Saturday, October 19, 2019

Frankenstein Castle

With Halloween and the colder months just around the corner, let's take a look at one of Germany's creepiest places: Frankenstein Castle.

Frankenstein Castle sits on a hilltop overlooking the city of Darmstadt. It was constructed sometime before the year 1250 by Lord Conrad II Reiz of Breuberg, who founded the free imperial Barony of Frankenstein. Over the coming centuries, the castle was home to various different families and witnessed several territorial conflicts. In 1673, Johann Conrad Dippel - who later became an alchemist - was born in the castle. The structure fell into ruins in the 18th century and was restored in the mid-19th century.

The most famous story is, of course, that of the alchemist who worked in the castle in the 17th century. He was known to experiment with strange potions. He supposedly created an animal oil (which he named "Dippel's Oil") that was a so-called "elixir of life". There are also rumors that the man studied anatomy and conducted experiments on cadavers, some of which he dug up himself from graves. There is no evidence that proves

It is believed that this historic castle and the story of the alchemist inspired Mary Shelley's 1818 novel "Frankenstein." There is evidence that the author traveled to the region before writing her book. And it's no wonder that the castle served as an inspiration for her spooky ideas: the structure is surrounded by thick, dark forests shrouded in mystery, legends, and folklore. There is a place in the forest where compasses do not work properly. The castle grounds were allegedly also home to a dragon in the early 1800s and a fountain of youth that continues to attract women during a full moon.

When a group of American Airmen from the 435th Transportation Squadron heard these stories in 1978, they had an idea: they would start an annual Halloween festival at this creepy castle. Today, the Halloween festival at Frankenstein Castle is one of the largest in Europe. If you're in Germany this Halloween and would like to find a place to celebrate this spooky American holiday, head over to Frankenstein Castle - you'll be sure to get a good scare!

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

Monday, October 14, 2019

Trabis and the Wall

 When you think of East German cars, you probably visualize the colorful but cheaply-made Trabants ("Trabis"), which is what most people drove in the German Democratic Republic. But the GDR also had its very own race car: the Wartburg Melkus, also known as the "Ferrari of the East".

While the West German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz generally dominated the Formula One World Championship, East Germany participated in many of the races with its Melkus cars and had a surprisingly high level of success: Heinz Melkus, race car driver and founder of the company, was the 1958 German champion in Formula 3 and the 1960 East German champion in Formula Junior. Overall, he won 80 of the 200 races he competed in throughout Europe.

But producing the race cars was not easy, since the Dresden-based manufacturer was only permitted to use materials from East Germany. About 90 percent of the Melkus' parts came from Wartburg cars and some of its parts came from the Trabants. Still, Melkus was determined to see his vehicle on the streets of East Germany. Alongside his race cars, he also produced sports cars for everyday use,

known as the Melkus RS1000. These sleek and stylish cars could reach speeds of about 112 miles per hour. But they never gained the popularity of the Trabants or the Wartburgs, and the company stopped producing its Melkus cars in 1986.

As we remember the 30th anniversary of the fall of the wall, we like to look back at the things that differentiated East and West Germany, as well as the things that united them. The Trabi is a symbol of the East, but the Melkus was one of the GDR's prized creations: a race car that was made in a region with very few resources.

To reflect further upon the fall of the wall, we also have a series of videos in which colleagues tell us about their experiences in the weeks leading up to November 9, 1989. Be sure to check out two new videos in today's TWIG!

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

... and here are two Trabis from our book The Berlin Wall Today!


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