EUROPE - 1967

 

            In the summer of 1967 I travelled all over Western Europe by train.  I had a Eurail Pass, which allowed me to ride trains and ferries in second class seats without reservations.  This gave me the flexibility to change plans in response to suggestions from other travelers, or to hop on a train to the next city if I couldn't find an inexpensive place to stay.

            For most of the summer I travelled with three friends from graduate school, one of whom gave me a personal tour of the major art museums of Western Europe.  Then two of them returned to the US, the third pursued a different itinerary, and I travelled mostly alone for the rest of my trip.

            Since Eastern Europe was Communist at that time, I did not visit those countries except for a memorable trip to West and East Berlin which was in the middle of East Germany that was communist until 1989, after which I visited Berlin again in 1992 to see the changes.

            This journal was pieced together in 2022 from postcards and letters written home during the trip that my mother had saved for me in a box, marks of my route on a Eurail map, and memories still vivid five decades later.  It begins with comments about the impact of the trip on my life, followed by what travel was like back then in comparison with travel now, and finally my impressions of many of the places that I visited.

 

IMPACT ON MY LIFE

            I made the trip to explore places in Europe that I had heard about, plus explore my German roots.  My father's parents had come from a German village in Russia in 1901 during the rise in Russian nationalism that preceded the communist revolution in 1917. Their ancestors had gone to Russia from Germany in 1766 in response to offers of free land and other benefits, which were offered to recruit a buffer of foreign settlers between the Russians and the Ottoman Turks.

            While traveling in Western Europe with my three friends, then spending additional time in Germany, I learned that I was not just German, but pan-European.  My cultural heritage as an American included Greek, Roman, British, Spanish, Italian, and other cultural influences.  Decades later when I visited Japan and other countries around the world, I realized that my cultural heritage is pan-human, including all of the cultures that I have been aware of.

            After my first trip to Europe I wanted to travel more, but became busy completing my graduate studies, pursuing tenure as a college professor, and raising two children.  Then in 1991 I spent a semester in Denmark on an exchange program with my family, which began my travelling abroad almost every year ever since, except during early years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

TRAVEL THEN AND NOW

            Lodging. We usually stayed in a private room in a guesthouse called a Pension, with the bathroom down the hall.  Occasionally we stayed in a cheap hotel, but rarely in a Youth Hostel with bunk beds since at that time they generally catered to high school students and had early evening curfews.   Now Hostels cater to college students without a curfew, and sometimes have bars in the basement that makes them noisy if you are trying to sleep.  It is easy to meet other travelers and share advice in the open areas of Hostels.

            Guidebooks.  Back then I used the guidebook Europe on $5 a day by Arthur Frommer.  It not only told of inexpensive places to stay and eat, but also told of how to take a streetcar and pay a cheap entrance fee instead of paying for an expensive tour.  I also used Let's Go: The Student Guide to Europe, written by Harvard college students for college students.   Decades later I still preferred Let's Go guidebooks around the world.  Now I use searches on the Internet to make reservations for lodging and to find things to do.   If I stay in a Youth Hostel, I reserve a private room in advance on the internet instead of staying in a dorm room with multiple bunk beds like I initially did, which I was used to doing from living in a fraternity in college. 

            Money.  When we arrived at the train station in a new city, we would exchange $20 traveler's checks for the local currency, buy a city map, and telephone places to stay that were listed in the guidebook, if there wasn't a hotel service desk in the train station.

             Each European country had its own currency then.  We would plan our spending, to try to avoid paying a fee to exchange one country's currency for the next when we crossed a border.  We also carried some US $1 bills, since they were commonly accepted, to use when the exchange offices were closed, or when we didn't want change from a $20 traveler's check in the currency of a country we were leaving.  Many but not all European countries now use the Euro, which is much more convenient, and we can now use credit or debit cards instead of traveler's checks or cash.

             A US dollar in 1967 is worth $8.87 in 2022.  So $5 a day would be $44.36 in 2022.  Two-thirds of the way through my trip I calculated that I had actually spent an average of $8 a day, which would be $70.97 in 2022.  I figured that I needed another $120 for the remainder of the trip, and wrote to my parents asking them to wire me more money.  Mail and wire transfers could be picked up at American Express offices in major cities across Europe.   Decades later I could send and receive email in university libraries, or in Internet stores that charged for computer time.  Now I carry my cellphone and a small laptop computer, using free Internet in hotels, cafes, train stations, and airports. 

            Languages.  Back then it was important to know other European languages as a tourist, since English was less commonly known.  I had studied Spanish in high school, German in college, and French in graduate school.  These were common second languages in the US and in Europe, so those in the tourist trade often knew at least one of them.  Knowing words in these languages, I could often figure out related words in signs in other languages.  And I carried pocket dictionaries for countries that I visited.   Now there are translation programs on my cellphone, and many countries have signs in both their language and English, due to the pervasiveness of English in the media and English now being taught in many schools abroad.

            Luggage.  In 1967, I carried a backpack that had my clothes, guidebooks, maps, film, and other personal items, but no camping equipment.  Years later I would have a suitcase with a handle and wheels so I wouldn't have to carry it, and carried a daypack.  Now I have two daypacks, one for essential things while I am traveling, and a smaller one for sightseeing when I can leave my larger daypack and suitcase in a safe place.

            Photos.   In 1967, I had a film camera, which required carrying rolls of film, and buying more while traveling when I ran out.  For decades, an extra expense of traveling would be the cost of developing film and putting prints with labels into albums that take up a lot of space.  Finally, I got my first digital camera in 2004, which I periodically upgraded as higher resolution cameras became available.  Now I only have to carry a spare battery in my pocket and a battery charger in my larger daypack.  While travelling, I typically take about 100 photos a day, to provide a digital record of the trip and help me write up my travel journal after I return home.

            Meeting people.  One of the best parts of travelling is meeting people.  When saying goodbye in 1967 I didn't expect to see people again, as one of them said to me, "Have a good life!"   Decades later, I would exchange email addresses to stay in touch, and some people I meet at international conferences I get to see again at other conferences.  I usually take a photo of people I meet, and put the photo number with their email address.

            Here are highlights of some of the places that I visited, with my three friends or separate from them.

 

LONDON, ENGLAND

            As my plane flew over London, I remember looking down at the houses and thinking, "Europe is real!"  It is not just a place in fairy tales and stories.  In the airport, people stared and laughed at me because I had been wearing shorts on the plane. 

            In London, I met my three friends who had flown there a few days earlier.           I remember watching the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.  The young guards ignored the comments of tourists, as they stood at attention or marched.  We toured the major monuments, but I was most impressed with the British Museum, which has major works of art from across the Ancient World.  They include the Elgin Marbles, statues that were taken by Lord Elgin from and around the Parthenon in Greece.  The Greeks feel that they were stolen and want them back.  On the other hand, they were preserved and not destroyed or hidden in private collections, but are available for the public to see.  Other works of ancient art there have the same mixed moral status.

            The old buildings were black of soot from centuries of burning coal, which they had just started to clean in 1965.  In contrast, the soot had just been removed from buildings in Paris.

On a postcard, I wrote that that London is big, crowded, and formal. 

 

PARIS, FRANCE

            We took the train from London to Dover, where the chalky white cliffs soar 350 feet, and took a ferry across the narrowest part of the English Channel to Calais in France. (Now you can take a train through a tunnel under the channel called the Chunnel).  We had to wait overnight in Calais to catch the train to Paris.

            I remember taking elevators called lifts up the Eiffel Tower for a spectacular view.   We walked among those strolling along the Champs-lyses, ate crepes at stands on the left bank of the Seine River, and saw beautiful stained glass windows in Notre Dame Cathedral.  We also toured the Louvre Museum where we saw rows above rows of paintings and the crowds gathered around the smiling Mona Lisa painting. 

            We explored the area around the Moulin Rouge cabaret and the Sacr-Coeur church on Montmartre hill at night, ending up eating French onion soup at 5 AM in a cafe across from Les Halles, the central fresh food market that was demolished in 1971, after being memorialized in the 1963 film Irma La Douce, which portrayed Jack Lemmon working at Les Halles to support the services of Shirley MacLaine.

            On a postcard showing the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, I wrote:  Paris is big, but spacious with wide boulevards, very informal in contrast to London.  French food is great.  People all look different.  There is a great feeling of freedom and grandeur.  I feel very much at home.  I know enough French that with a little dictionary I get along very well, though slow!

 

MADRID, SPAIN

            We took a 12-hour train from Paris to Madrid.  On a postcard, I wrote:  The countryside of France was beautiful through Bordeaux (famous wine country), but when we hit the border wow!  It was on the coast so we could see the ocean, the spires of the church at San Sebastian, and the western edge of the Pyrenees Mountains.   We travelled until sunset through the mountains which are really high hills, fabulously green, sprinkled with quaint Spanish houses with tile roofs, made real by lights shining in the windows.  

            I remember that as the train went on to Madrid, we were sleeping on a platform bed. When we woke up in the morning, we discovered that a 20-year old guy from Spain had crawled onto the platform with us along the way.  I chatted with him in Spanish.

            On a postcard showing a painting of a bullfighter with a red cape by a bull, I wrote:  Last night we discovered the Mesns which are taverns in the cellars around an elevated square in the center of the city, filled with people drinking wine and singing songs in Spanish and German.  Today we are in the Prado Museum.  Tomorrow is a national holiday so we'll see a bullfight.  The Spanish talk too fast for me to easily understand, but are beautiful people.

            I remember going to the bullfight in Madrid, and visiting the Bullfight Museum, which showed a picture of a young bullfighter that had been killed by a bull.  I was moved by paintings by Goya in the Prado Museum, especially the wall-sized painting of the horrors of war, called The Third of May 1808, in which soldiers are aiming rifles at a man with his hands up.

 

TOLEDO, SPAI N

            While in Madrid, we took a short train ride to Toledo, an ancient capital of Spain up on a hill.  Very old houses, narrow winding streets.  We met a herd of sheep on the way from train to the center of town!  Toledo was the home of El Greco, a Greek painter, who made many moving religious paintings, some of which are on display in a room behind the altar of the cathedral.

 

BARCELONA, SPAIN

            Next was Barcelona, on the Mediterranean, which is the major port of Spain.  Near the harbor are narrow streets jammed with bars.  Leading from the harbor towards the center of town is the Ramblas, a strip 1/2 block wide with stalls selling books, flowers, birds, monkeys, and Bibles, with activity both day and night.  Downtown are several large plazas with fountains, and wide boulevards reminding me of Paris.  While riding a streetcar it sideswiped a car too close to the tracks! 

            While waiting for the train office to open, since everything but bars are closed 1-4 PM in Spain for siesta due to the heat, we explored the city park. We found a lake, many statues, a modern art museum I wanted to see but was closed, and a policeman telling tourists to get off the grass.  Grass is scarce in southern Europe -- most parks have mostly dirt with a little fenced lawn here and there.

            We saw another bullfight, and we went to Pueblo Espaol, a replica of a typical Spanish village, which had handmade gifts from all over Spain.  There was beautiful lace and embroidery as well as silver jewelry.  We watched them blowing glass right there.  I bought a small blanket.

             But most memorable was La Sagrada Familia (Sacred Family), an unfinished Roman Catholic Church.  It had four towers, and I remember walking on an arch between the towers, with only short stones on both sides.  Looking down, this greatly increased my fear of heights, after previously climbing up high places elsewhere for the view. 

 

TRAIN TRIP TO ITALY

            From Barcelona, we took the train 30 miles up the coast to Arenys de Mar, on the Costa Brava (Spanish Riviera).  We stayed in a Pension 2 nights, and spent a day lying and swimming on the beach (the 4th of July).  The Mediterranean is very salty -- I float much better in it!  We observed that Europeans wore very little on the beach, yet were fully dressed over their swimsuits upon leaving the beach. 

            We then took the train up along the Cote d'Azur (blue coast, French Riviera) through Marseilles, Nice, and Cannes -- beautiful coastal towns nestled between green mountains and blue sea (expensive too!). 

            We had a 3-hour layover at 2 AM between trains in Pisa, Italy, so we followed the trolley wires and walked 2 miles to the center of town to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  It is the cathedral bell tower that is tilted due to the ground settling, which looks like it is suspended while falling over, and has been that way for 400 years.  It looked surreal in the empty plaza under the stars with no tourists around.  I burst out laughing!

 

FLORENCE, ITALY

            It was great to be in Florence, which is considered the art capital of the world.  Within 8 blocks are about 20 churches, museums, and monuments.  I picked six that I had time to see in 2.5 days.  In the Academia Gallery, I saw the statue of David by Michelangelo, which has intense feeling in the face -- fear and determination as he goes to meet Goliath.  Other statues show figures struggling to free themselves from the stone in which they are carved.  In the Uffizi Museum are rich tapestries, paintings, and Roman copies of Greek art (5 BCE - 300 CE).  I particularly liked the statue of a child with a thorn in its foot.  In the Medici Chapel are Michelangelo statues honoring the Medici family, rulers of Florence who supported artists.

            We found a place called the Red Garter run by Americans for Americans, with banjos, beers, and sing along.  As we left the place after singing contemporary American songs, we stepped outside into the sights of 15th century Florence, which blew our minds.  It was like walking through a time warp.

 

ROME, ITALY

            Rome has been called The Eternal City since 1 BCE.  Looking at the Coliseum, the ruins of the Forum, St. Peter's Cathedral, the Vatican, and other monuments, we felt that we were viewing two thousand years of history.  We drank wine in a cafe across from the Coliseum, then watched the opera Aida nearby in the ruins of the Baths of Caracalla, with horses and elephants on stage!   We also toured some Roman Catacombs, underground burial places where bodies were put in niches in the walls.  The bones were later sorted by size into bins.  Some of the churches had church leaders' bodies in glass coffins, reminding us of the past.

            I remember finding a gift shop on top of St. Peter's in Rome, which seemed out of place to me, until I was in a Cathedral in Germany and wanted to buy a postcard but there was no gift shop because it was Lutheran not Catholic.

            I also remember being in a plaza with a fountain in Rome, and having one of those pinch-me moments when I ask myself "Do you realize where you are?"  I had many such moments on the trip!

VENICE, ITALY

            Venice is a city of islands with canals instead of streets.  The Piazza San Marco and the Grand Canal are depicted in many paintings in museums around the world.  I remember riding on a gondola and being fascinated by one of the arched bridges with shops along the bridge.

 

GLAND, SWITZERLAND

            Near Geneva, I visited Gland where my wife had stayed with a family on an exchange program the summer before, in 1966.  They had an orchard, and there were two sons and a daughter about the same age as us.  The father spoke Schweitzer Deutsch (Swiss German), a dialect different enough from German that it was difficult to understand him.  But the mother spoke French, so I could communicate with her.  (In later years, they visited us in the US, and my wife's parents visited them, whom we all considered part of our family). 

 

MUNICH, GERMANY

            In a letter, I wrote: Except in England, it seems that Europeans usually have coffee and bread with butter and jam (usually marmalade) for breakfast.  Often it is included in the price of the room.  Europeans eat their big meal in the middle of the day.  In Spain and Italy, dinner is around 2, supper around 9.  Restaurants close in between -- when we arrived on a train around 4, we starved until after 8.  They thought we were nuts being hungry at 7.  But in Switzerland and Germany, dinner is around 12 or 1, supper 6, and restaurants only serve cold food after 9.  It took us several days to adjust back to the early schedule.  But in Munich it was not a problem -- the beer halls have a "snell imbiss" (quick lunch) out front, where you can eat sausage, sauerkraut, soup, potato salad, and beer inexpensively standing up.  The beer is tremendous -- so smooth!  Sauerkraut is not very sour here (it's great). 

            I remember taking a commuter train to Dachau from Munich.  It was the first Nazi concentration camp where political prisoners, Jews, and others considered "unfit" were killed and their bodies burned.  Most of the camp had been torn down, except for the crematoria.  Pictures were displayed of bodies and items like lampshades made from human skin.  It was horrifying.

 

GARMISCH-PARTENKIRCHEN

             On a postcard of a church steeple, red roofs, and mountains I wrote:  The middle of the Bavarian Alps, just above the Austrian border.  In the winter, this is one of the biggest skiing areas in the Alps. Last night one of my friends and I went to the small casino here.  I watched while he lost $5 at roulette.  Today we are going to visit Neuschwanstein, way up in the mountains.  I had to buy some shoes -- the others fell apart!

            On a postcard, I wrote that this is the castle near the Austrian border that we hitchhiked to get to.  It was built in the 1800s by Ludwig II, king of Bavaria.  It had running water and central heating.  It was quite a walk up there.  it is one of the most famous castles in Germany.   There is a fabulous view of the valley from the castle -- crops, lakes, towns.  Ludwig lived there only 6 months. They thought he was crazy and it was said that he was drowned trying to escape those who thought so [but other reports said he had bullets in his back].

            On another postcard showing the heavy chandelier and elaborate interior of this castle that had bankrupted King Ludwig II, I wrote:  This is one end of the throne room; the throne was never completed.  There are paintings of scenes of Wagner's operas throughout the halls and large rooms of the castle.  We saw Wagner's "Die Meistersinger" in Munich.  The opera house there had gold-ornamented woodwork and beautiful chandeliers.

 

VIENNA, AUSTRIA

            In a letter, I wrote: I am now travelling in Austria through the alps to get to Salzburg.  Tomorrow we take the steamer (8 hours) up the Danube River to Vienna.

            In a letter, I wrote:  Vienna is very old, and has many beautiful old buildings.  We toured the palace, a few of the 1400 rooms, and palatial grounds which include a zoo and a forest.  Yet unlike other old cities that are large, it has no construction going on.  Back in the 1800s, Vienna was the music and cultural capital of the world.  My friend who studied music and I saw the graves of Brahms, Beethoven, Strauss, and a memorial to Mozart.

 

ROTHENBURG, GERMANY

            In a letter, I wrote:  We took a bus trip on the "Romantic Road" through old German cities and villages between Munich and Frankfurt, including Rothenburg, and Augsburg where Luther was on trial for challenging the Pope's right to sell indulgences to forgive sins. 

            On a postcard showing old houses and a clock tower with an arch over the road, I wrote:  Rottenburg is an old German town with a wall around it.  We climbed the Rathaus (city hall) tower for a view of the town and its surroundings.  Two Lutheran churches were here.  As we were about to leave, a windstorm came up, and it rained the rest of the way to Frankfurt.  Wednesday night we met a couple of guys from Finland, while drinking wine in one of the weinstubes.  One was a student, the other working.  Both spoke some English and some German.

 

FRANKFURT

             In a letter, I wrote:  One of my three friends and I went to a carnival in the PX parking lot of the headquarters of the US Army in Europe.  They had real American hamburgers, even popcorn.  Everybody not only spoke English, but used expressions only an American would say.  Unfortunately, most of those there never leave their American Ghetto much and speak no German.  But to us it was a treat.  The Americans were friendly and we felt a bond of common understanding and background with them. 

            In another letter, I wrote: I am now on a steamer on the Rhine, while my three friends stayed in Frankfurt.  The land is flatter than I expected.  It's much prettier than the Danube, which is brown not blue (we rode up the Danube to Vienna last week).  But not as spectacular as mountains jutting out of the lakes in Switzerland.  There are gentle hills, with small hardwood trees or patchwork crops.  We pass towns with old buildings and churches with unusual steeples.  Here and there is an old castle on the hill.  I keep moving around the boat as I write, to avoid a herd of 40 tourists with cameras who rush in a flock here and there around the boat.  Each is following the others, to not miss a picture.  Too busy clicking pictures to SEE anything.

 

COPENHAGEN, DENMARK

            In a letter, I wrote the following five paragraphs: 

            One day seeing German medieval castles on the Rhine.  The next, I am in Denmark, after taking a ferry then a train to Copenhagen.  My immediate impression was that the Danes are friendly, and English is their second language.  We found a student hostel, dormitory style, but with a nice lobby and even a lawn out front.  And with a lot of happy American college students, some playing football on the lawn.

            Next we saw Tivoli Gardens. It was still light out, so it looked like a big amusement park filled with tourists, but right in the middle of town.  It is walled in, so you don't know it's there from the outside.  But when it got dark, it was really beautiful.  Colored lights all over the buildings, fountains with lights, romantically lit outdoor cafes.  We watched elderly women smoking cigars while playing slot machines, saw kids with balloons, and ate "Amerikanere" ice cream cones like nothing in America (creamy rich).  We also saw in two outdoor theaters a pantomime ballet and a juggling/trampoline/high pole circus show.  They also had teenage and ballroom dance halls, as well as amusement rides, all in a park-like setting with trees all around.

            That night we went to a jazz-house to hear the most avant-garde music I've ever heard.  It's farther out than the experimental jazz in Seattle.  The next morning, we visited a museum which documents the Danish Resistance during World War II.  it has photos of sabotage, samples of illegal books and pamphlets, the printing presses used, plus radios and explanations of the history of the occupation.  When the Nazi's required Jews to wear the star of David, the Danish king put one on and so did most of the country.  Jews were smuggled to Sweden, and Britain flew radios and ammunition in to resistance groups.  Very interesting and very real and moving.

            I spent most of the afternoon in the Glyptotek Museum.  It has an overwhelming collection of Egyptian art - huge statuses and figures from around 2500 BCE, including wooden figures.  There is a hippopotamus of stone that is 5000 years old.  There are mummies from 100-600 BCE.  On display are wooden "models" (the size of doll houses and doll furniture) from Egyptian tombs, showing grinding wheat, cooking, and other household scenes.  While viewing the Roman sculpture, I noted that the Roman sculptures of Greek mythological "sirens" are identical to the angels in paintings of the Middle Ages, which now are sketched in Sunday School books, even wearing Greek robes!  The museum also has 19th century French sculpture, including some by Carpeau with tremendous feeling in facial expressions.

            Each time an area was conquered, statues were beheaded and castrated, if not totally destroyed, and jewels and ornamental works were taken.  So now the head of a statue in Spain might be here, for example.

 

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

            On a postcard showing skyscrapers and sidewalk cafes in Stockholm, I wrote: Downtown shopping center in Stockholm.  There are cafe tables on the roof of skyscrapers, overlooking the plaza.  Not far away in an old section are the old buildings in narrow streets.  Stockholm sprawls over 14 islands and is beautiful.

            On a postcard of "Golden Hall" banquet room in the City Hall of Stockholm, I wrote: This room, in 24 carat gold, is the site of dinners honoring Nobel prize winners every year in December.  From the courtyard is a beautiful view of the harbor, and skyscrapers jutting above 15th century buildings, plus fishing boats and bridges between the islands.

            In a letter, I wrote the following four paragraphs: 

            When we were in Stockholm, we saw the Wasa, a ship recently pulled out of the bottom of the harbor where it had lain since its maiden voyage in 1638.  It was too top heavy, with many cannons and dozens of large wooden statues.  The hull is surrounded by sprinklers spraying plastic preservatives.  After being under water it would disintegrate if it dried out.  They hope to reconstruct it.  Statues, cannons, tools, sail fragments, rigging, and some personal belonging are on display.  They can quit spraying the hull after another 5 or 6 years, when plastic has penetrated the wood.

            We also visited Skansen.  It has cottages from 1650 to 1800 which were moved there in the last few decades, in order to preserve them, from all over Sweden and some of Denmark.  They are made of logs.  A few have thatched roofs, but most have sod roofs (logs covered with bark then dirt, where grass and weeds grow!)  We could go into about a dozen of more than two dozen there.  Inside of one would be an open-hearth fireplace, with pots and frying pans with legs or stands nearby, wooden plates, spoons, cups in a wall cupboard, a wooden dining table, and stools.  Bunk beds were built right into the walls.

            Each was slight differently in furnishings and design.  In each was a woman in native costume, watching the place and answering questions, while crocheting or spinning wool, or using a loom, to illustrate handcrafts of the time.  Some had a fire in the fireplace, or on the semi-open hearth, and candles about.  With the smell of wood, and perhaps the tick of an old grandfather clock, it was very cozy, homey.

            There also were barns, water-wheel sawmills, a blacksmith shop, and a church (which was closed at the time).  Plus a one-room schoolhouse from about 1850 very much like those in western America, with white sideboards, an iron stove, wooden desks, and red roof! 

 

FLM, NORWAY

            On a postcard showing the train route along the mountainside, I wrote:  This is the train route we took down to the longest fjord in Norway, after riding 8 hours from Oslo through forests, then mountains, rock, and even snow, with waterfalls and ice-covered lakes along the way.  Note the snow shed tunnels and the zigzag road.  The last couple hours the ground looked very barren, yet here and there were farmhouses!  Down by the water, though, it becomes green.  It was misty, then drizzly, when we arrived.  We walked 5 miles to the next town, past roaring and trickling waterfalls, very serene, majestic, inspiring as it became dark. We'll take a night train back to Oslo.

 

OLSO, NORWAY

            On a postcard of a wooden stave church from about 1200 CE, I wrote:  One of the original churches in Norway, with carvings of birds under eaves, a carryover of superstitions into Christianity.  This was moved to a park along with cottages and other old buildings to be an outdoor museum of folk history.  Nearby we saw some folk dancing in "old" costumes at a restaurant.  We saw a similar outdoor museum in Stockholm.

            On a postcard of the Vigeland Sculpture Grounds in the Frogner Park in Oslo, I wrote:  The tall column at the top is a mass of people of all ages.  Around it are groupings of babies with parents, little boys, little girls, adolescents in groups or with parents, young couples, and old couples.  They show the entire lifecycle as you walk around the circle.  There are 3 rings, each of 12 groupings.  Around the fountain is a similar cycle, but of people at various ages alone.  Along the bridge are sets of statues randomly catching people being human.  One set is a group of small boys fighting.  Another set is a young couple and a child.  The statues are all so universal.

            In a letter, I wrote:  While we were in Oslo, we visited the Viking Museum, which has 3 large Viking ships found buried with their owners, and also the owners' dog sleds, tools, and other belongings as was their burial custom, all dating from about 900 CE.  We also saw the ship Fram, in which Norwegian explorers were the first to cross the North Pole and then the South Pole around the turn of this century.  On board they had navigational instruments and personal belongings from that time.  We also saw the Kon-Tiki raft, with pictures to prove that Polynesians could have crossed the Pacific Ocean that way.  We also saw various boats from the past 100 years, which though smaller were built much the same way as were the old Viking ships!

 

BERLIN

            Two Germanys.  After World War II, Germany was divided into four sectors by the United States, the United Kingdom, France, and the USSR.   The first three were united into West Germany, which was rebuilt by the U.S. under the Marshall Plan.  The goal was to make Germany an ally rather than a future enemy by avoiding what happened after World War I.  At that previous time, Germany was saddled with War Reparations, payments to countries for damages during the war.  Those increased economic hardships in Germany during the world-wide Depression of the 1930s, leading to the rise of the Nazis who blamed Jews for the economic conditions.

            Two Berlins. The sector held by the USSR became East Germany.  In the middle of it was Berlin, the capital of Germany, which was also divided into four sections that became partly united into West Berlin and East Berlin.  Due to economic conditions and government oppression, many from East Germany fled to West Berlin.  The Berlin Wall was built in 1961 to prevent that from continuing.

            Two worlds.  In 1967, I took a train across East Germany to West Berlin, and passed through the wall to East Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie, which was manned by the US Army.  In contrast to the bright lights and excitement of West Berlin, East Berlin was quiet as I explored museums on the main boulevard.   A block away there were still bomb craters from WWII.  I spoke in German with some young guys there, and learned that they were soldiers on leave, stationed there to guard the wall.  They hoped one day to visit Moscow, the center of their world.  I felt like I was in another world, where I could visit, but they were not allowed to visit my world.  (In 1992 I visited Berlin again after the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, and I discuss those events in a journal of that trip).

            On two postcards of the Berlin Wall, I wrote: I'm standing on a platform 30 feet high, looking at the Berlin Wall and the plaza where the 1953 East Berlin revolt took place (Potsdammer Platz).  Less than a block away, atop a building is a guard tower with armed guards, watching us as we watch them.  An empty streetcar on an empty street, the shell of a bombed building, deserted subway exits.  This was once the center of Berlin.  Behind me, a high sign which flashes the news in lights at night.  Nearby, a West Berlin policeman strolls about with radio in hand.  To my left a few blocks is the Brandenburg Gate.  Around to the right is Checkpoint Charlie.

            On a postcard showing modern buildings around a bombed church steeple, I wrote:

Behind me are modern skyscrapers, offices, and department stores, a real showplace of the Western world, surrounding the bombed church tower left as a memorial to the war. There is construction everywhere in West Berlin.  We came through East Germany by train on Saturday, with armed guards ensuring that no East Germans boarded the train.

           

AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS

            Amsterdam is a city with circular canals lined with old houses.  It has flower markets selling the many flowers grown in fields nearby.  It has coffeehouses where marijuana could be purchased.  And it has a district in which young women sit in front of windows with a red light.

            In a letter, I wrote: Yesterday we took an excursion to Rotterdam, through miles of dairy and flower farms.  Badly destroyed during the war, Rotterdam now has new modern department stores and hotels.  On the way back we passed the Hague, and again saw 16th century buildings covered with TV antennas.

 

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM

             In letter, I wrote about some of the art that I appreciated in various museums, such as Dutch paintings of village life and Rembrandt's 3-dimenisonal paintings, and I included the following:  On a totally different note, is the sculpture "Manneken-Pis" which is of a naked small boy urinating in a tiny fountain on a street corner in Brussels.  It is about 15 inches high, and tourists have made it the symbol of the city.  Dozens of groups have sent outfits to clothe it, and I understand one of the museums has them displayed on similar models.  I saw a cute postcard of a US Army MP outfit on it!  There is also a small statue-fountain of someone spitting, but it seems to be ignored.

 

LUXEMBOURG

            On a postcard showing ancient arches and buildings, I wrote:  I put two of my three friends on a plane in Amsterdam, where a guy from Taiwan joined me to visit Brussels and here.  He speaks French (he's been studying in Paris), but no English. 

            In a letter, I wrote the following two paragraphs: 

            Luxembourg was cool.  There is a large gorge through the town -- indeed it forms a horseshoe around the old part of town.  There are rock and cement fortifications along the cliff walls.  I went on a tour of the tunnels and canon holes inside them.  At night, the gorge is lit up with spotlights.  The guy from Taiwan and I were wandering around an old area, looking at the lights, and stopped in a local tavern.  There were a couple of German women drinking beer, a young guy flirting with the waitress, and a few others. 

            A woman came in talking loudly, soon followed by the police.  She and a guy across the street were squabbling about money, explained the guy who had been flirting with the waitress (he spoke some German).  I then watched him play cards with an older man, who had no legs, but with an enthusiasm for life with a twinkle in his eye. Then an American guy came in.  He had just landed in Luxembourg from New York, on his way to study psychology at a school in Belgium.  As the classes will be in French, and everything about Luxembourg would be strange on first arrival to Europe, he was scared.

 

KONSTANZ, GERMANY

            In a letter, I wrote:  I struggled with train schedules to get down to Konstanz to take the boat up the Rhine to Schaffhausen, and planned to make connections to make it back to the hotel by train before it closed, then boarded the boat. Then it clouded over and started to rain, and I couldn't see a thing!  But now it's stopped raining, though still dark, and it's beautiful anyway -- green hillsides with trees and crops, as we bounce back and forth from bank to bank.  It provides ferry service.  Along the water are old buildings (16-17th century).  Each town has a church steeple.  Here and there are old castles on the hill.  It has fewer castles but more beautiful farmland than the stretch of the river I saw further north by Frankfurt.

 

FREIBURG, GERMANY

            In a letter, I wrote the following three paragraphs:

             When I was in Freiburg, Germany, I visited a friend whom I had met on the train. He has completed 4 years of study and is now preparing for exams.  They have no grades or term exams, just exams at the end of the four years.  He lives in a one-room apartment with a sink that has cold water only.  The bathroom is down the hall.  He has a hot plate plus a hot pot for heating water.  And a bed, closet, desk, pictures, and lots of books.  His room is typical of a bout 90% of the university students, although now some dorms are being built at newer campuses.

            He generally eats lunch at the cafeteria on campus, then has mostly bread, cheese, kwark (similar to yoghurt), fruit, and tea for breakfast and supper.  The noon meal is the big meal in Germany anyway.  We discussed philosophy, modern art, Nazi Germany, and European education.  We visited the Cathedral, a public market, a green hill over-looking the town, and went to an excellent organ concert.

            At his suggestion, I went to Colmar, across the Rhine River valley in the Alsace region of France, which has switched between France and Germany many times.  It's a quaint old town with a museum in an old convent. In it were some wine presses (1600s) from the old monastery.  And there was a Picasso exhibit.  He distorts people, as a comment on modern life, such as the confusion between the profile and the front-view of the face.  But what I enjoyed most was the archaeological collection in the basement, with tools and pottery, showing that the Rhine valley has been occupied for 4000 years.  It also shows Etruscan, Roman, and Christian influences in the art (on vases, bracelets, etc.) over the centuries.

 

HEIDELBERG, GERMANY

            In a letter, I wrote:  On my way to Heidelberg, I stayed overnight in nearby Strasbourg.  It has a huge Gothic cathedral with a large curious astrological clock.  I was surprised since astrology has never been very Christian.  In Heidelberg, I visited a friend of my friend that lives in Freiburg.  He has a similar kind of apartment.  He is majoring in history and political science, so we were up until 3 AM discussing the European Common Market and governmental systems in various European countries.  I had known just enough to ask intelligent questions.  He speaks excellent English, having studied it for 6 years.  He gave me a guided tour of the old castle, town, and university which is the oldest in Germany, about 400 years old. We also visited an American friend of his.  She's been studying German history there for 2 years.  The three of us discussed American, British, and Continental customs over tea all afternoon.

 

MONZA, ITALY

            In a letter, I wrote:  On the train I met 2 GIs stationed at the US Army Garrison near Heidelberg.   In communications by microwave, they maintain some of the equipment for data transmission that I heard about at IBM in San Jose the summer before.   When they said that there was a Grand Prix race on, I decided to stay on the train with them an extra 4 hours to Milan then to Monza.  When we crossed the Alps, the weather changed from cold rain (nights have been cold in central Europe for 2 weeks now) to sunny warmth!  They had brought sleeping bags to camp out near the racetrack, but I felt so dirty from traveling without bathing that I got a hotel room with a bath.  At the racetrack, my height is an advantage.  I'm standing in a crowd a few yards from the finish line.  It costs more for the bleachers up behind me.  And it is getting hot.  The race should begin soon.

 

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON

            At the end of my trip I few from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Seattle, Washington.   In the morning, I was walking on the streets of Amsterdam, and later in that same long day, I was walking on the streets of the university district of Seattle.  That totally blew my mind.