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CRIME

Rare grape harvest cancelled in Hamburg after thieves strip vines

The wine harvest at one of Germany’s most northerly vineyards has been cancelled this year after thieves stole most of the grapes off the vine from the hill above the left bank of Hamburg’s harbour in the St. Pauli district, the city said on Wednesday.

Rare grape harvest cancelled in Hamburg after thieves strip vines
What's left of the white Phoenix grapes. Photo: DPA

Thieves stole between 80 and 90 percent of the small crop of premium grapes destined to become this year’s “Stintfang-Cuvée” wine on Tuesday evening, just one day ahead of the traditional harvest.

“I had hoped I could still save something,” said Fritz Currle, the vintner who has guided the blend of red Regent and white Phoenix grapes for the last 15 years. “But I can’t save anything if there’s nothing there.”

The name of the wine comes from the vineyard’s location on the Stintfang, the hill above the landmark St. Pauli Landing Bridges over the Elbe River. In 1996 the organisers of the annual Stuttgart wine festival Stuttgarter Weindorf gave the vines to the city as a gift to celebrate their 10-year partnership with the city in staging a Hamburg version of the event in front of city hall each year.

But Stuttgarter Weindorf organiser Axel Grau discovered on Tuesday night that the thieves had left only enough of the grapes to fill a laundry basket.

Twenty-five new vines had been planted in early August on the south-facing slope, making a total of 100. The city had been optimistic about the 2010 harvest, which was expected to yield the yearly average of between 40 to 50 bottles of the highly-exclusive, not-for-sale wine. The grapes are usually transported to Stuttgart for pressing, then presented to Hamburg officials to celebrate the next wine festival. Bottles are often given to prominent visitors to the city.

But this year the pitifully few remaining grapes neglected by the unknown thieves will now be donated to a homeless shelter, vineyard organisers decided.

Although police have begun conducting interviews, they have no leads at present, they said.

DAPD/rm

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CRIME

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

A driver in Passau has been hit with a €5,000 fine because he was caught by traffic police giving the middle finger.

Driver in Bavaria gets €5,000 fine for giving the finger to speed camera

The district court of Passau sentenced the 53-year-old motorist to the fine after he was caught making the rude gesture in the direction of the speedometer last August on the A3 near the Donautal Ost service area, reported German media. 

The man was not caught speeding, however. According to traffic police who were in the speed camera vehicle at the time, another driver who had overtaken the 53-year-old was over the speed limit. 

When analysing the photo, the officers discovered the slower driver’s middle finger gesture and filed a criminal complaint.

The driver initially filed an objection against a penalty order, and the case dragged on for several months. However, he then accepted the complaint. He was sentenced to 50 ‘unit fines’ of €100 on two counts of insulting behaviour, amounting to €5,000.

READ ALSO: The German rules of the road that are hard to get your head around

In a letter to police, the man said he regretted the incident and apologised. 

Police said it was “not a petty offence”, and that the sentence could have been “even more drastic”.

People who give insults while driving can face a prison sentences of up to a year.

“Depending on the nature and manner of the incident or in the case of persons with a previous conviction, even a custodial sentence without parole may be considered for an insult,” police in Passau said. 

What does the law say?

Showing the middle finger to another road user in road traffic is an offence in Germany under Section 185 of the Criminal Code (StGB). It’s punishable by a prison sentence of up to one year or a fine.

People can file a complaint if someone shows them the middle finger in road traffic, but it usually only has a chance of success if witnesses can prove that it happened.

As well as the middle finger, it can also be an offence to verbally insult someone. 

READ ALSO: The German road signs that confuse foreigners

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