Word of the Week: Strohfeuer

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Few things last forever. Many of them are Strohfeuer, such as interesting fashion trends or a summer fling.

Directly translated, Strohfeuer means “straw fire”, and it describes something that’s strong, but short-lived – like a fire that’s fueled by straw. Straw can quickly become engulfed in flames, but once the fuel is out, so is the fire.

An English equivalent to Strohfeuer is the phrase “a flash in the pan.” As a metaphor, the word Strohfeuer can describe a range of temporary phenomena, from relationships to the stock market. Although you might perceive your new-found love as a long-term partner, he or she might be nothing more than Strohfeuer! If you just started your own business and it’s going well, keep in mind that your success might also just be Strohfeuer. And if you’ve seen a spike in the stock market, be aware of the fact that this too might just be a flash in the pan.

So don’t draw conclusions about your state of affairs too soon, and learn to recognize the difference between a Strohfeuer and lasting success!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

10 famous German immigrants who changed the world

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Not a lot of people in his native country are familiar with Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730 – 1794), but in the US the German-born military officer is a household name: he is considered one of the heroes of the American Revolutionary War of 1775 – 1783. Von Steuben, a veteran of the Prussian general staff, was recruited into the Continental Army by Benjamin Franklin. He used his extensive military experience to drill and discipline the badly organized and ill-equipped troops, transforming them into an effective army. Under the leadership of George Washington, the Continental Army eventually defeated the British. Today, Baron von Steuben is honored every year on Von Steuben Day, when parades are held in several US cities. A statue of von Steuben stands in Lafayette Square just north of the White House.

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Thomas Nast (1840 – 1902) was one of the most famous caricaturists and cartoonists in the United States in the 19th century. He was born in the southern German town of Landau and immigrated to the US with his family during his childhood. Working for the illustrated political magazine Harper’s Weekly, Nast established the elephant and the donkey as symbols of the Republican and Democratic parties, which are still in use today. Nast has also been credited with creating the modern image of Santa Claus – a round friendly grandfather figure wearing a red suit.

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Leipzig Book Fair kicks off with 2,500 exhibitors

Are you searching for some book recommendations? The Leipzig Book Fair may give you some ideas!

The Leipzig Book Fair is the oldest and second-largest book fair in Germany, and it’s taking place right now! The four-day event, which will be held until March 24, attracted around 197,000 visitors last year and is sure to attract just as many this year. Throughout the event, there are author readings, writing workshops, award ceremonies and sales presentations. New publications are often presented at the Leipzig Book Fair, making it a great place for new authors to gain exposure.

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This year’s guest of honor is the Czech Republic, and 70 Czech books from 60 different authors – all translated into German – are showcased at the fair, exposing their work to new markets.

Germany has around 50 literature festivals every year, but its two book fairs (the Frankfurt Book Fair and the Leipzig Book Fair) are the most popular. In the year 1632, the Leipzig Book Fair became Germany’s largest, but it was overtaken by Frankfurt’s in 1945. The Leipzig Book Fair suffered under the Cold War’s communist rule, but reemerged after a hiatus in 1991. Since then, it has steadily grown, and this year, more than 2,500 exhibitors from 50 different countries will demonstrate the importance of literature, both in Germany and the world. While the Frankfurt Book Fair is by far the largest, the Leipzig Book Fair is sometimes considered the “readers’ fair”. With a Manga-Comic-Con – one of Europe’s largest comic events – as part of this fair, you’re also likely to see young book-reading superheroes walking through the halls!

Word of the Week: Frühjahrsmüdigkeit

When spring arrives, not everyone is struck purely with joy and vitality. Some are just the opposite, developing a fatigue that Germans call Frühjahrsmüdigkeit (“spring tiredness”).

In German, the word Frühjahr means “early year” – as opposed to Frühling, which means “spring.” But regardless, Frühjahrsmüdigkeit is usually attributed to weariness, laziness and lethargy in the springtime — generally between mid-March to mid-April.

Do you find yourself staring at the cherry blossom tree outside your window, unable to concentrate on your work? Has it become more difficult to wake up early? Do you get headaches more often than usual? Do you spend weekends on the couch rather than outdoors? Then you might be suffering from Frühjahrsmüdigkeit.

“Spring tiredness”, however, is a phenomenon that has not yet been scientifically confirmed. In fact, it stands in contradiction to what Americans call “spring fever”, which usually refers to a surge in energy. But some scientists speculate that springtime weariness comes as a result of changing seasons, which leads to hormonal readjustments in the body. When the days get longer, the body increases its production of seratonin and reduces its production of melatonin. During this transition, the body may be more tired than usual. Additionally, fluctuating temperatures can affect blood pressure, which may also lead to tiredness.

But the scientific basis for Frühjahrsmüdigkeit is still being studied. And there’s also plenty of Germans who speak about Frühlingsgefühle (“spring feelings”) — a state of vitality, joy and liveliness that is comparable to “spring fever”.

But these aren’t the only German words that deal with the changing seasons: while Americans talk about “spring cleaning”, Germans have their own word for it: Frühjahrsputz (“early-year cleaning”). Perhaps it’s the cleaning that leads to feelings of Frühjahrsmüdigkeit. Maybe it’s the weather or the allergies. Or perhaps it’s just an excuse for slacking off.

Whatever the cause may be, one thing is certain: at this time of year in Germany, you’re likely to hear complaints about Frühjahrsmüdigkeit, while also hearing uplifting comments about the Frühlingsgefühle that come with the warm weather. Which begs the question: which one do you feel today?

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Women of the Bauhaus: Marianne Brandt (1893-1983)

Marianne Brandt was born Marianne Liebe in 1893 in the German city of Chemnitz. Although she pursued painting early in life and attended a private art school and the Grand Ducal College of Art in Weimar from 1912-1917, where she produced many works in the Expressionists style and also studied sculpture, the artist is best known for her sleek and elegant industrial designs.

In 1919 she married the Norwegian painter Erik Brandt and traveled with him to Norway and France. The couple returned to Weimar in 1921 and would divorce 14 years later. In 1923, Ms. Brandt enrolled at the Bauhaus and studied primarily with the Hungarian modernist theorist and designer László Moholy-Nagy in the metal workshop which had accepted only men until that point. She earned a position as his assistant and it was there that she excelled at industrial design: her teapots, (including her iconic “MT 49” teapot of 1924, shown below), lighting and lamps, coffee sets and ashtrays are closely identified with her and were mass produced. Her interest in photography flourished during these years and she produced playful self-portraits and images that incorporated intriguing reflections on spherical objects.

Courtesy picture-alliance/dpa. Photo by Lucia Moholy.

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Word of the Week: Frühjahrsputz

The temperatures are rising, the sun is shining and the flowers are blooming. It’s time to put away those heavy winter coats and bring out the shorts! With the change of the seasons comes substantial housework, which Germans call Frühjahrsputz (spring cleaning)!

Directly translated, Frühjahrsputz means “early-year-cleaning”. It refers to a time in the spring when Germans clean their homes and yards, putting away winter clothes and winter equipment. A Frühjahrsputz is much more thorough than a regular cleaning spree and also involves a lot of reorganizing. Americans use the term “spring cleaning” just as Germans use the word Frühjahrsputz! But the origin of the concept of spring cleaning is neither German nor American.

Some researchers trace the concept to an ancient Jewish practice of cleansing the home ahead of the Passover feast. Similarly, the Catholic Church conducts a thorough cleaning of the church alter before Good Friday. Today, many Germans do their spring cleaning in the days leading up to Easter. But of course, a Frühjahrsputz can be conducted at any time in the spring. So open your windows, dust your furniture and let the sun shine into your spotless home!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Women of the Bauhaus: Lucia Moholy (1894-1989)

Lucia Moholy, photograph by László Moholy-Nagy.
Courtesy picture alliance-Liszt Collection

Lucia Schulz was born in 1894 in Prague. As a young woman, she studied philosophy and art history at the University of Prague, but then turned her focus on publishing, working as an editor in German publishing houses. In 1920 she met a Hungarian artist, László Moholy-Nagy in Berlin whom she married a year later.

While her husband took over the preliminary course from Josef Albers at the Bauhaus in 1923, Ms. Moholy became her husband’s darkroom technician and collaborator, exploring new techniques such as photogram, the process of exposing light-sensitive paper with objects laid upon it. She used a new focus, referred to as the Neue Sachlichkeit (New Objectivity), which employed a straightforward frontality. She took many photographs of the school exterior and interior and social events which were extensively used to advertise the school in brochures, posters and magazine articles.

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Women of the Bauhaus: Gunta Stölzl (1897-1983)

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Even as a young girl, Adelgunde Stölzl carried her sketchbook everywhere. On long hikes in the mountains around her hometown of Munich, she sketched landscapes and farmers with their livestock. The young artist would continue that discipline throughout her life, and her accompanying writings served as a valuable insight into her creative mind. She continued her love of the arts as a young woman at the Kunstgewerbeschule (School of Arts and Crafts), where she studied decorative and glass painting, ceramics, and art history. Even as a nurse during World War I, she filled the pages of her journals while serving on the Italian and French fronts.

Upon her return from the war, Gunta Stölzl, as she was then known, decided to apply to the Bauhaus, whose non-traditional ideals of openness and exploration she found intriguing. However, she soon realized that women were not welcome in all classes and often relegated to what was considered “women’s art:” weaving. There, she had soon mastered the fundamentals of weaving and began teaching other students, enjoying intense collaboration with others. Students sometimes supplemented learning weaving and dyeing techniques outside the school but were motivated by the open and fruitful dialogue of the Bauhaus setting.

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Word of the Week: Frühschoppen

It’s 10 a.m. on a Sunday – too early to drink? Not necessarily! There’s even a German word for early-morning drinking: Frühschoppen!

The term is a fusion of the words früh (“early”) and Shoppen (a classic German word for a glass that holds a quarter or half a liter of wine or beer). In Germany and Austria, the term is often used to describe a very traditional brunch that often consists of – or includes – white sausage, pretzels and (*drum roll*) beer! In the most traditional sense, a Frühschoppen takes place in a tavern on a Sunday morning, bringing together a group of regulars who like to discuss life and politics. Often, a band is present to play Volksmusik (traditional music). The most famous example of Frühschoppen would be the early-morning beer gatherings that take place at Oktoberfest, complete with pretzels and live music.

However, the term is also used more loosely to describe any instances where people gather to drink in the morning – regardless of whether it’s a Sunday or a Wednesday. A Frühschoppen does not necessarily have to have food or music at all. Simply having a beer before lunch can be considered Frühschoppen. In some regions of Germany, people gather at a pub after church – something that is considered Frühschoppen. But regardless of where it is, as long as it’s in the early hours, your drinking can be considered a Frühschoppen. Cheers to learning a new word!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

A survival guide to recycling in Germany

© Ina Fassbender / dpa

One of the most immediate culture shocks of traveling to Germany, especially if you grew up in the United States, is Germany’s seeming obsession with recycling. Whereas in the U.S. you are lucky if you can locate a recycling bin in public areas like parks or street corners, you’ll have the opposite problem in Germany, where you’ll find a sometimes confusing plethora of multi-colored bins. If you have been in this situation, looking around desperately to strangers or waiting to see what items other drop in each bin, we feel you. You are not alone. Even Germans sometimes question which bin is appropriate for which items.

Due to this common culture shock and the often harsh punishment one receives for a wrong move, we thought we’d give you the lowdown on German recycling.

Step 1: Prevent creating waste in the first place

Germany has created and continues to develop a culture of minimal waste. This is true for projects big and small: here are a few examples of major reducers of waste.

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