Germany Erste Teil
I spent a year abroad in Germany 1977-8
Morocco and Spain (NASA, International Space Station, 12/31/11) (Photo credit: NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center)
I flew from Chicago with a group of eight for Luxembourg LUX on Icelandair with a stop in Reykjavík KEF.
I left in August 1977. It was the summer Elvis died. I set out to visit every country in Europe. The only place I didn’t go was London. Many people in my group were sceptical. You can’t just get on a train and go somewhere by yourself. You’re in Europe. Others disagreed.
You’re an American. You can go anywhere you want. Why are Americans so unpopular? It wasn’t always the case. I never believed in the Ugly American. The tangled history of Germany after WWII left Germany partitioned among the four victorious allied powers including the Soviet Union. In 1953 they Illegally made their zone into the German Democratic Republik or East Germany. I asked my friends, if they thought Germany would ever be reunited. Never in my lifetime. Regensburg, in the Fulda gap was closer to Prague than Cologne. They figured if the war ever started, it would be run over before we knew it had started. Poland received one-third of former German territory East of the Oder.
Our director met us at the Bahnhof (train station.) He took us to our dorm two at a time.That’s alll that would fit in his car. A blue Audi. It was one of the few times we got to ride in his car that year. Most of the time we took public transportation or walked. I was the only American on my floor. I’m staying at the Vitusheim. All dormitories in Germany are student managed. I share a kitchen with the other students. We do our own cooking. There is a student cafeteria or Mensa. The meals are subsidised. It is German food. Bavarians eat lots of starch and potatoes but Sauerkraut-not so much. It is about a 15 minute walk from the dorm. I do have a sink in my room which is nice and a large wardrobe.I brought a calculator and three cameras from home including an old Zeiss Ikon and a mini Minox spy camera. I inherited a radio and some pots from the previous occupant. I’m making good use of them.There is even a pub. There is one TV and one telephone for the whole dorm. Cell phones, video games, PC’s all in the future.
If you want to call the States you have to go to the main post office downtown, book the call then wait for your turn. I only called home three times that year. We do get mail three times a day. Snail mail, of course–no email or internet. I’m Sharing the facilities with the girls. I’m the only male on the floor. They don’t seem to mind it’s going to take some getting used to for me.
There was a group of exchange students studying German from Lyon in France. They were all girls except one boy. They are nice. They are all in their twenties like me. The Americans are taking a special six-week intensive language course. Most of the German students won’t arrive until classes start in November.
Holland The first overnight trip I went on was to Amsterdam for a local festival. Not well publicised How did you hear about it, Nikolaustag? St Nikolaus is not the same as Santa Claus, who makes his traditional return from Spain by boat in November. OriginallySt. Nicholsaus is from Turkey, his feast day is December 6th.
The train follows the Rhine. We got off in Düsseldorf, to look around. It was nighttime it was beautiful. On the way back from Amsterdam the customs got on the train with a drug sniffing dog. We met the world’s oldest hippie in a bar in Amsterdam. I wonder if he is still alive?
Freddie Heineken greets you at the Heineken brewery tour. It’s a video tape. Back then it was something new. Before you leave he offers you one for the road.
We get many sponsored trips. In November we went to Berlin. It was awesome. I must take my parents here. On the train through East Germany my friend offers the young border guard an orange. He shows it to the other young guard and brags, I’ve seen these I know what this is. You eat it. Once you cross the border and iron curtain there is no stopping or getting off the train until you reach West Berlin.
Checkpoint Charlie was on Friedrichstrasse, near Kochstrasse. It was the only crossing between West Berlin and East Berlin that could be used by Americans and other foreigners, and by members of the Allied Forces. The other six checkpoints were for residents of West Berlin or West Germany. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
We decide to do something nice for our German friends. We held a Halloween party. In November we cooked Thanksgiving dinner. We had to order the turkeys and pumpkin from the local army base here. Not common foods in Bavaria. The pies were the biggest hit. We had to be sure to clean up the mess. That’s a big thing here.
We took a trip to Neuschwannstein and the Alps.
There are four countries in the world where German is spoken Austria, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Germany of course. Germany lost a lot of territory in both world wars.
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