On October 3, we celebrate the Day of German Unity: Thirty-one years ago, East and West Germany were reunited. The United States played a major role on the road to reunification. We thank the American people for their steadfast support.
We have put together an exciting program to commemorate this momentous day in our shared history, so please join with us as we virtually celebrate the Day of German Unity!
Watch our exclusive video highlighting the vibrant German-American friendship.
Germany is a country with an abundance of beauty, wonder and inspiration. Have a look and visit us!
Discover the moving story of East German escapee Sabine Braun.
There is more to discover on our website: Listen to a message from German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas; learn about Germany’s foreign policy; be inspired by Beethoven’s Prometheus Overture; and much more!
If you’re looking for a travel destination with jaw-dropping views, add The Bastei to your bucket list. This rock formation stands 636 feet above the Elbe River in the Elbe Sandstone Mountains, southeast of Dresden.
What makes this majestic rock formation even more spectacular is a wooden bridge that connects several of these rocks together. Visitors have been walking across the bridge since it was constructed in 1824 (and replaced by a sandstone version in 1851).
From the 12th to the 15th century, a fortress known as the Felsenburg Neurathen stood by the rock formations. This fortress, however, was burned down by an opposing army in 1484 and there is little left of it to see.
In 1801, tour guide Carl Heinrich Nicolai perfectly described the rock formation from one of its lookout points:
“What depth of feeling it pours into the soul! You can stand here for a long time without being finished with it (…) it is so difficult to tear yourself away from this spot.”
The rock formations have impressed so many people that The Bastei was even the location for Germany’s very first landscape photographs, taken by photographer Hermann Krone in 1853.
The Bastei continues to draw in tourists today, as it has done for centuries!
To protect the country’s native wildlife, Germany has built more than 80 “green bridges” since 2005, helping hundreds of thousands of native animals cross roads safely, including elk, deer, wild boars, wolves, foxes, badgers, raccoons and other animals.
The so-called “green bridges” (called Wildbrücken or Grünbrücken in German) are man-made passageways that are strictly off-limits to humans. The wildlife crossings are covered in vegetation that makes them look like an extension of the land on either side of the road.
The eco-friendly passages are “so wide and diverse [that] they appear like an extension of the forest, and animals, the thinking goes, would be less inclined to go galloping across roads … resulting in fewer accidents and a slimmer cleaning bill,” Suzanne LaBarre, an advocate of the concept, told the Atlantic.
Many of the green bridges are equipped with cameras, allowing researchers to gather data on how many animals use these wildlife crossings. Over the past 15 years, more than 100,000 wild animals were sighted on green bridges over the Autobahn in Brandenburg. We can only imagine how high that number must be throughout the whole country!
Although wildlife bridges can be found in the US and Canada as well, Germany (along with France, the Netherlands and Switzerland) was among the first countries to begin constructing them.
Each year, there are hundreds of thousands of registered collisions with wildlife in Germany – not including small animals. Some of these collisions kill lynx and wolves, both of which have been making a comeback in Germany. Large roads and canals also prevent animals from traveling freely, thereby limiting genetic diversity and leading to an increase in death and disease. But the construction of green bridges helps to put a stop to that.
Last month, researchers reported that the gray wolf population in Germany is staying safe thanks in part to green bridges.
Opponents to green bridge projects often cite the high costs of building these bridges. Construction of the wildlife crossings can cost millions, but if they succeed in preventing wildlife collisions, they may be able to save both human and animal lives and reduce damage and cleanup costs in the long run.
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?
Diplomats spend much of their year away from Germany. Away from family, away from outstanding public transport, and most dramatically—away from German baked goods. If you have not yet visited Germany, your sweet tooth would like you to. With bakeries abound, in train stations and around the corner, you are never much more than an arm’s reach from something delicious.
But don’t get us wrong! The best part about German baked goods are their subtlety. Slightly sweet but not overly so is the way of the German baker. So here are 10 items you must eat from a bakery in Germany one day!
We’re going to ease you into the world of German baked goods with the staple of a German breakfast/Abendbrot/snack/anything—Brötchen. Loosely translated this a “roll” but gosh that just does not capture it fully. These are often fetched fresh from the bakery, in varieties with seeds and salt and all sorts of add-ins, sliced in half, and decorated with meats, cheeses, and spreads. It is essentially a delicious vehicle for more food.
Here we’re getting a little adventurous for American palates. Mohnkuchen is poppy seed cake. Though bagels and muffins seem to have cornered the poppy seed market here, it’s more often found as a sweet filling in baked goods in Germany.
You just have to love a Bretzel. Originally a Lent dish, and intricately shaped. So simple, goes with everything. What else can we say.
The “bee sting” may have a fear-inducing name but is made with nothing but love. It is a softer cake with almond slices on top and whipped filling in the middle.
Also not a familiar treat in the U.S., marzipan is a thick paste of ground almonds, sugar, and egg whites. But Germans take it to the next level. Sometimes marzipan is shaped in such realistic forms of fruit and animals it is hard to tell that you are supposed to eat it.
Vorsichtig friends. When Germans say cheese cake they mean kind of actually cheese tasting. If you are used to the sugary cream cheese American version, it’s German cousin may give you pause.
“I am a jelly donut.” Made famous to Americans by one JFK, the Berliner is typically eaten for New Year’s Eve and Karneval in Germany but are hardly a staple of German breakfasts. People in Berlin call it Pfannkuchen.
Hope you have an appetite. As Omi would say, the dense and hardy Vollkornbrot sticks to your bones and a loaf weighs that of a small child.
“Streusel” are on all sorts of cakes. They are crumbly round balls of sugary dough. A “Schnecke” is a snail, and refers to the curling backside, like in a cinnamon bun. These have zero nutritional value but oodles of mental health benefits.
We will leave you with a traditional German sweet to add your must-try list. Stollen is a fruit-cake like bread, often with Marzipan, eaten at Christmas time.
Bookworms, delight! These 11 libraries are enough reason alone to visit Germany someday.
1. Marienburg Castle Queen’s Library, Hanover
The library in Marienburg Castle, along with the castle itself, was a gift from King George V of Hanover to his lovely Queen, Marie. The lovely arching ceilings and fantastic view make us wish we were curled up with a book there right now.
2. Jacob and Wilhelm-Grimm Center, Berlin
The Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm Center in Berlin is an architechtural marvel that was finished in 2009. The design is all about strong lines and sharp angles, but it is still light and open. Students at the Humboldt University get to enjoy this reading room during every exam week, which is almost enough incentive to want to be in school again!
3. The German National Library, Frankfurt
The German National Library is charged with recording and storing every German and German-language publication that is produced. (That’s why the building is so big – it’s full of secrets). The National Libray has been collecting texts since 1913 and now has over 25 million individual items.
The outside is impressive, but the floor-to-ceiling bookshelves and spiral staircases are any library-nut’s dream. Gorgeous, right?
4. Stuttgart Central Library
The Stuttgart Central Library may look like something out of a video game, but we assure you, this is real life. The dramatic white staircases, bookshelves, and floors give the whole building a crisp, clean feeling, perfect for all you minimalists out there.
Also, the facade is permanently lit in patterns of blue lights!
5. Wiblingen Abbey, Ulm
Beauty and the Beast, anyone? Nothing more can be said about this absolutely stunning set up inside of Wiblingen Abbey, a former Benedictine abbey that houses several departments of the University of Ulm.
6. Ulm City Library
The theme for hte Ulm Library is transparency, and what better way to show that than with a giant glass pyramid? There are practically no walls in the library, rather everything is about openness, glass, and light.
7. Herzog August Library, Wolfenbüttel
The Herzog August Library is a flavorful blend of classic and modern architecture. It provides the perfect atmosphere for reading the books it specializes in: Early middle ages texts!
8. The Lower Saxony State and University Library of Göttingen
This library may have the strong lines of some of the other ones, but the warm wood tones makes it look so much homier. This is one of the largest German academic libraries. In 2002, it won the German Library of the Year award!
9. Marie-Elisabeth-Lüders-House, the Library of the Bundestag, Berlin
One of the major perks of being in the German parliament: the architecture. The German government buildings are some of the most modern in the world. This giant glass structure opened in 2003.
10. The Cottbus Library
Another modern marvel for librarians is the Cottbus Library. The soft, flowing angles and curves are much different than many of the other German libraries.
Also, all of the staircases in the building are a fun pink and green!
11. Duchess Anna-Amalia Library, Weimar
This library is straight out of one of a Goethe or Thomas Mann novel. Coincidentally, Goethe actually lived a few streets over from this heavenly library. You’ll be sure to find some literary inspiration here.
Marian Anderson (1897-1993) was a world famous African American singer who made history on both sides of the Atlantic with her opera and spirituals. From the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to Salzburg and Munich, her voice inspired thousands of people with every show. But in order to perform, the American contralto had to face segregation and racial prejudice, both at home and abroad. Her determination to sing – despite opposition and countless hurdles – turned her into a civil rights icon. Some even called her the “voice of the 20th century“.
Although Anderson grew up in Philadelphia and had a successful music career in the United States, she also spent a significant amount of time in Europe. In the early 1930s, Anderson spent time studying and touring various European countries, including Finland, Sweden, Russia, England and Austria.
In 1935, after a successful performance in Vienna, Austria, Anderson was asked to perform a charity concert at the Salzburg Cathedral as part of the Salzburg Festival. This annual festival drew some of the most talented artists of the time. However, there was growing Nazi sentiment in Austria at this time and festival authorities banned Anderson’s performance. But rather than letting this keep her away, Anderson worked with organizers to hold her very own concert in Salzburg, separate from the official festival. Held at the Mozarteum, her unofficial concert stunned the audience, which grew continuously larger as word of her performance spread through town. A few days later, Anderson performed once more in the Alps. Italian conductor Arturo Toscanini told her she had a “voice head once in a hundred years.”
Despite her talents, Anderson continued to face hurdles in a segregated America. In 1939, Anderson was back in the US and preparing for an Easter Sunday concert in Washington, D.C at the invitation of Howard University. Because of her international reputation, organizers expected the crowd to be enormous. They applied to use Constitution Hall as the concert venue, which was owned by the Daughters of the American Revolution. However, “[DAR] refused to allow her use of the hall because she was black and because there was a white-artist-only clause printed in every contract issued by the DAR,” said Anderson biographer Allan Keiler. So instead, Anderson’s historic concert was held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial with the held of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt and President Franklin Roosevelt, drawing a crowd of 75,000 people and making history. Millions of people also tuned in on the radio. Anderson later admitted to being nervous with a crowd size that large, saying, “I could not run away from this situation. If I had anything to offer, I would have to do so now.”
Although the concert at the Lincoln Memorial was one of Anderson’s most well-known performances, her popularity only continued to grow and she found herself performing all over the world – including Germany.
A few years after the end of the Second World War, Anderson returned to Europe and continued to perform. The concerts she held in Berlin and Munich in 1950 were some of the “most gratifying”, according to her biography. And the German people were blown away by her talents. After her concerts, The Neue Zeitung wrote “…in critical places one is surprised by a wonderfully accomplished phrase or even a single tone in which her soul seems to open. From such moments the whole song achieves a new illumination.”
Throughout her career, Anderson became an important figure in the Civil Rights era. She became the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera. She became a Goodwill Ambassador for the Department of State. She sang at the 1957 inauguration of President Dwight Eisenhower. She participated in the Civil Rights movement and found herself at the steps of the Lincoln once again when she performed at the 1963 March on Washington. She also won numerous awards, including the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Marian Anderson was an inspiration to millions of people on both sides of the Atlantic.
This blog is part of our larger series for Black History Month. During Black History Month, we are not only highlighting Germans of African descent (see our blog here), but also black Americans who have inspired Germans across the Atlantic, and across the years.
Frederick Douglass inspired Germans, and he inspired our team at the German Embassy. Here’s how.
Frederick Douglass fled slavery in 1833, and went on to become one of the most important figures in American History. As a notable abolitionist, he advised, lobbied, criticized, and befriended president Abraham Lincoln. To this day, his thoughts on the merits of the US Constitution and founding ideals, such as those found in his famous speech, “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?” continue to influence and challenge thinkers.
After the Civil War, he held high office in the District of Columbia and the US Federal Government, always advocating for equality for all Americans, regardless of race or gender.
Americans weren’t the only to notice the ideas and dynamism of this self-made man. Ottilie Assing, German feminist, journalist and abolitionist, befriended Douglass in 1856 after reading his autobiographical work, “My Bondage and My Freedom,”. As a German of Jewish decent, Assing found herself interested in the parallels in the struggle against discrimination in the United States, in which Douglass played a major role.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a man who touched the lives of billions of people around the globe. Someone that every child learns about in school. As a leader of the American Civil Rights movement, he organized peaceful protests that led to the end of legal segregation in the United States.
But even in Germany, Dr. King’s words impacted countless people.
In September 1964 – one year after his historic “I Have a Dream” speech– Dr. King was invited to Berlin to attend a memorial ceremony for President John F. Kennedy, who had recently been assassinated. At the time, Berlin was newly divided with the foundations of the Wall having been built only three years earlier.
Dr. King accepted the invitation from West Berlin Mayor Willy Brandt. And on September 13, 1964, Dr. King addressed an audience of 20,000 Germans at the Waldbühne stadium in West Berlin.
“It is indeed an honor to be in this city, which stands as a symbol of the divisions of men on the face of the earth,” he told the crowd. “For here on either side of the wall are God’s children and no man-made barrier can obliterate that fact. Whether it be East or West, men and women search for meaning, hope for fulfillment, yearn for faith in something beyond themselves, and cry desperately for love and community to support them in this pilgrim journey.”
In honor of Black History Month, we’re highlighting 9 influential Germans of African descent who impacted the world or are making a difference in their communities. Who would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!
Stephanie Jones is a German football manager best known for managing the German women’s national team. She also played for the women’s national team between 1993 and 2007, helping Germany win the 2003 FIFA Women’s World Cup, as well as three European Championships. In 2019, Jones was among the first female soccer players to be inducted into Germany’s Hall of Fame in Dortmund.
We all know the 1993 song “What is Love”by Haddaway. But not everyone knows that this hit single was created by Trinidadian-born German musician and vocalist Nestor Alexander Haddaway, who moved to Cologne in 1987. Today, he splits his time between Cologne and Kitzbühl, Austria.
Isaac Bonga is an NBA basketball player from Germany who currently plays for the Washington Wizards. Before becoming an NBA player, Bonga had a successful basketball career in Germany, where he played with Skyliners Frankfurt of the Basketball Bundesliga. Bonga also represents the senior German national team in international competitions.