Chapter 29     OUR BIG TRIP

In August Mutti took her holidays and minded Peter to enable us to have a ten day trip through the French battle fields, which had fascinated Bill from his youth and as far as Cologne. Siggi, a workmate of Bill's in Australia and a guest at our wedding, now back in Germany, was planning to come back with us to spend a holiday in the Schwarzwald. Our trip involved staying in the cheapest hotels, buying the cheapest food we could find that did not need cooking, feeding David at four-hourly intervals putting him to sleep in some strange beds, the bottom drawer of a wardrobe, a large armchair turned to the wall or whatever else I could improvise in the hotel rooms. A lot of my time was spent trying to dry nappies. We managed to see enough to whet my appetite. I knew that one day I would return.

Luxembourg was one of the highlights of the trip mainly for its castles in lovely wooded settings and pastoral scenery. We walked over viaducts and to the palace and found the country was so interesting we decided to stay another day to do the "Castle" trip which was not disappointing.

brussels gate

We arrived in Brussels at midnight and luckily found a hotel. Next day we saw gardens, the palace, a big arch over the road like the Brandenberg Gate, the huge Atomium (built for the World Fair three years earlier and containing scientific displays in each "electron" and in the "nucleus"), a model map of Belgium, the Palace of Justice, the Town Hall in a "Golden Square". Bill looked unsuccessfully for "Mannekin Pis" (a small fountain of a little boy urinating). He left me at the hotel to feed David and went to a fair for another couple of hours. He found the "Mannekin" and next morning insisted on showing me before leaving Brussels.


Holland was as picturesque as I had imagined with canals and windmills, houses with thatched roofs and some people in clogs and National dress. We spent three hours at an extensive miniature village with models representing actual buildings in different parts of Holland. In Amsterdam we drove around the waterfront, crowded with ships and many other craft. There were numerous barges, most of them homes, moored permanently in the many canals. The Autobahn took us to Arnhem where we, as usual, had trouble finding a suitable hotel. Looking for the Open Air Museum we found ourselves back on the Autobahn and had to drive a long way to get off, back through the town. The museum covered many acres and contained buildings including windmills, dismantled and rebuilt on this site in beautiful natural surroundings. Traditional crafts were demonstrated, including clog-making. This way of recording the past was a marvellous concept, new to me, everything conveniently located and well-preserved. This was near the area where the first Neanderthal bones had been found. Fascinating thought.

Driving north along the Autobahn in Germany, we were passing through an endless built-up area when we saw an accident on the road going south and all the traffic on the three-lane road halted for miles. Most people here didn't even own a car, but the overcrowded cities and roads were obvious. No wonder I felt Australia was MY country, although I enjoyed discovering the sights and the history of Europe.

At Cologne we went with Siggi to look at the famous Gothic Cologne cathedral (the highest building in Europe in 12th century, reaching heaven), then followed the fascinating Rhine south, with SO many boats, ferries and lochs, past the Lorelei to a village celebrating a Wine Festival. The traffic was heavy in summer and parking and shopping extremely difficult. On all our trips I was very discriminating with buying souvenirs, choosing only small, inexpensive, useful items which could be packed easily. I could readily admire a beautiful object without feeling I had to own it.

When we arrived at Freiburg Peter was rather excited and began throwing things. Bill said he was naughty and smacked him. I tried to soothe him and asked him about the red slippers he was wearing. Mutti had bought him slippers for indoors and white shoes for going out.

In Bonndorf Siggi stayed overnight with Tante Gret. In the morning he took Peter for a walk, bought him a small wheelbarrow and came home for lunch with Bill. In the evening we all drove to Schluchsee trying to find a room for Siggi but he had no luck in the high season, so decided to take Tante Gret's offer of her attic, which was the mirror reverse of our entire living space.

We were all supposed to go to Basel on Saturday but Bill stayed in bed and I had to go for the milk and get everything ready, so Bill and Siggi decided to go alone. They came home about 3am. Again no evening milk.

At the end of his holiday, Siggi had to go home by bus and train, having rejuvenated himself with a couple of weeks of fresh mountain air and long walks.

Uncle Perce and Auntie Dorrie called again for a couple of hours and gave me some ideas of what we should see in London and England.


On Peter's second birthday Tante Gret made a cake, iced with chocolate and "Peter 2" and two candles. Frau Schneider and Jurgen, Tante Marianni's mother and son came for afternoon tea. The children had cocoa, we had coffee. Horst beat the cream so diligently he turned it to butter. David, aged three months entertained us, playing with his hands and a rattle tied to his basket and really tried to reach it. A comfortable family event in spite of language difficulties!

In September I took David back to the Mutterberatung to see what they thought of his frequent stools. I had begun to give him a few spoonfuls of solid food including a breakfast cereal. They were a little surprised that he was basically still breast-fed, but could suggest nothing about his diarrhoea. They didn't seem to think it was important as he was alert and looked well but I knew he was not as easy to manage as Peter had been. It was a problem to me not to let him disturb Bill or the ladies in the house, and there were always a lot of nappies to wash. I had to scrape them and rinse them in a bucket in our flat, then boil them in a large pan on the single hotplate we had and then carry everything down two flights of stairs.

I rarely drove in Germany, but I had to take David again to the doctor in Freiburg to get his injections. I took Bill to work the next day and drove to Freiburg. As soon as we came to Mutti's, Peter again began to be unruly. I spent some time settling him. Coming home he was sick in the car at a spot where I could not stop. Uschi had shovelled in his dinner without waiting for him to chew. Unpleasant! And Bill was waiting for me to return and not happy about the smell he would have to take with him to Basel.

One day soon after, Bill arrived home from work early having hit his finger and cut through the nail. He again went on "compo" and was to see the doctor the following Monday. Instead, he decided to leave in the morning for a trip.

We went via Switzerland and Austria, arriving at the Grossglockner, just on dark. I counted twenty-six hairpin bends on the road and I earmarked this place for another visit in the future. Heiligenblut, the village where we stayed was "picture-perfect". The next morning we drove out to Franz Joseph Glacier and had to wait in a long queue at the foot of the last climb until a parking place was available near the glacier. We got home to learn that the Social Security Inspector had called checking on Bill as he is supposed to be home each evening.

The next day we drove first to Neustadt hospital where Bill had to have tetanus injections. Then to Freiburg, to take David to the doctor for a second attempt with his small pox injection as the first had not "taken".


Bill left very early for a bus picnic with the factory. He called home in the evening to see if the Inspector had called again, then to the Hotel for dinner with his workmates and was not home when I went to bed at 12.30 having finished Tante Gret's summer dress. Bill arrived home at 5am just as I was feeding David. Bill slept until lunch time, and again in the afternoon. In preparation for our return to Australia, I packed a case of things we wouldn't need before we leave, clothes I could no longer wear, baby clothes that David had already grown out of, presents we have been given, luckily, mostly thoughtful gifts.

Bill had to go to Neustadt to the doctor while I began cutting out Tante Gret's new suit. When I took David to the doctor in Freiburg again, fortunately this time the injection had "taken". After dinner Mutti wanted to take Peter to town to buy a coat and he was VERY difficult as he had not had enough sleep. Also I met Tante Bertl who wanted to choose a cuckoo clock for me. It was packed into the case of "unneeded" things.

Onkel Fritz at Biberach rang Onkel Willi at work to say he will buy our car for DM 2,000 about what it had cost us. We could at last repay what we owed to Vati and have something for our return journey to Australia. We left about 8am for Biberach taking only David. After dinner Bill and Onkel Fritz fixed up their business before Onkel Fritz had even driven the car! We all drove back to Bonndorf for afternoon tea with Tante Gret. Peter had a lovely game of football with Onkel Fritz.

We were now, like most people car-less.

For Tante Gret I cut out a night dress which she planned to decorate with hand embroidery during the winter months. One week before we left I had still a lot of sewing to do for her, also a coat for Frau Schneider. Bill decided to start packing and went next door looking for another case and did not come back.

The next day I walked down to the hospital with the children to say goodbye. As we got back we met Bill and Tante Gret on the footpath. Peter saw Barbara with her scooter across the road and in his excitement ran across the road and into a passing car. I felt ill and was very upset and wanted to get the doctor to look at him, but Tante Gret was reassuring. It was very lucky that he was only slightly hurt. He said "Car coming".

I was so sorry to be saying goodbye to Tante Gret, she was like a mother to me, but winter was coming and the Black Forest would soon be white and it would be back to preserved or pickled vegetables and long cold nights. The heater in our room would be burning day and night.

With much sadness we said goodbye, but I looked forward to being "home" in our garage which was more than twice the size of our attic flat in Bonndorf, hoping to make a new start, pay off our debts, finish our house and settle down to make our marriage work.

Bill's image of marriage had been of a glamorous wife who devoted her life to looking seductive for his pleasure. Mine had been equally unrealistic, but I was willing and able to accept the existence of our children and a large debt. Surely by now he could not deny these facts. The boys, especially Peter, were very fond of Onkel Willi and Tante Gret who admired them and Bill acknowledged that they had a patient and devoted mother. He liked to have them admired. By now Peter had all his teeth and could chatter in English or German and I had even begun to think in German.

In the evening I did a lot of packing but in the morning still had a great deal left to do before we were collected in one of Onkel Georg's trucks and taken to Freiburg. Bill spent the rest of the day at the Freiburg railway - booking our tickets and the luggage to Southampton.

The next morning we went to town and I bought an orlon suit for David and buttons for pants I had made for Peter. Bill bought a large remote-controlled fire engine and an overnight bag. In the evening we had a little party, Mutti, Vati, Tante Bertl, Onkel Georg, Herr and Frau Hammer. After they all left we had to repack furiously at the last minute. The cases had to be reorganised to fit in the fire engine!


Frau Hammer drove us to the station. Uschi came from work to say goodbye and we caught the train to Paris where David slept in a wardrobe drawer, Peter in our bed. The next morning we had a disgustingly superficial bus tour of a wonderful city (including Place de la Concorde, Notre Dame, the Latin Quarter, the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Moulin Rouge and the opera house). After about an hour in the Louvre, we went back to the hotel, ate in a nearby cafe and I got the children to bed and Bill went out again.

Next day we took the Metro to Notre Dame and walked along the Seine towards the Eiffel Tower. Peter was very tired but by the time we got back to the hotel it was 3pm and David (and excitement) had kept him awake. Bill came back later and we walked to the Moulin Rouge (exterior only) and by Metro to the Arc de Triomphe and walked down the Champs Elyees. Bill went exploring again in the evening.


Early the next morning we caught the train to London. At the coast the porter took us to the head of the crowd and we got on the ferry easily, but getting off and through customs was dreadful. At Victoria Station we got the address of a hotel from the Tourist Office and went by taxi to a very nice but costly Bed and Breakfast. We walked down the street to find Buckingham Palace nearby, and had hamburgers on the way back.

In London we saw the Horse Guards, Westminster Abbey, Parliament House, the Tower of London, Big Ben. A NZ woman at the B & B offered to mind Peter so we went on another superficial bus tour taking only David who slept in my arms all the way.

Auntie Dorrie and Uncle Perce had paid for a week's full board in a guest house near them in Devon. Uncle Perce met us at the station and took us to "The Towers". It was very nice and friendly, not pretentious. Auntie Dorrie did some washing for me of the boys' good clothes which I did not like to wash in hotel basins. And all our meals were taken care of. One day they took us for a delicious, genuine Devonshire Tea at Widdicombe in the Moor, made famous in a song about "Old Uncle Tom Cobbly and All" which Auntie Dorrie had played and sung when I had stayed at Artarmon twelve years earlier.

We were near the site of a Bronze Age village, on the road to ancient tin mines in Cornwall, necessary in the making of bronze, an alloy of copper and tin. We were so close and there was nothing similar in Australia. It was so frustrating as there was so much to see but I was getting extraordinarily tired. It was an effort to attend to the boys. I really didn't want to do anything or go anywhere.


From there we took the train to Southampton and embarked on the "Castel Felice", due to arrive in Australia in December. Our plans for travelling around Europe had been dramatically unsuccessful. We had had a few days away at Easter, before David was born, trying to drive through Switzerland when all the passes were closed with winter snows, a few days in Bavaria visiting relatives, a memorable weekend at Lauterbrunnen, a ten-day trip going as far north as Cologne, a visit to Grossglockner and finally a week in Devon.

I had learnt a lot about other cultures, history and prehistory. My reading told me that Stone Age man (Neanderthals) had lived about 300,000 years BC and were followed by Bronze Age man, and later by Iron Age man. About 10,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, agriculture began when the earth's population was about 5,000,000, (less than a half the population of Australia) spread across the whole world. The aeons before that were of major interest to me. I was learning to "read" the types of rock - sandstone, granite, dolerite, and understand formations and strata. Written records, farming, trading, the use of metals and trying to control the environment began about 3000 BC. By 1830 there were a billion people but man's impact was slight until the Industrial Revolution. Now the population was approaching six billion. Sobering thought!

I could not keep up my diary because I was continually washing whenever there was a spare minute. Obviously I had gained more from the experience than appeared in my diary. I had seen geology in action and a lot more of man's interaction with his world. My understanding of nature from my earlier life was modified by recent observations, leading to modified, still half-baked conclusions about the world. I had certainly grown away from one "Truth" as I had learnt it as a child, with one small group the sole custodians. None of this could be shared with anyone close to me. It was my own unique journey. But the people I met and the places I saw did not tell me much about the man who was my husband nor help my understanding of him.

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