My first semester of teacher’s college was coming to an end, when our English professor suggested a field trip to a a small island at the North Sea together with a group of American exchange students. During our first semester there had been very little time and opportunity for social interaction with our fellow students and staff. The prospect of a trip offered a chance to get to know each other better at a beautiful coastal region of Germany. I immediately signed up.
Winter had been long and dull. The transition from high school to the busy and overcrowded teacher’s college had been stressful and demanding. Every morning at six o’clock I had to travel by transit bus from my hometown Velbert to the nearby city of Wuppertal to attend my morning classes at 8:00 a.m. By the way, Wuppertal (among other things) is famous for its historic monorail sky train.
The one and a half hour long ride on the often crowded and badly ventilated public transit bus to the main station in the city center of Wuppertal was unpleasant and nauseating. The college was situated on top of a lovely hill in a spectacular park landscape about half an hour’s walk from the station. After the often sickening bus ride the walk through the fresh air in the lovely park was pleasant and revived my body and spirits.
That year, spring was slow in coming and I longed for sunshine and the invigorating ocean air. Our trip was scheduled for the beginning of June. Finally all the arrangements were made and the departure day was approaching.
However, I had a problem. Our train to the coast was supposed to leave at 4:00 a.m. from Wuppertal. I had no means of transportation so early in the morning from my home. We did not own a a car and the earliest bus from Velbert was too late to catch the train in time. I had no close friends or acquaintances in Wuppertal to help me out. My professor suggested that I could sleep on a cot in his office the night before and walk down to the station in the early morning.
Needless to say, I was too excited and also a bit scared to sleep much in the deserted college building. After tossing and turning for half the night, I decided to get up at the break of dawn and walk down to the station bright and early.
A few days ago spring had finally arrived and flowers and trees were blossoming in profusion. When I stepped out of the college building, the first sun rays greeted me and made the dew drops on the grass and leaves sparkle in the early morning light. The air was fragrant and fresh. Having lots of time, I decided to walk down through the park paths instead of the road directly leading down to the city.
My suitcase was not too heavy and I walked briskly enchanted by the beautiful light filtering through the blooming trees and bushes. I stopped briefly to look at an unusually pretty flower when I noticed some movement behind me.
Nervously I looked around me wondering who or what could have disturbed the peace. Probably a bird or small animal just waking up. I walked a bit faster. All of a sudden someone in a strong male voice called out, “Stop!”
My first impulse was to run. But my suitcase would not let me get away fast. I froze on the spot unable to make a decision. When I dared to look around to confront my pursuer I was amazed to see a uniformed man. A police man! “What are you doing so early in the morning in this park?” he asked sternly. “Loitering in this park at night is against the law!”, he added fixing his glance firmly on my suitcase. When I finally regained my composure I managed to explain my situation in a shaky voice. The policeman’s face relaxed and he assumed a kinder look. “These isolated parks are not safe for young ladies like you, especially not at this time of day. Come with me and I’ll drive you down to the station.” He grabbed my suitcase and together we walked through the park paths to the road where he had parked his vehicle. I sat beside him and we chatted like friends. He seemed pleased to hear that I was the daughter of a retired police officer. When we arrived at the train station, some of the students and the professor were already gathered at the main entrance.They curiously looked at the police car stopping at the curb right in front of them. I never forget their surprised and puzzled looks, when I emerged out of it. My friendly police escort carried my suitcase like a valet and delivered me (and my suitcase) safely to the perplexed group. After exchanging a few friendly words with my professor and the students he left.
During my youth, the police in Germany had a good reputation. I cannot remember any derogatory words for policemen. They were respected. A police man was often referred to as your “friend and protector”. This caring policeman truly lived up to that motto. In a friendly manner he had protected me from potential harm.