Bavaria

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While sat in the emergency ward as Emmo was being examined, I let my eye wander into a neighbouring room where sat on the bed was my Bavarian stereotype. In his green lederhosen, cap, knee-length white socks and brown shoes, he was perched on the bed looking around nervously. He wasn’t comfortable there, maybe not with the questions and uncertainty and ultimately with this form of modern life. The hospital corridors screamed of cleanliness and passivity. It was a Thursday afternoon and all was creepy quiet.

While out riding with Em, she spotted a jump and like her character, took off immediately to get some air. Landing on her head via into a beautiful flip wasn’t part of the plan! I have to admit I laughed at first. Then we went to hospital where the doctors confirmed Emo had broken a bone at the top of her neck. A neck brace was immediately applied followd by two nights in hospital!

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I said they were odd….

I watched the Bavarian man leave well before that. He walked out directly, taking no chances they might recall him. I use this guy as an example of what I saw in Bavaria. The Bavarian Alps were replete of the stereotypes you come to expect with Oktoberfest. On weekends men dressed up in traditional clothing to drink. Women were spotted in maiden dress. Houses built of wooden slates and chip were irregularly but calmly spaced in clumps with a fence and a bell a church on the highest point and surrounded by open fields of long, thick grass mowed by the odd cow. Above the villages, the mountains followed a more regular output; grass-covered meadows, dense alpine forests and then weathered snow-capped peaks. To spend a week in this small town biking around, visiting castles, villages and lakes while drinking up the local, excellent and very cheap beer

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I had come down to the Alps to stay with Emilie who I’d met in New Zealand in 2008. After three days in drizzle and towering glass of Frankfurt (report up soon), the Alps opened up as I headed south. I got genuinely excited as they came onto the horizon. Em lives in Sonthofen, just two stops before the end of the local line which can go no further as the Alps escalate. Despite being almost pathologically afraid of villages, in perfectly glorious weather it was fantastic. Sonthofen and the surrounding vallies is stunning. This season was the perfect time to visit. The mountains retained snow. The fields were in daffodil bloom and the sun shone consistently and brilliantly.

While I started with a stereotype, there is other life in the Alps. Cars are driven and internet is accessible. You can even get a kebab made by a Turk in the small town square. I helped Michael out with an Irish night and went to a cute house gig which later descended into a wine-athon. We visited the famous Neuschwanstein Castle and nipped over towards Switzerland/Austria at Lake Constance. (I later when to Salzburg but more about that later).

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Germans are a curious bunch. My only other experiences involved about 6 trips to Berlin to sight-see and stay with Linden and Claudia. Like the idea of ‘the French’, Germans are a hugely diverse bunch. With a strong export-led economy, strong welfare and educational networks and deep-rooted connections to place, Germans are placid with their differences. There is an idea of being German even if it is not played out in traditional cultural references.

Bavaria is the oldest of the old school Germans and maybe their most unique. Riding in the Alps we’d see few people, a sprinkling of houses but glorious rafts of trees, meadows and ravines. Germany is a big country but with only 25% more people than the UK. Its cities are more moderate too. Its 5 largest cities totalled together are still smaller than London. They are a  representative of states rather than nations. After all, Germany was only united in 1871.

I liked Germany a lot. Its problems are moderate compared to Britain’s and moderated by an active state and a feeling of responsibility amongst its companies, states and people. The need to get it right is more important.
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Bavaria is pretty unique in my experience. Here we have a group who live in the mountains, appreciate and understand the food chain. We hear little of them for they don’t speak much. Isolation and permanence in the mountains and vallies leave them less interested in the world at large similar to the Alpine Swiss. Probably for the better.

Photos up on facebook tomorrow.

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