Irish Examiner (Irland) - Online-Ausgabe unter vom 8.3.2010

Forget stars, a pothole out there could have your name on it

OWN your own pothole – except that when you pay the €50 for the privilege, it will be properly filled in and have your name attached, so every tyre rolling smoothly over it will know who it must thank.

It’s not a joke.

The 1,100 villagers of Niederzimmern in the centre of Germany have come up with the idea.

And they are serious about it, as well they might after the snow melted and they discovered the state of their roads.

The harsh weather all over Europe has done more than the normal amount of damage to roads as snow was followed by rain, a freeze and more snow, breaking up surfaces and loosening the material underneath.

Only now as the last of the snow has cleared has the full legacy of the long winter become apparent. Lots of big potholes. Germany estimates that up to 40% of their roads are in serious need of repairs as a result.

Niederzimmern is typical of much of the rest of Germany and Europe in that it spent a lot of money sanding and salting the roads, and has nothing left in the kitty to repair them.

The Mayor of Niederzimmern, Christoph Schmidt-Rose explained that they came up with the idea of selling the potholes. “We think that people will like this funny idea and want to help us repair our streets,” he told the local radio.

They are advertising the potholes – “schlagloch” in German – on the town’s website under the heading, “We need tar”, and they expect that they will be popular not just with locals.

They are taking advantage of the single market and hope people all over the EU will buy their potholes. To this end they provide the details of how to buy your own piece of Germany on their website in English.

Thanks to the marvels of the single market for banking services, helped along by Ireland’s former Commissioner Charlie McCreevy, you can pay your €50 into a German bank from the comfort of your own online banking as the Germans include their IBAN and BIC details also.

The municipality promise that when they are fixing the hole, they will put a badge on it with your name – or indeed any message that is fit to be placed on a road.

You can see an example of the very elegant badges on the website.

While you are on the website you can listen to the Schlagloch Song by local singer, Michael Altmann. He is late of the group, The Blind Chicken and broke up with them because he was tired of doing covers.

He believes in original material and says that the message of a song is at least as important as the music. So his first attempt to prove this is his single about the potholes surrounding his home village.

They don’t say what the badges will be made of – presumably some kind of metal or concrete, and they don’t say if the owner will be paid compensation if the pothole reappears.

Perhaps they will send you a photograph of your pothole, but then again you might want to inspect it for yourself. The village is picturesque, with the tree-lined river Gram flowing through it.

It was founded more than 1,100 years old and is an important place in the Grammetal region in the state of Thuringia, which was in the former East Germany.

Paving the streets with badges might well catch on, especially in Ireland where more than most other EU countries, money for maintenance over the next generation or two will be in short supply.

* To buy your own piece of Germany see the site: