Saturday, October 3, 2015

25 Things That Make Me Happy About Germany

Today is October 3rd - Tag der Deutschen Einheit, or the Day of German Unity. Twenty-five years ago today the former East and West Germanys were officially reunited into one country. In our mailbox yesterday was a special issue of Bild, which I assume was delivered to all households (we don't subscribe to it), and in it were articles about Germans and Germany emphasizing the number 25. There were interviews with twenty-five 25-year-olds who were born on October 3rd, 1990, there were lists of 25 things every German should do or have done, 25 German museums one should visit, 25 German books every person should read, etc.

There were also 25 fun facts to discuss, such as 71% of Germans cross streets even when the Ampelmännchen is red (!?), 22% of all couples in Germany have sex less often than once a month, and a German is sick on average 17.6 days of the year (I assume those are workdays).

The article I liked the best was an interview of Germany's finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, in which he listed "Was mir Freude macht, wenn ich an Deutschland denke" - what makes him happy when he thinks about Germany. Some of his answers seemed rather politically motivated, but that wasn't too surprising. When I took my walk that afternoon I pondered on what I would say to that and decided to make that my next blog post. So here are the

25 Things That Make Me Happy When I Think About Germany

1) Weihnachtsmärkte / Christmas Markets

The season starts at the end of November, so it won't be long now. I just can't get enough of the atmoshere, the handmade gifts, the food, and the Glühwein.

2) Sundays and Holidays

As I've written often enough, in all but the most touristy of towns and cities, most stores and businesses are closed on Sundays and Holidays like today. Here in the Schwabenland we are not allowed to mow lawns, trim hedges, blow leaves, or do any other work outside that is noisy. It's hard for some to adjust to that, but I appreciate it. It forces encourages M and me to relax and enjoy the day as well.

3) the German Language

It's surely not without its challenges, but in fact that is one of the things I like about it! 

4) Esslingen

Anyone who knows me or has read this blog a while knows that Esslingen is my favorite city in the world.

5) Public Transportation

Being able to get anywhere in Germany - even the smallest of villages - by train and/or bus is so fabulous! If you don't have a car, you can't get from my hometown in Wisconsin to the next town south (14 miles away) unless you walk or hire a cab.

6) Walking and Biking Paths

They're everywhere, and not just next to busy highways. Through fields and forests, along streams, over hills and mountains...

7) the Wine

And I don't mean Riesling! I like Grauburgunder best, which is a dry white, and there are plenty of wineries in our area to chose from. I also like the fact that I can ask a waiter or waitress for a recommendation, ask if a particular wine is dry or sweet, and they can answer my question.

8) German Films

At some point I'll post a list of "must see" original German films, but suffice it to say for now that there are quite a lot of really good ones. My all-time favorite movie is still Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa - 2001), which is even available in English because it won the best foreign film Oscar that year.

9) Spargel Season

White asparagus, my friends. Available from mid-April to June 24th. Read more here.

10) Straub's Krone

This restaurant in our tiny little village (and its chef and staff) has become the standard by which we measure all others. The biggest compliment we've given any other place in the last three years has been "Well, it's not Straub's Krone, but it's pretty good."

11) Castle Ruins

Palaces are nice, but I'd rather tromp through castle ruins, especially ones that attract few tourists.

12)  Location, Location, Location

Germany lies in central Europe, and within a few hours' drive I can be in France, Switzerland, or Austria. Within a few hours' flight I can be in Vienna, Rome, Edinburgh, Amsterdam, or Copenhagen.

13) die Altstadt

Most towns and even large cities have an old section where the buildings look like they did centuries ago. Here in the south the houses are half-timbered, the streets are made of cobblestone, and the churches were built in the 13th or 14th century. So charming...

14) the Food

Trust me, it's not all Bratwurst and Sauerkraut (neither of which I eat). Traditional German fare is hearty and filling, creative, and delicious.

15) Punctuality

It's a typical German thing, and of course not all Germans are punctual. But most are, and this fits to my personality as well. I appreciate other people valuing my time, and I value theirs as well.

16) Churches & Cathedrals

I'm not a religious person, but I love beautiful churches. I enjoy challenging myself to recognize religious figures - saints, for instance - and Biblical stories on artwork. Every church is different, and most of the old ones are stunning in their majestic beauty. 

17) the Two-Mattress, Two-Duvet System of Double Beds

Many expats - including me - have written about this. Some are confused, some are annoyed, others are intrigued. I love it. I don't have to share my blanket, M doesn't have to touch my scaley feet, and if either of us farts, the other one might not ever know.

18) the Landscape

The Swabian Alb, the Alps, the Bodensee (Lake Constance), the northern coasts, the chalk cliffs of Rügen (which I've never seen but hope to), the forests, the valleys... 
Horb in the Neckar Valley

19) die Nationalmannschaft

I've enjoyed watching soccer far more than I ever liked American football. And I adore our boys: Schweini, Poldi, Neuer, Müller, Götze... I miss Klose, but they can't do it forever.

20) Michael Jung

Equestrian eventer and Olympic champion from our little area! He has won many competitions locally, nationally, and world-wide, and he is a pleasure to watch.

21) Day Trips with my Schwiegermutter

She and I have very similar interests and like to learn as much as we can about the towns we visit. We both will gladly return to the same place several times until we know it well. 

22) Kaffee und Kuchen

On Sundays and holidays it is common to have an afternoon cup of coffee with a piece of cake or two. There is quite the coffee culture in Germany (Germans drink more coffee per capita per year than beer), and it's always rich and aromatic.

23) Germans' Sense of Humor

If you think Germans have no sense of humor, you're wrong. Their humor is typically subtle and ironic, at times self-deprecating, and often depends on dialect, so we outsiders miss a lot of it. I don't get all the jokes, of course, but that's ok. I find Bavarian comedian Michael Mittermeier hilarious.

24) Reasonable and Sensible Gun Laws

In Germany you cannot walk into a sporting goods store, fill out a form, wait three seconds for the automated background check, and walk out with a pistol, handgun, shotgun, or semi-automatic rifle. Germany has made it very difficult and expensive for people to obtain guns.

25) All the Places I've Yet to Explore

I'd like to visit all of Germany's sixteen Bundesländer (states), and I've got seven more to go! I have quite a few cities and towns on my list of future places to visit, as well as areas like the Lüneburger Heide, the Erzgebirge, and the North Sea coast. My favorite place will always be the Schwabenland (Swabia), but I look forward to getting to know other parts of Germany as well.

Happy Birthday, Germany! It's a beautiful day to celebrate!


  1. What a nice idea for a post! And I like your list! Especially #24. The debates going on right now in the U.S. are ridiculous. Marco went shooting for his first time when we visited the U.S. in September. Before renting a gun, they asked for his passport. They wrote down his name as "Marco Weingarten" and handed his passport back to him. He looked at the sheet, and said "Um, Weingarten is the city where I was born, not my last name..." and the woman (not really understanding him) replied "It's fine."

    Um, what?

    P.S. You spelled the name of city wrong! It's Lüneburg. There's not many -berg's up here in the north ;)

    1. That's insane. M went shootin' in Tennessee last summer, too, because he could. It doesn't really matter who you are - "Just give us your money, and we'll give you the weapons and ammo." It would be funny if it weren't so darn scary.

      Thanks for the correction! It's fixed now. :-)

  2. Great list! I also enjoyed flipping through the free copy of the Bild, and the lists of museums, churches, favorite places, etc. But it did make me realize that I've got some major gaps to fill, so I'm with you on #25. So much to see, even after a few years here. Not a bad problem to have though. :)

    1. I had the same reaction! I thought I'd see more on those lists of where I've been already, but I clearly have much, much more to see. Dresden and Leipzig are on my short list - I've only been to Berlin and Potsdam in the former East!