30 April 2009


Tonight Erfurt is celebrating Walpurgisnacht, a celebration derived for pre-Christian customs but associated with Saint Walpurga, born in Devon about 710. On the square in front of the Cathedral, a bonfire has been built surrounded by stands selling beer and Thuringian Bratwurst, In Germany, though, Walpurgisnacht is also associated with Goethe's Faust, where Faust, pushed on by Mephistopheles, meets a Witch. Depending on the version you are reading, the person Faust meets could also be called Beauty, The Pretty Witch or The Young One. Goethe gives us the name of the person Faust meets. She is called: Lilith. This would all be off post were it not for the fact that Walpurgisnacht in Faust is set in the Harz mountains, which straddled the border between East and West Germany. The highest mountain, the Brocken, where the action takes place, constituted a security zone inside East Germany. Border troops took up quarters at the Brocken railway station, and the Soviet Red Army used a large portion of territory. The entire Brocken plateau was then surrounded by a concrete wall, since dismantled. In other words, the border between East and West Germany not only divided the two states but cut to the heart of Germany's literary classic. The photos are from Leipzig outside Auerbach's Keller, where in Faust a group of students are bewitched by Mephistopheles.


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