Wie man Deutscher wird – How To Be German

When we were in Germany we picked up a hilarious book called “How to be German in 50 Easy Steps” by Adam Fletcher. We had great laughs reading it. With his dry British humour this Brit living in Germany has pinpointed many idiosyncrasies of Germans from drinking “Apfelschorle” to the word “Tschüss”.

Travelling with my Canadian partner and my Canadianized children, different German habits always stand out to me when they express their surprise or dismay:

STEP #1 of How to Be German

Sleep in a Bed with Two Mattresses

Betten

Each hotel or family home we stayed in for the night prompted my Canadian husband to sigh with dismay. He still hopes for a miracle. Part of him can just not believe that there are no single mattresses for double beds. Couples sleep in a double bed made up of two single mattresses and two single duvets; in fact, my German relatives shake their heads at how we North American’s can possibly sleep on the same mattress and share only one duvet. Their night sleep is holy and being woken up by your partner’s movements does not awake romantic feelings in them. You certainly have to admit that what the double mattresses lacks “in nocturnal romance, it more than makes up for practicality, the most prized of German possessions.” (Adam Fletcher)

STEP # 2

The Importance of Breakfast

Deutsches Fruehstueck

No stores are open on Sundays with the exception of bakeries! Germans feel very strongly that it wouldn’t be fair for anybody to work on Sundays, yet their desire for fresh bread outweighs that social concern. Every bakery is open for a few hours on Sunday mornings so one family member can run out to buy a variety of fresh Brötchen (rolls) for breakfast.

“German breakfasts are not meals but elaborate feasts. If it’s a weekend, every square inch of the table will be smothered in an assortment of meats, cheeses, fruits, jams, spreads and other condiments. It’ll look like someone broke in and, while hunting for valuables, just tipped the content of all cupboards onto the table.” (Adam Fletcher)

Eszet Schnitten

One of my favourite childhood memories is Eszet Schnitten. My kids stare at me with open mouths when they see me place one of the thin chocolate slices on my buttered Brötchen and take a bite of it as if I was catapulted back in time to carefree breakfasts as a child. “Really, mom? Chocolate on bread?” Yes, really, dear children. Nothing could taste better and chocolate for breakfast is just like eating Nutella—which by the way was created in the 1940s by Pietro Ferrero, the Italian pastry maker and founder of the Ferrero company—and also not less healthy than sugar dripping donuts from Tim Hortons.

STEP # 3

Planning, Preparation and Process

Kalendar

When I read the chapter about the three P’s to my husband, he laughed so loud I though he might not recover. Apparently, the German love of planning, preparation and process explains everything for him, including why we have discussions that go like this “Let’s make a plan for…” with him replying either “What is there to plan?” or “It is way too early to plan for that!” To my slight distress we constantly seem to be having people over without plan and booking last minute vacations. And then there is the stressful habit of buying Christmas presents only two days prior to the festivities! I start putting away things for Christmas in May. By the end of November, I am done with family gifts. According to my husband, that resembles witchcraft and he continue to run out to the mall on the evening of the 23rd.

“Just because it is called spontaneity, doesn’t mean it can’t be scheduled. There’s a time and place for fun, and it’s to be pre-decided and marked in the calendar. All else is frivolous chaos. So sit down now and make a plan for the day, then the week, then the month. Then book your holiday until 2017. To make it easier, just go to the same place. How about Mallora? All the other Germans go there. Must be something to it.” (Adam Fletcher)

STEP # 9 & 10

Drink Apfelsaftschorle and Spezi

Apfelschorle

“Firstly, you must know, Germans fear any beverage that doesn’t fizz. It brings them out in a cold sweat. It’s a great comedic joy to watch tourists and foreigners in Germany buying water labelled ‘classic’, thinking that since ‘classic’ water—the kind that has fallen from the sky since the dawn of time—has always been still, uncarbonated water, it must be the same here, right? No! Millions of years of water history have been conveniently forgotten. ‘Classic’ means carbonated, of course. (…) Related to this is Apfelsaftschorle. You know the scene in movies when people go to therapy and then the therapist asks them to create a happy place? (…) For Germans that place is a lake of Apfelsaftschorle” (Adam Fletcher)

Germans like to drink fizzy water. Germans like their Apfelsaft (aka apple juice) and one day somebody came up with the idea of mixing them both. Apfelschorle or Apfelsaftschorle consists of 3 parts carbonated mineral water and 1 part apple juice. “Spritzer” or “Weinschorle” is wine mixed with carbonated water. Germans love mixing drinks. They even mixed Coke and Fanta and call it Spezi. You are doubtful? Unless you have tried Apfelschorle you cannot say you know what it is like to be German.

STEP # 11-14

Eat German Food

My husband’s eyes became as big as saucers each time we passed a butcher’s or a meat counter in a supermarket. There is German Wurst. And then there is other Wurst. And then there is more Wurst. “Being vegetarian here is probably about as much fun as being blind at the zoo.” (Adam Fletcher)

An oddity is Spargel (asparagus), not the green Spargel we usually get here but white Spargel, served with ham (there is the Wurst again) and a creamy sauce Hollondaise. “The only notable time of the year is Spargel-Saison, where the country goes gaga as the almighty Spargel is waved around everywhere, like a sort of culinary magic wand.” (Adam Fletcher)

What Spargel lacks in taste and imagination the German potato, which comes in many different dishes, makes up for. Wiener Schnitzel tastes best with Bratkartoffeln and Sauerkraut.

Schnitzel & Bratkartoffeln 2

When we visited family, my sister cooked “Kartoffelauflauf” (potato gratin with no less than 1000 millilitres of real cream for the seven of us) on the first night, Kartoffelpuffer (potato latkes) on the second and Kroketten (potato croquettes made from mashed potatoes and fried on the outside) on the third night.

When we were shopping in the city we had “Pommes with Mayo” (french fries with mayonnaise, which by the way tastes very different from our mayonnaise) and “Pommes rot-weiß” (French fries with mayonnaise and ketchup).

Kartoffelsalat 1

And the only appropriate answer to “Ihr seid zum Grillen eingeladen’ (“You are invited to a BBQ”) is “We will make a Kartoffelsalat”, a real German one of course.

The one thing that cannot be forgotten, just like German bread, is the amazing German Kuchen. When you are invited for German “Kaffee und Kuchen”, you are in for a treat. The hostess might even have baked the cake herself. If not, she has picked a variety of cakes at the bakery, one more delicious than the next. If only it wasn’t for all the wasps as you are sitting outside in the backyard drinking good strong coffee and having a piece of Pflaumenkuchen (plum cake), Erdbeerkuchen (strawberry cake), both with lots of whipped cream, of course, or Sahneschnitte (a creamy roll).

STEP # 50

Tschüss

Greetings are different in different parts of Germany. You can say “Guten Tag” or plainly “Hallo” in most parts of Germany. When you get to the South you will hear the more Catholic greeting “Grüß Gott”. And instead of “auf wiedersehen” the South Germans will say “auf wiederschauen”.

However, one word seems to spread more and more all over Germany like a virus. It’s “Tschüss” which will vary from stretching it all the way out to singing a “Tschüüüüüüüss”, or even the more familiar “Tschüüüüssi”, or the more and more common “Tschau tschau”. It seems a short “Tschüss” or one single “Tschau” is not enough anymore.

So let me end my blog with the von Trapp family: So long, farewell, auf wiedersehn, adieu… and tschüss, tschau, tschau!

If you are interested in the other steps of “Wie man Deutscher wird” (How To Be German), check out Adam Fletcher’s bilingual book.

FOR GERMAN LESSONS contact Claudia Angelika Baum, 905-286-9466

 

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Berlin – Snap Shots

It is completely impossible to write a blog about any German city, let alone the shimmering metropolis and capital Berlin, and do it full justice. All I can hope for is to provide you with a few snap shots of what this city has to offer.

Fernsehturm

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Fernsehturm outsideThe cities tallest structure visible from almost any point in Berlin is the 368 meter tall TV tower in the former East Berlin at Alexander Platz. Locals call this tower built in 1969 “Telespargel” (TV asparagus) or “Zahnstocher” (tooth pick). The viewing platform is 203 meters above the ground and provides a stunning view of Berlin. The revolving restaurant takes a ½ hour for a full rotation. If you are planning to visit the TV tower or even have a cup of coffee in the restaurant it is advisable to book ahead as the waiting times are very long otherwise. You can get tickets at http://www.tv-turm.de/en/index.php

Fernsehturm window cleaner

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Brandenburger Tor

IMG_1157The Brandenburg Gate in the Western part of the city is one of the most known landmarks of Germany and the symbol for Berlin. The gate is an 18th century neoclassical arch with scenes from Greek mythology on its six columns. The Quadriga on top of Brandenburg Gate is a chariot drawn by four horses. The goddess is Eirene, the goddess of peace.

Brandenburger Tor

From 1945 to 1989, during the division of Germany and Berlin into East (German Democratic Republic) and West (Federal Republic of Germany), the gate was isolated and inaccessible immediately next to the Berlin Wall.

 

Berlin Wall

IMAG1750    IMG_1161In 1945 as part of the post war peace agreements Berlin was divided into 4 zones: The Soviet Zone (East), the American Zone (South-West), the British Zone (West) and the French Zone (North-West). In June 1948 the Soviets blockaded West Berlin to bring the area under their control. For a year allied planes delivered supplies to the population of West Berlin until the blockade ended. This air lift is known as Berliner Luftbrücke literally “Berlin Air Bridge”.

By the 1950s, economic problems in the East were leading to a mass exodus to West-Berlin. In 1961 the East German government build the infamous Wall (die Mauer) to contain the citizens. Until the fall of the Mauer in 1989 many people tried unsuccessfully to cross the wall and more than 180 were shot attempting to flee East Germany.

Reminders of the Divided City can be found in different spots over the city for example near Checkpoint Charlie (former boarder crossing between the American and the Soviet Sector of the city), or remaining sections of the Berlin Wall. In souvenir stores you can still buy coloured pieces of rock which supposedly are from the Berlin wall.

 

Buddy Bear

IMAG1723 They are all over Berlin, wherever we went, colourful cheerful bears with their arms stretched up high. They are called Buddy Bears and have become Berlin’s symbol for tolerance and “Weltoffenheit” (world openness). The raised arms of the upright Buddy Bears communicated a friendly attitude and optimism.

Everything started in Berlin in June 2001. The initiators of the Buddy Bears, Klaus und Eva Herlitz, decided to start a street art project in Berlin. Over the following weeks, more than 100 bears were created. In front of the KaDeWe (Kaufhaus des Westens, a huge famous department store) the “Buddy Bear Berlin Show“ was launched. The project was a great success mainly due to the fantastic artists who gave each individual bear a unique identity.

People, especially the visiting tourists, enjoyed the painted bear sculptures that the authorities suggested and authorised an extension of the street exhibition until the end of 2002. At the same time, many companies and private individuals bought Buddy Bears for their home country or hometown, which increasingly turned the Buddy Bears into global ambassadors of Berlin. The exhibition has been travelling around the world to make the German capital Berlin famous.

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Schloss Charlottenburg

IMAG1794This is one of many luxury Baroque style buildings whose marvellous interiors used to be inhabited by the Prussian nobility.

The palace in Charlottenburg, in the Western part of Berlin, was once the summer home for Sophie Charolotte, the wife of Friedrich III. It was build in 1695 and enlarged between 1701 and 1713. In 1740 and 1746 Friedrich der Große (Fredrick the Great) added further extensions. The park surrounding the former summer residence is picturesque and invites to scroll around.

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Hackersche Höfe

IMAG1670With this last snap shot of Berlin we are returning to the area near the Fernsehturm and an area which has become a bit of a cult spot. Hackersche Höfe is a huge early 20th century complex of nine interconnecting courtyards (Höfe means yards) surrounded by tall buildings. The first courtyard is especially beautiful featuring interestingly decorated architecture and housing restaurants, shops, art galleries, a movie theatre and the cabaret “Chamaelon”. Another courtyard displays murals by different artists which create a different atmosphere with each image.

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Typisch Deutsch – Typical German

We land in Germany at 6:06 a.m. in the rain. “Typisch deutsches Wetter!” (typical German fall weather), I am thinking. What else is typical German, I wonder. Travelling with my non-European partner, I am looking at Germany through his eyes.

The first confusion arises for him when we enter the airport restaurant to have breakfast. Nobody waits to be seated in Germany. Customers walk straight in and choose their own seats.

We then pick up our rental car. Standing in line waiting our turn, we hear the interactions with other customers. My partner is appalled at the lack of customer service. The tone is unfriendly, bordering on what North Americans perceive as rude. The customer agents behind the counter are impatient and confrontational. This is bad customer service, yes, but also a bit of “culture clash” and a different perception of what an adequate way of communicating is. The staff is not educated or trained enough to go beyond translating their German almost word for word into English. Their mannerism and idioms are different. They are not able to soften the tone or adapt their manner of speaking—which is very direct. When the lady behind the counter discovers she can speak German with me, I would still call her anything but friendly but what is rude in English sounds different in German.

driving

My partner can’t wait to drive on the German Autobahn after having heard all the tales of no speed limits and being able to cruise along at 200 km/h. The reality looks a bit different: Lots of constructions sites or areas on the highway where speed limits do exist. Sometimes the limit is 130km/h, other times 100km/h, or even 80km/h. When we are able to go 200km/h though, the high speed is barely noticeable. The highway and the cars are built for going fast. The road is smooth and the car easily glides along. If you are on the third lane, the other drivers get out of the way for faster cars. My Canadian is pleased. Does this make up for the personal rudeness in the interactions, I wonder? On the Autobahn, my partner also notices how everything is labelled very clearly and the exits are counted down in 100 meter increments. “Why don’t we do that in Canada?” he asks.

200km landscape

We stop at an en-route rest stop to have a coffee. He takes off into the direction of the restrooms to come back slightly confused. “Do you have 70 cents for me? It seems I have to pay to go to the restroom.” Yes, he does. Collecting money assures that the public washrooms are clean. If one buys something at the rest stop store, part of the amount (50 cents) can be applied to the purchase.

Bikers

We leave the highway and drive into the first city. There are bike paths and bikers everywhere and often the bikes have a lane of their own on the street. You better pay extra attention, especially when turning. “Why is their light only on when they are riding the bike?” asks the Canadian puzzled. “Because the bike lamp does not have a battery but a dynamo. This dynamo clicks onto the wheel and ergo only works when the wheels are turning.” He also notices that the traffic lights are different. They are not across the intersection but on your own side of the intersection, so somewhat harder to see. And then he points something out I hadn’t thought of in a long time. In Canada, the traffic light goes from red to green. In Germany it goes from red, to both red and yellow, and only then to green. “Why?” he muses again. “One does not need a warning that the light is about to turn green, does one?”

We arrive at the apartment we are renting and he comments “Wow, German locksmiths must make a fortune!” Why? Because German doors lock when you pull them closed. If you leave the house without your key, you have locked yourself out. Next he looks at the bed with horror. “How are we supposed to sleep in that?” It has two mattresses with a crack in between! “Yes, my love, German beds have two separate mattresses and two separate covers”. He is bewildered that there are no closets in Germany, but admires the beautiful wardrobe we get to use instead. Then he visits the bathroom. Confusion hits again until he has figured out how to flush the toilet. Instead of having a water tank with a lever, modern German plumbing is behind the tiled wall and all you will find is a small button on the wall.

Then we are ready to go for our first walk through the city. We are soon walking through one of many pedestrian districts, often times covered with cobble stones. Lots of people are walking or riding their bikes. Many pedestrians are smoking. Even bicyclists are riding their metal horses one handed while holding a burning cigarette. “Wouldn’t it be lovely if the rain stopped and we could sit in one of those many outdoor cafes or pubs?” “Yes, honey, it would. However, there again you will find people smoking at the tables next to you while you eat or want to enjoy your coffee!”

outdoor pub

Only recently has Germany changed the laws about smoking inside. What used to be normal when I grew up here, smoking inside all restaurants and pubs, is prohibited now. By the end of the vacation, we have decided that 75% of Germans must be smokers as one can’t walk along the street without breathing in second hand smoke all the time. In fact, when I research the statistics, it turns out it is “just” 34% of the adult population who smokes at least one cigarette or more a day, which is still every third person. The German fondness for smoking is a contradiction of a nation otherwise obsessed with health and the environment.

Federweisser

We have lunch inside and enjoy a glass of Federweißer with Zwiebelkuchen (a warm onion tart made out of a thick yeast dough). Federweißer is an unusual alcoholic drink produced and enjoyed only in the fall. It is made out of the early grapes. Federweißer is the product of freshly fermented grape must. The alcohol content can be anywhere from 4 to 10 percent, depending on the stage of fermentation. The name Federweißer (which means feather white) is due to the milky white color, and to the tiny bubbles, or “the dancing feathers” that the process of carbonation creates.

Bierdeckel

My Canadian starts a collection of Bierdeckel—the paper coasters the server puts your drinks on and keeps a tally of how many beers you have had. Over the course of the holiday, we get to try out all sorts of different beers: the Pilsener, the Kölsch (drunk from glasses almost as small and narrow as chemical test tubes) and Schwarzbier.

As we walk back to our apartment, he discovers that dogs are allowed not only in restaurants but also in stores. Being a dog lover, he is thrilled. Then he stops the next couple with a dog on the street, like it is his habit back home. They look at him with great surprise. Somebody wants to pat their dog. The husband is delighted, his wife is suspicious. What a strange man from across the big pond…

From the North Sea to the Alps

Germans love to travel. On average, they spend a much larger part of their income on travelling, than any other nationality. They also tend to have more holidays than North-Americans. Most Germans start with 21 days of paid vacation time and with seniority in a job, are entitled to even more.

Austria, Spain, Italy, France, and Switzerland are popular European travel destinations. Germans also travel within their own country.

During the summer, many Germans head to the North Sea (Nordsee) or the Baltic Sea (Ostsee).

Nordsee

North Sea

Located south of Hamburg is an area called the Lüneburger Heide, a great place to hike.

Along the River Rhine many castles can be found, especially near the cities of Mainz and Koblenz. You can go on a boat tour on the river or enjoy one of the medieval festivals that some towns hold.

Deutsches Eck

Koblenz

Trier, the oldest German city, is 2000 years old. In the city centre is the Porta Nigra, an original Roman-built gateway.

The Black Forest (Schwarzwald) is located in the south-west. It is called black because the trees are exceptionally dense and create an unusual darkness.

Blackforest - Trees

Black Forest

Berlin, the capital, is the largest city in Germany. Its population is 3.5 million.

Another popular place to visit is the province of Bavaria with its biggest city Munich (München). After Berlin and Hamburg, Munich is the third largest city and is popular for its Oktoberfest.

A big castle south of Munich is Neuschwanstein. It has become popular beyond Germany through books and movies.

Neuschwanstein

Schloss Neuschwanstein

In the winter, people go south into the Alps (die Alpen) for skiing. The area of the Zugspitze, near the German city Garmisch-Partenkirchen, attracts many vacationers. The Zugspitze is 2962 metres high and the tallest mountain in Germany. The border between Germany and Austria runs through Zugspitze.

 Zugspitze

Zugspitze (view from Austria)

QUESTIONS (posted by Tia Baum)

  1. Was ist die älteste deutsche Stadt? Wie alt ist sie?

What is the oldest German city? How old is it?

  1. Warum heißt der Schwarzwald so?

Why is the Black Forest called “black”?

  1. Zu welchen zwei Küsten gehen Deutsche oft auf Ferien?

Which two sea coasts do Germans often visit when they go on vacation?

  1. Was ist die größte Stadt in Deutschland?

What is the biggest city in Germany?

  1. Welches ist die dritt größte deutsche Stadt?  Wofür ist sie so bekannt?

What is the third largest city in Germany? Why is it so well known?

  1. Wo gehen Deutsche gerne zum Ski fahren?

Where do Germans go to ski?

  1. Wie heißt der größte Berg in Deutschland? Wie hoch ist er?

What is the largest mountain in Germany? How tall is it?

Visiting Germany in September & October

Early fall is a great time to visit Germany. The summer holidays are over and the roads are less crowded with travellers, local wine festivals are happening, and temperatures are mild but still fairly pleasant.

When you travel in October, remember that German school children have one week of fall vacation. This year it’s the week of October 13. However, booking accommodations is still less expensive than in the summer. The only exception is the Oktoberfest in München (Munich). If you are planning to visit Munich in late September or early October, you have to expect higher prices. Bavaria’s beer festival draws six million of visitors from all over the world every year.

If you prefer more of a local feel than a hotel, here is a website to look into: Airbnb.ca We have booked apartments through this website several times and have always been happy. You live in somebody’s room, apartment or entire house for the duration of your stay. If you want to shop and cook like a local this is a great way of experiencing Germany.

In September and even in October, the weather in Germany can still be pleasant, with colorful autumn foliage. German weather is unpredictable, you need to be prepared for cold and rainy spells. In Berlin, for example, the temperatures range in September from 8˚C to 18˚C, in October from 5˚C to 15˚C.
In November, the days are getting shorter, it is cold, damp and often overcast. Temperatures go down to 0˚C to 8˚C on average and there can be a continuous drizzle, or, in some areas, even the first snow fall.

Early fall is the time to go to enjoy the beautiful autumn colours, the wide variety of good German wines, or a real German beer while visiting one of the many castles on the Rhine river or a fall festival. “Prost!”

Interesting Facts about Ludwig von Beethoven

(Posted by Tia Baum, age 12)


“German composer who was the dominant musical figure of the nineteenth century-particularly famous for his nine symphonies.”

 -Kathleen Krull

Ludwig von Beethoven

Born in Bonn, Germany, 1770

Died in Vienna, Austria, 1827

 -The “Beethoven House” in Bonn is where Beethoven was born.

-Beethoven started playing piano before is 4th birthday.

-His father made him get up in the middle of the night to plays for his friends that he met at bars.

-By the age of twelve, Beethoven was already playing in court as an organist. This was his first paying job, which supported his family when his alcoholic father could not.

-After a while, he was known as “the greatest pianist of all time”. His listeners cried because the music was so beautiful. When Beethoven caught them crying, he laughed in their faces “You fools” he would say.

-Beethoven insulted everyone. Once, for an overweight violinist, he wrote a song called “Praise to the Fat One”. On his brother’s business card – which should have had “Johann van Beethoven, Landowner” written on it – Beethoven scribbled “Ludwig van Beethoven, Brain Owner”

-Once, Beethoven said this to a prince who was planning on investing in him; “There are and there will be thousands of princes. There is only one Beethoven.”

-One day a police man arrested him because he couldn’t believe that the “great Beethoven” looked as he did. He let his hair grow thick and wild. Beethoven also couldn’t be bothered with clean or stylish clothing.

-Sometimes he worked all night. To keep himself awake, he would pour pictures of ice cold water over his head and flood the floor (leaking through the ceiling and particularly annoying the neighbours down stairs).

-Beethoven started to go deaf in his late 20’s.

-He continued to compose and conduct even after he was completely deaf. When conducting he would leap into the air during loud parts and crouch at the floor during soft parts. Once, a conductor on stage who was helping him had to make him aware of the roaring applause at the end of one of his concerts.

-Unlike Mozart, he was famous when he died on March 29, 1827 at the age of 57. 20,000 people came to his funeral in Vienna.

Information from:

 Krull, Kathleen, and Kathryn Hewitt. “Ludwig van Beethoven.” Lives of the musicians: good times, bad times (and what the neighbours thought). San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1993. 24-29. Print.