A few years later during my first year at UCL, 1971, I decided to travel overland to Vienna and Lake Neusiedl which shares its waters between Austria and Hungary. I believe that the shallow waters of this lake shift between the two countries according to which way the wind is blowing. Sometimes more of the lake is in one country rather than the other, and at other times the situation is reversed. The border remains the same, but the lake moves. This trip was made before I had ever ventured into Soviet Russian controlled Eastern Europe and I wanted to look across the lake from Austria into a country which formed part of this.
I had decided to stop en route in various places including Wurzburg, Linz, Melk, Salzburg, and Munich.
I was planning to stay in youth hostels on the way.
My mother insisted that my first night in continental Europe should be spent in a proper hotel rather than a hostel.
I planned to stay that night in Cologne in West Germany, but in order to comply with my mother’s wish I had to find a hotel there. By that time, I already possessed a large collection of pre-WW1 Baedeker guidebooks; I was not so interested in up-to date guides. I consulted the volume that included Cologne and discovered that the guide recommended (before 1914) a centrally located ‘Dom Hotel’.
In the early 1970s, there was no internet to look up the hotel’s telephone number.
The International Directory Enquiries service revealed that not only did the hotel still exist but it also provided me with its ‘phone number. I booked a room from London. My mother’s instruction was that I should telephone her as soon as I arrived there to inform her that I had crossed the Channel safely.
When I stepped off the train in Cologne, I found that the hotel was a short walk from the Hauptbahnhof. As I climbed up the grand establishment’s front steps, I told a liveried hotel flunkey, who descended to meet me, that I had a reservation for the night. Hearing this, he asked me for my baggage. I unhitched my old rucksack – it had belonged to an uncle of mine for years before it became mine – and handed to him. He carried inside, holding it as gingerly as a squeamish person might hold a dead rat by the tip of its tail. This man was accustomed to carrying polished leather valises, but not tatty canvas rucksacks.
At considerable expense I made the obligatory telephone call to my mother in London. After that, I was not required to make any further contact with home and could stay wherever I wanted. It might seem from this that once my mother had received this call from Cologne, she could stop worrying about me. But, I bet that she continued to be anxious until I reappeared in London. The youth hostels where I stayed subsequently were a lot less comfortable than the Dom, but much more fun.
Text from “Charlie Chaplin Waved to Me” by Adam Yamey (Available from Amazon, lulu.com, bookdepository.com)