Berlin, Berlin…What can we say about you? To explain it to Americans is to say it is a mix of New York and Washington. It is both a haven for policy wonks and government interns, but also stays up all night and attracts those searching to live an alternative lifestyle. So before you go, here’s what you should know about Germany’s capital.
Carnival of cultures
By any standard, Berlin is an international city. Its population, albeit ever transient, is made up of 13% people of a non-German background. In fact, Berlin has the largest Turkish population outside of Turkey! Much like New York, Berlin’s collection of cultures is reflected in their food offerings—with Turkish, Japanese, and Greek food as commonly found as traditionally German restaurants.
Berlin wasn’t always the capital
Bonn was the capital of West Germany previous to the fall of the wall. Berlin became the official capital of a reunified Germany in 1990.
If it’s an authentic experience of the Bavarian mountain culture you seek, you needn’t head for the foothills of the Alps south of Munich.
Rather, if you’re in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States, a more convenient—and less mountainous—destination lies at hand.
Head to the “Deutsche Halle” of the Delaware Sängerbund in Newark, DE (that’s Delaware, not Deutschland!) for a festive dance performance by the Enzian Volkstanzgruppe—the traditional Alpine dance ensemble of the Sängerbund—founded 1853, making it one of the oldest German social clubs in the country.
The Enzian Volkstanzgruppe, or EVTG, founded in 1968, has been keeping the German mountain traditions alive for 50 years now. On Saturday, September 15, 2018, the dance troupe members along with many friends and guests from the Gauverband Nordamerika—the association of 72 member Vereine dedicated to preserving Alpine traditions—gathered to celebrate the 50th “Stiftungsfest” or founding, of the EVTG.
The 61st annual German-American Steuben Parade was held in New York City over the weekend, once again bringing out thousands of spectators to celebrate German-American friendship, culture, history and heritage.
Germans and Americans lined the parade route, wearing traditional German clothing (including the famous Dirndl and Lederhosen), waving German flags and cheering on those who marched in the parade. The parade featured many different marching divisions and even showcased old German cars. The German Embassy featured a float that promoted the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift – a mission in which the United States and the United Kingdom airlifted food and fuel to the people of Berlin after the Soviets blockaded the city in 1948 and 1949. The Airlift is considered a turning point after the Second World War for the German-American friendship.
At the end of the parade route, the Steuben Parade Oktoberfest served thousands of hungry people in Central Park. Featuring German food and live bands, the afternoon of September 15 once again marked an important occasion for the German-American community in New York.
The parade is one of the largest German-American events in the world and is named in honor of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben (1730-1793), a Prussian general who came to the United States to support General George Washington in the American Revolution. Similar parades and festivities are also held annually in Philadelphia and Chicago.
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.
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!
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.
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.