After a few months housesitting around England we decided that we needed a little adventure to look forward to. Laying on a beach really isn’t our sort of thing so we thought we would go for something a bit different. How about a bit of a backpacking trip around Northern Europe? Sounded like a good idea.
One of the most important parts of our trip would be visiting old friends from our very first month of JWalking in Holland so we booked a Ryanair flight to Dusseldorf/Weeze airport in Germany. That meant leaving from London Stansted and an overnight stay in a hotel. How posh! So another train journey from London booked through the train splitting site got us there in no time.
The Hampton By Hilton at Stansted
The Hampton by Hilton is only a five minute walk from the main terminal so it’s unbelievably convenient especially if you have an early flight as we did. Plus they lay on a great buffet breakfast which could well be one of our most favourite things ever! As far as we’re concerned NOTHING beats a breakfast buffet.
We always used to like Stansted but it seems to have just got busier and busier over the past few years and now feels like it’s bursting at the seams. It’s a big modern terminal with loads of natural light but it has become a bit claustrophobic and the walk from the security area through to the departure gates is like a retail bull-run. A horrific assault from all sides as you battle past people who seem to be transfixed by the goods on offer. Awful.
Now Ryanair aren’t everyone’s cup of tea and get a whole load of bad press but let’s be honest, you get what you pay for and they are very cheap. Our attitude is that we can suffer the basic comfort for an hour or so to keep under budget. It’s no big deal. The flight was an hour and a bit and before we knew it we were leaving the aircraft in Northern Germany.
We’ve taken one or two flights previously into lots of different airports but landing at Weeze was the most emotional arrival we have ever had. It’s a small town in North West Germany and may seem nothing special to the majority of passengers but to us it was like coming home. Bit of a dramatic description?
Return to a previous life
Let me take you back, way back, to the 1980s. Back in 1984 I was a member of the Royal Air Force and was posted to a station in Germany called RAF Laarbruch. I was an Air Cartographer, that’s a map maker to you, and was stationed at Laarbruch for 3 years. Jo joined me soon after I arrived and we found ourselves a lovely little flat in the town of Weeze living upstairs from a German family. We had never lived abroad before and our German was non-existent but we threw ourselves into it and had the most wonderful three years living with our adopted German family and travelling all over Europe.
Our work and social lives revolved around the base and with up to 5000 personnel and families posted there it was a busy place to be. Many of them preferred to live their lives on the base and didn’t venture far but we were away exploring virtually every weekend. Perhaps that’s what gave us the travel bug all those years ago.
Time Travelling back to 1984
So walking down the steps of the aircraft and seeing all of the original RAF buildings still skirting the runway was fairly emotional and gave us some serious deja vu. Apart from the main terminal building the camp seems to be the same as it was back in 1984. Rundown and overgrown maybe but still there.
We had an hours wait for our minibus transfer to Nijmegen so we headed off to nose around and see what we could see. As we walked old forgotten memories surfaced with every step. People and stories long-forgotten came back into our thoughts as we spent the most wonderful hour reliving our lives as a young couple on that marvellous adventure.
There is a museum located in the old Astra cinema but sods law dictated that it didn’t open until 2.30 which was after our minibus was due to leave. Maybe next time? Jo managed to find her old office next to station headquarters and a broken window allowed her to see inside and stir up yet more wonderful memories.
We could easily have wandered around all afternoon filling our time with ‘Do you remember that place‘ and ‘Wasn’t that where such-and-such worked‘ but it was time to get back and meet the transport. Sometimes when you return to locations from your past it can be a disappointing empty experience but we absolutely loved every second.
I’m sure that several Germans driving past must have wondered who those two laughing grinning idiots were as we walked hand-in-hand in the sunshine reliving our past. We didn’t even notice them though as we were back in 1984 having the time of our lives.
I wonder what we would have thought if someone had told our younger selves just how our lives would have turned out in 2018? They would never have believed it.
09/10 – 10/10/2018