Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit

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Germany's top 10 most surreal sites to visit
Photo: DPA

From upside-down houses on Baltic islands to a fairy-tale castle near the Austrian border, Germany is a treasure trove of the extraordinary.


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1. Forest Spiral (Darmstadt, Hesse)

The Waldspirale. Photo: DPA

Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser's motto was "against the straight line and the right angle" ("gegen die gerade Linie und den rechten Winkel"), and he certainly succeeded with this stunning building.

Hundertwasser's design was implemented by architect Heinz Springmann and completed in 2000. The Waldspirale (Forest Spiral) features 105 unique apartments wrapped around a courtyard landscaped with a running stream. As if that weren't enough, it has a restaurant and cocktail bar in the turret.

2. The Lifesaver fountain (Duisburg, North Rhine-Westphalia)

Photo: Lei Cui / Wikimedia Commons

This curious sculpture is the seven-metre creation of French artists Niki de Saint Phalle and Jean Tinguely in Duisburg, North Rhine-Westphalia, completed in 1993. 

It features a large bird-like creature, onto which a female figure is clinging. Also a water feature, jets of water cascade down from the outstretched wings of the bird, and the whole sculpture rotates from left to right. 

The colourful bird, symbolizing heaven, stands on the rotating plinth, which is made entirely from waste and other discarded items. The sculpture is just one of the features on the 'Fountain Mile' in Duisburg's centre.

3. Spreuerhofstrasse (Reutlingen, Baden-Württemberg)

A man shuffle's down the narrowest street in the world. Photo: DPA

A little less colourful and bizarre, this tiny crack between two buildings is officially the narrowest street in the world, featured in the Guinness World Records. Varying in width from 31 centimetres at its narrowest, and 50 at its widest, it was built in 1726 after Reutlingen was ravaged by a fire. 

Some locals refer to the Spreuerhofstrasse Spalt (Gap) when they go on diets, as their target is to be able to fit down the street, which is the width of your average school ruler.

4. Upside-Down House (Rügen, Mecklenburg–Western Pomerania)

Photo: Olaf Meister / Wikimedia Commons

No, it's not Photoshop - this house was actually built upside down. The "Haus-Kopf-über" was created as a tourist attraction in the town of Putbus on the northeastern island of Rügen.

The peculiar building, which is the size of a normal family home, cost €300,000 and is fully upside-down furnished inside as well.

It's not the only one of its kind, with a house called "Die Welt steht Kopf" ("The world stands on its head"), which is on the neighbouring island of Usedom.

5. The Hare (Nuremberg, Bavaria)

A small boy looks at the statue in Nuremberg. Photo: DPA

Jürgen Goertz's rather disturbing 1984 statue was inspired by German Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer and his famous watercolour painting of the "Feldhase" (called Young Hare in English).

But, here the artist's sculpture features a dead hare bursting from a box full of smaller dead hares. The work symbolizes the dire results of tampering with nature. And mankind doesn't get away with it: spot the toes of a crushed human poking from beneath the giant carcass.

6. The Goseck circle (Goseck, Saxony-Anhalt)

Photo: DPA

It may not be the most impressive of ancient sites at first glance, but this Neolithic circle, thought to have been created in the 49th century BC, is the earliest known example of a solar observatory.

Discovered by archaeologists in 1991, the strange construction consists of a set of concentric ditches 75 metres across, and two fence rings that have gates aligned with the sunrise and sunset on solstice days (the longest and shortest days of the year).

7. The Devil's Bridge (Kromlau, Saxony)

Photo: DPA

The Rakotzbrücke - known as the Devils' Bridge in English - is a decorative feature in the Azalea and Rhododendron Park of Kromlau, just a few kilometres from the Polish border. The bridge, which was built in 1860, is nestled in the middle of this park, designed in the style of what is called an "English garden". 

The arch of the bridge is a perfect semi-circle, meaning that its reflection creates a perfect outline of a circle. The bridge is still free to visit in the park, but crossing it has been forbidden to preserve the fragile structure.

8. Courtyard of Elements (Dresden, Saxony)

Photo: Serge Bystro / Flickr

This amazing facade is called the "Hof der Elemente" ("Courtyard of Elements") and is part of the Kunsthofpassage in the new district of Dresden, in which artist tenants have decorated many of the buildings.

Created by artist Annette Paul and designers Christoph Rossner and Andre Tempel, this artwork catches the rainfall as well as the eye. It is designed so that the arrangement of funnels and gutters on the wall channel water through the instrument-like pipes, and create a water symphony.

9. Neuschwanstein Castle (Hohenschwangau, Bavaria)

Photo: DPA

Perched on a rugged tree-covered hilltop between the Alpine foothills and the wide expanse of Bavarian lakes, the 19th century Neuschwanstein Castle looks like it was taken straight out of a Disney film. Built by Ludwig II of Bavaria as a homage to the Middle Ages and Richard Wagner's romantic operas, the king was only able to enjoy the castle for six months before he died in 1886. 

One of Germany's most postcard-friendly sights, the palace was designed to have more than 200 rooms, but only about 15 were ever properly completed, merging Middle Ages interiors and 19th century state of the art technology, including an electric bell system and automatic flushing toilets.

The iconic building was featured in the films Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and The Great Escape, and it also served as inspiration for Disneyland's Sleeping Beauty Castle.

10. Friede sei mit Dir - Peace be with you (Mitte, Berlin)

A segment of the artwork. Photo: Paolo Olarte / Wikimedia Commons

This relief by artist Peter Lenk features a man, naked apart from a pair of red glasses and brown loafers, with his member stretching five floors up. 

The controversial artwork adorns the side of the editor's office of Berlin's left-wing Tageszeitung (Taz) newspaper. The man bears an uncanny resemblance to Kai Diekmann, former editor-in-chief of Bild Zeitung, Germany's best-selling tabloid, which is headquartered across the street.

Following a series of controversial editorial decisions by Diekmann, Tageszeitung (Taz) published an article parodying Bild, with the headline: "Sex-Schock! Penis kaputt?" (Sex shock! Penis broken?). The article discussed an alleged penis enlargement operation the Bild editor had undergone.

Diekmann sued for damages, but the Berlin state court rejected the plea, concluding that "he, who deliberately seeks economic profit from the infringement of other people's personal rights, should be less heavily burdened by the violation of his own."

The statue was installed in 2009, and Diekmann is yet to try his luck in court a second time.



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