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28.09.2012

Think like a Koblenzer: Why be predictable when you can keep surprising people!


Stand in front of the famous Koblenz "Schängelgrunnen" (that fountain in the courtyard of the town hall), and a stream of water might just take you by surprise. 

You've just been playfully spit upon by a Schängel

But that's just Koblenz for you. Like the little "Schängel," Koblenz is always taking people by surprise. It's a city with a bit of an attitude, and I'd have a bit of an attitude too if my city had been occupied multiple times and destroyed in numerous wars, as Koblenz has been. The incredible fortresses and castles that now stand around the city are a mere fraction of what once was.

But the thing about Koblenz is that no matter what is left standing, it always picks itself up, shakes itself off and finds a way to rebuild itself. And through it all, the people never quite lose their sense of humour or take themselves too seriously. 

I've already mentioned a Schängel in the last post... and the Schängel really characterizes this identity of the amazing Koblenzer. 

So, I know you are wondering how that could be if a Schängel is just a naughty boy? 

No, it's not exactly just any naughty little boy. 

Schängel is a term that came about after Germany strongly aligned with France (1794-1813) and the French soldiers became even friendlier with the German ladies. Of course, out of such "friendships" arose many little children, and the most common boy's name was the French name"Jean" or the German version, "Johann." However, as many areas of Germany have their own dialect, the Koblenzer dialect made the name "Jean" sound more like "Schäng." And these little half-French little boys developed quite the reputation as they ran around town, stirring up trouble... They were generally, naughty, naughty boys. Not horribly naughty. Rather, naughty in a sort of endearing way. They were just always surprising people with their antics. 

Eventually, the nickname Schängel came about to generally refer to all of these naughty little boys. And now, locals proudly identify themselves with this fun symbol because having a fun attitude and being a bit unpredictable can actually be a good thing. Why be a standard when you can change things up and make your own rules? 

A local Koblenz poet, Josef Cornelius (1849-1943), even wrote a song about the Schängel that has become a fun anthem for Koblenzers! And the fountain by the town square, dedicated to the poet, has also become somewhat of a monument for locals who love their cheeky identity.  

So, even when you think you know Koblenz, it's always changing, surprising you. For instance, a visit today will be different than one 5 years ago due to the entire city's extensive transformation for the big garden show... 

Next up: Koblenz' reinvention as the National Garden Show city!


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