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

Supporters of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a top candidate of the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) for the upcoming general election, holding posters reading "We love you".
Supporters of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a top candidate of the Christian Democratic Union Party (CDU) for the upcoming general election, holding posters reading "We love you". PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (AFP, Reuters, Bloomberg ) - Boring? What's boring? The punters may have already placed firm bets on Chancellor Angela Merkel to win her fourth term on Sunday (Sept 24), but Germany's general election is still turning up surprises for a campaign which seems lackluster when compared to colourful election campaigns in France, the UK, and the US.

Here are some highlights from Germany's election campaign.

Cook like the chancellor

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).

Mrs Merkel said she likes to use the potatoes she plants in her garden. The most powerful woman in the world is known for serving potato soup to her guests and her husband, Joachim Sauer. 

In the 2009 election campaign, Mrs Merkel told voters potato soup was one of her favourite meals along with roulade and red cabbage. Mrs Merkel is often spotted buying groceries at her local supermarket in Berlin, reported British press. 

Smiley and the #fedidwgugl hashtag

One of Merkel's top priorities is the digitisation of German industry. She has Facebook and Instagram accounts and has made efforts to show she is up on social media even if it sometimes comes across as clunky.

Asked about her favourite emoji during the YouTube interview, Merkel said it was a smiley: "If things are good, even one with a little heart," she joked.

In efforts to reach out to the young voters, Merkel has fielded questions from four YouTube video bloggers, attended Europe's biggest computer games convention and set up a walk-in campaign centre in Berlin's hip start-up district.

Her party has created a Twitter hashtag #fedidwgugl.

Rather than the result of a malfunctioning computer keyboard, it is an acronym for the CDU campaign slogan: 'Fuer ein Deutschland In Dem Wir Gut und Gern Leben' ('For a Germany in which we can live well and gladly'). 

There is also a picture of Merkel when she was a young girl for one of the party's campaign posters.

Playing favourites


 German Chancellor Angela Merkel attends a news conference with children at the Christian Democratic Union party (CDU) party election campaign meeting centre in Berlin, Germany, on Sept 17, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

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 unique press conference on Sunday.

Through 57 questions fired off by children, many aged under 12, we learnt that Merkel's favourite animals are "hedgehogs, elephants and hares", her favourite food is "spaghetti bolognese", and her favourite 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".

Diet like a poster boy


People walk past an election campaign poster for the upcoming general election showing the leader of Germany's Free Democratic Party (FDP) Christian Lindner in Berlin, Germany, on Sept 13, 2017.  PHOTO: REUTERS

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 kg, but was at least 10 cm 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 kg.

"I'm now 1.86 metres and weigh 80 kilos," said Lindner, whose campaign posters have also been turned into memes by social media users with slogans like "Every 11 seconds, a liberal falls in love with himself".

Even 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."

Naked ambition


Gregor Gysi, president of the Party of the European Left (Die Linke), speaks during the election campaign event in Dresden, Saxony, Germany, on Sept 11, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

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: "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 an otherwise highly oppressive society.

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

Beer price brakes


Visitors reach for the first mugs of beer during the opening day of the 184th Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, on Sept 16, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS   

Want a cap on beer prices or feel the urge to blame Russia for everything - from broken mobile phones to train delays and unpaid rent?

Then satirical outfit Die Partei (The Party) might be for you, after it made these promises, along with dismantling taxes, in its manifesto for its third attempt to win a seat in the Bundestag.

The party started in 2004 and founder Martin Sonneborn won a seat in the European Parliament in 2014 with absurdist slogans like "No to Europe, Yes to Europe".

Its candidate for chancellor, comedian Serdar Somuncu, has promised to rebuild the Berlin Wall with funds from east Germans, as well as orchestrate a fake coup in order to consolidate power.

With jibes against US President Donald Trump and Turkey's leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Die Partei lets voters decide whether to take it seriously.

Dance, dance, dance

Upstart Berlin party The Urban are seeking to draw votes through the love of hip-hop.

"It's not about screaming 'Yo!' or drawing graffiti on the party programme," said the party, calling itself a "global movement of emancipation" that seeks social justice and equality.

The Berlin-based "hip-hop party" says there's no difference between legal and illegal drugs. With 284 members, according to its website, it also wants an end to the "ideology that subjects people and the environment to a radical market economy".