Leipzig’s peaceful revolution led to fall of Berlin Wall

Prayer for Peace in St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

Prayer for Peace in St. Nicholas Church in Leipzig, Germany. (Photo courtesy of Leipzig Tourism and Marketing)

By Richard Irwin, Staff Writer

Strangely enough, the fall of the Berlin Wall 25 years ago began with a peaceful revolution in Leipzig. The nonviolent demonstrations for democracy and peace began here, then spread throughout East Germany.

Stranger still, I now had family in Leipzig. My niece married a German businessman from this charming city and they volunteered to show me around, her 4- and 6-year-olds serving as my friendly translators.

Our little caravan marched down the same streets where thousands of demonstrators demanded freedom. Freedom of speech, freedom to travel, freedom for political reform.

This powerful movement began with morning peace prayers at St. Nicholas Church on Sundays in November 1982. Over the years, the movement grew and the demonstrations moved to Mondays.

In October 1989, the peaceful protestors filled the streets shouting “We are the people,” “Freedom, free elections” and “Freedom for the prisoners.”

The large police force couldn’t cope with the huge nonviolent crowds. Later, 120,000 people from all over East Germany joined the demonstrations, demanding freedom at long last.

Finally, Erich Honecker, the head of the Communist Party, left office after 18 years for “health reasons.” On Nov. 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened. East and West Germany were finally reunited.

“These events were of immense historical importance for Germany, and also played a key role in shaping the course of European unity,” notes Petra Hedorfer, chief executive of the German National Tourist Board.

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Win a trip to Germany in this Iinstagram photo contest

As part of its the worldwide photo contest on Instagram http://iconosquare.com/contests/germany25reunified, the German National Tourist Board is searching for the best pictures with the theme:  “My summer holiday in Germany – 25 years after the fall of the wall” until mid-August.

Travellers to Germany can tag and upload these using #germany25reunified on Facebook and Instagram. A first prize of a round-trip flight to Berlin with two nights at Hotel Lindner at Kurfürstendamm, will be present to the winner by the GNTB.

Further accommodation prizes include stays at Europa-Park in Rust, at Ringhotels and the German Youth Hostel Association. The GNTB will selects the best photos according to the creativity and relevance to the topic.

The current campaign and theme page http://www.germany.travel/faszination-einheit are also being promoted additionally through a separate Facebook campaign.

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German traditions and customs are theme for 2015

Many regional traditions and customs are still alive and well in Germany today. Having long been a manufacturing nation, Germany places special emphasis on handcrafted products, and its volkfest festivals are unlike anything else in the world.

At funfairs, festivals and Christmas markets, visitors can experience a wealth of traditions that are deeply rooted in society. These include regional dishes and traditional dress as well as art, music and culture.

According to the latest Quality Monitor survey of the German tourism industry, the traditions and history of a region are among the top ten reasons cited by international visitors for choosing their holiday destination.

That is why the German National Tourist Board (GNTB) has decided to put the Traditions and Customs theme at the center of its global sales and marketing activities in 2015.

“Traditions and customs are an integral part of Germany’s appeal as a cultural destination, while also being key facets of the core Destination Germany brand,” says Petra Hedorfer, Chief Executive Officer of the GNTB. “The idea of our themed campaign for 2015 is to make travelers more aware of this.”

The campaign promoting traditions and customs will highlight three aspects in 2015. One of these is culinary Germany with regional cuisine.

The second comprises the living traditions in Destination Germany, which are reflected in its huge number of festivals – from carnivals and cultural events to marksmen’s parades and theatre extravaganzas. Traditional costume and dance play an important part in this.

The third key theme of the campaign is arts and crafts, and this will give international travelers a deeper insight into music, handicrafts and craft villages in Germany.

The campaign will be promoted internationally, both online and offline. The main focus will be the GNTB’s website www.germany.travel.

An events database is also being created, which will include dates and events related to the 2015 theme of Traditions and Customs.

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