It’s that time of year again: Halloween season! Although this spooky holiday is predominately celebrated with costumes in the United States, many autumn traditions are also celebrated in Germany. In fact, Germany is home to the largest pumpkin festival in the world!
Each fall, the Ludwigsburg Castle (near Stuttgart) hosts a large exhibition of pumpkins, which are shaped as extravagant sculptures based on a particular theme. This year’s theme is “Pumpkin Forest” and features pumpkin sculptures of woodland creatures like foxes. Typically, more than 450,000 pumpkins in 600 varieties are used to create the pumpkin sculptures that bring tourists from near and far.
The festival also hosts some unusual activities, such as pumpkin boat races in which people paddle across a lake in a giant pumpkin. There is also an annual competition to find the largest pumpkin and a pumpkin smashing ritual at the end of the season. That makes your typical pumpkin farms look mediocre in comparison!
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I, which was often described as the “war to end all wars.”
Remembering the Great War is of utmost importance to the Federal Foreign Office. This week, a series of events kicked off in Berlin to look back on the events before and after 1918.
“The future needs remembrance,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas on October 11. “The European Union is a unique example in world history for successful conflict resolution. We should be proud of the lessons we have learnt from our shared history, of what we have achieved. And – in awareness of the past – to protect and promote this.”
Together with French politician Jean Yves Le Drian, Minister Maas opened the two-day conference “Winning Peace – the end of the First World War with its history, remembrance and current challenges”. Several other events will take place in October and November to reflect on the war, including an international Youth for Peace meeting in Berlin with more than 500 young people from 52 countries.
Sometimes you do things for other people that you don’t like. Why do you do it? Because of your Freundschaftsdienst!
The German word Freundschaftsdienst means “friendship duty”. It is a word that describes the obligations that come with a true friendship.
Let’s look at an example:
You’re allergic to cats, but your friend is traveling for the holidays and desperately needs a cat sitter. You begrudgingly agree to take in the cat, and spend the next two weeks sneezing and taking anti-histamine pills.
You endure all of this suffering because of your Freundschaftsdienst. Being a friend means doing favors for the other person, even when it inconveniences you.
Here’s another example:
You have a 6 am flight tomorrow morning and you have not begun packing. Your friend calls you crying because she just broke up with her boyfriend. You know you have a lot to do, but you choose to spend the night consoling her. The next morning, you’re rushing to the airport with little to no sleep. Enduring this was your Freundschaftsdienst.
Naturally, you expect your friends to do the same for you. If this isn’t the case, you may want to reconsider who you provide your Freundschaftsdienst to. Be selective, and make sure the Freundschaftsdienst is a two-way street.
This week, we are introducing one of our interns in the protocol department at the German Embassy. Our Q&A with Victoria sheds light on her experience as a German in the US – and the Embassy!
Name: Victoria Hiepe
Where you’re from: Berlin, the capital of Germany.
Where and what you’re studying: I’m studying Politics and Administration as well as Sociology at the University of Potsdam, which is located in the capital of Brandenburg.
What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy? :
Since I worked for the Protocol Office I spend a lot of time at the Ambassador’s Residence during events. The nature of this work is to see many important personalities of Washington DC engage, which was a great opportunity. The highlight of my internship was helping with the biggest event of the year: the celebrations of the Day of German Unity, during which the Ambassador hosted over 2,500 guests on the residence grounds. The opportunity to join this event and also take part in organizing this day was definitely something very special which I will keep in my memory.
Four-time break-dance world champions the Flying Steps held a special performance at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to kick-start our year-long campaign, Wunderbar Together – a celebration of the German-American friendship.
The B-Boy crew, which has been around since 1993, combined break-dancing with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach for a one-of-a-kind performance in the nation’s capital.
The show took place during the opening week of our Wunderbar Together campaign, which celebrates the transatlantic partnership between the US and Germany through dialogue, experience and exchange.
The Flying Steps crew was formed by Vartan Bassil and Kadir „Amigo” Memis in Berlin, Germany. Currently the group consists of nine members. In 2007, the group established the Flying Steps Academy, which is the largest urban dance school in Germany. The group is currently on tour in the US.
Last week, we received a very special message from space. German astronaut Alexander Gerst – the first German to command the International Space Station – sent a message to earth to announce our year-long campaign, “Wunderbar Together”.
This campaign will celebrate the German-American friendship with over 1,000 events throughout the US. And Gerst made an important point: the German-American relationship is not only important on earth, but also in space!
“Because only together can we solve the great challenges ahead of us,” he says. “A strong relationship between both sides of the Atlantic Ocean is fundamental for a successful cooperation – both on earth and in space. Our lives up here on the International Space Station depend on international cooperation beyond our borders.”
Have you ever had a burning desire to learn something new? Do you have an archive of never-ending questions? Then you’ve most likely experienced Wissensdurst. In German, the word Wissen means knowledge nand Durst means thirst.
The only way this need can be satisfied is by obtaining the knowledge that you so profoundly crave. Occasionally the word Wissenshunger is used to describe ones hunger for knowledge. Although the two words are often used interchangeably, Wissensdurst describes a more urgent need, since humans can survive longer without food than without water.
Let’s take a look at an example where an unquenchable Wissensdurst recently played a major role in the education of a young British girl.
Heidi Hankins, a five-year-old girl from Hampshire, has an IQ of 159, which is approximately the same as that of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking (both had IQ scores of 160 and an unquenchable Wissensdurst). In comparison: the average person has an IQ score of about 100.
It’s the most eventful season of the year for us at the German Embassy! Important anniversaries take place in the autumn, including the Fall of the Berlin Wall, the Day of German Unity and the events leading up to and following those historic moments in history. Wednesday is German Unity Day, which celebrates Germany’s reunification on October 3, 1990. Let’s look at some important dates leading up to this historic moment:
September 20, 1990
On this day in history, the legislative chambers of East and West Germany voted in favor of unifying the two parts of Germany. Almost a year prior, the border between the East and the West was opened, but the country had not yet been united politically. After many months of discussions, the West German Bundestag voted 442 to 47 in favor of reunification and the East German Volkskammer voted 299 to 80.
September 23-29, 1990
The German Unification Treaty was signed on September 23. It stated that the territory of the former German Democratic Republic, as reestablished “Länder” (federal states), would accede to the Federal Republic of Germany in accordance with Article 23 of the Basic Law. On September 28, the Federal Statute was published in the Bundesgesetzblatt, which is where the Federal Republic publishes its official laws of the nation. The treaty was entered into force on September 29.
October 3, 1990
Germany was officially reunified and its five states, which had been abolished in 1952, were reinstated as regions of one country. East and West Berlin became one unified city and the German flag was raised above the Brandenburg Gate. As you can imagine – and as some of you may remember – the celebrations on October 3, 1990 were massive – and they continue to this day. Are you celebrating German Unity Day this year?
Do you ever have those moments where your patience is so thin that you could snap? Germans would say that their Geduldsfaden is tearing. The word Geduldsfaden comes from Geduld (“patience”) and Faden (“thread”). Everyone has a Geduldsfaden, but some people have a thicker thread than others. A Geduldsfaden describes someone’s level of patience. If someone has a lot of patience, their “patience thread” is more durable than someone with very little patience. Of course, everyone has a limit.
When you are getting close to that limit, your Faden becomes tighter and thinner. When that limit is reached, your thread snaps in two pieces. Perhaps it’s screaming children, perhaps it’s a nagging friend or maybe it’s your incompetent employee who causes your Geduldsfaden to snap.
One of the first records of the term is found in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s autobiography Dichtung und Wahrheit (in English: From my Life: Poetry and Truth). The Brothers Grimm also used the term in their works.
Berlin, Berlin…What can we say about you? To explain it to Americans is to say it is a mix of New York and Washington. It is both a haven for policy wonks and government interns, but also stays up all night and attracts those searching to live an alternative lifestyle. So before you go, here’s what you should know about Germany’s capital.
Carnival of cultures
By any standard, Berlin is an international city. Its population, albeit ever transient, is made up of 13% people of a non-German background. In fact, Berlin has the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey! Much like New York, Berlin’s collection of cultures is reflected in their food offerings—with Turkish, Japanese, and Greek food as commonly found as traditionally German restaurants.
Berlin wasn’t always the capital
Bonn was the capital of West Germany previous to the fall of the wall. Berlin became the official capital of a reunified Germany in 1990.