So I’ve been in Germany for about a month now and one thing I’ve come to realize is that the Germans love to celebrate. No matter the occasion it seems that there is always some kind of festival going in the country every weekend. I haven’t been to northern Germany yet, but I’ve heard of some festivals around Cologne and Hannover, and I’ve been to quite a few festivals so far in the southern part of Germany. There was the winefest in Bad Durkheim that I have already talked about, the well-known Oktoberfest in Munich, the lesser known Cannstatter Volksfest in Stuttgart, and even Mannheim itself has its own Volksfest; although it is nowhere near the size of the Oktoberfest or the Cannstatter Fest. But Mannheim is going to have its own version of the Oktoberfest sometime in the next few weeks.
I’ve also heard from some other exchange students about another wine fest that occured in the city of Neustadt. Although Germans tend to be perceived as reserved and unemotional, I have learned that there is nothing more fun than going to a festival and joining in celebration with a bunch of Germans. They hold fests to commemorate important events in their history, as shown from the Oktoberfest, or just to celebrate the changing of the seasons, like the fall Cannstatter Fest or wine fest in Bad Durkheim for the wine season. However, one thing that I was surprised to find that wasn’t celebrated very much was German Unity Day, which occured on October 3. This year marks the 20th year since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the 19th anniversary of the reunification of East and West Germany. I heard that there was a parade and some concerts in Berlin and Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, gave a speech, but other than that I didn’t hear of much celebration. I was in Munich at the Oktoberfest at the time and even there people didn’t make mention of the fact that it was German Unity Day.
I asked one of the Germans I live with why it isn’t celebrated as much as I thought it would be and he said that it really isn’t that important of a holiday because the country already existed, the day just marks when East and West were reconnected. He also said that many western Germans still don’t like the fact that the two sides were reunited because it is placing a heavy financial burden on West Germany to modernize the East’s businesses and infratructure. He said that it is in no way comparable to the our 4th of July holiday and that most Germans don’t really celebrate it aside from getting off from work when it occurs on a weekday (this year’s was on a Saturday).
Although the things I learned about German Unity Day took me by surprise, I am still even more surprised at how many festivals this country holds. You may think that these fests are comparable to a carnival back in the US, but these are often much larger and can last for up to 3 weeks. Clearly the Germans are not the reserved, stoic people I orignally thought they were.