Germany is a country best known for its forests, rivers and mountain ranges. The country is one of the largest in Europe and has a thriving tourist industry. With its castles, large houses and the mountainous countryside being major attractions, and many within only a short drive or train journey from major cities such as Frankfurt and Berlin.
For the average tourist, equipped with a map, or accompanied by a guide with the ever-handy German phrase book and the fact many Germans speak very good English, a vacation is easy to undertake. But for the tourist who wants to head off the beaten track, and explore some of the hidden gems of Germany, having more than a phrase book is important. There is a great deal more to see in Germany than one could well imagine, and by having a better grasp of the language, these places and more can soon be opened up, making a German leisure visit something special.
With language, the weird and wonderful can be found and explored, and the conventional, seen how Germans see them. Take for example one of the strangest museums in the world, the German Food Additives Museum just outside Hamburg. For the non-German speaker this museum would be impossible to visit, as everything in the museum and about the museum, is in German. It is a fascinating small museum, and a real one of a kind, but only by speaking German can you really visit and understand this amazing place.
It is not just specialist museums that are “off limits” to those who cannot speak German, some historical sites make little sense, and again because of the predominant use of German make then seem pointless to visit. One such place is the ruined airport not far from Berlin, where Claus von Stauffenberg could have ended World War II, but didn’t, when his assassination attempt on Adolf Hitler failed. Not only is the airport a fascinating part of fairly recent history, but it is truly a unique place that tantalises curiosity to visit.
Without an understanding of the German language, so many small but interesting places to visit automatically fail to make a tourist agenda. Germany has many hidden gems. Even foods become more interesting, and what was once a seemingly bland and uninviting menu, becomes something you want to at least try. Being able to converse with the owner of a small back street café or restaurant can lead to some wonderful culinary adventures, coffee becomes more than black stuff in a cup and becomes a discussion about life with a local, and the meal becomes something enjoyable as you discuss specialties of the house with the host or chef.
An understanding of the German language turns a German vacation, or day away from a German business trip, into something quite special and creates some amazing memories that without language could never even begin to form.
Germany is an amazing country and yet for some reason many struggle to see it. The country is steeped in tradition and culture and the food is far more than just sausages and sauerkraut. Geographically, politically and economically Germany sits at the centre of Europe, it a powerhouse of business and commerce and a country that many people visit for leisure. Germany is the largest economy in Europe and the fifth largest in the world, so it has plenty of brag about.
The German people love to eat, however the stereotype of all Germans being fat is far from true. Yes, the German diet is rich and hearty with each region of Germany calling their cuisine “Traditional” or typically German. However, as times have progressed Germans have also adhered to healthier lifestyles and that includes their diet.
Pork is the most consumed meat in Germany and two of the most traditional dishes, and very popular too, are Schweinshaxe which is a superb braised pork hock dish and Saumagen. Many people turn their eyes at Saumagen once they realise what it is as Pork Stomach does not sound exactly appetising. Nevertheless, a German menu is full of many Pork delights and one way to navigate your way around this is to speak German, as in any country when you speak the language eating is easier and more enjoyable.
Germans are best known for their sausages and there are many different types. The traditional Bratwurst sausage is one many will be familiar with but head to any butcher or restaurant and you may find up to a dozen different types available to tempt you. Again, speaking the language will help you ask what each Sausage is and some will either make you squirm and little but most will make your mouth water.
Pretty much every traditional German meal is complemented by root vegetables. Potatoes, turnips and beet are often part of the main meal or are made into soup. Today, thankfully, the Germans don’t just boil them they have become a lot more creative as many tourists to Germany will confirm. Of course, the one thing you cannot ignore when it comes to German food is Sauerkraut. This cabbage dish does not come with everything as one may imagine but it is still hugely popular and there are a handful of variances in the dish throughout the country.
And what would a meal be in Germany without a glass of beer? Like their meat, the Germans love their beer. German beer is considered one of the best in the world and the strict brewing laws or “purity laws” laid down in the 16th century are partly the reason why. The beers are brewed to perfection and when you speak to a brew master he or she will explain in great detail how and why the beer you are drinking is as it is. This is another good reason to speak German.
Finally, to end any meal you need that little shot of Schnapps and German Schnapps is something to be enjoyed. Schnapps is the perfect end to a good and filling meal, and of course, will result in making lifelong friends.
Oktoberfest began as the marriage ceremony between Prince Ludwig and Princess Therese on October 12, 1810. All of the townspeople were invited to attend the festival, which took place in the fields outside of the city gates. Following the wedding the fields were named Theresienwiese after the Princess, and the party was such a hit that the townspeople asked King Ludwig to continue the celebration the following year. This year's Oktoberfest (2018) will mark the 211th anniversary of the festivities.
Today the remnants of the gates still stand and the fields, known by locals as the Wies’n (world's largest fair), now host the largest beer festival in the world: Oktoberfest! What was a simple wedding celebration has transformed into a 17 or 18-day festival in which 7 million people from around the world participate in, consuming more than 6 million litres of Bavarian beer. That’s 1 million gallons of beer! Oktoberfest officially begins on the second to last Saturday in September at noon when the mayor of Munich taps the first barrel at the Schottenhamel Tent, crying “O’zapft is” (It’s open). The festival concludes the first Sunday of October following German reunification day.
There are 14 main beer tents at the Theresienwiese grounds serving brews by the Maß (1-liter stein). Of the 14 tents there are 6 large tents, which rotate up to 12,000 people per day! That is a whole lot of beer! Only six breweries are represented at the Oktoberfest grounds – Späten, Augustiner, Paulaner, Hacker-Poschorr, Hofbräu and Löwenbräu. Everyone has their preferred brew by the end, which one will be yours? Also, for those of you who fancy a break from the frothy brews there is a special wine tent called Weinzelt.
The 2018 Oktoberfest, its 211th appearance and commences in late September. Apparently, the Schottenhamel tent is the place to be, if you want to catch the official opening ceremonies. At noon, the Mayor of Munich will have the honour of tapping the first keg of Oktoberfest beer. Once the barrel has been tapped, all visitors will then be allowed to quench their thirst. It pays to arrive early in order to experience the festivities up close and personal and it's quite common for visitors to come around 9 am to secure good seats. Experience German culture to the fullest by learning German before you go!
English is spoken as a first language by approximately three hundred fifty million people out of a global population of close to seven billion. Many English speakers seem to believe that wherever you go on holiday you can get by speaking English, so there’s no point in learning any other languages. If people don’t understand you all you have to do is speak slowly and turn up the volume. You can more or less get away with this, as long as you stick to popular tourist resorts and hotels where you can usually find someone who speaks English. However, Ludwig Wittgenstein said, “The limits of my language are the limits of my universe”. Who wouldn't want to be exposed to an unlimited universe?
However, if you want to venture beyond such places, do more than just take photos and post them on social media, to get to know the locals, to read signs, menus, etc., knowing the local language is necessary and will make your travel experiences so much better. A basic ability in a foreign language will help you:
Russia is the largest country in the world and offers a broad range of travel experiences, from treks up the slopes of glacier-capped mountains to strolls along the shoreline of Earth’s oldest lake. Historical sites and cultural activities in the country’s great cities abound as well. Whether you’re exploring the grounds of Moscow’s Kremlin or wandering through the steppes of Mongolia, a visit to Russia is an adventure not soon forgotten. (www.touropia.com)
St Petersburg hosts many wonderful sites which include the Hermitage, with its baroque and rococo styles, Voltaire’s library, which was bought out by the educated Catherine, and the Kunstcamera museum is a must for visitors to St Petersburg. Palace Square is at its best at night, whereas the interiors of Saint Isaac’s and Kazan Cathedrals look better in daylight when rays of light play on the mosaics and paintings. However, the best mosaic collection is in the Church of the Saviour on Spilled Blood. For a true feeling of the city, you should try to see a ballet in Mariinsky Theatre.
Another interesting place to visit is Mount Elbrus which is in the Caucasus Mountain Range in Southern Russia. At 5,642 meters (18,510 ft), Elbrus is included as one of the Seven Summits, the highest summits on each of the planet’s seven continents, attracting both experienced and novice mountain climbers. While the mountain was formed from a volcano, it is considered dormant, with no recorded eruptions. A cable car system can take visitors as high as 3,800 meters (12,500 ft), facilitating ascents to the summit.
As the capital of Russia, Moscow is a very common place to visit. In contrast to St Petersburg, Moscow is a city of wide avenues and massive Soviet buildings – from the Lenin Russian State Library which has 275 km of shelves, to Stalin skyscrapers representing Stalin’s Empire style. All tourists, however, go to see the Kremlin and Red Square first. Having originally been a market and an execution yard (the place of bread and circuses), Red Square is now the first port of call for foreign and local tourists alike. Even today, it is the centre of Moscow life, allowing you to plunge into the history of the city quickly and easily.
If you are planning a trip to Russia, consider learning the language before you go! Contact VLLC to commence one of our individually tailored courses to suit you.
Indonesia is an incredibly beautiful and downright amazing country that you will enjoy exploring. However, visiting Indonesia does require a bit of preparation. This is why we created a list with some of the best things you can do to prepare for your upcoming trip. Follow these great ideas, and you will be ready to visit one of the most interesting and downright beautiful places on our planet.
Get a VISA. In order to visit Indonesia, you will have to acquire a VISA on arrival. This costs around $35 and it will be valid for 30 days, and it will cover only a single entry. This is why you have to calculate your stay adequately so that you can avoid any extra costs. Also, if you fly out of an airport in Indonesia, you will also have to pay an airport tax, and that’s not included in the ticket prices.
Vaccines. While there are no specifics vaccine requirements, you may want to take a few just in case. Typhoid, Hepatitis as well as diphtheria vaccines are recommended. The reason why vaccines are helpful is because you will be around wildlife such as monkeys. You may even want to add the Rabies vaccine into the mix, just in case.
What about safety? Indonesia is a reasonably safe place for tourists. But just like any other region in the world, it does have its fair share of thieves. So, don’t withdraw a large amount of money. Make sure that you stay away from credit card frauds and avoid taking too many valuable items with you during your travels. Of course, you should avoid withdrawing large amounts of money, as this can grab the attention of prying eyes. You should always check with www.smartraveller.gov.au.
Transportation. Thankfully, transportation is inexpensive in Indonesia. You have public transportation, and then you also have becacks, ojeks and scooters. Trains are safe, but they can be a tad expensive, depending on the route you want to opt for.
Be patient. Indonesia is a country where you may encounter situations that require you to stay patient. It can take a bit of time to visit some important tourist attractions. But things always work out in the end. You just have to remember that exchanges and many services are not as faster as those in the US. Then again, the life as a whole is not as rampant as the one in the US, so it’s easy to see why you need patience.
Bargaining. Whenever you visit an Indonesian market, make sure that you try to bargain with the seller. Prices are flexible just about everywhere. There are locations like gas stations, shopping malls and convenience stores where prices are fixed. But aside from these and a few other locations, you are bound to get a good deal if you bargain for a better price.
Get some sunscreen, as sometimes the sun can be very hot in Indonesia. So, it’s crucial to take proper clothes and some protection against the sun. Sunscreen isn’t expensive here, and it can help save your skin!
These are some of the best trips that you can keep in mind during your trip to Indonesia. Visiting Indonesia can be an extraordinary experience, all you have to do is just to go ahead and enjoy it! But, of course, do keep in mind these great tips, as they will help take your travel experience to new heights!
Growing up, I had a friend whose father worked for an oil company in Jakarta. I knew little about the city or the country of Indonesia, I was at school and still in my early teens, but one thing I grasped very clearly was that to get ahead in Indonesia, being able to speak Indonesian was the key to everything. My friend spoke some Indonesian, I loved it when she did, but even the little she had, opened the wonderful country up to her and to this day she still has friends there because of being able to communicate.
Indonesia is an archipelago, and for the business or leisure traveller alike, is an amazing place to visit. Over the years the country has had its ups and downs, but it still maintains a strong economy and a vibrant tourist industry. In modern-day Indonesia, a growing number of people speak English, but like many Asian countries, a great deal of respect is found when someone of non-Indonesian origin speaks Indonesian.
With language, Indonesia, like any other country and its language, opens up in a manner that only those who have made an effort to learn a language will understand. Business opportunities increase, business transactions become more successful as the vital human connection, the so-called “click” comes through language. Being able to speak Indonesian allows a person to get down to the nitty-gritty of a project, contract or simple job. Like any language, there are innuendos and humour, and when speaking the language, these translate into confidence when doing business.
Language, in a strange way, can open our eyes to the way that Indonesians do business, and shows us many of the challenges that non Indonesian speaking business people may face. When you have the language, these challenges are either overcome, or simply disappear. Language, and being able to converse, is one of the most powerful business tools, far better than Google Translate that often loses the intrinsic meaning of the conversation.
While Indonesia is a superb country to do business with and language makes a big difference to the way business is done, the country is also a wonderfully diverse place to visit. By speaking Indonesian, even a business trip can soon become a lot more pleasurable as the real country, and its people open up. However, for the leisure traveller speaking Indonesian is one of the most amazing pieces of luggage you can carry.
Moonlight, Paris, River Seine and the one you love. Nothing quite symbolises romance as much as France and then of course, just to add some extra sugar on top of all the love, one merely needs to speak the language of love, which for many has to be French. There is just something about France and romance that makes the country so special. From proposals on the Eiffel tower where so many couples have said “Je t’aime”, or I love you in somewhat rusty French, to the vineyards of Champagne, where the sparkling wine epitomises love itself as a cork is popped and a glass handed to a loved one with the words ‘Mon Amore” trying as hard as possible to be perfectly romantic.
Perhaps the reason stems from the fact that Paris, especially, was the birthplace of some of the greatest writers, novelists, and painters the world has known and many of these famous people put emphasis on romance and love. This, with the complexity of French culture and their “Joie de vivre’ has made Frenchmen romantic by nature with flourish and flair in just the right amount in everything they do from architecture to food, and even the language itself, with certain objects being considered female and others male. And thanks to Hollywood and movies, this flourish and flair has been extenuated and has created an overall image of France, the French language, and even the French accent as being romantic.
Today France, and more specifically Paris, are synonymous with Love and Romance making the City one of the most popular honeymoon destinations on the planet. Part of this is the world class dining where every meal is served with just that little something special, from a meal in a five-star restaurant to an open sandwich in an auberge on the side of the road in a tucked away village. The French add love to food as they do with everything.
But all that love can be easily lost for those who cannot speak French, because the language is as much about the Romance as anything else. Seeing the sights and being in the place where romance is part of life is one thing, and yes, romance will be felt, but to get the full romantic appeal out of France, knowing the language makes all the difference. Being able to ask for something special for your romantic meal or being able to ask for directions with a more romantic or scenic drive adds a little something that is immeasurable, as well as impresses the partner.
French and France go hand in hand but when you want to be cheeky with your loved one just by saying “vous êtes mignon” or when you want to simply comment on your loved one’s smile by saying “J'aime ton sourire” you will soon realise that speaking French allows love to flow. Perhaps it is the very fact that the French speak French; maybe that is the real reason for France and Paris being as romantic as they are. Learn to speak French.
As far away as Australia, we have come to associate the 14th of July with the red, white and blue streamers of Bastille day. While we celebrate that French je ne sais quoi we have come to love, the French themselves celebrate their freedom and democracy in displays of fireworks, street parties, balls and military parades. But what are we actually celebrating?
La fête national – the national holiday we know as Bastille Day, has been celebrated since 1880, when it was proposed as a celebration of freedom and unity. However, the annual festivities not only celebrate the 1789 storming of the bastille for which Bastille day is most commonly known, but also the national unity that came with the 1790 federation.
The latter - la prise de la bastille - was a defining moment of the first of a string of revolutions which took place in France. La bastille was a Parisian state jail considered to represent the king’s power under his monarchy. For this reason, its destruction was both symbolic and logical, as it held arms needed for a revolution against the ancien régime – France’s old order. Under this regime, France’s population was separated and hierarchized into social classes : from the king – who held absolute power,to the clergy, the nobility… then the powerless masses. France’s pre 1789 monarchy thus produced extreme social, economic and political crises – and these are the conditions which the first revolution, and those which would follow, sought to ameliorate.
From the republics which ensued resulted the slogan we know so well; liberté, égalité, fraternité – freedom, equality and fraternity: a representation of revolutionary values which centre on democratic power, and the tenet that each individual is equal in the eyes of the law. So, aside from the excitement of festivities, how do these historic events affect us at VLLC? The republican desire for conformity and equality is reflected not only culturally, but linguistically – calls for homogenization saw the spread of a standard French language throughout all districts of France, most of which had previously spoken their own patois. Without the changes that followed the revolution, there’s a good chance our "French" would be much more varied, and sound incredibly different – the infamous bon voyage could have been the Alsatian Bù Voyage, or the Breton Beaj vat!
Eady McLaren, past VLLC French Tutor
If you have always dreamed of retiring in a foreign country, why not France? France offers an amazing mix of beautiful scenery, cultural sites and activities, red wine and plenty of other goings-on to keep you content and entertained in your later years when you earned the opportunity to enjoy your life. And while its true that you probably won't retire to France to save money, you may find that life in France offers you just what you are looking for.
There are so many unexpected wonders in France and if you can cope with not being in the centre of a city you may find you can afford even the most expensive city in France, Paris. Bordeaux, although once regarded as conservative, bourgeois and unforgivably dull city has undergone a dramatic revamp of the Quays and includes a great new tramway system which totally improves the city and has instilled a fresh jeoux de vivre. Bordeaux is often referred to as "little Paris" as it has a similar architectural style and aesthetic. Of course, in Bordeaux, there is always the exceptional wines.
The French themselves have rated Lyon as one of the best places to live in France. It is three hours from the coast and yet has a plethora of delightful restaurants which is like a "Foodies heaven". It boasts some 2000 restaurants, 17 of which are Michelin starred. If you don't always like to dine out there are also many outdoor markets which host an exceptional variety and quality of fresh produce.
Rennes, Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany. This vibrant city is a hub of culture, packed full of art galleries, museums and theatre's to entertain residents and visitors alike. The city is split into two parts, the old town and the new town which are separated by the beautiful Vilaine River. The old city is steeped in history with stunning architecture dating back to before the 18th century. The city is popular with ex-pats both old and young and with a thriving economy, there are many job opportunities available in the area.
Another suggestion which I read about on a AARP site was the Languedoc-Roussillon region in the Southwest. Languedoc-Roussillon includes Nîmes, with its Roman ruins; the bustling city of Montpellier; and the stylish town of Perpignan, with its shops and plazas. Once remote, the region is now just three hours from the bright lights of Paris via high-speed train to Montpellier. It is steeped in history, with medieval towns and castles, ancient olive trees and vineyards. Besides offering plentiful museums, festivals, and concerts, it is also a destination for the outdoor crowd, who hike in its rocky, picturesque hills and beachcomb along its lovely Mediterranean seashore.
Before you consider retiring in France is may be prudent to learn some French before you go. A lack of communication skills and the feelings of isolation that this brings are often stated as the main reason that expats return to their home country. Learning a little of the French language will really help you as you begin to integrate with your neighbourhood and get to grips with the local amenities. The French are very proud of their language, so the way to their heart really is through communicating with them in their own words. Most French people will be able to manage some English, but it’s not a good idea to assume that everyone understands it. You will manage to win enduring respect if you at least try to master the basics. It is really important to start taking steps to learn French, ideally before you get to France, and certainly once you are there. Being able to speak the language will pay enormous dividends; as well as making the difference to you staying permanently, it will also ensure you find it easier to understand the culture, deal with day to day authorities (such as the bank) and, most importantly, build friendships more easily. Communication is vital to us all; and taking French lessons at the outset will benefit you enormously as your life enfolds in France.
Contact VLLC to start your French language course and fulfill your retirement dreams.
Travelling is an exciting opportunity which can be enhanced by learning the language before you go. This blog contains some interesting articles about language and travel.