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Christmas in Berlin with West Bromwich hiker

By Iliffe.Admin  |  Posted: December 24, 2012

  • World hiker Tony Creed of West Bromwich

  • Berlin landmarks of the 1930s

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LAST week we printed an extract from the 80-yearold diary of Tony Creed, a young West Bromwich man who, in 1932, attempted to hike all around the world. A copy of the diary, which was originally printed in the West Bromwich Free Press, has been given to the Bugle by the intrepid hiker’s son, Tony Creed of Norton, Stourbridge. His father may be remembered by readers in Kinver as he was a publican in the village for around 40 years.

Previously, we followed Tony senior’s progress across Germany. He was hiking with a friend, Fred Kitchen from Bradford, and the pair planned to spend Christmas with Fred’s uncle and aunt, who kept a hotel in Berlin.

A consistent theme of the diary is the warm welcome the “world hikers” received everywhere they went in Germany.

Total strangers were only too happy to put the walkers up for a night, feed them, or give them money to help them on their way, and the German people they met were full of praise for England and the English. All the more remarkable given that within just seven years the two countries would be at war once more.

In this instalment Tony describes the Christmas and New Year celebrations in Berlin ...

“Berlin, 10/12/32. Our first night in Berlin was celebrated in fine style. As I have said, we are staying in an hotel owned by Fred’s uncle and auntie. His uncle is German but speaks very good English.

We were introduced to all the people in the lounges, who all wanted to buy us drinks and cigars. As the night wore on, or shall I say, morning, for it was 3am and the people were having last drinks, we were called to the middle of the room and lifted on to a table.

Of course we wondered what was the matter, but having caught the wink Uncle passed to us, we did as we were bid.

We were each given a glass of beer and still standing on the table, wondered what was coming next. Then a gentleman called the attention of all the persons in the room and began to make a speech. Of course we could not understand it, but Fred’s Uncle Fritz explained it to us.

“There was silence for a few moments and then everyone collected around our table.

There was a lot of cheering and then they drunk a toast to the success of our trip. We all stood to attention and another speech was made, this time in honour of their guests from England (Fred and I), and then everyone in the room joined in singing God Save the King. Those who did not know the words hummed the tune.

“Really it was a very impressive scene, and it just proved the wonderful feelings they have towards the English. This all seems so strange when one looks back about 15 years, but the only reports one hears about the war is how good the English ‘Tommy’ was to the German.

It made one really proud to be an Englishman.

“We have experienced our first sample of snow, for we woke this morning (Sunday) to find everything white, and looking out into the street (strass) it reminded us of a real English Christmas card.

Everything looked so beautiful and everything is hustle and bustle just at present in readiness for Christmas. The streets are very wide and lined up on each side are thousands of Christmas trees and on Sunday next (Silver Sunday, as it is called), these trees will be offered for sale.

So really the whole of it is turned into a market.

“Sunday over here is just like any other day of the week. All the big football matches are played on Sunday and all other sports.

Really it is more like Saturday in England. Before I came to Germany I heard that all the German people were stern of features, but I have not found it so. Everywhere you go you are met with smiling faces and particularly amongst the working classes. Everyone appears to live for today and not consider the future. If a person has money, he spends it freely.

One cannot help but admire the free and easy-going people and if anyone wants a really good interesting holiday they should go to Berlin.

Here there are so many beautiful, interesting places to see and visit.

“They make far more of the Christmas than we do in England, for every house, shop and factory has a tree and they are decorated with silver tissues and lights. On the top of each tree is a star, and on Christmas Eve all the presents that are to be given to the members of the household are laid at the foot of the tree. New Year is called ‘Silvester’ and from what I hear most of the people go mad.

So we look like having a good time! We are doing a lot of sightseeing. Many of the policemen here speak English and they wear a red arm band. One of the most beautiful parts of Berlin is the Tiergarten, which covers an area of 255 acres, and stretches from Brandenburger to Charlottenburg.

It is more like a forest.

“Again we have Christmas with us, but this time in another land. Gee! what a wonderful time we have had; very much like a real English Christmas, only the people here celebrate until New Year, which is called ‘Silvester’.

It is a real carnival time. Nearly every person dresses up in fancy costume and really gives way to their feelings. We have had very many invitations to visit people.

We received tickets from the management of the Berlin Opera House to see Madame Butterfly, and also we attended a supper and dance given on our behalf by a well known sports club in Berlin, and I might say we had a great time. Dancing continued until 3am, and then we were driven home by a German doctor in his car. He spoke excellent English.

“But now starts the more interesting parts of our trip.

As we leave Berlin on the way to Czecho-Slovakia on the 3rd January, 1933, I am afraid it will be pretty hard going on account of the snow and we hear that at the present time it is rather severe.

The people who use the hotel are giving us a party on the 2nd of January, and then we shall have to settle down to, what shall I say, ‘the Joys of the Open Road’, and forget our pleasures for the present and get on with the task we have set ourselves. We have received a number of presents this Christmas from German people interested in us, and I wonder where we shall be next Christmas.

“Our Christmas in Berlin was celebrated in real old English style and the Christmas Eve morning saw Fred and I struggling down the Berliner Strass with a big tree on our shoulders, which provided us both with a good morning’s work, for we decorated it like real craftsmen and at night Fred and I sang all the English carols, which the German people among our party thought very nice, and so we carried on the New Year, which I must say the German people make far more of than they do of Christmas. Nearly all the people dress up in fancy costumes and parade the street singing.

'At the particular hotel where we are staying with Fred’s uncle, we had a wonderful time, the real fun commencing about 10 o’clock, when the people forgot all their troubles and simply gave way to their feelings, and as 12 o’clock struck every person in the place was given a glass of hot punch and all together they shouted ‘Toast New Year’. They each held a glass of beer in the right hand and with the left hand on each other’s shoulders they paraded round the streets singing and shouting to their heart’s content.

“The leaders of this strange procession carried two chairs and at each street corner they stood on these and made a speech. This carried on for about an hour and at last they all came back and the remainder of the time was spent in singing and drinking. At 9am Uncle closed the door of the hotel and so we retired to bed feeling rather light headed; but at peace with all the world.

“Needless to say, we slept all day and at night we went to a dance, and so passed our first New Year in Germany, but I must say it is one of the best I have had.”

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