William Cook

The real story of Bauhaus and the Nazis

Here in Weimar, the cultural and spiritual capital of the Bundesrepublik, a brave group of curators and academics are challenging one of Germany’s most sacred taboos. A trio of exhibitions in this historic city, the birthplace of Deutschland’s first fleeting democracy, are exposing the hitherto unexplored connections between the Bauhaus and the Third Reich. For

Survival plan: is Rishi ready for the rebels?

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This week: Survival plan: is Rishi ready for the rebels? Ever since his election, Rishi Sunak has been preparing for this weekend – where the most likely scenario is that dire local election results are slow-released, leaving him at a moment of maximum vulnerability. He has his defences ready against his regicidal party, says Katy

Meet Hillingdon Man, Britain’s unhappiest chap

It’s official. I live in the unhappiest place in Britain. Who says so? My neighbours here in Hillingdon, that’s who. They’ve been polled by the property company Rightmove, along with citizens the length and breadth of the country, and Richmond came top(seems money can buy you happiness, after all) while my own London borough, Hillingdon,

Euro 2024: a guide to Germany’s cities

Here’s a question for Spectator football fans: what’s the most memorable match you’ve ever seen? I don’t mean on television. I mean in an actual stadium, the way football should be seen. For me it was in 1996, seeing England play Germany at Wembley, in the semi-finals of the Euros. England were the better team

The elite coach taking school football to a new level

On a wet and windy afternoon at Repton School, technical director of football Luke Webb is putting his first team through their paces. At first glance this training session looks much the same as any other, but I soon start to spot some subtle yet significant differences in his approach. Webb keeps his distance, there’s

The Nazi next door: inside my grandmother’s house

Each time I return to Hamburg (about once a year, on average) I pay a sentimental visit to my grandmother’s magnificent old house, where she spent her cosseted, idyllic youth, during the Weimar Republic and the Third Reich. It’s a robust Teutonic villa, a bombastic relic of the Gründerzeit – that flamboyant building boom which followed

Nuremberg is the best and worst of Germany

On a snowy night in Nuremberg, a city that encapsulates the best and worst of Germany, a huge crowd has gathered in the ancient Marktplatz for the opening of the Christkindlesmarkt, Bavaria’s biggest Christmas market. Cradling mugs of steaming Glühwein, stamping our feet to keep out the cold, we’re all waiting for the Christkind (Christ

The growing appeal of dreary Düsseldorf

In the cavernous basement of Bilker Bunker, a second world war air raid shelter in downtown Düsseldorf, the staff of groovy events guide the Dorf are toasting the magazine’s tenth birthday. During the war, Germans sheltered here from the RAF. Today, their descendants come here to party. With an art gallery up above and DJs

Leuven: Belgium’s most underrated city

From the vertiginous belltower of Leuven’s university library, you get a great view across the mottled rooftops of Belgium’s most underrated city. Leuven isn’t swarming with sightseers, like Bruges. It isn’t choked with commuter traffic, like Brussels. It’s lively and compact, ideal for a weekend away – so why have most British travellers never even

You can’t cancel Picasso

In the sunlit courtyard of the Picasso Museum in Málaga, Bernard Ruiz-Picasso is telling me about his grandfather, the greatest artist of the 20th Century. ‘He’s very inspiring – a powerful artist and thinker,’ says Bernard. ‘He was super-cool, and also super tough.’ Not so long ago, such an uncontentious compliment would have seemed entirely unremarkable.

Walking the Suffolk Coast Path

When was the last time you woke up bright and early on a weekday morning, with no need for an alarm call, rested and impatient for the day ahead? My last time was a week ago, when I awoke in the Pier Hotel in Harwich, eager to walk the first bit of my latest hike, along the Suffolk Coast Path. The Saxons sailed up this river to conquer East Anglia after the fall

Walking the Essex Way is a wonderful adventure

I’m hiking along a footpath through glorious English countryside, across lush green meadows framed by ancient woodland. I’ve hardly seen a soul today, just a few solitary dogwalkers. I’ve been walking all day and my legs are aching, but I can’t recall the last time I felt so contented, so alive. Welcome to the Essex

How the British intelligentsia fell out of love with Germany

An economic slowdown, the far right on the rise, even apocalyptic hailstorms – what on earth is happening in Germany? Is Europe’s industrial powerhouse on the slide? Well, yes and no. Germany is in recession, and Germany’santi-immigration party, Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), is growing stronger, but the bad news coming out of Germany indicates a

How Salzburg made Mozart

Arriving in Salzburg, ahead of this week’s Whitsun music festival, the first thing that greets you is a rather grumpy statue of the greatest composer who ever lived. Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in this implausibly pretty Alpine city, and each time I return here the boyish creator of the world’s most beautiful

The rise and fall of bohemia

In the Kunsthalle Praha, a smart new gallery in Prague, a Scottish professor from UCLA called Russell Ferguson is trying to explain to me the meaning of bohemia. Like a lot of fashionable buzzwords, it’s surprisingly difficult to pin down. Is a bohemian an artistic rebel? Or merely a pretentious layabout? Ferguson is an expert

In defence of Brussels, Europe’s most underrated city break

Strolling around the Belgian Comic Strip Center, admiring the elegant artwork of Hergé (creator of Tintin), I wonder for the umpteenth time why so many of my British friends are so disparaging about Brussels. It’s one of my favourite cities, but most Britons I know wouldn’t dream of planning a break here. They don’t know

Dresden’s Rumpelstiltskin and the strange tale of European porcelain

Strolling along Dresden’s Brühlsche Terrasse, an elegant promenade above the River Elbe known as ‘the balcony of Europe’, the wartime destruction of Germany’s most beautiful city seems like the echo of a bygone age. Since reunification, the reconstruction of its baroque Altstadt has been meticulous – the panorama Canaletto painted has been painstakingly restored. Reduced

How Dickens invented Christmas

Time was, the Christmas shopping season used to last a week or two. Now it drags on for months. Never mind wage inflation – what about present inflation? The whole thing is like a gigantic poker game, where the stakes are raised remorselessly every year. How did Christmas mutate into this orgy of rampant consumerism?

Why Germany shouldn’t cancel Bismarck

What’s in a name? On the face of it, the Bismarck-Zimmer in Berlin’s Foreign Ministry building looks like just another boring conference room: functional office furniture, bland bureaucratic décor – an ideal forum for those tedious, conscientious meetings at which German politicians and diplomats excel. However, that nondescript committee room has now become headline news