The Germans and Brits Are at War Again

Its summertime in Europe and thousands of tourists are heading for the beaches.

It's also time for Germany's top-selling tabloid, Bild Zeitung, to fire the first salvo in the annual "beach towel war" — the age-old battle between British and German sun loungers who flock to beaches in great numbers.

The German tabloid published a "Warning – may contain Britons" guide listing the best European summer hot spots for avoiding British tourists.

Bild Zeitung's campaign was a response to news of a U.K. court compensating British tourist David Barnish for his case against his tour operator. Barnish's complaint? The hotel where he and his family were sent last August had too many German tourists.

Barnish claimed that the holiday company, Thomson, had not told him that the Grecotel resort on the Greek island of Kos was occupied almost exclusively by German tourists and only a small number of the guests at the hotel were English.

He said that his family and his kids in particular were unable to take part in entertainment or children's activities at the hotel because those activities were only organized in German.

He told the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph, "I'm not a racist. I wouldn't like to take my family holiday at a hotel overrun by English holiday-makers and the same would apply if there were French or Spanish or any other nationality."

"But everything from the leaflets telling you what's on in the morning to the people staying there, the language the representatives spoke and service was all in German."

He also complained that the sun beds by the pool were being taken up by "stereotypically German Germans," who would put their beach towels on the empty sun beds at crack of dawn in order to reserve them for later use.

It's a complaint often heard — German tourists are notorious for putting towels out first thing in the morning, before anybody shows up at the pool — a bad habit bound to drive other holiday makers crazy and cause tension.

The court awarded Barnish $1,500 in compensation, arguing he was obviously unable to enjoy his vacation because of those unfriendly circumstances.

Relations between German and British tourists on package tours abroad have been uneasy for many years and tabloids in both countries have entertained their readers with news about the "beach towel wars" during the summer lull.

This year it was German tabloids Bild Zeitung and Express that fired the opening shots.

"They're crazy, the British — Too many Germans in the hotel!" wrote Bild and published a list of six summer resorts heavily frequented by British tourists.

"If you don't want to meet English people, avoid these places," the newspaper warned its readers and showed a photo of a pair of beer-belly pals on holiday in Majorca.

On the newspaper's blacklist are six European resorts: the Bay of Palma in Majorca, San Antonia in Ibiza, Playa de las Americas in Tenerife and Ayia Napa in Cyprus but also Faliraki in Rhodes and Malia in Crete.

Bild said that these resorts are famous for "drinking, sex and beaches" – three reasons that make those holiday destinations attractive to Britons.

The newspaper is also suggesting that Germans should not only be paid Schadenersatz (indemnification) but Schmerzensgeld (compensation) for having to spend the "best time of the year" with such people, like Britons.

"They are easy to recognize from miles away with their red faces, wobbly white beer bellies and crew cuts," Bild proclaimed, and it illustrates its warning with an unappealing photo of two sun burnt, topless women on sun beds.

It also points out to its readers, tongue-in-cheek, that Austria and Switzerland, the hosts of this summer's Euro 2008 soccer championship, are "British-free zones" as the British national team failed to qualify.

With the peak of travel season approaching rapidly, the next chapter in the "sun bed battle" is likely to heat up soon.