The Bielefeld Conspiracy
Anyone who has clicked around a bit on German-language internet sites and forums has probably come across a phenomenon known as The Bielefeld Conspiracy.
This is essentially a spoof on conspiracy theories, much like The Idaho Conspiracy in the United States.
The main (tongue-in-cheek) premise of The Bielefeld Conspiracy Theory is that there is no such place. Bielefeld doesn't really exist. The main arguments are:
"Well, you've never been to Bielefeld, have you? And you don't know anybody from there, do you?
It's a safe assumption that most people will answer NO to these questions, so the conclusion is that some shadowy unknown powers (the CIA, perhaps, or MI6?) have launched a vast conspiracy to convince us that there is a city of 330,000 people called Bielefeld in an obscure corner of the Teutoburg Forest in the state of Nordrhein-Westfalen. They say the conspirators have gone to great lengths to perpetrate this illusion, including having people drive around Germany with fake Bielefeld license plates on their cars.
OK, I don't usually believe in conspiracy theories, but I must admit that when my textbook publisher asked me to go to Bielefeld to do a presentation I was perhaps just a trifle dubious; just a tiny nagging doubt, that's all, LOL. And the German railway system didn't help matters because they were really chaotic on that Saturday morning and just barely got me there in time.
Now that I have been there, though, I can confirm that Bielefeld really does exist.
Right across from the (really existing) railroad station there is a hotel called the Mövenpick Hotel, which I am sure also really exists because I did my presentation there. Or have I unwittingly become a part of the conspiracy?
Afterwards I rented a bicycle at the station and spent the rest of the afternoon riding around Bielefeld.
It really is an attractive town with lots of parks and well-marked bicycle lanes. Also it has a modern new university and a quaint-looking 104-year-old city theater.
And it is the home of a soccer team called Arminia Bielefeld, which has had its ups and downs over the years but is now back in the first (top) federal soccer league.
Update: Thanks to VT member HORSCHECK for pointing out that Arminia Bielefeld has nothing to with the country Armenia (my first guess), nor does it mean "harmony" (my second guess). Rather, it is a feminized form of an ancient Germanic hero named Arminius a.k.a. Hermann, who stopped the advance of the Roman legions into northern Germany by defeating them in the year 9 A.D. at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest.