Yesterday, at a reception hosted by Dr. Wolfgang Schumann to mark the first anniversary of German reunification, my thoughts were back to my most recent visit to what is Middle Europe's prettiest couture.
It was about a 100 days back, the night after the tragic assassination of Rajiv Gandhi. Pangs of guilt invaded my conscience as I scraped out of the silent and heavily patrolled city to the airport. Should I not cancel my booking and stay back in this hour of crisis for the country? Then, I thought, what the hell? I was not in the police that I could investigate the assassination and book the murderers; nor was I in politics and contending the vacant prime minister's powt.
Germany was a stopover in the journey to the US; three days to experience the countryside around Frankful. Modern air travel and the advice of an intelligent travel agent (mine is Karl Dantes) makes it possible for such stopovers at practically no extra cost.
Frnakfurt arrived early in the morning, shortly after the Lufthansa breakfast of black bread and liver spreads, strawberry-flavoured yoghurt and coffee from the fragrant mountains of Columbia.
A unified Germany was looking grey, wet and cold, and not much different from the old Federal Republic. Though we were well into May and progressing towards June, Europe was still at the tail-end of winter. From the hotel window I could see across the empty square at the impressive grey mass of the Frankfurt railway station (Haupt Bahnhof).
And it was in a more or less continuous drizzle that I walked through most of Frankfurt that day, frequently escaping into the warmthof department stores, restaurants and bars. Thebeer tasted as smooth and bitter-sweet as ever. Germany and Britain are the only two countries in the world for worthy beers, except if you want to treat the Republic of Ireland as a separate coutry - then there are three coutries. I have also heard praises for Dutch beet, but I have never been to Holdand and you cannot judge a beer of you drink it bottled or canned.
The following day, I was driven off the autobahn through country roads to the vineyards and toy villages along the Rhine. Germany, in its cities and villages, is peculiar, but perfect combination of the old and the new. Among the world's three technologically most advanced countries, it retains with loving care its heritage of wood-beamed houses, cobbled streets, manned level crossings, restaurants with Smokey interiors.
A night in Heidelberg confirmed this. And the following day, in Baden, we sipped the fishy mineral waters and sat in a large park with a lot of old Germans and listened to a band playing waltzes and fox-trots.
I am amazed at the number of aspect that Germany has. In Bombay, we only think of it as Maz Mueller Bhavan.