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20. Juli 1944

German postage stamp

July 20 is a memorial day to commemorate the failed attempt to assassinate Hitler in 1944. The day is not a public holiday but gets quite some attention in politics and media. Lots of books and films have been done about the event, the latest bein "Operation Valkyrie" with Tom Cruise.

The conspiration was the culmination of German resistance against the Nazi regime. Its participants were high-ranking military officers. They planned to take power in Germany after Hitler's death. Claus Schenk Graf zu Staufenberg was the one who was to kill the dictator.

The plan was placing a briefcase with a hidden bomb in Hitler's military headquarters of Wolfsschanze. Unfortunately Stauffenberg hesitated too long and the attempt failed.

No one knows what would have happened, had the new military government successfully been installed. They were officers, would they have continued the war or ended it? Room for speculations. One thing is sure, though: they could not have been worse than Hitler's regime. The assassination could have saved millions of lives.

On that day you will see flags on 'half mast' on all public buildings.

Posted by Kathrin_E 11:13 Archived in Germany Tagged history germany Comments (0)

Summer Holidays



The schools close for six weeks over the summer. However, the dates of the school holidays differ from federal state to federal state. In order not to have the whole country leaving for the holidays on one single weekend and returning home on the same weekend, holiday dates are being split up. The German summer holiday season lasts, in total, from late June to the second week of September.

Kids from some states begin the holidays already in the last week of June while others have to wait until the beginning of August. Baden-Württemberg and Bayern always occupy the last holiday period. The other states rotate dates.

Despite splitting up the holiday season, be prepared for huge traffic jams on the highways on peak travel days. Since many accommodations in the Alps and along the Mediterranean are rented out in weekly intervals and change occupancy on Saturdays, the main roads leading south are notorious for congestions on Saturdays, a length of 20 or 30 kms is not unusual. If your plans allow, avoid.

Balkonia, Gardenia, Rasenna

Balkonia, Gardenia, and Rasenna are popular holiday destinations among Germans, especially among people who are on a tight budget.
These destinations are comfortable and easy to reach and feel just like home. You'll get all the food you want and are used to. They do not require any visas, there are no baggage rules and no booking fees.
In Balkonia and Gardenia wild camping is allowed, visiting is free. Rasenna often has excellent swimming pools in close vicinity but may require a small daily fee.
Balkonia is also good for abseiling and bird watching.
Gardenia, however, can only be enjoyed long-term if you agree to work.
Also note that these holiday destinations are usually self-catered unless you visit one that is inhabited by willing hosts, which however means you won't have it to yourself.

  • Ahem*

[/Nonsense modus off]

These are synonymes for spending your holidays at home.
Balkonia -> on your own balcony
Gardenia -> in your own garden
Rasenna -> on the lawn of a public swimming pool or in a park (Rasen = lawn)

Posted by Kathrin_E 13:10 Archived in Germany Tagged children germany holidays traditions customs Comments (0)

The First Day at School


Children start primary school at the age of 6. No matter if they have attended kindergarten before or even a year in pre-school, the first day at 'real' school is a big event in their young lives and an even bigger one in the lives of their parents who are inevitably confronted with the fact that their littlies are growing up and are no toddlers any more. In recent years this has grown into a family event with grandparents, godfathers and -mothers etc. coming to visit and participate. I am somehow jealous because I do not even have a photo of my own first schoolday! I blame my mother...

For the first-years school starts one or two days later than for the older kids. Primary schools receive them with a little festive event and then distribute them to the different class groups (unless the school is very small and has only one 1st form).

On that big day the abecedarian receives a Schultüte: a big cone-shaped cardboard container filled with goodies, toys and school items to make the beginning of school sweeter. They are almost as big as the kid...
You'll see these colourful cones everywhere in the windows of stationery shops, kid suppliers and department stores over the summer. Some families also make their own, or kindergartens invite the whole group to make theirs. Decoration can be anything, from pink princess to favourite soccer club.

Posted by Kathrin_E 13:23 Archived in Germany Tagged children germany events holidays traditions customs Comments (0)

Erntedank - Thanksgiving

Erntedank baskets, brought into church by kindergarten children

Erntedank - giving thanks for the year's harvest - is celebrated on the first Sunday in October. Some wine regions, like Rheinhessen, celebrate it later, on the last Sunday in October.

Unlike Thanksgiving in the US, Erntedank is no big holiday observed by everyone. It is a mere church holiday with a special Sunday service. The (main) altar of the church is beautifully decorated with produce from fields and gardens: fruit and vegetables, grain and/or bread, flowers... People in the parish are asked to bring their offerings. Often the Kindergarten children participate in the service, carrying in little baskets with fruit and veggies and helping with the decoration.

Afterwards the food is usually given to a local old people's home or other charity for use in their kitchen.

The Americal holiday of Thanksgiving in late November is not celebrated here.

Posted by Kathrin_E 13:37 Archived in Germany Tagged germany events holidays traditions customs Comments (0)

October 3: Day of German Unity

German postage stamp of 1990, ceelebrating the reunification

October 3 is Tag der deutschen Einheit, Germany's national holiday, a rather young one. It has only been celebrated since 1990 when the DDR officially joined the Federal Repzublic of Germany.

After the peaceful revolution in autumn 1989 and the first and only democratic elections in the DDR in spring 1990, the DDR government under Lothar de Maizière declared that the DDR will join the Federal republic of Germany on October 3, 1990. Negotiations with the four allied powers and the Two-plus-Four Treaty, actually the peace treaty that finally ended the cold war, preceded.

October 3 is a public holiday. Important for travelers: shops remain closed and public transport runs on Sunday schedule. The flags are up. The day is marked with some political events and speeches. The average citizen just enjoys a day off (and secretly grieves the diasppearance of June 17 because in June the weather is likely to be better and warmer than in October).

Posted by Kathrin_E 13:38 Archived in Germany Tagged history germany events holidays Comments (0)

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