Seven events you won’t want to miss in February 2020 in Germany

February isn’t just about Valentine’s Day (thankfully). Check out these events taking place all across Germany this month.

Seven events you won't want to miss in February 2020 in Germany
Photo: DPA

Montgolfiade Balloon Festival, February 8th-9th 

Hot air balloons take flight over Tegernsee, near Bad Weissee in Bavaria. Photo: DPA.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane! Actually, it’s a hot air balloon floating above the gorgeous Bavarian Alps at this annual balloon riding festival.

The balloons will be launched near Bad Wiessee starting on February 2nd, but most of the events and family activities run throughout the course of the weekend. Highlights include a culinary market with regional food and drink, live music, and a laser show.

A German love story in Frankfurt, until February 16th 

The Städel Museum in Frankfurt presents a special exhibition, ending this month. Photo: DPA.

This exhibition at the Städel Museum in Frankfurt is not a Valentine’s Day event per se, but it is an exploration of the love for Vincent Van Gogh among many modern artists in Germany.

The 120 paintings and works on paper that make up this “Making Van Gogh” exhibit include 50 key works by Van Gogh from various phases of his artistic life. There are extended hours for the exhibit before its departure. Consider visiting the gallery with your Valentine or simply enjoy some time alone with the array of beloved works.

A fairytale night in Dresden, February 7th 

The Semper Opera Ball is broadcast on live television. Photo: DPA.

The annual Semper Opera Ball is the largest classical entertainment event in German-speaking Europe. The ball at Dresden’s famous Semper Opera House is  attended by over 2,500 guests and 15,000 spectators outside, along with millions following along on live TV.

The event includes a five-hour grand opening gala with dancing by a group of debutantes and classical music and is attended by artists, politicians, journalists, and A-listers. Outside, a crowd battles the cold temperatures with a huge dance party.

Neigh the day away in Leonberg, February 7th-11th 

A horse in Leonberg's town square takes part of a beloved tradition. Photo: DPA.

Saddle up and join an over 300-year old tradition in this lovely town outside of Stuttgart. This traditional Pferdmarkt, or horse market, began in 1684 and is the city’s biggest tradition.

The festival combines modern and historical elements. Visitors may observe traditional trading and sport and equine seminars but will also be entertained by a variety of leisure events and funfair surrounding a special market. A full calendar of events can be found here.

Carnival, various dates and locations

Karneval festivities take place in front of the Cologne Cathedral. Photo: DPA.

Known as Karneval in mid and northern Germany and Fasching in the South, these annual celebrations put splashes of vibrant colour against February’s grey skies.

There will be parades and marches with floats, costumes, and celebrating in the streets to mark the occasion. Karneval officially began on “elften elften um elf Uhr elf” (11th November at 11:11am), but will have its peak celebrations in February starting on Fat Thursday (Weiberfastnacht) on February 20th and leading up to Rosenmontag, the Monday before Ash Wednesday on February 24th. 

If you can’t wait that long, Bremen also offers a special carnival featuring Samba dancing mask-clad performers, a light show and parade, and a special children’s carnival. 

READ ALSO: Where to celebrate Carnival in Germany

Dreaming on ice in Leipzig 

Leipzig's Augustusplatz boasts a large ferris wheel during the annual Eistraum. Photo: DPA. 

The Leipziger Eistraum is an annual event on Augustusplatz drawing families and enthusiastic ice skaters alike. There are a variety of rinks set up in the heart of the city’s main square and a calendar of events, including special events for children.

For breaks between loops around the ice, there will be a ferris wheel and a 36 metre “winter slide,” as well as an Après-IceParty house with original alpine wood paneling and drinks and snacks. The Eistraum is open daily from 10am to 10pm. Entry to the festival is free of charge.

Berlin’s international film festival 

A sign for the Berlinale hangs near Potsdamer Platz in Berlin. Photo: DPA.

Known as the Berlinale, Berlin’s world famous film festival will feature premieres ranging from indie films to future blockbusters from around the world. British film and theatre actor Jeremy Irons will be the judge of this year’s line-up, leading an international jury in deciding which films and actors will take home the coveted Golden Bear and Silver Bear awards. 

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the event and is sure to be as outstanding as ever. The festival will take place from February 20th-March 1st this year. This year the Berlinale will also be “going Kiez,” highlighting theatres in Berlin’s various Kieze, or neighborhoods around the city. Tickets go on sale February 17th.

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7 ground-breaking German movies made by female filmmakers

To celebrate the works of women in the German film industry, and at the conclusion of this year's special outdoor Berlinale, we have compiled a list of seven must-watch German films directed by women. 

7 ground-breaking German movies made by female filmmakers
A scene from System Crasher. credit: picture alliance/dpa/ZDF | Peter Hartwig

This year’s Oscars marked the first time in its almost 100-year history that two female filmmakers – Chloé Zhao and Emerald Fennell – were nominated in the Best Director category. Only five women have ever been nominated for this award. Zhao took home the gong, becoming just the second woman ever to do so.

In 2021’s Berlinale Festival, 60 percent of the films in the Generation category were directed by women — with 75 percent of female filmmakers making up the Kplus selection (a category for younger audiences).

Here is a look at seven films by some of the most influential female directors in German cinema.

Never Sleep Again (1992) — Pia Frankenberg

Featured in Berlinale’s Retrospective series, meant to showcase female filmmakers, this film is written, directed and produced by Cologne-born filmmaker, Pia Frankenberg.

The film follows three female friends through post-unification Berlin, who are making their way to a wedding when their car breaks down. They wander through the streets of former East Berlin, roaming in and out of bars meeting men. 

The dilapidated sites of the former Cold War frontier city, still scarred by World War II, become a place for sheer endless personal experimentation where the women begin to reconfigure their lives and loves.

Frankenberg’s impressionistic portrait of three women in the city reflects on the state of the newly unified Germany, where for a moment all possibilities seemed radically open. (Available on Mubi, Binged)

The German Sisters (1981) — Margarethe Von Trotta 

Considered one of the classics of the New German Cinema movement, The German Sisters tells an intimate story of Germany. 

Based on the real-life story of the Enslein sisters, it is an expression of director Margarethe Von Trotta’s combination of the personal and the political. It’s the story of Juliane, a feminist journalist and her sister, Marianne, who is a terrorist revolutionary. The film, which won six awards at the Venice Film Festival including the Golden Lion, was Margarethe Von Trotta’s third film and first collaboration with Barbara Sukowa. The director-actor duo went on to do six more films together. (Available on Mubi, Prime)

Margarethe Von Trotta on set in 1975. Photo: dpa | Bertram

Toni Erdmann (2016) — Maren Ade 

Toni Erdmann is a German-Austrian comedy which was directed, written and co-produced by Maren Ade. The film, which premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival, was named the best film of 2016. 

Meant to showcase the intricacies of a father-daughter relationship, the film pairs carefully constructed, three-dimensional characters in a tenderly funny character study. A hard-working woman reluctantly agrees to spend time with her estranged father when he unexpectedly arrives.

As a practical joker, the father does his best to reconnect by pretending to be her CEO’s life coach. (Available on Mubi, Kanopy, Prime, Vudu)

I Was at Home, But (2019) — Angela Schanelec 

I was at home, but (Ich war zuhause, aber) is a 2019 German drama film directed by Angela Schanelec. At the Berlinale that year, Schanelec won the Silver Bear for Best Director. 

The film is a story about a 13-year-old student, Phillip, who disappears without a trace for a week and suddenly reappears. 

It maps the existential crises his mother and teachers are confronted with that change their whole view of life. The film features several plots, which tell the stories of several people who are all connected to Phillip in some way. It has scenes with long silences, to contrast ones with heavy dialogue, which critics believe makes this film a cinematic masterpiece. (Available on Apple iTunes, Google Play Movies, Vudu, or rent on YouTube).

The Audition (2019) — Ina Weisse

This film has been described as a symphonic study of human behaviour. It’s the story of a violin teacher, who takes great interest in mentoring a student for an audition. Anna, the violinist and teacher played by Nina Hoss, shows plenty of compassion toward the boy at first, but their relationship becomes much more strained as the date of Alexander’s audition nears and Anna begins to put him through musical torture. Come the day of the exam, events take a tragic turn. (Available on Amazon Prime Video)

Pelican Blood (2019) — Katrin Gebbe 

Pelican Blood is written and directed by Katrin Gebbe, who won the 2014 Preis der Deutschen Filmkritik (German Film Critics’ Prize) for her first film.

It tells the story of a woman who trains police horses. She adopts her second child, a severely traumatised five-year-old girl. When the girl shows violent and anti-social behaviour, her new mother becomes determined to help her.

The film has been described as raising fascinating questions – how do you draw boundaries for a child who seems to ignore them or even takes a perverse pleasure in overstepping them? What can you do as a parent when you realize that your love and protection aren’t enough? (Available on Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime)

System Crasher (2019) — Nora Fingscheidt

Another film about a rebellious child, System Crasher picked up a whopping eight German Film Awards after its release in 2019.

The film has a powerful political message about the inadequacies of the universal child care system. The protagonist, Benni, is a violent nine-year-old girl who suffers from psychotic episodes. Her key social worker, Frau Bafané, tries to get Benni into special schools or facilities; dozens turn her down and Benni is too young to be effectively sectioned as an inpatient.

In an interview with The Guardian, Fingscheidt says, “There’s a very German dimension to the film in the obsession with bureaucracy, with rules that need to be adhered to. Rules like, ‘this child cannot stay in this home because they are getting too emotionally attached,’ when that institution may be the first place where a child has begun to open up.”

The film has received an incredible amount of international recognition, garnering 45 international awards. (Available on Netflix)