Two of our chaps, Reg and Les wished to sleep outside on top, and were allowed to, but were forced to come in during the night owing to rain.
Up early next morning, our last in Germany for some time, we had a good breakfast, and some more chats with Erika, who was still in her running shorts and vest. We left the hostel about 8.30 am in order to catch the paddle steamer down to Köln and shouted goodbyes to Erika and our other German friends and then wended our way down the mountain path to the river.
The boat arrived at the pier right on schedule so we did not have any waiting to do. On the boat were twenty to thirty young German children, three of whom were playing accordions. We got very pally with this party and had them playing and singing their national songs for us. In this way we had an interesting voyage of three hours, in the place of what looked as if it would have been boring.
We arrived at Köln just before noon, and met Digger and Alex as arranged, and decided to go to the 'Orange Haus' for dinner, as we had been treated so well there. Not knowing the whereabouts of this café with any certainty, the party became split into two or three groups, more through losing each other in the crowd, than any other reason.
Our small party now consisted of George, Eddie, Digger, Alex, the tall German youth and myself and the first person we walked into in the main street was Margaret our English friend from Burnley. We exchanged views, opinions and news for some time and decided to look once more for the café. We found it in the end mainly through intellect of our German friend. Here Margaret who had walked with us said she would have to return back to Aenne's home, with whom she was staying, in order to pack and get her own dinner. George promised to go to the house in the afternoon.
We had a very good dinner but we were twisted at the end because the owner said he had given us more than the amount stated on the menu, and so the bill was more, we argued about the extra for some minutes, but finally paid it after telling the bloke we wouldn't go to his 'Haus' any more.
For a couple of hours we wandered about buying presents and eatables to take with us, and then the Aussies said they would have to leave us, as they had to ride to Düsseldorf. They promised to look us up in Brum when they returned to England. They especially wanted to see the Bullring in full blast as we had told them so much about it.
Soon after leaving the Aussies we bumped into Kenneth and a couple of others, and Ken went with George up to Aenne's. Somehow or other I found myself alone and was forced to speak German whenever I wanted to get anything. Later on I met Leslie and Reg and Eddie and we decided to go and have some cakes and coffee in a tea-shop. I had to spout again as I was the only one who could stutter in German out of the four of us. We had a good cheap meal. Arriving at the station about 5.30 pm we were the first of the party to get there, however the others soon came with Ken and George in a taxi with Margaret and Aenne and her friends.
The train was packed and we had to stand in the last carriage, which was like an observation car. This was as comfortable as sitting, so we did not object. However at the first stop another carriage was attached. This was composed mostly of comfortable first and second class compartments and did we intend to make use of them when the train started. This we did and sat in comfort for some time, but we had to come out at every station.
We had our passports stamped at the German border and our money examined, and at the Belgian frontier town we had them stamped by some official of the Belgian customs. We stopped at this station for nearly half an hour, during which time George changed all the German money which had been smuggled out by people who were in our original carriage. Somehow or other he also got talking to a young Scotch girl (as I found out later), I think through fetching some cigarettes for her. This young lady and her friend whom I found to be excellent company were sitting in a third class compartment with about 15 to 20 boys, who had been pushed in with them. George and I invited them to come into the carriage which we had captured and this invitation they accepted. We had a grand journey after this, until we were warned of the arrival of the ticket collector and like good boys and girls we stood in the corridor until he took our tickets. We must have looked very much in need of a seat for he said if we could not find anywhere else to sit we could go into the compartment, which we had just vacated, unknowingly to this kind gentleman. He wrote something on George's ticket and we knew we were safe.
After this George and I settled down to a very romantic journey, in comfort as well. On arrival at Ostend we made a rush for the boat having our passports examined and paying the extra money in order to travel first class. Chris, the young lady whom George had hung his hat upon (pardon the alliteration) and Ellen the name of my young lady friend, also travelled first class. For about an hour we sat on the deck, talking about everything in general, and in particular about a certain star, which rose and fell with the roll of the boat, and sea-sickness. I also learnt other things which are of course strictly personal. About one o'clock we retired to our bunks, I mean George and myself. Ellen and Chris went to the ladies quarters. The next thing I remember was dawn and Dover but George had been up once or twice during the night. When I finally arrived on the deck, the boat was at the quay. We landed, and made our way to the customs office, wondering what would happen to the things we had bought in Germany.
However, all the official did was to ask us what we had got, and then after we had told him he put a chalk mark on our packs, and we walked to the train. I got a seat for my lady friend and then made my way to the station café for some English tea and sandwiches. Returning to the train with the tea we made the best of an early morning snack, but we were able to remark how good it tasted.
On the way to London Ellen told me a story about a certain German chap, who had been in their company whilst in Berlin. A very peculiar story which I cannot repeat.
We arrived in London at about 7.30 am and had to say goodbye to Chris and Ellen, as they had some one to meet them and take them home.
An empty stomach made us turn our attention to breakfast and we hiked from Victoria Station through St James' Park to Lyons Corner House in Oxford Street. Here we all ordered a real English breakfast of bacon and eggs etc., and one Rover had the audacity to ask the waiter to repeat the meal.
Colin left us at Lyons after breakfast and returned to Euston to catch a train home to Worcester. The rest of us travelled by tube and escalator to Euston and here five Rovers and Margaret who had travelled in our company from Germany caught the 10.15 am to Birmingham.
The Rovers who were left wanted to have a look around so we parked our packs in the left luggage office and walked around the town. However, dinner-time found George and I alone, for the others had now left us for home.
He and I walked into a snack bar and by a coincidence the chap who was running the place had been in Köln with the army of occupation after the war and we had quite a nice chat in English and German with this chap. He told us a good few incidents that happened with the soldiers. During the afternoon we saw as much of London as we could, and finally - absolutely worn out through walking we made our way to Euston Station and caught the 5.15 pm back to Birmingham arriving happy and contented at about 8.30.
So ended a holiday that will probably never be forgotten and perhaps some day we will be able to return once again and renew the friendships which we made with the German people whom we met on our travels.