German words you need to know: Der Schrebergarten

This is more than a word for some people in Germany – it’s a concept, a goal, a way of life.

German words you need to know: Der Schrebergarten
A gnome in a Schrebergarten in Cologne. Photo: DPA

Now that it’s summer and the plants have been sprouting, you might find that a lot of Germans aren’t confined to their homes anymore. Instead, they have ventured outside, to find some peace in their Schrebergärten.

Schrebergarten in literal English means something like “Schreber’s garden.” If you look it up in a dictionary, though, you find another translation: “allotment” or “allotment garden”.  A Schrebergarten in German can also be Kleingarten (“small garden”) or Familiengarten (“family garden.”)

The most common word is Schrebergarten, though, so let’s have a look into the word’s history.

The first Schrebergärten (Gärten is the plural of the word “garden”) were called Armengärten (“poor gardens”) and were constructed for poverty-stricken urban populations living in poor housing conditions. It allowed people to grow their own food and get some fresh air.

One of the first Armengärten was established in Kappeln in northern Germany in the early 19th century.

In the late 19th century, Moritz Schreber, a doctor from Leipzig, together with some other academics, created a new concept: to use the small gardens as a place for physical exercise, for everyone. After he died in 1861, the concept found more and more proponents.

Hence, the small gardens in allotment areas, (known in German as Kolonien – garden colonies), were named after him.

An allotment in Leipzig. Photo: DPA

Nowadays, almost a million people in Germany, from all socio-economic backgrounds, are members of an allotment garden association and use their gardens for all kinds of purposes: parties, gardening, family gatherings…the list goes on.

Renting a Schrebergarten might be one of the most German things to do ever. But beware: there are strict rules that you have to follow when renting a small garden – and it is illegal to permanently live in a garden shed in the allotment, no matter how big it is.

SEE ALSO: Berlin colony says no to more ‘non-Germans’ in its gardens


Wir haben uns einen Schrebergarten gemietet!

We rented an allotment garden!

Schrebergärten stehen meist in Kolonien.

Allotment gardens are usually found in public garden colonies.

Viele Leute verstehen Schrebergarten falsch und denken es heißt Strebergarten.

Many people read the word Schrebergarten wrongly, and think they are actually called Strebergarten (geek or nerd garden).

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German word of the day: Kneipe

This is a spot you might visit at the end of the working day - or Feierabend.

German word of the day: Kneipe

Why do I need to know Kneipe?

Because you may be invited to one or need to find one on the map. 

What does it mean?

Die Kniepe, which sounds like this, is the name for a pub in German where people gather to drink beverages. This isn’t a fancy cocktail bar – it’s a neighbourhood watering hole, and forms part of the make-up of towns and cities across Germany. It’s usually unpretentious, often small and in some places – like Berlin – it can be smoky. In that case, you might see a a Raucherkneipe (smoking pub) sign on the door or window. 

The word has been around since the 18th century and is an abbreviation of Kneipschenke. A Kneipschenke was a super-cramped premise where guests had to pack in and sit squeezed together.

The noun Schenke is a tavern, while Kneipe is said to come from the verb kneipen meaning “to press together” or “be close together”, which has been documented in Middle German and is a loanword from the Middle Low German word knīpen. That word is related to High German’s kneifen, which means “to pinch”. 

Kneipen don’t always have the best reputation. You might also get some suspicious looks if you crash a very local Kneipe that is used to only serving regulars or Stammgäste. But they are usually friendly and charming, and give an insight into life in Germany. So perhaps ask your German friends for a tip on a cool Kneipe to visit. Just don’t expect the staff to speak English like you usually find in hipster bars! 

If you’re hungry, keep in mind that Kneipen usually don’t serve food. Pubs that do serve hot food are more likely to be called a Wirtschaft or Lokal.

You can also do a pub crawl (eine Kneipentour machen) if you can handle the amount of booze (or switch to non-alcoholic drinks). 

How to use it:

Treffen wir uns am Freitag nach Feierabend in der Kneipe.

Let’s meet in the pub on Friday after work finishes.

Ich gehe mit den Jungs in die Kneipe.

I’m going to the pub with the lads.