How to Dress your Kid for Winter in Germany

Photo: Erin Porter

Is this warm enough? Photo: Erin Porter

When writing my post on “How to Dress for Winter in Germany”, I felt like I could complete another full post on “How to Dress your Kid for Winter in Germany”. Germans take winter clothing seriously and double down when it comes to the kids.

I tried to cover the basics of kid wear in Germany with Dressing your Kid for German KiTa, but – as I said – winter is a whole new deal. So here is an updated Guide of How to Dress Your Kid for German KiTa – complete with special information for the winter.

How I did it Wrong

When my baby started Krippe, I thought I was ready. We had waded through the paperwork, got the almighty KitaGutschein (subsidy) and been accepted to a great KiTa. We had steeled ourselves for our baby spending time away from us for the first time. We thought we had this.

However, suggestions from the Erzieherin started coming in slow and haven’t stopped. Continue reading

Keeping it clean

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Don’t ignore this sign – Photo Alie C

As a Brit I was brought up with many cultural stereotypes about Germany and its people. Germans are ‘lederhosen wearing, straight talking, rule following, tidy people’ and since I initially landed in Bavaria, I can definitely agree that stereotypes are born out of truths. As with any country though there are also internal stereotypes, what do the Germans think of each other?

Stuttgart is located Swabia, which is a historic territory which now falls within the states of Bavaria and Baden Wurttemberg, its people, the Swabians, are considered to be the most frugal and fastidious about cleaning of all the Germans. I’ve always been impressed with streets magically cleared of snow and leaves before I’ve even dragged myself out of bed in the morning, windows and steps that are polished and shining constantly. In Swabia cleaning is a serious business. Historically this cleanliness came in the form of a law passed in 1492 to try and keep Stuttgart and its streets clean. In a time before indoor plumbing, this was no mean feat. Continue reading

Picking the Right Äpfel

FoodApples are one of those marvellous foods which fulfil all requirements – at once delicious, nutritious, versatile, and practical in form. Boiled eggs, though slightly more fragile, are similar. It is unsurprising then that apples form and have formed a staple part of my diet since before I can remember. The lunchbox from my school days almost always included at least one apple, at university apples were one of the foods I would buy in bulk and still get through, at work an apple is my afternoon pick-me-up, and my children can be near certain that they’ll find an apple in their lunch box too.

But, for all this good will, the transition between apple eating in England and apple eating in Germany has not been a smooth one. Indeed, over six years ago, in the first months after our move to Berlin, during the peak of apple season, my relationship with apples floundered. The range in the standard supermarkets was very limited. I couldn’t find the sorts I liked from the UK. The apples I could find always disappointed – they didn’t taste good or they lacked an essential crispness. Not content simply to move onto another fruit, I sought expert advice. Continue reading

Martin Luther King, Jr. in Berlin – East and West!


I’m still stunned. How could I never have heard of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s visit to Berlin? He even outdid JFK and Reagan by not only going to West Berlin in 1964, but crossing the Berlin Wall into East Berlin – where he gave not one, but two sermons!

MLK Berlin 1964

Martin Luther King, Jr. (left) at the Berlin Wall in 1964. PHOTO: Landesarchiv Berlin

Do you remember Barack Obama’s Berlin visit? Why did the US president fail to mention this not so minor detail during his own 2008 Berlin speech at the Siegessäule? A fellow African-American he greatly admires paid a Cold War visit to both East and West Berlin, and Obama not only ignores it, but evokes two white guys by saying: “I know that I don’t look like the Americans who’ve previously spoken in this great city.” No wonder MLK in Berlin is one of the best kept secrets in modern history.

Even with Google, Bing and all that, it took me hours of searching to find any concrete information about King’s Berlin trip – and most of it was in German. That’s even more ironic when you realize that the East German media never uttered a word about King’s historic visit to the GDR. Sure, King fit many things the communist German government liked; hell, even the FBI labeled MLK a commie. But on the other hand, Rev. King kept saying things about democracy, freedom and breaking down barriers. Continue reading

How to Dress for Winter in Germany

Photo: Erin Porter

The author feeling cold Photo: Erin Porter

It’s hard to tell what the weather will be like day-to-day in Berlin. You can wake up to bright sunshine, leave your Wohnung (apartment) amidst deep fog and return home to an epic downpour. Other places like Freiburg may boast more sunshine than anywhere else in the country, but there is no escape from the cold. Bone-chilling, breath-stealing, icicles-in-your-nostril cold eventually finds its way to every corner of Germany. Sometimes this is only for a day or two, and sometimes this chill feels like it will never end.

And unlike places like the USA where you run from your well-heated home to your preheated car to your next heated destination, life in Europe refuses to let you hide out through the winter. There will be very cold minutes waiting for the train, the airy flat you loved in summer will turn into an ice box and the only times you’re warm are when you are sweating through your under layers on the random overheated UBahn car.

The only way to fight back is with the proper clothing (Kleidung) and Germans are champion over-dressers. Here is how to dress for winter in Germany.
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Unhaunted Graves: Halloween, Reformation Day, “Luther Year” and Totensonntag


“The life of the dead is placed in the memory of the living.”
– Marcus Tulius Cicero (106-43 BC), Roman writer, politician and orator

“Our dead are never dead to us, until we have forgotten them.”
– George Eliot

Wittenberg city hall

Martin Luther’s statue stands in front of the city hall in Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany. The banner below the window proclaims the “Luther Year 2017.” PHOTO: Hyde Flippo

Although celebrating Halloween has become increasingly popular in Germany and Austria over the last decade or so, it can still elicit a mixed reaction from many Germans. The fact that All Hallows’ Eve (Halloween) falls on October 31, the exact same date connected with Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation, leads to a conflict between the religious holiday and the “pagan” Halloween celebration. Although it is not a German nationwide holiday, as some have proposed, the 31st day of October is Reformation Day (Reformationstag). It is a holiday only in some majority Protestant (Lutheran, evangelisch) states. But I propose a solution that accommodates both factions in October and November: cemetery tours and/or a visit to some historical Luther sites.

Although many people consider Halloween a pagan observance, it is actually a Western Christian holiday, the first day of Allhallowtide, encompassing three Western Church observances: All Saints’ Eve (All Hallows’ Eve, Halloween), All Saints’ Day (All Hallows’, Allerheiligen) and All Souls’ Day (Allerseelen). Originally, around the 15th century, Allhallowtide was a time to remember the dead, but particularly the martyrs, saints, and faithful departed Christians. There is some doubt if Halloween arose out of pagan Celtic harvest festivals, particularly the Gaelic festival Samhain, as some historians claim.
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On your bike

I knew a little in advance that I wouldn’t be driving a car in Germany when I arrived, but since I would be living in a city with good transport links and had two perfectly usable feet, I wasn’t overly concerned about being four wheels down. The one thing I was absolutely certain of; was that I would not be riding a bike.

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Bike parking on an average weekday afternoon – Alie 

‘People who ride bikes are either super fit and wear a lot of lycra or children, and I am neither of these’ were my exact thoughts on the subject.

As a pedestrian I soon found out that I was the lowest of the low in the hierarchy of street users. You learn pretty quickly to stay out of the bike lane, which a lot of the time can be found sharing the footpath, you’ll also learn some choice insults anytime you get in a bike riders way. Important skills as a pedestrian include flattening yourself sufficiently against walls, parked cars and shrubbery to avoid getting whacked by a passing handlebar or elbow and staying ultra aware of those silent two wheeled speed machines.

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A Prussian in Hawaii: Heinrich Berger and the Royal Hawaiian Band


The story of Heinrich (later Henry or Henri) Berger has fascinated me ever since I first learned about the Prussian military musician. Berger traveled all the way from Berlin to Honolulu in 1872 – no simple journey in that day and age. Prussian Emperor (Kaiser) Wilhelm I had sent Berger to Hawaii at the request of King Kamehameha V on what was originally supposed to be a four-year assignment to lead and improve King Kamehameha’s Royal Hawaiian Band. Except for two visits to his homeland and several band tours on the mainland, Berger would remain in Hawaii until he died in 1929. He would head the king’s brass band from 1872 until 1915.

I first wrote about Berger here in our blog in 2010, following a visit to Honolulu that year. During a return trip in June 2012, I learned more about Berger and his band. He arrived in Honolulu Harbor on June 2, 1872, following an arduous journey involving ships and trains. And it is his journey – and his life – that I want to discuss here. Continue reading