Word of the Week: Erklärungsnot

What do you do when you find yourself in an awkward situation that you caused? Well, you would probably try to find an explanation for your actions, but it might not be so easy. And Germans have a special word for this type of emergency: Erklärungsnot!

The German word Erklärungsnot means “explanation poverty” or “explanation emergency” and it describes a state in which you are put on the spot without an explanation or excuse for your actions. Once caught, you might be at a loss for words. Some situations that might arouse Erklärungsnot are cheating on a test, stealing, lying, cheating on your spouse, or looking through someone’s phone – basically, situations that make it difficult for you to explain yourself. If caught doing something that you know is wrong, you might be at a loss of words.

But Erklärungsnot is not always associated with grave immoral actions. You can also experience it if you are caught with your hand in the cookie jar, or caught while planning a surprise birthday party for a friend. When put on the spot, your excuses might be so ridiculous that no one will believe you.

“My dog ate my homework,” might be the result of Erklärungsnot when a child is put on the spot for skipping his homework.

So remember: next time you find yourself in a state of Erklärungsnot, take a deep breath and think before you explain yourself!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Germany: Home to more than 20,000 castles

Many travelers who come to Germany choose to visit the country’s many majestic castles and palaces. But even those who don’t go out of their way to visit one may stumble across the ruins of a medieval castle: Germany has over 20,000 castles, some of which are well-known tourist attractions and others that lay isolated in the countryside.

The most famous castle is, of course, Schloss Neuschwanstein, which was built in the Bavarian hillside in the late 1800s. Walt Disney’s castle was inspired by Neuschwanstein, and the site is known worldwide for its magical appearance. It is Germany’s most-visited castle, bringing in over 1.3 million tourists per year.

Another well-known castle is the Burg Eltz, which looks as if it came straight out of a fairytale. This magical medieval castle lies on a hill near the River Rhine. It has belonged to the same family for over 800 years. Near Frankfurt, Frankenstein’s Castle may attract those are fascinated by scary stories. The fortress was once the home to mad scientists John Konrad Dippel, who was known to conduct freaky experiments on corpses. Some believe that the author of the Frankenstein story was inspired by his work.

Further south, the picturesque Heidelberg Castle overlooks the town below it, making you feel like you’re living in a fairytale. The romantic ruins of the castle loom over the town, attracting many artists, poets and writers seeking inspiration.

The famous Hohenzollern Castle, located on a mountain in the Swabian Alps, is currently celebrating a milestone: this year marks 165 years since construction began and 150 years since its completion.

“This castle was built to show the unification of the German peoples after the revolution in 1848 – 1849. But it was never the home for the Prince of Prussia. It was not built as a residence but rather as a cultural memorial. Today it is protected by the German memorial protection,” Anja Hoppe, manager of Hohenzollern Castle, told CCTV.

These are among the most well-known castles in Germany, but there are plenty more hidden and nameless castles that you’ve probably never heard about. So if you’re considering a trip to Germany, make sure to put a few castle visits on your to-do list.

Doughnuts: a German creation from the 1400s

Since the early 20th century, doughnuts have been a popular treat in the United States. More than 10 billion doughnuts are consumed annually in the US, due in part to the large-scale expansion of corporations like Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts. Although the diversity of colorful and frosted doughnuts might seem like an American delicacy, the origin of these sugar-laden treats lies at least partially in Germany.

Although doughnut-like delicacies existed throughout Europe for centuries, the first written reference of a jelly doughnut (called Gefüllte Krapfen in German) was in a cookbook from 1485. The cookbook, titled Küchenmeisterei (“Mastery of the Kitchen”) was published in Nuremberg and was one of the first to be reproduced with Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press.

These early-stage doughnuts had no holes in them, and had their interiors filled with meat, cheese, mushrooms or other ingredients, according to Leite’s Culinaria. Once the price of sugar dropped in the 16th century, doughnuts became sweeter, and countries all across Europe began to adopt the sweetened versions of the jelly doughnut.

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Word of the Week: Holzklasse

Are you on a budget, but love to travel? Most likely you will be booking the Holzklasse whereever you go!

Literally translated, the German word Holzklasse means “wood class”, and it’s basically the least desirable place you can sit on any mode of transportation. Unlike first class, the “wood class” is where you’ll find the cheapest tickets.

When the word Holzklasse first came into use, it was used to describe the economy class seating in trains, since this seating area usually consisted of wooden planks as benches. If you’re looking at a 10-hour train ride, this isn’t too comfortable. As transportation evolved, so did the meaning of the word. Today, the Holzklasse on a train is much more comfortable. But the word is also used to describe the economy class in airplanes, which often consist of small seats with very little leg room.

But first class comes with a hefty price, and for many, the Holzklasse is simply their only option.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

The hot dog: an all-American treat with German origins

Americans purchase an estimated 9 billion hot dogs at retail stores each year. From sporting events to late-night eateries to street vendor carts in New York City, hot dogs are widespread in the US. Although the modern-day American hot dog differs from German-style sausages such as Currywurst or Bratwurst, its origins can be at least partially traced to Germany.

Europeans have produced sausages for centuries; Homer’s Odyssey traces the consumption of sausage back to the 9th Century B.C. and there is evidence that sausages were prevalent in the Holy Roman Empire. Although sausages were widespread in Europe, both Germans and Austrians take credit for the origin of the so-called Frankfurter or Wiener – the predecessors of the American hot dog.

Most sources credit Johann Georg Lahner as the inventor of these particular sausages. Lahner was born in 1772 in Gasseldorf, Germany – a small town in Bavaria. As an adult, he moved to Frankfurt, where he was employed as a butcher. He later moved to Vienna, Austria, where he allegedly invented the sausage by combining beef and pork. Lahner called them Frankfurters, after the city he previously lived in. Today, however, Germans refer to the hot dog sausages as Wiener, while Austrians call them Frankfurter. Both Vienna (in German: Wien) and Frankfurt claim credit for the origin of the hot dog.

When European immigrants came to the US in the 1800s, they brought hot dog-style sausages to the US. It is likely that there were multiple butchers of several nationalities who first sold these snacks in the US, but one of them was German immigrant Charles Feltman. In the late 1800s, Feltman opened a hot dog stand in Coney Island, New York City, selling the sausages in a milk roll. The hot dogs quickly became popular, since they were easy and convenient to eat; Feltman sold several thousand in the first year alone.

A number of other German immigrants played a role in the evolution and spread of the American hot dog: German immigrant Anton Feuchtwanger, who sold hot dogs in the midwest, is credited for combining the hot dog with a bun. The use of a bun was meant to prevent customers from burning their hands on the hot dogs. Chris von der Ahe, a German immigrant who owned the St. Louis Browns, brought hot dogs to baseball stadiums.

While hot dog sausages can be traced back to the Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, Germans undoubtedly played a role in popularizing this quick and easy snack in both Europe and the US.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Driving in Germany: Is a U.S. driver’s license sufficient?

Have you ever considered driving in Germany, as a tourist or on a longer stay? Then you may have asked yourself whether your American driver’s license is valid in Germany. Generally, holders of U.S. driver’s licenses may drive in Germany with such a license for up to six months.

For those staying longer, it depends: in the U.S., the individual states have jurisdiction over driver’s license laws. So the question of mutual recognition of driver’s licenses depends on each individual U.S. state. For instance, some states such as Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming have signed recognition agreements with Germany to ensure the efficient transfer of driver’s licenses without an additional examination. However, where such agreements do not exist, individuals seeking to obtain the relevant local driver’s license may be required to take a practical and/or theoretical exam, depending on the state in which they have acquired their American license.

One example of such a recognition agreement is the recently renewed Germany and Washington State Mutual Driver’s License Reciprocity Agreement. This agreement allows citizens of Washington State and Germany to exchange their national driver’s licenses for the other without taking the relevant driving test. The reciprocity agreement allows individuals holding Washington State driver’s licenses to directly submit their driver’s license application to the local Department of Motor Vehicles (Führerscheinstelle) in Germany in exchange for a German driver’s license. This generally requires an official identification document, a residency registration, a photograph, and a U.S driver’s license with an accompanying translation of the license into German.

To sum up, you may drive in Germany with your American license for up to six months. Afterwards, you need to obtain a German license (with or without taking a German exam, depending on where you acquired your U.S. driver’s license), unless a reciprocity agreement is in place.

By Isabell Schellhas, German Embassy

Eggs and bunnies symbolize renewal and joy

© colourbox

Something odd happens throughout Germany on Easter Sunday. Whether in apartments, houses or gardens, excited children run around, pushing the furniture aside, lifting the cushions and looking under trees and bushes outdoors.

Why? Easter is the time at which German children look in the most obscure corners for brightly colored Easter eggs that have been hidden the night before by the Easter Bunny.

But why is it a bunny that brings the eggs at this annual festival?

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Word of the Week: Waldeinsamkeit

When Henry David Thoureau took his leave into the woods of Walden, he said he wanted to learn to live deliberately. He claimed to “need the tonic of wildness” and that “we can never have enough of nature”. Since it is officially spring and the forests are coming alive again, it might be useful to rediscover the feeling of Waldeinsamkeit. The feeling you get when you are walking in the woods all alone with natures wonders all around, that is Waldeinsamkeit.

Waldeinsamkeit consists of two words: Wald meaning forest, and Einsamkeit meaning loneliness or solitude.

It is the feeling of being alone in the woods, but it also hints at a connectedness to nature. The feeling plays a big role in religion. Shedding one’s material possessions is often a prerequisite for joining an order of monks or priests. This act is called monasticism. Christianity has a long tradition of Saints who live in on the land and pursue Waldeinsamkeit. One famous example is St. Trudpert, who was given a piece of land within the Black Forest and retired there in a simple church in solitude, surrounded by nature. The image above was taken at St. Trudpert’s Abbey.

The solitude of wilderness as a motif is prevalent in both religion and literature. The entire literary movement known as Romanticism (1800-1850) centers on returning to nature and becoming a part of untamed nature. In Germany, authors and artists depicted individuals quelled by nature’s glory. Authors from this movement included E.T.A. Hoffmann, the Brothers Grimm, and Heinrich von Kleist. The word Waldeinsamkeit belongs to this movement; it describes not only a feeling, but an entire motif in romantic literature. Ludwid Tieck, a well known romantic German author, once composed an ode to Waldeinsamkeit in his story Fair Eckbert :

“Waldeinsamkeit, “Woodland Solitude

Wie liegst du weit! I rejoice in Thee

O dich gereut, Tomorrow as today

Einst mit der Zeit. – Forever and ever

Ach einzige Freud Oh how I enjoy,

Waldeinsamkeit!” Woodland Solitude!”

The woods, it seems, is the place to go to contemplate the loneliness of ones existence – or maybe just to get some fresh air. Regardless, spring has sprung, so its time for some Waldeinsamkeit!

Word of the Week: Schnarchnase

You’ve been staring at the ceiling for hours. Despite all your attempts, you just can’t fall asleep – and you blame the Schnarchnase beside you for that!

Literally translated, the German word Schnarchnase means “snoring nose”. The term comes from schnarchen (“snoring”) and Nase (“nose”), and it identifies someone who snores loudly while sleeping. The reasons for this can vary – maybe the Schnarchnase has a stuffy nose, maybe it’s sleep apnea or maybe there’s no explanation for why this person snores every time he or she goes to sleep. Regardless of the cause, sleeping next to a Schnarchnase can be annoying – especially if you’re a light sleeper!

But the word doesn’t always define someone who snores in their sleep. The term is also used to describe someone who has messed up a task or is slow in finishing something. A so-called sleepy-head or a slowpoke (like, for example, a slow driver) can also be called a Schnarchhase. Even if someone has good intentions, he may still be called a Schnarchnase because he can never seem to get it right.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

German Week in the woods of Missouri

The term “in the woods” is often used when referring to the U.S. Army’s Ft. Leonard Wood training installation in the Ozark Mountains in Pulaski County, Missouri. Situated in a remote location between Springfield and St. Louis, Ft. Leonard Wood is the duty station for some 30,000 service members of the U.S. Army, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Air Force and the U.S. National Guard. This is where the U.S. Army carries out training for engineer, CBRN defense and military police personnel under the auspices of the U.S. Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence. By contrast, the town of St. Robert, which borders the area of Ft. Leonard Wood, only has about 4,000 citizens.

Due to its location in the Midwest, far from Washington D.C., Ft. Leonard Wood is a perfect place when it comes to holding a German-American military event in the heart of the United States as part of the Year of German-American Friendship.

This “German Week” was jointly hosted by Major General Donna Martin, the commanding general of the Maneuver Support Center of Excellence, and Colonel (GS) Helmut Frietzsche, the commander of the German Armed Forces Command USA/CAN. The event featured German delegations of the Army Engineer Training Center in Ingolstadt, the Bundeswehr Military Police Command in Hannover and the CBRN Defense Command in Bruchsal, under the overall command of Brigadier General Frank Schmitz, Deputy Director of the German Armed Forces Office, jointly training together with their U.S. Army counterparts in Ft. Leonard Wood.

The German Week offered many occasions to discuss current military activity areas, the future development of the armed forces, and other fields of cooperation.

Brigadier Schmitz emphasized that “intensive exchanges such as this, as well as the consistent continuation of similar cooperation projects in the future, are an essential prerequisite for the interoperability and credibility that we need in order to prevent conflicts in a highly complex environment and to successfully carry out joint operations.”

In this context, both delegation heads welcomed the fact that specific agreements have been reached concerning further cooperation in the fields of CBRN defense, engineering, and military police work.

The extensive supporting program of the German week also included a German fest with German beer, bratwurst and sauerkraut. This not only provided the opportunity to bolster the good relations, but also brought back pleasant memories among the many American friends and their families of time spent abroad in Germany.

In a speech held during the event, Brigadier General Frank Schmitz explained the background and meaning of the Year of German-American Friendship in the United States. He also briefly highlighted some important milestones in the long German-American friendship. In view of the markedly reduced number of U.S. troops and military families deployed in Germany since the end of the Cold War, the brigadier emphasized that cooperation and exchange programs had gained increased importance in terms of further promoting mutual understanding.

The opportunity to obtain the German marksmanship badge (Schützenschnur) and military proficiency badge during the event was seen by the U.S. soldiers as a privilege and expression of the special relations between the two armies. After all, the two badges are categorized as approved foreign awards which the U.S. soldiers are allowed to wear on their uniforms.

The approximately 250 U.S. soldiers being awarded the German marksmanship and military proficiency badges by Brigadier General Schmitz, Colonel Frietzsche, Colonel Busch, Colonel Schiff and Colonel Thieser, as well as their U.S. counterparts, was therefore undoubtedly an emotional and ceremonial highlight of the weeklong event. In addition, on arrival of the delegation, the 399th Army Band played the “General’s March” as a sign of special appreciation and to honor Brigadier General Schmitz.

The supporting program was rounded off with a tour and introduction of the leading-edge training facilities in Ft. Leonard Wood. This also included a visit to the Chemical Defense Training Facility (CDTF), to be reopened in April following extensive conversion work, which will enable live agent training for CBRN forces in an extremely realistic training environment.
All in all, the weeklong event was a highly informative and well organized occasion that received outstanding praise and recognition from both sides.
Special thanks is due to Major General Donna Martin and her team for the excellent support and outstanding hospitality on behalf of the U.S. Army, and to Lieutenant Colonel Veeck, the initiator and very capable German coordinator who successfully organized the event together with his team. Bravo zulu – well done!