6 unique summer traditions in Germany

Germans love to spend time outside in the summer. While many Germans enjoy traveling abroad, others choose to explore their own country. From beaches in the north to picturesque mountains in the south, Germany has it all! If you want to act like a local, this is how you can spend your time when the temperatures begin to soar.

Head to an Eiscafe… and order a Spaghettieis!

If you’ve ever been to Germany in the summertime, you might have noticed the many different Eisdiele (ice cream parlos) or Eiscafes. Germans love to get together over a refreshing bowl of ice cream when it’s hot outside. In fact, there are over 3,300 ice cream shops in Germany! While gelato might hit the spot, a more unique option is a cool bowl of Spaghettieis – a German style of ice cream that literally looks like a bowl of spaghetti. We promise you, it still tastes like ice cream!

©dpa / picture alliance

Beat the heat and go Wasserwandern

Wasserwandern translates to “water hiking”. This means leaving behind solid ground to go explore Germany’s many waterways by canoe or kayak. Wasserwandern is particularly popular in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, which is known as the “land of a thousand lakes”. Formed tens of thousands of years ago during the Ice Age, these lakes are home to a number of endangered species and make the perfect summertime getaway for nature enthusiasts. So pack a waterproof bag and explore Germany’s many rivers and lakes on boat!

©dpa / picture alliance

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Wagner fans flock to Germany for the “Bayreuth Festspiele”

One of Germany’s most famous composers is Richard Wagner (1813-1883), who is especially famous for his operas. In fact, Wagner even built his very own opera house, called the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which was dedicated to his own works .

And to this day, we celebrate the life and works of Wagner with an annual music festival held in Bayreuth, Germany. Wagner fans from all over the world travel to the Festspielhaus to attend the annual event – including Chancellor Angela Merkel.

©dpa / picture alliance

This week, the Chancellor and Bavarian CSU Leader Markus Söder attended the music festival, despite sweltering hot temperatures in Germany. Merkel is a long-time Wagner fan, and has attended the annual event several times.

Since its launch in 1876, the Bayreuth Festival has been a socio-cultural phenomenon, with notable guests including Kaiser Wilhelm, Dom Pedro II of Brazil, King Ludwig, Friedrich Nietzsche and countless other fans of Wagner’s compositions. The Bayreuter Festspiele kicked off on July 25 and will continue until August 28.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

6 easy steps to survive elevator small talk in Germany

If you’re learning German, you probably plan ahead for important conversations. You look up vocabulary before calling your doctor, asking for help in a supermarket, or going to the mechanic.

But what about those unplanned moments you can’t prepare for? What about the moment you step into a near-empty elevator, make eye contact with the only other person inside, and awkwardly reach past them to hit your floor’s button? You’re in the box with this person for 60 seconds. Are you really going to say nothing?

Feeling anxious yet? Fear not! In this guide, we’re going to plan for the unplanned. We’re going to learn some basic phrases and questions to survive the seeming eternity of an elevator ride with a stranger in Germany. We’ve broken it down into 6 easy steps

Step 1. Why are we even talking?

First, we should ask an important question: is small talk really that important in Germany? Though the stereotype of Germans is that they NEVER make small talk, that’s not true. While small talk is not essential, and many opt not to chit-chat in public, plenty of people in Germany have mundane conversations every day in buses, hallways, office kitchens, and yes, elevators. Even if most Germans think small talk is a waste of time, it turns out that breaking the awkward silence is a universal pressure.

That said, you don’t have to do it. And if someone doesn’t seem open to it, let them be!

Another important point is that being too friendly or excited can come across as disingenuous. If you are going to take a swing at elevator small talk, we recommend trying to sound relaxed, and to avoid using superlatives like ‘amazing’ and ‘absolutely crazy’ to describe your day. A genuine, honest interaction can get you far in Germany. Be yourself!

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Celebrating women in Germany

This week, we celebrated the successes of a number of influential women in Germany – women who have risen the ranks and strive for the betterment of Europe.

On Wednesday we celebrated the 65th birthday of Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has served as Chancellor since 2005 and is listed by Forbes as the “most powerful woman in the world.”

At the same time, Ursula Von der Leyen was elected 383 to 327 to become president of the European Commission, making her the first woman in history to hold the position. The EU Commission is the executive branch of the European Union, and the president is tasked to lead the EU’s executive body and provide political guidance. The Commission proposes new laws, manages the EU budget and enforces EU law, making Von der Leyen’s role an important one for the future of Europe.

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“In her speech, she called for a united and strong EU on which we now want to work together,” said Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in a statement congratulating Von der Leyen. “It was important that she made a clear commitment today to the rule of law and to a social and sovereign Europe based on the principle of solidarity. This is the right agenda for the EU, and it will be judged on that. The world will not wait for Europe. It is therefore essential that we look to the future and further develop the new Commission’s program swiftly.”

Replacing Von der Leyen as the Defense Minister is Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, leader of the German Christian Democrats. This will be Kramp-Karrenbauer’s first job in the federal government – and one that is no small task! She will oversee 250,000 soldiers and civilians in a challenging and high-profile position at a time when the Defense Ministry is undergoing extensive reforms.

These women have – and will continue to have – important roles that help form the future of Germany and the European Union. And alongside that, they also symbolize the power and influence that women have in Germany today, demonstrating that women can – and will – continue to play an important role in politics. Not only in Germany, but on a global scale.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Here’s a map with all 26 Berlins we could find in the USA

“Ich bin ein Berliner!” (“I am a Berliner!”) said John F. Kennedy during his visit to Berlin in 1963. As it turns out, he’s not the only American that can make this claim.

According to the German-American Heritage Museum, German speakers began arriving in North America in the 1600’s. Today, around 15% of Americans have German ancestry, according to the Census Bureau. That’s roughly 45 million people! Their ancestors made it to every corner of the continent, bringing with them their hopes, dreams, food, culture, language, and yes, names!

Though French and Spanish names are more common, several cities and towns in America have German names. From Anaheim, California to New Braunfels, Texas and Schaumburg, Illinois, German immigrants were eager to stamp their new home with a bit of German pizazz.

However, not all founders were so creative (see: Germantown, Tennessee). Maybe that’s why there are so many Berlins in the USA! Type “Berlin” into Google Maps, and you might find Berlin, Georgia before Berlin, Germany. In fact, there are approximately 26 Berlins spread across the 50 states! Here’s a map with all of them we could find.

There are concentrations of Berlins in the Northeast and Midwest, and a few scattered to the South, like Berlin, Texas, and the West, like Berlin, Nevada. It must be because of the large number of German immigrants that went those directions over hundreds of years.

It’s important to note that some of these lovely Berlins are unincorporated or extinct towns. Berlin, Nevada is actually a ghost town! But several Berlins are thriving! For example, Berlin, Connecticut has 20,000 people. Not bad!

Do you live in one of these Berlins? Ever visited? If you do, tweet us @GermanyinUSA! We can’t wait to see what you find!

By William Fox, German Embassy

Work hard, play hard.

School’s out, the sun is shining and summer has arrived! That means many German families are preparing their long-awaited vacations.

For those of you who have worked in Germany, you may know that Germans strive to have a good work life balance – and that means taking well deserved vacations. In Germany, each worker is entitled to a minimum of 20 vacation days per year, but 25 to 30 days is common practice.

According to an OECD study, Germans worked 1,363 hours per year, which is overall less than most other countries. However, German productivity was higher than in many countries. The average GDP per head, divided by the hours worked, was valued at $105.70 in Germany, which is $4 more than in the US. Meanwhile, Americans worked 400 hours more than Germans each year, according to the same study.

So what does this mean? Maybe it’s time to pack your bags and spend a few days in the sunshine so you can come back more creative and more productive.

Work hard, play hard.

Celebrating pride in the US and Germany

A Berlin Pride participant waves a rainbow pride flag during the 40th Christopher Street Day in Berlin. © picture alliance/ZUMA Press

Here in the United States, the month of June is LGBTQ Pride Month – the month chosen to coincide with the Stonewall riots of 1969. During this month, many pride events are held throughout the country. Last week marked Washington, D.C.’s annual Pride Parade, bringing thousands of people together in support of equality and human rights. Meanwhile, Berlin is preparing for its own parade in July, known as Christopher Street Day Berlin or simply “Berlin Pride.”

Berlin’s Pride Parade is one of the largest in all of Europe and also one of the oldest. The annual event was first held in June 30, 1979 in commemoration of the Stonewall riots in New York, which was an uprising of the LGBTQ community against police assaults in June 1969. These assaults took place on Christopher Street in New York, which is why many European pride events today are referred to as “Christopher Street Day”.

The 40th Christopher Street Day in Berlin. © picture alliance/ZUMA Press

Although Germany’s first Christopher Street Day was held in Berlin, many other German cities followed in the city’s footsteps, creating their own CSD parades. Hamburg and Cologne are well known for their large pride parades, but Berlin still holds the record: in 2012, approximately 700,000 people attended Berlin’s Pride Parade, making it one of the largest pride events in the entire world.

The US legalized same-sex marriage in 2015 and Germany legalized it in 2017. Pride parades on both side of the Atlantic demonstrate the importance of inclusion for both the US and Germany.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

The benefits of learning German

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!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

5 summertime destinations in Berlin

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.

© dpa / picture-alliance

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.

© dpa / picture-alliance

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Germany: Home to more than 20,000 castles

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.