Twenty years had passed after their memorable vacation on the River Danube in 1939. With financial security secured, they could think again of a major travel adventure. In the early 1960s, tourism in southern Europe was still in its infancy. Many people of West Germany, tired of rained-out summers, were looking for warmth and sunshine and found inexpensive places in Spain, France and Italy. So the Panknin family went to a lovely vacation spot in northern Italy at the beautiful Lake Garda.
In the following year, in 1962, they ventured out a bit farther and visited the Island of Corsica. There, they experienced the beauty of the wild and mostly untouched land- and seascapes. The only fly in the ointment was Papa’s snoring. Biene reports it was so loud that the thin cabin walls did not prevent the annoying sound from disturbing the entire vacation community in the adjoining bungalows.
For the history buff Papa, the French island offered many research opportunities to explore the remnants of the Roman civilizations on the island where Emperor Napoleon was born. The highlight for the twins Gertrud (Biene) and Walter Jr. was spending time at the beach and swimming in the Mediterranean Sea’s warm waters.
This would have been a beautiful sight at the beginning of December when people dreamed of a white Christmas, skiing or frolicking in the snow. We had another heavy snowfall only two days ago while our blogging friend Steve was photographing floral carpets in Texas. As President Carter once stated, “Nothing is fair in life.” Yet, I am not depressed when I see a beautiful landscape under a blue sky.
Papa writes, “The Ems is a fascinating little river from a landscape point of view but not like one would envision from reading the river and camping guide. Our trip resembled a rather strenuous exploratory expedition through sparsely populated jungle territories. Numerous weirs – some were not even mentioned in the tour guide – forced us to portage our heavy gear for a 700-metre distance and longer. We were the only long-distance paddlers on the river. That was partly due to the bad weather. At least, we had picked the most tolerable three weeks of this rained-out summer.
We launched our canoe in Warendorf east of Münster, and broke off the journey at Meppen near the Dutch border. I wanted to move on, but I allowed myself to be guided by the basic principle: Ce que la femme veut, Dieu veut aussi. (What the wife wants, God wants also.) And it was the right decision. The weather, by now, had deteriorated such that stubbornly going on would have ended in disaster.
For Biene, not yet sixteen years old, holding a different notion of a romantic vacation, the River Ems had been a highway of tears. On top of spending a lot of time in the rain, she suffered through unpleasant experiences that her parents strangely found delightful and very nutritious. She painfully recalls one incident when her mother returned from a nearby farm with a pail of milk so recently milked that it was still steaming. For Mama and Papa, it was the ultimate earthly pleasure and a gift from hell for the children.
Recently, I published the iron ring at the Fauquier boat dock. Someone suggested I should have someone’s portrait to fill out the frame. After much coaxing, I got my wife to pose for you and me. I hope you like the photo as much as I do. Enjoy.
Ten years passed before the Panknin family could dream about camping and canoeing again. After securing financial security, they started with short local trips to the nearby Baldeney Lake at the Essen-Werden Campground. When they fled Soviet-controlled East Germany in 1954, they had to leave their belongings behind, including their camping gear and folding boats. So they bought, bit by bit, tents, air mattresses, cooking utensils and, of course, last but not least, folding kayaks. It was at the Werden Campground where I met, under the most mysterious circumstances, my future wife Gertrud Panknin (Biene) on the long Pentecost weekend in May 1962.
At this time, Papa had already given up his dream of going on extensive boating excursions with his family due to the children’s reluctance to accept their father’s river paddling fantasies. Also, Mama’s health was rapidly declining, and she was no longer willing to participate in strenuous travel adventures.
In 1960, Papa, prompted by sweet nostalgic memories of his journey on the Danube in 1939, decided on a similar expedition on the idyllic little River Weser that flows northwestern into the North Sea. No matter how carefully he had planned the river adventure down to the last detail, he could not order suitable weather for their journey. Always good with words, especially when presented in writing, he describes with a bitter touch of regret the misery his rebellious family was no longer willing to endure.
Knapweed is not very popular. It is an invasive plant imported with the first pioneers from Europe. It does not have natural enemies in North America and is toxic. As the poison spreads from its roots, grasses whither, and ranchers hate it. Yet, the purplish flowers are beautiful, and the seedheads impress with their intricate forms.
With this post, I started a new theme for my blog. Just as people often rearrange the furniture to give their homes a new look, I occasionally tinker with the settings and even make a few changes with the help of the optional CCS code in WordPress. The other day, I was looking for an older post and could not find it because my former theme did not come with a search function. So that was the other reason that prompted me to make the changes. Comments are very welcome.