The Art of Bad Travelling

Instead of ori­gin­al con­tent today we fea­ture an art­icle by Kurt Tucholsky. The ori­gin­al ver­sion can be found at Projekt Gutenberg. Tucholsky, born in 1890, was a crit­ic, nov­el­ist and journ­al­ist in the Weimar Republic, con­trib­ut­ing to the infam­ous Weltbühne magazine, writ­ing both acclaimed love stor­ies and some of the lead­ing polit­ic­al com­ment­ary of the time. In 1933 he emig­rated to Sweden, ceased to write and in 1935 died there of a sleep­ing pill over­dose (wheth­er inten­tion­al or acci­dent­al isn’t known for certain).

The Art of Bad Travelling

Onto whom God wants to bestow his favour,

he’ll send into

Alice! Peter! Sonya! Put the bag into the shelf here, no, there! Jesus, can­’t the kids help for once? Fritz, don’t you dare to eat all the sand­wiches! You’ve just eaten!”

into the great wide world!

When the travel bug bites you, demand everything of the region you’re trav­el­ling to: beau­ti­ful nature, the big city’s amen­it­ies, antiques from all of art his­tory, cheap fares, sea, moun­tains, – in short: the Baltic in front of you and behind you the Champs-Elysées. Otherwise: complain.

When you travel, for heav­en’s sake don’t be con­sid­er­ate to your fel­low trav­el­lers – they’ll recog­nise it as your weak­ness. You paid – the oth­ers are free­load­ers. Remember the tre­mend­ous import­ance of wheth­er or not you’ve got a win­dow seat; that someone’s smoking in the non-smoking com­part­ment needs to be addressed imme­di­ately and in the fiercest expres­sions – if the con­duct­or’s absent for a moment, be his deputy in the mean­time and be police, state and aven­ging nemes­is at once. Embellishes the jour­ney. Generally be dis­agree­able – thus they’ll recog­nise the man.

In the hotel order a room and then go else­where. Don’t can­cel the room, you have no need for that – don’t turn soft at any rate.

When you’ve arrived at the hotel, inscribe your name with all titles … If you don’t have a title … sorry … I mean: If someone does­n’t have a title, they’re to make one up. Don’t write: “busi­ness man”, do write: “dir­ect­or gen­er­al”. Improves migh­tily. Go then to your room slam­ming the doors; for heav­en’s sake don’t tip the cham­ber­maid, of whom you ask a few small extra favours, that’d spoil the people; clean your dusty boots with a tow­el, smash a glass (but don’t tell any­one, the hoteli­er­’s got so many glasses!); and then repair to a prom­en­ade through the town.

In the new town, first and fore­most you need everything to be as it is at home – if the town does­n’t have that, it’s no good. So the people need to drive on the right, have the same phone as you do, the same menu lay­out and the same restrooms. By the way, look only at the sights that are in the guide­book. Chase your kin mer­ci­lessly towards everything that has a star in the book – blindly pass by everything else, and mainly: equip your­self well. Walking through for­eign towns you’d best wear moun­tain shorts, a small green hat (with shav­ing brush), heavy stud­ded shoes (very use­ful for museums), and a sol­id gnarled cane. Rope up only in cit­ies of 500 000 inhab­it­ants or more.

When your wife col­lapses of wear­i­ness the right moment has come to climb a view tower or the town hall; when for once you’re abroad you must take everything that’s offered. When at last the details blur before your eyes, you can proudly say: I’ve done it.

Set down a budget before you travel, down to the cent, ideally a hun­dred euros too low – you can always save some. That is, by nego­ti­at­ing every­where; such makes you pop­u­lar and gen­er­ally bright­ens the trip. Better go a bit fur­ther than your wal­let allows and get the rest back by walk­ing on foot where driv­ing would be more com­fort­able; by tip­ping too little; and gen­er­ally by see­ing a vul­ture in every stranger. Meanwhile nev­er for­get the golden rule of every healthy journey:

Be upset!

With your wife dis­cuss only the small wor­ries of every­day life. Reheat all sor­row you’ve had at home in the office; gen­er­ally nev­er for­get you’ve got a job.

When you’re trav­el­ling, the very first thing you should do upon arriv­ing at a for­eign place is: to write post­cards. You don’t have to order them: The waiter will see that you want to have some. Write illegibly – that’ll infer a good mood. Write cards every­where: on the train, in the stalac­tite cave, on the moun­tain tops and on the reel­ing boat. Break a pen­cil while you’re at it and spill ink from your pen. Then complain.

The basic law of every real jour­ney is: Something has to be going on – and you need “to be up to some­thing”. Otherwise the trip isn’t a trip. Every break from job and work con­sists of hav­ing an exact agenda, but not meet­ing it – if you did­n’t meet it, blame your wife.

Demand pas­tor­al peace every­where; if you have it, com­plain there’s noth­ing going on. A decent sum­mer resort con­sists of a crowd of the same people you’d see at home, as you do in a moun­tain bar, a sea dance and a wine depart­ment. Visit the like – but keep your good, tested dress: shorts, small hat (see above). Then look around the room and speak thus: “Well, not exactly eleg­ant here!” If the oth­ers wear din­ner jack­ets, best say: “Highfalutin, to travel with a din­ner jack­et!” – if you wear it but the oth­ers don’t, fight with your wife. Generally fight with your wife.

Rush through the for­eign towns and vil­lages – if you can still catch a breath you did­n’t sched­ule prop­erly; fur­ther­more the train you need to reach is more import­ant than a calm even­ing hour. Calm even­ing hours are bol­locks and not what you travel for.

While trav­el­ling everything must be a bit bet­ter than you have it at home. Return the bottle that’s not chilled enough to the waiter with a face in which he can read: “If my cham­ber­lain brought me wine like this from the cel­lar he’d be fired!” Always act as if you grew up at …

With the ridicu­lous loc­als do at any rate talk right away about polit­ics, reli­gion and the war. Don’t beat around the bush with your opin­ion, speak your mind! Let them have it! Speak loudly so as to be heard – many for­eign peoples are hard of hear­ing any­way. When you enjoy your­self, do laugh, but so loud that every­one else gets angry who in their imbe­cil­ity don’t know what you’re laugh­ing about. If you don’t speak for­eign lan­guages very well, shout: They’ll under­stand you bet­ter then.

Don’t let any­thing impress you.

If you’re sev­er­al men on high view­points, you should sing some­thing in four-col­our print. Nature’s fond of that.

Act. Complain. Be upset. And make business.

The Art of Good Travelling

Set down your plan as a rough sketch – and let the ran­dom hour guide you in the detail. The greatest sight of all is the world – look at it.

Today, no-one has a world view thus that he could under­stand and appraise everything: have the cour­age to say that there’s some­thing you don’t under­stand. Don’t care about the small troubles of a trip; if some­times you get stuck at a stop­over, enjoy being alive, look at the chick­en and the ser­i­ous goats, and have a small talk with the bloke in the cigar shop.

Relax. Let the steer­ing wheel go. Spin through the world. It’s so beau­ti­ful: Give your­self to it, and it’ll give itself to you.


Translation: Leon Friederichs, 2018

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