The Travel Oops Interview

Introducing Travel Oops’s new feature: The Travel Oops Interview.

Ed and Judy Schuck, my parents.

Forty years ago this year, Judy Schuck, who happens to be my mom and a prominent figure in Travel Oops, traveled with my dad, Ed, and friends of theirs, Audrey and Harry, to Bulgaria during the Cold War. Engineers for Medtronic, Ed and Harry had been invited to attend a medical conference in Sophia, Bulgaria.

The reminder of Communism was ever present and the feeling of being watched was very real. However, according to Judy, the Bulgarians were lovely people. Ultimately, politics again entered the scene because when the Schucks were leaving Bulgaria, it was right after the tragic shootings at the Munich Olympics. Their flight back to the United States was detained because the pilots of the plane were not going to fly through Syrian airspace.  That, however, was just one of the mishaps.

Where was one of your most memorable Travel Oops?

Bulgaria in 1972.

What happened in Bulgaria?

© Audrey Friedman

This was 1972 and although they were letting tourists in, Bulgaria was still in control of the Communists and the government. And to get there from Yugoslavia, we took the Orient Express. It was the worst [train] you could imagine and the only difference between first class, which we paid for, and coach was that in first class, you had cushions and pads on the wooden benches.

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Forbidden photos in East Germany — Verboten!

Border patrol tower between East and West Germany. My forbidden subject.
Photo: © Stephanie Glaser

Let’s face it — it’s easy for an American to flub up when visiting a communist country. So many rights we take for granted are just plain illegal — like taking photos of border patrol lookout towers. Actually, this is probably frowned upon in the US, too.

Definitely, however, in East Germany in the late 1980s, taking photos of a guard tower was a bad idea. This may seem like a definite “duh!” to seasoned travelers, but for a college student who, at times, exercised bad judgement anyway, it was a cool image for a photo album.

I was the college student and the incident happened while on a train trip. I was with fellow students who were studying abroad in the Netherlands. We were on a field trip, basically, with our Dutch history professor.

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