Trump Blames Germany for US Woes

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Trump: I will impose a 35% tax on BMWs made in Mexico for the American market.

Germany: BMW’s largest factory is in the USA. BMW employs 70,000 Americans. We make parts for Ford and Chrysler in Mexico, as does Bosch, etc. We just might move all jobs to Mexico, too.

Trump: There are no Chevrolets parked outside of German houses.

Germany: Make a better car.

Trump: The EU is the vehicle for Germany’s economy.

Germany: Let us drive, we have no speed limit and we just won the Formula One Championship. Again.

Trump: Merkel’s ‘Refugee Policy’ was utterly catastrophic (said 3 times).

Germany: We’ve got this. It’s called leadership, even when unpopular.

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Trump: Merkel’s policy caused Brexit.

Germany: Finally, and good riddance. They were never wholly in. What does the UK make again?

Trump: Other countries will follow suit. They will leave the EU.

Germany: We hope so. Then it’ll be better. Countries like Norway and Sweden would reconsider.

Trump: NATO is obsolete.

Germany: Thanks for the assist, forever indebted; we can stand on our own (see BMW, Audi, etc.).

Given this past Sunday, one has to wonder why so many of Trump’s attacks were on Germany, a friend, when others mean the USA harm. Is it fear of the Teutonic giants, who can work circles around their American peers? And get 30 days paid vacation? And have unions? And still turn out massive profits? AND win World Cups?

Christmas Charity and Sunday Sidewalk Steals, Munich Style

The TV stand. Photo: Laptops and Lederhosen

The TV stand. Photo: Laptops and Lederhosen

I was feeling much in the Christmas spirit, so I decided to donate my old TV and the piece of furniture it stood on for the last decade to some local, less-fortunate inhabitants of this fair burg. Also, my wife had been pestering me for a few months that she wanted it out of our apartment and that putting it in the cellar was NOT an option. The two things collided.

So I did what any samaritan would do. I walked a circumventive route and placed the TV in a tunnel that runs under a major road near our apartment, making sure the whole time that nobody saw me do it. It was wrapped up in a blue IKEA bag, with a remote control, and a cable. Merry Christmas.

We live in a nice neighborhood in Munich, an equally desirable location for expats and natives alike. The area is very middle-class. Before we moved here a few months ago we lived in an area that is celebrated for its ‘cultural diversity’, code words for a large immigrant population, a methadone clinic, and blocks of social housing. We loved that neighborhood, too, however, just not for the same reasons that we love this neighborhood.

Free shoes. Does anybody actually wear shoes formed by somebody else's feet who is not blood related? Photo: Laptops and Lederhosen

Free shoes. Does anybody actually wear shoes formed by somebody else’s feet who is not blood related? Photo: Laptops and Lederhosen

One of the things we loved about the old neighborhood was there were plenty of children (immigrant children, of course, since Germans have general apathy to too many progeny), which meant there were always plenty of goodies at the bi-annual community flea markets. We were always trying to pick up cheap toys, used books, kitchen utensils, etc.

One of the more interesting things we’ve learned about life here in Munich compared to our former lives in America is that if you wait for the after-the-flea-market sale, you sometimes can get some good things dirt cheap. Like free. That’s right, here in Munich, one of the richest cities in the world, people leave their old used worn-out stuff on the streets for others to take. And take it they do.

The TV stand. I wanted to take a picture of the TV on the TV stand, but in the eight minutes I was away to fetch the stand, the TV was taken. If you look closely, you might be able to see exactly where on the stand the TV had spent much of its existence. Photo: Laptops and Lederhosen

The TV stand. I wanted to take a picture of the TV on the TV stand, but in the eight minutes I was away to fetch the stand, the TV was taken. If you look closely, you might be able to see exactly where on the stand the TV had spent much of its existence. Photo: Laptops and Lederhosen

Now, I’m not sure if the taking of things is because people are struggling more than we think just to pay the bills, or it’s the more likely possibility of Germans’ legendary frugality manifesting itself in this behavior. Or perhaps it’s as simple as good old-fashioned laziness. Whatever the reason, most people I’ve spoken to think it’s a great thing.

One thing is for sure, it is the best, most direct way to recycle, though it does little for the bottom line of the economy. This throws conservative Americans into a tizzy, since consumerism is the pathway to Heaven. The Germans use less but buy better quality. I digress.

The first and last Sunday mornings of any month are the best time to go sidewalk bargain hunting. These are the days that normally follow Saturday moving day, most new renting agreements naturally begin on the first of the month. Another difference is, unlike in America where tossed furniture, kitchen appliances and old bicycles normally are found at the end of a long dark road to nowhere, here in Munich they are left just off the main traffic areas. They can be procured on side streets too, it’s really just a game of luck. There is no real organization which is about as exciting as it gets for Germans.

Here in Munich you have to take your old things to the Wertstoffhof  (recycling center), where you may or may not be asked to show a valid residency permit with your current address, to make sure that one, you are allowed to dispose of your stuff in Munich and two, to determine if you’ve brought them to the correct center for your ZIP code. If you have all of these things then you are directed to the correct container (there are about 30 different containers-no shitting), by a gruff Bavarian man (always a Bavarian) who reeks of Leberkäse and cigarettes.

New shelf. This shelf fits perfectly in our little nook. Our daughter believes it's a place to keep her cars and trains, and so there you go. Photo: Laptops and Lederhosen

New shelf. This shelf fits perfectly in our little nook. Our daughter believes it’s a place to keep her cars and trains, and so there you go. Photo: Laptops and Lederhosen

I have also been the recipient of the deep discounting deals on the pavements as well. Recently, my wife and I were walking with our daughter and came across a basic shelf which fit perfectly in a little nook we have in our apartment. A thorough cleaning, a coat of lacquer and a few well-placed tacks in the back and, poof, we now are the proud doting parents of a ‘brand new’ shelf.

But like anything in life that’s good, there are limits. Last week the city finally came and removed a completely banged up fridge from the sidewalk around the corner. The police had placed a note on it, asking the owners to please remove it. It sat on the sidewalk, untouched, for about three weeks. Rumor has it that the old owners are back in Romania or Bulgaria already, so the city had to take it away.

        

A Birthday Bash to Forget

Where we met Jim, and heard his story...

Where we met Jim, and heard his story…

I met Jim here in Munich in 2002, in a month warm enough to drink a beer while sitting in a beer garden. He was sitting alone at the same table as four of my friends and me, reading a USA Today newspaper. He seemed like a nice enough fellow, typical American Midwest, neat, organized, thorough. I later learned he was extremely polite when spoken to, but rarely spoke first, especially to strangers. And like many from that geographic location in America, he enjoyed a beer.

After he came back with his second Maß (one liter beer) and had knocked a good third of it down, Jim looked at my friends and me with those eyes that asked ‘can I join your conversation’? Mark, one of the four guys I was sitting with, also from the Midwest, invited Jim to join in which is customary in Bavaria, especially in beer gardens.

Jim proceeded to tell us about why he was in Munich (on a two-year contract with Siemens), what he enjoyed about living in Munich, difficulties he’d had adjusting without any German language skills, etc. Though Jim said that he mostly liked living in Munich, I felt he may have been embellishing his time here.

We started talking about some cultural differences between the USA and Germany, a subject which never grows stale and is always entertaining. After each of us had told a short anecdote, Jim took his turn. This is what he said.

 

Jim’s Story

“One of the most embarrassing moments I’ve had in Munich had to do with my birthday. I had only been here for a month or so, and had barely settled into my job and department. There was one guy in my department, Reiner, however, whom I’d built up a pretty good relationship with. We both played volleyball, and he’d invited me a few times to play with his sports club team. I was neither the best nor the worst, so it was cool.

It often seems as if 50% of Munich works at Siemens.

It often seems as if 50% of Munich works at Siemens.

So one Friday at work, after I had left a meeting from a different department from another area of Siemens-that place is fucking big-I saw Reiner leaving another meeting room to take a phone call. So I stopped and waited for Reiner to finish his call. It was only a minute. I glanced into the room and saw about 20 people and different balloons.”

“Hey Reiner, how are doing?” I asked.

“I’m just making (sic) party with friend from school times,” he replied. His German was good but not great. “It’s his birthday today and we eaten cake and drunken prosecco (sic).”

“Oh cool,” I said. “Next Wednesday is my birthday. Maybe you can bring some of your friends and come to my office. I’d love to have some cake and champagne, and meet some other guys and gals from our department. Don’t worry, I’ll buy.”
“OK, Jim, we can make that. What time should we come?”

“Let’s do it at the end of the day. Say, around 4pm,” I said.

“Perfect,” said Reiner. “Have a nice weekend.”

An atypical birthday cake for an atypical story. Photo: www.cakechooser.com/

An atypical birthday cake for an atypical story. Photo: http://www.cakechooser.com/

“I didn’t see Reiner the next Monday, but I did see him on Tuesday. I reminded him about my birthday party the next day at 4pm. He assured me that he and about 12 of our colleagues would come to ‘make party’. The next day I finished my work at around 3:45. At four, right on time, Reiner came to my office door and looked in. He had about 15 people in tow.

“Is the party in here or in another room?” Reiner asked.

“It’s in here. I think it’s big enough for up to 20 people,” I said.

“But where are the balloons? And the cake?” enquired Reiner.

“I thought you would bring them,” I said, crestfallen. I had heard the Germans could be a bit cold and insensitive, but I never imagined they could be this cruel.

“You said you will buy (sic),” said Reiner.

“Yes. I would give you the money after the party,” I said, confused.

Reiner laughed. “I think we have a culture difference, Jim.” He then said a few sentences in German which I couldn’t understand. Everybody laughed at the punchline. Reiner turned to me.

“Here in Germany,” Reiner continued, “It’s up to the person with the birthday to buy all of the things for the party, and bring them too. I think in America the guests bring everything. Sheisser!”

Germany’s Fateful Day and America’s Day of Destiny

November 9th, 1989. The latest example of Germany's 'Fateful Day'.

November 9th, 1989. The latest example of Germany’s ‘Fateful Day’.

In the United States, July 4th is a day of celebration, and in many ways it reaffirms America’s belief in its destiny, especially ‘Manifest Destiny’. In Germany, if there is a day that is similar to America’s July 4th, it would be 9 November. It is the day that the Wall separating the two Germanies came down, and from the ruins a stronger, united Germany rose. In a scant 25 years since the fall of the Wall, that one Germany has become the undisputed leader of Europe. But whereas America’s July 4th is a ‘Day of Destiny’, and has only positive connotations, Germany’s November 9th is a “Schicksaltag’, or Fateful Day. And though the recent celebrations have given most Germans a time to reflect, and for many, an opportunity to celebrate their good fortune, November 9th is not a good day in the annals of German history.

Konrad Adenauer, exactly the right man at the right time for Germany.

Konrad Adenauer, exactly the right man at the right time for Germany.

History is the sum total of things that could have been avoided. –Konrad Adenauer

Any expat who lives in Munich, and has been here for more time than quick trips to Dachau, BMW Welt, and the Hofbrauhaus take, will invariably conclude that there is a melancholic undertone lurking in nearly every German you meet. Hidden in the darkest recesses of their character, it manifests itself in an abundance of scepticism and cynicism. A long history unlike any other, tempered in ‘blood and steel’, Germans have been both both the provocateurs and victims.

Things do not happen. Things are made to happen. –John F Kennedy

Americans on the other hand are only learning how to be good cynics and sceptics. The whole history of America has been written by America, and as the winners (in their collective minds), it has been full of joy with little sorrow. Most of the sorrow in America’s history has been a result of fratricide. Here’s a staggering statistic: the number of killed in America’s Civil War is greater than the number killed in ALL OTHER CONFLICTS COMBINED. It is little wonder  Americans feel in some ways they are a chosen people.

On July 4th, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by the Second Continental Congress, paving the way for the birth of a new nation. Fifty years later to the day, July 4th, 1826, the main architect of that document and third president, Thomas Jefferson, died in Virginia. On that same day a few hours after Jefferson died, John Adams, the second president of the USA, believing Jefferson was still alive, mumbled his last words in Massachusetts, “Thomas Jefferson survives.”

Virginian Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in building the American government. He became the third president of the US. He died the same day  as Bostonian John Adams, the second president of the US. Destiny.

Virginian Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in building the American government. He became the third president of the US. He died the same day as Bostonian John Adams, the second president of the US.

On July 4th, 1863, the Union forces from the North won two important battles that sealed the fate of the Confederacy. Gettysburg in the east, and Vicksburg on the Mississippi River in the west, wounded the South mortally. Though the Rebels continued fighting another two years, there was little hope for their independence anymore.

Two other great moments of America’s cultural journey fell on July 4th.

In 1855, Walt Whitman’s monumental ‘Leaves of Grass’ was published. Many experts believe it is the official starting point of serious American literature, in a style that was pure American, without any remnants of Europe’s influence. American art had arrived.

In New York’s Yankee Stadium, The Iron Horse, Lou Gehrig, gave a rousing speech retiring from the game of baseball he loved so dearly on 4 \July, 1939. He had played in 2,130 consecutive games before being diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS). It is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease in North America. Though Gehrig would be dead in two years from the disease, he declared he was ‘the luckiest man on the face of the earth’ that day in Yankee Stadium for having been able to play for so many seasons in that stadium with those fans.

The 'Iron Horse' Lou Gehrig was a key component of the New York Yankees. His name is synonymous in America with dedication, perseverance, and the disease that cut short his life.

The ‘Iron Horse’ Lou Gehrig was a key component of the New York Yankees. His name is synonymous in America with dedication, perseverance, and the disease that cut short his life.

The contradiction that is Germany is summed up by its Fateful Day. Moments of darkness in its history are balanced with brilliant light. Though the idea for a unified Germany began earlier, the first real attempts can be traced to Vienna, where Robert Blum, a liberal leader of the German Revolutions of 1848, was executed by Austrian soldiers. Blum and others believed that Germany should be separate, and independent of the Austrian Empire. Though he became a martyr, his death effectively ended any hopes for a unified Germany at that time.

The execution of Robert Blum, by the emperor's troops. Blum became a martyr for the cause of a unified Germany.

The execution of Robert Blum, by the emperor’s troops. Blum became a martyr for the cause of a unified Germany.

Seventy years later in 1918, Philipp Scheidemann, an upper-ranking of the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), gave a speech to a large crowd of people from the Reichstag (Parliament Building). Though he was not qualified to do so, Scheidemann declared that Germany was now a republic, thwarting the efforts of the Communists to declare Germany a Soviet Republic. And so, Germany became a republic.

Three years later, the whole incident was captured in the novel Der 9. November by Bernhard Kellermann, which was critical of German soldiers during the Revolution of 1918. This brought him much trouble later.

In 1923, a former corporal from the Bavarian Army (part of the German Army) declared in a Munich beer hall that a revolution had begun in Germany. Adolf Hitler, a mostly heretofore unknown politician, led 2,000 followers in an attempt to take over the Bavarian Government.

Though unsuccessful, the Nazis led by Adolf Hitler would become a force of terror and death a decade later after their failed attempt to seize power in Munich, in 1923.

Though unsuccessful, the Nazis led by Adolf Hitler would become a force of terror and death a decade later after their failed attempt to seize power in Munich, in 1923.

The ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ led to the death of 4 policemen and 16 Nazis. A plaque was erected by the Nazis after seizing power on the east side of the Feldherrnhalle (Field Marshal’s Hall), at Odeonsplatz. Citizens were required to give a Nazi salute when passing the plaque. In order to avoid giving the salute, many pedestrians turned left on Viscardi Alle behind the Feldherrnhalle. It is known today as the the Drückebergergasserl (Quitter’s Alley).

(A plaque commemorating the four fallen police officers was sunk at Odeonsplatz on November 9th, 1994. Few paid it much attention, so after much haggling between the City of Munich and the Bavarian State Government, a new plaque was attached to the west side of the Residenz.)

Destroyed synagogue Ohel Yaaqov, in Munich. There is a plaque  today commemorating this woeful act behind the Oberpollinger store in Munich.

Destroyed synagogue Ohel Yaaqov, in Munich. There is a plaque today commemorating this woeful act behind the Oberpollinger store in Munich.

And then things went from bad to worse. On that fateful day in 1938, the rest of the world watched in horror as the Nazis showed their true colors. They rounded up over 30,000 Jews and incarcerated them in concentration camps. Nearly 100 were killed. This is known as Kristallnacht (Crystal Night), due to the shards of broken glass that littered the streets.

Destruction at a Jewish owned department store in Munich.

Destruction at a Jewish owned department store in Munich.

The last event – and this may be the greatest of them all on this Fateful Day – was the fall of the Berlin Wall. After months of East Germans ‘travelling’ to Hungary and then crossing an open border from Hungary to the West, peaceful protests centered in Berlin began to demand free travel to the West. When it became clear that the Soviet Union would not send troops in support of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the stage was set for opening the Wall.

It was decided on 9 November to open the crossings the next day, but the person who was to announce this was not told it was to be in 24 hours. Caught unawares, he instead said it was to be effective immediately. At 10:45 pm or so, the border guards opened the gates and the East Germans poured through. They were met by equally ecstatic West Germans who greeted them with bubbly and flowers.

A steady stream of East Germans began crossing into West Germany shortly after the Wall fell. Some were tourists, others stayed in west Germany, never to return.

A steady stream of East Germans began crossing into West Germany shortly after the Wall fell. Some were tourists, others stayed in West Germany, never to return.

When it came time to assign a day of celebration for this event, it was decided that November 9th was too controversial. In order to avoid any controversy, Germany decided to celebrate their National Unity Day on October 3rd, the date when their reunification was finalized in 1990.

But as fate would have it, and in a country whose history is so long and full, there is no day completely free of sorrow. Bavaria’s most important politician since the end of the monarchy, Franz Josef Strauss, died on October 3rd, 1988, while hunting near Regensburg.

A Texas Two-step with German Beer, Brats, and Beats

A look at Texans who can trace some ancestry back to the Vaterland. Photo: lonestargenealogy.com

A map of Texans who can trace some ancestry back to the Vaterland. Photo: lonestargenealogy.com

Unbeknownst to many, there is a large group of ethnic Germans in Texas. Most of the first Germans arrived in the mid-19th century one of two ways. They either arrived by ship directly to the coast of Texas or they migrated north from Mexico City when Napoleon III landed French troops in Mexico.

Those that arrived in the Texas swamps near present-day Houston had been promised new land and a better life after years of poverty brought on by unseasonably cold summer weather in Europe, revolutions, and other internal issues. They literally had to hack their way inland to reach the lands they had been promised. Ill-prepared for the climate many perished but enough found their way to the Texas Hill Country. They founded towns such as Fredericksburg, Schulenburg and New Braunfels. Many of the older people of these towns still speak German at home, though it is an odd dialect and is quickly dying out.

Those Germans and other Central Europeans who migrated north brought their culture, including and especially, their music. Through the years this music synthesized with the Latinos’ music and Tejano Music was created. It sounds much like a waltz, or like some other Central European folks music but the lyrics are in Spanish. It remains very popular today throughout Texas.

In another sign of the strong German influence that lives on in Texas, one of the largest German festivals in America is the ‘Wurstfest’. If you’re in Texas the second week of November, perhaps you should have a beer and a brat. It’s a true Texan tradition!

You’re Shitting Me!

Toiletbrushuseinstructions. ( L to R) Completely wrong. Wrong. Almost correct. Correct.

Toiletbrushuseinstructions. ( L to R) Completely wrong. Wrong. Almost correct. Correct.

During my backpack tour of Europe in 1999, I took my first dump in Germany and I thought the toilet was broken. I asked myself where was the water? There was only enough for my logs, not more. Germans’ frugalness is legendary, might’ve their thriftiness perniciously crept into their toilets too?

The next time I found myself on the morning throne I noticed there was even less water than than the previous porcelain potty. Is there a shortage of water in Germany that I am completely unaware of? Certainly there was plenty of rain. Had the Germans not figured out how to collect it and it ran off into some rapidly roiling river? As I watched my handiwork spin down the drain I wondered what it was about toilets in Germany.

The reason I was Munich at all during that first trip was to cohabitate with a dame who I’d met a few days earlier in Italy. She also didn’t have much water in her toilet bowl. And to make matters worse, the hole was on the wrong side! My steaming pile of excrement sat atop a little ledge. As the water flowed during flushing the brownies slid down of their perch as if they were riding a flume at Wet-n-Wild. Yippee!

Naturally, my mess left skid marks around the toilet. I hadn’t cared to take notice of this and it was quickly brought to my attention by the dame.

Dame: “The brush tucked behind the toilet under the tank is used to scrub the toilet when you’re finished.”

Me: “OK, sorry. Why does my poopie sit on a ledge and not drop directly into the water like it does in America?”

Dame: “It is like that so you can inspect it for consistency, color and smell.”

Me: “You’re shitting me! You Germans sure are thorough!”

Germany Still Has a Wall that Divides

Usually punctual, very comfortable

Usually punctual, very comfortable. Photo: wikipedia

If you travel by train or car in Germany for any distance, a few aspects of Germanness are inescapable. They all share similar ideas of orderliness, tidiness, and structure. Other pillars of Germanness, especially in the workplace, include punctuality, productivity, and thoroughness. These are the things that unite them, a sort of common consciousness,  a Teutonic core.

But there are great divides and differences between Germans. These fault lines are often geographic in nature. Surely it would seem that the East Germans, separated for decades by a physical wall of concrete and steel, would contrast immensely with the Western Germans. And, in fact they do. There is also a mental wall that has been even harder to overcome.

Many an Ossi has struggled mightily to come to terms with ideas of deadlines, competition and overall productivity, which come easier to those Germans who recovered from World War II in American, French or British Zones of occupation. Communism’s inferior business model, coupled with an overzealous and EXTREMELY well-organized secret police, the Stasi, adds to many East Germans distrust and narrower world view.

All of this comes a little surprise. What is a bigger surprise, and which can only be discovered after spending some time in Germany, is the polarity between Northern and Southern Germany. That is the greater divide.

When I travel back to Florida to visit my family and friends, someone somewhere invariably asks me, “Why do you live in Europe? And of all places, why do you live in Germany? France, sure, Italy great, but Germany?”

My patent response is “I live neither in Europe nor Germany. I live in Bavaria.”

Bavarians are not really Germans, but more like the Austrians or the Schwaben (think Stuttgart). Or the Austrians and Schwaben are like the Bavarians, and neither are Germans. Yes, they speak dialects of the same language, the similarities are fewer after that. It’s like trying to tell an Scotsman he’s a Brit, or a Texan he’s an American.

 

A brief history of the land that is now called Germany

Up to 60% of the German population was killed in the 30 Years War. Photo: wikipedia

Up to 60% of the German population was killed in the 30 Years War. Photo: wikipedia

For nearly 500 years, Germany served as a (the) battlefield of Europe. Sandwiched between the stronger powers (empires) of France, Russia or the Austro-Hungarian conglomerate, Germany became a sort of jetty that dispersed the waves of desire of its neighbors by providing a complicated group of territories whose rulers were often at war or in allegiance with each other. All of this changed, and was bound to change the face of Europe dramatically, with the rise to power of Otto von Bismarck.

The Iron Chancellor put Germany on the road to power. Photo: wikipedia

The Iron Chancellor put Germany on the road to power. Photo: wikipedia

When Germany united, through Bismarck’s masterful abilities, some great timing and luck, it immediately proved too strong for Denmark, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, France, and eventually Russia. Only Great Britain could compete and contain the new industrial and military behemoth. Germany’s ability to produce, organize and analyze was beyond comparison with other major countries then, and is still so today. This has caused a plethora of problems for Germany-and her neighbors. It caused them then as it causes them now. Germany is, and has always been, the question of Europe. It is still so today.

After a few embellishments, or half-truths (lies), Bismarck was able to unite the peoples who shared a common language-German-under a banner that would one day at different points terrorize, amaze and astound the rest of the globe.

Germany will continue to do so, though one hopes that their darkest days of the Third Reich are behind them. Many in Europe are not so sure, though it’s hard to determine if it’s politics being played or authentic fear. The quicker the rest of Europe (and the world) can resign themselves to (or rejoice) the fact that a reunified Germany is a world player, the better off it will be.

Southern Germany, Austria and Switzerland would be a formidable economic union

But how unified is Germany? Are there still many obstacles to overcome before they can truly take their place upon the Pantheon of Nations as their robust economy demands?

From east to west in Germany, the differences are stark and clear. Certainly those Germans residing near the border with Poland can’t be very similar to those Germans abutted against France. And they are not. But they are both more German than the Bavarians, those strange, independent and wonderfully quirky Bavarians, who queerly and surely seem to share few of the qualities of their more northern kindred.

Munich's most famous attraction (non-museum). Photo: wikipedia

Munich’s most famous attraction (non-museum). Photo: wikipedia

Americans think of sausages, beer, Audi, BMW, Schweinebraten and Knödel (roast pork and dumplings), Munich, beer gardens, Neuschwanstein (Cinderella’s Castle), Mozart, Einstein, the Romantic Road, the Alps, Mercedes, Nuremberg Parade Grounds, Nazism, FC Bayern, etc., when they hear the word Germany. Most of these first thoughts are either mostly Bavarian or completely Bavarian! Not German! Thyssenkrupp, E.ON, Ruhrgebiet, Currywurst, cabaret, Reeperbahn, Berlin, Hamburg, Dortmund, and the close proximity to one another of more than 25% of the total German population in North-Rhineland Westphalia, that is Germany!

In Bavaria’s sort of sleepy capital, Munich, closes at about 11pm every night. Goths are really strange. Many people still listen to Oom Pah-pah music in Bavaria, or a more modern version led by Helene Fischer. Pretzels are everywhere. Wagner’s music confounds, excites and is controversial. It’s played regularly. Festivals of planting, harvesting and moon phases abound and held weekly in Summer. A few extra kilos on the frame is still considered attractive-and normal. Bavarians drive south for fun-many have never been to Berlin or any other more northern German city.

Northern Germany has most of the vice. Photo: wikipedia

Northern Germany has most of the vice. Photo: wikipedia

If anyone wants to see a real German city, send them to Hamburg. Or Cologne. Berlin is in the midst of major transitions, it needs a few years. Maybe Dortmund, or Düsseldorf, or Hannover, those cities are real German.

Ruhrgebiet. This is Germany. Photo: wikipediaGermans have an edge, a strong affinity for industry, gray, rain and melancholy. Germans like hard rock, a bit of graffiti, wayward souls sleeping in the streets. Germans are accustomed to a bit of broken glass. Bavarians want (and have) little of that. Only the Swiss can call the Bavarians untidy. Germans eat more than pork and the trimmings-Bavarians can survive on only pigs and potatoes. Germans drink beer with strange names like Kolsch or Altbier, Bavarians drink the champagne of beers-lager, less bitter. Bavarian beer comes in big mugs, not flute glasses. Germans drink at night, Bavarians might have a beer for breakfast. Young Bavarians go to bed before midnight; Germans are in the shower preparing for the night’s festivities.

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For many years Germans were united in their basic political desires, win the Cold War (another war fought almost entirely over the idea of what to do with Germany), the World Cup and dominate Formula One. Now that they have them won, they are beginning to divide on ideas about the EU, integration, etc. Many Bavarians wouldn’t mind a separate country. The possibility of a chancellor for all of Germany being Bavarian is slim. Not impossible, but very slim.

If one is to get the EU’s support, it must be able to win the support of Germans (and Bavarians) from north to south. This is a more difficult task than winning that support from east to west. The Berlin Wall may be no more, but there still exists one that runs from east to west. But, regardless of the geographical location of native German speakers in Germany, one thing is certain. They all make jokes about the Austrians.

So maybe a recent report of a union of Austria, Switzerland, Bavaria and its neighbor to the west, Baden-Württemberg, was simply a silly season (Sommerloch) story, to tide us over till school starts. School does start later in Bavaria than the rest of Germany. Oh, Bavaria has more bank holidays than the rest of Europe. Go figure.