By Heidi Trautmann
We had packed heavy boots
and winter pullovers, took gloves and scarves with us as we expected the winter
to come with snow any moment but it was not so during the two weeks we stayed
in Bavaria; we had spring temperatures while in Cyprus heavy rains came down, 100
mm on one single day, I heard.
We had the opportunity to
visit the old centres of Munich, Rosenheim and other smaller places during
weekdays and were expecting to see floods of refugees but we saw only masses of
people as usual. Since the sixties Germany got used to a colourful variety of
people coming from Italy, Turkey, Greece, Spain, Vietnam, to find a better
work, but it came gradually - not as such a tsunami of refugees who have lost
their homes due to wars all around our globe. Many of those stayed here and
make now part of our communities.
On our walking tours through
the cities, in the subways and train stations, in shopping malls, different shades
of people walked side by side, accepted each other….and all of them enjoyed
walking along the hundreds of Christmas market stalls. I did not see any
hateful stares or mistrust in faces, and if I saw beggars sitting in gateways
or entrances to churches they were certainly our own people. We saw many
musicians of different countries and I saw their cups being filled with a smile.
I cannot and will not judge the problems for refugees, social workers and
authorities, which are certainly not to be underestimated, and we did not have
the chance to come close to a refugee camp but I wanted to study the attitudes
of ordinary people, their faces and I did not see or hear any sign of
The advantage of being old is
to have a rich treasure of memories, to remember things the young generation
does not even know of. When we grew up, people were vehemently resisting the flood
of Italians coming to Germany in the 1960s during the improving economical era with
humiliating words such as:…. what do they want here, these wops…..(Spaghettifresser).
One did not eat spaghettis, nor garlic or any of the unknown vegetables …..
But it did not take long and
Italian food became part of German eating culture and that made many Germans
spend their very first post-war holidays in Italy and a vivid exchange started
to take place; the same happened with workers coming from Turkey, the two being
the most important immigrant groups, and look at us now: Today they are all
Germans and many children of the former immigrants are now in high positions,
we have them in politics, elected into parliament, in science and the arts, and
they have certainly had an important impact on our view of the world.
In all the places we visited
we discovered Döner places all around town frequented by young and old, huge
shopping malls had at least one Turkish delicatessen shop, but also Vietnamese,
Chinese, Greek shops and so forth.
One of the last evenings we
went to a small Italian restaurant in a suburb of Munich and we had the most
delicious mussels cooked in white wine - they are also famous for their paper
thin pizza - and I heard many languages spoken and laughter and we enjoyed
ourselves tremendously, the Italian wine was perfect and the dessert hmmm. At that moment I sat
back in my chair and asked our guests around the table: “Just tell me, what
would we be without our immigrants?”