Let’s get a few things straight about the Germans.
First off, they are good-looking people. Exceptionally good-looking, as a matter of fact. I know you can’t categorize about this race or that country and of course it’s not like Vogue opened up and rained supermodels all over the country. But far from Augustus Gloop, Germany seems to be populated with a whole lot well-dressed, attractive and very slim folk. How they do this, what with the abundance of all things not on the South Beach diet, is a mystery to me. Every second shop is a bakery, every street corner sells crepes and sweets. Every third shop sells food of some variety, and no matter what that variety may be - from cheese to cucumbers to liqueurs - the person working there will cheerfully offer you as many samples as you like of whatever your heart desires. It is true happiness - and not just because you're a wee bit tipsy.
Another other strange but delightful German habit: double beds with two single duvets rather than one large one. I see this is a miracle of modern science. Why struggle for the ownership of one duvet when you can snuggle away in your own cocoon, covering whichever parts of your body you choose, while your sleeping partner does the same? This comes in especially handy when you slink home at 6am after a night of clubbing and wish to share the bed with someone who is not your sleeping partner but your friend. Of course you wish, in a friendly, non-homophobic sort of way, to keep the maximum distance between yourselves, especially if you're too tired to shower first. Easy. Simply grab your own personal duvet, roll over to your side and snooze away.
But I think, for a true taste of why Germans are so often referred to as “crazy Germans”, you need to experience a night out. To begin with, Cologne is hugely into cocktail lounges. Not the cheesey flaming Mai-Tai variety with parquet floors and seedy menus, but full on animal-print-chairs, candles, and menus a mile long with cocktails I've never heard of. Sometimes the drinks arrive complete with tropical fruit and samba music playing in the background. Some of them have pictures of Che Guevara painted on the walls. One, where I went last night, was voted "best bar in Germany" by Playboy magazine. At another, I made friends with the barmaid, who was creating the most bizarre concotions draped in berries and watermelon. It was only when she offered me a lychee fruit and a wink that I realized that my enrapturement with her drink-making might have given her the wrong idea.
My Canadianness has been of some interest to some people, but I'm not really what you'd call a novelty. My first approach came from a guy who happened to live in Burlington, Ontario, of all places. My second was a guy who, when I said I was Canadian, nodded wisely.
“Aaaah, Canada. I think that this is the best country in the world.” Me: “And why is that?” (expecting a lengthy political monologue about peace, health care and Maritimers.) Him: “Because you have snow. And what are these things, you know, with the…” (holds one finger over either side of his head.) Me: “Antlers? Reindeer?” Him: “YES! Reindeer! With antlers!” Me: “Well those are great reasons to love Canada.” Him: “Australia is pretty cool too.” Me: “Definitely.” Him: “But kangaroos don’t have antlers.”
I was expecting German clubs to play only techno music, so it came as quite a shock that a lot of the clubs that are open late are on the total opposite end of the spectrum. We arrived at one place at 3:30am on a Wednesday night and things seemed to still be going strong. Oddly, when we walked in, the DJ had just dropped that classic dance tune “Get Off of my Cloud”. I thought perhaps it was song kind of tongue in cheek post-modernist German thing, until he then played “I Can See Clearly Now”. The weirdest thing was, those wacky Germans (and Burlingtonians) were doing it up on the dance floor like it was no one’s business.
Just to clarify, I have done things aside from drinking cocktails and dancing to 70s rock music. The Cologne cathedral is so incredible, they began building it in the 13th century didn't finish until the 18th. The size of it is totally overwhelming - you come out of the train station and it pretty much blocks the sun. And yours truly climbed to the top today. The view of the city, the Rhine and the massive church bell made it all worthwhile.