One of the interesting sights to see when visiting Cologne is the Heinzelmännchen fountain. The Heinzelmännchen are actually supposed to be little gnome creatures that come out at night to do all of the work of the citizens of Cologne, allowing them to be lazy during the day. The gnomes would disappear before anyone awoke, but the wife of a tailor was curious to see what they looked like. She apparently spread peas on the ground in the workshop to make the gnomes slip and fall. The gnomes got so mad that they left, never to return again and the people of Cologne had to do all of their own work once again.
It is an interesting story and the Heinzelmännchen fountain was created with plaques along the wall to tell the story of the gnomes and the tailor’s wife. The legend was first written down in the 1800’s and the fountain was built in 1899. One of our first stops when we visited Cologne was to the Früh Brewery and the Heinzelmännchen fountain with all of the carvings is located in the square outside of the brewery. Certainly fun to see after a couple of local beers.
According to what we’ve read, the story roughly translates to: “Once upon a time in Cologne, how comfortable it was with the Heinzelmen! For if you were lazy, … you just lay down on your bench and took care of yourself. Then at night, before one knew it, came the little men and swarmed and clattered and rattled and plucked and picked and jumped and trotted and cleaned and scoured –and even before a lazy bum awoke, all his daily work was … already done! …”
We love seeing some of these fables as they remind us of our history and culture and also to keep our childlike wonder of the world. We were in Cologne in November, so the fountain wasn’t running, but that didn’t make any less fascinating. It may not be on the top of your list of sights to see when visiting Cologne, but it was a great start to our short time there.