The book tells us to look for the ‘very humblest Gasthaus’ in Esens on October 24, where we can partake of beer, bread and wurst. But we’re not allowed to stay the night. Instead, we have to go walking with Carruthers along the Bensertief in the dark, and then snuggle down for the night in a ‘lighter’, under a large sheet of tarpaulin.
This is a shame because a little light research has revealed a rather nice hotel in the middle of Esens called Wietings Hotel. TripAdvisor suggests that this a suitably humble place to stay – we’re told that one has to bring one’s own soap, and there’s a description of a “vast, serene” white cat used for mousing. (Bond’s nemesis Blofeld had one of these, though, perhaps not used for mousing.)
Generally, Esens is used mainly as a feeder town for tourists who want to holiday by the coast at nearby Bensersiel, or head out to Langeoog. The town is surrounded by holiday camps and caravan sites. Agriculture, of various sorts, seems to be the only other major line of business in this part of the world.
This would have been true in the time of Carruthers and Davies too. It was a boom time for hotels and wellness centres on the islands. The newly-built train lines and canals would have helped the farmers to distribute their goods to much wider markets. Naturally, Childers wants us to see all this ‘business’ as some kind of proof of nefarious German activity. It probably wasn’t.
Sadly, like so many of the towns & cities we’ve come across on the Adventure Club trail, Esens did not fare well during World War 2. It was bombed by the Allies in 1943 (even though it had little significance as a military target), the Jewish population was mercilessly persecuted. After the war, more than 20% of the population was made up of refugees and displaced persons.
It’s not just Carruthers, then, who’s experienced at least one night of sleeping rough in Esens.