10 Ways to Experience German Culture around Washington, DC

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  1. Visit the Library of Congress German Collections 

Image from http://www.loc.gov/item/2003626426/#about-this-item.

The Library of Congress’s German collections are the most extensive in the country, and the largest outside of Germany. Originating from Thomas Jefferson’s German library, today’s German collection has grown to include the Gutenberg Bible, historic maps, original music by Brahms and Liszt, recordings of National Socialist gatherings during World War II, and works from Sigmund Freud’s personal collections. 

  1. Explore the German Embassy and its Cultural Events

Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Embassy_of_Germany,_Washington,_D.C.

Though many know embassies only through their diplomatic purposes, the German embassy in Washington, DC serves as a cultural meeting point, hosting social events and shows open to the public. Past events have included annual Christkindlmarkt, car shows, and lectures. The Embassy also has a regularly-updated events email list, for those interesting in following German cultural events.

  1. Explore German’s Culinary Heritage

Image from http://www.cafemozartdc.com/about

Visit a German deli to explore ingredients and learn recipes that you can’t get elsewhere outside of Germany. Start in the old-world deli, which features live music most evenings,  then go next door to the café to enjoy authentic kartoffel puffer, schnitzel, and goulash. 

  1. Try Your Hand at Code-Breaking at the National Cryptologic Museum 

Image from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enigma_machine

The National Cryptologic Museum exhibits showcase code-making and code-breaking technology and techniques from the 1700s to today. See a French radio intercept office used to spy on German communications in World War I, as well as an original ENIGMA cipher machine, the device used by Germany throughout World War II. Admission is free.

  1. Learn about German Influence on American Culture at the German-American Heritage Museum 

Image from http://www.nga.gov/content/ngaweb/Collection/highlights/highlight26.html

This small Washington, DC museum hosts constantly-changing exhibits about German and German-American history and culture. Past exhibits have focused on topics such as Nazi resistance movements, German Karneval, and German-Americans in the US Civil War. Admission is free.

  1. Take in a German Film at the Goethe Institute’s Annual Film Series 

Image from http://www.goethe.de/ins/us/was/prj/flm/enindex.htm

The Goethe Institute hosts German cultural events for the DC public year-round, including film festivals, plays, political debates, and visual arts shows. Be sure to check back regularly to see what’s new!

  1. Attend a Lecture or Research German Visual History at the German Historical Institute

Image from http://germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org/sub_image.cfm?image_id=3474

The German Historical Institute has an ongoing public lecture series. Recent lectures have included topics such as German Unification and capitalism. Those interested in research will be interested in exploring the Historical Institute’s also large collection of images and documents  from throughout German history that are available to the public for research and teaching purposes.

Note: Lectures are free and open to the public, but require an RSVP.

  1. Try Fresh-Made German Sweets and Breads

Image from https://www.heidelbergbakery.com/~heidelbe/?q=node/353

When Heidelberg Bakers was first founded bakery in the 1970s, American consumers would return the crusty, European-style breads, thinking they were stale! Decades later, founder Wolfgang Büchler’s family is still producing classic German breads and cakes for the DC area. From May to October, the bakery’s deli section holds “barbecue Saturdays”, featuring a traditional German wurst barbecue.

  1. Take a Walk through Prospect Hill Cemetery

Image credit "Looking W at Circle - Prospect Hill Cemetery - 2014" by Tim Evanson - https://www.flickr.com/photos/23165290@N00/14872757435/. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Looking_W_at_Circle_-_Prospect_Hill_Cemetery_-_2014.jpg#/media/File:Looking_W_at_Circle_-_Prospect_Hill_Cemetery_-_2014.jpg

Prospect Hill is the nation’s first German-American cemetery, and is on the Washington, DC Register of Historic Places. Wander the memorial garden paths to find the graves of historic figures such as Amelia Erbach, one of the nation’s first female physicians, August Gottlieb Schoenborn, designer of the US Capitol dome, and “Move up Joe” John Joseph Gerhardt, one of the first professional baseball players. The cemetery, which has beautiful views of the surrounding area, also includes the resting places of German Civil War soldiers. Call ahead if you are looking for a particular grave.

  1. Try a Walking Tour of Downtown DC

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The Goethe Institute has put together a list of German-influenced architecture in downtown Washington, DC. Take a walk around some of the capital’s most historic buildings, including the National Archives, the Martin Luther King Memorial Library, the Kennedy Center, and Eastern Market, to see German influence on American architecture and culture.