Have you ever thought about learning German? Reaching a level of fluency will take time and dedication, but it will pay off in the end.
German is one of the most useful languages to learn – and that’s because it is the most common native language in the European Union. There are more than 100 million native German speakers in the EU and German is an official language in Germany, Austria, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Belgium – that’s 7 countries! Plus, a few other countries speak German in certain provinces.
Globally, German is the 11th most-spoken language in the world and it is the third most commonly taught foreign language in the US, following Spanish and French.
It’s no doubt that learning German is useful, but is it difficult? Well, German is famous for its long and extensive use of compound words and its case system may not be the easiest to remember. However, English and German share a large percentage of their vocabulary. In fact, one survey found the origin of English words is 25% derived from Germanic languages.
If you’re in the process of learning German, be sure to check out our quirky, weird and unusual Word of the Weeks!
Berlin is a lively city with vibrant nightlife and countless daytime activities. With summer around the corner, here are 5 awesome ways to spend the season’s most beautiful days!
1) Soak in the Badeschiff
When the sun comes out and the temperatures heat up, head over to Berlin’s Badeschiff (“bathing ship”) to enjoy the day on the Spree. This swimming pool floats in the River Spree – and the views of the city are fantastic! Plus, it’s next to a riverside beach where you can sip on a cocktail and soak up the sun.
2) Have a drink at the Club der Visionaere
The Club der Visionaere is a picturesque summertime spot between Kreuzberg and Treptower Park. It is a club along the water that hosts live electronic music concerts at night. Weeping willows surround the terrace, making it a beautiful venue to spend a summertime evening with friends.
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.
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.
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?
There’s a good chance you fell for at least one April Fools’ joke today. Every April 1, the Internet is flooded with hoaxes and stories meant to trick people into believing them. April Fools’ is a tradition celebrated widely in both the US and Germany. Although it is unclear exactly how and why this day of jokes originated, there is plenty of evidence that Germans (along with other Europeans) were already playing tricks on each other back in the Middle Ages!
Long before the Internet, Germans were celebrating April 1 the old fashioned way. On April 1, 1530, a meeting was allegedly scheduled for lawmakers in Augsburg, who were told that they were gathering to unify the state’s coinage. When people heard of the meeting, they began trading their currency to make a profit from the change. However, the meeting never took place, the law was not enacted, and everyone who showed up – as well as those who traded their currency – were mocked as fools.
You might have seen images of the cherry blossom trees that blanket Washington, D.C. every spring. The 3,000 trees around the Tidal Basin were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912, symbolizing the friendship between the two countries. Once the trees begin to bloom, the city is filled with festivals, celebratory events and a parade marking the occasion.
Although the District has an abundance of cherry blossom trees, Japan has gifted its prized sakura trees to several other countries, including Brazil, China, Turkey and Germany. And in Germany, the blossoming trees have been growing in popularity.
In Germany, the trees typically bloom a few weeks later than in the US, but nevertheless come with their own celebrations. Since 1968, the city of Hamburg – which is home to about 2,000 Japanese residents and 100 Japanese companies – has hosted an annual cherry blossom festival, complete with fireworks, a Japanese Kulturtag (“day of culture”) and a bi-yearly pageant for a cherry blossom princess. In the 1960s, Hamburg received approximately 5,000 cherry blossom trees from Japan, which were planted along the city’s riverbanks.
But even hundreds of years ago, Hamburg residents would flock across the Elbe River to the so-called “Altes Land” (“old land”) in the spring to admire the countless cherry blossom trees that blanketed the region. The Altes Land, which is the largest contiguous fruit-producing region in Northern Europe, has had cherry blossom trees for centuries before they were planted along the Hamburg’s riverbanks.
Other German cities host smaller cherry blossom festivals of their own. And in Bonn, the cherry blossoms have become a major tourist attraction in recent years. In the mid-1980s, the city decided to plant cherry blossom trees all throughout Bonn’s Altstadt (“old town”) in order to make it a nicer place to live. The plan worked: Bonn’s Heerstraße is now one of the most attractive springtime destinations. Photographs depicting Bonn’s tunnel of pink have become an internet sensation, bringing tourists from around the world to visit the city during peak bloom. Japan’s gifts have brought beauty to cities across the world, including Germany!
As we conclude Women’s History Month, we will reflect on the life and work of Alma Siedhoff-Buscher, who enjoyed an unusual career of furniture and toy design at the Bauhaus. It is noteworthy to consider that the women at the Bauhaus began their artistic careers at the moment when German women earned the right to vote for the first time in January 1919.
Alma Siedhoff-Buscher (1899 –1944)
Alma Buscher could not know that her early art studies would lead to the field of furniture-making and toy design and a deep interest in child pedagogy. By the time the artist enrolled at the Bauhaus in Weimar in 1922, she had attended several art schools, including the State Arts and Crafts Museum in Berlin. At the Bauhaus, she took the preliminary course taught by Johannes Itten and attended classes by Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky, as was standard. She became one of only a few women who continued in an area other than weaving when her teachers Georg Muche and Josef Hartwig supported her move into the wood sculpture program.
In 1923 Ms. Buscher’s furniture designs were shown in the school’s first exhibit in the Haus am Horn – the first example of a building based on Bauhaus design principles – and included furniture designed for the children’s room, as well as toys and a puppet theater. What was unique about the artist’s furnishings – such as the cabinets she designed – was that they encouraged children to explore space on their own and rearrange the brightly painted crates that were part of the cabinets in any way they wished. She incorporated the element of movement when she added wheels to the crates, allowing children to further create and pursue their own narratives.
“Children should, if at all possible, have a room in which they can be what they want to be…everything in it belongs to them and their imagination designs it …”
– Alma Siedhoff-Buscher, 1926
Only a year later, the Zeiss kindergarten was outfitted with children’s furniture designed by Ms. Buscher. Her furniture and toys were exhibited at a conference for kindergarten teachers and youth leaders, as well as the “Youth Welfare in Thuringia” exhibit in Weimar. In 1926, her designs were shown at “The Toy” exhibit in Nurnberg.
Her most popular toy designs were the Kleine Schiffbauspiel (“Little Shipbuilding Game”) and the Groβe Schiffbauspiel (“Big Shipbuilding Game”), small brightly painted wooden blocks that could be constructed and re-arranged freely. Other popular toys were her simple colorful building blocks and her Wurfpuppen (or “Throw Dolls,” dolls made of straw and with bead heads) and coloring books. In 1927, she designed crane and sailboat cut-out kits, published by Otto Maier-Verlag in Ravensburg. The shipbuilding games and cut-out kits were reintroduced into production in 1977.
Ms. Buscher married her fellow Bauhaus student, actor and dancer Werner Siedhoff who worked closely with Oskar Schlemmer’s Bauhaus stage. The couple moved to Dessau when the school relocated there in 1925. Two years later she graduated from the school and worked there for a year. Because of her husband’s line of work, the family – which by then included a son, Joost, and a daughter, Lore – moved frequently. She performed freelance work after leaving the Bauhaus and died in an air-raid in 1944.
In 2004, the Bauhaus Museum in Weimar opened a solo exhibition, “Alma Siehoff-Buscher: A New World for Children” which traveled to the Bauhaus Archive in Berlin in 2006. The Haus am Horn as part of the Bauhaus and its Sites in Weimar, Dessau and Bernau/Berlin is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is scheduled to reopen in May 2019 after extensive renovations to return it to its original appearance.
By Eva Santorini, German Embassy
Comprehensive information on the 100th anniversary of the Bauhaus can be viewed at bauhaus100.com.
“Bauhaus Women: Art, Handicraft, Design” by Ulrike Müller.
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.
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.
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.
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!