Monday, August 22, 2011
Diaries of Deutschland
Throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover
This Mark Twain words were singing in my head through the nine-hour flight from Nairobi to Berlin. Being my maiden out of Africa experience my heart was pounding with the excitement and expectation that only a traveler can tell.
Besides the thrill of tingling my taste buds with alien cuisines and making new friends in far away lands, there was also the prospect of interacting with cultures that I had only read in books.
And Deutschland meted no disappointments.
Before I could say guten tag I found myself pushing and shoving among spectators in the world famous Berlin Gay Parade. This came as a hard blow to my attitude fortress since in Kenya, and many other African countries, homosexuality is discussed in whispers and utmost contempt.
At first, the sight of thousands of semi-nude men snaking through crowded streets caressing and groping each other’s gonads made my insides boil with an acute desire to puke. But after a short while my journalistic instincts took over and I started clicking rapidly on my flashgun.
Seminude couples kissing, caressing, squeezing and grinding tightly in a gross version of bendova dominated the proceedings in this event that is oddly named after a St. Christopher. Onlookers were not spared either as uninvited hands tried to squeeze or pinch their nether regions.
The experience greatly revolutionized my conservative attitude towards gays. Although I would still develop huge Goosebumps, and probably run for my dear life, if I was to find myself alone in their midst I now view homos as human beings who urgently need some kind of mental therapy or extreme tolerance.
However, there were other conventional festivities besides this display of unrestrained carnal appetite.
One of them was the Carnival of Cultures where people from different parts of the world gather to celebrate the diversity of global cultural heritage every summer. Groups from as far as Colombia, Africa and Papua New Guinea marched through the streets of Berlin performing traditional dances and showcasing their cultural attire.
From vigorously gyrating dancers from Angola and Nigeria, samba drummers from Brazil and Argentina to majestically clad ladies from Scandinavia, the six continents were generously represented here. The merrymaking went on deep in the night creating a huge mess of drunken revelers and heaps of garbage.
With a love of beer that is world famous Germans always find an excuse to indulge in the frothy waters, especially in summer. Fete de la Music, St. Christopher’s Day, Carnival of Cultures, picnics and house parties are some of the gatherings where alcohol is gloriously embraced. And there being more than a 1,500 beer brands to chose from sometimes the debauchery that take place in these festivities is, to say the least, way above the rim.
Apart from booze the 84 million plus inhabitants of Deutschland also have a zealous attachment to their bikes and dogs. These lucky canines are so babied that they ride in buses, trains and most celebrate birthdays in a sea of gifts.
After exploring the capital for several weeks it was time to hit the countryside. But just as in Berlin, many shocks awaited me here. Unlike in most African countries where towns away from the capital enjoy less glamour and glitz in Germany, and many other western countries, this is not the case. The lifestyle and economic standard of people living in far-flung cities like Freiburg, Nuremberg, Frankfurt and Heidelberg is the same as their counterparts in the capital, or even better.
Besides sampling life in the various cities, cruising through the German countryside is one of the most thrilling experiences that a tourist can bargain for. From green hills dotted with gigantic windmills, the marvels of the Black Forest with its majestically tall trees to the thousands of acres of wheat, corn and rye fields rolling as far as the eye can see on both sides of the road, the picturesque scenery kept me awake for long hours.
Apart from being a famous tourist zone the Black Forest is also the origin of the world famous cake that goes by the same name.
Another amazing discovery for a third world visitor here is the nation’s ability to perfectly blend modernity with tradition. Scenes of tiny storybook-like rural villages tucked deep in the valleys of the Black Forest momentarily give me African flashbacks.
But any attempt to compare these dwellings with my village in the far away rural Kenya is instantly thwarted by the fact that here there are public swimming pools, the roads are smoothly tarmacked and each of the artistically designed timber and brick houses is connected to power.