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








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