I was emailing with my aunt the other day and we were discussing mom’s trip to Germany. I wasn’t sure if she would have included it in these letters, so I was very happy to see this trip in today’s letter. The story I got from mom was a bit more dramatic and involved the guards walking out, fully armed, and pointing their guns at the carload of girls. Chances are mom embellished the story to make it a bit more exciting, but chances are just as good that she completely downplayed the border crossing in her letter so as not to freak out poor Grandma.
I am amazed at how strong and agile mom was. I do remember as a kid how much she was able to do – but the a trip like this must have taken such courage! Even her description of sitting under the trees having their lunch – for mom sitting on the ground was not an option because she couldn’t get herself up after. She must have trusted these girls she was travelling with. Quite the different life from 5 years before when she was 4 years into her hospital stay. It really is proof that you never know what is coming ahead for you in life. What if she had listened to the doctors who said she would never even sit up again? What a great life she would have missed out on. Thank goodness for the determination of Grandma and the support of her family.
November 2nd 1960
Here at last is that long promised letter. I have just returned from a fabulous weekend to find mounds and mounds of work waiting for me. I don’t have the nerve to face it so I’ll write a letter instead.
We had a pleasant surprise last week when we discovered that the French celebrate All Saints Day. This meant that our French teachers refused to come on November 1st. We talked to our other professors into giving up their classes on the following weekend so that we could have from Friday to Wednesday free.
Gail knew a boy in Stuttgart who was a close friend of a friend here and who had invited us there for a weekend so we decided to try our luck at German. Together with Pat and Ruth, two close friends of ours, we took a car and headed east early Friday morning towards Switzerland. We had stopped at a little grocery store the night before and were well stocked with French bread, cheese, and fruit which was to be our lunch throughout the whole trip. Neuchâtel, Switzerland was the goal fro our first day. We drove along the Loire for the first hour and then headed off into the farmlands of Eastern France. These were just gorgeous with the red, yellow, and orange leaves against the dark green of the grass. At first, the terrain was quite flat with lots of forest but few hills and then gradually there got to be more and more knolls. We stopped for lunch at a little village on top of a hill. At the very peak of the hill there was an old Abby part of which was built in the 9th century. There were still monks living in the same old building – probably rebuilt. We ate our lunch out under the trees in the church garden From here we could see for miles up and down the valley. It would have been a good place for a fort. From here on we kept going into more and more hills until we hit the Jura mountains – which really aren’t too high but which are very picturesque because the towns are all in the valleys when you drive into one you get the same view as we get of Banff from the top of Sulphur Mountain. We drove through here at the hour when all the farmers were taking their cows home to milk them and many a time we had to yield the right of way to a big bossy looking creature with a bell around her neck. These bells sound lovely in the evening when they are all going home and there is a peasant going along behind chasing them with a stick. We crossed the Swiss border just at twilight. All the guard did was look at our passports – much to our disappointment, he didn’t even mark them so now we cannot show off all the places we’ve been to. We got to Neuchatel fairly early and were able to find a nice hotel near the centre of town. It was right by a market place where we went out and bought carrots the next morning. We met some Americans who were studying there and who told us where to go for our meal. It was a charming little restaurant where we had soup and a big main course for about 75 cents. Really good food. We all bought the Swiss chocolate bars for dessert and ate them in our room. Since we wanted to get an early start we went to bed early in our little wooden beds which were loaded down with elder downs. I had some more Swiss hot chocolate for breakfast along with some homemade jam on rolls. I’m sure I gained about 10 pounds on the trip. We drove around the town in the morning to look at the lake and the buildings and then headed out for Bern.
Swiss villages pleased me more than any others I’ve ever seen – they are so quaint, clean and picturesque. They still use horses a lot but there is the odd tractor. The fields are as well kept as the houses are – and the people are so very friendly. We kept waving at all the farmers as we drove along singing in our little car. We got to Bern about 11 o’clock, not knowing exactly what we wanted to do. It took quite a while to find a parking place and then we decided to look in some of the shops. As we were walking along the street we heard someone calling our names and a girl we met on the boat came running up! She showed us over much of the city – the cathedral and the clock were the highlights. You’ve probably read about the big clock in Bern. When the hour strikes all sorts of little men and animals come out and run around it. I was just fascinated by it all. She took us into a shop which specialized in chocolates. There were every kind imaginable there – and all sorts of weird shapes. I did some Xmas shopping there – you should get the parcel early in December and be able to distribute them for me. After this we went to a toy store, I could have spent hours there – much of the toys were the same as ours but some were quite different. I bought Dixie something – it was hard for someone her age but it quite sturdy and should be hard to break. After saying goodbye to Erika and buying some more bread and cheese for our lunch, we headed for Zurich. This is in the German speaking part of Switzerland, as is Bern, but most of the people could speak French so we got along alright – language difficulties weren’t to come until Germany. We got an excellent view of the Alps going into Zurich. They remind me of our Rockies. The difference is these have tiny villages with wooden houses (chalets) around them. Every village has a church with a big clock in the tower- I could always keep my watch set! We had to stop for gas here as it is cheaper in Switzerland than in Germany. The people at the station were very kind and gave us our directions in a mixture of French, German, and English, telling us a few necessary German phrases like “where is a restaurant, hotel, etc.” It was dusk when we drove up to the German boarder. As we approached two tall guards in the German uniform stepped out to stop the car. Suddenly I guess I forgot what year it was it I usually was terrified. It was just a passing feeling and I didn’t say anything about it until a half hour later and i found out the other kids had felt that way too. I guess I’ve seen too many World War 2 movies.