Another in the “Trip Stories” for Story-Quilt
These were the days of exciting new research coming out of our laboratory in Athens, Georgia at the University of Georgia, 1964 forward. After these results were published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society the world knew about them.
Professor Hans Fischer in Germany contacted me by letter asking if I would come to Germany to report on our results. He was putting together a conference on Free Radicals and wanted me to be on the program. I replied in the affirmative although the date and location was to be announced later. As time went on I did not hear anything more.
Later in the year a brief telegram arrived. It was so brief I could not understand it. There was a date and something about Schloss Elmau. I replied that I did not understand. I needed clarification. But the second telegram was no better than the first. As I recall the date was late in summer or early fall. I got that figured out, but the location was not understandable. What to do?
Scientists pride themselves in briefness. Even in reporting on scientific results, editors want brevity above all else. Of course first and foremost is truth in reporting. But next in scientific godliness is brevity. Was this telegram brief because Hans Fischer was testing me? Or was it about cost of sending the telegram. We all know Germans are frugal to a fault and was he not wasting any extra words so that he could save some money?
I decided to go for help. I went to the University library and up to the Geography section. I presented my problem to a kind middle-aged lady librarian and showed her the telegram. I asked her how she perceived the message. She offered that maybe the conference was planned to be held at a Schloss Elmau. I know enough German to understand that the word Schloss means “lock” or “castle” in English. Thus, was the conference to be held in a castle perhaps? She pulled out three huge books with detailed maps of regions of Germany. Her index indicated three so-called Schloss Elmau locations in southern Germany. One was actually just inside Switzerland, so not likely to be correct. The other two were in the so-called Black Forest south of Munich. I don't remember how we decided on one of them as the most likely. A train track from Munich seemed to go south to a Scloss Elmau. She thought that that was the place.
Okay. As the date approached I read in Time magazine that Icelandic Air was offering low rates for flights across the Atlantic, cheaper than any other airlines. They claimed they managed to do this by flying older aircraft and employing pilots at an older age. They had pilots with ages up to 65 whereas the cut-off point for the air industry was 60 years of age. This didn't bother me. But there was a catch. European airports would not allow Icelandic Air to land on their space because of the non-agreement with the industry norm. However there was one exception. Icelandic Air could land in the small country of Luxembourg wedged between Germany and France. This sounded more and more interesting. I decided to select Icelandic Air. I asked the Athens travel agency to arrange my flight.