Wednesday, 27 February 2008


A couple of months ago, I received a comment on this blog from someone in Weil who expressed the wish that I write more about my view as an Englishman of life in Germany. In reply, I said I would see what I can do.

I must admit that, up till now, I've consciously avoided going on big treatises in this blog about Germany and the Germans. It has a lot to do with the fact that I'm half-German myself anyway, although I was born and grew up in the UK. After having spent a total of nine years living in the Fatherland (or, technically speaking, the Mutterland), I'm certainly used to living here and have learned to adapt to (or accept) certain aspects of German life which didn't come naturally to me before.

For example:

1. I respect the house rules in my apartment block, such as "quiet times" forbidding loud music, farting and such like. Most of the time.
2. I am more direct with other people than I used to be. (Having said this, I still follow the rules of British etiquette most of the time, and I am still rather too wortkarg for my own good when trying to woo the opposite sex.)
3. I've picked up German dialect: "gleeechfolls" anyone?

On the other hand:

1. I don't necessarily think German bread is superior to bread in other countries.
2. I don't normally do Kaffee und Kuchen and still prefer a nice cuppa (milk, no sugar).
3. I like opening windows in trains (the older models without air con) when the weather is 35C and don't think the cooling draft will do me any harm.

However, one thing that I cannot and will never adjust to is the teutonic idea of queuing.

Now, I think plenty of young contemporary Germans have spent their obligatory six months learning English on the South Coast or in London and have reported back to their parents about strange people waiting orderly in lines at post offices, banks and the like. "Seeehr seltsam!"

You see, in Germany queuing is regarded as a weakness. Instead, Darwin's theory of the survival of the fittest is played out here on a daily basis. You wait at the bus stop with a score of other people. Bus arrives. Regardless who was waiting before you, average German must get on bus as quickly as possible and will take no prisoners in his/her mission to claim last free seat... If you are slow (or British), you resign yourself to letting the frenzy die down and get on the bus last - smiling smugly as you know you're now annoying everyone who got on the bus first a few minutes previously.

Just the other day I was pushed unceremoniously out of the way by some hoodie at the Badischer Bahnhof while waiting to get on the bus. My crime, I suspect, was trying to be competitive and joining in the scrum. I just sighed and let the idiot through. That'll teach me. It's just not worth getting hot under the collar about any more.

I find the younger and older generations are the worst - the younger because they don't know any better; the older because they couldn't care less anymore. Supermarket cash desks are where this game is most traditionally played out. This account describes what happens far better than I could...

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

Decision put on hold

After Basel-Stadt's cantonal government suddenly upped its financial support today at the death for the tram project, Weil has decided to postpone its final decision till 29 February. The Germans say they need extra time to assess the new offer. Oh well, at least they haven't said no.

Still kaputt

The electrician from Siemens left just now after inspecting the fridge. It took him about 3 seconds to tell me that motor was dead and needed replacing. This would take two and half hours, however. He'll be able to do it on Thursday morning, i.e. the day after tomorrow, but may be able to fit it in tomorrow. He'll call me again tomorrow. Thankfully, the cost of repairing the fridge won't be too bad, all things considered. Definitely worth it compared to shelling out for a new fridge.

To tram or not to tram?

Sorry, that sounds like one of those awful advertising slogans in "English" which only German-speaking marketing gurus could think up. Be that as it may, today could be a historic day in the life of the "border triangle" down here. Weil's councillors will decide today whether they want tram no. 8 to be extended all the way to Weil. They need to notify Basle of their decision by tonight at the latest. Wait any much longer and Berne will revoke its offer of financial support for the project. There has been a lot of hefty discussion about this question of financing over the last few weeks, with more twists and turns than Weil's über-roundabout. If you want some truly blinkered views from the Swiss about this whole affair, check this forum. It looks like the recriminations could soon begin.

Essentially, I'm in favour of the tram. However , it takes two to tango - and if the verdict from Weil is negative tonight, it'll be like sticking two fingers up at Basle's self-styled ideal of a trinational metrobasel area. In my opinion, metrobasel being a project conceived in Basle sums up the fundamental problem. No one seems to mention metrobasel here in Germany. How ever much Basle tries to persuade Weil of the fantastic prospect of having a tram, there seems to be a misunderstanding of each other's position and motives. And however much the individuals on the above-mentioned forum reason otherwise, the overriding impression I have is that this is a Basle project, so Basle should put its money where its mouth is.

[Postscript: Not that I'm suggesting that the decision-makers in Weil are against the project, but Weil as a town had a rather serious debt problem when I first moved here. The current Oberbürgermeister looks like he's succeeding in getting the books in order, then the Swiss come with their ambitious plans and you can understand the misgivings on the German side. Hopefully the state of Baden-Württemberg as a whole, i.e. Stuttgart, will agree to provide more funds.

Incidentally, someone in the above-mentioned forum wondered why Weil could afford the finance the pedestrian bridge over to the France but not this. Afforded it?! I don't think Weil would have been able to even contemplate building that bridge without the help of money from other private and public sources.]

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Not only have I had the 'flu over the last two to three days, but I woke up today to find that my fridge had ceased to function. It's a good job that it's nice and cold outside at the moment so I can put one or two perishable items on the balcony. Hopefully I can get the problem resolved within a few days.

Tuesday, 12 February 2008


After finishing work for the day, I headed into Basle at the end of the afternoon for a couple of hours strolling past all the Fasnacht goings-on. Tuesday during Fasnacht is traditionally the day for Basler children to dress up and put on their Waggis masks. But it's more than just that. Being squeezed in between the two procession days on Monday and Wednesday, it's also quite an anarchic day when anything goes - from the piccolo players winding their way through the narrow streets of the Basle's old town, to the parent Waggis pulling their little Waggis (some barely aged older than two or three) through Marktplatz; from the Ladärneusstellig (exhibition of lanterns) on Münsterplatz, to the Guggekonzerte in the evening when thousands gather in Basle's three main squares for the official Guggemusik concerts. Talking of Guggemusik, the whole of the city centre is transformed into one big procession again at around 7 p.m. when the various bands march and play downtown on their way to their respective gigs.

I find it hard to convey to my friends who live further afield what Fasnacht is really like, as most of them haven't experienced it, albeit Morgestraich. Fasnacht is a lot more than just the set-piece event that is Morgestraich. It has a lot to do with the atmosphere around town.

And a contentious election poster, which appeared in 2007 (see below), is the sujet of this lantern on Münsterplatz:

Monday, 11 February 2008


After missing the last two years - 2006 due to half a metre of snow; 2007 due to laziness - I got up in the early hours today to get to Basle for Morgestraich. I watched the spectacle at Barfüsserplatz. Ideally, Marktplatz is preferable, because you get the countdown to 4 a.m., but the crowds were so packed I stayed put where I was. I later walked up to Münsterplatz and then down to the Mittlere Brücke, across the Rhine, through Kleinbasel and home.

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Glorious weather

At this time of the year, the sun is still shining at a low enough trajectory in the morning for it to brighten up half of my flat in brilliant light. It's lovely way to start the day. Anyway, I started today slowly, did some work on the computer until lunch, watched some telly after lunch, then went on a walk in the sun. I walked as far as Alt-Weil, where preparations were afoot for the official opening of Buurefasnacht. I stopped and took a couple of photos of the scene. This year's Weiler Fasnacht has so far been a non-event as far as I'm concerned, and I'll be missing the main procession tomorrow to watch Manchester United vs. Manchester City and the minute's silence in memory of the victims of the Munich air disaster 50 years ago.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Freiburg vs. Osnabrück

Ended 1-1 (attendance 12,000; poor considering that the capacity of the Dreisamstadion - sorry "Badenova-Stadion" - is 25,000). After what was a rather intense working week, I thought I'd go and take in some second division football in Freiburg. It wasn't the best of matches, although Jonathan Pitroipa scored a good goal in the first half. Freiburg didn't really push on like they should have after the break and needlessly let the game run away from them.