12 March 2013

An American Teen in Germany, Part 2

[Part 2 of my nostalgic revisit to a special period in my teens picks up where Part 1 left off.  There’s no chronological continuity to this memoir, but it would probably make more sense, if it makes any at all to begin with, if newcomers went back to “An American Teen in Germany, Part 1,” posted on ROT on 9 March.]

Even though my brother and I were 14 and 16 when we arrived in Koblenz to live, my folks occasionally arranged what for lack of a better description I have to call “play dates” for us with the sons of some of the people they were meeting.  This enforced socializing was an outgrowth of my dad’s job in the same way the lunches or Kaffeeklatsches Mom hosted at home were, and we would go to the town pool, play tennis, or just visit at their homes.  Remember, this was long before video games and home computers, so we had to talk to one another.  The boys—it would have been unseemly to arrange this kind of get-together with someone’s daughter—would often be learning English at school, but my brother and I were also trying to learn German, and I was getting fairly good at it.  This sort of experience helped a lot, of course.  It was always painless and often even fun and occasionally an acquaintanceship grew out of it.  The small crew of Ausländers like the French kids, the other Amis, and my brother and I were sort of forced to seek one another out, but get-togethers like this turned out to be an effective way to meet Koblenzers.  Another opportunity was provided by one remarkable old lady from town who made it her business to be its social director, especially for the lost and the lonely.  She made a special effort with outsiders and young people, especially those passing through (read: hippies and backpackers).  Helene Block, known to one and all as Blocki, was probably in her 60’s, but I never heard exactly.  She was heavy-set and graying.  Her hair probably never saw the inside of a beauty salon; it was always a dull salt-and-pepper color and worn in a bun with wisps flying in every direction.  She wore clothes that looked as if they dated from before the war, mostly black, gray, or dark colors, and “sensible shoes.”  Since she was Frau Block, I assume she was a widow, probably a consequence of the war, but I never heard the story and I never saw any evidence of “Herr Block.”  Or any children of her own.

Blocki owned a two- or three-story townhouse within walking distance of our home.  She lived there alone—except when she had guests.  If she met a kid backpacking through town or a student doing the tour by Eurail Pass, she invited them to stay on the top floor of her house like a hostel.  I have no idea how she met all these young people—she just attracted them somehow, like a magnet.  I don’t believe she ever charged anyone anything for the hospitality—and I never heard of anyone taking advantage of her generosity.  Many evenings, especially weekends and in the summer, she’d invite other youngsters around for a Weinabend (at which she invariably served a Bowle, a wine-and-fruit punch with her prized Queen Ann cherries—she had a tree in her back garden and even at her age and girth, she’d climb up and pick the fruit—as a prime ingredient when they were in season).  Frau Block also appointed herself my mother’s deutsche Mama and guided her through her obligations and expectations when she was invited to a Kaffeeklatsch or afternoon tea.  (Everyone knew Blocki—I think she was really everyone’s deutsche Mama or Oma—and she was always one of the guests.  But she always came by our house to pick Mom up and accompany her.)  “Now, you must accept a second piece of cake,” Blocki admonished Mom on an early occasion.  When Mom objected that she couldn’t handle two pieces, Blocki told her, “If you can’t eat it, I will.  But you can’t say no.”

Now, I don’t know if Blocki ever had a car, or even if she could drive, because she did all her business on foot or by bike (probably the explanation for the sensible shoes).  When she delivered invitations for one of her Abends—she did adult and family evenings, too, to bring people who didn’t know each other together—she biked over in person and handed her hand-written note to the lady of the house or the invitee.  I also don’t know if she had a phone, but she never used one to make her invitations.  When Blocki had a Jugendabend (a “youth evening”—in other words, kids), parents weren’t invited.  Even she made herself scarce when she had young people hanging out in her back yard except to bring a new guest out, make introductions, and replenish the refreshments.  Even though there might be people from a half dozen different countries, speaking a variety of languages, the gatherings were always great fun and lasted past eleven or midnight.  Guests ranged in age from mid-teens, like my brother and me and our friends, to mid-20’s—and if someone needed a push to get involved, Blocki popped up to nudge him or her into a conversation.  If my father was the American ambassador to Koblenz, Frau Block was Koblenz’s ambassador-at-large.

Koblenz was a wonderful town, large enough to offer a good selection of local sights, shops, and restaurants but still small enough that we could walk around most of it and get to know most of the people with whom we came into contact either through Dad’s work or in our daily life.  Our government-supplied house was on the Rheinanlagen, a promenade along the river which ran downstream a little over two miles from the Deutsches Eck.  Our large living room windows at Rheinanlagen 12 looked out at the river, essentially across the “street”—no motorized vehicles except service trucks and three-wheelers were permitted on the Rheinanlagen—and even when we had nothing else to do, sitting and watching the activity along the Rhine was endlessly engrossing.  Small boats of all kinds plied the waterway along with ferries crossing to and from the towns on the other bank; barges and tugs moved coal, automobiles, or other freight up and down the river.  It was startling when we first realized that families lived on those barges, with little huts rising from the decks and evidence of family life, such as cooking smoke rising from the small chimney, a small car parked next to the little home, and laundry hanging out to dry alongside, visible as the boats sailed by.  Sometimes children played on the flat deck of the barge and not infrequently, there was a dog barking.  There were also lots of cruise ships sailing from Mainz or points south down to Rotterdam and back.  Koblenz was an overnight stop on the river cruises and the piers were located just downstream from our house so we could often see the tourists embarking or disembarking.  One of the hotels where the cruise passengers stopped, a few hundred yards down from our house, had the wonderfully evocative name of the Kleiner Riesen—the Little Giant.  There were always people, both tourists and Koblenzers, spaziering along the Rheinanlagen, strolling along the great river, especially on nice days or warm evenings; Dad began a collection of walking sticks because he and Mom indulged in the pleasure, too.  As the promenade stretched out of town, it passed some municipal tennis courts where we often played a set or two in the spring and summer—it seldom gets very hot (or cold) in the Rhineland—and farther along, a small spit of land jutting out into the river where the town swimming pool was situated, a frequent destination for our little band of teens. 

Our house was ideally situated for the annual fireworks blow-out that is the Rhein in Flammen (Rhine in Flames), every year in August in Koblenz.  (There are several similar celebrations on other dates in other towns along the river, but Koblenz’s is the biggest.)  The towns along the river hold wine festivals in conjunction with the celebration and on the day of the big event, all the houses along both sides of the river put candles in the windows that face the water.  As dusk falls, illuminated cruise ships sail into the river all along the cityscape and when they’ve all arrived, an immense fireworks display begins over Festung Ehrenbreitstein with the fortress silhouetted against the glow.  The river itself bursts into flame as the fireworks are reflected in the water.  The whole panorama was clearly visible from the small terrace of Rheinanlagen 12 where we could sit on the warm summer night with a nice glass of wine as the convoy arrived, all lit up themselves, and got into position for the pyrotechnics.  All the homes and shops across the river were aglow with the lights in their windows and people strolling along the river on both banks wore little battery-powered lights in their lapels or hanging from their shirt pockets.  And there we were, like the Kaiser in his box at the theater!

In the other direction from our house, up toward the Deutsches Eck a short walk, was the Weindorf (literally, ‘wine village’), a restaurant with a large outdoor courtyard that served ordinary German fare—and wine, of course.  (No drinking age on the continent!)  The Weindorf had a traditional German “oompah band” that just seemed to go perfectly with the atmosphere of the place, which was decidedly Lederhosen-and-Tyrolean-hat, and in the rear of the courtyard was what we in the States call bumper cars.  Except in Germany, we were reprimanded for actually bumping anyone!  We surmised that since the Germans were such apparently reckless drivers for real on the Autobahns (no speed limits), in those little electric carts, they took the contrasting approach.  (We’d witnessed German drivers on the narrow streets going up on the sidewalks to get around traffic.  Or to grab a parking space.)  The Weindorf, as you might guess, was another hangout for us kids, but we went there from time to time as a family, too, as we did the restaurant a little further up the Rheinanlagen, the Christo Bajew (named for a Bulgarian-born classical tenor who settled in Koblenz).  The place specialized in Balkan cuisine, the only highly spiced food the Germans seemed to like for the most part back then.  The menu included Hungarian goulash (ungarisches Gulasch) and a Zigeunerspie (Gypsy spit—uhhh, not that kind of spit: a skewer; it was shashlik or shish kebab), and my family walked up there fairly often, too.  These were our neighborhood places, where we might go on a spur-of-the-moment decision.

The Rheinanlagen starts at the Deutsches Eck where, as I wrote, the Mosel River flows into the Rhine creating a giant intersection like two huge streets.  The broad plaza is completely open and on sunny and warm days, people gather there to stroll or sit on the benches and watch the river traffic.  Along with the huge Kaiser-Wilhelm-Denkmal at the center of the triangle’s base, the plaza was dotted with little souvenir stands.  The most amusing items for sale back then, at least for an Ami teen, were little metal key rings.  There were several different ones, but they all had a little disk you could spin by flicking it and the indecipherable markings on the two sides of the disk would blend as the disk rotated to reveal a short phrase.  One read Gute Fahrt—which actually means ‘good trip’ (it’s the German equivalent of Bon Voyage) but sounds, especially to an American ear, like something else.  Another one was even more explicit: Leck mich am Arsch, it said.  Loosely translated, that’s quite simply ‘kiss my ass.’  Now, you know I bought dozens of those key rings for my friends back home—I mean, what could be funnier?  Well, to a 16-year-old American boy in 1963. 

Those tiny souvenirs, sold all over Germany in those days, weren’t the only slightly risqué things about little Koblenz.  In the courtyard of the Rathaus, the town hall downtown near Jesuitenplatz (the Rathaus building was formerly a Jesuit college), is the Schängelbrunnen, a little fountain topped by the 1941 bronze statue of a young boy, a “typical” Koblenzer.  Now, many people know about Brussels’s Manneken Pis, but the Naughty Boy of Koblenz spits a stream of water at unsuspecting tourists about every five minutes!  We made sure to bring all our out-of-town visitors by this sight, though unlike some Koblenz hosts, we took care that our guests were out of the line of fire when the time came.  Koblenzers are said to have something of an attitude, like a pint-sized New York City.  That’s what the fountain’s supposed to represent.  (Schängel was a humorously derogatory name for a  Koblenzer—a put-down.  The derivation’s tortuous, so I won’t recapitulate it; you can look it up yourself.)  But New York doesn’t have a statue that spits!

Even as provincial as Koblenz still was in 1963 and ’64—the Common Market (officially, the European Economic Community), destined to spread a pan-European sophistication across the continent, had only been established in 1957 and the European Union, its successor, in 1993—it still provided some eating adventures.  Foreign cuisine, aside from the Christo Bajew, mostly meant French or Italian in those days.  (I can remember when the first Chinese restaurant opened in Koblenz.  It wasn’t anywhere near as good as American Chinese, but it caused quite a stir.)  We did have really good French food available in town because, having been part of the French Zone of Occupation, there was still the former French officers’ club, renamed by then the French Club and open to all.  Dad stayed there until the Rheinanlagen house was ready and Mom joined him in October ’62.  I had snails there for the first time and salade niçoise, two dishes that became favorites.  I had my first experience eating game in Koblenz, too: Hasenpfeffer (rabbit stew).  Germany doesn’t have the same restrictions on selling game meat that we do, and one excellent restaurant, Zum Hubertus, specialized in it.  I also had venison for the first time there.  (I have no regrets that I have eaten both Bambi and Thumper!  I even ate Rudolf in Alaska.)  Other favorite eating places included the restaurant at the Königsbacher Brewery and Die Ewige Lampe near the railroad station.  (In Europe in those days, if you wanted a good, plain, unfussy meal in an unfamiliar town, you headed for the station; it was always a safe bet.  Ewige Lampe was better than that, though.)  The brewery restaurant was really the employees’ mess hall, but it was open to the public for dinner and served basic, traditional German food (Rippchen und Kraut; Sauerbraten; Leber und Zwiebeln—that’s pork cutlet with sauerkraut, German pot roast, and liver and onions, all washed down with the house wine—which, of course, was Königsbacher lager) at long, rough-hewn wooden tables. 

Not everything was terrific in Koblenz; there were little annoyances we had to learn to get used to.  The water, for example, was hard as concrete and loaded with minerals (not the kind you pay extra for when it comes in a bottle).  We had to use Calgon water softener in the bath just to get the soap to dissolve.  It wasn’t unhealthy—give you the trots, though—but it tasted awful.  We could make coffee with it, but tea didn’t have a strong enough flavor to cover the water’s taste.  All my mother’s dishes turned rust-brown from washing them in that iron-saturated water for three years.  And Germany’s labor set-up was confusing for us.  Once a pipe burst inside a wall in the house and while here we’d get a plumber in to fix the whole thing, in Germany it meant getting one crew to bust a hole in the wall, then another crew to fix the pipes themselves, then the first crew back again to replaster the hole, and finally a painter to repaint the patch.  The guilds wouldn’t let anyone cross over the labor divides.  (Germany was over-employed in those days: there was a labor shortage.)  Aside from inconveniences like those, however, it was a challenge and an adventure. 

Some of the strange, new customs were kind of charming in their own ways.  For instance, you couldn’t interrupt or delay a German worker at his zweites Frühstück, his second breakfast—sort of like our morning coffee break, but it would have been a hunk of cheese or a small sandwich washed own by a bottle of beer.  Every worker, from office employees to street-construction laborers, had zweites Frühstück—at 10:30 or 11 o’clock on the dot!—and all the men carried it in a leather briefcase, even the construction workers, not a lunch box or a brown bag.  (One summer, I got a job as a cashier at the little commissary in the embassy residence compound.  I got zweites Frühstück, too, because all my co-workers were Germans.  I didn’t bring mine from home, though: I bought it at the employees’ snack bar back behind the store where they sold cheese and Butterbrötchen—a roll with butter.  I didn’t get beer, though, of course: I was 17 and this was an American compound.)

Another cultural adjustment was the regular shopping trip.  Back in the States, Mom would hop in the car, go to a supermarket, select her groceries and load the items in a shopping cart, roll up to the cash register, pay the cashier while the bagger packed everything in paper shopping bags (plastic ones not having come along yet), load up the car, and drive home.  Not in Europe in the early ’60s.  First of all, supermarkets were barely on the horizon then and self-service shopping was uncommon.  We went to the baker for bread, the butcher for meat (and sometimes we had to go to a specialty butcher, like for game), the greengrocer for fruits and vegetables, the pastry shop for cakes and cookies, and so on.  Mom stepped up to the counter, told the shop-owner or counterman what she wanted (often with a lot of pointing and sign language until we got more proficient in German—but the Koblenzers were always accommodating and helpful), the server would take it from under the counter or off the shelf, weigh it if necessary, wrap it in paper—not uncommonly newsprint—and mark it.  If Mom was buying something loose, like nuts or berries, the server fashioned a cone out of the paper and poured or placed the selected items in it and then folded up the top to finish wrapping the purchase.  If it was a large shop, Mom would cross to the cashier and pay or, in a smaller shop, just pay the counterman.  Then she’d place the paper-wrapped purchase in the net bag we always carried when shopping; there were no such things as shopping bags in Europe because paper was way too expensive to waste on bags.  Mom’s next step would usually be to go on to another store for another purchase, and so on.  All over downtown we’d see women with their net bags doing their daily shopping this way, and we did, too.  There were always a couple of mesh bags hanging on the handle of the kitchen door at home, waiting for someone to go shopping. 

It took us a while to get used to this system (the PX’s, BX’s, and commissaries in which we could shop in Frankfurt or Wiesbaden, much too far away for daily errands, were like American department stores—which were common in Europe since before World War I—and supermarkets), but once we did and learned where to go for which items, it was a pleasant and fun process.  In fact, for me it was part of the adventure.  Even just buying a date book for my school assignments or a notepad, the most ordinary of purchases, was fun—because I was doing it in Germany, and in German.  (When I was at school, I was doing it in French—same frisson, though.)  Unlike the French, who are very jealous of their language and don’t like foreigners who screw it up, the Germans were delighted when I tried to speak the language.  They helped me out, made a fuss over my attempts, and generally gushed.  (Actually, to be fair, outside of Paris, the French could be like this, too.)  One of the favorite things my friends and I did was go shopping at Koblenz’s main department store, like the Macy’s (or Gimbel’s, which was still around in those days) of Koblenz, the Kaufhof on Löhrstrae, one of the town’s main shopping drags.  (The manager of the Koblenz store was our next-door neighbor.  KaDeWe, the Bloomingdale’s of Germany, was in Berlin, by the way.  And the Woolworth’s of Germany was . . . well, Woolworth’s: they had branches all over the country—but they sold German stuff!)  Not only could we get most of what we needed for our daily use and for the household at the Kaufhof, but we could learn the German names of all those ordinary things.  (Okay, I can’t help it if I’m a language geek.  This was just really fun, especially at the beginning when it was all new to me.)

Living in the middle of the Rhineland was a perfect situation.  The charms of Koblenz itself aside, its location on the Rhine, Germany’s longest and most important river, was certainly a lagniappe.  The scenery of the Rhine valley (and the Mosel, too) was spectacular.  My first train ride from Frankfurt the day I arrived for that first Christmas was simply breathtaking, riding downstream along the river, sometimes up the mountain high above the waterway and other times right along the bank.  I thrilled as we passed the scores of medieval castles dotting the landscape—one of them, Pfalz bei Kaub, built on a rock in the middle of the Rhine—and the famous Lorelei, the rock outcropping hanging high above the river and celebrated in history, folklore, song, and literature.  Dozens of these sites, some of the castles restored and others just ruins, are short distances from Koblenz.  I went either with my family or, as I described, with a friend on our own and after clambering around the castle ruin or taking a tour of a restored or preserved one, we’d spend an hour or two having lunch and a glass of wine or a Stein of beer at a Stube or Gasthof in the wine village that inevitably lay at the foot of the castle’s site and then meandering around the little streets and poking into the shops.  Frequently, we’d come across an unexpected historical site, some of them reminiscent of a long-ago history lesson and others unfamiliar.  (My dad, who not only could remember the history he read about but was able to connect it to modern culture and current events, often provided a context.  It always sounded reasonable, of course—but I also remember one time when he was preparing a series of lectures on the American Civil War for a group of German students.  “They don’t know anything about this history,” Dad mused.  “Who should I tell them won?”  I went to a few of those talks—he did it right.)  At greater distances, we took many longer trips from our base in the middle of Europe: north to Denmark; south to Austria, Italy, or Spain (the last two were both three weeks each!); and west to France and Britain.  From school, I also traveled eastwards to Warsaw, Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev.  (That’s a story in itself.)  Whoever said that travel is broadening was being conservative.

That Civil War lecture series was one of the many interesting jobs Dad had to perform during his time in Germany.  There were occasional other talks he gave, such as explaining the American electoral process (which really confounded most Europeans) during the 1964 campaign, but he also arranged for performances by American artists of various kinds—to show off our artistic accomplishments.  Nearly every German town has at least an orchestra or an opera troupe, and larger towns, like Koblenz, had both, plus a ballet company and a municipal theater.  Classical musicians, dancers, and singers are an international group, and because the U.S. doesn’t have the same cultural commitment, it’s not always easy for American artists to find places to get started in those professions, so they come to these small companies to work when their careers are just beginning.  So whenever an American singer, musician, or dancer was part of one of the Koblenz companies, Dad tried to arrange for a recital at the Amerika Haus.  Another event he arranged was the first reading I ever heard of Edward Albee’s The American Dream—it was in German and was preceded by a reception at which Dad introduced Koblenz society to the orange blossom, a drink of gin and orange juice.  Europeans weren’t really into cocktails in the early ’60s.

Dad also accompanied President Kennedy to Berlin for the famous “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech (26 June 1963).  Germans loved the Kennedys—especially after that speech.  It was one of the few things on which the French and the Germans agreed; the French fell in love with the young First Couple on their visit to Paris in May and June of 1961—when Jackie spoke French.  My friend Marc, who regularly made fun of de Gaulle (he did a pretty fair impression of the general), revered JFK.  (My mom’s initials are JFK, coincidentally, and when German visitors to our Koblenz home first saw the many monogramed objects about the house, they were flabbergasted.)  Then 22 November 1963 came.  I was at school in Versoix and some schoolmates and I were in town that evening and were met by the school secretary with the news of the shooting on our return to the dorm—but Mom and Dad were in Koblenz.  The Amerika Haus was, of course, closed for mourning, but the next day Dad had to go in to the office just to check on things.  Piled all around the entrance and taped to the library windows were scores of bouquets of flowers and heartfelt notes of condolence.  It was more like the Koblenzers had lost a dear friend than a foreign head of state.  We Americans were stunned, of course, but the response from the German people was heartwarming.  (The Swiss, however, were not quite as moved.  I guess they seldom are.)

In the spring of my senior year, my dad was transferred to the embassy in Bonn as Cultural Attaché; that’s where he was when I started college back in the States.  (During Rush Week, my name tag read “APO, N.Y.” because my mailing address at the embassy was A.P.O.—Army Post Office—New York 09080.  When people kept asking me where Apo, N.Y., was, I made the university give me a new ID tag with “Bonn, West Germany” on it.  Then people kept remarking at how well I spoke English!).  Some things worked out well, though: I got placed in junior-level French and German, skipping all those preliminary classes most language students have to take.  When I was looking for a major, my German prof showed me that I could double-major in French and German by taking only one course in each language per semester because all the courses I’d already been taking were creditable, and the French classes counted as part of the German major requirement and vice versa—they all did double duty.  That meant I could take other classes I wanted to just for fun because I didn’t have to take two and three courses a semester in each language plus cognate courses to fulfill requirements for the major.  In my last two years at college, I took at least one class per semester just for my edification—they didn’t count for anything.  (I also took the two years my university offered then in Russian.  For me, this was hog heaven!)   My dad resigned from the foreign service in November 1967 and my folks returned to D.C. for my last two years at college.

In earlier articles about my life in Germany, I’ve mentioned that when I was in the army, I did a stint at a German military school in 1972 (see, most recently, “Short Takes IV: Independence Day with Germans,” 22 February).  That school happened to be located in Bad Ems on the Lahn River, a tributary of the Rhine right across from Koblenz.  I planned my drive from Berlin so that I could get a little nostalgic trip “home” to Koblenz almost exactly 10 years after I first came there.  I timed my arrival so I could spend the night in Koblenz—at a Gasthof right by the Deutsches Eck, down the Rheinanlagen from where we used to live—so I could check out the town and then report to the school in Bad Ems fresh and in uniform (I wore civvies in Berlin and had to drive in and out dressed that way) the next morning.  I also poked around Koblenz to see if I could find any of the old places I remembered, but the town had changed so much physically that I wasn’t able to locate a lot of them.  It was a very strange experience—going back after a decade, especially that decade.  From the ’60s to the ’70s, Western Europe changed a lot, largely from the influences of the EEC, and Koblenz reflected every aspect of that change.  I hardly recognized the town—a real city by 1972.  When I first arrived in town and drove around looking for a place to stay, I inadvertently got myself onto a cloverleaf that forced me onto the Pfaffendorf Bridge across the Rhine and I found myself in Ehrenbreitstein.  I used to walk across that bridge, but that elaborate cloverleaf was never there in my youth.  I couldn't even find my dad's old office in town—the former Amerika Haus on Schlostrae.  The house at Rheinanlagen 12 was recognizable, but only because I remembered the address.  It wasn't a residence anymore, however, but some kind of office—a lawyer, I think, and it didn't look quite the same.  The shopping street, the Löhrstrae, had been transformed into a brick-paved pedestrian mall lined with little boutiques (and a few porn shops!)—Koblenz never had boutiques (or porn shops) ten years earlier.  The whole experience was very daunting. 

While I was assigned to Bad Ems, I ate in two of the Koblenz restaurants we used to go to.  One was Die Ewige Lampe, near the station, and it almost looked as if it hadn’t changed.  I was eating my meal—actually, I think I was waiting for it—when the waiter got into a dispute with a couple at a nearby table.  There weren’t many people there at that hour—it was early for Europeans to eat dinner, but I had to be back at the school—and I could hear that the people were Amis.  They were arguing with the waiter because they had asked for water and he had brought them a bottle of mineral water.  They were demanding tap water and wouldn’t accept the waiter’s explanation that they would be unhappy and that the restaurant wouldn’t serve them tap water.  They thought the guy was trying to cheat them by selling them something expensive.  I stepped in and excused myself for eavesdropping.  “I used to live in this town,” I explained, “and believe me, you don’t want to drink the tap water here.  It’s hard as rock, full of iron, and tastes vile.  It’s undrinkable”  I don’t know if they believed me or not, but they did give up the fight.  The waiter brought me a brandy after dinner—on the house. 

The other place I revisited—or tried to—was the Königsbacher Brewery where we used to love to go for traditional German food.  I was shocked and dismayed!  The old dining hall had been replaced by a fancy terrace restaurant overlooking the Mosel which served all manner of phony foreign dishes—none of them German!  The closest thing on the menu to German food was Wiener Schnitzel, which is Austrian; everything else was like “Hawaiian” something-or-other, with pineapple.  I’d spent the day seeing sights up the Mosel—Idar-Oberstein, a town that was a famous semi-precious gem center, was one stop, I recall—and I planned my return so that I’d be back at the brewery at dinnertime.  What a drag.  (Thomas Wolfe was right, I guess: You really can’t go home again.) 


  1. Hi Rick,
    I have found your blog, which I really like it. I enjoyed to read your posts and family stories.
    I was wondering if you would be interested in sharing your posts and ideas on Glipho? It's a quite new social publishing platform for bloggers like you. :)

    1. Monika--

      I'm glad that you found ROT and that you enjoy it. (There are more posts about my life and family on the blog if you look around.)

      As for doing anythng more with my posts, I don't know anything about Glipho or any of the so-called social networking sites. Thanks for the interest, but I don't think I want to take my work any further than posting it on my own blog. At least for now, I think I'll leave things as they are.