Near time for us to start back through the Berlin Corridor, we ate lunch and returned to our rented van. One of the fellows yelled, "OK, who was supposed to lock this door?" One of the vanís rear doors was not latched.
Our German friend, Al Bloom, knew that we must report this incident; he was obviously worried! We had been warned about the possibility of robbery.
At the police stop on our way out of Berlin, Al and the officer spoke in German. After the talk, the English-speaking officer explained that we should remove everything from the van. In doing that, the Cronan boys discovered that their two canvas army bags of small gifts had been stolen from behind the vanís rear seat. The officer asked Chub to show him our "car papers." Chub opened the compartment, and it was empty!
Chub and the officer went inside to report the theft to the van-rental company. For the first time in my adult life, I could not lean on Chub; he knew none of the trip plans. We thought he would not be able to leave his new job, but the boss let him off. There were calls and reports to make - in French, in German and in English. Because I had reserved the van and hostel spaces from Columbia, I was the one to help the officer notify the Columbia travel agency and the hostel warden that we would be delayed for two days. I went with the German officer to give detailed information about the Columbia travel agency, the saleswomanís name, dates and other details.
The German warden kindly waited as we reloaded, and Chub drove us more than a hundred miles to our beds and luggage. The German police officer provided emergency papers for the van, and Alís family met us to pick him up. Al had "nervous stomach" while helping us, so we quickly expressed our appreciation that night.
It was essential for the German and French travel offices to know where this vehicle, with only temporary papers, would be during the next several days and nights, so they asked us to stay an extra night in our first hostel in France. The police officer called our hostel warden to say we would be late; the men knew each other and had handled similar mishaps occasionally. Our large party required some changes in hostel reservations for beds, meals, length of stay, etc.
Police and hostel wardens - everybody - were helpful to us. We were late at the hostel, but the warden waited.
I have made seven additional European trips, some with college students, feeling confident that everything will turn out all right - because it did, in Germany on my very first foreign tour.