Your holiday in Germany 1957/Ihr Urlaub in Deutschland 1957

I could continue the theme of national stereotypes by quoting liberally from the following book:

Gordon Cooper, Your Holiday in Germany, 2nd ed., London 1957

(thanks to Des for the tip).

However, I don’t think I’d be doing anything for international relations if I quoted more on the national character:

bq. I must confess, to start with, that of all the peoples of Europe the Germans present the greatest enigma to anyone wishing to analyse their national and individual character … [remainder censored, but it has mainly to do with the feeling of being a superior race, obeying authority, a desire for someone to show the way to the Holy Grail] … There is also a marked variance between the people inhabiting the districts which came under Roman rule and those living beyond the ‘Limes’ (dividing wall).

Prices seem to have changed (2nd-class hotels, DM 12 to 20 (£1.0s. – £1 14s.)

Today’s Guardian has a defence of the Germans by John Cleese, following last week’s outburst by Richard Desmond, the editor of the Daily Express.

bq. Cleese said the point of the scene in the 1970s sitcom Fawlty Towers, in which manic hotelier Basil Fawlty marches up and down pretending to be a Nazi in front of tearful German guests, had been to ridicule reactionary British attitudes.
“The whole purpose of writing that episode was to make fun of English Basil Fawltys who are buried in the past,” he said.
“I worked in Germany last year and found the people wonderful.

For more extracts from the book, see the continuation:More extracts from Gordon Cooper, Your Holiday in Germany, 2nd ed., London 1957

bq. Social customs
When you go to Germany you will probably want to adapt yourself, in reason, to German customs and conventions. You will find, for instance, that most German men wear hats which they doff with a sweep whenever they meet anyone they know, both male and female. Indeed, any man who is reasonably well known in a small town seems constantly to be returning such salutations. Even if you wear a hat, however, there is no need to become flamboyant in acknowledging or giving salutes but a man should, of course, raise his hat when greeting a lady, in the normal way. … Ladies should not smoke in the street. [That was still the case in 1967, MM] … As the Germans do not show the same self-discipline which Britons possess, you will find that there is no queueing, say for buses, and it is often a case of the most pushing persons being first. …

bq. You should learn how to schunkeln, which is a swaying of the body to keep time with music or singing, usually linking arms with those next to you – even if you do not know them. This sociable action occurs quite frequently in places where people are in a merry mood, so there is no reason why you should be the odd person out. [Hmm. I think I went wrong there.] …
Noticeable on many German newsstands are nudist magazines. The question whether one can legally bring back one or more of these into Britain is indefinite. According to the law, these publications can only be seized if they are ‘indecent,’ but this decision is, in the last resort, one for a magistrate to decide.

bq. Palaces and Castles
Yet King Ludwig is often given the title of ‘Mad.’ Mad! – Fiddlesticks …. …instead of wasting his money on guns, barracks and military display, he applied his revenue to the creation of these beautiful buildings, which, incidentally, must have repaid their original cost considerably, through the rather high entrance-fees collected from hundreds of thousands of sightseers. … How warped, indeed, are the minds of the mass of people. Take today, for instance, when even those who cannot honestly afford it must have television sets, must have rubbishy furniture suites, and must have their cigarettes.

bq. Night life
Night life in Hamburg is rather tawdry. It centres on the Reeperbahn, where there must be thirty or forty oases for the intrepid male, although most of the places are second or third rate. The drinks, devised largely for sailor-tourists, are poor, and the floor shows crudely erotic. It’s worth having a look, perhaps, if only to satisfy your curiosity, but one evening there satisfied me. One curious place did intrigue me, however, – the Bal Paradox. Here the ladies take over and ask the male for a dance, which must not be refused, otherwise the management insist on your leaving. This particular place is, incidentally, thoroughly respectable, for prostitutes are kept out, while it serves a useful social purpose for the large excess female population of Germany. There are similar clubs in some other German cities.

bq. North-West Germany
After Berlin, Düsseldorf is the best city in Germany for anyone who wishes to stay for a few days in a lively and entertaining environment. … Just to stroll along the magnificent Königs-Allee is a joy, while at night it is ablaze with lights. An amusing attraction, too, are the boys in this street who offer to turn somersaults for a pfennig – but they would be insulted if you merely gave such a coin, for they expect at least 10 pfennigs for their performance. Nowhere else in Germany have I seen this quite unique way of earning money.

4 thoughts on “Your holiday in Germany 1957/Ihr Urlaub in Deutschland 1957

  1. I wonder if by “somersaults” he means Purzelbäume (on the floor) or Saltos (in the air). The tradition he is referring to is actually the “Düsseldorfer Radschläger” doing cartwheels. For someone from near Cologne the reference to Düsseldorf as “the best city after Berlin” is rather funny.

  2. @des: well, I wouldn’t say that. He starts with De-luxe (sic) hotels, from DM 25 to 45, then 1st-class hotels 23 to 30, 2nd-class hotels 12 to 20 and Inns 7 to 12.

    The photograph does look a bit like cartwheels, slightly arrested in the middle for the photographer.
    I don’t know how Cologne and Düsseldorf compared in 1954/57. He does write, ‘There is only one Heidelberg’!

  3. Not only is John Cleese an admirable comic but also an unfailingly excellent satirist. I wholeheartedly agree with his sentiments.


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