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German Discount Grocery Store LIDL Now Open in the USA

German Discount Grocery Store LIDL Now Open in the USA

While some American grocery stores are filing bankruptcy and closing for good, German grocery stores ALDI, and recently LIDL are trying to fill the void with their low-cost concepts. You can now get a “German Shopping Experience” before ever travelling to Germany! Several weeks ago we had our spotlight on ALDI, the German discount grocery store. Here is a link in case you missed it.

At the time of this article ALDI has over 1,600 stores in the United States and is still growing. Another German discounter named LIDL wants to be part of this too and is expected to open its first 150 stores by 2018 in the United States.

The first 9 LIDL stores in the United States opened a few days ago on June 15, 2017. Is one of them near you? Here they are:

North Carolina: Greenville, Kinston, Rocky Mount, Sanford, Winston-Salem
South Carolina: Greenville, Spartanburg
Virginia: Hampton, Virginia Beach

More stores are coming to Delaware, Georgia, Maryland, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in 2017 and 2018.

ALDI and LIDL are both considered “discount stores”, which only stock about 1,000 products on their shelves. This low inventory means, that you will only find one package of sliced Swiss cheese, but at a lower price point. About 90% of the products sold are their own brands, which enables these discount stores to sell items at a lower price point and pass the savings on to the consumer. Also, a lot of the products are pushed into the store on pallets, which saves time compared to setting them on shelves and, again, saves the discount stores money by having less staff.

For more reading on LIDL coming to the United States, read the story by Nandita Bose for Reuters, "Germany's Lidl to price groceries up to 50 percent below U.S. rivals," or visit LIDL'S Home page.

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My 10 Favorite German Castles

My 10 Favorite German Castles

After pointedly seeking out as many castles as we could visit every year on our annual vacation for ten years, here are our top ten favorite German Castles & Palaces.


#10 Neues Schloss Meersburg | Meersburg, Germany
This beautiful palace overlooks Lake Constance, has beautiful gardens below, and I learned what a Prince-Bishop is. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Crash Course in Prince-Bishops at the Neues Schloss Meersburg'.

Crash Course in Prince-Bishops at the Neues Schloss Meersburg


#9 Schloss Buedingen | Buedingen, Germany
An intimate family castle where the residing Princess is listed as the emergency contact on the ticket office door. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Buedingen Castle: Family Photos Beside Medieval Murals'.

Buedingen Castle: Family Photos Beside Medieval Murals


#8 Burg Meersburg | Meersburg, Germany
As the oldest castle in Germany, this one already has bragging rights, but they’re well earned. This is a very approachable, relaxed castle experience with authentic furnishings and interesting ties to a famous German poet, Annette von Droste-Huelshoff. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Germany's Oldest Inhabited Castle'.

Germany's Oldest Inhabited Castle


#7 Nuernberger Burg | Nuremberg, Germany
A great castle to learn about the King Elector system of Germany, while it wasn’t a home base for any certain dynasty, the Deep Well demonstration is definitely worth the add-on cost and was Sebastian’s favorite part. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'What You'll See at the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg'.

What You'll See at the Imperial Castle of Nuremberg


#6 Schloss Neuschwanstein | Schwangau, Germany
This castle isn’t for the faint of heart as the tourist crowds are oppressive. Although the castle is unfinished and was barely lived in, what is complete is equally stunning as it is fascinating. Seeing the castle from the Marienbrücke (Queen Mary’s bridge) is a must. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Touring Neuschwanstein Castle'.

Touring Neuschwanstein Castle


#5 Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg | Ludwigsburg, Germany
During a time period when most courts wanted to emulate Versailles in France, this palace gets pretty close to the original. The guided tour experience was unique in that we saw hidden passageways used by the servants. This palace also boasts the oldest preserved theater in Europe. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Touring Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg'.

Touring Residenzschloss Ludwigsburg


#4 Burg Hohenzollern | Bisingen, Germany
I was intrigued by this monumental castle that looms dramatically above the surrounding area on its hill, cloaked in dense fog for dramatic effect. It has links to Prussian Queen Luise, my favorite monarch. She visited the castle and they have a few items of hers including a stunning gown in the treasury. This castle has survived battle and been rebuilt three times. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Burg Hohenzollern, Inside and Out'.

Burg Hohenzollern, Inside and Out


#3 Burg Eltz | Wierschem, Germany
Like the castle in the opening scene of Beauty and the Beast, Burg Eltz sits nestled in a forested valley and will take your breath away at first glance. Guided tour only, and yet you still don’t feel like a tourist while visiting the intimate family rooms of this castle. Be on the lookout for the oldest Renaissance-period bed on display. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Burg Eltz: Where Medieval Castle Fantasies are Fulfilled'.

Burg Eltz: Where Medieval Castle Fantasies are Fulfilled


#2 Wartburg | Eisenach, Germany
The most German of the German castles! What I really love about Wartburg is how much devotion to medieval architecture is in this castle. Where many cities tore down medieval buildings to replace it with the hipper styles of the day, the Wartburg’s medieval style was honored and even recreated in new buildings. The castle’s ties to the legend of St. Elizabeth, Martin Luther, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and German Unification makes it a must-see whether you fancy medieval castles or not. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'What You Need to Know Before Visiting Wartburg Castle'.

What You Need to Know Before Visiting Wartburg Castle


#1 Schloss Nymphenburg | Munich, Germany
This one really has it all for me; family feel and history, stunning interiors (bonus points for Rococo, my favorite), and sprawling gardens to get lost in. It was not overrun with tourist groups like Versailles (France) or Neuschwanstein (see #6 above), and we visited during Oktoberfest when the city of Munich was full of tourists. The final bonus that sealed Schloss Nymphenburg as my all time favorite German castle is the peculiar and fascinating Gallery of Beauties commissioned by King Ludwig the I. For more details on our experience, read our earlier article 'Schloss Nymphenburg and the Generations of Stories'.

Schloss Nymphenburg and the Generations of Stories

Jump-Start Your Travel Plotting
Since you've made it this far, here's a bonus! We plotted our top ten favorite castles on a custom Google Map that you can use to start planning your trip.

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What You Need to Know Before Visiting Wartburg Castle

Wartburg Castle is more than just a castle, it's a symbol of German unity, and sometimes called the ‘most German castle’, similarly to how (a previous post from us) St. Peter in Frankfurt is called the ‘most German church’. It's a fair assessment when you discover how much happened at this castle! Here are tidbits of history you need to know to get the most out of your visit of Wartburg Castle.

Standing in front of the cistern and bergfried in Wartburg Castle, Germany

Medieval Hilltop Castle Architecture
Any self-respecting medieval castle is built on a hill, and Wartburg Castle is no different. Wartburg castle went through four periods of construction. Hang on to your chair, we’re also going to introduce German castle vocabulary words that might prove helpful during your visit. The German words, as always, will be italicized. The initial building period of the Palas (great hall building) was between 1157-1162. The Romanesque-period gate arch, located inside the Vorburg (front castle) is from 1200. The majority of the Vorburg, which includes the Ritterhaus (knight’s house), Torhaus (tower house), Vogtei (castle bailiff’s lodge), and the sentry walks are all timber framing and built in the late medieval time, 1478-1480. Finally, the last building period, the historicist (1853-1860), included the Bergfried (free-standing fighting tower), Neue Kemente (Fireplace Room), the Torhalle (porch), Dirnitz (heated hall building), Gadam (granary), and the Ritterbad (knight’s bath). During the historicist period the Palas was opulently furnished with the fantastical frescoes of Moritz von Schwind and the Festsaal (festival hall). In 1912-1914, the final addition of the Wartburg hotel was built.

Wartburg is a medieval hilltop castle

What is a Landgrave?
I wouldn’t be surprised if you had never heard of a landgrave before, which means ‘provincial count’. The title was first invented in 1131 solely for the German state of Thuringia, and intended to put landgraves on equal level with dukes, and ultimately could become imperial princes. Becoming a landgrave was in thanks for the dynasty’s help to Saxon Lothar von Süpplingenburg in the election of a king of Germany against Emperor Heinrich V.

If you ever wondered what your room would look like if you were a medieval princess, look no further! Named the Ruler’s Room, although the furniture is not original to the room itself, it's been collected, the effect is jaw dropping. The views of the Thuringia forest from the windows, to the chandelier and the stencil ceilings, it's decadent.

Wartburg Castle Fuerstenzimmer, Ruler's Room

What are Minnesingers?
A minnesinger is a 12th-14th century German lyric poet and singer who performed songs of courtly love. All medieval courts had minnesinger contests, but it's alleged that Wartburg Castle held the most famous contest of the age with the six most famous minnesingers of the time: Walther von der Vogelweide, Wolfram von Escheenbach, Reinmar von Zweter, Heinrich von Ofterdingen, Heinrich Schreiber, and Biterolf. When imagining a minnesinger, be on the lookout for one of their instruments in the museum, the Quinterne, a small lute, likely made from a single piece of maple in 1450 with the marks of Hans Oth of Nuremberg, a master craftsman of the time.

Top: Dürer cupboard c. 1515 | Left: Lute from 1450 | Exhibits at the Wartburg Art Collection

St Elizabeth
First, St Elizabeth lived here for most of her life. What you need to know is that Elizabeth was a Hungarian princess who was betrothed to Ludwig IV of the Ludovingians. She was sent to the castle to be groomed as a wife at age four. She gave everything she could to take care of the poor in the surrounding area. If you’d like to read more about St. Elizabeth and the miracles associated with her, click here and you’ll be redirected to a Catholic Encyclopedia article.

The Refuge of Martin Luther
The second reason the Wartburg is a religious destination, is because Martin Luther found refuge here. You can visit the room where he stayed. This is the place where he did some of his life’s best works and translated the New Testament from Greek to German. The castle is fortunate to have a copy from 1541 that belonged to Wolfgang Wesemer with an inscription on the inside cover by Luther himself and his collaborator Philipp Melanchthon.

1817 Wartburg Festival
Four years after the Battle of Nations in 1813, and the 300th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation, student corporations met in Eisenach and marched to the Wartburg. They hosted speeches and symbolically burnt items. Five hundred students marched for the creation of a unified German Empire. It is said that one of the fraternity flags from the city of Jena that was carried during the march became the inspiration for the final German flag. You can read more about the stories behind the German flag in our earlier article here.

Where Martin Luther Translated the New Testament From Greek to German | Furnishing are reconstructions

Historicism
Historicism is architecture inspired by and recreates another period’s architecture. In Wartburg Castle’s case, the Romantics were inspired by the medieval architecture and sought to recreate it and expand the castle in the same style. Often, when castles were expanded or renovated, they wanted to replace the out of fashion architecture, in this period they loved it and wanted more of it. Historicist architect Hugo von Ritgen lobbied passionately for the commission to restore and continue building.

Goethe & Museum Treasures
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was emotionally impacted by the castle’s history; he demonstrated this through his writing, letters, and sketches. He hoped there would be a museum installed within the castle that would inspire even more pilgrims to visit. Inspired by Goethe’s idea for a museum and in Goethe’s memory, Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna and her son Carl Alexander of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, began the process of a European art collection which would focus on the time period of the castle. Today, the Wartburg Art Museum has collected over 1,000 years of European art from the time of Wartburg Castle’s heyday.

Recommended Souvenir From Wartburg Castle
The souvenir to get from Wartburg is definitely the small booklet (60 pages) about the history of the castle, the architecture, and the legend of St. Elizabeth. The Wartburg, Part of the World’s Heritage by Günter Schuchardt, Translated by Margaret Marks. In such a slim, light volume, there’s a wealth of information alongside historical drawings, paintings, and color photos. Without it, I could not write this post with any credible facts.

Wartburg Vogtei (castle bailiff lodge) has a copy of the late Gothic oriel on the South Side. The Vogtei is where you'll find Martin Luther's room.

Still want to see more? There's certainly more to see! This is a nice video overview of the castle.

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Your Guide to Navigating German Supermarkets

Your Guide to Navigating German Supermarkets | How German Grocery Stores Differ From American Grocery Stores

A grocery store is a grocery store, whether it is located in the United States or Germany. Yes, grocery stores in both countries sell fresh produce, bread, milk and other essentials. However, there are small differences to keep in mind before you start your shopping trip. The most convenient feature, to me is that the price that is on the tag is the final price you pay. It already includes the tax, so if you see a package of strawberries for €3.00, this will be the price you will pay at the register. Here are more helpful hints for your grocery store trip in Germany:

Why are Eggs Not Chilled?
In Germany, eggs are stored on ordinary shelves, while they are refrigerated in the United States. The simple reason: freshly laid eggs in the United States are washed for hygienic reasons before they arrive at grocery stores for sale. It is forbidden to sell eggs, that have not been washed with hot water and odorless soap in order to be germ free. In Germany it is exactly the other way round: Washed eggs are prohibited to be sold. During the washing process the natural protective layer is lost. This layer prevents bacteria and salmonella from getting into the interior of the egg. Once the protection has been washed off, eggs have to be kept in coolers.

Bring Your Own Bags
Before you head out to the store, know this: there are usually no free bags given out by German grocery stores. Germans tend to bring their own bags or folding crates (like these at The Container Store), and even pack their items themselves. If you forget your bags, you can purchase bags at the checkout register. Also, there are no packers at the end of the conveyor belt. Wal-Mart failed when they tried to introduce bagging groceries for customers in the 1990s Germany. (For more on Wal-marts in Germany, check out this article from the Huffington Post).

Store Hours & Sundays
Most grocery stores in Germany are open from 7am until 8pm. Some larger chains stay open longer, but all of them have one thing in common: closed on Sundays. This day of the week is reserved for relaxing, dining together with your family, or heading to a museum. For emergency runs on a Sunday, look for gas stations or supermarkets in a train station or at an airport. If that is too far for you, check if you can borrow some milk for your Sunday morning cereal from your neighbor.

Grocery Cart Deposits
It is very common to drive onto a grocery store parking lot in the United States and see carts scattered from customers being too lazy to return the cart to a corral. Germans came up with their own way of dealing with this. To get a grocery cart in Germany, you have to insert a €0.50 cent or €1 coin into the handle in order to release the cart. Use it for shopping in the store and later return it the same place you received it. Insert the metal plug into the back of the handle and get your coin back. This saves grocery store employees from having to collect carts and gives you some exercise.

Why is the Milk Not Being Refrigerated?
The United States had fresh milk deliveries by a milkman for decades. The milkman stopped by several days a week, took the empty milk bottles and left fresh bottles of milk at the doorstep. This milk has to be refrigerated, since it is “only” pasteurized, meaning it is heated up to about 160 degrees Fahrenheit and will be good for about 2 to 3 weeks in the fridge. Contrary to that, more than 65% of the milk in Germany is treated with Ultra-high temperature processing at 275 degrees Fahrenheit, which basically sterilizes the milk. This kind of milk can be sold non-refrigerated and has a shelf life of 6 to 9 months. You can also buy some milk from the refrigerated section in a Germany supermarket in case you want to do a taste test and compare a pasteurized and a ultra-high heated milk.

If you buy a single-use container in form of a can of soda or a water in a plastic bottle, you will pay a €0.25 deposit, which will be refunded when you bring the container back to a supermarket or shop.

Pfand Deposits on Cans & Bottles
To promote recycling, in 2003 the ever-clever, thrifty Germans implemented a container deposit legislation, also known as Pfand [pronounced pf‿ant]. If you buy a single-use container in form of a can of soda or a water in a plastic bottle, you will pay a €0.25 deposit, which will be refunded when you bring the container back to a supermarket or shop. Sometimes a real person will refund your deposit, sometimes you have to push your bottle or can into one of these deposit return machine and get a voucher printed. Either use the voucher in the store or go to the cash register to have the amount paid out to you in cash. When you throw that bottle away, you're also throwing away your €0.25. The deposit legislation does not cover containers for juice, milk-products, wine, spirits, or liquors.

Did we forget other differences that you have noticed? Let us know in the comments!

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