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08 Aug 2005 11:22
A new German book of popular legal errors seeks to end years of Anglo-German holiday bickering over the rights and wrongs of bagging the best sun loungers with the strategic deployment of towels.
Furious British tourists have gained an unlikely ally in the form of German lawyer Ralf HÃ¶cker, who said that his research into Spanish and German law had revealed that leaving towels on loungers was not legally binding.
“A British tourist would be quite within their legal rights to ignore the reservation implied by the towels if there is nobody there,” said Cologne-based HÃ¶cker (34).
The only caveat is that the loungers cannot be usurped by a legally clued-up Brit if they have been hired.
HÃ¶cker also cautions against doing anything undiplomatic with the offending German towel.
Bar patrons who leave coats on chairs and pedestrians who try to claim parking spots for yet-to-appear cars are on equally shaky legal ground. “Yes, Germans do such things,” HÃ¶cker says.
His research is published in a book that came out last week in Germany, the New Dictionary of Popular Legal Errors.
Volume one spent 20 weeks on the German bestseller list last year.
HÃ¶cker, who runs a law firm that represents celebrities including supermodel Heidi Klum, discovered the British paranoia about Germans and loungers when he lived in London from 1999 to 2000.
“The towel thing is not such a big deal in Germany, but I have to say that the stereotype is true—German people do reserve all the loungers.
“It’s also worth saying that it also infuriates some German people.
“There is a certain type of German tourist who does it, the same type who when they are on the beach builds a little wall with shelves and so on to protect their spot.”
He says that he has not recently been a victim of the towel phenomenon while on holiday but recalls: “I remember being on holiday in Germany when I was young.
“It’s taken me 20 years to find out that this was illegal. Maybe that one event is what made me want to be a lawyer.”
HÃ¶cker admits the rest of the book is somewhat drier. “It’s about all these German laws, like signs in shops that tell you to do things that just aren’t legal.
“People just don’t realise how often they are bossed around when there is no justification.”
With most British tourists preferring The Da Vinci Code and the latest adventures of Harry Potter as holiday reading to dry as dust legal tomes, it seems unlikely that many of them will be quoting HÃ¶cker’s legal opinion to possessive German tourists on the beaches, and by the pools, of Spain this summer. - Guardian Unlimited Â
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