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What to buy the German who has everything…

I was scouring the internet this week in search of the perfect gift for a German friend. Gift in German means poison by the way… but fortunately I knew this, or the entire exercise could have ended very badly. I’d probably have bought gift-wrapped cyanide by mistake.

Of course it may still end badly. Here is a shortlist of the extraordinary German present ideas I found:

Yodelling mug

Yes, it yodels, apparently, whenever you pick it up from a flat surface. According to the blurb you can delight your work colleagues with the cheerful sound of yodelling while you drink your coffee. I wonder whether this wouldn’t be a more effective way of getting someone killed than giving them cyanide.

Nose-shaped shower gel dispenser

We all know that being ill is a national hobby in Germany. Ask after a German’s health only if you have a good half hour to spare and don’t mind listening to tales about haemorrhoids, pustules or embarassing itching. So what could be more fun for a Teuton than to start the day by squirting gloopy jets of snot out of an oversized nose. That way, even if they’re inadvertently well, they’ll have something to regale their co-workers with:  This morning I produced a very fine stream of green goo from my nose…

Angela Merkel lemon juicer

When buying a gift for the German who genuinely has everything, I’d still be prepared to take a punt that they don’t already have an Angela Merkel lemon juicer. Though I’m prepared to be proved wrong…

Whistling garden gnome

As we know, no German garden is complete without at least one gnome. Preferably a whole cluster of them (what is the collective of gnome anyway?). This gnome comes equipped with a sensor and whistles whenever someone goes past. It’s the perfect gift for anyone with a grudge against their postman…

An inflatable  penis outfit

Whether it’s carnival, or just a normal day, surely no German can resist the urge to dress up as a penis?

Hmmm…. gift-wrapped cyanide is looking ever more like the best choice….

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Altweiberfastnacht in Germany

This morning just before 11 a strange crowd of German women will be assembling in front of our town hall… this is Altweiberfastnacht, one of the most important dates in the local calendar for Jecken (fools), and these are the Altweiber (old women) or Möhne (hags) as they are known locally . At exactly 11 minutes past 11 o’clock, the Möhne will storm the town hall, oust the mayor from office and install their carnival prince in his place. They will “emasculate” the mayor symbolically by snipping off his tie. Every other male in Germany is liable to suffer the same fate… so not a day to put on the best Hermes in your wardrobe…

Altweiber or Möhne as they are known locally

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Remembering…

I visited Moers this week. When I was there I came across the ruins of a synagogue in the shopping centre. There was not a lot left – it had been destroyed during the war. Actually, even the doorway which appeared to remain was a replica, rebuilt as a memorial on the site of the old synagogue, with the names of all the murdered jews from Moers inscribed on the inside of the doorway. A permanent reminder of what happened here back in the 1940s.

The site of the former Moers Synagogue

Names of the dead

 

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Düsseldorf Karneval 2011 – “Jebuddelt, jebaggert, jebützt”

Now that Christmas and New Year are over, the Germans are starting to look forward to Karneval. Karneval is all about drinking. Of course technically speaking, we are in the Karneval season already. It began on November 11th last year with the Hoppeditz Erwachen session. The start of Karneval involves much drinking. This is when the “Hoppeditz” – the chief fool – claims power and the Fünfte Jahreszeit (fifth season, ie the silly season) starts. The motto of this year’s Karneval in Düsseldorf is: “Jebuddelt, jebaggert, jebützt” – local dialect meaning, “dug, bulldozed and plastered.” (edit: apparently jebützt means kissed – more on this in the comments). Don’t ask me to make sense of it… unusually for the Germans, nothing at Karneval makes any sense. Not surprising really, considering how much drinking is involved.

From November to the start of the pre-Lent festivities, nothing much happens outside of the actual Karneval Verein (the organising club who stage the Karneval celebrations each year). They hold sessions (these involve much drink, silly hats, comedy and song) and meanwhile everyone else gets on with their normal lives.

Then on Altweiberfastnacht – March 3rd this year – the Altweiber… the old women of the town, in hideous fancy dress, will storm the town hall led by the Hoppeditz, evict and emasculate the mayor and install their Karneval Prinz in power for the duration of Karneval. Hoppeditz and the Prinz will give a speech from the balcony of the town hall to the Alterweiber and other fools in the square below. Then everyone will get enormously drunk for five days.

Antennedüsseldorf via flickr

The Hoppeditz arrives to oust the mayor

by antenneduesseldorf via Flickr

Hoppeditz Erwachen - meet the new mayor!

by antennedüsseldorf via flickr

Düsseldorfers who at other times of the year are pretty sensible

Karneval’s highpoint is Rosenmontag, when there is a huge Karneval procession through the streets with elaborate floats, often with witty political messages.

Did I mention the drinking?

 

For more about German Karneval traditions, see my post over at Birds on the Blog:

John F. Kennedy, doughnuts and some very messy Germans

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Things I’m looking forward to in Germany in 2011

2011 promises to be a fun year in Germany.

For a start, Düsseldorf will be playing host to the Eurovision song contest in May. Although the tickets for the main event sold out almost instantly, a whole programme of events is scheduled around the competition and there will be the beloved “public viewing” areas where those who couldn’t get tickets can watch together from the comfort of the biergarten. Those of us who dare to wear our country’s colours can expect a jocular ribbing from the locals when the inevitable “nul points” happens.

Düsseldorf 2011

Then in June and July there’s the FIFA Women’s World Cup finals.  Less of an all-encompassing national party than the men’s version in 2006, but nontheless a fabulous event with many matches in various parts of the country. And England will be there! Yay!

There’s still every chance of getting tickets to games, and of course the public viewing opportunities should be good too. Oooh! More beer! I wonder where I put my vuvuzela….

football

For the more highbrow, there are some fabulous art exhibitions coming up in 2011.  I’ve got my eye on the Jan Vermeer exhibition in Munich in which opens on 17. March at the Alte Pinakothek.  Should be a nice peaceful antedote to the excesses of Karneval the week before.

Before that though, there’s the Roy Lichtenstein exhibition at the Ludwiggalerie in Schloß Oberhausen which opens on January 23 and runs to May 1. Great stuff – Kerpow…BANG!
The clear highlight of the year though is definitely going to be the Faces of the Renaissance exhibition at the Bode Museum in Berlin which starts on August 26 and runs to November 20. This is an event where the big museums of the world have got together to create a show of some of their most valuable Italian portraits.  Lippi, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Leonardo da Vinci will all be attending. And so will I, of course.
Anyone know of any other major events coming up this year?

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The same procedure as every year

It seems as though every New Year spent in Germany follows the same pattern. This year though, there was one major difference. Instead of writing about Dinner for One, Bleigiessen and fireworks here, I posted about it on Birds on the Blog, where I also have a column. You can catch up with my New Year’s Eve experiences there.

New Year in Germany

Other seasonal posts I have written there include:

A Small Christmas Miracle

German Stollen – The Cheat’s Version

Grogs, Nogs and Glühweins – The Best German Christmas Drinks

 

 

 

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So what do dachshunds do in this weather, huh?

I’ve been watching the cats struggling through the snow (and we have had plenty of new snow overnight), and I am yet again struck by the sheer impracticality of those Germans who choose to keep a dachshund as a pet.

Not too bad under the trees...

If you only have the odd inch or two of snow it’s not too bad.  For a cat that’s sort of ankle-deep. For a dachshund that’s already over the knees.

I'm getting ice in my armpits Mum!

But we’re talking serious snow here… well up to a cat’s shoulders. So what do dachshunds do? Tunnel through it?

 

 

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