Archives for category: German culture
There’s always something to see on the streets of Berlin. 

This temporary art installation just appeared overnight. It’s located near the Schlesisches Tor U-Bahn station
in Kreuzberg. 
A bronze face located near the Foreign Ministry
in Mitte
Beautifying a parkway on
Libauerstr. in Friedrichshain
Located on Karl-Marx Alle and
surrounded by Stalinist style apartments
this kiosk is in the shape of a baby bottle.
It states, “Finally Grown Up”
On the corner of Warschauerstr.
and Friedrichsstr. this street light
is the victim of too many posters

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There’s always something to see on the streets of Berlin. 

This temporary art installation just appeared overnight. It’s located near the Schlesisches Tor U-Bahn station
in Kreuzberg. 
A bronze face located near the Foreign Ministry
in Mitte
Beautifying a parkway on
Libauerstr. in Friedrichshain
Located on Karl-Marx Alle and
surrounded by Stalinist style apartments
this kiosk is in the shape of a baby bottle.
It states, “Finally Grown Up”
On the corner of Warschauerstr.
and Friedrichsstr. this street light
is the victim of too many posters

Want to insult a German? Tell him he’s “typically German.” In truth, Germans don’t seem to like themselves or their country. For example, Germans shy away from displaying their national flag. In the USA, Canada, and Britain, the flag is displayed everywhere. In fact, it’s almost unpatriotic for an American elected official to be seen in public without a flag lapel. Remember when President Obama was criticized for failing to wear the obligatory flag lapel during his first run for the White House.  

But in Germany? You’ll find the flag on only a few government buildings. But elsewhere? Forget it. Nearly seventy years after the end of World War II, German patriotism isn’t evident. German patriotism gave rise to two World Wars and the Holocaust. Ask a German whether he loves his country and you’ll generally get a “no” or an awkward silence. Even the newly erected German monuments are really anti-monuments like the Memorial to the Murdered Sinti and Roma (Gypsies). Germans are still troubled by their past and avoid anything resembling patriotism or nationalism. 


Germany may soon have a new sound on its streets. Germany’s police cars and sirens (das Martinshorn) may soon sound and look more “American” if the German Bundesrat agrees with a recent decision by the Federal Ministry of Transportation. The flashing red lights and siren sound found on US police cars could soon be added to the German police car. A decision is expected soon. 

In the USA, public libraries have traditionally been important community centers. With the advent of the World Wide Web and with fewer bookstores around, the public library’s role is adapting. The public library is no longer just a place to borrow books, but a place to get DVDs/CDS, use a computer, access the Internet, disseminate and obtain information, meet friends, and even enjoy a cup of coffee.

Pablo Neruda Bibliothek
Friedrichshain Berlin

Many public libraries have also become places to showcase art exhibitions, have guest lecturers, hold book readings, and even improve language skills. For example, at Portland’s central library, there’s a section, which provides tutorial assistance for people learning English.  

Germany also has an impressive public library system; but, without being too bold, it’s no match for the American system. In Germany, libraries are open for fewer hours, usually lack Wi-Fi and computers, and are generally less user friendly.

A couple of days ago, I was working at my neighborhood library (Pablo Neruda Bibliothek) in Berlin. It’s an impressive building with an extensive collection. Yet, for all of its modernity, it lacked sufficient seating and table space, offered neither Wi-Fi nor computers, and had bad acoustics. Of course, this is just one library, but I’ve noticed the same phenomena at other libraries throughout Germany and Europe. Europeans like to flaunt their superior social services (with good reason), but when it comes to public libraries, America’s system is better. 

In the USA, public libraries have traditionally been important community centers. With the advent of the World Wide Web and with fewer bookstores around, the public library’s role is adapting. The public library is no longer just a place to borrow books, but a place to get DVDs/CDS, use a computer, access the Internet, disseminate and obtain information, meet friends, and even enjoy a cup of coffee.

Pablo Neruda Bibliothek
Friedrichshain Berlin

Many public libraries have also become places to showcase art exhibitions, have guest lecturers, hold book readings, and even improve language skills. For example, at Portland’s central library, there’s a section, which provides tutorial assistance for people learning English.  

Germany also has an impressive public library system; but, without being too bold, it’s no match for the American system. In Germany, libraries are open for fewer hours, usually lack Wi-Fi and computers, and are generally less user friendly.

A couple of days ago, I was working at my neighborhood library (Pablo Neruda Bibliothek) in Berlin. It’s an impressive building with an extensive collection. Yet, for all of its modernity, it lacked sufficient seating and table space, offered neither Wi-Fi nor computers, and had bad acoustics. Of course, this is just one library, but I’ve noticed the same phenomena at other libraries throughout Germany and Europe. Europeans like to flaunt their superior social services (with good reason), but when it comes to public libraries, America’s system is better. 

These two Schwäbisch Hällischen piglets are
Berlin’s Lucky Pigs for 2013

Each year, Berlin’s Animal Park (Tierpark Berlin) selects Berlin’s lucky pigs for the coming year. (Does that mean they will be spared from the dinner plate?) Traditionally, pigs were viewed as good luck, especially at the New Year.

Pig charms are very popular in Germany and Austria, including gold and silver bracelets, Christmas ornaments, candies, toys, and post-cards. This notion of the lucky pig arose from the realities of the 18th century: pigs were a source of food and income. A farming family that kept pigs would never go hungry. There’s something perverse in this logic since the pig was not lucky and would eventually be consumed. 

New Year’s Postcard
from the Early 20th Century


These two Schwäbisch Hällischen piglets are
Berlin’s Lucky Pigs for 2013

Each year, Berlin’s Animal Park (Tierpark Berlin) selects Berlin’s lucky pigs for the coming year. (Does that mean they will be spared from the dinner plate?) Traditionally, pigs were viewed as good luck, especially at the New Year.

Pig charms are very popular in Germany and Austria, including gold and silver bracelets, Christmas ornaments, candies, toys, and post-cards. This notion of the lucky pig arose from the realities of the 18th century: pigs were a source of food and income. A farming family that kept pigs would never go hungry. There’s something perverse in this logic since the pig was not lucky and would eventually be consumed. 

New Year’s Postcard
from the Early 20th Century


One can only guess how this pony got on Berlin’s S-Bahn (subway) last Thursday. Most passengers are unimpressed by the unusual traveler, but the situation is bizarre enough for a few people to whip out their cell phones and take pictures. The pony appears to be well-behaved; nevertheless, large animals are prohibited on Berlin’s transit system. Transit authorities issued the pony’s companion a warning but no fine. It’s unclear whether the pony had a valid transit ticket. 

The largest Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas Market) in the world is not in Germany but in Birmingham, England. It attracts over 5 million visitors during the Christmas season and is run by Kurt Stroscher, a native of Heidelberg. The German Weihnachtsmarkt has become such an export success that there are now 20 similar Weihnachtsmärkte throughout the U.K. 


Birmingham tries to keep its Weihnachtsmarkt as authentic as possible and avoid “Disney-Kitsch.” However, there’s one major difference with the exported Weihnachtsmärkte: the almost complete absence of vendors selling alcohol. Luckily, Mr. Stroscher was able to convince the Birmingham city elders to have a Glühwein stall set-up. I mean, what would a Weihnachtsmarkt be without Glühwein.