Watching the gentlemen from Deutschland win the FIFA World Cup on TV – didn’t really watch it, it was 1.30 am in Sri Lanka when the match was on but my sixteen year old son and his friend did, (the young can stay up late!)- as they bask in the glow of the after-win, I remember the Germany I lived in, almost thirty years ago. Back then, it was West Germany or Bundesrepublik Deutschland and the capital was Bonn. We lived in Bad Godesberg which was a quiet suburb in Bonn. I remember the bus passing through the Kennedy Allee where all the Americans lived. Those were the Eighties before the reunification and the Allied forces still had bases in Germany.
The only English radio I could tune into was BFBS – British Forces Broadcasting Service. I yearned to hear English and this was my oasis. The radio would be on the whole day long. Those were the days before the internet and social media. Although most Germans could master decent English back then, German was the language of choice. The hit TV series Dynasty was known as Denver Clan in Germany. We would watch it although the dialogue was in German.
Back in those days, Air Lanka flight to Frankfurt first went to Abu Dhabi, then Milan before finally touching down at Frankfurt Am Main. It was a long flight and usually a Tristar flew that route but also a one time 747 was also on the route, if I remember right.
Where else could you lose a hand bag and find it? There was this one time when I accidentally left my hand bag in a bus in Bonn. When I realised I had left it behind, I ran all the way to the Hauptbahnhof the main bus terminal. The bus driver had handed my bag over to the lady at the terminal and once they verified it was mine, I got it back. That, to me, is the highlight of my stay there.
My German class was a German version of Mind Your Language. There were over ten of us from different countries. There was Wandimu from Ethiopia, a son of a diplomat, Brenda from the US, Leah from Lebanon, Greg from Haiti, a diplomat, Stanlos, the Greek god and many others. We would share with each other everything about our countries. Occasionally, we would visit each other’s house for a meal, along with our German teacher. After classes, as a strong winter wind blew, we would huddle up for a coffee inside a coffee house and switch from German into English for conversation. Those days are etched in my mind as a perfect example of how people from different countries could come together as one, and this long before it was fashionable to do so. I have since tried to track some of them down on line, not with much success.
I would always remember the Germans as very duty conscious. If a lady with a child was in distress, there would be plenty of people, all good samaritans, to help. I don’t remember the Germans being particularly friendly but they were good hearted and ever ready to help. Our land lady used to love my mother’s chicken curry ; she would freeze it and share it with her family over weekends.
One habit I picked up in Germany was being punctual. My husband is often ‘Sri Lankan’ late but I try to be on time as much as I can. In Germany, it is almost sacrilegious to be late. I also picked up the habit of being uber clean. In Germany, cleanliness is an obsession. Especially cleaning one’s premises. I guess it is a good thing, especially when you don’t have help around the house.
Long walks in winter were fabulous in wind blown Bonn. I remember visiting the cathedral in Cologne and the Brandenburg Gate in the then West Germany. We had to travel through the then East Germany which was very obviously economically badly off. It was a sight to watch the Russian made sad looking East German cars struggle beside the swanky Mercs and BMWs cruising past them on the dilapidated East Germany highway, towards West Berlin. Once, our BMW broke down and we had a time getting a not-very-friendly East German mechanic to fix it. It was an experience, just being there on that road which looked like it came and went nowhere.
Frankfurt was a wonderful city and full of fun. Bonn on the contrary, was a quiet university town kind of a place which really didn’t live up to its name as the capital during the divided days. Other than the diplomatic community, Bonn was a small valley that was quiet and less than glamourous. Bonn Eines or Bonn 01 was more commercial than Bonn Zwei or Bonn 02 where Bad Godesberg was.
Maybe it’s time I went back to do some catching up in Deutschland.