Addis Ababa is a relatively large city but just as dirty as the smaller towns. Even the poor people in the slum sections of the city, however, did not look as badly off as the people living in the country. Although the capital does have some modern areas and buildings like the Hilton Hotel, most of the city was old, with simple stucco buildings. Only the busier streets had cobblestones or pavement. Since there are virtually no hotels in between the Hilton type and the rather dingy local ones, we settled on a slightly better version of the later. Even with no lock on the door and old spring beds and a primitive bathroom down the hall, it seemed pretty nice. That night we found a nice Middle Eastern restaurant and ate our first really good meal since Cairo.
That evening we wandered a little through town and ran into a slightly drunken fellow who insisted that we follow him. Although the three of us (Annette, Peter and myself) were 100% convinced of his intent to mug us, we were looking for a little local flavor and excitement and we followed him anyway. As he led us through the back streets he told us how scared he was of the government and that he would refuse to say anything bad about it or the Emporia Haili Selassie. He seemed afraid that we might be government spies. Although obviously drunk, his fear of the government seemed genuine. He ended up leading us to an out of the way local bar and introduced us as his American friends. We got the feeling we were brought here merely to be shown off to his local friends. The one and only local drink, which we were required to drink, was served in a large test tube-like flask. It was a strong honeyish tasting wine and called tej. Although none of us were able to finish one flask he insisted we must drink two by custom or we would embarrass him in front of his friends. I made an effort but gave up and chose to leave him embarrassed. Annette, however, was much more obliging and became absolutely drunk as a result. Later, he insisted on walking us back to our hotel for protection and when we were halfway back he accused another man who was walking toward us, of trying to rob us. We tried to convince him that the other man was not doing anything, but he insisted that he was. Neither our presence nor protests seemed to be of any avail and so we finally left the two (the other man being slightly drunk also) to settle the dispute in their own way.
In the morning we ate and then visited the local markets where we bought souvenirs. We changed some money in the black-market to which virtually every local shopkeeper and most pedestrians belonged. They all offered different rates for traveler checks and cash but the main objective was to make sure you got the cash before you gave them anything. Peter, still using his “East German” marks would let him self be slightly cheated knowing that actually he was cheating them much more. When he once tried to use them in a bank they apologized for not being able to accept them, but even there they did not really understand the difference. For lunch we went to what was apparently one of the better local restaurants. There we saw local upper class businessmen in suits, eating meat that was raw. The meat was like a long, thin, uncooked piece of steak. They would bite into a part of it and then with a razor sharp knife cut that part away and slowly chew it.
In the afternoon we tried to find out information about trans-portation going south. As was so often the case information was almost impossible to obtain, the government and other travel agents only knew about the plane schedules. We were finally told that there might be a weekly bus leaving from Della (a town south of Addis Ababa), which would leave tomorrow. There were daily busses to Della and we figured we might as well get tomorrow morning’s bus and see what we could find out in Della.
We took a short bus ride around the city and then walked back to our hotel. On a side street we ran into none other than Alfred and Rosie. They had come down a different but essentially similar route a day behind us and had just arrived. Even though they wanted to see more of Addis Ababa, we convinced them to join us again going south. We thought that a larger group might be better. That night we found a nice Italian restaurant and feasted on a four-course dinner. We ate everything they had because this time we knew what we might be getting into tomorrow.
The next morning we rose early and the five of us took the bus for Della. It was back to bouncing down the dirt roads. The only other non-local on the bus was a new missionary. He had a long argument with me because he felt it was his job to save the people’s souls by teaching them about Christ and not to try to help them in a more practical way. For a missionary he seemed to have a lot of contempt for the local religion and beliefs, which incorporated various types of spiritual rituals and ancient pagan rites. In one town where we stopped we met some university students from Addis Ababa. We got into a political discussion and they were clearly embarrassed and resentful about the way the government was letting the people live so poorly. They felt that a revolution was inevitable and they hoped for one soon.
In Della the main dirt road stopped. As usual it was difficult to get any information but we finally determined that the weekly “bus” to Moyale (the town on the border with Kenya), was probably a Landrover and had left two days ago. Finally, we found the man who was suppose to drive the next “bus” south only to discover his jeep had a few broken parts and he did not expect it fixed for a few weeks. By now it was mid-afternoon and we were beginning to worry if we would ever make it. We finally found someone who was going that afternoon by jeep to the next large small town, about a three-hour drive. It seems that jeeps were the only form of transportation here since the roads were so rough. Most of the larger small villages have one jeep and driver who makes his living shuttling people and goods back and forth between villages. Although the food was similar in quantity and quality to northern Ethiopia, they seemed to have more grain and coffee also. The five of us negotiated a price and waited for him to leave. Although we did not know whether we would find transportation in the next town we had nothing to loose and felt we must try. For us this journey through Africa was taking longer than we had planned. We still wanted to visit a lot of countries after Kenya. Although we could have taken a plane from Addis Ababa to Nairobi, this was very expensive, since it is a rather long flight, and we could not afford it. We also did come to see the country. Although originally we did plan to return from Kenya the same way we came this idea had long since been given up. We figured there must be some other way back. As we waited for the jeep to leave more and more people started joining us. Finally an unbelievable number of 21 people were there and started to squeeze into the jeep. We were practically sitting on top of each other. When they came to throw on two sacks of coffee we could not believe it.
Finally, all 21 of us along with our two bags of coffee started the journey down one of the world’s bumpiest roads. Although there wasn’t much room to go anywhere, one still had to hold on so that you wouldn’t hit your head after each bump. As we moved further and further away from Addis Ababa, the people began to get sicklier again. We eventually reached Yrgalem where we found two British students (one born in Kenya), who had been stuck here for a day. They were trying to do the same thing as us. This town had absolutely nothing to eat but we had a small amount of food provisions in our packs as well as a small stove and we used part of our supply. Although we had seen a lot of different diseases, this was the first time we had seen people with elephantiasis and leprosy. In the former, some limb, usually the leg, would be swollen to the point of uselessness and the person would have to drag it along. But what was even more shocking was to turn around suddenly and see another human being whose skin and flesh was just rotting away. Even the children all had some type of infection or defor-mation. Many people had large bumps on their head, which were caused by a type of worm growing inside. We never got used to the idea of coming in such close contact with diseased people who seem to be disintegrating before your very eyes. It was gruesome! What of course made all this worse was a total lack of any sanitary care, let alone medical attention. A small cut left uncleaned would come in contact with all the other diseases within that area and usually became a ghastly infection. It was getting harder and harder to find anybody that looked healthy. We finally found some typical shelter to sleep in and figured we would worry about transportation in the morning.
In the morning the seven of us tried to convince a man with a jeep to take us to Moyale. Part of the problem we found out was that the rainy season was starting and the roads that did exist might be washed out and the driver feared that he might not be able to get back. He finally decided there were enough other local people who wanted to go somewhere so that using the seven of us as a financial base was worth it to him. He would only take us however, as far as he was able to travel with a full jeep, so we were not sure where we would end up. It was over two days more to Moyale. He was able to pack 23 people in the Land Rover at the start along with numerous 50 pound bags of grain and coffee. Three people had to sit on top of the roof rack with the luggage. Although people got on and off at different towns (no one traveled the whole distance with us) the number stayed pretty constant. They were right about the roads being partly washed out as we traveled the whole way in ruts.
All of the people in the back of the jeep had a variety of bugs and lice on their bodies. The problem was that sitting on top of each other, one had to watch the bugs crawl from their infected bodies onto ours. We kept trying to kill them as they landed. Alfred got so irritated he started trying to kill the bugs directly on the local people bodies. They did not seem to mind particularly but seem surprised that grown people were bothered by such little bugs. In his frustration Alfred spent most of the trip cursing at everyone in German for not being cleaner. Annette worked feverishly in the evenings with her Listerine and Lysol.
The further south we would go the country slowly changed from a lush green area with heavy vegetation to a much more arid landscape. On the way, we spotted a herd of baboons as well as some camels in the middle of nowhere but it was hard to imagine that they were wild. Ant (or termite) hills started to pop up everywhere, many of them being enormous structures well over 30 feet high. They were right inside the villages and would often be more than twice as tall as the higher huts. In one of these villages, completely out of place, an enormously fat man, (at least comparatively), wanted to board our jeep. He looked healthy and very well fed and with a pistol sticking in his belt and acted as if he owned the entire area. (This may well have been the case since many of these villages and peasant farmers were for all intensive purposes owned by people that Haile Selassie had given an area to). This seemed to be one of the basic reasons for keeping the people so backward so they would not break the system. This man apparently expected to throw a few people out of the Jeep so there would be room. Although some people tried to move for him no one really wanted to get out and the seven of us with some local people finally convinced him (with some shoving and screaming), that there was just no room for someone that size. Finally, he gave up. The only other person who looked really well fed in any of these villages was obviously some type of policeman (the only one we ever saw) also carrying a gun.
The British students got tired of being jammed and joined a few others on top of the jeep. Actually we were fortunate so many people waned to travel for otherwise our driver would not have kept going south. Our luck ran out however, toward evening in the town of Yavello. Here we learned that a jeep had just left south the previous day and no one else wanted to go south except the seven of us. What made it worse was that since the other driver would turn around in Moyale and go back our driver, if he took us, would also get no passengers on the return. Added to that, the fact that he was even now one day’ s drive from his village and that rains might start any time, we could not convince him to continue.
The seven of us could not finance alone the equivalent of a three day jeep trip in this part of the world where gas and jeep parts are probably more expensive than in the U.S.A. Even if we could have this man he did not seem interested in getting stuck and he also seemed low on his supply of gas and may not have been sure of what he could get in Moyale. We were told however, if we could just get to Moyale, there was a weekly bus to Nairobi. Right now my main nightmare was if it started to rain hard and the roads got washed out, we might actually get stuck in this mud-hut village for months.
With this as a very strong motivation we immediately searched the town of Yavello (not very difficult), for someone with a jeep. We were told there was one jeep left in the village but the driver would only be back in the morning and probably would not take us. This town was just like the others with the local disease here being what we assumed was polio. One man’s legs were so shriveled that he had to drag himself around with his hands. He had almost certainly never been looked at by a doctor. Even if he had some-thing as simple as crutches his legs probably would have been too weak to use them. The man as he crawled along gave the horrid resemblance of a human snail. This town was full of vultures on all of the rooftops and we had to wonder if they were waiting just for the animals, or the people to die off.
We got our usually few bites to eat somewhere but were told there was nowhere for anyone to sleep. We picked a path through the cow dung and found a grassy spot in the middle of the village and lay out our sleeping bags. We only hoped that not too many bugs would crawl into our bags or that no animals or people might crawl over us. This was not to be the case for early in the morn-ing, we were awaken by a herd of cattle being driven through town practically right over us. The goats of Northern Ethiopia were now replaced by small cattle herds in the South as the source of meat. In any case no one got stepped on and we started our search for the jeep driver.
When we found him, he made the same point as the previous driver, but finally he consented to look to see if any one else wanted to go. He came back and he said that he couldn’t find anyone but we started to negotiate anyway and settled on pretty close to his price. I was still worried about spending a few months in this town. After we paid him and piled into the jeep another half dozen people showed up with numerous bags of grain and coffee. It seems that he had found some other people but wanted to get the full fare out of us. We all asked him to return some of our money but he refused. Most of this was done in sign language even though he spoke a few words of English and the British student born in Kenya spoke Swahili. We finally decided to give in except for Alfred. He took his money back and refused to go. We all tried to convince him he was nuts since he might not get another chance for a week or longer but he was adamant. Either he was the stubbornest person I have ever met or the lack of food was going to his head. We finally said goodbye to Alfred and Rosie and started again on our bumpy washedout, jeep trail.
The landscape and temperature was now becoming quite desert-like. We passed a group of a dozen Nomads with two camels travel-ing in the middle of nowhere. A herd of some 30 baboons crossed our trail as well as various impala and dik-diks (tiny deer). Most of the towns were just a collection of mud huts now and the people were very scantily dressed. Some of the women were topless. The men in these villages usually carried spears. The reason for which we only found out later.
In the slightly larger town of Mega, where we stopped for lunch, a little girl ran into the room we were eating in. Annette and I both had the same reaction, which was that she was so healthy looking. We both realized how long it had been since we had seen a really healthy looking child and how sad it was that this was such a rare exception. We finally arrived in Moyale, on the Ethiopian side, at 1 a.m. in the morning. We were told that the other Moyale on the Kenyan side, was a mile further and we must walk to it. So, we found a place to sleep for the night and the two British students, (who were without sleeping bags of any sort - and I still cannot figure our why), were rather badly bitten by bugs. We hoped that once in Kenya the worst part of our trip would be behind us.
Not too early the next morning, August 6th, we put on our packs and started walking for the border. We had gotten our visas in New York but Peter had been told that as a German, he did not need a visa. Unfortunately, the not too intelligent border guard at this obscure border had not heard about that. After not being able to find any mention of that in his book he politely informed Peter that he must go back. Peter not so politely told him that he was absolutely mad and to give him a visa at the border. He finally consented and we entered the Kenyan Moyale. Just the half-mile difference between to two Moyale’s was striking. In this town there were numerous motor vehicles, a real if limited general store, better looking houses and most noticeable, healthy people.
We were informed at a little police station that the bus for Nairobi will only leave in two to three day. Since we were so much behind schedule, we wandered around town trying to find some other transportation without much success. We spent most of what was left of the day relaxing and eating the limited food available. In the early evening we finally found a truck going to Nairobi and after a long time bargained with the man to take us. The two British students, not being in a rush and afraid the truck might break down in the desert, decided to wait for the bus. Not waiting for the bus with the British turned out to be the one serious mistake we made on the trip.
The truck was old but rather large with maybe a 15-foot long open flatbed in back. These trucks bring up the town’s only supplies and it was going back empty, except for some large sandbags. It had a wooden railing with no back. There was an elevated plywood platform in the front part of the flatbed that one could sit on top of or under. A policeman threw us off the truck almost immediately after getting on because going to Nairobi by truck was illegal. This law was to make sure there would be enough people going by bus to support the bus company. The truck driver told us to sneak out of town and wait for him on the road. We slipped out of town and waited. Behind a house in the bushes some people were killing a cow, and from the way they were doing it, it was probably stolen. As we waited longer, a large group of about forty people from a local tribe formed and stood talking in front of us on the road. As our truck came we suddenly got the sinking feeling that these forty tribesmen would be joining us in the truck. Sure enough as the truck stopped, they all piled on sitting on top of the elevated platform and under it. When we got on, the only place left was on top of the sandbags in the back.
What started now was by far the most grueling and roughest part of our entire trip. As this huge truck barreled down the old dirt road, the back of the truck rattled and bounced so much it was almost unbelievable. We had to hold on with both hands almost constantly. The sandbags, probably put there in vain to help reduce the bounce created so much dust that we could not see. Annette with her contact lenses was in agony. The bags of sand also bounced up and down and one had to be careful to avoid getting your toes crushed. Those sitting on the elevated plywood platform were also bouncing up and down and I was sure it would break and crush those below, but it never did. After about an hour the truck stopped and most of the tribesmen got off at that point, in the middle of the desert. Although the bouncing was not quite as bad in front we still had to hold on all night. The dust was intolerable and we became covered with dirt. Our bodies were completely sore from the battering and there was nothing we could do about it.
At about 4 a.m., when we were more exhausted than we had ever been before, the truck broke down. It was hardly a surprise the way he was driving. So we just crawled under the platform and went to sleep oblivious to what was wrong, where we were, or how long the repair would. There was an eclipse of the moon that night but we were in too much misery to enjoy the beauty of such a natural wonder. We only hoped the repair would take a long time. Several hours later the moving truck quickly woke us up again to find us in a vast desert and boiling sun.
As we continued to bounce along in the deserted desert, I could only think that we should have waited for the bus. I just did not see how we could go on 1ike this, non-stop to Nairobi. About two hours later we ran into another truck, full of supplies, apparently from the same company that had also broken down. Annette lost one of her contact lenses here and had a hard time explaining to the tribesmen still in the truck to be careful where they stepped. Amazingly enough, she found it later, balanced on the very edge of the truck. After some discussion, the truck driver told us he had to go back to Moyale with his friend’s supplies. There were a few mud and straw huts up the road and he implied that we should wait there until he returned in a few days and would pick us up. Since we definitely did not want to go back on that truck, Annette, Peter, and I marched into “town”. The remaining tribesmen apparently worked for the trucking company and went back north.
This little town was really nothing more than a few mud and straw huts in the middle of the barren North Kenyan desert. In the central hut we could get some tea which we did. This was one of the few occasions when we had left our packs out of our sight and as a result, someone had gone through them. The only things missing however, were some baby oil from Annette’s pack and my flashlight. No doubt some people were just curious but we wondered what they intended to do with the baby oil. The only sign of life in this village seemed to be the marabou storks circling in the desert. We were hardly enthusiastic about spending a few days here, especially not even being sure that the truck would come back. We had seen no other traffic on this road but hoped that maybe some other truck would come by and we could get a ride.
We spotted some tents in the distance and since nothing was happening in town, we walked over to them. It turned out that it was a police outpost set up to protect the local tribes against the attacking Somali tribes. Rookie police from Nairobi were required to spend two years in an outpost like this and these police were delighted to meet anyone new from the outside. They gave us some food, let us rest on their cots and even boiled water to prepare a primitive but hot bath for Annette. This was the first hot water any of us had since Cairo, almost 3 weeks ago. They spoke English pretty well and were extremely interested in hearing about America, especially its racial problems. They proudly showed us their collection of American books. We also found out something we had wondered about for a long time, namely why so many tribesmen carried spears. We had guessed that it was tradition but they told us that on the average, two people a week were killed by lions in this district and the spears were for protection. They also promised to stop the next truck that came and make them take us along.
That evening, the first truck came along, and we were told that we could ride in the back. The only problem was that the back of the truck was already packed with goats and unlike American goats, these had long spiraling sharp horns. I could not conceive standing amid all those horns for that long trip, especially when the goats started bouncing around in the bumps. There was just no way we weren’t going to get gorged. And since Annette was not to excited about traveling with these goats we declined. Peter, however, was desperate for civilization and decided to take his chances. We said goodbye and parted ways. Another truck with goats followed shortly and the truck driver said that one more was coming, but only half full. It never showed up. Apparently he did not want riders and so made up the story of a following truck. Since nothing else came that night, we spent the night with the police.
The next day, a much smaller empty truck came by and the police got them to promise to take us to Nairobi for free. They even got one of the guys in the front to go to the back and give up his seat for Annette. This truck being smaller was not nearly so bumpy and it was quite a pleasant ride through rather rough country. We were continually passing giraffes, ostriches, impala and an occasional elan (a very large deer like animal).
Towards evening we stopped in the own of Garissa. Even tough I had assumed we would drive through the night, it turned out that this truck again had no lights. Garissa was a fair-sized little town, still with mud houses, but at least it had stores, cars, and a little activity. It was in this town and area that Joy Adamson’s story Born Free took place. The town was infested with vultures and large (4 foot tall), meat-eating marabou storks that wandered everywhere. We were told that the river going through town had crocodiles but we weren’t able to see any.
The next morning we got back on our truck and drove all day on a comparatively better dirt road towards Nairobi. The closer we got the more green the countryside became. Little villages along the way and smaller forms of wildlife were still abundant. By nightfall, we reached the town of Thinka, and had to stop due to the lack of lights again. The driver told us we could go with him to Nairobi in the morning.
Thinka was a comparatively modern city with paved roads and regular buildings but when we found out that we were only 30 miles from Nairobi we decided to take the evening bus. Being anxious to get there at last, we boarded our bus and within the hour were entering Nairobi. We had been thinking about this so long that as we drove down the paved streets, passed modern buildings, and traffic, it almost felt like we were home at last.
After the bus stopped an elderly drunk led us through the streets to help find a hotel we could afford. We finally reached one over a small bar on some back street that looked better than most. Our rooms actually had a padlock and there was a shower in the courtyard. The next day, August 10th, we wandered through an amazingly modern city, at least near its center. We ate in real restaurants even though we found that our stomachs had shrunk and we could hardly eat a normal size meal. We found a Laundromat to wash our filthy clothes, which had not been washed for over three weeks since Cairo. As we had learned in our travels, the first thing you do when entering a city is to find out how to get out. The only inexpensive way out (other than the way we came or a boat trip to India), were weekly student flights to Israel. We decided to give up West Africa and Morocco and instead, stay longer in East Africa before going to Israel. We checked out Joe’s restaurant, (the black-market center), which we were told about in Khartoum to make sure we could get a good black market price for our dollars for the plane flight.
The following day we took a short tour of the local Nairobi National Park where we finally got to see many of the animal sights that were the objective of this journey. But we were also told it was impossible to see any of the other parks in Uganda or Tanzania except with the outrageously expensive tours. Already having learnt to ignore tourist offices we decided to leave for Uganda the next day and try to hitchhike into Murchison Falls Park along the Nile.
The bus left early in the morning and traveled all day on a paved road to Kampala. We passed through the only jungle we had seen up to this point in Africa and arrived late in Kampala, the capital of Uganda. It took all of the next day to hitchhike to Masindi, where the only place to stay was a small house converted into an Indian Sikh Temple. The local Indians were having an all night religious festival so it was hard to sleep in the back room. The next two days we hitchhiked to Murchison Falls Park. We took a spectacular boat ride up the Nile to Murchison Falls (the start of the White Nile) where we watched crocodiles, hippopotamus, and other animal life. Back on land a hippopotamus charged me when I made the mistake of walking between it and the Nile, its escape route. I made a similar mistake when I asked the couple driving us back to stop so I could take a photo of a nearby bull elephant. It not only charged me but the car as well. Fortunately for all it was a bluff charge. We then returned to Masindi for another night at the Indian Temple.
Upon arriving back in Kampala we hitched a ride in a small truck to catch our bus for our return trip to Nairobi. Instead of heading to the bus stop we were driven like mad through a series of local back streets in an area of town that our driver apparently owned. People jump out of his way and pressed their bodies to the sides of the houses lining the narrow one-lane streets. He seemed completely oblivious to how many people he might hit. In fact he seemed to want to show off to us that he could hit, or even kill, someone with immunity. It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life. Fortunately the local population was apparently prepared for this and they all successfully got out of his way. Unknown to us Idi Amin had recently taken over the country and I later surmised this was one of his newly appointed tribal henchmen. The difference between this part of town and the part tourists see was unbelievable. He refused to shorten his tour even though we had to catch the daily bus to Nairobi. We ended up missing the bus, but got a cab driver to overtake it on the road and we returned to Nairobi that night.
We spent two more days in Nairobi, treating ourselves to eating regularly in a Wimpie’s we found (a British McDonalds). We then decided to hitchhike to Mombasa, on the coast, to see some more parks. The next day, we stayed in a small, desolated youth hostel on the coast north of Mombasa, near Kilifi. Here we could go snorkeling along the beautiful coral reefs in the area, as yet unspoiled by tourists. It was the next morning in this deserted little youth hostel that we ran into Alfred and Rosie again. They had to wait a few more days in that town in Ethiopia but had finally got a jeep ride out. From Moyale, they had taken the bus to Nairobi via a different route from our truck. We also met someone who had taken a boat from Port Sudan to Kenya but it had taken a month.
After spending a little more time on the coast, we took a bus through Tanzania and back toward Kenya. Near the Kenya border, it was implied by the busboy that we must sit in the front even though the back was empty. All the other Africans (all in western dress), also sat in the front. The bus then started to go through Masai country. The Masai wore their red and white clothes, with heavy, beaded jewelry, and were usually covered with flies, which showed that they did not washed very often –if ever. Some of the men even had a type of redish clay plastered into their corn-rolled hair. They were required to enter the back door of the bus and sit in the rear of the bus away from all of us. We stopped for two days in Amboseli Park on the border of Kenya and Tanzania. A western tour group nicely let us ride in their van or we would not have been able to see much. This way we saw the some of the great animal herds, as well as a lion and monkeys. From the porch of the park hut where we stayed that night we could watch a long line of elephants, of all sizes, slowly pass by. We then return to Nairobi knowing we were ready to start heading home.
Our plan was to exchange our money on the black-market to buy airline tickets to Israel. But on the very day we were going to do that, Nixon’s announced America’s refusal to support the price of gold, which resulted in the black-market shutting down. With all the uncertainly we could hardly buy our tickets at the regular rate. Finally on August 27th, 44 days after we arrived in Cairo we left Africa.
The Israelis weren’t overly enthused about admitting someone with so many Arab countries on their passports. But after extensive searches we entered Tel Aviv. We stayed a week in Israel much of it with Gurit Kadman, my grandmother’s cousin. Most of our time was spent in the Tel Aviv area and visiting Jerusalem. We were informed when arriving in Israel that it is surrounded by Arab countries and all the borders are closed. Admittedly, we might have been able to figure this out had we looked at a map ahead of time. This meant we were going to have to again go over our budget and purchase an airline ticket to get out. This was further complicated by the fact that at summer’s end many students leave Israel for the west and the only ticket available, in the general direction we wanted to go, was to Istanbul. As this ticket was a few days later then we wanted, we were now running short of time to catch out charter flight back from Frankfurt.
On the train from Istanbul to Vienna I was talking, in broken German, to a Bulgarian who kept asking if this was my first trip to Bulgaria. I explained I had no visa for Bulgaria but was heading back via Yugoslavia. Eventually I realized that I had misread the Turkish signs in Istanbul and this train went to Vienna via Sofia (the capital of Bulgaria) not via Skopje (in southern Yugoslavia). Without a visa the Bulgarian communist border guard wanted us to exit the train, and I did not have the money to offer him a bribe. Knowing we had no time to return to Istanbul, in pleading sign language, I requested a supervisor. No supervisor showed up but the train started and I understood we were traveling through a communist country illegally. We stayed in our seats and eventually left Bulgaria and entered Yugoslavia. We went through Belgrade and then into Hungary, visiting Budapest, before reaching Vienna, Austria. We got another train back to Germany where we just caught out return flight on September 11th, for New York.
It was great to be back at 24 Lester Place for a family meal sharing our story and eating the dish we requested, the one we thought about so often - my mother’s famous “good old meatloaf”.