All our neighbours were out this week changing from winter to summer tyres.

There’s a set date to do this in Germany and it’s announced on the media but as we rarely listen to German news it always seems to be spontaneous: our neighbours suddenly appear on their driveways jacking cars up and levering at the wheels like a sort of suburban flashmob.

I can’t help wondering what future generations will think of it all: perhaps some learned Professor will one day be writing a thesis on south Germany like this:

As the seasons changed in mountain regions, the Vehicular Tribes followed the Ritual Of Changing Tyres: a vital moment in the life of a car culture. This would not happen at exactly the same time in each household, which gave rise to the seasonal greeting of “Have You Changed Your Tyres Yet?”

The Faithful listened carefully to the Elders who would intone the providential time that the first snow was sighted, whereupon a day would be set aside when when the ‘Summer Tyres’ were ceremonially laid to rest and the ‘Winter Tyres’ would be carefully and reverentially fixed upon a vehicle. Many would take their car to the shaman or ‘Mechanic’ who performed the rites in secret. The traditional blessing known as ‘The Invoice’ would give rise to the response “It gets more expensive each year”.

Apparently the ritual was to appease the Spirits of ‘Insurance’ who would bestow immunity against road conditions upon the vehicle’s occupants. This allowed the Faithful to continue driving at high speed in -it was believed- perfect safety.

Of course, the end of winter was marked by the Summer Changing of Tyres. This was a time of great celebration: the winter spirits were vanquished, and greater speed was possible.

The cycling and walking peoples, it appears, did not all observe this custom and were therefore known as heretics…

(Off to Freiburg again this weekend, see you on Monday)

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