June 1978 – Nurnberg, Germany – 9 p.m.
The train slowly rolled into the station as it passed the sign which read “Nurnberg”. After arriving from the USA in Frankfurt yesterday, I slept last night in the quaint village of Rothenberg at a luxurious hotel I reserved in advance. I toured the walled city this morning and met a nice older Swiss lady at lunch. We had fun chatting and switching between English and German. Also alone, we walked through the walled city together. At the end of the day, she graciously received the German gospel tract I gave her.
I then boarded the train and showed the conductor my 21-day Eurail pass allowing me to travel first class on the trains and boats. Each first class compartment had comfortable spacious upholstered bench type seats for six people and overhead racks for luggage with a sliding glass door.
I wrote to my friend’s aunt and uncle who live in Nurnberg over a month ago asking if I could visit them, but had not received a reply. I hoped they would meet my train tonight.
The train stopped and I descended the three steps with my two small red suitcases. I stood on the platform and looked right and left, but saw no friendly looking middle-aged couple. I prayed, Dear Lord, Show me where I should sleep tonight. Put a hedge of protection around me. Thank You that You have promised to go with me and never to leave me or forsake me.
“My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14
I walked into the dimly lit nearly deserted station. Several older poorly dressed men slouched on benches and glanced briefly at me. As I exited the station, I noticed some luggage lockers. Since I didn’t know how far I would have to walk to find a hotel, I decided to put my two suitcases in the locker. I walked down the cobblestone streets past an apartment building. A woman yelled out the window at me, “Ein Amerikaner!” I stood out like a sore thumb in my light blue pantsuit compared to the German women in dark skirts and white blouses. I kept walking and praying. I definitely did not feel welcome here.
Having nothing to eat since lunch, I asked the Lord to show me where I could buy some dinner. As I rounded the street corner, I looked up and saw the Golden Arches of McDonald’s fast food restaurant. How wonderful to see something familiar from the USA. I walked toward it, deciding this would be a good economical place to get dinner. As I got closer, I saw a sign on the second floor above McDonald’s which read Hotel.
I climbed the stairs to the second floor and entered the hotel. A small elderly bald man sat at the desk. I asked in my best German if he had a room. He replied he had one for 31 Deutsch Marks ($15). I paid him the money and he took me up the stairs and down the hallway. He unlocked the door and I walked in. I saw the twin bed with a feather bed on top and a sink, but no toilet. I asked, “Where is the bathroom?” in German. He motioned me to follow him as we went down a flight of stairs. We entered a room marked “Badezimmer” and he pointed to the bathtub. He said I could take a bath for one Mark. I stammered, “Wo ist die Toilette?” (Where is the toilet?)
He said, “Oh!” and motioned me to follow him again. We climbed back up the stairs and he led me down the hallway two doors from my room where the toilet was located for the entire hallway. Things are certainly different here with three separate rooms for the sink, toilet, and bathtub.
I then walked down to McDonald’s and stared at the menu. I was amazed to see that they served beer here. I don’t drink alcohol, but I have never seen alcohol served at a fast food restaurant before. I ordered a hamburger, fries, and milkshake to make me feel less homesick. Then I walked back to the train station, retrieved my bags, and trudged back to the hotel. After locking my door, I knelt beside the bed and heartily thanked the Lord for bringing me here safely and providing this nice feather bed to sleep under.
The next morning I walked out into the transformed city streets into a bustling open market. I walked past the colorful flower, fruit, vegetable, and bakery stands and finally decided to buy some fruit and bread for breakfast. Then I browsed through a department store to compare prices and products, finding it similar to the USA.
So began my three weeks alone in Europe. The Lord graciously put His hand of protection around me. I discovered smiles opened doors followed by “Hello, how are you?” in German. I had fun striking up conversations with others on the train and coming out of my comfort zone. Over the years, I have explored many other countries and made friends around the world that started with a simple smile and hello.