Oddly Enough

Hats off as "Ampelfrau" helps Germans cross the road

BERLIN (Reuters) - A pig-tailed female crossing guard has ousted her traditional, hat-wearing male counterpart in one eastern German town just in time for International Women’s Day on Thursday.

With her plaited hair and flowing knee-length skirt, the “Ampelfrau” is the first to be installed in the eastern state of Brandenburg, close to Berlin, where the stout, hat wearing Ampelmann has been drawing crowds -- and directing them across roads -- for decades.

“I saw an Ampelfrau in Dresden and thought that the same thing could work very well in our town, so we installed one to mark women’s week,” Marion Noetzel, an official of the town of Fuerstenwalde told Reuters.

Noetzel said reaction has been positive, and the authorities would consider installing more female crossing guards.

“Drivers can’t see them but in areas where there are lots of pedestrians they really do notice,” she said.

The 50-year-old Ampelmann, a relic of the former communist east, has acquired cult status in Berlin, where shops dedicated to the little green man have sprung up, selling tourists everything from Ampelmann sweets to t-shirts, and even pasta.

The fall of the Berlin Wall threatened the end of the East German Ampelmann, as eastern goods were replaced by western ones, but immense public pressure saved the figure from being superseded by his bare-headed western counterpart.

The eastern German town of Zwickau was the first to install an Ampelfrau in 2004, followed by the city of Dresden.

Editing by Paul Casciato