Before the war, Hitler had commissioned Albert Speer to redesign Berlin into the “Capital of the World”, a city greater than London, Paris or Rome that he wanted to call Germania. When the war started much of the land had been acquired and several roads had been constructed. But much of the construction was put on hold until victory would make the necessary materials and Labour available. One of the roads that had been constructed, before the hold, was the Charlottenburg Chaussee, or the East / West Axis. It ran to the south of the Olympic Stadium through the Tiergarten and the Brandenburg Gate. Close to the Gate the Charlottenburg Chaussee was crossed by the 5km long, very wide, Prachtallee or Avenue of Splendours.
To the north, the Prachtallee finished at the Grosser Platz, a 350,000 square metre open space and to the north of that was the massive domed building the Volkshalle or People’s Hall, the largest enclosed building in the world, built to span the River Spree. Before the war, many new splendid buildings had been planned, but Speer and Hitler had been warned that it might not be possible due to the heavyweight of many of them on the marshy Berlin ground. As a test, a heavy concrete tower was constructed. In 3 years the test building sunk 18 cms into the ground, 3 times more than the acceptable limit of 6 cms. Consequently, Hitler was forced to abandon much of his grand plan and with it the new name of Germania. Only the lighter planned buildings had proceeded and even then, not all of them. One complex that was completed was the University sector, constructed around the Charlottenburg Chaussee, to the south of the Olympic Stadium. The complex was known as the Adolf Hitler University and included several faculties including Humanities, Languages and Military Studies.
Two other buildings that had gone ahead where the NordbahnHof, just over the Spree local to the Volkshalle and the SudbahnHof at the southern end of the Prachtallee. The two stations were connected by a tunnel for through trains. The new stations had been necessitated by new roads cutting the railway tracks into the previous stations. Jinnie had the choice of then using the S-Bahn or a taxi from the station to the university. She settled for a taxi, as she didn’t fancy dragging her luggage around any more and it might give her a chance to try out her basic German on the driver. She was soon at the head of the taxi rank and the driver asked her “where to”. So far so good, she understood him and replied in her best German that she wanted the AHU halls of residence. He replied in English “OK love” and set off. Every time she spoke to him in German he replied in English. After a while, she asked him how he knew she was English. He said the halls she had asked for were mainly foreign students and her accent was obviously English, so he was trying to put her at ease. She explained she was there to take a German degree and he immediately switched to the local German dialect which she struggled with.
She had been allocated a shared two bedroom ground floor apartment in her collage’s halls of residence. She was checked in to the building given various passes and a key to the flat by a very efficient team from the University who had temporarily taken over the buildings large TV lounge. The flat was small just a kitchen/living room, bathroom and two bedrooms. Her flatmate hadn’t arrived yet so she chose the slightly bigger bedroom and dumped her bags and went to see what was in the kitchen. Nothing, the cupboards were bare and she was in need of a coffee. Jinnie settled for a glass of water and sat down to write a basic shopping list on a page torn from her notebook. She had got quite a few items on the list when she heard the front door open.
The new flatmate was called Simone Beaufort and came from Nice. Jinnie thought she looked like a sophisticated French woman, but was delighted to learn that she was, just like her, away from home for the first time, 18, on the same German course and spoke some English. Jinnie had taken French at GCSE so the conversation flipped between French, English and German. After a while, they agreed to try to stick to German as that was what they were there to learn. Simone left her bags in the smaller bedroom and they headed out for supplies. The Portier directed them to a Supermarkt that wasn’t to far and they got the basics coffee, milk, bread, butter, eggs, cheese, jam, two bottles of dry white wine, cooking oil, some biscuits and a few other bits and pieces. By the time they got back to the flat they were getting on quite well and they had decided to have a coffee. Neither of them really liked the taste of the coffee, it was too weak. They then decided to go and have a look around the area, followed by having a meal together.
The Portier again directed them towards an area with several Bierkellers, but they had decided they wanted to try a traditional family bar/restaurant. The Bierkellers they passed appeared to be quite lively and mainly frequented by students. They picked out one or two they liked the look of to try another evening. But food was the first item on tonight’s agenda. They wandered past 3 or 4 likely places, checking out the menus, before going back to the second one they had stopped at. It was a charming little place and no sooner were they seated than the menu’s had arrived and drinks orders taken. Both settled for a small draught beer and they arrived before they had made their food choices. They decided on Schweinshaxe (pork knuckle) with potatoes and Sauerkraut, a house speciality.
Service was fast, their food appeared in front of them in what seemed an instant but they were engrossed in conversation. The pork was delicious and extremely filling. They decided that however appetising the Bienenstich (bee sting cake) being served on the next table looked, they would pass and just ordered a Kaffee. The coffee was very mild and not really to either of their likings but they drank it anyway. When the owner came over with the bill, he asked them if the meal had alright. Being a polite English lady, Jinnie said it was very nice but Simone asked about the coffee saying it was a little mild for her French tastes. The owner explained that generally Germans preferred mild Kaffee but they kept a Wiener Röstung (Vienna roast) for people who asked for something stronger. He told Simone that it was perhaps not quite as strong as French roast, but next time they ate there he would remember two such pretty girls and serve it to them.
They paid the bill and left. Heading towards the halls they heard someone calling Simone’s name. It was a man of roughly their age standing outside a Bierkeller. Simone greeted him and quickly explained to Jinnie that he was called Alexandre and had been at the same lycee as her. She had not known him well as he was in the year above her and had left last year when she had been in her première year. But Simone warned Jinnie to be careful as he had a reputation as a ladies man and she had rejected his advances on several occasion.
Alexandre immediately started to try to chat up Jinnie who took an instant dislike to him. He was playing it for all he was worth, he was the experienced second year and they were the newbies. He could show her the city and was now ignoring Simone. They were on the verge of walking away when a group of guys came out of the Bierkeller. These boys, it turned out, were all in the same year as Alexandre, but were nothing like him in personality. Jinnie and Simone were happy to go along with the group to another bar they were heading to where there was live music.
The group found seats, ordered beer all round and settled down to wait for the music to start. Jinnie just hoped it wouldn’t be an oompah band. The boys were all engineering students of one sort or another but all knew each other because they had some common lectures. They were German, French, Italian, Polish and one Englishman. But on hearing that they were studying engineering Jinnie took an interest, could one of them give her an opening to the nuclear engineering research she was looking for. She was sat next to the Italian, Paolo, who was rather nice and spoke English with an adorable accent, so she decided to befriend him and see what she could find out.
Paolo, it emerged, was studying electronic engineering, so Jinnie didn’t think he would know anyone doing Nuclear Research, but he was good to talk to, so she kept chatting until the band came on. They performed Euro pop and most of their repertoire were oldies including a lot of ABBA which the audience were happy with and sung along to. After the performance they all headed for the halls, Simone arm in arm with a Pole and Jinnie with Paolo who was proving to be remarkably shy, almost flinching when she took his hand.
Once they got to the girl’s halls the majority of the boys drifted off leaving Paolo and the Pole, Jan. The girls weren’t sure of the rules but strongly suspected that it would be wrong to invite them in even if it was only for a coffee. So it was a quick good night kiss and Jinnie and Simone arranged to meet Paolo and Jan for a double date on the following Wednesday. Jinnie thought there was safety in numbers and besides Paolo was so shy it would be a challenge.
Jinnie beat Simone to the bathroom, washed and brushed her teeth with her electronic toothbrush which she had unpacked earlier. Back in her bedroom it was very warm and she decided to sleep on top of her bed. She checked the window was open as it airless in the room, got on the bed and turned off the light. She fell asleep listening to Simone in the shower, softly singing “l had a dream”.
Jinnie woke with a jump, someone was opening her bedroom door. In the dim light from the window, she realised it was Simone. Jinnie didn’t know what was happening and just lay still as if asleep. Simone climbed on her bed, put an arm around her and promptly started snoring gently. Jinnie realised Simone must be sleepwalking and racked her brain to try to remember if it was dangerous to wake her up. She couldn’t remember, so she just lay still and eventually dropped off.
When she woke, the following morning, Jinnie was relieved to find she was alone and she could hear Simone moving around the flat. The next problem was should she confront Simone or just let it come up in conversation. Well, she thought, that problem can wait until I have had breakfast. When she came out of her bedroom Simone was busy making coffee and on the table were fresh croissants, which she must have been out for. Jinnie said a cheery good morning and helped herself to a bowl of cornflakes. Simone poured two mugs of coffees and joined her at the table. Dunking a croissant in her coffee she looked at Jinnie and said “I’m sorry. I really should have told you that I sleepwalk. But you had gone to bed before I had a chance last night. I hope I didn’t shock you too much.” Jinnie was relieved not to have had to bring up the subject and took Simone hand saying how she hadn’t known what to do. Simone thanked her for not making a fuss and suggested that it might be best if they fitted a bolt on the inside of her door.
After breakfast, they headed to their college where they officially signed in for their courses and picked up their lecture timetables. They found their way to the cafeteria for lunch and found that it was very popular with students. Many were eating there and the food appeared good and was certainly cheap, it was also open for breakfast and lunch seven days a week and dinner on weekdays and Saturdays. Jinnie and Simone quickly realised that it would be sensible if they ate their main meal of the day there and only had breakfast and snacks in the flat. Looking around she could see Paolo in deep conversation with some of the boys she recognised from the previous evening but he didn’t see her.
That afternoon they went on an orientation tour of the university campus. The aim was to show them where the various lecture rooms and labs were. Where the medical facilities were and lots of other places they just might need. As they walked around Jinnie noted particularly where the Nuclear Engineering Labs were. Simone was more interested in the Aeronautical Engineering Labs, as that was what Jan was studying. After the tour, they were free to go, but the following day they were expected to come in for the new students to meet the various clubs and societies and to sign up for some. The day after was a “meet the lecturers” day and Thursday was the first day of lectures. She noted that the modules she was expected to take were German Language, Conversational German, Written German, German History, and German Culture. She couldn’t help but wonder what the difference was between German Language and Conversational German.
The following morning she and Simone found themselves wandering around the stalls at the new students day. They had talked about what they might join, but were not sure exactly what was to be on offer. They had both agreed that now they were free from the BDM they were not going to sign up for anything similar. Jinnie eventually signed up for the Gym Club, she was missing the regular exercise she had got used to with Mike and the Gun Club. She had become quite a good pistol shot and wanted to keep her hand in incase it was necessary. Besides, it was looked on by the authorities as one of the better clubs to join. Simone didn’t really have any idea what to join, or so she said, but jumped at signing up for the Gym Club with Jinnie and then surprised her by signing up for cookery. She said she was a useless cook and could burn water, so thought it might be useful to learn as the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach.
In Chapter 8 – Jinnie’s new contact is revealed.
The Goodnight Vienna Audio file