Clip from the archive: Voting Rights in Germany

With the votes from Berlins local election currently being tallied, we revisit our feature story from TWIG episode 109 exploring the issue of voting rights for non-citizens in Germany.

In this feature story, Daniel decided to speak to two representatives from voting rights organisations in Berlin to see what advocates for extending voting rights have to say on the issue.

While we await the results of the local election in Germany's capital state, take a quick refresher with this clip from our latest episode.

Clip from the archive: Episode 108 - Alternative Medicine

From the archive!

In this clip from episode 108, Daniel investigates alternative medicine and its complicated relationship with the healthcare sector in Germany.

Join Daniel as he talks to both Rainer Krell, an alternative medical practitioner in Berlin and Dr. Jutta Hübner of the German Cancer Society and member of the Drug Commission of the German Medical Association to find out more about this fascinating topic.

Destination Germany: Berchtesgaden, the country's famous national park in the south.

This week we are going down, way in the south, to Bavaria's southern border.

I want to tell you all about a location where you can take in Germany’s natural scenery. That destination is the Berchtesgaden National Park.

Now this is not Germany's largest park,  but there is a lot going on there. The park is just over 200 square kilometers. That is pretty small in terms of area for a national park but there is a lot of cool stuff to see and do.

It is located in the state of Bavaria, right in the very southeastern tip boarding Austria. The closest major city is Salzburg, though that is in Austria From there is is about 40 kilometers away. Berchtesgaden is a German national park, so all the actual parkland is located within the German borders.

Why should you visit Berchtesgaden?  

First and foremost, the scenic views from both high up in the mountains as well as deep in the valleys below are breath taking. These southern mountains are pretty huge. Also, Berchtesgaden is the only German national park located in the famous Alps mountain range.

The land is pretty much untouched by any sort of development and was created to preserve this specific landscape which was made a UNESCO Biosphere reserve over 25 years ago. There are no settlements here. Just beautiful, untouched, nature.

In the middle of the park there is a gigantic lake that is almost 8 kilometers long but less than 2 kilometers wide which resides between the steep rocky walls. Visitors at the lake can take in the awesome reflections of the surrounding mountains and forest. If you go in the morning you might even get some cloudy mists floating over the lake to give it that tranquil feel. There is a famous church, St. Bartholoma right on the lake's edge that people like to visit and nearby you can even get a guide boat tour. If you are nice guide he or she might play a flugelhorn to show off the valley’s echo.

The Eagle's Nest, Hitler's mountain resort home.

Berchtesgaden is also where Hitler’s vacation spot, the Kehlsteinhaus  (or better known as "The Eagle's Nest") is located. Tours are offered year around and it is also a restaurant and beer garden.

If you want a real experience in the park, a small inn has recently opened where you can stay overnight. But if you want a spot… you are going to have to book quite some time in advance. 

This destination was originally featured as part of podcast episode number 84. Listen to that episode in full here.

Destination Germany: traditional Christmas markets

In Germany, Christmas markets are everywhere! Every city has them, most towns have them, and you can even find them in some villages.

It's one of my favorite things about Germany is the Christmas season. As someone coming from the United States, these markets give me the feeling of what Christmas was like when I was a child. It was thrilling all month. It was full of activities. Everyone was excited! It was special and magical!

They celebrate the four weeks of advent and usually open in late November, so you get a taste of Christmas even before December starts. They originated right here in central Europe from countries like Germany, Austria, Northern Italy and Eastern France was back during the middle ages.

If you want to visit the biggest Christmas markets, then I would suggest somewhere like Cologne, Munich, Frankfurt or Nuremberg. These cities are known for massive seasonal festivals with a lot to see and do. Alternatively, you could go to the oldest market of its kind in Dresden, which started back in in the early 1400s.

Berlin is also a great city for Christmas Markets but it's a little different than other cities. Instead of having a single massive market. Berlin has something like 60 Christmas markets scattered around that all have something different to offer.

 A traditional mulled wine

A traditional mulled wine

At the center of most markets is a Weihnachtspyramide or Christmas Pyramid. There are multiple spinning levels, on which models of Christmas characters stand - three wise men, Santa Claus, nutcrackers, reindeer... and all the way at the top is a propeller! That’s because in the toy version, the heat from candles hits the propeller and turns the different levels. But it is a bit weird to see a giant propeller in a Christmas market.

This centerpiece is often life size - the one here is about 3 stories tall. At its base, there’s a bar selling hot Christmassy drinks, of which Glühwein is a particular favorite.

You usually receive your Glühwein in a small mug, which is often branded with the name and year of that particular Christmas market. You pay a deposit for the mug - so you can return it and get your cash back or simply keep it as a souvenir!

If you want to make it at home, heat up some red wine and spice it with cinnamon sticks, cloves, star aniseed, citrus and sugar. It may sound like drinking potpourri but it’s really tasty. When you visit your local Christmas market, order it ‘mit Schuss’, with a shot of rum.

There’s nothing quite like drinking some hot wine with friends out in the cold air. Plus, if you have kids - they can join in too! Not drinking the wine, but a non-alcoholic fruit punch.

The smells of Christmas markets, wafting over from the food and drink stalls, are amazing! You get a mixture of all sorts of sweet desserts like Baumstriezel and Kräppelchen to hearty foods like grilled meats, roasted chestnuts, cheese breads, or even a french fry place with like 30 different sauce flavors to choose.

Apart from the food, plenty of markets sell hand-crafted products. Wooden toys, jewellery from the local smith, anything you can imagine. They often demonstrate how they make their products at the booth. So you can see the hard work that goes into making these unique products.

We’ve tried our best to bring you the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of a German Christmas Market. But, of course, there are limits to podcasting... If you don’t have any of these kinds of markets where you live in the world, they’re really worth taking into consideration when planning a trip to Germany in the winter.

And if you’re reading this from Germany - go to your local Christmas market now! There’s not much time left! They only come once a year and are well worth a visit.