This weekend brought with it a series of reminders that, in case I had forgotten or indeed been so desensitised to the cultural quirks of this glorious country they ceased to have an effect, I am indeed in Germany. That happens, occasionally. A situation arises, a conversation is had, a premise wandered into and one is reminded of the essence of this place that has become the norm and the fact that the essence can in fact be delightfully strange.
The first reminder came in the form of a richly German social gathering; richly German in composition – it was a party of a certain group of German government employees who use the annual event to really let their, usually tightly pinned, hair down – and richly German in aesthetics, products on sale for consumption and the general, jolly vibe (partying Germans are the jolliest of the lot). There was the dance-floor, devoid of people for the first two hours and then packed as the beer flowed. A smoke machine belched intermittently, a mini-light show dazzled in the dimness, dimness that was the result of the windows being papered by large shiny, disco-themed banners. The DJ pumped out dance remix after dance remix, seamlessly weaving in Land Down Under when requested. To drink? Beer, wine, Cuba Libres (a cocktail beloved by the Germans) Caipirinhas, tequila and Aperol Spritzes (also beloved). To eat? Brötchen packed with meat and skewers of cheese cubes interspersed with grapes. And there were the Germans, in full party mode. Big, round, red, happy faces. Beers clutched, sometimes one in each hand, heads and eventually bodies bobbing to tunes that sounded vaguely like DJ Otzi was spinning the decks. And there was their hair, well and truly let down, in a manner only the Germans can manage. SG and I, drinks in hand, surveyed the sporadic leis pinned to the walls, the disco banners, the dance floor and said, almost simultaneously, our tones rich with what can only be called fondness ‘this is so German.’
The following day, June 1st, brought with it glorious temperatures and a day during which the sun out muscled the clouds. We repaired to Kiel’s Seebar, which, as the name suggests, is actually in the sea. A long deck stretches out from the main restaurant/bar area upon which one can recline on a sun lounge, eat and drink and, should the temperatures permit, walk down some steps into the fresh embrace of the Baltic Sea. It’s a glorious, nautical, breezy sort of place. We sat down on the deck, suspended above the water and drank two big Maße of the German fizzy drink stalwarts – a Spezi and an Apfelschorle.
A few daring citizens were braving the Baltic as we lunched and part way through my salad with roast chicken and goats cheese, SG uttered the single word of, ‘oh.’ I followed his gaze and rested my eyes upon a penis and next to that penis, a flat, slightly rosy bottom. Two men were merrily changing for their afternoon swim in full view of any patron who cared to take in the view afforded them by the Seebar. A couple more bottoms followed and a casual boob, until it became quite apparent there was no room for modesty. Indeed the most modest swimmers, the only ones who seemed to be aware they were publically nude, were a pair of six year old girls who, having plucked up the courage over the course of an hour to have a dip, clutched their clothes close and giggled the whole way down to the water.
SG often rejects my firm opinion Germans enjoy being nude and/or don’t give a flying wurst what others think. But as we sipped our soft drinks and enjoyed the sun, Baltic Sea-pinkened bottoms in our peripheral vision, even he couldn’t give me his usual retort to my Nude Germans theory; ‘not all Germans, only East Germans.’
The final little dose of Germaness has come, this weekend, in the form of the weather. Despite yesterday ringing in June, June … pretty much summer … we’ve enjoyed our usual consistently changeable weekend. We’ve run the gamut of delicious warmth and sunburnt noses, whipping winds, a summer’s eve storm and your classic cloudiness that has come to define slow, couch-ridden Sundays. Another reminder, in case I had forgotten (and, to be honest, I think I had … I think my body releases some sort of hormones, similar to after childbirth, that help me forget the horror of winters and the less-than-entirely-satisfying summers) summer in Germany does not really mean anything at all.
Smoke machines + nudity + dependably unreliable weather = I couldn’t be anywhere else in the world.
Oh and look, frozen yoghurt has come to Kiel. And a few more shots of this lovely city in full bloom.