The rising popularity of American Football in Germany

As school starts and the leaves gradually change in color, we turn our attention back to one of America’s favorite pastimes—football. Be it attending high school games in our home towns or driving into the city to see professionals take the field, football is both entertainment and a culture in and of itself. Even the least sporty of Americans is still known to be caught watching a full game once a year during the Super Bowl or throwing a ball around the backyard to pass time.

Though a poll by Gallop shows that football is America’s favorite sport, it hasn’t gained much traction in other places around the world and in fact, “football” refers to an entirely different sport in most other places. Germany is much more associated with the other football, Fußball, and has over 26,000 football clubs nationwide.

Despite their clear love of what we’d call soccer, young Germans—always on the search for a new way to stay active—have been dipping their toes into the world of American football.

First seen on TV

The prevalence of online media has allowed sports enthusiasts to easily transcend borders. More and more Germans are being exposed to football games via their social media feeds or by streaming games live. That access brings Germans as close to the big action as most Americans! The NFL averages 3000,000 viewers each Sunday from Germany. With the screaming crowds, big sponsors, and bright lights, the exposure to the sport has inspired some Germans to start local clubs at home.

Surge of Football clubs

Like with any sport, today’s stars started out on peewee teams and in rec leagues. It may surprise you, but there are already roughly 35,000 registered football players in Germany. The German Football League was founded in 1979 and consists of 16 teams with the same rules as the NCAA ranging from the Berlin Rebels to the Munich Cowboys. Its 2018 season is its 40th, with each team playing a total of 14 games. They play one another each year in the German Bowl but also compete against other European teams.

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As far as the highest-level international football, Germany and Austria take the lead outside of the United States.

Famous German players in America

With the rise of clubs, the first wave of German-recruited players are starting to make their way onto German rosters. Given the new growth of interest in the sport, many players only started playing as teens. Möritz Böhringer started playing American football after watching a YouTube video when was 17. He ended up becoming the first player to be drafted into the NFL (Minnesota Vikings) directly from the European league. Sebastian Vollmer, who started playing when he was 14 years old, was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of 2009 NFL draft. Defensive tackle Markus Kuhn also started at 14, playing eventually for the New York Giants and signing with the New England Patriots in 2016.

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So if you are a diehard football fan in Germany missing the comradery, look around—there’s a growing fan base around you!

By Claire MacFarlane, German Embassy

The evolution of German-American culture in the United States

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The United States is a country built on immigration — and the largest group of immigrants actually came from Germany!

Based on the most recent US Census, more than 44 million Americans claim German ancestry. That’s a higher number than those who claimed English, Italian or Mexican ancestry.

At the turn of the last century, Germans were even the most predominant ethnic group in the US, with eight million people out of a population of 76 million. The world’s third-largest German-speaking population was in New York City, following only Berlin and Vienna. So what changed?

The perception of Germans in the US became less favorable during World War I. But this change in perception became even more pronounced when the US became involved in World War II. During and after the war, Germans were scrutinized and looked at with suspicion. Their loyalty was questioned and they were accused of being spies. As a result of these changing perceptions, German-Americans let go of their pride, customs and culture and instead began to assimilate. After the war, being German was no longer considered a good thing. German breweries changed their names, people changed their names, German language courses were discontinued in schools and people stopped speaking German publicly.

Germans get ready to travel to the United States in 1949. © dpa / picture-alliance

But as decades passed and people celebrated the fall of the Berlin Wall and German reunification, things began to change once again. In 2010, a German-American congressional caucus was created. German-style Oktoberfest celebrations take place all throughout the country – and Americans join in. Today, people are celebrating German heritage and culture in all 50 states.

It would be difficult to list all of the Oktoberfest celebrations in the US, simply because of the sheer volume of these events. But some of the largest of these festivals take place in cities where German ancestry is particularly noteworthy, such as Milwaukee (WI), Cincinnati (OH) and Fredericksburg (TX).

But there are countless others. One such festival is the Germanfest Picnic in Dayton, Ohio. This event celebrates the “German heritage that has given Dayton some of its cultural identity all while enjoying an import beer and a Schnitzel,” according to a Dayton Local article.

Another noteworthy event is the Steuben Parade (scheduled for Sept. 15), which takes place in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago. The New York parade is one of the biggest celebrations of German and German-American culture in the US – and it’s followed by a German-style Oktoberfest in Central Park!

So if you’re living in the US but miss the German culture, there’s plenty of events that may prompt you to throw on your Dirndl or Lederhosen. Cheers to that!

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Explaining Germany’s “Pfandsystem”

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Many Germans are conscientious about recycling – and the German Pfandsystem makes it easy to do so.

Since 2003, Germany has had a system (the Pfandsystem or “deposit system”) that regulates the sale and return of plastic and glass bottles and aluminum cans. When someone buys a bottled beverage, they pay a deposit on that bottle (for example, 15 extra cents). If, however, they bring that empty bottle to a return station (often located in supermarkets), they get that money back. Imagine how much money you could get back if you return 50 empty bottles! This is why you sometimes see individuals voluntarily collecting used bottles in Germany.

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The bottles that are eligible for Pfand (the “deposit” cash) are usually multi-use, refillable bottles. Plastic bottles in Germany can be reused up to 25 times and glass bottles can be reused up to 50 times. It is much more environmentally friendly to sterilize recycled bottles than to produce new, single-use bottles. The Pfand is an incentive to have those bottles returned, rather than thrown in the garbage.

Most bottles in Germany are eligible for Pfand, but there are always exceptions. Single-use bottles occasionally find themselves onto grocery store shelves and these are usually not eligible. Imported bottles from other countries may also not be subject to German laws and thus not be eligible for a deposit.

But overall, the German Pfandsystem is quite effective; last year, British company Eunomia named Germany as the world’s best recycler. In Germany, 97.9 percent of polyethylene terephthalate (PET) were sold with a deposit on them and 93.5 were recycled in 2015, according to a report by the German Society for Packaging Market Research. Most PET bottles end up as new PET bottles, but some are recycled into other products (plastic sheets, textile fibers, etc.)

Many Americans who visit Germany (or other Europeans with similar systems) rave about the Pfandsystem. Because after all – it’s efficient and it works.

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By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

In Germany, swimming in Flussschwimmbäder (“river swimming pools”) is part of the culture

When it’s hot outside, where do you go? Some of you may go to your local pool. If you’re lucky, you may even be near a beach.

But for Germans, the answer is often a nearby river – or a so-called Flussschwimmbad (“river swimming pool”).

There are plenty of clean rivers to swim in throughout the German countryside. But in recent years, German cities have made an effort to convert city rivers into swimming areas. For example, the Flussbad project in Berlin is an initiative to transform an unused part of the Spree River into a giant swimming pool that is equivalent to 17 Olympic pools. This “will provide a public urban recreation space adjacent to the UNESCO World Heritage site, the Museum Island, for both residents and visitors,” according to the foundation planning the project.

But for now, Berlin already has the so-called Badeschiff (“swimming ship”) – a pool that floats in the River Spree and allows visitors to feel as though they are in the river already.

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Some German cities, however, are already home to clean rivers for swimming. In Munich, for example, many residents choose to cool off in the Isar River in the hot summer months. Part of the Isar River is even used for surfing!

For those who want a well-manicured Liegewiese (“lounging field”) and changing rooms to add to their experience, they can visit a pool filled with river water, such as the Naturbad Maria Einsiedel in Munich.

A Naturbad (“nature pool”) that consists of river water is free of chlorine and is therefore a healthy alternative to conventional swimming pools.

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The German city of Lübeck also has a popular Flussschwimmbad. The so-called Marli-Freibad pool is a swimming area in a river. The water is supposedly clean enough to drink. With water slides and changing rooms, swimming in this section of the river can be fun for the whole family.

Although there are occasional rivers that may not be clean enough for swimming, the vast majority are: a recent study found that 98 percent of the rivers, lakes and coastal swimming areas in Germany met the water safety requirements set by the EU, according to the magazine Monumente. Of these, 91.4 percent were considered to have “excellent” water quality.

And swimming in rivers is an aspect of German culture that dates back hundreds of years. The first river bathing establishments were set up in the 1800s and usually including food vendors, changing rooms and sectioned-off areas for swimming (often separated between male and female swimming areas).

Some of these establishments were shut down in the early 1900s but are being reestablished today. Having access to a clean river for swimming is simply part of the German culture!

 

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.

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

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

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”

Stolpersteine: Stumbling Into History

Scattered throughout Europe, planted in the streets and sidewalks of cities whose past is not forgotten, commemorative brass plaques eternalize the lives that were lost in the great tragedy of the 20th century. Called the Stolpersteine (in English: “stumbling stones”), the shiny bronze plaques commemorate the victims of the Nazi regime in more than 1,100 locations in 21 countries.

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More than 67,000 of these stones are solidly rooted across cities in Europe, including 916 places in Germany alone, where large strides have been taken to memorialize Jewish life, history and culture. Each Stolperstein commemorates a victim of the Holocaust at that person’s last known address. The plaque includes the victim’s name, date of birth, deportation date and death date, if known. In Berlin, more than 5,000 Stolpersteine have been carefully implanted in the city’s sidewalks and streets, serving as a constant reminder of the many valuable lives lost tragically during the Holocaust.

But unlike many museums, the stones specifically pay tribute to individuals – names that can too often be forgotten when focusing on the sheer number of victims the Holocaust accounts for. Standing before a stumbling stone in a vibrant neighborhood in Berlin, the world comes to a stand-still as the engraved name of a single individual triggers an empathetic reflection of the life that might have been lived on that very street.

Multiple stumbling stones are often found on the same street, marking former locations of deportation. They therefore put into question what has often been said by many Germans – namely that they didn’t know what happened to their next-door neighbors who suddenly vanished.

The Stolpersteine are a project initiated by German artist Gunter Demnig, who strives to bring back the names of the millions of Jews, gays, Gypsies, and politically or otherwise persecuted victims who were either killed by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 or driven to commit suicide.

“A person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten,” Demnig frequently says, citing the central text of Rabbinic Judaism, the Talmud. Frequently, it’s family members of Holocaust victims who sponsor a stone in memory of a loved one. Sometimes, residents purchase a stone in honor of a victim who once lived in their building. And on other occasions, people sponsor stones simply to promote the project and help preserve the memory of those who suffered – without having any particular ties to an individual. Whenever someone chooses to sponsor a stone, Demnig visits that location personally to install it and say a few words about the meaning of his work.

The Stolpersteine are embedded securely into the ground, so “stumbling” over them is meant in a figurative sense: by spotting these tiny memorials, people stumble over them with their hearts and minds, stopping in their tracks to read the inscriptions and bring someone back to life. Even though each stone takes up only a few inches of space, all 67,000 Stolpersteine dispersed throughout the continent together make up the largest Holocaust memorial in the world.

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