Studying Journalism in the US vs in Germany

Visiting the MDR TV station Source: Maria Koehler

Visiting the MDR TV station Source: Maria Koehler

The path to a journalism degree seems obvious: choose a college, declare journalism as your major, graduate, accept a job in the field. Simple. I always figured this process was consistent around world. When I studied abroad in Leipzig, Germany last summer, I learned that this is definitely not the case.

In Germany, journalism is usually studied in graduate school – at least as of last summer. We visited with students and professors at the University of Leipzig’s journalism school, and learned that a prime potential German journalism student spends her undergraduate years specializing in a different topic. In other words, a journalism degree is more like the icing on the cake, as opposed to the cake itself like at the Missouri School of Journalism. Obviously, it’s possible to study journalism exclusively in graduate school in the US as well, but it’s not necessarily the most common path.

We spent some time discussing the two different approaches, and I think there are several pros and cons to each.

The American System

Pros:

  • If a journalism major decides to go to graduate school for journalism as well, they have quite a few years of studying journalism under their belt.
  • It’s possible and common to be a journalist without having to go to graduate school.

Cons:

  • Students aren’t as likely to be an expert in another topic as well, unless they double major or study something different at graduate school.

The German System

Pros:

  • Students are an expert in the topic they have their bachelor’s degree in, so they are prime candidates for certain jobs or stories that involve these.
  • The masters program is three years long, unlike the one additional year it takes MU students to get their masters in journalism, so students are (arguably) more mature once they enter the workplace.

Cons:

  • If they end up in a career where they report about a wide range of topics, their undergraduate degree has (arguably) gone to waste.

Learning about journalism in Germany definitely opened my eyes to a different approach. The Missouri School of Journalism is known for throwing students right in to the newsroom and watching them either sink or swim. This is effective, but could also go horribly wrong. From what I understand, the German approach is almost opposite – less risky, but could also be discouraging for students who are set on being in a newsroom straight out of high school.

 

French Immersion: My Happy Place

Sometimes when my anxiety is a little too much to handle, I take a moment to close my eyes and go back to my happy place. A place of sweet grass, mosquito spray, and deep blue waters. A place of growth, frustration, and empathy. A place of culture, education, and silliness. A place of tears from laughter, singing, and always dancing. A place of being free. A place of being 100% myself. A place of finding the sun in the hearts of children. A place I never ever want to leave. Lac du Bois.

The main building of Lac du Bois, "Paris", photo by Jean François

The main building of Lac du Bois, “Paris”, photo by Jean François

Lac du Bois is a summer camp in Bemidji, Minnesota. It’s part of Concordia Language Villages, which is a larger program that has 15 villages (campsites) set up around the lakes of Minnesota. Each village has its own language and the buildings within each site are designed with authentic architecture from countries that predominantly speak that language.

Concordia Language Villages sign, photo from google.com

Concordia Language Villages sign, photo from google.com

The goal of these camps is to teach language through immersion as well as prepare young people for responsible citizenship in global communities.

Each summer, all of the camps come together to interact at an event called “International Day.” At International Day, each camp sets up a booth serving foods from countries of their language or has games set up for others to play that are native to countries that speak their language. They even have a “World Cup,” where each camp forms a soccer team and they all compete.

International Day 2014, photo by Julia Schaller

International Day 2014, photo by Julia Schaller

Lac du Bois is the French language village, and is one of the greatest places on Earth.

I first went to Lac du Bois when I was 11 years old. My family heard about the camp through friends of my parents, and my parents both decided it would be a good opportunity for my sister and I. My parents enrolled my sister and I up for a two week, overnight session. We all drove up to Minnesota together and when we pulled our car up to the camp, a counselor greeted us at the window of the car and spoke exclusively in French.

It was terrifying! My dad had taught me some french when I was really young, and my parents put my sister and I in French classes when we were growing up, but I was not ready for complete sentences or even answering questions.

After my parents left, I was hopeless. I had nothing to hide behind and there was no longer someone to speak to the counselors for me. I felt naked and embarrassed. The first night was rough.

Throughout the second day, I bonded with girls in my cabin and from around camp and from then on, I was in my happy place. I learned more about french language and culture in those two weeks than I had ever before in my life. I made lasting friendships. I laughed until I cried, and I cried on the last night with my cabin-mates wrapped in my arms.

Extremely embarrassing photo of my cabin, Lac du Bois 2008

Extremely embarrassing photo of my cabin, Lac du Bois 2008

I then went back to camp for the next four summers. My fifth summer, I went to Lac du Bois for a month as part of their “Credit” program, which earned me high school French credit. They say that one will learn more French in one month at Lac du Bois than potentially a whole year in school (hence why they offer the credit program). They were right.

Language immersion is said to be the best way to learn a language and culture, and it is 100% true. I spoke more French at Lac du Bois than a full year of French class in public school. I was forced to use the language to communicate, since the camp was total immersion.

The counselors are only allowed to speak in the target language, and even the food is francophone authentic. Counselors and villagers come from all over the world. There are always counselors and villagers from the United States, Europe, Africa, Asia, Canada, and India, as well as other countries.

Villagers are put into classic summer camp activities like canoeing or soccer, but they are also put into language learning groups. These language learning groups focus on a francophone region or time period and are more education based (but always include crafting, dancing, and interactive games).

Activité Canoé, Lac du Bois 2012

Activité Canoé, Lac du Bois 2012

The entire camp is sort of one big simulation. The counselors put on a show for the villagers, and it’s the most fun show I’ve ever been a part of. There is continuous dancing, multiple skits every day, and songs about everything (even about baguettes at dinner!).

Last year I applied to be a counselor, and I got the job. I went back to my favorite place in the world for my 6th summer, and had the time of my life. This time, I was the one required to speak exclusively in French and I was the one teaching others about francophone cultures and about the language. I was the one helping villagers cope with their frustration and homesickness. I was the one teaching the songs and dances. And, the amount I learned about other countries and French language, was way more than I ever thought.

Journée Sénégal, Lac du Bois 2014

Journée Sénégal, Lac du Bois 2014

In an article posted in the New York Times, author Sindya N. Bhanoo discussed how language immersion is more beneficial than learning through a formal classroom setting. In a study in the journal PloS One, scientists tested the brain patterns of subjects who learned a language through immersion vs. in a classroom. The tests showed that the subjects who learned the language through immersion had the full brain patterns of a native speaker, while the subjects who learned the language in a formal classroom setting did not.

The camps of Concordia Language Villages are hands-down the best way to learn a language. Being fully immersed in anything is the best way to learn, empathize, and adapt to it. Even a two week program makes a difference.

The lake of Lac du Bois, photo by Alyson Kriz

The lake of Lac du Bois, photo by Alyson Kriz

In the middle of the woods by the lakes of Minnesota lies little villages that change the way people see the world. These programs really do cultivate global leaders, global thinkers, and peaceful communities.

Gamergate: Not Just an American Phenomenon

In August 2014, Zoe Quinn, a female game developer, was the topic of a series of blog posts by her ex-boyfriend claiming she cheated on him with journalists in the gaming industry. This curious public shaming spiraled out of control into a frenzy of rumors concerning Zoe’s personal life. All of a sudden, Zoe Quinn was a familiar name in the gaming world for outlandish reasons, and the issue escalated to the point where Zoe was receiving death threats from random internet users. Quickly afterwards, the hashtag “gamergate” was picked up and the controversy delved into two separate issues: ethics in games journalism, and sexism in the video game industry. This blog post will be focusing on the latter of those issues.
One of the most popular blog posts about Gamergate came from actress Felicia Day. Day, who’s quite popular in nerd and geek culture, wrote a blog post about how she now thinks male gamers she sees on the street might greet her with contempt rather than smiles, due to the Gamergate controversy. She struggles with the fact that people who share her same interests find fault with her just because of her public opinions on Gamergate. In her post, she urges anyone who is passionate about gaming to maintain their enthusiasm, despite the hardships that have surfaced in the gaming universe.

This led to a large variety of responses from bloggers in every corner of the internet. Kotaku, a large gaming news site, immediately points out that Day was doxxed, meaning her personal information was publicly posted, after she posted her blog. The writer of the Kotaku post even goes on to say that he fears for his safety just for supporting Day publicly.
Daily Dot, another internet culture news site, posted a story similar to the Kotaku story, pointing out the irony of Gamergate supporters, who are striving to achieve ethics in the games industry by doing unethical things. The Daily Dot post also points out that there are Gamergate supporters who do not support the doxxing of Day.

Arthur Chu wrote a post on Salon.com pointing out similarities between his life, nerd culture, and Felicia Day. He points out that, growing up as a nerd, he often felt he and his passion were attacked for just being who or what they are. He then drew a parallel to Day, saying this is how she must feel right now. It’s ironic, too, because it’s the nerds who are now making fun of people for being who they are. Even if who they are is a fellow gamer.

The gamergate controversy has blown up so much that the issue has gained international attention, and it has started a global conversation on sexism in the gaming industry. BBC News published an article on Gamergate, spreading Zoe Quinn’s message that Gamergate “must be condemned”. This news article acts as a survey of the blogging activity that erupted in response to Gamergate, giving readers a chance to objectively look at what has happened. The article provides examples from Twitter of the online abuse that female gamers have experienced from the events. A similar article from a German publication, Der Bund, also aims to address the ongoing problems in the gaming community.

German reactions to Gamergate ran further than what was originally explored in the Der Bund article, however. Much like in America, social media played a pivotal role in spreading gamer’s responses. Using the hashtag #sosehengameraus (roughly translated to: “this is what gamers look like) German gamers shared photos of themselves, some also including tags like #happygamer or #gamerpositive in order to put a face to their avatars and humanize themselves. The hashtag allowed both professional and amateur gamers to come together in a positive manner. Additionally, as Roman Rackwitz points out in his blog post, #soshengameraus highlighted a constructive side of the gaming industry: collaboration. In addition to bringing gamers together, the hashtag served to bring industry professionals “face-to-face” with those who actually play the games.

The hashtag itself was started by Dr. Linda Breitlauch, Germany’s first professor of game design. After she changed her Facebook photo in February 2015 to include the phrase “so sehen Gamer aus,” she encouraged others to share their photos and #soshengameraus was born. Taking a quick scroll through the tag on Twitter, it is hard to deny the positivity. It is also readily apparent that Breitlauch’s main goal of breaking the stereotype of what a gamer looks like has been achieved. Instead of an overflow of photos of bespectacled, pimply, 15-year-olds, #soshengameraus highlights the diversity of German gamers, particularly women. As compared to American reactions to Gamergate, which lobs a considerable amount of hate at women, #sosshengmeraus instead accepts and includes women.

The French perspective comes from Le Monde’s digital and tech blog, Pixels, who wrote a #gamergate post in September 2014. Much of the blog is largely curated responses from other blogs and gaming writers. Through its collected tweets and comics from corners of the Internet, however, the writer’s opinion is clear: most of the people tweeting #NotYourShield and getting up in arms about Gamergate are in the wrong. There are reactionary social media knights who come in complaining about female chauvinists and social justice warriors (SJWs), but few actually present logical arguments as to why. The blog takes the stance that if these men were to acknowledge the intense sexism in the gaming world while also calling out unproductive or harmful “feminists,” Gamergate would actually be worth people’s time. Instead, it simply sounds like men who have gotten their feelings hurt or don’t want to take responsibility for a culture they’ve helped create. The very last line is snarky and gets to the heart of the author’s emotions on the topic immeadiately: If people on the Internet used a quart of the energy they used on #GameGate to save net neutrality, I would be much more reassured with the world.”
As seen through various social media mediums, the international response to Gamergate has been incredibly varied. Each perspective has its own nuances, but each has brought up an important dialogue about who can be considered a gamer, the stereotypes within the gaming world, and the implications that come along with being an active member within the gaming community.

Post by: Sarah, Hanna, Sam, and George

Hofbräuhaus: Food for Thought

My German study abroad experience ended with a bang at the Hofbräuhaus restaurant in Berlin. Six of us had made the journey from Columbia, Missouri to Germany, and after six action-packed weeks of learning and exploring, we wanted some traditional German food and beer for our final night together. The Hofbräuhaus, a brewery chain stemming from Munich, seemed like the perfect place to have one last dinner with the professor who had accompanied us on the trip. Little did I know, our experience could have been replicated back home in the U.S.

The Mizzou Crew at the Berlin Hofbräuhaus. Credit: Rachel Wittel

The Mizzou Crew at the Berlin Hofbräuhaus. Credit: Rachel Wittel

Our joy-filled final night at the Hofbräuhaus began with a delicious traditional meal. We all ordered the “Schweinehaxe mit Kartoffelknödel” (pork knuckle and potato dumplings) and a “Maβ” (liter of beer). We were served by women wearing “Dirndl” (a traditional German dress) and sat at long wooden tables.

Schweinehaxe mit Kartoffelknödel

Schweinehaxe mit Kartoffelknödel

Imagine my surprise when I see the Hofbräuhaus while walking down the street in New York City last week. Yes, there are Hofbräuhaus restaurants in the U.S. as well. Yes, our supposedly “special” last night in Germany wasn’t that special after all.

Hofbräuhaus NYC

Hofbräuhaus NYC

In 1589, the Duke of Bavaria, Wilhelm V.’s, household decided that the beer brewed in Munich just wasn’t good enough. He recruited a master brewer to come up with a new formula and the Hofbräuhaus was eventually born. Yes, you read that right. The chain restaurant we enjoyed a Maβ at stems back to the 1500s.

Today there are Hofbräuhaus restaurants around the world, from Shanghai to Las Vegas. Where did the fascination begin? The atmosphere the restaurant provides doesn’t reflect modern Germany. It doesn’t even reflect modern Bavaria. It’s a journey back in time, specifically to southern Germany. It’s interesting that such a specific time and place in history continues to be romanticized, and not just in Germany, but around the world.

The German chain restaurant that has made it big around the world doesn’t simply offer German food – it offers the German “experience.” Dirndls, traditional music, the works. Anyone can go out and buy a piece of pizza without being slapped in the face with Italian history. Why isn’t it the same for German food? I may not have the answer, but it’s definitely food for thought.

Budget Cuts to Largest American Youth Exchange Program

My sophomore year of high school I was lucky enough to be awarded a scholarship through the U.S. and German governments that allowed me to travel to Germany and stay as a foreign exchange student for an entire year. The program is called Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (or CBYX for short). The program was started in 1983 and is funded by both American and German governments and awards 700 scholarships to American and German students annually.

The program suffered budget cuts that will reduce the funding by 50% and could even jeopardize the future of it. There are over 23,000 alumni of the program, all of which would be sad to see the funding cut in half.

My year I spent in Germany was one of the best years of my life. I spent my time going to a German Gymnasium which is the American equivalent to a college prep school. I was placed right outside of Frankfurt in a small town called Usingen. During my time there I created many lasting friendships, I was able to travel all around Europe, and I became almost fluent in German. The trip meant a lot to me and I’m sure to all the other alumni as well.

Congress appropriates the budget which therein includes money for the state department to function. However, the state department uses that money how they deem fit. There should be more oversight by the public to ensure money is being spent appropriately and efficiently. I am surprised that the state department would find it necessary to cut the budget for the program that has been around for over 33 years and only costs $4 million. Luckily, the German parliament stepped in last minute and provided $2 million to fill the budget gap.

Many people are upset that the U.S. state department would make such a poor decision. The U.S. ambassador to Germany from 2009 to 2013, Phillip Murphy, expressed his disappointment and surprise in the budget cuts. Murphy went far enough to say that it is one of the most important exchange programs to the U.S.. Phillip Murphy is not the only politician to express his disapproval of the budget cuts; Angela Merkel, Germany’s Chancellor, said she strongly supports the program and even said she brought it up in talks with President Obama.

I hope that the U.S. State Department will review the budget cuts and reconsider. While I was abroad I was able to have experiences I will likely never have again. Educating 700 students each year about another country’s government, culture and people creates a much stronger relationship between the two countries. Others should be able to have the same opportunities that I had and the U.S. State Department should realize how important this exchange program is.

 

Sources:

http://www.usagermanyscholarship.org/about/

http://www.dw.de/transatlantic-push-to-save-key-german-american-youth-exchange/a-18280893

Pegida and the Future of Islam in Germany

The movement called Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamization of the West) has dominated headlines in Germany for months. News reports and blog posts have quieted down in February, so what now? Did the Pegida movement enjoy a prolonged fifteen minutes of fame and will soon fizzle out? Or are we merely witnessing a temporary lull in activity, before the movement once again forces itself into the headlines?

The Sprengsatz blog provides short, well-defined commentary on politics in Germany, and has commented frequently on the issue of Pegida. The blog’s author, Michael Spreng, maintains that Pegida is finished. A combination of factors has led to Pegida’s fading. Mr. Spreng is quick to point out that Pegida’s fall is more the result of self-destruction than the reaction of Germany’s leading political forces. The latter’s attempt at addressing the Pegida issue has been poorly coordinated and at times contradictory. For readers unfamiliar with Pegida, its talking points can be boiled down to this: Muslims and mass numbers of immigrants are subverting Germany’s economy and culture. This complaint is not new; from intelligentsia on down to neo-Nazis and hooligans, the idea that Muslim immigrants are burdening the German state has existed for decades. What sets Pegida apart is its membership from many different social groups. Such a large number of people demonstrating in the streets for a common cause, one as divisive as this, were bound to gain media attention.

Pegida protesters on the march

Pegida protesters on the march (Photo: Zukunftskinder)

Pegida’s apparent strength in numbers hasn’t gone unquestioned, and Spreng is quick to point this out. He distinguishes those caught up in the furor of Pegida as either Anhänger or Mitläufer. The difference is an important one, given that an Anhänger is someone who fully supports a movement. Mitläufer tend to be people who are involved in a movement but whose commitment and conviction is tenuous at best. Spreng considers a large portion of Pegida’s so-called followers to actually be Mitläufer, which is significant in that it means the number of people who actually believe in Pegida’s platform is smaller than people realize.

When it comes to the establishment response to Pegida, Germany’s two leading political parties, the CDU and SPD, have shown a surprising disunity. Standing up against racism and bigotry is a mutual priority for both parties (in the broadest sense the CDU is conservative and the SPD is liberal). While Chancellor Merkel (CDU) has unequivocally rejected what Pegida represents, members of her own party have shuddered at her assertion that “Islam belongs to Germany.” Countering the Chancellor’s assertion was the governor of Saxony, Stanislaw Tillich (CDU), who retorted, “Islam does not belong to Saxony.”

The contradictions continued within the SPD as the party’s General Secretary utterly rejected any notion of holding a dialogue with Pegida. Strikingly, Sigmar Gabriel, an SPD member and Vice-Chancellor in Merkel’s government, chose to meet with Pegida supporters (Spreng uses Anhänger, meaning that Gabriel met with devoted members of the movement). Spreng’s contempt for this is plain to see, and he refers to such actions and contradictions as “spineless” and “opportunistic”

The issue of Pegida would perhaps be less complex were it not for its timing. Pegida’s arrival could not have come at a better time for the AfD (Alternative For Germany), Germany’s Euro-skeptic party. The AfD has had its own share of controversy and accusations of having intolerants within its ranks, but that has not stopped them from making electoral gains. What connects the AfD and Pegida is the issue of immigration. With the appearance that Pegida was gaining popular support from regular, fed-up Germans, the AfD sought to capitalize on the moment and join forces with Pegida. In this regard both Pegida and the AfD are populist movements, whose emergence Spreng again attributes to social and financial angst.

With the CDU and SPD providing confusing and unorganized responses to Pegida, and with the AfD actively seeking to fan the flames of populism, what more could possibly assist in Pegida’s rise? Enter Charlie Hebdo. The terrorist attack in Paris was as tragic as it was inopportune. The tragedy transcends the deaths of innocents in that those seeking to advance a narrative use those same deaths as fodder. Germany’s far-right political forces, both big and small, fringe and legitimate, have sought to describe the Paris attacks as motivated by an entire religion and culture: Islam. Before this situation could progress any further, action had to be taken.

Vigil against terror

Political and faith leaders rally in solidarity after the Charlie Hebdo attack (Photo: DailySabah.com)

Thus Angela Merkel flew to Paris and walked in solidarity, with a throng of other world leaders, for the victims, for free speech, and to show defiance against extremism. What was striking was to see the leaders of France and Germany, historically not the best of friends, tightly linking arms and walking together for a common cause. Merkel then moved quickly to quash whatever xenophobia may have been simmering back home. In front of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin, Merkel stood with fellow German leaders and leaders of Germany’s main religious groups, Christians, Jews, and Muslims, and asserted the official position that what occurred in Paris was not indicative of an entire religion’s goals. On the contrary, Merkel has promoted the narrative that extremists who would or have committed terrorism, have perverted the teachings of Islam. Lastly, Merkel addressed Muslim leaders in Germany by declaring that members of the Islamic faith have a responsibility to assuage the fears and bias the German people may hold against them. That process includes an outright repudiation of extremist and fundamentalist ideology. To my surprise, Mr. Spreng gives Merkel full support for her actions, stating “Merkel has done everything right,” and asserting that the Pegida issue is or very soon will be over. Pegida’s founder, Lutz Bachmann, was recently ousted after a picture of him surfaced sporting a Hitler moustache and hairstyle.

Founder and former leader of Pegida, Lutz Bachmann

Founder and former leader of Pegida, Lutz Bachmann. Photo: The Guardian

Bachmann’s indiscretion and the AfD’s beginning to show a lack of support are contributing to what Spreng refers to as the “self-destruction” of the movement. He describes it as an issue worthy of only a footnote in the history books. I am not so convinced. Europe is facing some very tricky situations: terrorism, the financial crisis, the Ukrainian civil war, immigration, social issues, and even the fight against ISIS. Any one of the preceding issues could be the spark that ignites further upheaval on the political fringe. What will be left to be seen, is whether such an upheaval will activate the passions and frustrations of the general population and influence elections.

Bierocks, Vegetarian Style

bierocks on foil

As my possibly indefinite move to Germany is rapidly, almost scarily approaching, I’ve been mulling over all of the seemingly innumerable possibilities that living there will provide me with: an extremely central location within the European Union, with a rail system just begging me to travel every chance I get, a new language to (attempt to) master, all of the people I will meet….and all of the extremely cheap, extremely available beer I will drink. Thoughts of this, all too obviously, led me to thoughts of Oktoberfest.

Being a lover of beer, and a lover of large gatherings of all sorts, Oktoberfest is something I am extremely excited for; however, being that a vegetarian is also something that I am, the food, which is primarily meat-lover friendly, is something I am a bit leery of. But I am not the only one, it would seem: Der Spiegel did a post entirely on the issue, explaining that beer tent owners are aware of the issue, and some are going to great lengths to combat it. Looking through the vegetarian and vegan options now being offered got me thinking – if these people can put a spin on a mostly meat-centric ordeal, so can I!

And thus, the meatless Bierock was borne.

I’m sure I’m not the first to do it, as it’s a pretty simple process to make this dish meatless, but hey, I am the first one to blog on Eurokulture about it, so that counts for something, right?

A little background: The Bierock is a typically German dish, brought to the United States in the 1880s by German Mennonite immigrants consisting of a semi-sweet roll filled with pan-cooked and seasonsed beef, cabbage and onions. In my version, as you could have guessed, there is no meat, but there is added mushrooms and mozzarella cheese, because really, how can cheese be a bad thing in this situation? In any situation, really, but I digress.

Alright, here we go, let’s do it.

Ingredients, post use

Ingredients, post use

Ingredient List:

2 cups warm water

2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast

1/2 cups white sugar

1/4 cup margarine, softened

1 egg

2 teaspoons salt

7 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped onion

6 cups shredded cabbage

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/4 cup melted butter

(Added):

1 package of mushrooms of your choice

12 ounces mozzarella cheese

bierocks with yeast

Step One: Prepare the dough. Yup, that’s right, we’re gettin’ fancy and makin’ the dough ourselves. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy; about 10 minutes.

Milky...mmm.

Milky…mmm.

Mix in the sugar, margarine, egg, salt and 1/2 of the flour. Beat that baby until smooth. Add remaining flour until dough pulls together. Or, if you’re poor like me and don’t have an electric mixer/beater, you can get down and dirty and use your hands. Fair warning though: it gets sticky as all hell. My advice? Get over being socially awkward and ask that neighbor that you’ve never met despite living 5 feet away if they have a mixer and if you could pretty, pretty please use it for the smallest of time.

bierocks swirling the dough

Swirl that dough, giirl.

 

bierocks sticky dough with face

SO STICKY

bierocks doughh

 

 

My lovely assistant with the nearly baby-sized ball of dough.

My lovely assistant with the nearly baby-sized ball of dough.

Once you’ve done all of this (and maybe made a new friend? Eh? Eh?), place the dough in an oiled bowl. Cover said bowl with foil and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight, or let it rise for 1 hour. Can you guess which one I chose? Here’s a hint: it wasn’t the “refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight” option.

bierocks cabbagebierocks greased pan

Step Two: In a large heavy skillet, sauté onion, cabbage, mushrooms. Add salt and pepper to season and let simmer for 30 minutes. Cool until lukewarm. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F in the meantime. Coat a cookie sheet with non-stick spray in the meantime as well.

IMG_5387

IMG_5388

Step Three: Punch down dough – really get into it –  and divide into 20 pieces. Spread each piece of dough out on an un-floured surface and lay 2 pieces of cheese in each. The recipe I used states that you are to then fill each dough square with 2 tablespoons of the cabbage mix, but for me, 2 tablespoons was absolutely too much, so I ended up cutting it down to around 1 tablespoon. Once you manage to squish all of that vegetable and cheesegoodness into the dough, fold it over and seal edges. Place on prepared cookie sheet and let rise for 1 hour.

IMG_5389IMG_5391

Step Four: Nearly there! If you want to get classy with it, you can eggwash these pups; I did it on half of them and it was well worth the extra minute it took. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown. Brush with butter – lots of butter, lots and lots of butter – and DEVOUR.

IMG_5393IMG_5399

What It’s Like To Graduate Abroad

In just a few short days, I will walk across the stage, shake hands with the dean, be handed a blank diploma holder, and put my tassel on the other side. Yes, I am talking about graduation.

Here in America we have certain traditions where we wear special gowns and move are tassels to the other side to signify a step forward. These milestones might also include a large celebration and even some alcohol. As I gear up to enter the real world, I thought it might be interesting to find out how other countries celebrate graduation. Take a look:

the-venue

Via City University London

UK: According to a commenter on Toytown Germany, graduates also have to wear gowns and they have a ceremony. The parent explains that his/her daughter had a “leaving ceremony where a band played, top pupils received prizes then each school-leaver was handed their certificate.” I would say that sounds very similar to how we celebrate graduation in America.

Norway: There appears to be some interesting traditions at graduations in Norway. In a forum on UniLang, a commenter explained that students take part in a celebration called “russ” that lasts from May 1 to May 17. The interesting thing is that each student wears a different outfit depending on what they have studied. So for instance if you studied only general subjects, you would wear red. However, if you also studied economy your outfit would be blue. This is kind of similar to how we each will have different color tassels depending on what school you’re graduating from here at Mizzou.

Germany: I find it interesting that in Germany, they do not seem to make a big deal out of graduation. In the forum Toytown Germany, another commenter said, “there’s no interest from the Germans to be so grandiose in their educational degreement.” According to this commenter, her husband who graduated from a school in Germany just received his degree, no real fan fare. From what I understand though, Germany takes great pride in its educational system. One would think graduation might be a bigger deal there.

Via Russian World Forums

Via Russian World Forums

Russia: According to blogger for Sparklife, Russian students wear very different attire from what we wear here in America for graduation. Sara Jonsson said girls tend to wear black dresses with aprons. It’s supposed to be “in homage to their Tsarist-era” school uniforms. I honestly might opt for these outfits than the ugly, non-form fitting gown I have to wear on Friday, but I guess that’s neither here nor there. Russian students also line up in front of the whole school, and then leave to party on

Graduation traditions are obviously not just an American way of life. It’s clear many other countries have their own way of celebrating the big day. I am curious what your favorite graduation tradition is?

 

Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest!

Mayor of Stuttgart Fritz Kuhn opens Frühlingsfest by tapping the keg!

Mayor of Stuttgart Fritz Kuhn opens Frühlingsfest by tapping the keg! Flickr/Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart

When I traveled to Germany last year, I was a bit disappointed that my semester was in the Spring and not the Fall. How could I ever become an extreme tourist in Germany without going to Oktoberfest? Well if any of you plan to do a semester in Germany during the Spring there is yet hope. The Stuttgarter Frühlingsfest (Spring Festival) is Europe’s largest spring festival, and lasts 23 days long. This year it began on April 19th and went through May 11th. It is located at the fairgrounds in the Bad Cannstatt district of Stuttgart. It is not quite Oktoberfest, but that is alright because it still offers the same attractions. Also, since it is not as big as Oktoberfest, instead of waiting in 8 hour long lines for the beer gardens, you might only have to wait 4 hours. If you go early enough in the day though you might not have to wait in line at all. I went to the festival twice last year, but unfortunately since I was more focused on the cultural experiences in the beer garden, I didn’t take many pictures. The internet has me covered on this one though.

One might think that beer fests are all about the beer, but it is actually a fair on steroids with beer gardens.

One might think that beer fests are all about the beer, but it is actually a fair on steroids with beer gardens. Flickr/Orkomedix

It is custom to wear traditional clothing like Dirndls and Lederhosen even on the roller-coasters.

It is custom to wear traditional clothing like Dirndls and Lederhosen even on the roller-coasters. Flickr/Rob124

Also, what would a beerfest be without other gut wrenching fair rides? I would suggest that if you want to enjoy the rides, you should do it before the beer garden.

Also, what would a beerfest be without other gut wrenching fair rides? I would suggest that if you want to enjoy the rides, you should do it before the beer garden. Flickr/baba_1967

 

If you get a bit peckish while going from ride to ride, there are many vendors that offer beer and food from around the world!

If you get a bit peckish while going from ride to ride, there are many vendors that offer beer and food from around the world! Flickr/Ken Hawkins

Ok! Now you have rode every ride that you could possibly stomach, so where better to go than the Biergarten! The wonderful place bursting with food, polka, more expensive beer than you could ever consume, and of course other drinkers!

A view from inside one of the many beer gardens. Stuttgarter Hofbrau Biergarten is the largest one at the festival.

A view from inside one of the many beer gardens. Stuttgarter Hofbrau Biergarten is the largest one at the festival. Flickr/Ken Hawkins

What should you order you ask? Well a liter beer is the most popular request, also known as a Maß.

What should you order you ask? Well a liter beer is the most popular request, also known as a Maß.  Flickr/ Giesbert Damaschke

If you get hungry again, then order a whole half of a chicken (complete with Brot and hand wipes) or a Tellerschnitzel. You don't even have to leave your table.

If you get hungry again, then order a whole half of a chicken (complete with Brot and hand wipes) or a Tellerschnitzel. You don’t even have to leave your table. Flickr/Ken Hawkins

When you are done drinking (your body will tell you) find a safe way to stumble home!

When you are done drinking (your body will tell you) find a safe way to stumble home! Flickr/Ken Hawkins

If you do find yourself in Germany, but are not near Stuttgart, then life is still good. Frühlingsfest  happens across Germany, but Stuttgart offers the best experience in my opinion.

If you do find yourself in Germany, but are not near Stuttgart, then life is still good. Frühlingsfest happens across Germany, but Stuttgart offers the best experience in my opinion. Flickr/Karsten Hoffmann

Unfortunately Frühlingsfest has ended this year, but there is always next year. For those of you who would wish to experience Oktoberfest but can’t due to the season, then Frühlingsfest will save you. If you are there for a year even better! You can go to both, and continue your good choices of gluttony and over drinking. If you are an alcoholic you should probably fight the urge and not go. Also, be prepared to have your body hate you the following day. You have been warned. Viel Spaß!

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Where to Watch the World Cup

If you couldn’t already tell, Jeremy Hart and I are just a tad excited about our upcoming trip to Leipzig. It’s unreal to think we’ll already be in Germany this time next month – our flight is actually in less than a month!

We’ve been preparing for the trip, specifically researching the sights and sounds of the city of music. While there are endless places to explore, I’m honestly still wondering where to watch the World Cup. Yes, I will be studying abroad during the World Cup. What else could a tourist ask for?! I hear the bar scene is out of control… so I had to investigate the hot spots.

Lost In Leipzig says Gottschedstrasse, named after Johann Christoph Gottsched, was the area to be when the city hosted the World Cup at Red Bull Arena in 2006. Gottschedstrasse, located in Zentrum-West, contains countless bars and restaurants. And, since Lost In Leipzig’s full post was written less than a year ago, I would assume it’s still worth hitting up. Check out a few places on the street:

Luise Cafe am Gottschedstrasse courtesty of Lost In Leipzig

An Nam Restaurant am Gottschedstrasse courtesy Lost In Leipzig

More outside seating in the “theatre district” around Gottschedstrasse courtesy of Lost In Leipzig

ESPN and Spiegel offered additional suggestions for game-watching – and other fun places to see while in Leipzig. Apparently I’ll have to look into Auerbach’s Keller in Madlerpassage off Grimmaische Strasse for traditional, historical restaurant experience, while still find time to adventure through Augustusplatz.

Oh, you want to  find out actual information about the World Cup? Here, BBC Sport‘s got you covered. Viel Glück und viel Spass!

Berlin School Films: Counterculture in Film

Flickr/Tekke

Flickr/Tekke

Last winter I came to the brilliant conclusion that I would take a 4000 level Film Studies course in the Spring. One might say oh that sounds like fun, what do you know about film studies? Not a thing, but since it is a course on German cinema it is relevant to my studies. There was definitely a learning curve on the film studies part, but after taking the class I can say I have gained a new perspective in viewing films.

Flickr/MorBCN

Flickr/MorBCN

The professor warned us at the beginning of the semester that the second half of the class would be focused on Berlin School Films, and that these were difficult to watch. If I had to use one word to describe the Berlin School style of film making, it would be counterculture. These films were indeed difficult to watch, but not because of gore, violence, or ideology. These films were so hard to watch because of the nothing they most often showed. The Berlin School is more of a school of thought than it is a school, but many of the directors that are categorized into the Berlin School style attended the German Film and Television Academy Berlin (DFFB).

Bungalow

Bungalow

The Berlin School Films that I saw during the class were Bungalow directed by Ulrich Köhler, Milchwald (This Very Moment) by Christoph Hochhäusler, Yella and Barbara both by Christian Petzold, Sehnsucht (Longing) by Valeska Grisebach, and Der Räuber (The Robber) by Benjamin Heisenberg.

Aesthetics

Flickr/Jonathan Kos-Read

One of the major things the Berlin School Films focus on is aesthetics, and the sounds and images in the films are meticulously planned. The films are known for long camera shots, weird camera angles, lack of non-diegetic sounds, lack of a typical storyline, ambiguous endings, focus on the negative space, unattached characters, focus on landscapes, and ambiguous images.

This Very Moment

This Very Moment

Milchwald, Sehnsucht, and Barbara are all loosely based on other stories. Milchwald is considered to resemble Hansel and Gretel, and is a story about a step-mother who loses her husband’s children. It follows the timelines of the lonely step-mother, and that of the children trying to get back home. Sehnsucht is a Romeo and Juliet type story, and at the end a scene is shown of children discussing the tale and relating it to Romeo and Juliet. The movie is about a man who is struggling with the love for his wife and his mistress, although he is not really attached to one or the other. Barbara is considered to be Petzold’s remake of the award winning The Lives of Others, a movie about life in East Germany before the fall of the wall.

Flickr/muckster

Flickr/muckster

My favorite movie from this genre of films is Yella. The first time I watched this film I was not very impressed. A plus for the movie was that it stepped out of the Berlin School norm and had a storyline. Yella is a film that deals with the East-West issues in Germany after unification. It follows the tale of a women who leaves her life, in what was formerly East Germany, to find success. I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone that might not have seen it yet, so that is all I’ll say on the plot. This movie definitely has to be viewed more than once or twice to fully appreciate it though. There are many minor nuances in the movie that might be difficult to catch on the first viewing. Petzold’s focus on aesthetics in this film is almost unbelievable. The depth he went to in creating this film is quite amazing. He focuses on such little details, that in some cases have so much meaning, and that is what makes this film so intriguing.

Movie Poster

Thimfilm and Zorro Film

If anyone out there is brave enough to venture into the world of Berlin School Films, I would highly Film Posterrecommend watching Yella first. I would also recommend Barbara and Der Räuber. Although this style of film can seem rather boring at first, these three films follow a storyline, which make them easier to follow. Like Yella these movies often require more than one viewing to understand the meanings. Also, when approaching this genre the viewer will have to step out of the world of Hollywood cinema. A great thing about the Berlin School Films is that they make the viewer have to come to their own conclusions, instead of leading them in a single intended direction. Their are many more movies that fit into the Berlin School genre, but of the ones I discussed, I would not recommend Bungalow or Sehnsucht. To me these films go along with no purpose, and the main characters are painfully unattached from the world. These are typical traits of Berlin School style, but in my opinion these movies are just “l’art pour l’art” (art for art’s sake). Go forth though, if you dare, and make your own opinions on these films. They open the mind and offer a different viewing experience, than that which we know in Hollywood.

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Down Home Cooking From the DDR

As I’ve been preparing to graduate college and move out of Columbia, I’ve been going through the standard move-out checklist: return library books, pack up clothes, so on and so forth. When I got to the point of cleaning out my fridge, however, I realized that I could put all my leftovers into one pot and cook it up in the name of Eurokulture.

So, what I’m attempting here is Solyanka, sort of the one-pot meal of the former East Germany, made with leftovers and whatever you happen to have on hand. Blogger Karo over at Persephone Magazine claims that Solyanka originally came out of Russia and Ukraine, but became extremely common and popular in East Germany because of the large amount of cultural imitation of the USSR. I guess the Soviet Union was sort of the cool older kid to East Germany, being the biggest, most successful socialist nation, and imitating Soviet foods and culture was sort of like the little brother getting the same haircut in an attempt to show that he’s also cool.

 

Ingredients:

 Ingredients

Here are your Vegetables/Fruits- I used three white onions, a large can of crushed tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, a whole sliced lemon, and eight small sweet gherkin pickles. Don’t use dill pickles, they’re too salty!

Picture 3You’ll need meat, too. Or a meat substitute? All the recipes I found used several types of meat, and pretty much anything seems to be acceptable. I saw versions with beef, hotdogs, pork, smoked cutlets, bacon, and many other meats. I just used what I happened to have lying around: From left to right, a leftover pork chop, roast lamb, and some pork jowl, which is really just like bacon.

Picture 5Lastly, you’ll need to gather all of your spices and garnishes. From left to right here, I’ve got red chili pepper, salt, thyme, allspice, black pepper, bay leaf, paprika, parsley and sour cream. The sour cream and parsley are mostly for garnishing to serve, but I added some parsley to my soup as it was cooking to add some freshness.

So, bringing it all together, your first move should be preheating the oven. I set mine to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re using a dutch oven, like I did, you’ll want to let that get nice and hot before adding any of your ingredients.

Picture 7

While your oven is preheating, you’ll need to make your broth. Add your onions, gherkins, lemon, tomatoes and tomato paste to as much water as you wish to use. You could use a broth, but with all the meat, broth could make for a really heavy soup, and Solyanka isn’t supposed to be too thick.

Also, add all your herbs and spices, including some of the parsley, but save more parsley for serving later.

You also need to cook all your meat now, because it’s a bad idea to have raw meat swimming around with your vegetables. Just brown it.

Picture 9Next step is the last step, really. Put your browned meat in the pot with the broth, cover, and cook at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 1.5 hours. If your kitchen is as small as mine, then it will be about at hot as your oven. Cooking is hard work, but we love it.

Picture 13After you’ve let your Solyanka finish cooking, serve it up immediately and enjoy! I added some sour cream and parsley, but if you’re making a more Russian-leaning version, you might want to use dill, as you would on any other Russian dish. I also had a bowl of Solyanka for breakfast the next morning, and I’m here to tell you that it’s really good as leftovers. You should probably take out the lemon slices before putting the soup in the fridge, because my batch got pretty sour overnight.

Solyanka, then, is basically a sweet and sour soup with meat and vegetables. Those are the only constant factors. I found so many variations on this basic recipe as I was preparing this meal that my own recipe basically ended up being a combination of all of them.

This site claims to present an East German recipe for Solyanka, but it uses dill and capers, which seems to be a more Russian version.

This one is also East German, but is almost completely different from the other East German recipe. This is getting confusing.

The Near Distant Ago, an English-language Cold War nostalgia blog, presents yet another very different recipe. Great.

Eventually I realized that if there are this many variations on the recipe, then the particulars must not be too important. So, I picked and chose my ingredients from the various recipes, ending up with my own recipe, which seems to be not only acceptable, but also the ideal way to make Solyanka.

Korean-German Identity: An Interview with Suin Roberts

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Korean nurses pictured outside of St. Johannes Hospital in West Germany

In my last post, I wrote about the German Village, a community of elderly Korean repatriates from Germany on Namhae Island in South Korea. My inspiration for the post stemmed from a recent series of articles in The Korea Times about the nearly 20,000 South Koreans who went to West Germany in the 1960s and ’70s to work as miners and nurses in the wake of the Korean War. Although they were originally under obligation to leave Germany after 3 years, many stayed and started families. As a result, there are 30,000+ people of Korean heritage living in Germany today. To put that in context, that’s the 14th largest Korean population living outside of Korea worldwide and the  2nd largest Korean population in Europe behind the U.K.

Featured in the fourth and final article in the Korea Times’ series on the subject is Suin Roberts, associate professor of Modern Languages and Linguistics at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne. Dr. Roberts was born in Germany to a Korean miner/nurse couple who decided to stay. She has also written a book called Language of Migration: Self- and Other-Representation of Korean Migrants in Germany and graciously agreed to do the following interview about her personal familial, cultural, and linguistic background for this blog. I’ve compiled a few additional resources for anyone who is interested in learning more about South Koreans in Germany, including a German-language Deutsche Welle article on the question of integration for second-generation Koreans, an English-language post on where to experience Korean culture in Berlin, and a dual German- and Korean-language online forum for cultural exchange.

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Suin Roberts

RK: Your parents were a miner and a nurse who came from Germany in the 1970s, correct? Did they meet in Korea or later, in Germany?

SR: My parents were from South Korea and actually met in Germany. My mother (from Gwangju) went as a nurse and worked in a psychiatric hospital in Langenfeld (in fact, she is still employed there) and my father (from Seoul) worked as a miner in Aachen. Later, he retrained and became an electrician and worked for Bayer (Leverkusen).

RK: What brought your parents to Germany, and why did they decide to stay? Were they involved in the 1977 protests?

SR: My parents had decided to leave Korea for economic reasons and a feeling of wanderlust. They needed to earn money for themselves and their families back in Korea and saw the recruitment to Germany as an opportunity: It was something that could help them escape struggling post-war Korea and in addition to that, it would allow them to see and explore Europe.

During the time of the 1977 protests, they had already been living in Germany for several years. Even though neither of them had originally planned to stay in Germany, they decided to stay, because they had met each other and started a family together. At the time, quite a few Korean nurses, who had already worked in Germany for at least three years, were looking into immigrating to the US. My mother had also applied to a hospital (and received a contract offer) in Chicago, but in the end, my parents decided to stay in Germany, because they thought that the healthcare system in Germany was better and more reliable at the time.

RK: What was the linguistic environment in your home like when you were growing up? How much Germans did your parents speak, and how much Korean did you grow up speaking?

SR: I would say that I was certainly a native speaker of Korean during my first few years, but I don’t remember myself as one. My memory only goes back to preschool (Kindergarten in German, so children between 3-6 years in Germany attend Kindergarten) and by that time, I was completely fluent in German. As long as I can remember, I have always spoken German with my parents. While my parents spoke both, Korean and German, at home, I have always felt more comfortable speaking German with them than Korean. I believe that my parents tried to use more German at home in the beginning, because back in the 1970s and 1980s, migrant parents were told to speak German at home so that their children wouldn’t struggle in school. I did attend a Korean Friday school (a few hours of Korean language instruction provided by a local Korean association), but of course, this type of school was more about socializing with other Koreans and less about language learning. So, not surprisingly, my friends and I would always end up speaking German during recess.

In retrospect, I spoke very little Korean growing up. My interest in Korea and the Korean language is more recent, maybe since graduate school, when I took Korean-language classes and started to explore K-Pop culture.

RK: What was the general attitude toward Koreans in Germany while you were growing up, and what is it now? How does it compare to attitudes in America?

SR: In my home town (ca. 50,000 people), there were only a handful of Korean families while I was growing up. My experiences were mainly positive, which means that I didn’t experience any open racism or discrimination. However, I was teased on playgrounds once in a while for my “exotic” appearance. Overall, however, the general attitude towards Koreans during that time was neutral, I would say, ranging from indifference to friendly interest. Either way, one was perceived as a foreigner (Ausländer) most of the time.

Today, I believe the attitude towards second- and third-generation Koreans in Germany has become more accepting, in that one is now being perceived as a German with migration background rather than an Ausländer. Or to say the least, we are in the process of moving towards this attitude.

Korean-Americans have had advantages: 1. The US has always been perceived as a country of immigration. 2. Citizenship laws are based on ius soli (which Germany (partly) introduced only recently), 3. The English language allows for hyphenated identities (Korean-American), whereas in German, one always has to choose one identity over another  (e.g., Deutschkoreaner). Hence, Koreans in the US may have had a different, maybe smoother road to travel on in terms of identity construction…

RK: Did you grow up surrounded by a Korean community? What is your sense of cultural and national identity?

SR: As I have mentioned, my immediate, local Korean community was very small, however, my hometown is situated between Düsseldorf and Cologne, which boasted bigger Korean communities. I did grow up within a network of Korean family friends. So, there were gatherings and get-togethers, where I heard Korean and had Korean food. There were also fieldtrips and yearly cultural events, which we usually attended.

In terms of cultural and national identity, I believe cultural identity supersedes national identity. While in Germany, where I lived my first 24 years of my life, I felt mostly German, however, also Korean in terms of values and mentality. My lack of Korean language skills kept me from pursuing a stronger Korean identity.

While I have lived in the US now for the last 13 years, I have felt mostly American even though I don’t have American citizenship (yet). But life in the US has shaped me culturally and linguistically. I feel as comfortable speaking English as I do speaking German. Actually, when it comes to my research and work, I prefer speaking English.

How would I self-identify? In terms of national identity, it’s a matter of passports for me. I have a German passport and I have applied for American citizenship, so soon I’ll be a dual citizen. But in terms of cultural identity, I have become a Korean-German-American, in that particular order with the focus being on American.

RK: Have you ever traveled to or lived in Korea? Are you close to extended family members living in Korea?

SR: I have spent two summers in Korea during my teenage years, and most recently, I have been to Seoul in 2008 for conferences and in 2013 for an invited lecture at the Goethe Institut. I would like to go more often and actually, I’d love to live there for a while. Korea has changed so much over the years. It’s become such an interesting place in terms of culture, architecture, nature, etc. It has a lot to offer, and I’d like to explore it more.I have uncles, aunts and cousins, and friends in Korea, with whom I try to visit whenever I am there. Recently, we’ve been communicating on a weekly basis via Kakaotalk, a text messaging app. It is exciting to connect this way.

Manhattan to Mainhattan: An American Introduction to Frankfurt am Main

Apartment buildings in Frankfurt am Main.

Apartment buildings in Frankfurt am Main.

Summer’s rolled around, bringing vacation time with it. Your passport arrived weeks ago, your suitcase is open and ready to be packed, and now there’s just one question remaining: where to go?

For the burgeoning traveler, Frankfurt am Main is the perfect location.

Located, as you might guess, on the Main River in the German state of Hesse, Frankfurt am Main is a modern city with lots of history. Rebuilt in modern styles after extensive bombing during World War II, Frankfurt is now famous for housing the most skyscrapers of any German city; further benefiting from American occupation and the new found isolation of post-war Berlin, the city quickly grew into a commercial metropolis that only narrowly lost to Bonn as capital of the BRD. Sixty years later, the resulting development of the city offers a blend of western modernity and European cultural history — the perfect mix for someone still testing the waters abroad.

Herzliche Willkommen

Haus der Jugend

When I visited Frankfurt, I stayed in the Haus der Jugend youth hostel, which is conveniently located for seeing much of what the city has to offer. For a quick introduction, however, there are two options for acquainting yourself with the city: the Main Tower, or via river tour. Personally, I found that it’s more than worth it to fork over a couple of euros to hitch the 200m ride up to the top of the tower; with beautiful panoramic views of the city and surrounding country, it’s easy to feel like you’re the Main Tower provides an amazing introductory experience that quite literally lays the city at your feet.

For those less comfortable with the height, however, it’s also possible to stay closer to the ground and cruise the city on a river tour. A warning, though: if you, like me, take this tour soon after arriving early in the morning, after a ten hour flight across the Atlantic, you do run the risk of the warm summer sun, tranquil river, and soothing scenery lulling you to sleep.

 

 

Something Old

Once you’ve gained a feel for the city, the city offers a full list of museums, restaurants and pubs to explore and relax in. Many of them are located close to the aforementioned Haus der Jugend, and the meticulously rebuilt old town (Altstadt) is a great place to get a bite to eat and try some of Frankfurt’s famed Apfelwein (I’ve heard a lot of people describe it as a love-it-or-hate-it drink, but to me, it just tasted like a somewhat sharp white wine. Römerberg Square is also a site of festivities, such as it was when I first visited Frankfurt, having arrived on the morning of Ascension Day. If you’re looking for some of that aforementioned culture shock, I can safely say there’s nothing quite like a couple of drunk Germans standing on tables giving celebratory speeches while you enjoy your first bite of authentic German beer and bockwurst.

Many of the buildings on the square have themselves been around since the early days of the city in the late eighth century, but just around the corner there stands another must-see of Frankfurt: the famed Kaiserdom, the Imperial cathedral in which Holy Roman Emperors were crowned for more than two hundred years.  Admission is free, and if you’re lucky, the cathedral might be hosting a choral concert for you to listen to as well. This church holds a special note of interest for me, as it was the first European cathedral I’d had the pleasure of visiting; it’s not the most magnificent of the churches Europe has to offer, but even so, you can forget what you learned from Hunchback of Notre Dame — seeing the sturdy Gothic architecture and listening to the echoing choir in person is something you can never quite appreciate without experiencing it for yourself.

The famous facade of the Römerberg Square in Frankfurt’s Altstadt.

Something New

In the modern world, Frankfurt has made a name for itself as a banking capital, and while it still pales alongside cities such as London (though not for lack of trying), it still has a strong economic presence. The twin towers of Deutsche Bank stand as an eternal reminder of this fact, as does a monument built to commemorate the introduction of the Euro in 2001. My group had the pleasure of being invited inside the DB towers for a lecture on banking, but as an Arts & Sciences major, I can assure you I remember very little of it.

The city itself is a constant reminder of modernity as well. With roughly thirty structures reaching heights of 100m or more (a massive feat in an of itself, given the swampy, unstable ground the city stands on), streets full of modern apartments, and a heavy emphasis on business and economics, Frankfurt am Main is far from being Germany’s busiest tourist trap. Even with all of that corporate mayhem, though, the city has plenty of its own kooky European quirks which have noted on the web by natives and tourists alike (Faces of the City, anyone?), but even so, when I finally left the city, I couldn’t help feeling a little homesick for it (not bad for someone who had been out of America for less than a week at that point).

A handful of the towers that make up Frankfurt's famous skyline.

A handful of the towers that make up Frankfurt’s famous skyline.

* all photos taken by Rachel Alvord