The fact that you pay $49 per year for this simple little publication—8 pages per month, no pictures, no color—is fairly convincing evidence that you have much more than a fleeting interest in European travel, specifically Germany, Austria and Switzerland.
Unlike National Geographic or Travel & Leisure, Gemütlichkeit isn't about idle page flipping, breathtaking photos, and impossible dreams of $2,000 per night beach-side huts. It's a nuts and bolts, how-to publication built for people who actually travel. In other words, you're the real deal.
Maybe that's why Gemütlichkeit survived both the Gulf War and 9/11 - you kept traveling. Your need to spend time in Europe overcame your apprehension.
This time, however, a new and decidedly unpleasant theme has been adopted by the we're-staying-home-this-year crowd. Anti-Americanism. The media, naturally, is pouring gasoline on the flames. The chancellor of Germany uses the Iraq war issue to get reelected and suddenly the term anti-Americanism starts popping up in news reports. And if you're a reporter assigned to write a story about anti-Americanism you go out and find examples of it.
You grab a 19-year-old kid at a Berlin anti-war rally and quote him. After all, he has great wisdom and knows it's all about oil. A two-year old book written by a Frenchman about why the French don't like Americans is suddenly a story on the networks nightly news shows. You see a "Bomb Iraq, then bomb France" bumper sticker and you put it in your story. It feeds the fire.
An online Google search of news headlines using the word anti-American finds more than 1000 articles. One of them, a CNN.com story, equates anti-war protests with anti-Americanism and makes this incredible statement: "analysts warn that a whole generation of America-haters is being created, a European generation which they say believes Americans deliberately bomb civilians and kill Arab babies." The writer does not say which analysts and attributes this extraordinary declaration to exactly no one.
A few stories try for at least some balance. Near the bottom of a Washington Post piece on the subject we found this: "There are issues where we disagree, and Iraq is certainly one," says Reinhard Buetikofer, a spokesman for Germany's Green Party. "But Americans should not misunderstand the criticism when they hear it. People may criticize, they may even use words that can sound offensive, but it does not mean they want to break the friendship with the United States."
How friendly are the Germans? One wire service story reports on a recent poll on that very subject. More than 70% of Germans, say the pollsters, regard the United States as their country's best friend.
Deep in a New York Times story, Joshua Falish, an American who lives in Frankfurt, says on his walking route to work he still sees about 10 Germans each day wearing New York Yankee caps.
And remember the outpouring of sympathy throughout Europe following 9/11. The French newspaper, Le Monde, on 9/13 headlined, Nous sommes tous americains - We are all Americans.
But let's face it, not every German - or Swiss, or Austrian - is going to welcome you with a glad cry of joy. That, however, has always been true. The question is, are there more anti-U.S. feelings now than five years ago? I doubt anyone knows. Unlike consumer confidence, there is no index for anti-Americanism. If you visit Europe often enough you're going to run into a shopkeeper, a hotel clerk, a waiter - somebody - who will make a point of being rude to you. In 30 years of traveling in Europe I've had that experience about half a dozen times, not more. In 1995, the tourist office in Göttingen, Germany, scheduled an appointment for Gemütlichkeit to tour the city's finest hotel. We reported at the agreed upon time and the owner was summoned by the front desk. He strode briskly into the lobby and approached us cordially. A few seconds into our conversation, however, his attitude toward us abruptly changed. After asking where Gemütlichkeit is distributed, he said he had no interest in having his hotel reviewed and quickly escorted us to the door. There could, of course, be a variety of reasons for the man's behavior that day but the one that makes the most sense to me is that he simply doesn't care for English speakers, most likely English speakers from the U.S.A.
In the situation at hand, we must differentiate between a disagreement over a single issue and that emotionally-charged term, anti-Americanism. One German hotel owner's brief email to us said it all, "Europe is not against America but against the war Mr. Bush wants." In a later email that same hotelier wanted to know if he should put a "We Welcome Americans" banner on his website.
Everyday at Gemütlichkeit we talk to travelers just returned from Europe. Lately, we've been asking them how they were treated, if they felt any animosity from Europeans. So far, outside of a few more lively than usual political discussions, it's been business as usual. They still want to see you.
The current huffing and puffing is over one issue and even best friends don't agree about everything. Consider the following statement and see if it isn't true for you; I've met a helluva lot more anti-German Americans than anti-American Germans. - RHB
Correction: Subscriber Russell Wayne has reminded me that the hotel I referred to in the February issue as the Hotel du Lac in Iseltwald, Switzerland, is the Chalet du Lac. Either way it's a gem.