Archive for Juli, 2015

10 things I like about you, Britain

For several reasons put together, the last time I set foot on British soil was over a year ago. Puh, as the Germans would so nicely put it. That is a long stretch. But absence only makes the heart grow fonder. And it makes me all the more ecstatic to know that in a few days I will be flying out to one long, glorious summer on the British isles (even if it turns out to be cold and wet). And when I think about it in anticipation, here’s what I miss the most:

1. British warmth and friendliness

The people of Munich are known for their coolness towards newcomers. They need time for you to earn their trust and their friendship, but apparently once you have, it is there forever. The people from Duesseldorf (my old town) and the nearby area on the other hand, are known for their warmth.

Whenever I hear this discussion amongst Germans, I have to internally snigger. Because this so-called warmth is still quite a few degrees under that which is emitted by the average British person. Sometimes you really do just need to hear ‚alright Luv?‘ and the ‚what can I do for you sweetheart?‘ from strangers and it brightens up your day.

2. British humour

The above warmth and friendliness is most often combined with a self-deprecating, ever so slightly sarcastic and always on the ball wit which almost every British person seems to be born with. And if you weren’t born there, you develop it as part of the cultural integration program.

3. Fish and chips (and mushy peas)

Sure, the Germans have their baked fish in bread rolls and their funny soused herring, especially the more north you go, but I can sense that they look down on a bag of fish and chips and just don’t quite get how good it can be. Find the right chippy to collect your fish and chips from and your cosy Friday night-in or a seaside trip is complete in my opinion. Ok, I admit I needed time to acquire a taste for the mushy peas, but now I find them more than tolerable.

4. The British coast

Yes I know it rains, yes I know you are most likely to be eating your homemade Devon ice cream under cloudy skies and the coastal walk is not to be undertaken without wind- and water-proof gear at the ready – but oh that rugged British coast line. And did a cornish pasty, or said bag of slightly soggy chips ever taste better than on a blustery day at a remote seaside village?

5. Diversity

Yes you can be British and black. Yes you can be British and brown. Yes you can be British and look however you look. And feel accepted. I’m not saying that integration is perfect in the UK, but it has made huge strides in the last couple of decades and is miles ahead from Germany.

6. London

Foreigners sometimes use the words ‚England‘ and ‚London‘ interchangeably as if it were one and the same. In reality, visiting London is like visiting another land within England. It is unique in its character, architecture, infrastructure and zeitgeist – a cosmos in itself, far flung from any other city in the UK.

Arriving at one of London’s main stations in the bustle of the day among the extremely trendy and streetwise crowd always leaves me in awe and with a sense of excitement. The city can’t help but buzz. And there is always something new to discover, no matter how many times you visit the city.

7. The English countryside

Pick even one of the less pretty industrial cities (sorry Birmingham), travel 30 minutes out of the city and you will hit green pastures, forest trails and maybe some modest hills if you are lucky. While you may have to travel quite a few miles to reach a mountainous landscape (rather to Scotland or Wales), the English countryside around you possesses great charm.

8. Pub lunches

And if you did make it through one of the above nature trails, there is no place better to unwind that in a cosy pub. Log fires, wooden panels and copper pots lend snug perfection in winter and the variety with gardens over-looking canals, streams and rivers are perfect for the summer. And if you scoff at the idea of simple pub grub, then seek out a gastropub.

9. A nice cup of tea

I stopped ordering tea in German cafes a log time ago. Because they can’t make you a nice, ever-comforting cup of tea like you would get at a friend’s house at home. They classically offer you the choice of one insipid black tea and then a selection of peppermint, herb or fruit teas. It’s just not the same. There is a place in the world for Tetley/PG Tips/Yorkshire tea.

10. The English Heritage

Ancient ruins, grand manor houses, beautiful English gardens – the history of England is all here and well managed by the English Heritage.  And they offer a huge number of summer events.

The summer season for me includes whenever possible watching an outdoor Shakespeare play with the backdrop of one an ancient priory or a spectacular courtyard, spread out on picnic blankets and snacking on pork pies and scotch eggs.

A few days in Basel

It seems to me that I have an unknown penchant for cities beginning with the letter ‚B‘ (see Brussels, Barcelona, Berchtesgaden). Or at least fate seems to take me there. A family get-together this weekend was a wonderful chance to discover Basel. And what a pretty little city it is.

The beautiful old-town was a perfect Swiss combination of German orderliness and French charm and was completely free from cars, and in quite a few streets seemed to be completely free of people.

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Probably because the blazing sun on this summer weekend took the residents of the city down to the Rhine. And the Rhine had a completely different character to the one I am familiar with from my time in Duesseldorf – clear, blue and full of swimmers and pleasure boats.

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And so after a wander around the old town, we too took a stroll along the hot riverside paving and cooled off by diving into the Rhine and drifting pleasantly down stream to a handily placed beach bar.

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This seems to be a city with an astounding quality of life. The weekend was rounded off with a Sunday morning walk along the Rhine, a strong coffee from a riverside cafe and the promise to visit the city again.

On Europe

One of the things I like about living in Germany is that I feel more a part of Europe and much more a European. And it’s purely an emotional thing.

Our summer holiday saw us driving through southern Germany, Austria, Italy and France in a matter of a week. Miles of breath-taking alpine scenery, picturesque hilltop villages , sprawling towns in the valleys below and lakeside panoramas. The border between these countries was more marked by the change in architecture, town planning, traffic signs and toll charges than the largely redundant border controls. This free passage is something I never take for granted.

As we dined on delicious pasta and took in the romance of the Italian lakeside towns, as we breakfasted on coffee and scrumptious croissants in a simple French bar, as I conversed with American wedding guests who marvelled at the diversity and charm of Europe and as we returned home to beautiful Munich (and finally to some good German bread), I could only hope that Europe is not dying.

As the Greeks head to the polls today, as the nations decide on the future of Europe, I hope that in a non-political, non-financial and completely emotional way that our neighbours will be ok and that I will one day stand in awe of the Acropolis and dip my feet in the Aegean sea and still feel as if I am in the heart of Europe.

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