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Germany 1982

My father Harold Mueller and I visited Europe in the summer of 1982, driving from Brussels to Normandy, and then to Germany. Our goal was to visit with some relatives in both West and East Germany. My father took many notes on trips like this, and he transcribed his notes from part of this trip, from Winterlinger to Weimar.

Europe 1982


July 22, 1982: We were up early, and by 9 AM we were on the road to Neustadt from Freiburg, the same highway we had driven the day before. This time we continued on to Winterlingen, which we reached by 11:30 AM. It was in the mountains, and the day was hazy and rainy. Winterlingen, a fairly large town, is situated on a hill above Strassberg. We drove through the town, then drove back to what seemed to be the Evangelical Church. The adjoining cemetery or church yard seemed to be very well cared for, with many beautiful flowers. As I recall, the names were clearly written and easy to read. We found many Maiers on the gravestones, but most of the stones seemed to be recent, and very few old ones. We talked to a lady and she said it was the Evangelical Church.

We met the minister's wife, and she had my letter from several years ago, when I had written for information on the Kreisles (Kreussles, in Winterlingen). I had sent the church a donation for their new organ, but the check had never been cashed; apparently they had lost it. She was very long-winded, but had much new information on the Kreussles and Romingers, some of which I later found out was not applicable. She said there were still Kreussles in Winterlingen in 1936, and I believe she showed us a picture in a composite group. She mentioned the many Germans who left Winterlingen and the area in the early 1800's to resettle in Russia. Apparently this was because of the poverty and poor times in the area.

She took us into the church, which was restored in 1976, and it was very beautiful. Much of the art work was from the original church, including a wooden crucifix from its service as a Catholic church. The new or restored church has two organs, and the architecture was very striking. I think we met her husband before we left, but she did most of the talking.

We had lunch, noodle soup, in Winterlingen before returning in the rain to the highway for Karlsruhe, Stuttgart, Heidelberg, to Frankfurt. We passed a U. S. Army tank unit on the Autobahn near Stuttgart. The rain stopped after Karlsruhe; traffic was heavy around Heidelberg. But then it was 120 km per hour to Frankfurt, where we turned the car in at the airport, took the train to Frankfurt and a taxi to the Frankfurter Hof, perhaps one of the most elegant hotels we stayed in during the trip, with the possible exception of the hotel in East Berlin.

The next morning, Friday, July 23, 1982, we caught the train for East Germany. The conductor came through, very disagreeable, told us we were in the wrong class, and that we had to move or pay extra for first class (which we thought we were to have). Anyway, we had about an hour to ourselves in first class. There was a brief passport check at Fulda (West Germany), then an hour's wait at the border, Gerstungen, for passports, customs, etc. It was only a short ride from the border to Eisenach, where we arrived late, hot, sweaty, no cab, no money exchange at the station. So we started out carrying our bags on a long walk to the hotel. Many people on the sidewalks, Friday afternoon after work, it seemed. The hotel was at the top of a hill, and there were several flights of stairs to be climbed after we reached the hotel.

We found out we had no private bath, in spite of our voucher. The receptionist spoke almost no English, and when I inquired if we had a letter or phone call, she said Dr. Wilke had called and they would be at the hotel at 9 AM the next morning. I think she also said we would not have to go to the police station (Volkspolizei) until the next morning. We did have a magnificent view of the Wartburg Castle from our room. We stretched out for a bit, then went back to town to find a place to eat. Undercover, Robert and the hotel clerk had exchanged Marks. Everything in the main part of the city seemed drab, run- down, smelly, and nothing appeared to be open. We inquired about a restaurant and were directed to the Park Hotel.

The next morning, Saturday, and had our Fruehstueck, egg & buffet, at the hotel. We were expecting the Wilkes at 9, and assumed we would go to Wuenschensuhl and return to Eisenach. Bernhard, Elisabeth, and Dagmar drove up about 9:30, with "a hearty welcome to Eisenach!" We found out that Bernhard had written us care of AMEX in Frankfurt, as we had told him he could do, but we didn't get to the AMEX to check for mail. My second letter to them had arrived, apparently, only the day before. We were to spend Saturday night with them in Suhl, and then go on the next day with them to Weimar. We packed in a hurry, then had to go to the Volkspolizei to have our passports checked. There was a long bureaucratic type delay, with red and green signal lights to tell us when to go into the inner office. Bernhard said the station had been a barracks during the war. We then went back to the hotel to give them our voucher, then on the road in the Wilke's car, a Wartburg, a compact, made in Eisenach. It was a rather tight fit, with Dagmar driving, and Elisabeth in front, and Robert, Bernhard, and I in back. I didn't really feel like I could smoke in such compact quarters, and I knew both Elisabeth and Bernhard had heart problems.

Most of the cars we saw were small ones, a lot of Wartburgs, without much power, and a sound and sputter like a lawnmower. Dagmar was not a very good driver, but we went off at wild speeds through narrow streets and highways to Marksuhl. From there an even poorer road took us to Wuenschensuhl, a wretched little farm village, a shabby looking church, with another building almost on top of it. There was a barnyard smell to the village, understandable, since the villagers kept their animals with them. The church was locked, and Bernhard said the minister who had previously given him information was now dead. I took some pictures of the church, and town, and we drove to the cemetery. There were no old gravestones, all were gone and new ones now in place.

We drove on to Suhl by what seemed like a long round-about way. The scenery and woods around Suhl were very nice. We arrived in Suhl by 12:30 or 1, and the Wilkes took us to dinner in a very nice restaurant. Robert had an omelet, and I think I had goulash. After dinner we drove to Dagmar's apartment, where Robert and I were to stay, and unloaded our luggage. Later we drove to town, walked around a bit. Most places were closed, perhaps because it was Saturday afternoon. There were some very modern buildings in the city, some high rise. Suhl has a "weapons" museum, and a reputation for having produced weapons in the past. It is situated in a valley, with some high hills or mountains around it. We drove to Wilke's own apartment for coffee and huge desserts "Erdbeer" and gooseberry cakes, "mit Sahne!" We then snoozed for an hour or two (they had provided us with slippers), some conversation, and then a drive to their "bungalow," This took us over rutted roads, very bad, narrow, hilly, to their cottage, situated on a ridge overlooking Suhl and the mountains.

As in many German cities, there were a large number of small garden plots, perhaps 20' or 30' square, where the people can grow flowers, vegetables, and keep a little garden house or tool shed. The Wilkes were apparently in the process of finishing and furnishing their bungalow. It did not appear they had lived or spent any time in it. Bernhard was busily engaged in conversation with some of the neighbors, I gathered in regard to problems in connection with the garden plots.

We returned to Wilke's apartment for a cold supper, all kinds of cold meat on bread, tomatoes, cucumbers, and fish, which I thought was Anchovy, but Elisabeth said no. Bernhard showed us his collection of stamps, BDR and DDR, apparently has an arrangement with a friend to exchange stamps of both German governments. (Later, I thought I would try to send him some U. S. stamps, but found out I could not.)


Sunday, July 25, 1982: Up by about 8 AM, cleared chaise for breakfast, cold sausages, cucumbers, etc. We went to Wilkes about 10 AM, to drive to Weimar, over mountains, through Oberdorf (?), a workers resort at the peak. We went to our hotel, the Elephant, the same one Harold and I had stayed at in 1976, a very nice hotel. It was too early to get a room, so we checked our luggage. We went to dinner in the very elegant dining room of the hotel, and we asked if the Wilkes would let us pay, but they said no, we were their guests. The Wilkes and I had rabbit "Kamminchen," very good, with red wine sauce, tender, but tough to cut off from bone. Wilkes "cleaned" their plate, I couldn't. We walked along Schiller Strasse, passed the Schiller House (Bernhard had Schiller works on the shelf in their apartment). We drove to Tiefuhrt (?), a castle out from town with an English park. We were too early, it was closed until 2 PM, so we drove to another Schloss-castle, "Belvedere," an 18th-century building. We walked around the grounds; the estate was being used by the Liszt Music Center, with students living in various buildings. There was an exhibit of wagons in the Orangerie, but we didn't go in. We went back to the hotel, and said goodbye to the Wilkes.

Robert and I were both exhausted, but we checked to see if Buchenwald was to be open on Monday (many places closed on Monday). One place said it was closed on Monday, so we dashed to the Bahnhof, and asked Information there. They said it would be open. We went back to the hotel; it was drizzling, had been hazy all through the DDR. We had a nice room at the hotel, with television (Russian programs?) and radio (BBC music and news). We did some washing, then had supper (cold meat) on the terrace under an awning, but the rain came. I went to the Withum (?) palace "Palais" for a flute program, in the rain, but no tickets were available. Later I was let in at the last minute. The program included a Reicha flute quartet, the Frank Martin Ballade (?), and Boismortier, played by all 15 flutists in the Kurs, about an hour in all. I went back to the hotel, no beer in the bar, only beer and champagne(!). So to bed, concerned about Robert seeing Buchenwald.

Monday, July 26, 1982: We were up early, went to the Bus/Bahnhof, worried about luggage and train. We were too early for the bus to Buchenwald, so we went back to the hotel, looked at the Herder church, but it was locked. We got our luggage, checked out, and tried to get a taxi to the station, but found out there was none available until 11 AM. So we walked the 10-15 blocks to the station, with luggage, checked it at the station, and caught the 12:00 bus for Buchenwald, a 15' drive, past a Russian Kaserne. The grounds were open, but there was no sales or service open, just as well. We walked around for an hour or hour and a half, Rob was visibly moved, and then we caught the 2:00 bus back to the station with two hours to kill, too tired to go anyplace else.

We had lunch at the station, which was not very good, then caught the 4:42 train for Leipzig, which we reached by 6:20 PM, and changed trains for Dresden. We left at 7:02, arrived Dresden at 8:30, and had a 30' wait for a cab. There were plenty around, but not moving. We went to our hotel, the Neva, a tourist hotel, four star, crowded, but no problem. We had a very nice room with radio, but no television, on the sixth floor, a corner room overlooking the Lenin statue and the main railroad station. (We had come in at another station). We went to dinner, tried to eat at another hotel, but were told we could eat only at the Neva. We had some friendly West Germans at our table and talked to them. Robert had tongue, and I had good goulash. I used an American Express card, which confused the waiter. We were in bed by 11 or 11:30.

Tuesday, July 27, 1982: A little later getting up, Fruehstueck with extras, but each charged, allowed 16 DM. We were off by 9:30 or 10, down the main mall, Pragstrasse to the Rathaus Turm (Tower), which we went up. Great views of the city, plus propaganda about the American and British air raid of Feb., 1945. The tower wasn't crowded, but there was a line waiting when we came down. We went to Holy Cross Church ("Frauenkirche" or "Kreuzkirche"), the huge Evangelisch church, where Schuetz had performed. It has been restored, was under scaffolding when I was there in 1976, very impressive. We walked to the ruins of the Church of the Three Kings; the statue of Luther that had been there in '76 was gone. We walked on to the River Terrace and Schloss (castle); Rob was very tired and about 11:30 went back to the hotel. I walked on through the restored section of the Schloss, to the Cathedral (Dom), also restored, very beautiful. I saw more of the ruins of the Schloss, and ran into the West German friends from the night before. They made some sarcastic comments about the Russians not letting the East Germans rebuild the ruins. I asked about the Zwinger, and she directed me to it, very fine painting gallery, she said. So I went to the Zwinger, a series of museums and galleries in a huge quadrangle, with the famous Crown gateway, or "Kronentor."

Owner/SourceBob Mueller
Linked toDr. Harold MUELLER; Living; Elisabeth SCHIRMER; Bernhard WILKE; Living

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