Merkel soup, beer and nudism: When Germany's election got weird

The punters may have already placed firm bets on Chancellor Angela Merkel to win her fourth term on Sunday, but Germany’s general election is still turning up surprises.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (R) poses for a selfie photo with a boy before addressing an election campaign rally of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) in Kappeln, northern Germany on September 20, 2017, during the final days before Germans head to the polls. 

The punters may have already placed firm bets on Chancellor Angela Merkel to win her fourth term on Sunday, but Germany’s general election is still turning up surprises.

Eight years after she revealed that she can whip up a “really good potato soup,” Merkel has finally disclosed her recipe.

“I always pound the potatoes with a potato masher, not a blender,” Europe’s most powerful woman told Bunte magazine in August.

“Then there’ll always be a few lumps left,” said Merkel, known affectionately to Germans as “Mutti” (Mummy).

She has had heated exchanges with political opponents, fielded thousands of questions from journalists, but never has Merkel revealed so much about herself as she did in a press conference on Sunday.

Through 57 questions fired off by children, many aged under 12, we learned that Merkel’s favorite animals are “hedgehogs, elephants and hares”, the food she likes most is “spaghetti bolognese,” and her preferred hobby is “growing potatoes.”

She prefers to dress in a “nice cardigan” and “very comfortable shoes” and would have liked to be an “astronaut flying over the Earth.”

The leader of the liberal Free Democratic Party, Christian Lindner, whose moody black-and-white campaign posters have been compared to Calvin Klein advertisements (or mocked as promotions for dating websites), has revealed how he fought teenage flab.

“At 14, I weighed almost 100 kilos, but was at least 10 centimeters smaller than today,” the 38-year-old told newspaper Bild am Sonntag.

After a strict regimen of jogging in forests and a radical crispbread diet, Lindner said he shed 30 kilos.

“I’m now 1.86 meters and weigh 80 kilos,” said Lindner, whose campaign posters have been mocked by social media users.

Social Democratic Party candidate Martin Schulz, Merkel’s main rival, joined in poking fun at Lindner’s campaign posters, saying “he is always looking down in such a funny way on the posters. Almost like he is ashamed. That can be somewhat understandable, when one is being photographed in his undershirt.”

Far-left Linke candidate Gregor Gysi has bemoaned the demise of nudism in Germany and is campaigning for its revival, he told Playboy magazine in August.

“I’ll check with our local politicians to see if they are offering nudism in their localities,” he told the Bild daily, complaining that naturists were increasingly under threat.

But when asked if he would shed his clothes to sunbathe by a Berlin lake, Gysi said, adding there are limits to everything. “If at all, nudism would only take place for me at home.”

The nudist movement known in German as “FKK” — short for Frei-Koerper-Kultur or free body culture — was especially popular in former communist East Germany, where people celebrated it as a rare expression of personal liberty in a highly oppressive society.

Beaches along the northern coast of Germany still offer “FKK areas.”

Want a cap on beer prices or feel the urge to blame Russia for everything, then the satirical outfit Die Partei (The Party) might be for you.

The party started in 2004 and its candidate for chancellor, comedian Serdar Somuncu, has pledged to rebuild the Berlin Wall with funds from east Germans.

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