Christmas is rapidly approaching and in the middle of our tranquil town the Christmas hectic is starting to turn the wheels a bit faster. At the end of October there were many different celebrations of Luther’s Reformation Year. One was in the Wichernhaus in Görlitz. There is a Jugendstil banquet hall with a raised stage. One of the music students that we had met at the different meetings, was playing the piano during the event. It turned out that our table neighbours used to live in our flat in Jauernicker Strasse before the war. Their father had a bakery and used to bake his bread in the cellar. Our work room used to be their shop. She came later with her cousin and we showed them our flat and they explained where they used to play and we also looked in the cellar. Sometimes it is a small world. I visited their Protestant church the Kreuzkirche which is now heated after it celebrated its 100 year anniversary.
In November we visited two weaving mills in Lusatia. The first one was an industrial factory where we buy our linen cloth. They have at least 10 machines on one level, another big one on the ground floor where they make the threads that they then use to make the cloth. It was exciting to stand at the start of the journey, that at the end is turned into a handbag. I believe there are only about five linen factories in Germany, and so they are fighting for their survival. We are very happy to support a home industry, and it was interesting to see and meet the employees. The other weaving mill, was a restored hand weaver mill. Every two or three months there is a gathering of Lusatia handworkers at one of the different workshops. In November we went to this hand weaver mill, where the daughter had taken over from her father. He started to repair the mill with the support of government funding twenty years ago. From the five projects then, his is the only one still going. He restored an old classic wooden half framed house, an ‚Umgebindehaus‘. They were built a lot in the 17th century and are typical for the area in Lusatia, with about 4000 still here. Upstairs they have two appartments and some pension bedrooms and I am sure that supports the mill, as the tourist industry is growing in the area.
Alena is a big fan of Umgebindehäuser, because the mother of her Ex, who still visits in Prague (92 years old) bought one in the Czech Republic, and they often went there visiting. ‚They are based on a wooden support system, which runs around the living area of the house made of logs or boards, which has the job of freeing the frame of the living area from the weight of the roof (in single-storey houses) or the roof and upper storey (in two-storey houses)‘ [ English Wikipedia]. They were very much a part of the textile industry and the tradition of Lusatia. Every year there is a Umgebindehaus Open Day, where you are allowed to view restored, partly restored, or about to be restored houses. The principle is a house on top of a house, and was started in the 15th Century when workers moved into the area and built wooden houses on top of an existing house. Umgebinde is translated as binding around, which describes what happens when a house is bound around another house. I have put a Flyer from the hand weaver house and you can see that it is splendidly restored, and three times the size of the classical house. It is just another example of the involvement in history that we see here all around us in this quiet corner of Germany.
The visit to the hand weaving mill was organised by a young group of Germans who support hand workers in Lusatia. We have visited a potter, a flower decoration factory, a bank, and we are always amazed how especially young handworkers despite fighting to survive, still manage to create jobs and work. All have the same problem, finding customers, paying employees, and improving sales.
Next year we are planning to visit less markets and concentrate more on building sales over the internet. We have been selling shopping bags on the Servus Magazine online market. One of their employees bought one of our small round shoulder bags, showed it to her colleagues, and they decided to order 50 handtaschen. Servus magazine belongs to the Red Bull empire and so it helps our visibility online. Many of the handworkers we meet are keen to have a similar market place on the internet. They concentrate on their work, and would welcome support from someone to promote their products. It is called networking, gathering similar minded people together. We went to one of these network meetings in Dresden, in an old converted power station – the Kraftwerk Mitte – where the inside has been converted with three theatres, an art gallery, a museum, and a conference centre. The meeting was promoting cross border actions, with about five speakers, ranging from a floating art gallery, to an industrial plant conversions, and a textile museum on the Czech-Austrian border. The location was fascinating, we saw the theatres, we went on a tour of the areal, and at the end saw the doors with a bronze frieze being all that was left of a church destroyed in the fire during the war.
Talking to the Austrians from the Museum, they recommended an Advent Market in Weitra . We promised to come if they could find a place for us inside, because it is very uncomfortable to be in a stall outside in the Marketplace. They were very enthusiastic, especially with Alena’s Czech connection, and found a place for us in an old long closed cake shop. So off we went. It is on the southern border of Czech Republic in the forest quarter of northern Austria. A small jewel among the hills of the forest quarter in Austria. Similar to Görlitz it is a walled middle age town with a castle on the hill, overlooking the surrounding land. There are many Renaissance buildings in the town and some very old middle age type of houses near the church. I didn’t walk up the steep hill to the castle, but Alena went and was enchanted by the market in the castle. Each had there own room, the castle was splendidly restored and if we could get a place in the castle next year, it looks as though we are going back. The Austrian couple have restored an old Herrenhaus where there Museum is located, and are total fans of the textile traditions. We hope to visit them next year. Like Görlitz, they also have their own Brewery, the only one left from over 33 that the town used to have. In the middle of the town is a cistern where the water for the breweries was collected. The history goes back to the 12th century. We stayed in an appartment on the Czech side of the border and had to drive through the snow to get to Weitra. Luckily this time, we avoided sliding off the road which happened once in the woods in Czech Republic. The owner of the appartment had lived in the USA and now teaches English on a Franchise principle started by an Englishman living in Liberec, the big Czech city near us. It was below freezing the whole time we were there.