Americans generally don’t think of the Germans and Dutch as having much of a sense of humor. After all, the Grimm fairy tales are — grim. But of course, we usually just don’t know German or Dutch languages or the people that well — and sometimes, it is just different.
Our program director Marly was a constant source of funny stories and interesting comments. For example, she pointed out a bridge near Amsterdam was locally known, for obvious reasons, as the Marilyn Monroe bridge.
In another case, a monument to Astronaut Neil Armstrong in Cologne reads (in my very rough translation): “This column was put up to note that on the 21st of July, 1969 at 3 hours, 56 minutes and 20 seconds, Neil Armstrong was the first man with his left foot on the moon 389994 kilometers and 100 meters from this column.”
The “Augenroller” can be seen frequently on buildings. He was an early robber-baron who, when hung, was said to have rolled his eyes and stuck out his tongue at the Archbishop. I believe strangled people tend to do that, but now his image on the old town hall rolls its eyes when the hour strikes.
Their manhole covers have the image of the “spitting boy,” and off a main courtyard on a side street one can see the statue of the spitting boy. Appropriately named, he randomly spits catching unwary tourists.
Max and Moritz, depicted on a wall, were characters in an illustrated story by Wilhelm Busch published in 1865. There are seven pranks in all, and they are a rather black form of humor. Busch didn’t live in Koblenz, but he is celebrated there anyway. If my German language lesson last year was correct, it was the very first “comic strip.”
One statue commemorates a story about an old woman who complains to a policeman that her neighbor is stealing her vegetables. Another honors a local fellow who marched through the street beating his drum and proclaiming the latest news. But in an era of political correctness, they have removed the cigarette from his mouth, thinking it was a bad object lesson for children. They left a small pointed stub, however, do to do my part for Koblenz humor, I stuck a cigarette butt on it.