Thursday, 20 December 2012

Nähmaschienen, Stralsund

While many ghost signs are found on not-so-well maintained or derelict buildings, it is not uncommon in Germany to find some on recently restored properties (even if more often than not ghost signs disappear completely when a restoration is undertaken, as happened with the optician sign in Eibenstock last year). The combination of new roughcast and fading paint may look odd at first sight but the presence of a ghost sign definitely adds a nice touch to what is often a rather plain façade. Are these ghost signs in some way legally protected? Unless a building is listed or is in the equivalent of a conservation area, I would not think so. I'd rather think they are preserved because the buildings' owners are attached to them. As properties are often passed from one generation to the next, these ghost signs are very much part of the history of a family. Some may also consider they add some character, and value, to their property.

Whatever the reason was, visitors to the Hanseatic city of Stralsund on the Baltic Sea can still notice that a shop that sold sewing machines once stood at the corner of Papenstraße and Filterstraße.

Nähmaschienen (Sewing Machines]

The spelling Maschiene, instead of the correct Maschine, is interesting. The word was borrowed in the 17th century from the French, machine, and Germanised with the addition of a 's' before the 'c'. By then it referred to engines used during a military siege. But where does the additional 'e' come from? One possibility is that, in parts of what would become Germany, it was inserted so the spelling corresponded to the correct pronounciation (with a long 'i'). Another, more fanciful explanation is that the word lost its purely military sense and became widely used when steam locomotives (Dampfmaschinen) appeared. As these machines go on rails (Schienen), some people erroneously combined the two into Maschienen.

Finally, this was not the only ghost sign there. Traces of an earlier one can still be seen but it is impossible to decipher it.

Location: Papenstraße, Stralsund, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern / Picture taken in May 2009

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