A Trip to Germany - 1937

Arriving at Koblenz we crossed the pontoon bridge Crossing the Rhine (again) and went into the café where we had a meal earlier in the week. After eating we asked the waiter the time of the next train to the village of Fahr Ilich, and he informed us after studying the time-table for some minutes, that the next train was due in about a minute, and did we run, the train was coming in as we got on the platform.
The train was of the usual quality, but I managed to fall asleep, more through weariness than comfort, and felt a little more like walking, when I left the train that I had done previously. We got going at a fine speed, through singing 'Tipperary', 'Pack up your trouble' etc but later on we got strung out in a long line, through the pace altering as the chaps became tired, however we all managed to reach Back at Hammerstein Hammerstein our destination, and a haven of rest. Here we all had a damn good wash, and other meal, during which we got into conversation with 'Digger' or 'Jack', an Australian youth or young man from Sydney and his travel companion Alex Wilson, who hailed from Auckland, New Zealand. These two were touring Europe on cycles and we became firm friends with them for a couple of days. They also had in their company a tall young German of sixteen who was cycling around Germany for his holidays. H was an excellent speaker of English, although he had never been to England, and it was because he wished to speak like an Englishman that he had joined hands, as it were with these two Aussies, who knew no German, and he had to speak English.
The Australians told us their story which was briefly as follows. They had come over for the Coronation sometime before last Christmas, and also to see London. In London they had their first taste of snow, something which neither had ever seen before, in reality, and they also spent hours on the escalators and in the tube. Alex had realizes one of his ambitions, for he had stood in a 'Dole' queue waiting to sign on.
They had cycled round England and then started on Europe, and passed through France, Belgium, Germany, Czech-Slovakia, Austria and back to Germany, where we met them. Later on they were going through Holland back home to London. They intended also to hitch-hike to America if possible.
A good night's sleep made us all feel very much better and after taking a number of photographs we said goodbye to Hammerstein hostel, and started on our journey to Rolandseck, the next hostel at which we were to stay.
Shoe polishing & map reading The Australians cycled on and we arranged to meet them at a village about 9 miles away, where, when we arrived we found an excellent bathing place, The bathing belle? A view across the river at which we decided to stop until nearly tea-time. The weather was simply grand, and we were in and out of the water like amphibians during the afternoon. Jack Saunders our interpreter in chief and Digger swam across the Rhine, and back, with a party of life-savers, who were practising. They were forced to swim diagonally owing to the strength of the current. Leaving the natural swimming bath we hiked along the bank of the river, until we came to a ferry, where we crossed over on a luggage-cum-passenger boat, We were at Rolandseck village, but not the hostel, for it stood on the top of a hill about 1500 feet high. There were many paths up this hill, most of which did not go to the hostel, and George and myself, some distance behind the others took a wrong turning and we became more or less lost. We were hungry and tired with aching feet and legs, and you may be sure we said a few nice words under our breaths. Meeting three German boys, with cycle, gallantly pushing them up the slopes, we asked them the way, but they like ourselves did not know where the place was, and so we all struggled towards the top, as fast as possible. We finally found the right road, through signposts and arrows on trees, and arrived at the hostel without very sweet tempers.
Rolandsbogen The hostel itself was an old watch tower, about 150 feet high, with 120 steps to a spiral staircase which went round and round the inside of it to the top. There were seven bedrooms, and they were all on top of each other. At the top were the usual battlements, and a bit of a court-yard.
We had a meal here, more like an English meal, than any we had had previously, and then we retired to bed. The next morning we decided to stay our last night in Germany in this hostel and so we were able to leave all our packs there, and go out for the day. Our object was to cross the river once more to Königswinter, Siebengebirge mit Drachenfels and then climb one of the seven mountains, for which this part of the Rhine is famous.
The one we climbed was the 'Drachenfels' probably the best of the seven. The castle on the top, had many old legends attached to it and from it we had a magnificent view of the Rhine which curled in and our of the Rhine valley like shining steel. There is a railway which runs up this mountain, similar to the one which goes up Snowdon. There are also mountain donkeys and mules, which carry tourists to the top and back again.
We descended the Drachenfels by another path and finally arrived at a small village, where we bought cakes and other foodstuffs, and then sat on the bank of the river and ate our lunch. Needing something to drink we wandered over to a café run by a man who spoke very good English and called himself English Charlie. He spoke to us for a few minutes about the hundreds of English and American tourists who stayed at his cafe-cum hotel and invited us, if we paid of course, to come and have a 'Punch Bowl' with him one of the evenings. He also told us of a bridge which crossed to one of the islands in the river, and we decided to see if the place was as good as he said it was. George had a boiled egg here.
The two Australians and the German youth left us at this village, for they were now off to cycle to Köln where we arranged to meet them the following morning.
Crossing the bridge to the island, we found nothing out of the ordinary, except a natural boating pool where most of us had canoe, for an hour to pass the time away, as it was still too early in the afternoon to return to the hostel.
However we got back rather early, even before the meal was being cooked, and it was while we were hanging about that we got into conversation with Erika, a young Austrian girl, who was working at the hostel. She was an attractive girl, who had swum for Germany at the Olympia at Munich. She did not know any English, but with George doing the cross-talk, and myself putting in a word now and then, we and the other two interested - namely Eddie and Ken - got along in a fine manner. Before very long we were peeling potatoes and carrots and making general helpers of ourselves around the kitchen. Later we commenced to do a few gymnastics by jumping over a table, and an amazing thing happened, for Erika came out of the kitchen in gym vest and a pair or shorts-cum-knickers.
This to us lads was rather a shock at first, but we got used to it. She started to show us what she could do, in the way of standing on her hands, the crab walk etc. and had us playing leap-frog and racing. In fact probably the most energetic evening of the week, for someone produced a ball and we played a football match against the Germans who were there. We played six and had Erika in goal. They had seven players, and we played on a field covered with corn stubble. However we managed to win 4-1, but the Englishmen suffered with wanderlust, and walked off in turn to talk to Erika, who had become injured through collecting the ball in her stomach. She was not hurt.
At meal time Erika waited on us, as if it was a pleasure. It might have been to her, but it certainly was to us.
who said work? Later on in the evening we held an impromptu sing-song on top of the tower, which turned slowly to and from among tango dances, Strauss waltzes, Bull fighting, and sometimes singing, with the Germans singing their songs and us singing ours at the same time. By the way there were probably less than ten Germans in the hostel, and in the sing-song there were about 15 chaps to one girl, but could she stand it. Most of us were puffing and blowing, as if we had been having a race.
On the whole we considered this to have been a very enjoyable evening.