Sights Wasserträger Statue

If you hear ‘Hummel, Hummel!’ be sure to respond with ‘Mors, Mors!’ Learn all about Hamburg’s mysterious greeting.

Wassertraeger Statue

The Water Bearer Statues and Hamburg's most salute

Before the local water system was introduced in Hamburg in 1848, Wassertragen (lit. 'carrying water') was a popular profession. One of these Wasserträger eventually became something of a local legend. 

Born Johann Heinrich Bentz in 1787, people come to call him Hans Hummel. While the origins of this name are somewhat murky, historians assume that Bentz got this nickname when he moved into the former apartment of soldier Daniel Christian Hummel after his death. The real Hummel was much-loved by local children for his kind nature and thrilling war stories. These same kids likely went on to tease the 'new' Hummel (who was described as grumpy and ill-tempered, especially in comparison to the kind and funny 'real' Hummel) by taunting him with 'Hummel, Hummel' as he passed by with his filled buckets. Legend has it that some of the rascals even wagged their naked behinds at him, knowing full well that 'Hummel' couldn't chase them with his heavy load. Thus his only response was to yell back, 'Mors, Mors!' a blue phrase in the local Low German dialect of Plattdeutsch, which translates roughly to 'Kiss my ass!' 

Sadly, the water carrier Hummel lost his job in 1848 and died in a poorhouse six years later. But ever since, the phrase 'Hummel, Hummel!' and its response, 'Mors, Mors!' have been a popular salute in Hamburg. When HSV (one of the city's two popular football teams) scores a goal, the stadium speaker calls the name of the scorer, then 'Hummel, Hummel!' and the crowd replies with 'Mors, Mors!'

Hamburg used to be home to many colourful Hummel statues spread out all over the city. This outdoor city-wide exhibition took place until 2006, when most of the pieces were sold. The proceeds were donated to Hamburg's homeless. Nowadays, a few Hummel figures still can be found around the city, for example those close to the City Hall. You can also visit the little square at the corner of Rademachergang and Breiter Gang, where a memorial remembers the 'false' Hummel. If you take a closer look, you'll even see the kids pulling down their pants.