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My Favorite German Movies

My Favorite German Movies

With the rise of streaming services like Netflix or Amazon Video, it is much easier to watch foreign movies from wherever you are in the world. Years ago a list like this would have been useless, because a German DVD or videocassette would have to be mailed over the Atlantic and subtitles would have not been included. You simply had to understand the language in order to follow the movies. Today it is a simple click to activate the subtitles and immerse yourself into a movie that shows you a completely different world, with actors you might have never seen before, speaking an unknown language. Not all of the movies will be on your favorite streaming platform, due to contract expirations and renewals and most of them will be in German with English subtitles. If the movie of your choice is not streaming currently, check out Amazon or eBay for a used DVD copy.

Lastly: This is by no means a critically-acclaimed list, but rather a list of movies I have enjoyed and re-watched. The films on this list are in chronological order, sorted by the year of release from oldest to newest. I purposely did not rank them because, to me, they are impossible to rank, since each has its own subject matter and contemporary feel.

Knockin' on Heaven's Door Movie Poster | My Favorite German Movies

Knockin' on Heaven's Door (1997)
This so-called "Roadmovie" was the most successful German movie of the year 1997. The movie is about two deathly ill men, Rudi Wurlitzer (Jan Josef Liefers) and Martin Brest (Til Schweiger), who share a hospital room and neither have much time to live. Their last wish is to drive to see the sun set on the ocean. Since neither have a car, they decide to steal a Mercedes from the hospital's parking lot. What the two do not know is that a large amount of money is hidden in the trunk of the car and the money belongs to some criminals, who are now chasing them.

This movie is very entertaining with its action scenes, even though it has some very serious moments, when the two doomed actors face their deadly disease. What makes Knockin' on Heaven's Door worth seeing after all these years is the entire cast of great actors, and the fact that you see the world differently if there is nothing else to lose. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

Lola Rennt Movie Poster | My Favorite German Movies

Lola Rennt (1998) English Title, Run Lola Run
This fast and dynamic thriller captures the vitality of Germany in the 1990’s in an outstanding way. It starts out capturing a normal day in Berlin showing Manni (Moritz Bleibtreu), who moves cash for an organized car theft gang. The simple task becomes a problem, when he leaves a bag full of cash behind, unable to retrieve it himself. He calls his girlfriend Lola (Franka Potente), who will start running in order to retrieve the bag and deliver it before the deadline, which is 20 minutes away. The movie combines elements of slow motion, split-screen technology and 360 degree rotating camera angles, resulting in a firework of technical possibilities. Overall a fast-paced film with an unusual, innovative and visually capturing concept, keeping the viewers guessing, if Lola makes the right or wrong choices while she is running. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

Good bye, Lenin! Movie Poster | My Favorite German Movies

Good Bye, Lenin! (2003)
On the day of the 40th anniversary of the GDR, convinced socialist Christiane Kerner (Katrin Sass) falls into a coma after a heart attack. It overshadows the fall of the German Wall and the entry of capitalism into the socialist state, which now no longer exists. When she unexpectedly awakens from the coma, her son and daughter try to spare her weak heart by concealing their bedridden mother from the world-moving events of the last few months. They create the illusion that the GDR, at least on a small scale, survived and is still active. This, of course, involves some difficulties, from the procurement of Spreewald brand cucumbers to the songwriting of old songs. Watching the trailer might make you think that this is a comedy, which it does have jokes and funny elements to it. However, it is more of a tragicomedy, with the main focus on the changes that turn the everyday life of a young adult son Alex (Daniel Bruehl) completely upside down within a few months. In addition, the film combines a lot of archival material from the time of the German Reunion and lets the viewer feel the importance, but above all also the emotionality of this event. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

Das Leben der Anderen Movie Poster | My Favorite German Movies

Das Leben der Anderen (2006) English Title, The Lives Of Others
That life in the GDR was not only fun & games, should be well-known by now. The movie “Das Leben der Anderen” describes the political regime of the former GDR as a highly paranoid spy and control system, where the state stalks down into the smallest detail of the private life of its citizens, ensuring the “safety” of all its citizens. Major Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) is set to spy on the popular playwright Georg Dreymann (Sebastian Koch). However, Dreymann is not subject to regular ideological scrutiny, but should be brought to his downfall in order to boost the career of a politician. What Major Wiesler did not expect, was that the observation would drastically change his point of view. Diving into “the lives of other” - their love, thoughts and daily routines - makes Wiesler aware of the poverty of his own existence and opens up a never-before-seen world. This movie is a drama with thriller qualities, which even received an Oscar as best foreign film - well deserved in my opinion. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

Die Welle Movie Poster | My Favorite German Movies

Die Welle (2008) English Title, The Wave
How was it possible that a whole country simply accept Nazi rule? Why did no one resist? One possible answer was an experiment conducted by the history teacher Ron Jones in 1967 in a school in Palo Alto, California. In order to demonstrate to his students the fascination of Fascism, the teacher creates a movement, whose principles are based on discipline, community, and action. Strict rules are introduced, such as a dress code for the "members" and group emblems surface all over the school, non-wave members are harassed and the whole experiment spirals out of control. This movie, based on a true story, is an exciting and serious movie about the creeping poison of extremism and intolerance. However, some scenes can be a bit graphic and violent for young viewers in your family. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

Fack Ju Göhte Movie Poster | My Favorite German Movies

Fack Ju Göhte (2013) English Title, Suck Me Shakespeer
The last movie on this list is a goofy comedy and was the most successful German movie of 2013. The movie starts out with Zeki Mueller (Elyas M'Barek), who, after his prison release, learns that his buried heist money on a school ground was covered up by a new high school gymnasium. His solution to get to the loot: get hired as an auxiliary teacher and drill a tunnel underneath the gymnasium. Easier said than done. The students use their cell phones in the classroom, chew gum, and lack any respect for the teacher. The movie is, of course, a bit predictable and not realistic (what teacher shoots his students with a paintball gun?), but also very amusing, universally comprehensible, colorful and yet distinctively German. Click here to see the trailer on YouTube.

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Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You

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Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You

Every year the hardest part of our trip is leaving behind our two cats, Katze and Jayla. They’ve seen the suitcases load up and wheel out, and when you try to say goodbye they’ll hide under the bed, as if that will change the impending situation. Most vacations, I leave the house in tears. My worst fear is that something happens to us on our trip, and as a result, Katze and Jayla will forever think they did something wrong and we abandoned them. This is what I do to manage their anxiety and mine, when vacation time comes.

Comfort Zone® with Feliway® Diffuser Kit
One year, when we returned from vacation, Katze had been so stressed over us leaving she gave herself a urinary tract infection. No fun! I didn’t know this was possible, and we did everything as we had normally done. My Mom came by in the evenings to give them dinner and spend time with them. The litter box was spotless. The vet said it was definitely anxiety-related. Since then, whenever we go out of town on vacation, we plug in a (associate link) Comfort Zone® Feliway® diffuser into the outlet next to her favorite sleeping spot. That was four years ago, and we've used it for every vacation since. Katze hasn't had a UTI since.

We had heard about Feliway® from my Mother-in-law, who had issues with her cat marking their suitcases while they tried to pack. When that was plugged in, he stopped marking. My Mom has a crazy cat who has a diffuser plugged in all the time. The Feliway® diffuser alleviated the confrontations she had with my Mom’s other, more mentally-balanced cats. Its well loved by our feline family, and I hope it brings your family relief too!


Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Nest Cam Indoor

Nest Cam Indoor
This is definitely relief more for my own anxiety than the cats’. They have no idea what (associate link) Nest Cam Indoor is. For me, the benefit is that at any time of day, I can open the app on my phone, and I can see that the house is ok, possibly see Katze and Jayla, and even hear my ticking clock in the background. It's a visual relief that arrests my anxiety in it's place. One time I caught Jayla and my Mom watching a NASCAR race together. I knew because I could see Jayla’s face and eyes following the cars on the screen. When I was feeling homesick and missing them, that was priceless. We have one that we bought several years back, and is still supported by the current app. Its something that while its expensive at first, it will last a while. We position it by our TV in the living room, and it covers most of the hallways and the couch they love.


Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Securing Pet Sitters

Securing Pet Sitters
If you have family or friends around that you trust to check on the cats every day, great. Maybe they’d even be game to send photos and/or video from time to time too. Spend time before the trip to make sure they understand any feeding quirks. That’s often how cats will show they’re upset, is by eating less or turning down treats that they’d normally never miss. Jayla has had several teeth removed because of bad genetics, and she needs higher food bowls that work with her, not against her, when she’s trying to eat her wet food. We make sure the caretaker knows about that, and that it's ok if Katze eats Jayla’s leftovers. Typically the first few days we’re gone, Jayla will turn down wet food in protest of the situation. Katze has turned down her wet food if it's not chopped up like she normally has it. They’re our furry divas, and we love them.

If you don’t have family or friends nearby that can watch them, it's time to bring in the professionals! Visit the website for the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters (NAPPS) to begin your search. It will help locate nearby licensed and insured pet sitters. It's a good indication that who you are hiring is responsible and takes their profession serious if they’ve become members of the NAPPS. If no one is registered in your area, ask your veterinarian for a referral.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Blankets

Blankets
Normally our couch throw blankets are folded up on the arms of the couch, but when we’re away from home, I spread them out flat in a few places, one where Jayla lays a lot, and another on our bed. Two reasons, one, if the girls have anxiety-caused upset stomach episodes, or their well-meaning-family-member-turned-pet-sitter has given them too many treats, the blankets protect the furniture and are easier to wash. The second reason being it's an additional comfort source for them that they can burrow into if they wish.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Keep Suitcases Out of Sight

Pack in Another Room
Our cats definitely understand what a suitcase signifies. One time Sebastian got down our biggest suitcase from the attic, and set it out in the hallway overnight. Jayla left us a smelly present inches away from the suitcase for us to discover the next morning. Since then, we try to sneak the suitcases through the house into the guest bedroom where we can close the door. This isn’t usually too hard, when the cats are out in the catio it's easy to get things tucked away out of sight. Since Sebastian likes to start putting things away for the trip sometimes a month ahead of time, it's better that the cats don’t even know it's vacation time. I would hate for them to be anxiously anticipating our trip for that long. We typically will bring out the suitcases from the guest bedroom for final packing the day before we leave.

Managing Vacation Anxiety For Your Cats And You: Pet Trusts

Pet Trust
At the first sign of turbulence on the flight, my panicked thought is “Oh No! What will happen to the cats!” This is something we’ve been talking about doing forever, and plan to do. You can legally make plans for your pets in the event something happens, and even set aside a trust fund for their care if you’re not quite sure that your possible caretaker would have enough funds to support them. If you’ve never considered this before, here’s a Pet Trust Primer from the ASPCA I recommend looking at to get you started.

How Do You Manage?
Do you have other tricks up your sleeve for managing travel anxiety for your cats and you? Do share! Comment below, or reply via email. Every little bit helps!

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The Most 'German' of German Churches

Outside the Römer, where a beautiful sandstone pedestrian bridge connects over the street, sits a church that’s not a church, that most Germans know very well. Paulskirche, or in English the Church of St. Paul. As an American, I had never heard of it, and without doing any research about it beforehand, went inside.

Outside the Römer, where a beautiful sandstone pedestrian bridge connects over the street, sits a church that’s not a church, that most Germans know very well. Paulskirche, or in English the Church of St. Paul. As an American, I had never heard of it, and without doing any research about it beforehand, went inside.

Entrance to the Paulskirche, with the mural The Path of the Representatives by Johannes Grützkeby just beyond.

When I walk in, I’m in the outer ring of a round marblesque room that instantly feels more like a contemporary art museum because I’m confronted by a larger than life mural depicting an incredibly stylized procession of people hugging the entire inner core of the building. Displays and exhibit cases line the outer core of the building.

Lower Hall of the Paulskirche with the mural The Path of the Representatives by Johannes Grützkeby

As I wind my way around the mural, I discover it really does continue around, and I find stairs. Ah! Now I’ll find the church!

No, not really. I climb the stairs and discover a very modern-looking, non-church arrangement of chairs, a lovely organ, and various German state flags hanging from a soaring ceiling. No one else was around, just me and a bleary-eyed security guard.

Upper Hall of the Paulskirche where the annual awarding of The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade takes place. The Paulskirche organ was designed by Maria Schwarz.

I was really confused. What was this place?

This is a prime example of how important it is to read up on the history of monuments before visiting, a tourist’s mistake I still make from time to time. However, my curiosity was piqued. So I resolved to figure this out at home and pass along the highlights.

In 1833, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Paul was a beacon of modernity in its classical architecture style while surrounded by ‘old’ gothic architecture, and it was the largest hall in Frankfurt. For these two reasons, in 1848 it was an appropriate place for the first all-German Parliament. The first democratic constitution for a united Germany was born here, and this is why Paulskirche is often called the Cradle of German democracy.

What German Church is the MOST German?

The German democracy was short-lived, and the Prussian king was unimpressed, but the building’s symbolism continues. After the building’s complete destruction during World War II, this was the first building to be reconstructed and it was consecrated in 1948, on the 100-year anniversary of the German National Assembly.

Paulskirche Highlights
The mural, The Path of the Representatives by Johannes Grützke, was installed as part of a larger renovation effort in 1991. Along with the mural, there is a really helpful permanent exhibit along the outer walls called "Symbol of Democratic Freedom and National Unity," that you should spend time reading. Speaking from experience, it is really difficult to find information on this topic in English, and the exhibit is bilingual and illustrated with diagrams, drawings and photos. Otherwise you can 'see' everything within 10 minutes, but to get more value out of your visit defintily soak up the details in the exhibit cases.

Now, Paulskirche, the Church of St. Paul, is a space for public events and awards, the most famous being the annual awarding of The Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, as part of the larger annual Frankfurt Book Fair.

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The Best Fragrance Travel Hack

The Best Fragrance Travel Hack: Scentbird

After years of packing regular size fragrance bottles or leak-prone atomizer sprayers in my checked-luggage, I finally found a better solution. One of my biggest travel nightmares is to have my fragrance leak all over my suitcase or have the bottle confiscated by the TSA due to a new liquids ban. I heard about Scentbird when I was searching for a better alternative to atomizer sprayers and signed up for a subscription last summer. This is the best fragrance travel hack I’ve found.

How to Travel Light With Your Fragrances & Prevent Spilling and Breakage

How to Conveniently Pack Fragrances
This subscription service sends you a fragrance vial with a 30-day supply for $14.95 per month. For your first order you will also get one of their twist-top tin cases. This case keeps the glass vial from breaking and protects the sprayer. This is the solution I was looking for when packing fragrances. You can switch out the glass vials by pulling it out of the case and inserting a new one. The vial has enough fragrance for 30 days, based on 4 sprays per day from the 0.27 oz / 8 ml bottle.

Smelly, Happy Vacation Memories
My first vial was filled with L’Homme by Yves Saint Laurent and I took it with me on vacation to Lake Constance in Germany. Scent has the magical ability to transport us back to a specific time and place with one sniff, and whenever I smell L’Homme, it reminds me of the great time I had visiting Lake Constance. Our sense of smell is very complex. Odors are processed differently than, for example, our sense of touch or our sense of sight. Whatever we smell gets processed by our olfactory cortex, bypassing the brain where ALL other senses get routed through first. That’s why smells attach to memories without us consciously registering or processing them. This is exactly what L’Homme by Yves Saint Laurent did for me.

Save Your Empty Subscription Vials
In my case of falling in love with the scent of L’Homme, I used up all the cologne in the vial within about 6 weeks. I missed having the scent in my collection and bought a regular bottle of it a couple of months later. Thankfully, I had kept the empty vial, because you can unscrew the sprayer and refill it with fragrance from a larger bottle. That way you have another month of your favorite fragrance in a perfectly sized container and do not have to worry about taking your large bottles with you during your travels.

Getting Started With Scentbird
The very first thing that Scentbird had me do upon subscribing, was to complete an interactive quiz to find a fragrance for me. There were questions about my idea of a “perfect vacation”, or the choice of a preferred drink. Based on your answers, Scentbird gives you perfume recommendations. Finally, select the fragrances that sounds best to you (from over 450 scents total) and place them in a monthly queue, from which you will receive one fragrance to try per month. Besides the small form factor, which makes it perfect for traveling, I also love the fact that I can try a scent before committing to a larger, expensive bottle.

I found and paid for my subscription for months now, and I’m really happy with the service. I’ve since become an affiliate of Scentbird because I believe they offer value to International Travelers. If you make a purchase after clicking on my links, I will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. Their current promotion is a 25% off coupon with code NEW2017. Just click here and enter the code at checkout.

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My 5 Favorite German Cakes and Pies

My 5 Favorite German Cakes & Pies, from left, Donauwelle, Mandarinenkuchen, Bienenstich, Gedeckter Apfelkuchen and Pflaumenkuchen

Our local grocery store in Florida sells “German Chocolate Cake” and when I moved to the United States years ago, a coworker told me to try it. You should have seen my face after the first bite. I expected rich layers of chocolate and what I got was a mouthful of chocolate cake with a pecan-coconut filling. Coconut in a German cake!? We do not have a tropical climate with coconuts growing on our trees. Obviously, this was the first and last time I ever bought this cake.

I want to introduce you to my favorite German cakes and pies. Since this is my personal list, the most-well known Black Forest Cake did not make the cut. It is a good cake, no doubt, but the 5 cakes and pies below beat the Black Forest Cake easily, at least in my opinion.

Donauwelle
The Donauwelle cake is named after the German river Danube, which originates near the Black Forest. Welle means wave and is very fitting, since the marbled cake does have wavy patterns. Embedded in the marbled cake are tart cherries, topped by buttercream and a chocolate frosting, that also has a wave structure to it. The tart cherries in the Donauwelle go great with the chocolate frosting and I love it when the cake is chilled and the buttercream is cold and refreshing.

Mandarinenkuchen
Another refreshing cake is the tangerine cake, made with a short pastry bottom, topped with a curd cheese mixture and garnished with tangerines. Besides the curd cheese mixture, I have also had this cake with a sour cream and also a cream cheese filling. No matter which way, this cake will melt in your mouth and the sweet tangerines go great with the tart cream filling.

Bienenstich
Literally translated this cake is called bee sting cake and it is filled with delicious vanilla cream, finished with an almond & honey layer on top. While absolutely yummy, it can be a bit intimidating to eat this cake on a first date, because the cream filling will ooze out of all sides, when you try to cut through the crispy top layer.

Gedeckter Apfelkuchen
This is an apple cake variation with a classic shortcrust top layer, translated to covered apple cake and, to me, most reminiscent to the classic American apple pie. The German version has a perfect balance of sweetness and acidity from the apples, certainly much less sweet than its American counterpart.

Pflaumenkuchen
The last one in this list and I saved the best for last. This plum cake is my absolute favorite and widely available July through October during plum season. The yeast dough hold the plums in place, all you have to do is top it with some fresh whipped cream and it is heaven on a plate.

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