Saturday, December 31, 2011

Guten Rutsch

Happy New Years!
Yesterday I mentioned that in Germany, New Year's Eve is called Silvester, so then how do you wish someone a Happy New Years? Frohes (happy) Silvester? Well no, it's the same as in English.

Frohes Neues Jahr!

This is the standard phrase used to wish someone a happy new year.

der Wunsch - wish

wunschen - to wish

Another way to wish someone a happy new year is to say, Guten Rutsch.

der Rutsch - slip, slide, skid

Yes, you are wishing them a 'good slip.' The first time I hear this was from the guy at the corner shop. It had snowed the day before or so and it was icy outside. As I was leaving said 'Guten Rutsch', and I just looked at him with a puzzled look. He repeated himself and somehow made it clear he was a saying something nice. But I was puzzled till a German friend of mine explained that it was a standard Happy New Years saying.

So Ich wunche euch ein Guten Rutsch zum Neues Jahr!

I wish you all a good slip into the New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2011


Tomorrow is New Year's Eve and the city is getting ready to party! They really get into it over here. There are parties planned in all the clubs and bars. Berlin is littered with posters advertizing all the places you can go to have a good time! So many options it is hard to decide what to do.

Here are two such posters! Have you noticed they don't say anything like 'Neues Jahr Fest', New Year party?  Well that is because New Year's Eve is called Silvester in German.

Silvester - New Year's Eve

Interesting huh?  It always makes me think of Sylvester Stallone or Sylvester the Cat. And I am apparently not the only one that makes that connection. Every year there has always been at least one poster that uses a picture of Sly. So far though I haven't seen one with Sylvester and Tweety bird.

All these parties I am sure will be a great time, but the best party in town, maybe because it is free, is the one at The Brandenburg Gate. The huge long street that leads away from the Gate into the Tiergarten is blocked off, venders and temporary bars (with tents and heaters) and stages are set up for the celebration. In fact the road has already been blocked off for the last two days so that everything can be set up!

Here you can see the trucks dropping of their contents, food and bier. You may be able to see through the pillars of the gate, the stage being that is being put up. This is the focal point of the City's Silvester Celebration because this is where they shoot of the fireworks at Midnight!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Unexpected Break


I have been very busy this week and never managed to get a post in. Sorry. I really feel guilty about that, which is kind of weird, because it is just a blog. but anyway. .

I will be back on Friday just in time for the New Year!!

bis dann

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ohne Absicht

I hope everyone had a great Christmas Celebration.

A Christmas Tree in front of the Reichstag

I had all intention of posting something yesterday, but my internet was down most of weekend. So the lack of a post was unintentional, ohne Absicht.

die Absicht - purpose, aim, intention (law)

ohne - without
mit - with

mit Absicht - on purpose, deliberately, intentional

ohne Absicht - not on purpose, unintentional,
Note: 'ohne Absicht' is translated as 'not on purpose', however it is best to use 'nicht mit Absicht', when you want to emphasize that you did something unintentionally. It is the difference of saying, "I did that unintentionally" vs "I did not do that on purpose." The second sentence conveys a stronger negative sentiment then the first sentence. The same goes for these sentences in German. "Ich habe das ohne Absicht gemacht." vs "Ich habe das nicht mit Absicht gemacht." Don't worry about this too much. It is grammatically correct either way, I just wanted to touch on the translation and subtle differences in use.

(nicht) mit Absicht machen - to (not) do on purpose

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Frohe Weihnachten!! Merry Christmas!!

The Christmas Tree at The Brandenburg Gate
Oh, but it only Christmas Eve, Heiligabend, you say. Well here in Germany, they celebrate Christmas on Christmas Eve.

Families get together and have a big meal, often duck or goose is the main attraction on the table. Then Santa shows up that evening and bring his presents for the kiddos. Everyone waits for him to arrive before they start to open their presents. This is all done on Christmas Eve, instead of waiting for the morning.

I guess Santa isn't as fast as I had always thought he was. He must need to get a head start on delivering the presents and starts early in Europe. Then by the time he get to the USA it is super late and we are already in bed. That is why we have always celebrated on Christmas Day, because Santa doesn't get to the US kids until the middle of the night!

I have to say I prefer the waiting till the morning. I would hate to open all my new presents on Christmas Eve and then have to go to bed. I like that we in the US open them in the morning and then have all day to enjoy them.

Heiligabend - Christmas Eve

heilig - holy, sacred, saintly

der Abend - evening, eve

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ad: BVG Weihnachtszeit

Christmas is just a few days away. Everywhere you look there is something reminding you of the Holiday season. Even in the Subways. This ad from the BVG, Berlin's public transportation provider, is no exception.

Before I get into the German, I have a complaint. What a lame Santa! Santa has more of a goatee then a beard and he is so skinny that his suit doesn't even fits. Wow, what an epic Santa FAIL!

I just had to get that off my chest, now back to the German.

Nothing special about this ad itself unless you consider the wack Santa special.

The fine print reads:

'Entspannt durch die Weihnachtszeit mit der BVG. Die Route, über die sich jeder freut.' 
Relax during the Christmas with the BVG. The route that everyone is happy about.

I still have trouble with the word for relaxing, entspannend. I always get it confused with the word for exciting, spannend. Mixing up these words is a big deal because they function in the sentence the same way.

For example, if you mix up words in English like 'read' and 'bread', by the context of the sentence we know what word the person meant to use. Because you can't  'Bread a book', or 'eat some read', right? Mixing up relaxing and exciting in German, completely changes the meaning of the sentence, and the person your talking too has no idea you misspoke because you used the word correctly in the sentence.  'That was exciting' vs 'That was relaxing.'

SO be careful not to mix up these words like I do!

entspannend - relaxing

spannend - exciting

Thursday, December 22, 2011


The Christmas Markets in Germany are no joke! It is serious business! This market in front of the Rote Rathaus has a huge Ferris wheel.
At a Christmas market!! Can you believe it? It always makes me smile to see the huge lighted wheel in the middle of the cold grey city. Very Cool!

das Riesenrad - Ferris wheel

das Rad - wheel

riesen - giant, mammoth

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I babysit a little three year old kid once a week and yesterday we went to the Christmas Market, der Weihnachtsmarkt. I asked him if he wanted to get a treat and he said he wanted some Zuckerwatte!

Zuckerwatte? What is that?

I had no idea what it was and he wasn't able to tell me so I had to ask some ladies at the market.  It ended up being something quite familiar and not a special German treat. He wanted Cotton Candy!! 

die Zuckerwatte - cotton candy
der Zucker - sugar

die Watte - Cotton

lecker! - delicious, tasty

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Keine Ahnung!

I have been trying to come up with an idea for today's post, but I have no ideas!  . . .or do I?

Keine Ahnung - no idea

In school, I learned to say "Ich weiss es nicht" but people seem to use "Ich habe keine Ahnung" more often. You don't have to form a complete sentence and can say simply, "keine Ahnung."  I like using this little phrase. Though, recognize you may not want to use the short reply with your boss or your teacher. It is kind of informal, though not considered rude.

keine Ahnung haben - to have no idea

die Ahnung - idea, hunch, inkling

Monday, December 19, 2011

Der Schuh des Manitu

One of the first German Movies I saw and really enjoyed was Der Schuh des Manitu. At the time, I didn't know the original story it was parodying and my German was just plain-old BAD, but none of that mattered.

The movie is a parody of the beloved German movies of Winnetou and Old Shatterhand. Which was discussed in yesterday's post.  The comedy style  reminds me of Mel Brooks' style, like Blazing Saddles or Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Enjoying the movie doesn't completely rely on understanding everything single line. Though that said, every time I watch it, I notice something new, something that I hadn't understood before. It is funnier every time I watch it!

Michael 'Bully' Herbig
Christian Tramitz

The movie stars Michael 'Bully' Herbig as the Apache Indian Abahachi / Winnitouch, and Christian Tramitz plays Ranger. The two have quite an adventure that is too complicated to get into. But it involves Cowboys and Indians, a bad guy and his gang, a damsel in distress and much much more.

One of the interesting things about this movie is that Abahachi and Ranger speak a lot of Bayrisch. This is a German dialect that is mostly spoken in Bavaria.  It is such a strong dialect that on the DVD's set up page, it offers subtitles for the deaf and for Non-Southern Germans.

Here is one last little clip to entice you! The guy in the black suit is Sky du Mont who plays Santa Maria, the Bad Guy. He really does a great job in this roll. 

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Winnetou and Karl May

In Thursday's post I mentioned the German comedy, Der Schuh des Manitu, which will be the topic of  tomorrows Media Monday Post. So I thought that today I would go over the original books and movies that inspired the comedy!

Karl Friedrich May

In 1875, Karl May first published, Old Firehand, the first of twenty two stores revolving around his Native American Hero, Winnetou. They were released into book form with the titles, Winnetou I through to Winnetou IV. The stories follow the adventures of Winnitou, an Apache Indian and Old Shatterhand, a Cowboy. The two become great friends and eventually Blood brothers.

Karl Friedrich May, is one of the best selling German authors of all time. He was born in Ernstthal in Saxony in 1842. Which today is called Hohenstein-Ernstthal. He is known for his travel stories. The most famous of which are the adventure novels, mentioned above, that are staged in the American Old West. He also has similar adventure stories set in the Orient and Middle East.

He had claimed that the Winnitou stories were inspired by his own travels though the American West, however his first visit to the USA actually came well after the publication of his novels. During this visit he reportedly went no further west then Buffalo, New York. Non the less, Karl May's stories have fascinated Germans and others since their publication.

Pierre Brice and Lex Barker

Karl May's stories were adapted for the Big Screen in the 1960's. These were German productions, but Winnitou was played by the French actor, Pierre Brice and Old Shatterhand was played by American Actor, Lex Barker, best known for his roles as Tarzan. Despite the foreign actors, in the movies the characters have perfect German accents, thanks to dubbing in German. They still do that today. Not everywhere and all the time, but I have seen enough movies, TV shows and commercial, to note that there is still a lot of German over German dubbing, even over native German speakers speaking German! Sorry, but I just find it irritating.

Though the stories took place in the American West they were not filmed there. The movies were filmed in the former Yugoslavia, now Croatia, instead of the American West where the stories are set. Which is similar to the Spaghetti Westerns that were filmed beginning in the late '60's in Italy.

These movie and the story of Winnetou have a special place in the German Culture. The town of Bad Segeberg in Schleswig-Holstein, has a well know Open Air Stage, that is dedicated to the Winnetou stories and has live shows that runs yearly from June to September. 

Here is an advertisement I saw when traveling in that area back in August of 2010. It was the first time I had heard about the Open Air Theater. Though most Germans know about it, like a US American knows of Coney Island, but may have never actually been.

That year they were showing Halbblut, Half blood. This year they had Der Ölprinz and in the 2012 season they will be presenting Winnetou II, which will run from 23rd of June to 2nd of September.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


This caught my eye the other day. If only there was one more 'S'! hehehee

License Plate:

das Autokennzeichen 

das Kennzeichen

das Kennzeichenschild

Friday, December 16, 2011

Ich gehe einkaufen!

It is Christmas time again and what does that mean? Santa and Snow and Lights. . . yes we know about all of that, but don't forget there is also Shopping, Einkaufen!!! The Germans are not quite so crazy about shopping as we US Americans are back home. (I don't think I need to go into details, I will just say 'Black Friday'!)

Though that said the Germans are taking little steps in that direction! One such step is happening this Sunday the 18th. On this day most of the malls and shopping centers in Berlin will be open for business!! Cheers or Boos are in order depending on how you see things. I just think it is funny. Two Sundays in the Month of December that the shopping centers will be open. Crazy!


Translation of Ad:

That is not a shopping center that is Santa's house (workshop)!  
Update: Check the comments!

das Einkaufen - shopping

einkaufen - to shop, buy

das einkaufszentrum - shopping center

Why is this Crazy?

Well, normally everything is closed on Sundays. Well not quite everything. Across Germany, bakeries, gas stations, bars and restaurants are usually open on Sundays and in the Big City, we have the added luxury of the corner shops being open. So if you forgot to get milk the night before, you can pay four times as much for milk in the corner shop on Sunday. Yes I have done this a few times. I have since learned my lesson and keep a full stock of milk and coffee at all times.

Now that said, there is an exception to this Sunday rule. Which is, that the first Sunday of the month, the malls are open for shopping. Not for a full day, but for a good 5 hours at least. This seems to be a fairly recent development, like in the last two to three years, but that may be because I first noticed it about three years ago.

In the fine print of the ad, you can see that the shopping center was open on the first Sunday of the month, on the 4th and will be open again on the 18th! ooh and with Free parking at the Ring Center!! Sunday shopping Bonus!! cha ching! Oh I don't have a car to utilitze the free parking but still, cha ching!

Verkaufen - to sell, vend

das Verkaufen - selling, vending

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Die Luft ist Rein!

This phrase, die Luft ist rein, translates into 'The air is clean'. However it is usually used to express that the way is clear of obstacles or observers. Just how in English one says "The coast is clear."

die Luft - air

rein - clean

Here is a clip from Der Schuh des Manitu, a German Comedy. This is where I first learned this phrase. Dimitri (the man doing most of the talking) is distracting the bad guys so his friends can get into the mine. We see them in the back ground, behind the bad guys. The dialog in the whole clip may be difficult to understand, because Dimitri doesn't use proper German grammar, but the phrase is used in the first few lines and I have the text below.

Text taken from the video comment feed on YouTube.
Dimitri: "Luft, reine Luft. DIE LUFT IS JES SO REIN "
              "Air, clean air, THE AIR IS SO CLEAN." (Or as we just learned The coast is so clear) 
Bad Guys: "Ja ja" "Yes, Yes"
Dimitri: "So, ich würde euch vorschlagen wir stellen uns alle mal kurz vor. Ich bin Dimitri Tupakes, 30 jahre, in zeichen Stern Frau jung und in meine zeit frei bastel ich so Häuschen Vogel mit meine Schwanzflosse. Habt ihr auch Hobbys?"
  "So I suggest we all give a short introduction. I am Dimitri Tupakes. 30 years old, Zodiac sign Virgo, and in my free time I make bird houses with my tail fin. Do you guys have hobbies?"

die Schwanzflosse - tail fin (aviation)

You may have noticed that Dimitri mixes things up a bit, for example, 'frau jung'  instead of Jungfrau. This movie is one of my favorites! I guess I will have to do a whole review of this one soon.

Is there anyone who understands why Dimitri uses a Schwanzflosse to build bird houses? Is it a play on words?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bitte Geduld

I had to wait a little while for the U-bahn today. There was a Zugverspätung, a train delay. It was displayed on the monitor along with the phrase, Bitte Geduld.

Now here is a word you learn pretty quickly once you actually start dealing with people outside of the Tourist bubble. Having to wait in lines, or on the phone on hold, you learn this right away.

In sentence format, you would most likely hear: "Bitte haben Sie ein wenig Geduld." (Please have a little patience) or "Bitte haben Sie etwas Geduld." (Please have some patience).

der Zug - train

die Verspätung - delay, tardiness,

die Zugverspätung - train delay

die Geduld - patience

Geduld haben - to be patient


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Stecker und Buchse

I just recently learned the word, Buchse. I hadn't known what it was and I totally mispronounced it when I asked my German friend what it meant. I just found this word interesting. And so, I thought you may also want to learn this word and how to correctly pronounce it.

die Buchse - socket, port, female jack

Pronunciation:  "books eh"

The way I had pronounced it, made it sound like I was trying to pronounce something in Polish. I had said something like "boo che se". So bad, I know!

If you learn Buchse, you should also learn Stecker. They go together.

der Stecker - plug, connector, male jack

Here you can see how it is also used for a USB port, USB-Buchse and USB plug, USB-Stecker.

Monday, December 12, 2011


How about a Movie!

Friendship! is a German comedy first released in 2010. It takes place just after the end of the Cold War and the fall of the Wall. Two friends travel to the USA and end up searching for one of the young men's fathers. It is mostly in German with some English. It is fun adventure.

Here is the Trailer, It is all in German without English Subtitles.

Matthias Schweighöfer
Matthias Schweighöfer, plays Tom, one of the two guys. You may recognize him from the movies, Valkyrie, where he played Lt. Herber, or from The Red Baron, where he played Manfred von Richthofen aka the Red Baron.

His parents, Gitta and Michael Schweighöfer, are also actors and in fact have a cameo in the film playing Tom's parents. They are the older couple sitting on the couch in the Trailer.

Friedrich Mücke
Friedrich Mücke plays Tom's friend Viet, who ends up searching for his long absent father in the USA.This was his first movie. He a member of the Münchner Volkstheater's ensemble cast. Since his performance in this movie he has acted in two additional movies, Mahler auf der Couch, and What a Man. What a Man was recently released in the Theaters, August 2011, and has Mücke working again with his co-star Matthias Schweighöfer.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Urban Legend: "Ich bin ein Berliner!"

Today's post is an extension and update to the Subway Poem post on Friday. In which, I mention the JFK 'Ich bin ein Berliner' quote, and continued the spread of an Urban Legend. That said I have done some more research and this is what I have found.

Ok, to get everyone up to speed. In 1963, President John F. Kennedy visited West Berlin, and delivered a speech in which he famously says. "Ich bin ein Berliner." It was the middle of the Cold War and Berlin and the whole of Germany were split into East and West with a wall separating the two. JFK, in saying this sentence, was expressing solidarity with the West Berliners that were very much cut off from the world. 

The Urban Legend:
Since then an Urban Legend, for lack of a better term, has been created and circulated concerning this infamous line. The Urban Legend says that JFK actually said he was a jelly donut when he said 'Ich bin ein Berliner.' This however is false and JFK had spoken correctly.

So where did this Urban Legend come from in the first place. To understand the reasoning behind the start of this Urban Legend, you need to know two things about German.

Things to know:

First, there is a jelly filled donut, pfannkuchen, that is known (mostly outside of Berlin) as a 'Berliner.'

The Second thing is this Grammar Rule.

Taken directly from Canoonet ( an awesome site with German Grammar and Vocab):

Indications of profession, origin, etc.
Indications of profession, function, nationality, origin, religion, etc. of a person are not accompanied by an article when they refer to the person's affiliation to a group. The indication must be nominative and connected to a nominative noun or pronoun by verbs like sein and werden (nominative + sein/werden + nominative):

Sie ist Pilotin/Chefin/Berlinerin/Christin.
Er wird

Often, these indications are not accompanied by an article, either, when they are used with a verb and als (verb + als + nominative):

Sie arbeitet als Pilotin.
Er fing als
Hilfsarbeiter an und ist nun Abteilungschef.
Du giltst als

This means when I say 'I am a student ' I say in German, 'Ich bin Student' dropping the 'ein'.

Possible Explanation:
So what I think happened is, people (non native German speakers) heard what JFK said, and were thinking, "Wait a minute, there is a rule about this, he should have said 'Ich bin Berliner'" and then joking or not, concluded that because he was, in their understanding, grammatically incorrect, that he had actually indicated he was one of these jelly filled donuts, Berliners. Even though everybody then and now, know what he was intending to say. This is how this Urban Legend, could have innocently (or ignorantly) been started.

Why "Ich bin ein Berliner" is correct:
So, now back to what JFK said, "Ich bin ein Berliner." So this is correct. But why? What about the rule? Back in 1993 Linguist Jürgen Eichhoff, wrote an article to clarify the misconception. What he concluded is presented very clearly in an article by David Emery.
Taken from JFK: 'I Am a Jelly Donut' by David Emery.
"'Ich bin ein Berliner' is not only correct," Eichhoff concluded, "but the one and only correct way of expressing in German what the President intended to say."
An actual Berliner would say, in proper German, "Ich bin Berliner." But that wouldn't have been the correct phrase for Kennedy to use. The indefinite article "ein" is required, Eichhoff explains, to express a metaphorical identification between subject and predicate. Otherwise, the speaker could be taken to say he is literally a citizen of Berlin.
To give another example, the German sentences "Er ist Politiker" and "Er ist ein Politiker" both mean "He is a politician," but they are understood by German speakers as different statements. The first means, more exactly, "He is (literally) a politician."  The second means "He is (like) a politician."  You would say of George W. Bush, "Er ist Politiker." But you would say of an organizationally astute coworker, "Er ist ein Politiker."
So, while the proper way for a Berlin native to say "I am a Berliner" is "Ich bin Berliner," the proper way for a non-native to make the same statement metaphorically is precisely what Kennedy said: "Ich bin ein Berliner."  In spite of the fact that it's also the correct way to say "I am a jelly donut," no adult German speaker could possibly have misunderstood Kennedy's meaning in context.

Ok, lets get this straight. 'Ich bin ein Berliner" spoken by JFK (not a real Berliner) is correct because it was metaphorical. However a real Berliner would say "Ich bin Berliner."
These are the Grammar rules, though is this how it is in the spoken language?

On the Street:
Well, my German friend, also said that what JFK said is correct. Though he had never heard of the grammar rules. He though I was making it up until he read it himself. His explanation to why 'Ich bin ein Berliner' is correct was that one can use 'ein', why not? However after questioning him more he did admit that using an 'ein' in such a sentence is rare.  

Reader Alofat commented, back on the Subway Poem post,  which got this whole follow up post started, that ". . .if you want to emphasize the fact that you are, or in JFK's case feel like one (a Berliner), you use the "ein". Which supports what Eichhoff said about metaphorical use. Thanks for the help and clarification on this topic, Alofat.

The 'Ich bin a jelly donut/ Berliner' JKF Urban Legend is just that, an Urban Legend. When JFK, said 'Ich bin ein Berliner' back in 1963 he had spoken correctly, because he was not actually claiming he was from Berlin, but emphasizing that he understood what they faced and spoke metaphorically.

Grammatically speaking, we see that in some situations to use an 'ein' is correct. When Speaking metaphorically or to emphasis a point. In situations where you are stating a profession or origin that is actually correct, you drop the 'ein'. That said, don' worry about this too much. Whether you drop the 'ein' or keep it, no one will say anything. It doesn't seem to be that big of a grammar faux pas. Only when a US President says it does it get such in depth analysis. 

Grammar Note for Non-Native English Speakers:
And as a side note to non- native English speakers. In discussing this issue with a few German friends of mine, I found out that they too had a misunderstanding and a misuse of 'a'. In English, we always use 'a' in these kind of sentence. For example, 'I am a student', 'He is a doctor', 'You are a Webdesigner.'  They were leaving the 'a' out. If someone would say, "I am Student." Jokingly I would want to reply. "Hello, Student, Nice to meet you. I am Kate." With the 'a' in place. 'I am a student' you indicate that there are more students then just you. You are one of many. Dropping the 'a' suggests you are the only one. I don't have the grammar rule book in hand, and this is just taken from my own understanding of English. If someone has the actual rule, please share!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kopf Hoch

This has been painted at the bottom of a subway stop's staircase. Kopf Hoch translates directly as 'Head High'. It sounds similar to our saying 'Heads up.' So take note that this German phrase does not have all the same uses that the related English phrase does.

der Kopf - head

hoch - high

Kopf Hoch is used as a saying of encouragement. When someone looks depressed or sad, we may say in English 'Keep your chin up' or 'Keep a stiff upper lip.' This is how 'Kopf Hoch' is correctly used.

How not to use Kopf Hoch:

'Kopf hoch' is not used to warn someone of an impending collision or accident. Like if we see someone is about to walk into a pole or wall, we may shout, "Heads up!"

In English, we also use this phrase to grab someones attention. If we are about to throw something to someone, we would get their attention by shouting 'Heads up!' Or less dramatically, when your about to tell something important you may start that conversations with. "Heads up, before so and so arrives  . . ."  

Friday, December 9, 2011

Subway Poem

This is a poem from Leonard, a 10 year old boy from the Kastanienbaum Schule. It is on display, on a subway advertisement panel, in the Bernauer U8 stop.

Here is my ruff translation of the poem:

Berlin has a Mitte (Center)
and I sit in the middle of it.
whether Alex (Alexanderplatz), or Museums-
there one gets to (these places) perfectly 

City Hall and Government
have their seat here
Berlin has a Mitte (Center)
and Mitte is my Neighborhood

In Mittle there are animals
Berlin has a Bear
the Spree (River) is full of fish
that swim back and forth

Berliners have mice
and sometimes a cat
and I am a Berliner*
and Mitte is my Neighborhood

Mitte - there is a section of the city in the middle that is called 'Mitte'

die Mitte - the center, middle

hinkommen - to get to (indicating a location) (not permission)

der Kiez -Berliner slang for neighborhood, (In Hamburg it is slang for a red light district)

Der Spree is the name of the river that runs through Berlin.

Miez - a cat, pussycat  (it appears to be poetically shortened from die Mieze)
Note: be careful with this word. It is obvious that a 10 year old was talking about a cat, after referencing mice. But this word Mieze, to adults, can mean something entirely different (pussy, prostitute). Which also fits in to this poem nicely, but gives it a new meaning!

The kid wrote 'ich bin ein Berliner' which is a common error that English speaker make. It is the same error that JFK so famously made in a speech he made in Berlin. "Ich bin ein Berliner" "I am a jelly donut", There is a famous donut called a Berliner. 

In German when one says what they are, one says 'Ich bin Student' not 'Ich bin ein Student' or 'Er ist Student', you drop the 'ein'. So here the correct thing to say is, ' Ich bin Berliner' and not 'Ich bin ein Berliner.' Everyone understands exactly what you are saying and what you mean, but it is just incorrect. And it looks like this is a lesson that kids still have to learn. So don't worry about it too much.

UPDATE: Please disregard what is written under *Grammar and refer to this new post that discusses in detail the JFK 'Ich bin ein Berliner' misconception and the grammar rules behind it.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

1UP Crew

Living in Berlin, I have seen a ton of Graffiti! Everywhere!! It is one of the many charms of this city. You either love it or hate it. Though that doesn't even matter because you are going to have to live with it. Sorry Charlie! I really enjoy seeing it, most the time. I will say that the tags people leave with just a marker, of their initials or name is annoying. I like the more colorful ones, with some dimensions. But I guess people have to start somewhere. Anyway, so now that I have been here for a while I have started to recognize a few graffiti artists' tags. One of which I recently learned more about. 1UP.

Here is their work on a building at Hermannplatz. This second photo doesn't do it justice. It is huge. It was a surprise when I walked down the road, after taking the first photo at a distance, and then walked up underneath it!


There is a new documentary out following 1UP. '1UP' stands for One United Power and it is not one person but a whole group of people working together.

If you check out the trailer, at time 1:06 you see them painting the Tag that I have pictured above. It is over looking an empty Hermannplatz. They used paint brush rollers and not cans of spray paint. I didn't realize people don't necessarily always use cans of spray paint. Now I can imagine how the real large ones are completed.

If you are interested in Graffiti in Berlin and all over Germany, check out Just's blog  and Poet's blog.

Update: Here is a review of the documentary from Urban Artcore.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Our little Tree
We picked up our Christmas tree the other day! We had to go to Alexanderplatz, which isn't so bad since we have a straight shot with the U-bahn.

We picked out our little tree and the guy wrapped it in netting.

Then we took if for a little trip on the Subway. Though we were the only ones with a Christmas tree in toe, I have seen plenty of people transport their trees in the Subway over the years. So we didn't get any dirty looks.

The whole trip I kept trying to sing 'Oh Tannenbaum' but I only know the first line in German.

"O Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum, wie treu sind deine Blätter!

Which translates as "O Christmas tree, o Christmas tree, How loyal are your leaves/needles!" but these are not the English version's lyrics.

The only thing about this song is that Tannenbaum actually means 'Fir tree' and not Christmas Tree. This song was written in 1824 by Ernst Anschütz, a Leipzig organist. I am not sure this song was intended to be associated with Christmas, but that is what has happened. The English version, doesn't leave any room for doubt and translated 'O Tannenbaum' as 'O Christmas Tree' and not as 'O Fir Tree'.

die Tanne - Fir

der Tannenbaum - Fir tree

der Weihnachtsbaum - Christmas Tree

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ad: Brot für die Welt

Brot für die Welt

This is a cool advertisement from Brot für die Welt. It uses a nice play on words. In German they have the saying "Weniger ist mehr", (Less is more). Here they replaced 'mehr' with 'leer' (empty). So now the advertisement says, Weniger ist leer", (Less is empty). So smart! I really like this ad.

weniger - less

mehr - more

leer - empty

Monday, December 5, 2011

Frida Gold

Frida Gold Webpage
Frida Gold is a German band that has hit the charts in the last year or two.

I originally though 'Frida Gold' was the name (stage name) of their female lead singer, but have since discovered that 'Frida Gold' is actually the band's name.

The female vocalist, Alina Süggeler and the guitarist, Julian Cassel (both positioned to the front of the Photograph) are high school classmates from Hattingen, Nordrhein-Westfalen. The band they originally formed has taken on a few identities over the years and ultimately has developed into what is now, Frida Gold.

The music is Indie pop with a disco twist, or something to that nature. I find it cool and smooth and very easy to understand. For those who are learning German it is great for picking up a few new words and phrases. Which is a positive reinforcement to those learning German! I remember trying to find German music early on in my studies and being so discourage when I couldn't understand what I was listening to!

Here is their First Single, Zeig mir wie Du tanzt as Frida Gold, released in June of 2010.

Sunday, December 4, 2011


Tuesday is St. Nikolaus Day, Nikolaustag.  It always falls on the 6th of December. It is not an official Holiday, but is widely celebrated across Germany.

It is mostly celebrated by kids. The evening before they clean their shoes and set them outside by the door or outside their bedroom door. Then St. Nikolaus is expected to come during the night and leave the kids some presents.

When the kids have been good they get candies and maybe a little present, but if they have been bad they get a stick. Traditionally a birch tree branch. 

In my family, we always hung stockings over the fireplace, and waited for Santa to stuff them when he came with our present during the night. We would open them Christmas morning along with our presents.

I first heard about this whole shoe thing in 3rd grade when we moved to Cincinnati, OH. a City with a strong German immigrant heritage. It was celebrated at my grade school. All the kids after lunch set out their shoes in the hallway and sometime during the rest of the day, some one had placed treats in all the shoes. That had been fun to do. It was like a mini warm up to Christmas.

This year I don't think I will be celebrating it either, even though I live in Germany where it is widely known and celebrated. It falls on a Tuesday and I live alone, so no kids, roommates or friends to celebrate it with. Bummer huh? Yeah I know, but there is always next year. 

So what do/did you do? Do you celebrate Nikolaustag? or do you hang stocking? or both?

-I hang my stocking every year!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Glühwein mit Schuss

Christmas time is here and that means Glühwein!!

Glühwein is a spiced wine that is served warm and traditionally served during the Christmas season. There are a few variations, but most are fruity and red. People often add a shot, der Schuss, to their cup. I prefer a shot of Amaretto, but there is also Rum and Whiskey offered. I usually don't like Amaretto, but its sweet taste mixes well with the warm wine and makes the flavor pop even more. 

der Glühwein - mulled wein

der Schuss - a shot (of alcohol)

Weihnachtsmarkt Glühwein Stand
If you don't feel like going out in the cold to get your Glühwein at the closest Christmas Market, you can make some at home. Most grocery stores sell bottled Glühwein during the Christmas Season. In fact my grocery store has been selling it since early November.

It is easy, all you need to do is warm the store bought Glühwein in a pot. Bring it to a simmer, nothing more. You don't want to boil off the alcohol. Then you can serve it with or without Schuss.

When I am preparing Glühwein at home I always like to add some fruit. Basically what ever I have at home, apples and any kind of Citrus fruit always go nicely. I have also started to add cardamon seed pods to the pot. I learned to do this with my Coffee from a Syrian friend of mine and I tried it once in the Glühwein! It really adds a nice spicy flavor to the Glühwein and now I do it every time. No one has ever complained!

Here a webpage dedicated to Glühwein just in case you wanted to try to make some at home this year.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Hast du Bock?

Have you ever heard the question, "Hast du Bock?" They weren't asking if you had a deer.

der Bock - male deer, buck Note: Though 'Bock' is translated as buck and deer, it is often associated with a goat. See image below.
They weren't asking if you had a Bock Bier either!

They were asking you if you were interested.

Bock haben - to have an interest, to be interested 

One can say "Hast du Bock auf ein Bier?" (Are you interested in a Beer?), or  "Hast du Bock ins Kino zugehen?" (Are you interested in going to the movie theater?). This phrase can be use to reference a thing 'ein Bier' or something to do 'ins Kino zugehen'.

I have even heard (on TV) "Hast du bock auf mich?" (Are you interested in me?)

This phrase can also be used in the negative. 
"Ich habe kein Bock mehr." (I am not interested anymore).