Somehow trips to Germany always seem to be triggered by CHEAP TICKETS, and this trip was no exception. My niece Kim had moved out of Aunt Size’s old house in Hamburg and they had put it up for sale, but the housing market seemed to be slow there and it was sitting vacant for the immediate future. So I idly wondered how much it would cost to fly over and house-sit for a couple of months, and Monika found $431.00 tickets for a 2-month visit from the end of February to the end of April. What a deal!
We proceeded to ask Heinke and Gustl (see Wanderung 2) if it would be OK for us to camp out there, and they not only agreed enthusiastically but also started assembling the basic living necessities for us. Living in an unfurnished house was a different type of trip than our previous experience traveling in a tent (Wanderungs 1 and 3) or living in a travel trailer (Wanderung 4), so we were happy to leave the preparations in Heinke and Gustl’s capable hands. Besides, we were in the U.S. and the house was in Reinbek, Germany, so there wasn’t a whole lot we could really do from that distance!
Heinke assembled a complete set of kitchen equipment and bedding for us, Gustl contributed an all-band radio plus their cell phone, their son Detlef contributed two mattresses and two nice living room chairs from his basement, and Kim left behind some lamps, glasses, and shelves for us to use, and last but not least the old dining room table from Monika’s childhood home. Kim also brought the ancient color TV and refrigerator from Aunt Size’s time up from the basement, and with all that we hoped we had sufficient stuff to live in the house for two months.
The only fly in the ointment was the possible result of some medical tests I had, but it turned out to be gastritis rather than cancer and the doctors declared me good to go. So we tried to think of what all we would need for two months and condense all that into two backpacks and two Pullmans. We finally managed it, but not without ripping out a part of the zipper on one Pullman that I had to carefully re-sew.
If you don’t have any electrical gear, I suppose packing for Germany is more or less the same as packing for the same two months in Canada. That is, pack the clothes for the cooler weather plus hiking boots and all the walking jazz and you’re home free. But I decided I needed at least the computer, camera plus rechargeable batteries, and my electric razor, so I had to deal with the 240 versus 120-volt issue. I had a voltage converter set from our last trip to Germany (Wanderung 2), but I purchased a newer one with better power capacity and a grounded plug for better safety. Curiously enough, the computer, battery charger, and razor were all purchased in the last year and had dual-voltage capability, so as it turned out I really just needed to get the 2-prong adapters that allow the U.S. plugs to plug into the German receptacles. Still, I felt better with the converters along with me, and fortunately all this electronic gear didn’t cause any problems with our checked luggage.
The flight over, in fact, was quite uneventful and smooth enough that we could kind of sleep for about 3 hours on the flight over. Sleeping in an airplane is excruciatingly difficult for someone over 6 foot tall in economy class seats—these were, after all, CHEAP TICKETS—so three hours was quite a bit better than some of the other flights we’d taken to Europe. Our flight was on British Airways and was only about 2/3 full, but whether that was because it was the red-eye special or because of the bomb alerts for previous flights I don’t know. I do know that we had a final just-before-you-get-aboard re-screening of us plus our carry on luggage that I had never experienced before, but the British Airways folks were quite polite and efficient about it all so we taxied away from the gate about 10 minutes early.
You may wonder if I was concerned about a possible bomb aboard the airplane, and I must say I gave it a passing thought. A passing thought does not really mean it was unimportant thought, just brief. In fact, I imagined exactly how it would be for the plane to burst apart at altitude. I can easily imagine the effects of explosive decompression and the long, long fall thru the pitch-black night into the ice cold waters of the North Atlantic far below. Unfortunately, I have had that experience of flying thru the air knowing I was going to shortly hit the ground and get really hurt, and I never wanted to repeat that. Last time I was lucky I had my helmet on and the motorcycle came down on the railroad tracks while I hit the pavement, rather than vice-versa. And the dolt who ran me off the road didn’t even stop to help! But since there wasn’t much I could do about a bomb threat, I was much more concerned about that curious clunking I heard in the left main gear just below me while taxiing. Maybe sometimes it helps to obsess about details rather than worry about the Big Picture!
In any case, we arrived in Heathrow without incident, waited 4 hours for our connecting flight, and arrived in Hamburg around 5 p.m. on a Thursday. Compared to what our forefathers and foremothers endured traveling between the U.S. and Europe (see, for example, “Dear Friend” about Abigail Adams), this was a cinch! Heinke and Gustl met us at the airport and we found to our relief that our backpacks, Pullmans, and hand luggage could all fit into their car so it took only one trip to get it all back to their condominium. We spent Friday and Saturday with them while simultaneously recovering from jet lag and moving into the house in Reinbek.
Copyright 2004 by R. W. Holt and E. M. Holt