Hear ye! Hear ye! It’s THE BIG PONDER — in German

The Goethe-Institut and rbbKultur, a public radio broadcaster in Germany, present an audio special straight from Berlin. In this artfully curated miniseries, the production team at rbbKultur recreates eight exemplary episodes of THE BIG PONDER — in German. These episodes simultaneously highlight the similarities and the differences between the U.S. and Germany by taking on aspects of German and American life that often go unexplored. You’ll hear all about friendship, home, “Little Americas” in Germany, pen pals that exchange messages over the Atlantic, and the relationship that Americans and Germans have with their national flags. Listen below!
Truck in Bavaria
Photo: Jonas Höschl

Brieffreunde – My Pen Pal

Two men on opposite sides of the Atlantic unexpectedly become pen pals in the middle of a pandemic: Jakob, a podcast producer from Tennessee, and Ingo, a policeman from the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. This episode explains how this happened and what Pokémon had to do with it. More ...

Kids in Pullman City (near Deggendorf)
Photo: Jonas Höschl

Über die Freundschaft – In Friendship

Why did some relationships suffer during the pandemic while others — often those between old friends — grew stronger? Bilal searches for a transatlantic explanation. In the end, he gets answers from his friends, his nephew Zayn, and a metaphor about peaches and coconuts. More ...

Marius Gardeia (model) in Pullman City, flag by Melissa Treutlein (illustrator)
Photo: Jonas Höschl

Flaggen – Flags

The American flag in the parking lot of American Pride, a landscape equipment store in Zanesville, Ohio, is the biggest in the state. What is the meaning behind the national flag in the U.S.? How do Germans relate to their flag? How can a piece of fabric become so imbued with symbolism? Jocelyn Robinson investigates. More ...

Housing Area, Rose Barracks in Vilseck
Photo: Jonas Höschl

Little America

The U.S. military bases in Germany are set up like “Little Americas”: Distances are measured in miles instead of kilometers, and the food tastes like home to the soldiers stationed there. In this story, you’ll hear about how one American GI, Ron, ventured off base on his Vespa to visit all the Swabian pubs in the region. More ...

Marius Gardeia (model), McDonald’s
Photo: Jonas Höschl

The Diner

A diner is a small restaurant that looks like a train car. So what’s the secret? And what happens when an American institution like the diner is uprooted and transplanted to Germany? Just like the dishes at a diner, this episode is rich and can be consumed in under 30 minutes. More ...

Willem De Haan (Artist) at the Acua Water Park (Corralejo, Fuerteventura), poster by the art collective Tannhauser Kreis
Photo: Jonas Höschl

Zuhause – Home

During the pandemic, the concept of home has gained tremendous importance. How does a house become a home? Can you call more than one place home? What role, if any, does place play in feeling at home? For THE BIG PONDER, Jocelyn searches for answers. More ...

Self portrait
Photo: Jonas Höschl

Das Tagebuch – The Diary

The idea of a diary is the same in the U.S. and Germany; writers regularly record moments from their daily lives — little things as well as big events. In this episode, diary keepers share their thoughts with listeners: a distillation of transatlantic longings, anxieties, and quotidian observations. More ...

Kids in Pullman City (near Deggendorf)
Photo: Jonas Höschl

Über die Stille – Quietude

What radio makers fear most of all is unwanted pauses, on-air silence, nothingness. Even in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s time, society feared nothing more than a lull in conversation. This was grounds enough for journalist Bilal Qureshi to dedicate an entire episode of THE BIG PONDER to silence. More ...

Jenny Marrenbach was responsible for editing the German-language edition of THE BIG PONDER. The producers of the pieces are Sylvia Cunningham, Dina Elsayed, Florenz Gilly, Leon Ginzel, Jakob Lewis, Monika Müller-Kroll, Bilal Qureshi, and Jocelyn Robinson. The voices in the German adaptation of THE BIG PONDER come from Peggy Bachmann, Nina Ernst, Thomas Fränzel, Isabelle Redfern, Volker Wackermann, and Timo Weisschnur. Dirk Schwibbert composed and produced the intro and outro for the episodes. The photographs were taken at the Pullman City Western Town, a Wild West theme park in Bavaria, and at the Rose Barracks, an American military base near Nuremberg, Germany. Sascha Ehlert coordinated the photo shoot, and Jonas Höschl took the photos.

We wholeheartedly thank all those involved on both sides of the Atlantic for this memorable experience and the wonderful collaboration. The German-language version of THE BIG PONDER is a joint production by rbbKultur and the Goethe-Institut.