The city of Bielefeld in Germany will grant $1.1 million to the first person who can present "incontrovertible evidence" that the city is not real, as part of a long-running joke that began in 1993.
The existence of Biefeld, located about 100 miles from Hanover, has been the end of a joke for over two decades after a college student wrote about meeting someone from the German city. Newsweek says the surprised student reportedly told the man "Das gibt's doch gar nicht," which colloquially translates to "there's nothing there," but has a literal translation of "that doesn't exist."
Since then, the post became an early meme and led to numerous jokes that revolve around the city's fictional status. It became a topic of the national conversation by 1999 and town leaders released a press release on April Fool's Day that confirmed Bielefeld's existence.
|The city of Bielefeld, Germany / Photo by: Waldemar Milz and Getty Images via Newsweek|
Chancellor Angela Merkel, during a speech in 2012, even mentioned a meeting she recently attended in the city, adding "...if it even exists."
"Bielefeld doesn't exist' is a great opener for a conversation," said Bielefeld mayor Pit Clausen at the city's 800th foundation in 2014.
"It gives me the opportunity to talk about how beautiful, how wonderful our city is; about what's going on here and naturally beat the drum for our city so people can hear, and if this opener didn't exist we'd have to come up with one ourselves."
There are a number of theories to explain the so-called "Bielefeld conspiracy." One of the most popular involves a skeptical organization known as SIE (which translates to "they" in German) that maintain the illusion of a city for heinous purposes. Other theories say it is a hoax perpetrated by Israel's Mossad, the CIA, and aliens that are operating out of Bielefeld University.
|100 euros / Photo by: jojooff via Pixabay|
In establishing the city's nature, there are three questions that pranksters ask "initiates:"
1. Do you know anyone from Bielefeld?
2. Have you ever been to Bielefeld?
3. Do you know anybody who has ever been to Bielefeld?
According to Newsweek, those who answered "yes" to any of the questions are accused of taking part in the "conspiracy." Jokes aside, Bielefeld does exist and it is Germany's 18th largest city with a population of over 340,000 people.
|German Chancellor Angela Merkel / Photo by: World Economic Forum via Wikimedia Commons|