Where's the moon? And other things Germans asked Google in 2018

Chemnitz, the FIFA football World Cup, a lunar eclipse and a reality TV star's suicide: Google searches revealed what was on German minds in 2018.

As 2018 draws to a close, Germany's Google annual trends provided a snapshot of the most important topics across the country and what drew German curiosity.

A look at the top searched questions and topics shows that Germans cared a lot about big international events such as the World Cup, were looped into controversial domestic news topics like the Chemnitz riots and also needed help with day-to-day things like getting rid of wasps.

The World Cup

The summer's FIFA World Cup in Russia was the most searched topic in the world in 2018. And the home of the soon-to-be deposed world champions was no different. The tournament also featured in Germany's top searched sports topics.

It also dominated among the "how" questions, with Germans wondering "how many times has France been world champions?" And the second most-searched question was "how must Germany play to advance?" The team was ultimately knocked out in the group stage, to the chagrin of anxious fans.

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Daniel Küblböck

The bizarre death of former reality TV star Daniel Küblböck captured the public's attention, landing it as the second-most searched topic. Küblböck was a 2003 contestant on Deutschland Sucht den Superstar — the German equivalent of Pop Idol. He went missing during a holiday cruise. Witnesses said they saw the star jump off the ship.

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The lunar eclipse

Germany's No. 1 news item on Google was the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st century. The phenomenon was coined "blood moon" for the color change of the moon while immersed in the Earth's shadow.

And in the week it was visible over Germany, the top "where" question was indeed "where is the moon?"

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The far-right protests in the eastern German city of Chemnitz was the fourth most-searched news topic.

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Following the killing of a 35-year-old German in August, thousands of demonstrators took to the streets. A Syrian and an Iraqi stand accused of fatally stabbing the man following an altercation. The demonstrations quickly escalated into xenophobic riots, attended by far-right extremists and known neo-Nazis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced criticism for taking more than three months to visit the city in the aftermath of the violence.

Read moreChemnitz right-wing riots a 'huge damage to city's image'

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded

Death sparks demonstrations

The demonstrations were sparked by a deadly brawl that broke out in the German city of Chemnitz in the early hours of Sunday (August 26). What started out as a war of words resulted in a 35-year-old man being stabbed to death. Hours later, spontaneous, anti-migrant protests took over the streets of Chemnitz.

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded

German-Cuban killed

A German-Cuban man was stabbed in an altercation involving 10 people, several of whom were of "various nationalities," police sources said. The victim, named only as Daniel H., was apparently well-known among various political groups in the area. Two men in their 30s were also stabbed and seriously injured, and a 22-year-old Iraqi and 23-year-old Syrian are in custody over the killing.

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded

Police reinforcements called

By Sunday afternoon, some 800 people had gathered to protest the man's death, including far-right groups. Authorities said the crowd was largely uncooperative and threw bottles at police officers. Police reinforcements had to be called in from nearby cities. The mobilizations were spontaneous and are thought to have surfaced following calls to demonstrate on social media.

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded


German authorities said that that far-right groups spread misinformation on the internet. Among the false claims was that the victim of the knife attack died protecting a woman.

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded

Protests and counterprotests

Thousands of far-right and counterdemonstrators faced off in a second day of protest Monday. Several people were injured as objects and fireworks were hurled. Video footage showed the far-right "Pro Chemnitz" movement holding a banner with a quote from early 20th century poet Anton Günther reading "German and free we aim to be."

How the Chemnitz protests unfolded

'No place for Nazis'

Counter-demonstrators denouncing right-wing extremism also took to the streets of Chemnitz. Among the protesters were Antifa, who clashed with right-wing demonstrators.

Hambach Forest

The clash between police and environmental activists occupying Hambach Forest was the fifth most-searched news story and one of the most polarizing topics in Germany in 2018.

The ancient woodland was the scene of a months-long standoff between environmental activists and authorities over plans to clear the forest to enlarge a nearby open-pit coal mine, owned by energy giant RWE.

In September and October, police began a large-scale operation to remove the protesters who had set up their camp inside the forest over several years.

Protest against their removal drew support from environmental activists from all over the world.

Read more: Opinion: Hambach Forest a battlefield for the planet's future

Demanding a coal phaseout: In the thick of Hambach

Hambi stays: Local slogan, global movement

At least 6,000 people gathered in the heart of western German coal country Saturday to demand an end to coal use. People from around the world joined forces with a local movement that started back in 2012 with a handful of activists trying to stop the expansion of a brown coal mine and save the last 200 hectares of the millennia-old Hambach Forest. The message was clear: Coal is a global problem.

Demanding a coal phaseout: In the thick of Hambach

Old and young stand together

The protestors spanned many ages and walks of life. There were young activists dressed in wigs or hazmat suits, but also families and the elderly. People with reduced mobility followed the march at their own pace. A nine-year-old boy was keen to voice his view on the dirty fossil fuel, telling DW he was worried about his future but expected the authorities to do the right thing and give up coal.

Demanding a coal phaseout: In the thick of Hambach

Time for action

Demonstrators split up, some continuing the authorized protest while others took direct action to block coal infrastructure. A hundred people tried to stop the diggers at two nearby coal mines; close to 40 people were arrested. Trying to reach the train line, another 1,000 protestors ended up on the nearby A4 highway, resulting in around 250 arrests. Both the diggers and traffic were stopped.

Demanding a coal phaseout: In the thick of Hambach

Next stop: Coal transport lines

A third group was determined to block the railway transporting coal from the Hambach mine to the three power plants where it is destined to be burned. They had their work cut out, with police attempting to block the activists from approaching the railway. In the end they had to change their route several times, running through fields and navigating dense forest to reach their target.

Demanding a coal phaseout: In the thick of Hambach

A tense ride

On route to the rail lines, there were no major clashes with police but the atmosphere was extremely tense. Police officers on horseback followed protesters up to the edge of the forest, preventing them from changing course. Outbreaks of nerves rippled through activists and horses — without it being clear who triggered what.

Demanding a coal phaseout: In the thick of Hambach

The path narrows

Once the protesters entered the forest, the situation became more fraught. They had to walk carefully to avoid tripping over branches while dodging the police — who physically shoved them as they approached — or each other as, from time to time, the crowd suddenly surged without warning.

Demanding a coal phaseout: In the thick of Hambach

Sticking close together

In the midst of the chaos, activists called for calm, shouting to one another to stick together and remain peaceful. They held on to each other so no one would fall, get lost, or get caught by the police. Others conferred over the best route to proceed toward the rail line.

Demanding a coal phaseout: In the thick of Hambach

On target

Eventually, thousands of protesters arrived at the rail lines. Police officers initially tried to prevent them from climbing down on the tracks, but they were outnumbered. Activists had hung guide ropes down the slopes beforehand, but most people simply slid, ran or tumbled down the bank. Within just a few minutes, the railway was engulfed in a crowd of protestors.

Demanding a coal phaseout: In the thick of Hambach

Sit-in for a break

After an exhausting two-hour scramble, protesters sat down for a rest. The weather was bitingly cold, but there was an air of cheer as the crowd made itself comfortable on the tracks. For now at least, the energy companies couldn't transport coal from mines to their power plants — a victory celebrated under the watchful eyes of police on the hills above.

Demanding a coal phaseout: In the thick of Hambach

A 24-hour victory

The police warned that the direct action was illegal, and offered protesters the chance to abandon their blockade without penalties. But most stayed put overnight. Organizers said their protest blocked coal infrastructure for around 24 hours — which they judged a success. The last 50 to leave the protest had chained themselves to the tracks and had to be forcibly evicted one by one.

Nature calling...

Two animals topped the "what" question. "What to do about oak caterpillars" was the most searched, reflecting the bizarre and disconcerting spread of the oak processionary moth caterpillar across Germany this summer. The infestation closed preschools, swimming lakes and public pools. 

"What helps against wasps" came in second, as killing the wasps was not option due to the insect being protected under the Federal Nature Conservation Act. Harming it can result in fines between €5,000 and €50,000 (roughly $5,700 and $57,300).

Read more: Good bees, bad wasps?

And the long specter of Germany's sweltering summer also crept up in Google searches, with answers frantically sought to the question "how long does the heat wave last." 

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