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Gambling ban on Cologne seniors’ illegal bingo game to be lifted

Residents at a retirement home in Cologne were told earlier this week that their weekly bingo game was illegal. They have now been given a three-month licence to play the game in which the winner gets chocolates.

Gambling ban on Cologne seniors’ illegal bingo game to be lifted
Photo: DPA

The relief must be palpable at the Sozial-Betriebe residential home in Cologne. On Monday the old folks' home announced that it had banned all further bingo games among its residents after city authorities had warned it that the games were taking place in contravention of German gambling laws.

“We were completely speechless at first when we heard about it, we never thought that we, a senior citizen's institution, were running an illegal gambling ring,” said the home’s manager, Gabriele Patzke.

The pensioners at the home each contribute a sum of €0.50 to the weekly game and stand the chance of winning a box of chocolates at the end.

An accountant had alerted the city authorities to a potential violation of gambling laws last year.

But on Tuesday city authorities said they hoped to have the ban lifted quickly.

A spokesperson for the city said that “we hope to solve this quickly and unbureaucratically by giving them a three-month permit.”

A lawyer for the home confirmed that the permit was in the pipeline, adding that the city decided that the bingo games fell under the law on “small lotteries”, which has a simplified application procedure.

But for the seniors to keep indulging their vice, they will have to jump through more bureaucratic hoops in the future. Besides only receiving an initial three-month gambling permit, the home will have to notify authorities each time a game is to take place.

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Germany’s Scheffelbrücke: Everything you need to know about the ‘world’s most expensive bridge’

Germany's Scheffelbrücke might not seem like much to look at, but by some accounts it is the most expensive bridge in the world. Here’s what you need to know.

Germany's Scheffelbrücke: Everything you need to know about the ‘world’s most expensive bridge’
The Scheffelbrücke in Baden-Württemburg isn't known for its astounding beauty or engineering prowess - but it is known for its price tag. Photo: Heinz Seehagel, Creative Commons.

If you’re travelling near the Swiss border, you might come across the Scheffelbrücke – a quiet, two-lane bridge over the Radolfzeller Aach in Baden-Württemburg. 

By bridge standards, the 20-metre concrete construction seems relatively unremarkable – until you take a look at the engraved sign on the side which quotes the price tag. 

A sign on the bridge references the incredible price of the bridge: 1,520,940,901,926,024 Deutschmarks. 

That’s 1,500 trillion marks. 

Why is the Scheffelbrücke Germany’s most expensive bridge – and why is it so drab?

While Germany has the money and the landscape to have some expensive bridges, that over the Aach hardly rivals the Golden Gate, London Bridge or Sydney Harbour for elegance or ingenuity. 

The bridge, completed in 1923, takes the name of Joseph Victor von Scheffel, a German writer who will forever be associated with the glorified concrete slab. 

While one might suspect pork barrelling or crafty accounting as a reason for the astonishing cost – or perhaps a trick to reel in the tourists to the otherwise unassuming village of Singen – the cost is in fact real.

The high price is a consequence of the out of control post-World War One inflation which hit Germany, where money almost completely lost its value. 

A sign for the bridge reveals its extortionate building costs. Photo: Heinz Seehagel, Creative Commons.

Local authorities, wanting to boost the economy, signed off on the bridge as an infrastructure project. 

As a consequence, some local workers presumably became millionaires as a consequence – although there was perhaps little meaning to the idea of being a millionaire when a billion would only buy you a concrete bridge. 

Fortunately, Germany was able to bring inflation under control and wheelbarrows full of money were no longer required to purchase basic things.

And almost a century later, when not taking wacky inflation into account, Germany’s ‘most expensive bridge in the world’ no longer has that title. 

That goes to the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco (no, not the Golden Gate but the other one), which cost 6.3 billion US dollars – or roughly 5.2 billion euro  – to build. 

The Oakland Bay Bridge however goes for eight kilometres and possesses some of the aesthetic qualities which one would expect from the most expensive bridge in the world. 

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