Instead of original content today we feature an article by Kurt Tucholsky. The original version can be found at Projekt Gutenberg. Tucholsky, born in 1890, was a critic, novelist and journalist in the Weimar Republic, contributing to the infamous Weltbühne magazine, writing both acclaimed love stories and some of the leading political commentary of the time. In 1933 he emigrated to Sweden, ceased to write and in 1935 died there of a sleeping pill overdose (whether intentional or accidental isn’t known for certain).
The Art of Bad Travelling
Onto whom God wants to bestow his favour,
he’ll send into —
“Alice! Peter! Sonya! Put the bag into the shelf here, no, there! Jesus, can’t the kids help for once? Fritz, don’t you dare to eat all the sandwiches! You’ve just eaten!”
— into the great wide world!
When the travel bug bites you, demand everything of the region you’re travelling to: beautiful nature, the big city’s amenities, antiques from all of art history, cheap fares, sea, mountains, – in short: the Baltic in front of you and behind you the Champs-Elysées. Otherwise: complain.
When you travel, for heaven’s sake don’t be considerate to your fellow travellers – they’ll recognise it as your weakness. You paid – the others are freeloaders. Remember the tremendous importance of whether or not you’ve got a window seat; that someone’s smoking in the non-smoking compartment needs to be addressed immediately and in the fiercest expressions – if the conductor’s absent for a moment, be his deputy in the meantime and be police, state and avenging nemesis at once. Embellishes the journey. Generally be disagreeable – thus they’ll recognise the man.
In the hotel order a room and then go elsewhere. Don’t cancel the room, you have no need for that – don’t turn soft at any rate.
When you’ve arrived at the hotel, inscribe your name with all titles … If you don’t have a title … sorry … I mean: If someone doesn’t have a title, they’re to make one up. Don’t write: “business man”, do write: “director general”. Improves mightily. Go then to your room slamming the doors; for heaven’s sake don’t tip the chambermaid, of whom you ask a few small extra favours, that’d spoil the people; clean your dusty boots with a towel, smash a glass (but don’t tell anyone, the hotelier’s got so many glasses!); and then repair to a promenade through the town.
In the new town, first and foremost you need everything to be as it is at home – if the town doesn’t have that, it’s no good. So the people need to drive on the right, have the same phone as you do, the same menu layout and the same restrooms. By the way, look only at the sights that are in the guidebook. Chase your kin mercilessly towards everything that has a star in the book – blindly pass by everything else, and mainly: equip yourself well. Walking through foreign towns you’d best wear mountain shorts, a small green hat (with shaving brush), heavy studded shoes (very useful for museums), and a solid gnarled cane. Rope up only in cities of 500 000 inhabitants or more.
When your wife collapses of weariness the right moment has come to climb a view tower or the town hall; when for once you’re abroad you must take everything that’s offered. When at last the details blur before your eyes, you can proudly say: I’ve done it.
Set down a budget before you travel, down to the cent, ideally a hundred euros too low – you can always save some. That is, by negotiating everywhere; such makes you popular and generally brightens the trip. Better go a bit further than your wallet allows and get the rest back by walking on foot where driving would be more comfortable; by tipping too little; and generally by seeing a vulture in every stranger. Meanwhile never forget the golden rule of every healthy journey:
With your wife discuss only the small worries of everyday life. Reheat all sorrow you’ve had at home in the office; generally never forget you’ve got a job.
When you’re travelling, the very first thing you should do upon arriving at a foreign place is: to write postcards. You don’t have to order them: The waiter will see that you want to have some. Write illegibly – that’ll infer a good mood. Write cards everywhere: on the train, in the stalactite cave, on the mountain tops and on the reeling boat. Break a pencil while you’re at it and spill ink from your pen. Then complain.
The basic law of every real journey is: Something has to be going on – and you need “to be up to something”. Otherwise the trip isn’t a trip. Every break from job and work consists of having an exact agenda, but not meeting it – if you didn’t meet it, blame your wife.
Demand pastoral peace everywhere; if you have it, complain there’s nothing going on. A decent summer resort consists of a crowd of the same people you’d see at home, as you do in a mountain bar, a sea dance and a wine department. Visit the like – but keep your good, tested dress: shorts, small hat (see above). Then look around the room and speak thus: “Well, not exactly elegant here!” If the others wear dinner jackets, best say: “Highfalutin, to travel with a dinner jacket!” – if you wear it but the others don’t, fight with your wife. Generally fight with your wife.
Rush through the foreign towns and villages – if you can still catch a breath you didn’t schedule properly; furthermore the train you need to reach is more important than a calm evening hour. Calm evening hours are bollocks and not what you travel for.
While travelling everything must be a bit better than you have it at home. Return the bottle that’s not chilled enough to the waiter with a face in which he can read: “If my chamberlain brought me wine like this from the cellar he’d be fired!” Always act as if you grew up at …
With the ridiculous locals do at any rate talk right away about politics, religion and the war. Don’t beat around the bush with your opinion, speak your mind! Let them have it! Speak loudly so as to be heard – many foreign peoples are hard of hearing anyway. When you enjoy yourself, do laugh, but so loud that everyone else gets angry who in their imbecility don’t know what you’re laughing about. If you don’t speak foreign languages very well, shout: They’ll understand you better then.
Don’t let anything impress you.
If you’re several men on high viewpoints, you should sing something in four-colour print. Nature’s fond of that.
Act. Complain. Be upset. And make business.
The Art of Good Travelling
Set down your plan as a rough sketch – and let the random hour guide you in the detail. The greatest sight of all is the world – look at it.
Today, no-one has a world view thus that he could understand and appraise everything: have the courage to say that there’s something you don’t understand. Don’t care about the small troubles of a trip; if sometimes you get stuck at a stopover, enjoy being alive, look at the chicken and the serious goats, and have a small talk with the bloke in the cigar shop.
Relax. Let the steering wheel go. Spin through the world. It’s so beautiful: Give yourself to it, and it’ll give itself to you.
Translation: Leon Friederichs, 2018