Wednesday, 14 November 2012

The South - Der Süden - Il Sud

Of course- every country has a "south", even places like Iceland do. There's even a website advertising the special charms of "South Iceland". For me, though "The South", and even more resonant "Der Süden", or "Le Sud" is such a powerful and exhilarating concept that I find it hard to have it associated with a particular country, especially a northern one.

I remember overhearing a conversation between two English ladies one of whom was about to move "South", to the seaside. "It's so beautiful down south!" the other one said admiringly. That was when I noticed how difficult it is for me to bring together England and The South. Despite having lived in "Southern England" for ages, I always thought of it as "The North". I was living somewhere in the North, or Northwest."South" meant Italy, or maybe the "South of France" which signifies not just the southern end of a country, but actual 'Southernness' - heat, sea, baked landscapes, fragrant nights, southern food. To be sitting somewhere between Bournemouth and Dover, rejoicing in that Southern feeling, sniffing the Southern air and generally enjoying the Southernness of it all seems to me the height of absurdity. I hasten to add that I'm not denigrating the concept or questioning the relativity of it all - I'm just startled myself by the psychological power of the concept and the pull it has. It goes without saying that the concepts of Southern Iceland/Scotland/England exist and have an important role to play in some people's southern dreams. It just isn't MY south.

At the moment I'm living in the extreme south of Germany, even further south than Munich - not far from the Austrian border. Munich itself is often jokingly referred to as Italy's furthest northern town. A lot of its architecture is Italianate,and every weekend there is a massive influx of Italian tourists.The summers here are often very hot, and even during the winter months you get freak weather which frequently wrenches up the temperature. That's when the Alps suddenly look as if they were just behind the town centre - and beyond the Alps, of course lies Italy - il Sud. L'area mediterranea.

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