4. Living in Germany

Once settled in Germany, one quickly realizes that the amount of information still to be assimilated about this great country is daunting – starting from learning one’s way around town, using the local transportation system, to say nothing about getting to know the country as a whole and its fascinating culture.

Student Life

What’s it like to live and study in Germany? Well, for one thing, you would probably be studying at a university which is among the best, not only in Europe, but the world, with top-notch infrastructure and equipment; there would most likely be a great library to do research for your assignments, as well as a comfortable place to study in peace. Also, the German higher education system has undergone a dramatic internationalization, which means that you will get the chance to meet and study with people from all over the world.

study in germanyGermany is an economic superpower that has become a very attractive place for students all over the world to pursue their studies, and ranks right after the United States and Great Britain in that respect. Many German universities are in the top 100 world rankings, having both tradition and excellence in teaching, and where many Nobel laureates have studied; so there isn’t a doubt that you will receive extraordinary education. Studying in Germany is amazing, easy and loads of fun.

German culture

Going to a new place always means adjusting and learning about that country and it’s culture. It is helpful to prepare yourself before going abroad, for the new things you will encounter, by consulting books, websites and forums as well as getting recommendations from friends that have been there before. To gain a good personal experience of Germany, you have to submerge yourself in its culture, by getting to know and spending as much time as you can with Germans around you, be it students or locals.

There is no shortage of student clubs and activities on and off campus, so if you are interested in activities like e.g. hiking or chess or whatever in your home country, you can continue pursuing the same interests and engage in the same activities and make new friends and learn German in the process. You may have heard that Germans are somewhat reserved in their interactions with others, and there may be some truth to it, but mostly in the case of elders and dwellers of smaller towns. But in larger cities and places with a lot of young people, you’ll find out that they are friendly and accepting of students from abroad.

Be sure to address the elderly with “Sie,” which is the formal “you” to show respect and call your professors by their last name; you can of course call your colleagues and friends by their first names and use “du” if you speak German. Germans value punctuality very much so be in time.

The best part: there are universities in both large cities or quaint towns – whatever suits your personality and needs. Whether you enjoy going out a lot and partying, or have a more chilled lifestyle you’ll have options.

Money matters

Cost of living in Germany depends on the place you will be studying at and your lifestyle, but generally the basic expenses (such as accommodation, study materials, transportation, food etc) are close to the European Union average – around €750 a month. Getting a student card is recommended since you will get discounts at museums, theaters, cinema, public swimming pools and many other places so make sure you make the most of your student status as much as you can.

You can work part-time and earn extra money on the side to support your lifestyle while studying. If you are a national of an EU member country or a national of Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, than you have unlimited access to the job market, just as Germans. Beware that if you work more than 20 hours during a week you will have to pay into social security.

If you come from a country not mentioned above you only have the right to work for 90 full days or 180 half-days a year and if you wish to work more than that, you need to get a work permit. Internships are regarded as work hours too – even the unpaid ones – so please be mindful not to work more than you are allowed to, so you don’t risk trouble with the authorities or worse still – get expelled from Germany. Labor laws are very strict in Germany, so make sure to respect them.

study in germany


Transportation is not a problem since there are trams, buses and trains in almost all the regions of Germany. A common transportation ticket among students is the “Semesterticket” which allows you to use any public transportation at a discount price for a full semester.

Since some universities and campuses are located in suburbs away from city centers, you can save a lot with a single transportation pass. Riding a bike is a common choice among students too, you can get almost anywhere on a bike and thus cut the transportation expenses as well as get some exercise.

Health insurance

According to German law everybody studying in a state-recognized college or university has to have health insurance to qualify for enrollment, thus one of the prerequisites to getting admitted in a university is to have proper health insurance.

Make sure you submit an insurance certificate (called “Krankenversicherungnachweis” in German) at the admissions office before the beginning of your term. Guest researchers, students in language courses as well as students over 30 years old need to get insured from private companies. The health insurance plans  MAWISTA Student  and  MAWISTA Science  are specially customized for international students, language students (e.g. in preparation of a language test), guest scientists, scholarship holders and internship students in Germany.

For more information please read:  Health Insurance in Germany


School comes first, but there’s no denying traveling is a lot of fun. During weekends and university breaks make sure you take travels throughout Germany. This way you gain new perspectives, get to see many amazing things and come back home with stories to tell.

Germany has nine different neighboring countries, so you will be able to visit new places and experience new cultures without spending too much money. Plan in advance, find deals on trains or carpool with others and don’t miss opportunities to visit extraordinary places across Europe. Make use of travel agencies that offer last minute deals on gateways to cool places for students.

Another way to travel to other countries is by renting a car, Europcar and many others have deals on weekends, rent a car on Friday afternoon and bring it back on Monday morning. This way you can visit another country in a convenient and affordable way.

Impressions of some German Cities

With the passing of years, Germany’s status as one of the delights of world traveling seems to have finally been etched in stone. Just some of the reasons (the list is far from complete): the captivating landscapes seen from cruising some of the major waterways, picturesque villages where one cannot escape the impression that their inhabitants seem to be in love with the land, elegant castles strewn all over the country, flamboyant festivals celebrating life and an overwhelming sense of history told and yet to be told exuding from all directions.

Germany is a curious mix of old and new: a seamless continuity between the past and present, staring tumultuous periods boldly in the face, is astounding; and hints of a future yet to come seem to be all over the place. This is perhaps best seen in German cities – being the focal points of these temporal mergers and transitions – as many of them encapsulate this phenomenon really well.

Now, German cities are hardly cookie-cutter pattern replications – there’s a world of difference between many of them, born of the diversity (geographical, cultural, historical, and economic) of their surroundings as well as of the great fragmentation, in centuries gone by, of the German speaking area as a whole. However, an important unifying thread they share, is this powerful grip they have on the past, present and future, a testament to the resilience and ingenuity of the German people.

Volumes upon volumes have been written on individual cities of Germany, so much so that articulating a novel observation on any one of them is a pretty tall order. What will be attempted here instead, is the laying out of some of the main aspects of their general character, as seen by a foreign visitor.


berlinBeing the largest, and perhaps the only ‘proper’ city in Germany, a bustling metropolis (more than twice the size of the second largest city in the country), and the capital city – seat of the federal government and parliament (the Reichstag building) – Berlin is a vibrant economic center and the quintessential city of the alternative art-scene, ‘underground’ culture and, well … partying (like there’s no tomorrow).

Precious few are the cities in the world that can boast such an eclectic mix of avant-garde cultural trends and ‘envelope-pushing’ lifestyles, against the backdrop of a burgeoning free market economy and untrammeled entrepreneurial spirit. Little wonder artists and youths from all over are moving to this city in droves.

Once the city reunited in 1990, after decades of separation into the Eastern and Western part, in spite of daunting challenges of merging what seemed like irreconcilable differences into a single metropolitan area, Berlin quickly morphed into its current cosmopolitan self – a city in flux, constantly reinventing itself.

Berlin is a beautiful and spread-out city with tons of attractions; so, make sure you set aside enough time to check out the main ones (also, make the most of the highly functional public transportation system: bus, tram, and underground services; use cab services too – they’re reasonably priced compared to other major European cities).

City attractions to be enjoyed:

  • Museum Island – not to be missed IMO; in particular, the gorgeous art exhibits displayed at the Bode Museum.
  • Reichstag – seize the free tour to the top and the glass dome – hat’s off to Sir Norman!
  • Needless to say: do justice to the Oranienburger Strasse (its south end) – you gotta love it! Behave yourself, though… 😉
  • A must see: Zitadelle Spandau – fabulous renaissance fortresses;
  • Classic Remise Berlin – impressive exhibits of vintage cars on display;
  • DDR (Deutsche Demokratische Republik) Museum – entertaining!

Munich (München)

munichA city very different from Berlin, but with an attraction entirely its own; a city with class (the “schnitzel-kitsch” stereotype springs from sheer envy): traditional ornate Bavarian architecture, world-renowned museums, opera and the famous symphony orchestra, authentic beer gardens, fabulous parks and the vicinity of the Alps (mountain ridges clearly visible on a clear day).

The capital city of Bavaria has it all in one place – perfect size, perfect scale, tons to see and do, just the kind of place you’d wanna live in.

Taking walks around ‘Marienplatz’ is a delightful experience: the history of Bavaria in grand display all over – charming remnants of the royal past, you expect to bump into the “Mad King” Ludwig any moment.

Every year, Munich hosts what is probably the largest street fair in the world: the word-famous Oktoberfest. It is the festival that celebrates all things Bavarian, most notably the beer.

The number of people traveling to Munich each year to join in the party counts in the millions: the temptation of downing ‘Augustiner’s in ‘Maßkrüge,’ while listening to ‘Oompah’ and ‘Schlager,’ eating sausages, ‘hendl’ and ‘schweinebraten’ as well as indulging in general revelry, proves too strong for many; the ‘eye of the storm’ – “die Wiesn” – filled with tents and all kinds of sideshows, is a spectacle of joy.

This whole Bavarian beer hall culture adds a lot to the allure of Munich.

‘Englischer Garten’ a lovely park, close to my favorite beer garden, makes for such great leisurely strolls.

Set some time aside to visit the Bavarian National Museum – definitely worth its while. http://www.bayerisches-nationalmuseum.de/

Old ‘Pinakothek’ – a stunning collection of works from old masters!


Needles to say, a visit to the “Nymph’s Castle” (‘Schloss Nymphenburg’) is a must, and if time permits, definitely catch one of those day-tours to the ‘Neuschwanstein’ Castle’.

Nuremberg (Nürnberg)

nurembergSituated inside a fabulous landscape, with the Pegnitz river flowing through it and the beautiful “Reichswald” forest nearby, Nuremberg is the second largest city in the state of Bavaria and the largest in the Franconia region.

Built around a one-of-a-kind old city center, surrounded by a long wall with many towers and turrets, and the Imperial Castle featuring prominently in the background, Nuremberg’s historic old town projects an almost fairy-tale-setting kind of image; well, its an image only befitting the hometown of Lebkuchen, the grand master of the ‘northern renaissance’ Albrecht Dürer, and the birthplace of the clarinet. One need only take a stroll down the lively Hauptmarkt, to realize this place has character galore.

The city seems like a point where Bavarian ‘sternness’ meets the open-mindedness of some of the larger cities up north, giving rise to a peculiar mix of tradition and contemporary trends. The prevailing curiosity and openness of its inhabitants, greatly contribute to the general climate of tolerance present in Nuremberg (roughly, every sixth inhabitant of this city is foreign-born).

Currently a center of engineering, e-business and economic consultancy, as well as host to many trade-fairs, Nuremberg’s image of prosperity extends well into its medieval past – the  fifteenth and sixteenth centuries mark its cultural and economic heyday; nineteenth century is a period when it developed into a dynamic entrepreneurial center. There is a dark spot in the city’s history during the 30s and 40s of the twentieth century, namely, Nuremberg used to be the favorite venue for the Nazi regime rallies.

Among places worth visiting:

  • Albrecht Dürer Haus – role-playing (Dürer’s wife), guided tours in English
  • Germanisches Nationalmuseum (German National Museum) – in a Monastery (Carthusian) setting, with cloisters and everything – modern extensions; impressive collection of German art (painters and sculptors); www.gnm.de
  • Great Zoo (‘Tiergarten’)! Dolphinarium as well;


frankfurtDefinitely the most ‘high-rise’ city in Germany (and Europe for that matter), with skyscrapers shooting up along the bank of the ‘Main’ river (spectacular view of the city from the ‘Main Tower’) and the ‘Old Town,’ little wonder it’s a.k.a. “Main–hattan.”

Frankfurt is the largest financial center of continental Europe and, owing to its busy international airport and its central geographical position, a major European transportation hub; also the seat of the German Stock Exchange (dating back to 1585), European Central Bank, German Federal Bank (Deutsche Bundesbank), and the list goes on…

A city rich in history – emperors of The Holy Roman Empire used to be crowned in Frankfurt’s Römer Platz. The ‘Messe’ (exhibition center) dates all the way back to 1150, and the famous ‘International Book Fair’ held in October, is held since 1478.

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was born in Frankfurt in 1749, and the house he used to live in, although destroyed during WW2, has been rebuilt and turned into a museum.


There’s a string of museums and galleries on the southern bank of the river ‘Main,’ most notably the Städel Art Institute and Municipal Gallery, featuring an awesome collection of  masterpieces spanning several centuries.

Being one of the major world business centers, Frankfurt  attracts legions of foreign expats, who flock to this city in pursuit of fortune and fun; as to the latter: no one gets disappointed – Frankfurt boasts a dynamic nightlife, with a ‘techno’ dance-music scene second only to the capital’s. Behind the façade of being all work, the city slickers know how to play hard.

For a more laid back experience of Frankfurt, the old quarter  of Sachsenhausen, with its cobbled streets and old apple cider taverns serving “Ebbelwoi” is highly recommended. This is a great setting to meet people and make new friends.

Just some of the many attractions recommended: 

  • ‘The Main Tower’ – the best way to see the city; after the elevator ride up to the platform, there awaits a spectacular view of the cityscape;
  • ‘Deutsches Filmmuseum’ (The German Film Museum) – very much worth its while, informative and entertaining;
  • “Zeil” shopping street – a veritable shopping mecca;
  • The Senckenberg Natural History Museum – a huge museum of natural history in the Bockenheim neighbourhood, probably the largest in Germany; countless fascinating exhibits – audio guides in English available;

Cologne (Köln)

cologneThe city that boasts the most stunningly monumental cathedral anywhere, but is also home to a contemporary art scene, impressive museums and famous carnival celebrations.

Cologne is probably the oldest of major German cities – founded by romans in roughly 50 AD (though excavations keep uncovering ruins dating even further back) – and continued to be one of the largest cities north of the Alps throughout the middle ages and renaissance; it is the largest city within the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan area, one of the most densely populated urban areas in Europe. The mixed cityscape of Cologne is a consequence of extensive reconstruction following its near-complete destruction during WW2 bombing campaigns.

The economic life of Cologne, through most of its history up until the early modern times, largely revolved around its importance as a harbor and transportation hub upon the river Rhine; whereas today, the city is the main insurance and media center (hosts the media headquarters of seven major television broadcasters, such as RTL, WDR etc) in Germany, and home to the headquarters of many corporations.

One great thing about Cologne is its geographic location, with some favorite tourist spots so conveniently close: both Brussels and Amsterdam are within a couple of hours’ ride and Paris is a little more than three hours away.

There is a palpable sense of positivity in Cologne; just check into one of the many brewery taverns in the city’s old quarter or any of the bars of the ‘Heumarkt’ square or around

‘Alter Markt,’ get yourself a ‘Kölsch’ and it will unfailingly be there – the secret ingredient, I guess, that makes the Cologne Carnival a carnival in a league of its own: one of the largest and loudest street festivals of Europe.

Just as you exit the city’s ‘Hauptbahnhof,’ you’re there: facing the monumental Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), one of the wonders of human artistic genius; this Cathedral (seat of the Catholic Archbishop of Cologne) is surely one of the architectural jewels of the world. Took a very long time to finish (1248 – 1880), but when it finally got finished, it was celebrated as an event of national importance under Kaiser Wilhelm I.

It’s very much worth climbing all the 519 steps to the top of the spire in order to zero-in on the handcrafted stone work. This cathedral is the absolute masterpiece of Gothic architecture.

Other delightful attractions in Cologne:

  • ‘Imhoff’ Chocolate Museum – the complete chocolate-making process on display; wafers handed to guests to dip; not to be missed!
  • The headquarters of 4711, on Glockengasse 4; learn about the history of the original ‘Eau de Cologne;
  • River cruise up the Rhine – to be taken by all means, if time permits; great way to see the city and beautiful old castles along the way;


hannoverAt first glance, Hanover doesn’t compare very well with its seemingly more exciting counterparts in Germany; the city owes its present layout, to a considerable extent, to the Allied bombing raids that had obliterated its historic heart (although painstaking restorations have manged to partially bring it back to life) and the modern urban blocks built subsequently. However, the capital of ‘Niedersachsen’ has more to it than meets the eye; it is blessed with a beautiful surrounding area with forests and big parks (and picturesque smaller towns in the vicinity such as Hamelin, Celle and Braunschweig).

Hanover is a commercial hub and one of Germany’s most prosperous centers, as well as one of the leading exhibition cities in the world; it boasts the world’s largest fairground: the ‘Messegelände Hannover’ exhibition area (with its 496,000 square meters of indoor space) in the ‘Mittelfeld’ district of the city. The city hosts a total of over 60 international and national exhibitions each year; since it started hosting ‘CeBIT,’ Hanover has become an obligato tourist destination for information technology aficionados from all over the world.

The main train station (Hauptbahnhof) of Hanover is the hub of the high-speed train network in Germany; it is conveniently located right in the middle of the city: just walk straight out the front of it and you’re ‘there’ – facing countless shops and restaurants.

A short distance away is the Hanover ‘Rathaus’ (city hall), an amazing building, originally finished in 1913; the facility offers different experiences of Hanover at different points in the city’s past. At the ground floor, four phases of the city are on display, with one of them being the near-complete destruction of the city in 1945; you can take a ride to the top of the ‘Rathaus’ in a very unusual diagonally-moving elevator.

Just south of the city hall is the the Maschsee Lake (can be viewed from the top of the ‘Rathaus’), where the famous ‘Maschseefest’ takes place every summer.

Attractions of Hanover not to be missed:

  • ‘Die Herrenhäuser Gärten’ – the ‘Royal Gardens’ offer a spectacular display: a variety of colors from all the different flowers, stunning fountains as well as some amazing architecture; http://www.hannover.de/en/content/view/full/363632
  • Wilhelm-Busch Museum – a unique collection of caricatures and other satirical art; highly recommended. http://www.karikatur-museum.de/
  • Leibniz House (near the Historical Museum) – the house where the famous mathematician/philosopher lived during the later years of his life;
  • ‘Brauhaus Ernst August’ (on ‘Schmiedestraße’) – great home brew and decent food;


hamburgHamburg is the kind of city a brief visit can never do justice to; it is an urban environment so rich in attractions of all kinds and with a character so multifarious and complex that, just coming to grips with it, requires at least several prolonged stays.

Owing to its phenomenal position on the lower flow of Elbe – with many meandering canals and the beautiful Alster lake just northeast to the city center – a short (and highly navigable) distance away from the North Sea, Hamburg is the city with the greatest number of bridges in the world (roughly 2500) and with more canals than Amsterdam and Venice put together. You gotta love this: you can actually chill on the beach in Hamburg (just abstract the slightly cooler weather and you’d have no problem believing you’re somewhere far more exotic) – who’da thunk it?

The second largest city in Germany, Hamburg is one of the most affluent and the largest non-capital city in Europe. Traditionally a major transportation hub and a financial center, it has in the recent past become the host city of media conglomerates and the world’s aerospace industry giant Airbus, as well as a world tourism hot-spot.

The city has a large student population (around 70.000), attending its seventeen different universities.

A typical short visit itinerary in Hamburg would consist of visits to ‘the Michael’ (‘Michaeliskirche’ protestant church), the city hall, ‘Speicherstadt’ (warehouse district), promenade by the ‘Landungsbrücken’, some of the main museums (‘Kunsthalle,’ the ‘Kunst und Gewerbe’ museum, ‘Deichtorhallen’ etc).

For the more adventurous: sample the “Reeperbahn” nightlife hub in the St. Pauli quarter, especially on Fridays and Saturdays – exciting underground parties there (electronic, ‘drum’n’bass,’ …); a pretty large ‘red light district’ with brothels and strip clubs.

There is a magnificent futuristic building project named ‘HafenCity’ beginning to take shape at the old docks in the southern part of the city. This ‘city’ within the city will take a long time to complete (until 2025), but some cutting edge architecture can already be enjoyed there.

A few highly recommended attractions:

  • ‘Ballinstadt’ Emigration Museum – Highly recommended  (a must for Americans of German and other eastern European ancestry – 600 million genealogical data  entries to search from);
  • ‘Kunsthalle’ – a fabulous collection of medieval, renaissance and modern masterpieces;
  • www.hamburger-kunsthalle.de/index.php/home_en.html
  • Shopping on ‘Mönckebergstraße’ (just before visiting the “Rathaus” – leads straight there);

Some Major Festivals and Cultural Events in Germany

Annual festivities and notable events taking place in any country, provide a great opportunity for gaining an insight into its cultural peculiarities and traditional values. Germany, with its plurality of regional identities, offers a wide variety of festivals and cultural events to choose from; whatever it is you’re into, whether it be sampling German beers and gastronomic delights, getting swept away by a carnival procession, checking out the latest book publication trends from around the world, or simply attending a gathering of people having some passion or hobby in common with you – chances are an event takes place each year somewhere in Germany that is custom-tailored to provide the type of experience and excitement you’re seeking.

With a mind-boggling array of different festivals taking place each year in Germany (over 10,000, among whom some of the largest and most unusual in the world), providing experiences ranging from the solemn grandeur of Wagner’s ‘Parsifal’ at the ‘Bayreuther Festspiele,’ to the inebriated extravaganza of ‘hybrid cultural identities’ at Berlin’s ‘Karneval der Kulturen,’ there is no shortage of spectacles to attend even for the most discriminating of visitors.

Following are a few of the main ones – festivals and events many people around the world, who have never set foot in Germany, know about.


Unfolding through late September and into the first few days of October, Oktoberfest marks 16 days of celebrating all things Bavarian – most notably: the beer.

It is Germany’s most famous festival, at any rate among the brew aficionados around the globe, and the franchise is spreading fast – different places the world over, one would never have associated with swigging beers to the sounds of ‘lederhosen’-clad bands, are now having their own versions of Oktoberfest.

The number of people traveling to Munich each year to join in the party counts in the millions: the temptation of downing ‘Augustiner’s in ‘Maßkrüge,’ while listening to ‘Oompah’ and ‘Schlager,’ eating sausages, ‘hendl’ and ‘schweinebraten’ as well as indulging in general revelry, proves too strong for many; the ‘eye of the storm’ – “die Wiesn” – filled with tents and all kinds of sideshows, is a spectacle of joy.

The Frankfurt Book Fair (‘Frankfurter Buchmesse’)

Dating all the way back to 1476 (not long after Johannes Gutenberg first invented the mechanical movable type in the nearby town of Mainz), the Frankfurt Book Fair, held annually in mid-October, is by far the largest trade fair for books in the world. From its modest beginnings, as a small fair where local booksellers would show off their wares, it gradually rose to its current status of not only the #1 book fair in the world (with roughly 7500 exhibitors participating from over 110 countries), but also one of the important media events on the global calendar.

The fair is important as the venue where business deals such as international publishing rights and licensing fees, are negotiated between various representatives of book publishing and multimedia enterprises.

Carnival Season

A great opportunity to celebrate, which Germans love to do no matter what, is provided by the Carnival (‘Karneval’ – a.k.a. ‘Fasching’ or ‘Fastnacht’) Season which, just like Mardi Gras, being a Catholic tradition with roots far into the pagan past, marks the beginning of the period of Lent, leading up to Easter.

The party begins as early as November, but it doesn’t really kick into overdrive until the Thursday (“Weiberfastnacht”) before Ash Wednesday. The actual carnival parades in Germany are held during the weekend and especially on Rose Monday (‘Rosenmontag’) and sometimes also on Mardi Gras (‘Faschingsdienstag’) in larger carnival centers.

The “Fifth Season,” as they sometimes refer to it, abruptly pulls parts of Germany out of their winter slumber and into explosion of colors; flamboyant costumes, marching bands,  street dancers, and decorated floats parade down the streets on ‘Rosenmontag.’

Carnival is particularly big in the western (‘Rheinischer Karneval’) and southwestern part of the country (Alemannic and Swabian ‘Fastnacht,’ with spooky figures wearing wooden masks). Cologne is home to the biggest carnival in the country, followed by Düsseldorf, and Mainz.

The Berlin Film Festival

berlin film festival‘Internationale Filmfestspiele Berlin’ a.k.a. ‘the Berlinale,’ is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world, with the Golden and Silver Bears (the awards) being on the same footing with ‘Palme d’Or’ and Oscars.

With over 300,000 tickets to film projections sold, ‘Berlinale’ is the largest film festival in the world in terms of public attendance; during ten days (February 7-17), an array of films – up to 400 – spanning the entire spectrum of world cinematic production, get shown in several sections of the festival (Competition, Panorama, Forum, etc).

A cinematographic trade fair called The European Film Market (EFM), is held alongside the ‘Berlinale’ each year, adding to the hype; it serves as a meeting place for the film industry movers and shakers: producers, distributors, buyers, co-production representatives, financiers etc.

A number of other satellite events take place around the festival, such as The Berlinale Talent Campus, which gathers promising young filmmakers from the world over, around a series of workshops and lectures, aimed at promoting up and coming artists.

‘Berlinale’ has developed a distinct character among other major film festivals, in that it has struck a curious equipoise between art, commerce and glamor; all in the face of relentless global media attention, which also translates into thousands of journalists ensuring the media coverage of high profile premieres with red carpets rolled out for mega-celebrities.

Bachfest Leipzig

Staged every summer at the same historical venue – the ‘Thomaskirche’ in Leipzig, where Johann Sebastian Bach served as the ‘Kapelmeister’ from 1723 until the end of his life in 1750 – this world-class music event celebrates the life and work of the baroque composer and city’s most famous resident.

Formerly referred to as ‘Bachtage’ (Bach Days), the festival has undergone some conceptual alterations in the last fifteen years or so, and is currently being organized under a different theme each year by the ‘Bach-Archiv,’ an institute of the University of Leipzig.

A roughly 100 different events take place each year under the ombrella of the Bachfest, featuring some of the top-notch individual artists and classical ensembles from the world over, the Gewandhaus Orchestra and the St. Thomas Choir, performing different pieces of the multifaceted musical opus of the great composer.

Every year the festival begins with the opening performance conducted by the serving ‘Thomaskantor’ (Bach’s current official equivalent), to culminate with the performance of the ‘Mass in B minor’ at the St. Thomas Church.

Festival-Mediaval (The Medieval Festival)

While not one of the best known, it is surely one of the most unusual and entertaining of festivals taking place in Germany each year. The re-enactment of scenes from life in the middle ages with medieval markets, fire shows, music, street performers and all kinds of bizarre characters like witches and beggars roaming around, depicts the kind of atmosphere prevalent in central Europe many centuries ago.

Held in the Bavarian town of Selb (in upper Franconia) every September, it offers a living history as it were, for the curious folk who enjoy medieval paraphernalia and this type of time travel into a past shrouded in mysteries and myths of all kinds, with obligato dragons, secret dungeons, archery tournaments and what not.

Food in Germany

Germans love their beer and most likely you have heard about the Munich Oktoberfest, where thousand of tourists, besides locals go every year just to relish the taste of a true Bavarian brew. But, Germany has a lot more to offer than just great beer, and that is among other things, their delicious food. German cuisine is as rich and diverse as the country’s culture and history. While studying there, you should by all means make sure you try some of the extraordinary traditional German food. Each region has it’s own specialties, so no matter where you wind up staying you’ll always be presented with plenty of choice and in no time at all you’ll fall in love with German food. Here is a very short list of some of the most popular specialties you will encounter in Germany:

Sausages (wurst)

German White SausageSausages are the staple diet in Germany and a big part of the German cuisine. Sausage are generally known as Wurst in German and there are over 1500 kinds. They are often eaten in combination with bread, potato salad and mustard. They are mostly made of pork, but it’s not uncommon to find ones made with beef or poultry.

One of the popular specialties is the Currywurst, which is a large portion of chopped sausage, either fried or grilled, with spicy ketchup and curry powder, usual served with French fries. It dates from the 50s and originated in Berlin. You will find many places where you can have sausage specialties, ranging from fancy restaurants to local cafés and street stands.

Soups and stews

Parts of Germany can get very cold during winter, so a nice warm bowl of soup or stew will warm your tummy and heart. A delicious specialty is the Eintop, which is more that just a soup – it is cooked with meat and vegetables, so it’s a variety of stew that is really easy to make. If you don’t want to spend a lot of money eating out, than preparing this dish for yourself and your roommates will be pretty easy once you get the hang of it.

Bread and potatoes

In Germany you’ll always be faced with a great variety of breads to choose from, since bakeries make over 6000 different types and Germans eat bread with almost every meal. No matter how you like your dough, you will probably find it in Germany. A very popular choice is the Brez’n pretzel, and you can rest assured that you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the great taste of this soft and fresh original German specialty.

As is the case with bread, potatoes are used with almost every dish and every meal. They are used throughout Germany, but each region has it’s own way of preparing them so you will always find a great variety of potato dishes no matter where you travel.


Black Forest CakeBlack forest cake or Schwarzwälder Kirschtorte, is a delicious chocolate cake made with cherries. Hence the name –Schwarzwälder means black forest, while Kirschtorte means cherry cake. As far as desserts go, this is one of the most popular cakes and you should definitely try it.

Another specialty coming from the forest fruits in Germany is the Rote Grütze, which is made with strawberries, blueberries, cherries or other red ingredients, hence the name “rote” (meaning red). It’s a dessert usually served with cream or vanilla ice cream – a joy to eat during summer time.

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