“Important” things you didn’t know about Germany

  1. Watching the slapstick 1963 British comedy sketch “Dinner for One”, starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden, is an essential part of the German New Year’s Eve celebration.
  2. Although he cut a fine figure in his youth, “Mad” King Ludwig II of Bavaria started losing his teeth in his twenties – one of the reasons why he became increasingly reclusive in his fairytale castles.
  3. If you ask a German the time and are told “halb drei” (literally “half three”) the time is in fact half past two (half two in English). Germans count the minutes to the next hour rather than after.
  4. The Munich Oktoberfest actually starts in late September. Don’t worry too much if you miss it: there are 60 beer gardens in and around the city that are open all summer.
  5. The Plattdeutsch dialect spoken in parts of northern Germany stems from Old Saxon and contains many words with the same roots as English – “maken” (make), “dat Kniv” (knife), “dat Sailschipp” (sailing ship), “af un an” (sometimes).
  6. Trabant, the name given to East Germany’s answer to Audi and Mercedes Benz, literally means “satellite”. It was intended as a tribute to the first-ever satellite – the Soviet Sputnik, which went into space in 1957.
  7. In 1888 Germany had three emperors: Wilhelm I, Frederick III and Wilhelm II. Frederick III died from cancer of the larynx aged 56 having ruled for just 99 days. A liberal by disposition, he would have been a very different emperor to Wilhelm II.
  8. In 2014 it was 300 years since George I of the Royal House of Hanover ascended to the British throne.
  9. The world’s narrowest street is in Reutlingen. It is called Spreuerhofstrasse and is 31 cm (one foot) wide at its narrowest point.
  10. The word Rindfleischetikettierungsueberwachungsaufgabenuebertragungsgesetz (law delegating beef label monitoring) was removed from the German language this summer, but there are still some crackers – kraftfahrzeughaftpflichtversicherung (automobile liability insurance) and donaudampfschifffahrtsgesellschaftskapitaenswitwe (widow of a Danube steamboat company captain), to name but two.
  11. The American author Mark Twain, not known for being a fan of the German language, once declared: “I never knew before what eternity was made for. It is to give some of us a chance to learn German.”
  12. The term “ecology” was first coined by the German biologist Ernst Haeckel in 1866.
  13. The Chancellor’s office in Berlin is known locally as as the “washing machine”.
  14. The following cities have all at one time or another been capitals of Germany: Aachen, Regensburg, Frankfurt-am-Main, Nuremberg, Berlin, Weimar, Bonn (and East Berlin), and, since 1990, Berlin again.
  15. There are over 300 kinds of bread in Germany.
  16. There is a museum in Berlin decidated to the “currywurst” a popular take on an old favourite involving pieces of pork sausage covered in a spicy ketchup sauce.
  • Watching the slapstick 1963 British comedy sketch “Dinner for One”, starring Freddie Frinton and May Warden, is an essential part of the German New Year’s Eve celebration.