Stolpersteine: Stumbling Into History

Scattered throughout Europe, planted in the streets and sidewalks of cities whose past is not forgotten, commemorative brass plaques eternalize the lives that were lost in the great tragedy of the 20th century. Called the Stolpersteine (in English: “stumbling stones”), the shiny bronze plaques commemorate the victims of the Nazi regime in more than 1,100 locations in 21 countries.

© dpa / picture alliance

More than 67,000 of these stones are solidly rooted across cities in Europe, including 916 places in Germany alone, where large strides have been taken to memorialize Jewish life, history and culture. Each Stolperstein commemorates a victim of the Holocaust at that person’s last known address. The plaque includes the victim’s name, date of birth, deportation date and death date, if known. In Berlin, more than 5,000 Stolpersteine have been carefully implanted in the city’s sidewalks and streets, serving as a constant reminder of the many valuable lives lost tragically during the Holocaust.

But unlike many museums, the stones specifically pay tribute to individuals – names that can too often be forgotten when focusing on the sheer number of victims the Holocaust accounts for. Standing before a stumbling stone in a vibrant neighborhood in Berlin, the world comes to a stand-still as the engraved name of a single individual triggers an empathetic reflection of the life that might have been lived on that very street.

Multiple stumbling stones are often found on the same street, marking former locations of deportation. They therefore put into question what has often been said by many Germans – namely that they didn’t know what happened to their next-door neighbors who suddenly vanished.

The Stolpersteine are a project initiated by German artist Gunter Demnig, who strives to bring back the names of the millions of Jews, gays, Gypsies, and politically or otherwise persecuted victims who were either killed by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945 or driven to commit suicide.

“A person is only forgotten when his or her name is forgotten,” Demnig frequently says, citing the central text of Rabbinic Judaism, the Talmud. Frequently, it’s family members of Holocaust victims who sponsor a stone in memory of a loved one. Sometimes, residents purchase a stone in honor of a victim who once lived in their building. And on other occasions, people sponsor stones simply to promote the project and help preserve the memory of those who suffered – without having any particular ties to an individual. Whenever someone chooses to sponsor a stone, Demnig visits that location personally to install it and say a few words about the meaning of his work.

The Stolpersteine are embedded securely into the ground, so “stumbling” over them is meant in a figurative sense: by spotting these tiny memorials, people stumble over them with their hearts and minds, stopping in their tracks to read the inscriptions and bring someone back to life. Even though each stone takes up only a few inches of space, all 67,000 Stolpersteine dispersed throughout the continent together make up the largest Holocaust memorial in the world.

© dpa / picture alliance

 

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.

Tourism in Germany is on the rise

Rothenburg ob der Tauber is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Germany.

Are you traveling to Germany this summer? Tourism is booming! The Federal Statistical Office released new data showing that incoming tourism in Germany increased by 4.8 percent from January to April (compared to the same period in 2017). There were 23.1 million recorded international overnight stays in German hotels during that time!

“One million additional nights in four months – this is further proof of the successful positioning of Germany as a travel destination,” said Petra Hedorfer, Chairwoman of the Board of the German National Tourist Board (GNTB). The European market continues to grow by 3.6 percent and “the Asian and American markets continue to grow at a rate of 6.5 and 8.2 percent respectively.”

The GNTB report states that the United States continues to be the most important source of tourism in Germany. From January through April, 5 percent more Americans visited Germany than during that time in the previous year.

In a separate survey, the GNTB asked visitors to name their favorite destinations in Germany. Last year’s top 10 sights were the Miniatur Wunderland Hamburg (the world’s largest model railway exhibition), Europa-Park, Neuschwanstein Castle, Lake Constance, Old Town of

, Dresden’s old quarter, the Heidelberg Castle, Phantasialand, the Hellabrunn Zoo in Munich and the Moselle Valley.

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.

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

Bavaria

Continue reading “10 awesome drone videos of Germany”

Travel Tuesday: Flower Island

On the south shore of Lake Überlinger near Konstanz is a place commonly known as “Flower Island”. As the name implies, the 45 hectar island of Mainau is covered in colorful flowers as far as the eye can see, making it an attractive destinations for summertime travelers.

The small island is notable for its many parks and gardens – particularly its roses. The island is home to about 30,000 rose bushes consisting of 1,200 varieties and 20,000 dahlias of 250 varieties. The Italian Rose Garden alone has more than 500 varieties of roses!

It even has an arboretum with 500 species of trees and a greenhouse with a tropical climate and hundreds of free-flying butterflies. The gardens are also home to a peacock enclosure and a petting zoo with ponies and goats.

The island originally belonged to the Order of Teutonic Knights, but it was purchased by the Grand Duke Frederick I of Baden in 1853. Frederick I used the palace on the island as his summer residence. Over the years, ownership of the island changed hands many times. In 1932, under the ownership of Prince Wilhelm, Duke of Södermanland, the island was gifted to the prince’s only child, Lennart Bernadotte, who started a foundation that continues to manage the island today.

Today, the island is open daily to visitors. Travelers who come to the island can relax among a sea of flowers, view the baroque Mainau castle and enjoy views of Lake Überlinger and Lake Constance.

Travel Tuesday: Vischering Castle

Castle Vischering by Michael Guenther on 500px.com

 


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.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Travel Tuesday: Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe

Europe’s largest hillside park is located in Germany – and it happens to be an UNESCO World Heritage site, as well! Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is a Baroque “mountain park” west of the city center in Kassel, Germany.

Built in 1696, the large park is laid out in a Baroque style with beautiful gardens and architecture. The most interesting feature, however, is its waterworks. About 92,000 gallons of water flow through the park, connecting to reservoirs and channels. The waterworks begin at the top of a hill and flow down to the Grand Fountain, which shoots the water 164 feet into the air.

The waterworks are a sight in and of themselves, but the park also features old architecture, a giant Hercules memorial, faux ruins, a Roman aqueduct and a Chinese pagoda. One of its most picturesque attractions is the Löwenburg Castle, erected by landgrave Wilhelm IX at the end of the 18th century.

The best part about visiting Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe: there’s no entrance fee to get into the park itself! It’s a great spot for those summer picnics we’re so eagerly anticipating right now!

Travel Tuesday: The Devil’s Bridge

Germany is filled with creations from the days when castles and knights were the norm. One such creation is the Rakotzbrücke — the Devil’s Bridge.

Located in Kromlauer Park near Gablenz in eastern Germany, this unique bridge is shaped as a semi-circle. From a distance, the reflection in the water creates the image of a perfect sphere. Photographers and travelers love visiting this bridge, and you may have seen already seen fantastic images of the Devil’s Bridge on Instagram!

The bridge was commissioned by a local knight in 1860 and built with a diversity of local stones. It was called the “Devil’s Bridge” because its structure made it so dangerous that it must have been built by Satan, people said. Similar bridges exist throughout Europe and many of them are considered the work of the devil due to their “impossible” design.

This bridge (and the surrounding park) are a must-see for travelers in the area, but take note that crossing the bridge is strictly prohibited! There are great views of the bridge from the park, and you can always Photoshop yourself into the pictures you take!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy