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GERMAN LANGUAGE

What’s behind the strange German name for musical chairs?

In English the name for the popular kids’ birthday game involving chairs and music is fairly straightforward. But why do Germans call it "Trip to Jerusalem"?

Saxony, Lichtenwalde: A group of figures
Saxony, Lichtenwalde: A group of figures "Journey to Jerusalem" from the series "Everyday People" is arranged in Lichtenwalde Castle Park. Photo: dpa | Hendrik Schmidt

If you have been invited to a children’s birthday party in Germany or other German-speaking countries you’ve probably been invited to join in on a game of Reise nach Jerusalem, the German equivalent of musical chairs.

The rules are exactly the same as in other countries: the game starts with the same number of chairs as players, but each time the music stops there is one less chair and the player who fails to find a seat is out.

According to the Jüdische Allgemeine newspaper, the origin of the name is something of a mystery, but it could come from the early migration of Jews to Palestine. The theory is that there were never enough seats on the boat, meaning some travellers were left standing.

There is even speculation that the name dates back to the crusades, when Christian soldiers would travel to war in the holy land and never return.

What makes the origin even more murky though is the fact that Austrians call it Reise nach Rom – Trip to Rome.

There are various rule adaptations that you may come across in Germany – each with their own unusual name.

Reise nach Jericho is a co-operative game – all the players need to find space on the ever smaller number of seats, either by sitting on one another’s knees or finding other ingenious ways of sharing the dwindling resources.

In Reise nach Bilbao, an extra seat is added in each round. The players need to find ways of occupying all the seats by lying across them or stacking up the chairs.

Interestingly the game has strange names in other countries too. In Sweden it is called Stormy Seas, Romanians call it “the chick is looking for its nest” …and in Jerusalem? 

In Hebrew it is simply called “kisaot musikaliim”, which means musical chairs.

SEE ALSO: 12 ways to improve your life in Germany without even trying

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LIVING IN AUSTRIA

Nine German expressions that perfectly sum up spring in Austria

As spring arrives and temperatures slowly rise again across Austria, there are a few German words and expressions that could come in handy soon.

Nine German expressions that perfectly sum up spring in Austria

German is not an easy language; most people agree about that. However, what many people don’t know (or will only learn once they start learning German) is how amazingly specific it can be.

German speakers have words for all sorts of things, and the way they form their vocabulary is also quite interesting.

As we head into spring (finally!) and temperatures rise all over Europe, there are certainly a few words and expressions that will be very useful during the coming months.

Like in every language, some idioms shouldn’t be literally translated – but we will do it just for the fun of it. After all, it’s fun sometimes to understand only train station.*

READ ALSO: These eight words show just how different German and Austrian Deutsch can be

Here are a few expressions and words that you will probably hear, or might even incorporate, in the following months:

Sauheiß or Affenhitze

Sauheiß is literally “pig hot”, and Affenhitze would be “monkey heat”.

Both can be used for that extreme heat that is becoming ever more common during European summers.

Das Kaiserwetter

Literally, the “Emperor weather”, or something like a weather fit for an Emperor. Usually, they use that for those days when the sun is shining bright, and the skies are cloudless blue.

READ ALSO: Frosty German sayings that’ll make you a winter wordsmith

Some say the idiom comes from Austria. Emperor Franz Josef had an August summer birthday and enjoyed sunny birthdays.

Etwas Sonne tanken

To fuel up with the sun. It is a very typical sentence, especially by the end of summer days, as winter looms closer and Austrians, Germans, and Swiss know that they need to “stock up” in that summer feeling to face the cold and dark days (weeks and months) ahead.

Es gibt kein schlechtes Wetter, es gibt nur falsche Kleidung

This is a very typical expression and a life lesson, really. It means “there is no bad weather, only wrong clothes” and it’s usually said during winter and cold days.

The life lesson could also be employed during summer – at least to a certain degree, unless you go for the FKK (frei korper kultur), of course.

READ ALSO: Austria: Eight of the funniest mistakes people learning German make

Die Sonne lacht

Literally means the sun is smiling or laughing, and it’s used for when the sun is shining. A less sweet version would be “Die Sonne scheint” (the sun is shining). 

Badewetter

Austrians love swimming. Austria is known for skiing and winter sports, but there is a lot to do when the weather is nice and warm as well.

The beautiful lakes are perfect for swimming, complete with options of fun waterslides for kids and artificial beaches. The many public pools and parks options also allow for fantastic swimming opportunities for the city dwellers, so don’t miss out when it’s Badewetter (swimming/beach weather).

READ MORE: The best lakes and swimming spots in Austria

April April, der macht was er will

Watch out for those days when sun and rain take turns for hours on end, or when it’s the middle of April, and it just starts snowing. This is when Austrians will typically shrug and say: April, April, it does what it wants to.

Auf der Sonnenseite des Lebens stehen

This literally means “to be on the sunny side of life” and is used to say that someone has a nice life – who wouldn’t when standing in a sunny place?

Geh mir aus der Sonne!

Finally, a good expression for those tired of being bothered by someone else. After all, nobody wants to share the sun with an annoyance. It means something like “get out of my sun” and is used in the same way as “get out of my face”.

READ ALSO: Why traditional German names are often used as insults

*Ich verstehe nur Bahnhof is a very famous German idiom that is literally translated as “I understand only train station”. It means “I don’t understand a single thing”.

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