The Book tells the extraordinary story of a life and welcomes you to a journey going over seven decades. It tells of a Boy, who was never satisfied during the post-war era. Of his dream to travel on the world's oceans. And of how he gets his fulfilment by indirekt means. Yet the dream is simultaneously a curse-once he has experienced the wide world, he cannot get away from it ever again. The marriage with an Asian woman does not bring the expected fulfilment in life. And after the end of the sailor's life, there are some failed independent undertakings on land. A carefree Hippie life is a part of escaping from the compulsions of the society. Many restless years of adventurous and risky "business" later, a person steps into his life, who again overturns everything.........
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My Dream To Be Free A Journey Over Seven Decades By Juergen Stollin
The author assures that names of people who are still living are not mentioned in his book. If names of people still living should occur nevertheless, it is purely coincidental.
All names of the persons involved are purely fictional. The locations and the actions are predominantly in accordance with reality.
The Hippie-Bus Amsterdam—Kathmandu.
Juergen Stollin was born in 1941 in the Krkonoše/Riesengebirge (Giant Mountains). The expulsion from the homeland came about in 1945.
He spent the difficult post-war period with an older brother and his mother in poor living conditions in a small village in the state of Hesse. Here he went to school for eight years. The father returned to the family only very late from Russian captivity.
A graduate-degree as a confectioner in Marburg and an apprenticeship as a chef in Bremen fulfilled young Juergen's life-long dream: seafaring. He became acquainted with the "wide world" on freighters and passenger ships.
In 1965 he married a Ceylonese lady in Colombo, who bore him two daughters - he is now divorced from her.
Back again on land and in Germany, he became a gastronome and an "innkeeper that went broke". He became very successful later as chef de cuisine in five-star hotels. There was a period of turbulent years in between, about which the artist of life speaks in this book, which is the only one published by him so far.
Currently the author lives with his life partner on the island Teneriffa.
This is the English Edition from August in 2017
The book tells the extraordinary story of a life and welcomes you to a journey going over seven decades. It tells of a boy, who was never satisfied during the post-war era. Of his dream to travel on the world's oceans. And of how he gets his fulfillment by indirect means. Yet the dream is simultaneously a curse - once he has experienced the wide world, he cannot get away from it ever again.
The marriage with an Asian woman does not bring the expected fulfillment in life. And after the end of the sailor's life, there are some failed independent undertakings on land. The young man can face up to his responsibilities only with difficulty. He forces out the exigencies of a so-called normal life, his eyes are simply closed to realities and necessities.
A carefree hippie life is a part of escaping from the compulsions of the society.
Whether naked in Goa or on the way by bus to Nepal. the main character can look back at many things. He talks of smuggling drugs to Australia. Or about how he delivers "bad checks" at the Wall Street in New York - and he does not mention leading an organized life. The search for freedom takes precedence always. Yet in reality, it is probably a case of running away from responsibilities.
But where does one arrive if one always runs away? Not always at places, which the most of us know only from travel guides. Sometimes also you will run into incredible and not only harmless situations.
Many restless years of adventurous and risky "businesses" later, a person steps into his life, who again overturns everything. This person finally achieves the dream of freedom.
A very interesting, exciting, adventurous and almost novelistic biography - not suitable for insistent nitpickers or people, who come five minute too late to office and are convinced that it is the end of the world.
The cover shows the “Hippie Bus”
My Dream To Be Free
The Expulsion from homeland
I got to know my father
My experience with socialism
The first love, the first disappointment
My childhood dream comes true
Seasick, Lamb Curry, and Do Not Die!
India, the land of my dreams
A sapphire in the Indian Ocean
Warts Elly and Persian delicacies
The Dutchman and a Jew
A priest who saw evil in me
Bad Wiessee, the SPA and Karin
My new love, the "Lakonia"
128 dead and the end of a "find lady"
Hell, and my inner demons
A dancer called “Charma”
The wedding and the donation of the Maldives’ Islands
Exchange of freedom for "security"
Failure of a new start
The great temptation
The "big money" and a journey to freedom
Death lurks in the Persian desert
Leprosy is also just a disease
Have we arrived at the paradise?
The Khyber Pass and the Pashtuns
A cowherd, an “educated person”, a “Khawaja” and a “judge”
A warm “welcome” in Greece and “THE” surprise”
I wanted to go to my wife but ended up with a whore
The pudding shop in Istanbul
Hashish party in “ISLAM QUALA“
For 25 young people, who almost had a fatal night drive to Bombay
The nude people of Goa
The three-day non-stop flight with Afghan Airline “Ariana“
Sabrina and her story
The donated bus and the customs officer
Jack Lien and twelve dead hippies
Herring in curry sauce but no fishing trawlers as development aid
"Queen Lilian “from England
With half a dollar to India
The most expensive whore of my life, and the consulate is not a travel agency
My Indian sister
Miming from Arunachal Pradesh
My trekking attempt to Annapurna
The horror trip to Australia
No love without Panel-van
The nice lady customs officer in Tel-Aviv
The crash from cloud nine
The bride, who was married to Jesus
My old friend Daoud from Kabul
Doris and the crude oil from Baghdad
My man from the company with headquarters in a suburb of Munich
Cooking for 500 truck drivers from five nations
A flipped-out woman from Vienna
Arrival in Cairo
Kitchen chef in a big posh hotel
Chefs from five-star hotels in the “Bedouin Dinner”
The “Sapphire Hotel „and the war in Kuwait
A dinner for the Chaine des Rôtiseurs
Direct economic aid becomes development aid
The earthquake in Cairo
The party at the Embassy Garden
The "Taubenhaus", our restaurant in Sharm el-Sheikh
Political anger and “the flight from Egypt”
The disease, which does not only destroy the body
The end of a new beginning
The chef fighting a 40-ton semi-trailer
I was ready for the island and a dropout again
Victory over an inner demon – smoking
Memories on the rooftop
You cannot choose the environment, the time and the place of your birth. It is as it is! We humans are all the same twice in life, once during birth and later once again: when the bereaved persons dear to us break into tears, because they have lost a loved one - or due to rage because there is nothing to inherit.
In between is what we call life. Can we ourselves influence our lives? How can we identify the right way and contribute towards going on it? There are certain situations in life when it is very difficult to understand the right way. We must never stop looking for it. The path which is chosen is our goal.
The more we can get ahead in life, the closer we are to our perceived objective or we would perish, which would mean that at we would have got off.
Life offers many tempting opportunities and either we ourselves have the power to decide or we do not. No one is born "evil". A person becomes "evil" or "good" only by the environment, i.e. through you and me.
Is also important to bear in mind that man is a creature, who can be most easily manipulated in this earth. I believe that animals have only two instincts, the self-preservation and survival of the species. Of course, we humans have these instincts too, but what is dangerous in us humans are that there are additional instincts. The two most dangerous ones are egoism and fanaticism.
The author was certainly not an "angel". He has produced a lot of useless and dangerous "garbage" in his life.
But you will realize that school education and a family can help a young person a lot in mastering his future.
That is exactly what the author wishes to highlight. It is not always what you yourself want, but that there should be be a togetherness, which you should learn from an early age! This means that you will be tolerant later on in life. Whoever takes this ability on his journey through life with him, has already got half the victory.
It is a warning to young people, who have had a sheltered life to that effect and are of the view that only success and money are the most important things in life. At the same time, it should be a comfort for those, who have not been considered in such a beneficial manner by fortune. Even if you think that everything is too late - don't despair, there is always a way out! The most reliable friend and partner is faith. By saying this I do not mean religion. It is the faith in yourself. Without faith you will be lost.
Also, you must enjoy life, but without making others suffer. It would be sad, if you realize at the age of seventy, that you had missed out on life so far. And now I would like to wish you a lot of fun in each line that you are reading! If you ever "fall", think of a saying by a wise Chinese man:
"Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do."
Kung Fu Tse (551-479B.C) already knew that.
For a few seconds I thought that I was deceived, but it was a bitter fact! Through a porthole, I could see a cabin, and I noticed two children, who tried to open the porthole desperately. The flames behind them were already so high that they could not pass through the door any more, but where did they want to go?
The whole part of the ship was already burning. The porthole would have been the last resort, they probably thought, and yet it was a trap, because you could not open this type of windows. It would take a hard object, a hammer or an ax, which they however did not have.
The children sat in a death trap and would be burnt alive.
There was just a fraction of a second and I had passed the porthole and was in the water. As much as I tried to climb up once again using the ropes, I did not have the strength any more. My cry upwards to the officers still remaining on board faded away into nothing. Everyone was too busy with their own work, many were calling out some names or loud questions sounded through the air. In the water I noticed that I did not have any life jacket.
For the first time this night I was afraid. Not that I couldn't swim, this was another kind of fear, since I could swim well.
The children in front of my eyes scared me! I knew that I would not be able to block out or erase these images from my mind for a lifetime. I had the worst conscience, which anyone in this world could ever have! But I knew that I could not help.
During the whole night I had helped some adults or the other to climb into the boats, and had put on their life jackets. All these people there would have been in the position to do this on their own.
But these children - had none seen them? Did no one miss his children? Were the parent’s dead perhaps? Why? Why these children? I had no answers to these questions.
Later I appeased my conscience that I never heard that two children were missing or had been killed in the accident, after the wreck. But I still have these nightmares to this day.
I touched an object. It took a while until I realized that it was a man. I also noted that it was a dead man. But he could save my life, because this man was wearing a life jacket. A dead man does not need a life jacket, so I removed it from him and wore it. My dead life-saver said goodbye quickly without his life jacket. Now I had to see to it that I got to a lifeboat, because I could not remain in the water forever.
But as hard as I tried, I saw nothing except the burning "Lakonia" or what remained of the proud white ocean-liner.
There had to be some help from somewhere: A lifeboat should see me, someone had to hear me calling. Other vessels are also in the immediate vicinity and are looking for survivors.
It was not bright, neither was it dark any more, yet my sight was not good enough to recognize anything. I couldn't survive very long in this cold water, I would become extremely cold quickly.
The cool guy from tonight, who I was even a couple of hours back, didn't exist anymore. But now that I had a completely normal fear, fear that no one could see or find me.
I had seen something, an object, which could not identify – at least not yet.
My senses were deceiving me and I saw things, where none were there. I had to pull myself together, and just not break down. Swimming was futile because where should I go if I didn't know where I was? Simply remain above water! Back to the "Lakonia" would also not be the solution because it could disappear in the sea with a bang and take me with it.
Suddenly I was reminded of this stupid joke: Two friends go swimming in a lake and bet on one hundred German Mark, as to who would reach the opposite shore. The winner would have won the money.
Just halfway through the lake, one friend says to the other, that he is not able to swim any further, and that he would swim back. Vaguely I had this thought: should I turn back? Only I didn't know where the half of the way was for me. Think positively, everything would be OK! Simply believe that everything will work out well.
The object from earlier was next to me, but I didn't realize what it was. It was larger than I, no fish and not a shark either.
I had not thought of sharks till then, and now I started thinking that there could be some there. I had to think of the dead man, whose life jacket I was wearing now. Would it bring me more luck than for him? Until now I had luck, if you could call my experiences as such. I continued to thrash about, so that I maintained my blood circulation. What was that? I sensed something and now I saw it too. Was it a barrel? A kind of cask? Now there was something above me. They were wooden boards. On closer inspection, it turned out to be a kind of a raft.
Where did this thing come suddenly, of all things to me?
Something like that happened in bad movies, there were suddenly things there, which shouldn't be there at all. But how could I climb on to this strange piece?
I felt iron pipes, water pipes, to which wooden boards were attached. I loosened my belt, put the buckle around one of the pipes and made a loop, so that a stirrup was formed. Now I could gain a hold with a foot and swing on to this peculiar object. It was indeed a raft.
It was the working-raft of our ship. The sailors used it when smaller repairs on the outside and painting work were necessary on the ship. For example, if the harbor tug boats had to pin the ship to the harbor pier, there were these unattractive, black tire marks of the old tires, which were fixed to the bug of the raft. These were then painted over with the white color of this raft. It was a simple construction: four empty oil drums, connected with water pipes, with wooden boards attached on top of it and a small railing again made of water pipes.
That was all that was. But for me, it was first of all my rescue - the second one today. First it was the life jacket of the dead man and now this piece of island. My island was very high above the water, so I could see the surroundings a little better.
In addition to the burning "Lakonia" I saw other ships in the distance. I could detect a passenger ship, a tanker and even a battleship. But I could not see them in detail. The disadvantage of having a place above sea level was that I drifted off course too fast by the wind. In spite of everything I was happy with myself and my situation.
The Lakonia" had already been burning for a few hours now and I heard small explosions every now and then. The day had dawned and I realized that I had drifted away even more.
Around midday, I still had not found anyone yet and my courage turned into a slight depression.
Again, and again I had to bear in mind that I was alive and had not succumbed to a watery death like so many.
The weather was unremarkable, but not really cold for this time of the year. Sun, clouds and a slight breeze were pleasant for my bare skin. I had taken off my wet clothes and dried them now on the upper pipe rod of my rescue equipment. I hoped that the raft was stable till someone found me. I was very sure that this would happen before the sunset.
As the saying goes: Hope is the last thing we lose. You just have to believe in it! The clothes dried quickly and I could put them on again. I was not afraid that someone would see me naked - there was absolutely no one there who could see me - although there was nothing more than that, which I wished for.
It became colder, and so I was happy to have dry clothes on my body once again. Since I didn't have any shoes any more, I threw my useless socks overboard. I had given my windbreaker on board to a passenger. At least I still had my jeans and my T-shirt.
It must have been shortly before it became dark, I must have fallen asleep and had the feeling that I had lost time, when the noise of aircraft engines woke me. But I could see none.
Many thoughts went through my head, and the sensation of fear became a state of mind. I became more and more hungry and thirsty; I must have slept for a few hours which did me good.
A silly saying crossed my mind once again: Thirst is worse than homesickness. I was not homesick but had the desire to be seen and a tremendous amount of thirst. There had been so much of food on the "Lakonia" which would probably sink with her to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. If only I had pocketed something like the people in the kitchen, before they ran to the boats.
The most of them would be on a ship by now and the people who had saved them would have served them a delicious meal and drinks. They probably drank Grog or whisky, tea with rum or hot chocolate and certainly a strong coffee. I would have given anything to have a glass of water and a dry bread roll.
Even if it had ended up as usual in the rubbish chute from the previous day - a delicacy for me in this situation.
I was digressing once again: The barman and the company boss in my local bar in Tenerife, where the first sous-chef and I had launched a small business, would be waiting for us in vain. On each trip there were these famous Welcome and Farewell-Parties. In these special dinners, caviar was obligatory. A 2Kg tin of the finest Beluga caviars were cleared by the stock man for each party. A volcanic mountain carved from ice, which was to represent the Teide on Teneriffa, was always part of the buffet and this 2 Kg caviar then arrived in craters No one complained - but no one knew that there was only one kilo of these fine grains in the crater. A kilo two times makes two and I smuggled these two kilos to the land. It would have never occurred to the Chef or the stock-man that the staff stole like this.
On land, there was hard cash - dollars or Pesetas in our bar for this caviar.
There were Senioritis and plenty of Cuba Libre for the Pesetas.
I had to do without Rum-Cola and the Senioritis first of all. At that moment I was only hungry and thirsty.
It was two trips ago that I always had the task of smuggling the said 2kg - container to the land, which I was able to do.
But we were unaware that our bar had holidays and was closed. Returning the caviar was pointless, and the risk of being found out was too great.
So, we tried to put up our product at the place of the competitors, which was without success. So, consuming it was the only choice. Anyone who has ever been so stupid and had eaten caviar in soup bowls and with soup spoons, will know what I am talking about. And you will also know what kind of stomach pain I had to struggle with. There was a fire in my belly, which could not be put out even with many, very many Cuba Libre. Although we had invited some ladies to our caviar party, we could not completely destroy our act of shame. We gave the rest of the "Fish-egg-Dinners" to those who were still present in the pub and went on board. I thought that the tiny sturgeon eggs had developed into duck eggs; that is how it felt in my stomach. Even the ten liters of water that I drank in the night could not extinguish the fire. I needed time till noon to get some relief from the caviar. I vowed to myself that I would never again even eat a gram of this stuff.
Not all thoughts are nice if you're hungry, thirsty and tired, and are scared as hell. I hammered the thought into me again and again that I was alive. But more and more black holes came into my mind.
The reality brought me out of my half-awake dreams. In one half of my imagination I saw a ship coming towards me. But the other half failed and tricked me into believing that I was in heaven. However, I was not wanted there and was thrown out from there.
I fell from the sky into a huge funnel, which then swirled me about in circles constantly and with a gurgling noisy maelstrom threw me into a bubbling sea. It was my mother, who took me out of this cauldron and gave me life.
A film was passed me, which started precisely at my birth. I found it strange that I could see my arrival into this world like this, how it really was...
We know that everything starts with the birth. It was also the case with me. My birth certificate says that I was born on the 30.10. I do not know on what occasion my mother told this little story: I was in fact born on the 31.10. at 12.12 AM - in other words, shortly after midnight. However, the midwife had got the papers issued on 30.10. twelve minutes before midnight. Her reasoning was quite simple: In my life later, I would definitely want to celebrate my birthday with friends.
The 31st. is however a Memorial Day without musical events (it was so at that time) and consequently any partying would also be prohibited. However, so that I could celebrate my birthdays on the 30th, and sleep late the next day, the little cheating was of course only to my advantage. My mother had nothing against it and no one asked me about it. But I am sure I would have agreed. It would still remain to be seen whether it was a good omen for me.
I hope that my arrival into this world was a joyful event for my mother. It was certainly a hard time for her because my father was a soldier and fought in the war still in the faith in the great victory against Russia and the rest of the world. With me and my brother who was five years older to me, there were three hungry mouths to feed. Wherever a war takes place, it does not bring about a pleasant life for anyone. For a single person with two children, it is a fight for daily survival. In today's fast-paced world you forget that very quickly. As for the older people, hardly any of us have forgotten the "life during war".
Today people just wonder how many wars are still taking place in our planet.
The Second World War ended, and with that also the permission for my family to remain in our home country, the Sudeten Mountains (Riesengebirge) also ended.
The Czechs gave Mother six hours’ time to pack, and she also was allowed to take a generous 30 kg of her possessions, if she could take any baggage at all with a four-year-old and a nine-year-old. It was a lost war and I had to say goodbye to the Rübezahl and the Schneekoppe, without ever having seen them both.
A train with animal wagons was already ready, this time however not for animals but for us. I guess that we were also not worth any more than that for the Czechs at that time. As a four-year-old, I could not yet understand what happened, but I still have memories of some of the things.
For example, I remember the train journey and also the house, in which we had lived earlier. I had to walk over a bridge from the house, which led over a stream, the "Aupa", to go to a bakery. Since the Germans could only with stamps, they sent me, because I got my sweet yeast rolls (Buchteln) from the Czech baker even without the stamps. Who can refuse anything to a small, blond boy or throw him out of the shop?
Particularly as they know that he is hungry. Even a Czech citizen cannot do that. The train took us to Hesse, to a "refugee camp", in which a registration was done. After that we were brought to a small village and accommodated as subtenants to very nice farmers, whether they wanted that or not.
I grew up here to a strong young boy in my mother's care, the protective hand of my brother with the help of the farmer and the farmer's wife.
The farmer's wife, in her typical Hessian costume, with the colorful embroidered headscarf, which she always wore, the black skirt, the blouse and the woolen stockings, made me really scared. She appeared like how I imagined a witch.
On the other hand, the farmer with his back bent due to his work, was still very agile and reminded me of a giant, when he stood before me and looked down at me.
But they were very nice people and I got almost everything I wanted, if they had it.
If the sow was slaughtered in autumn - or sometimes there were two - it was always a feast for me. Then there was a small blood sausage and a liver sausage, extra for me. I could eat this all by myself. Of course, I gave my brother also something from it. The farmer told me that this was because I always picked up the small potatoes after the harvesters were done. I was allowed to always keep the small potatoes collected and gave them to my mother. It didn’t matter, there were my sausages! The parts of the pig were scalded and cooked in the big cauldron, in which otherwise our bath water was prepared on Saturdays. The same was also done with the sausages.
All of this were made into a wonderful sausage soup, which Mother received and which was enough for us boys then for the whole week. The more the sausages burst, the better was the soup. After the sad expulsion from our Homeland I felt very comfortable with the farmers and forgot the journey very quickly.
It was just heaven on earth here, especially on the day on which the farmer's wife baked bread - there was always an extra-small fresh bread for me.
In the evening there was always such a nice fragrance of fried potatoes, bacon and fried eggs at the farmer's home. Which young boy who is always hungry can resist it? Just by chance I went straight over to the door, which was always open, - of course only so quickly that I could be sure that I could be seen by the farmer's wife. She then asked me always whether I was hungry - of course I was! So, I got my fried potatoes with bacon and egg in the evenings.
Then there was the time when I was at school. Nothing exciting happened in my school years, I just stayed afloat in the middle.
Since we were in a small village, they had put the first four classes together and despite that, we were only 18 girls and 6 boys. When I was questioned what I wanted to be, my reply was always loud and clear: Ship's cook.
I promised almost all the girls that I would take them to Hawaii and of course everywhere where the ship would also travel.
Very quickly I was the darling of all girls, because they all wanted to travel to Hawaii! In exchange I almost never had to do my homework because my girlfriends did that for me. This went fine, till one day my teacher discovered it and as a result I had to bend over a chair and get a beating with a stick on my backside.
But since I always wore leather shorts for ecological reasons and mother said they never got damaged, I didn't feel any pain.
I only heard the laughter of the class. Sometimes the teacher pulled one's hair at the temples, and that was hellishly painful.
Now and then there were also beatings with a stick on our fingers.
Once I jammed by finger in the hinged door to the boys' toilet.
These toilets were designed in such a way that you had to pee on the wall and the urine then disappeared in a drainage channel. There were these swing doors, so that you could not directly see in the direction of the urinal. I jammed my finger in these very swing doors.
At home I then claimed that this came from the teacher's cane.
After my mother notified of this at the school, there were no punishments for my hands anymore for anyone.
One day, each student got a small packet with the inscription "Gift". Did someone want to kill us? None of us even made a sign of opening the packet because we knew what poison was.
Somehow, I had the feeling 'on the back burner' that some monster wanted to kill me. I heard so-to-say, the sounds of sirens and alarm bells. But our teacher explained to us that the word 'Gift' was in English and was translated as "present" in German. This was my first English word.
I was really proud of it and bragged to my brother that I could speak English. There were wonderful goodies in my sachet like chocolates, candies, biscuits, milk powder, cocoa, and two oranges.
Since I did not know what they were till then, I wanted to eat them with the skin, like an apple. The teacher explained to me that I had to peel the skin. The packet for me came from Holland, from a lady, whom I wrote a thank-you letter. But I never heard from the said lady. I had probably waited too long with my thanks.
My mother gave me bread with jam for the school break. The framer's children had their bread with butter and ham or with homemade sausages.
Then at some point, I made my bread and jam look so delicious to a well-nourished - I don't want to say fat - farmer's son that he absolutely wanted to exchange it with me.
Of course, I pretended to him and only after my greatest hesitation we then exchanged our break-time sandwiches.
Even today I am convinced that these are the best ham sandwiches ever!
Due to some prejudices, I did not have any real contact to my classmates. Their parents passed on their opinion that the people from Eastern Europe, that is, the refugees and displaced persons, were the "vermin" and "useless people" like the gypsies - and it would be better if they all went back to the East.
We were living for over five years in this small farming village and something very special and very exciting happened. My twelfth birthday was just over, so it must have been in November 1953. It was some weeks ago that Mother came to know from the Red Cross that Father had been discharged from the Russian POW camp and was on his way from Siberia to Germany. This meant that he could arrive at our home at any time. Mother was very nervous and could hardly wait for the moment. Then it was the day that I stood in front of my father and he took me in his arms.
He was there wearing a Russian winter jacket, which was lined with cotton-quilted and worn-out, gray-green trousers, shoes with gaiters and a Russian fur cap on his head. From now my brother and I had a father and my mother had a husband again.
Very soon Father found a job in an iron foundry in the larger neighboring town. From then on, there was Schnitzel or chops coated with breadcrumbs on the table. Father forbid my Mother from putting a soup before him even once. In his opinion he had had enough water with grass in the Siberian exile. According to Father's short stories, there had been nothing else in the so-called soup apart from that.
Father spoke very little about the war and his captivity. But even the few stories that he disclosed to us now and then were shocking enough. That had been pure hell to be condemned to forced labor for so many years in a Russian silver mine in Siberia, as a former German Sergeant.
He had survived Stalingrad, even the captivity; now he just did not want to be reminded anymore of this period.
We moved to the neighboring village, so that Father did not have to travel so long for work. My brother made his apprenticeship in the same factory in which Father worked. I also had to change schools once again. But it was time for me as well to start an apprenticeship.
My last day of school was in the April 1956.
At the age of 14 and after 8 years of primary school, as it was known earlier - I was now ready for the professional life, as adults called it. My parents wanted me also to enroll myself as mechanic trainee at the foundry in which Father and my brother worked. But I had other plans with regard to my professional career.
I wanted to go to the sea - I wanted to be a seaman.
I wanted to see the world, I wanted to sail to Hawaii, which I had promised the girls, that I would take this one or the other one to Hawaii along with me.
I was still not sure whom to take along but of course there was time for that. In the factory with Father and my brother - impossible! Even as a small boy, and I mean when I had been really young, it had been my wish to get to know the world as a ship's cook. And now I should go to this factory? Absolutely unthinkable!
There was only this tiny problem: How do you become a ship's cook? My parents were not impressed by my idea and wanted to know nothing about seafaring.
An apprenticeship as a chef on the other hand, was a wise decision, since I would always have something to eat even in bad times.
There was a lot of discussion and tears about this issue but my decision was fixed: I would become ship's cook!
There were still no job centers at the employment bureau and Mother and I had an appointment with a job counselor; that was the gentleman was called. I still remember that job counselor. A very small official behind a desk that was too big.
This man asked us what we wanted to know. And I explained to him directly that he had to tell me how I could become a ship's cook.
Surprised, he replied that this was not his field. But at least he knew that a seamen's employment office could help me further. But he himself could give me a job as an apprentice chef if I wanted. Of course, I wanted that; I had to first complete an apprenticeship to then sign on to a ship. As a qualified chef, the route would then be cleared for it.
So, I underwent an aptitude test given by the job counselor; that is what he called his stupid questions. Among other things, there was these questions: If a guest ordered a meat dish on a Friday what would I do? I replied that I would do anything, to fulfill the wishes of the guest as well as possible.
The job counselor was outraged at this answer and declared that it was completely wrong.
I actually had to suggest an egg dish or a meal with fish, to the guest as a Christian was not permitted to eat meat on a Friday. The religion required that! I realized that I still had a lot to learn before I could understand the big wide world. Then a new appointment was made. Two weeks later we were told that there was no position for an apprenticeship as chef.
But it was possible for them to give me a training as a confectioner. And that is what happened.
Everyone were of the opinion that a confectioner and a chef were ultimately not so wide apart and that I had the same opportunities in seafaring.
And so, I began a three-year training as a pâtissier in Marburg an der Lahn. At home everything was once again discussed with Father.
And on a Sunday Father was free from work and he drove Mother and me 80 km in our Fiat 500 to Marburg, to look at my new apprenticeship place and to sign the apprenticeship contract. Sunday was also therefore a good day because of course the confectionery café was open - just this week day was the best of the week for a pastry shop. Only much later I realized what it meant to work on Sundays always. But I didn't think any further at that time. I was glad to have the apprenticeship contract signed.
It was agreed that the 1st of April 1956 was my first working day and we drove back home in Father's Fiat 500. After the ride home, I was happy as always to be able to get out of the car. I did not like this mode of transport at all. I always felt as if I was sitting in a tin can with wheels. I usually had to sit in the rear seat, directly over the small howling engine. And each time, when father switched gears, I felt as if I had splinters in my butt because the father was driving with double-declutching. I was glad that I did not have to ride with him the next time any more.
I traveled by train to Marburg to get started with the apprenticeship.
Mother packed a small blue case made of cardboard with my things fully and announced that the small case was my property now.
From then onwards I had my own suitcase - who can claim that at the age of 15? I was very proud of myself and my blue cardboard suitcase.
It was an indescribable feeling to be on my own – in a train – on my first trip ever - on the way to a strange place. No parents close by, who always dictated to you what you should do and what you should not do.
I had freedom and could now do or leave what I wanted - that is what I thought! However, even on my first trip, I had to learn that that being on your own was not that simple at all. At 8 a.m. I traveled from home and had to switch trains three times and always ask passengers or the railway staff, regarding which train I had to take to continue on my journey or from which platform I had to catch the train.
I was afraid to never arrive at my destination. Even the O-bus in Marburg scared me and I had to ask again and again for information. Finally, however at 4 pm, I arrived at the bakery after a journey of more than eight hours! I was assigned a room under the roof and I got my work uniforms as well as meals for the whole week. Margarine in a tub, four boiled eggs, a can of herrings in tomato sauce, a box of spreadable Triangle Cheese, a small salami, a packet of cooked ham and a loaf of bread, accompanied by a metal plate, a cup and a spoon. So, this was the weekly ration for dinner. Hot water for tea preparing tea and tea was provided each evening after work.
I could tell immediately that I had not landed in paradise. The next day I had to report at 7 am in the bakery. "Learning years are not earning years", this clever slogan would accompany me now in the next three years, I was sure of that.
At the age of fourteen and a half years, I had the experience of just doing all kinds of tasks. Since there was also a bakery at the pastry shop and no apprentice was there at the bakery, I was entrusted with this work as well.
So, this is how it looked like: Already at 6 a.m. I had to be in the bakery to distribute buns packed in plastic bags, in a wicker basket on the back and riding a bicycle to Marburg-South.
I was back at around 8 a.m. and was working in the pastry shop. At 10 a.m. I received a basket with handles, filled with pastries from the previous day.
This time, the path leads over to the big government administrative building.
There I sold the baked goods from the previous day for less money than in the shop to the office employees. This took over an hour and by noon, I was able to work in the bakery again.
My colleagues were very nice to me, because I was still so young and so far away from home.
The team consisted of three confectioners, three bakers' assistants, three Café-waiters / waitresses, two saleswomen and a female sales trainee of my age. As much as it was possible, we all sat together for lunch and were one big family, all together with the master and the mistress. Now and then, someone had to leave his plate, to go back to the bakery or to the shop to finish some work. There was some food available in a large black, iron skillet and which was cooked in an oven almost every day. Danishes, cinnamon rolls, baked yeast rolls and everything, which the office employees did not want, landed in the skillet. Some of these pastries were now already three days old. There were American-cookies, Danish pastries (Plunder), goodies from Basel, French Petit-Fours, Eierwecken from Oberhessen and even white bread. I was permitted to beat some eggs with milk and pour it over all these crumbled sweets. I was always allowed to cook the vanilla sauce and place it on the table. The master himself supplied a bottle of self-picked and preserved fruits. At the beginning I found our food to be very good but after a month, I did not want to or could not see any” Armen Ritter" or "Kirschenmichel", or whatever they were called, let alone eat them.
If something from this delicious food was left over, it was put in the fridge and on the next day, there was then the "Kalter Hund"("Cold Dog") - our teacher baptized this dish so. Once a week, our neighbor, a butcher, brought his forms with liver sausages for baking.
There was always a form for us, what a feast! Fresh bread rolls, accompanied by a thick slice of hot liver-cheese (Leberkäse)! But you had to be careful with the fresh bread rolls; we were not allowed to take them, we were allowed to take only the ones from the previous day.
Once I was caught by the master, as I had just put in a croissant, which had been just taken out of the oven, into my apron, to eat it in the toilet. There was a big racket and from then on, I was a thief, at least in the master's eyes.
The master also paid attention always that the baked pastries just lay on the metal sheet or the grille in rows and columns, so that you could see immediately how many were there.
There were always 4 times 5 or 9 times 6 or 7 times 8 of pieces on the sheet. Then he could see at a glance whether there was a gap and a piece were missing.
In Autumn, each person who was not necessarily working in the shop was sent to the big garden at the South Railway Station to pluck fruits. I was there in every action, which happened after working hours, because I lived in-house, and no one waited for me. After plucking plums, the plums had to be cooked and that was also my job. My master came up with a fine saying, which he then used: "You don't have to do that, but if you want to learn something, I can only suggest to you to stay there and to do the job".
Of course, I wanted to learn and complete my final examinations, so I stayed and held my tongue. Since I had had the privilege to live in-house, I was also allowed to cream cakes (Sahnetorten), fresh fruit flans (Obsttorten), hors d’oeuvres, cream cheese cakes and many more, with my master even on Sundays. Of course, it was voluntary.
One of my tasks also included that on Sunday evenings at 10 p.m., I had the privilege of heating the large oven, or rather I had to! If the bakers came at 3 o'clock in the morning, the oven had to have the right temperature. Let's not forget that the oven was heated with coal-briquettes. Every two months a huge truck arrived with these briquettes, which I "had the privilege" of getting into the basement. Everything was well organized by my Master. This was because my bread rolls tour with fresh, hot bread rolls or buns, was on the agenda, as the others say punctually at 6 a.m.
I could see the Castle of Marburg through the small splayed windows from my room which was under the roof.
On my free day, it could be any day of the week or very rarely even a Sunday, I wandered frequently to the castle. And on the way back I enjoyed a milkshake in the milk bar on Rudolf Platz, as it was the case, that particular day.
You had a unique view of Marburg, the St. Elisabeth's Church and up to the railway station, from the castle. Marburg was not only university town, but also a garrison town. The cityscape molded the young people, students, soldiers or craftsmen such as me. They were to be seen everywhere, as also in the milk bar, therefore it drew me back there again and again. I had to be very careful with my low apprentice wage of just 12 DM per month.
But I could spend DM 1.20 for a milkshake, sometimes refined even with a bit of alcohol. Since I did not smoke, drink or have any other vices and did not have to worry about boarding and lodging, I did not have any problems.
A group of young Dutch girls were on a short vacation to Germany. I got into conversation with a girl and was surprised at how well she spoke German. She told me that she could also speak English. We immediately got along with one another well. Not only because of the language - there was something else - it was a language that only the heart understood.
Suddenly I had a lump in his throat and began to stutter. She laughed and asked if she made me nervous. I said yes and she then said that I was the nicest boy she knew and that she had nothing against us becoming friends.
We agreed to meet the next day around 3 p.m. in front of the Castle, directly under the entrance of the archway. I forgot that I actually had to work. I had fallen in love and wanted to absolutely see Elane - that was the name of the Dutch girl. I had to see her again and tell her that we had to write to one another and see one another again, whether in Holland, or here in Germany.
The next day I invented the most violent and worst toothache ever a person could have, from midday. My moaning was heard from my Master and I was on time at 3 p.m. under the archway and waited for Elane. Since I already knew the Castle, I was a good guide. I also knew the dark corners, into which I led her and we kissed. I was terribly excited! I do not know exactly whether it was because of Elane or it was because of the evening obtained by fraud.
I was fifteen and Elane told me that she was already sixteen. I believed her, because she taught me how to kiss. But the afternoon passed and she had to go back to her group and I back to my bakery. We had exchanged our addresses and promised to write to each other. Elane lived in Wormerveer near Amsterdam and I promised to visit her.
I left the date open. We wrote our postcards and letters to one another. Once I sent her a packet with a Mecki, a mascot, which was "in" then and she loved this little hedgehog. It cost me almost a month's salary, but the things we do, when we fall in love.
But I was a bastard who was too lazy to write and did not answer her letters. And as a result, I received fewer and fewer letters from Holland, till one day I did not receive any letters at all anymore. I was not even sad about it and noticed this for the first time in my life: Out of sight, out of mind!
I then got involved with the sales trainee girl and passed on my kissing technique to her. I exaggerating it sometimes, because if she was to fetch something from the storeroom, I slipped in and we jostled on the flour-sacks, kissed and fondled one another. We didn't have sex; her black skirt was white from the flour dust and there was trouble. To avoid trouble, I planned not to start anything with the women-colleagues in the future.
My first holidays were about to start. Father picked me up in his Fiat 500 and I went home to my mother and brother. There was no Master for a month, no bakery, no trips with bread rolls, no pension office and also no girl-apprentices, whom I could catch hold of under her skirt. But to make up for it, we went on a trip with Mother to the GDR, to the eastern zone, to her brother.
On the third day of my holiday, Mother and I were already seated in the train in the direction of Erfurt. My Uncle had his own bakery there and was also the operations manager or something similar in a HO-bakery. In any case he was financially well-off and we noticed that also from his lifestyle.
There was enough money, only you couldn't buy anything.
Uncle had a Skoda, aunt many mink coats and they ate only in a hotel.
My uncle told me that I should spend as much money as I could. However, I did not know what I should spend money for, since there wasn't anything there, which I could have used.
So, my Uncle, who had taken a holiday for us, drove my Aunt, Mother and me through half the Republic. There were only the finest of the finest to eat. I had not imagined such a wonderful holiday. That was probably because of the fact that each person to whom I had told about my holiday in the East had advised me against it. The reason was always the same: there nothing, they did not even have lemons or bananas there. Also, there were no coffee beans or chocolate. To be honest, I did not miss lemons, bananas or coffee. And I had enough chocolate in my shop.
My cousin, who was older than I and studied in the University, often took me along with him to sporting events:
Motocross- rides, parachuting and common camping ventures.
All of this was a lot of fun for me. The political discussions were however not for me
.I didn't want to hear the nonsense that we Westerners were slaves of the Americans and about socialism in the GDR, and how it was in the GDR was the only right way, any more. But I did not contradict it and my cousin was satisfied. I knew that my uncle was playing with the idea of leaving the Republic.
Since Mother had urged me not to mention anything from the randomly picked up conversation. I kept quiet.
Three days before our trip back home, Mother received a telegram from Father asking her to return immediately. So, the return trip was brought forward and a nasty surprise waited for us at home. My brother had a serious motorcycle accident and was in the hospital. His whole pride was his BMW R23 - he now had a fatal accident with this vehicle. He had bought the motorcycle six months back. He had had an accident at work and had suffered injuries, for which he was compensated financially. With this money he bought the BMW-motorcycle.
After visiting at the hospital, it was as if the holiday mood was blown away. It was so sad to see my brother wrapped in plaster cast and bandages on his head, arm and chest. The next day we got the message that he had died. On 20. 5.1957 we buried Gunther. He was 21 years, four months and one day old.
Somehow, I was glad to return to Marburg because Mother was crying a lot; my father's brothers and sisters, and my father’s father - they all had transformed our home into a madhouse.
Father's father, i.e. my grandpa, was 68 and with was married to a 32-year-old woman and were superstars with their 4-year-old son, whom they had together. Father was always quiet, but now he was even more quiet and withdrawn.
This time my train journey to Marburg took only four hours. I was already very familiar with changing trains. I was lucky at my work because a new apprentice baker had begun to work there. I did not need to go on a tour with the buns or deliver goods to the pension office any more.
I also received a higher salary now, exactly double, in my second year of apprentice I now received DM 24 instead of DM 12.
From now on my Master took a great deal of trouble with me, but also expected my full commitment. It was not uncommon that my working day was from 7 o'clock in the morning till 22 o'clock in the night. So, around 4 p.m., my Master said something like: "You can now go to your room but I will be starting with the Marzipan work, sugar pulling or a new type of praline. If you like, you can stay here and learn. I'm afraid I have time only now to do such work."
I preferred to work mostly with chocolate; making pralines was not work for me, it was art. It was the greatest thing for me to create each individual of the small treats. And so, I remained and learned the art of fine confectionary. To this day, my favorites were and are cherry and brandy filled chocolates.
In order to manufacture this, you need two years. I give you my word of honor, I am not kidding! And now I will give away the secret of manufacturing it.
For you, to copy or to write down.
Listen, this is how it goes:
Go into the garden and pluck nice, ripe cherries, which are however fixed to the stalk and if possible, a little sour.
Wash the cherries (Caution! The stem should not come off loose!) and keep them aside to dry.
The washed, dried cherries are put into cherry schnapps.
The lid is closed and the cherries in the cherry schnapps are forgotten for a year.
In the following year, the glass with the cherries will be taken out and emptied into a sieve, and the cherry schnapps is drained out. The cherry water should be set aside for further processing (for example, you can mix it with sugar syrup and soak the biscuit base for Black Forest Cherry Torte. Or you can simply drink the cherry schnapps. I was not allowed to …)
Take the cherries from the sieve and let them dry.
Meanwhile, the chocolate glaze, white fondant, chocolate setting paper, wheat starch and fork for manual glazing for the pralines are prepared. The chocolate glaze is melted in a tempering apparatus or in a water bath at 37 °C. Or you can make a temperature test by dipping your little finger briefly into the chocolate or by bringing the chocolate with the spatula to your lips. In both cases, you should not feel any temperature. This is then 37 °C or body temperature.
The chocolate setting paper is dusted with wheat starch, the fondant is heated until it is gooey (viscous). Now carefully hold the cherry by the stem and dip it into the fondant.
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