Word of the Week: Schnapsidee

In German, there’s a special word for a really bad idea: Schnapsidee. Directly translated, this word means “booze idea” – and it describes a plan of action that’s so bad that you must have been drunk when you dreamed it up!

The German word Schnaps is a term for clear spirits, but it is often used to refer to alcohol in general. When someone is under the influence of alcohol, they are more likely to come up with crazy ideas that Germans call Schnapsideen. Getting a ridiculous tattoo might be considered a Schnapsidee – especially if you do it impulsively after a few drinks.

But you don’t have to be drunk to have a Schnapsidee. Germans use the term to refer to any outrageous or unrealistic ideas, regardless of your sobriety status. Buying a horse for your backyard is probably a Schnapsidee (unless you live on a farm). For most, base jumping would also be a Schnapsidee – as would be rappelling off the side of a cliff. The term, however, is relative: for some, anything out of the ordinary would be a Schnapsidee, while for the more adventurous, only few things would be an outrageous “booze idea”.

What’s your idea of a Schnapsidee? Having children? Skydiving? Moving to Africa? Let us know in the comments!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

10 facts about Bavaria

1. Bavaria is both the oldest and the largest state in Germany. It is home to 12.9 million inhabitants as of 2016 and it encompasses over 300 cities and towns.

2. There are three primary dialects spoken in Bavaria: Austro-Bavarian, Swabian German and East Franconian German.

3. The first Nobel laureate for physics, Wilhelm Conrad Röntgen (1845-1923), made his home in Munich, Bavaria. Röntgen is most famous for discovering x-rays.

4. The world famous Neuschwanstein Castle is located in Füssen, Bavaria. This fairytale castle was built by King Ludwig II (1845-1886).

5. Levi Strauss, a German-American businessman who founded the first company to manufacture blue jeans, came from the Bavarian town of Buttenheim (north of Nuremberg).

6. German NBA player Dirk Nowitzki is a native of Bavaria. The basketball player was born in Würzburg and is often called the “German Wunderkind.”

7. German artist Albrecht Dürer, a painter, printmaker and theorist from the German Renaissance, came from Nuremberg, Bavaria.

8. Empress Elisabeth of Austria (1837 – 1898), also known as “Sisi”, was born into  the royal Bavarian house of Wittelsbach and was originally known as the Duchess of Bavaria. It was only when she married Emperor Franz Joseph I  that she left her beloved homeland to become Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary.

9. Germany’s highest peak, the Zugspitze, is located in Bavaria. At 9,718 ft above sea level, the Zugspitze has three large glaciers and is also a top ski resort in Germany.

10. Bavaria is home to Oktoberfest, an enormous festival that has been held in Munich for over 200 years. The first Oktoberfest took place in 1810 to honor Bavarian Crown Prince Ludwig’s marriage, but today it is associated with German beer, cuisine and Bavarian culture.

Word of the Week: Reisefieber

Do you have travel plans? Are you giddy and anxious just thinking about your upcoming trip? Then you may have fallen ill with Reisefieber!

Literally translated, Reisefieber means “travel fever” – but it’s not the type of sickness that keeps you in bed. Reisefieber describes the feelings of excitement, combined with anxiety and nervousness, that you have in anticipation of a trip. You may have spent weeks daydreaming about your trip to the Caribbean. But the night before, anxiety creeps in as you try to fit everything you need into a small suitcase. You’re worried you might have forgotten something. Your palms are sweaty, you develop a mild headache and your stomach is rumbling. Perhaps you’re engaged in a frantic search for your passport or you’re worried that you won’t wake up in time for your early-morning flight.

It might be difficult to keep calm or fall asleep the night before. You’re struck with Reisefieber, and there’s nothing that can cure it – except, perhaps, taking long deep breaths and calming yourself down. But once you’re lying on the beach a few hours later, your “travel fever” will subside, leaving nothing but bliss in its place.

If you are traveling this summer, beware: Reisefieber could show up without much notice and disrupt a good night’s sleep. But no need to worry: your “travel nerves” will go away soon enough.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

German Ambassador Emily Haber shares thoughts from Dumbarton Oaks

Though not the traditional setting for an international conference, the building and attached grounds of Dumbarton Oaks made for a peaceful backdrop for representatives of the global powers under the leadership of the U.S. to formulate and negotiate the United Nations in 1944. The group’s aim was to prevent further conflict post WWII. It was this rich diplomatic history that drew Ambassador Emily Haber over for a visit and inspired her to share her own journey as a diplomat in her latest video.

A German surprise: First Graders look forward to their Schultüten

For many Americans and their families, it’s back-to-school season! For some parents, this means back-to-school shopping for supplies, clothes and other needs for their children. In Germany, however, First Graders get a special treat on their first day of school: a Schultüte (“school cone”)!

A Schultüte is colorful and elaborately decorated cone that is given to German students on their first day of first grade. A typical “school cone” is prepared by a students’ parents and filled to the brim with goodies such as small school supplies (like pens, pencil cases, erasers, etc.) , toys and candy. These bundles of gifts evoke excitement in students during one of the most important days of their childhood – the day that school begins. As kids make their way to their new classrooms, they proudly carry their Schultüten with them. Receiving a Schultüte is often a highlight of a First Grader’s childhood. Many Germans eagerly reflect back on their first day of first grade, picturing their “school cones” and remembering the excitement that these gifts brought them.

This German tradition originated in the early 1800s in the cities of Jena, Dresden and Leipzig. Back then, parents brought the Schultüten directly to the schools, where they were hung on a so-called Schultütenbaum (“school cone tree”) in the classroom. When the tree was “ripe” with school cones, it meant that students were ready to begin first grade. On the first day of school, students were instructed to pick the cone with their name on it. To their surprise, the cones were usually filled with edible treats such as pretzels and candy.

Naturally, the tradition spread and evolved over time. Today, students often receive their Schultüten before they leave their homes to go to school – and their cones are often filled with school supplies, rather than candy. Even Austria and the Czech Republic have adopted this fun back-to-school tradition. So while American kids are often busy back-to-school shopping with their parents, German kids will receive a lot of these items in their cones!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Kopfkino

Does your imagination run wild? Do you think up detailed stories in your head? Maybe you’ve got a Kopfkino entertaining you all day long!

The German word Kopf means “head” and Kino means “movie theater”. Kopfkino therefore describes a cinema in your head. But unlike scheduled movies at your local theater, a Kopfkino can start playing anytime, whether you’re at the office, in the classroom or in the middle of a dull conversation.

Sometimes having your own built-in movie theater can be useful. If you’re on a long train ride, for example, having a wild imagination helps pass the time. But if you’re having trouble concentration on an important task, then your Kopfkino may do more harm than good – even if your daydreams are pleasant!

Perhaps you have a one-hour deadline to finish a task at the office. All of a sudden, your Kopfkino starts playing and you suddenly find yourself laying at the beach, a warm breeze blowing through your hair as the man or woman of your dreams approaches you. Palm trees sway above your head and the worries of daily life disappear – until the movie starts playing and you realize you’re still at your desk!

But not every Kopfkino is pleasant. If you’re highly anxious or worried, you might have worst-case scenarios play out in your head. If you have an active Kopfkino, let’s hope it prefers romantic comedies over horror films! And make sure you know where the pause button is.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

This summer, bike along the former Iron Curtain – it only takes a month!

Millions of tourists visit remnants of the Berlin Wall each year. But if you had a chance to bike along the former Iron Curtain, would you do it? It would take you about a month! In Germany, biking is a popular method of transportation – especially in Berlin, where an estimated 15-20 percent of all trips occur on bike. About 17 percent of Berlin residents use their bikes daily. But while commuting through Berlin’s flat open roads is both easy and affordable, biking along the Iron Curtain takes a much more serious athlete.

In 2014, politicians at Vienna’s House of the European Union unveiled plans to improve a 4,750-mile bike path along the former Iron Curtain, which stretches through 20 countries (14 of which are part of the EU) from the Barents Sea to the Black Sea. Although this trail, which has been named EuroVelo 13, has existed many several years, parts of it remain largely unexplored. But overall, the section of the trail that runs through Germany is mostly complete. The trail passes along numerous historic watchtowers, including Observation Point Alpha in Thuringia. Those who bike along the entire trail would pass by 14 UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the way.

The European Parliament previously described the project as a “tourist trail that would preserve the memory of the division of the continent, show how it has been overcome through peaceful European reunification, and promote a European identity.”

With summer just around the corner, history buffs and cycling enthusiasts may choose to explore all or parts of the trail.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Katzensprung

Let’s say you’re lost in Berlin and searching for the nearest metro station. You ask a German where to go, and he tells you the station is just a Katzensprung away. What does that mean? It means you are close!

The word Katze means “cat” and Sprung means “jump” or “leap”. A Katzensprung therefore means “a cat’s leap”. Germans use it the same way an American would use the phrase “a stone’s throw” to indicate how close a place is.

But it is, of course, an exaggeration. Without running, the average house cat can jump to a height of about five feet or more. But something that is a Katzensprung away is probably further than a few feet. That nearby metro station, for example, could be on the next block over, which might be a good one-minute walk.

If you live in the heart of a city, you might be a Katzensprung away from a convenience store or a bus stop. It’s usually a good thing when the places you need to go are a “cat’s leap” away from you.

Germans have been using the word Katzensprung since the 16th century. And although the phrase “stone’s throw” also exists in German (Steinwurf), using the word Katzensprung will spice up your vocabulary!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

24 of the most beautiful sentences in German literature

From Goethe to Eschenbach, German authors have captured the imaginations of their readers for centuries. Here are a few of their most beautiful lines.

1. “You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

2.  “The decision to kiss for the first time is the most crucial in any love story. It changes the relationship of two people much more strongly than even the final surrender; because this kiss already has within it that surrender.” – Emil Ludwig, Of Life and Love

3. “That which they call love, it is nothing except the pain of longing.” – Walther von der Vogelweide, Erotic Dawn-Songs of the Middle Ages

Continue reading “24 of the most beautiful sentences in German literature”

Word of the Week: Sitzriese

Have you ever been to a movie theater and found yourself seated behind the tallest person in the room? This person’s head was probably blocking your view, leaving you frustrated throughout the film. In German, there’s a special word for this kind of person: Sitzriese (“seated giant”)!

The word Sitzriese comes from sitzen (“to sit) and Riese (“giant”). It defines a person who looks deceptively tall while sitting down. A Sitzriese typically has a long waist and short legs, making them appear tall while seated and short while standing up.

On the contrary, the German word Sitzzwerg (“seated dwarf”) refers to the opposite – someone who appears short while sitting, but tall while standing up.

We’re all different shapes and sizes, and you can be sure that the Germans have a nickname for everyone! But if you’re at a concert, movie theater or a performance, you better hope that you end up behind the Sitzzwerg, since the Sitzriese will block your view!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy