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Between the 1820s and 1920s, some 5.9 million Germans reached the United States. Some arrived following the failed German revolution of 1840.
Many of the immigrants making their way across the country, stopped in Chicago to earn some more money to fund the journey to the Great Plains where they hoped to homestead. Yet, many of them decided to stay in Chicago if their skills were in demand. In 1850, one-sixth of Chicago’s population was from Germany.
One thing about German culture is that they love their beer. So, when then-Mayor Levi Boone mandated that taverns and beer gardens should be closed on Sundays starting on April 21st, 1855, this caused outrage in the then large German population of Chicago. The mayor also raised the cost of liquor licenses across the county which forced many small businesses to close.
Many German immigrants felt this was a direct attack on them because a large portion of the taverns and beer gardens were German-owned. They, therefore, protested the Mayor’s decision. Many people took to the streets and the events that ensued would later become known as the Lager Beer Riot of Chicago.
By 1900, people of German descent were the largest ethnic group in Chicago, and a few enclaves can still be found in the city today like around the neighborhood of Lincoln Square.
With the rich history of German heritage in Chicago, it is easy to find ways to cook, learn German at a local language school, and or attend an event from local Oktoberfest festivals to art galleries showcasing German culture.
Now that you’ve learned a bit about the German Americans in the Chicago area, I am sure you are craving some delicious traditional German cuisine. There are a few spots throughout the city that feature German classics from fresh spätzle, a traditional German egg pasta, to a whole array of German-style beers on tap.
A great first stop is The Glunz Tavern on North Wells between the Old Town and Near North Side neighborhoods of Chicago. This spot has been a favorite for locals and tourists alike. It is modeled after classic German Chicago taverns of the early 1900s. Every Friday, their $4 draft beers make a nice compliment to their delicious bratwurst sandwiches and classic Bavarian-style pretzels.
Another great option is Edelweiss Restaurant in Chicago’s Norridge enclave. This traditional German American restaurant has been family-owned for over 30+ years creating quite a tradition for everyone in the community. With over 16+ taps of German, craft, and locally brewed beer this is one spot where you’ll definitely frequent during Oktoberfest season and beyond. From traditional beef rouladen served with house-made spätzle to savory pork schnitzel, you will feel like you’ve gone back to Germany and are at a Biergarten chanting prost!
If an at-home German feast is what you are in the mood for then trying a traditional recipe online or taking a cooking class might create a great quick day of German cooking and learning.
The Windy City still has a strong German community and the historical DANK Haus in Lincoln Square’s German community has still kept on its mission of celebrating the German culture. The original DANK Haus building was formally built for a German gentleman’s association where German businesses in Chicago were helped with funding and resources and a safe haven for German immigrants who have just arrived in the city.
Today, the German American Cultural Center offers bilingual educational programs from grades K-12 and hosts an array of cultural events showcasing German holidays and organized parades throughout the city. A cultural museum is also located inside the center featuring German and Austrian art exhibitions, historical artifacts, and memorabilia.
The center also celebrates the culinary tradition of Chicago’s North Side, traditionally a part of town where German immigrants lived. A few times a year the community comes together with the support of the DANK Haus team and helps support by preserving and keeping the German community alive.
Learning the German language in Chicago is easy because of the many resources the city has to offer. If you are looking for bilingual education for your kids, then The German International School of Chicago is a great option. The international school offers a fully bilingual education for grades K-12. The institution’s solid curriculum offers a well-rounded, creative, and intensive educational program.
The Goethe Institut of Chicago also provides German language classes for all ages. It provides exit exams after each level of instruction and also prepares students to take the renowned German proficiency exam that is recognized by the American Association of Teachers of German (AATG).
From cooking to learning German, Chicago has vast resources to aid your new skills. But traditional classrooms might not work for everyone. Set schedules do not offer any flexibility for people constantly on the move and self-guided study at home can sometimes not give you the motivation to keep consistency.
Hiring a private tutor or cooking instructor might offer better solutions for those looking for a more flexible option of learning. With virtual learning being at the forefront it has never been easier to log on and start learning from the convenience of your kitchen or the comfort of your couch.
Online communities like Superprof makes looking for a tutor simple. With Superprof’s intensive database of over thousands of tutors worldwide, it has never been easier to learn a new skill. Its reliable internal search engine can find local instructors or virtual tutors in any country. Skills range from language and math to personal gym trainers and cooking instructors. The best part is that you can test run a class with zero commitment so that you are sure you’ve picked the best instructor that matched best with your learning style. Classes range from as little as $10/hr and are always pay as go, which allows for little upfront costs at either end.
The average price of German lessons in Chicago is $35.
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