Greetings from Kugelmugel! An official postcard from the glory years.
Simon Sellars, ‘Republic of Kugelmugel’, originally published in John Ryan, George Dunford & Simon Sellars, Micronations: the Lonely Planet Guide to Home-made Nations, Footscray: Lonely Planet Publications, 2006, pp. 82-5.
REPUBLIC OF KUGELMUGEL
Kugelmugel is more than a micronation: it’s simultaneously a house and a work of art. But it’s also a true example of that age-old struggle: One Man against the System. Despite all attempts to squash it, Kugelmugel has endured – and throughout it all, its exiled President Edwin Lipburger stands tall as its founder, its head of state, its defence force and its sole citizen. Now 77, President Lipburger lives in Austrian exile, watching as his radical experiment in spherical housing is reappraised and hailed as a masterpiece of micronationalism (and postmodern architecture).
It wasn’t always that way. In fact, Kugelmugel used to provoke extreme reactions in the outside world: the Republic has been invaded and its population forcibly repatriated twice (shockingly, on one of those occasions every single citizen was imprisoned).
Today Kugelmugel is uninhabited, but you can still visit it and marvel at the sight of its state border, festooned with barbed wire and designer-industrial signage for retro-Berlin thrills.
Best of all, Kugelmugel is round, and as President Lipburger has said all along, ‘Round is free’.
Kugelmugel is in the Wiener Prater in Vienna, Austria, a public park in the Leopoldstadt district.
FACTS ABOUT KUGELMUGEL
Head of State President Edwin Lipburger.
Area 7.68m in diameter.
The indefatigable President Edwin Lipburger.
Before he became President of Kugelmugel, Edwin Lipburger was just an Austrian artist, albeit one with a singular vision. Many artists see themselves as a square pegs in round holes, but Lipburger was literally the reverse: he was obsessed with balls and spheres, seeing in them some kind of universal cosmic harmony. ‘Everything is round’, he wrote. ‘The Earth, life, the ball, everything turns…why not live in balls? Round is free, it has no beginning or end.’
Struck by this wisdom, in 1971 Lipburger set about designing a spherical house, which he called Sphaera 2000. The house was to have a diameter of exactly 7.68m and would consist of wood-finished units covered with zinc-coated sheets, bolted with 12mm screws and sealed with permanent elastic. Lipburger originally built Kugelmugel (it means ‘Ball Hill’) on a farm in Katzelsdorf, declaring, ‘It’s hard to hurt the Earth, but it has to be. Ploughing is a genuinely male pursuit. What was down is now above.’ However, he was ordered to demolish it by the authorities, as the sphere contravened local planning permits, so Lipburger declared the house an independent republic, elected himself president, and began to issue his own stamps and passports.
Kugelmugel began to receive press attention and a steady stream of visitors, but Lipburger was under persistent legal pressure to demolish his republic. In the end he spent 10 weeks in jail and was only released after receiving a pardon from his Austrian counterpart. The Austrian government then seized Kugelmugel and transferred it to the Wiener Prater where it sits today, next to an enormous Ferris wheel and amusement park – the final irony for a man with a reasonably serious mission on his mind.
Even so, the authorities insist on promoting Kugelmugel as a ‘state within a state’, thereby trading on the micronationalist aspirations of Lipburger’s creation, while raking in some tourist cash to boot.
In 2005 the house was the subject of a major exhibition by the Croy Nielsen artistic team (www.croynielsen.de).
CLIMATE & ENVIRONMENT
Kugelmugel has a moderate central European climate. Be prepared for a range of conditions dependent on altitude; if you stand on top of Kugelmugel, closest to the sun, you might suffer some kind of surface glare from the nation’s outer shell. The western part of the country is the greenest, with overhanging trees from the surrounding Wiener Prater providing shade and a splash of natural colour. Temperatures in July are above 19oC and annual rainfall is less than 80cm; temperatures fluctuate between 20oC and 25oC in summer, 1oC and 4oC in winter, and 8oC and 15oC in spring and autumn.
PEOPLE & CULTURE
The Kugelmugian national psyche is fiercely independent and protective of its identity, but it’s also creative – Kugelmugians possess a fiery spirit and a ‘never say die’ attitude that often channels rage into striking artistic objects.
One hundred per cent of Kugelmugel’s population is of Austrian extraction and all Kugelmugians enjoy architecture and philately.
DO’S & DON’TS
Kugelmugel’s borders are locked, which means you can only observe the nation from Austria. Don’t try and climb the fence; you might cut yourself on the barbed wire.
PLACES TO SLEEP & EAT
Kugelmugel has no hotels or restaurants. Bring a picnic lunch and eat in the Wiener Prater.
THINGS TO SEE & DO
The Wiener Prater includes a large amusement park with a huge Ferris wheel that dominates the skyline and some roller coasters. The months between December to April should be ideal for skiing, although you’d have to be an A-grade nutter to ski Kugelmugel’s spherical surface.
GETTING THERE & AWAY
Take the U-bahn to Praterstern – Wiener Prater is a few minutes away.
Out of bounds: Kugelmugel today (photo: Oliver Croy).