Both my brothers were stationed in Germany during their stint of National Service, and consequently came back being able to speak a smattering of the language. I was keen to learn all they knew, and would proudly show off my knowledge to my school friends lol! We didn’t have languages as part of the curriculum then. I was keen to expand my bit of knowledge and tried to teach myself more with the aid of phrase books - big mistake!
Once I’d decided I was going to spread my wings and travel, I arranged to go to the Berlitz School of Languages in Oxford Street, just across the road from Stratters, to learn German properly. It cost a £1 for 55mins of tuition. The Berlitz School was run on a very tight budget, the reason we only got 55mins, was that 5mins was allowed for the ‘teachers’ to get to the next classroom to take their next lesson lol! I say ‘teachers’ because in fact they were foreign students, here to get hands-on knowledge of English. The rule was that once inside the building, we were not allowed to speak anything except the language we were learning - which could be pretty difficult when you didn’t know very much! In fact it irritated me no end, because I wasn’t able to ask for explanations - it struck me as a pretty crazy way of learning a language. Also, I got a different ‘teacher’ each time, and some could not speak much English anyway and it would end up with us both teaching each other our own language!! Then I got a young lady who COULD speak reasonable English, unfortunately, she used her knowledge to tell me all her troubles - I didn’t get much learning done, but unwilling to complain about her, I simply gave up and left. Consequently, I had just enough knowledge of the German language to get me into trouble!
Mum and I are going on our first package holiday and my first time abroad! We are going with Cosmos - departure date 11th September 1963. Amazingly, I still have the original itinerary that Cosmos provided. Eastern Coaches take us down to Southend Airport where we catch the plane to Ostend. We only get a cursory view of Brussels as we drive through the City Centre on the way to Arlon, the capital town of Luxenbourg where we stay for our first night. Interestingly, the blurb in the itinerary tells us that the present Regent is Grand Duchess Charlotte and she is also the Head of the Government, her husband is Prince Felix of Bourbon-Palma.We're up early the next morning to board the coach which will take us through Luxenbourg, Strasbourg, The Black Forest, The Rhine Falls and finally close to our ultimate destination - Obsteig, near Feldkirch in Austria. This is where a coach trip comes into its own, just sit back and enjoy the wonderful views! The Rhein Falls at Schaffhausen are a sight to behold. We stop at Stein am Rhein, a truly beautiful place where the buildings are covered in the most attractive paintings and intricate pargeting. We stay overnight at Feldkirch then continue our coach journey to Obsteig the next day, arriving mid-morning, but first we have to negotiate the Arlberg Pass, which is not for those who do not like heights!!!!! It was pretty scary I can tell you! =:0
We arrive in Obsteig, in the Tyrol, in time for lunch. Obsteig is ideally located for excursions into Bavaria, the Italian Dolomites and Innsbruck is only 25 miles awayOur typically Tyrolean hotel is family owned, and we had many wonderful evenings of entertainment. Tyrolean music, yodelling, folk dancing and films showing the wonderful scenery around us. The hotel was set in it?s own lovely gardens and we had a private swimming pool. The locals were allowed into the hotel in the evenings for the dances, and I made friends with some lads of my own age who came in most evenings. We went on many sightseeing excursions during our 6 day stay, but the ones involving going over the Arlberg pass were pretty hairy. We went in small buses, and the young drivers thought it pretty funny to drive in a reckless manner, there were a few occasions when the buses had to stop to allow the passengers to be sick. Mum became quite ill during one excursion, partly due to the altitude, but also because of the silly driving along the narrow winding roads - I was pretty scared myself!
I enjoyed my stay at the family Granbichler?s hotel so much, that I asked if there was any chance of getting a job there during the next holiday season. I was told that there was indeed, but in the meantime I should concentrate on improving my knowledge of German and then write to them early next year, if I was still interested.
Eventually it was time to say goodbye, and the locals who had been regulars at the dances came to say goodbye, including the young lads I?d made friends with, one of them, Karl, asked me to write to him and we quickly exchanged addresses. Karl and his friends got on their motor bikes and followed the coach for a while waving at us until eventually we were out of sight.
On the journey back home, we went through pretty much the same places as on the way here, except that we stopped at Vaduz in the Principality of Leichtenstein. We made for the nearest café and indulged ourselves in the wonderful tortes and gateaux that we?d been getting used to over the last few days! Then we move on to Switzerland, passing through beautiful countryside (I fell in love with Switzerland at first sight!) of Wildhaus, Unterwasser, Wattwil and Rapperswil. We travel along the northern shore of the Zurichsee to Zurich, staying at Wittengen, just outside the town. As soon as we?d booked into our room, I rang the phone number that Eugen had given me. I fully expected to hear his husky tones, but instead his mother answered the phone. Problems! She didn?t speak a word of English and I?m sure she didn?t understand my poor attempt at German, she recognised that it was me calling but Switzerdeutch is virtually impossible to understand! Nevertheless, I recognised the word ?schwester? (sister) and guessed that Eugen was visiting his sister who lived in St Gallen, not too far from the family home. It was quite late in the evening by now, so mum and I decided to have a look around Wittengen, which had many lovely shops. When we got back, the receptionist handed me a note saying that Eugen had phoned and giving me a different number to call, it was after 11pm by now and I couldn?t decide if it was too late to call or wait until morning, except that I knew there would be no hanging around and there may not be enough time. So I rang him straight back. It turned out that he was visiting his older sister, Sylvie, who lived in Zurich - he was only 20 miles away! Aw - if only we?d known earlier in the evening, we could have met up, but now it was too late, and an early start in the morning :-(
to be continued
We will be covering 300miles today. We soon reach Basle and cross into France, then on to Mulhouse in Alsace Lorraine, then right across north eastern France via Epinal, Nancy and Metz and over the border into the Principality of Luxenbourg. One of the fun things about this trip has been collecting the border pass stamps in my passport, and having a bit of fun with the border guards. Our tour guide collects all the passports for stamping and then gives them all back to us - sometimes! Occasionally, the guards will hold back the passports of the young females then get onto the coach themselves, looking for the owners, then giving the passports back personally, with a cheeky grin or a wink. It was pretty scary the first time it happened, as being my first time abroad, border guards, with their foreign uniforms seemed a little sinister to me - thoughts of the film ?Maltese Falcon? lol!
The weather has been really good on the whole, we only had a couple of rainy days, so all in all it has been a most enjoyable holiday. I love the food - especially the wonderful gateaux! There has been a fair mix of travellers - young couples, middle aged couples, young single girls - but no single males :-( I have made friends with two girls of my own age, but mostly we are friends as a whole group. Tonight we are stopping at Marche for the night, we had a very nice evening meal, one of the waiters kept giving me the eye, later we met in the hallway and he asked me in broken English if I would like to go out for a drink. We had a good time at first, but Phillipe had a little too much to drink and things got a little uncomfortable. I ended up leaving him to find my own way back to the hotel - not too many people around at 1o'clock in the morning, let alone any that spoke English - I?d learned a few French phrases, but if anyone had spoken back to me, I would have had a hard job understanding! The streets seemed pretty empty and it was a bit scary wandering the streets in a foreign town, but somehow I managed to get back ok. But no sooner had I got back to the room I was sharing with Mum, than Phillipe was banging on the door and refusing to go away - Mum got up to give him a few choice words and this seemed to do the trick. I dragged myself out of bed the next morning to continue our journey homeward, arriving in Brussels where the coach driver took us on a tour of the city before resuming our journey to Ostend to catch our plane to Southend.
I noticed in a publication this weekend (30/1/05) a similar ten day tour by train, costing £739 - ours cost £29 lol!
We went straight back to Ashley Court to drop off my luggage and pick up my mail - Eugen has sent me a card from Switzerland - bless him! Then we went home to Sheffield for a few days - I could just sleep and sleep!
I received my first letter from Karl within the first week of returning from holiday. He has written to me mostly in German, with just a few words of English, so I asked Eugen to translate for me. He laughs as he reads the letter and his face goes a little pink - so did mine when he told me that Karl had said how much he enjoyed kissing me lol!
Eugen and I compose a letter together to send back to Karl, but I add some private bits in English - he told me later that he got his old school teacher to help translate - ha ha - this gets more and more bizarre!
I got a Teach Yourself German book out of the library so that I could attempt to translate Karl?s letters without the help of Eugen, but I couldn?t write any in German so I wrote in English - bearing in mind who was going to do the translating! I was soon back into the mad mayhem of London life and found myself losing interest in writing to Karl - there was only so much we could talk about anyway and our holiday friendship went the way that most of them do eventually.
But I am fired up from my holiday and can?t settle, I long to go and work abroad, I told Eugen of my thoughts, and he says he?ll write to his family to see if they can find a job for me in Switzerland. Before we left Obsteig, the Granbichlers told us about a dinner dance they hold every year in London for all the holidaymakers who have ever stayed at their hotel. I?m hoping Eugen will come with me - I?d love to show him off to my fellow holiday makers! Of course the 2 invites that I eventually received were for me and Mum, and I knew that not only would she like to be re-acquainted with her holiday friends, but also enjoy a weekend in London. I asked it would be possible to get an extra invite, but I was told that it would depend on how many people accepted their invitations, as space was limited, even though the re-union was being held a large west end hotel. I knew the invite belonged to mum - I didn?t really have a choice......sigh........
To be continued.....