There are several milestones on the German childhood calendar but they all pale into insignificance compared to the festivities that await many of the nation's 14 year-olds.
Many of the economic problems facing eastern Germany are similar to those in western Germany and most of Europe. So, why is xenophobia so much worse in the East?
German children are celebrated with a series of major milestones en route to adulthood. But few can be as glitzy as the festivities that await them at 14. Tamsin Walker went along to join the party.
Starting elementary school is a big deal in Germany. It's a rite of passage - almost like graduation or a wedding. Parents invest lots to shower their first-grader with gifts. But what's with the obligatory paper cone?
Conservatives and Social Democrats long dominated Germany's political culture, generating broad appeal. But their ability to unite people under proverbial big tents is waning, while small parties profit from the discord.
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