As you set off with your Eurail pass to the land of liters of beer and Lederhosen this week, here are a few news items to catch up on to avoid a bar or biergarten fight during the two week celebration in Munich, Germany.
1. Angela Merkel
She won a third consecutive election to retain her title as Chancellor of Germany on Sunday.
Merkel looked like a clear winner in the lengthy race for Germany’s highest office until coalition politics and a new movement from the far right, Alternative for Germany (AfG), made waves to dethrone her. When the polls closed Sunday, however, Merkel came out with her title intact, though her coalition suffered setbacks.
When you get to Munich, make sure to "prost" to Merkel and wish local Germans well on their new journey with a familiar face holding the top seat in German, and arguably European, government.
2. Germany cut-off cyber security ties with the U.S. thanks to alleged NSA activity
As far as we know, and as the media reports, Germany officially cut diplomatic cybersecurity ties with the U.S. following revelations that the NSA used data collected from German and other world citizens to monitor activity of people deemed as potential threats to national security.
I would humbly advise Americans enjoying their liters at Oktoberfest to shake their heads in solidarity with local partygoers and quickly change the conversation’s trajectory.
3. Germany is still (begrudgingly) the EU’s financial hub
Not much has changed with the role Germany was thrust into performing for the EU following the global financial crisis that sent some countries in the union spiraling into an economic chasm. Although there is hope that Merkel’s penchant for pro-austerity policies will help to distance Germany, a country showing recent signs of economic decline, from financial support obligations. Germany is home to some of the starkest “Euro-skeptics,” or people who lack confidence in the ability of the euro currency to benefit Europe’s economy.
If you find yourself drinking next to one of them at Oktoberfest, pretend you bought your liter with your debit card and throw one back in remembrance of the days of the Deutsche mark.
4. A Brief History
For readers not familiar with the tradition, Oktoberfest began in 19th century Munich, spread to surrounding Bavaria and all throughout Germany before culminating in a worldwide festival celebrated in beer-drinking parts of the world. Oktoberfest is also a light-hearted and very German way to ring in fall with a celebration of beer, food, music, and partying. Officially, Oktoberfest 2013 began on Saturday, September 21 and runs until Sunday, October 6.