“O. K., my friends. My name is Marta. Let us go visit this charming city here on the Rhine. But stay together and be sure to watch my red umbrella and follow me.”
“We have arrived at the town-square where there was a famous Frau Krause who used to come every morning and evening to feed the ducks which gathered at this fountain. She died in 1942 but people still remember her….”
Nothing too deep, heh? Where is the talk on German culture, Bavarian Beer, the Lutheran Church and the state of religion in Germany? Where is the discussion on the place of the German Republic in the European Union? How are people thinking about what’s happening in the world these days? By the way, what’s going on in this town today? Can we meet any locals and actually meet people different than us? Are these people walking around actually Germans?
Earlier this year, I took a trip to Puerto Rico and met the same kind of disjunction from local flavor. I visited a coffee plantation which was an historic site, preserved as an important part of the Puerto Rican culture. Well, the bored guide talked only of rules we must observe as we go through the historic site: No eating, no drinking, stay on the marked path, do not leave a single piece of trash, no smoking, no touching of the furniture, etc., etc.
We were never shown a single coffee plant and were not offered a cup of local coffee. We did see
inert coffee processing machines, barracks and the house of the original owner of the plantation.
Puerto Rico preserves the buildings without helping tourists remember how coffee is produced or what it meant to Puerto Rico as the country developed.
Both the German and the Puerto Rican tours were boring without musicians and artists, poets and local folks adding to our understanding of their cultures.
Concerning the spiritual life and religion of these cultures, there was nada, nichts.
Even in Germany, people were attending morning Mass in a beautiful local church but if I hadn’t wandered away from the duck lady, I’d have never experienced it.