The 69th Berlinale showcases a record number of female directors

The 69th Berlin International Film Festival (known as the „Berlinale“) kicked off this past weekend, beginning an 11-day program that will include hundreds of films and film screenings. As one of the largest public film festivals in the world, the Berlinale attracts tens of thousands of visitors from all around the world, including many celebrities.

This year, there are 17 films competing for the famous Golden and Silver Bear awards, 16 of which are world premieres. This year’s spotlight is on female directors; in fact, 40 percent of all its competing films were directed by women, setting an unprecedented record for such a major film festival.

And this year’s Berlinale jury president is also a woman: Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche will head the 69th Berlin International Jury, which will decide who receives the Golden and Silver Bears. This weekend, Dieter Kosslick, the festival’s director, will sign a pledge that “calls festivals to commit to gender parity in its management and requires data transparency surrounding film submissions and programming committees,” Deutsche Welle reports. At a time when Germany is celebrating 100 years of women’s suffrage, this festival is a welcome showcase of female accomplishments in the creative arts.

The Berlinale was founded in West Berlin in 1951 – at the beginning of the Cold War – as a “showcase of the free world”, according to the event organizers. The very first festival was opened with Alfred Hitchcock’s movie Rebecca, which was a romantic psychological thriller that has won two Academy Awards. While the Berlinale often showcases highly anticipated films and A-list celebrities, it also brings new talent to the stage, sometimes kickstarting the careers of young filmmakers.

This year’s festival runs from February 7 to 17.

 

Never Look Away [Werk ohne Autor]: A Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck Film

On January 30th, almost 100 people joined a German Embassy-organized exclusive screening and discussion of the Oscar® nominated film “Never Look Away” [Werk ohne Autor] by German director and screenwriter Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood. In addition to being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, the movie’s American cinematographer, Caleb Deschanel, received a nomination in the Cinematography category. A perfect example of Wunderbar Together!

German Ambassador Emily Haber with Florian Henkel von Donnersmarck

German Ambassador Emily Haber, who has now seen the film twice already despite its length of a little over three hours, welcomed the guests. And even with his busy schedule—being invited to film festivals spanning multiple continents—director Henckel von Donnersmarck himself was there to introduce the movie. After the screening, he wrapped up the event with a conversation with Bilal Qureshi, an award-winning NPR journalist and culture writer.

We don’t want to spoil the content of the movie as you really should watch it yourself, but Henckel von Donnersmarck has called the film “a love story, a family drama, a biography of Germany in the 20th century, and a stroll through modern art.” Quite impressive!

For anyone interested in watching a wide selection of top-rated German films in the comfort of your home, you’re in luck: As part of Wunderbar Together you can log on to www.kanopy.com/goethe and find “Wunderbar: A Celebration of German Film”—a great selection of classics and cutting-edge films for your viewing pleasure.

But now, we are all waiting with anticipation for the envelopes to be opened on February 24thin Los Angeles. Viel Erfolg!

By Alina Burkholder & Jacob Comenetz, German Embassy

The Leo House: a refuge for German immigrants

© Leo House

When German immigrants came to the United States in the late 19th century, many of them entered through New York, seeking a new life in a world that promised endless opportunities. But the transition to a new life was not always easy. A New York based guesthouse called The Leo House took many of these immigrants in, guiding them on their journey in an unfamiliar land.

The Leo House is a Catholic guesthouse on West 23rd Street in New York. Today it serves as a nonprofit budget hotel for travelers, but it played a significant role in lives of German immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th century. Between 1865 and 1900, 35 percent of all immigrants who arrived in the US came from Germany. But after a difficult 4,000 mile journey, many of them found new hardships in the US.

German immigrants arrive in New York in 1850. © dpa

“They didn’t speak English. The gangs of New York were ruthless – they saw Germans who just got off the boat as ‘easy prey,’” says David J. Smith, executive director of Leo House. “And many Germans lost their faith.”
German businessman Peter Cahensly became concerned about the plight of German immigrants and founded the St. Raphael Verein in 1883, an organization dedicated to ensuring the safety of German travelers. In 1887, immigrants connected to the society started a fundraiser to further help incoming immigrants. Pope Leo XIII had recently received money in honor of the 50th anniversary of ordination, and the pope took that money and in turn donated $50,000 to the St. Raphael Verein. This money was then used to purchase a building in New York that became known as the Leo House, named in the honor of Pope Leo.

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How German settlers created the traditions behind Groundhog Day

© dpa / picture alliance

This weekend we find out if we’ll have six more weeks of winter or if spring is around the corner! When the world’s most famous groundhog, Punxsutawney Phil, wakes up each year on February 2, tens of thousands of people gather around the furry creature in Gobbler’s Knob, Pennsylvania. Will the groundhog see his shadow or not? The answer to this question will determine the future of our weather patterns. Or so they say.

© dpa / picture alliance

Groundhog Day brings forth a unique wintertime tradition, but the roots of this strange celebration can actually be traced back to German settlers. As many of you know, many of the early settlers from Germany built their communities in Pennsylvania, bringing their own traditions with them to the New World. Many centuries ago, Christian Europeans commonly celebrated Candlemas Day, which is a religious celebration marking the midpoint of winter (and also involves blessing and distributing candles). Germans added their own touch to this celebration; in Germany, it was believed that if the sun came out on Candlemas Day and an animal (usually a hedgehog) would cast a shadow, there would be six more weeks of cold weather. Germans called this the “Second Winter.”

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Germany ranked fourth in annual “Best Countries” report

It’s that time of year again: the time that we discover Germany’s place in various world ranking studies.

This week marked the release of the 2019 US News & World Report Best Countries rankings – and Germany came in fourth! The study ranks countries based on a number of factors, but Germany scored particularly high in the categories of entrepreneurship, power and quality of life. When looking at individual categories, Germany ranks second in the world for entrepreneurship (following Japan), fourth in education and sixth in the category “forward thinking.”

Overall, Germany received 9.6 out of 10 points, following Switzerland (10), Japan (9.8) and Canada (9.7).

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10 great places for winter sports in Germany

1. Bobsled and Skeleton in Kleinstadt

Okay, if this video doesn’t terrify you, I don’t know what will. If you happen to be in NRW, you can visit the Winterberg bobsled track, the “Bobbahn”. The truly brave can even take a ride down the 5,250 foot track at 60 miles an hour.

No thanks.

2. Skiing in Garmisch-Partenkirchen

There are plenty of runs to choose from in Garmisch. One day isn’t enough to explore everything wintery Bavaria has to offer!

© dpa / picture-alliance

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The benefits of learning German in 2019

We’re two weeks into a new year – a time of resolutions and planning. Why don’t you make learning German one of your intentions?

About 130 million people worldwide consider German their native or second language. It is the most widely spoken native language in the European Union, the third most widely taught foreign language in the US and the EU, and the third most widely used language on websites. It is the official or most widely spoken language in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and several other regions such as South Tyrol. Plus, one tenth of all books worldwide are being published in German. It is no secret that learning German makes you more employable (while also allowing you to read the works of Kant and Hegel in their native language – another plus!).

For many, learning German might seem like a daunting task. After all, Duden states that there are 23 million words in the German language. But an average German speaker only uses 12,000 to 16,000 words in his or her everyday life, which makes learning German a little more manageable! And even with a small vocabulary you can create bigger, longer words. For those of you who know a little bit of German already, we’re sure you know what we mean! German words are like chemical elements: you can combine several of them to make something entirely new!

Germans are also the single largest ethnic group in the US (with almost 50 million Americans claiming German ancestry), and 1.38 million people in the US speak German, according to the US Census. A 2015 study also found that interest in German is growing at a particularly high rate in China, India in Brazil, and that 15.4 million people worldwide are currently learning German.

At GermanyinUSA.com, we regularly post a German Word of the Week to share fun, interesting or unusual German words with our readers, and also provide information to help you learn German wherever you may be. We invite you to take a look at our latest words and feel free to suggest others in the comments!

Word of the Week archive

Garmisch-Partenkirchen: The Aspen of Germany

Aspen, Colorado and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany have many traits in common: both are picturesque towns built against the backdrop of some of the world’s most beautiful mountains, attracting hikers, explorers, and winter sports enthusiasts who seek an escape from city life. Although Aspen has multiple sister cities across the world, its partnership with Garmisch-Partenkirchen dates back to September 23, 1966 — the first of its sister cities.

Garmisch-Partenkirchen is located in Bavaria, near the Austrian border and close to Germany’s tallest mountain at 9,718 feet tall — the Zugspitze. Thanks to its proximity to the Alps it is one of Germany’s major resort towns, but it also has a turbulent past.

© colourbox

For many centuries, Garmisch and Partenkirchen were separate towns. The original Roman road passed through Partenkirchen and was first mentioned in history in the year A.D. 15. From the 13th century until the early 19th century, the prince-bishops of Freising ruled the region, and governed from the nearby Werdenfels Castle. Like much of Europe, during the 16th century the towns of Garmisch and Partenkirchen were subject to hardships including the bubonic plague outbreaks and witch hunts. Those accused of witchcraft were tried and burned at the stake at the Werdenfels Castle. In the 17th century, the castle was seen as a place of terror, and was abandoned. Today, only ruins remain.

During Adolf Hitler’s ruling in the early 20th century, the region was chosen as the site for the 1936 Winter Olympics. In preparation for the games, Hitler decided to unify the two towns, calling the new city Garmisch-Partenkirchen. After World War II, the town was used as a recreational center for the U.S. military. Some long-term residents still consider themselves loyal to either Garmisch or Partenkirchen and refuse to recognize the name change.

© colourbox

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Winter Sports in Germany

© dpa / picture-alliance

Skiing and Snowboarding

For those who enjoy skiing and snowboarding, Germany has a number of renowed resorts, many of which lie in the mountainous state of Bavaria. While the neighboring countries of Austria and Switzerland are well-known for their Alpine ski resorts, Germany too has destinations that transform themselves into a winter paradise. One of the most popular Alpine ski resort towns is Garmisch-Partenkirchen, which lies near Germany’s tallest mountain, the Zugspitze (elevation: 9,718 ft). The Rhön Mountains feature gentler slopes ideal for beginners, while the picturesque Black Forest has about 200 ski lifts that allow winter sports enthusiasts to experience a change of scenery.

While Bavaria contains the biggest ski resort, the Black Forest contains the oldest: Germany’s first ski tow was built in the Black Forest, and Germany’s oldest ski club was formed there in 1985.

Recommended ski destinations in Germany:

  • Garmisch-Partenkirchen / Zugspitze
  • Oberstdorf (Fellsdorf/Kleinwalserthal)
  • Schwarzwald (Black Forest)
  • Willingen-Upland
© dpa / picture-alliance

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A night on the Zugspitze: travelers camp out in an igloo village

The summit of the Zugspitze, Germany’s tallest mountain. © dpa / picture-alliance

As a thick blanket of snow covers the icy mountains of Bavaria, some adventurous travelers choose to spend a night on Germany’s tallest mountain – the Zugspitze. But rather than sit by a fireplace in a cozy hotel, these travelers spend the evening curled up in a sleeping bag, protected only by the icy walls of a man-made igloo.

Situated atop the Zugspitze, the Igloo Village is open from December 28 until about mid-April, depending on the weather. Travelers can rent an igloo to spend a starry night on Germany’s peak, which would otherwise be impossible, since there are no traditional hotels atop the mountain.

© Iglu-Dorf GmbH

Those who rent a room in an igloo are provided with thick sleeping bags, food and drink and the option to participate in activities such as evening hikes and snowshoeing. Depending on the igloo they choose to stay in,
visitors can also enjoy the evening in a private jacuzzi or a sauna, or simply cozy up in candle-lit rooms.

The Iglu-Dorf GmbH is responsible for building seven igloo villages across Europe. The Zugspitze is their only location in Germany, but the company also has snowy igloo hotels in Andorra and the Swiss regions of Davos- Klosters, Engelberg-Titlis, Gstaad and Zermatt.

An igloo village in front of the famous Matterhorn mountain in Zermatt, Switzerland.

Each location is decorated with snowy art in line with a specific theme. This season, the Zugspitze’s igloo village is decorated with sculptures that remind visitors of ancient Rome.

The idea to build the igloo hotels came from Adrian Günter, who always sought to be the first one on the mountains in order to obtain photos of sunrises and take his snowboard down untouched slopes.

“I want to be the first one on the mountain in the morning to enjoy the ambient [setting] and go downhill with my snowboard,” was his guiding principle, according to the Iglu-Dorf website.

To make his dream an achievable reality, Günter and his friends built several igloos at a ski resort in Switzerland and spent the night in their structures, which allowed them to be the first ones on the mountain the next morning.

Other winter sport adventurers soon asked Günter for permission to sleep in his igloos, which sparked the idea to start an igloo hotel company. Now, since building its very first igloos in the winter of 1995/1996, the company has hosted tens of thousands of overnight visitors in igloo villages across Europe.

But building these villages is no easy task: the traditional procedure was long and laborious, so Günter invented a method that would speed up the process. To build the igloos, inflatable balloons are covered with snow, thereby forming their basic shapes. Still, the company claims that it takes an average of 2,700 hours to build all of its structures in a village (there are up to 20 igloos per village).

For those eager to camp atop Germany’s tallest mountain, make sure to dress warm: Temperatures in the igloos are typically freezing, and the gondala that takes visitors down the mountain stops running at night. None of the igloo hotels have showers, so most visitors only stay for one night.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy