Austria and Germany are so come to terms with their common identity that, by way of border roadsign, there’s only the twelve yellow stars on blue background; a sign that passes almost unnoticed. However, being socially almost identical (at least around the Tyrol), landscape-wise it’s quite another thing, since Germany means the end of the Alps and the beggining of boredom.
And I mean boredom not only as to the landscapes, but also regarding a travel experience. Though this isn’t my first time in Germany, now I’ve finally understood what a Californian friend of mine means when he says: Germany is a booooring country! Maybe in a way he’s right. Out of their own perfectionism, everything works so much as you expect, and people behave so much as they must, that there’s no room for surprises. Anyway, rather than boring, I’d say that Germany is predictable, socially and visually homogeneous. Roads are almost perfect, as is the caring of their woods, their grazing lands, the road signs, buildings, organization, public transport, and perhaps also people’s behaviour… Each road route is just like some alternative one, each town like the next, each house like the neighbour’s: all cute, but just variations around one or two models.
Of course I’m exaggerating, but there’s some truth in these clichés. And by no way I mean I don’t like Germany: quite on the contrary, for varied and important reasons I regard it as one of the best European countries to live in; but when it comes to traveling, it is, in more than one sense, flat.
Therefore, it’s not too interesting to tell here the route (easy to imagine, on the other hand) that I took for heading from Mittenwald to Bamberg. Certainly not via Munich –as I can’t care less about big cities in this journey– but via Augsburg, which was founded by Drusus and Tiberius as Augusta Vindelicorum by order of the roman emperor Augustus in the year 15 b.C. In time, Augusta evolved into Augsburg.
Augsburg had an early developement thanks to its excelent military and economical location in the crossroads of important commercial routes, and during the last middle ages was a Free Imperial Town for longer than five centuries. Nowadays it’s mostly a university city.
Weberhaus (weber = weave), the only building which inspired me a photo, was the house of the weavers’ guild in medieval Augsburg, and heart of the textile industry and commerce. The original house, built on stone and wood, was from the late XIVth century, but the one in the photo is the second or third reconstruction, because of the war and other quirks of history.
As a side note, I’ve taken down in my notebook how odd it is the fact that, in a country so apparently unconcerned about religion like Germany, where churches are wistfully deserted, there is however a New Testament in every room of every hotel, whereas in Spain or Poland -where religion still stands the blows of misbelief- there is not and has never been such a custom. It’s perhaps only a matter of money. Yet, it’s still more strange when considering that almost seventy percent of Bavarian population declare themselves Catholics (though no churchgoers). Why then the New Testament instead of the Bible?
But I can’t finish off this chapter without telling a little story, very significant of the aforementioned German character, so organized and complying. The day I happened to stay in Augsburg, one of the 2014 football World Cup’s most importants matches took place, closely followed by German supporters; and, being the result favourable to them, at the end of the game there was the typical street racket. As my room led to one of the main avenues, I was ready for a night of uproar, noise, anthems, horns and such enthusiasts’ behaviours. Which indeed was the case… for a while, because by eleven p.m., all of a sudden–out of a civic sense of respect– all the fuss stopped, fans folded away their flags and everybody went peacefully home, leaving the street –to my surprise and joy– perfectly still.
This is, perhaps, the two-sided nature of order and respect: great on one hand, but boring on the other. What’s your choice?