The passionate show-woman Welda Heinen has sold gingerbread, Kletzenbrot (dried fruit bread) and her famous roasted almonds for almost 40 years – and in doing so, this involves so much more…
“Prinz” (prince) is written in icing on one of the ginger bread hearts. “Ich liebe dich” (I love you). And “Frohe Weihnachten” (Merry Christmas). At Welda Heinen’s stand on the Mannheimer Weihnachtsmarkt (Mannheim Christmas fair), you almost find yourself disappearing in the midst of all the witch’s cottages, elk heads, lollipops, hundreds and thousands and frog wine gums. Nevertheless, many clients know exactly what they are going to buy: Kletzenbrot. Made of dates, almonds and figs and mixed with nuts, dried pears and raisins. Not too sweet, not to sticky. A small delicacy made of rye dough.
When you buy candyfloss, ginger bread, Hutzelbrot (another dried fruit bread) or this special type of bread, Kletzenbrot, at the Wasserturm (Mannheim Water Tower), you are probably in search of the taste of your childhood, of Grandma’s biscuits or of Christmas – and of the saleswoman’s face. Welda Heinen is used to it. She lives and loves this stand. And she knows that first of all it is about what is sold here. And secondly, about who is selling it. But Welda Heinen is not just any show-woman, who sells confectionary from the stand’s counter for the short duration of a Christmas fair.
“In my profession, the people matter,” Welda Heinen says. It’s about quality, local tradition – and about time.
Around 40 years have passed since the Heinen family put up their first Christmas fair stand at the Mannheim Wasserturm. And the tradition of being in the show-people business already goes back many generations: Even her grandparents travelled as show people in a caravan. Her grandmother came from a family of actors, who wandered around with a touring company, in which her mother played the leading role. “My father was a high-wire artist,” the 65-year-old remembers. Life “on the square” was common not only to her parents but also to her grandparents and great-grandparents. “I was born and grew up in a caravan,” says the show-woman, who lives in the town of Worms today. Sliding doors separated the children’s environment from the parents’ section – theoretically. The family used to live close together, not only in spatial terms. Apart from school lessons, the parents and the children spent their time together, assembling and dismantling and travelling to kermises and fairs.