We are using this space this month to address an issue that has generated more reader response than any other in Gemütlichkeit's 16-year history.
This month's Dear Subscriber marks the end of political discussions in these pages. We've heard from all sides on the "boycott Germany" issue and understand and respect the arguments put forth by all. But, as many readers have pointed out, you spent your money for travel information about Germany, Austria and Switzerland, and to the extent that we have published letters about the current controversy, we have strayed from our mission. Don't misunderstand, I do not dismiss the strongly-held feelings expressed - it's just that politics isn't our thing.
Still, there remains a bit of a sticky wicket about the anti-American business and that's an issue that does relate to travel, even though it, or the perception of it, is rooted in politics. The media has vastly overplayed this element of recent events to such a degree that it is now clear some potential travelers are staying away from Europe because they - no surprise - don't wish to go where they think they are not wanted.
So, is it true? Are Americans no longer welcome in Germany? Well, as you no doubt have read in your local newspaper or seen on CNN, apparently there are some anti-U.S. feelings in Europe. The question is how likely are you to become the focus of them. We think the answer is, extremely unlikely. We base our opinion on a number of factors.
First, there is the poll we cited last month that found 70% of Germans still consider the U.S. their best friend.
And each day we hear from travelers just returned from Europe. We are still waiting for our first anti-American story.
Finally, there are the results of our own mid-April poll conducted among German citizens about their feelings toward Americans. To the owners and managers of more than 100 German hotels we emailed three questions:
* Are Americans welcome in your hotel in 2003?
* Has the attitude in your country toward Americans changed in the past few months?
* If our American readers visit your country in the near future, what would be your advice as to how they should conduct themselves?
At press time we had received nearly 50 replies. As you may have guessed, all were positive. Of course, our methodology would not meet Mr. Gallup's standards; the sample has a clear financial bias and the "correct" answers were obvious. But let's admit we won't win any "scientific poll of the year" awards and take a look at what these Germans actually had to say about Americans coming to their country. Only a couple replied "yes" "no" and "same as always" to our three questions. The rest added commentary that in all cases came through as thoughtful and heartfelt. Keeping in mind the three questions, here are a few of the responses:
Dorer Schönwald, Black Forest
* We welcome American guests like every time. There is no change.
* No the attitude has not changed at all. We love to welcome American visitors.
* The Americans have no reason to change anything. The situation has not changed. We are all not lucky about this war, but even a part of the Americans think like us. And there are the American soldiers who are in the war and not the Germans. So we have to feel with them. - M. Scherer-Carsola
* We welcome people from all over the World to our hotel on the basis of their personal character and do not discriminate on the grounds of their governments policies.
* They should be proud of their country's democratic traditions and respect "old Europe's" historic experiences with wars and its own views about Iraq and the right way to combat terrorism. - Albrecht Kurbjuhn
Vier Jahreszeiten Heidelberg
* The most important message is that tourists from America are always welcomed in Germany. A special behavior is not necessary because nobody is doing anything. One or two taxi-drivers in Berlin or Frankfurt are not Germany. I would like to give you a couple of examples. Two weeks ago there was a big international meeting at the Heidelberg University. The city and the people of Heidelberg were so great, that most delegates from the USA decided to stay a couple of days longer than expected. - Prof. S. C. McKelvey
Speicher am Ziegelsee Schwerin
* The political situation between our two countries is strained, that's true. During the election campaign last year, Mr. Schröder tried to make points with dishonest tactics. Later on Mr. Schröder couldn't revise his promises "not to take part in the war against the Irak." One day there will be a new chancellor in Germany and a new president in the USA. Between my friends I don't know any person who has anti-American feelings. We all like the American people and their country. There are millions of Germans and Europeans who feel the same way that I feel. - Margot Hirte
* Not a single person, I have talked to during the last few weeks showed anti-American feelings. People here, especially elder ones, knowing personally what "war" means, have anti-war feelings.
* We know, that also most American citizens would prefer a life in peace. So everybody, who wants to visit us with peace in his mind, will be welcomed with a friendly smile!!! -Werner Andree
Zum Ritter Heidelberg
* I feel that the German and American people (other than our politicians) basically live together in the usual way. Hopefully our politicians will follow shortly ! - Nicolaas Bootsma
Art Nouveau Berlin
* Germans refuse to be anti-American. They eat and drink American fast food and also like American visitors. They demonstrate against war - not all of us, but most, are against war. - Gerhard Schlenzka
Hotel Kronprinz Berlin
* Especially in Berlin, the German capital we welcome most cordially our friends from America. All those years after WW II we have been living close to our American friends in the American sector of the divided city. Many American companies have their offices here in Berlin. Many Germans might think differently about the American politics - but we are eager to discuss this with our friends from the United states when they are visiting our country. So let's talk about it - as friends discuss their different point of views! Do not hesitate to do so, while you are here - we respect your feelings. - Kurt Hermandung
Villa Bellevue, Meersburg
* I just talked to some of my employees and have to tell you truly that Americans are not only welcome in our hotels but are also our favorite guests. I do not think that in the past few months the attitude in Germany towards American holiday visitors has changed. I would rather say that after Schröder's decision not to support the USA in the war against Irak we Germans are very disappointed about the German politics and now think that the Americans attitude against the Germans have changed. One thing for sure: the Hotel "3 Stuben" and the Villa Bellevue is always looking forward to welcoming American guests in Meersburg.- Tanja Drewing
St. Nepomuk Bamberg
* The Hotel St. Nepomuk exists since 1983. In the last 20 years we welcomed a lot of foreign people. Bamberg is a city of culture, universities and of open-hearted citizens. We cannot even imagine to repel any people because of its nation or religion. So we also hope, that no American hesitates to visit our hotel just because we also have Islamic guests. Since World War II, as the American nation freed Europe of nationalism, we are very proud to have you as our friends. We are looking forward to welcome every single American visitor. -Sebastian Bauer
Alpenhof Schönau am Konigsee
* I had two guests which wrote me a bad mail concerning the things our government said about this war - I was shocked and did not know what to think. As long nobody starts to accuse single persons of what is happening, whether good or bad, everybody will feel well and enjoy his holiday.- Stefan Zapletal
Holländer Hof Heidelberg
* We are very happy to see the American guests in town. We are aware of the fact that some Germans do not agree with the political decisions of the near past but we are also of the opinion that there is a difference made between governments acting and American civilians traveling for holiday. - Nora Grohmann-Fey
Der Europäische Hof Heidelberg
* The official government line and the published media data differ from the general feelings in our country. Most people consider themselves to be good friends of the United States, especially as the question simplifies the political situation: Are you for or against a war in Iraq? - Ernst-Friedrich von Kretschmann
An der Oper Munich
* People can have different ideas. That is not a reason not to talk together !! That is what we call democratic. -Nicole Santini
* Surely there is a clash between the opinions from America and other countries, but that cannot mean that individual persons from the country get discriminated. We can assure you that in our region Americans are welcome and respected like ever before. Many Americans live in the Army in this region and they are treated nicely and warm as before. - Stephanie Tschunt
Sorat Hotels 18 in Germany
* I would say that German people are quite well capable to distinguish between political decisions and states reasons, and the opinion of the individual. We do not see any reason at all why Americans should change their behavior when traveling to Germany - we know them as cheerful and culturally interested guests who can move around in Germany wherever they like. - Imke Sommer
Art Hotel Weimar Weimar
* Yes we welcome American visitors in our country, in our city, and in our hotel.
* If American visitors accept the culture of the country they visit they never need any advice. - Dr. Christian W. Wolff
There were other responses, but these are representative. Though several expressed reservations about the war, and others were critical of the German government, there was not one anti-American comment. The cynical response to this simple questionnaire is "of course they welcome Americans, they want our money." It is a valid point, but the comments indicate that these Germans have not only given thought to this issue, but have a genuine liking for Americans.
We used the lead story space this month to underscore our own strong feelings. It is not about a Germany travel boycott; it is about whether Americans can still feel welcome in Germany. Think for a moment about how you would respond today to Germans visiting your town and you have the answer to how you will be received in their country. - RHB
A few of the hotels we surveyed volunteered special discounts or packages.
* Hotel Polar Stern Rostock. "To demonstrate our strong views about not making all Americans responsible for a foreign policy many Germans find questionable, we are offering a 10% reduction to American guests." Tel. +49/038293/82 90