In 1990, we got orders to move to Heidelberg, Germany. We’d been trying to get to Germany, but getting Heidelberg was an extra added bonus. Of course, we didn’t know it at the time, but this was to be the first of two assignments to Heidelberg, although we wouldn’t live in town the second time. The first time, however, we had an apartment on Romer Strasse, not far from Peggy’s office. Sweet. Since we were there, though, everything has been turned over to the German’s and the US no longer has a contingency in Heidelberg. Even the wonderful Heidelberg Golf Course is now owned and operated by the Germans. Robert’s played his last round there…
We had several things we liked to do while in Germany:
1. See as many things possible in the free time we had.
2. Eat as many different foods as possible.
3. Try as many different beers as possible.
4. Take the trains.
We absolutely loved the European transportation system. We rode buses, street cars, and trains everywhere, taking only a handful of car trips. That kind of movement isn’t possible across the expanses of the US, so this was a great experience of a different way of getting around. That and Europeans bike everywhere and bicycles are an integral part of their lives. Since everyone rides a bike somewhere, motorists have respect for bikes knowing they’ll be on theirs later. And bicyclists have respect for the walkers, since walking is another big mode of transportation used by all. And that is what we did the most of: walking.
We started off our first night by dining at the Hotel Rose in Heidelberg – the first of many wonderful meals we consumed over the next three years. Both of us had been looking forward to having a real Wiener Schnitzel made with veal. We weren’t disappointed. Robert was heard to say: “The Sauce! The Sauce! My Kingdom for the Sauce”, so we can assume he liked it and Peggy performed her “OCS eating SOPs” and finished long before Robert. (A tradition carried on today.) And we both enjoyed our drinks: a vodka, champagne, kiwi juice mix that was to die for.
Beer in Europe is unlike the standard American fair of Bud, Miller, etc. They have better standards and better palettes in Europe. For example, in Germany until about the time we got there, beer could only have water, barley, and hops. It wasn’t until 1993 that other ingredients were allowed, but even those ingredients are controlled. Oddly, the Spaniards make a pretty good beer called “Keller”. Yes, yes, that’s a German name, but there you are. Recently, however, there is a large beer company, buying up a lot of the good beers. Becks, Stella’s, and other good beers are now owned by a large corporation whose only goal is to make a profit. They promise they won’t mess with the brewing, but we have serious reservations about that. Anyway, we were introduced to what good beer tastes like and how to serve it properly (not ice cold – that numbs your taste buds the first mouthful). Fortunately, when we got back to the US, micro beers were on the rise and better beers were available, otherwise, we would have had to learn how to make our own beer – not something high on our “To-Do” list…
Free time had always been a problem since Peggy went to OCS and became an officer. Once you sign the dotted line, unless you resign your commission, you are the Army’s 24/7 for the rest of your life. (Even today, more than 30 years since Peggy signed, she is still considered Active Duty, but in retired status. If they call, up to a certain age, she has to go.) And when you’re a young officer, you get a lot of work piled on you, so, 12 to 14 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week are not unusual – common would be a better term. Our solution was to take day trips when and where we could. If she got a weekend off, we’d hop on a train and go somewhere within permitted distances without signing out on leave (although we did take a few days leave here and there). We saw most of Europe that way. Our trip to Spain was the longest at 10 days – but we were on leave then.
We had some wonderful experiences in Germany and some strange ones as well. Like the maid from hell.
Elly was a German woman in her late 70’s or early 80’s. She had only a small apartment and pension from the German government and made some spending cash doing household chores as a maid. It would be affordable since it was only a couple of hours every other week, we could help her out, and we wouldn’t have to do it ourselves; after all, we’d never been in a position where we could hire a maid. So, we hired Elly on the recommendation of friends. We now believe that she was recommended to us just so her current employers could get rid of her gracefully. She was (we assume she’s dead by this time this is written) a sweet character, but she was no maid. We soon found ourselves cleaning the house before she got there and left only the minor, easy chores. That wasn’t enough, for she poked holes in some very expensive speakers while dusting them and she tried to use some caustic stuff under the sink as furniture polish. Fortunately, Robert was able to prevent her from doing that, but we had to let her go. She had a couple of others she worked for who were o.k. with her idiosyncrasies, so she still had work.
We were fortunate enough to be stationed in the Heidelberg area twice; the second time (1996-99) staying in the small town of Reilingen, just outside Heidelberg.
We had a wonderful townhouse and a parking lot that we shared with Gasthaus zum Löwen, a restaurant that had been in continual operation for some 400 years! We loved the local bakeries, meat shops, farms where you could get fresh eggs. We had forests to wander and back roads everywhere to follow. Much quieter than our first time in Germany.