Three decades after the demise of the GDR, its familiar contours keep coming back from the dead.
- East Germany has been dead for a little more than three decades.
- But the former GDR just keeps popping up on all kinds of maps.
- It's a sign that life in the east of Germany is still very different from the west.
Forgotten, but not gone<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDI2MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTUwMDc1NH0.tQUpgk37JGF1acCXHUeVM4xPm7UBOi0wQU8W7tVVli4/img.jpg?width=980" id="a8b01" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="3fd783aaf8d6e7c9b2134cfebcec62a2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bThe Berlin Wall in 1986, seen from West Berlin." data-width="2000" data-height="1500" />
The Berlin Wall in 1986, seen from West Berlin.
Credit: Noir, CC BY-SA 3.0<p>The GDR may be forgotten, but it's not gone. Apart from a shrinking handful of diehard nostalgics, nobody mourns the passing of the German Democratic Republic, as communist East Germany (1949-1990) was officially known. </p><p><span></span>It became such an exemplar of the chasm between the high ideals and grim reality of Soviet-style socialism that the regime literally had to fence in its citizens to keep them from running away. Up until the building of the Berlin Wall (1961), hundreds of East Germans each day 'voted with their feet', defecting to West Germany – decadent and capitalist, yes; hence also a lot more fun. </p><p>Inevitably, the fall of the Wall in 1989 was the death-knell for East Germany. We've just passed the 30th anniversary of German reunification, which came into effect on October 3, 1990. But after three decades of painful economic, political, and cultural adjustments, the ghost of East Germany lingers on the map. </p><p>Like secret messages that become visible under UV light, the contours of the GDR come out when you apply the right data filters. And not just once or twice. Again and again, we see the old (and to some, familiar) borders emerge. In other words, the German Democratic Republic is a map zombie. That's because life continues to be different in former East Germany – even if it's now just the east of Germany. </p><p>Below are some examples, selected from the Facebook group with the self-explanatory name: <em><a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/574393296263130" target="_blank">East Germany is discernibly visible on this relatable map</a></em>. <br></p>
The unhappy east<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDI3NC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxMTc3NjgwOH0.gEVNNfAvAPM23ezXM2hLUtphJ0ULVTU17VTjxBctM-U/img.jpg?width=980" id="c65f6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="d698a26b81588a95e16f3909e435f6d2" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bHappiness map of Germany. Can you spot the GDR?" data-width="900" data-height="600" />
Happiness map of Germany. Can you spot the GDR?
Credit: Facebook / ARD, infratest / welt.de<p>East Germans are less happy than their western compatriots. Out of a maximum of 10 on the happiness scale, most of the former GDR colors red (below 7.2), the rest orange (between 7.2 and 7.4). </p><p>In the west, few areas are orange and none are red. Most areas are yellow-happy (7.4 to 7.6), and light-green-happy (7.6 to 7.7). Southern Bavaria (dark green; 7.7 and up) is the happiest corner of Germany. </p>
Too bourgeois for the GDR?<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDI4MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDY2OTI4Mn0.49Mepq0wFMkaNco1ewd_LTAHbxXoUeD5i2y2xKm5BrE/img.jpg?width=980" id="b2622" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a0f160d58c39af3d263b400deed897b3" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Distribution of tennis courts in Germany." data-width="717" data-height="756" />
Game, set and match!
Credit: Facebook / Laura Edelbacher<p>In the old Soviet bloc, sports were a propaganda tool, and athletic excellence a way to prove the regime's supremacy on the world stage. </p><p>But apparently, tennis was not the right vehicle – perhaps the East German communists thought it too bourgeois. That would explain why there is such a marked difference between east and west when it comes to the distribution of tennis courts. </p>
Lower wages<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDI4NC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NDY3MDgyMH0.v0kPCG6wgKzrkAuRwTX7HKld03hcpyfzR-0Rkd6YpGc/img.png?width=980" id="ed32b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="83574934364788c0082e3aca9e109926" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="The average wage in Wolfsburg is double that as in the adjacent area in the former GDR." data-width="1600" data-height="1600" />
The average wage in Wolfsburg is double that as in the adjacent area in the former GDR.
Credit: Facebook / Katapult<p>Thirty years after reunification, Germany's economy remains unbalanced along familiar lines. This map shows the averages for gross monthly wages: below €3000 in red areas (below €2500 in dark red zones). Almost all of the light red areas are in the east, none of the dark red ones are in the west.</p><p>Tantalizingly, Germany's highest-earning area (Wolfsburg, €5089) is right on the former East German border, next to an area with half the average wages. Car aficionados will recognize the name of the city as the home of Volkswagen HQ and the world's largest car plant. </p>
Too many Ronnies<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDI5MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDY2ODM5MX0.AbcsORja8k8vfzar8Umkr38Pb-JNoi98xIwf1Jx_JnU/img.jpg?width=980" id="5eaef" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="a5f205b01d156c1503016d3a281be99e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bDemocratic Republic of Ronnyland." data-width="520" data-height="640" />
Democratic Republic of Ronnyland.
Credit: Facebook<p>Older British TV viewers will remember a comic duo called "The Two Ronnies." If they had been German comedians, their names would have immediately pegged them as <em>Ossis</em> (eastern Germans). </p><p>'Ronny' is as popular in the east as it isn't in the west. In the eastern German state of Saxony-Anhalt (the dark-blue area on the map), between 66 and 78 out of 10,000 Facebook users carry that first name. In the rest of the former GDR (the middle-blue area), it's 54 to 66. In almost all of western Germany, the rate is below 18. </p>
More public childcare<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDI5Ni9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTMxODc5MX0.NCcVJCD04tRjwXNejeI3ztx00nahPganNTk6n-FdET4/img.jpg?width=980" id="6efba" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="eac1ee4c3681d9469473dea16d6fb93c" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Credit: Facebook" data-width="541" data-height="696" />
In the east, more than half the kids under three attend publicly-funded daycare.
Credit: Facebook<p>The legacy of the communist past isn't all bad, it seems. Some collectivist traditions and provisions survive. Like more public childcare. This map shows the share of under-threes going to publicly-funded daycare centers: over 50 percent in most of the former GDR. <br></p>
Mosques vs. hazelnut spread<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDMwMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNDMwMTU3N30._QOaEuXR53VFUjNB1IajvOJaAp6VDuWbKmSk_27kU7U/img.jpg?width=980" id="2fc38" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c3e16b3366387933bc80821e25f41bd9" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bLike twins separated at birth, east and west developed fascinating differences." data-width="1950" data-height="1100" />
Like twins separated at birth, east and west developed fascinating differences.
Credit: Facebook<p>Like one of those sets of twins separated at birth, East and West Germany are a fascinating study in similarities and differences – some large, some small. The economic powerhouse that West Germany became needed foreign workers. Many came from Turkey, as evidenced by this map of mosques in Germany: only a handful are in the east.</p><p>In its decades alone, East Germany developed a range of household products, often barely disguised copies of western consumer goods. Many are on display in Berlin's <a href="https://www.ddr-museum.de/en" target="_blank">DDR Museum</a>. Nudossi, often dismissively called 'Ost-Nutella', is one of the rare brands that survived reunification. Perhaps that's because the spread contains 36 percent hazelnuts, almost three times the amount of actual Nutella (13 percent). Still, <em>Wessis</em> (western Germans) are clearly less keen on the stuff. <br></p>
Far left, far right<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDMxMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2NTUzNDQ3Nn0.Ic-7rSrEABpK-3s7KUYyVu_pNF7SpktdritO7aNqrvU/img.jpg?width=980" id="0f4f2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="dfd8ccc54555cc9cf8a455c58ce6bf1e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bVoting patterns in the east tend to be more eccentric in the east." data-width="895" data-height="528" />
Voting patterns in the east tend to be more eccentric in the east.
Credit: Facebook / GeoCurrents<p>Voting patterns in the east tend to be more eccentric in the east. The map on the left shows the results for the 2013 federal elections of <em>Die Linke </em>(the Left Party), which positions itself firmly to the left of the SPD, the mainstream social-democratic party. Die Linke garnered between 20 percent and a quarter of the votes right across the former GDR, and was nowhere near as successful anywhere else in Germany. <br></p><p>More recently, the right-wing populists of <em>Alternative für Deutschland </em>(AfD) have found a lot of support in the east. The undated map shows voting intentions for recent upcoming state elections. AfD is particularly strong in the south of the former GDR (26 percent in Saxony, 22 percent in Thuringia). Its highest score in the west is 11.6 percent in Baden-Württemberg. <br></p>
Catholic, Protestant and None<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDMxOC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY2MjAxNDQ2Nn0.2wAxKPMyOORSt8iDwRNz0vH4Kh0vJG8ZMpENlV4e4wY/img.jpg?width=980" id="d3ee4" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="e798ba47944ec0ffff3c9037341ff83b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200b'Nones' are the majority throughout East Germany." data-width="1843" data-height="2048" />
'Nones' are the majority throughout East Germany.
Credit: Facebook<p>Confessionally, Germany also remains a divided nation. This map shows which religion dominates where. Catholics predominate in the south and west (dark red: majority, light red: plurality). Protestants are a majority in the north and middle (dark blue), a plurality in the southwest (light blue). </p><p>East Germany is easily discernible: it's the part where the main religious affiliation is 'none'. That also includes the whole of Berlin (including the western half), plus the western cities of Hamburg and Frankfurt. <br></p>
Poor overall, but not poorest overall<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDMyMy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzOTUzNjA2Nn0.gLo4f36orZ-5Ba-0gtccNA7ecFuRqOeKyOmEFSOkDXU/img.jpg?width=980" id="9c75b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ba55b7f53e300c78c2a21c58ef83c83e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bThe western state of North Rhine-Westphalia has an ever higher poverty rate than the former GDR." data-width="960" data-height="532" />
The western state of North Rhine-Westphalia has an ever higher poverty rate than the former GDR.
Credit: Facebook / Tagesschau<p>The former GDR has a consistently high poverty rate: an average of 17.5 percent throughout all six <em>Länder</em> (states). But there's a silver lining, of sorts: the poverty rate is even higher in the western state of North Rhine-Westphalia (18.1 percent), which contains the <em>Ruhrgebiet</em>, a.k.a. Germany's Rust Belt. <br></p>
Slavic haplogroup<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDMyNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1NTkyMTM0MX0.CIRlbHO2xOsMOrVjCer17FdkS3E6gVkHsJZL_c5-Q4Y/img.jpg?width=980" id="9d82e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2c9632a6b8163853faac9cdcbb9b7ba7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bThe R1a haplogroup is a genetic marker associated with Slavic populations." data-width="602" data-height="641" />
The R1a haplogroup is a genetic marker associated with Slavic populations.
Credit: Facebook<p>The former border between East and West Germany mirrors a much older one: the western extent of the Slavic zone around the year 1000. This map shows the spread of the R1a haplogroup among locals.</p><p>This genetic marker is associated with Slavic populations. It is prevalent throughout the former GDR, particularly the south – and in eastern Austria, by the way. R1a 'islands' further west may be the result of more recent immigration waves, by Polish guest workers for example. <br></p>
Streetcars and streetlights<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk5MDMzMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0ODA4NzUxMn0.hGpLARyUcurqaPxspnIFbpMAKu9pAQs0JlpIkktz1C4/img.jpg?width=980" id="f7796" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="584ac4bdafe38cd0a0a63cf2d62e4f96" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bIn Berlin, the past is never dead. In fact, it's not even past." data-width="660" data-height="893" />
In Berlin, the past is never dead. In fact, it's not even past.
Credit: Facebook<p>And finally, two images that zoom in on Berlin. Now the reunified capital of a reunified country, before 1990 it was as divided as Germany itself. And that is still visible, if you know where to look. </p><p>At the map of Berlin's streetcars (<em>top</em>), for example. West Berlin never took the step to restore the pre-war streetcar network on its territory. East Berlin did. And that's still the case – with one exception: a single line was extended from the east to the west, a rare example of the west adopting anything 'eastern'.</p><p>When night falls, the division between east and west can still be seen from the sky. In the east, street lights use sodium vapor lamps, providing a warm orange glow. In the west, the lamps are fluorescent, resulting in a brighter yellow light. <br></p><p><br></p><p><em>All maps taken from the Facebook group </em><a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/574393296263130" target="_blank">East Germany is clearly visible on this relatable map</a><em>. Where possible, credit was given to the original content provider.</em></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1063</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>
For a purely binary choice, wearing a ring either on the left or right hand can say a lot about the wearer.
- Europeans are getting married less, but wearing a wedding ring is more standardised than ever.
- Standardised doesn't mean homogenised: some countries prefer rings on the left, others on the right.
- However, this map does not capture the range of subtleties that wearing a ring on either side can convey.
Remarkable variation<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODU2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3Mzk0NzE4Nn0.L4f0h4NRI5IKqJAZaHgzC1x2hNBKHMGMz_FnWbhqSTQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="8a6a6" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7c5c53ee027e14f0d0f2bf7c1b7d4579" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bWedding ring throwing a heart-shaped shadow on the pages of a dictionary." data-width="1952" data-height="1120" />
Wedding ring throwing a heart-shaped shadow on the pages of a dictionary.
Credit: Roger McLassus, CC BY-SA 3.0<p>Europeans <a href="https://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/statistics-explained/index.php/Marriage_and_divorce_statistics#Fewer_marriages.2C_more_divorces" target="_blank">are falling out of love with marriage</a>. Back in 1965, the <em>crude marriage rate</em> in the 27 countries now constituting the EU was 7.8 (per 1,000 persons per year). By 2017, that figure had almost halved, to 4.4. Over the same period, the <em>crude divorce rate</em> more than doubled, from 0.8 to 2.</p><p><span></span>Still, that means that in 2017, 3.8 million Europeans got married. Tied the knot. Put a ring on it. Which brings us to the question answered by this map: <em>on which finger</em>? The ring finger, of course. But<em> on which hand</em>? In the U.S., the consensus is: on the left. However, as this map shows, there is a remarkable variation in ring-wearing traditions across Europe. </p><p><span></span>According to this map, Europe is fairly evenly divided between countries where the wedding ring is worn on the left (in green), and those where the matrimonial band is worn on the right (in red). </p><p><span></span>Major left-wearing countries are the U.K., France, and Italy. </p><ul><li>Left-hand wedding rings are also <em>de rigueur</em> across the Nordics (Iceland, Sweden, Finland, Estonia),</li><li>in Central Europe (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova),</li><li>in the north-western Balkans (Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia)</li><li>and in a few other countries (Ireland, Portugal, Turkey, Switzerland, Kazakhstan).</li></ul><p>Russia, Germany, Poland, and Ukraine are the largest right-wearing countries.</p><ul><li>There's also a smattering of similarly minded countries in the west (Belgium, Denmark, Norway),</li><li>a corridor or right-wearers stretching from Germany to Cyprus (via Austria, Hungary, Serbia, Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Greece), </li><li>and a few former Soviet states continuing their alignment with Mother Russia (Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus and Georgia).</li></ul><p>Finally, Spain and the Netherlands have no uniform tradition, with left-wearers and right-wearers according to region or religion.<br></p>
The vein of love<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODU2OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNTg5NjQxM30.V74gNXCwgfcqrSAF9lqoxkndht5C6p8zUgyiVB4V3SU/img.jpg?width=980" id="023ec" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="79061dc63fb6c7134530557c0a0a9288" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="A map of wedding ring-wearing traditions in Europe." data-width="1080" data-height="749" />
A map of wedding ring-wearing traditions in Europe.
Credit: Reddit/MapPorn<p>Before we examine the difference, let's pause a while to contemplate a phenomenon so uniform–the wedding ring goes on the finger next to the pinkie–that we've even named the digit after it. </p><p><span></span>Wearing a ring as a visible sign of the wearer's married status is a tradition that goes back to the ancient Egyptians. They believed a 'vein of love' connected the pinkie's neighbor straight to the heart. That belief was taken over by the Greeks and the Romans (who called it the <em>vena amoris</em>). Hence the tradition for wearing the wedding ring on the 'ring finger'. (1)</p><p><span></span>That tradition was not uniform, though: some early Celtic peoples wore their wedding ring on the middle finger, while in 17th-century England it was not uncommon to wear it on the thumb. </p><p><span></span>Also non-traditional: <em>men</em> wearing wedding rings. In many cultures, only women wore wedding rings. In Germany, for example, the custom for both parties each to wear a ring only became general in the second half of the 19th century. Male wedding rings took off in the UK and other English-speaking countries only during (and because of) the First and Second World Wars. The men away on military duty started wearing rings to remind them of their wife at home.</p><p>So, even as weddings themselves are on a slow decline, the wearing of wedding rings has become a standardised aspect of the married state. Except for that difference between the left and right hand. </p><p>That difference is more difficult to explain, apparently quite resistant to standardisation and, as evidenced by the reaction generated by this map, also more subtle than the various shadings it proposes. <br></p>
Closer to the heart<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDk0ODU3MC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MDUxOTc1M30.QPS7a-T0pGaXAkap5YhjfttQxr6JJIPYpjE-XO0afVk/img.jpg?width=980" id="eed98" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="647087f368f2fd858431ff8b4140dfc7" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Edouard Manet: In the Conservatory." data-width="1280" data-height="979" />
Mr and Mrs Guillemet, a 19th-century Parisian couple, wearing their wedding rings on the left hand, as is still the custom in France.
Credit: Edouard Manet: 'Dans la serre' (1878-9) – Public Domain<p>Why wear the wedding ring left or right? The difference seems to be merely based on precedent – although some arguments can be found for either option.</p><ul><li>Wearing the ring on the left means it's closer to the heart. Also, this has slight advantages in terms of safety and convenience, if the wearer belongs to the right-handed majority.</li><li>Wearing the ring on the right is relevant because it's the side you shake hands with, so people will be able to tell whether you're married. Also, the right hand is the more important hand, because it's the one you swear with.</li></ul><p>In some European traditions, including many Orthodox ones, the wedding ring is worn on the left hand before marriage, then transferred to the right hand during the ceremony. In Turkey, it's generally the other way around. </p><p>In others, a relatively plain engagement ring is worn on one hand before marriage, replaced by a more ornate wedding ring on the other hand after marriage. However, in the U.K. (and possibly elsewhere), some people 'stack' the rings, wearing the engagement ring over the wedding ring, both on the left ring finger. </p><p>As for the mixed countries: in Spain, the difference is regional, while in the Netherlands it is religious. </p><ul><li>In Spain, wedding rings are generally worn on the right, except in Catalonia and adjacent regions, such as Valencia and the Balearic Islands.</li><li>In the Netherlands, Protestants wear their wedding ring on the right, while Catholics wear it on their left. However, engaged Protestants would have a ring on the left hand, moving it to the right when marrying. Prompting <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/gjv3bt/ring_finger_preference_in_europe/fqoyowl/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3" target="_blank">one commenter </a>on Reddit to exasperate: <em>"Then how do you tell an engaged Protestant from a married Catholic? Holy hell. The taste?"</em></li></ul><p>A few other countries should have been shaded as well, other commenters pointed out, at least Austria, Belgium, and Bosnia.</p><ul><li>While many Belgian married couples wear their ring on the left, in some regions (including Antwerp and Brabant provinces) it's worn on the right. In yet parts of the country, the custom varies from town to town.</li><li>Contrary to the rest of Austria, in the state of Tyrol, engagement rings are worn on the right, wedding rings on the left.</li></ul>Other countries should be marked in the other color, some commenters with lived experience point out: Bulgaria and Georgia are left-handed countries, Turkey and Kazakhstan right-handed ones. Although one witness claims Turkish women wear their rings on the left, while their husbands wear theirs on the right. Poland does wear its wedding rings on the right, except if you're a widow(er), in which case you wear your ring on the left to indicate your bereaved status.Who knew you could say so much by just where you wear your ring? <p><br></p><p><em>Map found <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/gjv3bt/ring_finger_preference_in_europe/" target="_blank">here</a> at <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/" target="_blank">MapPorn</a> on <a href="https://www.reddit.com/" target="_blank">Reddit</a>.</em></p> <strong>Strange Maps #1061</strong><p><br><br><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a>.</p><p><br></p><p>(1) Curiously, the ring finger is known as the 'unnamed' one in languages as diverse as Sanskrit (<em>a</em><em>namika</em>), Chinese (<em>wúmíng zhǐ</em>), Finnish (<em>nimetön sormi</em>) and Russian (<em>bezimyanniy palets</em>), which may refer to ancient beliefs that it is a magical finger. However, the name 'ring finger' goes back at least until the Romans (<em>digitus annularis</em>). In German, because of its association with golden wedding bands, it is also called <em>Goldfinger</em>.</p>
Anastasia lives alone in perfect harmony with nature – or so the story goes – and nature serves her devotedly.
Why not just divide the United States in slices of equal population?
- Slicing up the country in 10 strips of equal population produces two bizarre maps.
- Seattle is the biggest city in the emptiest longitudinal band, San Antonio rules the largest north-south slice.
- Curiously, six cities are the 'capitals' of both their horizontal and vertical deciles.
Sweeping re-alignments<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTAwOC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMzU3ODA1NH0.u_5xakBvkYwgPtiwLU3z-1e082hBeqwS4Rl1uiJqdF4/img.png?width=980" id="23ff1" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="24a5b6ec251a11f3ed7aaefc205dde17" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Printed in March 1812, this political cartoon was drawn in reaction to the newly drawn state senate election district of South Essex created by the Massachusetts legislature to favor the Democratic-Republican Party candidates of Governor Elbridge Gerry over the Federalists. The caricature satirizes the bizarre shape of a district in Essex County, Massachusetts, as a dragon-like "monster". Federalist newspaper editors and others at the time likened the district shape to a salamander, and the word gerrymander was a portmanteau of that word and Governor Gerry's last name." data-width="1764" data-height="1847" />
The original cartoon of the 'Gerry-Mander', published in 1812 in the Boston Centinel.
Image: Elkanah Tisdale (1771-1835), Public Domain.<p>One way for a political party to manipulate the outcome of elections is to 'gerrymander' electoral districts: manipulate their boundaries to increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome (see also #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/53-ever-been-ger..." target="_blank">53</a>).</p><p><span></span>The term is almost as old as the United States itself, and the practice continues to disfigure the electoral map to this day. Perhaps these maps can serve as the inspiration for a radical solution. </p><p><span></span>They show the contiguous United States (i.e. without Alaska and Hawaii) sliced latitudinally and longitudinally into ten straight-bordered bands of varying size, so that each contains exactly 10 percent of the population. </p><p><span></span>Although certainly not intended as a reflection on electoral redistricting, it's tempting to see these sweeping re-alignments of the U.S. as a suggestion with some potential in that direction. </p>
United Strips of America<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTA4MS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NzE1MjQ1MX0.WpISo-g15B5O3qXbHXHf-7lQtAainpO7zPuizXWFOGs/img.jpg?width=980" id="d6656" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="72ed7c905283f9979ec0f82d451ad261" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Reddit user curiouskip used U.S. Census population data to divide the 'Lower 48' into deciles (ten equal parts), each representing about 30.8 million people. Each decile is consigned its most populous city as 'capital'." data-width="1243" data-height="1451" />
The contiguous United States, divided into horizontal and vertical deciles.
Image: u/curiouskip, reproduced with kind permission.<p>Reddit user curiouskip used U.S. Census population data to divide the 'Lower 48' into deciles (ten equal parts), each representing about 30.8 million people. Each decile is consigned its most populous city as 'capital'.</p><p><span></span>Looking at the top map, which divides the U.S. into 10 longitudinal strips, we see</p><ul><li>Seattle rules the northernmost slice of territory. It is the broadest, and therefore also the emptiest one.</li><li>The Chicago, Omaha, New York City and Indianapolis strips complete the northern half of the country. And indeed: 50 percent of the population occupies roughly one half of the country, from north to south.</li><li>The dividing line between the top and bottom halves of the country runs from just north of the San Francisco Bay to halfway across the Delmarva Peninsula.</li><li>Capital cities of the southern strips are San Jose, Charlotte, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Houston.</li><li>The Houston Strip is divided into two non-contiguous areas. Florida maintains its panhandle, albeit much reduced. </li></ul><p>The bottom map shows the U.S. divided latitudinally into 10 bands of equal population. </p><ul><li>San Jose and Los Angeles both retain their capital status, this time of the two westernmost strips.</li><li>San Antonio is the main city of the Big Empty, more than twice as wide as the second-broadest band.</li><li>The dividing line between America's eastern and western half, population-wise, is far off-center: it skirts the eastern edge of Chicago, making the western half much bigger than the eastern one.</li><li>Houston, Chicago, and Indianapolis also remain the largest cities in their respective bands.</li><li>Further east, Jacksonville and Philadelphia get to rule over their strip of America, while Charlotte and New York City keep winning, both vertically and horizontally.</li></ul><p>Redistricting a country into zones of equal population – and that being your only criterium – will create districts that are randomly diverse, and perhaps also, at least in this case, unmanageably large. </p><p>However, mixing up the political map with a bunch of straight lines as the only instrument is something that has been considered before. Usually, the objective is the wholesale removal of age-old divisions. <br></p>
Perfectly square departments<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTEzOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY3MjQ5NTIwOH0.2WuW2G7CbiZrcU7RCA_Wp4bRMxc1wOD3fZ76NFO9fjM/img.jpg?width=980" id="7a665" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5b81a43e785997bb1f11f72548659a9f" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bCh\u00e2ssis figuratif du territoire de la France partag\u00e9 en divisions \u00e9gales entre elles, proposition annex\u00e9e au rapport du 29 septembre 1789 \u00e0 l'Assembl\u00e9e nationale de la commission dite Siey\u00e8s-Thouret" data-width="1338" data-height="1287" />
France divided into 80-odd geometrical departments: failed proposal by Jacques-Guillaume Thouret (1790).
Image: Centre historique des Archives nationales – Atelier de photographie; public domain.
European Pie<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTQ0Ny9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNTE5NDE3OX0.dPcY1tkO7nwkx6IX98Sleh7AmBpDnwlcJLfC_Z-WBlY/img.jpg?width=980" id="b35d7" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="84509a9425e13c0dd8fbe00df28a197e" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" data-width="2368" data-height="1795" />
In this rather outlandish proposal, continental Europe's 24 cantons center on Vienna.
Image: PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Maps, Cornell University.<p>And in 1920, an anonymous author – possibly the Austrian P.A. Maas – proposed slicing up Post-World-War-I Europe as a pie, into 24 slices that would center on Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral. Each of those slices would be made up of a wide and random variety of linguistic, ethnic, and religious groups – and that would be the point: the better to unite them all into one massive superstate (see also #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/a-bizarre-peace-proposal-slice-europe-up-like-a-pie" target="_blank">851</a>).</p><p>Needless to say, both plans never left the drawing board. Would a proposal for the longitudinal and/or latitudinal redistricting of the U.S. have more traction? <br></p>
Coast-to-coast precedents<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDYwMTIwOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MDM2OTE0OX0.52UjcA_YD9Y9UB9_hoSctI_xBrRDALZ2DRLkIo9a8RM/img.jpg?width=980" id="10784" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="1999808ea21e11162fdb9181c3912753" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Illustration of the Connecticut Charter boundary, 1662" data-width="612" data-height="387" />
Putting the 'connect' into Connecticut: the Nutmeg State extending from the Pacific to the Atlantic.
Image: Connecticuthistory.org<p>Well, for one, coast-to-coast polities have some pedigree in America's past: some of the first colonies had claims that extended from the Atlantic all the way to the Pacific. </p><p>If history had gone entirely the way Connecticut would have wanted, the state would include such inland cities as Detroit, Chicago, and Salt Lake City, and extended to what is now the northern part of California.</p><p>Is such geopolitical weirdness reasonable or feasible today? Absolutely not. But in its randomness, would it be it as unfair as gerrymandering? </p><p><em><br></em></p><p><em>Decile maps of the contiguous United States reproduced with kind permission by u/curiouskip; found <a href="https://www.reddit.com/r/dataisbeautiful/comments/ijyn7p/oc_us_population_deciles_by_latitude_and_longitude/" target="_blank">here</a> on <a href="https://www.reddit.com/" target="_blank">Reddit</a>.<br></em></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1054</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>
This graph shows how badly German cities were hit by Allied bombing raids.
- Despite Göring's assurances they wouldn't get through, Allied bombers rained destruction on Germany in World War II.
- This 1947 map takes stock of the devastation: Berlin and Hamburg half destroyed, some smaller cities wiped out.
- The history of the air war over Germany is a chilling reminder of the peculiar horror of mechanized warfare.
Demoralising the enemy<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUwNDgxNy9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyMjkwMTYxOH0.oT0mBChYzSOzlqWF0lNw0dVaUu2Jo-m6mcF-V3jwdVw/img.jpg?width=980" id="6adf8" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5946ce4493af1510ab5458b57a3f3d1b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bAerial view of Cologne cathedral, relatively unscathed amid the ruins of the city." data-width="1290" data-height="996" />
Aerial view of Cologne cathedral, relatively unscathed amid the ruins of the city. Bottom left: the train station. Top left: the Rhine.
Image: Royal Air Force (1944), public domain.<p>"If just one English bomber reaches the Ruhr, my name is no longer Hermann Göring, but Hermann Meier," the <em>Luftwaffe</em> commander boasted in August 1939. </p><p><span></span>Over the following five and a half years, millions of Germans cursed 'Hermann Meier' as Allied bombing churned up city after German city. The air raid sirens that announced yet another wave of British or American bombers were nicknamed, with vicious relish, 'Meier trumpets'. </p><p><span></span>On this map of Germany, drawn up in 1947, black pie slices indicate how much of each city was flattened in the war—mostly by aerial bombardments. It reflects the dizzying scale of destruction in Germany, a fact not often dwelled upon in histories of the Second World War. Understandable, since Germany started it—both the war and bombing civilians—the overall sentiment is: They had it coming. </p><p><span></span>The history of the air war is nevertheless instructive, for it shows the special kind of hell that is mechanized warfare. As in earlier wars, both sides became inured to slaughter as the fighting dragged on. But in modern conflicts like WWII, science and industry drive a frantic arms race to make the killing ever more efficient. </p><p><span></span>Before the war, targeting civilians was considered off-limits. But as the fighting started, moral compasses soon went haywire. Under the guise of 'demoralizing the enemy', killing large numbers of civilians became an accepted military objective. The Germans blitzed Warsaw in September 1939, Rotterdam in May 1940, and London soon thereafter. By early 1941, the German air war on Britain had claimed 41,000 lives and caused widespread destruction. London lost more than a million buildings in the war; the center of Coventry was wiped out in one night; and 95 percent of houses in Hull were damaged or destroyed. </p><p><span></span>The Royal Air Force retaliated, but its main strategy remained: Precision bombardments on strategic targets – industrial sites, rail and road infrastructure and the like. Then came the Butt Report (sic). Published in August 1941, it revealed that only one in three RAF bombers that managed to drop their payload over Germany did so within 5 miles (8 km) of its target. That shocking statistic eventually led to a change of strategy: In February 1942, under the new leadership of air marshal Richard Harris, RAF Bomber Command switched to 'area bombing' a.k.a. carpet bombing. Harris' tenacious pursuit of the new strategy, sometimes in the face of contrary evidence, would earn him the nicknames "Bomber Harris" and "Butcher Harris".</p>
Destroying 25,000 houses per month<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUwNDgyOS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMDY2NjY1OH0.HaqwLoaDpK4Mm7ot2vHQzV-KbVVY6UKrtdDFJPJWXdw/img.jpg?width=980" id="dc3ad" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ae7216d52acc67bc3a8673c63c05d020" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="G.W. Harmssen, Reparationen, Sozialprodukt, Lebensstandard (1947)," data-width="1078" data-height="1401" />
The destruction is concentrated in the industrial cities in the west and the largest cities throughout the country.
Image: G.W. Harmssen, Reparationen, Sozialprodukt, Lebensstandard (1947), in Deutsche Geschichte in Dokumenten und Bildern.<p>Cologne was the first major German city to get 'area bombed': On the night of May 30, 1942, over 1,000 RAF aircraft dropped around 1,500 tons of bombs, causing large-scale destruction and over 2,000 large fires. Over the course of that year, many other German cities would get the carpet treatment during RAF night raids. From January 1943, the USAF joined in, with daylight raids.</p><p>The air war over Germany turned increasingly deadly—both for the Allied crews in the skies and the German civilians on the ground. By the spring of 1943, less than 20 percent of RAF airmen made it alive to the end of a 30-mission tour.</p><p>Throughout 1943 into early 1944, the three major operations of the air war were:</p><ul><li>the Battle of the Ruhr (March to July 1943): Targeting the major cities of this industrial heartland;</li><li>Operation Gomorrah (July 24 to August 3, 1943): The round-the-clock bombing of Hamburg, aimed at its total destruction (see also #<a href="https://bigthink.com/strange-maps/hamburg-bombing-camouflage" target="_blank">1015</a>); and</li><li>the Battle of Berlin (November 1943 to March 1944): Destroying the industrial muscle of the German capital.</li></ul><p>In the first half of 1944, the air war seemed to trail off; but as the ground war neared its end, the aerial campaign intensified as never before:<br></p><ul><li>from March 1943 to January 1944, Allied air raids destroyed on average 15,000 housing units per month in Germany;</li><li>from February 1944 to June 1944, that average fell to about 9,500 houses per month;</li><li>but from July 1944 to January 1945, it shot up to just over 25,000 units per month.</li></ul><p>By the end of the war, technical advances and operational expertise allowed the Allies to increase the destructiveness of their air raids. In the night of February 1945, a single attack sufficed to create a firestorm that destroyed 90 percent of the inner city of Dresden. </p><p>Göring/Meier's <em>Luftwaffe </em>having largely been eliminated, the RAF and US Air Force sought to maximize the advantage of their air supremacy. That's why 60 percent of all Allied bombs dropped on Germany fell in the last nine months of the war, in a massive effort to break German resistance, shorten the war and save Allied lives.</p><p>Could that apocalypse have been avoided? German historian Klaus von Beyme once mused: "If the Putsch of 20 July 1944 [Stauffenberg's failed assassination of Hitler] had been successful and resulted in a peace treaty, Germany's cities would have been spared 72% of all bombs that were to fall by war's end." That's a big <em>What if</em>, because it assumes the Allies by mid-1944 would have been content with something less than unconditional surrender, even from a Germany without Hitler.</p>
14 billion cubic feet of rubble<img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUwNDg0OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzIzMDk3NX0.m0hct-8_a1t0MKkmrrgaYXWxHKbKR9mqYTJvZjyILzQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="13bc0" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="85d335b78426af3b7754e108f3c3ba77" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="\u200bAir raid on Koblenz on 19 September 1944 by the 447th Bombardment Group of the US Air Force." data-width="1176" data-height="811" />
Air raid on Koblenz on 19 September 1944 by the 447th Bombardment Group of the US Air Force.
Image: USAF (1944), public domain<p>In the real world, the wheels of destruction kept turning until May 8, 1945, when Germany did surrender unconditionally. Eventually, the air war claimed the lives of about 600,000 Germans. When the time came to take stock of the destruction, this is what the shell-shocked survivors found.</p><ul><li>The war had destroyed 4.8 million housing units. As a result, 13 million Germans were homeless. And there was 400 million cubic meters (14 billion cubic feet) of rubble to clear.</li><li>The degree of destruction varied regionally. In East Germany, 9.4 percent of pre-war housing was destroyed. In West Germany, the figure was 18.5 percent.</li><li>At state level, the distinction is even starker: in Thuringia, only 3 percent of houses were destroyed. In North Rhine-Westphalia, it was close to 25 percent—and even more in the industrial heartland of the state.</li><li>Of the 54 largest cities (>100,000 inhabitants) in Germany, only four survived without significant damage: Lübeck, Wiesbaden, Halle and Erfurt. Worst hit was Würzburg (75 percent destroyed), followed by Dessau, Kassel, Mainz and Hamburg.</li><li>Over 70 percent of the largest cities had their urban core destroyed. Worst cases: Dresden, Cologne, Essen, Dortmund, Hanover, Nuremberg, Chemnitz.</li><li>Of the 151 medium-sized cities (25,000-100,000), about a third lost at least 20 percent of their housing stock. In Bavaria, Thuringia and Saxony, most medium-sized cities managed to make it through the war with little or no damage. </li></ul><p>In Germany, the end of WWII was <em>Stunde Null</em> ('Zero Hour'). Everything had to be built up from the ground, both literally—the cities—and figuratively—civil society and democratic institutions. </p><p>Some cities chose to rebuild the past, reconstructing ancient buildings and street patterns. Others opted for modernity and functionality, often with an urban layout centered around the car, as in American cities. In many cases, however, the destruction was so complete that no effort to rebuild could erase the void that the air war had created—a void that haunts many German city centers to this day. <br></p><p><strong><br></strong></p><p><strong>Strange Maps #1051</strong></p><p><em>Got a strange map? Let me know at </em><a href="mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org">email@example.com</a><em>.</em></p>