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Why every dentist needs a Prussian finca

The Local · 17 Jun 2010, 10:19

Published: 17 Jun 2010 10:19 GMT+02:00

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Dentists are a barometer of economic crisis. Thanks to the corrosive effect of sugar, dentists are never short of a euro. And they are always on the lookout for safe investments.

So obviously I paused for reflection recently when I saw a dentist acquaintance in Berlin loading up his car. His wife, formerly his assistant, was ticking items from a list, just as she used to register the cavities in patients’ molars and incisors. Crate of mineral water? Check. Crate of beer? Check. Picnic cooler bag? Check. Bicycle rack? Check. Blankets, two portable thermos flasks, a portable television (for the Germany vs Australia match). An inflatable dinghy. Mosquito spray.

"You'll need a whole caravan of camels – thank God, you don't have children as well," I said, displaying my usual diplomatic flair.

"Instead we have a house in the country," said the dentist's wife, casting a professional glance at my jaw structure. "In Brandenburg."

Brandenburg, where else? At a stroke I had identified a new urban trend for Berliners: the weekend cottage in the countryside surrounding the German capital. A Prussian finca, if you will.

We have historically low interest rates (which is only fair since banks are getting their money for almost nothing), house prices are low, especially in economically depressed Brandenburg. What could be a better investment in uncertain times than bricks and mortar? The stressed Berliner is discovering the splendid isolation of the eastern German countryside.

Of course, the problem is that the big-city Berliners are finally putting down roots in the east, but without the slightest intention of making contact with the easterners, or Ossis as they’re still known. The new weekenders let their children play in the lakes and recover a kind of rural innocence but tell them not to play with the local kids. As for the adults, they seem to be treating their weekends out of Berlin as a kind of marital therapy. Away from their work, their over-ambitious friends and their Blackberries, couples have to talk to each other.

In case Dagmar wants to talk through their problems a little too intensely, Carsten takes a fishing rod and makes his way out of the house. He naturally hates the enforced stillness of fishing but it is surely better than going down to the village pub and getting to know the Ossi natives.

You will have likely seen the reports on The Local some weeks ago of Gabriela S., an accountant who had left communist East Germany in 1988 to settle in the Stuttgart area. She was turned down for a job and later saw the reason why: a handwritten note on her application form said "Ossi" with a minus sign next to it.

She took the company to court on ethnic discrimination. Her claim was rejected but it has gone into appeal; reason enough for Germans to debate as to whether Ossis really form their own ethnic group after suffering through 40 years of communist dictatorship.

And that certainly is how many of the new weekend colonisers are behaving towards the people that already live there. Brandenburg has become interesting for Berliners because of its spectacular landscapes and solid real estate, but not for its inhabitants.

Perhaps it doesn't matter too much. The English have bought cottages in Wales for years, and looked down on the Welsh for centuries, yet the world has not collapsed. Buying up Brandenburg may eventually spark some curiosity about the lifestyle and attitudes of the natives. I hope so: I have always been confused by the lack of western curiosity about the east. Why is it that the average Rhinelander would rather go to Disneyland than Mecklenburg?

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That is why I would like to see Joachim Gauck, a former civil rights activist in the east, as the next German president. He has the ability to develop intelligently this rather clumsy and unfruitful two-decade-old conversation between the two halves of Germany.

With the government’s proposed austerity programme likely to hit eastern German communities harder than those in the west, the country needs someone with political authority to explain to easterners that the federal government is not fundamentally against them.

These days not even Chancellor Angela Merkel seems to speak up for Ossis even though she’s from the east herself. Make Gauck president and I guarantee that within four years The Left party, which has its roots in the formerly communist half of the country, will have lost half its support.

I am of course aware that my credibility as a prophet has been under strain since my last prediction that Germany’s teen singing sensation Lena Meyer-Landrut could not possibly win Eurovision. The numbers were against Lena as they are against Gauck, who has little chance of being elected later this month. But happily I was wrong about Lena. Hopefully I’ll be wrong again.

Roger Boyes' new novel, "Ossi Forever" is now available.

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

18:17 June 18, 2010 by grazhdanin
how inventive - an article in which appears the term crisis

please post more of those!
22:40 June 18, 2010 by lebuier
As an Australian who has lived in many of the worlds capitals. I must say that the joy of living here in the "Wild East" is discovering the joy of the east Germans. Every day I am simply bowled over by their sheer and utter kindness as well as their unbelievable sense of humour.!!!

Please if you come to visit here, leave behind your pretentious Wessi mind set and discover a gem of humanity which I am realistic enough to know will not last further into the next generation.

I am enjoying every moment of my life here.!
12:19 June 19, 2010 by dykalg
i too had a wonderful experience in my excursion to the east. i live in bavaria (god's little acre) where my collies were injured by a local-yokel's german shepherd...and nothing could be done...according to the dorf sprecher. but when my collie pooped on 1 meter strasse rand of HIS property he came howling like a banshee about his RIGHTS!!!

my sojourn to the east in dresden and the farmland south was marked by helpful and kind contacts to this tourist from other worlds. in the dresden HbHOF down to the local farm and village folk...all....ALL were friendly and even invited me in for breakfast. a wonderful experience for an american who was raised in fear of godless communism. :-)))))
18:43 June 21, 2010 by DoubleDTown
the best thing in the East is the new infrastructure. And I don't just mean roads and Autobahn rest stops. It goes right down to the restroom at a mom & pop restaurant. That too, unfortunately, won't stay new forever.

As to colonization by the Wessis. boy, is that true. Dresden's transport museum is just the latest example. Was there really no competent Saxon that could run it?

For that matter, what genius in the Sachsen state government used a London law firm to file the European Union trademark application for Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden? It's not like many of the lawyers in Dresden are home grown anyway, but at least the Saxons could have paid their legal fees to a local outfit.

15:34 June 23, 2010 by deutschamer
rural tends to be more friendly than urban world-wide. Your childless urban dentist is typical of selfish, so called "sophisticated" urban dweller.
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