Fall in the Thuringian Forest
October 04, 2013

My dearest Old Bold, family and friends,

How excellent it was to see all you Old Bolds (and lovely wives) in September. I miss you all very much.

This morning I can look out the warped and slightly fogged windows of my hotel room, and over the cracked cement balcony walls, rotting eaves, broken octagonal-chicken wire glass balustrade, and dumpy clothes hanger (for any underwear I might want to wash in the sink?), and have a beautiful view of the Thuringian forest here in Friedrichroda.

Our huge hotel, with its crumbling 60's cement facade, calls forth pure East German nostalgia. Perhaps because of its location, or super cheap rates, it is popular beyond belief with hikers of all ages and their savage children, who run screaming and screeching unfettered and undisciplined through the hallways and main feeding buffet assembly lines at all hours of day and night. The hotel is full to bursting with over 500 rooms completely sold out on this holiday weekend celebrating the reuniting of Germany.

As you know, I lived for years in East Berlin after the wall came down, and travelled on the cheap with my East German boyfriend throughout the former DDR, and so am no stranger to the landscape, architecture and style of accommodation. Back then, exploring the exotic Eastern Bloc culture was somehow cutting edge and unendingly interesting. Things here haven't changed much in the last twenty years, but apparently...my tastes and expectations have. Still, one makes the best of it for the joy of the company involved.

And what company! Besides my trusty travel companion Charley, and of course our friends the Halms, who run the Knight's Cross association, we have the pleasure of associating with about a dozen esteemed veterans and about 100 young people from all over the world. Most of them come to collect autographs. Some, like me, are busy collecting stories. One Chinese member who is studying in Germany has an impressive collection of interviews with Knight's Cross holders, which he intends to write about in Chinese when he returns home.

Although I have made appointments to interview some veterans, including a second fighter pilot with the Knight's Cross, it is more difficult to find the untold story amongst this crowd. Still, I can't give up on researching more on Egon Mayer, who also, incidentally, won the Knight's Cross, as I try to find out whether he used a rocket to shoot down Robert Sweatt's B-24. Here I have run into some young people willing to help me find Mayer's grave and memorial, and perhaps set up an interview with a German fighter pilot who can still recall in perfect detail what it was like to close in on a four-engine American bomber in head-on attack.

In just a few minutes last night I learned about general fighter pilot practices that fit Mayer's attack on January 7 perfectly, and much more. Sadly enough, although a fair number of German fighter pilots still are hanging tight, most of the bomber and Stuka pilots have gone, victims of
stomach and intestinal cancer caused from long exposure on bombing runs of high doses of radiation given off by the instruments in their planes.

Perhaps the mystery of January 7th's events may yet unfold for me before I start writing the book this fall, perhaps not. I will not give up trying.

Today we take a small bus tour of the ancient forest before we honor the
fallen this afternoon. If I can keep Charley safe in the breakfast buffet stampede, that is.

All my love,




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