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German Tourists

German tourists roam everywhere
High incomes, long vacations make roaming travel possible EIN GEDI, Israel - The Dead Sea simmers in the midday haze, its glassy surface barely stirring. The place is deserted. War has chased everyone away. Everyone except two sisters from Hanover, Germany, who are here for their eczema. This year 700 million tourists will hit the world's wonders, beaches and resort buffets. Why do they all seem to be Germans.

You see them in their summery vests, marching five abreast on the sidewalks, scouting the best tables and deck chairs, going where others fear to go. Internet travel diaries and Web logs brim with complaints about beautiful views spoiled by Germans. ''There is one French idea that seems to have a great deal of merit: nude beaches,'' Wesleyan University graduate Bill East wrote on his home page. ``Alas, when you finally encounter reality, it leaves much to be desired: The sands are covered with fat and sunburned German tourists leering at whatever walks by."Or from Sandra Tsing Loh's ''My Ethiopian Vacation'': ``There stood my mother with four German tourists, large and blond and gleaming in their sweat-streaked khakis, expensive cameras and voluptuous leather travel bags draped around them like fresh kill. Apparently there was no place in Africa so miserable some German tourist did not want to take a photo of it.'' And from German-American Evan McElravy's cyber- memories of a boyhood trip to Florida's Sanibel Island: ``I swear we were the only people speaking English in the whole place. It was fantastically expensive and generally ruined. . . . I generally like Germans in most other respects but I do wish they would be a bit less obnoxious when on holiday.'' There are good reasons so many Germans turn up abroad. To begin with, there are many of them, about 82 million, and 75 percent leave the country each year for pleasure. That would mean about one out of every 11 tourists are German. TIME AND MONEY


TIME AND MONEY Plus, they have time and money to burn. The average vacation for a German worker is 30 days, according to the federal labor ministry. Not only do they get paid for that time, German employers typically fork over urlaubsgeld, or vacation money, as part of their benefits -- almost a month's extra salary. Until two years ago, Germans were the world's champs in per capita vacation spending. The United States now leads. For former East Berliner Otto Emersleben, as for many Germans, travel and freedom are intertwined. Before the Berlin Wall's fall enabled him to travel more freely, Emersleben wrote biographies of explorers. Now he lives in Brunswick, Maine, and describes travel as ``an obsession.'' ''Travel is not just a change of locality or position,'' said Emersleben, 62. ``It is the best approach to changing yourself.'' The poet Goethe may have planted the travel bug in Germans with his diary of an 18th century journey to Italy that evoked the warmth and light that Deutschland has been yearning for ever since. After their defeat in World War II, Germans stayed at home, unwelcome elsewhere.


POST WAR TRAVEL Five years later, with German cities still in ruins, the first tourist trains headed south again, to the Bavarian Alps. Italy became the first to lift travel restrictions on the Germans, allowing pilgrims to the Vatican. Fleets of giant tour buses filled with Germans followed. Everywhere. In the early '60s,

German travel packagers discovered the Spanish island of Majorca, which has become known as ''the southernmost German state.'' The British have discovered it as well, resulting the last few years in what London tabloids refer to as The Towel Wars, the idea being that Germans or Britons will wake up before anyone else and plant their beach towels like national flags on prime poolside chairs. A KIND OF CONQUEST ''Maybe it's because they know they can no longer conquer the world,'' mused a Quebec schoolteacher in the remote Crete village of Paleohora, clotted last spring with vacationing Germans. Fact: In Berlin, there are more travel agencies than bakeries. ''They take it very seriously,'' said Sandy Monroe of The Sheratons of Fort Lauderdale Beach at the world's biggest travel fair, held in Berlin. ``It's their right to take a vacation. They work very hard. They vacation very hard.''

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