July 20, 2010
DESTINATION BERLIN: The Berlin Blog Tour
Hi everybody! Stephanie Burkhart (that author of werewolf tome, THE HUNGARIAN, that I just read this past week on my vacay) is visiting The Balanced Writer today on her Berlin Blog Tour. Check out what she has to say about her new book, DESTINATION: BERLIN, as well as her experiences serving our country over in Germany. Interesting stuff! Stephanie is honestly one of the hardest working authors I know. Read on to learn more about her.
I'd like to thank Dani for having me today on my Destination: Berlin blog tour. I was stationed in Germany for 7 years total from 1986-1988, 1989-1992, and 1995-1997 on active duty in the US Army. My novel, Destination: Berlin was inspired by my own experiences during my first tour, so I thought I'd tell you a little about what it was like being stationed overseas.
I arrived in Frankfurt, Germany on a cold, overcast day in December 1986, fresh out of basic and AIT (Advanced Individual Training) a private third class (E-1). At the time, everyone was taken to Rhein-Main Air Base to "in process" into the European theatre. Rhein-Main shared the civilian airport in Frankfurt. Sadly, the Rhein-Main Air Base closed in 2005.
The Rhein-Main Air Base has a rich history. It was originally commissioned by the Germans in 1909 and was a home for their dirigibles. In 1936 it became a civilian airport for Germany. During World War II it was a military air base. In 1945 the US Army took it over. It was a major link in the Berlin Air Lift.
I was an MP (military police). I was given orders that were revoked within hours because that unit didn't take females. Finally, I found a home at the 583rd Ordnance Company in Münster, Germany. I can't remember if we were put on the train or a duty driver picked us up. Münster, Germany was 3 hours north of Frankfurt, 1 hour from the Netherlands border, in the heart of British Occupied West Germany. There were 10,000 British soldiers stationed in Münster and only 200 Americans. My job? To guard nuclear ammunition.
Out of the 200 Americans, only 20 of us were female. Needless to say, I had a lot of attention on me. I had secret admirers and some not so secret. I learned to drink, and I learned that men were…complicated to say the least.
The weather in Germany was overcast and chilly – a lot. During the summer the sun came up at 4 am and set at 10:30. During the winter, it rose at 8 am and set at 4 pm.
Münster was on a flat plain and had a Dutch influence to its buildings. I loved going to downtown Münster and eating at the Argentinean restaurant.
We went on field problems attached to British units about four times a year. I quickly learned British field rations were better than American MREs, they saluted with an open hand, said "Leftantant" instead of "Lieutenant" and their MOPP (Mission Orientated Protective Posture) gear for NBC disasters was better than ours because they had Velcro. And every year my commander made me dress up in full battle gear to include cammo paint and my M16 with it's grenade launcher and go to the British barracks for a military show and tell day. At the time, females in the British army were limited to support roles – seeing an American female soldier in full battle gear – that was a real treat. Overall, I enjoyed my close contact to the British army. I learned something new and I garnered a deep respect for British soldiers.
My American friend, Matthew Clark, got me into volksmarching, a German walking past time. On the weekend, German cities would host walks for 6, 12, 24 miles. Matt and I would go often. Sign up was between 6 am and 1 pm and it would cost between 5-10 Marks depending on want you wanted to collect. 10 Marks would get you a medal or a prize. Along the way we'd stop for a brotchen and beer. It was a great way to see the German country.
I loved going out to eat and to the local pub in Handorf (the nearest German town to the American kaserne and a suburb of Münster) called Wolfgang's. Johnny Sebolt introduced me to Calamiri. I loved eating thin crust pizza with shrimp and Hefewiessen beer became my favorite.
I never did pick up the German language, but I grew to understand it.
I soldiered hard and in January 1988, I was promoted to Specialist and I won soldier of the quarter for my battalion. That recognition earned me a spot on the Berlin Orientation Tour. I went to Berlin in July 1988, taking the duty train out of Bremerhaven. It was that trip which inspired my novel, "Destination: Berlin."
I visited Paris, Amsterdam, Berchestgarten, Garmish, and Salzburg, Austria.
I worked 24 hours on, then had 24 hours off. After that, I had two eight hour days. There was no American TV, just British and German. We had a small American commissary, but usually I ate out of the mess hall or the club. I took some college courses through the University of Maryland and I went to a couple of concerts. I saw Madonna in Frankfurt and Fleetwood Mac in Dortmnd.
I fell in love with Germany. I loved the countryside, it felt like home to me. I loved meeting the people, volksmarching, and the relaxed way of life. I loved seeing the castles. I had the adventure of a lifetime, much like Sharon had in the novel.
Overcast skies finally gave way to a flood of rain as they ran. Lightning and thunder danced in the sky. The storm was upon them. They ran down a dirt path just outside of the town, and when Sharon was certain she couldn't take another step, a building began to take shape through the rain and darkness of the storm at the end of the gravel path. Large beads of rain splashed over her face. A gate of ancient wrought iron construction surrounded what looked to be a Catholic church, clearly deserted since the onset of the Soviet regime.
Quickly, they went through the gate, closing it behind them. Inside the church was dry but dark. They found a votive candleholder with candles, but to light them would give their position away. More lightning teased the church's stained glass windows. To the right of the altar, in what appeared to be a storage area, a heavy metal cage-like gate stood locked from the outside.
"Let's get in there," Sharon said breathlessly, reaching for her briefcase. They needed to ensure their safety. The Stasi agents were not so wounded they couldn't follow behind as soon as they caught their breaths.
"How can we do that? It's locked," said Dimitri.
Sharon extracted a pen from the disheveled briefcase. Using the skinny inner shaft of the pen, she picked the lock. The little time it took her to do it both amazed and concerned her. After they were safely inside, she replaced the lock on the outside of the gate, careful to snap it shut, hoping it would hold up against outside forces.
"It was very easy to pick. I hope they don't discover that," she said. Thunder roared over them. Lightning came close to the mosaic windows.
"They will be here shortly," said Dimitri. "We should keep our voices down."
Here's a link to Destination: Berlin's Book Trailer on You Tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cuav1ZTlWOA
Destination: Berlin is a Print book only. Here's where you can buy it: Amazon:
Barnes and Noble:
Goodie Time: Post a comment. I'll pick two lucky winners out of a hat to receive an autographed postcard of the cover. Follow me on my blog tour and earn a chance to win an autographed copy of Destination: Berlin. To find out the dates on the blog tour visit my blog, "Romance Under the Moonlight."
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SG Cardin/Stephanie Burkhart Online