Tuesday, 12 May 2009

20 Years On: Part 2 of Account of Hitch-hiking through southern West Germany

From this day in Freiburg-am-Breisgau, I remember Becky being unsettled by how long the eyelashes of Peter, another Briton and boyfriend to Sara, were. I also remember how elegant the trams in the town looked, very 1950s style. Unlike the trams in Köln they only had doors on one side and with the small lamps and tables, they looked like a series of dining cars moving through the evening streets. One part of the route ran across a lawn with grass grown intentionally between the tracks and it looked like the trams were moving over the grass. I had not experienced the delights of tram travel on my previous visit when I had walked everywhere.

'Mitfahr' literally 'with travel' was a sensible scheme to make hitch-hiking safer. There were offices in West German towns and you would go there in the morning saying you wanted to travel to another town and for a fee they would put up your details and people offering lifts would come in and put up their offers too. The office would match you up. The person giving the lift would get a small fee from you for the petrol. You could pick the sort of lift you wanted, in case, say you only wanted to travel with a woman. You were safer as the office kept the details of the driver. In West Germany you have to re-register your car to wherever you live even if you just move a few streets and cross and administrative border, so it is always easy to tell (if you know the town designations on the numberplates and they are easy to guess, B is Berlin, D is Düsseldorf and so on, even the size of the town is shown as cities have a single letter, large towns and some cities, two letters and small places three letters) where the car and owner are from.
This was the first time I had ever met a French Canadian (at the youth hostel) and was surprised to find that he spoke no English. He was motorbiking around Europe. With the warmer weather I experienced the problem of the Freiburg-am-Breisgau youth hostel: the noisy stream outside that keeps you awake.
It was seeing all the wonderful wooden toys and being told that if your foot slipped into the stream channels that run alongside the roads throughout the town that you were destined to marry a woman from the town, I think that prompted my thoughts. Also I think Becky, in the third year of her degree was thinking ahead to her future with the boyfriend she was going to visit and the possibility of them raising a family in West Germany, that got me all wrapped up in my own fantasies. This was the first time (of very few) that I ate in a food court and was very impressed by it. Cars and lorries are banned from the centre of Freiburg-am-Breisgau and it looks wonderfully historic, just how you would imagine a German town to appear. The notebook I bought there I used for about the next ten years before it disintegrated. I still have the poster.

It is interesting to note, that even though I had been in West Germany six weeks by this time, the money situation had still not been sorted out and I was desperate for my LEA (Local Education Authority) grant. It shows how poorly everything had been organised. My parents had to send me £50 notes concealed in cards to keep me going. In the end I never opened a bank account as it was so difficult. In those days you needed to be earning DM60,000 (about £25,000 in those days) to get a credit card whereas in the UK they gave them out to every student who opened an account. Of course, having stayed away from suicide only on the promise of partying and sworn not to return to West Germany I had little interest in continuing to attend class and saw no point in learning German. In fact I have never had a use for it since.
Uploading the photos I have been beginning to wonder if it rained almost all the time when I was in West Germany both in 1988 and 1989. I certainly remember my first month in Köln almost having incessant rain which made it even more gloomy.

Friday 12th May 1989
This morning I woke early and after breakfast, dozed then went to Sara's room. After some more breakfast we went into town and looked around the shops, then market and craft stalls. I bought a poster of Freiburg and a small jug as a present, also a replacement notebook. Then we ate in the Markthalle which has a variety of food stalls - Chinese, French, pasta, pizza, potato, Turkish, Asian, champagne, coffee, salad, sweet and so on. I had Chinese stir-fried vegetables and pork. Then we came back and sat talking. A lot of it was irrelevant to me, but it is interesting to see how other students live. After that at around 16.00 Iwent back to the youth hostel which was far less crowded and I got in a larger room with its own shower and toilet and for DM3,- less.

I returned to Sara's room, she and Becky had been shopping and we had the usual tomato-sweetcorn-pasta mix and some tasty yoghurts. We talked some more. It seems that people on a year abroad have terrible problems with their relationships and spend a lot of time contacting their fellow students and travelling to see them. After dinner we caught the tram into town and went around a trendy pub, then a studenty one, before meeting Peter in the cellar of a traditional pub. We came back by tram.

I had telephoned Dad before going into the last pub and he said my grant had arrived alright and he is sending mr £200 in cash next week with which I will open an account and it will make other transfers easier. He asked how much work I was doing which combined with Mum saying I should do some German lessons has put me to worrying again. Tomrorrow us three [me, Becky and Sara] are going to the 'Mitfahr' an agency which puts hitchers and drivers together. It costs us DM8.50 each.
Weather: Rainy at first, sunny and warm later.
Pedestrianised Street in Freiburg-am-Breisgau, West Germany in May 1989

Stalls in Freiburg-am-Breisgau Market, May 1989

Becky and Sara Looking at Stall Selling Wooden Toys in Freiburg-am-Breisgau, May 1989

Notice the very Eighties style padded jackets with geometric patterns.

No comments: