Travelling ...

So far, in my career as a scientist, I have also enjoyed the unintentional privilege of travelling the world. Among the continents, I only have Antarctica to see and experience, yet!

As a child I didn't travel much. My father usually felt an obligation to visit with his mother in Freiburg/Brsg. during the summer. Only once did the family embark on a wonderful journey through Switzerland and Austria when I was just 6 years old. Therefore, it was a very marked occasion, when I was able to travel with my 12th grade class to London in 1970!

After graduating from the German high school with the Matriculation in 1971, I worked on a job with the company which organized the tourist trains going south. This was the beginning of more frequent travel than in my childhood. Among other great, European cities, I visited Interlaken (Switzerland), Innsbruck, Klagenfurt (both in Austria), Rijeka, Pula (both in Croatia now), Bolzano, Verona, Pisa, Venice (all in Italy), even if just for a few hours each. The train left Hamburg on Friday evenings, and on Saturday, sometime before noon, would arrive at ensuing destinations. On the same day in the evening, the trains returned northward. I later took this same job, again, after completing my military service. When I began my formal, university studies, I also enjoyed working as a "Reisebegleiter" between break times in school. As most students can understand, I needed to earn some extra money, and funnily enough, with some or even little effort, the tips often amounted to more than the actual pay!

Together with my later wife I vacationed in Greece (tour with own car, predominatly of the ancient archeological sites), Spain (Tossa de Mar / Costa Brava, also tour by car) with follow-on visit in Paris, and Tunesia (Djerba) during the 70s. We also made some shorter tours to some large European Cities, e.g. Vienna and Amsterdam. When my studies of astronomy began to accelerate, several new travel opportunities arose.

Beginning in 1979, I often visited the European Southern Observatory (ESO) on the mountain of La Silla in Chile. Those occasions afforded the added opportunity to visit other regions in South America. The first two destinations were the Galapagos Islands (belonging to Ecuador) and Cuzco and Macchu Picchu in Peru. I also saw the giantIguazu Cataracts in the tri-nation area Argentina-Paraguay-Brazil. For a short time I was even on the Amazonas, in Iquitos (Peru). The Altiplano, the high valley between the eastern and the western Cordilliera in South America, made a very deep impression on me. The clear and clean air, the height, the yet higher mountains around, the friendly indians (which speak predominantly Ketchua and hardly any Spanish) was the closest to an epiphany I ever experienced; such natural beauty can get to you and touch your soul in ways impossible to fully descibe... No wonder that such a sad but beautiful song, like "El Condor Pasa" originates from there.

In 1980, I had the first occasion to travel to the USA. That experience was so very positive, that the wish to move there for at least a few years got even stronger. Following my employment at the Space Telescope Science Institute and my family's necessary move to Baltimore in the fall of 1984 many more opportunities for travel began to open up. Because of their many, wonderful National Parks, our family vacations included visits to California, Hawaii, Florida, Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Arizona. During the Christmas break, we would often get away to the Carribbian: Jamaika, Barbados, and Cancun / Mexiko. Various scientific conferences, meeting, and observing runs brought me to Sydney / Australia, Bali / Indonesia, as well as other exotic locations. In January of 1992, the whole family was able to visit Sydney for 4 weeks, a fantastic time. Shortly afterwards I was able to see Mexiko City.

Since our return to Germany in January of 1993, travelling, regrettably, has decreased markedly. However, we have still been able to enjoy marvellous summer vacations: Portugal in 1994, Spain in 1995, and the American Northeast in 1996.

Ever since I rediscovered a seemingly "lost branch" of the Bernbeck Family in Missouri, U.S.A., in 1997, I have travelled there in 1998 and 1999 and hope to see more of that predominantly German-settled state so reminiscent of my country in geographical character.

In 2001, my older daughter Ellen finished school with her matriculation, and daddys gift for her was ... a trip to the USA. Actually, her boy friend came along, too. Several days in Baltimore, and then on to California for another two weeks. That was a very memorable trip and we brought home lots of memories and a lot of beautiful photos. One eerie tidbit: on June 30, we stood atop the World Trade Center in New York City. It was a hazy day and we vowed to come back some other time. Alas, we will never get a chance for that after the world-changing events of September 11, 2001 ...

The annual vacation 2002 brought us to Morocco, to Agadir. That city has a beautiful beach, but it is decidedly non-moroccan: it had been completely levelled by an earthquake on Febr. 29, 1960, during which 15,000 people were killed. Thus, the city is very modern and tourist-oriented. In the tourist area, i.e. close to the beach, the shop owners are annoyingly pushy; beware! We took a trip to Marrakesch, the king city which gave the country its name. That was quite an experience, indeed. Anyway, two weeks total were too short to see much while trying to relax.

What I wish for as far as future travel is concerned will likely take more time than I expect to be given to me. However, Scotland and Ireland, Iceland, Egypt and Israel, the Sahara desert and South Africa, along with Russia, China and Japan, I would consider a must!

©  August 15, 2002
Otto-G. Richter