Der Frühlingsanfang (beginning of spring) holds lots of special memories for me. My first time in Germany was in the spring of 2016. There was a lot riding on this visit. It wasn’t just any long weekend away in Europe but a chance for me to check out Bremen before deciding to move here with my partner. The city had to sell itself to me, and much to my partners relief it did. How can you resist living in a city with picturesque windmill, a Bürgerpark to explore and the Weser River to stroll along?
This is my third year of experiencing spring time here. Before I go on, I should congratulate us all for surviving the winters months. Other Germany cities may differ, but here in Bremen it’s been a pretty grey, cold and miserable few months. Everyone hibernates. There’s not much to do other than console yourself with Kaffee und Kuchen and numerous box sets. In my opinion, Bremen is definitely best enjoyed when you can take part in outdoor activities without losing feeling in your fingers and toes. Time has moved very quickly since Christmas, I’m very glad for us to be three months in to the year and seeing the temperatures start to rise, for the evenings to become lighter and for the blue skies and flourishing Blumen to bring colour and life back in to our surroundings.
For almost a month already, we have been floating in the yearly jolly atmosphere that smells like cinnamon, shines with the twinkle lights and tempts us with delicious food.
Germany is famous for its wonderful bread and it’s a very well-deserved reputation, however, there’s a lot that can be said about German pastries, cakes and cookies. Normally, people’s thoughts fly all the way to France and its delicate macaroons or éclairs as the must-try when looking for something sweet in Europe they can later talk about. I find myself much more inclined for the astounding variety of Christmas cookies that Germany has to offer, hence, here a list of my favorite ones among the sorts I have tried so far just in time for you to judge if I have walked the wrong path, chip in with a recommendation or bolt out in search of some newly discovered variety to munch on while waiting for the holy and silent night. If you are left feeling hungry for more cookie tales, check out Alie’s earlier A Small Festive Treat blog post. Continue reading →
Having passed my first year in Bremen, I feel qualified to say summer in the city is the best season to visit.
Amongst the numerous festivals taking place, Breminale stands out. For five days in July the banks of River Weser are lined with open-air tents with music pumping out of them. Artists from across Germany and beyond come to sing, rap and encourage the crowd to move their feet. Alongside all the entertainment there is row upon row of great fresh food and drinks stands to choose from. Breminale is a place for friends to gather in the evening after a hard day at work or to spend a chilled Sunday afternoon soaking up the sounds with family. One of the highlights of the Bremen events calendar for sure. See Holidays and Celebrations for more about festivals in Germany.
Breminale opening night. PHOTO: Sarah
On a summer day it’s easy to watch the hours tick by in the Marktplatz, the heart of Bremen. The square is lined with restaurants and cafes where you can sit outside, enjoy a locally brewed Haake Becks, watching the street entertainers and soaking up the atmosphere. Within a few meters walk you can take in some of Bremen’s most famed attractions: the Town Musicians, St Peters Cathedral, and the Roland statue to name a few. If you want to get out of the sun’s rays, I recommend taking solace in the Schnoor, one of the quaintest and oldest areas of Bremen. The narrow cobbled streets shaded from the sun are lined with independent shops dating back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Not only is it a lovely area to wander around, you could pick up a local piece of art or jewelry. Continue reading →
It’s that time of year again. If you were in the United States right now, you wouldn’t miss a beat in knowing what I was talking about. Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Although this great American tradition is not celebrated in Germany, expats and their friends gather and have learned how to search and seek in order to create feasts in the new Heimat just like they would have back home. If you’ve joined an expat group or community of some sort, there’s usually an organized potluck. Since I’ve been in Germany, there have been years when I’ve celebrated multiple times (up to three) in a year to none at all. In addition to participating in the potlucks, I’ve hosted and invited others including all of my husband’s department colleagues one year and my German in-laws another.
In an effort to replicate the family feast, questions arise as to “where can you get … in Germany”? Access to ingredients have changed over the last decade and availability of certain foods also depend on regions, but with some planning you shouldn’t have any problem checking off everything on your Thanksgiving shopping list in Germany these days. Otherwise, it might be time to improvise and introduce a new tradition in your new home.
With some planning, a traditional US Thanksgiving can be replicated in Germany. Photo: Jane Park
Nothing unsettles a German quite like wishing him or her a Happy Birthday before the actual birthday. The tradition of precision isn’t just in engineering appliances or designing public transport. In Germany, birthdays are also measured with exactness. I grew up with the relaxed approach to birthdays that is typical in North America: wish me happiness a day or two before, if my birthday is on the weekend; wish me happiness on the day if we happen to see each other; wish me happiness after the day has passed. All birthday wishes are welcome, and I don’t mind spreading out the happiness! The same approach goes for North Americans and birthday celebrations: Birthday parties can take place on the day, in the approximate week, or even six months later (these are half-birthdays, often celebrated for children born around Christmas, in order to spread the joy and gift-giving throughout the year).
When I moved to Germany, I was surprised to discover that Germans recoil in horror if you wish them Happy Birthday (“Alles Gute zum Geburtstag“) before their birthday! Continue reading →
I love Easter in Germany. It’s full of decorations, rituals and get togethers – almost like a mini Christmas but with better weather promising the arrival of spring.
It is a bigger celebration than anything I experienced in the UK. This could be because in my childhood we were not frequent churchgoers, but I don’t think it’s just down to that. At nursery and school we didn’t do much for Easter either – the odd Easter egg competition but that was that. Mostly, we were concerned with chocolate.
But as at Christmas, the Germans, whether actively religious or not, stay loyal to older, family-oriented traditions, which start before the official Easter-time from Good Friday onwards begins.
1. Blowing Eggs
The first Easter-related activity is decorating eggs. This takes place a good couple of weeks before Easter and involves blowing out the contents of the egg through a tiny pin prick in the bottom and top. The egg shells are rinsed and left to dry. They are then carefully painted by children and grown-ups alike in a cacophony of colours. Continue reading →
For the first time ever, I have returned to my childhood home in the Pacific Northwest to celebrate Christmas. Partly due to our new arrival and our desire for her to meet her American fam, it was also just time. Even with all the magic of German Weihnachten – sometimes all you want for Christmas is your family.
Not so for me and New Years. I have absolutely reveled in the debauchery of Berlin New Year’s (or Silvester).
Two Swedish girls are staying in our flat over the holiday and they asked if what they’ve heard about Silvester is true. As described by Chloe, New Years in the Hauptstadtcan be echt Wahnsinn. I watch “Dinner for One” over sekt cocktails, make drunken declarations for the new year and my husband nearly ended our lives over fireworks last New Years Eve. I’ll get to that story in a moment, but first I offer all the ways you may survive a Berlin New Year’s.
Temporary Lichtgrenze in Berlin to celebrate 25 years since the fall of the Wall PHOTO: Andrea Goldmann
Last Sunday (9th November) Berliners celebrated the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. A momentous occasion movingly marked by temporarily dividing the city again with a 9-mile “Lichtgrenze” made up of illuminated white balloons along the old division, which were then let off into the misty night sky at the same time the first people crossed the border all those years ago. Though the few remaining stretches of the Wall in Berlin are only there for the sake of history and tourism, not all aspects of GDR-life have been so thoroughly dismantled. From politics to bathing habits, what has survived these past 25 years?