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Baden/Europe Motorbike Tour 2011

Mon, Dec 31st, 2012
Submitted by: Gary Turner




Howdy everyone, my name is Gary Turner and it is my hope you enjoy my impressions of Baden and the Germany of today.
Virtually everyone I know who lived in Baden vows to return; it only took thirty-nine years for me to keep my promise.

I am fortunate to have once referred to CFB Baden as home. My family lived in the Baden area from early August 1970 until we returned home to Canada August 24, 1972.
Before going further though, let me quickly explain about this journey of mine. I have been an avid motorcyclist most of my life; in fact it was in Baden the riding bug really bit me.
Nearly every year, I load up my BMW touring bike and head off over the horizon for two to three weeks. For the past twenty-five years I’ve promised myself that one day I would return to Germany and take my bike with me.

The year 2011 proved to be the year and on May 1, I flew from Edmonton to Frankfurt with my bike in the cargo hold of the aircraft on an eight week tour. For about the first four weeks I toured Holland, Belgium, England and France before turning my sights on Baden.


My bike appears in several photos and the Alberta plate reads BLUMX

That stands for the World War One German medal, The Blue Max. It was awarded for bravery and as BMW made aircraft engines, which German aces used, seemed appropriate for my blue German motorcycle. There is also a copy of the 4 Wing hockey team crest on one saddlebag and the regimental badge for the PPCLI, which is how I honour my late father. Now I will return to a bit of personal history.



My late father served with the PPCLI from 1950 to 1975 and he was posted to Germany in August of 1969. After some of his postings, and the army not being a lucrative career, it seemed a posting to Germany might compensate my mom for all that military wives endured. He was right, my mom loved living in Germany, as did my two siblings and I. We initially lived in the Hemer area of north central Germany for a year until the army moved to southern Germany. While most personnel moved to Lahr, it was our good fortune to call Baden our new home. It was also our luck to move into the new sergeants/warrants officers pmq’s in Weitenung. These units were barely completed and we, with one other family, were the first to set up housekeeping.



I turned sixteen in the fall of 1969 just after we went overseas and like many teenagers, quickly discovered the joys and perils of going to a Gasthaus. Not that the perils deterred me from often drinking too much in my quest to drink ‘like a man should.’ So it was not more than a day or two after arriving in Weitenung I convinced Jim ‘Pinky” Blackadar to join me at several of the town Gasthaus. The story goes downhill from this point as you may guess and soon I was a real regular at The Linde.

During our first year at Baden, I finished high school. In June of 1971, I began working at the Baden AMU which became a full time job. I was quickly introduced to drinking beer for breakfast and my vocabulary soon shocked even my father. Life was good for a seventeen and eighteen year old lad who now had money to buy all the beer he could drink, records, stereo equipment and even an old car. Now in middle age, I can only laugh and be amazed to have survived with even a portion of my faculties intact.

Like many of you, I consider my time in Baden just about the best years of my life. In fact, for most of the time since I have wondered if it would have been better to have stayed; this trip answered that question. I’ve often felt one foot was in Canada; the other in Germany and this has niggled a very long time.


Seeing Baden now answered the question quite definitively for me. Our former home is now only an empty shell of what it once stood for and that its time has passed. We Canadians, and the base, served our purpose and fortunately, were not called upon to demonstrate the resolve to carry through on that duty. As I walked about, the memories echoed everywhere on the old base and the faces came back clearly once again. However, it is now mostly memory and it was primarily the people that for me, made it so special then. I am grateful for the time it was home and the opportunity to see it once again. Some areas of the old base have been demolished in order to accommodate the needs of being an important air hub for Western Europe.


As the pictures also show, most of the old base is still there even if much has fallen into disuse.

The ice rink remains in good condition and the caretaker graciously opened it briefly for me to tour.Compared to many of the former bases in Canada, and the old army bases in northern Germany, Baden and Lahr are in very good condition.


Germany is again a united country with the freedom to chart its own destiny. My bike was stickered with Canadian flags and while some Germans in Baden and Lahr welcomed me warmly; most others walked by without a second glance.

I was not offended by that seeming indifference however. Rather, it was confirmation that time does not stand still. That Canada once stationed troops in Germany, in defence of democracy, is now a part of their history. In Baden and Lahr, several Germans of my age stopped to tell me the time of the Canadians was the high point of their areas. It is not just our money that is missed, it is also that Canadians were, by and large, well-behaved guests in their country. They made it very clear that compared to the new immigrants, primarily from the east, we were wonderful to live beside. It may sound odd it took a trip to a foreign country to confirm I truly am home in Canada. However, in conversation with others who were overseas, do know I am not alone in thinking this.

I took many pictures of the PMQ's in Klein Kanada and Weitenung in the hope people may see their former homes.



There were many other towns where we Canucks lived although there are few pictures of them. The area, towns and villages around the old base look prosperous and well tended with the exception of Rastatt. It appears somewhat run down and rougher than it once did.


Riding my bike around the towns and into the Black Forest was fun both for the memories and being able to enjoy it now.



Germany, and Europe, is no longer the travel bargain it once was. Gas runs about $2.40 a litre and in Switzerland about $3.00. Most of the time I camped which for a tent cost about ten Euros per night. Buying food at grocery stores was also quite inexpensive, it was paying twenty five to thirty Euros to fill up the tank on my bike which was the big daily expense. Traffic volumes are far higher as people are prosperous and can buy cars. I remember few people owning either cars or telephones; times have indeed changed. One area that was important for me to see was the former east bloc. The old iron curtain is now gone but traces of communism are plain to see. To my eye, it was like stepping back nearly a century. After the first war, Germany was not prosperous and things did not improve much over the next seventy years.

Once across the old border, it was very apparent this was the former communist East Germany. Towns and villages might exhibit signs of renewal and prosperity on one block; far too often though on the next block, absolute neglect. This all contrasts sharply with the former west. I did not have the time to travel to the large cities such as Dresden nor Berlin so they may present a different picture. Along the former border there still a few old watchtowers as well. When we were in Germany years ago, one saw signs of the military on a daily basis. Only twice on this trip was it obvious, at Ramstein American air force base and then at Ansbach American army caserne. Europe is no longer the heavily armed continent it was years ago.

I hope my pictures and thoughts about my 2011 trip are interesting as you take time to remember your own Baden memories.

© Gary Turner


earlier contributions:

The Hugie Express

A tribute to Jerry Chalmers

Wiedersehen after 30 Years

Base tells a Story

Secret Weapon Baden Raiders

Tribute to 422 Squadron and the Sabre

First DND Student trip to the Soviet Union

Base Hospital 1987

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