Sprikkkenzee, er, Inglisch? - Jimmy Carter thinks I'm a sinner - CycleBlaze

April 17, 2007

Sprikkkenzee, er, Inglisch?

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Behind us,I have left a long trail of people sniggering at my German.

"Hey, Hans," they shout to each other as I ride away. "Did you hear how that guy said..."

Well, I don't blame them. I am a foreigner and foreigners are funny. They don't mean to be, of course, but it's all part of foreign travel to cause amusement as you go and to be amused in return. Proper touring doesn't begin until you get somewhere you can't understand what they're saying. I shall have to remind myself of that even more when we get to Hungary.

Anyway, apart from an altercation about just what level of soap bubbles it was permissible to leave in the sink of a Swiss camp site, we have been nothing but impressed and delighted by people we have met. Like Brigitte in the tourist office in Basle, for instance. Steph and I had decided to treat ourselves to a hotel to mark the start of our joint ride but the assistant behind the counter simply said "No chance... there's not a room within an hour by car because of a jewellery conference."

Brigitte was one of two women in their late 20s standing behind us.

"Excuse me," she said, "but we are also cyclists. If you want, there is a room at my parents'. They are also cyclists and you will be welcome."

As it happened, we rode to a camp site in the suburbs, which was was where international agreement was eventually reached on the soap bubble question. Ever since, we have been smiled at, helped, greeted and welcomed wherever we have been.

One thing that is impressive, other than that this is clearly a prosperous area at ease with itself, is the implied honesty. When supermarkets close for lunch, anything on display on the pavement is left there. When we wandered into town the other evening, the shops were closed for the night but the potted plants they sold were still on their tables outside. Anyone could have helped himself but clearly nobody ever did.

Along the roads sometimes, too, there are strips of flowers. Nobody looks after them. There is just a sign inviting you to pick what you fancy and to leave your money in a dish or, in one case, a decorated oil can. We watched for some time as we ate our sandwiches and not one person failed to put money in the box and not one so much as looked to see how much he could have stolen had he wished.

It's impressive. I never had a feel for Germany and Switzerland before but, as I say, they're very impressive.

Lovely people, Germans... if not always that respectful. Note the added ciggie.
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