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PART 8 Perth-Edinburgh-London-Hamburg
July 23, 1973 (Monday)
When we come out of the youth hostel on Monday, a car stops next to us: “Hello, ladies, do you want to come with me? I have to go all the way to the northern tip and don’t want to drive alone.“ Apparently one of the many business travelers. We heard it several times also from lorry drivers that they like to have company on the long hauls. We want to go to Edinburgh, but we recall that one of the Dutch boys wanted to go north. We tell the man and describe the boy’s appearance and possible location. We stand on the road to Edinburgh ourselves. And of course we paid the warden, that’s for sure! For the first time we are refusing a lift. A young man who wants to take us a few miles. We want to go to Edinburgh, and sometimes it’s stupid when you’re in the middle of nowhere. We are doing right, because only a short while later a car stops that takes us all the way to Edinburgh. The driver has lost a hand and uses a strap-on scoop that he slips over a ball on the steering wheel. So he can drive very safely. I find that very practical.
To get over the new bridge over the Firth, you have to pay 30 pence. [Actually, it is called Forth bridge, it is the bridge over the Firth of Forth.] Our driver gets upset: “That’s ridiculous. In the past you could cross over for free with the ferry. Now they have built the new bridge with our tax money, and now we have to pay if we want to use it. Ridiculous!“ – Somehow he’s right. But we’re already in Edinburgh by then. He drops us off in the middle of the city center so that we can get to know the city on the march to the youth hostel. We have to walk for about 15 minutes. There is only one boy sitting in front of the hostel. „Because most people don’t know that the hostels in the big cities already open at 2 p.m.“ he says. That is, of course, good for us. We didn’t know that either, but now we’re here. But first we go to a snack bar … [I’ve heard different pronunciations for Edinburgh: Edinborrow, Ed’nbarra with a rolled „R“ and in Edinburgh itself Edinbro.]
Later we meet a guy from Hamburg called Rainer who asks us if he could come with us. I have a bad feeling, Susi probably too, but somehow we feel sorry for him. When we are ready to go, he drags another German along, Wilfried by name. Wilfried gets terribly on my nerves. We go shopping and eating and meet in Princes Street Gardens, below the castle, to sit on the grass. In the evening Susi and Rainer go to the cinema (the ten commandments) and I already see myself burdened with Wilfried in the common room. I say that I want to wash my hair, „Good night then,“ and escape. (Susi later tells me that Rainer had tried to cop off with her, but was totally brushed off instead.) Later on, with ’Androcles and the lion’, I sit down in the common room anyway, with a boy at a table. He is an American and an aspiring writer. He talks a lot about himself and thinks that he can get to know a city in one day. He was in Germany for three months and speaks German pretty well. He’s actually very nice, although I can’t take him too seriously. He smiles and says, “You should have a party here. There are so many young people here who are bored!“ I can’t really see that the people around us are bored, maybe he is. I better remove myself.
Half an hour before midnight, various French girls storm into our room. They continue making noise until long after midnight until I finally remark in French that I would like to sleep. Calm descends on the dormitory.
July 24, 1973 (Tuesday)
The next morning we wait for Rainer. But when he still doesn’t show up at 10 a.m., we leave. Maybe he is mad about the brush off from the night before. Fortunately, Wilfried has left. The sun is shining and we are content. In front of us is a young woman with a child in a pushchair. We hear that she speaks German with the child. All of a sudden she stops and we almost run into her. „Sorry!“ she says. “It is o.k.,” we answer in German. She looks up in surprise. Then she comes after us. „You are from Germany? Do you live here? “ We tell her about us. She, Heide, has lived in Scotland with her husband and children for three years. This year in September they will go back to Germany. When we tell her how little money we have left, she immediately invites us to dinner. A feeling of elation overcomes us. Another nice person in our acquaintance.
We go to the castle, where the grandstands are already being built for the Highland Games. (By the way, one of the most important locations for the Highland Games is Braemar. It is there that they are officially opened by the Queen.)
From the castle you have a great view over Edinburgh. There’s a loan from the Acropolis over on Calton Hill. Or? It actually looks like a sun temple.
The tourist crowds are of course annoying. Some pose on cannons, some standing beside guards who wear such a beautiful uniform: kilt, black jackets, shoes with white gaiters, tartan hats and stockings, and the inevitable sporran. What a beautiful picture must that give: a happily grinning, fat tourist next to a young guard, who looks away in embarassment.
Susi and I slide sideways into a dark alley and take a look at the Grassmarket, where people used to bargain for horses and the like. In order to wet the dry throats of the traders, the most wonderful pubs have been built around the square, unfortunately all of them too expensive for us.
A guy is renovating a house. I wouldn’t even have stepped blindfolded up the wooden ladder he uses: not a single rung is unpatched. Our way leads us through a sinister area until we come back to a main street and a bookstore. An exemplary bookstore, a wonder of the world in Great Britain, let’s go inside! The books are not only sorted alphabetically, but also according to subject. In other bookstores, if they exist at all, it is a coincidence that someone finds the books they are looking for. [This has greatly improved during the years after our visit.] But I’ve already bought two books in London and three in Elgin. Now the money is gone.
Then we end up in Princes Street Gardens and listen to the entertainment that is put on there every day. After the Highland dancers, three girls perform what is declared as Scottish folklore: an American song, an Irish song, a Scottish song, an American song. In between, an older man plays the organ. He has an impressive repertoire spanning all types of music genres and eras. Young and old, foreigners and locals meet here.
We also meet Rainer, who is now trying to cop off with me. No, no, no, no, no! When Susi says that she is bored, he says: „If you don’t like it here, why don’t you leave!“ – Susi and I look at each other and have to laugh. What a cheaky jerk! When he hears about our invitation from Heide, he naturally wants to come with us. [Why on earth did we tell him?] He is grating our ears the whole day, even in the evening in the youth hostel, until Susi finally withdraws herself: „I still have to wash my hair!“ – Now I am alone with the plague, but I manage to get rid of him. He is so infinitely taken with himself, it is unbearable. [Funnily enough, both Susi and I meet him again later. Susi in France, not so long after the trip to Scotland. I on a hitchhiking tour with my best friend from Berlin back to Hamburg several years later. He was just as pushy and blabbing as in Scotland. He didn’t recognize me and I didn’t say anything. I didn’t need that. The Berlin tour is also a story in itself… It’s actually amazing that we both meet him again by coincidence and in so different places. The man gets around. But maybe one meets other people again as well, one just doesn’t notice them because they don’t behave in such a dominant way.] The evening at Heide’s is very nice, and we get permission to leave our backpacks with them the next day and an invitation to eat haggis because I raved about it so much. [I never seem to have had contact with Heide and Mike afterwards. I can’t even remember sending a „thank you“ card for all the good deeds. They wanted to go back to Germany in September and we didn’t have the address, but anyway. Somehow atypical for me, I hope.]
July 25, 1973 (Wednesday)
After depositing the backpacks, we are drawn to Thistle Street, where, according to our hosts, a junk auction takes place every Wednesday. We sit down on a staircase until 11.00 a.m. when Heide approaches. She would like to go to the market with us. A mahogany sideboard that no one wants goes for 10 pence, while some idiot gives £ 2.40 for two stupid pots. In any case, you can furnish an apartment there cheaply if you are lucky.
Then Heide invites us to coffee and cake: “Today everything is extremely free of charge. I was just at the bank! “ – Shortly afterwards we take the pilgrimage to the Royal Botanic Gardens. I wanted so much to see them. A wonderful area: well-kept, bright tropical houses, veritable flower hedges, carpet-like lawns, sunshine and few tourists.
And, best of all: there is a tearoom! I notice some bizarre shaped trees, apparently conifers, that I have never seen before. Hungry for education as we are, we visit the Modern Art Gallery and then rush into the tearoom and steal pieces of sugar. A huge range of gourmet salads laugh at us next to a shelf full of cakes. Oh, this looks tasty.
There are some sculptures in front of the building. I like this one: The Risen Christ, by an artist whose name is like a Beatles manager’s. [Jacob Epstein] I’m taking a brilliant photo of the black thing. It is standing in the shadow, so one can only guess that the risen One is there.
We roll around for an hour in sunshine and green grass, before we make our way back to Princess Street Gardens.
Far in the distance we see the castle. Man, did we walk far!
The way leads us through quiet little streets to the destination of our wishes: For the third time the tourist program. Sitting on the lawn, we meet a totally crazy Italian: bowlegged, sun glasses, with a chimpanzee face, Reno is his name. He tells us wild stories about how stupid some Italians behave. He himself completely changed during his stay in Germany. He says the Scottish girls don’t really love their friends, they just say, „He’s okay.“ And on the bus, they start kissing total strangers and go to bed with them without having exchanged a single word with them. “They are very hot, the Scottish girls. Twelve year olds ones go with sailors! ”I’m just thinking: oh, man!“. He talks incessantly and then asks: „Do you actually like talking to me?“ – We had not gotten a word in sideways yet! Fortunately, he soon disappears and so do we.
A groan comes out of my throat, because as a result of the hike through the city, eight thick, water-filled blisters can be seen on my feet, which I prick at Heide and Mike’s. Susi, in her selflessness, lends me her grayed tennis socks so that the shoes don’t pinch so much. I can still hardly walk, and in the evening we are supposed to march to the main train station, because the bus was again not affordable. Heide and Mike have pity and decide to visit a friend who is then supposed to drive them home and us to the train station. That’s what he does. His name is Garry, and he drives an ancient Mini [Morris Minor]. We actually fit in with our cargo.
We don’t have to wait long for the train. It fills up with tourists and other animals (us for example). We storm a compartment in which four other people are already sitting. Susi almost kills a young man with her backpack, which triggers a loud laughing fit in me. The four look at me ’bewildered’. Everyone wants to sleep, except for the young man to the right of Susi, who is still reading. I come to an agreement with my counterpart when it comes to stretching my legs, very sensible man. The train starts. How I would have loved to jump out; tears came up, shit. Calm settles, everybody is half asleep already. Then the ’reader’ begins to loudly prepare his bed or his seat. ’Rattatattatat’, the blind is down; ‚Bang‘, the door is closed. Then a busy digging in various bags. After half an eternity, he is done. He loudly proclaims “Good night”. I wish him a pleasant suffocation. Again it is quiet. I’m almost asleep when ’bump, bump, bump, thump’ ”Tickets please!” – Another suicide candidate.
July 26, 1973 (Thursday)
We arrive in London early in the morning. Squander the last pennies, strap on the backpack and then off to Liverpool Street Station, on foot of course, every step a tortured scream of eight blisters. Susi isn’t exactly in a bright Sunday mood either. Not only did we sleep miserably, but we don’t feel like going back home at all.
Liverpool Street Station: Panic, from where is our train to Harwich leaving? Who can tell us? Nobody! After a diligent search, we find the right platform. Real boulders roll off our shoulders. Backpack down, onto the train, Harwich, out of the train, backpack up, into the customs building, out of the customs building, up on the ship, backpack down, into the cafeteria. It was bad weather. The ship rocked a little. In my stupidity, I eat apple and chocolate, mixed with coffee and tea.
The ship casts off. It rocks a little more, oh how funny! But then, but then on the English Channel, my goodness! You can only pour the coffee mug half full if you want to arrive dry at your table. Susi feels bad. I’m trying to get her a pill. The man at the bar asks: „Are you seasick?“ – „No not yet.“ – What is not can still be, I think to myself. Oh yes, an hour later the time has come for the big puke. Shortly afterwards again. I decide to stay in the toilet room, as it is not worth the while to go back to the cafeteria all the time. It is easier to bear lying down, so I lie down on the floor in the toilet room. There are already two other girls lying there. Every half hour I get up and empty the bile from my stomach, because nothing else has been in it for a long time. I expect my stomach to come up at any moment. From 9 p.m. I have peace, fall asleep, unlike many others. So I’m still lucky. Susi brings me my sleeping bag. She feels better now. Somebody gave her a pill after all. Some are also given out by the crew. However, they are suspected of being placebos.
July 27, 1973 (Friday)
So the next morning I still have some of my precious last two Deutsche Mark, and I’m not exactly hungry either. So the fears I had in Perth were unfounded: not hunger cramps, but vomiting cramps. I never would have believed that seasickness was so awful.
Susi tells me that around midnight the storm was once more extremely terrible. I was already in a seasickness coma by then. She slipped on the floor with her sleeping bag and landed on a guy at the other end of the cafeteria. He just grabbed her by the feet and pushed her back.
We’re going on deck. Gray, cold, rainy morning. We all stand at the railing and pray that we will soon sail into the mouth of the river Elbe. The breakfast café is not very busy.
During the whole crossing, meaning the moments when there was no vomiting, Susi and I are whining: „We will swim back!“
End of the first Scotland saga.
I think I was a bit grumpy and uppity these last two days, everything was getting on my nerves. Maybe because our holidays were about to end, and we really did not want them to, so I lashed out. And then, Edinbro is a beautiful city, but a VERY touristy place.
This was quite an adventure at that time for two 18 years old girls. And, we can’t say that we had any really bad experience with anybody, how lucky we had been! I wish I had kept in contact with Heide and Mike though. But, as my uncle once said to me: You don’t have to pay me back, just help somebody else in need instead, when you get the chance.