AOn August 22nd, 2020 he replied on Facebook to the question: “What are you doing?” with a wink: “I ride in a wheelchair through my kingdom, my apartment – and I feel royal!” A week later he updated his Facebook profile Cover picture, it shows him, sitting in an armchair, with a cat on his lap and a watchful look over the typical mustache.
Only now did we find out in the editorial department: On September 12th, Peter Wägner died in Hamburg at the age of 86. He was a veteran of German travel journalism and a veteran of WELT AM SONNTAG, whose travel section he headed from 1976 to 1999.
400 trips, 50 countries, 100 ships and 2,000 days on the move in 50 years as a travel journalist – this is how Wägner sums up his life “between Baiersbronn and Bali, Altötting and Alaska” in his book “Unterwegs und Anderswo”, not forgetting the 1200 parts of the trip of WELT AM SONNTAG, for which he was responsible, edited and produced during this time.
And above all with his own texts, because writing was, besides traveling, Wägner’s great passion. He stayed true to it until the end: his travel book was only published in 2020, shortly before his death he published it himself. With passion, an iron will and a powerful spirit, a humorous, profound tour through his travel journalist life was created.
Peter Wägner wrote with expertise and wit
It tells you about his favorite travel destination Singapore (“Travel journalists despise the glittering city because it allegedly exudes too little Far East romance. Everything is clean, safe, clean. And I just liked that”) and about his irrepressible curiosity (“ignorance is the mother of adventure”) was his motto, based on the little comic Viking Hägar).
Peter Wägner always wrote his travel stories with expertise and a witty language, consistently following two guiding principles. First: “As far as tourism is concerned, I have left criticism of the system to my colleagues in the features section. The less they knew about travel, the more devastating their reviews. “
Second: A good travel writer should “bring his experiences to the inclined reader as far as possible in such a way that he not only feels encouraged to read but also to travel. Or just feel warned when it has to be. ”True to the old Baedeker’s motto:“ Help the traveler ”.
When asked about independence and strict objectivity, he appealed to higher authorities: refrigerators can be rated with one, two or three stars, but holiday islands cannot. “Because: God made it. Okay, people can get pretty fucked up. But they remain God’s creatures and there is always something lovable somewhere. Even in Venice, which was written dead a thousand times. “
Visited the old homeland in East Germany
For many years after his retirement, Peter Wägner remained connected to WELT AM SONNTAG as a travel columnist, raved about life in a beach chair on the Baltic Sea and gossiped about “the discogrel flutter of lights” at German Christmas markets.
His last texts for the travel pages were created in 2014 and 2015 after the Hamburg native, born in Angermünde in 1934, traveled back to his old homeland. In it he recommended castles and mansions in East Germany. Of course, he found something lovable: “While the wedding guests are turtling in the tower room, the private guest who gets lost here (and he should get lost) enjoys a heavenly peace far from any shot.”
But there is also criticism: “Often enough, the houses did not open out of a passion for tourism, but because the rededication as a tourist facility also brought EU subsidies and was the last lifeline between rubble and bank guarantees.”
“We have followed many of your trips”
There was nothing to show Peter Wägner to the end, he could rely on his judgment. And that was appreciated. Which is why he proudly writes of readers who enthusiastically shouted to him even 20 years after a cruise together: “We have followed many of their trips – and it was always worth it.”
Wägner closes his book with an outlook on his last, upcoming trip. As the pastor’s son, he knows that the wise Peter is sitting at the gate of paradise and counting points. “For every successful vacation, I think to myself, that a reader enjoyed with my recommendation, I got one point. I’m confident that I can get in there. “
Dear Peter Wägner, we are sure that you will have reached your last destination safely.
This text is from WELT AM SONNTAG. We are happy to deliver them to your home on a regular basis.