Experience Germany Like a Local

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Gifts for Travelers Going to Germany

I’m going to mix it up this year for our holiday gift guide. There are way too many generic traveler gift guides out there, most with the same items on it. So this year we’re focusing on only items that are involved with German culture, because at this point everyone has luggage tags, passport covers (if they want them), and a scratch off map. Travel guides? If you’re planning on traveling or your friend is, travel guides are such a personal decision, it's better to leave them to the traveler themselves.

Going back to our roots, that ‘Tourist’ is a dirty word, the more you know about the culture, the more likely you won’t feel like a tourist. Here are some gift-able items that will make you feel less like a tourist when you travel to Germany because you’ll know more about the culture and history. I promise they’re fun too! Or maybe you’re looking for ideas of what you want for yourself and add to your own Christmas list.

A gentle reminder that all links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, purchases made after clicking these links will help keep this blog going by contributing towards web hosting costs.

Entertainment That Will Make German History Come Alive
I have two DVD series and a movie, all are German with English subtitles. Another great way to get an ear for the language too! Both of these series give you an inside look at the German’s perspective, which as Americans is incredibly hard to come by. Deutschland 83 a TV mini series revolves around the Berlin Wall and espionage, and a second season is in the works! Generation War a TV mini series covers World War II from four very different German experiences.

Finally, the movie Good Bye Lenin, also involves the Berlin Wall, it specifically covers the time period of what the East Germans experienced right after the wall came down. Everything I’ve linked to are playable on USA and Canadian DVD players. With foreign films, always be sure to check what regions the movies will play in. For these, the Blu-Ray versions are only coded for Europe, so stick with the DVD.

Books That Will Impart German Culture
In case you missed it, the best German Historical Fiction book and German Historical Non-Fiction book I read this year that I couldn’t put down.

German Historical Fiction: Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck. Here’s my full review about Women in the Castle.

Historical Non-Fiction: House by the Lake by Thomas Harding. Here’s my full review about House by the Lake.

Insider German culture tips guaranteed to make them smile? German Men Sit Down to Pee by Niklas Frank and James Cave. You’ll think it's a gag, but actually very helpful! It’s a small, lightweight paperback easy to pack.

For the cook in the family, Classic German Baking by German American author by Luisa Weiss . This book has been tested like crazy to make sure you can recreate German recipes utilizing what is available in American grocery stores.

For the foodie who is also a history-buff, I recommend this beautiful hardcover with heavy-weight paper, Beyond Bratwurst: A History of Food in Germany (Food and Nations). I learned about this book from the blog A Sausage Has Two: Seasonal, Regional German Food and Culinary Travel, and I bought it for myself. It's gorgeous!

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Book Review The Women in the Castle

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

Disclosure: Please note that some links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend this book because I loved it. I was not asked to review this book, and I purchased my own copy. If you are ready to buy a copy, and would like to support this website in some way, using these links will help do exactly that.

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.

Follow Along
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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Book Review The House by the Lake: One House, Five Families, and a Hundred Years of German History

Book Review | The House by the Lake: One House, Five Families, and a Hundred Years of German History
Disclosure: Please note that some links are affiliate links, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. I recommend this book because I loved it. I was not asked to review this book, and I purchased my own copy. If you are ready to buy a copy, and would like to support this website in some way, using these links will help do exactly that.

Finally! A German history book I couldn't put down. I’m not kidding. I read it in one week. I’ve been on a literary quest for a year to try and teach myself the history of Germany, and I’m here to proclaim to anyone on the same lifelong learning journey that you will love The House by the Lake: One House, Five Families, and a Hundred Years of German History by Thomas Harding. And shockingly, despite the history it's covers it has a happy, inspiring resolution.

So, why is it a page-turner? Harding narrates the history of the home and its inhabitants in second person, describing the details in a way that I found myself rooting for the subjects in a way I would a fictional story. The families he describes are three-dimensional, and very human.

A Hundred Years of German History
The House by the Lake covers one hundred years of German history, specifically including World War I, the Weimar Republic, World War II, the GDR, and after the Berlin Wall comes down. Although the topics are complicated and heavy, when it's discussed in terms of one house and how it impacted it's residents, it's easier to empathize and comprehend. Putting a face to history is a great way to make the past come alive. The book is set up so the reader progresses through the history chronologically as the house itself would have experienced it, with the chapters broken up by times and entitled with the family name. Despite there being five families in total, I never once lost track of the names. Intermittently included throughout is, the author’s journey and his progress on researching the house. You don’t need to be deeply familiar with German history to enjoy this book. Actually, I found myself appreciating Harding’s explanations and summaries more than I had in broader Germany-centric history books. He's successfully pared it down in a way that makes sense. Not an easy feat!

I highly recommend this book! This also would be a unique gift idea for someone traveling to Germany. I discovered The House by the Lake on Amazon, and took advantage of the new paperback edition that released this year. 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 nonfiction books about German history? I'm always looking for suggestions. Leave a comment below or send us an email.

Follow Along
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!


Please note, Tourist is a Dirty Word Blog’s parent company Polar Bear Studio LLC is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to www.amazon.com.

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