Advent 2023

An Advent calendar is used to count the days of the month in anticipation of Christmas. Traditional Advent calendars feature Saint Nicholas, the winter weather, nice thoughts, small gifts or even chocolates behind the little doors!
Through this Advent Calendar Team DAAD will introduce you to Germany you may not know.

Starting 1 December 2023, come to this Advent Calendar from 09:00 IST onwards, click on the date today and you will find a story of Germany waiting for you!

Today we have the internet as the immediate source of information, but what about 570 years ago?

A painting of the printing process at the Gutenberg Museum, Mainz© Sanika Abhyankar

One might think of books but was that really a possibility?
To answer in a very German way: Jein (yes and no)!
Books back then were handwritten, therefore very limited and also costly – only clergy and the upper class could afford them.

It was a German goldsmith who developed the modern art of printing. This was Johannes Gutenberg, most likely born in Mainz, Germany in 1400.

And the first mass-published book was Martin Luther’s Bible. This was an elaborate project that stretched for two years, involving calligraphic types, printed pictures and intricate designs.

Print technology spread widely through Europe and within 100 years was developed to the extent that a newspaper was part of the daily routine for families!

Gutenberg is rightly known as the father of mass communication, who made knowledge accessible for people of all economic strata, paving the path for enlightenment and modernity!

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Chalk Cliffs Rügen© Philipp Deus

The word “Germany” elicits many pictures, but islands and long white beaches would rarely be one of those!

But did you know that Rügen, the largest island in Germany, is one of the favourite vacation destinations for many Germans and Europeans alike?
With a landscape of lush forests and dramatic chalk cliffs of Jasmund National Park that overlook the blue Baltic sea! This makes a great hiking route with a scenic view as your constant companion. This scenery was often depicted by romantic painter Casper David Friedrich!

One can also enjoy many architectural masterpieces! For example the charming spa architecture on the south of the island with Sellin Pier – the longest pier of the island that extends gracefully into the Baltic. There is also the town of Potbus, which features neoclassical architecture with graceful parks and noble residences. For the spectacular view of the entire island, the castle ‘Granitz Hunting Lodge’ is the best place!

Rügen is also known to be the sunniest place in northern Germany. So, if you want to get away from the cities and enjoy the sun and relax during the summer vacations, you should go there. Another tip: if you want to experience a cozy winter with fishing escapades in Germany, this would be your perfect destination!

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Would you like to walk down some picturesque lanes that hold small wonders all along the way?  

Colourful Houses of Schoorviertel Bremen© Sai Kolhatkar

Just a five-minute walk away from the famous town musician of Bremen (remember the fairytale?), the Bötcherstraße stands out with its distinctive architecture, a testament to the innovative vision of Ludwig Roselius. The buildings feature intricate brickwork, ornate sculptures, and expressionist elements seamlessly blending medieval and Art Nouveau influences. Among these wonders, the golden monument “Bringer of Light”, designed by Bernhard Hoetger, stands tall. It symbolises the triumph of light over darkness. Nestled in the maze-like structure of this architectural gem are quirky boutiques and art museums. Another attraction point is the Glockenspiel – Carillon House which rings out folk songs and sea shanties.

Just a little further from the Böttcherstraße is the oldest neighbourhood of Bremen: the Schnoorviertel. Narrow cobbled lanes, lined with vibrant colourful houses are the attraction of this quarter. It is also renowned for its vibrant arts scene and eccentric galleries.

The Pinterest-perfect cafes and Instagram-worthy scenes are just added perks!

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Berliner© Gerold Hinzen

The famous U.S. president John F. Kennedy once said “Ich bin ein Berliner” in a speech given in West Berlin. With this sentence, he was showing solidarity with the divided city of Berlin and the people there. The crowd cheered and gained hope for the end of communism in Germany.

But back in the U.S. this same sentence made the Americans laugh out loud and even feel bad for him. They thought, what is worse than making a fool of oneself in a foreign language?
So why was this inspirational proclamation interpreted as a misspeak in the U.S.?

That’s because like many other German words ‘Berliner’ has two meanings. Berliner can be a native Berlin person or a jam-filled doughnut! Luckily the Germans understood the sentiments of JFK’s German sentence, but the Americans translated it to ‘I am a jam-filled doughnut’.

Now why did this happen? Because of the unnecessary article ‘ein’ in that statement! As per the rule, an article is not needed to tell your nationality or place of origin. “Ich bin Berliner” would have been correct. Thus ‘ein Berliner’ was taken as the jam-filled doughnut! Interesting, isn’t it?

Another funny thing, these doughnuts are called Berliner everywhere else than in Berlin. The Berliners call it Pfankuchen!

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Whether you like Western music or not, there is hardly a person who has not heard of the Beatles. But did you know that the Beatles had a close connection with Germany, especially with Hamburg!? Hamburg is the capital of live music in northern Europe today. Back in the ’60s, this musical scene was just developing and the Reeperbahn was a great place to make money with music!

Beatles Platz, Hamburg© Gauri Deshmukh

John Lennon’s quote “I grew up in Liverpool, but I came of age in Hamburg” succinctly summarises the importance of the two years that the Beatles spent performing in Hamburg. As they were starting their career these boys were still minors. When they arrived, they lived in two small windowless and heatless rooms at the Bambi cinema. They performed initially at the music club called Indra. When their popularity increased their boss Bruno Kosschmieder shifted them to a different club named Kaiserkeller. The continued instruction from their strict boss “Don’t just sing, perform Englishmen!” led them to their signature wild performances.

Today if you go to Hamburg, in the Reeperbahn area you will see the Beatles square. If you want to experience this area with their songs along the way and hear their anecdotes, you can even join a Beatles tour!

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What are zoos exactly? Animals in captivity for the entertainment of humans… or do they serve any different purpose? 

The Elephant Gate of the Berlin Zoo© incusion

In Germany, renowned zoos like Zoo Berlin, Hagenbeck Tierpark in Hamburg and Munich’s Tierpark Hellabrunn exemplify a commitment to ecological practices and animal well-being. These and many other German zoos prioritise creating environments that mimic natural habitats for the birds and animals, which ensures a higher quality of life for the animals.

But is this animal care just limited towards animals inside?  If one looks into programmes like the World Wild conservation programme run by the Zoo Berlin, the biggest and the oldest zoo of Germany, one can understand that is not the case. Zoo Berlin is part of a global network and participates in projects all over the world with its species conservation programme Berlin World Wide. 

Other German zoos like Zoo Leipzig and Kölner Zoo also embrace such ecological practices and educate people actively about sustainability and conservation, thus contributing to the country’s collective efforts in sustainable and compassionate wildlife management, not just in Germany but internationally!

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Bratwurst on Grill© Markus Spiske

It is said that the Germans eat 70 kilos of “Wurst” sausages per year, making it one of the highly purchased and eaten products in Germany. But for those who eat meat, it doesn’t get boring or repetitive! That’s because more than 1000 types of sausages are available in Germany. But the Bratwurst seems to be on top of the list for many. 

If one decides, one can have sausage in every meal of the day without repeating any dish. But commonly the Germans love sausages as breakfast or as fast food. They love them grilled, sliced on bread or even with curry and fries! 

With curry and fries? Yes, that’s the famous Currywurst mit Pommes. This snack goes back to world war time. At that time it was the staple food for the working classes and afterwards it became the nation’s favorite snack.

The German love for sausage is so prominent that even a German language learner can feel it based on the numerous phrases and expressions which have sausages in them! From something being irrelevant ( Es ist mir Wurst – I don’t care) to something being very special (eine Extrawurst kriegen – to get very special treatment) everything has the Wurst in it!

Even if the choices for snacks and food overall are changing, sausages remain constant in Germany. For vegetarians and vegans plant-based sausages and salami are available in the market! Now which one is better, original or vegan? That is like comparing paneer and tofu with chicken or meat – who knows what’s better, to each his or her own!

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Did you like sweets as a kid? Do you like them even now? What if you got them for free? Well, not exactly for free but with a little bit of effort and in exchange for something, like a barter system? Wouldn’t that be just so exciting!?

Gummi Bears© Mohamed Mufees

Hans Riegel, the founder of Haribo, the German manufacturer of the famous Gummy Bears started the autumn tradition of “Kastanienaktion”, the chestnut action! One can collect chestnuts and acorns in nature and swap them for gummy bears at the Haribo Chestnuts for Sweets campaign!

One can bring a maximum of 50 kilograms of chestnuts and acorns without husks to the Haribo site at Grafschaft in Germany and take the gummy bears back home.

 

WHAT IS THE EXCHANGE RATE?
– 10 Kilograms of Chestnuts for 1 Kilogram of Gummy Bears
– 10 Kilogram of Acorns for 5 Kilogram of Gummy Bears

That’s a lot of sweets for sure but with 20,000 visitors every year and a total collection of approx. 150 tons of acorns and 260 tons of chestnuts, that is also a lot of nuts! What does Haribo do with them? These nuts are donated to forests to feed the wildlife during winter!

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Cologne Cathedral© Sai Kolhatkar

Do you ever feel bad about a long extended project? If you ever do, just remember the largest cathedral in Germany took 632 years to complete! 

But looking at its majestic Gothic architecture one might understand why this project took so long to complete. The Kölner Dom or the Cologne Cathedral is the largest catholic church in the whole of Europe and also the third tallest church in the world!  

Looking at the intricate design of the cathedral, one might even think that six centuries is a justified time frame but in reality, that was not the case. The building of the cathedral started in the year 1248. The direct inspiration for these twin-spired structures was the cutting edge catholic french structures (particularly the Sainte Chapelle and the Cathedral of Amiens).

The political instability and financial crisis made the project stop at several stages but after a point, the Gothic architectural style was also perceived as old and “unfashionable”.

Despite all the odds, the cathedral was completed in 1842, but the building still goes through constant repair and maintenance work due to street vandalism, and the weather. The bill per day is around €20,000!

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In 1810 the Bavarian crown prince Ludwig I was set to marry the Saxon princess Therese of Saxe-Hildburghausen. The wedding had to be grand! Not just because it was a royal affair but also for political reasons. Like many other royal marriages, this was a political move. 

To attract more attention to this ceremony and to strengthen solidarity in the region, an elaborate horse track was built and horse races were conducted. To maintain the said solidarity this later became an annual event and continues to take place even today, although Bavaria is part of a democratic nation!

Enjoying at the Oktoberfest© Brett Sayles

Just like there are no more crown princes and princesses, there are no more horse races anymore at the said event! But this festival is the largest folk festival. The one with lots and lots of beer, Weißwurst (white sausage), more than 220 rides, band performances and people in traditional German clothing: Dirndl and Lederhosen.

Yes, this whole story is indeed about the Oktoberfest! 

Trivias on the go: The tents of Oktoberfest are built every year exactly where the horse races for the royal wedding happen. That’s in Munich. About 12000 people work to build the 14 tents of Oktoberfest, at one time even Albert Einstein was one of them!

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Crowd in Action at the Oktoberfest© Manuel Joseph

Helios lighthouse, Cologne© Aditi Gosavi

Lighthouses generally come in a package deal, don’t they? They are tall, overlooking the vast ocean, with red signals on top. Their purpose: to guide incoming ships safely to the shores!

Curiously enough, Germany’s shortest lighthouse is just 24 feet high! The Oland Lighthouse is situated on the Hallig of Oland. Halligs are unique islands with very small surface areas and even smaller populations. The Hallig of Oland has a surface area of only two square kilometres! Accordingly, this red brick tower is just small enough to serve as a cross light on the channels in which the island is situated.

Germany houses another lighthouse that defies the definition and function of a lighthouse! This one is situated in an industrial area of Cologne! The landlocked lighthouse is approximately 144 feet high and visible from almost everywhere in the city.

But why is it nearly 250 kilometres away from the ocean?
This lighthouse was owned by Helios AG, a manufacturer of electrical equipment for signalling technology. Of course, they needed a lighthouse to test their products including lighthouse beacons!

Although the Helios never navigated a single ship to the coast, it served its purpose well!

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Adult stork with its younger one© Kavitha Somasundaram | AI generated

Many have pets at home all over the world… Germany is not an exception to that. But this story is not about pets in Germany, it’s about guest birds! 

The German town Rühstadt is known as a “European Stork Village”. Every year around 30 pairs of white storks find their way back to Rühstädt to lay their eggs and nourish their young ones. They come from all the way from Africa.

These long-traveled guests are well received not just by the Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU) of Rühstädt but also by the citizens. The residents of Rühstädt have a special relationship with these birds because almost every family has “their” pair of storks as guests on the house or barn roof in spring and summer. They also lovingly prepare nests for them on their house or barn roofs! 

In Northern Europe, storks are symbols of fertility. There are many myths and legends behind this belief but a very logical reason can be found in the migration pattern of storks.  Around 600 years ago, the pagans married in summer and around springtime, when these birds would return to Germany to lay their eggs. This was also the time when many babies were born. Thus it was believed that the white storks brought the babies with them! In many fairy tales and fables, the baby bringing white stork is named Meister Adebar!

It wouldn’t be wrong to call Rühstädt to be the birthplace of Meister Adebar, would it?

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On one such cold evening in December, imagine you have a thin and crispy oven-baked bread with molten cheesy aroma and caramelised onions…  You instantly thought of pizza, didn’t you? But the description was really about Flammkuchen!

Flammkuchen© Sai Kolhatkar | AI generated

Dating back to the 14th century, this crispy delight is a perfect combination of savoriness and simplicity. “Flammkuchen” or “tarte flambée” is said to have originated in the Alsace region. This region is now in France and very close to the German border. That’s why Germany and France both claim it as their own. But when it comes to food, the place of origin doesn’t really matter, right?

What matters is how it originated. The origin of Flammkuchen traces to humble farm kitchens where farmers would bake thin bread with easily available ingredients like fresh cream (crème fraîche), onions and meat, generally bacon.

Fast forward to today, and Flammkuchen has become a culinary sensation. 

In Germany, you may see eateries dedicated to serving you Flammkuchen with various toppings, including vegan options. What sets it apart from the well-known pizza though? Forget tomato sauce! The authentic flammkuchen boasts a crème fraîche base, with bacon and onions. It is also thinner and crispier as it’s directly baked in the flames and not in the oven.

Unlike pizza, the Flammkuchen is traditionally meant to be shared and it is cut down in small squared pieces. So one is never enough! Many eateries keep the Flammkuchen coming from the oven to your table till you signal that you are full! 

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Same clock, different times!© Kavitha Somasundaram / DAAD

All of us have 24 hours in a day…
Duh, what’s new about that, right? But in some parts of the world every year people have to sacrifice one hour of sleep because the day is 23 hours and there’s one day when they can sleep longer as the day has 25 hours. On the last Sunday in March, the clock is set ahead from 2 to 3 in the morning. This is summer daylight savings time. On the last Sunday in October, the clock is set back an hour.

This concept started as a mere joke when Benjamin Franklin wrote a satirical article named “An Economical Project for Diminishing the Cost of Light” while he was living in France. Franklin who slept till noon himself mentioned that France should make citizens wake up earlier to save money and candles in Summer!

It was not France but Germany that implemented the idea nationwide for the first time in 1916 during the first world war. And that was out of necessity, as the energy and money were actually limited.

Although Daylight Saving stopped after WWI it was reintroduced during WWII and was adopted by all the EU countries.

With changed technologies and lifestyle daylight saving is not actually necessary. You would even find Germans complaining about the fiddling with time and hoping to get rid of it!

 

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Tools for the celebration© Kavitha Somasundaram/DAAD

Neckties are generally associated with men.  What do they symobolise? Maturity, power, higher position…! What does it mean if it gets cut off?

Back in 1824 the laundry women stormed the town hall of Beuel, near Cologne in Germany to cut off the neckties of men! This happened on the day of Weiberfastnacht — the Thursday before Carnival in Cologne. The women were angry as they had to wash the laundry and take care of children throughout the day while their husbands could go to enjoy the carnival. To keep it in good spirit they would kiss the man, whose tie they were cutting. Of course with consent! This act of rebellion spread widely in the nearby regions. And continues till date.

The first wave of feminism started way later than 1824, it actually started around 1968/67 in Europe. The feminist movement was a part and parcel of the student movement in Germany which challenged the authorities and tried to shatter hierarchies in society.

But if we see, the “Krawattenabschneiden – cutting the neckties” was a feminist movement even before feminism was even a thing!

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A walk with a Night Watchman© DAAD / Sai Kolhatkar

Walking down roads of the old parts of cities in Germany, one often wonders, “How did this look some 200-500 years ago? How did people live?”. One often stands in front of an old building, sees names of famous personalities and for a moment gets engrossed in imagining their life in the same building.
How wonderful is the power of imagination!

To help you take a peek into the bygone era Germany offers tours with a “Nachtwächter’’ – a night watchman! And this is not just any other night watchman, this is a watchman from the medieval era. He takes you through the old streets and he narrates anecdotes and important facts about various places. While at it, you also get to know a lot about the life of common people in those times.

Walking from wide streets to smaller back allies, everything would have some story. And when the night watchman stops at a seemingly mundane staircase or an easily ignored statue, one thinks “I never gave this any thought!’’ or even “I never looked at this before, just walked past it!”

If you want to connect with a city, exploring it with a night watchman from medieval times is often a very good idea! You can practically rediscover a city like this, and realise how much you didn’t know it to begin with :-)

Many cities and towns like Bonn, Cologne, Dresden, Heidelberg, Munich, Rothenburg ob der tauber, Trier offer such tours with night watchmen. You can simply search them up or visit the tourism websites of these cities to be a part of such exciting walks that take you down the history!

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  • A Walk with a Night Watchman in Bonn | By DAAD/Sai Kolhatkar (50 Seconds)

 

350 canals and waterways coming from the river Spree© Pratik Agarwal

Known as one of the most uniquely beautiful of landscapes of Germany, Spreewald is a biosphere reserve with  an intricate labyrinth of canals that wind through charming villages and dense forests. Just 80 Kilometers away from Berlin this is a perfect place to escape the rut and win deep calm! One can explore this watery wonderland by traditional wooden barge, gliding through the peaceful channels and admiring the picturesque scenery.

This is Europes largest lagoon landscape with 350 canals and waterways that come from the river Spree. The experts say that this UNESCO reserve natural wonder was created because of the molten ice from the last ice age. But locals have some interesting take on this natural phenomenon.

For centuries the Spreewald has been home for the Sorbs, a Slavic ethnic group.The Sorbian culture is rich with their own customs, colourful costumes, language and mythical legends.  According to them these canals were formed because of oxens. Once upon a time while plowing the fields they were disturbed by devils and they did the most natural thing possible for animals – they ran away, plowing the canals all of the canals in this region! They have many such interesting legends!

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Wall Mural, East Side Gallery, Berlin© Sai Kolhatkar

From walls to lampposts, building facades to the insides of the building, even floors and ceilings, if one wants, one can treat every corner of the city as a canvas. It’s not necessary to be super good at painting to be artistic, what’s important is having the urge to say something and grabbing a platform to say it. 

Berlin is a city that itself has become this platform for many! 

Street art is not a new concept but the amount of legal and even illegal graffiti, murals, stickers and mini-installations in Berlin is astonishing! 

The widely known and hard-to-miss murals in the city are at East Side Gallery. This is the part of the Berlin Wall that remains preserved. Once it was bedecked with graffiti done by the west-siders, now one can freely go from west to east. These vivid murals spread the messages of humanity, democracy and free voice. Another famous spot is Teufelsberg, a hill that once was a CIA spy station. Now it has given way to an open-air gallery. Artists have now woven stories here, transforming this once-secretive space into an outdoor art spectacle.

 But street art is not a one-stop destination in Berlin and artistic expression is not limited to murals and graffiti. While different areas like Kreuzberg, Marzahn and Märkische Allee boast buildings adorned with colourful murals, one can even see thoughts presented through collages of stickers and small cork figurines on signposts. 

One has to be vigilant to spot them!

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Seeking freedom© Sai Kolhatkar / DAAD | AI generated

Captivity is desirable to no one. Especially to the prisoners! That one has been imprisoned for absolutely valid reasons also doesn’t make the situation any more palatable, right? With so many “prison break” plot lines, you must be used to seeing the elaborate planning and action for breaking free.

In Germany this plot line would be slightly different… Why?

Because in Germany prison break is not a punishable offense. Seems surprising, doesn’t it? But it is true! This rule goes back to the 1800s when the legislation of the German Empire decreed that people always have the right to seek self-liberation and therefore should not be punished for escaping prison.

Although this seems quite absurd and also risky for societal well being, it is not that easy to actually break free! Not just because of the tight security but because of the loopholes that are in favour of the government. The caveat is that if you commit any other crime, that is punishable, for example if you break a wall that is a property damage, bribing the guard is bribery, even running away in the prison clothes is considered as theft.

Only if one can pull off a prison break would it be considered legal, but only till the time one is not caught again. After that serving the remaining term is still compulsory!

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Birthday cake© Sai Kolhatkar / DAAD | AI generated

Birthdays are usually exciting for most of us! Although there are different traditions and customs around celebrating these, nowadays because of the western influence a birthday cake, candles, gifts, parties with friends and even in the office are an inevitable part of the birthday action.

And Germany is no different – but there are some customs that are unique to the country and the Germans are very particular about some of them…

– A must to remember: in Germany you never celebrate something that is yet to happen, so celebrating, wishing and even giving gifts before one’s birthday is a strict no, no! What you can do, though, is to celebrate into the birthday. Meaning, that you can invite people to your home or a cafe and have a normal party till midnight, when everyone can wish you. 

– Another thing to keep in mind is if it is your birthday, you are supposed to throw the party and pay for everyone. But the good part is you can decide with whom you want to party, and if you want to celebrate at all in the first place… Celebrating the birthday every year as an adult is not really a thing in Germany. 

– An exception might be your workplace, over here you are kind of expected to bring your own cake (preferably one that you have baked yourself because buying a birthday cake is not really usual), if not cake one can bring food or muffins. Even if you take a leave on your birthday, which is not at all unusual in Germany, you should do all of this on the next day.  In return many a time you get a gift from your colleagues and they might even decorate your desk! 

Of course, this depends on your office culture and even your popularity ;) 

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Fresh potato salad with red onion and chives
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© DAAD

Potato, pasta, egg, meat, sausage, cucumber, cabbage…

The list might go on because the variety of German salads is plenty. And to that, there are regional changes, so one might find a recipe of Rhinish potato salad, a Swabian potato salad, or a Bavarian potato salad. Let’s stop the list at three, there are 16 states in Germany after all! 

Even if all these regions are divided by their versions of potato salad, they are at large united by the salad dressing! While overall in south Germany the dressing is vinegar-based, in north Germany they make it with mayonnaise. This difference applies to many other salad recipes as well! 

What brings the nation actually together despite the differences in dressing is the final product – the potato salad! It’s so loved that it also has an unwavering place at the Christmas dinner! Its constant companion is generally the sausage. For most families, Christmas dinner is not complete without it…  Often the pasta salad is also added to this mix! All in all a calorie-rich meal with two ‘salads’.

If you are asked to bring a salad to a party but you are too busy, premade salads can be bought easily in supermarkets. You’ll quickly notice that these are majorly a combination of herbs, the main ingredient along with ‘mayo’ as Germans would call it. But that is about the mass-made products, even if the mayo supremacy reigns in the north, as mentioned previously, the salads are often fresh and light and with some differences passed down in the family by the ‘Oma’, the grandmother. 

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Vial of Eau de Cologne© Dominika Roseclay

Seen it, heard it, pronounced and mispronounced it. You’d know it’s a perfume – that’s unmistakable. All of us have at some point whiffed it, admired it and perhaps even have the precious little vial of it. It’s a name that clearly says it has something to do with the German city of Cologne, but the name itself is in French. So it is understandable, if you have had thoughts about it and then dismissed it!

The Eau de Cologne, literally translated the ‘water of Cologne’ is the oldest manufactured perfume. It was created indeed in Cologne (in German Köln) almost three centuries ago. Though the translated name sounds quite mundane, the inventor Giovanni Maria Farina had written to his brother back in Italy, “I have discovered a scent that reminds me of an Italian spring morning, of daffodils and orange blossoms after the rain.”
What other words can describe the fragrance of Eau de Cologne better than this!  

The original one, Farina Eau de Cologne did not reach the masses easily. Its price range was always a few many steps ahead for the common public. In this case, it was but natural that a high quality copy arrived in the market. The 4711 Eau de Cologne was marketed not as a perfume but as a pleasant remedy for headache and pounding heart. Only after Napoleon made it compulsory to declare the exact recipe of the “medicine” did the Cologne based merchant family Mühlen marketed their product as perfume. 

If you search for Eau de Cologne on Amazon you will see the signature blue and gold vial of the 4711, but for Farina you will have to visit the shop of the family owned Fragrance Museum. 

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Eisstockschießen© Freinds of the DAAD (DAAD Freundeskreis)

Come December, Germany starts turning into a charming snowy landscape (most of the time), especially in the Alps region! December also means the Christmas spirit, families and friends coming together and enjoying the warmth and comfort of the company. 

It’s no wonder that the Germans invented a sport to match up with this vibe! Eisstockschießen is one of the traditional German sports – a sport that combines skill, camaraderie and a touch of winter magic. 

For this, the teams gather on a frozen pond (or an artificial ice track, so one doesn’t have to rely on nature to have fun). The aim is to shoot your Eisstock (a specialised curling stick) as close as possible to the target. Once all the team members have shot their curls, points are added up and the next round begins. 

With laughter echoing across the icy expanse, the game becomes more than just a test of accuracy; it’s a social celebration embraced by friends and families. The nightfall shouldn’t stop this fun, with warm drinks and twinkling Christmas lights the game can go on!

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St Nicholas© Freepik

And the wait is almost over! 24th of December, it is the Heiligabend – Christmas Eve today. For the Germans, the main Christmas celebration happens on this night. There is a family dinner and gifts are opened even before that!
But who brings these gifts? 

There’s a bit of a divide over this topic. In north and east Germany, Santa brings the gift. In the south and west, it is the Christkind – a Christ Child, an angelic figure dressed in white with golden hair, a halo and wings. 

But that’s not it, besides the well-known Santa Claus and Christkind there are some other names associated with the gift-bringing business. The most important one is St. Nicholas. He fills children’s shoes with small gifts and candies on the 6th of December, the Nikolaus Day! This tradition is inspired by the Nicholas of Myra, a bishop who gave away his wealth to the poor 1700 years ago. With a long white beard and a red outfit, the modern-day Santa Claus is himself based on the said Bishop.

But in any case, German kids are lucky, as they get gifted twice, regardless of who brought them these gifts… only if they had been nice, otherwise the Knecht Ruprecht gives them twigs of the birch tree! 

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Christmas is celebrated all around the world – With families and with dear friends, at home and even in the public sphere! For some it is a religious matter, for some, it’s time for joy, warmth and hope! No matter for what reasons, people and communities celebrate Christmas, and regardless of what traditions are followed, there is one thing constant about Christmas and that is the trees!

Yes, today amongst all the regions and traditions about Christmas, the trees seem to be irreplaceable everywhere. But how and where did this practice start?

The evergreen branches were essentially a pagan tradition for the winter solstice celebration.  It symbolised the victory of life and light over death and darkness. The decor with the evergreen tree was later borrowed by the Christians around the 16th century.

Historians suggest that the Christmas tree, as we know it today, was born in the German region of Alsace around that time. Historical records indicate that a Christmas tree was raised in the Strasbourg Cathedral in 1539 – and that the tradition had grown so popular throughout the region that the city of Freiburg banned felling trees for Christmas in 1554.

But of course, the practice did not stop there. It spread from churches to the common and the royal families in Germany, and from there to the royal family in England. The Americans got to know about the Christmas trees later through German soldiers and immigrants. 

And then as a result of royal weddings, migration, business with marketing campaigns and so on got the Christmas tree trending everywhere! 

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  • Information Point Dhaka

    Goethe-Institut Bangladesh, House No. 16, Sukrabad, Panthapath 1207 Dhaka Telephone: +880 1886025586