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Visiting family members in the Netherlands, we’ve been back and forth into Germany a couple of times. Although the borders are completely back to normal, having been closed during the pandemic’s emergency period, it still takes some personal negotiating. In Germany, it’s masks on much of the time. It becomes a boring duty, but everyone does it, and you soon get used to it. In the Netherlands I never see masks (except on public transport, on which I haven’t been lately.) It’s a mystery to us, constantly discussed, that the Dutch Covid figures are comparable, at the time of writing, with Germany’s relatively low ones.

A favourite German border town, sited by a slow flowing branch of the Rhine, is Xanten. The home of a Roman legion since 15BCE, it is now famous for its huge archaeological park. It always seems on a different time track. Sitting down for coffee in the town square, we immediately noticed a crane, hoisting a statue in the air. A BLM-style toppling action ? No, the statue (of local lad St Norbert of Xanten) was being replaced, onto a nice new plinth – with immense care and precision of course. It was somehow cheering, after the times we’ve had, to witness this un-contemporary act of urban renewal.




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