, and commemorates the victory of the Prussian and other forces over Napoleon 100 years earlier, Though we were told that there's a good view from the top, we had no desire to climb it. Curiously in the car park was an old London Routemaster bus - it was a long time since we'd seen one of those.

After that we headed at a slightly more sedate pace into the centre, and got parked for a very reasonable €5 per day in the underground car park below the Augustusplazt. The first sight we saw on emerging from the bowels of the earth was perhaps the saddest of the day - the new church which is being built to replace the oldest in Leipzig, which having survived the worst that the allies could inflict, was torn down by the old regime in the 60s, because they didn't like what it represented.

After that our hostess led us on a tour of her old haunts - the extraordinary university building shaped like an open book, the beautiful "passage" [covered passages] and their shops and cafes, the market square, the cafe Riquet with its famous elephant heads, and near-by Nikolaikirche where she and other brave people gathered every Monday for the monday protest against the DDR government. However we try, those of us who have not been through such times really can't imagine what it must have been like; in our hostess's case asking her mother to take care of her very young children if she didn't come back, for example.

with that food for thought, we made our way to an outdoor restaurant near the Thomaskirche where we'd arranged to meet others of our party for lunch, before the concert. Service wasn't great [a frequent theme of our trip sadly, usually affecting me!] but we managed to get our pizzas and salads eventually, plus more beer of course. a message came back from the church that if we didn't get there soon there wouldn't be any seats, so we rushed in to discover our hostess valiantly repelling borders from the pew she had commandeered - the church was absolutely packed. The "motette" concert featured the boys' and men's choir, and the famous organ of course, restored as far as possible to the style of Bach's era in the 18th century. As well as organ music and the singing of the choir, we were pleasantly surprised to find that there was a part of the concert in which the audience could sing as well, so to my delight, I found myself standing next to our host, [also a choral singer and with a very powerful voice] singing Bach in Bach's church - just perfect. then an extra treat - once a year as many "old boys" of the choir attend and sing at the end of the service, so we were able to listen to them too. how lucky was that?

We had about an hour now before our last stop - a performance of the Crystalle Cabaret at the Krystallpalast, Magazingasse 4, 04109 Leipzig [www.krystallpalastvariete.de] - so we tried to get a table in the restaurant at the top of the university tower, [26 floors up, there's a very fast left] but despite the lack of visible customers all tables were apparently "besitzt" so plan B found us in one of our hostess's student haunts. This underground bar is so well hidden that DH didn't realise where we'd gone and was wandering around "up top".

Then off to the cabaret!

let me say at once that even those of our party who had no german at all had a great time. a mixture of variety, magic, and very funny patter, the show lasted about 2 hours and went past in a twinkling. if you are in Leipzig, do try to get tickets. you can have dinner before or after [not bad, but problems with service of the wine again which was very embarrassing for our hosts] or a reduced menu served at the table, as well as drinks, cocktails etc.

by the time we finished eating it was about 10pm, and with another action-packed day coming up, we had no time to linger. THere is lots more in Leipzig that we didn't get to see, and having rubbed the foot of one of the golden statues at the Auersbachs Keller in the Mädlerpassage, we'll doubtless be back.

Next - Day 3 - everything you every wanted to know about Cathedral Statues, but were afraid to ask.
annhig is offline  
Oct 10th, 2011, 09:10 AM
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Enjoying this very much annhig, especially as I have a five-week trip to Dresden coming up (Goethe Institute plus holiday), with week-end trips planned for Leipzig, Berlin, Wittemberg, Herrnhut/Bautzen, Lutherstadt Wittenberg and somewhere in the Erzgebirge.

"I had previously been to "west Germany" many times, but never to the "east" [apart from Berlin] and we loved it."

Me too. This upcoming trip will be my fourth to Dresden/Leipzig and I'm looking forward to doing more in-depth exploring of Dresden during the week, then heading farther out on week-ends.
FoFoBT is offline  
Oct 10th, 2011, 10:14 AM
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Oh annhig, this is a WONDERFUL trip report! Being German, I really appreciate your balanced views on contemporary Germany, not biased by the past. Thank you very much.
grrr is offline  
Oct 10th, 2011, 11:54 AM
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Ann - science is exactly the same - about twenty times a day I am in awe of how well 'foreigns' ( as CW would say) manage to convey some incredibly complex concept in English. It's all I can do to sort out a declined credit card in French!

BTW, did you see Nefertiti in Berlin?
RM67 is offline  
Oct 10th, 2011, 03:21 PM
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annhig, I'm really enjoying this! What a treat to be able to attend the concert in Leipzig.
yk is online now  
Oct 11th, 2011, 06:30 AM
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I have a five-week trip to Dresden coming up (Goethe Institute plus holiday), with week-end trips planned for Leipzig, Berlin, Wittemberg, Herrnhut/Bautzen, Lutherstadt Wittenberg and somewhere in the Erzgebirge. >>

fofoBT - lucky you. Long, long ago [when i was at school] i went on a goethe institute organised trip to germany, living for a month with a family. we attended the local school, went on trips with the local kids, as well as living "en famillie".

you might like to add Naumburg to your list, if only to see the exhibition - see below.

grrrr - glad you are enjoying it. I am acutely aware that it is impossible to generalise on the strength of a visit lasting no more than a week, but we were very privileged to be able to live with our hosts and IMHO it is more important than ever that there are as many links as possible between the peoples of countries who have been at loggerheads for so long, and with such disastrous consequences for so many.

yk - yes it was a treat, especially being able to sing Bach in Bach's church, standing next to our host who turned out to have a superb bass voice. he really gave the little girls sitting on front of us a fright!
annhig is offline  
Oct 11th, 2011, 07:57 AM
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Really enjoying your report! thanks for sharing!
irishface is offline  
Oct 11th, 2011, 08:15 AM
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Fascinating. I managed to visit the DDR way back in the 60s as a student, but now I have only the vaguest memories and disappointingly few photos (those were the days when you didn't "waste" a photo, so tended to miss an awful lot). I have been back to Leipzig since, but all I remember of Halle is an appallingly polluted river. I must go back again.
PatrickLondon is offline  
Oct 11th, 2011, 08:38 AM
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I have been back to Leipzig since, but all I remember of Halle is an appallingly polluted river. I must go back again.>>

yes Patrick, you must. the area between Erfurt [which we didn't get to but is on our list] and Leipzig is very interesting, and we are reliably informed that Bautzen and Goerlitz to the east of Dresden are also lovely. more than that, there are relatively few tourists and everyone seems very friendly.

and if nothing else, the beer is excellent.

thanks, irishface. I'll try to do some more tonight!
annhig is offline  
Oct 11th, 2011, 09:11 AM
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Great trip report, enjoying this very much.

Small correction: The building replacing the University church (that was torn down in the 1960s) will NOT be a church again, but an Aula for the University. The church has "guest" rights there and might hold some services every now and then, but that's it. Sad.

The concert at St. Thomas certainly sounds like a treat for you. Did you try "Leipziger Lerchen"?

Looking forward to the next installments.

Ingo is offline  
Oct 11th, 2011, 10:24 AM
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Hi again, Ingo, glad you "dropped in" again, because there was something i wanted to ask you. Is Ingo a common name in your part of Germany? I had [it would appear wrongly] assumed that it was a screen name, but one of the MC's "victims" in the cabaret was called "Ingo".

it wasn't you was it?

Sadly we did not try Leipziger Lerchen, but i did look them up -


The recipe is not dissimilar to our bakewell tart, except that we would use raspberry instead of apricot jam. i might give it a go!

thanks for putting me right about the new "church". it certainly looked like one from the outside, and allowing for language difficulties, I am pretty sure that's what I was told it was. My informants said that there had been a big debate about whether to rebuild it in the original style, but that everyone now seemed pretty happy about the decision that had been made.

BTW, i think I've worked it out from the context, but what do you mean exactly by Aula?

The concert was lovely and i did enjoy being able to tell our conductor about it last night. He too was a little surprised that the programme included an organ work by Messiaen, but we decided that I could be excused my non-attendance at recent rehearsals.
annhig is offline  
Oct 11th, 2011, 12:54 PM
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Hi ann, just skimming through right now and really enjoying your report. I hope to someday explore the east, as we were not able to squeeze in a trip during our time in Germany. You are making me miss it terribly...especially those hearty meals involving vast quantities of meat and carbohydrates. Also enjoyed reading about the concert in Leipzig...some of my most memorable experiences in foreign countries have involved music.

I had to laugh at your mention of "navi" in an earlier post...DH and I STILL call them that (and get strange looks from everyone when we do) even though we've been away from Germany for nearly 4 years!
hausfrau is offline  
Oct 11th, 2011, 01:37 PM
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Hi Hausfrau,

Sorry that you missed out on a trip to the east while you were in Germany - it's well worth the effort - which really isn't all that great, unlike the food, which is.

the german language does adapt to modern technology quite well - "not just "navi" but also "handi" - much nicer than mobile or cellphone.
annhig is offline  
Oct 11th, 2011, 01:52 PM
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Is it true that a Jiffy is a German brand of contraceptive? There are various interesting sentences one can construct.
chartley is offline  
Oct 11th, 2011, 02:03 PM
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Is it true that a Jiffy is a German brand of contraceptive? >>

I'm afraid that my knowledge of colloquial german does not stretch, so to speak, that far, chartley. though you have reminded me of the hysterically funny exchange on TMS this year between Aggers and Michael Vaughan when Jonathan was describing the difficulties of trying to fit a new rubber onto a bat handle.

that really is a subject for a whole new thread, isn't it?
annhig is offline  
Oct 11th, 2011, 11:59 PM
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no, it was not me at the cabaret ;-) I love the Saxon cabaret, though. Leipzig has some pretty good ones and so does Dresden (Herkuleskeule, Breschke & Schuch e.g.).

Yes, Ingo is a *real* name, not overly popular anymore but it was back in the 60s/70s

The debate about church or not church for the University was quite ugly. The Lutheran church was keen on rebuilding the church and the State government in Dresden (Christian Democrats, you get the drift) was even willing to pay for an exact reconstruction of the Gothic church. But the University board decided against it. To understand the decision it might help to know that the university in Leipzig was awfully corrupted by the communists, more than other universities in East Germany. Very sad as it has one of the longest traditions in Germany (founded 1409) and once had an excellent reputation.

"Aula" - sorry, it means auditorium or assembly hall (not for teaching, for festivities).

Btw, the recipe site is right that Leipziger Lerchen are not exactly "healthy" but which dessert is?

Ingo is offline  
Oct 12th, 2011, 06:35 AM
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