Letters from Sonja: My First Visit to Uganda
The Source of the Nile before the Owen Falls Dam was completely built. After some time the area was flooded completely. In the photo is one of "The Bachelors", Herbert Geier,who was one of the mechanics that came from Germany to Hubert's assistance. After a short stay in Nairobi Geier was sent to Kampala. He was one of the very first Germans who came to Uganda after World War II.

Letters from Sonja: My First Visit to Uganda


Join us at UGPulse.com as Sonja takes us on a journey into her past. On this ride we will see images, read stories, share some light moments and share some that were sad. Prepare to meet the royals and the likes of Idi Amin through Sonja's eyes and those letters that she wrote and her family kept.

These are the "Letters from Sonja".

By Sonja Winklmaier
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First published: March 26, 2005


My name is Sonja Winklmaier.


I was born on Christmas Day 1930 in Stuttgart, South Germany, as Sonja Schreiner.

I left Stuttgart in September 1953 and traveled by boat to Mombasa in order to meet my future husband, Hubert Winklmaier, known as "Winki" by many people in Uganda. Yes, you are right, I saw the man I was going to marry for the first time in Mombasa. We exchanged countless letters before that and were married at the District Commissioner�s Office in Nairobi on November 10th, 1953.

Hubert had come to Nairobi in April 1952 where he was sent there by the German Volkswagen Factory to work with their agent Cooper Motor Corporation. We lived in Nairobi until 1955. After our first vacation in Germany we moved to Kampala in January 1956 as my husband was transferred to Kampala to take over CMC�s workshop as workshop manager.

Easter 1955, fifty years ago, I visited Uganda for the first time in my life together with my husband. The reason for our visit was the planned transfer of my husband from CMC Nairobi to CMC Kampala. As CMC had some problems with a customer in Fort Portal they sent my husband there, to sort out the difficulties. At the same time they asked him to take me along, so that I could have a look at our eventual new home. The earlier planned transfer of my husband to Mombasa could not be realized because I did not agree with the housing they offered us there.

When we arrived in Kampala and drove along Kampala road, I was so surprised to see people of all races sit together happily on the veranda of the City Bar. This was something completely new for me as in those days Kenya was a British Crown Colony and the races were very much segregated. I did like the atmosphere in Kampala very much.

In Kampala we met a couple of young German men, whom we knew from Nairobi. We just called them �The Bachelors�. On Easter Sunday together with �The Bachelors�, we drove to Jinja to see the new Owen Falls Dam as well as hippos and crocodiles in the Nile.

Well, we saw the dam and some hippos, but no crocodiles, as our visit was cut short because of an accident. All our cars - about 4 or 5 - were parked in a line on top of the shore of the Nile. It was a rather steep grassy hill that at the end fell straight down in the Nile. We all stood at the steep hill and were watching some hippos, when suddenly someone screamed. I turned around and saw the black Standard Vanguard of one of The Bachelors move down the steep hill, first slowly, straight ahead, then picking up speed and with a big splash landing in the river. This happened after the cars had been parked for about 15 minutes. Although the handbrake was on, this car made itself independent, and that was the end of it. The owner of the car, who only that same morning had polished it to a super shine, stood next to me and was as white as a sheet. It was a big shock for all of us and I was like paralyzed for the rest of the day.

We still had to go to Fort Portal. The new road to Fort Portal, which was built by the Italian firm Stirling Astaldi, was partly finished and was a super highway. Part of the road was still in its original state. Of course it was very comfortable to travel on the new part of the road, however I personally liked the original roads. For the progress of a country good roads are very important, but the old roads are far more romantic. For instance, I still dream of the old, white and dusty roads of my childhood, in the Schw�bische Alb in Germany. The roads there were white, as the Schw�bische Alb is built up of limestone. In fact, very often I compared East Africa with the Schw�bische Alb, where my mother came from and where I had the most wonderful times of my childhood during vacations.

After this excursion I wrote a letter to my stepmother (my mother died at the age of only 42 years). I now translate part of this letter:

During our trip I have bought a little flower vase, the work of the women there. I will post it to you tomorrow and do hope that it arrives in good condition and that you like it. The little flower vase is not of fragile porcelain but made of a hollowed gourd that is covered with countless tiny pearls. I think this work is splendid. The little vase is from Fort Portal, where the Toros live. They are the most good-looking Africans I have seen so far.

The woman who sold the vase to me was so beautiful and graceful that I felt like a block of wood compared to her. She was 32 years of age and had 4 or 5 children and in spite of this, an exceedingly beautiful figure. In order to find such a beauty you will have to search for a long time in Europe. These people are very slim and rather tall. The women wear a long garment down to the floor and a kind of sari made out of the same material.

We met an African doctor in Fort Portal and we had a conversation in very good English (I am talking about his English, not mine). Church had just finished and I will never forget this impression. The black ladies - they are real ladies - all bowed very graceful and full of dignity before their doctor. They greeted the doctor as well as us in their vernacular, which sounded very sonorous to me. And the doctor greeted each one of these ladies with a hearty handshake. I found the relationship between the doctor and the ladies very impressive and each movement of the ladies was so full of charm that I could have watched this forever.

I don�t need to add, that after our first visit to Uganda, we were sure, that this would become our new home.

Click here to continue to "Leaving Stuttgart for East Africa"

By Sonja Winklmaier
more from author >>
First published: March 26, 2005
Sonja Winklmaier moved to Uganda in the 1950s to follow her husband, Hubert Winklmaier, as the German Volkswagen Factory sent him to work with their agent, Cooper Motor Corporation.

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