Eating quietly in a restaurant in Erfurt's Fischmarkt, our peace was disturbed by the arrival of 29 assorted Swedes who variously shuffled and stumbled their way into the building. They were accompanied by a be-blazered, didactic-type who, once latecomers had been assembled and counted, proceeded to lecture the gathered throng. He did this reasonably quietly, so the peace was not much disturbed. However, when he'd done, they all stood up and began to sing very loudly. It did not sound like a song about how great Germany is; more likely it was relief that they'd finally done with bildung for the day.
This cannot have been the first time Erfurt's taverns had experienced such a thing. The 1930s in particular were a time of singing and matching, particularly by the Sturmabteilung (Brownshirts) who sang the Horst-Wessel-Lied (Die Fahne hoch) to provoke local communists into attacks; of course, they usually obliged.
Whilst a mass of elderly, culturally-incentive Swedish tourists are not a National Socialist rabble, and they didn't set out to provoke a riot, they were only really aware of themselves and took no notice of their surroundings. It was not a great display of European-togetherness. We drank up our wonderful black pilsner and moved on to the much quieter streets.
But is this sudden bursting into song catching? I only ask because we experienced two other outpourings in Dresden. One was a (the collective noun escapes me) of Chinese children, all decked out in blue and white, who suddenly burst into song at the behest of their elderly leader; the other was a group of orthodox Jewish boys who did the same in front of what I thought was a fairly secular wall. The latter are, of course, about as far from Horst Wessel as you can get. Where will all this end?
All this is probably a bit unfair, of course. The British have been marauding and carousing round the continent for 800 years or so, often with the help of strong drink; no doubt we shall continue this tradition even after Brexit. Tomorrow it will be musings on the Fuller Life in one of Weimar's fine cafés.