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What’s on in Germany: July 2016

Beer, beaches and the BMX - here's what's coming up in Germany this month.

What's on in Germany: July 2016
Berlin Pride celebrations. Photo: DPA

Culture

Berlin Pride / Christopher Street Day (July 23rd)

A group of friends who are “all different” at Berlin Pride. Photo: DPA

The event is also called Christopher Street Day, or CSD, named after the first major LGBT demonstrations on Christopher Street, New York City in 1969.

It's an event celebrated in cities all over Germany throughout July, for example in Dortmund, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Munich and Stuttgart.

CSD Berlin has taken place every year since 1979, and the capital city estimates that up to half a million people celebrate each year.

The day consists of two parts – the March and the Finale.

The March begins at midday in Berlin's Charlottenburg district and travels all the way to the Brandenburg Gate, with people allowed to join at any point on the way.

The Finale is a half-mile-long Pride Village at the Brandenburg Gate, with DJs and bands entertaining the crowd on two stages along with speeches from prominent LGBT speakers.

Indian Film Festival Stuttgart (Stuttgart, July 20th-24th)

Indian actress Manisha Koirala at Indian Film Festival Stuttgart. Photo: DPA

This is the 13th annual festival in Stuttgart celebrating Bollywood and Indian film. Features, documentaries and short films are shown, and you can also meet and greet the stars on the red carpet and after showings.

If Indian musicals make you want to get up and dance, you can! The festival also offers dance workshops so you can be the next Shah Rukh Khan. 

500 Years of Bavarian Beer Purity Law (Munich, July 22nd-24th)

Beer barrels at a brewery in Munich. Photo: DPA

This free-entry event is a 500th anniversary celebration of the Bavarian law regulating the ingredients allowed in the manufacture of beer. This rule was pushed nationally after the unification of Germany in 1871, and with some minor changes and exceptions it still stands to this day.

The event incorporates traditional Bavarian food and music, and visitors pay for various beers with Thaler, which was the currency for centuries across the former German states. Pay like a Bavarian, drink like a Bavarian.

Festival Essen Karibisch (Essen, July 21st-31st)

A boy playing volleyball in Essen. Photo: DPA

Apparently you don't have to fly outside Germany to find your own “Caribbean holiday paradise,” as this festival describes itself. If you're looking for a taste of the sun this July, head down to the centre of Essen and find streets full of giant palm trees and white beaches.

This year the annual festival features exciting beach volleyball and limbo tournaments as well as a treasure hunt for kids.

It's a given that there'll also be authentic Caribbean food and sunny cocktails.

Music

Klassik Open Air (Nuremberg, July 24th)

The stage at Klassik Open Air. Photo: Franconia/Wikimedia Commons.

The first instalment of this famous classical music concert takes place on July 24th in Nuremberg's Luitpoldhain park, attracting a varied audience of non-typical listeners.

The outdoor concert is free, and according to the website, nearly a third of the visitors tend to be 19 to 25 years old. 

It's far from a typical classical concert, and there is an “informal picnic atmosphere”, so if you've never seen a Grammy Award-winning orchestra, this is the perfect place to start!

Melt! Festival (Ferropolis, July 15th-17th)

Kylie Minogue performing at Melt! Festival in 2015. Photo: DPA

About a one-hour drive from Leipzig, and a two-hour drive from Berlin, this annual music festival takes over the former mining site of Ferropolis (the Iron City), and it attracts huge acts from all over the world. The focus of the festival is “breaking the boundaries between quiet and loud, electro, hip hop and indie, mainstream and subculture”.

Notable acts from previous years include Kylie Minogue, Portishead, Oasis, Björk, La Roux and Scissor Sisters.

Get packing, because this year's Melt! line-up features indie legends Disclosure, Tame Impala and Chvrches along with underground British acts Skepta and Jamie xx.

Sport

snipes BMX Cologne (July 2nd-3rd)

A BMXer soaring through the air at the Cologne tournament. Photo: DPA

Another free event, this two-day tournament is one of the world's landmark BMX tournaments.

Competitors range from amateurs wanting to get their names out in the world to seasoned BMX veterans.

The motto, 'Celebrating BMX', is based on providing entertainment to all sorts of people, and not necessarily just hardcore extreme sports fans.

The reason that the event is free is “so that everyone – hardcore fans, beginners, interested on-lookers and families – can have the possibility of celebrating BMX sport together with us,“ explains Stephan Prantl, German BMX champion and organiser of the event, in a statement.

Euro 2016

A Public Viewing at the Brandenburg Gate, Berlin. Photo: DPA

With the tournament in full flow, make sure you head to a Public Viewing of any match to soak in the electric atmosphere, the camaraderie and the beer. Maybe you'll even appear on TV when Germany wins the final!

These locations were hot-spots two years ago for World Cup football-watching, and are all hosting Euro events this year. Go Deutschland!

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GERMANY EXPLAINED

Why are shops in Germany closed on Sundays – and will it ever change?

Germany's strict ban on shops opening on Sundays can be a shock to foreigners. We looked at the culture around it, and spoke to one of the country's largest trade unions to find out if things are ever likely to change.

Why are shops in Germany closed on Sundays - and will it ever change?

It’s Sunday. You’ve invited people for dinner, but you’ve forgotten the most important ingredient. Tough luck – you’ll either have to do without or wait until Monday because your local shops are shut. 

Most of us are familiar with this inconvenience, and perhaps you’ve even found yourself screaming: “Why?” in frustration in front of a locked-up supermarket. 

But it’s something us adopted Germans have had to get used to. We decided to take a look at the reasons behind Germany’s ban on Sunday shopping – and to find out if it might change in future. 

Where does the rule come from?

The Sonntagsruhe or ‘Sunday rest’ principle is an integral part of German culture, so much so that it is enshrined in the German constitution (Grundgesetz).

Article 140 of the law, which has remained unchanged since 1919, says: “Sundays and state-recognised public holidays remain protected by law as days of rest from work and spiritual upliftment.” 

But the practice of not working on Sunday has been around for much longer. The idea that the seventh day of the week is a day of rest dates back to the old testament and was declared a general day of rest across the Roman Empire as early as 321, by Roman Emperor Constantine.

In the centuries since, however, most of Europe has gradually relaxed the strict ban on commercial activities on Sundays. 

But in Germany, the rules remain restrictive. It’s unlikely to change anytime soon partly because of religious reasons, and also in relation to the interests of workers.

Germany’s biggest trade union Verdi spelled out their view. “It’s not ‘modern’ to work seven days a week,” they told The Local. “That’s the Middle Ages.” 

What exactly does the law mean?

On the face of it, the German law forbids all forms of work on Sundays and public holidays, though numerous exceptions are laid out in the Working Time Act. 

As well as emergency and rescue services, hospitals, nursing and care facilities, exceptions include cultural and sporting activities, and the hospitality sector. 

Another notable exemption to the rule is bakeries, which are allowed to open for three hours on Sundays – which is why you may often find a long queue at your local baker if you want to get your freshly baked Brötchen on Sunday morning. 

A saleswoman reaches for a loaf of bread in a bakery.

A saleswoman reaches for a loaf of bread in a bakery. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Mohssen Assanimoghaddam

Illustrating how seriously the rule can be taken in Germany, there have even been cases of bakeries being sued for selling bread for too long on Sundays.

Shops, however, aren’t exempt from the rule and, the only way they can legally open on a Sunday is on a so-called verkaufsoffener Sonntag – Sunday trading day.

In most federal states, shops are allowed to open on between four and eight Sundays per year, and the States can decide when these should be. The chosen days must, however, be linked to a relevant occasion – such as a local festival, a market, a trade fair, or a similar event. 

Sunday openings also have to be recognisable as an exception to the general rule and Sunday openings that have already been approved can often be later overturned by the courts.

How strictly is the rule enforced?

Retailers who break the rules and open for business on Sunday can face fines ranging between €500 and €2,500.

The strictness of enforcement can vary widely between different regions.

In Berlin, for example, you can still find lots of Spätis (late night shops) open on Sundays. Although this is technically illegal, the authorities in the capital seem to take more of a relaxed approach to enforcement than in other states. 

A "Späti" late-night shop in Berlin.

A “Späti” late-night shop in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Florian Schuh

In the traditionally Catholic state of Bavaria, for example, the law is much more strictly guarded and enforced.

READ ALSO: Why Germany has strict shop opening hours

Is the law likely to change?

A survey by Spiegel in 2017 showed that 61 percent of Germans wanted to be able to shop on a Sunday, and this desire is shared by the trade industry.

The German Trade Association, for example, which represents around 400,000 independent companies, has strongly criticised Germany’s refusal to budge on the issue of Sunday openings on several occasions and argued that Sunday opening is also popular with staff, with many shop assistants appreciating the work in a more relaxed atmosphere.

In its latest statement on the issue, the association stated that, especially after following the economic impact of the pandemic, many retailers would benefit greatly from being able to open on Sundays. 

READ ALSO:

“It is remarkable that in no other EU country Sunday opening is as restricted as in Germany,” the association said. “Even in strongly Catholic EU countries such as Italy and Poland, shoppers can generally shop on Sundays. The same applies to France, although they place great value on culture and socialising.”

However, even if there is a widespread desire in some quarters to allow Sunday trading, an amendment to the constitution would require the consent of two-thirds of the German parliament. Also, there remains strong opposition to changing the rule from many workers’ groups and trade unions.

Trade union Verdi, which regularly files complaints against states and organisations which seek to deviate from Sunday trading restrictions, said that Sunday rest is still very important for workers.

A sign reads “Spring for Frankfurt – Sunday trading day” in front of a shoe shop in Frankfurt.

A sign reads “Spring for Frankfurt – Sunday trading day” in front of a shoe shop in Frankfurt. Photo: picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb | Arne Dedert

A spokesperson said: “We have just one day a week when employers can’t stop us from going to football together, meeting friends, attending cultural events, or spending free time with the whole family.

“And we want to keep it that way. There are six days a week when we can go shopping, take the car to the garage, do our banking, or get the package delivered from the online retailer. On Sunday, there has to be peace and quiet.”

The Verdi spokesperson added that it’s important to think about “work-life balance, and not about being available 24/7 for a company”.

We also asked the union if the law looks set to change in the near future.

The spokesperson said: “Sunday, which is a non-working day for most people, has so far been protected by the majority of political parties in Germany.

“Verdi, with its almost two million members, continues to work to ensure that working on Sunday does not become an everyday occurrence.”

So it appears that the culture shock for many non-Germans of shops being closed on Sundays won’t change anytime soon. 

READ ALSO: From nudity to sandwiches – the biggest culture shocks for foreigners in Germany

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