Monday, June 14, 2010
Flags and what they say about Belgian and German nationhood
I had remarked to Marie Claire that the small number of Belgian flags on the houses seemed a bad sign for the outcome of Sunday’s parliamentary vote in Belgium. And this was underscored by the plethora of German flags hanging out of German cars as I drove through Germany on Sunday – the day the German football team starts its attempt in South Africa at World Cup glory.
I left Brussels at 05.00 and decided to try a new route – via Trier and Heilbronn rather than Aachen, Bonn and Frankfurt. It worked – although I significantly made a false start through failing to remember that Luik is the Flemish name for Lieges and is the only designation given on the aurotoute to the town from north Brussels for 40kms or so until you hit Brabant county.
The Eiffel countryside is very pretty – and the German church service on the radio was an added pleasure on the morning drive.
Hit the Danube just after 14.00 and made a detour to Passau to try to find a village Gasthaus to stay in. Wolf an der Danau offered a lot of them but seemed too small. Standing was too busy! Returned to the motorway (without tolls!) and came off again at Deggendorf – on the Danube – a very charming small town where I put up at the StadtHotel – www.stadthotel-deggendorf.de – for 35 euros (inc breakfast).
A large TV screen had been mounted in the town square to allow people to watch the German match later in the evening – and there was a real festive feel in the air. A fantastic Asparagus soup, cordon bleu and Gruner Weltliner (Ried Sandgrube) – and quality service – in the courtyard of der Graue Hase rounded off a good day. Although I did join the German crowd in the bar opposite the hotel to see the German team score 2 gaols. I felt, however, a bit self-conscious about the academic way I reacted in such a gathering to the goals and quietly slipped away at half-time.
As anticipated, the Belgian vote (its compulsory there) produced another deadlock – with Flanders voting for independence and Wallony continuing to support the kingdom of Belgium. Support for the independence option is less than 25% - but, on that argument, we would never have seen a Scottish Parliament. Amazingly the Belgian Constitution has no provision for referenda. Admittedly the Czech-Slovak break-up took place without a referendum. And, when a country is divided into 2 equal parts, a referendum should technically be held in both parts and require a majority in both.