Friday, 4 February 2011


For some reason or other, I was thinking about some friends in Memmingen in Germany.  I was at their wedding and the next day I had an email from them saying they were having a party to celebrate a significant birthday in the Andechs monastry.  While there is a church here and the tomb of various saints, including St Hedwig, the main attraction is the brewery beer garden, so that the expression "I'm making a pilgrimage to Andechs" usually means I'm going out for a few litres of beer. 

The concept of pilgrimage is one which many people use as greenwash to cover their jetting around the world to exotic locations on the flimsiest of excuses.  It's amazing the diversions which one can encounter on the way (en camino) to some sacred site.  I hope some of my friends aren't taking this too seriously, but when I hear of people going to Santiago de Compostela, Rome, Rishikesh, Iona and Einsiedeln I have to laugh.  There are many type of pilgrimage as above, my favourite of all time is the pilgrimage to Andechs which we would do on a Friday afternoon, taking the S-bahn to the Amersee.  One had to tramp through the hills, but the thought of a delicious litre of beer made up for the hardship of the journey.  People tell me that after pilgrimages to the locations described above, they have similar experiences.  Many sadly come back from pilgrimages with broken spirits and a great dent in the bank book.  Many pilgrimage sites sell tack and as a keen collector of pilgrimage tack, I have managed to gather spoons, cups, saucers, charms and holy water from the Ganges, Jordan, Tiber and the Nile. 

In the thinking about Andechs, I felt rather homesick and longed for that view of the Alps from the terrace of the beer garden by the monastry church.  I then thought of what I would be doing before the electronic media had changed Friday afternoons.  In the old days, one would do the crossword, check out the used car market and think about heading into the Alps for a bit of late season skiing.  My mind also turned to pilgrimages on film and one pilgrimage which I'd like to share is that undertaken by a group of brothers in that classic film Carry on Abroad.  The following dialogue is taken from this, where a group of brothers are looking for the tomb of St ....

Brother Martin: I say that's rather interesting, Brother Bernard. There are directions here for finding the tomb of St. Cecelia, the founder of our order.
Brother Bernard: [with no interest, Brother Bernard is distracted by the sight of Marge and Lily in bikinis] Oh, that's nice.
Brother Martin: Yes, isn't it? It is believed to lie in the middle of the island, about five miles north of the port of Elsbels. If we follow them, I think we might get somewhere.
Brother Bernard: [still watching the girls] Do you think we should?
Brother Martin: Ah, well, that is what we came for, isn't it?
Brother Bernard: Is it? I thought we were going to find the tomb of St. Cecelia.
Brother Martin: That is what I am talking about.
Brother Bernard: Oh, I'm sorry, Brother Martin. I was thinking of something else.
Brother Martin: If we made an early start perhaps we could have lunch in the village? Do you fancy that Brother Bernard?
Brother Bernard: [In reference to Marge and not the lunch] Not 'arf!

As I remember these happy days, I thought I would dip into my favourite German newspapers: Zeit and the SZ.  Many a time I would schlepp it to Charing Cross Road on a Saturday to get the Thursday/Friday papers.  The SZ used to always have the ski journal on a Friday.  A very easy way to annoy German friends is to make comparisons between the British and German media outlets .  To get back to the point, I was going through the press, when the issue of celibacy in German, Austrian and Swiss theological experts was discussed.,,14816788,00.html

The story broke in the SZ and has been picked up by Die Zeit and Deutsche Welle.  I'm not sure if Robert Piggot will run this story in the BBC, but he seems to have been taken in by the liberal Catholic brigade.

Someone has challenged me to write an article on the significance of the Carry on films in modern day religious spiritual supermarket contexts, to which my only comment is: by their deeds shall ye know them.  This is another obreption.  When I had my dip in the Ganges, I went as near as I could get to the Himalyas and still be on holy ground.  The trouble was that part of Uttar Pradesh is 'dry' (alchohol wise).

UPDATE: Craig Oliver has left the BBC and is now working for No 10 Downing St.  The former spin meister Andy Coulson has gone, though the stink of phone hacking or phacking as it is known, wafts its way down the River Fleet into the sewer that is the Thames. 

UPDATE 2:  Special message to Wolfgang in Cairo:  glad to hear from you.  Keep clear of the panzers. 


  1. What a fascinating blog! It's very grey, no picys, tacky English. I did appreciate your 'greenwashing' of pilgrimage, however. We went on a very green pilgrimage to St Fillans. We were water skiing on Lake Earn and dropped in at the wonderful hotel

  2. Thank you for your post. You'll have noticed that I have managed to mention the Scottish connection. Franz Kafka: if your're still going on a pilgrimage, you could try water-skiing to St Clements in Rodel. You'll find this in the Uttar Pradesh Tourist Board, the county next to Lake Earn.