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Löwenzahn – A German National Treasure

Löwenzahn - A German National Treasure
© Pixabay

Ask any German under 40 about Löwenzahn and chances are they’ll start humming a jolly tune. That tune is the well-known theme to German public channel ZDF’s longest-running kids’ TV show, Löwenzahn.

The show started in 1981 and accompanied generations of Germans as they discovered the world. Its presenter, “Erklär-Bär” (explainer character) Peter Lustig was a TV grandad to millions of people, becoming one of the country’s national treasures.

In February 2016, Germany said goodbye to Lustig as the show’s creator passed away following many years of illness. But his legacy continues in the show, still running in its 35th year.

What Happens on The Show?

Löwenzahn takes place in the Schrebergärten (allotments) of a fictional of city called Bärstadt. In every episode, Peter Lustig greeted the audience from his home in the Bauwagen, a disused builder’s trailer which he had converted into his home.

Peter Lustig (that is the actor’s real name) was a casual character dressed in dungarees. He represented the archetype of an alternative dropout, sharply contrasted with his neat and conservative neighbour Hermann Paschulke. In most episodes, Peter and his neighbour started off with a little chat (or occasional neighbourly spat).

These chats inspired many of Peter’s curious questions about the world.He found himself wondering “Warum ist das so?” (Why is it like that?). He presented film clips and went out into the world to explore. The episode topics included answers to many children’s questions like “Wie kommen die Löcher in den Käse?” (How do the holes get into the cheese?) or “Was ist eigentlich Blech? Was passiert, wenn es rostet?” (What is tin? What happens when it gets rusty?).

Alternative Attitudes and Environmentalism in Löwenzahn

Peter’s show promoted excitement about nature and environment for several generations of Germans.

Löwenzahn and its understated, chilled out presenter were a product of Germany’s green consciousness. Peter didn’t wear suits or live in an expensive home. He wasn’t a professor, and his appearance celebrated authenticity and challenged the status quo.

The Bauwagen was a showcase of self-sufficiency and DIY skills, showing how everyday “junk” can be upcycled and reused. In this way, engineer Peter Lustig showed generations of German children how to make something out of nothing.

Throughout the show’s run, nature and environment were important core topics. Progress was acknowledged, yet regarded with a little skepticism along with Peter’s trademark curiosity. And for decades the programme’s most famous catchphrase was a variant of “.. und jetzt machen wir den Fernseher…aus.” (And now we switch the TV… off)

Löwenzahn Continues

Löwenzahn stood out because it was not shrill or oversaturated like many other kids’ TV shows. Peter Lustig himself designed his character to promote a grown-up’s curiosity about the world. He valued learning at any age and invited his viewers into a world of tüfteln, forschen, entdecken (tinker, research, discover).

In 2007, Peter Lustig received the Bundesverdienstkreuz am Bande, Germany’s highest Order of Merit. His legacy is evident not only in the love and praise he received but also in the show’s ongoing success.

Today, Löwenzahn continues with a new character: Fritz Fuchs, played by comedian Guido Hammesfahr, took over the show and the Bauwagen in October 2006. The original cast has grown to feature more diverse characters and create a faster-paced version of Löwenzahn. Hammesfahr and Lustig know how much times have changed. Lustig joked that he’s happy not to compete with PlayStation in this interview with the Bild newspaper.

The show also maintains its theme of encouraging young viewers to get away from the TV for a bit and step out into the world. You can find out more about the current topics on Löwenzahn’s official website.

german media Uncategorized

Im Gegenteil – “Slow Dating” Rises in Berlin

Online dating in Berlin
(c) pixabay

written by Charles Dunbar 

Im Gegenteil, Berlin’s slow-dating website, looks like a consumer glossy magazine website at first, comparable to Marie Claire or Esquire in the United States – and then you realize the “products” are people.
These are not celebrities either. They are singles, generally in their 30s, looking to find a partner. These singles can be gay or straight – but the end result is very hip.

 

Made with passion, time and love

The two founders, Jule Müller and Anni Kralisch-Pehlke, liken Im Gegenteil to a single’s magazine than a dating platform. Dating websites nowadays are quick and might not provide a glimpse into someone’s actual life – the profiles are more like checkboxes or filters, great for snap decisions but not so great for developing intimacy and connections. Im Gegenteil, on the other hand, takes about a day to construct each profile and takes photos of the applicant – not just any photos, but artful ones in the applicant’s own home or surroundings. That way, Kralisch-Pehlke says, “[if] you want to write to someone on our site, you have something to work with.”

“Only for Berlin´s hipsters?” “NO!”

The applicants are mainly in Berlin, but other areas have been added also, enabling people from Zürich and Köln to be featured on the website as well. And thanks to the Im Gegenteil team of bloggers and photographers, there are articles beneath the profiles – lending credence to the self-description of it as a singles’ magazine rather than a dating platform.
Unfortunately, this very hip and photogenic emphasis has led to some deriding Im Gegenteil for catering to Berlin’s hipsters – or hipsters in general. As someone who has lived in Brooklyn in New York, I can safely say that Im Gegenteil would not be out of place there either. But where is the line between helping the applicants look good and being derided for being the province of the exclusive?
Müller and Kralisch-Pehlke plan on expanding Im Gegenteil throughout Europe and possibly beyond, so maybe we will see it in places like London or New York. Time will only tell.

If your German is up to speed or you want to practice, you can look at Im Gegenteil here: http://imgegenteil.de/
Currently, it is only offered in the German language, though hopefully in time will be localized to other languages alongside the expansion plans.