German Unity Day

German Unity Day 2017

Side note to get us started, but what did we do in the days before Google Doodles? How else did we know why the stores were all closed or which obscure media theorist had his birthday in the middle of July?

The Google Doodle for Tuesday celebrates October 3rd, of course. I talked a lot about the significance of the day for Germans last year here. This year, I used the day off to catch up on work and take advantage of some opportunities in the city with my brother. It was nice to have a mid-week day with him again, too.

We started off having American pancakes in a new personal favorite of mine in Berlin: Zimt und Zucker (Cinnamon and Sugar). It’s a “sweet” little place, in the style of Vienese coffee houses of the 18th and 19th centuries, in Berlin Mitte (kind of the center of Berlin near the old Cold War checkpoints and the Brandenburg Gate, etc.). One has a large menu of breakfast type items to chose from all day, and it is very popular, especially on weekends. I (in a rare moment) thought ahead and had reserved for my bro and me, so it was a nice start to the day. If you are in Berlin, I can recommend the salmon and green onion crepes or the bacon and sour cream pancakes. 🙂

Then, we walked over to the Deutsches Historisches Museum (German Historical Museum) that had opened its doors to the public for the holiday. Accordingly, the place was packed, but people were in mostly good spirits and I brushed up on my early modern German history. The exhibits ranged from pre-middle ages to WWII.

Visiting the museum reminded me of the large role the Reformation had in European history, and wouldn’t you know it, but this year it’s been 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door. You can imagine this is being celebrated in Germany, not the least on Reformation Day, which isn’t too long from now: October 31st. Even stoic Berlin, usually exempt from religious holidays, grants its citizens this day off this year.

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So many Protestants… I wonder how much more quickly Luther’s ideas would have spread (and/or been ignored) had there been the internet…

Yesterday, I also used the free entrance to visit the special exhibit to explore the first press-photography in Germany with the Bild Zeitung. Leopald Ullstein was a big name in the late 19th and early 20th centuries being responsible for making photos a part of news for the first time and for his influential role on how the way the population viewed politics. Apparently then, like now, the press liked to focus on the big names on the political scenes and forgot to look at the protests, demonstrations, and stuff happening on the sidelines. It was also interesting to see the role his enterprise played in the Nazi propaganda machine. Since I’m professionally interested in media and its impact on culture, I appreciated the exhibit very much, even if it was crowded, darkish, and one could not take photos. After seeing the other exhibit, the special one was a bit of a letdown. Still, it put into perspective how our media changes over time.

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My brother and I were both impressed with the craftsmanship of this edition, and the ingenuity of writing these laws and their explanations within each other.

After we had our fill of the museum, my brother and I headed down Unter den Linden with the masses of people who were enjoying marginally okay weather. Most people were heading for the street-fest by the Brandenburg Gate, but after the disappointment last year, my bro and I opted for a coffee stop and side streets heading to our next destination: free dance classes as a chance to get to know one of Berlin’s dance schools.

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Typisch Berlin: old, new, and then a TV Tower sticking up in the middle of it all. Fun fact: the old building to the left was the first institution for experimental psychology in Germany. I’m not sure how pleasant a place it was at the time, though.

I made it to the school, my brother opted out. I danced Zumba, Salsa, and Boogie-woogie, and called it a day. It was a good day, rounded out with my regular English-language practice with members of the German-American Club of Berlin. As one can see, I really did a little bit of everything.

I imagine all my non-German friends (and those not in Germany) spent the day with normal weekday stuff, but I hope it was good! Hope you have a good rest of the week as well! -Dorothea

Happy (German) Unity Day

This morning, I had the unique experience of telling a German why the store he was looking to get into was closed today. After all, isn’t today Monday? Why yes, and tomorrow is Tuesday. It also happens to be one of Germany’s national holidays- celebrating Germany’s reunification 27 years ago.

How odd was my experience, you ask? It would be like telling a US American about the 4th of July. To be fair, the man probably didn’t grow up with the holiday. While many countries celebrate a national holiday at least 100 years old, Germany has the 3rd of October, 1990 that it commemorates. On this day, 26 years ago, Germany was officially one country again.

Now, many people think that German Unity Day is the day the Berlin Wall fell. It isn’t. The Berlin Wall actually fell on November 9th, 1989. While it may make sense to commemorate the fall of the Wall, making November 9th a national holiday would be celebrating the birth of Germany as a “republic” in 1918, Hitler’s failed putsch in Munich, but also the Reichspogromnacht- otherwise known as Kristallnacht, or Night of the Broken Glass. While a Germany history test could get pretty boring with this kind of line-up, the Germans felt it would be inappropriate to make the 9th of November a holiday, so it became October 3rd.

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Another weekend for Berliners to get annoyed at traffic.

While the holiday expressly celebrates unity, not reunification, the reunification of the BRD (Federal Republic of Germany) with the DDR (German Democratic Republic) after 41 years of political, social, and military separation lies at the center of the celebrations happening all over the country.

I don’t know how I missed posting about it two years ago, when I was in Germany for the first time on this day, but I didn’t want to miss out on it now. I even wandered into a street-festival, something I’m not a huge fan of–why do I want to get four Euro beer at a stand when I can get what I’ve stored in my fridge for less than a Euro?  But I did it. I’ll admit, the festival made for some unique shots of the Brandenburg Gate and TV tower.

 

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I was gratified that among the Berlin Burrito Bus, Kindle stands, and various carnival games, there was at least a stand (very fancy) hosted by the German Parliament with multiple touch screens showing quizzes to test one’s knowledge of the Bundestag (political body) and the Reichstag (the building where the Bundestag meets). I got 7/10. Better than the three German groups I saw go up before me.

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At least all those groups knew today was a holiday, as opposed to the poor man I met this morning. Still, it was nice to be the first to wish him a Happy German Unity Day/Frohen Tag der deutschen Einheit.