On a diplomatic mission

Logo of the German City Walk

Logo of the German City Walk, © German Consulate Toronto

26.06.2013 - Article

Toronto, where our Consulate‑General takes interested persons to places which are related to Germany in some way or other – by means of a smartphone app.

A number of Germans have left their traces in Toronto, the biggest city in Canada. To make this fact better known to the public, the German Consulate‑General came up with the idea of commissioning a smartphone app which allows interested persons to go on a “treasure hunt” to “German” places in the city. This idea has been well received, as our colleague Karen Thürnau from the Press Section of the Consulate‑General tells us. No longer a feature of Toronto alone, a so‑called “German Walk” has been introduced in other cities as well for quite a while now.

“Right now we are on Berczy Square, named after one of Toronto’s earliest pioneers, William Berczy. A son of a German diplomat and reckless adventurer … he arrived at the end of the 18th century and settled in the small swampy post that is Toronto today. „Shawn Micallef is extremely well prepared and describes key events in the life of William Berczy, the son of a German diplomat, who is considered to be one of the founders of Toronto.

Over the past few months, Shawn Micallef, urbanist and author, has tracked down German traces in Toronto. He has searched through archives, churches and pubs and turned his findings into an exciting “treasure hunt”. Karl, the creative and technophile intern at the Toronto Consulate‑General, programmed these findings into a web‑based database developed by the New York branch of the Goethe‑Institut (Externer Link, öffnet in neuem Fensterwww.geo‑storyteller.org) and added photographs.


The smartphone takes you to “German” places

The outcome of these efforts is the “German City Walk Toronto” – a stylish mobile GEO app for smartphones. This application makes it easy to just stroll to Germany‑related places in Toronto – the biggest Canadian city, which was co‑founded by Germans – anytime you like. The Consulate‑General has also offered several guided tours. They were a huge success.

On a chilly day in April, more than 80 people come to join the first public “German Walk”, some of them of German origin, others newly arrived immigrants, urban enthusiasts and passionate walkers, a good mixture of young and old.

Shawn Micallef with a group of “German Walkers”
Shawn Micallef with a group of “German Walkers”© German Consulate Toronto

The group starts from Berczy Square. The participants in this city stroll, which could be described as a “treasure hunt” for “German” places, open “www.germanwalk.ca” on their smartphones. The city map is swarming with little red dots. Shawn, easily recognizable with his Buddy Holly glasses and nifty hat, shows us the Toronto Island Lighthouse, which is said to be haunted by a German ghost, the Goethe‑Institut, a former immigrants’ clubhouse, the banking pavilion designed by Mies van der Rohe, the first German church, a German bakery and many more locations. All in all, he describes 60 “German” places.

Toronto from a new perspective

The participants in the tour, including longstanding residents, discover their city from a whole new perspective. The next three tours – two of them in German – are already fully booked, with a waiting‑list. In the meantime, the NGO “Jane’s Walk” has included the German Walk in its programme. The city of Toronto also has a link to it on its website.

The idea of the German Walk has been embraced by other cities as well. Kitchener‑Waterloo, a German stronghold in the south of the province of Ontario, as well as Winnipeg, the capital of the province of Manitoba, are also going to launch their own German Walks.

And we – the staff of the Consulate‑General in Toronto – are always discovering new places in “our city” to be marked by little red flags because they are connected to Germany. To be continued…

Click here for more reports from our “On a diplomatic mission” series

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