What Not to Wear

Using the trains here is normally a not unpleasant experience. The coaches are reasonable new and still in good shape, the ride is not bumpy, the conducteurs are friendly or at least not openly hostile. The crowd is mixed as always. When I travel to the bookmines in the Monday damndarkmorning (coined by Savannah) for two or three stations the waggon is filled with young people who go to their working place or vocational school (Berufsschule), and from their destination Ochsenfurt (Ger., Eng.) onwards its quiet and relaxed (20 minutes). These youngsters are basically tired from their weekend follies and do not talk too much, most of them look into some papers and try to remember what kind of profession they try to learn. There is the optional silent drinker, but again, the emphasis is on silent.
I spent the holiday (Wednesday, 3rd of October, day of unification, oh yeah … Ger., Eng.) at home and used the train this morning as usual. Less youngsters than usual, but to my utter astonishment groups of young men, with the obligatory occasional young lady among them, poured in wearing a kind of uniform: Blue or red chequered shirts, kind of  short leather trouser ending under the knee, woolish jumper; the young ladies wore skirts from the same pattern as the men’s shirts, with aprons (!); all of them, even the ladies, carried with them at least two bottles of beer, some small groups even a crate of beer (that is 20 bottles á 0,5 liter); and they cracked open their bottles and started more or less heavy drinking.
An especially nasty group settled near me and made me leave when one of the pissheads sprayed himself and a part of the waggon with beer, because he was too dumb or drunk to crack open a Kronkorken (Ger., Eng.). Besides they were blubbering out loudly and stupidly, and from Marktbreit (Ger., Eng.) onwards (30 minutes, first beer finished) it became subterranean, unacceptable and unbearable. I found a silent place at the very end of the train – in company of another angry-looking man (a silent drinker), and we must have been impressive, because until Ansbach (Ger., Eng.) (where I left) nobody came near us. I greeted him on exit, he nodded: Cheers, unknown fellow traveller! Ansbach station saw even more of the Halbaffen boarding the train.
I had no idea where these uniformed idiots were heading to until I spoke about it with the bus driver: All these people go to München (no links to the Hauptstadt der Bewegung!) and visit the Oktoberfest (Ger., Eng.). They don their uniform, swig their booze, and behave like arses, in masses. Acting “Bavarian”, like “Bauern”, on the “Volksfest”.
Sometimes this night all these drunkards  are transported back to their stables, where ever this may be, also via train; thankfully I do not have to use a night train in the coming days – said orgy ends coming Sunday.

I do not care if someone wants to get drunk in the early morning or wants to visit said infernal pandemonium in Munich. But why do these people feel the need to wear a uniform? I seriously do not understand it: Maybe the leather trousers are pee- and vomit-friendly?!
They masquerade themselves as “Bavarians” with a “national costume” (Tracht, Ger., Eng.), invented in the 19th century – as are so many other things, the late great Eric HOBSBAWM (1917-1912) (Ger., Eng.) showed some in  The Invention of tradition (1983) (Ger., Eng.). I know about the power of costume, I act differently when in full regalia (three-piece suit with Schlips, Querbinder or foulard; good shoes – they are so important! The right accessories, men carry few, but they must be well worth it – ah vanitas rises its ugly head …); people acted different towards me when I was wearing the “security”-costume, but I will never again wear such a kind of Clownerie, GOtt sei mir gnädig! It is fun to disguise, and of course the mask gives freedom – but the people I saw today used the mask to act just uncivilized and unworthily.
But who am I to criticize, it’s all in the eye of the beholder. Nevertheless, the next time I see one of these cheap ugly chequered shirts I stand up and leave, immediately. 
What the hell is so difficult about getting drunk in style?


Fluchtpunkt Magadan

Franconia lies in the Southern part of Germany. Going straight on North I would cross the Rhön mountains and some other more or less hilly landscape, until I would find myself in the middle of a large plain at some point roughly between Hannover and Berlin. Turning right and facing East I could travel this plane until reaching the foot of the Ural: Berlin, Posen, Warschau, Minsk (here), Smolensk, Moskau, Gorki (better known as Nishni Nowgorod), Kasan, Ischewsk (with it’s unique museum), Perm. 19 cm on the large map of my old school atlas, measured with a yellow plastic ruler, 3.5 cm equal 500 km, 3.000 km is a good number.
After crossing the Ural from Perm to Nishni-Tagil we face a very large swamp area ruled by the large river systems of Irtysch and Ob north of Omsk: There is no road, no railway, no city on this map, 11 cm or 1.600 km of muddy emptiness. Until we reach the Jenissey somewhere in the region of Podkamennaja-Tunguska (where something fell down 1908) at the foot of the middle siberian mountainous region that we have to cross for another whopping 14 cm or 2.000 km until we reach Jakutsk, hopefully in summertime. From the Lena valley eastwards up to high mountain regions with valleys running mainly from North to South it’s only 8 cm or 1.100 km until we finally come to Magadan, one end of the world.
Generously approximated 7000 km by plastic ruler. The famous transsiberian railway follows a more southern route and one has to make a choice between the Trans-Mongolian or the Trans-Manchurian line depending whether the final destination is Wladiwostok or Peking. Because flying is no option – I generally distrust these aerodynamically formed tin cans and old Russian aeroflot flying coffins powered by industrial alcohol especially – there are only two options: Walking or driving. While walking would demand some years of hard life using a motorized vehicle seems to be a good idea, maybe a Ural in Cross Country Trim would do the job.

But it’s cold and grey outside and there’s the site of the Hakluyt Society and the university library only a 15 minute walk away. With a little imagination some of the meadows here can pass as Siberian Ridges, this has to suffice.



Spent the whole day on the trains seemingly. Do not remember much of the morning sat half-awake watching a lady eating a sandwich for more than half an hour and tried to ignore the noise she made. I attended a seminar which was pretty good. And had a possibility to visit the ex-capital of western Germany, Bonn – now a small university-town in the Rhineland again. Dripping from well fed bourgeoise self-contentment. Had a fine 3 hours-something ride back in an IC up the Rhine-valley, Loreley included: The full program in autumnal late-afternoon-sun.


Going by train

I guess that I have to change my attitude towards getting up early. Yesterday morning the trains were in time, empty and – luxury! – even the windows were clean. I found a nice waggon with some blokes lying there and there, and it had a very relaxed, even friendly atmosphere (of course the smoker department). I met friendly conductors!
No adolescent burping-contest, no “business”-people spluttering in their portable in full cry, so that everybody gets it how important they are, no family trying out grandfather’s cheese-collection – that’s what I got on my way home. Sometimes it is very okay to wear the silver skull-ring a friend gave to me …

The archive gave a negative result: I found some dates that were necessary; it is proofed now that after a certain date no one with the familyname in question married or died in the area. They simply moved. I have a suspicion and to check this we have to make a trip to the countryside, because these registers are not (yet) filmed and so one must look into the originals on location. Hey – that’ll be even better than mondaymorningluxurytrains!