Friday, 15 May 2009

20 Years On: Part 5 of Account of Hitch-hiking through southern West Germany

When I had been inter-railing in August/September 1988 I had been conscious of getting too far from the UK so that I could not get back if there was any problem. However, I found that with a base in West Germany I was happier at being in the South of the country than I had been the previous year and wondered if I should always rent a property as a kind of 'bolt hole' when away. Of course I never had the money for such a strange approach, but it is interesting how I had a mental limit to how far I would travel alone without beginning to feel uneasy. At this stage, with the local authorities still holding my passport I was unable to leave West Germany; Becky had had to apply to them specifically to get hers back in order to enter Austria. We followed suit, making up all kinds of excuses for why we needed our passports back. The local authorities were incompetent, because unless I had been able to find a bureau de change which would change money for me without showing my passport as most asked for, I would have run out of money too. In fact they certainly showed the lie of the assumptions about German efficiency. I remember the Post Office being reluctant to give me post with my name on it because my driving licence (like all UK driving licences of the time) did not have my photograph on it and they could not believe that. They found out I was correct and had to accept it. I suppose this was a result of being in a suburb, even a well-off one, rather than in the city more used to foreign visitors.

I remember the health authorities were bad in a different way. You used to get a form called an E111 which allowed you free health care across the European Community. In the UK by this stage you got one for life but in West Germany they had a limited duration. I had to stand and make a scene in the health office for them to return it to me. They said it had expired and I said, if that was the case, then why did they need to keep it. They said they had to, but as a consolation offered me a photocopy of my supposedly 'expired' E111. This showed that they had over-stamped it with so many local stamps that many of the details were now illegible so it would have been useless anywhere else. At that stage I gave up and applied for another E111 when I got back to the UK. I wonder if my E111 is still lodged in that local office and whether I can go and view it in 2020 when the thirty-year secrecy limit has expired.

The man who drove me back to Köln took advantage of the unlimited speeds on the German autobahns (in those days most of which were still only two lanes) and was regularly doing in excess of 190 Kph. We passed a BMW which had hit the central reservation at such a speed that its engine had been gouged out and was left separate from the rest of the car which was turned to face the wrong way into the traffic some metres further on. The driver (I was in the passenger seat, another hitch-hiker, a woman was in the rear) thought I was tired as I kept my eyes closed most of the way, but that was from fear. He covered two-thirds of the length of West Germany in five hours. I have never got farther North in Germany than Essen in the Ruhr. This was the last hitch-hiking I ever did.

Rather embarrassingly despite having visited Munich three times and having written two novels set there, I cannot identify many of the locations featured in the photos I include here. If anyone can let me know where they are I would be very grateful.

Monday 15th May 1989
Today I woke promptly but dozed after breakfast and then walked to the station from where I caught the 09.59 to München. Becky is leaving Augsburg to travel to Innsbruck to see Ashley. On arriving in München around 10.40 I went to the Mitfahr centre just to the South-East of the city centre. I had just missed one lift to Köln but there was another at 15.00 so I went by U-Bahn back to the center of the town and walked through the back streets to the Englisches Garten where I had a lunch of sausages and chips, and, of course the compulsory litre of beer. I then walked through the city taking photos and then caught the car, with a woman as well, to Köln. The weather was much better [by now]. We arrived at 20.30, the driver having gone very fast. The total cost was DM45,- each. Dad said I should travel on a bit but I only have DM170,- left in cash and I have done most of the South of West Germany. I think I will use the Mitfahr to go to the North. I had a MacDonalds then came back. I chatted with Carol then unpacked and talked with Paul, Joss, Fiona and Gabrielle. Then I began reading "The Champion of Garathorn", then letters from "Wirral" Paul and Nick & Julie.

Weather: Sunny and warm, some dull periods.
Opera House [?] in Munich, West Germany in May 1989

Square in Munich, May 1989

Entrance to Weinstraße in Munich, May 1989

Pedestrianised Street in Munich, May 1989

Pagoda in Englisches Garten, Munich, May 1989

Archway Dedicated to the Bavarian Army, Munich, May 1989

Political Posters on Official Noticeboard, Munich, May 1989

I have cropped these two pictures as the background, with numerous men standing around selling cars to each other seemed less interesting than the political posters.

The parties advertised, clockwise, starting at the top left are: CSU [Christian Social Union - the Bavarian branch of the CDU Christian Democratic Union, a conservative party]; SPD [Socialist Party]; No idea, possibly the Grüne Partei [Green Party]; FDP [Free Democratic Party - centrist liberals]; Christliche Mitte [literally Christian Middle presumably a Catholic Party as opposed to the cross-denominational CSU; despite the name it is listed as being right-wing]; Christliche Liga [literally Christian League]; ODP [the Ecological Democratic Party, a green party]; Bayernpartei [The Bavaria Party].

The back of the noticeboard had the more extreme parties advertised, left to right are: DVU [German People's Union - Nationalist]; Die Republikaner [The Republicans - an extreme right-wing party who were gaining strength at the time], FAP [Free Workers' Party - I can find no details about this party, but I assume given the name it was another far right party], MLPD [Marxist-Leninist Party of Germany - a Communist Party; many of the other extreme left parties are missing probably certain of gaining few votes in conservative Bavaria].

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