The card game Skat was developed around 1811 by residents of Altenburg. It is a three-handed, thirty-two card game.
The new game spread to the University in nearby Leipzig and from there was carried all over Germany. By 1876 immigrants had brought it to the United States.
Here you can read the rules - ready to beat me - the Lord of Skat ;-)
Buildings under repair (or not) in Wettinerstraße
1. Derelict buildings in Wettinerstraße
2. Another derelict villa across the street
3. For Sale sign on the old villa
The Wettinerstraße was no doubt a very impressive street in former times.
It leads from the railroad station (built in 1876) to the Lindenau Museum (also built 1876), and was lined with imposing villas built by well-to-do local families in the prosperous decades of the 1870s and 1880s.
Today many of these villas seem to be standing empty. Some are slowly being repaired (like the one on the left in the first photo), others not (like the one on the right).
Some of these villas now belong to the city housing authority, which is trying to sell them ("For Sale" sign in the third photo).
GPS 50°59'40.04" North; 12°26'37.57" East
One of the stops on the railroad line between Leipzig and Altenburg is called Bohlen Werke = Bohlen Works.
This is an industrial area that was developed starting in 1920 to make use of the brown coal coming from nearby open-pit mines.
Until 1990 well over six thousand people worked here, and most of them commuted by train to and from this station.
Now the work force is much smaller, but local and some regional trains still stop here, though the actual station building is no longer used and has been boarded up.
During the forty years of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) the Bohlen Works were a state-owned conglomerate. The works were taken over by the Dow Chemical Company in 1995.
GPS 51°11'4.54" North; 12°23'2.41" East
1. Lindenau Museum
2. Plaster cast of an antique statue in Hotel Astor
3. Poster about the Lindenau Museum
The Lindenau Museum was named after the statesman, scholar and art collector Bernhard August von Lindenau (1779 - 1854), who donated his large private art collection and library to the museum shortly before his death.
The museum includes plaster casts of statues from Antiquity and the Renaissance -- but the one in my second photo was on display in the Hotel Astor, which is where I took the picture.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 12:00 to 18:00, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 to 18:00. Closed Mondays. Admission is 4 Euros, or only 2 Euros if you are entitled to a reduction.
Opera in Altenburg
Altenburg is a city in the eastern part of Germany which has lost 35 % of its population in the past quarter century.
In 1981 the city had 55,827 inhabitants. Now twenty-eight years later the population is down to 35,735 -- roughly the size of Beloit, Wisconsin or Urbandale, Iowa.
Most of this decline has happened since German reunification in the early 1990s, as people started moving west in search of jobs.
Amazingly, this small city with its shrinking population still has a full-scale theater that does an ambitious program of live opera and drama -- though to survive the theater had to merge several years ago with the one in nearby Gera. Now the combined theater and opera company presents the same productions in both cities on different evenings.
In 2003 I saw a very good performance here in Altenburg of the opera Die tote Stadt (The Dead City) by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), which I also saw four years later in the West German city of Hagen.
Hagen is nearly six times as big as Altenburg, but it also looked rather dead when I was there to see The Dead City, which was on a very grey, rainy and unseasonably cold weekend in May 2007.
Altenburg means "Old Castle", and there is indeed an old castle up on the hill in front of the theater.
The castle has been there in one form or another for a thousand years at least. It was gradually turned into a palace in the first half of the 18th century, when it became the second residence of the dukes of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg.
The palace complex includes among other things a church with a famous organ that Johann Sebastian Bach once played.
One of the most popular card games in Germany is called Skat. While I can't really claim to understand the game (much less play it), I'm told that it is played by three or four people using a 32-card deck. It involves bidding and taking tricks, which are then added up by a very complicated system.
Skat was invented in Altenburg around 1810. The German Skat Society is still based here, as it the German Skat Court, which is supposed to settle disputes involving the game. So Altenburg likes to call itself the Skat City, which in German is something of a tongue-twister: Skatstadt.