This week I was in Ochtrup – a town in the Münsterland, near the Dutch border.
The city fathers have just constructed a new “medieval” walled town in the centre of the village. Actually it’s one of those outlet-centres where eye-wateringly expensive brands are offered at merely wallet-flinching prices.
The entrance to the shopping-village is through a pseudo city-gate.
The city gate lacks only a portcullis and drawbridge.
Inside, despite the cute step gables and olde-worlde street lights, the place feels odd. The upper floor windows are all blanks. There is no sense of street-life or community. It’s all very Stepford-wives-ish.
And of course the impression is exacerbated by the fact that nearly all the shops are selling designer labels. What the place really lacked was a greengrocer, a cheese shop, fishmonger, butcher…
I think I’ll stick to our high-street and local market.
I was out and about in Mönchengladbach yesterday when I saw a sight which filled me with that kind of joy which only a Brit in Germany can experience. That same jovial smile crossed my features as happens whenever a Teuton wishes me a Gute Fahrt, or when I pass the Autobahn exit to this place.
The reason for my delight was a bus emerging from a side-street to my right. Not just any old bus.
I have to admit that the sight of this splendidly labelled vehicle caused me a brief moment of dilemma. You see I was driving through Mönchengladbach on my way somewhere… at that very moment, Helga the satnav was commanding me in her brusque tones to drive straight on. I had a purpose.
But those who know me well will realise that this brief flash of doubt was quickly over. To Helga’s immense dismay (and trust me, no real person can spit out the word “Recalculating” as fiercely as she does), I did the only thing possible under the circumstances.
I followed the bus.
Within a few miles I found myself in downtown Pongs. I quickly made sure my car windows were completely rolled up and the air vents closed… after all, surely a place doesn’t get a name like that for no reason.
Downtown Pongs… move along, nothing to smell here…
Luckily the refuse collecters were out in Pongs at the time… presumably Pongs pongs less today.
The 024 to Pongs is now my second favourite German bus. My favourite still has to be the vehicle run by this company…
Another example of an amusingly named German bus
… I was pleased to see this expression of civic pride from the village whose name we all know so well….
Yes… that really is the name of the village, not a comment on the weather, or a rude word in Latin….
Today I was visiting Emmerich am Rhein – a town on the border between Germany and the Netherlands.
Suspension bridge over the Rhine at Emmerich
While I was walking through the town centre, I came across a group of brass Stolpersteine – small plaques in the pavement reminding passers-by that holocaust victims had once lived in the house they are passing. Stolpern means to stumble – so these are literally stones that you stumble across.
This set remembers a family of three from Emmerich who fled the national socialist regime and escaped to America.
The Gompertz family fled to America in 1939 and survived the Holocaust.
This was the first time I’ve seen Stolpersteine remembering people who actually survived the war – most of them record death in one of the concentration camps. I hope the Gompertz family settled in America and had a long and happy life after the war.
When I was visiting Kempen I also spotted these cool street-sculptures which double as entertainment for kids.
Hoppe hoppe Reiter…
For future Bastian Schweinsteigers?
Everywhere you go in Germany, there seem to be reminders of former markets. Not that Germany doesn’t have markets nowadays too, of course. But in past times, they seemed to have one market per type of produce, at least judging by the old street names. I was in Kempen this week which has a marketplace which claims to sell only butter (there was a market on at the time, though it seemed to be all fruit and veg).
A whole market just selling butter?
There was a bit of confusion about the Viehmarkt (cattle market) – which apparently used to be a horse market. These days it’s a car park. How appropriate!
A cattle market… formally a horse market…
I also visited Rheinberg which arranges its markets very neatly, next to each other. So you can pick up your fish and also the wood to cook it on. How marvellously well organised!
Wood sellers to the left, fishmongers to the right….
Whatever market is on, it’s so much more fun than buying produce in a supermarket.
German market scene in Kempen with street sculpture…