Epilogue-My German Odyssey

On November 9th we sat in the den of our home and watched the satellite feeds from Berlin, as The Wall “fell”. East and West Germans met atop The Wall at the Brandenburg Gate and with open champagne bottles celebrated the end to their separation.
Hubby and I sat there with tears rolling down our faces as we watched this miraculous, historical event. I felt I was part of this history. I knew the before, and the during, and I was seeing, “the after” on TV. I turned to Hubby and said, “We have to go back!”
Two months later we stepped off another Pan Am flight at Tegel Airport. Our friends, Ed and his wife Buddy, met us at the airport and we drove to their place in Zehlendorf. We laughed and cried and talked about what this would mean to all the Germans.
The next day we drove to The Brandenburg Gate. I stood there looking at the people dancing on top of The Berlin Wall
and I turned to Hubby and said, “By golly, I want to dance!”
I am not at all graceful. Thank God Hubby is strong! He climbed up first and then helped me up.
I stood there looking around, the Brandenburg Gate behind me,

and the Reichstag to my side.

I laughed and I cried and my heart was filled with such joy. I danced and I sang and I looked to see all the other smiling faces around me. People were still hugging each other, still drunk with the joy of their freedom. Since that day, I have not taken my freedom for granted.
I have seen what it is like to live under a repressive communist regime and I have watched it crumble before me, but not until after it had taken its toll on the people and on the landscape.
We walked around where people had chipped away at The Wall, and I found this opening. A young East German soldier was peeking through. When he saw me, he smiled. We spoke for just a moment, but I will always remember that young boy in his uniform and the happiness that I could see on his face.

We walked through to the Eastern side of Berlin. So unlike my first crossing of this border, people flowed back and forth without a thought or a struggle.
We went to the restaurant where we often had lunches while visiting the Eastern half of the city. I always remarked at how quiet this place was. No one talked loudly and no groups of people laughed or joked.
Now, two months after the fall of The Wall, the people were all talking loudly and laughing and drinking their beers in groups and they were smiling!
They were finally free!

My German Odyssey 1989 Part 12

We arrived back in Berlin and the month started off as usual. Hubby flying out of Berlin with charters and then coming back each night. Most of the time he was back in time for dinner, and we frequented our favorite places. A Greek restaurant down in Zehlendorf, a Yugoslavian place just down the street from Ka De We, and of course the Europa Center where we could get Bavarian food.
During my days I would shop, or go for tours over in East Berlin or take the train down to the Wansee where I could walk, enjoy the lake and have a nice lunch.
Out at Tegel Airport, we were pleased to see a mural done in honor of Col. Gail Halvorsen, who is better known to the children of post war Germany at the Rosinenbomber (candy bomber). Col. Halvorsen flew during the Berlin Airlift and he would drop candy out of his plane for the children.

When Hubby was based in Berlin with Pan Am in the early 1970’s he got to know Col. Halvorsen and played racquetball with him. I was so pleased to see this mural.
One day we got a call from the Berlin office that the Pilot’s Secretary wanted to see Hubby. Since it was his day off we both drove over. Elke was not what one would call warm and overly friendly, but she liked the pilots and looked after them. On this day she wanted to see Hubby to let him know that he had been awarded Captain on the 727 in New York! We were so happy and excited that we went out for a special meal that night! It meant that as soon as we returned to the States at the end of the month, Hubby would go to Miami for training. I decided that I would go down too, as he was planning to stay with our friend, Benn.
The last few weeks of our stay in Berlin, I went and spent an afternoon at a local hair salon to get my hair and nails done, went to a small fur shop in East Berlin and bought myself a beautiful Russian Sable mink hat, and also suit cases to bring all of our stuff back to America in.
We had 14 pieces of luggage when we finally packed up. We raced to the airport checked everything in and then settled back for our flight to London where we would connect with a flight for New York. I was sitting next to a pleasant British man who asked me, as we flew out of West Berlin over the East, “Do you think The Wall will ever come down?”.
“Not in my lifetime”, I replied.
I have often thought about those words. How silly they seem now, for a mere two months later, The Wall was down, and I would return to Berlin to dance on top of it!

My German Odyssey 1989 Part 11

We drove into Liechtenstein to the capitol, Vaduz. We went window shopping, saw the royal palace and had lunch. We’ve all heard about this tiny country and our daughters got a real thrill going there.
On we drove into Switzerland where we saw some of the Swiss Alps, saw Lake Constance before finding the Rhine river.
The following day we drove up to Hildesheim, Germany to visit with a woman whom Hubby had dated way back before I was even born! She had been in Massachusetts working as an Au Pare when his violin teacher, Mrs. Parker, had asked him to take her out. They’d become friends and so we had looked her up so we could introduce her to our daughters and share a meal. Hubby’s friend, Karin, gives walking tours in Hildesheim, is married, with four grown children of her own, and now in 2006 several grandchildren.
After that we went back to Berlin, where we left our rental car, and got on a flight back to the USA.
We were only back in the States long enough to bring the girls to their other parent’s homes before hopping back on a Pan Am flight to Berlin.

Even though our time with Amanda and Jessica in Germany was over, we still had another 6 weeks left on Hubby’s temporary assignment.

My German Odyssey 1989 Part 10

We started taking side trips. We drove out to Salzburg, Austria. Our daughter’s were enjoying going across borders now, getting their nearly empty passports stamped. We took the girls to The Salzbergwerk-Berchtesgaden Salt Mines. It was a fun experience to slide down into the mines and then go on the small train through the mines. We were lucky enough to get the front seat on our tour, which gave us this wonderful picture.

We drove over to The Eagles Nest where Hitler spent a great deal of time with his friends and Eva Braun. The views from the top were beautiful, although it was very crowded with tourists.

The next day we drove to down toGarmisch Partenkirchen, where we took the tram to the top of Zugspitze. Unfortunately that day it was rainy, foggy and cold and we didn’t see anything. But the ride in the tram was fun.

The next day we went to two of King Ludwig’s Castles. First we went to Neuschwanstein, where we waited in line for what seemed like forever, and since it was in the bright, hot sun, it was even worse. After a couple of hours, (no kidding) we got into the castle and made our way through. What an impressive Castle! Imagine riding your horse through the night to go “home” to this grand palace.
After grabbing lunch at a small gasthaus we drove on to Linderhof Castle. This smaller palace, Linderhof has so much charm with the most beautiful gardens, and fountains. It also boasts a large collection of Meissen China. There were lamps, vases, mantle clocks, chandeliers and dinnerware. Each room was decorated with Meissen pieces that had been made especially for King Ludwig.

That night Lucie and Otto prepared a lovely feast with all of their family. It was our last night with them before we said good-bye the next morning. Our time in Bavaria had ended. It was time to move on in the last few days our daughters would be with us in Europe.

My German Odyssey 1989 Part 9

Our days in Berlin came to an end on the night of July 31st. We got up at 3 AM so we could get in line at the border with our rental car, to drive out through the southern corridor to Nürnberg. August 1st saw the start of so many vacations in Germany that the border crossing was literally packed. Instead of keeping the car running and wasting gas and choking with the fumes, everyone turned off their engines and we all rolled our cars to the crossing. It took us about an hour or so and then we were on our way. For those behind us in line, the wait was up to 5 hours.
We stopped at an East German, State run restaurant on the Autobahn. When asked if we were paying in East or West Marks, Hubby replied East. We wanted the girls to see what the State run restaurants were like. Soon our breakfasts arrived. The girls had ordered an American type breakfast of scrambled eggs, which arrived swimming in grease. They both took one look at the eggs and decided that the rolls and jam looked much better.
We arrived in Nürnberg in the late morning and walked all around the walled city.

Eventually we stopped for some of the famous Nürnberg Bratwurst for lunch. I shopped and bought some Nürnberg Lebkuchen to take with us, and to bring as a gift for my friend Lucie.
Nürnberg is a wonderful city with large fountains

and great downtown foot mall with a lot to do. I wish we’d been able to spend more time there, but we had so much to do in the last few days we had with Amanda and Jess in Germany.
We hopped in the car and headed south, to Starnberg where our friends live. Some of you will recall me speaking about meeting the first Shubi at Otto and Lucie’s home a couple of months before. It was wonderful to go back and to see my little friend again.

The next day we celebrated by having a barbecue down on the shores of the Starnberger See. Our friends have a small lake house there and we really enjoyed the warmth, the sunshine and the good food.

Lucie and Otto were so pleased to see Jess, as they hadn’t seen her since she was about 2 years old.
Unfortunately we didn’t have too much time to spend there before we left on the rest of our journey.
Next up, a look at two of King Ludwig’s Castles.

My German Odyssey 1989 Part 8

Life in Berlin with our daughters was busy and yet, we fell into a routine of breakfasting, dressing and getting out for the day. I don’t think there is a part of the western half of Berlin that we didn’t get to see with them. Including a trip to the doctor’s office after Amanda’s knee went out. (What is it with this family and their knees?) After an injection from the Pan Am doctor and rest with ice, she seemed to recover enough for our next adventure.
We made a second trip into East Berlin with the girls and this time we walked down to the Nikolaiviertel and shopped at the stores there in the historic district of E. Berlin.We had lunch down there and watched children dancing and playing.
On another day we attended The French/German Volksfest near Tegal! It was a fair very much like our county fairs here in the states. Lots of good food, rides that’ll make you sick and tons of fun. We spent the entire day, and went on almost all the rides and had a great time.

We took Amanda and Jess to the Pfaueninsel.
The boat tour was wonderful and although it was a little cool, we had a great time.

On another day we headed out to Alt Lubars where we saw the wide open fields and stopped at a gasthaus and had dinner.
There was also a farmers market near our flat at Lietzenburger Strasse. That was so much fun for the girls and I. We walked all around the stands and I don’t think there was anything you couldn’t buy.
One day we had to go to the US Military base to do laundry. We all brought our books and sat waiting for the wash to be done. Hubby watched the two kids reading and with a glint in his eye he asked, “Who wants to go to McDonalds?” Two faces, with startled expressions looked up from their books and before they knew it, we were sitting at McDonalds eating American Burgers and fries! (Note here: Even though we were on an American Base, eating McDonalds burgers and fries, it was not the same.)
We often walked down to The Wall and read the grafitti on it. Seeing the way it cut through the city gave us all pause for thought.

My German Odyssey 1989 Part 7

It’s funny, but back then in the summer of 1989, things were still very tense around “The Wall”. I wanted to bring our daughters down to it to show them what “The Wall” was like and what it meant for the people of the two Berlins. As they stood on the observation deck at Check Point Charlie I saw their faces become serious. They could see the Border Guards on the East Berlin side, toting their machine guns. I think until they actually saw that “The Wall” truly separated neighborhoods and families, they just couldn’t fathom it. Growing up in the US where the only wall you know is in your house, or a fence in your yard, doesn’t prepare you for what the Russians did in Berlin.
We took the girls on the Military Bus Tour over to East Berlin. They had a chance to see children playing near a cafe where we ate lunch, but I also brought them into a grocery store where they could see the very limited provisions available there.
So they would not remember the negatives of the East, I also brought them into the department store Kaufhaus Am Alexanderplatz, a toy store where they had model trains and a camera store. While Hubby was looking at a camera there, the clerk took this picture.

I’m glad we were able to bring Amanda and Jess over to Berlin that summer. It’s easy to take for granted being free if you never see and experience a society that has had their freedom stolen from them. It had a profound impact on me and I know it did with both of our daughters.

My German Odyssey 1989 Part 6

We flew back to Berlin with a 13 year old Amanda and an eleven year old Jess. It was an exciting time for the girls as neither one had been to a country where English wasn’t the first language. We had also decided to try to get them to live eating German foods. Amanda wasn’t sure she liked the idea, but she was game. Jess however, was still at an age where she didn’t like to eat anything but chicken McNuggets and French Fries. In the end the girls found that the various wursts could make a good meal and like me, they fell in love with the Semmel (also known as Schrippen, and in the US known as rolls), and the yummy goodies. So no one starved.
We started off by showing them around Berlin We drove out to Spandau with them and had lunch in the restaurant there.

Spandau Prison was where 7 prisoners were housed after the Nuremberg Trials. The most famous prisoner was Rudolph Hess.

We went to the Dahlem Museum, saw the Siegesaule (Victory Column), We went over to the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichtag, the Wall, Check Point Charlie Museum and the Berlin Zoo. We decided to walk the girls through the Tier Garten where many nude sunbathers were sprawled and see who noticed first. Amanda noticed right away, but Jess walked along oblivious to all for quite a while until all of a sudden…She nearly shrieked, with 11 year old indignation.
We took Amanda and Jess grocery shopping where the girls were fascinated with all the differences in German vs America grocery stores. Of course now in 2006 the only difference is the food you find in the stores. Germany has evolved with a large frozen food section, pre-made meals and lots of junk food. I’m not entirely sure if this is a good thing.
We did some cooking at the flat, and the girls helped. Most memorable was making spaghetti sauce from scratch. Something that I wasn’t particularly skilled at, at the time.
The Cafe Fest street fair occurred and we went to that. Oh my goodness. The beer, the kaisersmarren, the crepes, and the wursts! (This is where I started to really put on weight!)
The girls loved to go out and shop and we ate many lunches out at Imbiss stands. Amanda particularly like the Curry Wurst with Pomme Frites, and even learned how to go to the closest Imbiss and order that in well practiced German. Jess liked the Pomme Frites, but didn’t exactly care for the Curry Wurst.
Amanda and Jess enjoyed taking the S-bahn (surface trolley) and the U-bahn (subway) around town. They learned how to get their tickets from the machine and I swear understood the exchange rates better than I did.
We went shopping a lot and each girl bought post cards and gifts for their friends at home. It was an exciting time for them and for us as we shared a new world with them.

My German Odyssey 1989 Part 5

The first time I crossed through Check Point Charley was in our rental car. Hubby wanted to take me on a small driving tour, not just of the city of East Berlin, but to also go out into the countryside.
We got to the border and drove into the holding area. That is no mans land, really. For a time when we sat there, we were without the protective arm of Uncle Sam. Was I nervous? You bet.
I wasn’t afraid of the East German people, but I was very afraid of the Russians. Growing up in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s I knew all too well what the Russians could do. Hubby had also told me his story of trying to cross into East Berlin and being held at the border when they searched his car and found a copy of “Stars & Stripes“. Needless to say his experience was not a good one and left me nearly panic stricken when we drove up.
We had to get out of the car, the trunk was opened and the car searched. We had to have our passport stamped and were released to go across.
The first thing that struck me was how few cars were on the roads! Where West Berlin was fairly crowded with vehicles, East Berlin was nearly empty. There were busses and S-Bahns (trolleys), and a lot of foot traffic and bicycles.
I was so fascinated with what I was seeing. I felt a great excitement inside. We drove past what Hubby explained had been where Hitler’s bunker had been, past concert halls, museums and a University.
Even though this was still Berlin, the two sides of the Wall were very different. The west was much more commercial. Open. Shops were everywhere. In the east, it seemed almost more formal, and there were far fewer shops.
Eventually we drove out of the city. If memory serves me correctly we drove south of the city for some time. It was beautiful, lush, forested and unpopulated, really lovely. We stopped at a Gasthaus for lunch. We went in and ordered a meal. I wish I could recall what we ordered, but I do recall that it was very good, and of course we topped it off with a tall beer. That was my introduction to the East.


Our first tour with the US Military was pretty interesting. The Provost Marshal boarded the bus and gave us all a briefing. We could shop, but under no circumstances were we to change money with anyone on the street. It was better to change money before we crossed (which we had done). We could shop, but we should not buy things that were in short supply to the East Germans. Never show your passport, never give up your passport and if anyone started to follow you or bother you, return to the bus.
The bus pulled up to Check Point Charley and we were required only to show our passport pictures in the window of the bus. Basically we breezed through. I decided after that, that this was the way to cross.
The bus stopped in front of the Zeiss Jena Camera shop and parked. Needless to say, the first shop we went into was the camera shop. Over the course of the summer, Hubby bought a medium format camera and several lenses there.

Me sitting in the garden area at Alexanderplatz

We also went to the large department store Kaufhaus am Alexanderplatz. They had many neat items there and I planned my shopping trips to obtain certain items. I was able to get two cotton decke’s (comforters), an eiderdown decke, a lovely tea set for my sister, wine and champagne glasses an anniversary clock and table linens.
We had a few places that we liked to eat in the downtown area. Always the meals were washed down with a nice cold beer.
After that first trip I felt fairly confident that I could do these trips alone. So I made a few more trips without Hubby while he worked. One trip I made I was asked if I would take the wife of another pilot. Sure. However, my problem soon presented itself. This little woman was totally incapable of doing anything without being led by the hand. She was afraid of her own shadow and even though I assured her that we were safe and that no one would bother us, she was a wreck. After I had gotten her lunch and had a beer she decided to go back on the bus and stayed there until the tour ended.

We flew back to the US to pick up our daughters. Amanda and Jess were coming over with us for three weeks. They would stay in Berlin with me while Hubby worked for the first week and a half and then we would tour around Germany, Austria, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
But that, gentle reader, is for the next chapter.