Finally the weather has really taken a turn for the better. Yesterday evening was already noticeably milder and I caught the faint whiff of barbecues on the air. Today we woke up to sunshine and a proper spring day. We woke up late as we were invited to a birthday party last night.
The birthday girl was Sue, a friend of Ariane, and her actual birthday is today. But it’s quite common in Germany to have a party the night before and go past midnight – they call it “Reinfeiern” which roughly translates as partying into the birthday. Instead of struggling to stay awake and just make it to midnight before politely excusing ourselves (which is what normally happens at New Year) we were up until 3 in the morning! I did need a couple of Nurofen this morning but recovered quickly and had a good lie in.
The party was just my kind of event. No dancing, quite a bit of booze and good company with good conversation. Sue is from Lebanon and her husband, Robi, is from Serbia (but they both grew up in Germany). There were other friends with Bosnian roots, a neighbour originally from Poland, some out and out Germans and of course me, the token Englishman. The food was great (barbecue!) and cold beer was at hand. As usual whenever Eastern or Southeastern Europeans are giving a party, there was also plenty of homemade schnapps.
It occurred to me that there is already a large immigrant population in Germany. The proximity to Eastern Europe, the Turkish and Italian immigrants from the 60s and 70s as well as the refugees from the Balkan War means that our little suburb is full of different nationalities already. I would say that probably a third of the kids in my daughters’ school have some kind of migrant background. You really notice this when the football World Cup is on. Whoever is playing, there will always be some group out on the streets afterwards peeping their horns celebrating (except me, of course. I’ll be at home bemoaning England’s latest loss).
Because Sue speaks arabic she works as an interpreter for the Syrian refugees that are being housed here (there are about 150 in total). She told me last night that they were all quite “western-looking” and not overtly or explicitly religious. I would like to write more about what she thought of them and her experiences – but Roby kept plying me with schnapps and I am not too clear on the details any more.
One thing I can remember. We all agreed that the differences between the main political parties has become so small, that voters are now choosing more on personality than on politics. This is probably why our green State President, Winfried Kretschmann, was reelected. Quite a few conservative voters went for him – he comes across as a friendly grandfather-figure who doesn’t want to rock the boat too much. It looks like he will be heading up a Black/Green coalition (which has never happened before because the Greens usually got together with the more left-wing SPD (you can read about coalitions in this post: Coalition Fever). It probably also helped the Greens that in the run up to the elections, Stuttgart had announced a “Feinstaub Alarm” – fine particle polution alarm – and asked people to leave their cars at home. Although this was voluntary and largely ignored, it got everyone talking about the environment again.
Anyway, it was a great evening. Lubricated with a drop of alchohol, a barbecue and good friends – you can’t go wrong wherever you are.