Friday, March 29, 2019

Cherry Blossoms and Japan in Hamburg

You might have seen images of the cherry blossom trees that blanket Washington, D.C. every spring. The 3,000 trees around the Tidal Basin were a gift from Japan to the United States in 1912, symbolizing the friendship between the two countries. Once the trees begin to bloom, the city is filled with festivals, celebratory events and a parade marking the occasion.

Although the District has an abundance of cherry blossom trees, Japan has gifted its prized sakura trees to several other countries, including Brazil, China, Turkey and Germany. And in Germany, the blossoming trees have been growing in popularity.

In Germany, the trees typically bloom a few weeks later than in the US, but nevertheless come with their own celebrations. Since 1968, the city of Hamburg - which is home to about 2,000 Japanese residents and 100 Japanese companies - has hosted an annual cherry blossom festival, complete with fireworks, a Japanese Kulturtag ("day of culture") and a bi-yearly pageant for a cherry blossom princess. In the 1960s, Hamburg received approximately 5,000 cherry blossom trees from Japan, which were planted along the city's riverbanks.

But even hundreds of years ago, Hamburg residents would flock across the Elbe River to the so-called “Altes Land” (“old land”) in the spring to admire the countless cherry blossom trees that blanketed the region. The Altes Land, which is the largest contiguous fruit-producing region in Northern Europe, has had cherry blossom trees for centuries before they were planted along the Hamburg’s riverbanks.

Other German cities host smaller cherry blossom festivals of their own. And in Bonn, the cherry blossoms have become a major tourist attraction in recent years. In the mid-1980s, the city decided to plant cherry blossom trees all throughout Bonn's Altstadt ("old town") in order to make it a nicer place to live. The plan worked: Bonn's Heerstraße is now one of the most attractive springtime destinations. Photographs depicting Bonn's tunnel of pink have become an internet sensation, bringing tourists from around the world to visit the city during peak bloom. Japan's gifts have brought beauty to cities across the world, including Germany!

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany


Friday, March 15, 2019

St. Patrick in Germany

Many of you might be celebrating St. Patrick's Day by wearing green on Sunday - an Irish Tradition that is common in the United States. But even in Germany, St. Patrick's Day has become a widely celebrated event. While not all  of us would consider a stout a real beer, we’re happy to join the Irish in their beer-drinking celebrations on the biggest Irish party of the year!

The city of Munich hosts the largest annual St. Patrick's Day parade in continental Europe. Often times, 30,000 people or more show up for the parade at Odeonsplatz, which often includes the mayor. The parade includes bagpipe performances, Irish dances and performers in costume. Approximately 1,464 people in 63 different performance groups will participate in this year’s parade.

Irish people and St. Patrick's Day enthusiasts have been gathering for the Munich parade since 1996. And festivities are not limited to the parade: over the course of two days, there is also an Irish mass, an Irish cultural evening and gatherings involving Irish beer.

"So many Irish people live here in Munich and we Bavarians are always up for a party," Anthropologist Sandra Meinas told the Irish Times. But even further north, Germans celebrate the Irish holiday, with Berlin hosting a smaller parade and festival of its own.

Germany is home to a large Irish community; one estimate from 2013 claims there are around 11,000 Irish citizens who have declared German residency. So whether you are in the US or Germany this weekend, we're sure you will encounter more green than usual!

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany




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