The first book of Price Asfa-Wossen Asserate, an Ethiopian Prince living in Germany, I read, is called “Manieren” (Manners) and it contains the sharpest views on Germans I have ever read. Not that it would be cynical or unfair. It is just the perspective of an Ethiopian, who sees Germany as his home but from his own viewpoint and by this is a very interesting mirror. Now he wrote another Book titled “Draussen nur Kaennchen” and just reading this title I already bursted laughing. It is one of these idioms which is really untranslatable in any other language (I don’t even try) but hits right in the centre.
I spent some time in Bonn, working right in the middle beside the University, and staying with friends on the Rosenburg. The office was right over one of the large bookshops and coming from Hong Kong, it felt good to see that people are still interested and reading and that the bookshop does not just have a place in the centre of the city, but also in the centre of their life. There are nice coffee houses around, where people meet or just drop by to read the first few pages of their new book. Still many small old stores exist. I bought an old style shaving knife in a shop which still offers sharpening services. And further on I got two pair of hand made Budapest shoes. The staff in there knows everything about their products, greet you with a “Guten Tag”, and advise you on your purchase, but also just chat with you on your interest.
Bonn was made capital of Germany after the War as it was a neutral ground to be the centre of the new Federal Republic, even it is geographically very far West. After the re-unification in 1989, the capital was moved back to Berlin. Many were afraid at that time that Bonn would go down, but installation and strengthening of European functions, research institutions and also companies have kept the city going. It is a bit like a village with the cultural program of a capital. And in my view it combines the advantages of both. Of course it is less colorful than back in the times when foreign diplomats were on the streets. But it is still a rather civilized city with much to see.