Across Continents

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Reflections on Bavaria

Germany has always fascinated me. A very ordered society, yet innovative. I’d been to the Baltic coast before, as I had to Munich in the south, so already had an idea that Bavaria was a bit different to the rest of the country. Just as Scotland is to the rest of the British Isles. A distinct identity.

At first I thought that, unlike France, Bavaria was less welcoming to strangers. Cold. Rather like London, until you get to know people. Then I’d met Manfred and Ute along the cycle way. Admittedly they were from Frankfurt in Central Germany, but at least they’d made me think again.

I’d wondered how insular Bavarians might be, whether I would encounter subtle discrimination, even hostility, towards outsiders, especially foreigners. But no, even when I went to places I thought to be off the tourist trail. The owner of a small hotel I’d stayed in had gone to the trouble of learning a few English phrases just to wish me well with my venture.

I’d felt very welcome in the Bavarian eating house – the hofbrauhaus – in Regensburg. Yes, I’d always made the effort in appalling German, and perhaps that had helped. In Straubing, engaging company in the youth hostel, strangers approaching me in the town centre, curious as to where I was going with such a heavily laden bicycle. In Passau a very kind chap I’d been chatting with returned a short while later with some chocolate for my journey.

In the end I’d got by with very little German, in part because the younger generations speak good English. I’d felt a bit guilty about this, and their habit of apologising, quite unjustly, for their own perceived lack of language abilities hadn’t helped. If I’d come just to visit Germany I’d have been a bit ashamed of my efforts, but I hadn’t – Germany and Austria account for just 1% of the expedition.

And there’d been a little bit of teasing along the way. I hoped that any Germans reading the posts would appreciate that it was meant to be harmless fun. And it works both ways – on a visit to Munich some years ago, my host kindly pointed out the town hall, one of few old buildings in the centre of the city, advising, with a little grin, that this was ’one you’d missed’. I’d had to hastily explain the convention whereby we never mention the war, unless a German brings it up first.

There’s also a few observations I’ve made along the way which, whilst largely humorous, I’ve not included because I decided they would give an unduly distorted picture of modern Germany. Still, couldn’t resist photographing the gnomes in Straubing, but did at least seek to put it in context.

So, what to make of all this? A more complex people than the French? I’d thought this for a time, but then wasn’t so sure I even knew what it meant. Bavarians were, well, different, to the French I’d met, of course. But in the end, just as hospitable and friendly. You just had to make the effort, and for me that had been a bit harder at the start as I struggled with even the basics of German.

Auf Wiedersehen


One response to “Reflections on Bavaria”

  1. Jackie Childs says:

    The London postal strikes have been going on for weeks with mountains of undelivered mail piling up in every sorting office. I’m not receiving any of my usual mail, but somehow a postcard with “Greetings from Bavaria” made its way to me! Must be that German efficiency! Good to hear from you. Jacks

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