46th “Zöppkesmarkt” – A Fleamarket for Solingen

Once every year, over the second weekend in September, the whole of Solingen in North-Rhine Westphalia turns into a fleamarket.

The Zöppkesmarkt, as it is known in the region, is a tradition and currently in its 46th year. There’s a newly crowned Miss Zöpfchen, and around 500 stalls of various kinds from second-hand housewares to professional traders, food stalls, fun groups and everything in between.  It’s a chance for local groups and clubs to introduce themselves and socialise.

The fleamarket covers the area of Clemens Galerien (Shopping Centre), Hauptstrasse (High Street), Fronhof (a market square), Alter Markt (old market square) and all the streets and alleys in between. No matter what you are looking for, chances are that someone, somewhere, is selling it.

The Aul Baseloemker (Solingen dialect for Old Clothes) and their show Der Bätschler (a parody and horrible misspelling of The Bachelor).
The Aul Baseloemker (Solingen dialect for Old Clothes) and their show Der Bätschler (a parody and horrible misspelling of The Bachelor).

Fun groups like Selten Selters (Seldom Selters), Flecken-Lecker (Stain Lickers) and Aul Baseloemker (Old Clothes) have become main attractions. They compete for Best Stall, and they put on shows for their audiences and bargain hunters. They’ll still sell stuff, but every now and then, they gather people round and perform – more often than not in drag. Often, their shows are parodies of TV shows or whatever’s been popular that year. So today there were shows about the Zöppkes World Cup (Selten Selters), Zöppi-Camp (a Flecken-Lecker parody of Jungle Camp/I’m a star, get me out of here) and Der Bätschler (an Aul Baseloemker parody of The Bachelor). The winning team will receive the Dröppelminna (a local form of coffee urn).

The Flecken-Lecker (Stain-Lickers) and their 2014 show Zöppi-Camp
The Flecken-Lecker (Stain-Lickers) and their 2014 show Zöppi-Camp

Zöppken are what we locals call small kitchen knives. In a city that has had the nickname “City of Blades” for hundreds of years, a lot of the local events allude to the cutlery manufacture that is still going strong today. And while the market was never just for knives, you can still find them on sale everywhere.

A stall (by the Scout group Pfandfinder Stamm Sugambrer) selling proper second-hand stuff
A stall (by the Scout group Pfandfinder Stamm Sugambrer) selling proper second-hand stuff

And Solingen does also have a special kind of pageant. The Miss Zöpfchen pageant. There’s no talent show or swim wear section. A Zöpfchen is a braid, so essentially, girls get their photo taken about a month or two before the market, and readers of the local daily Solinger Tageblatt then vote who’s got the nicest braids. Simple. I wish more pageants worked that way. The crowning of the new Miss Zöpfchen officially opens the market and thousands of Solingers descend on the city.

A local saying goes something like this: “If you don’t meet someone you know at the Zöppkesmarkt, then you don’t have friends.”

The Zöppkesmarkt is on until Sunday 14th September 2014 and yours truly will have an (unofficial) stall in her driveway. So come and say hello if you’re in the area or a bargain hunter who fancies the trip!


The Zöppkesmarkt namesake knife. This is a Solinger Zöppken, normally used to cut vegetables and fruits.
The Zöppkesmarkt namesake knife. This is a Solinger Zöppken, normally used to cut vegetables and fruits.

New Horizons

I’ve had fantastic news this week!

On Friday I received confirmation that I have been accepted into the Master of Arts Cross-Cultural Communication programme at Horizons University in France!!


The degree is taught in English and by distance learning, so I can study from home for it.

Four years after gaining my B.A. (Hons) degree I’d almost given up on finding a suitable Master’s degree, as my previous studies in Journalism and Tourism Management are not comaptible with any MA’s taught in Germany.

Then I found Horizons University, sent them my transcript, and got a reply that my academic background would be ideal for the course.

All that’s left now is a bit of admin and the enrollment process. As soon as that goes through I will be a student again!!


In other news: I joined a writers’ group yesterday. They meet once a month and seem to be a very creative bunch. Their meeting place is about 100km away from where I live but they accepted me right away, asked my opinion on items they want to include in an upcoming reading and when I read two scenes from my novel The Bravery of the Soldier (which I had translated from English to German) just to give them an idea of my writing style, they insisted that I should read at their event in October to introduce my writing to a wider audience.

It was the first time I’d got feedback from fellow authors, and as far as I can tell they were impressed, one of them even saying “you can’t leave it there, I want to know more!”

It’s been a great week for my creativity and confidence. Looks like things might finally start to fall into place for me!

The reclining seat conundrum

Just this morning I saw an article on the BBC on the etiquette of reclining seats on flights and I simply had to join that discussion.

Should seats, especially in economy class, recline at all? Is it good or bad? Are you a recliner or pusher-back?

I’m a frequent flyer and have a lot of long-haul flights under my belt. These days, the flights I’m on are mostly short-haul, but I do know what it’s like to be trapped in economy.

People who recline their seats without so much as a “by your leave” are at the very top of my pet peeves list. And believe me when I say I will push back if you try to recline the seat in front of me!

Why? Mainly because I’m just as entitled to my comfort during the flight as you are to yours. If you recline the seat and invade my personal space, then my comfort is compromised. In order to get comfortable again, I’d have to recline my seat and make the person behind me uncomfortable. And I’m simply not that much of a bastard.

More than once I’ve been doused in whatever drink hot or cold was on my tray when the person in front decided to snap their seat back. I’ve ended up with a cut on my head and a mild concussion once, because I was leaning down to retrieve an item from my handbag (stored, as per regulations, under the seat in front) when the seat fully reclined and caught me in the face.

And then I was made to feel like it was my fault my clothes were ruined and my face bloody. I’m sorry, but if I have a tray designed to store my food and drink while on board, why on earth would I not use it when I do have a drink that needs storing?

So, yes, I do push back when I sense the seat in front of me is about to be moved backwards. Because I like my space and I like to rest my book or journal or tablet PC on the tray and work/read/write while I’m on a flight. I push back, until the person either gives up, or asks whether it’s ok for them the recline their seat a bit.

There are some perfectly understandable reasons for reclining your seat, of course. First and foremost, if you are injured and in pain. Stretching your legs, or reclining to relieve pressure and pain are legitimate reasons and I would not stop you. I’ve had to fly while in pain twice (once with a twisted hip and once with slipped discs (both times I had to make the trip to get specialist treatment).

So I do understand, really, I do! But is it too much to tell me “Excuse me, would you mind if I reclined the seat for a few minutes? I do have [insert condition here] and reclining a little would alleviate the pain a bit” ?

Manners go a long way with me. You can recline your seat a bit, I’m fine with that once you’ve asked me. Or if you agree to return to an upright position when they serve drinks and snacks.

But don’t try and recline your seat to maximum as soon as your butt hits the cushion. You’ll end up practically in my lap, and I don’t know you well enough for that. I have found whoopee cushions are a great deterrent!

A new device called Knee Defender made headlines recently and sparked debate. Two tiny clamps, attached to your tray arm, will control how far the person in front of you is able to recline. Personally, I think that’s brilliant! And according to Skyscanner, 9 out of 10 passengers share that sentiment, even going so far as to call for a complete ban of reclining seats.

Knee Defenders in use
Knee Defenders in use

When people find their seats when boarding a flight, they already have to bend a weird way to sit down, being limited by the overhead lockers and seats in front.

Every passenger on every flight I’ve ever been on, pushed themselves up and out of their seats at the end of the flight, using the seat in front for leverage. So there’s clearly not enough room to start with to get up straight and comfortable.

Have you ever tried to leave your seat to go to the lavatories when your own seat is upright but at least one in the row in front is reclined and the person next to you on the aisle is asleep? It’s a nightmare! You have to bend this way and that to avoid sitting on your seat neighbour’s lap and squeeze through reduced space. It’s one of the reasons I now opt for aisle seats during long-haul flights.

And really, especially on short-haul flights: do you really need to lay back? You wouldn’t be able to on a 1 1/2 hour train or bus ride, so what makes flying so different?

If you really want more legroom to stretch then either sit on one of the emergency exit rows (they always have more legroom) or pay to fly in a different class where more legroom is offered! Or maybe, just like people who the airline deems “too fat” to fit in one seat and are made to purchase the seat next to them as well, people who do want the freedom of reclining when and where they want should purchase the seat behind them so they don’t knock someone’s dinner over when they suddenly decide that upright is no way to travel.

Don’t get me wrong, I can see why the idea of reclining seats is appealing. Especially on a long-haul flight you want to be comfortable and relax when you’ve got nowhere to go for the foreseeable future.

And on night-time or red-eye flights, a lot of passengers want to catch up on sleep. It’s not a problem if everyone reclines their seat, but I at least ask whether it’s ok and check whether the person behind me has their tray down before I even think about pressing that button.

I for one don’t usually sleep on flights. The engine noise and cold air circulation make my nose and skin dry and my head hurt, so I often sit there and read or watch a film or work on my tablet PC. I’m perfectly fine with resting my head against the cabin wall when I’ve got the window seat, or have my chin rest on my chest just like it always did on long car journeys when I was a kid.

Recently, I’ve found that less people reclined their seats on the flights I’ve been on. I just hope it’s a continuing trend!


What’s your opinion when it comes to reclining seats on planes?

The truth about cheap flights

I’ve just come across this little gem while wasting time researching on Youtube.

It’s a song by Fascinating Aïda called “Flights for 50p” and there is a lot of truth in it. Having worked for a budget airline and dealt with the complaints before, I know what they are talking about!

I have to say however, that I once managed to get a return flight to Dublin for 2p total with Ryanair. However, in that case, I had to travel without luggage, travel at stupid o’clock from an airport 3 hours away and not book any insurance whatsoever.

Forgive the language (they’ve already toned it down a little bit), but watch til the end. It is hilarious!

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