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Culture

Germany's Top Five

Lively puppet theater, an exhibition on East German history, a queer film festival, an equestrian competition and gigantic snow sculptures -- this week in Germany will certainly not be boring.

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Set off for the capital of Bavaria for the Verzaubert Queer Film Festival

Show off your brightest boa and settle down to an annual visual feast of some of the world's best gay and lesbian flicks at the Verzaubert Queer Film Festival which kicks off in Munich this year on Nov. 9. Claiming to be the biggest event of its kind in Europe, Verzaubert, which means "dazzled," has been traveling to major cities in Germany for a decade. The fare includes some hot-button documentaries, short films and this year's highlight, according to the festival's Web site, C.R.A.Z.Y. -- a film that redefines the coming-out genre, in the words of the organizers. The festival runs through Nov. 16 in the Bavarian capital and then moves on to Frankfurt, Cologne and Berlin.

Festival Osthafen

Have some laughs in eastern Germany's Frankfurt at Osthafen

Promising lots of chuckles and not just for kids, the Theater des Lachens (Theater of Laughter) in Frankurt an der Oder on the German-Polish border is celebrating three decades of puppet theater from Nov. 9-13. Called "Osthafen," the festival will include performances by theater groups from Poland and the Czech Republic as well as workshops at the European University Viadrina in the eastern German city. An exhibition will also document the 30-year-old history of puppetry in the area. The organizers promise that the action on stage won't only be directed at kids and teenagers. "The festival is meant to popularize our repertoire for adults too," said Peggy Braun, head of the Theater des Lachens this week. The whole spectacle will be accompanied by discussions and music.

If you're the equestrian type, ride to Stuttgart's annual German Masters, the 20th international riding and show jumping competition at the spacious Hans Martin Schleyer Hall. Starting Nov. 16, the southern German city will be host to disciplines such as show-jumping, dressage, vaulting and carriage-driving. Participants can compete for prize money worth 455,520 euros ($536,950) and three cars. The spectacle usually finishes with the indoor Derby Test, where participants have to prove their skills in a combination of disciplines and mounted routines. And of course, the whole shindig is accompanied by lots of music and live bands.

Stasi-Gedenkstätte Hohenschönhausen

You can also take a tour of the former East German secret service headquarters

Up to finding out more about a dark chapter of recent German history? Forced evacuations by the former Communist East German regime between 1952 and 1989 are the focus of a new exhibition at the former Stasi (East German secret police) headquarters in Berlin's Hohenschönhausen district. More than 12,000 people living on the border between East and West Germany had to leave their homes within hours starting 1952 to make way for a 10-meter (11-yard) wide death strip and a 500-meter deep "defensive zone." The bureaucratic expulsions especially hit people categorized as "particularly unreliable" by the Communist government. The series of forced evacuations peaked after the building of the Berlin Wall in 1961 and is said to have continued well into the 1980s. The exhibition, which also details individual stories and fates of the people affected, starts on Nov. 7.

BdT Eiszauber auf dem Winterdom

An icy copy of Hamburg's town hall is part of the Winterdom

Want to get a foretaste of a White Christmas? Head to the northern German city of Hamburg, which is hosting a huge ice and snow sculpture festival called "Winterdom." Some 50 artists from Canada, Russia, Finland, Belgium and Holland have been working their magic on 300 tons of snow with chain saws, spades, chisels and knives. Simultaneously, another ice spectacle called "Hamburg Ice Magic" has also opened its doors in the port city. Themed on the famous "Nutcracker," the event includes a typical Hamburg landscape completely made of ice. The Winterdom runs through Dec. 4.

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