I shivered constantly as I huddled on the ground asking my handcart pioneers to help me survive until morning. The temperature dropped into the 30’s and I wore a T-shirt, shorts and a light jacket my cousin lent me. I’d never been so cold in my life.
The daytime temperatures were still in the 70’s in Germany. I’d recently arrived from Texas where nightfall’s temperature didn’t plummet yet. It was August after all. August!
My cousin interned in Switzerland and came up to Hanover, Germany to pick me up for a weekend adventure to Berlin and Poland. Living in Germany was my first traveling adventure since my mission. I hadn’t explored at all yet and didn’t know the ropes. I just went willy-nilly into the adventure…and woefully and foolishly unprepared.
Evan carried a backpack that didn’t alert me to the fact I missed anything. I’d grabbed a few things, including snacks, and we headed to the train station.
Schönes Wochenende (Beautiful Weekend)
Germany has this wonderful thing called Schönes Wochenende pass. We paid 25 Deutschmarks and could ride the slow train anywhere in Germany for the whole weekend. It really is a slow train, because it stops at every station en route. I ended up using the Schönes Wochenende pass to travel to the Frankfurt Temple once a month because it was affordable. I’d leave at 5:00 AM and got home around midnight. The fast train took four hours for the same trip.
We jumped on our train and caught up on our lives. He’d been my best friend over the past year. I hadn’t seen him since he’d convinced me to apply for an internship in Germany after I graduated from BYU and didn’t know what to do next.
He told me about his internship which was soon ending and his plans for BYU in the fall. I told him about Anthony who I met during my six weeks at home and was romantically involved with. While talking to Evan about Anthony, I knew I could marry Anthony. I’d been pretty gun-shy about nuptial commitments.
One train we transferred to was so full that we stood on the train steps for hours. I oohed and awed the whole time loving the warm wind in my face as the scenery moved by. Germany is so very beautiful.
We wandered magnificent Berlin! What a glorious city. We had to have a Berliner and recreate JFK’s scene where instead of saying, “I am a citizen of Berlin,” he famously said, “I am a jelly donut.”
We hopped the train to Poland delighted to check another country off our list. At the Polish border, I realized my first dumb mistake. I forgot my passport!! It never crossed my mind to grab it! I couldn’t believe it and quickly realized the real issue I could be in without paperwork. The shadows of the Cold War still lingered.
We got off the train and wandered the little town. I felt desperate for Evan to at least have the experience, so we found what a looked like a safe spot (it was dark by this time) for me to wait/look around for facilities and he ran across the border for half an hour or so.
The rest of our plans were totally foiled. He was so kind about my dumb mistake, though we were both disappointed. While he explored the Polish border town, I started shivering.
We wandered Frankfurt an der Oder. The border town apparently closed up at dark after that last train. No restaurants or hostels were in sight. We found an open area which we assumed was a park, but couldn’t really tell in the dark. We decided to park there.
Suddenly, Evan’s backpack seemed like some Harry Potter trunk! He pulled out a pup tent, a sleeping bag, and pillow. I really felt shocked and so dumb. I helped put up the tent—helped might be a strong word. He’d used the tent so much, it nearly set itself up.
Facing the Cold, Hard Consequences
I remember him asking me what I brought. And I just stared. Again. He offered his accommodations because he’s amazing, but I flatly refused. I felt humiliated and mad at myself. I would deal with my own consequences.
But I gratefully accepted a spot in the tent. During the night I huddled close to the sleeping bag.
I never slept. I wanted to because then I would find some relief. But I was too cold and uncomfortable. I felt mentally tested in a way I’d never experienced before. I discovered I had a lot of grit, determination, and sheer will. But I’d brought the whole thing upon myself by ignorantly running into something I didn’t know anything about.
Sometime near dawn, I felt a part of the sleeping bag cover part of my frozen body. I was so grateful. The blanket was so warm. I fell asleep instantly.
I slept through Evan getting up and scouting out where we were but woke up when he burst back into the tent and said we needed to move. Apparently, we were in some residential park—the tent must have looked hysterical—and people were coming to inspect us. I didn’t have much to pack up, so there was that.
I stepped out into a frigid morning. The sunshine was glorious on the frosty grass. No time to enjoy it though, because waving to the approaching men, we darted on our way to find a bathroom.
I survived!! And I learned from the experience. I’m a savvier traveler now.
The most meaningful lesson connected me to ancestors who suffered far more than I did for far longer. I’d never before been able to imagine their pain and suffering. Some died along the trail, frozen in the night. I remembered them in my extremity and still feel a bond across the intervening years.
And lastly, I’d always heard the scripture “If ye are prepared, ye shall not fear.” I realized there are times in life that I’m not prepared and I don’t fear because I have no clue what to expect! I’m totally blindsided by circumstance and then dealing with the cold, hard consequences.
To avoid blindsides, I’ve learned to ask when I don’t know what to expect. Maybe the response won’t add any additional information, maybe it will. I’ve also learned to think ahead about what I might not expect. 🙂
And, I was so determined to experience the consequences of my mistakes, that I didn’t even consider asking Heavenly Father if there was a way to relieve my suffering. A burning bush would have been nice! Maybe blanket angels are available on request.
I’ll never know because I was so busy punishing myself for my mistake that I never once thought to ask for help. I just pled for Earth to be moved out of its orbit so sunrise would come sooner.
Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Even if there were no ‘blanket angels’ available or the orbit wasn’t shifting, I still could have asked the Savior to give me rest. I characteristically chose to suffer through it alone, but I didn’t have to. And I still don’t.
I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. I have moved 64 times and have not tired of experiencing this beautiful earth! I love the people, languages, histories/anthropologies, & especially religious cultures of the world. My life long passion is the study & searching out of religious symbolism, specifically related to ancient & modern temples. My husband Anthony and I love our bulldog Stig, adventures, traveling, movies, motorcycling, and time with friends and family.