In the spring of 1981, a co-worker of mine asked me if I would take a trip to Germany with her that summer. Her sister was stationed with the US Army outside of Darmstadt. I don’t think it took much convincing for me to say yes. Little did I realize this would be the beginning of a life-long love to travel.
My family had always gone on a “summer vacation” – camping our way to such places as Florida, North Dakota (my grandmother lived in Fargo and we stayed in Minnesota, just across the border), the north shore of Lake Superior in Ontario, Canada and Yellowstone. Thinking back on these trips, while they were a lot of fun, they were also educational. Dad taught us how to swim, fish, and look at the constellations in the stars, taught us about plants, animals, driving, campfires and more.
Trish and I were co-workers, we’d been out a couple of times, but this was the beginning of a great adventure. I only had 2 weeks of paid vacation and took one week of unpaid time off. This was a big deal.
My mother found through adult education offered in Dearborn Heights a beginning German course that she and I signed up for. It was fun to do something like that, and we did go to a German restaurant in the area. I don’t know that I learned much, but it did put the language in my ear.
Trish and I thought we would save some money by joining the Youth Hostel society, we became members so that our lodging costs would be decreased. We decided that we could rent a car, but most of the cars were a standard transmission (automatic transmission rentals were very expensive). We didn’t know how to drive a stick shift! My older brother helped us with that, he taught us on a Dodge Omni how to use a stick shift. We went to AAA and received our international drivers’ licenses. We made our reservations and away we went.
We found travel books about Germany, the AAA was a great resource for us. We plotted and mapped, made decisions and settled on a basic plan of what we wanted.
I had only flown once before this trip. My grandmother was in a Fargo nursing home and we flew there over Easter break. I remember that my mother dressed the siblings in our dress clothes and it was very exciting. I think that I was about 11 or 12 at this time.
This trip had our plane landing in London – and it was a very hard landing. Many of the oxygen masks popped out of their overhead containers and scared the crap out of me. The pilot did come on the in-cabin radio and apologized for the hard landing. Whew, nothing was wrong. Our next landing had a different shock for me. Police. Not just police, but police with machine guns. Sure, I am a Detroit girl but I never saw police with machine guns.
We stayed a couple of nights with Tricia’s sister and her husband in a small village, Wolfskehlen which is just outside of Darmstadt. As we wandered through this small village, we were greeted by the people we passed on our walks. “Guten morgen (morning)”, “tag” (day), and “abend (evening)” became very familiar to us as we walked around. In the Detroit area, people didn’t talk to strangers on the street – you just didn’t do that. It was hard the first few times to answer back, but slowly became more natural. The people on the street actually made eye contact and acknowledged that you were there. Inconceivable!
Then we started our travels. To Burg Frankenstein to Strabourg to Austria and Switzerland to Rothenburg ob der Tauber to Munchen and Dachau. We saw castles, churches, cathedrals, walled cities, wild boar, and frog crossings. We ate in cafes, gasthaus, bought food to go at bakeries. We used our menu finder to try different things. I mistook schinken for schnecken and learned that I loved snails in garlic and butter. I drank different beer and wine, tried Spezi and love it (still do!).
Why this long trip down memory lane?
Because on this trip, I bought a pair of shoes. I loved these shoes. They were a white clog with a wood base made by the Danish company, Ecco. I loved these shoes from the minute that I put them on. I wore them until they couldn’t be worn any longer. They were an extension of my feet.
Recently, I purchased a pair of Sanita clogs with a wooden base. And they make the same noise when I walk in them. The exact same noise. And the noise took me back to 1981. And I thought about Trisha and my great adventure.