Ode an den Balkon – Ode to a Balcony

Buckingham PalaceIf you have plans to travel to Europe this summer, you will probably see a lot of historic buildings and their balconies, especially in London. You will not want to miss the most famous one at Buckingham Palace.  You can watch other royals (i.e. Dutch, Swedish and Danish) kissing and waving to the crowds on balconies of their palaces as well.  But there is so much more to balconies than just waving royals.  Balconies abound in literature and history .

The famous love scene between Romeo and Juliet takes place on a balcony in Verona.  Politicians love balconies for their statements as well, just to name a few:  Karl Liebknecht announced the inauguration of the Socialist Party of Germany in 1918 from a balcony at the “Berliner Schloss”. The Schloss was destroyed during and after WWII, but is in the process of being rebuilt in the middle of Berlin right now.  Also in 1918 the first German Republic was proclaimed from the western balcony of the “Reichstag” in Berlin, built by Philipp Scheidemann.  Vaclav Havel, the poet and later president of the Czech Republic choose a balcony at the Castle in Prague to thank his people for the peaceful revolution in 1989.  Hans-Dietrich Genscher, the long-term German Secretary of Foreign Affairs, guaranteed freedom of travel for thousands of East Germans – stuck in Prague – from the balcony of the West-German Embassy there in 1989.

Balconies are also well-liked by movie stars, a very famous one is the photo shooting with Marilyn Monroe on the balcony of the Ambassador Hotel in New York City in 1955.  Statler and Waldorf , the famous grumblers from the Muppet show look from their theater balcony upon the world and comment it their way.

Baltic SeaA lot of apartments in Germany are equipped with a Balkon, and Germans have found a great way to utilize their balconies year-round.  In the summer Germans love to travel, it is said that Germans are the “world champions in travelling.” They spend around 65 billion Euros annually in travel.  Germans have six weeks of federally-mandated vacation time a year while American companies provide vacation time as a benefit. Americans view a vacation as a bonus, Germans view it as a necessary aspect of life.  Many Germans travel to other European countries during spring or summer time: white beaches, 28°C, turquoise waters, lots of interesting architecture and culture sound like the perfect holiday. Southern European countries are well-loved travel destinations.  More and more Germans discover their own beautiful country on vacation. The Bavarian Alps and quaint little places on the Baltic and North Sea are popular – especially among families with small children.   However, the latest trend in Germany is a vacation on “Balkonia.”  18% of Germans do not want to spend their well-deserved time waiting in long lines at the airport, or – even worse – be stuck on the “Autobahn” in heavy traffic for hours.

BalconiaThese “vacationers” claim there are more advantages than disadvantages to “Ferien auf dem Balkon.”  First of all it is an “all-inclusive”:  You reach your travel destination in less than 30 seconds, no packing and check-in of bags required. No long lines at the breakfast buffet in the morning – plus meals taste “home-cooked,” and cold beer is readily available at all times of the day!  No fighting for lounge chairs at the pool at the crack of dawn. You can sleep in as long as you want – in your very own comfortable bed.  You do not have to bother the neighbors about watering the plants, feeding the cat, etc.  Plus, you understand the language!  Just think about the money saved: according to a survey from 2014 (with 4,000 people) the typical summer vacation costs 1,071 Euros per person.  Instead, spend some money on “Balkon-Möbel” (furniture), buy some beautiful plants and decorations to create a relaxing setting and “Erholung im Urlaubsparadies Balkonia” is at your fingertips. No adjusting needed – you feel right at home.

You can spend a “Wellness-, Bildungs- or Kreativ- Urlaub” (wellness, educational or creative vacation) on your balcony. Sunbathing, reading books you always wanted to read, or taking photos from interesting objects.  You can go explore your hometown and all the places in the neighborhood you were longing to see for so long, and then return to your balcony for relxation.

Life on a balcony does have its own perspective and Germans love their balconies year round, especially in the summer time; you just have to watch the movie “Sommer vorm Balkon” (2005, directed by Andreas Dresen).

Einen schönen Sommer! Have a great summer, wherever you are

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Barbara and the GIS team