It’s very rare that I get invited anywhere nowadays but this weekend I’ve been invited to Germany. I am about to fly Ryanair from ‘Reus Barcelona’ to ‘Frankfurt Hahn’. I have never flown Ryanair before but I’m told it’s a nightmare. I have never been to Reus or Hahn airports, either, so this will be a new experience for me. In fact I have only been to Germany three times (other than a ski-trip): once to the Frankfurt Book Fair and twice to Munich, to the offices of Playboy Deutschland, and to a Playboy International Publishing Conference weekend, which is as good as it gets. I think I flew business class and stayed at the 5-star Sofitel with its ‘neo-classical façade, a masterpiece of contemporary art and architecture’. Now, however, I am off to see a bit of the real Germany … via Ryanair. As I enjoy travelling anywhere and ‘observing’, I have therefore decided to start a new blog thread about Germans and Germany, especially as I might be going backwards and forwards a lot more.
To prepare myself, I have started to read Simon Winder’s book, ‘Germania’, a Sunday Times Top 10 Bestseller and described as ‘an engrossing, informative and hilarious read.’ It has certainly started well. He writes that it is ‘an attempt to tell the story of the Germans starting from their notional origins in the sort of forests enjoyed by gnomes and heroes and ending at the time of Hitler’s seizure of power’. By doing so, he writes that he wants to ‘get round the Führer and try to reclaim a bit of Europe which is in many ways Britain’s weird twin, and which for almost all of its history has been no less attractive and no more or less admirable than many other countries. Germany is a place without which European culture makes no sense, and for over sixty years Germans have been working strenuously to rebuild that culture in a way that, while admitting the legacy of the Third Reich, allows that earlier past to shine again … ’
With those words, I have been hooked. I realise that I know nothing about Germany, other than the Third Reich and the usual clichés and stereotype-jokes, from Angela Merkel to Basil Fawlty, Bavarian Lederhosen to beer-bellies, Boris Becker to sauerkraut, the Claudia Schiffers, Heidi Klums and blue-eyed blondes, the German punctuality or the towel-chair-reserving by the swimming pool, and of course the wonderfully clunky, chunky Audi slogan, ‘Vorsprung durch Technik’. I know more than enough about Spain, at least for now. I know lots about France and a bit about Italy. I even know something about Holland, Finland and Wales. It’s now time to ‘meet the Germans’. And yes, ‘I mentioned it once but I think I got away with it … ’