europe

Parts are from diaries – hence the teenage expressions.

After graduation from high school, I was in the Coast Guard for six months. There I met a Steve, who wanted to go to Europe. We turned out to be ideal traveling companions.

To save money I wanted to fly to NY on military flights. I put on my coast guard uniform and sat around bases for a flight. This took 3 days in Long Beach. The lst flight landed in a high security base in Texas. I was unable to find my ID card. (Later in Europe, it showed up in a secret part of my wallet!) I got a real chewing out for no card and flying as a reservist, and was unceremoniously escorted off the base. After this bad experience I crossed town to another base and asked for a flight, explaining I was a reservist. The guy said the magic words, ‘So are we.’

We flew to Mobile, Alabama and stayed over. On a local bus there I thot the girls up front were putting on an act, their accents were so thick.

Then we flew to NY. I had to wear parachute.

Crossing the country this way cost 50 cents.

NY I met Steve in NY and we boarded a freighter to spend l0 days crossing the Atlantic. During the voyage we revised our itinerary with such detail, the crew, we had gotten to know, said all we needed was a stop watch.

At Rotterdam we bade them fond farewell and picked up a Volkswagen bug my dad had arranged. Great excitement as we began a four and a half month trip of l7,000 miles thru holland, belgium, france, spain, portugal, gibraltar, spain, italy, austria, switzerland, germany, scandinavia, and england.

The lst day we couldn’t understand the traffic and got honked at.

Perfect countryside, little hamlets, horse-drawn plows – like a fairytale – unreal. We got lost and asked,

‘Which way to ‘Paris.’

‘Paris? Paris? What’s that?,’ they asked in some language. ‘Right here on the map – Paris, P-a-r-i-s.’

‘Oh Pahh-reeeee !!!!!’ they exclaimed. Then it was, ‘a toit, a goush, to do wah’ which were right, left, and straight ahead.

All the houses, cobblestones, bricks, and countryside present a never ending thrill. the local color is fascinating. I eat this up no end. We are always looking here and there at amazing sites. Like a dreamland, something you always read about in books. Much different from what you’d expect. At hostels we meet hearty people.

France

mont san micelle. dusk. the town was nestled on a hillside. from our walk we looked at an open window and saw a family in colorful clothes eating and laughing around a dinner table. smoke curled upward. just like a movie. silhouetted at sunset. every stone and room perfect. idyllic, dreamlike. This at the start of the trip. Could anything compare? (Nothing did.) l50 people live there.

We go to sleep immediately after hitting the sack. This camping is it. They have little coupons and admission tickets on cheap paper.

On the subway we got used to comparing notes about the women with no one understanding. did this once discussing a girl 6 ft away. then got worried and asked her. are you american, did you hear us. her answer ‘no, british. yes’.

Very moving to be in a candlelight procession and sing the ave maria at lourdes. lucky to get a time exposure of it.

We were stared at as we drove thru small towns. People did double takes on our dutch license plate, german car, and american faces. They came up and talked in dutch or german. They got bang out of our sign language and pronunciation. They would say something ‘……………….. English?’, and we’d say, ‘americans.’ ‘ahhhhh americannnns!’ they replied, thinking that was terrific. then another question in their language, meaning ‘where in America?’

We said, ‘California.’ and they exclaimed, ‘AHHHHHH ! CAHLEEFORNIA !!!’ as if we had come from heaven.

Spain

Ate meals for 50 cents with guides who ‘weren’t hungry’. Figured out later they were saving money. gypsy dancing was exciting. parks, trees, fountains of madrid. crowd gathered after our wreck in Rhonda. everyone wanted to try their English. the people you meet – sooooo nice and helpful. The countryside and towns were quaint, picturesque – like a fairlytale.

The women promenade evenings till l0 pm. After that they’re gone. We came into Toledo tired and hungry and asked directions from a gorgeous gina lollabrigida look-a-like. We went to our hotel, ate, went back to look for her. It was after l0. Not a girl on the streets. Kicked ourselves.

Belly-slid at Cádiz, which floored the natives. surfed with air mattresses.

We saw Avila where THE PRIDE AND THE PASSION was filmed. Walls 2l feet thick. 86 turrets.

lst shower in madrid – cold water.

Some of the locals were hams and loved having their pictures taken.

Couldn’t believe how much Spanish I learned in 3 weeks (after two years in hi sch.).

Portugal

Balancing loads on heads seems to give the women good posture and a graceful walk. climbed to top of castle and proclaimed it conquered by the coast guard. guy in windmill took great pride in showing us how all the mechanical parts made of wood worked on a gentle breeze.

Monuments all over. At a nightclub they sang the haunting, stirring ‘fado’. wonderful gardens, formal and informal. kids swarm over our car.

A ‘lake’ and an ‘island’ turned out to be the Mediterranean and Morocco. A lot of security at Gibraltar. 24 miles of caves in it. to the top & declared it conquered by the coast guard. how do covered Arab women recognize each other? dirty in Morocco. biblical xechaun paved with rocks so long ago the rocks have been worn slippery.

Italy

along the amalfi drive, ravello was like a lost civilization among the mts. terraces covered the hills. You’ve never been in a cemetery till Genoa or Milan. Such statues, such feeeeeeeling.

At youth hostel after dinner, a bunch of us sat outside in the moonlight, played guitars and sand. The girls leaned back and looked up. Reeeeaaaal romantic.

Had real hamburges and apple pie – made you almost homesick.

Outside Rome we drove on parts of the original apian way.

We bounced our car out of a tight parking spot which amazed the locals.

On top of Vesuvius we could have used firecrackers as the echoes were like lightning.

After sitting thru 3 operas at the suggestion of Steve, I wasn’t a big fan, but decided to give it another try at La Scala. We had always bought standing room tickets, but on the way in, a man had an extra ticket in the orchestra section. He treated me. The opera, THE MAGIC POTION, was pure delight. What an evening.

In Italian cathedrals they use marble the way we use wood.

We followed a tour bus at night to get to Villa d’Est outside Rome. Here were the phenomenal Tivoli Fountains were illuminated among the cypress tress. like a dream.

Steve had read it was best to enter Venice at night. We did, and it was another world. Violin music in St Mark’s Sq. as two tall guards in their Napoleonic uniforms walked thru – enchantment.

Austria

a change. lush green, people cutting the fodder.

admont: A little old man from the hotel wanted to help us find the guide. He wouldn’t use the phone for fear of waking up people, so he went from house to house waking up the whole town. hilarious. slept in a barn. celebrated the 4th of July by blowing up a can of vegetables. people happier, healthier. friendly, and more colorfully dressed.

Concert at the ancient and majestic town hall with banners. one by one the lights went out as a member of the orchestra stopped playing – till there was one violin and one light at the top. This held for some moments and then stopped. Total quiet. What a touch!

Nice to wake up in the Vienna woods – tailor made for fairy tales with the sun shining through the leaves and the birds singing; all we needed was a little elf to pop out. The people are the 1st since Portugal to wave as we go by. slept in the rain. slept in attic under 7 blankets and still cold. woke to an avalanche. we gave our 6 boxes of powdered milk to our guide, leo – too much trouble to mix it with distilled water.

Switzerland

montreaux at dusk. everything about it had fallen into place just right. gal in st. moritz decided she liked me. (found her address 30 yrs later.) Switzerland was one big chocolate, big clock, big alpine village with mts. bot a wrist alarm for $23. after of 4 yrs of specialized schooling, watchmakers make $l.l5/hr.

mail sure is important. best hostel so far at bern. hot water for an hr. lst hot shower. south Africans thot we had a drawl. i said in amazement ‘a drawl?’ I guess it sounded like ‘drawwwwwlllllll.’

Germany

The castle Neuschwanstein at Fussen near Munich had a throne room which had to be perfect. warm showers at baden baden.

We thot we’d seen it all, but since fielding raved about the Moselle river, we thot we’d drive up it a short distance. It was magic. long winding green paradise. vineyards, twisting streams, trees, rolling hills, a few castles, quaint towns nestled against the hillsides, kids rollicking on the grassy knolls. sun was going down so we had to drive fast. enchanting.

On to the illuminations of Luxembourg city. fairy tale – untouched by war? We drove around some park with our headlights not realizing we were rousing couples from the bushes.

This was before the wall divided Berlin. went over to east Berlin. shabby. left over from wwii. a man nervously looked around before allowing us on the subway. Russian customs were the worst. This city gets lots of aid from the u.s. if you fall asleep on the s-bahn you can arrive in eastern zone and not get out. east and west Berliners more helpful than anyone. I got a ride out of the western sector with a loser who went the wrong way. He was headed toward Poland. His car blew up. I started to flag another car for a ride, but he stopped me. It was the police. No telling what could have happened.

To the Zillertel on the rapierbond with guys we met. We all rocked and sang as we stood on the tables. Too much.

Scandinavia

closed on Sundays. taller people. Seemed like the u.s.

Belgium

world’s fair: dancers from the Congo, with drums – incredible performance.

A church with Christ’s blood which liquefied once a week for years.

England

Took us 3 days to get used to speaking English again. What a treat! Exhibit of recordings of accents, dialects. slept in a farmer’s barn with chickens. he had us in for tea.

Eton: boys must be enrolled between ages of 3 and l2 mos. so their ma’s have to time their births.

the British ‘wear’ umbrellas. the thinnest possible was the goal. Steve claimed some never unfurl them.

We had met a guy named Ashok in Saltsburg and planned to look him up in Cambridge. When we got on campus, we looked down a hall, and there he was!

We saw some English out on the beach in bathing suits at some resort in drizzly weather determined to have a vacation.

Coming home

Steve had a shipboard romance with Stan Kenton’s daughter.

Up at five to see the sunrise and the lights of NY. splendid view of the statue of liberty and southern manhattan – especially thrilling to the europeans. the queen mary came in right behind us. Sure glad to get back to the good ol’ U.S.A.

I took military flights to get home. great to fly again and see america beneath me. it is so big after europe. big, wide streets, plenty of nice houses with lawns etc. there is nothing in europe like it. Flew from NY to Ohio to montgomery, ala. to denver. nothing but checkerboard farmlands for miles. flight to salt lake, then oakland. trying to get these flights gets to be hectic. begin to wonder just when I will get home. to burbank. saw many pools. good to see all the tract homes. bus to santa ana. more of a thrill as I approached. great being home again. good old America. good to leave the car unlocked, the windows open, and lounge around in cut-offs. take shower, eat, do what i want all day, develop my slides.

Musts:

Venice, vienna.

Montfort L’Amory – outside paris.

The castle Neuschwanstein at Fussen near Munich. It is the disneyland-like castle that graces calendars.

St. Paul de Vence, Rhonda, Lourdes, Xechan in Morocco

Mont san michelle

Highly recommended:

Carcasonne, the fountains of trevi, Saltzburg, the moselle river.

Hi points:

illuminations at trevi, mt san michelle at dusk, the moselle at dusk.

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