The Wild Boys The Test of Manhood


The Wild Boys

The Test of Manhood

Architecture and the Lusthaus

Sausages, graffiti and release in southern Germany

Franconia, Germany
7th December, 2003

Time to get some grub in me. I rubbed my hands in anticipation. What would it be tonight? Roast Schweinefleisch? Some knödel perhaps? And all washed down with a litre of the excellent local dunkelbier!

Fool. The clock had just struck nine, and, as I stood in the central square of the ancient city, I could see the lights of all the local hotels, restaurants and gasthäuser as they... all... went... out. One by one. Leaving me in the darkness. With no dinner. All alone.

Fool. I was in Germany now, it was nine o'clock, and everyone else was getting ready to go to bed, gut burglicheweise, like the sensible folk they are. I shook my head on thoughts I couldn't name, and trudged off down the road. Perhaps I could find a petrol station and buy a bag of crisps.

WJ in Toyland

I love southern Germany. I always feel a warm glow coming to one of the old cities hidden among the hills and pine forests, and walking through the cobbled streets and pointy, timbered houses all painted in cheerful pinks and yellows. It took a long time to realise why this should be. Then one day, as I gazed at all the little wooden soldiers in a Christmas market, I saw it. I had returned to the dreams of my childhood.

All the stories I had read were set here, all the Grimm's Fairy Tales had featured dark forbidding forests, steep mountains, pepperpot castles, and pointy, pointy timber houses. In coming to southern Germany I was wandering once more among the wood block illustrations in the toyland I had imagined. All I needed was a cape, a princess to rescue, and an old battered leather satchel, stolen from a witch, that gave advice, conjured up useful armies, and produced cheese sandwiches or sausages on demand.

I looked around. Plenty of cheese, witches everywhere, but no beautiful princesses. At least none who needed my help. And I had had enough sausages already.

The Meister Sausage von Nürnberg

Nürnberg is in the land of Bavaria, but the people are Frankish. You can tell by the colour of the sausage. It's more brown. Such is the pride of the people of Franconia in their cherished heritage that gourmet restaurants specialize in their preparation. I was all for it. Give me a sausage and I'm as happy as the next man. So I decided to visit the House o' Bratwurst on my first night.

But first the town. There was time to visit the castle, see the walls and the churches, and explore the river. As I was a little peckish a light snack while I walked... sausage would do. Three Nürnbergers in a bun, two euros. Very reasonable. I walked on. Hungry-making all this walking around, could do with a nibble, ah, what does this little stall sell... sausage. Three Nürnbergers in an etcetera. Quite full now.

Time to go to the Gourmet Bratwurst. A big, happy room, wooden tables and beer. I looked at the menu. Sausages of every size and shape danced before my eyes, to be ordered by the dozen, the score. I looked at the waiter, eager. My stomach started to lurch. I looked at the menu. I looked at the man.

"Salad, bitte."

Goth and Gothic

Graffiti. Pine hills, pepperpot turrets, romance, and... graffiti. It's absurd. After the war, when cities like Nürnberg were turned into rubble, the German people turned round, with loving patience, and built them up again just as they were before. And now paste graffiti over every available surface. It's jarring, it doesn't fit.

Neither do other things. This is a clean, tidy, orderly country. Yet it's filled with dirty, green haired punks. DOgs on strings. Mullets. Iron Maiden T-shirts. Enormous plastic dildos in the raucous pink window of the Lusthaus that is always right in the centre of the main part of every town, right opposite the Gothic cathedral.

More contrasts. German writing - poetic, philosphical - has moved the world to tears. German music can boast some of the pinnacles of human acievement. It's hard to believe that the beautiful, structured language of the poets and philosophers is related to the average street talk - the super super handynummer - of today. I know that English speakers don't sound like Shakespeare either, but the difference is more marked in Germany.

Does good German require too much architecture? The architecture of medieval Germany, the Gothic cathedrals, the castles, the towns, took years of discipline and sacrifice to achieve. The music required centuries of careful study to perfect, and requires a lot of discipline to sit through.

So maybe the perfection, the discipine that such a highly architected language as German requires is simply too much for everyday use. Maybe they need the release of green hair, Iron Maiden tee-shirts and spontaneous rebellion. Maybe it is the effort of the cathedral that drives people to the Lusthaus.

Or maybe they really, really like graffiti.

The Watchman

I spent a night in Rothenburg ober der Tauber. Once a great city, a Free Imperial City of the Holy Roman Empire, Rothenburg sunk into dreams in the sixteenth century like a fairy princess and only awoke again three hundred years later. As a result, the medieval walls and buildings have survived almost intact. It is pretty.

It's a corpse. A museum town. I experience the strangest feeling visiting a place like Rothenburg, or Carcassonne, or Bruges. Once so alive, and now a zombie. A skeleton brought back to life only by the fresh injections of tourists, who circulate its system a couple of times and must then be replaced by more to sustain this undead existence.

I enjoyed the Night Watchman. A witty young man, dressed up as the town guard, takes visitors on a guided tour every night at eight, for an hour.

Which meant it was now nine in the evening, and there was nothing to eat. I fled the city of the dead, darkened now, and set my course to the living. After a while I found the new town, the part where the local people actually spent the night, in modern houses with proper plumbing. The "International Bar" was filled with warmth and light and laughter. I ordered a pizza and joked with the waitress.

Here, far from the architecture and the lusthaus, we could all relax and have a good time.

Wie sie schwellen
mich umrauschen
soll ich atmen
soll ich lauschen?
Soll ich schlürfen,
Süß in Düften
mich verhauchen?
in dem wogenden Scwall,
in dem tönenden Schall,
in des Welt-Atems
wehendem All -
versinken -
unbewußt -
höchste Lust!









Rathaus Rothenburg


Streets of Rothenburg



Hat & Spoon



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The Facts

Where I stayed
Nuremberg: Gasthaus zum Schwanlein. Clean rooms with shower, not expensive. In old town near Hauptbahnhof.
Rothenburg: Pension Pöschel. Very clean and friendly lodging house in old city. Cheap rates and a huge breakfast included.

How I got around: Deutsche Bahn all over.