Posts Tagged ‘Cornerhugging Nante’

Corner hugging Nante – Eckensteher Nante

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

“Corner hugging Nante (Eckensteher Nante in German),” along with painter Heinrich Zille ( and street singer “Harfenjule”, were Berlin archetypes of the 19th and early 20th century. Each is credited with a good dose of the legendary spirit, so unique to the Berliner character: Big heart and big mouth. These Berlin originals were good-natured, quick-witted, exceedingly self-confident, flippant, and sometimes even a little coarse. They came from all walks of life and commented on life around them with the appropriate joke. The figure of Nante became a timeless classic on account of Adolf Glassbrenner’s folksy theater piece, “Eckensteher Nante im Verhoer (The Interrogation of Corner hugging Nante), which premiered in 1833.

Corner hugging Nante

The real name of the historic Eckensteher Nante was Ferdinand ‘Nante’ Strumpf. He was born in 1803, had little education and performed casual work when he ran out of beer money. Once he had earned enough change, he headed for the nearby distillery Eulner. It is said that Corner hugging Nante spent more time in the distillery than at work. To earn beer money, Nante positioned himself on Berlin’s ritzy boulevard, Unter den Linden (then called Koenigstrasse – King Street) and waited for an opportunity to make himself useful. He always stood in the same spot at the corner of Koenigstrasse and Neue Friedrichstrasse. With a strap slung over his shoulder to carry heavy loads, Nante usually stood resting against a post or house wall. For a few pennies, he offered to carry the purchases or luggage of well-to-do passers-by. But don’t think that Corner hugging Nante was loitering. Not at all. He was duly registered as a serviceman with the Berlin police department and wore an official brass armband that identified him as work permit holder number 22. Standing there, waiting, Nante made fun of the world around him. With typical Prussian humor, he commented on the hustle and bustle on the streets of Berlin. His earthy sayings were characterized by sarcasm, a distrust of “those above” and delivered in the grammatical style that is unique to Berlin. Over time, his cheeky proverbs became literary legend.

The archetype of the Berliner

According to “Meyers Konversations-Lexikon des 19. Jahrhunderts” 37 percent of the inhabitants of Berlin during Nante’s time had Germanic origins, 39 percent had Romanesque roots and 24 percent had Slavic blood. This mix and the prevailing circumstances evolved over time into an archetype that pooled the good and the bad qualities of the different nationalities, races and tribes. It resulted in a character that combined the toughness, endurance and obstinacy of their Germanic ancestors; the courage, laissez-faire spirit and hot-bloodedness of the French; and the quick grasp, language skills and moodiness of the Slavs. This mix made the Berliner good-natured and capable of great sacrifices. It also made him short-tempered and opinionated. Above all, it spawned the dry Berlin humor.

Nante Eck

If you wish to catch a bit of the spirit of Eckensteher Nante, drop by the Nante Eck on Unter den Linden at the corner of Friedrichstrasse. This Old-Berlin Restaurant serves traditional German food and offers plenty of ambiance. A statue of Corner hugging Nante greets you outside.

ckensteher Nante (Corner hugging Nante) in front of Nante Eck, Berlin © Photo by J. Elke Ertle. 2014

Eckensteher Nante (Corner hugging Nante) in front of Nante Eck, Berlin
© Photo by J. Elke Ertle, 2014


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