Experience Germany Like a Local

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Things I Miss Most About Living in Germany


Many ask me why I "emigrated" from Germany to Florida. A totally legitimate question, however, I find the word "emigrate" unsuitable. I never liked it. It sounds so final, and somehow also negative as if I could not or would not want to return. I have not turned my back on the country where I was born.

Recently, I had the rare opportunity to spend almost a month in Germany, seeing my family and meeting friends I have not seen for months or years. I had a great time, ate too much food, and shared awesome stories. Germany is my home, even though my roots are in Florida. This extended visit in Germany reminded me of the things I miss most about living in Germany.

Family & Friends
Pretty obvious, but I felt that this had to be the first item that I mention. I miss sitting in a beer garden and exchanging stories with old friends from my younger years. If you live across the Atlantic ocean, events in your hometown that you would like to take part in are always connected with booking a flight, spending money and spending already limited vacation time. Of course, I try to be at important events, but sometimes it does not work. However, it has been easier to stay in contact than I thought it would be years ago when I left Germany. Today’s technology with video chat and text messages makes them feel closer than they really are. If this would be the 1970’s with letters and expensive phone calls, it would be a lot harder for me to keep close contact.

Late Sunsets
The long evenings with a late sunset are for me the epitome of summer in Germany. It is only after 10pm that the sun begins to set. In Florida we have only about 30 minutes from sunset to total darkness. Too bad.

German Nutella®
Nutella is available in many countries all over the world, also in Florida. But the problem is it tastes different here than in Germany, and that is not imagined. Ferrero, the producer of Nutella, uses a recipe in Germany that is different from that is sold in Italy or the United States: more solid, less sugar, with more cocoa. While the ingredient lists are comparable, they are not the same. Most notably the German version of Nutella uses vegetable oil and the American version uses palm oil, resulting in a more runny, oily texture in the latter.

Tap Water
The tap water in the United States, especially Florida, is much more chlorinated-tasting than the tap water in Germany. I avoid drinking tap water as much as possible and order bottled water at restaurants, even though it costs me every time. But even after more than 11 years with the Florida tap water, I still cringe when I encounter water with a chlorine taste.

Going Fast on the Autobahn
Sunday mornings in Germany, when most people are in bed or in church, is the best time to set your turn signal and move all the way over into the left lane. As an added bonus, many trucks are prohibited from driving on Sundays, which leads to less congestion and open lanes. German drivers are very disciplined when it comes to using the left lane for passing or going fast only. Slower traffic stays to the right, at least most of the time, which cuts down on having to break for a left-lane-lurker every few miles.

German Winters
I miss those long, gray winter days when you do not want to leave the house. At some point you really miss the cold days if you have hot and humid weather for a long time. There is nothing better than to stay on the sofa, look at the snow from a warm room, while sipping a hot tea or coffee. Even better if it is your day off and you have nowhere to be.

What do you miss most about Germany? Let us know in the comments below.

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Book Review The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

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I’m always hunting for historical fiction that enables me to time travel as a fly on the walls of history, forsaking a slice of my present everyday life in glad exchange. If the book provides a peek into German history and culture, I’m all the more curious given my husband’s German heritage.

When I first saw The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck appear in my search results on Amazon, I was leery. Not another World War II novel I sighed. But, by the end of the prologue, I was mesmerized. It explores a facet of German History that I never knew existed. Have you ever thought about the family of the conspirators who tried to assassinate Hitler? I had never contemplated this question. This thoroughly researched novel presents three viewpoints from three very different women. Marianne, the central character, made a promise to the conspirators (her husband and friends who attempted to assassinate Hitler), that if the plan failed she would take care of the families they left behind. When the war ends she finds two other widows and their young kids and for a time they all take refuge and survive the aftermath of World War II in Marianne’s husband’s family castle.

So, What Makes it a Page-Turner?
I finished The Women in the Castle in roughly three days between sightseeing in Germany. There are plot twists and surprises that took me off guard. The characters’ experiences are so diverse, all of which offer new insight into what it must have felt like to live during this period. As a reader of The Women in the Castle, you’ll be in the room of the conspirators who see Hitler as the enemy and are willing to stop at nothing to see him overthrown. You’ll be six years old, living in an orphanage of other resisters’ children, undergoing the very indoctrination the parent died fighting against. You’ll shadow ordinary German citizens who volunteered to lead a Landjahr lager, Country Service Year Camp, propelling Hitler’s vision from the early beginnings of the Reich to the bitter end. Reading this novel changed my perception of the WWII experience for Germans in many ways.

This novel combines research with heart-felt storytelling, intertwined with innovative word choice and marvelous metaphors. For example, on page 24, “Benita was sick to death of desperate people. Berlin was bad enough, with it's carousing Russians and half-starved virgins hidden in cellars, it's countless dead-some still buried in the mountains of rubble-and it's stinking, overcrowded bomb-shelters-turned-refugee-camps. And the route west had been even worse, clogged with all manner of suffering and human detritus. It was if the great continent of Europe had shrugged and sent everyone rolling.”

Also, on page 301, “Sitting here, on this weather-beaten porch, with it's brittle railings and the dull pounding of the sea below, he felt a gray bloom of failure. This was why it had been so long since he had last seen Marianne. She was the gardener of this ugly flower. She knew just how to turn it's face to the sun.”

I highly recommend this book! This also would be a unique gift idea for someone traveling to Germany. I discovered The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck on Amazon. If you’re interested, you can find it on Amazon here, (available on the Kindle, or in hardcover or paperback) or it can also be downloaded from iBooks®.

Do you have any recommendations for historical fiction books set in Germany? I'm always looking for suggestions. Leave a comment below or send us an email.

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Trade Fairs in Frankfurt

Frankfurt am Main is not only known as the European financial metropolis. The city is also one of the most important trade fair locations in Germany. Visitors and exhibitors alike appreciate the size of the exhibition grounds, in addition to Frankfurt's large international airport, the Autobahn and a sophisticated public transport network. Worldwide, only the exhibition grounds in Hanover, Germany are bigger than those in Frankfurt am Main.

Trade Fairs in Frankfurt Outdoor Panorama

History of Trade Fairs in Frankfurt am Main
The first mention of the Frankfurt Trade Fair is in 1150, when the fairs took place in and around the Roemer marketplace in Frankfurt. During trade fairs in the middle ages, all the guesthouses in Frankfurt were booked, many trade fair guests were accommodated in private houses. While most stands were erected outside the Roemer building, goldsmiths and silversmiths as well as jewelers were given the most exclusive location: they were allowed to build their stands inside the Roemer for better protection of their precious goods. To read more about the Roemer, read our earlier article Deciphering the Roemer in Frankfurt am Main.

Thanks to Frankfurt's geographical location at the crossroads of important long-distance trade routes from and to Lyon, Venice, Antwerp, and Lübeck, the city was the hub of the flow of goods and meeting place for people from all over the world, together with the river Main as a favorable transport route. Everything was traded; from cloths and ceramics to books, cattle and more.

A special status was achieved by the privilege of Emperor Frederick II, who gave the fair visitors the full range of escorts during their return trip starting in the year 1240. Even during their stay in the city their security was ensured. The sequence during the fair weeks was roughly divided into four parts: the escorted arrival week, the actual business week, the week of payments and final dealmaking, and finally the departure week. In 1337, Emperor Ludwig granted the city of Frankfurt the privilege that no other fair could be erected throughout the Lands that could harm the Frankfurt fair in any way.

Messeturm, or Trade Fair Tower in Frankfurt am Main

Frankfurt Trade Fair Landmarks
The most prominent building and also one of the highest skyscrapers in Frankfurt is the Messeturm - trade fair tower - with an altitude of 256.5 meters (841.5 feet) and a total of 54 floors. The Messeturm is, however, outside the trade fair grounds and is usually not used for trade fair events. Architecturally, its form stands out, which is why he is also called "pencil" by the people of Frankfurt.

The Hammering Man Sculpture by Jonathan Borosfsky, near the Messeturm in Frankfurt am Main

In front of the Messeturm you will find a large, black sculpture by the American artist Jonathan Borofsky called The Hammering Man. The black silhouette shows a worker who moves a hammer against a symbolic workpiece. This sculpture is meant to be a symbol of solidarity for all working people and can be found in various versions all around the world. The statue in Frankfurt am Main weighs 32 tons and was installed in 1991 for the “Art Frankfurt” trade show. This fair for modern art started in 1989 and was canceled due to lack of demand in 2007. The Hammering Man remained.

Today, the fairs in Frankfurt attract more than 1.5 million visitors every year. Every year, the world's largest book fair, Buchmesse takes place here, and the International Automobile Exhibition (IAA) is held every two years in Frankfurt. Most major car brands show all their models in various halls and my dad and I visit every time. This is what the halls look like inside during the International Automobile Exhibition (IAA).

2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festival Halls in Frankfurt am Main

People mover at 2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festival Halls in Frankfurt am Main

Skylights at the 2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festival Halls in Frankfurt am Main

2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festival Halls in Frankfurt am Main

Festhalle in Frankfurt am Main
My favorite hall is the Festhalle, Festival Hall, built in 1907, and also the historic center of the trade fair grounds. It can hold up to 13,500 visitors unseated and is home to concerts, sporting events and Mercedes-Benz during the International Motor Show (IAA) every other year in September. The mixture of tradition and modernity is particularly evident during that time. You see old window panes and historic architecture meet the modern interpretation of beautiful cars by Mercedes-Benz. They also add a lot of light effects, that change every couple of minutes.

2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festhalle in Frankfurt am Main

2017 International Automobile Exhibition Festhalle in Frankfurt am Main

With a total of 11 exhibition halls, the exhibition grounds in Frankfurt offer space for all conceivable topics. Check out this video from Messe Frankfurt to see the whole trade fair grounds. Currently they are working on hall #12 which will be finished in the fall of 2018.

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If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive the newest posts each week and exclusive access to free planning resources like ‘Packing List & Tips for 2 Weeks in Germany’ and ‘Everything You Need to Rent a Car in Germany.

Thank you for reading!



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Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler