Peter was very excited, although he had little idea of where Bavaria was, or what the place was like.
|1950s British Passport|
|The Prisoner of Zenda|
And Peter had seen the prisoner of Zenda a few years earlier – one of his favourite films – and also had a copy of the book – so he knew what to expect The Prisoner of Zenda (1952)—Starring Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, Louis Calhern, Jane Greer, Lewis Stone, Robert Douglas, James Mason and Robert Coote. It was adapted by Edward Rose, (dramatization) Wells Root, John L. Balderston, Noel Langley and Donald Ogden Stewart (additional dialogue, originally uncredited). It was directed by Richard Thorpe.It is a shot-for-shot copy of the 1937 film, the only difference being that it was made in Technicolor.
|Harwich – Gateway to Europe|
So – the summer came, and with it for Peter, came the summer holidays from school.
And the holiday began, but not with a trip to the airport – currency restrictions made that too expensive – so it was off to Liverpool Street station, and a train to the coast and a ferry to the continent.
|Liverpool Street Station – London|
Then it was a journey by train across Europe – and a long journey – and this was the most exciting adventure that Peter had ever had – apart from flying to France perhaps.
And this involved a crossing of the North Seas by British Rail Ferries (later known as Sealink) and then the train journey provided by a company called ‘Blue Cars’ – which was a reference to the Pullman cars.
|Liverpool Street to Harwich|
|Arriving at Harwich|
Liverpool Street station, in London, was still a place of steam and noise, as the boilers of huge locomotives were fired up in preparation for their journeys.
For Peter, this was the start of a momentous journey, and it was also Peter’s first journey on a Pullman train – where you actually slept on the train.
But there was no sleeping to begin with – because first there was a rather boring journey to Harwich.
|British Railways Logo – 1950s|
As the train steamed into Parkston Quay in Harwich the atmosphere changed completely.
There is nothing like the crisp smell of sea salt and marine diesel, which for many years, for Peter, meant the beginning of an adventure.
|Hoek van Holland – 1950s|
The next step was to board the SS Amsterdam, one of British Rail’s newest ships, and then settle down and prepare for the sea crossing.
This was a daytime crossing, for the trip from Harwich to the Hoek van Holland.
The crossing in those days, took about seven hours, and the SS Amsterdam would reach the Hoek in the late afternoon.
After a good look round the ship, Peter, Jane and John Decided to have lunch.
|Dining on Board the Ferry|
The SS Amsterdam was a large, new ferry, and had a magnificent dining salon.
Arrival at the Hoek involved disembarkation and customs – remember that this was in that golden time before the European Common Market, and border restrictions were scrupulously enforced on the continent by imposing and intimidating customs officers, in resplendent uniforms, and carrying side-arms.
Jane, John and Peter then re-boarded the Pullman, and prepared for the journey across Europe.
|British Railways Dining Car|
The Train started its journey, passing through the incredibly flat countryside, dotted with the inevitable windmills, which reminded Peter of the Norfolk Broads.
By then it was getting dark so, before retiring for the night, Peter Jane and John decided to go to the restaurant car for dinner.
After dinner it was time to go to bed – and for Peter, the first ‘bed-time’ on a train.
Obviously Peter found it difficult to sleep. Obviously there was the noise and the movement, and the dim blue light that remained on in the compartment throughout the night – but Peter also had the urge to peek out through the curtains to glimpse the twinkling lights of the occasional town, village and station.
Then came the oblivion of sleep…….
|Celebration of the Austrian Anchluß
Ruhpolding Hauptplatz Feb 1936
We know that in 1938, a year after Jane and John married, and the year of the Anchluß that there was a celebration in the main square in Ruhpolding.
We know this because there is photographic evidence.
Of course, everybody that Peter ever met in Germany, (with the exception of Adolf Lördermann, who we will meet later), made it very clear that they had nothing to do with the National Socialists or the Third Reich, so it’s interesting to see evidence of the villagers giving enthusiastic Nazi salutes – and it makes one wonder just who were all those enthusiastic people in the Nürnberg Stadium, (remember Nürnberg is also in Bavaria).
|Finnish SS – Ruhpolding
23rd of May 1943
Equally, later in the war the Finnish SS were stationed in Ruhpolding.
That is as it may be, but even more interesting is the link that Ruhpolding had with the highest echelons of the Third Reich hierarchy.
While, in the 1950s, most of the leaders of the Reich and individuals closely associated with Hitler were either dead, or had gone into hiding, usually in some obscure South American state, some of those closest to Jane’s much reviled Herr Hitler were actually living in Ruhpolding.
|Family of Eva Braun|
We are referring of course, to Adolf Hitler’s in-laws.
Yes, members of Eva Braun’s family were living openly and unmolested in Ruhpolding.
And these people were pillars of the community, and were regular visitors to the local Gasthof where, in fact, they met Peter, Jane and John.
So this makes this holiday very strange.
|Gretl and Fegelein
Friedrich Braun (also known as Fritz; a School teacher; – Parents: Phillip Braun, Christina Heyser)
Birth: Neckargmund, Germany – Death: 22 January 1964 in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, Germany
Franziska Kronberger – Birth:1880 – Death: January 1976 in Ruhpolding, Bavaria, Germany
Occupation: Seamstress ; Father: Unidentified Veterinarian b: in of Oberpfalz, Germany
Their Children: – Eva Anna Paula Braun b: 6 February 1912 in Munich, Bavaria, Germany
Margarete (Gretl) Braun (married SS-Gruppenführer Hans Georg Otto Hermann Fegelein 3 June 1944. born 30 October 1906 in Ansbach, Germany, and died 29 April 1945 in Berlin, Germany.
And then, to cap it all, John arranged for a visit to Berchtesgaden, the ruins of the Berghof, the Gasthof Zum Türken, and the Adlerhorst (Eagles Nest) on the Kehlstein.
But, of course, while Peter slept he knew nothing of this.
So back to the story …
|Chiemgau Alps – Bayern|
Peter woke up early – he could see the sun shining brilliantly through the curtains.
Bleary eyed, Peter opened the curtain just a little, only to get one of the biggest shocks of his life.
Outside the window, above the passing forest were huge, snow-capped mountains.
So then, after dressing, Peter, Jane and John went to the dining car for breakfast, and this would be the last English meal that Peter would have for two weeks.
So it was breakfast while watching the beautiful Bavarian Alps.
Arrival in Ruhpolding
|Ruhpolding Bahnhof – Bayern|
|Tirolean Band – Ruhpolding Bahnhof|
And so the final destination came into view.
A tiny little station, without a proper platform, (on the continent then you either climbed up or climbed down to enter or leave a train).
And on the low platform were a group of Bavarian villagers, and a Tirolean Band.
There, amid the raucous sounds of the ‘oompah’ band and the chatter of the villagers, was a very small, dark haired woman, probably in her sixties.
She was looking for ‘Herr Crawford’, because this was to be our hostess for the next two weeks.
This was Frau Agnes – a sweet little old lady, with dark, ‘frizzy’ hair, who was dragging a small trolley.
She insisted on loading the cases onto the little trolley, despite John’s protestations to the contrary.
She then began dragging the trolley from the station to the road, chatting away all the time in broken English, as they all made their way through the village.
Agness, as Peter learned later, had been married, but her husband, a forester (sounds like something from ‘Red Riding Hood’), had been killed in the First World War.
Agness had then inherited a remarkably large house in the centre of the village.
What she had done during the Third Reich and the Second World War Peter never discovered, (but then that was the case with most of the people he met in Austria and Germany), but in the fifties she had supported herself by renting out rooms in her spacious home to tourists.
And that, of course, is how Peter, Jane and John met her.
|Die Gebrüder Grimm|
To Peter, Ruhpolding was like a place for a Brothers Grimm story.
Die Gebrüder Grimm (The BrothersGrimm) – Jacob (1785–1863) and Wilhelm Grimm (1786–1859), were German academics, linguists, cultural researchers, and authors who together collected folklore. They are among the most well-known storytellers of European folk tales, and their work popularized such stories as “Cinderella”, “The Frog Prince” (Der Froschkönig), “Hansel and Gretel” (Hänsel und Gretel), “Rapunzel”, “Rumpelstiltskin” (Rumpelstilzchen), and “Snow White” (Schneewittchen). Their first collection of folk tales, Children’s and Household Tales (Kinder- und Hausmärchen), was published in 1812.