Intern Q&A: Lukas Behrenbeck

Name: Lukas Behrenbeck

Where you’re from: Köln/Cologne

Where and what you’re studying:  I’m studying International Administration and Global Governance in Gothenburg, Sweden.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy? 

There is no doubt that Chancellor Merkel’s visit was a highlight. Sitting up close during her press conference with President Trump in the White House felt surreal, since clearly every word they uttered and every move they made mattered a whole lot politically. But I was also glad to have been involved in the surrounding logistics of her visit.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

Although Germany’s new international role has started to materialize since as early as the 1990s, the process of adjusting its foreign policy vis-à-vis its international commitments and expectations is far from over. The questions about German history which my non-German friends ask me shows not only that it still matters, but also that German foreign policy must remain inherently multilateral. At the same time, I am convinced that foreign policy is a fluid process which needs outreach and steady engagement with society. Thus, managing domestic and international expectations is a major foreign policy challenge I believe.

What are some cultural impressions you gained of the United States?

Many cultural aspects are often portrayed as “typically American”, something unique and at times bizarre to non-Americans. Short-term visitors may feel vindicated, but a closer look reveals that the US still is such a diverse country. Anything that seems strange has a more familiar counterpart. Maybe that’s simply because of the big population, but maybe that’s also a result of the powerful narrative as a land of the free.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

I lived in Columbia Heights, which has many faces but its Latino influence really struck me. I absolutely loved that.

What do you miss about Germany?

More convenient public transportation.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

From afar, diplomacy sometimes seems like a perfected discipline performed by high-flyers. However, diplomacy is in fact a fragile network that hinges on the commitment of every involved individual. And yes, just as in real life, small acts of friendship and gratitude can make a big difference. In practice, this means that you can approach basically anyone if you are open-minded and affable.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Staying healthy. Lots of interesting evening events curtail your time for cooking, and nutritious products are rare in supermarkets as are supermarkets themselves. You can go running, but there are only two calisthenics parks in town.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

For any Kölsche (someone from Cologne), moving out of sight of the cathedral is a painful step. However, international relations and especially the Middle East are big fascinations of mine, which draws me back to that region. Ultimately, I’ll do what I’ve planned on since high school and apply for the Foreign Service.

Sauerkraut: Germany’s cuisine for colder months

It might not be difficult to guess that Sauerkraut is a popular dish in Germany; after all, it is a German word. But this well-known German dish – which directly translates to “sour cabbage” – is also widespread in the United States, and has been used in American English since 1776.

Sauerkraut is a form of chopped cabbage that has been salted, fermented and often flavored with additional spices and ingredients such as juniper berries. In Germany, it is often served with pork, sausage or potatoes. Traditionally it is also consumed on New Year’s Eve to bring good luck and wealth during the new year.

The origins of Sauerkraut, however, can be traced back to 200 B.C., when Chinese cooks were pickling cabbage in wine. When Genghis Khan invaded China, he allegedly took the recipe for fermented cabbage and modified it, using salt instead of wine. When the Tatars (Mongolian tribes) arrived in Europe not long thereafter, they brought Sauerkraut with them, and the dish became popular in Eastern Europe and Germanic regions.

Sauerkraut was particularly valuable in northern climates because it could be preserved and consumed all throughout the winter. By allowing the dried cabbage to ferment, sugars are turned into lactic acid, which function as a preservative and allow for the long-term storage of the dish. The fermented cabbage also retains many of its nutrients and is a good source of dietary fiber, folate, iron, potassium, copper and manganese. In fact, Europeans have long used Sauerkraut to treat stomach ulcers and soothe the digestive tract.

Although Sauerkraut was not invented in Germany, it became a part of German cuisine and culture, and when German immigrants came to the US, they brought Sauerkraut with them. The dish was particularly useful for long voyages across the Atlantic, since it could be so easily preserved. The Pennsylvania Dutch, which settled in Lancaster County, made Sauerkraut one of their specialties, and continue to serve it on New Year’s Eve as a symbol of good fortune.

World War I led to the development of anti-German sentiment in the US. For the duration of the war, Sauerkraut was referred to as “liberty cabbage.” Today, however, the dish continues to be known by its German name, Sauerkraut.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Travel Tuesday: The Pig Museum

Countless plush pigs are presented in the pig museum in Stuttgart, Germany. The Stuttgart pig museum displays more than 50,000 lucky pigs, piggy banks and plush pigs. © dpa / picture-alliance

Are your kids tired of spending hours in “boring” museums?

Take them to the Pig Museum in Stuttgart, Germany!

This museum features 25 themed rooms with more than 50,000 different pigs, ranging from piggy banks to stuffed animal pigs. Visitors can learn about the evolution of different species of pigs, as well as myths and legends about pigs from around the world.

This museum is less than ordinary – and its history is unusual, too. The concept began when Erika Wilhelmer, the owner of the museum and an avid pig paraphernalia collector, decided to convert a slaughterhouse into a museum in 1988. Over the years, her collection grew – and in 1992 the Guinness Book of World Records declared it the world’s largest pig museum. Once the museum had reached 40,000 pig items, it was relocated to its current location in Stuttgart.

Whether you find pigs adorable or you have an appetite for them, the Pig Museum in Stuttgart is sure to teach you something new about these intelligent farm animals! And when you’re finished exploring the history and culture surrounding pigs, you can relax in the beer garden and order some delicious Swabian delicacies.

A tram decorated as a pig stands in front of the pig museum in Stuttgart, Germany. © dpa / picture-alliance
Countless piggy banks are presented in the pig museum in Stuttgart. © dpa / picture-alliance

The World Cup and its influence on German history

The German National Team before their final game in the 1954 World Cup. © dpa / picture-alliance

The 2018 World Cup has begun! With the games currently underway in Russia, let’s take a look back at some of Germany’s most important matches – and the meaning these games had for the German people.

During the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, West Germany took home the gold, beating Hungary 3-2. At the time, Europe was still recovering from World War II, and Germany was struggling to rebuild itself and its reputation in the global community. The World Cup victory gave Germany a newfound sense of pride and happiness. Some historians even consider this victory a turning point for post-war Germany.

“It was a kind of liberation for the Germans from all the things that weighed down upon them after the Second World War,” wrote German historian Joachim Fest. “July 4, 1954 is in certain aspects the founding day of the German Republic.”

Twenty years later, West Germany became the host of the 1974 World Cup, which reinforced Germany’s sense of community on the world stage. The West German team also won the championship that year. But one of the most memorable moments in German soccer was when West Germany experienced its only loss of the tournament in a game against East Germany, thanks to a goal scored by Jürgen Sparwasser.

The fall of the wall marked another turning point in German soccer: the 1990 World Cup was once again won by the West German team, but it was clear that this would be the last time Germany competed with two teams. The victory was celebrated by both German teams, and a few months later, they were united. At the time, German soccer player Franz Beckenbauer was convinced that the united team would become unbeatable in the years to come.

Germany beats Argentina in the 1990 World Cup. © dpa / picture-alliance

And of course, most of us remember Germany’s most recent World Cup victory from 2014, which was also Germany’s first champion title since the 1990 championship.

Since the establishment of the World Cup in 1930, Germany has claimed four World Cup victories and hosted the games twice. Germany’s first World Cup game of 2018 took place on Sunday against Mexico and the second match will be held this coming Saturday against Sweden. Who will you be rooting for? We want to see photos from your soccer watch parties on social media! Be sure to tag us @germanyinusa – we will be reposting fun photos in which we see your German pride!

Word of the Week: Fanmeile

© dpa / picture-alliance

During big televised sporting events – like the World Cup – thousands of Germans gather in the streets to watch the games together on large screens throughout the city. They will usually be waving flags, cheering and sporting their favorite team’s colors. In German, this sort of area is called a Fanmeile (“fan mile”) – a public space that is transformed during significant sporting events.

With the 2018 World Cup about to begin, Fanmeilen will be popping up all over Germany. This summer in Berlin, the street between the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Column will be transformed into a massive Fanmeile (the largest in Germany!), complete with food and drink stands. Television screens will air the games while up to 100,000 people gather on the street to watch.

Germans sometimes refer to a Fanmeile as a “public viewing”, which they use to describe places that air sports games. But while a public viewing can also take place in a smaller locale such as a bar, restaurant, school or church, Fanmeilen are large-scale outdoor regions that typically accommodate thousands of people.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Fanmeilen originated in Germany during the 2006 World Cup, which means they are still relatively new. In 2006, Germany hosted the World Cup – but not everyone could get tickets. FIFA-sponsored Fanmeilen were therefore set up for people without tickets to watch the games. The concept was a huge success, and the screenings became events in themselves – especially the screening of the Germany vs. Argentina game in the 2006 World Cup quarter-finale. The longest Fanmeile was located in Berlin and brought together 900,000 soccer enthusiasts.

Consequentially, the word Fanmeile was selected by the Gesellschaft für Deutsche Sprache as the 2006 Word of the Year.

Berlin’s Fanmeile is still the largest World Cup viewing area in Germany – and the number of fans will surely increase if Germany makes it into the finals this summer. Additionally, Fanmeilen have popped up all over Europe – including countries like Austria and Switzerland.

Whether or not you’re a soccer fan, make sure to check out a Fanmeile if you’re in Germany. It’s the experience that counts!

By Nicole Glass, Editor of The Week in Germany

Intern Q&A: Marvin Nowak

Name: Marvin Nowak

Where you’re from: Pretty much my entire (30-people-strong) family lives in a small village called Ofden, which is close to the historically not insignificant city of Aachen. I’ve always envied people who get to visit relatives all over Germany, but meeting half your family while walking the dog certainly has some upsides. I feel fortunate to have grown up there.

Where and what you’re studying: I’m currently finishing my master’s in North American Studies at the University of Bonn – so getting to intern in DC was a much appreciated opportunity.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

Having worked closely with the protocol department to organize and help carry out pretty much every event at the Ambassador’s Residence over the last three months has provided me with a close-up look of diplomacy at work. To see how international relations are eventually translated into relationships between individual people was inspiring and has helped to put things into perspective. Being here for the visits of Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Maas definitely felt like a privilege. I’ll never forget anxiously waiting for the Chancellor’s motorcade at the Residence while receiving arrival updates from Secret Service.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

You’ve probably read several passionate pleas for a unified Europe in this section. But yes, we’ll have to continue working hard to convince people of the added value of a strong European Union that gets to speak with one voice on the world stage. Excuse the political jargon – I’ve spent too much time in DC!

What are some cultural impressions you gained of the United States?

I first arrived in the States as a 16-year-old exchange student. Having been back several times, I’ve come to appreciate the general positive vibe and the optimistic outlook of the American people. All stereotypical superficiality aside, Germans would do good to take in some of that “it’ll work out in the end” mindset.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

I didn’t expect DC to be so colorful – and I don’t just say that because I arrived in the midst of the Cherry Blossom Festival. Washingtonians can be rightfully proud of the richness of the many diverse neighborhoods that expand beyond the mall. Strolling through the streets of Dupont & Logan Circle, Georgetown or Adams Morgan was a refreshing escape from the political bubble.

What do you miss about Germany?

Good coffee. Sorry, America.

What has been your biggest lesson learnt during your internship?

To prioritize, organize – and most importantly, to remain calm while you reprint that misspelled place card at the very last minute. Working for the Ambassador’s Social Secretaries and his Chief of Staff has been an intense experience I wouldn’t want to have missed.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Dealing with the unpredictability of the D6 – the bus line that takes me to the Embassy.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

After another brief internship with a member of Bundestag, I’ll have to sit down and write my Master’s thesis. Then it’s on to looking for a real job – preferably in a transatlantic and/or parliamentary environment.

Pretzels: A medieval German delicacy

If you’ve ever been to a German bakery, you might have noticed the fresh-baked pretzels every morning behind the glass. Pretzels have long been a part of German food culture – but they have also made their way to the United States.

There are several unconfirmed stories about the invention of the pretzel, but the earliest recorded evidence of pretzels is their appearance in the crest of German bakers’ guilds in the year 1111. A pretzel was also depicted in an 1185 painting of a banquet for the Persian King Ahaseurus, which was published in the Hortus Deliciarum, a medieval manuscript that was compiled in Alsace (which at that time was claimed by the German Empire). A prayer book from 1140 also shows St. Bartholomew surrounded by pretzels. Later images show pretzels hung around childrens’ necks on New Year’s Day for good luck, on Christmas trees in Austria and as part of Easter egg hunts in Germany. During the 16th century, pretzels were consumed on Good Friday, and some Catholics considered them an important part of Lent.

© dpa / picture alliance

Pretzels were deeply integrated in both religion and German culture. As a result, German immigrants brought pretzels with them when they came to the US in the 1700s, and pretzels quickly became a staple food of the Pennsylvania Dutch. In 1861, a man named Julius Sturgis founded the first pretzel bakery in the US, calling it the Sturgis Pretzel House. The bakery, which is located in Lititz, Pennsylvania, continues to produce pretzels and is also a tourist attraction, run by Sturgis’ descendents. To this day, Pennsylvania remains a hot spot for pretzel production, producing about 80 percent of all pretzels in the US.

In Germany, pretzels also grew in popularity and can now be found at food carts, fairs and festivals and childrens’ lunch boxes. From Germany’s Oktoberfest to the pretzel stand at a US shopping mall, this medieval European delicacy has made its way around the world.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Worms celebrates the 1,000th birthday of its cathedral

© dpa / picture-alliance

On the west bank of the Rhine River is one of Germany’s oldest cities: Worms. And this year, the city is celebrating the 1,000th birthday of its oldest cathedral – a historic building that has shaped the city’s history like none other.

The St. Peter’s Dom stands on the highest point of the inner city of Worms. The historic cathedral was consecrated in the year 1018 and it has been the site of many important events in German history.

Worms is prominently featured in the famous epic poem The Nibelungenlied (in English: “The Song of the Nibelungs”) – and one scene takes place at the portal of the cathedral.

But the Worms Cathedral became even more well-known during the Martin Luther era. In 1521, the Diet of Worms (an imperial council presided over by Emperor Charles V) was held in the cathedral and Luther was ordered to appear there and respond to charges of heresy. Luther spent 10 days in Worms and refused to recant – and this changed the course of history.

“Here I stand, I can do no other,” Luther said before the Diet of Worms.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Centuries later, the St. Peter’s Dom is a popular tourist attraction. As the city celebrates its 1,000th birthday, former German President Joachim Gauck delivered a ceremonial speech on Saturday.

“The people of Worms identify with their cathedral, whether they’re Catholic, Lutheran or not religious at all,” Tobias Schafer, a provost at the cathedral, told Deutsche Welle.

Travel Tuesday: Cochem

High up in the picturesque Moselle Valley is the town of Cochem. With an elevation of 272 ft and a population of 5,000, this historic town is truly a magical escape from city life.

Behind the colorful buildings that line the historic streets of Cochem is the Reichsburg Castle, which stands atop a hill and is surrounded by forests and vineyards. The castle, which is open for tours, dates back to the year 1100 and is filled with Baroque furniture and historic artifacts. During the Nine Years’ War in the late 1600s, the castle was destroyed, but it was reconstructed in the Gothic Revival Style in the 1800s. This hilltop castle is visible from most places in Cochem – and visitors who hike to the top are greeted with spectacular views of the town.

But even the town itself is worth a tour. Cochem is one of Germany’s oldest towns, dating back to early Celtic and Roman times. It is not known when the region was first settled, but it was first mentioned in the year 886. Over many centuries, the town survived the Plague, the French occupation, the Thirty Years’ War, the Second World War and other hardships, but it remained strong and held on to its charm.

Aside from its quaint buildings, Cochem is also known for its fine wines. With vineyards and family-run wineries surrounding the town,  Cochem is the center of the Mosel wine trade.

So if you’re in Germany this summer, make sure to stop by  Cochem for a glass of wine and spectacular views of a fairy-tale town and its castle!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Kummerkastentante

If you’ve got a lot of worries, have no fear! The Kummerkastentante is there for you!

Directly translated, Kummerkastentante means “worry-box-aunt”, but it basically describes an advice columnist. Many German magazines have a so-called Kummerkasten (“worry box” or “sorrow box”), which is a section that focuses on readers’ problems and provides solutions. A Kummerkastentante is the columnist who responds to readers that are seeking advice on topics ranging from relationships to family matters to problems at work.

The word Tante (“aunt”) signifies someone who’s very close to you and is willing to listen to your problems. A Kummerkastentante is always there for you – much like a family member would be. She’s willing to listen and she always knows the answer. Should you break up with your partner? Why is your daughter not talking to you? How should you deal with that annoying colleague?

In the US, advice columnists might be called “Dr. Love”. The columns might also be titled something along the lines of “Ask Annie” or “Dear Prudence.” The concept is the same in Germany.

In the context of magazines, a Kummerkasten is a section or a column. But the word is also used to refer to many types of outlets to which you can bring your worries. A Kummerkasten can be a diary, an actual box, an online forum or any other “mailbox” for receptor for your problems.

But to find yourself a Kummerkastentante, you’re going to have to buy a German magazine. And if you mail a letter describing your problem, you might just receive the answer you’re looking for.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy