My husband found this article this evening. It's like deja vu all over again!
A little background: For a little over 5 months (late February to early August) of 1993, I was an exchange student at Philipps-Universität Marburg, Germany. It was a wonderful time. Marburg (another page of links here) is a lovely little German university town. It's full of students during the term, so there's plenty of things to do - movies, theatre, nightclubs, shopping... but it's also not a huge city, so it's not overwhelming. It's surrounded by hills, so there's fresh air and trees (dare I even say.. woods?) to hike around in. The Lahn River runs through the town, and there's a bike path that follows the river. You can even rent boats and paddle around. It also has a good amount of traditional German charm. There's a 13th century gothic church, a fully functioning and delightful Altstadt, complete with a picturesque Schloß, Rathaus (city hall) and more than a couple Kneipen (taverns). I heartily recommend Der Hinkelstein, in the Altstadt.
But I digress. Back to the article. I swear to you, this is the God's Honest Truth. Whatever you do, don't cross the street against the light, especially if there's a small child nearby. To quote the fourth paragraph of the above-linked article:
First, never ever cross against red in front of an impressionable child. At best, you'll get a nasty look from most of the adults present -- visually incriminating you for tempting little Heidi or little Franz into certain violent death next time he or she attempts to cross the street alone. An apparently uninvolved bystander may take it upon him or herself to launch into an indignant tirade at your expense. At worst, you could even get a stern talking to from a morally superior five-year-old.
People, I have witnessed this. Standing at a street corner in Marburg on a Saturday afternoon: myself, a youngish woman (mother?) with a small child, a middle-age woman (who did not appear to be with the young woman & child), and a male in his late teens or early 20s. Not a car in sight. The young man looks both ways and quickly sprints across the street against the decree of the little red crosswalk man -- and damned if the middle-age woman didn't immediately start loudly yelling out at him, "Oh, aren't you a good example to the child! You should know better!" (a rough translation). She continued her tirade until he was surely out of earshot.
Luckily for me, I was never the recepient of this kind of public embarassment. I was warned by a new friend (the American student who lived across the hall from me) shortly after my arrival in Marburg to not tempt the Germans to disobey the little red crosswalk man.
Ah, fond memories. Like Monty Python films and Star Trek: TNG dubbed into German. And celebrating 4th of July with 3 Brits. And introducing non-Americans to our dizzying variety of Girl Scout cookies. And the effect of hitting an umlaut key on a German keyboard when you're using a Telnet application. But those are other stories.