Friday, May 31, 2013

I MUST BE OFF! The First Annual TRAVEL ESSAY CONTEST

I have a treat for you. Over the next few weeks I'll be posting the entries to The First Annual TRAVEL ESSAY CONTEST at I Must Be Off! And what an international field of writers we have. Writers from all over the world have sent their stories in, and I'm honored to present them.

I hope you'll stop by, read and comment on your favorite stories. The story with the highest number of hits/comments the week of its publication will automatically be considered for one of the top prizes, so if you like a story please leave a comment. In the evaluation phase of the contest, the stories will be published without the name of the author, but these will be added once the results are in.

Today is the last day to send in a story (Guidelines HERE), but you still have a few hours to be considered for publication. We have had so many entries that I have decided to publish only the 20 best entries. If your story is included in the published stories, you can already feel great about this.

The first story goes live tomorrow, June 1.

RESULTS OF THE CONTEST ANNOUNCED ON JULY 20!

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with gayspectations. Available from Amazon Anything.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Contests! Contests! Contests!

At the moment I'm hosting TWO contests. You might have heard about the contest at this blog. Here is the LINK to that one, and there is only one more week to enter! It's a travel essay contest with monetary prizes and books to win. It's fairly easy to enter, but I would like to stress again that I can't accept docx files due to odd and irritating computer problems at the moment. See, my computer crashed a couple of months ago. I sent it to the garage to be repaired, and when it came back it was sort of worse than before. My laptop doesn't have any wordprocessing software on it, and my iPad--although it accepts docx files--is not compatible with the provider that makes this blog possible. Oh well. Life can only get better. Right? Until then, please enter the TRAVEL ESSAY CONTEST, but please send me a garden-variety Word doc file (NO docx file; no cry).

The second contest/blog carnival I'm hosting--together with editors Linda Simoni-Wastila and Michelle Elvy--is in celebration of INTERNATIONAL FLASH FICTION DAY, and the overall winner will be nominated for the Micro Award and also published at Metazen, the literary ezine I edit with Frank Hinton and a group of very talented editors. Here are the details:

FLASH MOB 2013

The International Flash Fiction Day

Blog Carnival and Competition



To enter, post a previously unpublished work of flash fiction (max 300 words, excluding title) on your own personal blog. Then: send the link to the story, the story text, a photo of yourself and a brief bio–all in the body of the email–to FLASH MOB 2013 (flashmobjune22@gmail.com) by June 10.
See the The Contest Rules for complete information on how to enter.
There is no fee to enter the competition.
*
The Judges
The competition will be judged  by an international panel that includes Robert Vaughan (USA), Leah McMenamin (New Zealand), Marcus Speh (Germany) and Nuala Ni Chonchúir (Ireland). See the Judges page for more.
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The Organizers
The organizers represent various points on the globe, and work across timezones and font styles to bring this flash mob event to you. Christopher Allen does all that he does from Munich, Germany but edits for the daily literary ezine Metazen, which is actually run from Canada. Linda Simoni-Wastila resides in greater Baltimore, Maryland where she writes, professes, mothers, and gives a damn, and in her spare time serves as Senior Fiction Editor of JMWWMichelle Elvy comes to us from New Zealand as editor of Flash Frontier: An Adventure in Short Fiction and Blue Five Notebook, though her latitude and longitude change daily these days.
I must be off,
Christopher
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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with gayspecations--available from Amazon Anything. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tiptoe Through the Tulips -- A Walk through the Garden Show in Hamburg

I love flowers. Andrew the Whale Whisperer has always told me I take too many pictures of flowers, so why does he ask, "Do you have your camera?" as we're setting out for the Garden show in Hamburg? Of course I have my camera.

It's cold and almost raining. We have our umbrellas just in case, so of course it doesn't rain the whole time we're at the garden show--or, as I would like to call it right now, The Tuliparama. Tulips. Tulips. Tulips and more tulips.

Tulips


Tulips



Tulips


Tulips


Tulips


Tulips

And finally . . .



Tulips

I know spring is still in the air and that the Tuliparama will transform into something rosier, maybe even petunia-ier. I know there will be other flowers. In fact, I know almost all of the tulips above have gone to Tulip Heaven and that hundreds of gardeners are probably digging up those tulip bulbs right now--some of them were looking kind of ragged already--and getting the beds ready for something else.

The grounds of the garden show are reasonably large, but we managed to walk the complete circuit in under three hours. I expected it to be larger, more impressive, grander. I did not expect all these tulips. Don't get me wrong: I like tulips. The tulip overload, though, came across as unimaginative. Monofloral?




Andrew the Whale Whisperer and I kept having conversations with themes like 'How Hamburg could have done this better' or 'Why charge 7.50 to ride the monorail? What's up with that?' The train that runs through the park is lovely, but the park isn't large enough for you to ride it unless you're not very mobile or fit. We talked about the potential of the grounds, like 'What could go in this area once all these fricking tulips are gone.'  In general, the grounds seemed a bit neglected in places; other places gave me the impression that they weren't quite finished yet. This bed, however, looked quite finished:



There is an area devoted to the five major world religions with a fountain in the center complete with five spouts and five waterfalls. It's also complete with scum and really really dirty water swirling down a partially clogged drain. I'm not sure whether this is a conscious statement on religion or not. I hope not, but it's hard not to wonder why someone doesn't clean up the semiotics. The space devoted to Islam looked as if the Muslim delegation had not arrived yet. The beds were empty squares of dirt. Was this intentional? Are flowers a no-no in Islam? And if so, how to get around this at a garden show?

The space devoted to Islam in the Religious Gardens exhibit


The park is more of an amusement park for the whole family. There are lots of activities for kids--skateboarding, zip lines through the trees, a climbing wall--and lots of stages with music and presentations; and none of this seems to have anything to do with, well, gardens or flowers. But then of course there are tulips--well, there won't be tulips when you go. But there will be this attraction of stone stacking, probably meant to symbolize what tulips look like once their petals fall off?

I stacked those two in the foreground. So talented.


I hope there will be more variety, that the grounds will be better taken care of, that you will have lots more sun.

To continue with I Must Be Off! A-Z, go to I is for Italy.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's award-winning fiction and non-fiction have appeared or are forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly's Best of the First Ten Years anthology, Prime Number Magazine, The Best of Every Day Ficton, Pure Slush, Bootsnall Travel and Chicken Soup for the Soul. A finalist at Glimmer Train in 2011, Allen has been nominated for Best of the Net and the Pushcart Prize twice. He is the managing editor of the daily litzine Metazen. Recently, Allen--along with editors Michelle Elvy and Linda Simoni-Wastila--hosted Flash Mob 2013 in celebration of International Flash Fiction Day. 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Best Way to See Berlin

Swans on the Spree--enjoying Berlin from the water
Berlin is a big city. There's no way around that. Actually, there's a perfectly wonderful way around it: the Spree. The river that curls peacefully through the city allows you the luxury of seeing the city from a swan's point of view. Swans don't waddle down busy streets, precariously among beggers and drug addicts; they float down rivers and nibble at crusts of bread that tourists so irresponsibly throw at them. Swans don't spend hours in Starbucks checking to see how many people have liked their Facebook page (cough cough); they sip wine and listen to the tour guide telling them all about the historic buildings and who lived here and there and such. OK, swans don't drink wine, but you get the picture. It's that one over there.

Three weekends ago, we took yet another trip on the Spree. I've been on these boat tours in Berlin so many times that I could probably play tour guide myself. I'd get much of the information wrong, but it would be entertaining. Our tour was in German this time, but we've been on tours where the guide spoke in German and English.

The government buildings. The middle one is called Die Waschmachine (The washing machine) by the Germans because, well, it looks like one. It's where Angela Merkel has her offices.




The first time I visited Berlin, I didn't even know there was a river running through it. So naive, yet so adorable. I arrived late in the evening without a hotel reservation. I got out of the U-Bahn somewhere--no idea then or now where I was--and just started looking for HOTEL. When I found one, it turned out to be too expensive, so I put on my helpless tourist face.

"Oh, that's too much. Despite my expensive-looking haircut and my designer clothes, I don't have that much." I think it was 100 DM, about 50 dollars.

"How much can you pay?" Ah, the woman was flexible, or maybe she didn't like my haircut after all?

I thought about saying 10 DM, but I really had no intention of wandering back into the streets of Berlin at that hour. "Seventy," I said.

"We have a single room I can let you have for that."

"Done."

The single room was only a bit larger than a broom closet, but there was a bed and a bathroom." That's really all one needs.

The next day, I left the hotel and, with my large backpack--I will never travel this way again; really, enormous backpacks are so last decade--I set out to explore Berlin. Remember: I had no idea there was a peaceful river, from which I could have seen the city without actually having to fight my way through crowds of people. I don't like crowds of people; that's why I like to hike up steep mountains. Crowds of people don't usually like to hike up steep mountains.

My first contact with the people of Berlin was rather rough. I was walking up an escalator. At the top of the escalator I stopped to see where I was when the woman behind me rammed me out of the way. Yes, I was blocking her path. I had stopped at the top of an escalator, something I would never ever do now.



Nowadays, being much older yet still as adorable as I was back then, I would tour Berlin on a boat, tooling up and down the canals, sipping white wine and snacking on wieners and potato salad, waving at the junkies mooning us from the banks of the river. I didn't take a picture of this, because I thought I'd look like a perv doing so.

This is the most sprayed wall on the Spree according to our guide. Near the Eastside gallery.

Now I have a question for you. Do you know the significance of 1973 New York? Most of these mention New York. I'm always interested in graffiti, and this motif comes up in lots of places on the Spree. If you have an idea what this means, please fill us all in.





I must be off,
Christopher

There are lots of Spree Boat Tours, from 1.5-hour tours to half day trips. Lots to choose from. Here are some links:

Spree River Cruise -- Sightseeing in Berlin
Visit Berlin
berlin.de (This site is in lots of languages.)

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with gayspecations--avialable from Amazon Anything.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Publishing News!

In bookstores today! Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Writers: a book by writers for writers, including my story "A Time (not) to Write" about my year of writer's burnout. If you're needing a bit of inspiration, here are 101 stories to get you going again.

Creative non-fiction writers out there: Chicken Soup for the Soul is a great paying market. I'm happy to say they've published four of my stories so far. If you think you've written something that might be a good fit for this market, why not run it by me? I'd be glad to give you some feedback.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Allen's acclaimed fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in numerous places both online and in print. Allen has been a finalist at Glimmer Train, a Best of the Net nominee and a two-time Pushcart Prize nominee.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Expat Author Interview with Claudia from Expatclic.com

Claudia from Expatclic.com
Claudia is the founder and coordinator of the website Expatclic.com. After having lived in Sudan, Angola, Guinee-Bissau, Congo Brazzaville, Honduras and Peru, she is presently enjoying a rich and interesting life in Jerusalem. Claudia has two children and speaks Italian, English, French, Spanish and German. 

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IMBO: Claudia, welcome to I Must Be Off! You are the curator of the web site Expatclic.com. How long have you been doing this, and what is its mission?

CLAUDIA: I created Expatclic.com with a French friend almost nine years ago, we launched it in October 2004. Our initial idea was to provide expat women all over the world with an international support platform that would guide them through their transitions from country to country with articles, information, forum discussions, contacts. We wanted to do this in four languages (Italian, English, French, Spanish), with an independent editorial team for each one. Things evolved, and today we still maintain the four languages on the website, but we have one big international team, and quite a number of external collaborators. While the original mission of helping expat women and their families through their transitions has not changed, we have introduced different tools in the course of time – like online courses, competitions, and other fun contests to put expat women in touch. 

IMBO: You've written lots of articles about the expat life. Do you think expats share some common personality traits? Do we all love adventure, or have we all just landed where we are by chance?

CLAUDIA: No, I don't think there are common personality traits originally. Many expats have a terribly difficult time in adjusting to different cultures, while others just jump into it with amazing easiness. What I believe happens with time when you live abroad is that you acquire certain traits, and these are the ones that form a bond within the global expat community worldwide. Living with other cultures opens your mind, teaches you how to change perspective quickly, makes you more flexible, aware and happy, and teaches you a lot about yourself and your home cultures. This "life capital" is acquired in a very spontaneous and almost unconscious way by expats, and becomes part of their personalities often without them realizing it. It's usually when they go back to their home country that they take stock of what the experience has done for them. But I am going far beyond the question, here:-) 

IMBO: That’s OK. Let’s go even further. I like the idea of life capital. I’m sure my life capital has increased since I’ve been in Germany. Learning to appreciate the German “Ordnung” was a great lesson to stick under my belt. Generally, interaction with other cultures helps us learn who we are ourselves. Do you agree with this? And what do you think are the most important lessons we can learn by interacting with other cultures?

CLAUDIA:  I totally agree. I've often been more surprised by my reaction to an unknown cultural fact than by the fact in itself…that made me wonder – “why am I becoming so angry? Why does this scare me so much?” and sent me immediately to my core feelings, to my deepest values… Moving in different cultures really means a global learning: you learn a lot about new lifestyles, codes and values, but also about yourself, about things you had always taken for granted and never analysed.

The most important lessons? Humbleness, I would say, because by realizing that your way of thinking and considering life is not the only one, you also start wondering why you always thought that was the only right way… And empathy. Once you let other ways of life “contaminate” you, your level of empathy towards other human beings increases.

IMBO: Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we were all a bit humbler and a bit more empathetic? I’ve certainly grown in these respects over the last 18 years -- though I have a long way to go. I’m often frustrated by the preconceptions of others, especially when people are outspoken and sarcastically critical about my home country. I find myself becoming defensive though I haven’t lived there (the US) in almost two decades. Do you have similar feelings about Italy? Is Italy still home?

Milano
CLAUDIA: Very interesting question. Yes, I have very similar feelings about Italy, and I always jump up to defend my country from stereotypes (as you can imagine, I have heard mafia, pizza and spaghetti an endless number of times in my life abroad), though recently it’s becoming less and less defendable. I think Italy is still home. Not in a physical sense, though we have a charming little house in Tuscany where we go every summer, and that really gives me feelings that are very close to “feeling home”. It’s mostly in the sense of belonging to what is good in the Italian culture, and to the good values I grew up with in Milan, where I was born, studied, and worked until age 27. Opening my doors, wherever I happen to live in the world, helping people, caring about humanity, enjoying good food and company -- these are all things that my Italian background contributed to enhancing in me, and I am proud of it. The other fantastic thing is that wherever we Italians go, we are always loved and welcome – everybody on earth seems to love and appreciate Italy, and this, I must admit, is a wonderful feeling.

"Once you let other ways of life 'contaminate' you, your level of empathy towards other human beings increases."
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IMBO: You live in Jerusalem now. Do you live directly in the city? I was there a couple of years ago and found it very crowded and hot. What do you love about Jerusalem?

Jerusalem
CLAUDIA: It would be easier to tell you what I don’t love…I live in the city, yes, south of the Old City and on the way to Bethlehem. Jerusalem is the most amazing place I ever happened to live. It’s a throbbing melting pot of cultures, languages, history, injustice, tension, foolishness…especially foolishness… I have never seen such crazy human manifestations as here. Sometimes it feels like being in a movie. Anyway, the city is absolutely delightful from an architectural point of view, and I consider myself lucky to live here today; because the rhythm of change is so fast, in five years this will be a different city altogether. The other totally fascinating factor of Jerusalem is its schizophrenic character. From where I live, at the first traffic light I meet, if I turn right I find myself into the Palestinian occupied area of the city, if I turn left I end up in the Israeli-Jewish side of town, which has a totally different atmosphere, let alone a different language. This makes the whole experience even more fascinating (and somehow hard) because not only do you have to deal with one different culture from yours, but with two, minding also the relationship between the two, which is complex. Anyway, I have not yet met an expat soul that has not loved living here.

The Separation Barrier. (Photo by IMBO)
IMBO: Wow, I sort of know where you live! I know that sounds weird, but I remember the ride into Bethlehem vividly. I snapped a picture of the barrier between the two sides. Is there an organised expat community in Jerusalem. I assume there is. What’s it like?

CLAUDIA: The expat community in Jerusalem is made up 99% by humanitarian organizations and journalists (and religious expats, but they sort of stay to themselves). It is a very specific community, but to explain its features I would have to dive into the Israeli occupation problem, and I know this is very delicate. Anyway, it is pretty organized and meets quite regularly in precise places and around specific activities. Jerusalem is not big, international schools are just a few, so if you are dynamic, you end up knowing a lot of people. Besides, Israelis dislike foreigners – or better, the work foreigners do here – and this creates a sort of camaraderie amongst expats.

IMBO: You’re hosting a contest with big prize money at Expatclic.com. For women. I have a lot of women readers who love to travel and who love to write. Tell us more about the contest.

CLAUDIA: The idea of the contest came from a friend of Expatclic, a lady who had written for us a long time ago, and that came back asking to organize a contest in the memory of her aunt, Maria Pia Forte, who died two years ago, and who had always been an avid traveler, journalist, writer. We were flattered and thrilled at the idea, which is also a big manifestation of trust in Expatclic. Maria Donata, the niece of Maria Pia, has indeed decided to put very interesting prizes on the three categories, which are Stories and Articles, Poems and Photography. The contest celebrates the memory of Maria Pia by inviting women to submit fiction, non fiction, articles, poems or photography on the themes that marked her life: travels, life abroad, meeting cultures and the importance of writing. It is open to all women living abroad (or who lived abroad in the past) and promises to be very participated and exciting! Reception of entries will close on 31st July, and the winners, one per category, will be announced at the beginning of October, on Expatclic’s birthday.  



IMBO: This is exciting. And the prize money is excellent. I’m sure you’ll have a lot of entries. Claudia, I always ask the interviewee to suggest another expat author to my readers. Who would you like us to know about, and what’s special about this expat author?

CLAUDIA: There are actually two women that come to mind. One is Eva Hoffman, a Polish author who moved to Canada when she was 13, and she is still living there to this day. Her book Lost in Translation – life in a new language is absolutely one of my favourite, and a must for all those who want to go deeper into the dynamics of being uprooted and having to make a new life from scratch in an unknown environment. Eva Hoffman is unique in her depth, humanity and accuracy. I love that book and still use it when working with cross-cultural dynamics. The other woman is Jean Calder, an amazing creature, born in Australia, and relocated in Lebanon first, then Egypt and finally to Gaza, where she still lives. Besides her invaluable work for disabled refugees, Jean adopted three disabled Palestinian children (one unfortunately died recently) and eventually relocated to Palestine, which is her children’s land. She wrote a wonderful book, Where theroad leads, that I warmly recommend: it is an amazing account of what has happened in this tormented region in the last five decades, and of the story of a woman that stops in front of nothing to continue her work in search of justice, dignity and human love.

IMBO: What courageous people these are. Thank you for sharing their work with us, Claudia. And thank you for stopping by I Must Be Off! and sharing part of your own story. 

CLAUDIA: Thank you Christopher for the space you give me. I believe that sharing our life experiences abroad enhances the richness of meeting people and cultures, and your blog is certainly a step forward in this direction. Keep up the good work! 

IMBO: Thank you, Claudia!

I must be off,
Christopher 

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations--available from Amazon Anything. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Travel Theme Challenge -- Beaches

Another great excuse to get these photos up and out to the readers of I Must Be Off! A Travel Theme Photo challenge from Where's My Backpack? The irony of these photos is that I'm not a beach person. I can lie on a beach for about three seconds before I'm bored out of my skull and thinking only of how melanoma is growing, spidering all over my body. The other irony, considering my aversion to beaches, is that I have hundreds more of these photos. I've chosen to share thirteen with you.

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On the island of Florianopolis in Brazil. We had a nice walk to this beach and refreshed ourselves at the restaurant that overlooks it. This deserted stand was too cool not to photograph.

I don't have a great relationship with Nice. In fact, if you've kept up with I Must Be Off! you probably know that I've decided I can do without the Côte d'Azur for quite a long time. These chairs can stay empty, and they should stay empty, until Nice figures out a way to make this once-beautiful city safer and more tourist-friendly. Right now Nice is not nice.



OK, I like to take pictures of empty chair at beaches. This is Crete, off-season. It's not cold; there just aren't any people here. No idea why not. This place is nice. 

I've forgotten where this was taken. But it doesn't matter. Love is love wherever you find it. And when I find it, sometimes I snap a picture. I hope these people don't mind.



Ibiza. This island was truly a surprise. I was prepared for a party island overrun by 18-year-olds. They were there of course, but there were also incredibly beautiful beaches and coves. Ibiza is always worth a visit.  

 The legendary "Strandkorb" from the Baltic sea. I have to say they don't look very comfortable, but they are necessary here where the wind picks up the sand and throws it in your face like a bully.


Madeira. A deserted or maybe even abandoned project to revitalize this beach. It looked like the community had been giving it a great shot when the financial crisis hit?

Matt Potter, turn your head away from this one. This is the beach in Acapulco from our hotel room on the 24th floor. That railing in the lower righthand corner only came up to my waist, and I'm really not that tall. We had to put furniture in front of the balcony door at night. I walk in my sleep.


Looking down at the craggy shore below Anacapri on the island of Capri just off the coast of Naples, Italy. 


One of my most favoritest photos of all time. I think these coconuts look like they're singing. It's like a coconut trio on Kuta Beach, Bali. 


The sun setting in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Great memories of sitting at the beach (yes, I did), eating freshly made guacamole and tortilla chips and drinking lots and lots of margaritas. 


Again, the island of Florianopolis in Brazil. I loved the yellow against the blue sky. Next to us, there was a child building sand castles by dribbling wet sand on ever-growing towers. It was a sight, but I never felt comfortable enough to take a photo. 


The sun setting over Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. I went to the beach alone to get this picture on the last day of our stay because I had to have this picture. I got several, none of them very good.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations wtih S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations, available from Amazon Anything.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Werder's Baumblütenfest

Together Against Nazis
At the weekend we attended the second largest Volksfest in Germany, the largest being Oktoberfest of course. When I told my German students here in Munich that I went to the Baumblütenfest in Werder, they all looked at me and said, "Where? The what?"  Apparently, the festival is not so well known south of Berlin, and the organizers, I've been told, have good reason to keep it smallish.

Before heading off to the town where it's held each year at the beginning of May, I couldn't even spell the name of the town. Verda? Werde? Werder? The third one is right. Werder / Havel is about a thirty-minute train ride outside Berlin. When you get out of the train, the place looks like any other small train stop. There's graffiti everywhere and police. Wait, police? Yes, and lots of them. And crowds of motly-looking people. Lots of them.




The festival--called the Baumblütenfest (festival of the tree blossoms, although the English doesn't have a ring to it)--began quietly in 1879 with respectable attendance from the citizens of Berlin. The residents and fruit farmers of the village invited people to enjoy fruit wine and cake in their gardens and orchards--and of course they made a little money doing so.

During the years that Werder was part of the GDR, the festival was essentially forbidden. The residents were not allowed to let people into their gardens, and the sale of fruit wine was drastically restricted.

The Rhubarb Wine that didn't taste like Rhubarb

In 1989, though, things changed. A lot changed. A wall in Berlin came down and gardens in Werder opened back up. Today more than 500,000 people visit the town to take in the beauty of the blooming trees--and to drink copious amounts of the "wine"--which tastes a lot like, well, fruit juice--made from their fruit. Cherry wine, apple wine, peach wine, pear wine, but also rhubarb wine, black currant wine and strawberry wine. There was also dandelion wine, which tasted like a white wine that had been open for six months. It was truly awful. The wines vary greatly in quality. I had two glasses of rhubarb wine, each from different stands, and they tasted nothing alike. The second one actually tasted a little like rhubarb. The best wine I had all day was a black currant wine that tasted a lot like pomegranate juice. Who knows if it was alcoholic at all. It tasted like it had a lot of vitamin C. That's a good thing. Really. Over a period of five hours I had six or seven glasses of this "wine" but never felt drunk.

I can imagine that the Baumblütenfest of Werder was a very different place 100 years ago: a more reserved place, a more pleasant place. Today, the festival is overrun with rowdy young people, all with their personal bottle of fruit wine, which they fill up often. Groups of police officers stand around to make the streets look safer, but they only make me feel as if I need their protection; and when I look at some of the people attending this festival, I think these police officers are necessary. Of course the majority of these packs of youths are harmless, but there are angry types dressed in black with tattoos that indicate they hate you and would really like to hurt you once they've consumed copious amounts of fruit wine--although can a guy who drinks cherry wine really hurt anyone??

Strawberry Wine


As we are sitting in someone's garden and drinking strawberry wine, the discussion turns to Neo-Nazis and the recent demonstrations and counter-demonstrations. A few of the people at the table who were involved in the counter-demonstrations told us about how difficult it was to demonstrate against the Neo-Nazis. In Germany you have to have a permit to demonstrate, so many of the people who showed up to demonstrate against the Neo-Nazis were turned away because no counter-demonstration had been registered. The only way the counter-demonstrators were allowed beyond the barriers was for them to say that they were part of the Neo-Nazi demonstration. I imagine that would be hard to say. It would be hard for me to lie about something like this.

A private garden at the Werder Baumblütenfest. Open to the public.

A private garden at the Werder Baumblütenfest.

The orchards open up for the people to picnic and drink the fruit wine.

The orchards open to the public during the Werder Baumblütenfest.

With the NSU trial heating up in Munich and the recent news of the Jobbik party in Hungary, the topic of Neo-Nazism is everywhere right now. The Jobbik party in Hungary received 17% of the vote, and their platform is based on anti-semitism. This is hard to believe and saddening. And it is especially ironic that beautiful festivals like the Werder Baumblütenfest are threatened by this ideology of hate.

I must be off,
Christopher

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Christopher Allen is the author of Conversations with S. Teri O'Type (a Satire), an episodic adult cartoon about a man struggling with expectations. Available from Amazon Anything. .