Racing in the Right (or Wrong) Direction

This post came about because I happened to see a photograph of a German horse race, similar to the photo below. It reminded me that horses usually gallop around a German race track in a clockwise direction, while in the United States they run counterclockwise. It made me curious about this custom and how the direction of a race can vary from sport to sport or from country to country, or even from place to place in a country. For instance, NASCAR races in America always go counterclockwise around the speedway, but Formula One races in Europe and elsewhere almost always run clockwise.

home straight

Are these horses racing the wrong way? The Hoppegarten Race Track (Rennbahn), Berlin.
PHOTO: Winfried Veil, Flickr

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Tag der Deutschen Einheit: a view of Berlin 24 years on

As I sat looking out over the tourist boats on the Spree, drinking up the soft autumn sunshine, I had a flickering insight that this moment encapsulated much of modern Berlin. How fitting, I thought, for the occasion, and returned my mind to the conversation. This was last Friday (3rd October) – Tag der Deutschen Einheit - and 24 years since reunification. As the history of this national holiday has been written about in excellent detail elsewhere on this blog and website, I shall stay in the present. So what was striking about this relatively commonplace scene for a Hauptstadt dweller?  Read more »

Prenatal Courses in Germany

antenatal in Berlin

Prenatal Courses in Berlin. Photo: Erin Porter

Do I look a little tired here? That’s because I am. Last week was baby week. After 35 weeks of pregnancy, we were cramming hospital registration, one of our last doctor visits (plus ultrasound) and 2 long nights of prenatal courses into just a few days.

My dad politely asked if we weren’t a bit behind as he remembered taking courses before breaching the 9 month mark. He gave me an out, saying maybe this was just a difference in countries’ standards or that they took their courses 30 years ago. Erm – nope. We were just late.

After being all gung-ho to get started on classes, find a Hebamme (midwife) and generally be prepared early in the pregnancy, life had simply caught up with us. All the decisions that come after the relatively breezy, “Sure, we are ready to have a kid!” and just after the “OMG. We are having a kid!” have been daunting. Trying not to make a false move, we now find ourselves in the position of being the typical Americans in German, half-cocked, only partially ready and surrounded by people who know better.

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Don’t Mention the War. Read About It.

One facet of German culture that continues to impress me is how they have dealt with their WWII history. German authors have written extensively about it from the “inside” of German perspective, although I have yet to delve into their works. As an outsider, it is easier for me to identify with stories written by English-speaking authors, and there are a number of novels I have read that give insight into life as a German during those difficult times. We are all familiar with the Diary of Anne Frank, and many movies and TV series have made this horrific period of history painfully real. Literature remains one of the most powerful ways to represent the multitude of stories of that age, and as a self-confessed bookworm, I have collected many books set in the time period.

By no means exhaustive, nor in order of greatness, here are a number of my recommendations: Read more »

All Day School (Ganztagsschule)

Here in Eppelheim (near Heidelberg), there has been a lot of controversy about the new Ganztagsschule that started this school year. There had been talk of it for ages, but it finally came to fruition for this school year. However, many, many people are unhappy with the way it was implemented and with the results of that. Last year sometime there was a survey of all parents asking who would be interested in sending their kids to all-day school. Apparently 51 parents said they would be interested in the school, but the survey was unverbindlich (non-binding). The next thing we heard, they were closing the Hort and no one had a choice any more. We always knew that the first graders would have to do Ganztagsschule, but the 2nd – 4th graders were supposed to have a choice in the  matter. Now, for working parents, there is no choice. There has been an uproar since, especially because they changed the pricing scales for the so-called Randzeiten (7-8am and 4-5pm, plus Fridays from 12 noon and during school holidays). Because the state is no longer subsidizing the care, and is instead putting money into the all-day school, many people are paying a lot more for a lot less. The costs worked out well for us because they based them on the number of kids under 18 in the household. But I can imagine that single parents or parents of only one child will really be forking it over for the child care. What a mess! Read more »

From Bundesland to Bundesland

I received a reminder in my inbox today from my co-blogger Hyde calling to my attention that I had missed my Monday deadline to post here on the German Way blog. This was another casualty of my most recent move. In case you haven’t been keeping up with my personal expat saga, my family and I just moved to Essen in North Rhine Westphalia having left the small Swabian city, Aalen, where we had lived a total of seven years as a family. Read more »