Brits v. Germans: A Battle On the Beach

Aug 18, 2009 2:08pm

A Report by Nick WattThe British and the Germans are still at war.  Summer is the fighting season and they’re skirmishing over lounge chairs on the beaches and pool sides of southern Europe. This amateur video was shot from a Spanish hotel balcony last summer. It’s early morning, the doors to the pool are unlocked.  Take a look at what transpires:

Yes, you really are watching vacationers racing to reserve lounge chairs for a day of tanning. This is a war with roots that can be traced back to May 8th 1945 when the guns fell silent across Europe. While Britain, the victor, was exhausted by war, West Germany, the vanquished, rose again Phoenix-like to become an economic power house. The British were bemused by this reversal of fortune, and perhaps resented German success.  In the 1960s, with the advent of cheap vacation packages to sunny Spain, the two sides met again. They met poolside, and the battle resumed over the seemingly innocuous lounge chair. "Quite simply, the Germans were getting up very early in the morning, 6 O'clock sometimes, pre-breakfast, laying down their towels, reserving territory," said Roger Boyes, author of "My Dear Krauts." Boyes is a British journalist who lives in Berlin and covers Germany and Northern Europe.Now, 40 years later, if you look closely, you'll find that they aren’t all Germans claiming territory, there are Brits there too, laying out there towels in the soft early-morning light. The Brits are fighting back, inspired by decades of German bashing movies like "Where Eagles Dare," egged on by the British comedians who make apparently humorous jibes at the apparently humourless Germans. For a few years now, the Brits have been on the lounge chair counter-offensive. "This is an anthropological development," said Boyes, "What happens is that we’ve learnt from the Germans."These days Brits, returning from a night of drinking, dancing and ill-considered coupling, will reserve their morning lounge chairs before they stumble to bed. There's talk of Brits smearing German towels with honey to attract insects. And last summer a Brit sued his travel agent because his hotel was full of Germans. He won $1,000 compensation. But now, for the Brits, the jaws of victory have vomited defeat. Thomas Cook, the behemoth travel agent, majority-owned by Germans, just issued this devastating blow to every British lounge chair lover: "As part of a promotion to holidaymakers in Germany, pre-bookable sun chairs are being offered."Pre-bookable! Only available to Germans! Thomas Cook refused my plea for an interview. For an explanation. Could they tell I'm British? Could they tell I love a lounge chair? Could they tell I'm angry?

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