They're up to something

In the end, the German town sign didn’t have it easy at all. It was constantly exposed to wind and weather on the access roads and arterial roads, while the municipal administrations were primarily interested in maintaining local websites. Far too few motorists still looked at what was written on the yellow StVO traffic signs of type 310 and 311 in a font specified by DIN standard 1451: municipality and district – that’s mostly it. And anyway: What’s the point of having place-name signs on the side of the road when you can see where you are on the navigation system? So the German town sign degenerated into a mere request to reduce speed. To protect the residents.

The French fable writer Jean de La Fontaine had already pointed out in the 17th century that it was “the sign alone” that “attracts customers”. In Baden-Württemberg in particular, where the German place-name sign once began, people seem to take this to heart. Beautiful Bötzingen may call itself a “wine-growing community” there from October; the wonderful Triberg “Waterfall City” and the cozy Althengstett “Waldenserort”. In this context, Interior Minister Thomas Strobl spoke of an “identity-forming element”, which would make it easier to change the municipal code as of December 2020. The State Ministry of the Interior has just approved 19 such additional designations.

Although it’s sad that Knittlingen in the Enzkreis district isn’t called ” Flippers -Stadt”, which (upon application) could have been quite possible. The pop band was founded here. “Fauststadt” has prevailed. This also refers to the great Goethe – although it is not undisputed that the alchemist Faust, whom he condensed, was actually born here. Thanks to “Fauststadt”, Knittlingen’s place-name sign should soon look like the cover of a reclam booklet.

Also seen nationwide, the trend towards additional names threatens to pour across the country like the liquid tar of a huge “Walk of Fame”. Solingen is not only the “town of blades”, but also the “centre of the German cutlery industry”. Hagen in turn: “City of FernUniversität”. If a poet or composer has stayed overnight somewhere, several places are interested in a corresponding tip. In the case of “Bruder-Grimm-Stadt”, for example, Hanau and Steinau clashed a few years ago, now both call themselves that. In the south-west, too, local patriots heatedly debated whether Donaueschingen or Furtwangen could claim the title of “Danube source city”. Thanks to various water reports, it is now clear: both. The situation in Hünfeld or Jagsthausen is much more peaceful: Nobody else would like to be called “Konrad-Zuse-Stadt” or “Heimat Götz von Berlichingen”.

But the squeezing on the place-name signs continues. Beelitz is “asparagus town”, Lohr am Main maybe soon “snow white town” and Bötzingen now “wine-growing community”. The signs from Adolfshausen, Sexau and Darmstadt-Wixhausen, on the other hand, are likely to continue to be in demand among collectors, even without a special subtitle.

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