We once were thinking that summer in Stockholm and winter in Malta would be a nice annual migration scheme. But for now it turned out to be summer in Germany and winter in Malta. To be more precise: from Frankfurt up to the Westerwald and The Three Cities. Malta is a good place to be, when you need no input. For example if you feel like going into a cave to "write things up", then you will find with the Maltese National Library a much better version of that. And if it really has to be a cave, then also many of these are available. In Germany though - very much in contrast to the platitude - there is culture, innovation, vibrancy and (now listen!) even humour. You can get a lot of input, have interesting conversations, and meet quite outstanding people. If you are German, and like me, sometimes wonder why foreigners use the term "German efficiency", then a trip to Malta will help you understand and appreciate it. We like the mix of both. And last but not least the deep forest on the one hand and the turquoise Mediterranean sea on the other, make a good annual balance.
As I am on a trip to Germany, I took Roger Willemsen's "Deutschlandreise" as my pocket book of the week. Roger Willemsen, passed away recently and far too early. This is why the publisher, reprinting in a haste, forgot to print the title on some of the book covers and fixed this in the post production with a sticker (I bought them as paper versions for reasons of nostalgia and even overcame my aversion to contemporary bookshops for half an hour). I really like the author for his interviews and other productions. But "Deutschlandreise" I found shallow. Perhaps it is, because his observations in Germany were too common for me. Two more of his books I have in my bag though: "Die Enden der Welt" (The ends of the world) and "Momentum".
I spent about two weeks in Germany and enjoyed the forest walks back in the Westerwald. Now in China for Christmas and New Year.
Ulrich Wickert, one of the most popular news anchors in German television, once when he was asked what he likes most, answered: "French wine, French cheese and French women's legs". And then, when he was asked what he dislikes most, he said: "German wine, German cheese and German women's legs".
I was somehow reminded of this quote sitting over breakfast in the dining hall of my hotel in Wolfsburg, being surrounded by a group of mid aged (actually about my age) German woman who must have come here for shopping in the so-called "Designer Outlets". But they seem to be traveling also internationally, as they were talking about their "Australia tour" and many others showing off to me where they have been.
I see these woman traveling the world as an integrated part of the German National Defense strategy. Nobody would ever dare to invade or attack a country where such women come from. They are the modern form of maintaining the Cold War "Balance of Threat Strategy", not with nuclear weapons but with an enormous potential of retaliation. As Germany is a core NATO member, I would be really careful as Syrian Air Defense shooting down Turkish planes in the future. You want us to send you a tour bus strait into Damascus? - Wom!
With many hardware and systems manufacturers diversifying into the service industry, I could think that these women could make a substantial part of the business of companies like Krauss Maffei and Rheinmetall in the future. And it makes it easier also, because unlike a battle tank, combat helicopter or submarine a tour bus would not need parliamentary export clearance. Well, not yet!
"Lebensabend" is the German word for the "Autumn of your Life" which is the phase of retirment from professional work and enjoying the fruits of a lifetime of work. It is the last stage, where it all has to make sense somehow. And everybody has a different view on what "make sense" finally means. It is also the time in which people do not tend to take on a challenge or inconvenience and it is also not supposed to be challenging or inconvenient, because life will be over soon anyways.
Returning to Germany, this feels to me like the place where "Lebensabend" begins for everybody just after taking the driving license at the age of 18. Things are so convenient. The challenge (for those who still have a challenge at all) here is how to get from 99.999 % to an unreachable 100 %. And the discussions about it are quite philosophical, if not esoteric. But also like it is with some old people, they get grumpy and complain a lot: this does not work, this is not clean, this is too noisy, too stupid, too lazy, too unfair.
I find it would be very complicated to return to Germany for more than an assignment one day. It becomes like Kurt Vonneguts: "A man without a country". One day you just feel like a guest anywhere and home is where you open your suitcase. Then we just become many "One man countries". There is nothing wrong with that, I guess.