Arlesheim, Basel-Landschaft (BL), Schweiz/Suisse/Svizzera/Switzerland

[1984 Nikon FE2 SLR 35-mm roll film camera, s/n 1816483, with Nikkor AI 50-mm f/1.8 lens, s/n 2336591, and 52-mm polarizing filter;
Kodak Ektar 125 (Kodak 5101 | Ektar 125-1) 36-exposure colour negative film]

© Copyright photograph by Stephan Alexander Scharnberg, November 1991

Friday, August 28, 2009

Hitchhiking in Europe

During my years in Europe—summer 1981, 1982–1987, September to mid-October 1989, November 1991—I carried around a dog-eared copy of Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe: how to see Europe by the skin of your teeth by Ken Welsh, Pan Books, London, 1981, paperback.

This was my thumbing bible, as I’m sure it was for many who tramped around Europe the cheapest way possible. Now, I wasn’t without the financial means—I did also often use the excellent rail systems in the various Western European countries (Switzerland, Westdeutschland, France, Luxembourg, Italy, Spain) but hitchhiking was another way to see the countryside and to meet the citizens of those countries. As a Canadian, with a Canada flag prominently stitched to my big red back pack, I never really had any problems getting that next ride. If there was a long wait, it was because of the line ahead of me or the poor location.

*   *   *

The night of July 5th, Claudia, Julia, and I attended the 18th Annual Montreux International Jazz Festival (1984). We saw the reggae band Aswad, Téléphone from France, and a burned-out Johnny Winter.

I had the day off but the girls did not. After an enjoyable night we started hitchhiking home at 2.00—we had kept it light on the beer, and lately cutting down on our smoking, too—Marlboro and Camel unfiltered—first catching a ride in a crimson BMW 3-series all the way to Morges, then waited a half hour for a taxi up to Perceval by 3.30, costing us a collective sFr. 45,00.

Deep Purple recorded “Smoke on the Water”, appearing on their Made In Japan album. The Casino burned to the ground on December 4, 1971, after someone fired a roman candle into the ceiling in the middle of Don Preston’s synthesizer solo in “King Kong”. Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention lost most of their gear and instruments.

We all came out to Montreux
On the Lake Geneva shoreline
To make records with a mobile
We didn’t have much time
Frank Zappa and the Mothers
Were at the best place around
But some stupid with a flare gun
Burned the place to the ground
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

They burned down the gambling house
It died with an awful sound
Funky Claude was running in and out
Pulling kids out the ground
When it all was over
We had to find another place
But Swiss time was running out
It seemed that we would lose the race
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

We ended up at the Grand Hotel
It was empty cold and bare
But with the rolling truck stones thing just outside
Making our music there
With a few red lights and a few old beds
We make a place to sweat
No matter what we get out of this
I know we’ll never forget
Smoke on the water, fire in the sky

Hitchhiking in Switzerland was generally known to be safe—those picking us up usually friendly and sometimes willing to talk. Known as l’auto-stop (faire du stop) in French Switzerland, as Trampen (per Anhalter fahren) in German.

Another evening, Saturday, July 14th, many of us stagières and séminaristes (including Maddalena, Mórag, Claudia and her sister Antje, Bernd-Uwe and sister Beate, Fernando, Angelines, Maria-Jésus, Jean-Luc, and myself) went down to a secluded lakeshore spot to celebrate the Fête d’Été with a campfire picnic and roast, singing and guitar, drinking, smoking, and swimming.

From the route du lac, a little more than a third of the way between St-Prex and Morges and across from the Le Boiron farmstead, our entourage of a metallic light blue 1972 VW Beetle, 2 CV Canards, Renault 4s and 5s, turned right onto a gravel road, parking half way along at wood’s edge, then on foot through the leafy trees to a short sandy beach and fire pit about 200 metres west of the mouth of Le Boiron, quietly and calmly feeding the lake.

Around sundown, Claudia and I waded a little further west from the group and stripped down to swim and cavort naked in the cool, pleasant water.

Now the plan was, July 15th, I would train it to Stuttgart via Lausanne, Bern, Zürich, and Schaffhausen, visiting the Matzke’s, then the Paffrath’s in Pforzheim, hitching to Grandfather’s in Höhbeck-Brünkendorf, back to Konstanz and Allensbach to see Claudia, August 9th, and back in St-Prex by August 12th.

It was the 750th Anniversary (1234–1984) of the village of St-Prex, a community-wide celebration including Perceval, with municipality tents set up on various lawns and park lands, local vintners plying their whites and reds, in local custom to be had in little 10-dl glasses. I purchased a set of six commemorating St-Prex, emblazoned with the town’s official red and white crest.

Almost at the last minute, the evening before my holidays, it was decided in an emergency meeting that I was to return the second week to help Mórag with a difficult Greek-Turkish boy who was not going home for anything beyond a day visit, as his parents beat him soundly everytime they argued and fought, tempers flying.

My first week I did take the train to Konstanz, hitchhiked to Stuttgart (Matzke’s), and then Pforzheim (mother’s godchild’s parents), and the train back via Karlsruhe, Basel, Bern, and Lausanne.

Strangely, several songs from the München pop-rock group, Spyder Murphy Gang, stand out in my mind from that quick stab into Westdeutschland—“Freizeit ’81” from their Tutti Frutti album, “Skandal im Sperrbezirk” and “Schickeria” from Dolce Vita, and “Achterbahn” from Rock’n Roll Schuah.

The week with Kristo was peaceful and restful—he seemed relieved there was the small contingency remaining at Maison François.

In that second week our good friend and co-worker, fellow seminarist-to-be, Maddalena Angerame from Varese, northern Italy, tragically drowned Wednesday, July 24th, while rescuing and saving her little nephew who had visited us just a few months earlier.

This happened in a little lake near her home town. He survived, but Maddalena succumbed in exhaustion close to shore, despite being a trained lifeguard. The ultimate selfless act that someone could do—one’s own life for another.

A week earlier Maddalena had confided in Mórag how she was no longer afraid of death! and had insisted on clearing all her debts before leaving on holidays, on the fourth day of which she left this world.

Now our planned seminar group of twelve was eleven—still the largest seminar year Perceval had seen yet. Now we had one of us guiding our group from the other side.

That same week Mórag, Julia, myself, and a few others went to the 9th Annual Festival Nyon Paléo, many musicians featured including Alan Stivell, the Breton folk harpist, and Georges Moustaki, the famous French chansonnier. I had already heard a few of his songs from several co-workers’ cassette collections. He soon became my all-time favourite singer-songwriter, and remains so to this day.

Georges Moustaki was born Giuseppe Mustacchi, of Greek-Italian-Egyptian origin, in 1934 in Alexandria, Egypt.

A few favourites stand out from that summer, such as “Le Métèque”,

Avec ma gueule de métèque,
De Juif errant, de pâtre grec
Et mes cheveux aux quatre vents,
Avec mes yeux tout délavés
Qui me donnent l’air de rêver,
Moi qui ne rêve plus souvent,
Avec mes mains de maraudeur,
de musicien et de rôdeur
Qui ont pillé tant de jardins,
Avec ma bouche qui a bu,
Qui a embrassé et mordu
Sans jamais assouvir sa faim ...

Avec ma gueule de métèque,
De Juif errant, de pâtre grec,
De vouleur et de vagabond,
Avec ma peau qui s’est frottée
Au soleil de tous les étés
Et tout ce qui portait jupon,
Avec mon coeur qui a su faire
Souffrir autant qu’il a souffert
Sans pour cela faire d’histoires,
Avec mon âme qui n’a plus
La moindre chance de salut
Pour éviter le purgatoire ...

Avec ma gueule de métèque,
De Juif errant, de pâtre grec
Et mes cheveux aux quatre vents,
Je viendrai, ma douce captive,
Mon âme soeur, ma source vive,
Je viendrai boire tes vingt ans
Et je serai Prince de sang,
Rêveur ou bien adolescent,
Comme il te plaira de choisir;
Et nous ferons de chaque jour
Toute une éternité d’amour
Que nous vivrons à en mourir.

Et nous ferons de chaque jour
Toute une éternité d’amour
Que nous vivrons à en mourir.

and the song “Ma Liberté”,

Ma liberté
Longtemps je t’ai gardée
Comme une perle rare
Ma liberté
C’est toi qui m’as aidé
À larguer les amarres
Pour aller n’importe où
Pour aller jusqu’au bout
Des chemins de fortune
Pour cueillir en rêvant
Une rose des vents
Sur un rayon de lune

Ma liberté
Devant tes volontés
Mon âme était soumise
Ma liberté
Je t’avais tout donné
Ma dernière chemise
Et combien j’ai souffert
Pour pouvoir satisfaire
Tes moindres exigences
J’ai changé de pays
J’ai perdu mes amis
Pour gagner ta confiance

Ma liberté
Tu as su désarmer
Toutes mes habitudes
Ma liberté
Toi qui m’as fait aimer
Même la solitude
Toi qui m’as fait sourire
Quand je voyais finir
Une belle aventure
Toi qui m’as protégé
Quand j’allais me cacher
Pour soigner mes blessures

Ma liberté
Pourtant je t’ai quittée
Une nuit de décembre
J’ai déserté
Les chemins écartés
Que nous suivions ensemble
Lorsque sans me méfier
Les pieds et poings liés
Je me suis laissé faire
Et je t’ai trahie pour
Une prison d’amour
Et sa belle geolière

Et je t’ai trahie pour
Une prison d’amour
Et sa belle geolière

and there is also the song “Sarah”,

La femme qui est dans mon lit
N’a plus vingt ans depuis longtemps
Les yeux cernés
Par les années
Par les amours
Au jour le jour
La bouche usée
Par les baisers
Trop souvent mais
Trop mal donnés
Le teint blafard
Malgré le fard
Plus pâle qu’une
Tache de lune

La femme qui est dans mon lit
N’a plus vingt ans depuis longtemps
Les seins trop lourds
De trop d’amours
Ne portent pas
Le nom d’appâts
Le corps lassé
Trop caressé
Trop souvent mais
Trop mal aimé
Le dos voûté
Semble porter
Les souvenirs
Qu’elle a dû fuir

La femme qui est dans mon lit
N’a plus vingt ans depuis longtemps
Ne riez pas
N’y touchez pas
Gardez vos larmes
Et vos sarcasmes
Lorsque la nuit
Nous réunit
Son corps, ses mains
S’offrent aux miens
Et c’est son coeur
Couvert de pleurs
Et de blessures
Qui me rassure

Saturday, July 28th, I was on vacation again, up to Allensbach with Claudia in her yellow Renault 5.

On the Autobahn northeast of Zürich we lost the driverside windshield wiper blade—it nailed the windshield of a grey BMW right behind us. She pulled over, I rummaged through my backpack for the Swiss Army knife, both of us barefoot in the downpour, me in jeans and t-shirt, she in a red dress. I unclipped the other blade and transferred it over. Thereafter the now bladeless wiper arm etched a line into the glass with each pass. Meanwhile, a cassette by the Animals was blasting through the tinny speakers—“We’ve gotta get out of this place” stands out in my mind to this day.

I stayed at Claudia’s until Monday morning, then thumbed from Singen to Hamburg in three days—standing three hours in the muggy heat on the southwestern outskirts of Stuttgart, finally scoring a ride with a business man in a fresh, new silver-grey BMW 733i, by way of Pforzheim, talking politics and devouring a few apples.

In the muggy, hazy heat of Karlsruhe, I caught my next ride near the on-ramp to the autobahn, only waiting about twenty minutes, with a pot-smoking German hippie listening to a music cassette by the German rock group BAP, driving a beat-up red 2CV Ente steering with the pinky of his right hand, past Heidelberg and Mannheim, depositing me at a rest stop on the A 3 Autobahn somewhere just past Wiesbaden and Frankfurt am Main.

Here I waited for some time, second-in-line behind a young German fellow who eventually commented on my Canada flag and offered hitching together to his parents in Leverkusen just north of Köln when he heard of my unrealistic hopes of still reaching Hannover that night, somewhat off-course that I was.

Soon after, we got a ride with a Dutch father and his teen son towing a small sailboat with a baby blue late 1970s Ford Taunus station wagon.

I stayed with the young German fellow and his family the whole next day, swimming at a crowded local outdoor pool and plied with steaks, pork chops, and plenty of DAB Pilsener (Dortmunder Actien-Brauerei)—quoting their current label,

Dortmund, “Brewcity of Germany” is the origin of a special type of the bottom-fermented blond lager, which became world famous as “the Dortmunder”. DAB Original is the leading product in this premium lager quality. It is still brewed according to the original Dortmunder brewing process, using only barley, hops, yeast and water to create the fabulous crisp and fullbodied taste of excellence

—and some other local brews, his father in Coca-Cola Deutschland’s upper management.

Then, together for Hamburg to see his girlfriend, via Wuppertal, Hagen, Dortmund, and Münster with three different rides, and the fourth with a Münster rock musician and producer, discussing music and musicians including the Scorpions and the Michael Schenker Group, past Osnabrück and Bremen into Harburg, where we caught an S-Bahn across the Elbe to the Hamburg Hauptbahnhof and another S-Bahn out to the girlfriend’s parents in Rahlstedt, that night quaffing a few pints of draught Guinness in a local imitation Irish pub.

My ancestors owned and operated a shipbuilding yard at the foot of Dorotheenstraße in the Winterhude neighbourhood—and a marina, boat rentals, and harbour ferry at the foot of Lohmühlenstraße. They had it from the early 1860s until the great worldwide financial crash in the 1920s.

At that time my great grandfather lost everything except his favourite sail boat, the cutter Greten.

We were up early the next morning. Nourished with a breakfast of Rollmopse (pickled, rolled herring filets), softboiled eggs, buttered slices of pumperknickel, and black coffee, the three of us cycled a tandem bicycle, taking turns in overlapping stages, a few blocks along Schweriner Straße to meet with Rahlstedter Straße, soon becoming Stapelfelder Straße—the 435—heading east and crossing to the hamlet of Stapelfeld where the A 1 Autobahn ran north to Lübeck on the Baltic.

I hitched into Trittau—just over twenty years later I would again take up the genealogical research that I had initially started in 1980 with Grandfather Heinrich Scharnberg’s invaluable research and knowledge of our family tree, contacting a Bruno Scharnberg through his website “Stammbaum Scharnberg Trittau”, attempting to find a connection between our Scharnberg branches—and then walked some 30 kilomteres from there down to Lauenburg along the 404 and 209 by way of Schwarzenbek as no one would stop along this fast countryside route with its 120 km/h speed limit, despite the easily distinguishable Canada flag prominently on my backpack, that usually got me my rides, judging by reactions and feedback from those that have stopped for me—plenty of questions, comments, and compliments about Canada. This was the worst luck I was to have, trying to catch a ride.

Then on to Lüneburg where a local family scooped me from the roadside and home for a dinner of medium-rare steaks and red wine, and lots of great discussion. They got me on the last train of the evening for Dannenberg, and then one more hitch, arriving at Grandfather’s doorstep by 22.00 on the Thursday, August 2nd. He was still up, waiting for me past his usual bedtime—we talked until just after one in the morning.

In the next four days he had lots to say—not everything I agreed with—re: his views on Jews, Hitler and the Nazi’s ideas on expansion eastward into the Soviet Union, Gouvernement in Poland during the war, keeping Germanic blood pure, Theosophy, knocking Anthroposophy—until this almost caused an argument between us.

He was already 88 years old, entrenched in his ideas, but easily looking twenty years younger, with a clear mind and physically fit. A strict, largely Rohkost vegetarian, but allowing himself the indulgence of an occasional small piece of dark chocolate. Every evening he and Hanna would watch a lot of TV—something of a paradox in his otherwise health-regimented lifestyle.

Early Monday morning, August 6th, my uncle, Klaus Paasche, drove me to Wolfsburg, Volkswagen’s hometown, nearby where he was currently working on an Autobahn section in his profession as a surveyor.

From there I was back on the train, no hitching due to heavy rains and sparse traffic. Klaus had said it was due to the current strikes at Volkswagen and vacation time. Die Bahn took me through Braunschweig, Hannover, Frankfurt am Main, and Mannheim to Stuttgart, then the S-Bahn into Böblingen, home to a Mercedes-Benz factory, where I became lost and confused trying to figure out the freeway entrance, finding it around nine in the evening, north of the train station, not south—no money left for further train travel southward. Car traffic was only local—I always made use of black permanent marker and cardboard to state my destinations.

I availed myself of the town’s small park woods for the night, succeeding in a ride quickly, early the next morning from a young American couple in a circa 1956–1957 vintage grey-green VW Beetle sporting US Army Europe plates.

They dropped me right in the heart of Singen, where I quickly got my next one, quite literally out of the Beetle, sign and thumb up barely five seconds and into an orange Opel Kadett, into Allensbach at Claudia’s doorbell about 8.30 for breakfast and then swimming in the lake, followed by a drive around to Insel Reichenau, facing Allensbach, for lunch, a walk, visiting the three churches—St. Georg in Oberzell, St. Maria und Markus in Mittelzell, and St. Peter und Paul—and cake and coffee in a little establishment to finish.

The next day we drove together into Stuttgart to visit some friends of hers (Frank and his girlfriend), spontaneous idea—she commonly came up with these—staying Wednesday to Friday afternoon.

We visited the Neue Staatsgalerie, stopped in on the Freie Waldorfschule Uhlandshöhe, Haussmannstrasse 44—quite familiar to me as it was here I had visited for six weeks in summer 1981 after my high school graduation—walked numerous wooded paths above the city centre including the Monte Scherbelino, a hill of rubble from all the houses and buildings destroyed in local WW II bombing raids, and one breakfast stop at the Mozart Café—a stone gazebo-like establishment—where we ordered the house special, ein schwarzes Frühstück, consisting of an espresso cup of black coffee and a Gauloise Brune cigarette. You can imagine the buzz.

Then, on our return drive, stopping in on friends (Gabriela and another young woman) at Lehenhof not far north of the Bodensee (Lake Constance), the oldest Camphill village in Westdeutschland, founded by Dr. Karl König in September 1964, pleasantly located on a hillside heavily laden with many trees of just-ripe cherries on the orchard slopes below.

Saturday morning, August 11th, I made use of my thumb again, from Allensbach to Morges in five hours and three rides, walking the last few kilometres into St-Prex.

*   *   *

I have hitchhiked many times back and forth between St-Prex and Morges, Lausanne, Genève, Montreux, Vevey, Neuchâtel, Fribourg, Biel/Bienne, Basel, Winterthur, Zürich, Solothurn, smaller towns in the German region of Switzerland, into villages of the Vaudois hinterland at the foot of the Jura mountains, the Bernois countryside, Valais, up through Westdeutschland by way of Konstanz, Freiburg im Breisgau, Stuttgart, Pforzheim, Karlsruhe, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Köln, Essen, Münster, Hamburg, Lüneburg, Celle, Uelzen, Dannenberg, Hannover, Braunschweig, Kassel, Ingolstadt, and München.

At some point I will detail a few more of these trips.

And, I never thumbed in North America until a few years ago, summer 2002 and summer 2006, when I did hitchhike in New Brunswick, Saint John to Moncton and back. Out here on the West Coast I would not dare try this. Maritimers I trust more as they’re generally friendlier than most people.

3 comments:

Kristen Aliotti said...

Where did you find the Langewiesche quote? A book? or a magazine piece? I would like to know the source. (It's a good quote!). Thanks.

Kristen Aliotti
San Diego

Expat Traveler said...

Most notable to me is as I also experience, yet another vacation... Yes so much time to go explore Europe! And I too attended many Montreux Jazz Festivals... What a life to have gone and traveled so much throughout Europe..

I can't wait to spend a good 3 or so weeks back!

Stephan Alexander Scharnberg said...

Kristen,
I googled "travel quotes" and then searched a few offerings. I can not remember exactly which site I read his quote. Do you know William Langewiesche? I know best his writing on the subject of aviation. It shouldn't be difficult to find the quote. Thanks for your comment.