Tuesday, August 27, 2013

then and now

In the summer of 1967, I traveled to Europe with a group of students from my home town.  As I look back on the experience, I've often wondered what those Europeans made of us well-fed, naive tourists, a mere 20 years after they had experienced horrendous destruction and death.

Here is the group, at the Chemung County airport prior to departure. That's me on the left - yes, people back then actually wore coats and ties on airplanes.

One of the nice features of the program was that we stayed with families in 4 places: England, Austria, Denmark, and Holland.  For the Austrian home-stay, we were in a tiny village in the country.

The home I stayed with had pigs and chickens in the courtyard, a privy rather than plumbing, and a nice family, who served me sausage, mustard-from-a-tube, and their own white wine.  They spoke little English and my German was, at best, rudimentary.  I do remember sitting in their kitchen watching the news from Vietnam, and all agreeing that it was a terrible thing.

I took some slides of the mother and father, a son, and the house.  I was there for maybe 4 days, then we were off to Vienna, then Prague, then Berlin, but that's another story.

Decades have passed.

Now Karen and I are planning a Fall trip that will take us back to Prague and down the Danube from Passau, Germany to Vienna.  I pulled out my old slides and, for the first time in many years, remembered much about that time in Austria.  After a few days, I was able to remember the name of the teeny hamlet where we stayed (Elsarn), and found it on Google Maps.  Turns out that, on the final night of the bike tour, before heading to Vienna, we will be staying about 20 km from Elsarn.

I then tried to remember the name of the family and, after a couple of days, I remembered.  I asked Google if anyone with that name was still in that village, and up popped a name and an address - I could see it was the same place.

I had some 4x6 prints made of my slides, wrote a letter in German (with the help of Google Translate) and sent it off, at the end of May.  I checked my mailbox frequently for several weeks, then gave up looking.

Last week, I received an email, in English, from the grandson of the people I stayed with.  He thanked me for the photos.  The grandparents are long dead.  My photo from 1967:

We have exchanged several emails and it is possible that I may be able to see his father, now 77 and speaks no English, when we are in the neighborhood in October. I don't remember if I met his father that summer - he would have been 21 (I was 16).

Here is my 1967 photo of their courtyard - the little boy is the younger brother of the family, who I do remember.

The grandson just sent me a photo of the house as it is today.  As you can see, much is totally recognizable.

Time warp.


Joe Litton said...

That is SO cool. I do hope you can meet up with the son and dad and see the house. Absolutely wonderful :)

Barry in Portland said...

Thanks, Joe. Karen thought I was nuts when I told her I was going to write to that family and re-introduce myself. She may be right (not the first time).

Uncle Yascha said...

I don't have a story like that, but in 1964 I spent time in France with a high school group. The French were still angry about the high-altitude bombing from American B-29's that demolished a lot of their country. In St. Nazaire, a tour guide told us the Americans completely destroyed the entire town, and showed us the German submarine base that was the intended target, still intact. Sometimes when I see a French movie from that period, I remember what France looked and smelled like in those days, and doesn't anymore.

Chris said...

I hope you also printed some other slides and are planning more then-and-now posts after your trip. It really brings life...to life. ツ