Salvatore Settis’ Book “If Venice Dies”

November 29, 2016

if venice dies salvatore settis

Last month the Philadelphia Museum of Art hosted a lecture by Salvatore Settis where he detailed the findings of his most recent book, If Venice Dies. In the book, the art historian argues that the current policies surrounding Venice are killing this important historic city and that action is needed.

Many of today’s most dreamed of tourist destinations are facing an important turning point. Machu Picchu now has a daily limit in the number of visitors who can access the 15th-century Peruvian site. Similarly, Mount Everest is requiring climbers to return with a certain quota of garbage as the mountain isn’t being looked after. The difference between those sites and the historic city of Venice, Italy is that the first two examples are relatively remote and not easily accessible. There’s some extra effort involved. Venice, however, is a group of more than 100 islands that are just off the eastern coast of the country in the Adriatic Sea. There are no significant barriers to protect it.

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German Music: Von Wegen Lisbeth

November 21, 2016
German Music, Learn German

von wegen lisbeth

There seems to be no shortage of young bands making music in the German language right now. In Austria, Bilderbuch and Wanda are attracting attention. Elsewhere Kraftklub and KIZ continue to keep things fresh from the German perspective. While there is still the notion you won’t be “successful” (whatever that means) unless you write and sing in English, the German/Austrian/Swiss music scene is hot. And good for them! (And us, as German language learners!) This month’s featured German language music act are Berlin-based indie band Von Wegen Lisbeth.

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German Films: Actor Sebastian Koch

November 14, 2016
German Films, Learn German

sebastian koch

If Sebastian Koch looks familiar, it would not be all too surprising. In recent years the Karlsruhe-born, Stuttgart-raised actor has been popping up in Hollywood. He portrayed pioneering sexual reassignment surgeon Dr. Kurt Warnekros in 2015’s The Danish Girl, Stasi-employed lawyer Wolfgang Vogel in Steven Spielberg’s Bridge of Spies and as the boss of Carrie Mathison (aka Claire Danes) on the fifth season of Homeland. Koch has a large filmography of notable films in German, as well as English. Many of the films have a political twist, relating to the Second World War or the Cold War. Get to know Sebastian Koch and practice your German language skills with this month’s German film recommendations.

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How to Spend 24 Hours in Munich

November 9, 2016


For many, Munich is all about Oktoberfest. But there is so much more to see than just the Wiesn. But sometimes you only get a limited window of opportunity to visit a city. Maybe your travel style is all about traveling to many places instead of getting to know a few really well. Or sometimes the reason is as simple as a lack of time or money. Or both. If you’ve got the time, I’ve shared my tips and favorites in Munich. But what if time is limited? I’ve put together my favorites and must-sees for a guide of how to spend 24 hours in Munich!

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Must See: Tokyo’s Shibuya Crossing

November 7, 2016

shibuya crossing tokyo japan must see

For the United States, and perhaps much of the Western world, Times Square is our central reference point when we refer to a large, busy, crowded intersection. It’s a site that draws people together, whether it be to watch the infamous crystallized ball “drop” on New Year’s Eve or simply to gawk at the larger than life signs that made the otherwise normal street into an animated zone. In reality, however, Japan’s Shibuya Crossing is the “real” Must See.

If you think you aren’t already familiar with Shibuya Crossing, you’re almost certainly wrong. The multi-directional crossing is a common go-to in any movie set in Tokyo or Japan. When those traffic lights change, masses of people swarm the streets to cross.
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Book Review: Luisa Weiss’ Classic German Baking

October 24, 2016
Food, reviews

classic german baking by luisa weiss

There is a bookshelf in my dining room that is home to cookbooks. I have bread cookbooks, pizza cookbooks, and more than a couple of German cookbooks. There is a German cookbook by a German celebrity chef. There’s a somewhat dated out of print German cookbook in English of traditional recipes. I’ve translated recipes from German language recipe sites and blogs. But the results are never to my satisfaction. Whatever I cook never seems to turn out quite like I hope. Then I got my hands on Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss. Weiss is a noted baker, not a native German, and she lives in Germany. I had high hopes that she would understand my plight of trying to make a foreign recipes “work.”

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German Music: Austria’s Granada

October 17, 2016
German Music, Learn German


There is a German language music revolution happening but it isn’t in Germany. Just south of the border in Austria, the pop bands performing music in the German language just keep coming. Graz based Granada are one of the newer bands in the Austrian music scene. The five-piece have only just released their self-titled debut album. Get in on the ground floor, so to speak. This month’s featured German language music recommendation is Granada!

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Olivia de Havilland’s “Every Frenchman Has One”

October 12, 2016
reviews, Travel

olivia de havilland every frenchman has one book

Seemingly every fifth article published on the internet is a vague account of how “easy” it is to live your dream and move abroad. You know: quit your job, cash in your retirement savings, sell all your belongings. Then move abroad to live in varying degrees of comfort depending upon the location and your skill set. But long before these hipsters started blogs to detail their travels abroad, there was Olivia de Havilland. The actress has won two Academy Awards with an impressive five nominations in all. You might remember her as the mild mannered, big-hearted Melanie Hamilton in Gone with the Wind. But in 1962 the actress published a book titled Every Frenchman Has One, detailing all about her adventures of living in Paris, France as an American.

To celebrate de Havilland’s 100th birthday, publishers re-released the book.

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German Films: Armin Mueller-Stahl

October 10, 2016
German Films, Learn German

armin mueller-stahl

Armin Mueller-Stahl is a man who has repeatedly had to reestablish himself. First, as an actor of the film and stage in East Germany. Then, in the mid-1970s he was blacklisted along with others for protesting when singer-songwriter Karl Wolf Biermann was stripped of his East German citizenship while on tour in West Germany. Mueller-Stahl himself emigrated to West Germany in 1980. He again found work in film. The actor then set his sights on Hollywood. There, he proved himself yet again with a transition to English language films. In 1996, he won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for the film Shine.

Get to know Armin Mueller-Stahl and practice your German skills with three of his films from both sides of the German-German border: Her Third, Lola, and Die Manns – Ein Jahrhundertroman.
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Brewing Tea with a French Press

October 6, 2016

el gato malo french press

When you think of a French press, your first thought is probably to think of coffee, right? It would make perfect sense as French pressed coffee seems more popular than ever. Everyone is looking to get that perfect cup of coffee without venturing out to pay someone else to do it. But have you ever considered brewing tea with a French press?

One of the reasons to opt for loose leaf tea over bagged tea is the way the leaves are processed. If you were to open a typical tea bag, you’d likely find finely chopped tea leaves. Loose tea is different. It is usually sold as large pieces of tea leaves even whole tea leaves. This can depend on the brand or even the style of tea. Because loose tea leaves are larger, when brewed they will expand. Having this extra room allows the leaves to release more flavor. In Asia it isn’t uncommon to put the tea leaves right into a pot. But this method, usually, doesn’t include any kind of mesh so leaves can get into your cup. Tea ball infusers, which is my normal brewing method, don’t give the leaves much room to unfurl. That brings us to brewing tea with a French press.
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