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The Battle Over Boltenhagen's Busty Nymph

The mysterious arrival of a well-endowed bronze mermaid in the bay at the Baltic coast town of Boltenhagen brought immediate prosperity. Now the blessing is becoming a curse as a legal wrangle over ownership drags on.

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Boltenhagen's "East Sea Nymph" sits and watches as a legal battle rages on shore

The coastal town of Boltenhagen was never one to draw much attention to itself; an unpretentious German sea resort popular with families and the elderly which attracted a loyal clientele in the summer months. It enjoyed its reputation as a not-so-well kept secret on Germany's east coast -- until New Year's Eve in 2004 when a mysterious visitor from the sea decided to make her home in the water of the town's bay.

Overnight, Boltenhagen's fortunes changed. For now there dwelt in the nearby waters a sea nymph; a bronze and brazenly naked mermaid which had seemingly and mysteriously surfaced from the sea to become a monument to perkiness on a rock just off the coast.

Where had the ample stranger come from? Why had she chosen Boltenhagen as the place to display her charms?

The locals debated these and other questions very briefly before turning their attention to marketing the statue for all it was worth. Thousands of visitors flocked to the town to view the busty maiden and buy postcards, figurines and even souvenir coffee cups in the shape of the nymphs more obvious assets.

Boltenhagen's health resort director Dieter Dunkelmann described her arrival as "a gift from the gods" as envious glances burned in emerald eyes from resorts further up the coast.

A mercha n disi n g dream tur n s i n to a n ightmare

BdT Silvesterbaden

The east sea resort attracts many visitors, not all as shapely as the mermaid.

But while the town boomed on the back -- and the front -- of the maiden's arrival, the question of how she got to be stuck out there on a rock would just not go away for some people. While the mystery was a good story and reason to flog seaside tat to gullible tourists, nagging doubts began to gnaw at the blessed community of Boltenhagen.

The period of joy and prosperity the mermaid had brought to the town was not to be eternal. A report in the regional edition of Bild tabloid did much to change the mood when it published an article claiming that while the statue itself was not human, the person and inspiration behind its arrival most certainly was.

The paper revealed that Kathrin Nonnenmacher, a businesswoman from Wörth in western Germany, had secured the rights to the term "Baltic Sea Nymph" for her company in May 2005. She subsequently wanted a slice of the Boltenhagen merchandising pie.

Legal actio n threate n ed

Far from being the benevolent incarnation of the magical mermaid, Ms. Nonnenmacher, a former beauty queen, turned out to be the bane of Boltenhagen. Last November, the former beauty queen issued an order for all souvenir sales in the town to cease. She reportedly threatened one merchandiser with a 250,000 euro ($301,200) lawsuit if sales of "Baltic Sea Nymph"-products did not desist.

Anyone, who wanted mermaid-associated products would have to order them from her company, which sells everything from nymph candles to nymph pill boxes.

Ex-Schönheitskönigin Kathrin Nonnenmacher

Kathrin Nonnenmacher was Miss Rhineland-Palatinate in 2002

The town reacted angrily and a war of words ensued over ownership of the statue, one that continues to rage. Nonnenmacher has claimed that only the creator of the statue could challenge her claim to the rights but has denied that she knows the sculptor, that she commissioned the work or that it had been modeled on her physique.

A national treasure?

The people of Boltenhagen continue to vehemently defend their claim that the statue belongs to them as it is a permanent fixture within its boundaries and are therefore entitled to use it as they see fit.

200. Geburtstag von Hans Christian Andersen, Denkmal der Kleinen Meerjungfrau basierend auf einem gleichnamigen Märchen

The Baltic Sea nymph's world famous colleague, Copenhagen's Little Mermaid, has been mutilated but is not copyrighted

Enter the Water and Shipping Office (WSA) in Lübeck into the fight. The state department responsible for the shipping lanes in the Boltenhagen bay has since ruled that the statue no longer had the right to feature in a "federal waterway" as there apparently is no record of it being granted any official planning permission.

However, lawyers for the WSA say that removing the statue may also prove problematic as the nymph is attached to the rock which is, technically, a part of the Federal Republic of Germany. That, in legal terms at least, could mean that the German state is the owner of the statue; leaving both Nonnenmacher and the people of Boltenhagen out of pocket and the state of Germany in possession of an extremely comely addition to its culture.

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