We left East Berlin one Sunday afternoon early enough to drive to Dresden to claim a hotel reservation we had confirmed there. Shortly after we started buzzing down the highway, the sky began to cloud over, portending an early darkness. After a while the fog started moving in across the road, multiplying itself quickly to where we could follow the road at some points only by watching the wide white mark along the edge.
We began to get a little apprehensive and realized that we weren't going to make it to Dresden that night. So we turned off the highway at the next town designated (Lubben) in search of shelter. A cloverleaf took us under the highway and east for some miles along a tree-lined, barely two-lane road. Eerie head-lights approached and passed through the swirling fog; bicyclists came and vanished, swallowed up in a misty shroud.
We reached Lubben and the fog had lessened somewhat, but had nowhere abated. We found no semblance of a hotel in town and wondered what to do -- to drive farther was out of the question. As we pulled over to the side of the street to contemplate the situation, a woman came out of a doorway by the car. I quickly rolled down my window and hailed her wit a plaintive "Bitte."
She came to the window and I asked, in my meager supply of German, where we could find a hotel. She answered with a flow of words that I couldn't absorb and I hastily assured her that my working knowledge of German was very small. A second person and a third person stopped to listen, and in a few minutes there were six people talking together beside our car.
A young woman stepped forward, apologized for her halting English (I wish I could have spoken German as well) and said that there was no hotel in town; however, they were discussing our problem and what to do about us. Apparently someone would mention a possibility, but just as soon someone would shake his head and say, "Kaputz."
One young fellow left the group and she explained that he was going to make a call about a room but he returned shortly with no apparent success. A few minutes more of consultation, and then the young woman said that one of the men would go with us in our car to a place where he felt reasonably sure there would be a room.
This large man climbed into the back of our little Fiat and directed the continuation of our adventure with "Nach rechts" (right), "nach links" (left) or "geradeaus" (strainght ahead). After some five or ten minutes of darkness, little streets, stretches of trees and remnants of flitting fog, we arrived at our destination. My husband was to stay with the car and I was to come with our guide down a dark lane to a huge stone house.
A stage-whispered "Halloo," at a secondstory light brought the owner's head out the window. Yes, he had one small room left. Eagerly I said we would take it. My husband parked the car in a fenced-in, locked enclosure by the back door and we carried in our luggage. While waiting for the owner to discharge some duties, the three of us settled ourselves at a dining table by a tile stove wait his return. Everyone else had apparently retired.
How do you engage in conversation? Very simple. A little German, a few words of English, a lot of charades, works wonders. We found out that he had children and grandchildren, and what did we think of Jimmy Carter? We reciprocated with like information about ourselves. I said my husband was a printer and he said he was a doctor. Of what, he found difficulty telling us, not knowing the English word. But he looked me straight in the eye and said with a serious face: "Arf, arf."
"Veterinarian," I fairly shouted, and he beamed with pleasure that I had guessed so quickly. Well, Dr. Arf Arf went on to tell us that he had gone through school with the innkeeper and that the inn was located in the Spreewald. Spree is the name of the river and wald, in German, means woods or forest. By this time, the innkeeper had returned and it was time to say farewell. We felt the impact of severing a new friendship so quickly, but someone had come to pick him up, and so with hearty handclasps all around and "auf wiedersehens" following him out the door, we said goodbye to our saviour of the evening.
The room was small and spotless and on the third floor, up a winding staircase that defied passage of our luggage. But the surroundings far outshone the simple room. The third floor landing held a spinning wheel, copper bowls, antique furniture and implements and stained glass inserts in the windows. Our host fixed us a late supper of sliced ham, cheese, tomatoes, and good bread.
In the morning, we looked out into the tree tops. Below a woman was bringing in coal from a shed for the stove and two dogs were frisking in the early sunlight. Beyond was an old cemetery, hedges separating each flowered grave.
Breakfast was eggs, sliced ham, bread, and jam. The dining-room walls were recovered with all sizes of mounted animal horns. The chandelier was fashioned from horns. There were heavy draperies, again stained glass inserts in the windows, and antique furnitture to excite the most base buff. We packed our bags and came down to settle the bill with the innkeeper for the room and two meals.
The whole adventure seemed like a dream -- meeting townspeople who took the responsibility for the comfort of stranded strangers into their hands and hearts , our being whisked away through the mist to an enchanting hunting lodge (that we could never find again) and the generous attentions of Dr. Arf Arf who would remain forever a delightful memory.