Naughty Towns and Sin Cities

Have you also been wondering why some towns in Germany have to put a “Bad” before their name?

Well, this happens when a town misbehaves. If they are found to have done so, they need to put the “Bad” before their name on all signs and in all correspondence for three years. It actually happens more often than not.

Usually, the reason is that the municipality has overspent its budget, especially on frivolous things like a fun park with water slides or some huge museum in a small place, where there will never be enough visitors for the revenue to recover the investment. But they can also get pilloried like this if they failed to guarantee safe drinking water or didn’t act against industrial pollution. Or when a bridge collapses, although in that case, it depends whether it was a local bridge, a county bridge, a state bridge, a federal bridge or a railroad bridge. German federalism is famously complicated.

For three years, the town is then put under supervision of the respective state oversight authority

As a tourist, though, a city being branded a “bad city” shouldn’t dissuade you from visiting. This has nothing to do with the attractiveness of the city, let alone levels of crime or danger. Quite the contrary, many of those “bad” towns are really beautiful, as I recently experienced in Bad Münstereifel, Bad Mergentheim and Bad Kötzting.

Come to think of it, maybe those towns are often quite beautiful because they did overspend on frivolous things, like building parks and renovating their old towns?

I will soon be able to find out, as part of my quest to visit all geographical centers of Europe. Because one of these points, Mount Dyleň (Tillenberg) is on the Czech-German border, and the municipality on the German side is Neualbenreuth. Or Bad Neualbenreuth, as it has just been designated.

I wonder what they have done wrong. Hopefully, it wasn’t about tinkering with the border again.


About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a writer, a spy or a hobo.
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19 Responses to Naughty Towns and Sin Cities

  1. “Bad Sülze” is sweet. They must have been dishing out some very bad food.

  2. David says:

    There’s a very good apple liquor called Bad Apfel.

    And then there’s Applefeld’s ominous book, Badenheim 1939.

    • To my shame and chagrin, I have never heard of either.

      I shall look for one of them at the liquor store, the other one at the library.

    • David says:

      You can skip the liquor, but definitely get the book. It’s a chilling depiction – great insight into people’s state of mind as WWII began.

  3. David Baum says:

    Well, the Austrians seem to outdo you – they’ve got Baden bei Wien, which must be even worse than bad! (And I do hope that none of your readers are so ignorant of German to realise that you are joking!)

    • But then, Baden near Wien is outdone by the German town of – wait for it – Baden-Baden!

    • David Baum says:

      Baden-Baden – I love it! Sounds (in English) absolutely sinful!

    • It’s also the town where Dostoevsky lost all his money to gambling.

      Actually, quite a number of those sin cities have to do with gambling.
      Maybe that also leads to that “Bad” reprimand by the comptroller of state finances.

    • David says:

      And of course, the town of Baden is mentioned in The Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax, for all you Holmes fans out there.

  4. Tony Lea says:

    Had me going for a while thanks Me Google 😀.

    • I wouldn’t trust Google!

      After all, they have already been fined billions of dollars by courts for illegal behavior. I haven’t.

  5. nömix says:

    In Bad Hall students don’t live comfortably.

  6. ThingsHelenLoves says:

    I lived in a little town called Bad Lippspringe. It was quite lovely, apparently home to some magical water from a spring named after St Liborious ( local history was so sketchy on the actual connection and I’m not sure it wasn’t made up). Also home to some hale and hearty old people who never seemed to age and an old folks home that kept goats…but seemed to rotate them at an alarming rate. I think goat might have been on the menu.
    But, yeah. Nice enough place for a look if you’re ever in the area. Think most of the military Brits have left now so should be pretty quiet now!

    • Haha, that issue with the goats is really suspicious!
      Although having some animals at an old people’s home is a nice idea.

      I looked at some photos and it does look like a nice town indeed, as many of these “bad” towns do.
      But then, there is hardly an ugly town in Germany, I guess. Except Hagen maybe, where my university happens to be.

  7. Don Frazier says:

    Yes, a well-known fact. This is why I was so sad to hear my favorite has lost its designation, and is now called simply ‘Schpiritzingen.’

  8. Denzil says:

    So do all the nice German people move from these Bad places to somewhere like Gutenberg?

    • Haha! I hadn’t even thought of places like Gutenberg or Schönhausen as counter-examples.

      I think Germans almost never move, because it’s so terribly complicated to find a new apartment and get a rental contract in this country:
      So, people are stuck in those “Bad” towns, but I guess they take it with stride.

      The thing that really hurts them, I forgot to mention it in the article, is that their football clubs are also relegated to a lower division. Eintracht Bad Kreuznach was the last club to play in the second division in 1975/76. None of them would ever be allowed into the first division.

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