Being locked down due to Covid-19 has given me time to really sit and think about this website and where I want to take it. Sure, it my shop window (albeit one which is currently being rebuilt) but I’ve long wanted to have a blog with articles and features which reflected the content of the tours I offer. I tried it a few years back but the popularity of the tours meant precious little to actually sit down, research and write: a victim of my own success. Not this year though.
At the time of writing – June 16th 2020 – Covid-19 appears to be in retreat across Europe and Germany reopened (most) of her borders yesterday. Many colleagues, both in person and online seem optimistic as far as tourism in Germany goes and are expecting a bounce back in the following months. Call me pessimistic but I cannot see it somehow, at least not with English speaking guests from abroad.
I am open for tours but the reality is that in order to survive the summer and autumn, a return to archaeological fieldwork looks likely – here in Germany in the short term (there is actually an excavation on my street – be sure to check out the article in my newsletter) and then later in the UK ahead of the (controversial) HS2 railway project.
I have mixed feelings about the prospect to be honest: this sort of work on capital projects is very intensive and physically heavy – plus, as I get older, I really feel it. As it is, I have a previous (healed) injury: I severely damaged the cartilage between my 2nd and 3rd vertebrate, although I felt the pain in my shoulder. I had a CAT scan and the diagnosis was that they could operate but I’d likely be a wheelchair for the rest of my life. Guess what? Ibuprofen can work wonders. That, and a break from digging allowed it to heal, although the pain I occasionally feel in the winter reminds me that it is still not 100% right, even 14 years later. Aged 44, I am resigned to the idea that as I get older, some aches may never away: but archaeology is not a job – it is more a lifestyle – and I knew what I was signing up for. (Compared to some old sweats, if in old age, all I have to show for my labours is a dodgy shoulder which occasionally hurts, I’ll be doing fine)
Secondly, the company is providing accommodation in a hotel. A cheap hotel. The reason it is cheap is that it is also used as a bail hostel: my pals on the job already tell me during this period of lockdown, the only guests were archaeologists and folk recently released from jail for serious (sometimes violent) crime.
When you work with the same crew all day, every day and then find yourself living under the same roof as them for an extended period, well it can be difficult. Their little quirks and mannerisms become magnified: day in day out, this can lead to serious friction. I probably do the same to them. Of course, I could book another hotel, but the idea of taking up a digging job for a few months in the UK is to earn and save, not to spend.
Another worry is that although I studied, trained and worked in the UK, I’ve spent more time as a professional archaeologist abroad than I have at home. German archaeology takes a different approach (I’ll explain the differences in another post) to how excavations are carried out in the UK and I worry that I won’t be the best that I could be. Some folk maybe would not care about whether they did a good job or not as long as they get paid but that is not me. Doing a good job is important to me, whether the job be historical tour guiding or archaeological excavation. We’ll see. Until the (unbelievably late) quarantine measures in the UK are lifted, all these thoughts are academic.
I have been sorting through a load of photographs I have taken on digs over the years. I hope to put the more interesting ones up on here with brief overviews of what we found.
Youtube: just as I have long thought about a blog, so I have also thought about a Youtube channel. I have a few ideas I’m currently working on, although nothing is up yet. Subjects will range from history and archaeology to Bavarian culture, language and food and drink. It has been tough, having to sample all these different beers but hopefully the end result will be useful when you next visit Germany – or your local bottle shop. Yes, it has been really tough 🙂
Due to feedback from members of the Dark History and Munich Macabre Facebook pages and the encouragement of my better half, as mentioned above I’ve decided to put out a short newsletter every two weeks. It will feature short articles, links to interesting articles with an historical or archaeologically angle which have been in the news and useful tips for when you visit. Karin, aka “Mrs Dark History” will be handling the latter, along with language lessons in both German and Bavarian (Yes! There is a difference).
As part of a long term wish to expand the scope and content of my tours, I have been doing some research into the ancient Roman frontier here in Bavaria. The “Limes” (pronounced Lee-maze) was a system of watchtowers and ditch with a bank and fence (sometimes replaced in stone) which ran from near Regensburg. The frontier line today is a national footpath and cuts through some very picturesque countryside and villages. The plan is to investigate whether a walking tour along part of this path, looking at the numerous Roman and other remains would be viable as a tour offering.
In addition to this, I’m also dusting off plans for an extended WW2 tour which starts here in Munich and end in Berlin, looking at a seven to maybe ten day duration, with a view to running this for 2021. As part of my research I’m heading down to Berchtesgaden and the Kehlsteinhaus (Eagles Nest) in a few days. It is a really beautiful area – I just hope the weather plays nice.
For a long time, a major player in the WW2 tour scene was a company called “Beyond Band of Brothers”. They recently folded, leaving hundreds out of pocket and the owner skipping off to his native Hungary where he is keeping a low profile. This is absolutely heartbreaking, particularly for those WW2 vets who wanted to make a last pilgrimage to the battlefields of their youth, or for those wanting to follow in the footsteps of their father or grandfather. I noticed whilst reading online that many are still determined to make the trip to Europe at some point when the impacts of Covid-19 have receded somewhat. The tours by BBoB were big groups – I’d see them at Dachau, 30, 40 people per group: I have a hunch that in the future, there will be an upsurge in demand for private or small-group tours. Luckily, that is what I have been doing since day one.
So to sum up – it might be a quiet time for tourism but this is a time to lay some foundations for future projects – and I am pretty excited about that.