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Travel to the country without colour

I imagine the bureaucrat studying our visa applications with raised eyebrows:

State the purpose of your visit: Holiday

State the duration of your stay: One week

State the place where you will be staying during your visit: Herbsleben/Thuringia at our friend’s home

State your relationship with the people you will be staying with: Our sons’ are pen friends. My son sent his details on a card attached to a balloon which landed on the family’s asparagus field.

Well, it was suspicious enough. After a six month wait my dad’s application was denied and only my mum, brother and I were allowed to enter the GDR. Back then I didn’t comprehend why my dad, an engineer working in sales, was not allowed access to the country. Even now I find the thought of him posing a threat of espionage rather hilarious.

The prospect of  meeting with someone we didn’t really know in a country that we’ve never been to before filled me with excitement. I remember telling all my friends at school about my family’s adventure.

As my dad wasn’t allowed to come travelling by car wasn’t an option. See, my mum, although she has got a driver’s licence, doesn’t drive. We only had one car anyway which my dad needed for work. So my mum decided to take the train (not that there was much of a choice).

Today the travel between my parent’s place and Herbsleben takes approximately 5 hours by either car or train, but back then it took us more than 12 hours. The one thing I remember clearly about the journey was the hours of wait at the border. We sat on the train waiting for the border patrol armed with machine guns and sniffer dogs to walk up and down the train checking passengers, passports and luggage thoroughly. They also checked every millimetre of surface, crevice and potential hiding spots above, underneath and inside the carriages.

By the time we had arrived at our destination it was dark and I was so tired I don’t even remember the first encounter with my brother’s pen friend in the country without colour.

One Comment Post a comment
  1. I cannot imagine the tension of a border crossing into the GDR, the searching, the dogs, the volatility. Fascinating remembrances!


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