Across Continents

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Frustrucks and farhads

Impeccable English. For which they’d apologised. They usually did. They were German. Philipp and Susanne. In China encouraging students to come and study in Bavaria. And terribly polite. Not even a raised eyebrow as I struggled to recall my truly appalling grasp of German – frustrucks and farhads. Breakfasts and bicycles.

I’d met them by chance, sharing the same small hotel in the walled city of Xi’an. Explained I’d followed the river Donau – the Danube – through Bavaria. Spent a couple of days in Suzanne’s home city of Regensburg. Recounted a few stories from those early days on the road. Riding with Manfred and Ute. Strange gnomes in Straubing. Pasta cooked in a kettle.

Truth is, I feel a certain kinship with the Germans. They go out in the world. Brings a wry smile to my face when I explain that in every country I’ve travelled through, encountering them is a question of not if but when. My favourite Western European nation. After my own of course.

[Author’s note: Revisiting my early writings, I’d been surprised to see how much English humour had crept into my pieces about Germany. So here’s hoping Philipp and Susanne realise my professed love of their own nation, of their culture, is quite genuine. Which it is. And pretty pleased that I remembered to emphasise the firmly ironic nature of the Straubing gnomes….]


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