Sunday, January 16, 2011

Germans and The Nature

Our little river has burst its banks
Today was a beautiful day - like the first day of Spring. Unfortunately, because it's only January, this means we get a spring-like day dangled in front of our noses and then it will be yanked away viciously with the onset of another month of ice and blizzards. But for today we enjoyed it. I went for a walk and took some photos - a rather difficult task, given the tumult of bodies on the woodland pathways and in the parks. I sighed: I have never quite understood the Germans' fascination with The Nature.

As most of you know, I grew up in the depths of rural Ireland. To be more precise, I grew up in a draughty old stone farmhouse in the middle of nowhere - we don't have an address, we just have the name of the square acre our house is planted on and the name of the nearest town. For kicks and laughs, we walked down to the end of the country road to The Big Tree - which was, as the name suggests, a Big Tree. If we were feeling particularly wild, we walked in the opposite direction to the Water Pump, which was - brace yourself - an old-fashioned water pump at a local crossroads. How we didn't spontaneously combust with excitement during our teenage years is beyond me.

A cloudless blue sky
The thing is, Ireland isn't particularly densely populated so The Nature - as the Germans quaintly call it - is everywhere. If you turn your back for a minute, The Nature is liable to hop up and poke your eye out. Here in Germany, it's not so much the case - people have to actively seek The Nature out. And that they do: they're always walking to somewhere or from somewhere (they call it 'wandern' but don't mix that up with the snail's pace stroll of the English wandering: this is wandern, with hiking boots and the ski pole-thingies that have become really fashionable in the past few years as Germany's senior citizens have discovered Nordic walking. Nordic walking - this is for the benefit of my Irish readers - is basically skiing without the skis. You march around, huffing and puffing, with ski poles. Apparently you walk faster? or more energetically? or something.) Unlike Irish people, who usually go for a walk to digest a meal or get to a place where they'll get their next meal, Germans walk for The Nature. They walk and look, and look and walk. And when they get wherever they want to get to, The Nature is viewed thoroughly - then they hitch up their ski poles, lace their hiking boots a bit tighter and walk back.



This puzzled me for years because I couldn't quite understand why one would have to torture oneself with a walk up a steep mountain path, only to look at other mountains, before walking back down. This was a bone of great contention between me and my ex-boyfriend, one we eventually overcame when I learned to give him the camera to take photos of the view on the top of the mountain, while I sat at a picnic bench in the shade and read my book. It never helped that I was always inappropriately dressed: I don't have hiking boots or khaki pants with lots of pockets or, God forbid, shorts. My sartorial inadequacies, combined with my startlingly white skin and red hair, meant that I stood out immediately as an Islander amongst all the sallow-skinned Continentals, (who were general dressed like Indiana Jones, funnily enough.)

The bizarre thing is that no matter where I have been in the world - and I've been in some weird places - there are always a couple of German tourists there as well. Decked out in wool socks, sturdy boots, sensible shorts, coloured sunglasses and funny headgear, they survey the mountain range (check! been there!), inside of a volcano (check! been there!), seven hills of Rome (check! been there!), Atlantic Ocean from an Irish clifftop (check! - oh, what's the use) and complain bitterly if it does not meet their expectations.

Very often, I see a fellow Irish person (usually male): they're usually incorrectly dressed for the elements and look slightly bewildered. When I ask them what they're doing there, they mumble something about "getting on a plane to Sydney with their mate Dekko..." and "... meeting three Italian girls in Brisbane ..." and "... taking a fishing boat to Jakarta..." and "... ending up here. Where am I anyway?" Turn your back for half a minute and they'll strike up a friendship with a local, marry his daughter and within two months, they'll have opened MacGinty's Irish Pub on the slopes of Mount Bromo, Indonesia's premier volcanic tourist attraction. Return in a year, and the pub will be full of inadequately-clothed Irish people who got lost between Java and Bali, while droves of Germans hike past the window, their eyes focused on The Nature.

13 comments:

Gracey is not my name.... said...

LOLOLOL....

love2stitch said...

Another proof for what my friends are suspecting - I am not a real German:

1) I don't like beer
2) I hate Sauerkraut with all my heart
3) And while I enjoy nature if it is brought to me in convenient ways I never was into the whole hiking up weird mountains when somebody with a camera was already up there and I could enjoy the same scenery from the comfort of my couch

Now I just have to figure out what I am, right?

nordwolke said...

I am German. I don't get it. ;) However, all these Nordic Walkers are quite ridiculous indeed. :D

Queen of...Whatever said...

I love hearing about your life as a young Gingerbread girl....I lived in Germany for 3 years...They are a sturdy bunch...

patrysia said...

You are so right, Miss Gingerbread. I have met German travelers, dressed exactly as you describe, in the depths of the tropical jungle of Central America. But as I myself was there, who can throw stones? I love The Nature myself.

Paul & Carla said...

Hmmmm... reading your descriptions I think Irish-style "The Nature" sounds a bit more relaxing.

fionafluffy said...

I too have done a bit of travelling about a bit and have also noticed the - to me - endearing habit Germans have of seeking out and sdmiring "The Nature". I'm very fond of The Nature myself - I do quite a bit of Wandern (without the ski poles I hasten to add) - but am wont to notice it in a more reticent, very ENGLISH way. It just amuses me how they entitle scenery "The Nature". Having said that, when I have been travelling it has always been lovely German people that I have connected with and we have communed with The Nature together and in perfect harmony. Aah, I'm quite missing a bit of the old communing with a German companian. I feel a bit of travelling coming on...Where's my boots?

Hookin It With Mr. Lick Lick said...

I love reading about other people from other places. It takes me out of a world filled with hate and greed and into a world so very different yet on the same planet.

To grow up like you did must have been heaven! I started to grow up that way - way out - but then moved to FL, a completely different lifestyle. I now live way out again and travel in to the city to work.

Das Kaltblut said...

Oh goodness, Germans and their definite articles. You captured that perfectly. The silliest Nordic walkers are the ones who do it through downtown Munich. Its horribly crowded, no hills are in sight and yet...they can't stop.

Queen of...Whatever said...

Hey Gingybread lady, I nominated you for a blog award over on my post....

Clara said...

Very interesting reading. I feel right at home in a strange way reading this post. Being of German/Austrian descent I see the heartiness and steadfastness or however you want to describe it in myself and family. My Mom's background was Scottish/Irish ancestors...you talk of Indonesia where one of my sister-in-law's is from and where 2 brothers worked..one is still there....we have a gentleman where I live who walks miles each day with the Nordic ski poles and everyone thinks he's nuts but he's doing it just for the exercise. I linked everything you talked about...strange but true.

barazile, livpåIrland said...

oh, how I laughed at this, being married to a Swede means actually that I understand every word of this!
and we now live back home in Ireland, so I wholeheartedly concur with your description of Irish interaction with nature, which actually was the funniest bit of this post!
my daughters walk to The Bridge, or possibly even in the other direction to The Field With The Horses. They may also just choose to sit on the walls of The School which is next door. Otherwise it's hedges and trees in both directions...
That's it, so exciting it could bring on spontaneous combustion as you say!!!
oh so very funny, the difference between the industrious Swedes and Germans, and the slightly more indolent Irish!!

Alice the fiber fiend said...

In the suburban areas of the US, where I used to live, we like to observe our nature from a moving car. (Oh, look at the lovely green blur!) Now, however, I live in Germany, next to a Naturpark, and I can totally relate to this post. My children and I have been nearly trampled by packs of earnest hikers, walking with their poles, shouting, "Das Recht!" when my kids strayed onto the wrong side of the path.