Street Art by Markus Janista, Oberursel

Our popular local graffiti artist, Markus ‘Canister’ Janista, passed away last summer. His life has come to an end, but his art lives on.

I’ve only known him as the artist who beautifies the grey and smudgy junction boxes (German: Stromverteilerkasten) around town.

Ladybug – Street Art by Markus Janista

 

Dragonfly – Street Art by Markus Janista

The Woman on the German 50 Pfennig Coin is from Oberursel

In 2002, Germany, along with some other countries, changed over to the euro currency. Before that we had our Deutsche Mark (DM) and Pfennig for cents.

The woman, depicted on the 50 Pfennig coin, is from Oberursel. Her name is Gerda Jo Werner, and this is her story.

Gerda was a painter and a long-time art teacher at the local Volkshochschule (VHS)*. She was married to the sculptor Richard Martin Werner, who soon passed away in 1949, right at the time when the first German money for the Federal Republic was coined.

The ‘Bank Deutscher Länder’ association invited artists to submit designs for the new coins. The new designs should include images of Germany’s reconstruction after WWII.

In 1948, the local painter and sculptor Richard Martin Werner submitted a design showing a young woman planting an oak tree. This was to symbolize a new beginning; the change from the ruins of war to a new life full of hopes in the Federal Republic of Germany.

The young woman depicted in his design was his wife, Gerda. Werner’s design was chosen over seven other entries from well-known artists.

On 14 Feb 1949, the first 50 Pfennig coins came into circulation. The coin was viewed as the most beautiful German coin at the time, and being unusual for the only one showing a woman.

The artist was also famous for some other works, one of them the ‘Die Läuferin am Start’ (The runner at the Start Line), a plastic sculpture for the Olympic Games in 1936, for which he received a bronze medal in the arts.

When he died in 1949, he missed out on the triumph of his coin design. By the end of the DM/Pfennig era in 2001, more than 2 billion coins had been in circulation.

The 50 Pfennig woman on the coin, a local resident, died at the age of almost 90 years in Oberursel in August 2004.

I did not know about her – until she died.

50 Pfennig coin (Deutsch Mark)

* adult education center

Christmas Cards from Germany

Sending Christmas cards is not a common German tradition. As a matter of fact, the only cards I get from Germans are sent by the ones who had lived overseas and are familiar with this tradition. In most German homes, they are neither hung up on the door, nor strung over the fireplace, with the latter being a rare commodity in this country anyway.

When I was a child, the only cards we ever sent were to aunts, uncles, and cousins who lived out of town. Calling each one would have been too expensive then, so a Christmas postcard was sent.

The tradition of sending Christmas greetings originated in Great Britain in the early 19th century. It was common practice to write seasonal messages on calling cards and then deliver them on the next call. Then there came the postal system and that was the beginning of sending one’s festive greetings by regular mail.

Over the years, the then rather plain German Christmas postcard has evolved into some finer Christmas cards sent in envelopes. Some of the most beautiful ones are done by the artist Allmuth Gutberlet, who paints seasonal images of the towns such as Kronberg, Bad Homburg und Oberursel.

We do appreciate her cards as they depict wintery scenes of places we know so well. This one shows St. Ursula Church.

A. Gutberlet

 Seen from the corner of the Oberursel Market Square (Marktplatz)

A. Gutberlet

Oberursel’s Historic Town Hall (Historisches Rathaus) dating from 1479

A.Gutberlet

Again, this is the Oberursel Market Square with its fountain and the street leading up to the Historic Town Hall.

A.Gutberlet

These cards can be purchased at various Christmas Markets around the region. Some of the local stationary shops sell them as well.

Is sending Christmas cards by mail bad on the environment? Should we only send digital seasonal greetings?

I do care about my personal carbon foot print in most respects, but when it comes to cards, I will stick to the non-green tradition. Call me a romantic, if you like.