60 Years Ago Today

Monday, 21 July 1952:

We had a continental breakfast at the hotel. I spent the morning trying to find the best deal for my money. I cashed $50 for marks; $10 for French francs; and $30 for Austrian schillings.

When we finally finished our money transactions, Helen and I took off for the famous Basel Zoo. We bought peanuts and saw many European animals that were strange to me. Signs by each one included the name of the animal in three languages plus a picture and explanation. Then a map marked in red showed the animal’s habitat. It was a clean zoo that didn’t smell. Very clever homes were fixed for the zoo animals to simulate natural habitats. I took pictures in front of the giraffes.

At 11:30 we hurried back to the hotel for lunch. I had three servings of Birchermussli as an appetizer. Our waiter, from Rome, brought me a delicious mushroom dish. Then I ended the meal with ice cream.

On our way out of Basel, we visited Dornach and the Goetheanum, the most unusual building in the world because it had no right angles. A school of spiritual science, it was founded by Dr. Rudolph Steiner. I caught sight of houses which had the same architecture. Plays of Goethe were produced here annually in an auditorium that seats 2000. They believed in the philosophy of reincarnation. Beautiful windows of colored glass, green, blue, lavender and gold, showed man’s struggle to reach goals. There were huge wood carvings from the original temple. The boards were placed on top of each other and then carved out to represent the struggle between light and dark.

We traveled over the Rhine River on a bridge that had dynamite holes from World War II. The bridge had been fortified. Street cars could go back and forth between Germany and Switzerland. The French usually traveled over to the German side to eat on Sunday, because it was much cheaper.

Then to Lorrach, a border town, where we crossed back into Germany. We had to declare all of our money and ran into lots of red tape. We spent our last few cents of Swisse change on chocolate. Kids talked about how the Germans hated us. I wondered if this was really true.
Then we proceeded back into French controlled Germany. I sighted the Black Forest in the distance which was black at night anyway. There was a cobblestone road that ran through the town. It was raining as we came into the countryside. I discovered a pretty clean stream of water that wasn’t milky like the water in Swisse streams. There was a man fishing. Another man stood by a watering trough combing his hair as he stared into a looking glass.

Then we passed a tall slender church spire in a little town called Silronaven. There was a sign going into town asking you to be careful, and a sign on the way out saying thank you.

I observed a steep hanging roof as we came into the Black Forest again. The houses and barns were mostly red tiled roofs. There was a crucifix along the road going into Todtnauer. We stopped to look around. In the middle of town there was a great big church with two clock towers on a hill. I saw a different ceiling octagonal shape in decorated wood, huge chandelier, and rounded arches. In front of the church there was a huge elaborate altar with a little fountain and rock garden on the side of the hill. Later, I passed by a bronze plaque with a monument to soldiers.

We were back on the road again. We drove past red hay piles on the hill and a big stack of wood leaning up against a pensione boarding house. I spotted scarecrows in a little field and a bench which sat on a hill by a tree. We traveled up a narrow winding road through the Black Forest to our hotel. And we passed a big ski jump and lift.

The bus stopped at a rest home. It looked like we had to walk from here. First we went into the rest home to find a WC and walked through a game room with table tennis. People of all ages were convalescing here. We found out the walk was 45 minutes to our hotel.

For this reason we traveled light without our baggage. As we started up the trail a man from the hotel was supposed to meet us. We didn’t see anyone so we hiked on. I had a refreshing walk over hill and dale with my trusty sandals. I kept wondering each time we saw a building in the distance if that was our hotel.

Here we were wandering around in the middle of the beautiful Black Forest on our first night in Germany. And there were wild flowers everywhere around us. Who knew what experiences were in store for us in Germany, the country of many of our ancestors?

Perhaps if we had not been so hungry we could have enjoyed our hike even more. When a little truck wagon came along loaded with part of our crew and a few small bags, we were glad to trade places with some of them for the remainder of the journey. We imagined and hoped that we had sighted our abode for the night up ahead.

It was the only building in view and we had already been hiking for some time. Immediately I discovered that the rocks in the road were much rougher riding than walking. Luckily, we were not far from the barn shaped house with the typical low hanging roof. The building we had spotted earlier turned out to be the place. Yea!

As we entered there was a quaint and rustic dining room. We were so hungry we could have eaten most anything at that very moment. But first we went to our rooms or should I say room. Dr. Watkins was a little worried how we were going to like our room. There were 20 of the girls in my room and the balance in another room. And the men stayed in another room up in the attic.

The hotel had rickety stairs and candle light. This was indeed a new experience. I found a dirty unbleached sheet with only one dark horse blanket folded at the end of my bunk bed. There were ten two deck bunk beds lined up in a row in a room barely large enough to hold the beds. I navigated a narrow aisle that ran along the ends of the bed in the center of the room.

I don’t believe anyone particularly relished the prospects of this set up. At the same time we were all getting a big kick out of our experience. We went down to the underground area to find a couple of troughs for our toilet. There was running water no less, but cold running water.

Then we hurried back to the dining room for food. The waning prospects of a wonderful night’s rest had not dimmed our appetites though. I was worried about Irene, because she wasn’t there. Finally, Irene arrived. Virginia played the piano for us while we were waiting for chow. I must say that when the food came there was lots of it, but it wasn’t too well seasoned. But we sure had lots of food—soup, roast veal, potatoes, and salad.

The whole deal of dinner was a little confusing, because they didn’t have enough of one dish to serve all of us. The waitresses were all confused and there were different prices, but we all managed to get sufficient to eat. A soldier and French student were there also.
After dinner the lights kept dimming, but I decided to spend a little time on my diary. So when I could see from the candle light I wrote.

Irene kept rambling up and down and Andre wandered through as well. He had been dancing with the French people. Some of the other kids crashed the party too. There were four or five men at a table that were drinking, laughing, and talking. One man talked especially loud. The men were still going strong when I decided to give up and turn in about 1 a.m. or so.

The dungeon or wash room was so dark I skipped my tooth brushing ritual. I crawled up the stairs to find a candle burning in the corner of the room. Some of the kids were snoring already when I noticed that my blanket was missing from my bunk. I guess somebody figured they needed it worse than me? I reluctantly put my jacket on and my coat over my feet. As I put out the candle and tried to sleep, I was cussing the cuss who took my blanket!

Modern Pioneers:
Utah Group Touring Europe Gets Taste of ‘Roughing It’

Dear Friends;
Waiting at the border to enter Germany, where we filled our forms, counted and reported our money; where someone from around the corner snapped the picture of our bus; where we were hungry, hot and dry,— these were mere trifles to the remaining incidents of this Monday.

Monday, more than once, has been a somewhat grey day for us. Because so many museums are closed on this day we missed seeing the human dolls.
With a sudden clap of thunder and a downpour of rain, we entered Germany and were long in the Black Forest. A black horse standing near the dark, thickly placed pines was vigorously shaking his mane and tail against those black horse flies, which we found later to be so annoying.

Having expected tourist travel to be somewhat crowded in spots we were sharply made aware of it when we learned that our previously booked lodgings at Titisee were unavailable, and we were hoisted none too gently to the mountain. Once again, we took the least amount of baggage for an upward climb.

Said the director, “Some may ride, but some must walk. Take your choice. The hikers will fight horse flies, while the riders will be jostled on the floor (no seats) of a tractor drawn hay cart. Hikers may pick beautiful flowers along the way. Riders must move over to make room for the driver’s big, black, barking dog.” Thinking of our big black dog at home, I chose to ride. Anyway, I was suspicious of those 45 minutes hikes, which usually turn out to be twice as long for us. Luckily, the dog understood English, so “Get out” he did, running and barking through pines, grass, and flowers.

The hikers rationalized as they trudged—”Well, after a hike like this, the American Express Company must be leading us to a lovely spot in the mountains where we will have clean sheets, down pillows and coverlet and running water.”

Said another hiker, “Yes, but maybe the water will be running out of a large china pitcher into a large china bowl, the like of which we have used before.”

As the evening haze crept over the hills, we could see in the short distance, our abode for the night. Todtnauerhutte (Dead Valley Hut) with its steep roof and low overhanging eves, built thus, as a gesture against heavy snows.

Another group of 40 girls, staying for 15 days, had preceded us to the hut thereby, with us, creating an overcrowded condition.

Inside, the dimly lighted dark walled room we seated ourselves at long tables covered with green, brown and white checked table cloths. Served family style, the food was abundant, good and inexpensive. We ate heartily. Never again can we believe that Europeans go hungry.

The carved wooden crucifix hanging in the corner seemed as out of place as we did with the tousled, rugged mountaineers drinking beer at another table.

The sleeping rooms—oh my, oh my. Our small room, Koje IV, was fully packed with three double bunk beds, each having a grass filled mattress, no sheets, no pillow, just one small dark blanket. The comments, giggles and jokes of the girls were enough to keep us warm. We really were close friends that night. Without undressing, we put ourselves on the beds. After a short sleep we were disturbed by a happy chattering group, from a YMCA, preparing to go to Switzerland. About 1:30 a.m. they departed, and we slept again. It seems that many attempt crossing the border at night without passport.

By 6:30 a.m. we were ready to find the bathroom. What, no water? Oh yes, down through a catacomb-like corridor we found it. A long cement trough with three cold water taps. Refreshed with cold water and warm humor, we once again waited to be lifted down the mountain. Hearing a familiar noise back of the house someone said, “This must be it, I recognize the bark.”

Bumping over the hill and vale, rocks and ruts, in the early morning was delightful. We were soon back on the bus, on our way to Strassbourg, happy and none the worse for the Monday Fare.

Afton A. Hansen

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