The story (below) of the Swede accidentally invited to a dinner party and her warm reception reminded me of the story of Erwin Kreuz, the wayward German who in 1977 became an accidental tourist in Bangor Maine. The story doesn’t end well because the poor guy tried recreating that accident in time again and failed, of course, but he did experience a magical touch of grace and even one such moment is a miracle in itself.
A brewery worker from a village near Augsburg, Bavaria, Kreuz spoke no English and had never experienced international travel…when he boarded a World Airways charter flight from Germany to San Francisco in October 1977. When the plane stopped at the Bangor International Airport to refuel and allow passengers to clear American customs before re-boarding, Kreuz mistakenly believed he had arrived in California, and took a taxi into the city. For four days, he vainly searched for the Golden Gate Bridge and other San Francisco landmarks. The only sight which resonated with his prior image of the California city were the two local Chinese restaurants. He concluded he was in a suburb of the metropolis, and only realized his mistake when a taxi driver somehow communicated to him, in response to his request to be taken to San Francisco, that it was a 3,000 mile journey. He ended up in a German-themed restaurant in nearby Old Town, Maine, whose German-speaking owner, Gertrude Romine, was the first to hear his story and give him a complete picture of where he was. The Romines found him a hotel room in the nearby town of Milford while trying to figure out what to do. His story was picked up by the local press, and soon went national.
The people of Bangor were so touched and amused to be mistaken for San Francisco that over the next 10 days Kreuz was transformed into a local celebrity. He was the guest of honor at an Oktoberfest event sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce, was made an honorary member of the Penobscot Indian Tribe and Old Town Rotary Club, given the keys to the city, and flown to the state capital inAugusta to meet the governor and secretary of state. Kreuz’ 50th birthday was celebrated at a gala party located, at his own request, at a McDonald’s restaurant. He was allowed to flip the hamburgers. A growing circle of local ‘friends’ organized sight-seeing trips for him around the region, accompanied everywhere by local press. Kreuz was by all reports impressed, grateful, and charming. He also received three marriage invitations, and a couple in the northern Maine town of St. Francis gave him an acre of land.