With Halloween just around the corner, let’s take a look at one of Germany’s creepiest places: Frankenstein Castle.
Frankenstein Castle sits on a hilltop overlooking the city of Darmstadt. It was constructed sometime before the year 1250 by Lord Conrad II Reiz of Breuberg, who founded the free imperial Barony of Frankenstein. Over the coming centuries, the castle was home to various different families and witnessed several territorial conflicts. In 1673, Johann Conrad Dippel – who later became an alchemist – was born in the castle. The structure fell into ruins in the 18th century and was restored in the mid-19th century.
The most famous story is, of course, that of the alchemist who worked in the castle in the 17th century. He was known to experiment with strange potions. He supposedly created an animal oil (which he named “Dippel’s Oil”) that was a so-called “elixir of life”. There are also rumors that the man studied anatomy and conducted experiements on cadavers, some of which he dug up himself from graves. There is no evidence that proves that any of this happened, but local people believe the legends are true.
If you’ve ever mentioned to a friend that you’re trying to learn ein bisschen Deutsch, you’ll immediately be confronted with platitudes about how difficult the long words are, or how tough it is to remember all the grammar. In the worst case scenario, they’ll put on a harsh accent and yell out “Schmetterling!” (“butterfly!”).
But learning German can be something for everyone. With enough practice, anyone can become at least a little conversational. As inspiration, here’s a list of celebrities that can speak German, some more fluently than others, of course.
Because the skill-level is so variable, we thought it would be fun to go from least to most fluent. No judgements here! We realize short clips might not be the best demonstration of one’s language abilities.
#5 Chris Pratt Pratt, star of Parks and Rec and Guardians of the Galaxy, learned some German in high school. In this clip he appears to struggle with anything beyond the most basic questions. However, he is able to engage in a basic conversation in a noisy environment, something a lot of people aspire to. Take a look:
#4 Gene Simmons
Gene, lead singer of Kiss, claims to speak a bit of German, Hebrew, and Japanese. In this clip he demonstrates an impressive ability to understand what the interviewer is asking of him, even if he fails to respond in a grammatically correct way. Still, a little broken German is German nonetheless. You be the judge:
#3 Christopher Lee
Christopher, Saruman in Lord of the Rings and Count Dooku in Star Wars, sang some in German, as well as did some filming. Though he seems a bit annoyed by the German interviewer in this clip, he does seem fully capable of understanding what’s being asked, and of responding to the questions, even if only briefly. Check it out:
#2 Leonardo DiCaprio Leo needs no introduction. As he explains in this clip, his grandmother was from Germany and taught his some important phrases. Though quite halting, there’s certainly a little skill!
#1 Sandra Bullock Holy cow! Golden Globe Winner Sandra Bullock speaks German at an incredible level. Her singing coach was German, as well as one of her grandfathers. No need to explain too much as her abilities are made abundantly clear by listening to her speak. In this clip, watch her literally forget her award acceptance speech at a ceremony, but then recover by giving the speech without notes:
So that’s the list…But wait, there’s one more!
Honorable Mention: Tina Fey It’s not totally clear if Fey, known for SNL and 30 Rock, actually speaks German, or if she simply learned enough in school to pronounce it properly. What we can say is that anytime a German phrase leaves her mouth, it’s absolutely hilarious. Enjoy!
“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog” sang Elvis. For any German listening, it was slightly redundant. That’s because the word “hound” has its origin in the German word “Hund”, which means “dog”.
“You ain’t nothing but a hound dog” sounds a lot like,
“You ain’t nothing but a dog dog”
But shared German-American dog culture goes far deeper than redundancy in Elvis lyrics! There are nearly 90 million dogs in the United States, and a good number of them have German origins. The Boxer, the Pomeranian, the German Shepherd, the Dachshund, and many more breeds come across the Atlantic from Deutschland. The American Kennel Club publishes a yearly list of the most popular dog breeds nation-wide, and Labrador and Golden Retrievers (neither a German breed) always top that list.
In 2018, the faithful German Shepherd ranked as the second most popular dog breed in the whole country! Not bad!
However, these data points from the AKC don’t provide us with breed popularity in each state, and don’t provide rankings for us to make a lovely map.
So which German breeds are the most popular in each state in the nation?
To find out, we took Google Trends data from the last 12 months. The percentage of search traffic for German breeds was then accounted for on a state-by-state basis. Then, we made several maps!
* It’s important to note that the drawback of these maps is that they account for search traffic and not ownership.They represent interest in a breed, not the number of dogs in a state. *
You might have heard about the massive wildfires that are burning in the Amazon rainforest at the present moment. The Amazon generates more than 20% of the world’s oxygen and 10% of the world’s known biodiversity. It is often referred to as the “lungs of the planet”, so when it is threatened, it becomes an international issue. Leaders around the world have expressed their concern about the fires, and on Friday, Foreign Minister Heiko Maas declared that Germany is ready to help.
“When the rainforest burns for weeks on end, then we cannot remain indifferent,” Minister Maas said. “We cannot allow fires to destroy the green lungs of the world. Protecting the unique natural heritage of the Amazon rainforest is an international task that concerns us all. Germany stands ready to offer help and support for tackling the fires.”
If you’ve ever been to Germany, you surely know about Germans’ love for currywurst!
In fact, Germans love currywurst so much that they even have a museum dedicated to it.
The Currywurst Museum, located in downtown Berlin, is dedicated to the popular sausage dish, presenting everything from the history of the currywurst to its presence in film, TV and music. The interactive museum also features exhibits such as spice sniffing stations, a sausage sofa, ketchup-bottle-shaped audio stations and virtual currywurst-making stations.
Located right near Checkpoint Charlie, the Currywurst Museum is an unusual and entertaining addition to any Berlin trip – especially with kids!
But how did this strange museum come into being?
The museum opened its doors in August 2009 – 60 years after the invention of the currywurst. This popular German sausage was created by Berlin resident Herta Heuwer in 1949. Back then, Germany was suffering the aftermath of World War II and there was a shortage of food. So Heuwer experimented: she got a hold of some ketchup and curry powder from British soldiers and added these ingredients to a traditional German Bratwurst. She then began to sell this newly invented currywurst at a stand near Checkpoint Charlie. Her creation was a hit, and she eventually reached a point where she was selling up to 10,000 currywurst sausages a week.
The founder of the Currywurst Museum, Martin Loewer, realized how important this food item became in Germany and created the museum to acknowledge its impact. The museum currently receives about 350,000 visitors per year.
*Before the actually blog post, it should be stated from the outset that we are dealing with raw numbers here, not percentages* Ok, let’s get into it! All yee German-born, step right up and be gezählt (counted)! The practice of taking a head-count of the population of a nation dates back to ancient Egypt. It helps governments know if they’re growing, shrinking, where to send government services (or soldiers 😮 ), and it’s just kind of nifty information to have! The US follows this tradition. The very first US census of 1790 occurred while the ink was still drying on the US Constitution. President Washington was a year into his first term, and Congress wanted to make sure they knew “the aggregate amount of each description of persons”. While it was a highly imperfect system, it started a practice that has lasted through the life of the nation. One such census occurred in 1870. Well, it actually went all the way in 1871, but that’s not such a critical detail! As you can see in the old map below, the Census Bureau had a particular interest in the presence of an ever-increasing segment of the population: Germans!
A few German immigrants made it over for the Jamestown colony, and the largest and earliest German settlers went to Pennsylvania. The number of Germans really picked up in the 19th century, exceeding any other group. And that can be seen on our map today, which shows the raw number of German-born people in each state, according to the 9th Census in 1870. Here’s a table of the data from the census, and below it, our map. Enjoy!
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This year marks the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall – an important date in German history. But while this year’s focus is on the events leading to Germany’s reunification, let’s not forget how everything began.
During this month in 1961, the GDR established the border that kept Germany divided for years to come. Between 1949 and 1961, 2.7 million people had fled the GDR and moved to the west, ignoring emigration restrictions. The dividing line between East and West Berlin was a border-crossing hotspot. In the year 1960 alone, 200,000 East Germans defected, leaving behind their old lives for new ones in the west.
GDR authorities panicked over the mass emigration and sought to put an end to it. On the eve of August 12, 1961, the East German communist government closed the German border, and on August 13, construction of the Berlin Wall began. Families and friends were separated as GDR authorities tore up roads and sealed the border with barbed wire fencing and concrete blocks. It wasn’t long before a 12-foot concrete wall stood as a barrier between the east and the west.
For many Americans and their families, it’s back-to-school season! For some parents, this means back-to-school shopping for supplies, clothes and other needs for their children. In Germany, however, First Graders get a special treat on their first day of school: a Schultüte (“school cone”)!
A Schultüte is colorful and elaborately decorated cone that is given to German students on their first day of first grade. A typical “school cone” is prepared by a students’ parents and filled to the brim with goodies such as small school supplies (like pens, pencil cases, erasers, etc.) , toys and candy. These bundles of gifts evoke excitement in students during one of the most important days of their childhood – the day that school begins. As kids make their way to their new classrooms, they proudly carry their Schultüten with them. Receiving a Schultüte is often a highlight of a First Grader’s childhood. Many Germans eagerly reflect back on their first day of first grade, picturing their “school cones” and remembering the excitement that these gifts brought them.
This German tradition originated in the early 1800s in the cities of Jena, Dresden and Leipzig. Back then, parents brought the Schultüten directly to the schools, where they were hung on a so-called Schultütenbaum (“school cone tree”) in the classroom. When the tree was “ripe” with school cones, it meant that students were ready to begin first grade. On the first day of school, students were instructed to pick the cone with their name on it. To their surprise, the cones were usually filled with edible treats such as pretzels and candy.
Naturally, the tradition spread and evolved over time. Today, students often receive their Schultüten before they leave their homes to go to school – and their cones are often filled with school supplies, rather than candy. Even Austria and the Czech Republic have adopted this fun back-to-school tradition. So while American kids are often busy back-to-school shopping with their parents, German kids will receive a lot of these items in their cones!
While Germany is known for its mountainous landscapes, quaint villages and picturesque castles, not many people travel to the region to see the country’s wildlife. While Germany may not have as much wildlife as, say, Ecuador, the country is still home to a number of species worth seeing (if you’re lucky, that is)!
If you’re hiking at a high elevation in the Alps, you might stumble across an Alpine ibex (commonly referred to as a Steinbock in German). This is a species of wild goat that is an excellent climber and lives in rough terrain near the snow line. So in order to spot one, you have to be pretty high up!
One of Germany’s most famous inhabitants is the red fox – and if you spend a lot of time in nature, you have a good chance of seeing one! Red foxes are common throughout Europe, and you’ll be able to spot one easily due to its red-orange fur. According to one study, there are about 600,000 red foxes living in Germany. So bring your telephoto lenses and start looking!