top of page

Germany, October/November 2014

Updated: May 10, 2021

Mary and I did a tour in late October/beginning of November 2014 to Berlin, Dresden, Leipzig and Munich. The reason for the tour was to see some of East Germany, which had been effectively out of range for most of our lives, and also to visit Munich, where I had spent a month after leaving school. All the bookings were done with great efficiency by the travel firm Kirker - “for discerning travellers”, as they say in their literature.


The first stop was Berlin – where we arrived in pouring rain, with dreary low cloud, representing the side effects, no doubt, of the hurricane that had just moved on from causing devastation in Bermuda.

Our hotel is the Honigmond – German for honeymoon, we learn. It’s very much a boutique hotel, located reasonably centrally in what was definitely East Berlin. And looks it – or is this just the effect of the grey and the rain? The hotel itself is delightful with very old-style decoration. Amazingly, every wall has a painted reproduction of a Rembrandt or one of his close fiends. It all seems to be run by two delightful ladies, who alternate at the desk.

Lunch at an Italian pasta restaurant, the Giotto. Spectacularly good pasta. I maintain that I have never had a bad meal in Germany, whether in a fancy restaurant, a local stüberl (if that’s the right word) or a pizza/pasta joint. Will I still be able to say this by the end of our trip?

We spent the afternoon orientating ourselves: walking towards and then along the famous Unter den Linden. Still much rebuilding. We walked through the Brandenburg Gate, having passed a phalanx of police and a massive motorcade for John Kerry, the US Secretary of State, who we saw in the distance and found no need to photograph.

Then we went south along the site of the Wall to Potsdamer Platz, where vast new office buildings have been constructed and where there are also remnants of the Wall, with some historical descriptions and photographs. Initially, when we got to Berlin, I had difficulty seeing from the maps where the wall went. Was there a bit denial happening? Maybe there was originally – a desire to get rid of all trace of the hated monstrosity. Understandable perhaps. But I was wrong. They certainly now want to preserve the memory. Shortly after we leave, it will be the 25th anniversary of its fall (the Mauerfall, as the German language succinctly describes it). It will be celebrated in some style – possibly aided by John Kerry.

Now to record our evening – at the Borchardt restaurant. Recommended in a low-key way by Kirker, it turned out to be the happening place, well known in Berlin and full (so we were told) of German celebs, particularly actors. Then I spotted someone who looked very like Stephen Spielberg. Jawohl, it was indeed. (Mary resisted the temptation of interrupting his dinner by telling him how much we’d enjoyed ET a hundred years ago.) All of which is beside the point. It is a lively place. The clientele, whether actors or not, look fun and interesting. As in fact were our neighbours, who were a businessman and his wife from Dortmund. There seems to be an unwritten dress code for the men: white open-neck shirt, navy blue jacket. And very few (if any) have the modern shaved bald look. The food was delicious, in a healthy German style: tasty, in ample quantities, with pleasant red wine, Spät Burgunder from the Pfalz. Being slightly unadventurous, we rebooked for two evenings later. Note to Kirker: beef up the recommendation.

Next day, museums. Still dreary weather, although not actually raining. Getting lost on the way, we were given the shocking news that the Pergamon Museum was closed until 2020 – a long time to wait. The so-called Museum Island, a real island in the River Spree, has five amazing museums. We managed four – just – including the Pergamon. It isn’t exactly closed. The truth is that the main exhibit, the massive altar transplanted from Pergamon in the days when such things were done, is indeed closed for some years. However, the Ishtar Gate at Babylon, similarly transplanted from what is now Iraq some 100 years ago in the glory days of German archeology, is still to be marvelled at. As is the vast gate into the market place in ancient Miletus, now in Turkey.

I found the Altes Museum the most interesting and impressive (apart from the Pergamon). It has most of the Greek and Roman statues, and other objects such as a collection of Greek pots and vases with their elegant, black and red figure painting. But one of my quests was to see how many actual original classical Greek statues are to be found. In most similar collections the Greek statues are Roman copies, which is essentially how they’ve come down to us. The originals have rarely survived, making one grateful to Lord Elgin for having removed his eponymous marbles from the likelihood of destruction to the safety of England. (Doubtless the deal he did is being pored over by none other than Mrs George Clooney.) The answer to my quest was very few in the Altes Museum. But they do have some, relatively small pieces, most of them wisely behind glass.

We travel by the underground U-Bahn, as well as the commuter overground S-Bahn. Our museum tickets (supplied by Kirker in their package) that give free entry to museums also give free public transport. The ticket system is surprisingly unmechanised: no gates, no turnstiles, just the occasional operative on the trains checking tickets. I met one on my first trip, having failed to “validate” my ticket by punching it in one of the machines on the platform. He was the last one we saw; so maybe a lot of free travel is enjoyed by the locals, or maybe not.

We have a musical event in each city, organized by the “concierge” service of Kirker. In Berlin, it is the Berlin Philharmonic, no less, in the Philharmonic Hall, a recently constructed magnificent building seating an audience of 2,400 people. We hear Wagner (from Götterdämmerung), followed by Brahms, followed by Alban Berg – not one of my favourites, but quite fun to watch, with much activity from the percussionist, including his making some dramatic bangs with a mallet he had some difficulty in lifting.

We pay a visit to what are probably the main remains of the Wall, just ten minutes from our hotel. It makes a sombre, moving sight, particularly in grey cloudy conditions. You see where the two walls were – inner and outer - with the “death strip” in between. There’s a memorial to the 134 people killed. I pushed a button on one of the installations and heard Willy Brandt’s speech, plus English translation, made in 1961 at the time the Wall went up.

Berlin is a city of bicycles, with quite a different culture from ours in London. The cycles tend to be the “sit-up-and-beg” variety with high handlebars. There are no safety helmets to be seen (actually I think I saw two during our whole trip). The cyclists proceed at a leisurely pace on roads, bicycle lanes and pavements, and certainly without the aggressive tendencies we see in London. Why is this? Perhaps cycling is typically seen as an alternative to walking, whereas in London it’s an alternative to driving.

The main art gallery, the Gemäldegalerie, is part of a concrete jungle of buildings constituting some form of cultural complex that makes the South Bank seem positively friendly. The gallery itself is all beautifully set out, as you’d expect, with many examples of German painting (Durer etc) but also many Rembrandts, Botticelli, Rubens and others, including two of the few Vermeers in the world.

For lunch we revisited the Italian restaurant we went to on arrival. The delightful staff were entirely German – not Italian, not Polish – making an interesting contrast to London, a contrast reflected also in shops, hotels and elsewhere.

We are sadly getting rather a dark and gloomy impression of Berlin, which may not do it justice. The weather continues grey. Also the hotel specialises in low lighting and dark furniture; making it hard to read in the room. Our room has heavy dark green wallpaper with a fairly disagreeable central mini-chandelier. Over the bed is a large oil painting of the Rape of Europa, which even in the semi-darkness makes rape seem quite an attractive proposition.

Our final dinner in Berlin was, of course, at Borchardt– perhaps the Berlin equivalent of the Wolseley; good atmosphere, good food, happily no Michelin aspirations. We are welcomed as old clients and at the end given some calvados – even though we don’t appear much on TV.


Dresden, to the British, is of course the city we destroyed on 13/14 February 1945 and which the Germans have amazingly rebuilt. It is hard to imagine how they’ve achieved it, particularly in our first port of call, the Frauenkirche with its famous dome that dominates the old city – and has done so since Canaletto (or was it Bellotto?) painted the view along the river. Also, the opera house, the Semperoper, as it is called after the architect, Gottfried Semper.

We go to the opera house on our first evening, to see Cosi Fan Tutte. The building is staggering, particularly the auditorium: extravagant baroque decoration, four tiers of circles, plus an intricately painted ceiling – all destroyed, apparently, and rebuilt. We are (thanks to Kirker) in the fourth row of the stalls, sitting next to a charming tax lawyer (aren’t they all?). The place is packed with soberly dressed, mostly elderly Dresdeners. The production is modern, funny, attractive, and immaculately sung by singers from all over the place – specifically, the US, Britain and Chile.

Next day we go to the Zwinger, a complex of baroque-style (of course) buildings created originally by the local hero, Augustus the Strong, the 18th century Elector of Saxony, who was jealous of Louis XIV and wanted to do something about it. It contains the main picture gallery: quite gloomy, with its two Vermeers (which means that we’ve now seen over 10% of all in existence!), as well as Rubens and Rembrandt (the latter not among his best, in my humble opinion). The most famous picture is the Sistine Madonna by Raphael, a large altarpiece originally done for a church in Piacenza called San Sisto, hence the name. It has the two pensive, rather worried cherubs at the bottom, which feature on endless cards and posters all over the world.

This morning the sun comes out! Alleluia! We have lunch sitting outside in the Neumarkt square, listening to a man playing a piano (amplified) by a statue of Martin Luther in front of the Frauenkirche. The sun of course transforms the whole place. The buildings were grey yesterday; today they glow.

Germans are very friendly people, at least according to the sample we have so far encountered. We find ourselves talking to people in restaurants, as well as at the opera and concert. All friendly and welcoming, as of course are all the waitresses and hotel staff. As an exception, our neighbours at the concert in Berlin were uncommunicative, but they were Finnish – and to be fair, we probably didn’t share a language.

A visit to the Green Vault in the Royal Palace, with strict security (even handbags aren’t allowed). It is said to be the richest treasure chamber in Europe – or is it the world? It’s certainly magnificent and, of course, amazing that somehow much of it and its contents survived the devastation of 1945. Whenever you see anything in Dresden, there’s a tendency to think about what, if anything, survived and what has been painstakingly rebuilt and reconstituted. It is a relief to hear that some of the treasures were lost because they were melted down at the end of the Seven Years War in 1763, another war in which Saxony was on the wrong side.

Since we’ve been in Germany, we seem to have had lunch exclusively in Italian restaurants: the Giotto in Berlin; the Classico Italiano in Dresden. You look around the Neumarkt square in Dresden and most of the restaurants are Italian. The Italians seem to have taken over, so far as the simple, reasonably-priced eatery is concerned – and not just in Germany. Why is this? The popularity of pizza and pasta, I guess. But also they are straightforward and cheap. Our neighbours at the next table at the Classico Italiano were Brazilian, struggling in incomprehension with the menu in German, Italian and, of course, English – all mystifying. Maybe the Italian takeover hasn’t yet hit Brazil.

Dresden is a quiet city. No-one seems in much of a rush. Trams glide through the main streets (there’s no underground). The city is effectively divided between the apparently old, even though recently rebuilt, and the clearly modern with its glistening shopping malls. Our hotel incidentally, the Bülow Palace, is the height of luxury, situated in the “Neustadt” on the other side of the river from the old city, but only a short walk away. It has a Michelin star restaurant, which was closed the days we were there – frankly, no problem.


We leave Dresden at a civilized hour, having been taken to the station by a very dour large lady, monosyllabic in any language we attempted. When we get to Leipzig, it seems that the normal super-efficient system has broken down. Leipzig is (inconveniently) the biggest railway station in Europe, so it takes some time to establish that the expected driver hasn’t shown up. After much phoning, we are told that he as been caught up in a massive traffic jam following an accident. He shows up, quite quickly after the phoning, not in the usual drivers kit, repeating (I think) the traffic jam tale. Does one have to be very cynical to think they might just have forgotten?

Leipzig is at its best, in bright clear sunshine under a cloudless sky. Our hotel, the Steigenberger Grand, is very central and lives up to its grand name. Its décor is ultra-modern, so that the bathroom has the kind of tap arrangements that take a while to master, often after getting soaked by turning the wrong knob. It also has one of those basins that look like vast pudding bowls – why are they thought to be so popular with the discerning traveller?

We walk along (everywhere is in walking distance) to the Thomaskirche, where Bach was music director for some 25 years. Sadly no music in the church, not even piped. A simple clean interior: the baroque decorations that were there in Bach’s time were destroyed again, happily, not by the RAF but by the good parishioners of Leipzig in the late 19th century.

We have lunch in the Bräuhaus an Thomaskirche, which sounds German enough but is in fact – as we’ve come to expect – a very good Italian pasta joint.

Our musical event in Leipzig is a small chamber concert in the foyer of the famous Gewandhaus, given by three young men whose motto is roughly “All the best things come in threes”. It is part of a series of small hour-long after-work concerts that also has its motto, the very Germanic “First work, then pleasure”. I wondered, incidentally, what Gewandhaus means. Gewand means a robe. The orchestra was started in the 18th century not, as was then normal, by the local prince but by the clothmakers guild. Not many people know that – as Michael Caine might have said.

Leipzig is a city that was much more important in times gone by than sadly it is now. Not only Bach, but also Mendelssohn and Schumann lived here. It was also a centre for trade fairs and industry – which to some extent it still is. But now it is quiet and delightful, with frankly not much to do. There is the Bach museum, which consists mainly of very well-displayed panels of information, plus recordings of his music. There is also the fine art museum, in a modern construction that is still work in progress, which contains high quality paintings, beautifully displayed, by artists most of whom I’d certainly never heard of. An exception is Cranach, whose Adam and Eve (separate paintings) seem to appear in every gallery.

There is the “oldest coffee house in Europe”, which is very hard to find and is a small hotel with a sculpture over the door of a turbaned Turk being served presumably with coffee.

In general, a delightful place to wander around, but not many excitements.


It’s a long way to Munich (over 5 hours) even by the express ICE train. It’s not that express, going often at a leisurely pace via various places, including Nuremberg - after which it speeds up.

We got into conversation – as we do – with our fellow-traveller on the train, a friendly man with his two well-behaved children. He works for Deutsche Bahn (the railways). We passed through Jena, prompting me to say: Why do I know this town? Wasn’t it a battle? Our new friend had no idea, but consulted his smartphone. Yes, indeed, the Battle of Jena in the Napoleonic Wars. Later, refreshing my memory, I read that it was the key battle in which Napoleon defeated the Prussians, leading to the collapse of the Holy Roman Empire – which had existed in that part of the world for a mere 1,000 years. Interesting, thought I, that this presumably educated German had no knowledge of what must have been one of the most decisive events of German history. Maybe we all hold back in our history lessons on the big defeats – although I have to say that I was taught at my prep school about the Battle of Bannockburn (where, as I'm sure all my readers will be aware, the English were defeated by the Scots). I can still remember the date - even if I can’t always remember what I was doing last week.

On to Munich. Our hotel, the Torbräu, is small and perfectly formed. It is very central and proudly says, not only that it is over 500 years old, but also that it has been in the same family for over 100 years. It’s by no means grand (it has one of the slowest lifts in Europe), but certainly makes up for it by the charm and helpfulness of the ladies behind the desk and the staff generally.

We can and do walk straight into the central Marienplatz, which is heaving. It seems to be a gigantic shopping centre with the old buildings taking a back seat. But, as so often, it gets much quieter just off the main streets. To some extent the numbers of people may be influenced by the fact that one of the days of our stay is a Bavarian public holiday, falling this year inconveniently on a Saturday, when all the shops really are closed. There’s also one of the big football matches taking place in the Allianz Arena, Bayern Munich v Dortmund. Makes us feel at home.

We look into the famous Hofbräuhaus and admire, from a decent distance, the rows of drinkers at long tables clutching their litre tankards of the local brew. It smells of beer. What would it have been like in the days of smoking?

Our plans in Munich present logistical problems. One of the objectives is to see the extravagant palaces of King Ludwig II. Ideally, we would see Munich first, then take to the roads (the palaces being some way out of Munich). Do we rent a car? Too complicated. Rent one with a tour guide? Much too expensive. A tour seems the only answer, but the best tour (small bus, rather than double-decker horror) has only one day to go before stopping for the winter. So we take it. The weather forecast for all relevant days is dire. But this happily turns out to be nonsense. Our days in Munich and environs were gloriously sunny throughout. One of the bits of advice from the front desk had been to take no notice of weather forecasts. Dead right!

Our guide on the tour, Franziska, was delightful and very knowledgeable. En route she took us through the troubled history of the Wittelsbach family, particularly Ludwig II. He, despite his complete unsuitability to be king, is quite a hero in Bavaria – and indeed was loved by people at the time. As they say now, if it wasn’t for him, tourism in Munich would be in some trouble. Franziska is a bit of a Ludwig fan. She won’t have anything to do with calling him ”Mad King Ludwig”. He wasn’t mad, she assures us – even if a little misunderstood. His ministers, who had the job of running his treasury during all the major building projects (not to mention the financing of Wagner), were certainly guilty of some the misunderstanding she refers to.

The first palace is Linderhof. It is tiny (by palace standards) and is a jewel of baroque extravagance. Sadly, the gardens were effectively closed, with all the fountains and statues covered up in preparation for the frost and snow. The exterior gleaming white; the interior a mass of gold, silver, murals and wonderful ornamentation.

Next stop is Oberammergau – as it’s on the way. We see the great barn of a theatre where they do the passion play every ten years (next one in 2020). And also the village houses – almost all with trompe-l’oeil paintings on the walls.

Then we get to Neuschwanstein (both the “sch” and the “s” being pronounced “sh”, something no-one has mentioned to the guy doing the audio guide). Visiting Neuschwanstein involves a lot of walking, as they make clear. There is a shuttle bus every 20 minutes (with a long queue for it), but even that involves a walk at the other end. After looking at the queue, we go for the alternative, an uphill 30-40 minute walk. There is actually another option, namely a horse-drawn carriage, which Franziska advises firmly against – it is not as romantic as it might sound (too many people crammed in) and it smells. What people may not realize (I didn’t) is that when you get into the castle, you have to climb up lots of stairs in the various turrets. So, you need to be psychologically and physically prepared.

The castle has timed entrances. If you miss your slot, you can’t get in (which makes the shuttle bus option risky). So off we go, armed with our audio guides, through the many, rather dark rooms, decorated with murals of the medieval Germanic legends that Ludwig was fascinated by and on which his close friend Wagner based some of his operas (particularly Lohengrin with its swan after which the castle is named, but also Parsifal and Tannhäuser).

Neuschwanstein is interesting and bizarre, so far as the interior is concerned – hardly beautiful. But the exterior is of course amazing, perched as it is on its hill, seen against a backdrop of wonderful wooded mountain scenery (see above). What would guidebooks to Bavaria have done without it? Not to mention Walt Disney.

I had wanted to see the beautiful baroque church out in the meadows, known as the Wieskirche. I had remembered it from my stay in Munich in 1959. The people at the hotel had said that it would be difficult to get to, even if we rented a car. Not so, as it turned out. We sped past a sign to it, saying it was 3 km away. How sad. I asked Franziska whether it was ever included in tours. She said no, and that the reason was that it was a church. She said that this gives problems “these days” with their multi-denominational clientele. She then said that a client had refused to get on a bus where the driver had an Islamic-style beard.

Munich had its minor frustrations. The renowned Alte Pinakotek, the old master museum, is closed so far as most of its major paintings are concerned. And then there was the saga of the Residenz, the Wittelsbach palace in the middle of town. All rather complicated. We had a concert booked in a chapel in the palace at 6.00pm. We had been told not to plan to go round the palace after it, as it would be closed. So we showed up just after 4.00pm, to discover that it had closed moments before. (I should add that Kirker had in fact pointed out that last entrance was at 4.00.) However, the good news was that the so-called Cuvilliés theatre (separate entrance) was still open if we got round to it in 15 minutes. So we sped round. All slightly discombobulating!

The Cuvilliés theatre was the main thing I wanted to see in the Residenz (it hadn’t been restored back in 1959). It must be almost unique. It is a superb, small, rococo (I guess), 18th century theatre, magnificently restored. I suppose there are productions staged there, at high prices I would guess. It would be an amazing venue for the likes of Cosi Fan Tutte – so long as the director could be restrained from locating it in a Las Vegas diner, or whatever.

We then had a bit of time to spend before our concert in the Hofkapelle, the court chapel – much of it spent trying to find the largely unmarked and unsigned chapel. We succeeded and were able to relax to a wonderful young flautist and her less charismatic harpsichord accompanist playing a mixture of Bach, Mozart and others.

We went afterwards for supper at one of the famous beer halls, this time the Franziskanhalle, apparently associated with Löwenbräu. We were ushered into what seemed like a vast internal courtyard, the ceiling draped in Löwenbräu bunting. Our Hungarian waiter (more non-Germans down south in Munich than in the east) told us that there were many more rooms, giving the restaurant a total capacity of 700 – plus another 200 in summer with the garden.

In our limited sample of the beer halls, we have seen: The famous Hofbräuhaus, probably the biggest, certainly the most famous, very noisy, devoted almost exclusively to the drinking of large quantities of beer; the Augustiner, the oldest, where we had a proper, delicious supper, served by a friendly, very attractive waitress, whose photograph had to be taken (badly, on the iPhone); and the Orlando, which probably shouldn’t be classed as a beer hall at all. It’s a great, lively restaurant, where we planned to go back to with Monika – as to which, see below.

The Residenz (which I eventually get to) is hard to get excited about. But the Treasury, with its crown jewels, chalices, reliquaries and the like, has an item of some interest to English visitors, certainly not highlighted, but referred to in the audioguide – the oldest crown made for an English princess. How come? Most, if not all of, our crown jewels are post-1660, the earlier ones having been melted down by Cromwell’s men. This distinctly medieval crown was made for a daughter of Henry IV, who was marrying a German prince (I think).

I make a solitary visit to the Glyptotech, which contains the city’s classical Greek and Roman artifacts. I am partly continuing my quest to see how much substantial sculpture actually survives (other than in the form of later Roman copies) from the classical era in Greece. The Glyptotech has a magnificent collection, beautifully and informatively displayed. The answer is still almost none, although they do have some, removed like the Elgin Marbles, from the Temple of Aphaia on the island of Aegina. They are tiny in number and quality, compared with Lord Elgin’s haul. But nevertheless, there they are. The world – and frankly the Greeks – should be profoundly grateful to the great German 19th century archeologists, and indeed Lord Elgin, for saving by far the greatest collections of classical Greek statues for posterity.

We go to Schloss Nymphenburg, using for the first time the impeccable public transport system. I buy a day ticket for 11.20 euros, which works for up to five people until 6.00am next day, covering trams, S-Bahn, and U-Bahn. We take the S-Bahn, then the tram – it takes about 30 minutes.

Schloss Nymphenburg was the summer palace of the Wittelsbach family, Ludwig II having been born there, but when older preferring his Wagner-inspired dream castles in the mountains. Outstanding things to see are the splendid, light, central hall, with its baroque decorations, murals and mirrors; but also the famous Gallery of Beauties, which (unusually, perhaps) sounds better in German – the Schönheitsgalerie – a collection of portraits of local beauties, made by Ludwig I, who was definitely more interested in the female sex than his grandson Ludwig II. One of the beauties is quite a surprise: referred to as Lady Jane Ellenborough on the frame, but known to us as Jane Digby, the subject of Mary Lovell’s book, A Scandalous Life. She met, and had an affair with, Ludwig I, ending up years later, after many more affairs and indeed marriages, as the blissfully contented wife of an Arab sheik in Damascus, where her house was to be seen – at least until recently.

Another perhaps minor disappointment was that the small pavilion, Amalienburg, said by someone to be the most beautiful building in the world, is closed for the winter. Really! Come on, folks! It apparently gets closed from mid-October till end-March. I detect the influence of unions . . .

On our last morning we go to the Michaelskirche, another splendid baroque church, in order to see the crypt that contains the tomb of Ludwig II and other assorted Wittelsbachs. The sacristan, very glad of the opportunity of rising from his desk, shows us the bits of the various sarcophagi that have been removed – before the installation of CCTV and his dutiful caretaking.

We also see the extravagantly, even excessively, baroque church of St Johannes-Nepomuk, normally referred to as the Asam church, after the two Asam brothers who were the architects, sculptors and fresco painters responsible for the amazing interior (above), with its trompe-l’oeil ascent to heaven and its saints and cherubs. Perhaps the saint, Johannes-Nepomuk, should be better known: he was thrown into the river for refusing to divulge the secrets of the confessional.

We have our dinner with Monika – Monika Schlund-Beckert. She was one of the daughters of the family Beckert that I stayed with for a month in 1959. Meeting people after nearly 50 years is a hazardous enterprise. This one was helped by having met her, with her husband (sadly he died many years ago) and her then teenage son Florian, in London around 1978 (we were able to date it partly because she thought that Julie had just been born). We have also exchanged Christmas cards and had the occasional phone conversation, somewhat handicapped by our primitive command of each other’s language. She is 75 and still the lively person I remember, playing her weekly tennis with a friend. The son, Florian, now 51, having given up being a dentist like his father, and having been married and unmarried twice, and not currently being in work, describes himself as a political activist and even an anarchist. Mary enjoyed hearing about his views on the iniquities of the world, while I talked to Monika.

I learnt more about their early life than I remember hearing way back. Her father, who I remember well, had been locked up for many years in Buchenwald at the end of the war – for the crime of being a senior businessman. He was released in about 1950. The family, consisting of wife and four children, all of whom of course I remember, were in Thuringia, then in East Germany. They all managed to escape to the west – by walking intrepidly across the border, luckily before the border got more seriously guarded. Obviously father and mother are no more. Sadly, brother Bernhard, who was my friend, died some years ago. Of the two other daughters, Heidi is a widow with three grownup children, living in Nuremberg; and Bobbie is married also with three children, living pretty close to Munich.


Now is the time for some small reflections on the miniscule part of Germany and German life that we have seen.

First, some silly thoughts on language. English is a close relation to German, perhaps in some ways too close. We obviously derive vast numbers of words, particularly basic words, from German. But some words don’t make the transition. The obvious one is Ausfahrt, but Eingang isn’t much better. And who can wonder that Schmuck hasn’t made it for jewellery? Rathaus (as in town hall) must be a strong contender for the prize for misunderstanding and bad jokes.

A surprising aspect of German life, as observed by us, is the relatively relaxed attitude to safety. One’s risk-averse Australian would be horrified. It is rare ever to see cyclists wearing crash helmets – as already noted, I counted two during the whole trip. Also, we spent a few minutes, with an admiring crowd of locals in Munich, watching some builders on high scaffolding throwing down chunks of metal and vast planks of wood, all to be caught by the guys lower down and thrown down to those even lower, till they landed with a bang in the skip. Not one of them was wearing one of the hard hats that seem to be required for tasks much less dangerous elsewhere.

On our return from Nymphenburg and in need of a light lunch, we went to the hotel restaurant where the tail end of brunch was still available. At a long table, there was a jovial party almost entirely consisting of women. Then the piano and his bass accompanist struck up with “Here Comes The Bride”. Two of the said women stood up and kissed each other passionately. It was a gay wedding, taking place happily with much audience clapping in the heart of deeply Catholic Bavaria.

At Munich airport (named after the redoubtable Franz-Josef Strauss), we have what passes for a light lunch. Caesar salad of ample proportions, and also Weisswürste, the fabled Munich white sausages that are meant only to be eaten before midday with a stein of beer. Both were excellent, finally confirming my view that it is difficult ever to have bad food in Germany – contrary to one of the many stereotypes about Germany and the Germans that our few days have been a pleasant way of overturning.

Tony Herbert

28 November 2014

11 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


Post: Blog2 Post
bottom of page