We lived Dangerously on our Honeymoon.
We were married in September 1988, in the village of Bischoffingen, on the picturesque Kaiserstuhl in southern Germany, surrounded by vineyards as far as the eye could see.
Bischoffingen is also the place where the regular contributor to Tintota, Werner Schmidlin, grew up and, as it happened, we stayed with his aunt, Gertrud, who makes part of her house available as a guesthouse. She still owned the old tractor, a remnant from the time when she still had a few acres of vineyards. We had come to Bischoffingen many years previously, mainly in the grape-harvesting season and stayed with Gertrud every time.
Gertrud was one of the witnesses at our wedding. The day after the wedding, we asked her if we could make ourselves useful and help somebody in the village with harvesting grapes.
“Yes,” replied Gertrud, “That is no problem. Some of my relatives are looking for people who have some skill with secateurs.” And she made the arrangements. She explained to us that the particular vineyard she had in mind was some distance away in the hills and was hard to find, so offered to take us there on her old faithful tractor. Mind you, Gertrud wasn’t a spring chicken anymore, she had reached the ripe old age of 70. She was, however, still sprightly for her age, possessed a good sense of humour, led a busy life from morning till night, and was taking care of domestic duties and looking after her house guests into the bargain.
Gertrud cranked the tractor up, and we climbed up onto the passenger seats, which were on top of the mudguards, over each rear tyre. The seats had minimal handrails, and each was wide enough to seat two people. We took one seat each on either side of Gertrud, and were in a very happy mood, laughing and joking. Gertrud set off like a rocket and we had to hold on to the handles for dear life, at the same time murmuring a silent prayer through our teeth.
Gertrud was not completely sitting on her seat, but was sort of half standing and leaning over the steering wheel. With the help of the wind and vibrations from the tractor, Gertrud’s brown skirt started to rise higher and higher. When she finally realized what was happening, she took her hands off the steering wheel, without slowing down, to take care of the situation, completely forgetting for the moment that she was driving a tractor. Our hearts stopped!
We were no longer laughing. We wondered if we would survive this journey. We were extremely apprehensive and hoped that the tractor wouldn’t run off the road. However, after what seemed an eternity, Gertrud sat down again and, to our great relief, concentrated once again on driving this “mean machine” of hers.
We were now fast approaching the main road crossing and had to make a sharp right-hand turn. And, oh boy, Gertrud took this corner with full steam ahead!
Apparently, applying the brakes was only reserved for emergencies and Gertrud didn’t consider this an emergency. Halfway through the curve, the rear of the tractor swung toward the opposite lane. Fortunately, the driver of the oncoming Audi drove onto the front lawn of a house and thus avoided a collision and, possibly, saved our lives.
Yet again, we had a prayer on our lips, sure that our blood had drained to our feet. Nobody was hurt, but our blood pressure was at an all time high, accompanied by a goodly measure of trembling. But Gertrud, it seemed, was unperturbed by this incident and gave us a cheeky smile, as if to say, “Wasn’t that fun?”
The tractor never stopped and we were now approaching a steep ascent, with more curves and a narrow road which was often only wide enough for one vehicle. We began to wonder what would happen next, and whether we would survive to tell this tale.
Finally, to our utter relief, we arrived at the relatives’ vineyard and waved happily. Happily, for we were happy to be still alive. And were welcomed by the many people who were already busy harvesting grapes, who were naturally unaware of the ordeal we had experienced on the way.
Gertrud now drove extremely close to the edge of a steep slope to park her tractor, and one of its front wheels was left hanging in the air. “For goodness sake, what are you doing?” we murmured to ourselves. We were glad when the tractor finally came to a halt, and we clambered down from our mudguard seats very quickly and felt an urge to go down on our knees and kiss the soil and then look to heaven and thank God that he was watching over us on our honeymoon.
We still visit Gertrud’s Guesthouse each year, and every time we mention the drive on the tractor when we had been married for only one day, we have a good laugh about it, although, it was far from funny at the time. The tractor has gone to tractor heaven years ago, but its memory will linger long in our minds.
– Andreas & Elke Ludwig
Hanau, Hessen, Germany.