Big trees and nazis

It’s an interesting morning this morning in Bonn. As I write this outside my window are two things that are not usually there: a 10metre tree decorated in coloured streamers and a helicopter hovering above my apartment, noisey and annoying. The first is remnants of last night’s Maibaum festivities and the second is monitoring a Nazi demonstration that is taking place in my neighbourhood, hence why I am indoors on my day off this May Day. Spring has sprung and with it some weird things. In this part of Germany tradition has it that on the eve before May Day, when a guy likes a girl he erects an 8-10 metre felled tree outside her window, tied to a lamp post, or traffic light, or drain pipe, or even a living tree if it is high enough. Then he decorates it and leaves her name on the outside. It stays there for a month. This year it’s leap year so some say it’s the year that women are supposed to put the trees up for men. And last night was hilarious, biking home around midnight watching these cars going past with massive long trees dragging behind out of the back, people balancing these long trees on bikes, or just walking with them above their head. The best was when the tractor pulled up outside our place, though, with a trailer of guys singing and dancing to put up the tree.  I doubt the tree is for me, but you never know, it just has a heart with Maus, which I think means like ‘dear’ or ‘sweetie’… so perhaps all ladies in the street can pretend it is.

As for the hovering helicopter and the Nazi demonstration, well that is pretty random also. It even seems there is even a concert going on, to prohibit that would be discrimination, everyone has the right to freedom of expression etc. So, they are allowed the permit as long as the music doesn’t extend to discrimination or hate speech… if only my German was good enough to tell whether or not they are… but actually it’s the anti-Nazi demonstrations that lead to the trouble. The extreme lefts get more out of control usually than the extreme rights, retaliating, hence the helicopters. They chose my sleepy riverside neighbourhood in Bonn, as it seems they couldn’t do it on the city side. Germany constantly surprises me. When I arrived here I assumed it would be a case of “don’t mention the war” but I think that is actually only what foreigners assume. Perhaps it is more so for older generations, but my friends here are quite open, discuss their history freely, and they also think it’s great that they have to learn this in school and address it head on. But of course they are not proud of it and certainly not pro-Nazi. Last week when I celebrated ANZAC day (a commemoration of soldiers that died in WW1 and also it extends to remembrance of those lost in both wars) I found it quite ironic that the best biscuits I have ever baked were made in Germany (although, baking products are amazing here but that is a different story). However, I didn’t expect to see the opposite end of the spectrum outside my door a week later. I am kind of intrigued to go and check it out but at the same time don’t really feel that they warrant my intrigue, because I guess that is their point: to gain attention to the cause. So, instead I think I’ll boycott and maybe bake instead.

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