3: NEW YORK CITY
4: SUMMER ARMY
5: NASSAU AND JAMAICA
6: RULE BRITANNIA
THE SUMMERS OF '67 AND '68
10: THE NETHERLANDS
11: BACK TO GERMANY
12: FINAL YEAR IN DENTAL
THE SHORT HAIRED PART OF THE STORY
14: BACK TO MONTREAL
15: THE ROAD TO CYPRUS
16 CYPRUS / UN PEACEKEEPING
17: SIDE TRIPS FROM
18: CYPRUS WIND DOWN
21: ROAD HOME FROM CYPRUS
22: MEXICO Y ESPANA
23: AIRBORNE PARATROOPER
25:MOROCCO AND PARIS
26: THE END OF THE
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The word was out, after I spoke so highly of the $2 standby fee to get to Europe on the NATO RCAF flights, 7 Dental students in the Royal Canadian Dental Corps, were on the August flight to Dusseldorf Germany. One fellow and his wife were going on to England to visit family, another was going to Ireland to avenge his “honour” with an Irishman who had run off with his wife..the latter was interesting. He met the fellow , got into a fight and ended up with in hospital with injured kidneys. In a fashion reserved for the Irish, they patched up differences and the Irishman helped the Canadian recover. Mind you the Canadian was a first generation fellow whose family had immigrated from Ireland. My own ancestry includes both Ottawa Valley Irish Catholics and Protestants; but, I was never into fighting. In my travels, the time in the Kilkenny pub was as close as I ever came to an incident.
It was 1968 and only 23 years after World War II and I was not sure what to expect in the way of reaction and interaction with Germans. To come right to the point, I found them to be both friendly and helpful and very welcoming of a stranger. I will get into this as we go along. Dusseldorf was a nice start. I was quietly impressed and relieved that all war damage had been removed and buildings rebuilt. Again my sense of not knowing what to expect caused an initial uncomfortable foreboding in me. We stayed at a hotel recommended by the RCAF ground crew. It was more of a rooming house and the woman in charge was friendly. I had taken German in an evening course at McGill, on top of my regular day time academic commitments. As I began to feel more at ease in the environment I began to look forward to practicing my new linguistic skills. I had only taken an evening course which ran two hours a week; but our Alsatian instructor “Herr” Wittman did me proud. I took the course with an Argentinean classmate , Christopher Herten-Greaven. In addition to the French and English I spoke Chris also spoke Spanish. So German was a feather in both our caps. German also came in handy on ham radio. One time I was "chasing" a rare station from the then Belgian Congo. I called in German and he confirmed contact. But, first he asked , was that a German station? I was told on occasion, on the ham bands, that my German had a French accent. Later my Spanish on the ham radio apparently had a Portuguese tinge.
We found out that the “Alt Staat”, the Old City, was THE PLACE. So after a brief catch up on sleep, a couple of us set off for the area. The Architecture was spell binding from the 17th Century St. Andreas Cathedral : to more contemporary architecture the walk from the hotel to the Alt Staat was eye opening. This may sound a bit naïve; but, as I traveled I began to notice that people in different countries had what I called “Characteristic” facial features. Now of course this is a generalization that is often way off the mark. But, I mean it as a positive remark. Some people look French Canadian ( Why thank you J ) . I particularly noticed the women as I traveled; but then I was a young single lad and the attraction was great for me. And interestingly at times it was reciprocated , as I apparently have a Mediterranean look but at 6’3” I was taller than the Mediterranean men. All this is to explain how I found the German women in the bars to be very attractive. I have of course known many German people who have settled in Canada; but, to encounter a plethora of beauties was.... J Okay I know a bit hormonal or perhaps beside the point .
Our evening in the Old City was memorable. I was able to use my scant German to great effect. I got into a few conversations with people my age who seemed intrigued by a Canadian speaking German. Of course the flowing German “Bier” had nothing to do with my linguistic propensities.
We wandered back to the hotel quite happy with the interactions of the evening. The next day one of the fellows and I wandered about looking at churches and just enjoying the architecture. I was starting to come to grips with the fact that here I was on the European continent, something I had dreamed of for some time through my stamp collection and short wave and ham radio. The following day I said farewell to my friends and set off alone to Cologne ( Koln) . I still had not come to appreciate the short distances between cities in Europe. I got a ride rather quickly and being alone I had to get the German out and moving, as it were. We left the outskirts of Dusseldorf and after a short spell of open fields, what I thought was the other side of Dusseldorf, appeared. My “driver” mentioned it was Cologne and I must have done an obvious double take as he chuckled when I said “Already”. But, indeed we had gone in what seemed like a short drive of 40 or fewer minutes from one city to another. I loved it. Compared to the Barrie Ontario to Montreal run, I had hitched many a time , this was a welcome change. He dropped me off near the city centre and I found a reasonably priced hotel. I brought up my bags and set out for a foot tour of the city. The Koln Cathedral is a well known architectural wonder dated to the 1200 with various bursts of construction. Till 1880 it was the tallest building in the world then the Washington Monument eclipsed it in 1884. It was damaged but not destroyed during World War two , rumour has it that it was spared as the tall spires were a good navigation aid for allied bombers.
My first day in town was a Sunday . I found out that boat tours around the Rhine area of Cologne were popular. So I bought a ticket and got on board. On the way to the boat I threw away my receipt into a receptacle. There was a narrative in German, which I could understand slightly. The boat pulled into , what appeared to be a park. Most of the people got off. I then realized that people getting on the boat for the park were showing their receipts, which was in essence a ticket. So I never got off to wander about. I think people who worked on the boat must have felt I had a fear of grass and parks or something. From then on I always keep receipts.
I visited the Cathedral and discovered that it was a splendid architectural monument. It was at once majestic yet peaceful. I was awed by its’ grandeur. Now despite the sense of piety I seem to be conveying I still had some hormones flowing. As I entered through the front facade I spotted a rather cute German woman , remember I could spot various ethnicities J In German I said “Der Dom is schoen nicht wahr” Which meant “The Cathedral is beautiful isn’t it?” I got no response and a cold stare. So much for my already established lack of great opening lines J I toured the Cathedral and followed a tour in English, pretending to just be interested in various paintings etc while eaves dropping. Hey I am a cheap bastard and why pay for a tour…made sense to a poor student .
Later I went to a bar and was enjoying a fine German brew reading my “Langendschieds”, English German dictionary. It was apparently a well known dictionary with a bright yellow cover. My erstwhile beauty from the cathedral walked by and stopped to talk when she noticed my dictionary. She asked where I was from and sat down to join me for a beer I offered. We spoke a while in German then I asked if she spoke English..“Nein “, was the reply, “Spechen sie Französisch ? Do you speak French ? Amazing how a knowledge of languages can be of help
As I said earlier this is not intended as an, “Oh what a stud I am” , narrative. So no gory details. Let's just say that I spent a few pleasant days with my German friend. As a young single lad, it was doubly exciting. Of course the hormones were flowing but I was also getting to know a German, put away those grin lads I mean it . One thing I found interesting was when we went to a dance bar one evening and were sitting listening to the band and men would come up and ask her to dance , “Darf ich bitte”, (“May I please” ) and she would get up, have a dance and come back to the table. In Canada that was a no no and called “Cutting someone’s grass” Apparently in Europe it was all okay. Well not in Kilkenny apparently, as I found out .:) Hey, “When in Köln do as the Kolnishers do “ J One lives and learns. I was also introduced to some German cuisine , which I may not have been aware of. As well shopping at local stores was kind of interesting. One time I picked a couple of apples out of a stand and the store owner gave me what for. Apparently one waits for the merchant to come over and you point at the apple , fruit or vegetable you want. A small but interesting local way of doing things which I had now learned.
My friend and I parted ways. It was a nice time all things taken into account, yes lads I mean all things J She gave me an address in Berlin where she was going to visit for a few weeks. I was headed to Amsterdam to meet Rick from Canada and my Dutch friend Jim W. So the next day I again hit the road, this time off to the Netherlands.
OFF TO THE NETHERLANDS
I was fortunate in that I got a ride very quickly and the fellow was heading to the German border near Nijmegen which was on the Dutch side. I used my Langescheids dictionary for the 2 or so hour ride. Remember a ride over 30 minutes is quite a gift in Europe as people do not always travel long distances. When we were approaching Nijmegen the German fellow ,who had picked me, up asked in perfect English ,“Would you like to join me and my family for dinner” I was of course amazed that he spoke English and he was quite complimentary to me for my efforts. He explained that there had been some severe battles between Canadians and Germans in this area. At supper his parents had come to join us. His three children were also there and they were very curious about this fellow their father had invited home. I always travel with Canadian coins and these made the day for his children as I tried to explain what the coins were about. I asked my host what his father felt about having a Canadian soldier as a guest. He gave me a dead serious look and said “We prefer to forget about those times. What do you feel?” I told him I had come with a few concerns; but, the warmth and hospitality of the Germans I had met was most welcoming. It was a very warm and memorable evening. I often think of this when I see wars and stories of war on TV. What a misuse of human talent, effort and skills. After dinner he drove me to the hotel where I was staying in Nijmegen. We bid each other a fond farewell. I think it was an evening that was productive for all of us.