When the Maharaja came to town

Seeking an exotic respite from Germany’s dreary winter, Rhea Wessel takes a subcontinental sojourn with an Indian circus.

When the Maharaja came to town
Photo: DPA

The temperature outside was a frigid -10 degrees Celsius when I visited the circus show “India” in Frankfurt. The production I was scheduled to see the previous day had been cancelled for “technical” problems – perhaps some of the trapeze equipment froze.

Naturally, I worried a bit that the show’s massive circus tent set up near the city’s main train station might let in some of the Arctic chill. But upon entry, a waft of incense-laden warm air set the stage for a two-hour visit to the subcontinent.

That journey – one for both young and old – was a colourful dance and acrobatics show with the exotic appeal frequently associated with India. Within the first five minutes, the choreographers juxtaposed two popular impressions of the country. First, a yogi sat in lotus position, index fingers and thumbs touching each other, as musicians provided live meditation music. Suddenly the curtain, which appeared to be handmade cloth, fell into the circus ring. The music changed, and the audience was transported to Bollywood with all of its glitz and showmanship.

This theme of contrasts continued in following routines: modern dance numbers with exotic undertones were placed between those featuring fire eaters, and a tightrope walker who balanced pots on his head. My favourite, however, was a pole climbing troupe, as I recalled a brief trip to India when a young man challenged a football player in our group to race him up a coconut tree, which don’t have branches. The Indian made it to the top in a matter of seconds while the football hero was humbled – and seriously scraped up by the tree’s bark.

The troupe featured a group of broad-shouldered male acrobats who scaled and wrapped themselves around poles in artistic unison. As they manoeuvred their way up and down, the young men struck yoga-like poses that would induce awe even when done on the ground. Latched to a pole and in midair, they were breathtaking body art.

But another act left me chuckling because of its sheer simplicity and charm. Artists sat in the circus ring and projected shadow puppets onto the ceiling of the circus tent. However, these weren’t actual puppets – they were created through finger and hand acrobatics. By combining fists, arms, fingers and palms in creative ways, the audience was amused by the shapes of birds, a donkey, a long-bearded imam, a snake dancer and an elephant grazing and feeding itself with its trunk.

With its modern sound and lighting, the circus show India appeals to all the senses. It leaves an entertainingly appropriate impression of a country trying to combine high-tech with its rich cultural traditions.

For most visitors, a brief visit to the travelling kingdom of the Maharaja will make it easy to forget the German weather waiting outside.

The show “India” runs in Frankfurt through January 24 and then tours other major German cities the rest of the year. Tickets start at €29.

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Five German drinks to try this summer

There’s nothing quite like a cold drink on a hot summer’s day and the Germans know it well. That’s why they’ve got a variety of tasty alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages to cool them down in the hottest months. Here are five you should try.

Five German drinks to try this summer

Summertime in Germany can get pretty hot, but thankfully there are plenty of popular drinks which can help you cool down, as well as tickle the tastebuds.

In Germany, fizzy water is wildly popular, so it’s not surprising that Sprudel is a key ingredient in most of the drinks on this list.


A Hugo cocktail. Photo: Greta Farnedi/Unsplash

The Hugo is a cocktail made of Prosecco, elderflower syrup, mint leaves, a shot of mineral water and a slice of lime.

This refreshing alcoholic drink was invented by Roland Gruber, a bartender in South Tyrol, the mainly German-speaking region of northern Italy in 2005.

Though the drink wasn’t invented in Germany, it quickly spread across the borders of northern Italy and gained popularity here. Nowadays, you’ll be able to order a Hugo in pretty much any bar in the country.


A woman holds a pint of Radler. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Nicolas Armer

One of the best-known and most popular mixed beer drinks is the Radler: a concoction of beer and lemonade, a bit like a British shandy. In some areas of Germany – particularly in the south – the mixture is called Alster.

Usually, the ratio is 60 percent beer and 40 percent lemonade, but there are also some interesting variants. In some regions of Germany, a distinction is made between sweet (with lemonade) and sour (with water) Radler. Some foolhardy drinkers even mix their beer with cola (called a diesel).

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: The German regions producing the most important beer ingredient


A woman pours apple spritz into plastic cups. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Soeren Stache

Apfelschorle is an absolute German classic.

The traditional mix of apple juice and fizzy water is a 1:1 ratio, but if you’re making the drink at home you can adjust the measurements to your liking. 

The concept of Saftschorle (fruit spritzer) has moved way beyond the plain old apple in Germany though. On Supermarket shelves, you’ll find major drinks chains offering a wide variety of fizzy fruit beverages, including  Rhabarbe-Schorle (Rhubarb spritz), Schwarze Johannisbeer-Schorle (Black currant spritz) and Holunderschorle (elderberry spritz).

Berliner Weiße mit Schuss

A woman drinks a Berliner Weiße in Berlin.

A woman drinks a Berliner Weiße in Berlin. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Britta Pedersen

The Berliner Weiße (or Weisse) is an old, German beer, brewed with barley and wheat malt.

As the name suggests, it originates from the German capital, where it was extremely popular in the 19th century and was celebrated as the “Champagne of the North”.

But by the end of the 19th century, sour beer styles, including this one, became increasingly unpopular and they almost died out completely. 

READ ALSO: Five German foods that aren’t what you think they are

So people started mixing the drink with sweet syrup. This gave rise to the trend of drinking Berliner Weissbier with a shot (Schuss) of raspberry or woodruff syrup, which is still widely enjoyed today. Some breweries even ferment fruits such as raspberries or strawberries.

The drink is so well-known in Germany, that there was even a TV series named after it which ran for 10 years 1984 to 1995.


Water and wine in equal parts and both well chilled – a light summer drink. Photo: picture alliance / dpa-tmn | DWI

Another fizzy-water-based German classic is the white wine spritz. 

A wine spritzer is a refreshing drink on warm summer days which has the advantage of not going to your head as quickly as a regular glass of wine. With equal parts fizzy water and wine, the drink has only about 5-6 percent alcohol, compared to glass of pure white wine, which has about 9-14 percent. 

For optimum German-ness when making this drink at home, choose a German white wine such as Müller-Thurgau, Silvaner or Riesling.

Enjoy and drink responsibly!