Poland – The Journey Begins

Poland[i] Ministry Trip 1986

The trip from the USA to the Entrance to Poland

The flight over was via SAS airlines and it was clearly the best airline I have ever flown on. The food was superior to most restaurants. The service was impeccable. They had things to offer us I didn’t realize till later, which I may take advantage of on the way back, things to cover your eyes to keep the light out, because you could sleep quite well when the movie was playing because it was dark. Once the movie was over, the lights came on and the noise began. The noise would still go on, but maybe you could adjust. Also, socks for your feet so you could remove your shoes. Very pleasant airlines. And we were in Coach!

Norweigen youngster - Adorable

Norweigen youngster – Adorable

Monday the 13th of July 1986, standing at Giessen (Gießen), Germany, loading the bus; ready to head for Poland. We arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark, after a nine-hour flight from Seattle. Following 1 ½ hour layover we boarded the 2nd plane for the 1 hour 55-minute flight to Frankfurt. From Frankfurt, we drove for 1 hour to Giessen. I took a picture of a Norwegian baby and then several sights around Giessen.

We spent the night at a very comfortable hostel that was really clean. This was not surprising as we were in a small town in Germany where they are not only very friendly but clean nearly obsessively. The food is sparse but rather tasty. I went for a long walk last night all through the town. I tried to use my very limited German which is only from living in Germany during 1961 – 1963. I have never taken German as a study language. But, during my time as a military wife with two children, I had many opportunities to spend time with local girls that dated service men. Many of them spoke very little English. I was also very fortunate to be invited to join several family get-togethers in the local homes. They had such fun having me pronounce words that required rolling the tongue. Many hours of fun and laughter during a rather dismal time of sadness in my young life.

Town Bus Stop

Town Bus Stop

International Hostel Sign

International Hostel Sign

During our walk (Susan and Shawn had joined me), we had such a grand time. While we covered about three miles, we were lost only once. Being lost is an opportunity for an adventure. And we did not fail at that part. We took advice from one of our team, Margie Nuark – the letter H with a circle around it was the universal sign for hostel. So I was following these signs in order to get back to our residence for the evening. As it turns out, that sign means bus stop, so we were lost. But we found some help. The actual sign is a triangle with a tree and a house front!  LOL

A lady was also out walking; we stopped her to ask directions and advice. I used my best German and with the help of the dictionary I queried her. She answered so politely; we kept trying to communicate with her. She stopped us and said, ‘would it be better if we spoke in English’. We laughed so hard and readily agreed. Turns out she was an American living in Germany who spoke excellent English. Her gentleman friend was German and fully enjoyed our trying so hard to speak his language; he also spoke English. Together they put us back on the right track. We had a great time laughing over it and walking.

We ate ice cream and one lady had a cup of coffee. The initial cup of coffee was five marks, when I told her that was $2.50, she thought that was too much to spend for a cup of coffee. As it turns out it was cappuccino, but still rather expensive. The Lord is Blessing this group with the ability to tolerate no sleep, cramped, very cramped conditions on the bus and long, long hours of traveling. We have been gracious to each other, helpful and always smiling. There is nothing phony about it. God has Blessed this trip and He is with us. I praise God.

Today is the 15th of July, Tuesday; we have been up practically all night. We left Giessen by bus and headed for the East German border. At the border, while driving through West Berlin, we drove through some very quaint country. Our driver was lost and missed the autobahn. So, we were Blessed with another adventure that most of us thought was excellent. The management team was feeling a little pressure as we were to have met our hosts much earlier. It was beautiful, we saw little towns, very narrow streets, very old structures and many well-groomed gardens. It was very neat and orderly. Moving into East Germany, we stopped at the border of course.

Original (1961) Checkpoint Charlie gate from West Berlin to East Berlin

Original (1961) Checkpoint Charlie gate from West Berlin to East Berlin

There were three stops. At each one, a different thing happened to us. At one point each passport was matched up with a face with two people analyzing it. The East German border was considered an easy crossing. It took us one and one-half hours. They didn’t search us. They opened all the luggage areas, but they didn’t do any searching of the luggage. They were very friendly. We expected them to be ornery, they were instead friendly. He did tell us that “when in Germany thou shalt speak Deutsche and when in England you should speak English”.

It was quite an experience passing from West Germany to East Germany. We walked through the checkpoint first to experience it. While it was open to cross, the guards were in the towers. I pointed my camera to take a picture and all I saw was the guard watching me through his telescope on his rifle. I did not click the shutter.

The Berlin Wall courtesy of the Travel Dudes

The Berlin Wall courtesy of the Travel Dudes

The West Belin side of the wall is covered in graffeti and sayings. The East side is clear. The space between the two walls is called ‘the point of no return’. That is because if someone from the East tried to escape to the West, they were shot on sight. It gave us a shiver down our spine just being in the space where such cruelty and fear existed.

The roads suddenly changed, they were not nearly the same quality; they were bumpy and full of holes. The area was very barren. Housing consisted of large blocks of houses like condos and very small garden plots. There also were large government gardens that were maintained by the people. We saw no people at all, none. We saw several castles; most of them looked abandoned, almost disintegrating. Several of the buildings had evidence of being bombed and repaired. It was a pretty desolate place. For bathroom stops, they have things called park places; there you have the ability to park the bus or your car, and everyone does, including very, very old people, and then you proceed to walk through the wheat, grass, up to the trees to try to conceal yourself to use the bathroom. It was like walking through a large outhouse. It was very smelly, but that’s the way it’s done. Those park places are located about every few kilometers.

In West Germany every several hundred kilometer, there is a place called a rastplatz, which means rest place. We didn’t stop at any of those so I’m not sure what’s there. They did appear to have more modern facilities there. There were many people gathered at one of them. We stopped for lunch along the way and ate along the road. And then later we stopped for dinner along the road. It was very cold at night. During the daytime, it has been pleasant. It is probably in the upper 60’s, maybe lower 70’s with kind of a breeze, so very pleasant.

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