I always liked to travel. I was lucky, I had traveler parents when I was a child. They gathered together with other family friends and spent long holidays, driving in different places through the country. Mine is very beautiful, and I was glad every time we left it, but really happy when we came back. The farthest we went those times, was Germany, the “democratic” one of the two. There were times when travel over national borders was restricted, controlled and directed mostly to the “friends” from the Soviet Bloc. My mother had some relatives living in Germany, both of them this time, but we were to meet almost all the guys in the DDR, the democratic one. The German in the family was my grandmother, she had relatives in all the German world and USA as well, but she never tried to find anyone on her own. By German World, I mean Austria and Switzerland added to Germany.
Of the two sisters she kept close with, one was married somewhere in the north of the country, and the other one, went to Germany in 1940, along with her husband and kids. More kids were born there, they were the parents of my only cousins, the only relatives more or less closer in age to me. Because we saw each other so rarely, every two years or so, we weren’t really that close, there was some challenge every time we gathered. They were a few families, we were just one. Oh, I forgot to tell that I never met the German aunt, she died in the late fifties, I knew only her husband (my great uncle) and the kids. The other one, the Romanian resident, didn’t have kids at all, she had only pigeons and a cat who tried every time to hunt at least one. I’m not sure it ever had any of them. Anyway, the pigeons were not ordinary, they were traveler pigeons too. At least I got to see them annually.
It was a long way by train, three days and two nights, I used to read a whole Jules Verne book in such a journey. We crossed Hungary, and Czechoslovakia to arrive in Leipzig or Dresden. We passed Budapest, Bratislava and Prague. It was beautiful.
I was a kid, and I never saw the “communist grey” at the time, I remembered that we had a lot of money comparative to others. This never made me smug, just made me eager to share. The western chocolate was available in the eastern Germany as well, the joint pro-Soviet government made all and everything to smooth the difference in appearances.
The rest was only propaganda. According to a documentary made for arte television (a German-French joint), the East was less inhibited, the West instead was more efficient, the money was real in their side, and the Germans dreamed of union above Americans or Russians. I’d been told they were Soviet, not Russians, Russians are good. I made no difference, I was too young. I found hard to associate what I saw, with Chekhov, Tolstoy or Gogol. What I really saw in them was a bunch of brainless warriors, cruel and not educated in their own country, birds of pray who took everything good they had, from the conquered places and peoples. They were worse than the Ottomans, because they lacked discipline. They had Stalin to screw them and a horde of medieval czars before. If you think of the “grandeur” of Hermitage or the magnificence of Kremlin, you’re wrong. The first was an imitation, the latter was a monument of bad taste in aesthetics. My opinion smoothed in time. They’re actually a great people. The Soviets were good in Africa. I remember later, when a Romanian fishing ship entered more or less clandestinely the territorial waters of Spanish Sahara, they shot at them, at us by the way, because I’ve encountered myself, once, such a threat. But not for long. A Russian fishing boat came behind us, and the former mercenaries ran away, as quickly as they came. The story went that the first time they shot at a soviet ship, a war destroyer came after, and sank the boat and they went to Bojador and threw some bombs, just to make a point. The point was: “The war paraphernalia you have was a Soviet present. You don’t f…[beep] use it against us!”
Now there is Western Sahara. A waste. I’m not sure anyone is fishing there anymore. See you, 🙂
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