August 2012 issue

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Cool Germany

Germany certainly has the cool factor with visitors and locals, with its lively cities, great outdoors and friendly, multicultural population. Gillian Evans reports.

Less than 150 years old, Germany as a nation state is relatively young, and today is still made up of a patchwork of different regions and cities that retain their own very distinct culture. Gerti Schwarzer at inlingua Berlin agrees, highlighting, “The maritime traditions of the north to the mountains in the south, the historic Rhineland with wonderful rivers and castles in the west, and the still relatively unexplored expanses of the east.”

The Germany of the 21st century is the European Union’s largest economy, with almost 82 million inhabitants. The country is well-respected for many reasons, according to Brigitta Alkofer at Humboldt-Institut, which has 18 year-round and summer language centres. “Germany has a very good reputation abroad for several reasons: the high quality of products we export; the outstanding education, [including] higher education that we offer free of charge; the beauty and cleanliness of cities and nature and the much-appreciated characteristics of the German people [such as their] punctuality and efficiency.”

Because the country is an economic powerhouse, many students decide to study German for career-related reasons. “Many students are attracted to the career opportunities that Germany offers,” confirms Felix Breitkreuz at ESL Prolog in Berlin. “German is not only useful for career advancement within Germany – many other countries communicate in German. Not to be forgotten are the educational options that Germany has to offer. A German university diploma is a very valuable document that many students strive to get.”

Whatever the motivation for studying in Germany, the overriding consensus from language schools is that students are generally surprised by the sheer beauty of the country. Humboldt-Institut’s schools are all in southern Germany, close to the majestic Alps and vast sparkling jewel of Lake Constance. “Students are usually really surprised and taken with the beauty of the landscape surrounding them [and] the amazing views they have from our schools,” recounts Alkofer. “And whereas many students at first think they would prefer to live in a big city, and not one of the smaller towns in which most of our schools are located, they soon change their opinion when they see the beautiful surroundings and the advantages of living in a quiet and peaceful neighbourhood.”

With lakes and mountains nearby, swimming and mountain hiking are also readily available for students who study in Munich, although Mark Hogarth at Berlitz Munich Weinstraße concedes, “Probably one of the best known attractions in Munich is the annual Oktoberfest beer festival, which takes place every September for two weeks and attracts people from all over the world.”

Munich is a city full of history and tradition. “One of the most famous customs in Munich is to eat Weißwurst with a pretzel, sweet mustard and beer before noon. This tradition started in 1857, and they had to be eaten before noon as the sausages were freshly made every day and as refrigerators weren’t around, they didn’t stay that way for very long.”

Despite being the capital of Bavaria, Munich is an easy, compact city to get to know. “Students are always quite surprised at how relaxed and homely the atmosphere is in Munich,” comments Hogarth. “They are also surprised at how green the city is, [with] the English Garden, a huge park in the centre of Munich.”

Around 100 kilometres northeast of Munich is the historic city of Regensburg, with its well-preserved medieval centre. “It is just wonderful being here,” exclaims Bernhard Heidl at Horizonte in the city, “in the middle of dozens, if not hundreds, of pubs, restaurants and bars, and meeting Germans and people from all over. You can go by bike ride along the Danube, you can sunbathe right in the middle of the city in parks or at the river or enjoy the [city view] from a beer garden or café. It is both quiet and relaxed, and very lively, old and modern – just beautiful!”

Another of Germany’s national treasures is Heidelberg, with its narrow alleys and famous tourist sites, such as Heidelberg Castle, which was voted Germany’s top tourist attraction in a 2012 German National Tourist Board survey. This evocative ruined castle is home to the Heidelberg Tun, which is a huge wine vat said to have been built in 1751 using 130 oak trees. As well as the castle, Alisha Fields at F+U Academy of Languages in Heidelberg highlights the old university, its library and the Old Bridge as other notable attractions. The school organises many tours and excursions to places of interest, including themed tours of Heidelberg, such as a night watchman’s tour.

While Heidelberg is famous for its historic tourist attractions, Stuttgart is well known for its cars. It is home to the Porsche and Mercedes-Benz museums, both of which offer a fascinating history of the automobile and motorcycle industry. But there is much more to this city, says Jenny Amtmann at Anglo-German Institut. “Stuttgart fascinates with its wide range of leisure activities. If you are interested in wildlife or botany, the Wilhelma Zoo is truly a great place to go. [For sport], go and have a closer look at our stadium and, of course, Stuttgart’s number one football club, VfB Stuttgart, or the Porsche Arena for our annual Porsche Tennis Grand Prix. For the more culturally interested there is also an abundant variety of museums, such as the Haus der Geschichte for a historical overview, the Staatsgalerie for all those interested in art and the Linden-Museum with special exhibitions about different civilizations.” It is also a city filled with festivals including the Cannstatter Volksfest, one of Europe’s biggest fairground events, and Germany’s largest Christmas market.

In Bremen, northern Germany, Andreas Breiter at the University of Bremen highlights a “very unique event” called the Breminale. “This open-air cultural festival is located directly at the riverside,” he explains. “It takes place for five days every summer and attracts more than 150,000 visitors each year. The programme includes live music in circus tents, art... and poetry readings. And the best part of it: the entrance is free!”

Bremen itself is a relatively small city, with an attractive Altstadt – German for old town – and the fantastical architecture of Böettcherstrasse. “When people come to Bremen for the first time, one of their first impressions is how relaxed the city is,” relates Breiter. “Bremen has a wonderful combination of new and old architecture, often even in adjoining buildings.” Great places to relax and unwind are das Viertel, with its lively bars, and in the summer the beer gardens along the former harbour promenade known as the Schlachte.

Bars, art galleries and museums abound in the country’s pulsing capital, Berlin. “Berlin is one of the hottest cities in the world right now,” asserts Breitkreuz at ESL Prolog. “Its burgeoning youth culture, political importance, and cultural excitement can hardly be matched.”Dorothee Robrecht at GLS Sprachenzentrum in Berlin agrees, adding, “At the moment Berlin seems to be a magical place for many people, [it’s] ‘the’ place to be.”

Schwarzer at inlingua Berlin says it’s hard to pinpoint why Berlin is so special, but it does have something for every occasion. “If you are into culture you can visit a different venue every night, not just of the week but of the entire year, whether it be an opera [venue or]... a bar. You name it, this city has it!”

Agent viewpoint

“Students love Germany’s culture and rich history. We send our students to a variety of [places] – it all depends on their preference. Big cities like Berlin, Frankfurt and Munich offer a lot of nightlife and museums, and smaller towns are quieter and have more nature to offer. What surprises students is probably how friendly most Germans are. They usually come home with many stories about German hospitality. They are also amazed at how easy it is to visit other German towns. The food and beer has to be mentioned here also, as most of our students are fascinated by the Wuerste (german hotdogs), Sauerkraut and the famous beer. I have been to Germany many times and even lived there for 17 years.” Annie Stratmann de Range, Regioenlace Europa, Mexico

“Germany has some of the best German language education organisations in the world. Our students are mostly young learners and their parents like intensive courses. The organisations we work with are located all over Germany. For small towns we send our students to Bad Schussenried and Lindenberg, for big cities we prefer Munich and Berlin. Turkish parents prefer smaller towns because of the security. Also, in small towns the schools are open all year round therefore language programmes have flexible dates. It is easier to arrange programmes around busy schedules. They are surprised by the empty streets after 6pm. And of course, they are very surprised by the rules! The world famous German discipline, which we don’t have in Turkey.”  
Necdet Bilgem, Biltur, Turkey

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Annie Wright School  
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English Language Center  
Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart  
Liberty University  
New York Language Center  
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