135. The Dattler.

By Peter Fraenkel

It was rather tiring – that bus journey around the border area of Germany and France. The others went to climb a mountain but I felt old and stayed in our tour bus together with the driver. I spoke to him in French. He apologised. He could not speak the language. I switched to German.  He seemed relieved.

“My father used to study here.” I told him. “Here at Freiburg. Well, at least one semester. In those days students often changed universities every year. It was then believed that this was the best way of benefiting from the wisdom of the best professors at each. Dad also used to tell me he used to climb a mountain called, I think, the Dattler.”

The driver laughed. “We’re sitting right at the foot of it. The others are panting up that Dattler now.”

“Dad also used to mention a restaurant of the same name – the Dattler. He and his mates used to go there for a Schnitzel and a beer.”

“It’s still there, at the top of the hill. But you won’t find many students there now.”

“Why not?”

“It’s said to be the most expensive restaurant in all of Germany. I don’t know whether that’s true. I’ve never dared go in myself.”

“Must have changed. Grandfather kept my father on short commons.”

And since we had nothing to do but wait for the others to come down again, I told him more: “As a student my father once went to the casino at Baden-Baden. That’s not too far from here, is it? He gambled and lost every pfennig of his month’s allowance. He then wrote a pathetic letter to his father begging him to send some money, by telegram. Yes, he did get a telegram by return.  But it contained only one word: “Hungere!” – Go hungry! 

The driver laughed: “That’s what they were like, our grandfathers. They believed in discipline.”