Thursday, December 12, 2013

German Traces in NYC

Did you know that it was a German, Peter Minuit, who purchased the island of Manhattan for 60 guilders' worth of trade goods in 1626?  And they kept coming to the big Apfel.   By 1880, there were over 200,000 German immigrants living in New York, most congregating in the area east of the Bowery and north of Division Street—or, what became known as Kleindeutschland.  Explore this site from the Goethe Institute in New York and learn more about the many contributions German immigrants made to New York, New York.  


Monday, December 9, 2013

Barbara - German film set in 1980's East Germany (DDR) - Available on Netflix

If you're curious about life in the former GDR (German Democratic Republic) in the 7 or 8 years leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall, "Barbara" will give you a good sense of the oppressiveness of the ever-watchful State apparatus.  This would be a good follow-up to students of German 2A/2B, who saw "Goodbye Lenin" this semester.  It's a kind of "prequel", if you will.



German Youth Word (Jugendwort des Jahres) of the Year: Babo?

Germany Announces 2013 Youth Words of the Year

Dec 3, 2013
Babo Enlarge image The 2013 youth word of the year was "Babo." (© dpa)
The German initiative Jugendwort des Jahres ("young person’s word of the year") has declared the winning word for 2013 to be Babo ("boss" or "leader"), above fame ("great, super, popular") and gediegen (literally, "dignified," but here, "great/cool"). In places four and five came In your face (that’s straight up) and Hakuna matata (no problem, no worries).
© dpa Enlarge image At least 14 million people were learning German in 2010. (© dpa) Since 2008, young people in Germany have been invited each year to submit and discuss their favorite words on www.jugendwort.de. The voting starts mid-year and involves the top 30 words. The most popular go through to the next round and are submitted at the beginning of November to a jury made up of a range of language specialists. The jury chooses the winner from the top 15, as well as the words that place second to fifth.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

German-American Language Myths - President Kennedy in Berlin - 1963


President Kennedy in Berlin, 1963
No, President Kennedy did not really call himself a "jelly doughnut" as he spoke before the people of Berlin.  That is a misunderstanding of the use of an indefinite article that has been perpetuated for 50 years.  It is time to set the record straight!  Click here for the full story about this language myth.  

Christmas comes to Germany and it's a really big deal!

Christmas as we know it was practically invented by the Germans, and they hold the holiday (Weihnachten) near to their hearts.  The Weihnachtsmarkt is a thing of beauty to behold on a cold, wintry night warmed by Glühwein (spiced mulled wine).  Click here to read more about various Weihnachtsmärkte all around Germany.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Young Goethe in Love - Netflix Recommendation

Johann von Goethe, the Shakespeare of the German language, if you will, started out as a youth, of course and Young Goethe in Love engagingly presents the young Goethe, in all his humanity.  Watch it on Netflix! 

The time and place:  Germany 1772 - the young and tumultuous Johann Goethe (Alexander Fehling) aspires to be a poet; but after failing his law exams, he is sent by his father (Henry Huebchen) to a sleepy provincial court to mend his ways. Unsure of his talent and eager to prove himself, Goethe soon wins the praise and friendship of his superior Kestner (Moritz Bleibtreu). But then Lotte (Miriam Stein) enters his life and nothing is the same as before. However, the young lovers are unaware that her father has already promised Lotte's hand to another man.
Starring: Alexander Fehling, Miriam Stein, Moritz Bleibtreu, Volker Bruch,
Director: Philipp Stolzl

Monday, November 4, 2013

Holiday Art Bazaar, FIlm and Party - Save the Date! December 6, 3:00 p.m. at the Goethe Institute

Join the Goethe Institute in celebrating the holiday season with a big party.  Enjoy spiced cider, Lebkuchen und Stollen, dance to the cool German music (seriously!) and meet and mingle with local artists.

The film will be "Planet Goethe", a documentary about 60 years of German language learning around the world.  A must see for all of your German language learners out there!

Here's an excerpt from the film:

And the specifics:

Film/Bazaar/Party
Wann:  Friday, December 06, 2013
3:00 pm bazaar
6:30 pm film
7.30 pm party

Wo: Goethe-Institut San Francisco
ART-Lounge
530 Bush Street
San Francisco

Wie viel: Free Admission
(415) 263-8760
info@sanfrancisco.goethe.org

German Word of the Week - Wissensdurst

Word of the Week: Wissensdurst

Nov 1, 2013
Wissensdurst Enlarge image (© dpa) Have you ever had a burning desire to learn something new? Do you have an archive of never-ending questions? Then you’ve most likely experienced Wissensdurst. In German, the word Wissen means knowledge and Durst means thirst.
The only way this fundamental human need can be satisfied is by obtaining the knowledge that you so profoundly crave. Occasionally the word Wissenshunger is used to describe ones hunger for knowledge. Although the two words are often used interchangeably, Wissensdurst describes a more urgent need, since humans can survive longer without food than without water.
Let’s take a look at an example where an unquenchable Wissensdurst recently played a major role in the education of a young British girl.
Heidi Hankins, a five-year-old girl from Hampshire, has an IQ of 159, which is approximately the same as that of Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking (both had IQ scores of 160 and an unquenchable Wissensdurst). In comparison: the average person has an IQ score of about 100.
Wissensdurst Enlarge image (© dpa) At 18 months, Hankins taught herself to read using a computer. When she was two years old, she was reading books, painting and performing tasks meant for seven-year-olds. At age three, she was learning math. One year later, Hankins had her IQ tested and was admitted into Mensa, the largest and oldest IQ society in the world.
“I got her the complete set of the Oxford Reading Tree books when she was two and she read through the whole set of 30 in about an hour,” Dr. Matthew Hankins, the girl’s father, told the Daily Mail.
The German media described Hankins as a genius with an insatiable Wissensdurst, constantly seeking new knowledge to keep herself occupied.
Hankins is clearly an extreme case, but anyone can exhibit Wissensdurst by craving an answer to a burning question or displaying curiosity, inquisitiveness or a unique desire to learn. So next time you’re on a quest for knowledge, head to a library and tell your friends and family that you have been overcome by a powerful Wissensdurst that must be satisfied similarly to the feelings of thirst and hunger.
© Germany.info

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Brotzeit Boathaus & Biergarten

If you live in the East Bay, or even if you don't, but are looking for some quality, German-style cuisine (Wiener Schnitzel, Rindergoulasch, and Eisbein, even) and, of course, the type of liquid refreshment that Germany is famous for (a rotating selection of German beers), then head on over (by land or by water) to the Brotzeit Boathaus & Biergarten in Oakland at the Embarcadero. Serving Bavarian Biergarten favorites with a California twist,the folks at the Biergarten source locally, if at all possible, make  sausages and burgers in-house, as well as sauerkraut, mustard and pickles.  And speaking of sauerkraut, here's a video to help you make your own!


  We serve Bavarian biergarten favorites with a distinctly Californian aesthetic. We take pride in offering high quality, freshly made foods produced and grown by family farmers as close to the restaurant as possible. We make our sausages and burgers in-house using whole animals, fresh herbs and locally grown produce. We make all of our own sauerkraut, sauces, pickles and mustards.We serve Bavarian biergarten favorites with a distinctly Californian aesthetic. We take pride in offering high quality, freshly made foods produced and grown by family farmers as close to the restaurant as possible. We make our sausages and burgers in-house using whole animals, fresh herbs and locally grown produce. We make all of our own sauerkraut, sauces, pickles and mustards. 

The Octoberists - Music from Germany

If you're curious about German Rock, Pop, Hip-Hop, or Electro, check out this month's Popcast from the Goethe Institute.  You can also subscribe on the website.  Click on this link to begin your discovery of right-now German music. 
http://www.goethe.de/kue/mus/zue/deindex.htm   Access videos for each artist on this page, too.   

Here's Casper with Hinterland to get you started:

CASPER - HINTERLAND (OFFICIAL VIDEO) from officialcasperxo on Vimeo.







Thursday, September 12, 2013

Rainer Werner Fassbinder Film Festival - October 17-December 21 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

Fassbinder at Work
You've seen the summer blockbusters, but now it's time to get down to some serious cinema.  Seriously excellent, and all in glorious 35 mm film. No DVDs here!

If you don't already know the works of Rainer Werber Fassbinder, now is your chance to make that discovery.  And if you've been a fan, here's your chance to reconnect with his films on the big screen. 

The YBCA @ The Screening Room, is presenting the series of 11 films.  Tickets are:

Regular: $10 / YBCA Member, Student, Senior, Teacher: $8. Bring your CCSF I.D. for the student discount.  Click here for complete program details and a short description of Fassbinder, the actor, writer, cameraman, composer, designer, editor, producer, and even theater manager.

Here's something to get your started:


 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Film at the Goethe Institute - Im Juli

The Goethe Institute will present the film "Im Juli".  In German with English subtitles, this is an excellent introduction to the world of German film:  
 
Who: Director: Fatih Akin, Germany/Turkey, 2000, 100 min.
When:  Wednesday, September 4, 2013, 6:30 pm
Where:  Goethe-Institut
Auditorium
530 Bush Street
San Francisco

Suggested donation: $5 
 (415) 263-8760

What:  The adventurous journey of a staid, love-stricken teacher from Hamburg to Istanbul. A cheerful road movie in the heat of the European summer. Here's a sneak preview: 


Sunday, August 11, 2013

German 1B at the Downtown Campus - 9/26-12/19, Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00-8:05

Hello, all seekers of continuation of your German language studies( after German 1A).  The German 1B class scheduled for the Mission Campus on Wednesdays starting 8/28/13 has unfortunately had to be cancelled due to low enrollment.  You may, however, still enroll in German 1B at the Downtown campus (4th and Mission), which will be held Tuesdays and Thursdays from:

6:00-8:05 from 9/26-12/19

Please click here for more details.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Enroll now for the German Course of Your Choice!

Jawohl!  CCSF is open, fully accredited, and enrolling students now for Fall 2013.  Click here for a link to Fall 2013 foreign language classes for day and evening/Saturday.  Your credits for foreign language classes will be fully transferable.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

German 1B at the Mission Campus - Fall 2013 - Goodbye Lenin!

As part of German 1B this fall semester, students will view, at the end of each class, 10 minutes of the German film "Goodbye Lenin"  This will be for both fun and learning!  Check out the trailer below to get just a taste of the movie. Register now at CCSF for German 1B, Wednesdays at the Mission Campus, 6:00 p.m. - 9:05:


Friday, June 14, 2013

German Classes at CCSF - Fall 2013 - Enroll Now!

The summer session is already underway and in no time, the Fall 2013 semester will begin on August 14 (the week of the 26th for some German classes).  Here's the schedule for German classes, offered at three campuses for your convenience.  Enroll now, classes do fill up!  If you are a new student, apply first for admission, then enroll.  


DAY (OCEAN CAMPUS) 

GERM 1       71460         TR    11:10-01:25    BNGL 701    BRUNNER 
GERM1A     71001         TR    11:10-01:25    BNGL 701    BRUNNER* 
GERM1B     71008        TR    11:10-01:25     BNGL 701   BRUNNER♣♣ 

EVENING (DOWNTOWN CAMPUS)  ( 88 FOURTH STREET @ MISSION) 

GERM1        73665      TR 06:00-08:45         DNTN          619 SCHWARZER* 
GERM1A    74116       TR 06:00-08:45   DNTN          619 SCHWARZER 
GERM1B    74522      TR 06:00-08:45         DNTN          619 SCHWARZER 
GERM2A    71822     T 06:00-09:20             DNTN          822 HOELSCHER** 
GERM2B    71926      T 06:00-09:20             DNTN          822 HOELSCHER** 
GERM4A    A0004  W 06:00-09:15             DNTN          619 SCHWARZER*** 
GERM11A  A0005  W 06:00-09:15            DNTN          619 SCHWARZER*** 

MISSION CAMPUS  (VALENCIA & 22ND)

GERM1A 74115          T 06:00-09:20        MIC             454 BRUNNER** 
GERM1B 75071         W 06:00-09:05            MIC             201 PAHL*** 


Begins 8/26/13 Ends 10/24/13 
Begins 8/26/13 Ends 11/4/13 
* Begins 8/26/13 Ends 12/19/13 
** Begins 8/27/13 Ends 12/19/13 
*** Begins 8/28/13 Ends 12/19/13 
Begins 8/29/13 Ends 12/19/13 
♣♣ Begins 9/25/13 Ends 12/19/13 
*** Begins 8/28/13 Ends 12/19/13
Begins 8/29/13 Ends 12/19/13 
♣♣ Begins 9/25/13 Ends 12/19/13 
Begins 9/26/13 Ends 12/19/13 




Monday, June 10, 2013

German 1B at the Mission/Valencia Campus - Fall 2013 - Join Us!

Nikolaus Braun, Berlin Street Scene, 1921
If you took German 1A in the spring semester or the summer session, you're probably hooked on German and want to continue (richtig?).  Join Frau Pahl at the Mission/Valencia campus in the Fall and dive into Kapitel 4-7 of Deutsch.  Na Klar!  (6th ed.)  Here are the topics covered in those chapters:

Kapital 4: Mein Tag (die Uhrzeit, Pläne mache, Kino, Musik und Theater)

Kapitel 5: Einkaufen (Kleidungstücke, Beim Einkaufen im Kaufhaus, Lebensmittel)

Kapital 6: Wie gehen aus (Lokale, die Speisekarte, bitte!, im Restaurant)

Kapital 7: Freizeit und Sport (Sportarten, Hobbys und andere Vergnügungen, Jahreszeiten und Wetter)

Of course, there will be grammar!   Finally, you will learn to express yourself in the past tense!

The vibrant Mission Campus is well-served by public transportation, with BART @ 24th Street a short walk down trendy Valencia Street, as well as the #14 and #49 MUNI bus lines.  Street parking is also available, especially as you go past 22nd and Valencia.  And there is a bike lane straight down Valencia.  And sidewalks if you come by foot!

If you've had some German in the past, whether high school or college and don't want to start at the absolute beginning, German 1B could be a good choice.  Just come to the class and the instructor can assess if this would be the level for you.

Classes are on Wednesdays and begin August 28th, from 6:00-9:05.   Bis dann!


The Longest German Word has been Retired - Auf Wiedersehen!

If you've been studying German for any length of time now, you're probably aware that the language is as bit like a set of Lego blocks, with words added to other words (compound nouns) to create bold new concepts!  Will the world miss 

                   "Rindfleischetikettierungsuberwachungsaufgabenubertragungsgesetz"

Probably not!  Read the short story from NPR here and hear the word pronounced, then try to say it on your own!  

Thursday, May 9, 2013

A Taste of German Pop Music from Alexander Knappe "Weil ich wieder zu Hause bin"

OK, you've probably never heard of Herr Knappe, but here he is, singing one of his hits auf deutsch.  Check it out!  Click here for a link to the lyrics, a brief bio, and some German language exercises relating to this video/song.


Friday, April 12, 2013

Geobeats Berlin: Some Handy Etiquette Tips for your Visit to Germany and Much More

Check out Geobeats' Berlin page, filled with short, informative videos filmed on location.  Topics include nightlife, museums, beer gardens, green travel, transportation and more.  Meanwhile, here's something to whet your appetite:

Berlin Street Food - Döner and Curry Wurst Rule on the Streets of Berlin

We all know that San Francisco is home to a fleet of food trucks of all stripes, but did you know that Berlin has its own street food culture?   Read all about it below and check out this video about kabobs.  Mahlzeit!




Berlin Street Food

Döner Kebab © picture-alliance/ ZB Enlarge imageThe döner kebab is the most popular fast food in Germany.(© picture-alliance/ ZB )Berlin boasts some thousands of imbissbuden(snack shops) selling quick food fixes from all corners of the globe. The döner kebab is by far the most popular, but the currywurstis a cult classic.
Germany's most popular fast food  
The döner kebab has Turkish origins, and its name means something like turned meat. As the story goes, Turkish guest worker Mehmet Aygün created the first döner kebab in Berlin in 1971. Traditionally, the marinated meat – usually a mixture of beef and lamb – is grilled on a spit, sliced thinly and then served with rice and salad. Berlin’s on-the-go döner creation is served in a pita bread with chopped lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, white and red cabbage as well as your choice of sauce. These sauces – such as garlic, herb, or spicy – are most definitely not a Turkish tradition, and many Germans enjoy getting a combination of them added to their döner.
Döner kebab snack shopEnlarge imageThe döner meat is sliced very thinly by hand from the spit.(© picture alliance / dpa)The döner’s close cousin is the schawarma sandwich. It is made with marinated chicken that is grilled on a spit like the döner and then served in a pita with veggies and tahini sauce.
Some 1,200 fast food joints and another 700 restaurants currently supply the denizens of the capital with a döner, according to the statistics compiled by the Berliner Zeitung.
A cult classic
CurrywurstEnlarge imageCurrywurst pairs well with french fries.(© picture alliance / dpa)Another popular snack is the currywurst, or curried sausage. It comes traditionally in two forms –mit (with) or ohne (without) a sausage casing. Regulars simply order one mit or oneohne, leaving off the implied word currywurst. The currywurst sauce is also a German creation, something akin to homemade ketchup flavored with curry powder. One can also spice things up a bit with a splash of chili sauce.
The sliced currywurst is served on a square paper plate with a miniature fork which is great for spearing bits of sausage covered in sauce. French fries with ketchup and mayonnaise are a popular accompaniment to the currywurst. This is called pommes rot/weiß, or fries red/white.
There are ongoing debates about where the first currywurst was created; Berlin, Hamburg and the Ruhr area all stake claims. But one thing is clear: Herta Heuwer registered the first patent for a currywurst sauce, which she called Chillup, in Berlin on September 4, 1949.
According to the Deutsche Welle, some 800 million currywurst are eaten every year in Germany and about 70 million of those are consumed in Berlin. While not in the top spot, the currywurst has achieved a certain cult status. There’s even a museum dedicated solely to the dish – the Deutsches Currywurst Museum – which opened in Berlin in 2009.
© Germany.info

Thursday, April 11, 2013

SF International Film Festival - Everyday Objects (Halbschatten) Presented 5/2, 5/3, 5/6

The San Francisco International Film Festival will be presenting, among many others, two German-language films.  Click here for a full listing of films, representing countries such as France, Italy, Spain, Latin American, Japan, China and Korea.  The festival runs from April 25-May 9.

German-language entries are:

Everyday Objects (Halbschatten)

Merle travels to meet her lover at his villa in the hills of Nice, but arrives to find herself alone with his two adolescent children while he tends to unnamed business at his publishing company. Director Nicolas Wackerbarth crafts a compelling critique of bourgeois ennui through the routine encounters and quiet moments of solitude that constitute everyday life.  Read more.





The Strange Little Cat (Das merkwürdige Kätzchen)

A day in the life of a middle-class Berlin family becomes the stuff of domestic surrealism in Ramon Zürcher’s strikingly original debut feature. The action rarely leaves their apartment confines, yet this “plotless” miniature reveals a whole alternative universe of mysterious (occurrences and unspoken tensions that have a droll, yet poignant impact.  Read more. 

German Language Fair at the Goethe Institute: Free, Food, and Fun on Friday, April 19

If you're considering taking German, French or Italian at CCSF (or Modern Greek through non-credit), but would like to be a bit more informed about these languages, check out the free language fair at the Goethe Institute.

When: Friday, April 19, 2013, 5:00 pm to 8:00 pm

Where: Goethe-Institut
             ART-Lounge
             530 Bush Street
             San Francisco
             Free admission

Come to the Goethe-Institut San Francisco and visit four European countries in one evening!
  • sample classes
  • 10 percent discount if you sign up for a language course on this day
  • short films
  • music
  • travel information
  • food tastings
Come and enjoy a fun night of learning a new language and get a taste of a different culture.
It doesn't matter if you are a business professional wanting to learn a new language for work, a student interested in going abroad, or a senior wanting to travel during your retirement, we welcome everyone! 

Please register by clicking on this link: www.eventbrite.com

Presented by:

Monday, March 11, 2013

Summer Session 2013 - German 1A at the Downtown Campus

German 1A will be offered at the Downtown Campus during the 2013 Summer Session.

Time:  6:00-9:30 p.m.
Days:  Mondays, Wednesdays
Location:  DNTN 419
Duration:  6/10-7/24

The Downtown Campus is located conveniently across from the 5th Street Parking Garage, BART, and buses.  Students who take and pass German 1A with a grade of C or with a pass option can jump right into German 1B in the Fall!  Registration begins April 15. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Lernt Deutsch mit Videos! From Deutsche-Welle

Check out this Deutsche-Welle telenovelle, "Jojo sucht das Glück" and get into learning German in an interactive way.  The 33 episodes chronicle a young Brazilian woman's experiences learning German and discovering German culture.  Choose "Interaktives Deutsch Training" to access overview (with exercises), interactive exercises, script, and vocabulary.    Each episode comes with subtitles, as well as the option to download the video and take it with you on MUNI!  Click here to get started.  Viel Spass!  Here's the first episode from YouTube, without all the helpful materials:


German Word of the Week: Wort der Woche: Mummenschanz


Mummenschanz
Venetian-style carnival in HamburgEnlarge imageVenetian-style carnival in Hamburg, Germany (January, 2013)(© picture-alliance/chromorange)From its historic connotation as a game of chance (Glücksspiel) played with dice, "Mummenschanz" has come to be associated with the carnival season in Germany to mean "Maskerade" (masquerade) and "Maskenspiel" (mummery, or a play involving mummers).
"Der Mummenschanz" (masculine) is derived from the Middle High German expression "schanz(e)," which meant "Würfelspiel" (game of dice) or simply "Spiel, Wagnis" (game, risk).
The etymological origin of the first part of this compound noun (Mummen), is by contrast more lost to the mists of time. On the one hand it is dated back to the Middle High German verb "mummen" or "mumman," which was used to describe a "Glücksspiel" (game of chance). On the other hand it also may be derived from the word "mumme" (mummer), which referred to a mask or a costumed person. Related modern German verbs include "vermummen" (to mask, dress up) and "einmummen" (to cover up in warm clothing).
A happy and a sad maskEnlarge imageA happy and a sad mask(© picture-alliance/Lehtikuva/Hehkuva)
The historic expression (die) "mumschanz" or "momschanz" (feminine) was purportedly used as a figure of speech since at least the 16th century as both a general description of a game of chance played with dice and in connection with the custom of people dressing up in masks and costumes during the Christian "Fastenzeit" (Lenten or fasting period) or "Fastnacht" (carnival, shrovetide, Shrove Tuesday, Mardi Gras) to visit homes and play dice games together.
Regardless of the precise origins of "mumme" in the German language, by the 18th century the relation to games of chance and dice had largely disappeared, so that "Mummenschanz" mostly came to mean "Maskerade" or "Maskenspiel," albeit with an often ironic tone.
Hence in modern parlance "Mummenschanz" may be deployed as a figure of speech to describe all manner of mischief-making mockery. The website of the European Parliament might, for instance, describe a comment regarding a stalled political procedure as follows: "Meines Erachtens ist es an der Zeit, diesem Mummenschanz und dieser Parodie einer demokratischen Debatte ein Ende zu setzen." (I believe it is time to call a stop to this masquerade and this caricature of democratic debate.)
A carnival maskEnlarge imageLet the good times roll: Markus Stegmann of the Schwenningen "Fool's Guild" (Narrenzunft) dusts off carnival masks (Schemen/Fastnachtsmasken) on January 6, 2013 in Villingen-Schwenningen, in the southwestern Greman state of Baden-Württemberg.(© picture-alliance/dpa)
The "Mummenschanz" tradition also has roots in other parts of Europe, including France and England. In this vein, a "mummer" is an Early Modern English term for a mime artist. And "Mummenschanz" can also be a mummer or a Mummers Play (also known as mumming), a seasonal folk play performed by troupes of actors known as mummers or guisers.
The Mummers Parade, held each New Year's Day in Philadelphia, is believed to be the oldest folk festival in the United States. The parade can be traced back to at least mid-17th century roots, blending elements from Swedish, Finnish, Irish, English, German and other European heritages, as well as African heritage. The parade is related to the Mummers Play tradition from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a mummer is (1) "a performer in a pantomime" (an actor) or (2) "one who goes merrymaking in disguise during festivals."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Karneval, Fastnacht, Fasching, Fassenacht, or Fasnet: It's a Wild and Crazy German Tradition

Politicians catch Carnival spiritWe here in the U.S. know it as Mardi Gras, but it Germany, it's variously called Karneval, Fastnacht, Fasching, Fassenacht, or Fasnet,depending on the region. If you visit a town in Germany’s Rhineland or in the southwestern region during the supposedly dark days of winter you’re likely to find the whole place thrown topsy-turvy. That's because the period before Ash Wednesday is known as Carnival or the fifth season.  The celebration has its roots in the spring celebrations of pre-Christian times, when people wore masks to scare away winter spirits and welcomed the rebirth of nature with singing and dancing. Today it is observed mainly in Catholic regions as a season of feasting and fun before the fasting period of Lent.

Organized revelry in the Rhineland
Parliamentarians in Erfurt get into the spirit of Weiberfastnacht or women's Carnival.  While some localities like Cologne mark the beginning of the season on November 11 at 11:11 a.m., the highpoint always occurs in the six days before Ash Wednesday when everyone from government officials to school children give themselves over to organized revelry. People may be laughing and having a good time, but for the hundreds of Carnival societies in the region, the season of festive sessions, balls and parades is serious business.

The Thursday before Ash Wednesday is  known as “women’s Carnival” in some regions. Women literally assume power and symbolically storm the town halls in many places. Men are advised to wear an old tie since the women are liable to cut it off on and compensate the bereft wearer with a kiss.

This particular Thursday is known in other regions as fat or dirty Thursday. The name goes back to the tradition of slaughtering an animal on this day for the last meal before the fasting period. To prevent the fat from going bad people cooked food which was particularly rich in fat or else used the grease for baking.

Parade float Rose Monday parade floats poke fun at politicians and the issues of the day, like this one in Düsseldorf aimed at bankers.  Sooty Friday gained its name from an old custom according to which children daubed their faces with soot. Fewer festivities are held on this day.
Rose Monday is the climax of the Rhineland Carnival, with huge parades held in n the cities of Cologne, Düsseldorf and Mainz. Millions of people line the streets singing, dancing or just rocking too and fro. The day is not an official public holiday, but few people are expected to show up at work or school.
The parades feature floats that poke satirical fun at politicians and their policies or otherwise comment on the issues of the day. Costumed musicians, dance troupes and mounted guards are also part of the fun.

Fools with rules
Carnival in Rottweil
Carnival in the southwest town of Rottweil has long-standing traditions.  Each city and town has its own Carnival traditions, but in Southwest Germany, the Swabian-Alemannic Carnival differs considerably from the Rhineland version. In 1924, the Association of Swabian-Alemannic Fools’ Guilds was formed with the aim of reducing the influence of the Rhineland carnival in the areas of Freiburg and Tübingen as well as part of German-speaking Switzerland.
The Swabian-Alemannic carnival is governed by particularly strict rules. Generally speaking, only those who have lived in the city for more than 15 years can take part. The masks and the costume also have to conform to historical precedents – unlike at the carnival celebrations in Cologne or Mainz. Accordingly, every fools’ guild has carnival masks, usually intricately carved from wood, which are handed down from generation to generation.

Maintaining Sorb traditions
Zapust in the Spreewald region This pair of four-year-olds is all dressed up for Zapust celebrations in the Brandenburg village of Neu Zauche.  In eastern Germany, the Sorbs, a Slavic nation that settled in the Lusatia region, celebrate the Zapust or Shrovetide at this time of year. Zampern, which means going from house to house and collecting gifts, is an important part the festivities. A noisy procession wends its way through the village with the aim of driving out the spirits of winter. The merry group in fancy dress stops at every farm to ask for gifts of bacon, eggs and money. To show their gratitude the revelers treat the farmer to a glass of schnapps and invite the lady of the house to a dance.

The boisterous celebration is held every year on a weekend between mid January and the beginning of March. Another aspect of Zapust is a procession of girls dressed in traditional costumes and boys in suits who go around the village visiting those residents who have contributed most to the community such as the mayor, the pastor or local craftsmen. In the evening the young people gather in the village pub for a bumper egg feast and all those taking part tuck in to a hearty meal of bacon and scrambled egg.