Thursday, 27 October 2011

WT - Johannesburg Stopover

One of the reasons for our stopover in Johannesburg is to ensure that we do not offend cousin Lucas (I know that I have been a little put out when people have been in close proximity and I have not been afforded the opportunity to say G'Day so I want to be sure that I'm not guilty of same). Lucas is almost like an older brother since boarding with our family when I was 12 till I was about 20. As with all families there are bitter-sweet memories of this period but life at that time was difficult for most families living in Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe, and whilst they are the same geographic location it is most definitely not the same country).

Cousin Lucas family, my fathers sister Helen and her husband Jappie and family were farming (or rather managing and running a research farm) at Nyamandhlovu. Cousin Sarie, Lucas's older sister had recently married and cousin's Ian and Dion the younger brothers were still in junior school so it came about that Lucas boarded with us when we still lived in the old hotel on the corner of Marula Ave and Sauerstown Rd.

At the time even at the age of 12 we were all very aware of the political situation and of conscription. I vaguely remember that we were celebrating Southern Rhodesia's 75th Anniversary or more accurately I remember talking to friends while we as young boys admired the 75th Anniversary Commemorative coin/medal. I think it was in Mitchell Conradie's (my best mate, tragically killed just a few weeks later) possession. We looked forward to our call-up (conscripted national service) with both anticipation and trepidation for even at that age we were vary aware that whilst we looked forward to our coming of age, becoming a man at age 16, this was no joking matter, young men were dying in the fight for our freedom, hence the trepidation.

Whilst life was obviously very different in Southern Rhodesia. We had come to learn very early on how terror and terrorism could impact one's life and this was some 33 years before 9/11. We had bombs in shopping centres, grenades and molotov cocktails in cinema's and night clubs, booby traps set in bright coloured objects specifically for children, and in our favourite family picnic area's. Travel between towns needed to be done in convoy under armed protection. Viscount aircraft were being shot down and survivor's brutally butchered - and the silence of the world was deafening!

We grew up quickly and very young, learning early in life that some decisions cannot be undone, so we lived hard and played hard when the opportunity arose. The drinking age at the time was being reduced from 21 to 19 but anyone in uniform was allowed to drink because, as the saying went, if he is old enough to die for this country then he is certainly old enough to drink for it!

Lucas was my predecessor (a sort of precursor) to all of this, being older and a bit rebellious (he would probably deny this) I saw what I supposed was glory, left school early, in the military at a young age drinking and smoking hard always trying to be accepted and in fact idolised to a degree the rumbustious attitude of the young men in the military while they were on leave or R & R. It wasn't until a little later having tasted a little of the real conflict and watched helplessly as men, women and children died around me that I came to realise that there is no glory in war, just disgusting inhumanity! Where a minority use the most vile acts to impose their will upon the majority.

In between call up's there were parties and nights out on the town at a lot of favourite hang outs such as Talk of the Town, Top Hat, Marjorie's, Electric Circus, Magic Moon  and others. There were picnic's at Hillside dams, drag races on the Salisbury, Jo'burg and Kahmi road's. Late night burgers at Fritz's Sunday drinks at the Terrace and Ice Cream at Eskimo hut. Scuffles at Callie's and music at Park Inn. Sneaking into the drive in theatre where you could have a Braai (BBQ), a dip in the pool, a beer in the cocktail lounge all while watching the main event. 7 Arts Theatre to have cocktails during intermission, between Newsreel and the Cartoon's. Late nights working on Mini's in Cousin Gary's back yard, bicycle races around the block and gate crashing parties. Wedding's and family get together's through convoy's, ambushes and atrocities. Laughing at a world that couldn't understand a people that played tennis with a sidearm strapped on.

I am here in South Africa at this stop over to rekindle these memories after 30 years and yes it is what has happened since those times that we are interested in but those times are our common ground, our connection point and for some, just too painful.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

WT - Munich to Johannesburg

This is the second to most anticipated day of all, that being Thursday 27 Oct. Our flight leaves at 20:30 this evening from Munich direct to Johannesburg. I don't know exact addresses of my family and friends but do know that they are scattered all over southern africa with the majority in South Africa.

We arrive in Johannesburg at about 08:30 Wednesday and no doubt customs will take a good chunk of time so we will make our way to our hotel (Intercontinental at the airport) as soon as they are done with us. We decided to stay overnight in Johannesburg to ensure that we are available to family living nearby who would like to see us - we certainly want to see everyone but it has been a long time and as has already been experienced, some family and friends have 'moved on' so to speak and have no desire to rekindle old feelings.

I have been asked if this bothers me and the truthful answer is, yes! of course it does because while we may not have been in touch with one another for whatever reason, my love for these people has not diminished one iota. I think of all of them often with fond memory, as they were when I last spent time with them. We each have our own life to live and we do the very best we can for ourselves, our dependant's and those closest to us and for some rekindling old feelings and memories particularly if they involve lost loved ones can be too much. Ronnie and I have no desire to be the cause of anyone's distress and we respect each person's right to their privacy.

We will be in South Africa for three months and whilst we have reserved 28 October 2011 to 6 November 2011 for my Dad and brothers Guy and Dan (people can come and visit us but we won't be visiting during this period and I'm pretty sure everyone will be understanding), we will be available to visit with family and friends from  Monday 7th November 2011 through to Sunday 22nd January 2012 - We have deliberately left the time open so that we can plan around family and friends commitments.

For all those family and friends following our journey, we would like to just say that you will never truly know how much your support has meant to us as we have rediscovered ourselves as much as anything. We have a new appreciation of life, family, friends and especially each other. Thank You and God Bless You!

Monday, 24 October 2011

WT - Munich

Ronnie's tum was playing up again and with the bad weather in Rome we had only made it to the airport with 1 hour before departure and believe me that is not much when you have to go through Italian Customs. Nothing against the Italians but the customs official had to go through my carry on bag because he couldn't read an x-ray scanner properly and then tried to have a go at me because being in security I should know better than to carry a bunch of chargers, cables, adapters and video camera's in my hand luggage (Moron - him not me). (If I were to have put it in my checked in baggage I was pretty sure some idiot at some point would want to blow up my luggage because it looked like a bomb).

We made it onto our flight2 minutes before scheduled departure and then sat on the runway for an hour before we took off, why I don't know as the pilot was not very forthcoming in English (it was one of those situations where she would use 200 words in Italian and translate that into 10 English words?)

On our arrival in Zurich we once again found that there was no airport shuttle and we were advised against public transport due to the number of changes that would need to be made so there was no choice but to take a taxi or walk. The taxi driver was a very decent fellow and agreed to a flat rate of 65.00 Euro's. We did find that we only needed to make 2 changes on public transport which was also very reasonably priced. Only one change when going into town from the hotel was required, from bus to metro (underground tube). Seriously the way to travel in any of these cities is the underground and bus. A day pass zone 1 all forms of public transport about 6.00 Euro each, can't beat that.

Our hotel was great, just a bit unfortunate that I had selected a light industrial/commercial area as far as transport was concerned. The area was quiet and hotel better than quite a few 5 star hotels I have stayed in and very warm considering the temperatures ranged from -5 to 7 degrees Celsius.

Our first evening I left Ronnie at the hotel and went exploring, finding what changes needed to be made and where, from bus to underground etc. I had a ball, I love exploring a new place getting lost and then discovering that I wasn't actually lost but right around the corner from my destination. I was only dressed in a tee shirt and wind breaker so when the temperature dropped to 0 my adventurous spirit went west and I started to head for the hotel.

Our second day Ronnie was feeling a little better and I knew where the wc's were if required and so we explored the city centre and admired the architecture, did a little shopping and visited an information centre to get the gist of any coach tours. We bought tickets for the Neuschwanstein (referred to as the Cinderella castle) & Linderhof castles for the next day.

We arose early, had breakfast and headed off to our tour. What a wonderful full day we had exploring these castles and some of the small villages along the way. A couple of Italian ladies decided to take our seats one time and refused to move which brought out "Angry Ronnie's" less than loving side, needless to say the Ladies retreated back downstairs to their original seating and everyone on the top deck joked the rest of the trip about being sure to sit in the correct seats, lest they incur Ronnie's wrath:) The tour took 11 hours and we climbed over 500 stairs and walked about 10 km (mostly downhill) so we were pretty buggered by the time we got back to Munich and had dinner then made our way back to the hotel where we enjoyed a hot relaxing bath (I actually fell asleep in the bath).

Today we slept in and decided it would be a rest day. We took the opportunity to book our overnight accommodation in Jo'berg and our flight to Durban (couldn't get a flight to Margate for some reason). Also called and spoke to cousin Lucas about the possibility of a visit.

My brother Guy just called to confirm all the arrangements, which made our day today. The anticipation of seeing Guy, Dan & Dad is killing me, I'm enjoying Europe so much I wish we could stay longer but I also want to leave tonight so that I can see everyone sooner.

Bavaria is just too beautiful for words. Today we sat and watched the autumn leaves fall, cascading from the trees and there was not the slightest breeze at all and the frost coated leaves floated and tumbled gently to the ground, so peaceful, so quiet, so magical.