Worms celebrates the 1,000th birthday of its cathedral

© dpa / picture-alliance

On the west bank of the Rhine River is one of Germany’s oldest cities: Worms. And this year, the city is celebrating the 1,000th birthday of its oldest cathedral – a historic building that has shaped the city’s history like none other.

The St. Peter’s Dom stands on the highest point of the inner city of Worms. The historic cathedral was consecrated in the year 1018 and it has been the site of many important events in German history.

Worms is prominently featured in the famous epic poem The Nibelungenlied (in English: “The Song of the Nibelungs”) – and one scene takes place at the portal of the cathedral.

But the Worms Cathedral became even more well-known during the Martin Luther era. In 1521, the Diet of Worms (an imperial council presided over by Emperor Charles V) was held in the cathedral and Luther was ordered to appear there and respond to charges of heresy. Luther spent 10 days in Worms and refused to recant – and this changed the course of history.

“Here I stand, I can do no other,” Luther said before the Diet of Worms.

© dpa / picture-alliance

Centuries later, the St. Peter’s Dom is a popular tourist attraction. As the city celebrates its 1,000th birthday, former German President Joachim Gauck delivered a ceremonial speech on Saturday.

“The people of Worms identify with their cathedral, whether they’re Catholic, Lutheran or not religious at all,” Tobias Schafer, a provost at the cathedral, told Deutsche Welle.

Travel Tuesday: Cochem

High up in the picturesque Moselle Valley is the town of Cochem. With an elevation of 272 ft and a population of 5,000, this historic town is truly a magical escape from city life.

Behind the colorful buildings that line the historic streets of Cochem is the Reichsburg Castle, which stands atop a hill and is surrounded by forests and vineyards. The castle, which is open for tours, dates back to the year 1100 and is filled with Baroque furniture and historic artifacts. During the Nine Years’ War in the late 1600s, the castle was destroyed, but it was reconstructed in the Gothic Revival Style in the 1800s. This hilltop castle is visible from most places in Cochem – and visitors who hike to the top are greeted with spectacular views of the town.

But even the town itself is worth a tour. Cochem is one of Germany’s oldest towns, dating back to early Celtic and Roman times. It is not known when the region was first settled, but it was first mentioned in the year 886. Over many centuries, the town survived the Plague, the French occupation, the Thirty Years’ War, the Second World War and other hardships, but it remained strong and held on to its charm.

Aside from its quaint buildings, Cochem is also known for its fine wines. With vineyards and family-run wineries surrounding the town,  Cochem is the center of the Mosel wine trade.

So if you’re in Germany this summer, make sure to stop by  Cochem for a glass of wine and spectacular views of a fairy-tale town and its castle!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Kummerkastentante

If you’ve got a lot of worries, have no fear! The Kummerkastentante is there for you!

Directly translated, Kummerkastentante means “worry-box-aunt”, but it basically describes an advice columnist. Many German magazines have a so-called Kummerkasten (“worry box” or “sorrow box”), which is a section that focuses on readers’ problems and provides solutions. A Kummerkastentante is the columnist who responds to readers that are seeking advice on topics ranging from relationships to family matters to problems at work.

The word Tante (“aunt”) signifies someone who’s very close to you and is willing to listen to your problems. A Kummerkastentante is always there for you – much like a family member would be. She’s willing to listen and she always knows the answer. Should you break up with your partner? Why is your daughter not talking to you? How should you deal with that annoying colleague?

In the US, advice columnists might be called “Dr. Love”. The columns might also be titled something along the lines of “Ask Annie” or “Dear Prudence.” The concept is the same in Germany.

In the context of magazines, a Kummerkasten is a section or a column. But the word is also used to refer to many types of outlets to which you can bring your worries. A Kummerkasten can be a diary, an actual box, an online forum or any other “mailbox” for receptor for your problems.

But to find yourself a Kummerkastentante, you’re going to have to buy a German magazine. And if you mail a letter describing your problem, you might just receive the answer you’re looking for.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Intern Q&A: Bastian Harms

Name: Bastian Harms

Where you’re from:  I was born and raised in Oldenburg, a picturesque city in Northern Germany only around 45 minutes from the North Sea.

Where and what you’re studying:  I studied law in Osnabrück, the “city of peace” due to its part in the Peace of Westphalia after the end of the Thirty Years´ war. Subsequently I pursued an LL.M. in International Legal Studies in Washington DC. Funny how life brings you back to places you love!
I am now completing my legal clerkship in Hamburg – as a northern German it is great to be back in a city that is close to water and the sea!

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

The highlight of my work at the Embassy was to accompany and attend to the press that travelled with Chancellor Merkel and Foreign Minister Maas. I was able to get a first-hand experience how a political visit is planned throughout all stages. This gave me a multitude of insights, beginning with the way the press prepares. I was stunned to see how much detailed work goes into the planning of such a visit. To be able to see press meetings and conferences at the State Department and the White House was a true privilege.

As an aviation enthusiast the visits gave me the opportunity to be at the airport regularly to see Germany´s government aircraft and enjoy some time on the tarmac.

Aside from these highlights, drafting the daily press brief was fulfilling work. Knowing that your work goes out into the world and will inform colleagues about the coverage of politics really does make a difference. Although I have to admit I did not enjoy the early mornings, having to compile lots of information into precise sentences was something I can really take away from my time here.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

I believe Germany´s main foreign policy challenge begins domestically. Germany needs to be more involved and “out there” with regards to international crises in every part of the world. That will require creating domestic acceptance for this extension in foreign policy and can and should not happen within a too short period of time. I also believe that challenges like Brexit show that the European Union needs to be strengthened and reformed while not forgetting that while we stand united as Europeans we also have different national backgrounds and cultures.

What are some cultural impressions you gained of the United States?

It is always nice to see how open-minded and open people are in the States. While it might be harder to find “true friends”, especially in a professional environment it is so much easier to have an enjoyable conversation. This holds especially true as someone who’s from Northern Germany, a place where it takes time to warm up to new people.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

Since I had lived here before, there were no big surprises. However, being in a professional work environment this time, I was surprised at how many events, think tanks, political discussions etc. happen on a regular basis. And while I knew it was international, I was stunned how many people from around the globe actually work in DC permanently.

What do you miss about Germany?

I miss German prices. The cost of living in Washington is something you really need to get used to – over and over again! I also miss the German lifestyle – especially being able to sit in a public park – for example by the Alster lake in Hamburg and enjoy a beer or two while barbequing.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

The daily press brief gave me some experiences I have not had before. It showed me that getting up very early can actually mean quite the productive start in the day – I never knew I could even think at that time of the day. Seeing how a wide array of topics has to be compiled in 2-3 pages (in a very condensed while still informative manner) is a lesson that I know will be useful in my future legal clerkship as well as my career. Sometimes it is not about writing lengthy (legal) arguments, but about getting the point across.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Overall, the length of the internships (a short 3 months) makes it challenging. Once you get used to the procedures, the building and the technical equipment at the Embassy, you´re almost about to leave — which also means leaving interesting and great colleagues behind who you only just started to get to know.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

I will continue my legal clerkship in Hamburg with a large international law firm.

Travel Tuesday: Marksburg Castle

Germany is home to thousands of castles. While some are ruins from the Middle Ages, others are extravagant palaces constructed by Germany’s last monarchs.

For those who enjoy seeing medieval castles, the Marksburg Castle in Rhineland-Palatinate is worth a trip. This majestic castle sits high on a cliff, which made it impenetrable to enemy forces and allowed it to survive for centuries.

The castle was constructed in the 12th century by a powerful family in the region. Over the centuries that followed, it was rebuilt many times over by high noble counts.

In the 19th century, French emperor Napoleon took control of the region and gave the Marksburg Castle to an ally of his, the Duke of Nassau. At this time, the castle was used as a prison and a home for disabled soldiers.

Castle ownership changed hands again before it was finally sold to the German Castle Association in the year 1900. Since 1931, Marksburg has been the head office of this organization, which is dedicated to the conservation of historic buildings.

Today, the castle is part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is open daily for guided tours.

Word of the Week: Moin

Like last week, your business partner takes you in an elevator to the meeting room, but this time you are up north, maybe in Kiel. It’s 6 pm. Somebody steps in, looks at you, and says “Moin!” Did that person oversleep and wish “good morning” at the end of the day?

Certainly not! Northern Germans use “Moin!” as a typical local greeting all day long. Your immediate guess will be that it is the regional version of “morning”. Maybe, maybe not. What does it mean and where does it come from?

The etymology of “moin” is uncertain. The connection to the standard German word “Morgen” (morning) seems natural, but is debated. Using “Guten Moin!” as a term for “Good morning!” for example would not be seen as correct and create raised eyebrows with any North German. Probably, “Moin!” comes from the East Frisian word “mōi” respectively from the Middle Low German “moi(e)”, which both mean “good/nice/lovely”. In East Friesland, they also say “Moin Dag!” corresponding to a Standard German “Guten Tag!” (“good day!”). So in this case, the best translation for today’s “Moin!” would be “Have a good one!” People in other parts of the country might use “Moin!” as well, but not during the whole day.

Frequently, you hear the reduplication “Moin-Moin!”. This expression is deemed to be more polite and can especially be used in response to the single “Moin!” Some people regard this as overdoing, though. “Moin-Moin!” might be derived from the Frisian phrase “Moi Morn!” (“Good morning!”), but it is no longer limited to the morning: Just like the simple term, North Germans (and some Danish and Dutch as well) use it throughout the day.

“Moin” continues its success across the country, and even entered the lingo of young Germans: “Moinsen!” is a modification of “Moin!”, and a very casual greeting among youths.

Although the expression originated at the North Sea coast, the oldest mention can be traced back to 1828, where “Moin!” and “Moin-Moin!” emerge as a greeting among officers in the “Berliner Conversations-Blatt für Poesie, Literatur und Kritik”.

The German Navy allows “Moin!” as a semiformal salutation. According to sailors, this greeting promotes a less formal atmosphere and a spirit of comradeship.

So, using “Moin!” as a greeting is a good idea in Northern Germany, and across the border in Southern Denmark and the Eastern Netherlands. It will not be understood in Southern Germany, unless you happen to talk to somebody who served in the navy.

Intern Q&A: Julian Glitsch

This week, we are introducing one of our interns in the political department at the German Embassy. Our Q&A with Julian sheds light on his experience as a German in the US – and the Embassy!Name: Julian Glitsch

Where you’re from: Berlin

Where and what you’re studying: I study political science at the Franco-German Campus of Sciences Po in Nancy, France. It’s a French-German-English trilingual studies program with students from all over Europe and the world.

What is one project or activity you enjoyed at the Embassy?

Probably the most memorable experience was helping to prepare the arrival of Chancellor Merkel at her hotel in Georgetown during her Washington visit in April – not just because I got to see the Chancellor up close, but also because it impressed upon me on just how many small organizational details a successful diplomatic visit hinges. It was a great “look behind the curtain”.

What do you think is one of Germany’s main foreign policy challenges and what should Germany do about it?

Germany needs to become more conscious of how much our security and prosperity depends on Europe and on the transatlantic alliance. Shoring up the EU and maintaining our bond with the US will require Germany to go out of its comfort zone, show more leadership than we are historically used to and in some instances make painful sacrifices.

What are some cultural impressions you gained of the United States?

Wherever I went, I always found Americans to be incredibly friendly, gracious and curious. Being from a country where communication tends to be rather direct, even blunt, this was a very pleasant and refreshing experience, but at times also a little disorientating. Compared with Germans, it can be harder to tell whether an American genuinely likes you and is interested in what you have to say or if they are just being polite.

What has been your biggest surprise with regard to living in Washington?

I was surprised by how small Washington feels compared to other major capitals I’ve visited. So many important and exciting things are happening here all the time, and yet they all seem to be going on within walking distance (or a 10 minute Uber drive) of each other.

What do you miss about Germany?

Besides my family and friends, I’d have to say the food. As much as I enjoyed trying out everything from apple fritters to sweet potato pie to every craft burger restaurant I could find, in the end there’s nothing quite like fresh Graubrot with Kartoffelwurst.

What has been your biggest lesson learned during your internship?

I realized more than ever before that the world of international politics moves at break-neck speed. I try to follow global events as closely as possible, but it’s a whole different matter when you work in a place that actually has to react to them.

What has been your biggest challenge living here?

Money – life in Washington is pretty expensive even compared to the pricier European cities I’ve spent time in, like London or Paris.

Where do you plan to go or what do you plan to do after your internship?

For now I’m looking forward to heading back to Europe and beginning my Master’s studies in international relations in Paris this fall. But America has definitely left a wonderful and lasting impression on me. If I get the chance, I would love to live and work here someday.

10 awesome drone videos of Germany

German lands are filled with majestic castles, historic villages, snow-capped mountains, beautiful lakes and deep forests. Drone footage has the potential to showcase this beauty.

Here are 10 awesome videos we found on YouTube taken by drones in Germany. Enjoy!

Germany Compilation


Continue reading “10 awesome drone videos of Germany”

Travel Tuesday: Oldenburg

The Oldenburg Castle.
© dpa / picture-alliance

If you’re looking for a modern Northern German travel destination with historic buildings and delightful traditions, Oldenburg is the place for you!

Oldenburg is located in the State of Lower Saxony, only 45 minutes from the North Sea. This makes it a perfect origin for day trips to the islands, harbors and beaches of Northern Germany.

Located on the river Hunte, Oldenburg is also often called the “Huntestadt”. The Hunte flows near the city center pedestrian zone past the palace gardens and flows into the old harbor.

When in Oldenburg, make sure to stroll through its walkable downtown. The city center was made car-free in 1967, making Oldenburg’s (quintessentially German) “pedestrian zone” the oldest area-wide one in the country. It is over 13 hectares and is filled with buildings spanning the centuries. At the edge of the zone there is the old powder tower, once part of the cities fortifications, which was built in 1529. There are old merchant houses from the 17th century and the palace dating back to the 16th century, to only name a few.

© Ra Boe / Wikipedia

Spared by war destruction, Oldenburg’s architecture is characterized by a lively mix of old buildings and modern neighborhoods. Well known are the gabled houses which are called “Hundehütten” due to their resemblance to dog houses.

© dpa / picture-alliance

So what does one do while in Oldenburg? Once a year, at the end of September/beginning of October, the city celebrates its “fifth season” – the Kramermarkt – established in 1608, a Volksfest (fair), visited by around 1.5 million people every year. Around the same time the “Grünkohlzeit” (kale season) begins. The city is well known for its kale with “Pinkel”, a type of sausage from the area. This is quite a different experience from the kale shakes and salads in the US! You will see many “Grünkohltouren” (kale tours) drawing handcarts through the streets, crowning a kale king and queen at the end of the tour.

Another name for this town which you might run into is “Pauldingburg”. This is because Detroit native Rickey Paulding has been playing for the local first-league basketball team “EWE Baskets Oldenburg” since 2007 – an unusually long time for a professional athlete, during which he has hooped his way into the hearts of Oldenburg’s citizens. And although Oldenburg is located in Northern Germany, Downton Abbey doesn’t feel far away! Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh and husband to Queen Elizabeth, is a patrilineal descended from one of the House of Oldenburg’s branches.

By Bastian Harms, German Embassy

Word of the Week: Wandervogel

Long summer days are ahead of us, which means it’s the perfect time to go for a hike! When you wake up on a cloudless Saturday morning, do you have a burning desire to strap on your hiking boots and explore the great outdoors? If so, you might be considered a Wandervogel.

In German, the word Wander means “hiking,” and Vogel means “bird.” When combined, these words refer to a person who enjoys hiking or traveling on foot. Like a bird of passage, the Wandervogel moves from one place to the next, whether for a daylong adventure or a longer journey.
This term was used in a well-known poem written by Otto Roquette (1824-1896), in which he compares himself to the migratory birds soaring carelessly across the sky.

Although the term can be used to describe anyone who explores and tries to connect with nature, it is also the name of a popular German movement launched in Berlin in 1896. More than a century ago, a group of German youths founded the Wandervögel, an organization whose members yearned for the pre-industrial days in which societies were closer to nature. They rejected big cities, greed, materialism and oppressive politics, and strived for a culture in which they returned to nature and valued independence, freedom, adventure and individual responsibility.

Wearing hiking boots and shorts, the Wandervögel gathered for long walks in the mountains and forests of Germany, camping under the stars and singing old German folk songs.

The two World Wars of the 1900s affected the development of the movement. After World War I, the Wandervögel united with other youth groups.

The movement, however, was banned by the Nazis in 1933, who established the Hitler Youth to replace all others. After World War II came to an end, the Wandervögel group was reignited, but a number of factions also sprung off of it and it wasn’t the same.

Today, the term has little to do with any of these organizations. People usually define a Wandervogel as a person who is in tune with nature – but it’s not as commonly used as it used to be. If you’re a free spirit that soars through life seeking your next outdoor adventure, there’s a good chance you’re a Wandervogel.