Sojourns in Germany: Hoping against the Demise of Europe

Got back late from Europe with my wife, after a grueling day of travel — train from Passau to Landshut, connection to Munich airport, and an eleven-plus-hour flight to S.F.  Travel by train in Germany and on Lufthansa was, as usual, easy and altogether pleasant, but the nicest part of the trek was the young Asian Uber driver at S.F. Airport, who kindly helped the exhausted old guy by lifting all the bags, including a very heavy one, into and out of the trunk.  That's not part of his job description.

Random impressions, recollections, and thoughts:

In general, based on where we went and what we saw, much that is good and beautiful is still left in Europe.

Can it all survive another 100 years of drastically low birth rates and massive immigration from nations and cultures that neither wish to assimilate nor respect the values that built it?  The elites, unsurprisingly, claim to think so.  The working and middle classes, who are in more direct contact with the immigrants who've already come, are much less sure.

The AFD (Alternative für Deutschland) is a patriotic German party whose central plank is protecting German and Western culture generally from being overwhelmed numerically by alien, anti-Western cultures now pouring into Europe by the millions at the invitation of European elites.  The AFD sees German elites as self-motivated in their real desires and shallow and short-sighted in their understanding of mass migration's cultural consequences.

The party is slowly gaining strength, as are similar parties in France, Italy, Austria, and Holland.  European elites' unjustified and vicious campaign of condemnation; social and political isolation and ostracism; and, increasingly, violence is reminiscent of what President Trump faces daily.  Elites' claims of anti-Semitism among these European patriots are desperate, ludicrous, and utterly false.  Every one of them, unlike Europe's establishment parties, especially the AFD, constantly reminds Europeans that the best way to protect Europe's Jews is to dramatically reduce or altogether halt the flow into Europe of Muslim Arabs and North Africans, who are the world's most intense Jew-haters.

* * *

We observed very little trace of the massive number of recent migrants to Germany in the lovely lower Bavarian countryside and small towns we visited, though locals said they are there in small numbers.

A neighbor of the German friends we stayed with near Passau, who at least initially was part of the Wilkommeskultur (welcoming culture) demanded by the chancellor in September of 2015, when she suddenly and unilaterally admitted 1.5 million mostly young male Muslim migrants, conceded that there have been "problems" at the local oeffentliche Schwimmbad (public pool).   

Apparently, many young male Muslim newcomers claim not to understand that a teenage girl in a bathing suit is not thereby inviting sex with random strangers.  The neighbor, a well educated, pleasant woman of middle age, seemed surprised that there would be this problem.  She expressed hope that education about Western ways will alleviate it.  So far, based on German news accounts I read about similar difficulties in multiple other cities' Schwimmbaeder, there has been little progress.

We drove a couple hours with our friends to the south Bohemian village of Krumlau, now in the Czech Republic and known to the world as Cesky Krumlov.  Crossing the Czech border, one notices immediately the change: the roads a bit less smooth, more buildings in a state of decay, fewer farms, and those there are less well tended.  If a foreign language is spoken, it will be English, not German.

Why Krumlau is not better known remains a mystery.

It's a perfectly preserved, almost Disney-like, romantic medieval/renaissance town, built largely by Germans during the Late Middle Ages, when population flows in the Holy Roman Empire and central Europe were easy and natural and German industriousness welcome.  Two years after WWII ended, Krumlau's German population, about 90% of the town or nearly 10,000 people, were given a week's notice to pack two suitcases and get the hell out.  Along with the about 3 million other Czech Germans, then and for the previous several hundred years living in Czechoslovakia, all of whom got the same order, the residents of Krumlau packed up and left.  Many were robbed of the contents of their two suitcases  before the trains carrying them reached the German border.  Murder and rape of those driven out were widespread.

The story of Krumlau was repeated that year, 1947, in countless prosperous villages and towns throughout Czech Bohemia and the Czech Sudetenland.  The remarkable thing about this story is that our German friends bear no ill will, carry no grievance over this cruel history, no revanchist urges.  Our friend Hans (not his actual name) is the son of a then-young man who made the trek to Germany and barely escaped with his life, yet Hans says, "We started a war.  We lost it.  We were punished.  That's the end of the story."

In my wide experience, Hans and his wife, who thinks as he does, are broadly representative of today's Germans, who see the Vertreibung (driving out) of the Czech Germans, along with the post-WWII Vertreibung of about 14 million other Germans living in other parts of eastern Europe that had been German for more than 500 years — together probably the largest organized ethnic cleansing in human history — simply as part of a past that cannot be reversed.

They were as charmed by Krunlau as my wife and I.

How different from the attitudes of the Palestinians, vastly fewer in number and much more easily assimilable into the enormous Arab world than were 17 million German refugees into a shrunken, starving, and ruined Germany.  How easy it would have been for the Palestinians, had they actually wished to get on with their lives and quit cherishing their victimhood.  

Anyway, we had a nice visit to the medieval town and on the drive back got a great deal at a Czech roadside stand on Pffiferlinge (chanterelles) mushrooms, freshly picked from the Bohemian forest.  Our hosts made them into a fantastic omelet for dinner that night.

Late in our stay, our friends drove us through an idyllic landscape near Passau of neat farms and unspoiled Bavarian villages that can be believed only if seen.  The roads that carried us were in a condition that Californians can only dream of.  We stopped at a 400-year-old Baroque church in a town of about 300 souls, that possessed an interior of carefully preserved 17th-century gilded, ornate beauty.  While we were there, several local ladies entered to pray, and they must have recognized us as tourists, but they exhibited no signs of annoyance, greeting us in their heavily Bavarian-accented German.

Our own German friends are quite secular, but unlike so many ardent secularists on this side of the pond, they seem quite undisturbed, indeed at least mildly pleased, with the prominent presence of Christianity and the widespread existence in Bavaria of religious faith, especially in the countryside.  

A week in Genoa — a charming, very old, and only partially spruced up city that gives off a much more authentic, non-touristy feel than its more famous neighbors in the Italian north — Venice and Florence, of particular example.  Like nearly everywhere one goes in western Europe, it was heavily bombed by the Allies during WWII.  It's a city of palaces, only some restored and open to the public, with a large white marble statue cum memorial to its famous native son, Cristoforo Colombo.  The statue was largely unspoiled by graffiti and seems to draw no ire from the local Left.  Perhaps Genoa needs an enlightening visit from America's statue-smashing Democrats, who can explain the morally cleansing benefits of vandalism and attempted historical erasure.

The buses, spotlessly clean, frequent, and filled with Italians who always seem nicely if not expensively dressed, make it possible to see most of the city without too long a climb on its steep hills.  A young man with a mohawk and enough rings and piercings to open a hardware store was seated near us on a crowded bus as we stood.  An elderly lady got on and tottered forward, vainly looking for a seat.  As soon as the young man saw her, he sprang to his feet and offered his, with a friendly smile.  She accepted, with a gracious thank you.

Many Africans were in evidence, mainly sitting around the waterfront with apparently little to do.  Few seemed employed, but none seemed resentful or angry.  What will happen when their numbers dramatically increase, as they have in the Italian south, and assimilation problems persist, is a matter under hot discussion in Italy.

In Genoa, our thrifty German friends many years ago had discovered an authentic and amazingly good and cheap Italian restaurant, frequented almost exclusively by Italian workers and barely middle-class people.  We dined there every night.  Two people could get an appetizer, a delicious pasta or meat, and a couple glasses of wine for 25 euros.  Like a Paris brasserie in 1980.

After returning from Genoa, my wife and I traveled alone by train for brief trips to Nurnberg and Munich.  These are cities we knew well from prior visits. Both seemed much as they were in the 1990s.

Nurnberg still retains only poignant hints of the perfectly preserved medieval beauty that it was before WWII, a few carefully chosen churches and public buildings having been painstakingly restored to their prior splendor.  The rest of the altstadt is unmistakably modern, rebuilt, to be sure, to scale and shape, but lacking the ornate stonework and details that characterized the entire city before the terrible night of January 2, 1945 — a night when 514 British Lancaster bombers pointlessly reduced the defenseless and militarily irrelevant jewel, as of that day largely undamaged, to a heap of rubble.

The city seemed a bit dirtier than before, but other than that, unchanged.  The fall market in the large public square in front of the restored Frauenkirche appeared to be staffed only by Bavarians, unlike the public markets in Rome a couple years earlier, where all the vendors seemed to hail from Bangladesh.

We took the short, 55-minute train ride from Nurnberg to Munich, forgetting briefly that Oktoberfest was on.  There was no forgetting that fact after we got there — Tracht and Dirndl were everywhere, not just on tourists and many locals, but adorning the seeming tens of thousands of Bavarian villagers who had come to Munich for the annual fest.

German culture and traditions, and pride in them, at least in this wealthy and extremely self-confident city, seem alive and well.

In both cities — Nurnberg and Munich — the large numbers of Muslim asylum-seekers (many locals would say economic migrants) delivered to Germany courtesy of Madame Merkel were not very visible.  A few burkas, children in tow, and one or two full, eye slits only, hijabs, but otherwise nothing.  Where are the rest of the tens of thousands?  Have the Germans adopted French methods and deposited the newcomers into ghettos unseen by most?  That seems unlikely, because confident German elites know the French experience and are determined to make Merkel's gamble work.  Wherever they were, they were not much to be seen during Oktoberfest week in Munich.  Maybe the beer and Schweine-laced Wurst put them off.

That's about it.  European formal politeness, pride in civilization, and huge cultural differences across short distances remain, along with an amazingly well maintained travel infrastructure that promotes easy movement and breathtaking reminders of European civilization's capacity for creating enduring edifices of great beauty.

One wishes that European elites would be more careful about wagering all this on Europe's ability to assimilate and live peacefully with tens of millions of cultural aliens, most of whom have habits quite different from Europeans' and intensely dislike the peoples, values, and culture of Europe.

Got back late from Europe with my wife, after a grueling day of travel — train from Passau to Landshut, connection to Munich airport, and an eleven-plus-hour flight to S.F.  Travel by train in Germany and on Lufthansa was, as usual, easy and altogether pleasant, but the nicest part of the trek was the young Asian Uber driver at S.F. Airport, who kindly helped the exhausted old guy by lifting all the bags, including a very heavy one, into and out of the trunk.  That's not part of his job description.

Random impressions, recollections, and thoughts:

In general, based on where we went and what we saw, much that is good and beautiful is still left in Europe.

Can it all survive another 100 years of drastically low birth rates and massive immigration from nations and cultures that neither wish to assimilate nor respect the values that built it?  The elites, unsurprisingly, claim to think so.  The working and middle classes, who are in more direct contact with the immigrants who've already come, are much less sure.

The AFD (Alternative für Deutschland) is a patriotic German party whose central plank is protecting German and Western culture generally from being overwhelmed numerically by alien, anti-Western cultures now pouring into Europe by the millions at the invitation of European elites.  The AFD sees German elites as self-motivated in their real desires and shallow and short-sighted in their understanding of mass migration's cultural consequences.

The party is slowly gaining strength, as are similar parties in France, Italy, Austria, and Holland.  European elites' unjustified and vicious campaign of condemnation; social and political isolation and ostracism; and, increasingly, violence is reminiscent of what President Trump faces daily.  Elites' claims of anti-Semitism among these European patriots are desperate, ludicrous, and utterly false.  Every one of them, unlike Europe's establishment parties, especially the AFD, constantly reminds Europeans that the best way to protect Europe's Jews is to dramatically reduce or altogether halt the flow into Europe of Muslim Arabs and North Africans, who are the world's most intense Jew-haters.

* * *

We observed very little trace of the massive number of recent migrants to Germany in the lovely lower Bavarian countryside and small towns we visited, though locals said they are there in small numbers.

A neighbor of the German friends we stayed with near Passau, who at least initially was part of the Wilkommeskultur (welcoming culture) demanded by the chancellor in September of 2015, when she suddenly and unilaterally admitted 1.5 million mostly young male Muslim migrants, conceded that there have been "problems" at the local oeffentliche Schwimmbad (public pool).   

Apparently, many young male Muslim newcomers claim not to understand that a teenage girl in a bathing suit is not thereby inviting sex with random strangers.  The neighbor, a well educated, pleasant woman of middle age, seemed surprised that there would be this problem.  She expressed hope that education about Western ways will alleviate it.  So far, based on German news accounts I read about similar difficulties in multiple other cities' Schwimmbaeder, there has been little progress.

We drove a couple hours with our friends to the south Bohemian village of Krumlau, now in the Czech Republic and known to the world as Cesky Krumlov.  Crossing the Czech border, one notices immediately the change: the roads a bit less smooth, more buildings in a state of decay, fewer farms, and those there are less well tended.  If a foreign language is spoken, it will be English, not German.

Why Krumlau is not better known remains a mystery.

It's a perfectly preserved, almost Disney-like, romantic medieval/renaissance town, built largely by Germans during the Late Middle Ages, when population flows in the Holy Roman Empire and central Europe were easy and natural and German industriousness welcome.  Two years after WWII ended, Krumlau's German population, about 90% of the town or nearly 10,000 people, were given a week's notice to pack two suitcases and get the hell out.  Along with the about 3 million other Czech Germans, then and for the previous several hundred years living in Czechoslovakia, all of whom got the same order, the residents of Krumlau packed up and left.  Many were robbed of the contents of their two suitcases  before the trains carrying them reached the German border.  Murder and rape of those driven out were widespread.

The story of Krumlau was repeated that year, 1947, in countless prosperous villages and towns throughout Czech Bohemia and the Czech Sudetenland.  The remarkable thing about this story is that our German friends bear no ill will, carry no grievance over this cruel history, no revanchist urges.  Our friend Hans (not his actual name) is the son of a then-young man who made the trek to Germany and barely escaped with his life, yet Hans says, "We started a war.  We lost it.  We were punished.  That's the end of the story."

In my wide experience, Hans and his wife, who thinks as he does, are broadly representative of today's Germans, who see the Vertreibung (driving out) of the Czech Germans, along with the post-WWII Vertreibung of about 14 million other Germans living in other parts of eastern Europe that had been German for more than 500 years — together probably the largest organized ethnic cleansing in human history — simply as part of a past that cannot be reversed.

They were as charmed by Krunlau as my wife and I.

How different from the attitudes of the Palestinians, vastly fewer in number and much more easily assimilable into the enormous Arab world than were 17 million German refugees into a shrunken, starving, and ruined Germany.  How easy it would have been for the Palestinians, had they actually wished to get on with their lives and quit cherishing their victimhood.  

Anyway, we had a nice visit to the medieval town and on the drive back got a great deal at a Czech roadside stand on Pffiferlinge (chanterelles) mushrooms, freshly picked from the Bohemian forest.  Our hosts made them into a fantastic omelet for dinner that night.

Late in our stay, our friends drove us through an idyllic landscape near Passau of neat farms and unspoiled Bavarian villages that can be believed only if seen.  The roads that carried us were in a condition that Californians can only dream of.  We stopped at a 400-year-old Baroque church in a town of about 300 souls, that possessed an interior of carefully preserved 17th-century gilded, ornate beauty.  While we were there, several local ladies entered to pray, and they must have recognized us as tourists, but they exhibited no signs of annoyance, greeting us in their heavily Bavarian-accented German.

Our own German friends are quite secular, but unlike so many ardent secularists on this side of the pond, they seem quite undisturbed, indeed at least mildly pleased, with the prominent presence of Christianity and the widespread existence in Bavaria of religious faith, especially in the countryside.  

A week in Genoa — a charming, very old, and only partially spruced up city that gives off a much more authentic, non-touristy feel than its more famous neighbors in the Italian north — Venice and Florence, of particular example.  Like nearly everywhere one goes in western Europe, it was heavily bombed by the Allies during WWII.  It's a city of palaces, only some restored and open to the public, with a large white marble statue cum memorial to its famous native son, Cristoforo Colombo.  The statue was largely unspoiled by graffiti and seems to draw no ire from the local Left.  Perhaps Genoa needs an enlightening visit from America's statue-smashing Democrats, who can explain the morally cleansing benefits of vandalism and attempted historical erasure.

The buses, spotlessly clean, frequent, and filled with Italians who always seem nicely if not expensively dressed, make it possible to see most of the city without too long a climb on its steep hills.  A young man with a mohawk and enough rings and piercings to open a hardware store was seated near us on a crowded bus as we stood.  An elderly lady got on and tottered forward, vainly looking for a seat.  As soon as the young man saw her, he sprang to his feet and offered his, with a friendly smile.  She accepted, with a gracious thank you.

Many Africans were in evidence, mainly sitting around the waterfront with apparently little to do.  Few seemed employed, but none seemed resentful or angry.  What will happen when their numbers dramatically increase, as they have in the Italian south, and assimilation problems persist, is a matter under hot discussion in Italy.

In Genoa, our thrifty German friends many years ago had discovered an authentic and amazingly good and cheap Italian restaurant, frequented almost exclusively by Italian workers and barely middle-class people.  We dined there every night.  Two people could get an appetizer, a delicious pasta or meat, and a couple glasses of wine for 25 euros.  Like a Paris brasserie in 1980.

After returning from Genoa, my wife and I traveled alone by train for brief trips to Nurnberg and Munich.  These are cities we knew well from prior visits. Both seemed much as they were in the 1990s.

Nurnberg still retains only poignant hints of the perfectly preserved medieval beauty that it was before WWII, a few carefully chosen churches and public buildings having been painstakingly restored to their prior splendor.  The rest of the altstadt is unmistakably modern, rebuilt, to be sure, to scale and shape, but lacking the ornate stonework and details that characterized the entire city before the terrible night of January 2, 1945 — a night when 514 British Lancaster bombers pointlessly reduced the defenseless and militarily irrelevant jewel, as of that day largely undamaged, to a heap of rubble.

The city seemed a bit dirtier than before, but other than that, unchanged.  The fall market in the large public square in front of the restored Frauenkirche appeared to be staffed only by Bavarians, unlike the public markets in Rome a couple years earlier, where all the vendors seemed to hail from Bangladesh.

We took the short, 55-minute train ride from Nurnberg to Munich, forgetting briefly that Oktoberfest was on.  There was no forgetting that fact after we got there — Tracht and Dirndl were everywhere, not just on tourists and many locals, but adorning the seeming tens of thousands of Bavarian villagers who had come to Munich for the annual fest.

German culture and traditions, and pride in them, at least in this wealthy and extremely self-confident city, seem alive and well.

In both cities — Nurnberg and Munich — the large numbers of Muslim asylum-seekers (many locals would say economic migrants) delivered to Germany courtesy of Madame Merkel were not very visible.  A few burkas, children in tow, and one or two full, eye slits only, hijabs, but otherwise nothing.  Where are the rest of the tens of thousands?  Have the Germans adopted French methods and deposited the newcomers into ghettos unseen by most?  That seems unlikely, because confident German elites know the French experience and are determined to make Merkel's gamble work.  Wherever they were, they were not much to be seen during Oktoberfest week in Munich.  Maybe the beer and Schweine-laced Wurst put them off.

That's about it.  European formal politeness, pride in civilization, and huge cultural differences across short distances remain, along with an amazingly well maintained travel infrastructure that promotes easy movement and breathtaking reminders of European civilization's capacity for creating enduring edifices of great beauty.

One wishes that European elites would be more careful about wagering all this on Europe's ability to assimilate and live peacefully with tens of millions of cultural aliens, most of whom have habits quite different from Europeans' and intensely dislike the peoples, values, and culture of Europe.