Zurich hostelThirty-two years ago, I was a 21-year-old woman at a crossroads.  Without skipping a beat and with a certainty I envied, most of my friends went off to graduate schools or jobs.  I, on the other hand, felt as though a bus had just dropped me off in a strange town and I had no idea where to go or what to do next.  Until, that is, I decided to follow in the footsteps of the young 19th Century European men of privilege and embark on my own version of the Grand Tour.  In September 1978, I hopped aboard a Swiss Air flight to Zurich and after a long flight and an equally long train ride, disembarked in the Luneburger Heide, the heathland of northern Germany.  As luck would have it, my first destination choice – Munster – had fallen through when the two-month intensive German-language session at the Goethe Institute there filled up early.  So, I opted for my second choice – Luneburg – an old salt town just a short distance southeast of Hamburg.  And, in the words of Mr. Frost, “that has made all the difference.”

LuneburgOn the first day of classes at Luneburg’s Goethe Institute, I met the man who would become my husband.  Many memories of those amazing two months in Luneburg are still very vivid, but it was not until recently, when I read my diary from that time to my husband that I realized tea’s role in that life-altering adventure.  In my very first entry on September 27, 1978 while overnighting at the Zurich Youth Hostel, I described being taken to tea (NOT coffee) by a man I met at the hostel.  Then, the very next day found me sipping two glasses of tea at the Konditorei Schurter on Niederdorf Strasse in Zurich.  On the nearly 12-hour train trip from Zurich to Luneburg, I subsisted on a meager breakfast of “raisins and tea,” but once I reached the youth hostel in Luneburg, I enjoyed a Belegtes Brot (light supper) that impressed me not for the quality of the food, but rather for the tea, which I described as “the special part, like a warm cranberry juice.”

In fact, nearly all of the meals I described included tea.  But it was the entry on October 3, 1978 that brought the biggest smile to my face.  That was my first day of classes and the day I met my husband.  The first time I ever wrote his name was when I wrote “tea with Erol.”

This journey back in time has reaffirmed for me that the tea path is the one I was meant to travel.