The year was 1966.
We had moved back to Germany from Canada the year before (see previous instalment for details, if you missed it. Click HERE). During the week, living on the base, I was just another Canadian “Army Brat”. Weekends with my grandparents and other relatives transformed me back into a German girl. For Easter break (2 weeks), we took a road trip to Tyrol, Austria, where my aunt Gisela (mother’s younger sister) and uncle Oswald owned a hotel and café in the ski resort town of Mayrhofen. Thus began our European travel adventures…
Main sources for music at that time were British Forces Radio, Radio Caroline (A British Pirate Radio station, just like the movie), Radio Luxemburg (broadcasting in 4 languages – English at night), German radio and TV. In April, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were duking it out on the charts, as usual:
Our two car convoy hit the road, Oma (grandmother) taking the lead in her sporty, white Audi. My mother and I rode along as did Pepe, Oma’s silver poodle. Following behind was my father and Opa (grandfather), who didn’t drive. It was a long trip, approximately 9 hours including rest stops. What I remember most is the dog farting at regular intervals along the way and us frantically opening the windows!
We were given hotel rooms, but also enjoyed spending time in the private apartment and at the café downstairs, which had a lovely outdoor patio. My uncle, a pastry chef by trade, would get up every morning at 5 am and bake the most delectable goodies for afternoon “Kaffee und Kuchen” (coffee and cake), a ritual as important to German culture as Afternoon Tea is to the British. Minutes away from Mount Penken, we sometimes took a cable ride to the top and stopped for lunch. Interesting to see women skiing in bikinis! The sun was warm, but there was still plenty of snow. Only my aunt and uncle knew how to ski (I learned a couple of years later), but we enjoyed the ambiance, nonetheless.
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The café had the requisite jukebox. Although there was less English music on Austria’s charts, Nancy Sinatra made a big impression. That was the year native son Udo Jürgens won the Eurovision Song Contest, (on March 5th), so his entry also got plenty of airplay.
Aunt Dagmar (mother’s youngest sister), had married a Frenchman named Jean-Marc, from Versailles. That July, we were all invited to his sister’s wedding at the family homestead. How exciting! Versailles is only 25 km (~15 miles) away from Paris, so, arrangements were made to stay a few extra days and do some sightseeing. The two-car convoy was back in action, except this time, Pepe stayed behind with a friend. First stop was Strasbourg (in Alsace), where Dagmar and Jean-Marc lived with their one-year-old daughter, Véronique. They led the way and we were now a three-car motorcade.
Helga, my mother’s old schoolmate, lived a few blocks away from Oma and Opa. Over the course of time, I became good friends with her kids, twins Brigitte and Björn, who had a band (can’t remember the name of it!) and jammed on weekends. Although I was a couple of years younger, they invited me to participate once in awhile, starting with the tambourine and some backing vocals. My (contralto) voice wasn’t terrible and I could sing in tune so eventually, they let me try a few as the lead. This spurred me on to pursue a professional singing career 10 years later, which went nowhere. Mediocre vocalists aren’t exactly in demand.
The band’s signature tune was “Hanky Panky”, sung by Björn. We all rocked out to that! I managed a credible rendition of Monday, Monday, with the twins singing harmony.
As the year came to a close, I marvelled at my good fortune.
This dual existence was so much fun; and the travel! How I loved the travel!
This is a continuing series, inspired by
“THE SOUNDTRACK OF MY LIFE”
Coming next: The year was 1967
More travel adventures and “The Summer of Love”
Where were you in 1966?
Any memories you’d like to share?
Looking forward to your comments!