Travel Tuesday: The World’s Narrowest Street

Where is the world’s narrowest street?

Some might guess Venice. But according to the Guinness Book of World Records, the narrowest street is located in the town of Reutlingen, Germany.

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The Spreuerhofstraße is located between two closely linked buildings. This street is on average 40 centimeters (15.7 inches) wide, and just 31 centimeters (12.2 inches) wide at its narrowest point.

Although some may be inclined to call this an alleyway, the people of Reutlingen insist that it is in fact a street, since it is located on municipal land.

Let’s take a look at how this passageway became an official street:

© dpa / picture alliance

In 1727, the city was being reconstructed after a massive city-wide fire destroyed many parts of Reutlingen. In 1820, an administrator in the city’s town hall decided to elevate this gap between two houses into a street. It is wide enough for the average person to walk through, which is one of the prerequisites for the classification of a street. For a long time, Spreuerhofstraße did not receive much attention. But once the Guinness Book of World Records gave the street its title in 2007, tourists started flocking to Reutlingen to see it. But before you book your trip, keep in mind that this street is not particularly long or attractive and we would only recommend going there if you are in the area already!

And only time will tell how long this street will remain; one of the 18th century houses is already leaning into it, making it even smaller. It may soon be too small to be considered a street at all!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Travel Tuesday: Pfaueninsel (“Peacock Island”)

Near southwest Berlin in the River Havel is a strange little island known as the Pfaueninsel (“Peacock Island”). As the name implies, this island is in fact home to a flock of wild peacocks – and these birds have been here for centuries!

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If you visit the island today, you’ll find yourself surrounded by greenery, abandoned buildings, peacocks and even an old castle.

To understand why, let’s take a look at the island’s history.

The 243 acre island was used for the first time in the 17th century, when William I of Brandenburg established a rabbit farm on the land. As a result, the island was called Kaninchenwerder (“Rabbit Island”).

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In 1793, Prussian king Frederick William II decided to use the island to build a castle for himself and his favorite mistress. This was primarily used as a summer residence.

The king’s successor and son, Frederick William III, had other ideas for the island. He turned it into a farm with grottos and aviaries and had exotic animals brought to the island, including alligators, kangaroos, buffalos, chameleons, monkeys, wolves, bears and (of course) peacocks. Over 900 animals of 100 species were brought to live on the island. The king then opened this exotic zoo up to the public.

Many people flocked to the island to see the exotic creatures, leading to overcrowding and chaos. Those responsible for the animals had to find a solution – the island simply wasn’t big enough to accommodate all those visitors.

In 1842, the animals were transferred to a location in Berlin (minus a few peacocks), which opened its gates in 1844. This became known as the “Berlin Zoo” and was the first zoo of its kind in Germany.

Meanwhile, the island went through a series of transitions and uses. Today, however, it remains home to free-ranging peacocks and exotic birds and is a designated nature reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. Frederick William II’s castle still stands on the island, and visitors can take a ferry over to see it.

Sven Marx Cycles Around the World

For the many of us here who bike to work, even a half hour ride can wind us enough to consider purchasing an E-bike. So when we found out we’d be visited by a German cyclist who is making his way around the WORLD, we stood in awe and had a plethora of questions ready to throw at him.

DCM Boris Ruge with cyclist Sven Marx outside of the German Embassy.

Who is this mystery cycling? His name is Sven Marx and he is someone to follow—we suggest on social media rather than on a bike. About ten years ago, Sven found out he had a 1 cm large tumor of the brain stem. After having it partially removed, he was left with double vision which throws of his balance. Within the same span of time, he was also diagnosed with skin cancer. Obviously, both balance and exposure to the sun are major parts of being on a bicycle. Sven promised himself, however, that if he survived to his 50th birthday with two life-threatening diagnoses, he would hit the road on a trip around the world.

Since rolling out on April 23rd, 2017, he has visited 5 continents, 41 countries, stopped in 27 capitals, and cycled over 43,500 miles! He even made a stop to visit the pope! He often sleeps in a tent overnight and carries everything on his bike—clothes, food, equipment, everything. His bike, in fact, weighs a whopping 132 pounds.

Sven consumes at least 10 chocolate bars a day to intake enough calories.

He said he can’t keep count of his calories intake when he is riding so many miles per day but that his diet consists of a lot of sugar and salt to keep his body energized—including “at least ten chocolate bars a day”.

Sven’s mission is to use his trip to raise awareness for and start a conversation about reducing barriers for those with disabilities. Under the motto “Inclusion Requires Action” he hopes his cycling the world will showcase that disabilities should not hold anyone back from reaching for their dreams and that anything is possible if we ensure access for everyone.
During his stop at the German Embassy, Sven shared a hot coffee with our Deputy Chief of Mission Boris Ruge and took a well-deserved break inside to explain his mission and experiences. He told us that the most important aspect to completing such a long journey by bike is staying calm and avoiding allowing your heart to race. So in the end it was the diplomats who were out of breath– with excitement, compared to the heroic cyclist!

Follow Sven’s journey on his blog (in German) at sven-globetrotter.com.

By Claire MacFarlane, German Embassy

Travel Tuesday: Berlin’s AquaDom

The largest cylindrical fish tank in the world is located nowhere near the ocean. This giant aquarium can actually be found in a hotel lobby in Berlin – and it’s quite a sight to see!

The 82 ft tall AquaDom at the Radisson Blue Hotel in Berlin is home to nearly 2,600 fish of 56 different species. About  264,172 gallons of water fill the cylindrical tank in the hotel lobby.

The aquarium was constructed in 2004 at a cost of 13 million Euros. And upkeep is not cheap: back when the tank had only 1,500 fish, they required 18 lbs of fish food per day – and this number has surely risen.

In order to get a better 360 view of the fish in the AquaDom, visitors can take a transparent elevator up through the inside of the tank!

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The Aquadom contains a number of creatures, including eagle rays, catfish and shark. Divers enter the tank several times a day to feed the variety of marine life.

There’s no need to travel to the German coast to see marine life – a visit to this Berlin hotel will leave you amazed!

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Eggs and bunnies symbolize renewal and joy

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Something odd happens throughout Germany on Easter Sunday. Whether in apartments, houses or gardens, excited children run around, pushing the furniture aside, lifting the cushions and looking under trees and bushes outdoors.

Why? Easter is the time at which German children look in the most obscure corners for brightly colored Easter eggs that have been hidden the night before by the Easter Bunny.

But why is it a bunny that brings the eggs at this annual festival?

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Travel Tuesday: Forest Spiral

© DPA / picture-alliance

If you’re traveling through Darmstadt, make sure to stop by the Waldspirale (“Forest Spiral”) – a building so unusual that it will stop you in your tracks.

This residential building was designed by the famous Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He is best known for the colorful Hundertwasserhaus in Vienna, but he actually has many other famous buildings – including the Waldspirale in Germany.

© DPA / picture-alliance

If you look at any of his buildings, you’ll notice their curvy shapes and unconventional designs; Hundertwasser was always fascinated by spirals and referred to straight lines as “godless and immoral” and “without thought or feeling”. The artist strove to bring beauty to the world and he even refused payment for his design of the Hundertwasserhaus, claiming that the beauty of the building was worth the investment to “prevent something ugly from going up in its place.”

If you look at the Hunderwasserhaus and the Waldspirale, you’ll notice similarities. The 12-story “Forest Spiral” apartment complex has a green roof, a tower in the shape of an onion dome and colorful walls. There are no straight lines or edges. The building has more than 1,000 windows in different shapes and sizes and no two windows are the same!

The Waldspirale is one of Hundertwasserhaus’ newer designs. It was completed in 2000 – the year that the artist passed away.

Although this is a residential building that is not open to the public, it is still worth seeing from the outside!

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Travel Tuesday: Vischering Castle

Castle Vischering by Michael Guenther on 500px.com

 


If visiting a moated castle is on your to-do list, then Vischering Castle is the place for you. This German castle takes you on a trip back to medieval times.

The Vischering Castle was built in 1271 and stands in present-day Lüdinghausen, North Rhine-Westphalia – an area saturated with castles. Germans call it a Wasserschloss (“water castle”) because it is surrounded by water for protection.

The castle is a product of a family feud between Bischop Gerhard von der Mark and the Von Ludinghausen family. In the 13th century, the bishop constructed it to compete with the other family’s castle, which was located nearby. Family feuds were common in those days, but they did not always lead to magnificent castles!

The horseshoe-shaped castle was built for defense and still contains its drawbridge, courtyard, strategic gateways and defensive wall. Although it was partially destroyed in a fire in 1521 and partially damaged during World War II, it was rebuilt and continues to stand open to visitors today.

By Nicole Glass, German Embassy

Travel Tuesday: Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe

Europe’s largest hillside park is located in Germany – and it happens to be an UNESCO World Heritage site, as well! Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is a Baroque “mountain park” west of the city center in Kassel, Germany.

Built in 1696, the large park is laid out in a Baroque style with beautiful gardens and architecture. The most interesting feature, however, is its waterworks. About 92,000 gallons of water flow through the park, connecting to reservoirs and channels. The waterworks begin at the top of a hill and flow down to the Grand Fountain, which shoots the water 164 feet into the air.

The waterworks are a sight in and of themselves, but the park also features old architecture, a giant Hercules memorial, faux ruins, a Roman aqueduct and a Chinese pagoda. One of its most picturesque attractions is the Löwenburg Castle, erected by landgrave Wilhelm IX at the end of the 18th century.

The best part about visiting Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe: there’s no entrance fee to get into the park itself! It’s a great spot for those summer picnics we’re so eagerly anticipating right now!

12 German women who influenced the world

In honor of International Women’s Day, let’s take a look at 12 influential German women whose names have gone down in history. Who would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

Hildegard von Bingen

1098-1179
Hildegard von Bingen (also known as Saint Hildegard) is the oldest person on our list. This influential German woman is largely considered the founder of scientific natural history in Germany. She was a Benedictine nun who was also an abbess, artist, author, composer, pharmacist, poet, preacher, mystic and theologian! It seems there is nothing that von Bingen couldn’t do! In 2012, she was named a Doctor of the Church, a rare title only given to saints who contributed heavily with their theological writings. Only three other women in history have received this title.

“Humanity, take a good look at yourself. Inside, you’ve got heaven and earth, and all of creation. You’re a world – everything is hidden in you.”

Empress Elisabeth of Bavaria („Sissi“)

1837-1898
Many of you may have watched or heard about a royal Austrian woman nicknamed “Sisi”. Elisabeth of Bavaria was born into a royal family in Munich, Germany, which was part of the Kingdom of Bavaria at the time. At the age of 16, she married Emperor Franz Joseph I and became the Empress of Austria and Queen of Hungary. Her biggest achievement was helping to create the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary in 1867. She was killed during an anarchist assassination while in Geneva in 1898.

Bertha Benz

1849-1944
Although the invention of the first practical automobile is credited to Karl Benz, his wife also had an enormous impact on the industry. Bertha Benz, a German woman from Pforzheim, was Karl’s business partner. She financed the manufacturing of his first horseless carriage with her dowry. In 1888, she took her two sons and drove the Patent Motorwagen Model III 120 miles from Mannheim to Pforzheim without telling her husband. This was the first time someone drove an automobile over a long distance, fixing all technological complications on the way. Bertha made history; her drive alleviated fears that people had about automobiles, bringing the Benz Patent-Motorwagen its first sales.

Continue reading “12 German women who influenced the world”

Travel Tuesday: Blautopf in Blaubeuren

In the Swabian Mountains in southern Germany is a spring so blue that it attracts countless visitors. Known as the Blautopf (“blue pot”), this strange mountainous spring forms the drain for the Blau (River Blue) cave system. What makes this spring particularly strange and unique is its deep blue color – a result of the physical properties of the nanoscale limestone present in the water.

According to scientists, that is.

Legends tell a different story.

One local myth claims that someone pours a vat of ink into the Blautopf every day to maintain its color. Another strange myth claims that it is impossible to measure the Blautopf’s depth since a water nix steals the leaden sounding line (a thin rope with a plummet) every time it is submerged. There is even a story about the Schöne Lau, a beautiful mermaid trapped in the Blautopf. Today, a life-size statue of the mermaid stands near the Blautopf.

Experienced cave divers are known to explore the Blautopf and its underground corridors (which are many miles long with enormous chambers). This, however, is restricted to well-trained divers, since it is dangerous and has led to fatalities in the past. But for most people, viewing the Blautopf from the outside is satisfying enough! The majestic blue color makes for spectacular photos year-round.