Cursed by language students the world over, the German language and its many grammar rules, cases and genders can be tough to love. But now and again it leads to incredible, brilliantly bizarre words and places that deserve recognition. You’ll find a surprising number of them in South Germany. From Wankum to Weener, here are the best of the bunch.
This unfortunately named village, approximately an hour from Munich, is in the Rosenheim district on the shores of Lake Chiemsee. Despite being pretty tiny, it’s had some famous previous residents: Pope Benedict XVI’s mother was born and raised in Rimsting and worked as a cook in some of the lakeside hotels.
It’s a fair amount of work to visit Wank, a mountain in the Alps in southern Bavaria that’s 1,780 metres (5,840 feet) high. Don’t fancy getting too sweaty? There’s the Wankbahn (Wank Station), with cable cars going right to the summit. Locals pronounce it ‘Vunk’, so they wonder why tourists insist on taking pictures with every ‘Zum Wank’ (‘To Wank’) sign.
Down the road from Mount Wank and about 18 kilometres (11.2 miles) from Munich is Poing. One of its main attractions is Wildpark Poing, a free-range forest preserve.
Bad Kissingen goes way back to AD 801; this Lower Franconian district is home to a famous spa town of the same name once known for its healing mineral springs. It’s maintained its therapeutic reputation today and was where the Chinese Olympic football team trained for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The German-Chinese Football Academy is still open today.
Titz is over in North Rhine-Westphalia, not too far from the Dutch border. It’s not very big; the district is only – wait for it – 69 km². The good people of Titz, blessed with a sense of humour, decided to name one of their districts Spiel (German for ‘game’). Move to this picturesque area and you, too, could have the address Titz Spiel.
Guess where the giggle-inducing Weener is – in the aptly named district of Leer. That’s right. This city on the banks of the River Ems near the Dutch border dates at least as far back as 951.
This small municipality is right on the Austrian border, about a 30-minute drive from Salzburg. It’s on the banks of Wagingersee, a pretty lake formed by melting glaciers at the end of the last ice age. Home to just over 2,000 people, there’s some evidence Petting dates back as far as the Roman Empire.
Wangerland didn’t stop at their name – its coat of arms is a topless mermaid. When in Wangerland, right? It’s up in northern Germany, almost in the North Sea and not too far from Bremen and Hamburg. Wangerland has history: first human settlements date back to 2nd century BC.
This tiny village just off the A40 autobahn gets a disproportionate number of English-speaking visitors popping in to take pictures with their ‘Welcome to Wankum’ signs. Not too far from Titz, Wankum is part of the Wachtendonk municipality, of course.
Titisee is a high-altitude lake in the popular Black Forest district. While it might not look so big, appearances can be deceiving: the lake covers 1.3 km² (321 acres) and is, on average, 20 metres (65.6 feet) deep. It’s an odd name even to Germans, and there are several theories how it came about: some say it honors a local nobleman Titini; another theory is that it was named after infamous Roman general, Titus.
Too good to ignore, Fahrtgasse is actually a street, one of the main thoroughfares in the bustling city of Heidelburg, home to Germany’s oldest university. Right by the River Neckar, it’s in the heart of the city’s shopping district, and one of Heidelburg’s main swimming pools is on Fahrtgasse.
Bonus: Fucking and Windpassing
The names don’t stop at the border: Austria pips it to the list for some of the most brilliantly hilarious names. Tired of having its signs stolen, the now infamous town of Fucking (rhymes with ‘booking’) gave the world theft-resistant road signs. Also in Austria are, not one, but four cities named Windpassing (one is twinned with Middelfart in Denmark).