Thursday, March 26, 2015

What Happened in Copenhagen

Hotel Nimb
Tivoli Gardens, Copenhagen
Author: Sarah Ackerman
This week, let’s go back in time ... way back ... for some personal experience.
Back in the Middle Ages when I was a soldier serving in Europe, I was assigned to an infantry company at the Boelke Kaserne in Ulm, Germany. Well, actually we called it West Germany in those days. A short, skinny Japanese-American from Cleveland named Lloyd Morimoto and I made friends with the German national who ran the library on our base. Jürgen Brinn’s wife ran the library at Wiley Barracks, another American base in town. As our friendship grew, the Brinns urged us to take our first European leave in Copenhagen, Denmark with a stopover in Hamburg. Traute Hauptman, a friend of theirs, was conveniently engaged to a young man in Copenhagen. Thus, Morimoto and I would have locals to show us places of interest.
Obligingly, we scheduled our first continental trip according to their plan and arrived at the port city of Hamburg without event. Traute treated us to an enjoyable visit, giving over one of her bedrooms so that our costs fit our GI budgets. On the day we were to leave for Denmark, she gave us the name and phone number of her fiancé, also named Jürgen. We boarded a train which was promptly loaded onto a huge ferry, and we were soon underway to Denmark by sea.
A young man named Anders, whom I took to be an Englishman, was the only person sharing our railway compartment. At least he spoke British English. As we talked, however, he turned out to be a Dane … from Copenhagen, no less. Upon learning our arrangements, he volunteered to place the call to Jürgen, as in those days the telephone exchanges were staffed by operators, not all of whom spoke English.
Upon arrival at the bahnhoff in the Danish capital, our new friend made the call, held an animated conversation, and then delivered the bad news. Jürgen had broken his leg the day before playing tennis. Anders told us not to worry. His older brother had a spare bedroom in his house. Indeed, his brother, Hans, a school teacher with a pretty wife and a couple of lively children, welcomed us into their home, spent time taking us places, and helped make this a great vacation.
When our departure day arrived, Hans took us to the bahnhoff to catch our train. It was important to get into one of the first three cars because that was all the ferry could accommodate. Upon arrival, we found those specific cars packed to the brim. We managed to find seats, but could not take our duffel bags into the compartment with us.
Upon arrival at Hamburg, our bags were missing … stolen. Everything I had, including my address book, was in mine. We arrived back in Ulm after the most wonderful trip imaginable had ended on a sour note. We had no way to write and thank our host family and send coffee … something still relatively rare and pricey in Europe at the time.
A year later, I was sitting in the courtyard of the International Student Center in Rome, Italy drinking a Bluna (a German soft drink) when a young man wandered up and asked if he could join me. We introduced ourselves, and when I learned he was from Copenhagen, I told him my story.
After I finished, he asked the name of the family. I provided it, prompting a huge smile from my new acquaintance.
“You’re not going to believe this. But the man you rode into Copenhagen with is my next door neighbor. I don’t have his brother’s address, but I can give you his.”
So a year later, Morimoto and I were able to send a letter explaining what had happened and express our gratitude for their kind hospitality.
But that’s not the end of the story. A few years later, I was sitting in the library waiting for my wife to get off work, when I heard a familiar voice and saw a familiar figure talking to the reference librarian. Lo and behold, there stood Traute Hauptman. She was now a librarian on a tour of the United States.
Makes the world seem small, doesn’t it?
As always, thanks for reading.

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