Erdstalls Tunnels: Central Europe’s last great mystery

Across Europe, there are hundreds of underground tunnels that, apparently, lead to nowhere and about which any historic records have ever been found. They are mostly located in the southern German state of Bavaria and the nearby Austria, where they are known by the German name “Erdstall”, which literally means “place under the earth”. Locally, they are also called by various names such as “Schrazelloch”, or “goblin hole”, but also “Alraunenhöhle”, meaning “mandrake cave”, which reflects the various theories and legends associated with the mysterious tunnels. Some believed that they…

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Alps: nightmare creatures of German folklore

Alps are creatures that appear in nightmares in the middle of the night. This mythical creature would appear in the dreams of men and women but prefers to disturb women more. It is defined by the Althochdeutsches Wörterbuch as a “nature-god or nature-demon, equated with the Fauns of Classical mythology…regarded as eerie, ferocious beings…As the mare he messes around with women”. They could manipulate dreams to their liking and would create horrible nightmares, and this is probably why “Alptraum” is the word for nightmare in German which if translated literally…

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Eggs Hunt: how one of the most popular Easter tradition was born

Every Easter, children in several part of our planet rush around their homes and gardens searching for chocolate eggs and, for many families, Easter just isn’t Easter without the traditional egg hunt. But why do we associate treasure hunts with Easter? And, above all, why do we hide eggs at Easter? We already know that, in many pre-Christian societies, eggs held associations with spring and new life. Early Christians adapted these beliefs, making the egg a symbol of the resurrection and the empty shell a metaphor for Jesus’ tomb. In…

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Celebrate the New Year with a Good Luck Pig!

Around the world, lucky foods for the new year range from collard greens (representing green cash) to long noodles (representing a lengthy lifespan), or lentils (representing money and luck). However, for many cultures, pork is the favorite for welcoming the New Year. From Cuban roast pig to Okinawan sparerib or pig’s feet soup, the pork starts the year as star and, in several cases, pigs serve as annual good luck charms. For istance, in Lancaster County, a node of the Pennsylvania Dutch, locals spend New Year’s Day feasting on roast…

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Katzenbalgen, the Monument to Homeless Cats

In Braunschweig, Germany, where the streets Hutfilter, Damm and Kattreppeln meet in the pedestrian zone, the most gorgeous, humorous and unconventional monument of the city has stood since 1981, the “Katzenbalgen” stele by Siegfried Neuenhausen, a former professor at the Braunschweig University of Art and one of the most outstanding personalities in Lower Saxony’s art scene. The monument is impressively large and looks like a high stele, on which a variety of bronze cats are fixed in different poses. All people who see the monument for the first time notice…

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Old City Wall of Berlin: the last remnants of a massive medieval wall that once encompassed the city

November 2019 marked 30 years since the Berlin Wall, which divided East and West Berlin for more than 25 years, fell. But Berlin is a city which has been surrounded by walls since its very beginning. Maybe not everyone knows that, centuries before Berlin’s most notorious wall epitomized the Iron Curtain, another wall defined the german capital’s cityscape. It is the Berlin Stadtmauer, or City Wall, that was erected sometime during the 13th century as a defensive barrier to fortify the city. Spanning about 2.5 kilometers, the wall encompassed Berlin’s…

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Pfunds Molkerei: in Germany, the world’s most beautiful dairy shop!

Imagine walking into one of most adorned room at Versailles…to buy a piece of cheese. Maybe it sound unlikely, but that’s the feeling you get when you step into the Pfunds Molkerei, officially know as “Schönster Milchladen der Welt”, or the most beautiful dairy shop in the world, according to 1998 Guinness Records. Located at Bautzner Straße 79, in Dresden, Germany, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the beautiful German city, with over 500,000 tourists stopping by every year. Of course, that’s fairly unusual for a…

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The mysterious case of dance mania that broke out in Medieval Europe

St. John’s Dance, known historically as St. Vitus Dance, was a social phenomenon involving a type of dance mania that gripped mainland Europe between the 14 th and 17 th centuries. On this day, June 24 1374, just several decades after the Black Death swept across Europe, one of the most well-known major outbreaks of dance mania in Medieval Europe broke out in the German city of Aachen, even if it spread to Liege, Utrecht, Tongres and other towns up and down the Rhine. What was the problem? Afflicted individuals…

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The history of Volkswagen, the “People’s Car”

Germany’s Volkswagen is the largest car maker in the world, after Toyota. Its 590,000 employees produce around the world nearly 41,000 vehicles daily. It currently owns 12 subsidiaries including Volkswagen Passenger Cars, Audi, Seat and Skoda, luxury brands such as Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini, Porsche and Ducati, as well as Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles, Scania and Man. And, above all, it is a long way from its origins as part of Nazi leader Adolf Hitler’s vision to enable German families to own their first car! In all began on May 28, 1937,…

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“The Death Camp” and the forgotten story of Germany’s first holocaust

Shark Island was founded in 1795 off the coast of Luderitz, Namibia. Originally named Star Island, the land sat amidst immense winds and crashing waters of the Atlantic for a century before being connected to the mainland and used as a concentration camp by the Germans from 1904 to 1908. But did you know there was a holocaust under the Second Reich of the Kaiser just as there was one under the Third Reich of Hitler? You may not have heard of the Herero and Nama peoples, and this is…

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Is Saint Corona the patron saint of epidemics?

Did you know Aachen Cathedral, Western Germany, may be able to claim a special spiritual connection with the global coronavirus pandemic? It is said that the cathedral, one of Europe’s oldest, house the relics of Saint Corona herself. What’s more, Saint Corona is believed to be the patron saint of protection against plague. Ironically, locals had begun renewing its focus on Saint Corona more than a year ago, well before the novel virus had spread as a public health threat and, originally, Aachen Cathedral had planned to put the saint’s…

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The Easter Egg Museum of Sonnenbühl – Germany

If the Easter Bunny needed a place to safeguard his eggs off-season, the quaint village of Sonnenbühl in Baden-Württemberg would be ideal! With its overwhelming hospitality, Sonnenbühl is a little town nested in the Swabian Alb, located just south of Reutlingen and just about one hour’s drive from Stuttgart. You will see signage for the museum as soon as you enter the town, and find easy parking right across the street. The home to what is surely the largest collection of artistically decorated Easter eggs in Germany was opened in…

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Some surprising things you (probably) didn’t know about Good Friday

Have you heard of the theory that it storms on Good Friday in the afternoon between 12 p.m. and 3 p.m.? The Christian belief is Christ’s crucifixion occurred on this day and, while this was happening, skies became stormy while the earth began to shake. Historians have documented this in Roman literature from that time period, and there is a belief that it has continued to storm on every Good Friday afternoon. A legend that has been carried on for generations. Some say that if it rains on Good Friday,…

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Weissensee Abandoned Children’s Hospital – Berlin

We are in Berlin, where an empty, tumble-down, complex sits amidst handsome new apartment buildings in Weissensee neighborhood. Though a curious passerby probably never wouldn’t guess it, this crumbling graffiti gallery was once a cutting-edge pediatric medical facility, abruptly banished 20 years ago to a bizarre limbo that continues to this day. The story of so-called Kinderkrankenhaus-Weißensee (Weissensee Children’s Hospital) began in 1908, to help combat rising infant mortality rates at the time. Construction got underway in June 1909, overseen by the prominent architect Carl James Bühring, who built a…

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#March 15, 1889: the power of nature blows gunboat diplomacy out of the water in Apia Harbour, Western Samoa

Gunboat diplomacy was at its height in 1889 and on this day, March 15, tension was high with an act of war seemingly imminent. Three American warships (the sloop-of-war USS Vandalia, the screw steamer USS Trenton, and the gunboat USS Nipsic) and three from Germany (the gunboats SMS Adler and SMS Eber and the corvette SMS Olga) were jostling for position in a small harbour in the South Pacific, Apia Harbour, Western Samoa, observed by yet another warship from Britain, HMS Calliope. They had been intimidating each other from 1887–1889,…

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Blub swimming and leisure center – Berlin

A lost waterpark sits in the Britz area of Neukölln district in Berlin, Germany, or, at least, what remains of it. The place seems to be inhabited only by rats now, and all they wanted was to swim and frolic like anyone else, even if today the place is totally destroyed. And, It seems, that the problem of people was only rats and the thought of peaceful coexistence never even occurred to them. Allegations were made, with accusations and threats. Gangs of youths took over the pools, scared other people…

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#February 13, 1945: Ancient Dresden reduced to rubble

February 13, 1945. On this day, waves of British bombers began reducing one of the Germany’s (and world) most beautiful cities to rubble. Thousands were to die in the ensuing firestorm as war against Nazi Germany was intensified. The bombing of Dresden in East Germany, a splendid medieval city formerly renowned for its rich artistic, cultural and architectural treasures, remains controversial: the war was coming to an end with Hitler holed up in his Berlin bunker, the Russian Red Army racing towards the German capital from the east and the…

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The dark origins of the fairy tale “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is one of the most famous (and appreciated) fairy tales in the world, first related in 1812 when the Grimm brothers published their collection of tales that had been gathered from old European folk stories. Like many of the Grimm tales, it is supposed that Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs has been in existence since the Middle Ages, passed down through word-of-mouth over the centuries. The version that is universally told today is the most “digestible” by a non-adult audience, and in 1937,…

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A forest of pillars, recalling the Holocaust: the controversial Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe in Berlin

In the 15 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of the nation, Germany has struggled to come to terms with its Nazi past. Nowhere has that been more evident than in the restored capital, where a vast rebuilding effort has transformed the once-ravaged city center. Probably Berlin’s signature monument is the Brandenburg Gate, a 20-meters-tall and 12-collumned triumphal arch topped by a life-sized bronze quadriga. The gate was built in the late 18th century, and opens onto the Unter den Linden. During the Cold War,…

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Berlin: The Return of the Cows

Dietrich-Bonhoeffer Strasse is a quiet street in Berlin, which lies on the lively edge of gentrified Prenzlauerberg’s encroachment into Friedrichshain. If you are in the splendid German capital, apparently there aren’t many reasons to visit an otherwise ordinary street. However, Sergej Dott’s whimsical public art installation, “Die Rückkehr der Kühe” (literally “The Return of the Cows”) just might make it worth the trip. Halfway down the block, if you peer into the empty lot (currently a building site) and look up, you’ll see a green field full of larger-than-life cows…

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16# Traditional German Weihnachtsgans – the Christmas Goose

Christmas season in Germany conjures different things: winding and pictoresque Weihnachtsmärkte, seasonally draining wallets or St. Nick and terrifying (at least in Bavaria) counterpart Krampus. One thing, however, a German Christmas should always conjure: delicious food, and plenty of it! Crispy goose, gingerbread or sugar-covered raisin cake: good food belongs to German Christmas celebrations as much as the Christmas tree. And many traditional dish dates back to medieval times or even earlier. Before they adopted Christianity, Germanic peoples celebrated winter solstice around the same time as Christmas and meals were…

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14# The Christmas Pickle

Each december, millions of people dust off Christmas ornaments and hang them on their respective trees. They carefully place glass baubles and string lights to respect a tradition that, as we already know, has very ancient origins. However, in Berrien Springs, Michigan, some Christmas trees have something to hide. But why, if they are adorned in tinsel, string lights, and ornaments, and they don’t absolutely appear out of the ordinary? A closer look might reveal a shimmering emerald vegetable hiding inside the evergreen branches. No mistake, you’ve just spotted a…

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12 rare Color Photographs show the First Nazi Concentration Camps in 1933

Nazi Germany maintained concentration camps throughout the territories it controlled before and during the Second World War. Killed in gas chambers, starved to death, killed during experiments or shot by the SS: the victims of the concentration camps were murdered in the most disparate ways, and the horror that swept across Europe began in 1933, immediately after Hitler became Chancellor and his Nazi Party was given control over the police through Reich Interior Minister Wilhelm Frick and Prussian Acting Interior Minister Hermann Göring. The first concentration camps, of which the…

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1950s Berlin: Photographs of a destroyed city

Berlin, 1956. About ten years have passed since the end of the Second World War, and Germany was at the beginning of a reconstruction, first architectural and then political, which would have lasted decades. Berlin was the capital of the German Democratic Republic (DDR), a city divided into two blocs between the West and the East, which from August 13, 1961, will also be physically divided by the Berlin Wall. While in the West began what was called the “Wirtschaftswunder”, the German economic miracle at the base of the flourishing…

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The entrance of Bockenheimer Warte Subway Station of Frankfurt: a tram crashing into the sidewalk!

Try to imagine a scene in a Marvel movie in which the Hulk has picked up a tram car and rammed it into the sidewalk. That’s kind of what the entrance to the Bockenheimer Warte subway station looks like! The Bockenheimer Warte subway station is an important interchange station to the west of Frankfurt’s city center. Although inside it is similar to many others around Germany and the world, it is very easy to spot from above ground because the entrance looks like a tram car half buried in the…

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Street artist Megx painted german bridge to look like giant LEGO Bricks

While driving through the outskirts of Wuppertal in the Rhine-Rhur metropolitan region of Germany, drivers are wont to stare in disbelief the a giant multicolored cluster of Legos hovers from a bridge overhead. Although the visual effect is exactly this, in reality the bridge is (obviously) made of concrete and steel. These Legos are actually the product of more than a century of locomotive history: the Wuppertal Northern Railway was constructed in 1879 to compete with the adjacent BME line for train passengers crossing through Wuppertal, Germany. But the BME…

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The German couple which traveled for 26 years, through 179 countries along 550 thousand miles with a Mercedes G-Class

If Gunther Holtorf had a lengthy career with Lufthansa beginning in 1958, in 1989, he left his job to take an on-the-road journey. Before the fall of the Berlin Wall, the man and his wife Christine left for a 26-year road trip through 179 countries along 550,000 miles (885,139 km). The couple had originally planned to spend only 18 months outside their Germany, to visit the African countryside in his on their Mercedes-Benz 1988 G-Wagen nicknamed “Otto”, but that one-and-a-half year leisure time has at the end turned into a…

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Klaus Störtebeker: the legendary German pirate who deceived death

Although over the centuries the reputation of Klaus Störtebeker (1360-1401) took on a legendary aura, almost like a German Robin Hood, in real life he was probably a pirate not different to the others: ruthless, brutal and prone to drunkenness. He is known as Germany’s most famous pirate and was a leader and the best known representative of a companionship of privateers known as the Vitalienbrüder. If they were originally hired during a war between Denmark and Sweden to fight the Danish and supply the besieged Swedish capital Stockholm with…

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Konstanz: the German city that avoided WWII bombing by pretending to be Switzerland

Europe, the old continent so rich in artistic, historical and architectural treasures, suffered incurable wounds especially during the World War II, in which centuries of history were swept away by bombing. Cities and communities in England, Germany and around the world feared death from above in the shape of bombing raids. Germany in particular suffered devastating air strikes which reduced most of its wonderful cities to a pile of rubble, like Dresden, or Munich (in Image below). An incredible exception is represented by the beautiful city of Konstanz, in south…

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Roter Franz, the Mummy with Hair, Beard and Red Eyebrows

Roter Franz is the mummy of a young man found in the Bourtanger swamp, on the border between Holland and Germany, in 1900. Also known as “Neu Versen Man”, the nickname derives from the color of beard, hair and eyebrows, completely red, coloring due to the presence of acids in the peat bog. The man, who died between 25 and 32 years of age, lived between 220 and 430 AC, when he was killed by a deep cut in the throat, of which the signs remain in the soft mummified…

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