The Art of Bad Travelling

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:

Be upset!

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

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