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Sunday, September 23, 2018

Flea Market: Flohmarkt

Flohmarkt (Flea Market)

It's Sunday morning and I'm already contemplating a Saturday on 13 October.   Flohmarkt, as the Germans call it.  Antique vendors.  The smell of roasting brats and fresh brewed coffee. Polite crowds, but so thick a stroller’s pressed from all sides.

The bite of the fall air.  Glassware sparkling in the sunshine. Baskets for every purpose and in every woven shape.  Old glass wine jugs so big your arms stretch to carry them.  Old clothes, military paraphernalia with forbidden symbols covered with tape, picture frames and arrays of secondhand tools spread out on the ground.  A good twenty acres of tented booths.  The sounds of active commerce in German and English, Russian, Italian, and Spanish. All of greater Europe well represented. Haggling?  You bet.

I'll do my best to see it all, but stop to gander and decide, and get too distracted to cover the whole market. Always happens.  My attention span only lasts an hour or two. 

Need a bicycle?  One vendor always shows up with a few dozen, from the mildly rust specked specimens with peeling chrome to the pristine examples with razor thin tires, ready for the velodrome.  What kind of a truck carries this the menagerie of pedal power?

I'll check out hand hewn wooden dough bowls from a century ago, perhaps buy a silver wine bucket, or a few ancient cigar molds I've been coveting.  On a Saturday past, I stumbled across  a restored wooden work bench.  Perfect for a dining room buffet.  Wanted $500 and I've seen some in the states not half as good, costing four times that much. Took too long to wander through the labyrinth of stalls trying to make up my mind.  Came back and found it again, but now it had a big 'verkauft', (sold) sign on it.  

Later, at an Italian deli, I sat in the sunshine with friends, nibbled some fragrant, green olives , chatted with the wait staff that always yell out, the Americans are here,  and drank a couple of grapas to ease the pain of loss.

See, a Flohmarkt walks the line between the lottery and the craps table.

Now, grab a coffee from a coffee cart to stave off the chill, and while you sip, how 'bout we stroll down the Flohmarkt's memory lane together.  Gander at a few photos, pine about lost treasures, and while we chat, my mind will be on Saturday, 13 October and the next roll of the dice.

P.S.  As usual, my artist friends are welcome to use any and all of my photos for inspiration.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Rammelsbach, Germany

You enjoyed the fest, but how about the town?

What about the town of Rammelsbach?  You may well ask, but I don’t just ask, I wanna know!  The crowd for the two day Framer’ Market estimated at 30,000, while the town itself has only a population about 1600.  Often we visit a festival town for a day, drink some wine, eat some würst and forget as soon as we hop in the car and realign our GPS for home.

How many pages of history are we missing as we nonchalantly trod the cobblestone streets, passing rows of hewn stone buildings? Guessing we’re walking through centuries, without a backward glance.  Idly walking is not enough for those with high intelligence, inquisitive minds and a deep thirst for knowledge.  By that of course, I mean me.  Can’t answer for you.

Need a quick look without all the blather?  Skip to the bottom for a summation.

Time to give Rammelsbach a closer look, which means a closer looks at war, pestilence, the surge of armies and the woes of peasants as through the ages the town evolved into the pleasantly quiet village it is today.

Population has remained pretty steady for more than a hundred years.  Wasn’t always so.  As in much of this area, over the centuries Rammelsbach has had it’s share of conflict and disorder.  Martin Luther and the Protestant reformation for one, with local Lords insisting their people follow them and become Catholic or Protestant.

When the Thirty Years War hit (religious war 1618-1648), devastation of central Europe followed.  Proportionately, it might have been the most destructive war in history, with over 8,000,000 dead from the war itself, plus the plague, starvation and other by products of such a lengthy conflict.  When the Thirty Years War came to Rammelsbach, only one woman survived.

Today, about 60% are grouped under Protestant and less than half that percentage are Catholic.  Churches for each date to 1954.

But I’m such a quick thinker I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s take Rammelsbach and flip even more pages back in the dusty tome of history.

There’s evidence the forces of the real Roman Empire were here and to step WAAAAY back, stone axes of the type used by people of the New Stone Age have been found near by.

Now see what I’ve done?  I have to explain the NEW Stone Age to my three faithful readers.  And, because I know all three have the attention spans of scared rabbits, I’ll keep it simple.

Speaking of attention spans…….now where was I?  Oh, NEW Stone Age.  It’s also called the Neolithic Period and dates from about 10,000 BCE/BC until about 2000 BCE/BC.  Sometimes referred to as the first technology period, it was characterized by development of farming and lasted up until the metal ages (Copper, Bronze, Iron).

The Founding

Founded about 790 C.E./A.D., for centuries, it was the property of the Abbey of Saint-Remi in Reims, France. Later on it was the property of the county of Palatinate-Zweibrüchen.  It was mostly a Catholic town until 1588, when Count Palatine Johannes declared Calvinism to the truth and the light.

Rammelsbach is part of an area known as the Musikantenland, named after wandering musicians who roamed the vicinity from around 1850 until the First World War.

Until the middle of the 19th Century most villagers earned a living through agriculture and many of the single roof farmhouses you see in the surrounding area date from that time.  “Hey,” you ask as you ponder, “Don’t all houses have a single roof?”  Ok, sport, then let’s call them simple roof houses, usually with a on each end and no offshoots for extra rooms or garages. Drive through any German village and you’ll see plenty. Drive through France and you’ll see plenty, too.  Take another look at the background buildings in the top Photo.

In 1819, Rammelsbach had only 30 houses.  A stone quarry opened in 1868, although some quarrying took place from the middle ages. After the opening of the quarry, a growing population followed.  Built about 1901, there’s a Steinbruchstraße, or Quarry Street. At one time the quarry employed more than 900 workers, men and women, often working side by side.  These German women are TOUGH folks.  Now, due to mechanization, it only takes about 30 folks to do the same job.

The Quarry from a Wikipedia 1998 photo

Now let’s move forward a step and talk about the Second World War. Nazis in Rammeslbach? Not many.  Even after Adolph took over the country, less than thirty percent in Rammelsbach voted for him.

What’s Rammelsbach like today?  Primarily a bedroom community.

That's a thumbnail that covers the highlights, but slow  and impatient readers may want a summary:

1.    New Stone age people lived in the vicinity.
2.     Romans were here.
3.    790 Rammelsbach founded – agriculture primary industry
4.    Town owned at various times by France and Germany, was at one time Catholic and then Protestant.
5.    Thirty Years War (1618-1648) wiped out Rammelsbach.  One woman survived.
6.    1858 Stone Quarry opened – became the primary industry
7.    Majority of the population did not favor Hitler
8.    Today the population is about 1600 (and fairly steady the past hundred years)

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

European Farmers’ Market: Rammelsbach

European Farmers’ Market:  Rammelsbach (Kusel)

I like farmers’ markets anyway and this was a huge one.  Something like 1200 vendors and over 30,000 eaters, drinkers, music lovers and shoppers came to sample fare from all over the Euro-world.  As in every other fest I’ve visited in Germany, this was orderly, friendly, and wonderful.  No fights.  No drunks.  No police presence.  Just happy people, including an abundance of families who came to enjoy a beautifully sunny day, with temps in the mid 80s.

We got there about 2 p.m. and the party was in full swing.  Matter of fact, as we learned, the Champagne stall had already sold out.  So, we settled for a very excellent Sicilian white wine and some Finnish planked salmon and coleslaw.  The planked salmon, pink and juicy, was roasted close by a wood fire.

Near by, a Hungarian stringed trio brought the sweet sounds of their homeland, while not too far away, in huge tent, a German oompah band serenaded hundreds of beer swillers.

All that music competing for your ear?  No.  Not at all.  The market was that large, sprawling though the old city streets and diverging down side streets before trailing into the nearby countryside.  Even an amateur band, featuring pop and jazz had a wide space to itself, blasting away without fear of contradictory notes.

Not interested in salmon?  The inviting aroma of grilled sausages filled the air, drifting along on delicate clouds of smoke.  Fried potatoes?  Oh yes!  Whiffs of hot grease.

Fancy some Trdeinik from The Czech Republic?  I call it cylinder bread, with flavored dough wrapped around iron molds and flame cooked over a wood fire.

Who can resist the lightly delicious scent of French crepes, being prepared especially for you by women in traditional garb and men in berets.  C’est entendu!  Fresh fruit perhaps to flavor your delightfully thin crepe or a soupçon of homemade jam?  Need to top that off with some rich French whipped cream, n’est pas?  You haven’t tasted cream or butter until you’ve slathered the French versions on your crepe.

But, the best part of any gathering is the people. Always.  In this case, her name is Beatrice, a pretty, American woman with a very interesting background.  She’s also a delightful conversationalist.  Her father emigrated to the U.S. from Germany after WW II and in time joined the American Army, serving for 28 years before retiring.  Beatrice’s mother is French.  So does Beatrice speak English, French, and German?  Mais, oui!  Na sicher!  Of course!  Does she have an accent in English?  No way! Raised in California, but has lived in Germany for a number of years.  Has a German boyfriend.

What else did this expat have to say?  “I love America for its extreme convenience and now that my parents are in their declining years, and I spend a lot of time taking them to hospital appointments, I appreciate the cleanliness of American hospitals.  Fortunately, because he is retired U.S. military, I can take my parents to American military hospitals here in Germany.”

My experience is different from those of Beatrice, but my visits to German clinics and hospitals have been limited and far less extensive than hers.  Also, she lives in a much more rural area.

Let’s get back to the good stuff, like the Sicilian white wine.  In the Sicilian stall, the offerings included not only wine by the bottle and glass, but also jars of pesto and sweet pistachio paste.  Tasted both and liked what I tasted.  But, it was a hot day folks!  Both bottles of wine were very cold and delicious.  I felt like a cast member from Oliver!  “Please, sir, may I have some more?”

Craftsmen galore offered one-of-a-kind curved wood furniture, and cutting boards.  Other booths had homemade jam, or fresh bread from wood fired ovens, or colorful oil paintings.  Yes, a true feast for the eyes and a bane for the pocketbook.  My friends found wrought iron fixtures for their garden.  Another friend found soap and old-fashioned wooden handled brushes and packets of dried herbs.

Now it’s time to get back on track, grab that bottle of Sicilian wine I rescued and review some photos of Rammelsbach’s huge Farmers’ Market.  Care to join me?  I’ll share, but bring your own straw.

FOR ANY ARTISTS WHO ARE INTERESTED:  You are welcome to use my photos to paint from. 

Hint:  There’s more to Rammelsbach than a one-time market.  I’ll tell you more about the town and its fascinating history tomorrow.