UPDATE July 2018:
We encountered Gennaro on a bus travelling from Sofia, Bulgaria to Thessaloniki, Greece. Is he a millionaire? Well, he said he is and quite frankly I have no idea how much bitcoin it takes to be one so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt. He wanted to tell us all about Brexit and why he thought it was an understandable if regretable reaction to the state of the EU and Europe at the moment. ‘My family are immigrants to Germany’, he told us ‘but I’m German. Germany has some problems but we all do, the UK can’t hide from theirs by running away from theirs. The world is so small that we have to work together, no-one is losing their National Identity by being part of the EU. It’s a shame and I hope the UK makes it work I think my generation will still see the UK as friends either way because there are much bigger problems in the world.’ Thank you for those wise words Gennaro. I hope that Monsieur Barnier is as pragmatic as you…
Now back to the original post…
I’m a lucky man. I’ve said it many times in the past and it’s still true now. I have a beautiful daughter, who continues to surprise, infuriate and amaze me on a daily basis and usually in that order. An astonishingly brilliant wife within whose many and varied successes I am proud to live vicariously and some hilariously direct friends who have no shame in reminding me just how lucky I am. But it’s not all self congratulation, candyfloss monkeys and Unicorn smiles you know. Sometimes I get it wrong, really wrong. Sometimes the world gets to slap me right in the face and usually, I deserve it.
Take our latest trip for our 2MenEUTour for example. I go to Germany for work quite regularly so I knew what it was all about. It was without another thought that I made an executive decision that after Luxembourg, the Family P would go to Stuttgart, get off the Interrail, spend the night in an adequate hotel before going on to somewhere more interesting. Germany’s Germany right? None of it is that impressive…
Yeah, about that. I chose Stuttgart a) because it lay about half way between Luxembourg and Salzburg in Austria and b) neither I nor Mrs P. I had been there before. We hadn’t even bothered to check out the city before arriving but as we checked in to our hotel, we sauntered through town browsing through some of the highlights. I started to doubt my approach as what I saw included, but wasn’t limited to, a wonderful Opera House, a Royal Palace, café’s and many sun drenched squares full of vibrant energy and calm serenity in equal measure. Soon I was hooked and the Family crashed through the centre of the city trying to pull in as much as we could knowing that there wasn’t enough time left to see everything that we now knew was here.
Mercedes and Porsche both have their headquarters and museums here but we didn’t manage to get round to seeing them as we were too busy hanging out in the Landesmuseum, Schlossplatz and the indoor market at Karlsplatz and we even spotted some Crown Jewels because everyone loves a bit of sparkle. We got across the city using GPSmyCity which, due to our last minute tour requirements, turned out to be a fantastic way to do a DIY expedition if you are either in a rush or have an overwhelming aversion to tour groups. But if you are like us and want to do a few of them in a short time then it becomes a pricey option and for us it lost something in translation; a tour is about getting an understanding and flavour not just of a place but also it’s place in history and perhaps most especially its people. Perhaps the facts are the same but for me, you just can’t replicate the way that guys like Paddy in Ireland or Fraser in Belgium bring their city’s to life.
That evening we sat in the Schlossgarten biergarten drinking our respective social beverages under fairylights as the sun went down. The ever cunning Child took Machiavellian-like advantage of our “relaxed and tranquil” state of mind to secure a pocket money increase, a pony and the promise of a trip to Disney World immediately upon our return home. Of course, none of which undertakings I had any intention of fulfilling but as the sun descended and the night arose she was happy and that made me happy.
So, I think we can all agree that I’ve not managed to do Stuttgart the justice it deserved. The place is jam packed with beautiful parks, incredible castles and some amazing museums. In the summer, the weather is perfect for a stroll and a sausage and in short I’m man enough to admit that I let them down, I let you down and I let myself down. But before I go off to cry in the corner consoling myself with a hot blanket of shame and disgust, I would like you all to say hello to Phil. One of the reasons that I have such a close relationship with Germany is not only because I visit for work many times a year, but also because I have family there. As a family, we have multiple German/British connections and so I figured that it would be rude not to ask some of them what they thought of the whole Brexit thing.
Phil, a British expat living in the North of Germany for long enough for the rest of us to think he’s probably gone native (we’re talking a good half a century people!), has an interesting take on the whole situation which reflects a lot of the feeling we got from the rest of the family:
“I think it was a big mistake to take the vote on Brexit, all those in power in Britain were so sure of themselves, [there was] no way that it could go the wrong way. The politics of the last few years, especially the migrant problem, tipped the balance. Rightly or wrongly, an awful lot of people were scared of where these politics were taking Europe, and more importantly, Britain. Personally I think that the EU in it’s present form is doomed, so yes, these thoughts are justified. The EU will lose country after country from its eastern boundary but I am sure that Britain is not going to come out of this saying ‘Wow best thing we have ever done, we’ve never had it so good’. On the other hand, I am sure that in the long run things will not be worse than they are for other countries that are not, and never have been part of the EU.
Typically, all are fretting about the present: what are we going to do? These things will not mean the end of the world as we know it. Deal with the things on the table now and get the best deal for both. Honestly Rob, I work in a ‘well going German’ factory. We are now owned by an Italian consortium, most of our trade is with the USA and almost every Asian country you could name. When I started here, almost 40 years ago, I was one of few foreigners, maybe 10 were not Germans (at the most). Now, it must be around 50/50. I talk to all these guys, and the way they see the world (German or not), is not a reflection of German politics. On the shop floor, the migration problem is a huge worry and the German people are not, in my opinion, as happy as it probably seems from the outside.”
So there you have it, the German perspective on Brexit is as diverse, complicated and interesting as the people themselves. As the unarguable industrial powerhouse of Europe, Germany, just like Britain, is looking to make sense of the crazy world we live in but in the meantime I’ll just have to catch you next time Stuttgart, you can be sure of that.
If you’ve missed any of our previous trips, you can still check them out right here: