Whimsical Germany

Sculpture in the roundabout at Herborn, Germany

From an American point of view, German culture often exhibits a streak of whimsy. My introduction to this came before I arrived in Germany, back in 1999. I was paging through a coffee table book on Hanover and encountered the image of a fountain: the front half of a horse is drinking from a watering trough, but his back half is missing, and his rider has turned to look with amazement at the water spraying out where the rest of the horse should be. The fountain, which is in Bodenwerder, commemorates one of the adventures of Baron Munchausen, in which his fiery Lithuanian stallion helps him rout the enemy–in spite of having been cut in half. Both halves of the horse are in great form that day (in different locations, of course), and a vet eventually sews them back together.

That sense of gentle humor and magical wonder regularly shows up in German public art. I find it refreshing because unlike our tradition of sarcasm, this humor isn’t mean-spirited and comes at no one’s expense. Joe and I were on our way to Trittenheim this weekend when we encountered the charming display in the photo above. The figures are life-size, and they stand in the middle of a roundabout at Herborn (I think). They’re advertising a “praemienmarkt,” and I’m not sure quite what that would be, unless it’s a chance for farmers and insurance agents to intermingle. Or perhaps it’s a village fest sponsored by an insurance company.

Farm sculpture in the roundabout at Herborn, Germany

In any case, it’s brought us this happy set of farm animals made out of painted metal. I particularly like the smiling pig.

Photographs taken August, 2011, near Herborn, Germany. Text copyright 2011 Clare B. Dunkle. Photos copyright 2011 Joseph R. Dunkle

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