Not the normal type blog, slightly more wistful. Indulge me dear reader.
Day 16 – Rain (Bavaria) 1235 Miles
Early on Thursday morning, we made the final decision that we would start pushing north with the intention of visiting a place where I’d lived as soldier, some thirty three years previous. We started on the 400 mile journey, basically heading up the map in the direction of Augsburg. We followed the Romantic Strasse for much of the way, stopping near Neuschwanstein Castle for the obligatory picture.✓ The area was heaving with tourists and coaches….we moved on.
Eventually arriving at Rain, a small town near Ingolstadt, that offered up a free stellplatze…yes free! including electric. So we stayed here for the night, God it was hot, 32c in the shade, poor old Mutts was in bits.
Day 17- 18 Lemgo (North-Rhine Westphalia) 1595 Miles
Next morning up at early doors, with 350 miles to get under our belts we pushed on. The Chucklebus thrashed along the Autobahn, drawing lots of amused glances along the way, we must have been the only brit vehicle in Southern Germany, I haven’t seen any others since Day 9! so much so, I’m almost losing command of my own language, as the Mutts obviously doesn’t speak English and the Other Half is from N. Ireland, you see my predicament. I now talk in Germanglish, verstehen? We reached Lemgo, which is a few miles N/E of Bielefeld, just after lunch after five hours on the road. The first thing that confronted me was the toothless hag on reception at Camping-Park Lemgo. She really was a horrible lady, and as a now recognised master of Germanglish, I caught her anti-British comments and gestures to one of the other guests. However I’m now a grown-up, so I smiled sweetly and booked us in for two nights, whilst putting her name in my mental “Black Book”….C’mon, we all have one!
Right then, the back-story. I arrived in Lemgo on the 10th Oct 1978, a spotty, wimpy, skint, 17yr old kid. This was to be my home on and off until August 1982. During the intervening period, the army would throw everything at me, that would undoubtedly put it’s mark on me for later life. I made really close friends, who are still friends now, I travelled the world with them, I faced danger with them, I got drunk with them,…lots! and like any self-respecting Brit away from home I partied like it was 1999! I grew up quickly living amongst guys from so many differing backgrounds, you develop survival skills, or you falter and fall by the wayside. The army’s a great parent as long as you fit in!
During this five year period I was exposed to the best in mankind and as part of my service, was also witness to the very worst. I don’t say this to make the story bigger than it is, everyone I served with has a story to tell. But as I write this having spent the last two days reflecting on my time here from 1978, it struck me profoundly how important those five years in Lemgo was to me personally. For all that was to follow in my life, the Lemgo period was the building block, both good and bad. When we came to leave in August 1982, I was happy to go. I felt restricted, unfulfilled and I missed the UK. I felt my life was passing me by, but of course it wasn’t. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was actually living it, full-on, 100%, to the maximum.
Over the intervening years I’ve never felt a desire to return. Now, with grown-up children, and a recent much-loved addition of a grandson, I find myself more and more looking back at my life thus far. Until a week ago I had no intention to return, however, as the days have passed I’ve changed my mind, and realised I may not be this way again, anytime soon. So we’ve visited, and I’m so glad we did. It’s been a weekend of reflections, nothing sad, just a chance to roll back the years and see whats what.
This weekend trip occurs just over thirty three years after I departed. When I arrived in 1978, it was thirty three years since the barracks had been in the hands of the Wermacht in 1945, whilst my dad was serving as a wartime Royal Engineer! A very bizarre set of facts perhaps, but in my mind I’ve established to myself where I am in the family generational markers,…my Grandson was born 33 years after I left here, so a small series of personal links and a nice little timeline for me to ponder.
Today, although the camp is gone, the buildings survive, but are now converted into apartments. The drill square is now a children’s play area, complete with grass and trees….I like that, it’s something good, let me show you:
Now the next picture showing the same view today.
Later we strolled into the town, I hadn’t realised what a beautiful place it was. It’s history had completely passed me by when I was a young man, probably rightly so, I was busy in other areas! But now looking at it, sat in one of the 16th century squares, enjoying a drink at one of the now numerous pavement cafes, I realised how differently the world looks when your seventeen, compared to what I was viewing now as a world-wiser middle-aged man. Time is a great educator!
Tomorrow, normal business resumes. We are driving across to the border city of Aachen, where we will overnight, before heading to Ypres in Belgium for a three night stay.
Thanks for indulging me.
That is all.