Friday, June 09, 2006

Back Link Being a Visitor and not a Tourist

My family and I have come to relax at a lovely holiday apartment in northern Germany. Rabenholz, is a village about forty kilometres away from the Danish border, and just a few kilometres away from the Baltic Sea coast.

We have come here numerous times in the last five years and feel very much at home with the couple who run the holiday apartment, as well as with those running and serving in the cafés, restaurants, grocery stores, etc.

The native north German has a reputation from being reticent, sparse of speech, resilient, stubborn natured. Whether this is true or not, I can’t say. The visits we have made here, have been highlighted with encounters with people of generous spirits, who radiate a calm, no-nonsense, positive attitude to life and though they posses a certain reserve, they are willing to express personal opinions, political viewpoints, and relate aspects of their lives and family going-ons that it is positively refreshing. What they do not have, is a persistent neediness, or will to sell themselves, their land, and their culture at any price, which you unfortunately find in many countries dependant on tourism.

There is no denying that this area of Germany is highly dependent on tourism, even though the agriculture industry is still active. But, like most such places, farmers have it hard. The roots of the region’s wealth historically lay in fishing, farming, and other trades and they are, to various extents, still practiced today. Yet, tourism is something nearly everyone does on the side. Those of us, who come here year in, year out, are not as much tourists to be catered to, but rather visitors who are expected to remain as unobtrusive as possible.

Once you except this fact, the beauty of the arrangement becomes apparent. As a visitor, you get glimpse into the lives of those you are surrounded by. Each party has their sphere of privacy, but often, particularly on sunny summer evenings, everyone spontaneously brings some food out into the garden and share a meal together, or if the weather is stormy and miserable, you share a glass of wine in the owner’s home and talk about all the events that have transpired in the lapse of time between visits. And these encounters occur naturally, whole-heartedly, out of sympathy, often seemingly by chance. Certainly, they do not happen because the event is posted on some bulletin board outside of a hotel casino or cruise ship sports facility.

I am writing this entry in a beautifully restored thatched-roof café; a delightful place that bake exceptional cakes and serve a hot pot of tea that is reminiscent of my Irish boiling-on-the-back-burner-the-whole-day-through brew. To find out what cakes are available, you go into their kitchen and take a look at what is sitting on the various counters. It is essential to take in a deep breath upon entering the kitchen, the heavenly fragrances and the sight of they diverse colours and forms of the cakes tantalise your senses.

I worked up quite an appetite by taking a long walk along a beach, which is part of a nature reserve. Fantastic coastline. Across the water, you can see the Danish islands. The long walk was really just an excuse to spend an hour in the café. Ah, the simple joys in life.

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