Thursday, July 7, 2016

Travel tips for West Germany from 60 years ago

This is the cover of Travel Tips for Germany, a pocket-sized staplebound book published by Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 1956. The 88-page book, which measures about 4¼ inches by 6 inches, contains information on hotels, restaurants, shopping and sightseeing.1

To be sure, these are tips for West Germany, our English term for the post-World War II Federal Republic of Germany. The only mention of East Germany comes in a short section about Berlin, which in 1956 was divided politically but not yet literally by the Berlin Wall (which didn't come until 1961). Here's what Travel Tips had to say:
"Berlin is one of the two western outposts behind the Iron Curtain (the other being Vienna) and it's possible to go into the Communist-run sector of the city to see how the other half lives. They live rather badly in contrast to the Allied sectors of the former German capital, which was progressed economically despite being cut off from the rest of Western Germany. Berlin was once one of the world's most beautiful cities. Now it still has acres of bomb ruins."

But enough about bombs and destruction. This guide wanted to focus on the fun side of traveling to Germany in the mid-1950s. The introduction focuses on the country's re-emerging prosperity, its reasonably priced and excellent restaurants, and its desire to become an international tourist destination. American dollars stretched quite well there at the time; one dollar equaled about 4.2 Deutsche Marks.

Here are some interesting tidbits from the booklet:

  • Travelers are discouraged from using the Autobahns, because they "do not pass through the picturesque villages."
  • A special section offers tips for women travelers. It has instructions on what to do if you've "done more shopping than you'd planned." It stresses that it's OK for women to eat alone in restaurants and dining rooms. And it suggests that women not go out at night after 10 p.m. without an escort.
  • Rooms in the best German hotels cost about $8 per day, the equivalent of about $70 today.
  • In the "What to Buy" section, the following German goods are praised: cameras, binoculars, Hummel figurines, Hanau silver2, Märklin toy trains, Black Forest cuckoo clocks and 400-day clocks, and garnets.
  • But, regarding German antique furniture, the guide states: "A large revolving population of Armed Forces personnel has taken a lot of Germany's best antiques back across the Atlantic. They're still to be had, but not always at bargain prices."

Finally, here's a map of Frankfurt from the guide. Note where it says "To the Romantic Road" in the lower-right corner. That would be a cool trip.

1. Unfortunately, there is no credit given anywhere for the artist who created the cover illustration.
2. According to the booklet, a complete Hanau silver coffee service with tray cost about $200.

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