Monday, August 08, 2005

Sun lounger law rules towels illegal

This will bring a grimace of recognition for anyone who has vacationed with Germans. The Guardian travel section has a piece on the legality of claiming a lounge chair by throwing a towel over it, even though you no intention to use the chair for some time. Germans are notorious for this behavior. They often come down before breakfast, leave towels on the best chairs and only reappear at noon. Maddening, to say the least.

A German attorney has researched German and Spanish (Germans practically take over some Spanish towns in Summer) law on the issue. His conclusion: feel free to take the lounger.

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 Höcker, who told the Guardian 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 Mr Höcker, 34.

The only caveat is that the loungers cannot be usurped by a legally clued-up Brit if [the lounge chairs] have been [rented].

Mr Höcker 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," Mr Höcker 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. [...]

"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. [...]

"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." [...]