Things are suspiciously quiet here in Germany, almost too quiet. Although this should be a week like any other, this morning I had an unerring sense that things were not as they should be. For a start there were definitely fewer lunatics on the road this morning, which allowed me to avoid my usual morning ritual of screaming like a girl as I drive, terrified, towards the autobahn. Equally unusual was the fact I was able to park my car at work without having to run through a complicated series of mathematical equations or resorting to a 37 point turn, which is a little worrying. However, it is fairly obvious what has occurred once you review the facts: cold weather, fewer people and an abundance of winter sports on TV over the weekend. There can be only one conclusion, aliens.
After a few coffees kick started my brain I realised that aliens aren’t real big into winter sports, but Germans certainly are. The reason for my rather easy journey to work and the general lack of people can be answered in two words: Ski Week. Yes friends, it is ski week in Germany and everyone worth their snow shoes are currently gallivanting down ski slopes from Austria to Switzerland. It is around this time of year that most of southern Germany empties itself on to the Alpine slopes and attempts to prove that speeding downhill on planks of wood, at ever increasing levels of anger, is a totally natural past time. As you may be able to ascertain, I’m not entirely convinced.
This is perhaps due to the number of people I know that seem to have picked up a wide variety of broken appendages since the start of January. Although I have been widely informed that all sports are dangerous, I still suspect that the human race were never designed for high speed impacts into trees or for flying head first into anything other than a nice fluffy pillow. It might be the case that I have never lived until I see the Alps at 80 kmh, then again, I haven’t died either. Perhaps my reluctance to go on or off piste is related to my experiences in Britain, where winter sport is very much an occasional vice.
My perception of skiing, when I lived in Britain, was that it was really only a past time for the better off members of society. This was due to most of the people I knew who skied being called Hugo or Verity. More to the point though, in order to actually go skiing, most people have to spend the equivalent of the GDP of Lichtenstein on equipment, flights and hotels. Although it is still a costly affair in Germany, it is significantly cheaper as the Alps are pretty much down the road for most Bavarians. This means that many people have a wider access to what is often considered a “posh sport” in Britain. I may not have had an underprivileged childhood, but the closest I ever came to skiing in my youth was using a black bin liner to go sledging on a hill near my house.
The easy access to winter sports might also play a part in the popularity of the Winter Olympics which is due to start in eighteen days. Germany is one of the leading competitors, sitting fourth in the rankings for overall medals won (188), while Britain trundles along in twentieth with a haul of twenty two medals. Germany has had a history of performing at this level, Britain has generally satisfied itself with Eddy “The Eagle” Edwards bumbling his way through competitions during the 80s and 90s. For Britain, any success in the snow, whether mediocre or not, is seen as a victory. Perhaps what we require is some kind of Disney movie that portrays a British underdog winning hearts and minds through the sleet, it worked for Jamaica, who coincidently are appearing at another Olympics this year. I smell a sequel.
Although Britain may not have the pedigree of Germany when it comes to the biathlon (the shooty-ski-y one) or slalom, we do have a history of winning the more niche events. British success at Curling in 2002 may not have been the dawn of a golden era that many hoped, but it did go some way to confirming we are fairly nifty with a brush. Much of Britain’s hopes for 2014 rest on the female Skeleton event, with Amy Williams hoping to reclaim the crown she won in 2010. There is something innately British about the desire to hurtle head first around an icy track on what can only be described as a glorified tea tray. If only I had stuck at the bin bag sledging, I might well have been on the podium myself, albeit with more friction burns.
Whatever happens, I will be tuning in to see how the Olympics progress. This is not out of some misplaced British patriotism or any real desire to see what happens, it just appears that German TV will be showing little else for the next month or so.