Berlin opens highly awaited bridge to Museum Island

If you’ve ever been to Berlin, you know that the city is filled with art, monuments and interesting buildings. The city is rich with history; in fact, Berlin is home to 170 different museums, which is more than you could ever see in just one trip!

And for art and history buffs, a new building has just opened: the James Simon Gallery. Located on the fringe of the Museum Island along the Spree River, the gallery will serve as the central visitor center between the Neues Museum and Museum Island, orienting and directing visitors to the island. But the gallery is not just an assembly space; it also features an auditorium and a changing exhibition space, giving visitors plenty to do and see between its own walls.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel attended the opening ceremony of the gallery on Friday, stating that the building complements the existing museums on the island – a “universal museum of human history.”
The building was designed by British architect David Chipperfield and is named after James Simon (1851-1932), a German-Jewish art collector who has contributed many items to Museum Island, including the Nefertiti bust.

If you’re in Berlin this summer, you’re right in time to see this long-anticipated building, which is now open to the public!

©dpa / picture alliance

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Spinnefeind

If you have a spinnefeind relationship with someone, the other person may be toxic and scare you away. But even though though this German word translates to “spider-inimical”, it describes a relationship with someone who has two legs and not eight!

The word Spinne means “spider” and Feind means “enemy” – or, in this case, it is used as “inimical”. Despite what it sounds like, this term does not refer to the hairy little buggers that crawl up your walls at night and hide in the corners of your house – even though you might consider them your enemies. Instead, this word is an adjective – and it describes the relationship you have with an enemy – someone that you cannot stand to be around and whose intentions toward you are not good.

In a spinnefeind relationship, your enemy wants the worst for you (and you want the worse for him or her). Adding the word Spinne to the word Feind (“inimical”) creates an adjective that emphasizes just how bad that relationship is.

In German, you might say, Sie waren einander spinnefeind. (“They were spinnefeind towards one another.”)

Just like a spider might cause you to run in the other direction, seeing your someone with whom you have a spinnefeind relationship could cause you to walk the other way. But it may be better to confront your fears than to run from them. You may realize that they’re not as bad as they may seem, and that they look scarier than they truly are.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Gummibären – a German delight since 1920

Go to the candy aisle of any grocery store and you’ll find at least one gummy product. There’s gummy bears, gummy worms, gummy Smurfs and gummy rings. Maybe you’ll find a bag of rainbow-colored gummy frogs or a pack of fun-sized gummy spiders. Gummy candy has found its way into lunchboxes and kitchen pantries across the world, but the chewy treat originated in Germany almost a hundred years ago.

Hans Riegel © dpa / picture alliance

In 1920, Bonn resident Hans Riegel launched a confectionery company that he named Haribo (which stands for Hans Riegel Bonn), producing hard, colorless candies in his own kitchen. His wife, Gertrud, helped him with his endeavor, distributing the candies to their first customers using only her bicycle. Business was good, but not as good as Riegel had hoped – until he came up with a new idea.

In 1922, Riegel was struck with inspiration: after seeing trained bears at festivals and markets across Germany, he invented the so-called “dancing bear” – a fruit-flavored gummy candy in the shape of a bear. The initial “dancing bears” were larger than the Haribo gummies that are on the market today, and they quickly became popular. The bears were sold at kiosks for just 1 Pfennig (German penny), making the colorful treats affordable at a time when the economy was struggling.

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It wasn’t long before Haribo made it onto store shelves: by 1930, Riegel was running a factory with 160 employees. By the time World War II began, there were more than 400 employees. But World War II took a toll on the company: Riegel died during the war and his two sons were taken prisoner by the Allied forces. When they were released, the company had only 30 employees left.

Despite the wartime hardships, the company recovered and Haribo continued to grow. It soon had over 1,000 employees and a catchy slogan (in English: “Kids and grown-ups love it so, the happy world of Haribo!”). The name Goldbär (Gold-Bear) was registered as a trademark in 1967. Although Haribo dominated the gummy bear market, other companies were emerging with their own versions of gummy candy as far west as the US. In 1981, the German company Trolli introduced gummy worms, while The American Jelly Bean Company came out with its own line of gummy bears. In 1982, Haribo opened its first branch in the US. Today, Haribo produces over 100 million Gold-Bears each day.

And not all gummy candy is uniform; over the years, a diversity of gummy types emerged on the market. There are organic gummy bears, gummy candy with added vitamins, Halal gummy candy, gummy candy in various shapes and gummy candy that’s allegedly good for your teeth. Gummy bears are a staple candy in Germany, but even across the world, the chewy candy has become a common treat.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

 

German brothers brought grocery empires to the US

German-Americans are the largest single ethnic group in the United States, and their influence can be seen across all industries. From cuisine to businesses to holidays and traditions, Germans have brought many of their customs and products to the US – including grocery stores.

Two of America’s largest grocery store chains, Trader Joe’s and ALDI,  were under the management of two German brothers who ultimately split up ownership.

© dpa / picture alliance

In 1913, Anna Albrecht opened a small store near Essen, Germany. When her sons Karl and Theo came of age, they both started work in the food industry. While Theo worked in his mother’s store, Karl gained experience in a delicatessen. After the Second World War, the two brothers took over their mother’s business together, naming it Albrecht Discount (in short: ALDI).

By 1950, thanks in part to the Marshall Plan, business in postwar Germany was booming and the brothers’ discount supermarket had expanded to 13 locations. By 1960, they had about 300 stores throughout much of West Germany. But the brothers didn’t always get along, and in 1960 they clashed over whether or not they should sell cigarettes in their stores. As a result, the brothers divided the company into Aldi Nord (“north”) and Aldi Süd (“south”), splitting up ownership by region. Theo claimed ownership of the north, while Karl took over the south.

Over the years, both grocery store chains expanded internationally, opening locations across Europe, the U.K. and even as far away as Australia and the United States, opening its US headquarters in Iowa in 1976. In the US, Aldi Süd simply goes by the name ALDI, and has about 1,300 locations across the country. Aldi Nord, on the other hand, operates under the name Trader Joe’s and has about 418 locations.

Both stores have seen success in the U.S. While ALDI prides itself on its overall low prices, Trader Joe’s has become known for its affordable organic food selections. A 2013 Market Force Information study found that Americans ranked Trader Joe’s as their favorite grocery store, with Publix, Whole Foods, Wegmans and ALDI also ranking high.

Both Karl and Theo Albrecht passed away in recent years, but their grocery chains continue to expand in both the U.S. and Germany.

© dpa / picture alliance

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Doughnuts: a German creation from the 1400s

Since the early 20th century, doughnuts have been a popular treat in the United States. More than 10 billion doughnuts are consumed annually in the US, due in part to the large-scale expansion of corporations like Krispy Kreme and Dunkin Donuts. Although the diversity of colorful and frosted doughnuts might seem like an American delicacy, the origin of these sugar-laden treats lies at least partially in Germany.

Although doughnut-like delicacies existed throughout Europe for centuries, the first written reference of a jelly doughnut (called Gefüllte Krapfen in German) was in a cookbook from 1485. The cookbook, titled Küchenmeisterei (“Mastery of the Kitchen”) was published in Nuremberg and was one of the first to be reproduced with Johannes Gutenberg’s printing press.

These early-stage doughnuts had no holes in them, and had their interiors filled with meat, cheese, mushrooms or other ingredients, according to Leite’s Culinaria. Once the price of sugar dropped in the 16th century, doughnuts became sweeter, and countries all across Europe began to adopt the sweetened versions of the jelly doughnut.

Continue reading “Doughnuts: a German creation from the 1400s”

The hot dog: an all-American treat with German origins

Americans purchase an estimated 9 billion hot dogs at retail stores each year. From sporting events to late-night eateries to street vendor carts in New York City, hot dogs are widespread in the US. Although the modern-day American hot dog differs from German-style sausages such as Currywurst or Bratwurst, its origins can be at least partially traced to Germany.

Europeans have produced sausages for centuries; Homer’s Odyssey traces the consumption of sausage back to the 9th Century B.C. and there is evidence that sausages were prevalent in the Holy Roman Empire. Although sausages were widespread in Europe, both Germans and Austrians take credit for the origin of the so-called Frankfurter or Wiener – the predecessors of the American hot dog.

Most sources credit Johann Georg Lahner as the inventor of these particular sausages. Lahner was born in 1772 in Gasseldorf, Germany – a small town in Bavaria. As an adult, he moved to Frankfurt, where he was employed as a butcher. He later moved to Vienna, Austria, where he allegedly invented the sausage by combining beef and pork. Lahner called them Frankfurters, after the city he previously lived in. Today, however, Germans refer to the hot dog sausages as Wiener, while Austrians call them Frankfurter. Both Vienna (in German: Wien) and Frankfurt claim credit for the origin of the hot dog.

When European immigrants came to the US in the 1800s, they brought hot dog-style sausages to the US. It is likely that there were multiple butchers of several nationalities who first sold these snacks in the US, but one of them was German immigrant Charles Feltman. In the late 1800s, Feltman opened a hot dog stand in Coney Island, New York City, selling the sausages in a milk roll. The hot dogs quickly became popular, since they were easy and convenient to eat; Feltman sold several thousand in the first year alone.

A number of other German immigrants played a role in the evolution and spread of the American hot dog: German immigrant Anton Feuchtwanger, who sold hot dogs in the midwest, is credited for combining the hot dog with a bun. The use of a bun was meant to prevent customers from burning their hands on the hot dogs. Chris von der Ahe, a German immigrant who owned the St. Louis Browns, brought hot dogs to baseball stadiums.

While hot dog sausages can be traced back to the Ancient Greece and the Roman Empire, Germans undoubtedly played a role in popularizing this quick and easy snack in both Europe and the US.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Putzfimmel

We’ve all heard the stereotype: Germans are obsessed with cleanliness. And there’s even a German word that describes this condition: Putzfimmel!

Putz comes from putzen, which means “to clean”. Fimmel is a craze or an obsession. So the word Putzfimmel describes an obsession with cleaning. Sounds pretty German, right?

Someone who has a Putzfimmel is likely to keep his or her house organized, clean and spotless at all times. Any trace of dirt is immediately removed. Dishes are never left in the sink, and clothes are folded right away. A Putzfimmel is a mania for cleanliness. There is no direct translation in English, but Americans might refer to someone with this condition as obsessive-compulsive.

And there’s another German word that’s closely related: Putzteufel, which means “cleaning devil” – someone who can’t stop cleaning.

But of all the conditions that are out there, Putzfimmel is probably not the worst: after all, who wouldn’t want to have a spotless home?

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

These everyday items were invented by Germans!

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Inventors from around the world are converging on Nürnberg from November 1 to 4 to present their inventions at Germany’s 70th annual trade fair for ideas and inventions (the Ideen- Erfindungen-Neuheiten-Austellung, also known as iENA). The fair is the largest of its kind; since it was first held in 1948, more than 300,000 inventions were presented to the public – including inline skates, wheeled suitcases and folding bicycles. Inventors from 44 countries are expected to display their ideas.

In light of this fair, let’s take a look at some inventions that you may not have known are German!

Aspirin

Many of us depend on aspirin to cure us of our pains. But few may know that aspirin was invented by a German chemist, Felix Hoffman. The Swabian-born chemist initially developed the drug for his aligning father, but got a patent for it in 1899.

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Continue reading “These everyday items were invented by Germans!”

Word of the Week: Kobold

© Wikimedia Commons

With Halloween just around the corner, Americans are excitedly gathering for haunted hayrides, telling scary stories around campfires, and searching for frightening costumes. At this time of year, it’s common to hear stories about the chupacabra, Bigfoot, and the headless horseman.

Mythological creatures exist throughout the world, but let’s take a look at one that has existed in German folklore for centuries. A popular supernatural creature is the Kobold, a mischievous household spirit that is usually invisible, but will occasionally materialize, taking the form of a human, an animal, or an object. An ill-tempered Kobold might, for example, take the form of a feather, descend onto the nose of a sleeping homeowner, and trigger a sneeze.

Most images of a Kobold depict small, human-like figures often dressed like peasants. But there are many types of Kobolds. Some are friendly spirits that live in one’s home, taking care of chores and playing malicious tricks if they feel upset, neglected or insulted. Others live underground, haunting old mines. Some reside on ships, accompanying sailors as they navigate the open seas (this type of Kobold is called a Klaubautermann).

The origin of the Kobold and its etymology remains shrouded in mystery, but this mythical creature is believed to have emerged from Pagan customs many centuries ago.

There are numerous other legendary German creatures that are closely related to the original Kobold, such as the Heinzelmännchen (house gnomes). But while the Heinzelmännchen are good-natured creatures that tend to the house, Kobolds also have a darker side to them, often wreaking havoc. In some cases, the damage Kobolds inflict might resemble that imposed by a poltergeist.

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Travel Tuesday: the Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes

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Many people know Germany for its quaint villages and Bavarian mountains, but the country is also home to many deep caverns shrouded in mystery. One such place is the Saalfeld Fairy Grottoes, which are colorful caves in Thuringia. So colorful, in fact, that the Guiness Book of World Records once named them the “most colorful cave grottoes in the world.”

In the 16th century, the caverns were used as an alum shale mine. Back then, alum was used in medicinal products, to tan animal hides and as a food preservative, among other uses. According to legend, some of the miners at work had an encounter with a beautiful fairy, who vanished as they approached her in the mines. This is how the grottoes received their name.

The caverns were mined for their alum shale for centuries, but more effective chemical compounds were developed over time and the grottoes were closed in 1850 and largely forgotten about. The caverns were rediscovered by explorers in 1910, who were amazed at the beautiful mineral deposits that has accumulated in the years that it was abandoned. The mineral deposits created interesting formations in shades of beige, red, brown and grey and these formations were reflected in the underground pools of water below them. The caverns were opened up for sightseeing in 1914 and are a popular tourist destination today.