1. GERMANY

We were due to meet up with the rest of the group of student teachers at the station in Cologne on July 5th, to travel on the train to Istanbul with them; since the end of term at Cambridge, we were hitch-hiking in Northern Germany (Western, as was).

Luckily I sent a description of my holiday in letters to my sister June (then living in Adelaide, South Australia); she kept them for me and I have them still. Verbatim copies of what I wrote then are in italics here. 

     June 19th Thursday:  we had an uneventful crossing on the ferry from Dover and took the train from Ostend to Bruges, where I had arranged a stop with Mme. Waucquez-de Brouwer; her daughter had married John Langton, son of my godmother. I had stayed with Mme WdeB twice before (incidental note: the Langton house in Mbarara, Uganda, was where my parents first met).  We staggered with our heavy suitcases to her apartment and she and her son Ronald were in. After a huge supper Tony and I went for a walk round the illuminated city, which I had but he had not seen before. Unfortunately it began to rain and we were caught a mile or so from the Waucquez’ house in a downpour. After 10 minutes under a  tree we decided that it was not going to let up and sallied forth, arriving back soaked to the skin. However some Cognac we had bought on the boat as a present for Mme W., which she did not want and forced on us, and some very comfortable beds, made up for the rain.

     June 20th Friday: The next day, we had decided, we would send our luggage (apart from a little bag each for towel, toothbrush etc.) on to Cologne and then hitch-hike after it. However the Belgian Railways did not like sending English luggage across the German border, and we had to send it to Herbesthal, the last station in Belgium, and collect it there; which we did. The first day’s hitching went very well, apart from the rain! We were passing through Brussels and at first there was a lot of traffic going to the World Exhibition and afterwards a lot coming away. We decided not to go to the Exhibition (a) because we wanted as much time as poss in Germany, (b) we wanted to keep a hold on our money at such an early stage of the vac – and it is very, very expensive, e.g.,  2/- for a cup of tea in the British pavilion! and (c) because of the rain. The Exhib is open till October and I hope to see it on my way home to England.

     June 21st Saturday: We stayed that night in Aachen (Aix) and went back the next morning to Herbesthal in Belgium to collect our luggage, take it back with us to Aachen and send it on from there to Cologne — whither we hitched the same day. We stayed the night with some friends of Tony’s called Gadde, in Deutz on the right bank of the Rhine, and left our cases with them when we left the next day for our hitchhiking tour. The view across the Rhine:

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June 22nd: Unfortunately it was a Sunday and although we were not trying to get very far, we had to wait hours and hours, literally, before we arrived: three hitches and about 4 hours’ waiting. We were only making for Oberhausen, where the Marburgers live (see “Travels: Bike ride to Scotland”), but even when we got there it took 45 minutes’ walking, again in the rain,  before we found their house. Only half their famly were there: Frau M. was visiting Ursula in Heidelberg, where she is at university. We stayed, chatted to Herr M. and Ute and had some sandwiches before going to the Youth Hostel in Duisburg. This again took a very long time because we just missed a bus, but we got in in time — but only just, for the warden was just coming to the gate, keys in hand, as we arrived. … It is a charming half-timbered place that seems to have survived quite by chance in an otherwise modern street; it is very small and very friendly too. We found some YH’s much too large and full of a horrible military type of atmosphere. However it must be admitted that all were very clean, as was everything in Germany, and in none of them did we have to do any cleaning in the morning. This was very good because we therefore were often in position for our first hitchhiking attempt by 8:30 or 9:00, except in the big towns which took some getting out of.

    June 23rd Monday. We were very lucky in our hitching, we got all the way to Kassel — about 200 km, and in only 4 hitches, altho’ one needed a 4-hour wait. The first part was through the Ruhr industrial area but luckily on the autobahn so we were through it quite quickly. Then the houses began to get more interesting as we went eastwards – half-timbered and with inscriptions on the beams beneath the rafters. The land was rather flat and dull and the inscriptions in white paint: this was Hessen, a rather poorer part of Germany. Other parts, which are and always have been richer, have the inscriptions in gold lettering. Soon after Paderborn the countryside began to get hillier and more interesting and soon we came to Kassel. This is a peculiar place — everything on a huge scale — avenues of infinite length: especially the one that goes from the river (Fulda) towards a statue nearby (Herkules!)                

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Screen Shot 2019-05-10 at 9.39.39 PM.png— this ‘Allee’ is 3 to 4 km long. The rest of the town is all in the same vein, with vast parks dotted with broken-down palaces and mansions and heaps of rubble: it seems to have suffered heavily during the war. The YH, as everything else, was HUGE; and military. The worst thing about German YH’s is the coffee they dish out — made of malt and really revolting. We went down to the Fulda and spat into it: we had decided to spit into all the main rivers we crossed, as we had heard that it was lucky to spit into the Weser at Hamelin (which we did later). One memory still with me: the beer in Kassel was the weakest and most tasteless of all the beers that we tried that trip!

     June 24th Tuesday. This day was much more interesting, through the Harz mountains which are quite high, mostly wooded and dotted with tiny lakes. Our route lay through the university town of Göttingen  03.Göttingen?.png

and then, after more Harz, through Goslar: both quite old and twisty-streeted with very fine old gilt-inscribed houses…

Screen Shot 2019-03-25 at 3.40.39 PM.pngAltstadt (Old Town), Goslar

The evening of this particular day was very odd; for we were picked up by a man who said he was going to Braunschweig, (note: our intended YH stop) yes, but had to call in at a tiny village called Jerxheim on the way. As it turned out, he didn’t know the way and not only were we rather later but the route was across country and we kept darting down side-roads and having to turn back because they only led to the E. German border! We could see the border very well, sometimes only a mile or so away: a double line of trees with space in between cleared of houses and vegetation. We saw no soldiers but apparently it is patrolled and  watched at all hours. 

Border at Jerxheim before unification:
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To make up for the delay the fellow took us straight to the YH in Braunschweig: which city we saw the following day on our way through to the other side — Very bombed: every church seems to have one of its towers still standing and the other only a temporary replacement, half the size.

June 25th Wednesday: We had  a lucky break that day: a farmer gave us a lift and insisted on taking us to his farm for lunch, out on Lüneburg Heath:

Screen Shot 2019-03-27 at 7.39.42 PM.pngIt is quite poor area but he was quite well-off. He asked Tony to ask his (Tony’s) uncle if his (the farmer’s) daughter could go and stay with him (the uncle) for a year — T’s uncle being  a farmer in Dorset. We got back onto the main road rather late but had some more luck and made Lauenburg by nightfall. It is an ancient little town on the Elbe.10.Lauenburg.png

June 26th Thursday: We went through some more interesting places: Mölln, Ratzeburg— in the middle of  a lake — and Lübeck.

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From there to Kiel we had  a hot stuffy lorry and I slept most of the way, and missed some very beautiful scenery: Tony told me it looked like Kent with numerous lakes. In Lübeck we had a short boat trip round the harbour and spat vigorously into it = the Baltic. (Later we spat into the Bosphorus = the Mediterranean!).

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June 27th Friday
: Our intention was to get to Hamburg, see round it, and get to Bremen by nightfall. We got to Hamburg by 10 o’clock and looked round (2 huge lakes in the city centre!) and were in a good hitchhiking position by 2:30. At 3:30, no luck so far, and the police came along: forbidden to hitch where we were standing! A half-hour walk, try again, hurrah! — but only for a few miles, where we tried again, this time with NO luck at all. After two and a half hours we gave up and were trudging to the nearest village for a bed, when someone stopped: after searching for accommodation in the area, he took us back to Hamburg! The YH was full so we stayed in a B-n-B.

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[Note: the last three days’ chronicle was rushed, so that I could finish off in time for the post from Istanbul.]

June 28th Saturday:  We couldn’t face another 5-hour wait so tried a different road out of Hamburg. This time we were lucky and got to Bremen in a couple of hours, most of it not along the autobahn either. The centre is very nice but we found the new buildings outside the centre really hideous. We ate sausages from a street stall and finished the meal with wine in the oldest town hall cellar (Rathskeller) in Germany — 14thcentury, I think.
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Rathskeller, Bremen

Then out again on the road to Hanover: we took a bus out of the centre — only to find … that there our luck ran out again. For just opposite where we took up position there was a funeral in progress and all the drivers’ heads were turned the wrong way; and if we moved on further it was beyond the speed limit notice on a straight stretch of road and they were going too fast. After five hours’ waiting, by the end of which we were trying everything, even a hearse, we gave up and went and had a beer and were treated by local Teddy-boys to schnapps. The very first car we tried, when we came out, stopped — and took us all the way to Hanover, about 100 miles. This was through the worst cloudburst I had ever seen: the road, downhill all the way but only slightly, was more of a muddy river than anything else, up to the axles most of the time; and once we had to stop because it was coming down too hard to see! It had stopped by the time we got to Hanover but by now it was rather late and we had to put up with ‘emergency beds’ (and very hard too) in the YH loft. After supper we went out for a drink and to see the town, which is rather hideous but not as bad as Bremen; but we had to run back through another downpour and got soaked to the skin.

June 29th Sunday:  We expected very bad luck, it being a Sunday, as we had had the Sunday previous (Cologne to Oberhausen) but had just the reverse in fact. We made Paderborn by nightfall; this is not very far, but we had 11 different hitches, and at one stage had five in a row without having to wait more than 5 minutes for any one of them. What was more, two of them went across country, taking a short cut over the hills… Our route lay through Hamelin; unfortunately we just missed the weekly Pied Piper procession (complete with children dressed up as mice) by half an hour, but made up for it with a good meal in a restaurant which, although it took a long time being served, was very welcome for previous last sit-down lunch was in Kiel! We stayed the night in Paderborn.

     June 30th Monday:  Instead of going straight to Cologne, as we had a day to spare we went to Siegen instead: well worth it, the countryside is lovely and full of half-timbered houses – and half-timbered factories too!

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     July 1st– 4th: We stayed four nights in B-n-B’s in Cologne, and took the opportunity of getting some laundry done, for which we paid through the nose as it was a rush job. We spent one day in nearby Bonn where Helmut Gadde, the son of Tony’s friends, is at university; unluckily, we spent most of the time in the chemistry laboratory, as his whatever-it-was would not work! We also bought toilet articles in bulk for Turkey: rather unnecessary as it turned out, the country is not that uncivilized that they don’t have soap!

     July 5th That morning, at 02:20, we were waiting on the platform and joined the rest of the party.

TURKEY