Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The End of a Union, but the Start of a Beautiful Relationship? OPINION

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

The End of a Union, but the Start of a Beautiful Relationship? OPINION

Article excerpt

Byline: Paul Benneworth

I currently live about five miles from the border with Germany, and I am always excited to visit. It reminds me of my excitement travelling to another country as a Tynemouth boy used to island life.

That meant getting up early for a flight or the adventure of a night on the ferry.

Arrival was always thrilling - my younger self loved the intriguing passport stamps, and as you got older, the duty free bargain provided an alternative thrill.

Part of that glamour died in the 1990s: the Single European Act ended passport stamps and airports became giant shopping malls. But deep inside, crossing a border still feels to me like a 'big thing'.

So it's a shock to jump in the car and be in a totally different country in quarter of an hour. Or go jogging, and in three quarters of an hour cross a tiny beck that today is my gateway to Germany.

But even if crossing the border is easy, Germany is totally different. The street signs, the language, and the houses are so different from the Netherlands that the place has a completely unfamiliar atmosphere.

Even if we use the same money these days, prices vary across the border. Petrol is 40p a gallon cheaper in Germany and a good meal half the price: Germans flock to Enschede on Saturdays for cheap Dutch Edam, fresh fruit and flowers.

Those differences can mean it takes a while to find your way in the other country. We had to build up our courage for two years before we dared to take our first German supermarket trip.

And that difference is part of the charm, and it's not really about grabbing a bargain. Crossing the border to a different world remains as exciting as childhood trips to Dieppe.

They say change is as good as a rest: a day in Gronau or Munster can be as refreshing as a Barcelona or Paris city break, but without all that wearisome travelling: in practical terms, the border is no big deal. …

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