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Day 10 - Moving Day

Some observations on Deutschland

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View Following in the Family Footsteps on Neileeann's travel map.

Today was moving day. Travelled from Schleswig to Amsterdam. So the best part of the day was spent on multiple train trips (five in total) and today the rail strike really did hit us. Started out at 08:30 and arrived at Amsterdam at 19:30, so all up 11 hours on the train to cover a distance of 600 km. Still we meet some very nice and interesting people, who helped us on our confused way. One train involved a local train service full of local football fans who in the German way were very exuberant with the amber fluid and pumped up for a big game the NEXT day.

Anyway I will use this time to make a few observations about Deutschland. Obviously 7 days is not enough time to gain any real insights into the nation and its people, but here goes.

Community allotments. One of the first things that I noticed on the train trips were the number of what I assumed to be community allotments scattered along the train lines, mostly near the towns and villages. They looked like the English allotments used to grow vegetables, but they all had small huts with German flags fluttering in the wind. So I can only assume it is their summer weekend retreat where they go to tend their vegetables, pigs and miniature horses and kick back with a few beers and schnapps over the weekends.

Common woodlands. Another observation on the trains were the appearance of what seemed to be common woodlands outside most smaller towns and villages. I didn’t get to ask anyone about them, but they seem to serve a number of purposes. One as a nice place to walk through with the dog. Two as a source of trees for cutting into wood stove piles.

Alternative energy. I had read previously that Australian scientist working in the solar industries had all gone to work in Germany because there was no research funding in Australia. Well Germany has certainly taken on the alternative energy industry in a big way. All across the country side stand banks of wind farms that slowly and purposefully generate electricity for the domestic market. Every so often you see banks of solar panels in the fields. The fields are also cropped with canola which is used mainly for blended fuel. In Berlin many buildings had solar panels built into the facade, which all contributed towards the energy equation. Many years ago German shut down its nuclear power stations and they made a conscious decision to go down the alternative energy path. It looks like they are well on their way to being self sufficient. It just goes to show that big changes firstly require decisive leadership.

Flat ground. In all our travels in northern Germany, it is unusual to see anything resembling a hill, let alone a mountain. I suppose it is great for farming, but it creates a monotonous landscape. Also the fields have numerous channels of water. Lee-ann’s friend, Scott Curry, said that low water tables is a constant issue in Berlin when constructing new buildings. So much so that the Government is almost contemplating abandoning the unfinished Berlin Airport. See http://www.dw.de/date-set-for-long-delayed-opening-of-new-berlin-airport/a-18126206 and http://www.dw.de/berlin-airport-the-five-biggest-mistakes/a-17740584. A very un-German situation!

The rural economic geography. I could not get a handle on the economics of rural towns and hamlets. In most instances there were no noticeable employer, but lots of small villages located often only a few kilometres apart. So I don’t know what people did for employment in these places, or whether they were commuter villages. Maybe they were historical settlements and they have not changed over the years. But it always did impress me with the number and sizes of churches that some of these villages had.

City life. Berlin, Hamburg and Frankfurt all had the familiar hum of well organised cities. Extensive U & S Barn systems made moving around these cities extremely easy and efficiently. It makes you wonder what it will take for Brisbane to implement such systems. It would be hard at the beginning, but the economic and efficiency dividends would far outweigh these costs over the medium term. All cities had a never-ending number of eateries built into the lower floor of residential buildings, so you were never too far from food here. I have to say that I was disappointed by Berlin, my recollections of it were of a much more vibrant city, but now it is more sparse in terms of life on the streets.

The Germans sure do love their bread products. There was a never ending number of bread shops that never seem to empty out during the day.

Eating out it was difficult to find authentic German food. Like most places around the world, the cheaper food places tend to be ethnic food and Germany was no different. Looks of Italian restaurants and donar kebab (Berlin had a big Turkish population). It wasn’t until Schleswig that we got to eat what I thought was to be more authentic German food.

It would appear that Germans are allowed to take their dogs to work. Walking in Berlin one day, I was momentary struck by the image of one business man with his dog on a lead going into his office. There were numerous other instances of people with small dogs on trains and buses all heading off to work. With the number of Germans living in apartments, it makes sense to allow people to bring their dogs with them into work. A bit like child care for pets. And yet is all looked so natural when you saw it. In Australia we would have fits if you tried to do the same thing. It’s all cultural.

Other things that we have fits about, but seem to work quiet normally here is mixing cyclists and pedestrians. They don’t seem to have any major problems with it here, albeit that the cyclist peddle at a more sedate speed here.

The Germans were prolific smokers and drinkers. I was a bit surprised by the number of people smoking, especially young people. However this is nothing compared to the amount of public drinking. I will say it was all very orderly and you never felt threatened, like you would with a group of drunk Aussie males. But it was the social acceptance of public drinking and the time when it would start, which was an eye opener. It was not uncommon for people to be drinking on our early morning trains and in bars at 07:30. Even in the most rowdy situations, I felt they were in complete control and I never saw any fighting.

Fräuleins in tight jeans. Very niccee!

Posted by Neileeann 17:00 Archived in Germany

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