One of the most immediate culture shocks of traveling to Germany, especially if you grew up in the United States, is Germany’s seeming obsession with recycling. Whereas in the U.S. you are lucky if you can locate a recycling bin in public areas like parks or street corners, you’ll have the opposite problem in Germany, where you’ll find a sometimes confusing plethora of multi-colored bins. If you have been in this situation, looking around desperately to strangers or waiting to see what items other drop in each bin, we feel you. You are not alone. Even Germans sometimes question which bin is appropriate for which items.
Due to this common culture shock and the often harsh punishment one receives for a wrong move, we thought we’d give you the lowdown on German recycling.
Step 1: Prevent creating waste in the first place
Germany has created and continues to develop a culture of minimal waste. This is true for projects big and small: here are a few examples of major reducers of waste.
Germany is celebrating its so-called Fünfte Jahreszeit (“Fifth Season”), which is a reference to Carnival! The Fifth Season officially began on November 11 at 11:11 a.m., but in actuality, Carnival’s events take place during one week in February with highlights including Fat Thursday and Rose Monday.
On February 28, Germans celebrated Weiberfastnacht (Fat Thursday), which marks the last Thursday before Lent. In the Rhineland – which is where Carnival is celebrated most intensely – work often ends before noon and people wear costumes out on the streets and in local bars.
But men who wear ties on Weiberfastnacht need to be prepared: one of Germany’s unique Carnival traditions is that women cut off men’s ties with scissors on Fat Thursday, leaving them with nothing but a stump. After all, Weiberfastnacht means “women’s carnival night”, and this ritual allows them to symbolically strip men of their statuses. Even at the German Embassy in Washington, some of our colleagues had to say goodbye to their ties on Thursday.
But the biggest celebration of Carnival takes place on Rosenmontag (Rose Monday) – a day marked with large parades and street parties. An estimated 1.5 million people watch the Rosenmontag parade in Cologne each year.
Although Rose Monday celebrations take place in Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Belgium, the region with the heaviest celebrations is the Rhineland, particularly in the major cities along the Rhine. The southern part of the Rhineland, however, has its own unique tradition called “Fastnacht”, which comes with its own unique customs. Wherever you may be in the Rhineland, we’re sure you’ll have fun during Carnival season!
In honor of Women’s History Month, we are launching a series introducing influential women of the Bauhaus movement – a movement that is also celebrating its 100th anniversary this year.
Elevating Craft to Art
“Being creative is not so much the desire to do something as the listening to that which wants to be done: the dictation of the materials.” – Anni Albers
On its 100th anniversary, you may hear much of the Bauhaus, the iconic German art school which had its beginning in Dessau, Germany in 1919 under the leadership of Walter Gropius and which bridged the gap between fine and applied art. You might have read of the Gesamtkunstwerk concept (complete work of art) which the school embraced. You may be familiar with the international artists who taught alongside German artists: Wassily Kandinsky (Russian), Paul Klee (Swiss), Lyonel Feininger (American) and others. You might know that after its dissolution in 1933, some of the Bauhaus staff emigrated elsewhere: Mies van der Rohe and Marcel Breuer continued their work in Chicago; Walter Gropius taught at Harvard; and Bauhaus-trained Jewish students designed apartments for the “White City” in Tel Aviv.
What you may not have heard of are the women of the Bauhaus.
Although the Bauhaus “welcomed any person of good repute, without regard to age or sex,” women were excluded from some disciplines. Disappointed that she could not enroll in the school’s stained glass class after fulfilling her core coursework, Annelise Else Frieda Fleischmann enrolled in the weaving class which was open to female students. She quickly mastered the technical aspects of weaving, pushed the traditional boundaries, and began experimenting with traditional and non-traditional methods and materials. Her innate curiosity of traditional and newly-developed materials allowed her to break free from accepted norms and pushed her creativity into new directions. Drawings and designs from those years often show randomly-placed color shapes inspired by the artist’s visits to the opera.
“There were so few chances to execute a stained glass window…So the only thing that was open to me was the weaving workshop. And I thought that was rather sissy…once I got started I got rather intrigued with the possibilities there.” – Anni Albers in a 1968 interview with Sevim Fesci, Smithsonian’s Museum of American Art.
The young student married Josef Albers, who had risen to Junior Master at the school, in 1925 and took over the weaving department in 1931 after the departure of its head, Gunta Stölzl. In her new position, she taught weaving and design and continued to experiment with geometric designs and non-traditional materials such as horsehair, jute, paper, metallic thread, artificial silk, and cellophane.
In 1929, Anni Albers accepted a unique challenge when she was asked to correct the inadequate acoustics of the Bauhaus auditorium. She studied the properties of materials traditionally used for sound suppression such as velvet and experimented with new kinds of synthetic fibers. By attaching light-reflective cellophane to sound-absorbing cotton and chenille on the back, she won acclaim for her innovative and effective solution which could be mass-produced and which furthered innovation in theater design.
You might have heard the stereotype: Germans have no sense of humor. A 2007 survey of 30,000 people ranked Germany as the country with the worst sense of humor. We are not amused!
But perhaps German humor is simply misunderstood. Many German words – especially compound word constructions – are lost in translation, simply because there is no equivalent in other languages. Our “Word of the Week” series should help you understand words as complex as Backpfeifengesicht (“a face in need of slapping”), Honigkuchenpferd (“honey cake horse”) and Kabelsalat (“cable salad”). The more you understand Germany’s strangest and most unusual words, the more humor you will find in the language!
British comedian Stewart Lee agrees. In an op-ed he wrote for The Guardian, he said it took him a while to understand German humor – but once he did, he couldn’t stop laughing. Much of English-language humor, he said, stems from words that have double or triple meanings, thereby creating humor that thrives on confusion. Since the German language has so many compound words and specificity, “it provides fully functional clarity”.
As a result, Lee writes, the German “sense of humor is built on blunt, seemingly serious statements, which became funny simply because of their context.”
“I looked back over the time I had spent in Hannover and suddenly found situations that had seemed inexplicable, even offensive at the time, hilarious in retrospect. On my first night in Hannover I had gone out drinking with some young German actors. ‘You will notice there are no old buildings in Hannover,’ one of them said. ‘That is because you bombed them all.’ At the time I found this shocking and embarrassing. Now it seems like the funniest thing you could possibly say to a nervous English visitor.”
But despite the differences between English and German humor, there are plenty of German stand-up comedians, some of which perform their acts in English! Notable German comedians include classics Loriot and Karl Valentin and modern comedians Dieter Nuhr, Anke Engelke, Eckart von Hirschhausen, Oliver Welke and Tom Gerhardt.
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.
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, 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
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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).
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.
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!