Berlin’s Strangest Superstitions and How They Came to Be
Ah, Berlin, the city of contradictions and peculiarities. A place where the creative, the bizarre, and the truly eccentric come to mingle and form a delightful, yet sometimes baffling, blend. The city’s long and often tumultuous history has left its mark not only on its architecture, but also on the collective psyche of its inhabitants. This has resulted in a treasure trove of strange, fascinating, and sometimes downright bizarre superstitions. So, grab a Club-Mate, don your favorite vintage jacket, and get ready to dive deep into the weird and wonderful world of Berlin’s strangest superstitions and how they came to be.
1. The Legend of the White Lady
Let’s start with a spooky one, shall we? The story goes that the spirit of the White Lady haunts the halls and corridors of Berlin’s famous Hohenzollern Castle. The White Lady is said to be the ghost of Countess Kunigunde von Orlamünde, a widowed noblewoman who was accused of murdering her own children to be with the man she loved. When the man rejected her, she confessed to her crimes and was executed in 1382. Since then, the White Lady has been spotted roaming the castle, dressed in white and wearing a silver key around her neck. It is believed that seeing her is an omen of impending doom or death.
2. The Curse of the Fernsehturm
The Fernsehturm, or TV Tower, is a Berlin icon, standing tall and proud in the city skyline. But did you know that it’s also said to be cursed? Some Berliners believe that if you stare too long at the tower, you’ll become disoriented and lose your sense of direction. This superstition is believed to have originated in East Berlin during the Cold War era, when locals would look to the tower as a symbol of hope and freedom. But be warned, hipsters and tourists alike, gaze too long and you might find yourself lost in the labyrinthine streets of the city.
3. The Mysterious Vanishing of S-Bahn Socks
Berlin’s S-Bahn, the city’s rapid transit railway system, is known for its punctuality and efficiency. However, it is also the subject of a peculiar superstition: that socks mysteriously vanish from the feet of unsuspecting passengers. The legend states that a mischievous creature called the “Sockenräuber” (sock robber) lurks in the shadows of the trains, stealthily stealing socks from distracted commuters. Some say the Sockenräuber is a disgruntled former S-Bahn employee, while others believe it to be the ghost of a lost traveler. Whatever the case, it’s best to keep an eye on your socks while riding the S-Bahn, lest you fall victim to this elusive thief.
4. The Curse of the BVB Tram
If you’re a football fan, you’ll know that Borussia Dortmund (BVB) is one of the most successful and popular clubs in German football history. However, in the 1980s, a strange superstition emerged involving the club’s iconic yellow and black team colors. It was believed that if someone spotted a yellow and black tram in Berlin, it was a sign that BVB would lose their next match. This superstition became so widespread that fans began painting the trams in their team’s colors to counteract the curse. To this day, it remains a favorite topic of debate among football fans in the city’s many bars and pubs.
5. The Power of the Ampelmännchen
The Ampelmännchen, or “little traffic light men,” are the charming, hat-wearing figures that can be found on pedestrian traffic lights throughout Berlin. They are a symbol of the city’s unique charm and a beloved part of its cultural identity. But did you know that they also have magical powers? According to local lore, if you make a wish while staring into the eyes of an Ampelmännchen as it turns green, your wish will come true. Just be careful not to get too lost in those mesmerizing eyes and forget to cross the street!
6. The Dreaded Schweinesauge
In Berlin, it’s considered bad luck to inadvertently make eye contact with a pig or to spot one unexpectedly. This superstition dates back to the city’s agricultural roots when pigs were a common sight on the streets. It was believed that catching the eye of a pig, known as a Schweinesauge, would bring bad luck, particularly in matters of love and relationships. To this day, some Berliners still avert their gaze when passing pig-themed murals or sculptures, just in case.
7. The Lucky Chimney Sweep
On a more positive note, Berliners hold a firm belief in the good luck brought by chimney sweeps. This superstition is said to have originated in the 18th century when chimney sweeps were often the first to spot and extinguish fires in the city’s many wood-burning stoves. As a result, they became synonymous with good fortune and safety. Even today, seeing a chimney sweep on the street is considered a sign of good luck, and some Berliners will go out of their way to touch their buttons or shake their hands to ensure a little extra luck comes their way.
8. The Haunted U-Bahn Line
Berlin’s U-Bahn system is known for being efficient, reliable, and, in some cases, haunted. The U8 line, which runs between Wittenau and Hermannstraße, is the subject of a chilling superstition. It is said that the ghost of a woman who died in a tragic accident on the tracks in the early 1900s still roams the line, scaring passengers and causing inexplicable delays. This superstition has become so ingrained in local culture that some Berliners refuse to ride the U8 line alone at night.
And there you have it, a taste of the strange and fascinating superstitions that make Berlin the wonderfully eccentric city that it is. So the next time you’re wandering the streets of Kreuzberg, sipping on a Pilsner at a Prenzlauer Berg biergarten, or admiring the street art in Friedrichshain, remember to keep an eye out for the White Lady, hold tight to your socks on the S-Bahn, and always respect the power of the Ampelmännchen. Who knows, you might just end up with a little extra luck on your side.
Q: What are some of the strangest superstitions in Berlin?
A: Berlin is a city with a rich history and unique culture, and as such, it has its fair share of strange superstitions. Some of the most interesting ones include:
1. The Weeping Woman of the Berlin Wall: It is believed that a woman in white can be seen weeping at the Berlin Wall, mourning the loss of her loved ones who were separated from her during the division of the city. This legend is said to have begun during the early years of the Wall’s existence, when numerous people tried to escape from East to West Berlin, often at great personal risk.
2. The Curse of the Rathaus Clock: The clock at the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall) is said to be cursed. According to the superstition, if you happen to witness the clock striking midnight, you will experience bad luck. This belief is thought to have originated from the time when the city was divided, and the clock symbolized the division of time and fortune between East and West Berlin.
3. The Ghosts of Unter den Linden: Unter den Linden is a famous boulevard in Berlin, lined with linden trees. The superstition goes that the spirits of the Hohenzollern dynasty, former rulers of Prussia, haunt the area, seeking to reclaim their lost empire. It is said that if you walk along the boulevard at night, you may hear the rustling of their ghostly robes.
4. The Lucky Bear of Berlin: The bear is the symbol of Berlin and can be found on the city’s coat of arms. According to the superstition, rubbing the nose of a bear statue brings good luck. This belief is so popular that the bear statues around the city have their noses worn down from countless people seeking fortune.
Q: How did these superstitions come to be?
A: The origins of these superstitions are varied and often rooted in the city’s complex history. The Weeping Woman of the Berlin Wall, for example, is a representation of the pain and loss experienced during the city’s division. The Curse of the Rathaus Clock is a symbol of the division of time and fortune between East and West Berlin, while the Ghosts of Unter den Linden are a reminder of the city’s royal past. The Lucky Bear of Berlin, on the other hand, is a more light-hearted superstition that likely emerged as a way for residents to express their civic pride.
Q: Do people in Berlin still believe in these superstitions?
A: While many people in Berlin may not actively believe in these superstitions, they remain an important part of the city’s cultural heritage. Some residents may still partake in the rituals associated with these beliefs, such as rubbing the nose of a bear statue for luck or avoiding the Rathaus clock at midnight, as a nod to the city’s history and traditions. Additionally, these superstitions continue to hold a place in the collective imagination, serving as reminders of the unique and fascinating stories that have shaped this remarkable city.
Q: Are there any superstitions specific to Berlin’s diverse neighborhoods?
A: Yes, indeed! Berlin is a melting pot of cultures, and many neighborhoods have their own unique superstitions. For example, in the multicultural district of Kreuzberg, one might encounter a belief that whistling inside a building can summon unwanted spirits. In the formerly working-class neighborhood of Wedding, there’s an old superstition that carrying a potato in your pocket wards off rheumatism. These localized beliefs are a testament to the rich tapestry of cultures and histories that make up Berlin.