It is ITB time. Just in time for the opening of the international tourism exhibition on Wednesday, German chancellor Angela Merkel has prompted Germans to spend their holidays in Germany more often. Irrespective of the possibility that the Greek, Spanish, or Italian people might be in much greater need of money than the Germans, and disregarding the fact that these countries offer a much greater chance of good weather, Angela Merkel is right, of course. For those who know their own country have one crucial advantage above all: They know what not to recommend to tourists.
My discouraging example of the day is Ludwigshafen. Situated in southwestern Germany, Ludwigshafen is a brilliant example of unseemliness. Those who live in Ludwigshafen know about the serious deficit for a fairly long time. They can have no greater wish than to move away as soon as possible. Apart from the towering ugliness of the drug giant BASF’s headquarters there is near to nothing to see for the non-pharmaceutics-crazy tourist.
Yet, there is a risk that the city will see some tourists in the years to come. Mannheim, the former residence of the historic Electoral Palatinate, and only separated from Ludwigshafen by the river Rhine, wants to become European Capital of Culture not later than 2025. Also the city wants to host the Bundesgartenschau, a federal garden show with quite some kudos, in 2023. The intention is apparent: Mannheim concentrates on city marketing to generate tourism.
And as losing the way between Mannheim and Ludwigshafen is easy, you may end up in the wrong city by mistake. Once there, you, acting as the interested tourist, can just as well have a quick look and assure yourself of the misery. An hour should suffice for the task.
To begin with a good thing: Parking is inexpensive in Ludwigshafen, even if you dare to stay for more than an hour, and the city hall parking lot is an ideal starting point for your tour of the city. In fact, the associated shopping center is the center of Ludwigshafen as well and you can actually see people. Here, you can also get whatever cheap stuff you need: Fake leather shoes, fake leather bags, 1-Euro-souvenirs and random crap, to name some. If for shopping this is not what you were looking for, step out of the center into the fresh air and into the starting point of the pedestrian zone.
There is one thing that’s really surprising about that zone: It is broad and long, designed for a mid-sized city like Ludwigshafen with its 170.000 inhabitants. Yet you have to wonder where they are, because the street is nearly empty. The party must be going on somewhere else. That is, if there is one at all. Walk around a little bit, check out the stores. Most of them sell fake leather shoes, fake leather bags, 1-Euro-souvenirs and random crap – oh yes, that was not what you were searching for. Well, you will not find any of the things you were looking for in this city, but let’s just give it one last try.
Before you get back to your car, have a look at the bus terminal on the southeastern side of the building, where a small artificial water basin is home to some ducks, bathing in a brownish broth that is supposed to be water. Sit down at one of the benches with the locals waiting for their buses and enjoy the spectacular view on the road overpass, a monster of steel and concrete mutilating the city. This is your escape way: The street leads to Mannheim. Take to your heels and run.