Random observations, random thoughts

So, Germany. My first time there (apart from passing through). And it’s another one of those places that is very similar, but just different enough to be interesting.

Similar in that shops exist, bars exist. People generally have two arms and two legs. Cars move about quite quickly on four wheels. Buildings go up, subways go down.

But there are considerable differences. Fashion is something shocking, really. Red light districts are a bit of a culture shock to a good Catholic boy from Belfast. The police are, for the most part, a little high visibility for my tastes, and all the uniforms tend too much to the militaristic.

But beneath that, there is a certain maturity in how people are treated that is long done from here. Shopping there is still the chore that it is here, but the coffee shops and department store cafes will happily serve you a delicious and nutritious bottle of really tasty beer with your food. Smoking rooms exist. Cigarette vending machines exist on the train station platforms. Some roads even exist without speed limits.

That shocked me, if I’m honest. The country that brought fascism to the fore is less totalitarian in some matters than us. That’s not a refreshing thought.

On top of that, the quality of the food and the drink was out of this world. The trains were more efficient, the traffic was crazy but polite with it. The drunk kids in subways were keen to get out of the way of everyone else walking past. The scenery was pretty, especially the area round the Dam wot was busted.

But it wasn’t perfect. For one thing, they all persisted in speaking some form of foreign, and the money was all colourful and silly looking.

But the thing that annoyed me the most wasn’t anything that big. There is the impression, as I’ve said, that the average citizen is treated with that little more lenience by the state. But it’s not really the case, as I found on the way out. Because in parts of the country, every plastic bottle bought is subject to a 25 cent recycling deposit. And every bottle bought for consumption outside of the airport is sealed into a silly little export bag.

So the same stupid rules that make our lives that little bit less pleasant happen out there. I just lucked out and avoided most of them.

It must be said, though, that the experience was made much much better by going with a rather pretty young thing with an understanding of the language and the patience to put up with me. I’d heartily recommend it.

Also, thanks be to the middle sibling for arranging some of the accommodation. And for allowing some of the visitation rights. Ta.

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