Next week I am going to be a high powered business executive, with radioactive shoulder-pads. I shall visit the town of Freiburg-im-Breisgau in south west Germany. To visit a customer. For meetings. I will be ruthless and driven. I shall drive a hard bargain, and only think of hostile takeovers and share prices. And stuff.
Of course I won’t. I am not actually needed at the meeting. The real high powered people need an excuse for their junket, so the volk who perform the grunt work have been invited to justify the whole event. In one of Germany’s most picturesque and touristy towns.
It’s in the Black Forest. It looks like the place Heidi would move to, if she was ever expelled from Switzerland for juvenile delinquency.
Whisper this now, but I am looking forward to the trip. With a stroke of luck the flight arrival time, into Frankfurt, means that I get a full day to myself, before I have to present myself at the warehouse. I shall explore. I have not done any research as I think it’s better just to arrive and see which way the mood takes me.
Germany is a country that I have visited several times, but don’t know that well.
Once I went to Dusseldorf, to visit a friend who lives there. This city is only a couple of hours by train from Amsterdam so I ventured out of my Amsterdam bubble, one weekend and crossed the border. It is a surprisingly pleasant town. Sitting in the industrial heartland of Germany and not being renowned for its tourist friendly activities, my expectations were subsequently low. As a result I had a wonderful time. The beer is cheaper than bottled water. I was thirsty and I have never liked water.
I’ve been to Köln (or Cologne) several times – again this city is very close to Amsterdam so the perfect spot for a quick weekender. The first time was a boiling hot summer’s day when I visited with my Welsh flatmate. We climbed that cathedral with a vigour that our hangovers couldn’t quell. The previous evening had been fun. I ended up being frisked on the dancefloor of some dodgy disco by a German policeman. When I say frisked, I mean snogged. I was such a trollop. My flatmate was mortified. ‘This is a STRAIGHT BAR!!!!!!!!’
Oh how we laughed. In my defence I was a mere twenty five, and full of the joys of spring. I wouldn’t behave like such a harlot these days.
The other couple of times in Köln were more sedate. It’s an interesting town, but without much visual appeal – having been flattened during the Second World War, it was rebuilt in a grim, practical and functional style.
Last year I went for my first (and so far last) voyage to Berlin. Having spent fifteen years in Amsterdam and knowing that my days there were numbered I vowed that I would visit before I left. The problem with Berlin – in my mind – was that it was too close to travel to by plane, but slightly too far to visit by train. Whenever the opportunity arose, for a trip, I’d either end up flying somewhere further afield or taking the train to the much closer Paris.
I couldn’t leave Amsterdam without having visited Berlin. So on the weekend of Kingsday in the Netherlands, a friend and I ventured forth – in her Volkswagen Beetle. To the German capital.
It is easily one of my favourite cities. So grand but grimy, industrial but bohemian, cosmopolitan but homely. And very German. I loved it. We were staying what used to be communist East Berlin, which is an endlessly fascinating place.
So next week involves my first ever trip to the German countryside.
In anticipation, this weekend, I will sing schlager songs and eat schnitzel.