Reading Germany: Memories of a Nation lately has made me think about the trips I’ve made to that country.
My first visit was brief but made a huge impression on me. It involved two days in Berlin and one in Cologne. It was part of a school trip to Moscow and Leningrad in 1968. We travelled to Leningrad by ship from Tilbury via stops for full days in Copenhagen and in Helsinki. We then travelled by train from Leningrad to Moscow and, again by train, from Moscow to Ostend via the two nights in Berlin and day in Cologne. What an adventure!
Bernauer Street 1960s
Bernauer Street in 2007 – part of the Wall and ‘Death Strip’ preserved today
This being during Cold War days we had to cross the Wall into East Berlin via Checkpoint Charlie. Quite exciting! We stayed at a small hotel just off the Kurfurstendam in the western sector where we noticed the stark contrast between the bright lights there and the dark and grey atmosphere in the East.
Berlin Wall postcards from 1968
My next trip was the following year with a local Norwich church youth group lead by Ron Ingamells the Bishop’s Chaplain for Youth. We travelled by coach from Norwich and stayed about two weeks at Hedwig-Dransfeld-Haus at Bendorf-am-Rhein. I have managed to dredge up a picture postcard sent home to my family on the 9th August 1969 assuring them that we had arrived safely after a smooth crossing!
Hedwig-Dransfeld Haus, Bendorf am Rhein
I remember we made excursions by coach to Bonn and Cologne, to the city of Koblenz (twinned with Norwich) and did two Rhine boat trips – one past the Lorelei Rock and the vineyards to Oberwesel where we were welcomed by the mayor and given local wine and hors d’oeuvres and the other on a Saturday evening to watch the local fireworks – Rhein in Flammen.
In the late 1980s we enjoyed two family holidays staying at the same farmhouse in the Black Forest. We have always meant to go back. We had a modern pine wood furnished apartment within a huge old farmhouse – The Hanselehof. Despite having a full kitchen in the flat we enjoyed the half-board arrangement and practising our German on other guests. We made excursions to the nearby towns of Freudenstadt and Freiburg plus visits to a lido, museums and abbeys and made local forest walks. My photos from those trips are now rather faded and very poor quality.
The Brandenburg Gate in 2006 [Chapter 1 of Germany : Memories of a Nation ‘The View from the Gate’]
1960s Picture Postcard Views of the Brandenburg Gate ‘just’ in East Berlin
A long time passed before I spent any time in Germany again. By this time the Cold War was over, the Berlin Wall had come down and East and West Germany had achieved reunification. In 2006, 2007 and 2009 I made 3 five day visits to Berlin staying in Mitte in former East Berlin. It was interesting to witness the changes and yet remember my previous visit about 40 years before.
Bertolt Brecht’s play “Mother Courage and her Children” is discussed in the Memories book in Chapter 26 ‘Germans displaced’
We visited Checkpoint Charlie now a tourist trap; the Brandenburg Gate and Unter den Linden now open to all comers; various museums from the Pergamon to the Jewish Museum and the former home of playwright Bertolt Brecht and his actress wife Helene Weigel; the Museum dedicated to artist Heinrich Zille (1858-1929) in the pretty Nikolaiviertel and many many other museums and landmarks, cafes and restaurants plus I made two trips to Potsdam to the palace of Frederick the Great – Sans-Souci.
At Check Point Charlie in 2007
My most recent stay in Germany was only for one night but was very special. I took my mum to see the 2010 Passion Play at Oberammergau. We travelled with Saga Holidays to the pretty village of Mutters near Innsbruck and a trip to Oberammergau was included in the package. I was surprised how, despite the hundreds of visitors during the play season, very uncommercialised Oberammergau seemed. It is a pretty wood-carving village with a fascinating history and I would love visit again.
Postcard Scene from the 2010 Passion Play
In future I’m hoping one day to have a walking holiday on the island of Rugen on the German Baltic coast and also to visit the origins of the Bauhaus movement and former of home of playwrights Goethe and Schiller – Weimar.