Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Besides being the land of sausages, beer and speeding, Germany is also the land of smokers. (According to Lonely Planet, a horrifying one-third of Germans smoke.)

While the air was okay in the countryside, the pollution in Munich was bad enough to choke a horse.

Second hand smoke was everywhere there - in the smoke-free train station, with smoke drifting in from outside; in our hotel, where smoke from the poorly ventilated reception area spired all the way to the lift lobby on the sixth floor; on the streets, any street; in al fresco dining places; in the parks; and - get this - in petrol stations (yes, people actually smoked in petrol stations. Watching them, I feared for my own life.)

People also smoked while driving, cycling and around babies.

It is possible they subscribe to a national philosophy that too much fresh air is bad for you.

But I kind of like it that fresh air is odourless, so I was slowly asphyxiating in Munich. Until I arrived in Salzburg in Austria and encountered people smoking under no-smoking signs in restaurants, and waitresses who give you strange looks if you ask for a non-smoking section.

(And oh yes, the people in Salzburg smoke at petrol stations too).

Then, I was actually glad to get back into Germany, where at least people didn't smoke in restaurants and that I could eat a meal that smells like what it's supposed to smell like.

My last souvenir from the country was a lungful of nicotine-laden smoke, courtesy of a Frankfurt airport shuttle bus that lingered with its doors open for 10 minutes right next to a smoker's area.

Truly, this country takes my breath away.

Afternote: I have been traumatised so badly that until now, I cannot think of Munich without experiencing an increased heart rate accompanied by a gnawing sense of anxiety. The horror.


Midori said...

Oh my goodness, people in Austria smoke?! But they are supposed to be singing all the time, like in The Sound Of Music, right? How can they do so if their voices are raspy from nicotine???
*brain cannot accept*

peanut butter wolf said...

One word: Dubbing!