Friday, January 20, 2017

MEMORIES OF A VINTAGE JOURNEY TO EUROPE ON FIVE DOLLARS A DAY


STAMP ON POSTCARD SENT FROM BERN, SWITZERLAND IN 1967


     I'm fortunate to have traveled to Europe dozens of times. However, there is one special trip that brings back fond memories like no other. It was my first journey to Europe with friends Nancy and Linda in 1967—50 years ago. We were 22. Nancy and I had just graduated from the University of Minnesota, and Linda had been working as a secretary. In 1967, the median marriage age for women was 21. Since we didn't have the “good fortune” to be getting married like most of our friends, we decided to travel to Europe for ten weeks. 

     I worked the entire summer as a waitress at Lake MacDonald Lodge in Glacier National Park, Montana, so that I could afford the fall trip. I saved enough to travel through Europe on $5.00 a day, which included lodging, meals, and other essentials. I was sure that I would have enough money, because the popular book Europe on 5 Dollars a Day by Arthur Frommer said I would. This was our “bible,” and we believed everything he said. I kept notes on what I spent, and the daily average for the trip was $5.50, excluding airfare and a first class three-month Eurailpass. Typically we would spend $4 to 4.50 in US dollars for lodging a night and then split it three ways. Two dollars for a dinner with dessert in Bergen, Norway, was considered a splurge.
POSTCARD SENT FROM DIE MARKSBURG
BEI BRAUBACH AM RHEIN NOV 1967
POSTCARD SENT FROM
LUXEMBOURG SEPT 1967


     Even with the help of Frommer, I made these mistakes: huge suitcase (it did have wheels); way too many clothes; loads of toilet paper (we thought Europeans used sandpaper). I managed to discard some of the clothes and the toilet paper along the way, but the bag was still too big and heavy. Consequently, I'm sympathetic when people bring too much stuff on their first trip, but I sure hope they learn from the mistake.


     Here are just a few things I remember (with the help of my notes):

  • Best Meal: dinner at the Grand Hotel in Oslo, generously hosted by a couple from Canada, whom we met on the train.
  • Biggest Disappointment: splurging (over budget) on American beefsteak at a restaurant in Belgium, only to find out that it was raw hamburger.
  • Funniest: Manneken Pis statue in Brussels. There is something quite humorous about the little boy statue doing his thing in a fountain.
  • Most Embarrassing: skinny dipping on the Isle of Capri (no swimsuits in those large suitcases) and oops, someone was watching us.
  • Most Fun: dancing and partying through the night with French race car drivers and soldiers in Brussels. They even sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” to us in French.
  • Proud Memory: conversing in German with an elderly man in a restaurant in the mountains of Austria and being told that my German was very good. Thank you, Mr. Erlichman, my high school German teacher.
  • Favorite City: Paris, which I might never have left if I had studied French instead of German.
  • Favorite Country: Switzerland, with its snow-capped mountains and quaint villages.
  • MY VISIT WITH GREAT AUNT MARIE & HER HUSBAND, IVER
    TRONDHEIM, NORWAY 1967
    Unforgettable Memory: visiting my grandmother's sister Marie in Trondheim, Norway. My grandmother never saw her sister again after she moved to America as a young girl. My notes indicate that Marie had my grandmother Anna's smile and sense of humor—she said that she was gambling on football (soccer) to save money for a trip to America. She spoke Norwegian, but a daughter-in-law served as the interpreter. She gave me a white and gold bracelet as a keepsake—I still have it.
  • Biggest Regret: not following up on a job referral to spend the winter skiing and working at Club Vagabond in Leysin, Switzerland. Some opportunities never come around again.
  • Most Humbling: crossing the border and spending a day walking around East Berlin, which I described at the time as dark, dreary, and depressing—the rain didn't help.
  • Forgotten Event: As we were walking back to our hotel one night in Heidelberg, Germany, my notes indicate that I saved Linda from an attacker by hitting him over the head with my purse. Apparently I did a good job, because there is no further mention of it.
  • Least Pleasant Memory: The long-distance overnight train trips (seven total)—recommended by Frommer as a good way to save money.
  • Sweetest Encounter: the two little girls that we met on the street in Nice, France, who brought us home to meet their mother because we were Americans.


     The extended trip to Europe ended in Luxembourg where it all started. We were flying on Icelandic Airlines which was famous for cheap airfares—not speed or punctuality. Sometimes referred to as the "Hippie Airline," it became sort of a rite of passage for young “hippies” from America traveling to Europe.

     We were ready to get home and end our travels for awhile. I stopped in New York and Washington D.C. on the way back to visit my brother.

    The three of us moved on and never spent much time together after that trip and have since lost contact. However, that shared memory of ten weeks on the road leaves a piece of friendship that will last forever.
MY TRAVEL NOTES
TRONDHEIM - THE CATHEDRAL & THE OLD TOWN BRIDGE








Wednesday, January 4, 2017

MARCHING BANDS & FOOTBALL COME TO THE SAN DIEGO HOLIDAY BOWL




HORTON PARK PLAZA

     Sometimes you happen to come upon an event that turns out to be special, and you wonder why you haven't done it before. Our trip to downtown San Diego the day after Christmas turned out to be one of those times.
     Friends from Minnesota were in town for the San Diego Holiday Bowl and suggested we meet them for dinner after the “Battle of the Bands” performance that is held on the day before the game.
     
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA BAND
Ron and I decided to head downtown to find out what this marching band event at Horton Park Plaza was all about. We arrived an hour early and planned to walk around for awhile, but we were quickly pulled into the events of the evening when over one hundred marching band members and spirit squads from the University of Minnesota, started gathering outside the plaza early for an impromptu performance.
     We were standing right next to them and couldn't help but feel the exuberance and appreciate the talent of these young people. There was also a bit of nostalgia for both Ron and me because the University of Minnesota is our alma mater. I also have fond memories of playing in the percussion section of my high school marching band.
     
UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
HORTON PARK PLAZA SAN DIEGO
The instrumental sections of the band alternated taking their gold plumed hats off, lining them up on the sidewalk, and then started weaving with a bounce and a sway throughout the band area before returning pick up their respective hats. It appeared unplanned, but it was clearly well thought out. Then, the trumpets gathered on the three upper floors of Horton Plaza shopping center and started playing back and forth with those below. It was great. Next, the baton twirlers started an exhibition – and the flag twirlers. Then, it was the cheerleaders. Next, 24 tuba players marched and danced around, and we were entertained by a conductor up on the second floor above who was directing them. They were having fun and so were we. It continued for about thirty minutes.
      Soon, thereafter, the University of Minnesota and Washington State bands and their respective spirit squads entered the plaza center for the official “Battle of the Bands.” A contest to decide the best band of the evening based on audience response.
     The two high energy and spirited bands alternated their performances in hopes of winning the audience over. Approximately, 1,000 spectators were sitting for an hour on concrete steps surrounding the plaza center cheering for their favorite band. It was a comfortable evening temperature of about 50 degrees. There seemed to be more people from Washington State in the audience, so they may have gotten the edge on audience response. However, the University of Minnesota, my alma mater, is ranked the #6 band in the Big Ten conference. It was by far the superior group. There was no official announcement of a winner so I guess it doesn't really matter. It was great entertainment and I look forward to attending the event next year.
     The following day we watched the Holiday Bowl game on TV. The University of Minnesota Gophers beat the Washington State Cougars 17-12.
HISTORIC LANDMARK FOUNTAIN
TRUMPETS ABOVE  IN SHOPPING CENTER


BATTLE OF THE BANDS
AMPHITHEATER