A Tribute to Peter Lustig

If there was a question I would have had to ask my high school German teacher had the chance been there, it would have been this:  Frau Schorr, instead of showing us that teenage soap opera TV series with Thomas, Claudia and Andrea living in Hamburg, why not show us a real German TV film, like this one?

As we didn’t have youtube at that time, and the internet was at its infancy, it did make sense to order video tapes where available to learn the basics of German. Today however, if there was a TV show to recommend, Löwenzahn would be right on top of the list of shows where people learning German should watch, because it features not only natural and funny dialogs in Germany, but some very creative ideas and facts in the fields of science, technology, arts and history.

And today, we are paying tribute to the creator of Löwenzahn (literally translated as Dandelion), Peter Lustig, who passed away yesterday at his home near Husum at the age of 78. Lustig was born in Breslau in the former German state of Schlesia (now part of Poland) and started his career early as a TV journalist. According to the German magazine Der Spiegel, it was Lustig who reported on John F. Kennedy’s speech in West Berlin in 1961 and because of his close proximity to the US President, here was the result:

After working for the American radio station AFN, Lustig had many small roles in radio and TV shows in West Germany until the public TV station ZDF asked him to star in the TV series that featured the beloved dandelion. Together with Helmut Krauss as the ecentric and sometimes narrow-minded but clumsy neighbor Parschulke, Lustig starred in 197 episodes of Löwenzahn over the span of 25 years, ending with his final bow in 28 October, 2007 as guest star.

Since 2005, Guido Hammesfahr has taken over the role in Löwenzahn as Fritz Fuchs, but Krauss has remained with the show well after Lustig left the scene and retired. The new version with Fritz Fuchs was mentioned in the Files on occasion, including this article produced in 2014. Characteristic of Peter Lustig were his blue overalls– he had 35 pairs including a black pair he wore at a wedding- and two famous comments:

  1. Klingt komisch aber ist so- “Sounds weird but it is that way.”
  2. Du kannst jetzt abschalten- the closing where he encouraged viewers to switch off the TV and do something creative outside.

I was introduced to Löwenzahn by a student colleague a few years ago, as we were working on a project to find the best TV shows for kids in Germany. My daughter was four at that time and we had just purchased a flat screen TV for our flat. Knowing about her, she recommended the TV show as she grew up watching Peter Lustig and his mentality of explore, create and impress- the same mentality that Fritz Fuchs has adopted for his show.

Since that time, it has been on the menu of the TV marathon, my daughter has every Sunday morning. To the colleague who recently had a baby of her own, she has my thanks and for those who want to know why Löwenzahn should be introduced in the classroom instead of the Thomas, Claudia and Andrea in Hamburg adventure, here are the Top 10 reasons why:

  1. The very first episode of Löwenzahn, produced in 1980:
  1. The second episode of Löwenzahn: Peter meets Parschulke:
  1. Peter is one of the first hosts to talk about saving energy:
  1. Peter makes Lebkuchen:
  1. Peter and Parschulke dance and sing on the volcano:
  1. Peter tours the garbage facility looking for one of Parschulke’s lost garden gnomes:
  1. Peter rides the tram and convinces the city to continue serving the tram route:
  1. Peter and Parschulke are in a soapbox boat race, except one of them cheated in the race. Can you find out who?
  1. Die Reise ins Abendteuer: The adventure trip- A 25th anniversary special looking at Peter Lustig through the years. The three-part series were the last episodes for Peter Lustig as host.
  1. Lebenswandel (2007) Like Star Trek Generations, produced in 1996, this generations episode has Fritz Fuchs and Peter Lustig together solving a very old inventive case. This was the last time Lustig made his appearance on TV before retiring from the business for good.

And as Lustig mentioned to Parschulke at the end of the show: This time travel adventure only happens once. It was a pleasure havin Lustig present us with all of the discoveries, many of which were not even thought of before and after learning from him, we better understand. Looking at Lustig’s career from an author’s point of view, I see an adventurer showing us the unknown, regardless of how it was done and how boring it had been perceived at the beginning. And even though he spent time with the series Sendung mit der Maus (the TV show with the Orange Mouse) prior to his marquee appearance in the show, because of Lustig, many shows, including the Mouse have used Löwenzahn as a reference to be creative and entertaining and find ways to bring a boring or even a “debatable for viewers” topic to light and make it interesting for the viewers of all ages. Now wonder why Lustig received the Cross of Merit in 2007 by then German President Horst Koehler, the same year he retired from the TV scene.

And now you have the reasons why Löwenzahn should be in your teaching curriculum when teaching German as a foreign language as well as other classes in school. There are a lot of interesting topics that have been covered with many more to be covered with Fritz Fuchs at the helm as the show is in its 37th year. Because of Lustig, the show provides viewers with the best of both worlds because of the esay access to the German language but also to the known which if presented in a creative and entertaining fashion, like Lustig did during his 25 years with the show it will be an interesting topic to watch and later discuss.

And so I close this tribute with many thanks to Peter Lustig for Löwenzahn and for leaving a slot open for many children and parents to watch the show every Sunday morning. But also for giving us some interesting facts to learn about. In today’s world full of politics and ignorance, we do have some people that are teachers at the heart, even if they are entertainers in the end.

And keeping this in mind, we come to the end of the article and I say, “Abschalten und Tschüß!” (Shut it off and farewell). 😉

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The Flensburg Files would like to dedicate this article in memory of Peter Lustig, thanking him for his work. He will be missed by many but also remembered for his pioneering efforts. Thoughts, prayers and condolences to his family, friends and millions of fans.

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Latzhose or Overalls?

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While living in Germany, you may encounter a phenomenon that is normally seen on a local farm in America: people dressed in Latzhosen– color coordinated in many cases: the blue workers are the carpenters and mechanics, the red workers are the repairmen and montage (installation) crew, and the white workers being the painters and interior designers. They are numerous but skilled; crafty men but also helpful. But these blue-collar workers have one item in common: they all wear these pieces of clothing where they slip them on like snowmobile suits and fasten them at the shoulders- much like in this picture.

When we see the Latzhose, we think of one character in a TV series, who wore them for the entire series, and whose actor still continues to wear them. This would be Peter Lustig from the series Löwenzahn (Dandelion, if translated crudely into English). The series was launched in 1981 and even though Lustig left the series in 2005, it is still running today with Fritz Fuchs at the helm (played by Guido Hammesfahr since 2006). An episode about the Latzhose from the Peter Lustig series was produced in connection with the show’s 20th season episode in 2000, looking at how it is assembled and the many purposes this piece of clothing is used.

Latzhosen exist in the US, under the name Overalls, and like in Germany, they have their purposes, although blue is the most commonly used color for overalls. While travelling through the US, in particular in the central part of the country, one will most likely see them worn by farmers. However, they are sometimes used for casual wear, and for women expecting, they are good for both them and the baby as they are comfortable, and they protect them from the unexpected.

Despite its popularity in both cultures, there is little or no information on when they were introduced, let alone who was behind the invention. There is a possibility that Levi Strauss, a German-born immigrant from Buttenheim (in northern Bavaria) who settled in San Francisco may have something to do with it. Strauss invented the denim blue jeans in 1871 and later established his jeans company with the goal of producing denim jeans mainly for workers. It is unknown whether he invented the overalls, which was common for farmers and railroad workers near the end of the 19th Century. It is known that overalls became common beginning in the 1960s and 70s in the US and in Germany in the 1980s, but only for the purpose of fashion and casual wear. Today, one will see overalls or Latzhosen worn mainly by women as casualwear, whereas the traditional purpose of wearing them for the purpose of work is strong in Germany, while one can find overalls on farm places, on construction sites and along railroads in the US.

Still, the mystery still remains open as to who invented the Latzhose (or overalls). Did Strauss invent them or did someone else patent it? When were they first introduced and what were their primary purpose at that time? And lastly, why did they lose their popularity but make its comeback in the 1970s?

Any ideas? The discussion forum awaits your theories and facts….. 🙂

Note: The birthplace of Levi Strauss was preserved and is now a museum, located in Buttenheim, located north of Bamberg in Bavaria. More information can be found here.

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In School in Germany: Experimenting with Flowers

There is a saying worth mentioning as the starting point to this article: Every form of Flora has its multiple uses for the better of human kind.  George Washington Carver found over 110 uses of the peanut during his lifetime.  Before his time, native Americans had found multiple uses with corn and sweet potatoes, many of which we still use today. But what about other plants, in particular, flowers and even herbs?

The dandelion is one of those plants that many people do not like having on their lawns. When they see a yellow blanket of these pesky weeds on their lawns, they are compelled to take the lawn mower and cut them down to size to make it look pretty.  Little do they realize is that these yellow things are much more valuable than they can possibly imagine.  Dandelions are edible- can be used in a salad, or eaten as is. It’s especially good for bunnies as they eat both the leaves as well as the yellow head.  They are the source of pollen and food for bees as they produce honey for the rest of the population. They are an excellent remedy against colds, if used for tea or medicine. Make-up with these flowers has been used. And when converted into the puffball version, one can collect the pollen, replant it in a pot and watch it grow on the window sill.

There are many more uses of these unbeatable weeds in the eyes of perfectionist home owners and invincible flowers in the eyes of naturalists, like yours truly. A good portion of these can be found in a recent version of the children’s TV show Löwenzahn with Fritz Fuchs (played by Guido Hammerstein) and his companion, Keks (a St. Bernard). This includes the Caucasian Dandelion, the largest of the breed of flowers that can be found in central and eastern Europe. Have a look at the link below. 🙂

Link to the Löwenzahn episode about “The Unbeatable Dandelions” (In German)

Watching this episode gave me an idea to pass along to teachers, students and those wanting to try this experiment. If there are so many uses of the dandelion, what about other flowers and plants, like the orchids, daisies, daffodils or even the thistle? After all, these plants may be the ticket to saving many lives if the inventions used are beneficial to others. If Carver can find over 100 uses for the peanut, why can we not find many uses with other plants that we don’t know about?  As mentioned at the beginning, every form of Flora has its multiple uses for the better of human kind.

Try the experiment during your next break. Pick a flower, plant, weed or any type of flora and try making some uses out of them. You will be amazed at the results when trying one experiment after another. If you find any uses, or know of any plants that have as many uses as the dandelion, post your comments here or on the Files’ facebook page. Recipes are also welcome. 😉

By the way, the author will be trying the experiment with the dandelion as an indoor plant again and will post some pictures in the near future, should the plant bear fruit. 🙂