A Lankan’s love affair with Germany

'A Ceylonese in the Black Forest', a book by the globetrotting gemmologist Susantha Welgama was launched last week at the Goethe Insititute. Written in German, it is a compilation of stories from 1972 when Susantha, young and adventurous, prolonged his stay in Germany while on a world tour.

The most interesting period of his travels was in Germany where taken up with the amiable people, Susantha ended up staying eight years.

Susantha recalls how he was well equipped for his travels, being fluent in three Asian languages and four European languages. "I was a competent and independent young man of 28 and I looked like Engelbert Humperdinck," he quips.

Recounting his days in Germany, he first came overland to Buhul-Baden in the Black Forest and a month later, proceeded to the university town of Freiburg in the same district.

"As if it was pre-planned coming across so many kind people made me study and stay on and on," Susantha explains in his author's note.

He adds, "Never did I see two Germans fighting. On the contrary they were all peace loving, quite reserved but extremely kind. I did at the beginning any job that I came across, but of course not at the expense of my studies in gemology."

Returning to Sri Lanka, Susantha wrote a series of humorous letters to his friends in Germany describing his life there. These letters were collected and given various titles in the compilation of 'A Ceylonese in the Black Forest'.

Introducing the book Götz Nitsche of the University of Freiburg in Germany, said that he was from the town in which many of the events unfolded and was particularly delighted with the book since he was familiar with every street corner and building mentioned. There are plans to release an English translation in the future.

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