Experience Germany Like a Local

© 2015-2017 Polar Bear Studio LLC, All images unless otherwise noted, text, and website design, all rights reserved. Email Us

What You Will Discover at the Deutsches Filmmuseum

Exterior of the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

If you love movies, I have a museum for you. I had initially put off seeing the Deutsches Filmmuseum because I had the preconceived notion that I should be a film buff to appreciate it, but I was so wrong. This museum is actually a behind the scenes look at how movies are made, and explains the technological advances that culminated in the invention of film, from wooden peep show boxes to photograhy.

The museum is very modern, has interactive stations throughout to help explain the concepts, and there’s English translations on almost all of the signage. Don’t have all day? Even better, because you can easily make it through the entire permanent collection in a morning.

Exploring the Pre-history of Film & Cinema at the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

Filmic Vision | 1st Floor
The first floor was historically-focused on the 16th-19th centuries, and explained various inventions and precursory technology that made the invention of film possible. The Deutsches Filmmuseum really excels at explaining how the antiquated apparatuses worked, and contextualized why it inspired further curiosity and invention. You're able to experience firsthand many of the historic gadgets on display. For example the museum sets up the (pictured below) peep show exhibit so you can understand how it works by viewing the layout of the interior of the box, as well as look through the viewing hole as intended.

Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum Exhibit on Historic Peep Shows

Exhibit showing an 1868-1869 Cylinder Anamorphosis at the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

The floor ends triumphantly with introducing projection technology in a complete theater room showing black and white silent film.

Filmic Narrative | 2nd Floor
Up the stairs, the exhibits move into present day breaking down the elements of a movie; acting, sound, images, and editing.

Green Screen Fun on the 2nd floor of the Frankfurt Deustches Filmmuseum

The interactive station fun continues with a gigantic green screen that you can experience, and a mood lighting lab where you can recreate historic lighting setups from classic scenes using yourself as the subject.

Mood Lighting Interactive Station at the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

Sprinkled throughout this floor are movie props, scripts, and storyboards from iconic movies that will give you goosebumps. The collection even has a Darth Vader helmet used in the original Star Wars trilogy!

Animation Cells, Movie Props, Costume Design and More Exhibited at the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

Film Room Exhibit at the Frankfurt Deutsches Filmmuseum

In the editing exhibit I was amazed to see a half painting, where the top was a hilly landscape painting, and the bottom half was just black...because that’s where they edited in real film footage of a boat on the water!

For a finale, four projection screens were assembled forming a U-shape with four different movies playing at the same time that all had similar visual elements together, like all chasing scenes, all walking scenes, all green monsters, but only one movie soundtrack playing.

Be sure to check out the current temporary exhibit. When I visited they had a Shaun the Sheep exhibit that included the real claymation sculptures and sets.

Exterior of the Frankfurt am Main Deutsches Filmmuseum

Planning your Trip to the Deutsches Filmmuseum
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. Wednesday the museum stays open for 2 additional hours, closing at 8:00 p.m. Tickets start at 6 Euros with some discounts available. Click here for more information.

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!

In the News: Americans Traveling to Europe Might Need a Visa?

On March 3rd, 2017 there was a story in the news reported by TIME Money and also in Reuters World News regarding a change in visa law for US Citizens entering Europe. Could this impact your summer travel plans for Europe? We take a look at the stories as this change would affect us, as well as many of our readers.

Americans Traveling to Europe Might Need a Visa? Burg Hohenzollern statue overlooking the clouds

The United States currently requires a visa from citizens of five European Union countries: Bulgaria, Croatia, Poland, Romania and Cyprus. Citizens from all other European Union countries can enter the US without a visa, but still have to fill out the ESTA form of the US Customs and Border Protection.

In a non-binding motion on March 3rd, the European Parliament in Luxembourg gave the European Commission two months to review and take legal measures regarding visas for Americans traveling to Europe, unless the United States offered reciprocity to ALL European Union citizens. The United States and the European Union have a reciprocal visa agreement, which also describes that this agreement can be temporarily suspended, if a “third state” does not grant it to ALL European Union countries. If no solution is found within two months, Americans might have to file for a entry visa starting May 2017 to enter Europe.

Now, before you panic and reach out to your embassy: This was a non-binding motion, meaning it is a suggestion made by the European Parliament to the European Commission. For this visa requirement to take effect, all countries of the European Union would have to approve the move, which could take years.

Currently, American citizens can travel to Europe without a visa as long as their stay does not exceed 90 days. With over 12 million Americans traveling to Europe in 2016, such a regulation would hurt the tourism industry. Also, far fewer American tourists travel to destinations with visa restrictions like Croatia and Cyprus than, for instance, Italy and Germany, which makes the EU Commission less likely to budge on this subject.

We will keep you posted if there is any significant change to this story. If you want to get the latest information about where your US passport can take you, check the U.S. Department of State website by clicking here.

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!


What to Consider When Renting a Car in Germany

What to Consider When Renting a Car in Germany

For exploring Germany, you have two options; public transport or renting a car. There is an abundance of different car options and rental stations, some in airports, next to train stations, and even downtown locations in large cities. No matter whether you want to rent a small car to navigate big city parking, a family car for a group of four, or a fast car to try on the Autobahn, Germany will have the car you are looking for. This article will help you navigate the process. Let’s start with some basics to help you plan.

Where to Book a Rental Car in Germany
You’re going to want to try to book online with one of these larger companies, since they have the most offices in Germany and also a large network of European offices. This will most likely get you faster service or car replacement in case there is something wrong during your rental. Booking with smaller companies like Thrifty or Dollar will make car replacements a bigger ordeal since these smaller companies only have a few offices in large cities or at large airports.

The largest car rental companies in Germany are:
• Avis (336 stations)
• Budget (300 stations)
• Enterprise (200 stations)
• Europcar (579 stations)
• Hertz (300 stations)
• Sixt (500 stations)

I would recommend making a spreadsheet so you can easily compare offers, and how much each company charges for fees, and more. If you’re still deciding whether a rental car is a good choice for your trip, you can keep train and subway ticket prices in the same spreadsheet to give you perspective before deciding.

Fees You’ll Want to Know About, and Avoid If Possible
• VAT | Value Added Tax of 19% is included in most rental quotes. This is a mandatory tax, much like the sales tax in the United States.
• Premium Station Fee | To keep fees low, try to avoid picking up your rental car from an airport or train station, as there is an additional Premium Station Fee (convenience fee) of 22-23%. This fee also applies to all extras you add to the car, like a GPS or car seats for children. The Premium Station Fee only applies for pick up. If you return the car at an airport or train station, there are no added fees. Try to avoid picking up your rental car up on a Sunday or holiday. Most non-premium rental offices are closed, leaving you with only an airport or train station pickup, guaranteeing the aforementioned additional Premium Station Fee.
• GPS Rental Fee | The cost for a GPS is usually between $5-$15 per day, which can add up if you have a car for more than a few days. If you decide to wing it without a GPS, download an offline map of the area you are traveling in via the Google Maps app on your smartphone or tablet. GPS navigation systems may only have enabled the map for the country you rent them in. If you are crossing borders, make sure to inquire about a GPS that has maps for ALL the countries you are traveling to.
• Automatic Transmission | Cars with an automatic transmission are rare and cost extra.
• One Way Rental | If you pick up your rental in Germany and return it in another country (or vice versa), there will be added charges, that can often be higher than the rental charge itself. Try to avoid crossing borders for the return of a rental car.
• Unlimited Mileage? | Depending on the provider, only a certain number of kilometers are included.
• Additional Driver | Extra drivers cost extra money, usually $5-$25 per day. Try to stick with one driver if you are trying to save money. You can ask if spouses are exempt from the additional charge.
• Punctuality is Paramount | Return the car on time, there usually is no grace period (see our article about German punctuality). Also, the billing for rental cars is per 24 hour period. Pick up the car at 1pm and return it a week later at 3pm, these two extra hours are going to cost you a full day rental fee.

Do You Need Rental Car Insurance in Germany?
No one wants to pay for it and we figure out we should have paid for it once it is too late. Boring subject, but here are some pointers regarding rental car insurance in Germany.

All German car rental companies are required to protect themselves and their customers for damage on any property and persons outside your vehicle. The portion that remains which you are responsible for is theft or damage to the rental car, which is collision (CDW) and theft insurance. This insurance ranges from $10-$40 per day and carries a high deductible of $1,000 or more. Want to avoid paying that? Here is how, and it will surprise you.

Many people do not realize that by booking a rental car with a credit card, that you may already have collision and theft insurance coverage. Most credit card agreements offer collision and theft insurance automatically with a low or zero deductible as a benefit to their customers. Before you book your rental, check out the rental car insurance coverages of the different credit cards you already have, and book the rental with the credit card that offers the best coverage. Ask your credit card provider about glass, undercarriage and interior coverage, which might not be covered.

This is also a good time to check if your credit card charges for foreign transaction fees. This can be a costly 3% premium on all purchases in Germany, so try to use a card that does not charge you foreign transaction fees. When you’ve chosen which credit card you want to use, ask for an emailed copy of the insurance certification, or log in to your account and look for it in the benefits section. Keep the document handy on your electronic device and/or printed when you approach the car rental counter, you might be asked for it.

At the rental counter, present the credit card of your choice and make sure to decline the collision/theft coverage offered by the car rental company. Don’t not sign any contract unless you are sure that you have declined their collision/theft coverage, otherwise your credit card provided coverage is invalidated! If you are unsure, you can add above your signature “I hereby decline optional CDW and theft insurance.”

And if you are looking to take a Porsche or high-end car onto the Autobahn, be advised that most high-end luxury cars need two credit cards presented and some contracts also require the purchase of an extra collision/theft insurance through the rental company only. Check your credit card provider for limits and, if you plan on renting a high end car, ask your credit card provider for extra coverage options.

Get Familiar With the Fine Print
You are entering a legal contract, so make sure you read all the fine print before clicking the Book Now button on the website. Yes, I know it is a lot of text, but you have to know the details to really have peace of mind. Invest the time now, which will hopefully mean no (costly) surprises later.

What to Bring or Ask When Picking Up a Rental Car in Germany
• Bring a copy of your car rental voucher (printed or electronic)
• Bring a copy of your car rental reservation confirmation (printed or electronic)
• Bring the credit card you booked the car with
• Decline the collision (CDW) and theft insurance (or write “I hereby decline optional CDW and theft insurance”).
• Ask for a contract copy in English, if the person at the counter does not automatically give you one.
• Check if the rental car uses regular gasoline or diesel fuel
• Record any scratches or imperfections on the car with the rental company in writing. Take detailed pictures or a video of the car at the pickup location.

Driving on the Autobahn
Germany is the only country in the world without a general speed limit on its highways, the legendary Autobahn.

Nevertheless, an advisory speed limit 130 km/h (81 mph) is agreed upon, unless otherwise posted. Driving on the Autobahn is serious business and requires your full attention at speeds well over 100 miles per hour. Abide by the general rule, that slower traffic stays to the right, the left lane is reserved for fast traffic. If you are going slow in the left lane, German drivers will flash their headlights, tailgate and honk at you… a lot.

In Case of a Car Accident in Germany
Call 112 from your cell phone, which has to be logged into a German mobile network (T-Mobile / Vodafone / EPlus / O2) in order to get an ambulance or police to record the accident or for first aid. If this is not an option, ask people around you to use their handy, which the Germans associate with a cell phone.

Do You Need an International Driving Permit in Germany?
Get an International Driving Permit (IDP) from AAA or National Auto Club (NAC), the two only licensed retail outlets for the IDP. It is not required for a car rental in Germany, but “technically” all German car rental companies “recommend” to carry an IDP, which is a translation of your regular driver’s license. Make sure to bring your driver's license along with the IDP, since the IDP only works in conjunction with your regular license.

Returning the Rental Car
• If you have to return your rental with a full gas tank (read the fine print of your contract), make sure to get gas as close to the drop-off station as possible and keep the receipt from the gas station as proof.
• Remove all personal items from the car.
• Take one final video or photos of the car in case there’s a dispute over scratches or the state the car is left in.
• Get final paperwork/breakdown of charges from the rental company.

We're working on a making this article a printable PDF checklist available for our email subscribers! Look for the announcement in the upcoming newsletters.

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!


What You Must See at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

In the adjoining building to the Goethe House, and up the stairs, squirreled away in fourteen jewel-tone rooms are paintings, busts, and ephemera from the time of Goethe, revealing his colleagues, friends, adversaries, and rulers. What a genius lens to view a person’s life! If you take the necessary time, no more than an hour, to visit the galleries, you’ll see the painting styles change as Goethe witnessed them.

Goethe’s lifetime saw late Baroque, Rococo, Enlightenment and Sensibility, literary Storm and Stress movement, Weimar Classicism, and Romanticism. There are examples of all these movements in one place. It’s impressive the wealth of the experience in such a small collection. One of the most important Fuseli collections in Europe, a trail blazing German woman artist whose story is nearly impossible to find, and THREE Caspar David Friedrich’s landscapes in one small room.

The German painter Caroline Bardua...who was she? Her three portraits of the Von Arnim sisters hang in Room 11 of the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

The adjoining Frankfurt Goethe Museum is a graphic arts collection, library and a manuscript archive. While the nonprofit group Freies Deutsches Hochstift furnished and opened the Goethe House in 1863, the complementing Goethe Museum opened 34 years later in 1897.

Remember that beefy, 22-page English brochure in the gift shop for 1.50 Euros? You’ll be so glad you bought it. It provides the overview of each of the 14 gallery room themes and explains the relationships Goethe had with the subjects for a majority of the works on display. I’m only going to focus on three rooms, and I’ll elaborate on what you’ll find in the brochure.

The painting Mad Kate by Henry Fuseli on display at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum represents the Sturm und Drang movement

The Sturm und Drang Movement Visualized
Room 3 | Johann Heinrich Füssli: New Paths in Historical Painting

(German birthname: Johann Heinrich Füssli) Henry Fuseli's paintings were a revolutionary thrill to behold during Goethe’s lifetime. A great example of being at the right place at the right time, when writers, including Goethe, and musicians were rebelling against the Enlightenment ideals and exploring human nature and emotions, cue Fuseli with his dramatic, emotional paintings bringing to life Shakespeare’s plays and supernatural forces. His explosive depictions resonated with what others were reading and composing. He is most famous for his renditions of ‘The Nightmare.’ The first version (1781) was so impactful he made several variations of the work, and the Frankfurt Goethe Museum collection has the 1790-1791 variation.

Henry Fuseli's The Nightmare painting was so popular he did several variations. The Frankfurt Goethe Museum has the 1790-1791 variation.

Who Was Painter Caroline Bardua?
Room 11 | Clemens Brentano, Bettine and Achim von Arnim

I was delighted to see in Room 11 a triplet of stunning portraits of ladies that was painted by a female artist I’ve never heard of. Her name is Caroline Bardua. Unfortunately the accompanying text was in German and only had the names of the subjects, dates, materials, artists, the basics.

Portrait painting of Maximiliane Von Arnim by German Painter Caroline Bardua at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

Far left, Maximiliane von Arnim, the oldest daughter of the Bettine and Achim von Arnim.

Portrait painting of Armgart Von Arnim by German Painter Caroline Bardua at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

In the middle is her younger sister Armgart von Arnim, and on the far right is the youngest Gisela von Arnim. Gisela later married the son of Wilhelm Grimm, and became famous for her own fairy tales. The sisters had their own literary salon, Kaffeter Kreis, Maximiliane was the President. Caroline Bardua painted the three sisters’ portraits in 1845.

Portrait painting of Gisela Von Arnim by German Painter Caroline Bardua at the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

A basic google search on Caroline Bardua brings up tidbits; she was a middle-class female artist who supported herself, and sometimes her sister too, with her art! Very rare, and very hard to do! So many webpages were quick to point this out, but I couldn’t get much farther than that.

Finally a breakthrough thanks to Google Books search, I found a well-sourced biographical entry on Caroline Bardua. She sounds like such a cool, brave, independent lady, and Goethe helped her career. There’s no mention of this in the Museum, and there really should be! Goethe’s recommendation helped her get into the Weimar Academy where she studied for three years under Johann Heinrich Meyer. Then, Goethe gave her a letter of recommendation to study under portrait painter Gerhard von Kügelgen. She lived to be 83 years old and was a lifelong, self-supported painter. If you’d like to read more about her, she’s on page 209-2012 in the Dictionary of Women Artists: Artists, A-J.

Johann Wolfgang Goethe and Caspar David Friedrich
Room 12 | Romantic Landscapes

If you’re a Caspar David Friedrich fan, then you’ll be tempted to skip straight to Room 12. I don’t blame you.

The Evening Star by Caspar David Friedrich, on display in the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

The Frankfurt Goethe Museum has three similarly-sized landscapes by Friedrich, The Evening Star, Swans in the Reeds, and Willow Bushes in the Setting Sun. There’s debate as to whether Goethe was a fan of Friedrich’s, but does it really matter? The brochure points out that Goethe’s feelings were ambiguous. However, it was thanks to an early career competition prize Friedrich won, which Goethe was a juror, that legitimized Friedrich as an artist. History can’t have one without the other. I’m disappointed in how my cellphone shots turned out, and then the public domain ones I found aren’t any better. You really just need to see them in person, they’re stunning. It’s challenging with such high contrast paintings with a lot of dark areas to see the detail in reproduction. However, in person, every brush stroke is delicate, and looking at any one of these pieces is to be transported into the scene, emotions in your throat, classic Friedrich.

Have you been next door to the Goethe House, where Goethe was born? We'll fill you in on the highlights, just click here.

Where? When? How Much?
You can reach the Frankfurter Goethe House and Museum by all subways and interurban trains stopping at ‘Hauptwache’ within five to ten minutes walk. Car parks are located in the immediate surroundings. The address is Frankfurter Goethe-Haus / Freies Deutsches Hochstift, Großer Hirschgraben 23-25, 60311 Frankfurt am Main.
Typical hours for the Goethe House and Museum are Monday through Saturday, 10am-6pm, and Sunday from 10am-5:30pm. Admission is 7 Euros. Check the official site for available discounts and group prices.

Swans in the Reeds by Caspar David Friedrich, on display in the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

Follow Along
If you enjoyed this article, or these topics sound interesting to you, you'll love our weekly newsletter. You'll receive a free Germany Packing list for signing up, and you'll receive each week's newest posts every Friday. Thank you for reading!

Willow Bush in the Setting Sun by Caspar David Friedrich, on display in the Frankfurt Goethe Museum

Show more posts about traveling in Germany

Thank you For Reading! Denise & Sebastian | Photo by Irene Fiedler