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!
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
The 2018 World Cup has begun! With the games currently underway in Russia, let’s take a look back at some of Germany’s most important matches – and the meaning these games had for the German people.
During the 1954 World Cup in Switzerland, West Germany took home the gold, beating Hungary 3-2. At the time, Europe was still recovering from World War II, and Germany was struggling to rebuild itself and its reputation in the global community. The World Cup victory gave Germany a newfound sense of pride and happiness. Some historians even consider this victory a turning point for post-war Germany.
“It was a kind of liberation for the Germans from all the things that weighed down upon them after the Second World War,” wrote German historian Joachim Fest. “July 4, 1954 is in certain aspects the founding day of the German Republic.”
Twenty years later, West Germany became the host of the 1974 World Cup, which reinforced Germany’s sense of community on the world stage. The West German team also won the championship that year. But one of the most memorable moments in German soccer was when West Germany experienced its only loss of the tournament in a game against East Germany, thanks to a goal scored by Jürgen Sparwasser.
The fall of the wall marked another turning point in German soccer: the 1990 World Cup was once again won by the West German team, but it was clear that this would be the last time Germany competed with two teams. The victory was celebrated by both German teams, and a few months later, they were united. At the time, German soccer player Franz Beckenbauer was convinced that the united team would become unbeatable in the years to come.
And of course, most of us remember Germany’s most recent World Cup victory from 2014, which was also Germany’s first champion title since the 1990 championship.
Since the establishment of the World Cup in 1930, Germany has claimed four World Cup victories and hosted the games twice. Germany’s first World Cup game of 2018 took place on Sunday against Mexico and the second match will be held this coming Saturday against Sweden. Who will you be rooting for? We want to see photos from your soccer watch parties on social media! Be sure to tag us @germanyinusa – we will be reposting fun photos in which we see your German pride!
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?
If you’re traveling through Darmstadt, make sure to stop by the Waldspirale (“Forest Spiral”) – a building so unusual that it will stop you in your tracks.
This residential building was designed by the famous Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He is best known for the colorful Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, but he actually has many other famous buildings – including the Waldspirale in Germany.
If you look at any of his buildings, you’ll notice their curvy shapes and unconventional designs; Hundertwasser was always fascinated by spirals and referred to straight lines as “godless and immoral” and “without thought or feeling”. The artist strove to bring beauty to the world and he even refused payment for his design of the Hundertwasserhaus, claiming that the beauty of the building was worth the investment to “prevent something ugly from going up in its place.”
If you look at the Hunderwasserhaus and the Waldspirale, you’ll notice similarities. The 12-story “Forest Spiral” apartment complex has a green roof, a tower in the shape of an onion dome and colorful walls. There are no straight lines or edges. The building has more than 1,000 windows in different shapes and sizes and no two windows are the same!
The Waldspirale is one of Hundertwasserhaus’ newer designs. It was completed in 2000 – the year that the artist passed away.
Although this is a residential building that is not open to the public, it is still worth seeing from the outside!
If visiting a moated castle is on your to-do list, then Vischering Castle is the place for you. This German castle takes you on a trip back to medieval times.
The Vischering Castle was built in 1271 and stands in present-day Lüdinghausen, North Rhine-Westphalia – an area saturated with castles. Germans call it a Wasserschloss (“water castle”) because it is surrounded by water for protection.
The castle is a product of a family feud between Bischop Gerhard von der Mark and the Von Ludinghausen family. In the 13th century, the bishop constructed it to compete with the other family’s castle, which was located nearby. Family feuds were common in those days, but they did not always lead to magnificent castles!
The horseshoe-shaped castle was built for defense and still contains its drawbridge, courtyard, strategic gateways and defensive wall. Although it was partially destroyed in a fire in 1521 and partially damaged during World War II, it was rebuilt and continues to stand open to visitors today.
In honor of International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at 12 influential German women whose names have gone down in history. Who would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!
Hildegard von Bingen
Hildegard von Bingen (also known as Saint Hildegard) is the oldest person on our list. This influential German woman is largely considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany. She was a Benedictine nun who was also an abbess, artist, author, composer, pharmacist, poet, preacher, mystic and theologian! It seems there is nothing that von Bingen couldn’t do! In 2012, she was named a Doctor of the Church, a rare title only given to saints who contributed heavily with their theological writings. Only three other women in history have received this title.
“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world – everything is hidden in you.”
Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria („Sissi“)
Many of you may have watched or heard about a royal Austrian woman nicknamed “Sisi”. Elisabeth of Bavaria was born into a royal family in Munich, Germany, which was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria at the time. At the age of 16, she married Emperor Franz Joseph I and became the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. Her biggest achievement was helping to create the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867. She was killed during an anarchist assassination while in Geneva in 1898.
Although the invention of the first practical automobile is credited to Karl Benz, his wife also had an enormous impact on the industry. Bertha Benz, a German woman from Pforzheim, was Karl’s business partner. She financed the manufacturing of his first horseless carriage with her dowry. In 1888, she took her two sons and drove the Patent Motorwagen Model III 120 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim without telling her husband. This was the first time someone drove an automobile over a long distance, fixing all technological complications on the way. Bertha made history; her drive alleviated fears that people had about automobiles, bringing the Benz Patent-Motorwagen its first sales.
In the Swabian Mountains in southern Germany is a spring so blue that it attracts countless visitors. Known as the Blautopf (“blue pot”), this strange mountainous spring forms the drain for the Blau (River Blue) cave system. What makes this spring particularly strange and unique is its deep blue color – a result of the physical properties of the nanoscale limestone present in the water.
According to scientists, that is.
Legends tell a different story.
One local myth claims that someone pours a vat of ink into the Blautopf every day to maintain its color. Another strange myth claims that it is impossible to measure the Blautopf’s depth since a water nix steals the leaden sounding line (a thin rope with a plummet) every time it is submerged. There is even a story about the Schöne Lau, a beautiful mermaid trapped in the Blautopf. Today, a life-size statue of the mermaid stands near the Blautopf.
Experienced cave divers are known to explore the Blautopf and its underground corridors (which are many miles long with enormous chambers). This, however, is restricted to well-trained divers, since it is dangerous and has led to fatalities in the past. But for most people, viewing the Blautopf from the outside is satisfying enough! The majestic blue color makes for spectacular photos year-round.
Germany is filled with creations from the days when castles and knights were the norm. One such creation is the Rakotzbrücke — the Devil’s Bridge.
Located in Kromlauer Park near Gablenz in eastern Germany, this unique bridge is shaped as a semi-circle. From a distance, the reflection in the water creates the image of a perfect sphere. Photographers and travelers love visiting this bridge, and you may have seen already seen fantastic images of the Devil’s Bridge on Instagram!
The bridge was commissioned by a local knight in 1860 and built with a diversity of local stones. It was called the “Devil’s Bridge” because its structure made it so dangerous that it must have been built by Satan, people said. Similar bridges exist throughout Europe and many of them are considered the work of the devil due to their “impossible” design.
This bridge (and the surrounding park) are a must-see for travelers in the area, but take note that crossing the bridge is strictly prohibited! There are great views of the bridge from the park, and you can always Photoshop yourself into the pictures you take!
Excitement is running high as we head into the final days of the Winter Olympics. Today, Germany beat Canada 4-3 in the men’s ice hockey semi-finals. Many were surprised by the result, since Canada has been a nine-time Olympic Champion in the sport and rarely settles for a bronze. Germany will play against Russia in the finals on Sunday – you can be sure that we’ll be watching!