The Cape family (Peter, Barbara, Stephanie and Christopher) was on a 10-day journey through France, West Germany and Belgium in 1962. Having completed a two-month long road trip through the length of the British Isles we were in Europe now before returning to London to board our passenger ship, MS Oranje, and sail back to New Zealand.
We had crossed from Dover to Boulogne and spent time in Paris before driving to Sezanne and Le Chasseurs where we stayed overnight. My father's diary takes up the story on November 5, my sister's birthday.
November 5, 1962 Monday
Strasbourg – Schwarzwald – Freudenstadt
An early start in the fog. Paid 15 NF (New Francs) for room, and breakfast (Tho' Mrs had cooked our dinner; it was with our own food). Got lost in Strassbourg (Strasbourg) (ph. (photographed) old hospital) after exploring Marmoutier. Cross frontier, and into clean, antiseptic Germany. Mist clears in Schwarzwald as we go through. German not very adequate. Buy dictionary in Freudenstadt, also Micki. Decide to dodge Stuttgart and go along the Hochstrasse instead. Make fabled U-turn. Get lost in Freudenstadt – even try to drive wrong way down one-way street.
Get back on Hochstrasse-call at house and talk to two women through door they won't open. Large hotels shut. Go to obstadt (?) in a valley, and call at three Gasthausen before we find a cheap one (first, a man who is not the proprietor talks to me about my wants while the proprietor sits by and glowers). At last, in desperation, find a place where proprietress has a brown spaniel, and talks English. Get a reasonable rate for one room with a quadruple bed, and früstrüch (frustration) – but have no discussion.
Fani's birthday – French doll – toy Welsh corgi and, of course, Micki.
[Fani is my father's shorthand for my sister Stephanie].
November 6, 1962, Tuesday
Baden – Baden, Heidelberg, Oppenheim
Cope with delinquent dog (wants to eat Bear) and off on a busy morning on a magnificent drive along the Hochstrasse. Make enormous Umleitung (deviation) before we get to Baden Baden. Buy groceries on outskirts, visit woodcarver (and buy plaque). To Baden and on to Autobahn to Heidelberg glorious (in Lustadt) take many photographs, and buy angels. Out on Autobahn again (peasant ploughing with two cows beside road), and on in dark to Worms. Buy further tin of gemusen and cook up meal on Bleuet. On through dark, looking for Gasthausen, and finding only Gast zimmern. At last, reach Oppenheim, which smells of wine (the festival has just finished). Find Gasthaus with much better quadruple bed and eiderdowns than last night. Go to bed.
You could tell that we were in Germany. There were Volkswagen Beetles everywhere.
My father's penchant for throwing in Germanic or French words at pivotal points has been titillatingly annoying, so here, for the uninitiated, are some background notes.
Hochstrasse is a high street. A Gasthaus is accommodation, a guesthouse, not a smelly long-drop, though they might well have one of those. A Gast zimmern is a guestroom or spare room.
We lived on home cooked meals so gemusen /vegetables came in tins.
The delinquent dog wanted to eat Bear. (It was not on the menu.) Bear is my teddy bear. He travelled with us. He starred with Cindy in my father's children's Bear and Cindy stories which were published in book form and became a TV series using still or stop-frame photography.
Mecki and Micki are male and female respectively, characters in modern German folk law. They are hedgehogs dressed in traditional German outfits. They were created in 1940 by the Steiff plush toy company, founded in Germany in 1880 by Margarete Steiff. Steiff teddy bears are world famous.
Schwarzwald is The Black Forest – the one with trees, not the chocolate.
We stayed a night in a guesthouse in the Black Forest. My sister and I topped and tailed on the same bed under an enormous eiderdown. Apparently I hogged the eiderdown, leaving my sister curled up like a door mouse on the corner of the bed. Typical big brother antics I suppose. The landlady was matronly and gave us children small parting gifts. She gave me a badge which I still have, to sew onto my anorak.]
November 7, 1962, Wednesday
Mainz – Bonn
Up – stop in Rhine mist. Buy Kit Mecki, and change cheque (what a rigmarole) at a savings bank (it opened at 9am). Mist annoying, but clears slowly. Enter Rhine Valley and lunch – bottle of wine and bread as usual – then on to Lorelei Rock, scenic Schlosses (Castles), the lot.
Missed mentioning Mainz where we saw wonderful cathedral and Kit lost his 3.50 DM (deutschmark) Mecki. Bought him another, bad temperedly, then on through the Rhine vineyards. Reached Bonn late and couldn't find a Gasthaus. Drove out and camped in a park platz (space) – I pitched tent and slept in it. Barbara and children in car.
[My father's photographs tell the story of the German landscape and heritage. The castles and cathedrals are impressive and elegant, especially in the Rhineland mists. As my father mentioned, Germany may be antiseptic, but its technology was focused. The autobahns, the motorways, are constructed in concrete, not tar seal and chips. They are wide and smooth to ride. That made notable impression in our 1948 Ford Anglia. We survived the night apparently with no interruptions. It isn't always the most comfortable experience. Years ago I arrived late in Blenheim on a long road trip heading for Picton. It was after closing time for any paid accommodation. I parked up under a local bridge and slept fitfully in the driving seat amidst the lights and noises of the occasional passing train and heavy longhaul truck. Germany was quieter in 1962. The next day saw us visit Bonn and cross the border into Belgium where we visited Ghent. We were due to return to London on November 9.]