The bus ride was longer still, which should have been expected, and the program director’s humiliation has become so palpable that most guests feel more pity than anger. Obviously, the roadway solution will not hold. The cruise line is eating the cost of the busses and enduring the publicity trauma of one failed plan after another. The director has conceded that at least one city on our itinerary must go and management has chosen to scrap Bratislava. It must frost the Slovakians that they take the lost tourist revenue to accommodate the petulant demands of well-paid canal workers in Germany. We will use that day to make time on the river…tomorrow. Today, we pass judgement on Nuremberg.
If roses are the way for a husband to say, “I’m sorry,” Nuremberg is Germany’s big bouquet of roses. The city’s motto might be, “We fucked up.” So it seemed darkly poetic, though not in the tradition of Schiller or Goethe, that we stopped by Hitler’s intended rally room with three busloads of allied-speaking tourists fully loaded to take a pee break.
The national apology is everywhere, but Nuremberg is a shrine to the guilt of history. It feels genuine and admirable. Children are taught the raw facts of the Second World War, and oh yeah, the first was not such a great idea either. All Europeans know that the success of the euro is not its rise from 80¢ to $1.31 against the dollar, but the realization of peace on the continent. The irony of Germany’s dominance in the economic union is that the country always had it in its hardworking, rule-obeying, sausage-eating spirit to win the peace, but war works on the national psyche like a gambling addiction in Las Vegas—don’t quit till you lose.
I really love Germany. It is a dieting vegetarian’s paradise because there’s nearly nothing to eat. The expression “He’s a meat and potatoes kind of guy,” has no meaning here—who isn’t? But then there is the beer, which is more effective than slathering cheese onto your abdomen…and more fun, depending upon the stomach and purpose, I guess.
It does make me a little uneasy to see teenagers waiting for traffic-light permission to cross a quiet, cobblestone street hardly three meters wide. I find myself reflexively glancing about for a gun tower. Did all the jaywalkers flee to Amsterdam? Of course, in the Netherlands cars are no challenge; the real risk is getting a bicycle handlebar up your ass. Ouch.