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June Brides, Weddings German Style

Monday, June 4th, 2012

It’s June and everyone talks about a June bride. Hell, even the venues seem to charge more for this “high season” of the bridal year.

So I got to thinking (which could possibly never be a good thing) about weddings in Germany. Sure, every culture has its wedding rituals and traditions, and Germany is no different.

Getting married in Deutschland can be a three day affair. Day one usually includes a civil ceremony since a totally religious ceremony isn’t valid. The civil ceremony isn’t the big day in the life of the bride & groom; it’s usually just attended by family and a handful of close friends.

Brides and grooms wishing to get married in a medieval church or elegant cathedral will have to do it on day two of the festivities. Here’s where the big party comes in — right after the religious ceremony.

Never attended a German wedding before? You might notice the lucky couple carrying bread and salt, which is symbolic for a “good harvest.” They might also be carrying some coins to throw at any kids nearby, as guests throw rice.

Careful, someone might lose an eye! ;-)

All the dishes being broken (on Day 1) isn’t a lover’s quarrel between the lovebirds. It’s traditional to break old dishes. Scaring away any evil spirits, I gather.

There might not be new modern music or sappy love songs as their first dance as a married couple, traditionally it’s the Waltzer. But, hey, every couple’s different — so it’s a gamble. Still, I like tradition.

Want a proper wedding gift for the German couple? You can never go wrong with a ceramic pig that signifies good fortune, or a Black Forest Cuckoo Clock (yes, I’m serious). ;-)

OK, so the cuckoo clock might be out — get the newlyweds a “bridal cup,” which should be given BEFORE the actual nuptials because (again) tradition says it’s for the first toast.

I hope that cup’s filled with a great German wine. I’ll drink to that — I’ll drink to love — and I’ll drink to the lucky couples, whoever they are!

German States In A Nutshell, Part 2

Monday, May 28th, 2012

Here it is, the much anticipated part two of my “German Federal States In A Nutshell.” There’s a lot of history, culture, and economics in each of Germany’s states. Isn’t it much easier to break it all down?

OK, OK, maybe I didn’t add every little nuance into all of them, they are snippets after all. ;-)

As a reminder, here’s Part 1 of German States.

Where did I leave off? Oh yeah…

Lower Saxony

If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a million times — Lower Saxony is best enjoyed by bicycle. All the better to see all this agricultural landscape. Whatever mode of transportation you’re using to see this state that includes Hanover, Göttingen, and Wolfsburg, will work all the same.

You’ll certainly eat good, there’s everything from potatoes to sugar beets, and wheat that are grown around here.

Take that, Schleswig-Holstein, MeckPomm, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, Hesse, and North Rhine-Westphalia. Wow, would you believe that all those places border Lower Saxony? Yeah, me either.

North Rhine-Westphalia

Eighteen million people live within this most populated state, if you’d believe it. Not so hard to understand when you’ve got cities like Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Aachen, and Cologne — as well as lots of medieval architecture, half-timbered houses, and UNESCO World Heritage sites scattered throughout its many villages and towns.

Cologne is a big favorite. It’s got an annual film festival, a huge Carnival season (November to February), and the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe. If you want a picture — stand far back, its towers are 157 meters high (oh, and it took over 600 years to complete!).


This is a predominantly Catholic state that borders Baden-Württemberg, Saarland, Luxembourg, Belgium, and France. No wonder they appreciate the great wines that come straight from this region.

Viticulture might be big business here, but visiting charming cities like Trier, Speyer, Mainz, and Worms are also a must-see.


The Saarland is Germany’s smallest state, which also borders France (as well as Luxembourg and the Rhineland-Palatinate). French is widely spoken here; and you’ll find cities like Saarlouis, Neunkirchen, Saarbrücken, and Sankt Wendel.


No, this isn’t the land of the Saxons of the Germanic Tribes, but where you’ll be when you’re visiting Leipzig, Dresden, Zwickau, and Chemnitz. It’s also a wine region, has mountains, and castles. Sadly it isn’t known for being a top spot for tourists to Germany, though you’d miss out big time not to spend some time here too!

Besides, did you know that recent excavations have found 29 million year old fossils?

Hmm, maybe more people will come to visit from now on? :-)


Saxony-Anhalt is proud of its rustic Harz Mountains, Martin Luther, and the Romanesque Route that winds its way through this state.

Consequently, you’ll want to pay a visit to Magdeburg, Wittenberg, and Halle.


Bordering the North Sea and the Baltic Sea, this state is home to one of the most famous nude beaches in the country — on the Island of Sylt, if you’re wondering.

It’s also where you’ll find the annual Cabbage Festival (September), hear Low German, North Frisian, and Danish all spoken in the same place. Try a delightful dish known as Rote Grütze made with custard and berries (take your pick — strawberries, raspberries, currants, whatever, it’s yummy).


This is the last of Germany’s federal states — but certainly not the least. Known as Thüringen in German, Thuringia was once home to Martin Luther, since he went to school in Erfurt. Erfurt’s also where you find the country’s oldest synagogue (11th century), the Rennsteig (a gorgeous hiking trail), and great cities like Eisenach and Weimar.

Wouldn’t be the ultimate dream trip to visit all of Germany’s states? Don’t you wish you had that kind of time? Maybe I should get out from behind the computer — and travel more, huh? ;-)

German States In A Nutshell, Part 1

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

The fact that Germany has sixteen federal states it might be hard to keep track of what’s what, and where’s where. Sure it would be nice to visit the Bavarian Alps then shoot over to chill out on the North Sea coast, but considering they’re nowhere near each other — you’ve got a lot of ground to cover between them.

Ya get what I’m talking about? Good thing I’m here to help you understand each of Germany’s states, and their unique culture.

Oh wait, this is only Part 1 — so here are the first eight.


Some of Germany’s most famous cities are located within this state; Stuttgart, Heidelberg, and Freiburg to name a few. This is also a famous wine producing region, as well as where you’ll find the Black Forest and the Bertha Benz Memorial Route, Lake Constance, and a huge Oktoberfest that’s second only to Munich’s.


Yeah, speaking of Munich, Bavaria is where you’ll find this beer partying town that attracts millions of visitors for this September festival. But, beer isn’t its only attraction (shocked, considering this is where the German Purity Laws for beer started).

The Bavarian Alps dramatic landscape is extraordinary. No wonder some 12 million people live in this state that borders not only Lake Constance, Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Thuringia, and Saxony — but also the Czech Republic, Austria, and Switzerland.

Geography aside, Bavaria’s home to the Franconian Wine Region, has delicious Weisswurst to eat, and your chance to see folks dressed in lederhosen and the traditional dirndl.


Yes, I’m fully aware that Berlin is Germany’s capital city, though it’s also a federal state (totally surrounded by Brandenburg). I’m still not sure how the city has managed to have over 700 hotels, 135 million visitors a year, over 150 museums, and some of the liveliest nightlife — when over a third of it is covered by parks, gardens, lakes, and forests. What a unique mix!


This state doesn’t include Berlin, mind you (wait, didn’t I just say that in the paragraph above). Brandenburg’s capital is Potsdam, but with countless parks, lakes, national parks (including the Spree Forest) you’ll have a heckava excellent time hiking or bicycling around this part of the country.


Yet another state that’s also a city — and Bremen also includes Bremerhaven. The city of Bremen has been a free city for centuries (its Roland statue from 1404 proves it), and its Marktplatz is one of the most beautiful in the country.

Bremerhaven is a port town that’s a perfect setting for the German Maritime Museum. The weather’s great during the summer — where temperatures rarely (if ever) get above 30° C or 85° F. Quite cool if you’ve ever spent the summer in the European South. ;-)


Germay’s second largest city seems to have an even better climate than Bremerhaven (average summer highs are only in the 20s/70s); and has a cityscape that’s got to be seen to be believed. It’s a gay-friendly city with an opera house, almost 4 dozen theaters, and 60 museums.

While you’re here try the local Birnen, Bohnen und Speck — a dish made from pears, beans, and bacon. After a day of mudflat hiking at the Wadden Sea National Park, you’re bound to be starving.


Inasmuch as Brandenburg is a nature lovers dream destination, Hesse could rival it in a heartbeat. Yeah, this might be where you’ll find cities like the cosmopolitan Frankfurt am Main, academic Darmstadt, and medieval Kassel — I’d pretty much say the Westerwald, Taunus Mountains, and the Vogelsberg are the real showstoppers.

Just one thing: you better behave yourself while your here; Hesse is the only state in Germany that still has the death penalty — YIKES!

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania

Bordering Schleswig-Holstein, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania is Germany’s least populated federal state. Doesn’t that sound great when you want to get away from the masses? Hey, with over 280 nature reserves and 14 national parks — there ain’t no room for people, I guess. ;-)

Just kidding, but this state that’s got Chalk Cliffs, borders the Baltic Sea, and over a thousand megalithic monuments is often not given the respect it truly deserves.

Don’t worry, MeckPomm, as you’re lovely called… I’ll be right here on this blog to sing your praises — just as soon as I can tear myself away from your chalky cliffs, OK?

Stay tuned for Part 2 (next week). There’s so much more in store. :-)

German Personality Traits ;-)

Monday, April 9th, 2012

I found the Schnitzel Republic Blog on the personality traits of the typical German quite by accident.

Wow, are we really like that? In typical German fashion, I was obsessed (I mean, motivated) to find out if these were really true.

Stubborn & Argumentative

Germans stubborn? Wow, when a German’s got his mind to something — then nothing will detract him (or her) from their mission.

Case in point, 3 friends were coming home from a German club one night. The driver stopped the vehicle right in the middle of the street putting his car in park and absolutely refused to move until the €20 he thought was owed was paid right there on the spot.

The funniest part? They were 2 blocks from their house — the passengers could’ve walked home. But, noooo… they decided to argue it out in the middle of the street.

Stubborn? I’d say yes. Argumentative? Too. Maybe there is some merit to this.

Wow, that’s two typical German traits for the price of one story.


I’d call it loyalty. Yes, Germans will find a brand they like and stick to it (you know, Mercedes vs. BMW vs. Audi). There’s something comforting in the fact that on the 2nd Saturday of the month when the moon’s in Aquarius with a Venus rising that there’s some event or another going on. Makes it easy to plan things that way.

Why is this a shock? Germans plan, plan, plan. One friend (me) will stare at you for a good 5 minutes before answering a question because he’s thinking how to answer. ;-)


One non-German friend said, “the Germans started two World Wars, they’re not exactly the kissy-huggy type”; this in response to a lady asking why her new German boyfriend wasn’t romantically demonstrative in public.

This gives us the impression of being cold. We’re not really, we just believe in formality.


As cold as the world sees us, we’ve got a funny streak. Silly, nonsense humor isn’t going to do it for us — give us irony or vulgarity and we’re laughing til beer shoots out our nose (which isn’t funny, BTW).


Ever see a German’s eyes glaze over? They’re in deep thought as how to make something work better, faster, more efficient if you will. Some of the best inventions have come from the logical thought process that is a German brain.

Remember that when you brush your teeth with toothpaste or take some aspirin for a headache.

I would like to add one more.


My grandmom used to say, “A place for everything, and everything in its place.” Yes, we’re a bit OCD in the whole keeping order department. We like things tidy with no clutter — chaos is a German’s Kryptonite.

Don’t believe me? Go mess up a German’s desk (kitchen, bathroom, whatever) and watch their whole world spin out of control. I’d gander that would be hilarious — unless you’re German, of course! ;-)

Or if you’d like to get up and travel to wherever your nose takes you? Don’t do that to a German. It has good, valuable reasons to plan out a route first to ensure the most efficient travel experience.


You know what? I must say that I’m happy to be stubborn, argumentative, traditional, cold serious, humorous, creative, and orderly. Oh, and I’m also glad to be efficient, punctual, reliable, meticulous, down-to-earth, honest, and a true friend. :-)

German(s) Outside Of Germany

Monday, March 26th, 2012

I kind of got sidetracked when I originally went to write this. It was supposed to be about cities all over the planet that had a large population of Germans.

But then, that just didn’t seem like enough. As if 17% of the United States’ population being of German decent wasn’t enough, right?

What I found was that over a million people in Australia speak German, and the language is widely spoken in Namibia and parts of South Africa (but that’s about it on the African continent).

I also learned that 20 million people in South America (16 million in Brazil) alone speak German, which is only eclipsed by the 25 million German speakers in North America.

Did you know the first German settlers to the United States (except it wasn’t the U.S. back then) came in the 1680s, who settled in what became known as Germantown, Pennsylvania? The Germans might be gone, but the name still remains as a neighborhood of Philadelphia.

New York wasn’t to be outdone. They had a neighborhood in Manhattan known as Little Germany (Kleindeutschland). By the 1850’s they had the third largest German population, including Germany itself.

Other cities in the U.S. can also boast a large German population: Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Pittsburgh to name a few. Perhaps this is why all sorts of German-American Clubs have sprung up all over, and German-American parades take place on October 6th for German Heritage Day. New York, however, holds their German-American Parade on the 3rd Saturday of September.

What caused this mass emigration of the German population? Sadly, it was war and famine, mostly. (Learn more at the German Emigration Center in Bremerhaven.)

One of the good things to come from all the Germans that left Germany is they spread their culture around the globe, introducing Kindergarten and the Christmas Tree to millions of children and homes in the process.

Think about that the next time you put that star on your tree or send a little one off for their first day of school. ;-)

Traditional Bavarian Clothing

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

I’d bet the farm that a good number of you out there think that every German man runs around in lederhosen, with a large beer stein in his hand all day long. While the ladies are skipping in their tight-fitting dresses to the bellowing of that big horn from the RICOLA commercial (it’s called an Alpenhorn, if you’re wondering).

It’s not everyday.

A good number of special events (Oktoberfest, weddings, Thursdays — ha, ha) could call for the donning of these outfits, and even you can buy yourself a lederhosen and a dirndl (as the ladies’ dresses are called). You just need to know what it is you’re buying.

Men, lederhosen is one area where you’ve got more to buy than the ladies since there’s a bit more to your outfit. You need your lederhosen, which are leather pants (with a decorative front flap) worn with either a belt or the more traditional suspenders.

Yeah, yeah, most people think the only color it comes in is green, but you’ll find browns and tans too.

Even shirts are embellished, usually with buttons or leather appliques worn under a vest or jacket (each sold separately, BTW); and we mustn’t forget the shoes.

By the time you’re said & done the entire lederhosen getup can set you back €300–400. Beer not included. ;-)

Ladies, the color of the dirndl is limited to the imagination of the designer or the wearer. You’ll find deep purples, rich greens, feminine pinks, and chocolaty browns to name a few, but it’s the tight-fitting bodice, full skirt (with petticoats), and matching (yet, contrasting) apron that makes an average dress a dirndl.

And length is a personal choice. They’re long skirted, short-skirted, and now you’ll find them with a mini-skirt. You’ll also find they’re quite easy to buy online, and a tad less expensive than the guys’ get-up (around €159 for a more economical variety).

You might, however, want to add a charming necklace to the dirndl — as many women do. And men, your outfit’s not complete without your hat.

Well, gotta go. Tomorrow’s Thursday, so time to break out the lederhosen. ;-)

German News And Events

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

We do our best here at and in our G-ZINE to bring you all sorts of information regarding what’s going on in Germany. If you want more German news and cultural events, programs, and even books there are plenty of English sites that’ll give you what you’re looking for.

Deutsche Welle, my personal favorite, is one of the most trusted names in German news. Their website has historical, travel, and other articles for not only the English speaking (reading?) public but in 29 other languages too. Plus, you can watch DW World live on their website. is a great site for getting all the info you want for Germany’s major cities (Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Munich, even the Rhineland). They’ll give you up-to-date movie listings (for English speaking movies, no less), restaurant reviews, and other cultural events.

Living or visiting Berlin? Can’t read German? Good thing EXBERLINER knows how to take care of you. They’ve got the best info on life in the capital city with restaurant reviews, listings, classified ads (need an apartment), and nightlife.

The same holds true with The Munich Times. If you want all the non-German language info on current events, sports, politics, and business in the Bavarian city — you don’t have to go any further than right here.

SPIEGEL ONLINE is the online version of Der Spiegel, and they’ve conveniently translated their German, European, and World headline stories from Deutsch to English for you.

Thanks, that’s most kind. ;-)

When trying to keep current of all the cultural events in Germany, you’ve got two choices. The first, Signandsight, might draw some of its “news” from other sites (for which they’ve translated to English for you). It’s said to be all about the “cultural and intellectual life in Germany.” That means books, music, art, etc. Love it!

The second, the Gothe Institute, is also all about German cultural life. You’ll find their website most informative about cultural programs. Plus, they have offices in countless cities around the globe (there’s even one in Kathmandu).

If you hear about any more English-speaking (or reading) websites, be sure to let us in on where to find them by posting a comment below, please? :-)

Germany, the Land of Poets and Thinkers

Monday, February 13th, 2012

I couldn’t even begin to tell you how many pages on that have the names Goethe or Schiller mentioned in them. These two contemporaries aren’t even the tip of the iceberg of writers and poets that have made Germany known as Das Land der Dichter und Denker — the Land of Poets and Thinkers.

So, here’s your chance to get to know some famous German writers in honor of next month’s Leipzig Book Fair in Leipzig (March 15th – 18th) and the lit.COLOGNE, the International Literature Festival in Cologne (March 14th – 24th).

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Born in 1749, Goethe’s works were considered part of a movement known as Sturm und Drang, or in English Storm & Stress. His The Sorrows of Young Werther would have topped all the “bestseller” lists, had there been any in his day.

Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller

Fritz (as he was called) was buddies with Goethe, and founded the Weimar Theater with him. He is, however, known for his works — like Don Carlos, The Wallenstein Trilogy (about the Thirty Years’ War), and The Robbers — a story of violence, money, power, and revolution. Utterly brilliant.

While Schiller and Goethe were part of the Sturm und Drang, a number of writers were known for Exilliteratur — exiled writers (like these next two guys) that opposed the Third Reich and all it stood for.

Thomas Mann

A Nobel Prize winner from Germany who emigrated to the U.S. during the Nazi years, Thomas Mann was first translated into English in 1924. So now German and English readers can enjoy his ironic works (Death in Venice, The Magic Mountain, etc.). You can also read his children’s works too, since three of his children (Erika Mann, Klaus Mann, Golo Mann) became writers.

Bertolt Brecht

Oh, this guy was busy — poet, director, and playwright he was. His anti-fascist sentiments can be found in his Life of Galileo, the Good Person of Szechwan, and the Fear and Misery of the Third Reich. He returned to what was then East Germany after being blacklisted by Hollywood during the Cold War.

Although the next writers might not have been part of the Sturm und Drang or Exilliteratur crowd, they’re still Nobel winners for Literature.

Gerhart Hauptmann

Go figure, another Nobel Prize winning author. Mr. Hauptmann wrote 37 plays, and a large collection of novels and short novels. Too bad he didn’t have as much success after World War II as he did beforehand.

Christian Matthias Theodor Mommsen

Not only was Theodor Mommsen a prolific writer (finishing 1500 works), this guy was an archaeologist to boot. He won a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1902 on his works of Roman history. He died over a century ago, yet his writings are still relevant.

Schiller said, “The voice of the majority is no proof of justice.” Then let me say that the voice of the majority that still loves these writers’ stories is proof that good taste still exists in the world.

Tipping And Table Etiquette In Germany

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

Ya know, Americans get a really awful rap about table manners when traveling abroad. I ain’t saying that it ain’t rightfully deserved (in some cases), but navigating your way around a restaurant in a foreign land could, well, be foreign.

As progressive as we Germans are, I’m sure we seem a bit foreign to the average traveler. So, I’ll help you figure out the simple nuances of eating like a German — even if you’re not eating traditional German cuisine.

Your first test is when you arrive at the eatery. You’re going to have to find your own seat (exceptions apply). Second, it’s not unheard of some stranger to come sit with you if the restaurant’s crowded — it’s an efficient use of space.

Don’t worry about making small talk — that’s definitely not the German way. Just eat your food and be on your merry way.

Next, see that basket of bread on the table? First rule of Economics applies here — no such thing as a free Mittagessen (that’s lunch in German), so chances are you’ll have to pay for what you ate. Just ask if you’re not sure.

You’ll even pay for condiments (ketchup, mustard, etc.) in fast-food joints. Although traditional fast-food in Germany is the Döner Kebap (served in a pita) — and never once have I seen ketchup on it. So eat that — and you’ll be fine.

All right, your food’s arrived, now what? Um, good manners say that you don’t eat until everyone has their food. Also, eating with your fingers — use forks & knives to eat pizza, will you?

It’s not bad form to eat “American-style” (that’s with the fork in your right hand, cutting with the right while switching the fork to the left) — it’s just not the most efficient way to eat.

And we know how much that makes a Kraut crazy, right? ;-)

Want to see a German get really indignant? Ask for a glass of tap water with or before your meal. You’d think you had just sprouted a third eye and a turned purple. Actually, I think that would garner less of a reaction. Do yourself a favor, if you want water drink Mineralwasser (sparkling water like Pellegrino or Perrier).

You’re fed. You’ve got your drink. Now it’s time to pay the bill. I sure hope you’ve asked if the restaurant took plastic beforehand. That’s right, even the best restaurants don’t always take your Master, Visa, or AMEX card.

And, never, never, never, leave your tip on the table for your server. It’s customary to round up your bill (usually 5-10%), telling your waitress or waiter what you’ll pay, then give it to them.

Just don’t ask ’em to wrap up your leftovers in a Doggy-bag. That’s almost as bad as asking for that tap water. ;-)

Enjoy Music At The 2012 Luther Decade

Monday, January 9th, 2012

Would you believe that we’re halfway through the momentous Luther Decade? Every year for the last five, all sorts of festivals and other programs have taken place to lead up to October 31, 2017, the official marking of the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation.

What makes 2012 so remarkable is that this year’s highlight is music, so many events and programs have taken this into account.

The year of music kicked off just right in Erfurt where the new year’s events started with a choir concert at St. Thomas’ Church.

It’s all right if you missed it (lucky if you got to go). Here’s a listing of other events for the rest of the year so you don’t miss anymore.

In Eisenach at the Bach House there’s a special exhibit on the Book of Songs from Feb 25–Nov 11. Not running quite as long, the Thuringian Bach Weeks (March 30–April 22) is one of the largest music festivals in the country — special church services will also be taking place throughout the month.

Also in Eisenach there’s a grand birthday celebration for Martin’s 528th birthday on November 10. Oh sorry, I jumped ahead there. ;-)

For almost a full year at the Wartburg Castle (May 4, 2012–March 31, 2013) all sorts of exhibitions are going on where Luther translated the New Testament into German. The room in which he accomplished this task looks pretty much like it did 500 years ago.

October 31 marks Reformation Day (Reformationstag) and celebrate with the Reformation Festival. There will be plenty of special services throughout Thuringia on the day that Luther nailed his 95 Theses on the church door; an event that started a revolution.

From November 29,2012 to January 30, 2013 at the Heinrich-Schütz-Haus in Bad Köstritz you’ll be treated to a special exhibit on Martin Luther and Christmas.

Stay tuned. I’ll certainly keep you updated for the upcoming 2013 Reformation & Tolerance, the 2014 Reformation & Politics, and the 2015 Reformation Art & the Bible yearly events. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? :-)

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