Köln, Germany

Köln, Germany

I haven’t done a VFYT in a while. Not quite sure why I drifted away from them. But James C. sends the one above this morning, with this note, and I just had to post it:

That’s Rhineland sauerbraten with delicious sauerkraut and potato dumplings. I’m at a traditional brauhaus. Notice how, unlike in Bavaria, the beers don’t come in giant litres. Here the local kölsch is brought out one after another in small glasses, with the waitress counting them on the coaster with a pen. Another difference is the sauerbraten. I grew up with the Bavarian version from my father’s mother (of Bavarian heritage). This kind has berries and nuts in the delicious gravy. One of my favourite things to eat!

Coming in to Germany last night, I got to thinking about your blog post about European civilisation no longer believing in itself. I wholeheartedly agree with that diagnosis of malaise. But paradoxically, could there also be too much confidence? Last night (as I always do when coming to Germany (or Sweden, Switzerland et al.), I told myself: “My God what a civilised country.” From the sparkling, smooth, whisper-quiet train from the gleaming airport to the clean, peaceful streets and startlingly well-organised and immaculately maintained infrastructure, this place is a marvel of good order that puts our country to shame.

Perhaps many contemporary Germans don’t realise how difficult this achievement is, and how fragile it is and precarious to maintain. Perhaps they think this state of things is inevitable for any culture or people, with enough discipline. Perhaps they tell themselves that Syrians only need to be exposed to German culture and education to become good Germans. Perhaps they have convinced themselves that these newcomers are sponges who will easily release their Arab oil when they soak up good German vinegar.

I’m not convinced. But in any case, Germany is still Germany, for now. And it’s a lovely place to be.

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