Seiffen, Germany 6-13

July 13, 2013

As we headed southwest, we saw a slight detour that would bring us to the town of Seiffen. The earliest record of the town is from 1324. It sits in the heart of the Erzgebirge, or the Ore Mountains, once rich with silver and tin deposits. Miners opened up the district 700 years ago, but as the silver and tin deposits declined, they had to look for new ways to feed their families. In addition to lace making and weaving, the inhabitants went into woodcarving. Their specialties are nutcrackers, smoking men, “pyramids” (carousels with figures of the Christmas story) and Schwibbogen (wooden arcs with candles which are displayed on mantles and windows). The town is also famous for wooden toy making and their toy museum is well worth a visit. It houses the largest carousel pyramid in the world (18 ft tall) and some of the items are well over 120 years old. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seiffen

Maybe you have seen the famous Nutcracker Man or the Christmas Pyramids in gift shops. If they were made in Germany, they came from the Seiffen area. We first noticed them at the Nürnberger Christkindl’ market (Germany) many years ago and had wanted one ever since. We prefer to buy such crafts at the source, and here we were in Seiffen…

One of the most important innovations in Seiffen was the development of Hoop Turning or Gap Ring manufacturing. We visited the Ore Mountains Open Air Museum to see Hoop Turning and basked weaving up close.

Back in town, there were dozens of shops and small home-factories from which to choose our treasures. We are now the proud owners of a candle powered pyramid carousel, an authentic nutcracker and a jolly smoking watchman. Unfortunately, they will all stay in storage in Switzerland until we can ship them home to enjoy them at some future Christmas.

This large outdoor Christmas Pyramid is wind powered.

This large outdoor Christmas Pyramid is wind powered.

Some of the Christmas Pyramids on display in the Erzgebirge Toy Museum were very elaborate.

Some of the Christmas Pyramids on display in the Erzgebirge Toy Museum were very elaborate.

With hundreds to choose from, we had a hard time to select our Christmas Pyramid and Nutcracker Man. Our Christmas Pyramid is the traditional style powered the heat of candles.

With hundreds to choose from, we had a hard time to select our Christmas Pyramid and Nutcracker Man. Our Christmas Pyramid is the traditional style powered the heat of candles.

With a small piece of incense placed inside, the “Smoking Man” appears to be blowing smoke out his mouth. It's hard to see in the photo.

With a small piece of incense placed inside, the “Smoking Man” appears to be blowing smoke out of his mouth. It’s hard to see in the photo (on the right).

Using memory and feel, master craftsmen shape “hoops” from the carefully chosen tree trunks on a lathe.

Using memory and feel, master craftsmen shape “hoops” from the carefully chosen old fir tree trunks on a lathe.

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When the ring is separated from the base log, it may contain as many as 40 miniature animals. See the elephants in front of the cutting log.

When the ring is separated from the base log, it may contain as many as 40 miniature animals. See the elephants in front of the cutting log.

When “sliced” from the “hoop” or ring of wood, in this example you see little rabbits.

When “sliced” from the “hoop” or ring of wood, in this example you see little rabbits.

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The size and shape of each design is created on the lathe by the craftsman’s memory and his skill as an artist.

The size and shape of each design is created on the lathe by the craftsman’s memory and his skill as an artist.

The old waterwheel under the shop still turns, but today the power comes from electric motors.

The old waterwheel under the shop still turns, but today the power comes from electric motors.

Basked weaving was also an important industry in Steffen.

Basked weaving was also an important industry in Steffen.

Fields of rapeseed (canola family) gave some color to the German countryside.

Fields of rapeseed (canola family) gave some color to the German countryside.

One Response to “Seiffen, Germany 6-13”

  1. Gary/Monika,
    Trip of a lifetime, wish we were there with you.
    Thanks for sharing your adventures with us.

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