Erfurt 2: On the Trail of Sponge Bob

October 9, part 2 –

(For Part 1, click here) From the hilltop with the churches, we climbed higher still to the Petersberg Citadel – a mostly abandoned walled military site. We did not discover much about its current purpose, although while there, we noticed a gaggle of children arrive in a van, and niece Lee read one sign that said there was a dance hall? studio? inside one of the buildings. She also said that records on citizens and other items of interest created by the Stasi (East German police) are kept here. I tried to find some info on the fortress and/or its current uses, but the only material I found was in German without option for translation.

In any case, we walked around the site for a long time and there were many things to photograph, notably including a barracks building with boarded-up windows, on which photographic artworks were displayed. It was a pretty cool “gallery.”

The views from the fortress were pretty spectacular, and I included several of them in the Erfurt 1 blog. But here are a couple more.

The last thing we saw before heading back downhill was this memorial. I photographed its setting because, from above, it looks like a firing squad or some sort of pillars to which the condemned might be tied. In actuality, it was a memorial to deserters from the army, who would not do as the Nazis ordered them to.

Off the high hill again, we began walking through the town. Page reported that he’d seen a statue of Sponge Bob somewhere, and he thought that would be a mighty fine place for us to take a group photo. So we started on the Trail of Sponge Bob. We were not at all sure where, exactly, Sponge Bob was, so with Lee’s map, we simply figured we’d re-trace our earlier steps to find it again.

Needless to say, our navigation was not great, and in any case we wanted to see new parts of town rather than the same-old/same-old. Jack was lobbying to sit on the main square to watch the further dis-assembly of the Ferris Wheel, and at about 3PM, Ini was looking ahead and lobbying for her 4PM “kuchen” or cake-and-coffee (we discovered that one could easily set one’s watch by Ini’s “kuchen” call). Lee was trying to figure out the map, and I was merely trying to keep up (Page walks really quickly).

Our trail to find Sponge Bob was winding, to say the very least. And took quite a long time. But we did (intentionally or not) see some new areas of Erfurt, so I have some more photos.

No idea what the magazine is or what it says. Subject matter, however, is obvious.

I was taken with these under-eve sculptures depicting ordinary people doing ordinary things, instead of the oft-seen gargoyles, angels, cherubs, or Romanesque decoration.

Finally, Jack, Ini, and I lost Lee and Page completely. We wandered some more, with Ini (who would not know Sponge Bob from a hole in the wall) and I having a good laugh about the way we’ll remember our trip to Erfurt in decades to come — “yeah, that was the day we set out on the trail to find Sponge Bob! Now, explain to me again: Who is Sponge Bob?”

Just as Jack found the target cartoon character statue (Ini and I had also lost Jack at this point) Ini called Page and Lee, who reported they were at a cafe and ready for a cake-and-coffee break. Ini and I had wandered past a shop whose door had been closed earlier, but this time the craftsman was working in his puppet shop. We didn’t stop long, however, in favor of finding our fellow trekkers, but I liked the photos so I include them below. Shortly, we gathered Jack and headed over to the cafe and sat down with beverages and sweets. The setting of the cafe was truly glorious, right beside the river, behind the houses flanking the famous quaint street, where we discovered the river goes UNDER these houses/shops and the road. We also found more children’s cartoon character representations near the cafe.

 The thing about puppets, is that Erfurt is known for its puppet-makers. The non-commercial children’s TV channel tells its stories with animated puppets. There were two stops we made along our wanderings at which you could insert a coin and animate a “stage” behind a window, and the puppets would tell a story. One began as a wicked witch and when the coin started the animation, a curtain pulled from her “magic mirror” and small figures in the “mirror” told the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It was really difficult to get a photo behind the window, but I think I got enough for you to see the second little puppet show we watched.

This scholarly dude would lift his book up when the coin went in, and we could understand that he was reading The Odyssey. Then a curtain opened at the back, like a thought bubble.
Behind the curtain were puppets depicting some of the trials of Odysseus. While the reader’s eyes moved, many of the little puppets of his imagination moved, too.

I mention all this to get to the whole Sponge Bob thing. 

When I saw the character Jack had found, I knew immediately that, while it did, indeed look a bit like Sponge Bob, this guy didn’t have any pants on. I have no idea why, exactly, I know this, but the second half of Sponge Bob’s name is Square Pants.

It turns out that this Erfurt TV channel for children has a square character quite similar to Sponge Bob, except the German version is a loaf of bread. Here’s what I discovered after the fact about Bernd das Brot:

From WiKipedia: Bernd is a depressed, grumpy, curmudgeonly, constantly bad-tempered, surly, fatalistic, melancholic loaf of pullman bread speaking in a deep, gloomy baritone. He is small, rectangular and golden brown with hands directly attached to his body, eye circles, and a thin-lipped mouth. According to himself, he belongs to the species “Homo Brotus Depressivus.” 

His favorite activities include staring at his south wall at home (to learn the pattern of his woodchip wallpaper by heart), reading his favorite magazine The Desert and You, and enlarging his collection of the most boring railway tracks on video. Bernd sympathizes firstly with himself. His favorite expression is Mist!, used in much the same way as the English “crap.” His other favorite sentences are: “I would like to be left alone,” “I would like to leave this show,” and “My life is hell.”
Bernd’s backstory includes a failed advertising gig for the Soyuz Space Program. After that, Bernd was forced to apply for job at KiKa, which is the reason for his permanent scowl. Bernd himself does not want to appear on television and thinks it is a “dirty business.”
He interacts with two co-main characters. One is the chatty Chili das Schaf (Chili the Sheep), a yellow ewe with flaming red hair. Chili, the show’s Gastgeberin (hostess), is a Stuntschaf (stuntsheep) who finds it exciting to have close calls with accidents. The other main character is the show’s technical expert, the always-pleasant Briegel der Busch (Briegel the Bush), a green, bespectacled bush with flowers and leaves in lieu of hair. Briegel is an inventor who loves to build complicated devices that almost inevitably explode of their own accord. In contrast to Bernd, they enjoy adventures and the excitement of life. Bernd doesn’t hide the fact that he doesn’t think much of his colleagues, refusing to call them by name while they treat him as their best friend, even giving him nicknames such as “Bernti.”
The first show starring Bernd, Chili and Briegel was the 2001 pastiche Tolle Sachen, die einzige Werbesendung auf KiKa (Great things, the only advertising show on KiKa). While the actual show is a public, commercial-free channel, in this send-up episode, Chili and Briegel would advertise an object that would be tested by a “randomly” chosen tester that would invariably turn out to be Bernd. Shows with Bernd, Chili and Briegel also include pastiches of Robin Hood, Star Trek, American Westerns and fairy tales.
When I relayed all this to Ini a couple of days later, she exclaimed, “He is so German!”

Now I know you’re dying to see this Eyore-like character, so here’s what we found at the end when we followed On the Trail of Sponge Bob.

Photo credit: Page Chichester

We still had a few hours before our train, so we did some more wandering, had a beer at a hotel bar near the train station, and rode home late, and tired. What a great day it was.

Seen from the train

En route to Copenhagen for our connection to Malmo, our stop for the night, and our first “official” night of our Baltic Adventure. We should arrive in the early afternoon, and be able to rent a bike for a bit of touring.

Seen fr the train:

Four cranes in a dewy pasture – gray with (I think) a strip of red on the heads
Went thru Lubeck (w/an umlat over the ‘u’), Germany, for which Lubbock, TX is named; thought about Bob & Bretza Mooty
8:21: first sighting of the Baltic Sea
A buteo (buzzard? redtail?) sitting on a fence post)
A thatched-roof house
HUGE wind turbines
Crows in the stubblefields: I’m looking forward to flying CJ again
A deer in a stubblefield
Puttgarden, last stop in Germany; next, we ride the train onto the ferry, leave the train for the 45 min. crossing (hoping I don’t get seasick), then re-enter the train for the rest of the ride to Copenhagen
Re-board the train and exit the ferry at Rodby, Denmark (there’s a Danish slash thru the ‘o’ in Rodby) – should be lots of water to be seen during the 2-hour ride to Copenhagen
A half-buried building, like a bunker, with the sea-facing side totally underground, and the train-facing side half-exposed
Acres and acres of small greenhouses, or maybe big greenhouses with small roofs – covering rows and rows of plants, reminiscent of Netherlands