In certain spots in the old city of Mainz, as well as the University, the pedestrian traffic lights show a charming little man wearing a pointy cap telling you to go or wait. His name is Det, and he is a one of Germany’s beloved Mainzelmännchen cartoon characters.
Created in 1963 by the graphic artist Wolf Gerlach, the Mainzelmännchen, or Little Mainz Men, are the mascots of German public broadcaster ZDF, which is headquartered Mainz. There are six Mainzelmännchen: Anton, Berti, Conni, Det, Edi and Fritzchen. The name and concept is derived from the Heinzelmännchen, a kind of gnome from the folklore of nearby Cologne.
The Mainzelmännchen appear in short, three- to six-second skits during German television shows and movies. Originally, this was a method to comply with German advertising regulations, as broadcasters must clearly mark ‘WERBUNG’ to inform viewers that product advertisement was starting or ending. Each cartoon has a single gag presented visually or in a pantomime.
The traffic lights in were put in place in 2013 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Mainzelmännchen, as a monument to the beloved characters. Initially the lights were just in a few locations in the center of Mainz, but over time they have started appearing in other locations including near the ZDF headquarters, the universities and train stations.
Know Before You Go
Several of these lights can most easily be found in the center, between the Rhine and the Mainz Catherdral.