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Explaining customs from around the world

Q: I’ve noticed that in downtown Kaiserslautern, Germany, there are some colorful statues of fish located around the city. What’s up with that?

The fish are remnants of the city’s 725th anniversary celebration in 2001. During that time, some 200 brightly colored fish were placed around city plazas, in front of businesses and in pedestrian zones.

Officials in Kaiserslautern, which has a carp as its official city symbol, sold a basic version of recycled glass-fiber fishes for 1,400 German marks — about $650 — to merchants, schools, and sister-cities. Each decorated the fiberglass fish in their own way, including one near a church with a Biblical theme, a Mozart carp, and a flying fish. One was decorated by the U.S. Air Force in a plane motif.

The money that was raised for the so-called Fishing for Fantasy anniversary event was donated to charities.

Here’s another little tidbit of information about the city, which — along with its neighboring villages — is home to some 50,000 Americans connected to the U.S. military.

The city’s name stems in part from the German word "Kaiser," meaning "emperor" — referring to the former emperor Frederick I, who also is known as Barbarossa. The second part of the name comes from the small river "Lauter," which used to run in the city but has long since been diverted and drained.

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