Trip to Niebüll

Over Easter Eva and I went on a bus trip to the far north of Germany. Our base was a hotel in Niebüll, a place I had never heard of before. We got up very early in the morning and the journey by bus took more than twelve hours, including short breaks. I did not find the trip tiring. The bus driver was doing the work and it was pleasant to observe the surroundings. We passed through Hamburg. Seeing the harbour I was made aware of the huge effort involved in importing all kinds of goods by ship, something I never usually think about. Niebüll itself is some distance from the sea. Nevertheless we could hear groups of Oystercatchers flying around and calling, which reminded me of my childhood. On the first day we visited the dyke with a view onto the Wattenmeer. On the way there we passed through fields with huge flocks of Barnacle Geese. We also saw and heard many other species of birds. Some of these were the sounds which were typical of my childhood, such as Redshanks, Curlews and Meadow Pipits. Thus on this trip I had some experiences which I had hoped to have (and did not) during our trip to Scotland last summer. Other highlights were a Bar-Tailed Godwit and two Avocets.

The people on this trip, organized by Bohr Reisen, were of an older generation, most of them retired. We found their company pleasant. As it happened we always had dinner at the same round table with the same group of people, eight in total. The atmosphere was good and we were able to have good converations with all the others. These days I often have the feeling that it is dangerous to talk about certain topics, in particular political ones, with strangers. In this case I was glad that these constraints were not there. From the first evening on we felt able to talk freely. For this we can be grateful to one woman at the table who did a lot to break the ice. This feeling of freedom is important for a successful holiday. On the first evening there was music after dinner from a DJ but it was not at all our taste. We left very soon, simultaneously with all the others at our table. The next evening there was a group of men singing sea shanties after dinner. They did not sing very well but the performance was reasonable and we stayed to the end. There was one song whose text would probably have been condemned by people who love political correctness. We found it difficult to suppress our laughter, simply due to the stark contrast between this song and many things we experience in daily life. This was a small liberating experience.

On our second full day we crossed the nearby Danish border and the bridge to the island of Rømø. From there we took a ferry to Sylt, which is known as a playground of the rich in Germany. Many of the houses there are owned by people who only spend a couple of weeks a year there. For people with normal incomes it is hard to find affordable accommodation. My impression is that the celebrities who frequent the island are probably not often seen on the street. For instance we were shown the place where a famous restaurant, the Sansibar, is hidden. (It was the first time I had heard of the place but apparently it is a name known to many people.) Recently there was a lot of reporting in the German media about the lavish wedding of Christian Lindner, the leader of the FDP, with the journalist Franca Lehfeldt. Part of the celebrations took place at the Sansibar. Westerland, the main town on Sylt, did not seem to us particularly attractive. We got back to the mainland with a train which can transport cars and buses. On our last day we took a ferry to the island of Föhr, this time without the bus.

To finish this post I want to come back to Franca Lehfeldt. At the time of the publicity about her wedding I knew nothing about her. Now that has changed. Together with Nena Brockhaus she has published a book called ‘Alte Weise Männer’, which has become a bestseller. The title, literal translation ‘old wise men’ is a pun since its title sounds almost identical to ‘Alte Weisse Männer’, literal translation ‘old white men’. In German the second has now become a kind of insult, indicating a class of people regarded as at least out of date and useless and often suggested to be sexist and racist. The idea of the book is that society can learn something valuable from the ‘old white men’. The authors interviewed ten men, all over seventy, who have led interesting and successful lives so as to try and profiit from their wisdom. Up to now I have only read the preface but I intend to read more. I also watched an online presentation of the authors related to the book, which indicated to me that they may be ‘young clever women’ who are worth listening to.


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