On this page we report on some of the highlights from the birthday week events around the Oberspreewald, and bring you one of the guest presentations from the 8th Ludwig Leichhardt Conference in Goyatz.
22-23 October 2013 marked the climax of a year of divese events throughout Brandenburg ~ you can read (in German) and see (images, slideshows) more on our sister website here. The two days in October spanned a fascinating range of topics and picturesque locations, demonstrating vividly the enthusiasm and passion with which Leichhardt's birthplace and legacies are honoured by people today.
And, in a pleasant surprise, it turned out that more than just one or two Australians were on hand for the festivities. A party of Queenslanders, keen Leichhardt enthusiasts themselves, made a particular diversion in their European travels when they learned of the program. Such was their enthusiasm, they doggedly followed both the quiet country roads of the Oberspreewald and the formal proceedings in German, and were a hit with the Conference audience with their unexpected appearance and a few passionate words on stage. It was terrific to have you there, and the local attendees were certainly impressed with your dedicated pilgrimage!
The reports below are presented in the approximate sequence in which the events occurred. The Leichhardt Dahlias somehow managed to attend most of them, so they will make their own appearance below.
Double-jubilee in Tauche
The Ludwig-Leichhardt-Grundschule ('junior school') is one of three Leichhard-named schools in the region, the others being the Oberschule ('middle school') in Goyatz - which hosted the Conference - and the Gymnasium ('high school') in Cottbus. Tauche is a small municipality about 5km southwest of Beeskow, on the northern edge of the Oberspreewald region ... and the school has some amazingly gifted young didgeridoo players! Read more here.
Australian artist's memorial 'stele' unveiled
Years of passionate commitment and painstaking work paid off for Australian artist Sue Hayward with the unveiling of her striking memorial 'stele' on the edge of the Schwielochsee. On a beautiful autumn afternoon, Australia's Ambassador to Germany, Peter Tesch, and the Amt Lieberose/Oberspreewald director, Bernd Boschan, performed the unveiling. Filmed by television news crews and photographers, they were also watched by some of the 200-strong 'mob' of straw kangaroos which were placed all over Berlin and Brandenburg during the Bicentenary year. See the pictures and read more here.
Passionate historians in Trebatsch
There's a Ludwig Leichhardt Museum in this little village, on the opposite bank of the Spree to Leichhardt's birthplace in Sabrodt, which simply has to be seen to be believed! Volunteer museum director Mr André Parade and his team have compiled an amazing collection of memorabilia, both German and Australian. The equally-inspired locals have also been busily creating artworks and sculptures around the village this year as well. It was a privilege to be able to add some very special items to the museum's already extensive collection, and you can read more and see the pictures here.
Not 'Daleks' - Dahlias!
We have already alluded to the almost preternatural ability of this very large tub of flowering plant to make an appearance at many of the events ~ it's time to introduce it formally here. As a naturalist and explorer, Leichhardt invariably named his discoveries after others - his sponsors, supporters, suppliers and friends. It was left to later scientists and botanists to name creatures and plants after the great man himself. German horticulturists have kept that tradition alive in 2013 with the cultivation a commemorative "Leichhardt Dahlia". The fruits - sorry, flowers - of several years' effort received a bronze medal at the Hamburg International Garden Show earlier in 2013, and a 'certificate of baptism' on 17 August ...you can find out more here.
Formal Festakt in Cottbus
The official opening of the two-day proceedings took place in the city's famous 'Weltspiegel' theatre on the evening of 22 October. Hosted by the Lord Mayor of Cottbus, visiting dignitaries included the Premier of the state of Brandenburg and Australia's Ambassador to Germany. A packed venue watched film of the earlier unveiling of Sue Hayward's memorial 'stele' before being treated to a performance of four excerpts from the opera "Voss". Ambassador Peter Tesch was invited to sign the city's famous "Golden Book" to mark the Bicentenary occasion, and the evening rounded-off with a choice of viewing of Australian films and a lively cocktail reception. Read more and see the pictures here.
8th Leichhardt Conference, Goyatz
Early next morning, on 23 October, more than 120 delegates, visitors, guests and locals reassembled in the Mehrsweckhalle of the Ludwig-Leichhardt-Oberschule in Goyatz for the special 200th anniversary conference. Distinguished guests included present and former members of the German Parliament, the Brandenburg State Secretary for Youth, Sport and Education, the Australian Ambassador and a small team from the Embassy in Berlin ... and Ludwig Leichhardt himself ~ the great-great-great-nephew of the famous explorer! You can read more about the Conference, including one of the keynote presentations from a visiting Aussie, and see full report and pictures here.