Top Ten Things to Do in Salzburg, Austria

As a German-English tourism translator* and an avid traveler, I will always have a special place in my heart for Salzburg, Austria. Salzburg, situated at the base of the Alps, is a hidden gem in Central Europe. With a centuries-old castle overlooking the winding river and the quaint European houses below, you step into a fairytale the minute you enter the city. Below, see the top ten things to do in this storybook town:

1. Step into the past while visiting a historic Alpine castle. Festung Hohensalzburg (Hohensalzburg Fortress) is a must-see when in Salzburg, if not for the interesting history, then at least for the beautiful views of the Alps. Located in the center of the “Altstadt”, or old town, it can be accessed via tram or by foot (ca. 20 minute uphill walk). Once at the top, you can take an audio-guided tour around the old-fashioned rooms of the castle, followed by a stroll around the outside to see the amazing mountain views. On your way down the mountain, don’t forget to stop by the beer garden at Stieglkeller restaurant for a refreshing radler (the Austrian version of a shandy) and more aerial views of Salzburg.

2. Get your exploring shoes on at the largest ice cave in the world. Eisriesenwelt Werfen, open May 1 – October 26, is simply amazing. Located a short train ride away from Salzburg and nestled high up in the Alps, this cave boasts such ice sculptures and formations that you have never seen before. Good to do in rain or shine – although the views from the outside of the cave are impressive on sunny days. Bundle up, it’s cold in there!

3. Cheers with lederhosen-clad Austrians in a 400 year-old beer hall. At Augustinerbräu, known as Bräustubl or Müllnerbräu by the locals, you can feel like a real live Austrian. Pick up your beer stein, fill it up to the brim with mouth-watering Austrian beer, and join the rest of the locals in the massive indoor beer hall or the beautiful beer garden outside. Grab some sausage or sauerkraut from one of the many food stands, and you’re good to go. If you’re lucky, a brass band might be there as well! (And if you want your own lederhosen or dirndl to make sure you really fit in, check out Trachtenwelt, located at Judengasse 4 in the Altstadt).

4. Sing “Do-Re-Mi” as you frolic around Mirabell Gardens. Who doesn’t love the Sound of Music? Mirabell Palace and Gardens, built in the 17th century, showcases the beautiful baroque gardens where the Do-Re-Mi scene was filmed in the famous movie. Run around the fountain, sprint through the leaf-covered tunnel, or hop up and down the piano-like steps as you take in the lovely gardens around you. (If you would like to take a Sound of Music tour to see all the film locations in Salzburg and the surrounding area, I would recommend Fräulein Maria’s Bicycle Tour to see the sites by bike or Salzburg Panorama Bus Tours to see more sites outside of the city.) And if you are not a Sound of Music fan, the gardens are definitely still worth a visit. They are beautiful!

5. Slide down a slippery chute into a 7,000 year old underground salt mine. At the Hallein Salt Mines, another short train ride from Salzburg, you can explore one of the oldest mines in the world. Journey underground to discover the importance of salt for the city of Salzburg (Salz = salt), and cross the border into Germany below the earth. This excursion is made better by the head-to-toe white outfit you are supposed to wear, the little train you ride on into the mine, and the two slides you get to slide down deeper into the earth – fun for people of all ages!

6. Stroll down Getreidegasse, Salzburg’s fanciest shopping street. For shoppers and non-shoppers alike, Getreidegasse shouldn’t be missed. It offers cobblestone streets, quaint shops, the house where Mozart was born, cafes, and more. See if you can find one of the locals’ most beloved Austrian sausage stands, famous for its “bosna” sausage, located down one one of the side alleys (“Balkan Grill Walter”).

7. Climb every mountain. Salzburg lies at the base of the Alps, and therefore offers many opportunities for hiking and mountain-climbing for the more adventurous among you.

1. Zwölferhorn is a mountain about 30 minutes outside Salzburg, in the Salzkammergut     region. Don’t miss this! You can get to the top via gondola or hiking (ca. half a day up and down) and you will be rewarded with the most breathtaking views of Alpine lakes and glaciers you have ever seen. If you don’t have a car, there is a bus that leaves from the street side of Mirabell Palace.

2. Schafberg is another favorite, although a much more challenging hike (3-4 hours, but steep!). If you are not a hiker, you can take the cog train up the mountain, and once at the top, you can even spend the night in a hotel on a cliff! Both Zwölferhorn and Schafberg have restaurants at the top, so if you do make the climb, you can enjoy some much-earned Austrian food and beer. I suppose those of you who rode up can also have some food!

3. Untersberg is good for those travelers who want to stay closer to the city. Only a 25 minute bus ride (Bus Number 25) from the Altstadt, it can easily be done in an afternoon. A gondola takes you to the top, which is once again complete with a restaurant!


4. Kapuzinerberg, although not really a mountain, is a nice little insider tip. It’s a small hill off Linzergasse Street (through a stone archway on the left side if you are looking towards the river), and, although steep, you can make it to the top in ten minutes. It can also be accessed via steps on Steingasse. Once there (probably huffing and puffing from the steepness!), you’ll have a beautiful aerial view of the city and of Untersberg next to the castle.


5. Mönchsberg, the mountain on which the castle stands, also offers great Salzburg views. You can walk up the steps near “Toscaninihof“, take an elevator to the top or , from the castle, walk behind the castle to the right (facing away from the city) to the other side of the mountain. On the opposite side of the castle, restaurant M32 (rather fancy) and Stadtalm (typical Austrian fare) are great places to grab a bite and just gaze out at the rooftops, river and mountains. Make sure it’s a clear day/night, though, or the mountains seem to just disappear!

8. Visit Hallstatt, a Unesco World Heritage Site. Hallstatt is so beautiful that the Chinese actually made their own “Hallstatt” in China – an exact replica of the tiny Austrian town. With sixteenth-century Alpine houses and a picturesque Alpine lake, you’ll feel like you walked into a storybook. Don’t forget to check out the Gothic church, complete with a room full of skulls from floor to ceiling. Located in the Salzkammergut region, Hallstatt can be accessed via car or bus. Panorama tours also offers trips to the region.

9. Eat and drink like an Austrian. From Wienerschnitzel (thin pork/veal breaded cutlet) to Schweinsbraten (roast pork) to Kasnocken (Austrian mac and cheese with onions), the Austrian fare is delicious. Some great Salzburg restaurants are:

1. Bärenwirt – Founded in 1663, Bärenwirt boasts the best fried chicken (“Backhendel”) you’ll ever have. And if you don’t like fried chicken, there’s plenty of other great Austrian fare to be consumed at one of the oldest restaurants in Salzburg.

2. St. Peter’s Stiftskeller – If you thought Bârenwirt was old, St. Peter’s Stiftkeller is even older. First mentioned by one of Charlemagne’s liegemen in 803, it is the oldest restaurant in Europe. While rather on the expensive side, at least you can say you’ve dined where Charlemagne’s people once did!

3. Sternbräu and Die Weisse – Both these restaurants offer typical Austrian fare. Good food, good beer, good atmosphere. Die Weisse has a wonderful littler beer garden when the weather is warm, and Sternbräu was recently remodeled and is right near the Altstadt.

St. Peter’s Stiftskeller

10. And now you’ve earned it! Take a break from your sight-seeing and take part in the Austrian tradition of “Kaffee und Kuchen” (coffee and cake). Salzburg has many wonderful cafès, but some good ones to check out are:

1. Cafe Würfel Zucker – For those of you with a sweet tooth, Cafe Würfel Zucker (“Cafe Sugar Cube”)  offers every kind of strudel imaginable!

2. Mozartswohnhaus – If you are a Mozart fan, you can enjoy a nice cup of coffee in the house where Mozart grew up (not to be confused with Mozarts Geburtshaus, where he was born).

3. Cappomio – With an Italian flair, Cappomio offers all kinds of coffee, tea and juices, as well as a light lunch and many desserts.

4. Fingerlos – A more traditional Austrian cafè, you will find many of the locals here. With a counter showcasing the most delectable cakes imaginable, Fingerlos is a good stop on your trip.


And there you have it! Enjoy your time in Salzburg, and if you have any more tips to add to the list, write them in the comments below! Auf wiedersehen!

*Falls Sie Ihre Website oder Marketingunterlagen von einer Native Speakerin und erfahrenen Übersetzerin in die englische Sprache übersetzen lassen wollen, bin ich gerne für Sie da. Schreiben Sie mir einfach eine e-mail (language[at] oder verwenden Sie mein Kontaktformular. 


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Salzburg: Getreidegasse | by zug55



Becoming a Piece of Cake: The Most Common English Mistakes for German Speakers

“That was one of the most senseful lessons we’ve ever had, thank you!”

Despite my student’s Denglisch use of the word “senseful” (coming from “sinnvoll”), this compliment after one of my  English lessons in Austria meant a great deal to me.  What was the lesson? Well, after three years of hearing German-speaking students and teachers alike making the same mistakes in English over and over again, I decided to spend an hour letting them know what these common mistakes were, as well as the correct way to say the phrase in English. Below, I’ve summarized some of these (sometimes rather funny) mistakes for you, in hopes that they will help you in your English teaching or English speaking endeavors, or simply provide you with a little chuckle if you are neither an English teacher nor an English student. And if you would like English or German lessons of your own, don’t hesitate to contact me here.

1. “I drove with the bus.”  (or with the bike, the train, etc.). In German, you would say “Ich bin mit dem Bus gefahren” which literally translates to “I drove with the bus.” However, in English, if you drive with the bus, it sounds like you are driving your car and the bus is sitting in your passenger seat, perhaps ever so kindly helping you to find your destination. The correct English translation for this phrase is “I took the bus.”  If you “drove with the train”, it becomes “I took the train” whereas if you “drove with your bike”, we say “I ride my bike.”


2. “I’ll eat the menu.” If you say this in America or England, you may get some strange looks from your fellow diners, as wanting to eat the cardboard or plastic list of food available (Speisekarte) is rather strange in our countries. Confused? In English, the menu is not the cheaper option of the day, as Menü is in German. While it may not always be cheaper in America, the word for food  that is only there for that day is the special. 


3. “We made a party on Friday.” Even though the German is “Party machen” , in English, the literal translation “to make a party” sounds like you built a party out of paper and glue. The correct English phrase is “to have a party.”


4. “She’s going to get a baby in January.” I think this is my favorite mistake of all. Even though the German literally translates to the above phrase (Sie bekommt im Januar ein Kind), if you say “getting a baby” in English, it sounds like you are going to go to the store, find a nice baby sitting on the shelf, and buy it (after checking out all the available babies, of course). Therefore, if you don’t want to sound like you’re in the baby-buying business, use the English phrase “She is going to have a baby.” (Getting a baby can be used in cases of adoption, however.)                                                                                                                                                            tumblr_inline_nzkknm5ctC1tikv62_1280

5. “I have to do my homework until Monday.” This mistake is made by foreign English teachers and students alike. As you don’t differentiate between the words “until” and “by” in German (both translated with the word “bis”), this is a very common mistake. What’s the difference in English? “By” is used when you are talking about a deadline (I have to do my homework by Monday) and “until” means that you start doing something now and don’t stop until that point (If today is Thursday, I have to do my homework until Monday – meaning five days of doing homework non-stop!). Not the most fun way to spend a weekend.


6. “I started playing tennis with ten years.” Here, it sounds like “ten years” is the name of a nice little friend of yours, although “Ten Years” would be a rather strange name for both an American and a German. Even though you use the phrase “mit zehn Jahren” in German, in English we say “when I was ten.”juniorcartoon7. “I have studied English since seven years.” What’s wrong with this phrase? Present perfect tense is error-free, so you should be good to go, right? Almost, but not quite. Here, the good old word “since” is giving you away as a non-native speaker. Even though you always use “seit” in German, there are two translations for this word in English (as you can see, with two words for “bis” and two words for “seit”, it’s no wonder English has almost 40,000 more words than German)*. “For” is used when you are talking about a period/length of time (for seven years), while “since” is used with a specific point of time in the past (I have studied English since 2007. I have been in Germany since Monday).


8. “I had dinner at my aunt’s house and I became a piece of cake.” In English, you do not want to simply become a piece of cake while eating a nice meal with your family. This would likely disturb the evening your aunt had planned. The English phrase “to become a piece of cake” does not mean that you received (bekommen) a piece of cake, but rather that you turned into one (du bist ein Stück Kuchen geworden!). Not the most ideal situation if you are sitting with your loved ones and all the sudden they want to eat you. Here, English speakers would say “I got/received a piece of cake.”


9. “I learned for my test.” What’s wrong with this phrase? In German, you would say “Ich habe für die Prüfung gelernt.” But in English, you can’t say “learn here” – you need to say “study”. “Learn” is used when you receive new information (I learned that Americans celebrate Christmas on December 25. I learned that London is the capital of England), while “study” is when you prepare for a test or a quiz.


10. “I sink we are going to play the wiolin.” Last but not least, pronunciation is key in English. However, it can be quite tricky for those who didn’t grow up speaking the language themselves. The two hardest sounds for German-speakers seem to be “th” and “v” vs. “w”. As you can see from this video, “th” pronunciation is important – after all, you don’t want your friends to drown! A good trick to saying the “th” is making sure your tongue is sticking out of your mouth, all the way between your teeth. Don’t be shy, stick that tongue out! For more practice, check out this site. As for the “v” vs. “w”, this is another very important sound distinction in the English language. English speakers may find it funny if you say “I live in a small willage” instead of “I l live in a small village.” What’s the difference? The “v” is the sound you have in German, pronounced in “Wasser”, “Wien”, etc. For this sound, your teeth actually touch your top lip, making a vibrating sound come out of your mouth. With the English “w”, on the other hand”, the teeth do not ever touch the lips. Here is a great video explaining the difference between the two sounds.


And there you have it!  Next time you speak English, if you don’t want to eat a menu or become a piece of cake, pay attention to these common mistakes and you will be well on your way to perfecting your English. And if you would like my help with your English or German language goals, write me an e-mail here – I’d love to work with you.


*Based on the number of words in the dictionary.

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Youtube: Learn transport – TAXI SCHOOL BUS LIMUZIN TRAIN TRAM – Vehicles – Cars and Trucks Carskids TV

How to Survive in Austria

Moving to another country is never easy. While it is ultimately sure to be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life, you are bound to encounter some surprising cultural differences and bumps along the way. After writing Ten Tips for Deciphering Old German Handwriting a few weeks ago, I’ve decided to resurface another ten tips, ten tips for surviving in Austria. These tips are meant to (humorously) help my fellow-Americans to deal with the slight culture shock of living in the wonderful land of Alps, schnitzel, lederhosen and schnaps: 


1. When someone asks “How are you?” say “Thank you.” And nothing else.

I’ve asked many a coworker in Salzburg how they are doing. A normal question, in my American mind. When posing this inquiry into their well-being, I expect to hear a normal “good”, “fine”, “hanging in there”, etc.  In Austria, alas, these expectations go unanswered, with a conversation going something like this:

Me: How are you, Sabine?

Sabine: Thank you.

Me: Oh. (awkward silence)

To this day, I still don’t know how many of my friends and colleagues in Austria are faring. At least they are polite.

2. Get in people’s personal space. And stay there.

Austrians stand about a half a foot closer to each other than we do in America. If you try to back away, they will just come closer again. And again. And again. So you might as well just stay there, ignoring the urge to run for the door.

3. Invite people to come to your birthday dinner with caution.

If it is your birthday in Austria,  your friends will not take you out for dinner and buy you food and drinks. Instead of treating you, the honored birthday girl or boy, showering you with free schnitzel and schnaps, the “kind friends and family” expect you to pay for them and the rest of your birthday guests. And yet Austria is one of the happiest countries in the world…


4. Never, ever go shoeless inside. 

When you go into a stranger’s house, they will expect you to take your shoes off (as they don’t want street dirt in their house – even students are required to wear slippers at school). However, they would never expect you to be entirely shoeless. At the door, most Austrians have a basket of slippers (house shoes) for this very occasion.  I sometimes went around my own apartment wearing just socks, and my Austrian roommate commented “Oh yes, I notice you do that sometimes. Interesting.”

5. Awkward silence? No problem!

Austrians don’t care about the awkward silence. Apparently this is an American thing. Many a conversation in Austria just comes to a halt and no one will say anything for a never-ending, time-standing-still minute. This usually results in me babbling in German about totally unimportant, usually embarrassing things to stop my feelings of discomfort. Which then results in another awkward silence when no one knows how to respond to what I said.

6. Open the windows. All the windows. And the colder it is outside, the better.

Austrians love fresh air. Great, who doesn’t? But they love fresh air when its -20 degrees outside with three feet of snow on the ground. No need for a warm, cozy apartment with a fire in the fireplace – the air is much too stuffy. How Americans can leave windows closed in the depths of an icy winter, they simply cannot understand.


7. Do not casually inquire about a person’s life.

In America, when we see a person we’ve lost touch with over the years, we get excited to see them and say “Hey! How’s life?” We then proceed to tell them about the main aspects of our life from the last few years. Case in point: I was at the baseball game with my Austrian now-husband. I ran into a girl who I had known at my university a few years before, and the following conversation ensued:

Me: “Hey! How’s life?!

Her: “Oh, it’s good, I just graduated. I’m going to Florida next week and will be going to grad school to be an eye doctor in the fall. How’s life for you?”

Me: “Oh, it’s good. I just got my Masters in German, am also going on vacation next week, and am moving back to Austria in August. I’m going to be teaching English there.”

Her: “Cool, good to see you!”

Me: “You too!”

I turned to my Austrian husband to see if he was ready to keep walking, only to see him standing there, shocked, with his mouth wide open. “What?” I asked. “You guys just told each other about your whole lives in two minutes.” Me: “So?” Him: “That’s really strange.”

Two months later in Austria, I saw why this was strange for him. He ran into a friend he hadn’t seen in two years. They saw each other, and said “Hi.” “Hi.” (At this point, I was all ready for the normal “How’s life?” question).

My husband: The weather’s horrible.

His friend: Yes, it is.

My husband: Well, see you later.

Friend: Bye.

Me: Um, what??? Don’t you want to know how his life is?

Husband: No, not really.

Well, ok then.

8. Greet the room.

I always thought Americans were polite, but in some ways, Austrians have got us beat. In any waiting room, be it a doctor’s office, a dentist’s office, etc., when a new person enters into the waiting area, she does not simply sit down and wait her turn, staring at her cell phone or reading a book. Instead, as soon as she enters, she greets the entire room, belting out a hearty “Grüß Gott!” (Austrian form of hello) to her fellow waiters. Everyone replies to this newcomer with their own enthused “Grüß Gott!”, happy to have the monotony of waiting broken up by a new person. And then this same phenomenon occurs again later. Instead of simply checking out and going on their way, the Austrian patient, finished with her appointment, calls out to the entire room “Auf wiederschauen” (goodbye), as if they were her own friends and she must take her leave of them. Although I find this very nice, it left me quite confused the first few times, wondering if I knew the strangers saying hello to me.


9. Know how to waltz.

Most Austrians can waltz, which I think is wonderful. However, since they all grow up learning how to dance, they think that everyone in the world has this “basic” skill. Case in point: I was once at a wedding in the countryside around Salzburg when the song “YMCA” came on. All ready to go with my groovy alphabetic arm movements, I moved on to the dance floor, only to realize that people were waltzing to this 1970’s hit! Sensing my awkwardness, a middle-age Austrian man who I had perhaps spoken to once came over to take me for his dancing partner. Mortified, I tried my best to keep up with his 1-2-3, 1-2-3 foot movements (all while not really believing I was waltzing to the YMCA song). I thought I did semi-decent job, but I was sadly mistaken. The next day, an e-mail showed up in my inbox from my Austrian dancing partner, complete with a  lengthy Youtube video outlining the proper way to waltz. Point taken.


10. Go to the grocery store prepared for battle. 

You never realize how spoiled we are in America that we have someone who bags our groceries for us. In Austria, you, and you alone, are responsible for this daunting task. Can it really be that difficult, you ask? Well, picture this. You have a week’s worth of groceries. One environmentally friendly grocery bag. There are 6 impatient real-life Austrians waiting in line behind you. The cashier then rings up your groceries at a crazy pace, faster than humanly possible. You have just finagled the oddly shaped egg carton into your bag while your other rung-up groceries are flying toward you at lightning speed, one after the other, when Josef, the friendly cashier, says “30 euro 33 cent”. You then have to STOP putting your eggs in the bag, wasting valuable time to pull your wallet out of the depths of your purse. The clock is ticking as you dig for the correct coins, and then keep trying to put the eggs and milk in the bag before Josef can give you your change. But Josef is an experienced cashier, and before you can put your milk away, he is trying to put the change in your hand. While you appreciate getting money back, you are stressed out about having to completely stop putting your fruit in the bag in order to put the coins in your wallet. Only three items out of 15 are in your bag, and the rest are still all over the counter. Without warning,  the next person’s eggs, milk, cereal, bread start flying on top of your groceries, and the Austrian behind you is coming into your personal space as they so like to do. It’s a challenge that simply can’t be overcome.

Person under crumpled pile of papers with hand holding a help sign


Now back in America, I miss Austria greatly – the mountains, the slower pace of life, the people, the food, the countless outdoor opportunities, and yes, even these little cultural differences that actually grew on me over the years (I, too, now open the windows in the winter!). Although we are different, it is our differences that make the world interesting, and visiting another country opens up our eyes to our own culture, allowing us to learn more about ourselves and the world. Vielen Dank, Austria, for all you have given me. Bis bald!


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"Our Wines Leave You Nothing to Hope For" – The Nuances of Translation

“A major difficulty in translation is that a word in one language seldom has a precise equivalent in another one.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

If you are bilingual, you know the dilemma. You could be talking to a fellow English speaker about your feelings, but that one word in Spanish just keeps popping into your head – the English phrase doesn’t describe exactly what you mean. It also works the other way around – in German, for example, there is no good equivalent for the word “awkward.” Yes, there is the word “peinlich” (embarrassing) or “unangenehm” (unpleasant), but neither of these words precisely conveys all the lovely layers and feelings that “awkward” encompasses.


As a translator, the search for that perfect word is a never-ending battle. It is also a reason why translators should always translate into their native language. Even if a person is completely fluent in the second language, the word a native speaker would use may differ from the word a non-native speaker would choose. This may be a rather extreme example, but I once heard an Austrian colleague of mine telling her English students that she would not “molest them with homework tonight” (it was a little difficult for me to keep a straight face). Yes, when looked up in the dictionary, “molest” can mean “to bother, interfere with, annoy” (, but for native English speakers, the word has a very different connotation.

There are multiple examples from around the world of non-native translators choosing a word that would be correct in theory, but, in the context, is just plain wrong (and therefore quite funny to native English speakers). Check out these examples below:

Bucharest Hotel: The lift is being fixed for the next day. During that time we regret that you will be unbearable.

Austrian Hotel: In case of fire, do your utmost to alarm the hotel porter.

Athens Hotel: Visitors are expected to complain at the office between the hours of 9 and 11 A.M. daily.

Italian Cemetery: Persons are prohibited from picking flowers from any but their own graves.

Norwegian Cocktail Lounge: Ladies are requested not to have children in the bar.

Swiss Restaurant Menu: Our wines leave you nothing to hope for.

Nairobi Restaurant: Customers who find our waitresses rude ought to see the manager.

 As you can see, all of these words and sentences are grammatically correct. However, words such as “ought”, “have children”, “alarm” and so on can have more than one meaning in English, illustrating the fact that choosing the right word for a sentence is of the utmost importance. While most fully-bilingual speakers would never make such extreme mistakes, the majority of professional translators would tell you that they only translate into their native language. After all, when dealing with someone else’s documents, it is better to be safe than sorry.




Happy Badger Day: What Could Have Been


For as long as I can remember, I, along with my fellow Americans, have anxiously awaited Punxsutawney Phil’s all-knowing weather prediction every February 2nd. Will we suffer through six more weeks of winter or is a beautiful spring finally on the horizon?

To be honest, I’ve never given much thought to where this tradition came from. I’ve simply accepted it as a quirky little holiday and gone about my business. Needless to say, I was a little surprised when I found out that it was German immigrants who brought this tradition to America. But, here’s the twist — the groundhog was not their first choice of weatherman.

A little background information: in Europe, February 2nd was known as Candlemas Day, a day that celebrated Mary’s purification forty days after the birth of Jesus. Candlemas had also been seen as an important day for weather, as this was the time that sun reached the mid-point between the solstice and the equinox. Due to certain superstitions, some Europeans believed that the weather six weeks from Candlemas Day would be the exact opposite of the current situation. So, if February 2nd was cloudy and the sun was nowhere to be seen, a beautiful spring was on the horizon, but if it was a sunny day with blue skies, there would be six more weeks of cold, cloudy winter:

“If Candlemas be fair and bright,
Come, Winter, have another flight;
If Candlemas brings clouds and rain,
Go Winter, and come not again.” (

Where does the groundhog come in, you ask? Well, due to traditions passed on by the ancient Romans, certain animals were believed to have weather-predicting capabilities in various European countries. In Germany, this animal was a badger. From medieval times, people had believed that the animal awoke from his hibernation to make the weather prediction for the farmers. If the badger didn’t see his shadow when he came out, it was a good time to begin the planting, but if the badger did see his shadow, the cold would prevent farming for the next several weeks.

Moving on to 19th-century America… badgers apparently weren’t very common where the German immigrants lived in Pennsylvania. The groundhog, however, was quite popular, so the German settlers simply decided to assign the impressive weather powers of the badger to the local groundhog. Why not? As the groundhog was all the rage at the time, Groundhog Day took off, celebrated for the first time on February 2, 1887. The popularity of the groundhog is described below:

“In the 1880s … groundhog was the cuisine of choice at the Punxsutawney Elks Lodge. Devotees later formed the Groundhog Club, which hosted both the annual Groundhog Day ceremony and a summertime groundhog hunt followed by a picnic featuring a variety of groundhog dishes and a “groundhog punch” that sounds equally appetizing — a combination of vodka, milk, eggs, orange juice “and other ingredients[.]” (

So, leaving you with the recipe for groundhog punch, I wish you all a Happy Groundhog and a Happy Badger Day!





St. Nicholas Day in Austria: The Terrifying Krampus

As December 6th approaches, many American children happily await jolly Old St. Nick, leaving their shoes or stockings out in anticipation of the candy and gifts they will receive. It is a sort of pre-Christmas, a day filled with laughter and joy. In Austria, however, things are a little different.

In Austria, St. Nicholas does not come alone. Instead, he brings his shadowy companion, the Krampus, with him. What is Krampus, you may ask? A krampus is a horned, furry alpine monster, meant to punish or even take away children who have misbehaved (some carry a basket on their backs for this very purpose). He wears giant cow bells and carries a birch whip. When Austrian children are little, St. Nick and Krampus come to their house, reading the child’s good deeds and bad deeds from St. Nick’s all-knowing book. If a child, say, has hit his little brother, St. Nick will read this out loud, and the Krampus will flick his whip at the child threateningly. A little scarier than a lump of coal!


On December 5th, St. Nicholas Day Eve, there are hundreds of “Krampus parades” throughout the country. Multitudes of teenage boys, complete with their hideous horned masks, matted fur, cow bells and whips, roam the streets of cities, jumping, chasing and even hitting the strangely excited, sometimes terrified onlookers.  If you run away, they see it as an exciting challenge, racing after you with their bells jingling menacingly until they have successfully whipped one of your legs. Bruises are not uncommon. Neither is “girl-napping” – I once had a particularly short friend get picked up by a Krampus and thrown over its shoulder, only to be dropped off somewhere else in the (luckily small) city.

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While it does sound terrifying, all in all it is meant in good fun. Police patrol the bigger cities, making sure things don’t get out of hand during the Krampus parades. If you go into the villages nestled far up in the mountains, however, you may be on your own…

Side note: Krampus is slowly becoming more and more known in American culture. Check it out:

Jimmy Fallon

Krampus Movie



Five Things to Know About Translation

  1. Translators work with written documents, while interpreters work with spoken language.
  2. Most translators can translate around 200-250 words per hour, depending on the text.
  3. The original document is called the source, while the new translated document is called the target.
  4. The word “translate” comes from the past participle form of the Latin word “transferre,” which means “to bring over, to carry over.”
  5. Translating is not merely about knowing the definitions of words in a different language. Translators need to take into account the various shades of meaning of a word (for example, does the author simply mean “happy” or does he mean content, cheerful, delighted, pleased, etc.?), grammar differences, idiomatic expressions, intended audience and style of the text (is this a casual letter written to a friend or is this a formal business document?). On top of all that, they need to make sure the text reads well in the target language. Staying true to the original while making the text flow in a different language can be a challenge in the translation field, although it is a challenge most translators enjoy!


English is Handy

While many German people are excellent speakers of English, there seem to be some words that have gotten a little confused on their journey across the ocean/channel. These words, while English in origin, are used in entirely different ways in Germany, Austria, etc. than they are by native English speakers, which can make for interesting English conversations in German-speaking countries.

One such word is beamer. What could a beamer be, you ask? Well, it’s not a spaceship beaming you up to space, nor is it a classy BMW. A beamer, in the German-speaking world, is the “English” word for “projector.” It took a lot of convincing to get German-speaking friends to believe that beamer is not, in this sense, an actual English word.


Another example is mobbing, which somehow became the word that Germans think means “bullying.” Answering questions about the frequency of mobbing in American elementary schools was a little confusing for me the first few times.

Handy is the German “English” word for cell phone, although not for something being actually handy in the sense that English speakers would use it (that German word is praktisch). Perhaps the worst English misborrowing, however, is the use of the word body bag. German speakers may casually slip this phrase into conversation, stating, for example, that they bought a body bag yesterday. While this may leave English speakers staring open-mouthed at their German friend, in the German-speaking world, body bag simply means a type of purse.

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Contributing Your Mustard

Idioms, or expressions whose meanings don’t relate to the actual words in the phrase, can be quite tricky for translators. Translating “it’s raining cats and dogs” literally into German, for example, could leave many German speakers staring perplexedly at the sky. To prevent such utter confusion, translators must have a thorough understanding of the target language’s common expressions and their meanings.

These expressions, however, can sound rather funny when translated word for word into English. Take a look at these German idioms below:

  1. Es ist nicht “das gelbe vom Ei.”
    Literal: It is not “the yolk of the egg.”
    Meaning: It is not the best.


So, next time someone asks if you like a new restaurant, feel free to say that while you think it’s an overall okay place, it is clearly not the yolk of the egg.

  1. Ich musste “ihm alles aus der Nase ziehen.”
    Literal: I had to pull everything out of his nose.
    Meaning: With him, it was like pulling teeth (an English idiom equivalent!).

When discussing distressingly quiet people, we pull teeth, Germans pull things out of their nose. To each his own.

  1. Ich “gebe meinen Senf dazu.”
    Literal: I contribute my mustard.
    Meaning: I add my two-cents.

If you like mustard more than pennies, make sure to take part in German conversations.

  1. Er “hat einen Vogel.”
    Literal: He has a bird.
    Meaning: He’s crazy.

In conclusion, in order to avoid sounding like “you have a bird” when conversing in another language, make sure to learn their idioms. Unless you really like birds.