[In 1974 at the age of 16, Robert accompanied his brother Rod and
some of Rod's friends on a two-month trip in Europe...and each managed
to make $500 last the entire trip...and as you read you'll see
why! :-) Except for the photo of Rod and Robert below
(which was actually at their parents' house around the same time more
or less), photographs are from other sources and not the
originals. The journal is unedited - it would have been too easy
to want to fix or reword parts of it - but there's much charm in seeing
Europe through a teenager's eyes...at least we think so. --
Tuesday-Wednesday, July 2-3, 1974
The flight overseas went very smoothly and (as impossible as this may seem) the flight was on time! It only took ten hours to get to Frankfurt from Oakland and the ride was smooth and comfortable; as good as any commercial airline [this flight was a charter]. The plane was a DC10 which is as wide as a 747, quiet, and I even enjoyed it, first talking to a man who used to live in Die Schweiz [Switzerland] who, after catching my ear for a couple hours giving suggestions, opinions, and thoughts, bent my brother's ear for the balance of the flight. At the same time (zugleich), I went over to Andy's [Silverstein] seat (and by the way, we did get to sit together), and played cards for a couple of hours with David [LaFontaine] and a girl of my age who goes to Artesia High School (wherever that is), who I also found to be a Gin Rummy (I think that's how it's spelled) card shark. She was a little concerned that we might not make the charter flight back to Los Angeles since we were backpacking all over Europe; she was staying with relatives in Nürnberg along with her brother.
Everything went smoothly in the air, but once we were on the ground, problems began to happen.
First of all, we had to find our luggage, which was quite far away from our passport control area, where everyone went after leaving the plane. Eventually, Andy talked to a person who told us the right place where customs was located.
Then, we took a train to the Frankfurt HBF (Hauptbahnhof, meaning main railroad station) which was sort of hectic in trying to find if the train was the correct one; fortunately it was.
At Frankfurt am Main at the HBF we rested for five seconds, then we changed travelers cheques for DMs (Deutsche Marks) and ate some wunderbar schmecken (wonderful tasting) schinken brötchen (ham, smoked to a great taste and put in rolls) and smelled some sausages. Then, we were off once again going by train to Heidelberg en route to München. Later we found that we had to move to another part of the train which was to split up. That wasn't easy to find out though since the nice elderly people we spoke with didn't know any, I repeat, any, English. So I started to speak German or at any rate communicate with them. All that German came in handy and I felt proud to do something constructive with it. Finally we made it to München and stayed at a Pension for 15 DM.
Thursday, July 4
After communicating in German with the waitress, making use of the Basic Dialogue Sentences I could remember from German class and Mr. Melden, we left the restaurant beneath the pension (15 DM per person, per day) and proceeded to the Hauptbahnhof where we caught a train for Füssen. Once there, we had Eiskrem and took a bus to the two castles, Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau, the former built a little over 100 years ago by mad König Ludwig, the latter was and still is owned by the descendants of Maximilian. Once again, our everywhere, everything, everytime card (no, not American Express), Eurail, pulled through for us on the bus and we found that it is also good on ferry boats and the Rhein steamer.
One point or note that I can make is that Germans are orderly, they
like everything just right, and the streets are impeccably clean.
The lack of drinking fountains here gets to become a pain in the ---. Cokes or Fantas cost 50¢ for one glass! Therefore I'm very thirsty!!
Back at Füssen, we stayed at our first youth hostel which was filled with hostel youths. Later on, after David and I went to eat, Rod and Andy went to eat also, but got lost and almost didn't make the curfew time, 10:00 PM.
Friday, July 5
Yesterday, we met a couple of girls who showed us the hostel. One was from Alaska and was a grad student there. The hostel, full of noisy students on a field trip, gave us breakfast tickets, but because there was so much to do in Füssen we ran for, barely caught, and boarded the first train for München at 7:06 AM. On the train we met two girls, Sue and Holly, the former was from Sacramento (and had a cold which I caught), and the latter was from Torrence.
When we reached München, Rod and I took a one-hour tour of München and Schwabing, and afterwards we went to the Olympic tower and park where the World Cup was to be played on Sunday. We meandered for a time, then proceeded to the American Express where Rod planned to meet Randy Rogers (older brother of Scott Rogers). He had told us that there was a McDonald's close by and showed us some papers, napkins, etc. from it. I managed to get a ticket with a McDonald's advertisement on it which said "Willkommen in München”..
What fun it is to go around the city without having to lug that bag around; I like the backpack, bu the handbag is lousy, even the zipper is broken. Andy separated from us to go to Garmisch to see yet another of crazy King Ludwig's castles, Linderhof. We met him upon his return to München and all five of us rode the trolley to the large tent youth camp just outside the city. After we were settled, we had dinner at a marvelous Italian restaurant a couple blocks away, where I ate a pizza mit Schinken (with ham) and had a large stein of dark beer. Oh, how I wish I could have taken a shot of the inside. The lady who ran the place was wonderful and asked all about ourselves. We left with full stomachs and had some tea back at the camp before turning in. When we first came to the camp, a few Irish girls who worked at a hospital told us about their work (with nuns no less) and München in general. The air mattress kept us off the floor which were wooden 2x4's.
Saturday, July 6
We left München for Salzburg, a small city which we covered in two hours. Hiking up to the castle on the hill was hard because it was steep, but once we reached the top, we had a great view. When we came back down, we had Schweinwurst for lunch with french fries and Fanta. In Salzburg as in München a person, a young man this time, was offering us a room (in München by the way it was an old motherly lady). We didn't take it, though, and we actually didn't stay in Salzburg. As soon as my brother and I found Andy and David, we all decided that there was no point to staying in Salzburg except for the fact that we might still see the Königsee and Berchtesgaden. This young man, Ken, a grad student in Economics at Tulane in Louisiana, told us what to see and what not to see, while also emphasizing to Rod the importance of getting involved in his Masters thesis.
We had taken a train to go to Berchtesgaden, but we were running to catch it and didn't see that we had to transfer at Freilassing and went 50 miles out of our way to the north. We made it back to Freilassing all right, but we missed our connection and we would have had to have waited two hours for the next one. One funny thing was that in doing all of this, we had to show our passports since Freilassing is in Germany and Salzburg is in Austria. Also, all of this cost us only time, not single Schilling. Gosh, I hate these money belts!
I also changed my shoes from Wobblies to my old standby Tiger Onitsouka Cross Country shoes. Wobblies refers to Wallabies (I don't even know how to spell it, so Wobblies is also more convenient).
The train that we missed, by the way, was only the first and it broke a string of eleven straight that we had made since the trip began.
Andy, Rod, and I left Salzburg (and crossed the border no less than five times through this mad scramble) for the Chiemsee to see it on Saturday night, when the castle of King Ludwig was to be illuminated by candlelight. This turned out to be an unfortunate night, though. When we got there at the Bahnhof in Prien, we arrived at 8:15. Unluckily the last ferry to the isle of Herrenchiemsee was at 7:50. Then, since we obviously couldn't rig our own veritable yacht, we resigned ourselves to the fact that we missed it and would have to wait for tomorrow to come before we could see it.
Next we had to find a youth hostel. An American at the Bahnhof said that it was somewhere near the main street, so we went out into the rain and walked and walked, and realized that the street probably wasn't the correct one and walked. Finally, we got to the hostel after many helpful citizens gave us the directions, entered soaking wet and checked in. This hostel was unusually strict and the manager was like a little Hitler. He checked our rooms to make sure we had sheets and didn't allow down-filled sleeping bags; fortunately we had sheets. At exactly 10:00 PM, curfew time, he turned out all the lights, and when we awoke the next morning, we had to sweep the rooms. The hostel was beautiful, having ping pong tables, pong (the game that you played on a tv screen type of apparatus), and coke, or rather Fanta, machines. The manager didn't have a thumb and index finger on his right hand which reminded me of the guide of the Acropolis in Athens. Because he was strict didn't mean that he hated teenagers or young adults; on the contrary, he seemed to enjoy our company and was interested in where we were going. At night the beds were as squeaky as mice which made it difficult to sleep, but it wasn't bad.
Sunday, July 7
We ate the same continental breakfast except we had some rich, hot chocolate which was refreshing. Andy, Rod and I went to the castle of King Ludwig and saw the fountain in front. I took a number of shots outside, then I admired the lavish, luxurious interior which was ornately decorated with gold-plated bed supports, hand-woven bedspreads and rugs, and lovely, delicate chandeliers which held many candles.
After leaving Prien, we aimed ourselves towards Innsbruck, the site of the 1964 Winter Olympics and the next site for the coming Olympics in 1976.
There were three hostels, one even had a gymnasium, but we stayed at one which was near the tramway. At the hostel we ran into the teacher from Michigan who we first saw in Füssen. We had dinner at the hostel and it almost reminded me of a cafeteria. After that, we went walking around the city which was none too big. We had trouble finding the center of excitement mainly because there wasn't any excitement. We went into a cafe and heard some music by the likes of Elton John, Terry Jacks, and Gordon Lightfoot to name a few. We walked through the busiest portion of the city looking at hats, thinking one of the Bavarian types ...
...which looked rather cheap. Rod was thinking of sending him a letter written totally in German.
After braving a slight drizzle, we prepared for bed and I talked to this guy, a young Canadian student, who told us some places he'd been to and that we should see. We meet so many people each day that I can't keep up with their names.
Monday, July 8
Today we went up to the tram after attempting to have breakfast at a bakery. The weather was on our side when we reached Seegrube, the second highest part of the tram, and we took pictures of the totality of the valley below and met Andy by coincidence. I scratched at some ice and made a snowball, when I couldn't avoid temptation and heaved the mass of melting ice towards Andy (this of course added to my Zany Point Total). We split up again for a short time and soon reunited back at the hostel. Andy wanted to hear if the tickets down from Seegrube, which were given to my brother by some nice people who he met at the information desk of the Bahnhof, worked; they had, which saved us quite a bit of money. Then we made our way back to the Bahnhof and I reloaded the camera and put in new batteries, so I could take pictures of an arch located nearby. Andy went off to buy some food which was going to be lunch. He brought, to our slight surprise, cheese and crackers which we shared with a sailor of Colorado, stationed in Washington and on a month's leave, and with two girls who were going to get jobs in Switzerland. The girls had a tape recorder that played Pink Floyd? Iron Butterfly? Cream?? Rod let out a gasp at such groups and felt lucky that David wasn't there to laugh it up. The sailor told us that he (I think his name was Dan) had been to a Spinners concert in Washington and I was flattened. I couldn't believe we'd actually meet another person who would go see the Spinners and enjoy them yet!
We passed through Lichtenstein after a stop at Feldkirsch, but it happened so fast that nobody knew it. There weren't any signs or announcements like "You are now entering Licthenst-Pardon? You are now leaving Lichtenstein". We started to run out of crackers so Andy took a whole side of cheese (in fact Rod almost forgot to take off the wax), put it on a cracker, ate the cheese, left the cracker, and put more cheese on the same cracker.
When we reached Zürich, home of the Swiss Banks (why do people put money in those? You find Swiss banks on the side of any Swiss river, right!), we immediately went to change money at the Geldwechsel. I find it is getting harder and harder to keep up with the currency: 1 DM equals 36 cents, 18 schillings to a dollar, 2.9 Swiss Francs to a dollar, and soon we will deal in Italian lira which is going to be complicated since there are 600 lira to a dollar. Then Andy told us a YMCA wasn't good enough and that he wanted a shower, so once again we split up. Rod and I went to the YMCA, but they only had one bed left. Ironically Andy decided to skip the hostel and took the extra bed at the YMCA, while Rod and I searched for hours for a place to stay; but all of the pensions were fully booked. One Swiss man went to a lot of trouble to find where a hotel was although it too was filled. We finally found a place, the Hotel Basilea, which was 30 Francs per person, cheap for Zürich actually.
We walked around the streets, ate dinner which was sausages again, then took in the night life. There was, to my surprise, a busy town here full of porno shops, Bavarian and Swiss music, and cafés. A group of people played music in the streets which somewhat made up for the loss at the Chiemsee. Back at the hotel the beds were fluffy and comfortable as compared with the army cots or air mattresses of youth hostels. That night I got a lot of sleep.
Tuesday, July 9
We awakened at 8:00 and ate the same continental breakfast as always. Following that, Rod and I walked around the city, took photographs, entered the museum (free by the way) and then left Zürich for the resort town of Grindelwald, located in the midst of the Bernese Oberland Alps. Instead of going there via Luzern, we passed through Bern instead. When we arrived at Interlaken Ost, we found that we had to pay for the train to Grindelwald since private trains don't accept Eurail or student rail cards.
On the train we met a girl from the state of Minnesota, Mary, whose looks somehow reminded me of Jane Fonda, though Mary of course didn't have the same personality. She, too, was looking for the Jugendherberge and though we came at 4:30 in the afternoon the place was nearly filled. They had one bed left for the boys and two for the girls. We waited in line with a young man named Dan. He told us about "the List". If you were on "the List" you were in; if not, sorry no luck unless you were next in line. As it turned out, Mary was the last girl, and we were turned away, doomed for the Glacier. The Glacier I'm speaking of was the Restaurant Glacier which also had a dorm (coed sleeping! - actually nothing exciting happens in such a place for all you peeping Toms), rows of beds and a lot of flies which became a bit of a hassle.
To my brother's and my surprise, David popped up unexpectedly at the hostel. He'd been there a day and said it was very nice. In fact the hostel had a beautiful view of the mountains whose majesty and beauty are almost unmatched. It's higher than Yosemite in the sense of valley-to-peak, and the mountains cradle the town and the farmland around it. The hostel itself was run very strictly by a bearded woodsman who called himself the "Warden" on many announcements. So strict that fines of between 5 and 20 Francs were imposed on latecomers who missed the 10:00 curfew, no shoes could be worn inside and meals were paid for in advance; this hostel was well run and was pleasant.
David, Rod, and I went to eat and first checked out a rather expensive restaurant, or joint as David called it. So expensive was it that I was tempted to call it instead of Grindelwald, Swindlewald. As nonchalantly and quietly as we could, we dropped the menus and left the restaurant, which charged 40 Francs for a fondue for two (or you might call it a "fonduet"). We came to a cheaper restaurant called the Spinne (not to be confused with spinners) which charged 16 Francs. After we ate through part of the fondue where the cheese and wine mixture was compatible, I found the wine started to interfere with my fondue and soon I was none to fond of my fondue.
After dinner we walked around town and viewed for the first time clay tennis courts, which seemed to slow the ball down and made the court appear as if it had been sabotaged with ball bearings. Finally, Rod and I returned to the Glacier, talked to a teacher of elementary school children in Massachusetts, who was young as all the others except for an old man who worked there (his wife came in and gently tucked him in – oh so touching, weep weep!). Soon after stowing our packs and ignoring the flies, we were asleep.
Wednesday, July 10
After breakfast, Rod and I took an afternoon to hike to a glacier (not the hotel if you're keeping track), this hike being recommended by David who had done it the previous day and claiming to have reached a meadow beyond the ladders. It took us an hour to get there (places look closer than they really are when you're hiking), then came the excitement and some spectacular scenery. The ladders were made out of wood and were bolted to the rock. Some of the steps were coming loose which created a tremendous amount of tension in me. The cliff was completely vertical in many parts and looking at the view below reminded me that one false move and I would wind up like the fragments of the glacier; the sound that broken sections of the glacier made as they came crashing down the ravine was unbelievably loud but very interesting to watch. It was exhilarating to look out and see a straight drop below (of course that only occurred in certain parts, others were only slanted).
Later Rod and I went back to the hostel after running into still another person which we had met at the hostel. When we arrived to put our names on "the List" we saw that Andy had come and couldn't believe that once again the "Four Zanies" were reunited. We, Rod and I, killed an hour or so until David returned from his day's journey, and then the four of us went to eat. What was kind of funny was that the waitress said that we couldn't order dinner till 6:00, so we had dessert first, if you can imagine that. Soon thereafter, we went to watch tennis players, especially one who was very good, and from there we went to examine some prospective pros at the miniature golf course. Andy and I laughed very hard after watching a kid take a shot over and over, placing the ball to his best advantage.
With a fun night behind us and an exciting, if not dangerous hike before that, we said a "bon voyage" to David, who was heading off to Yugoslavia. We three remaining Zanies went back to the hostel via the short cut, and talked to some guys who gave us tips. One was named Steve and he suggested especially Vivolis, an ice cream place in Florence, which is supposed to have the best ice cream anywhere. An English engineer in agricultural machinery told us about how he got a job and his trip which he was taking. The view again was wonderful from our room.
Thursday, July 11
We rose to another beautiful day and once again that utterly fabulous view of the mountains surrounding Grindelwald. We ate the usual bread for breakfast but had an unusual extra which was the rich hot chocolate. The "Warden" said on one of this notes that you had to be down at exactly 7:30, but it wasn't all that crucial. Rod and I were tossing around the idea of taking the cog railway all the way up to the Jungfraujoch near the peak of the Jungfrau, however the price was almost 70 Francs apiece and we decided instead of hike five hours round trip to Kleine Scheidegg and back. Going there was taxing because it was a climb of nearly 4000 feet from Grindelwald.
On the way we met a Norwegian traveler who actually brought his pack with him. He shared some beer with us and then proceeded the remainder of the way. Along the trail I saw many farmers; some were literally covered with flies, which was to say the least a disgusting sight. They tended sheep and chickens; in fact some sheep grazed near the youth hostel and even on it. Nature was with us all the time and it was splendid as well as relaxing to take it all in. That, I would say, typified most of Grindelwald and vicinity.
Upon reaching Kleine Scheidegg, we relished the magnificent vista all around us plus our best look at the Jungfrau (actually, I thought that the Eiger was more of a spectacle, projecting further out and rising steeper than any of the others). It was there that we bought a ten dollar wine sack which came in very handy. I took more shots here than anywhere else and tried to get a panorama effect, though it was next to impossible with my camera. It was hot, exhausting though rewarding to do all that hiking. I said to myself, "This is where to hike or climb in the Alps since there are so many varying trails that it offers; definitely worth coming back to."
The return hike was downhill and regardless of how tired we were, we enjoyed it. I found it faster and less work to skip down the steep paths, but Rod declined, preferring to take it slowly. We were plenty hungry and weary, but still decided to pick up our bags and leave Grindelwald, though there were more trails and Andy was staying another night, and move on to Brig, Visp, and Zermatt to see the Matterhorn, which was right on the border between Switzerland and Italy. I got some sleep and rest on the train and I felt comfortable.
We arrived in Brig in the evening and took a train to the youth hostel in Visp; as it turned out this wasn't actually an IYA hostel, but was privately owned and seemed more self-serve-yourself than anything else, Rod washing dishes and me drying them, after preparing our table and bringing the food there. The wife of the owner who cooked all the meals was amazed that I was as careful as I was about cleaning the dishes and remarked "Prima!" which struck me sort of unexpectedly. Rod and I talked to a Japanese couple who were hostelling also. We also talked to a German girl who said she saw us in Grindelwald, and we discussed where we were going and where we had visited. Then we slept dormitory-style once again.
Friday, July 12
We served ourselves breakfast and then left to get ripped off taking a 28 Franc train ride to Zermatt. On the train we met a family from Long Island who was staying with another family there. Upon arriving I found Zermatt to be a very tourist-minded place with many shops and bakeries waiting for unsuspecting foreign customers. (As I write this, I hope you realize I'm five days behind and writing this in cultural, beautiful Florence (Firenze) and I'm sort of smashed from having a bit of wine and developing a taste for it).
Of course, Zermatt is just a tourist town and what you've come to see is really the Matterhorn. It was there alright, but it wasn't as spectacular as Grindelwald; it was set behind too many foothills that led up to it. It wasn't close to the city like the mountains at Grindelwald. It could take a whole day just to get up to the base of the Matterhorn. The trails there weren't as satisfying or as close to nature as they were in Grindelwald. Rod and I only went up part way and then returned to town. We ambled into a grocery store and bought some cookies, gum, and some powder which like Kool-aid changed our water from dull to tasty. It was raspberry and it left an aftertaste.
Some time later in the afternoon we left Zermatt for Visp to get our bags and Brig in order to catch a train from Brig to Milan (3-1/2 hours). It was a total surprise when we boarded the first train that was headed for Milan and Rome: all the seats were reserved with no apparent room for us, so we left the train and waited for one that was to come five minutes later. But to our even greater surprise, it was filled up as much as the first and we had expected to stand the full three hours to Milan, however, a nice elderly Italian couple gave us a place to sit, so we observed the Italians on that train very closely (one reminded me of Ernest Borgnine). It was tiring and I only got an hour of sleep.
Once in Milan, we looked at the train schedules and found that the next train to Venezia was in 5 minutes. We rushed to the train with some other nice people and found it filled (if you can believe it, that was at 1:00 in the morning), making the whole thing appear like a cattle car. Rod and I slept in the aisles though my space was so limited that I actually got no sleep at all. I really am telling the truth when I say I was in a cattle car; people crawling and falling all over other people. No room to even breathe properly. Now I can only wonder what Spain could be like with its supposedly slow trains.
On the train we met a girl and her boyfriend who were moving about Europe. I think I remember hearing them say that they were from Bell Gardens or thereabouts. I didn't get any sleep on the train to Venice, but somehow (I guess I'm used to the hustle bustle of travel), I enjoyed it, mainly talking to the girl.
Venice is the first place where we will encounter a true language barrier. At the train station we left our packs and then proceeded to find a boat to Zitelle, where the youth hostel was located. Someone, anonymous of course, told us that his mind was really blown by the sight of boats and canals right outside of the railroad station. To tell the truth I found it sort of stupid. Venice gave me a bad first impression and unfortunately left me with the same impression later on when we left.
Since we slept (ha, ha, what a joke!) on the train, Friday drifted into Saturday which is what I'm describing now. When we first initiated contact with the hostel, we left our bags and went to see the city. I find Italian lira an extremely clumsy, useless, inflated currency!! It stinks!! For the want of a better expression. No stores etc. had any change and we found it very hard to break 10,000 lira which was what was given to us by the Cambio (Geldwechsel or Exchange).
At the hostel they had a jukebox full of Suzi Quatro, Gary Glitter, Cat Stevens and Paul McCartney, a shop, a snack bar, and some games including soccer. We took the No. 5 boat to San Marco and walked around the town filled with dogs, especially those with muzzle-like devices that keep their mouths closed (I called them doctors because they looked like they had masks on, prepared to perform surgery). At Piazza San Marco we had an expensive cup of hot chocolate in memory of our parents who asked us specifically to do that. That cost 800 lira each, as opposed to 200 lira for pizza (not American style, but doughy and pretty bland, however food at any rate).
We walked over the Rialto bridge and moved around aimlessly, meandering through the labyrinth of streets and alleys that dotted and wound through the city (maps of the city didn't include half of the streets that we found, but we did quite a good job of maintaining our bearings) and eventually returned to San Marco. Rod went into the Doges Palace, and we then headed in the direction of the Academie, where many paintings portraying Christ were displayed (I found the theme redundant). We revisited San Marco and went to catch No. 5 boat which we thought would bring us quickly back to Zitelle. Unfortunately for us it went in the opposite direction out to one of the islands, Murano, taking (instead of ten minutes or so) almost two hours. We were worried with the idea of the hostel being full, but fortunately it wasn't.
Coincidence once again brought us together with Andy, whose bags we found near our beds. We ate dinner at the hostel and then walked around the immediate area. I found that wine was cheap and, since Andy was giving me a good amount, I acquired a taste for it (with my enormous thirst and the Venetian humid weather, which really was Mediterranean like Greece, hot of course, I guzzled and drank large amounts accounting for the abnormal writing three pages back). We found a store where Andy practiced his Spanish on the storekeeper and more importantly, where we could buy 1 liter Fanta bottles for 220 lira (leaving our deposit bottles saved us 110 lira). We returned to the hostel where I first met Martin Hallen, 18 years old (the only other person with a junior pass) from South Africa, where they speak English and Africaans (similar to Dutch). Martin was from Durban, to be more exact, and became an honorary fifth Zany to our group, traveling with us through Rome. He lent me his bathing suit so I could swim at the Lido beach the next day. I slept on a bottom bunk today in quarters termed "Dormitory Style".
Sunday, July 14
Today, Martin, Rod and myself went to the old city of Torcello (it wasn't worth the long boat ride) while Andy visited the city. The bathrooms on the boat were Japanese style, in other words "holes". Torcello was only inhabited by 100 people who tried to swindle you into buying cheap glassware. The church there was sort of interesting, demonstrating a basilica, a tomb, a statue of Jesus on the cross, and a grotto which wasn't intended to be there. One of the rooms showed how the island was sinking with seepage of water.
We were unable to return in time to meet Andy at 1:00 at the hostel so we, Martin, Rod and I, proceeded to catch the boats to Lido, costing about 50 Lira per person. Once there, I was happy to see cars instead of gondolas and vaporettos (only of value to those accompanied by a girlfriend or wife). We ambled for quite a while along private beaches until we came upon the public beach, which was at least as crowded as Santa Monica. The water was typically Mediterranean, it couldn't have been more warm and refreshing. The bathing suit, or as Martin would call it, "bathing costume", was very small, being a European one, and my tan cut off where American trunks extend, leaving a white area that looked sort of funny.
Upon returning from Lido, we stopped off at a Pizzeria and had what I found to be rather small pizzas. Then, Andy offered wine to me again back at the hostel and I drank and drank. Wow, what a thirst! Then we went to the little store again for another liter of Fanta (I like it better than Coke) at 220 Lira. Then, Andy offered me wine back at the hostel again?! The hockey, I mean soccer game was so much fun, we spent 150 L. each to continue a marathon hour, and then talked to Martin about South Africa, almost a fascist dictatorship controlled and restricted by BOSS (Bureau of State Security) which is the secret police. They have Mediterranean type of weather.
Monday, July 15
We saw the people from Bell Gardens again at the railroad station, and picked up our backpacks and left Venice. We didn't see Andy for awhile because he wasn't totally sure that we were in a second class car (first class would cost us extra) and went all the way to the other end of the train. Martin bought a bottle of wine which was passed around, and we told lousy, campy but entertaining jokes to pass the time. We were lucky because the train wasn't filled and congested like those to Venice.
I was anticipating Florence (Firenze) to be good and it was. On the train we met our honorary sixth Zany by the name of Hank Collins, from New York, 21 years old. He is going into his senior year in college majoring in psychology. He knew a great deal about Firenze and explained the surrounding architecture. We were rejoined by Andy on the train and he brought still another bottle of wine.
After stashing our packs at the station we hiked to the hostel, had a cheap meal, fixed price, including spaghetti, minestrone, salad, wine, bread, and melon. Hank, Martin, Andy, Rod and I went back into the city and saw the Duomo, a delicate, intricate building featuring marble in white, green and red, creating some fabulous designs. Then we wandered over to see a copy of Michelangelo's David, one of three in the city, this one being in front of the Palazzo Vecchio. To my surprise, on the right was a statue of Mercury with Medusa's head in his hand, the one found on the famous cover of Edith Hamilton's book Mythology.
We ambled by the Uffizi Gallery adorned by statues on the exterior, across the bridge bordered by tiny stores (the Ponte Vecchio) selling fruit, magazines, or knick-knacks, and sat in front of the palace near the hostel behind which there were the botanical gardens. Having had ice cream on the way, we eventually returned to the hostel, 1000 Lira per person per night, and went to sleep.
Tuesday, July 16
Today we returned to the Uffizi and went inside the museum, free with our student cards. It varied its theme having many Roman busts, and including some paintings of Christ. Amazing coincidence once more brought David together with us as we ran into him on the way out. He said he was staying at the international hostel across town for 850 Lira a night, the hostel being formerly a villa and quite beautiful.
After that we walked up to another San Marco Square, where the original David by Michelangelo was located. Walking along the hall I suddenly saw it looming under a vault dome structure with illumination from the hotel in the center of the dome. This was truly great and inspired thusly I took Martin's pencil and sketch pad, and quickly drew a side view of him and really got into it, getting a feeling of its contours and shadows. Somehow it looked larger here in the museum and though his muscles seemed to bulge it gave me the impression of stability, sturdiness, and solidity, rather than tenseness. The statue was the epitome of strength and as I said before, stability. Though I only spent little more than a half hour on the sketch and made certain mistakes, it was still representing what I wanted to express. I'm sticking it in this journal for the time being. [Ed: it's not here.]
We spied a few churches and after splitting up from David, not to be confused with Michelangelo's, we found the National Gallery, the flea market, and still more churches. We had planned to rejoin David at the Red Kettle or Red Door (pick one), a restaurant that served only one fixed price meal for 1,500 Lira, but was supposed to be very filling and satisfying. That it was and more!! The owners served only one sitting of 20 people at 6:00, but we were served unlimited bread and wine, three different salads after an appetizer, caviar, and followed by chicken (or fish), rice curry, grapes, and sickle pears (they reminded me of the pears I ate off the trees at the Palace of Knossos in 1973).
I talked with a couple originally from New York and LA who live in Northern California near Berkeley. They hated New York and Nixon, referring to Watergate often. Martin added the fact that South Africa had a secret police and that was worse! Then I met a girl, 17, who was traveling with three others (wrong, make that two friends!). We were all filled at the end having enjoyed all of it.
Still stuffed like turkeys, we rolled over to the Piazza Vecchio and asked some people where Vivoli's was. On arrival, we were baffled at the exotic flavors. First I had raspberry for 300 Lira, then a 400 Lira with chocolate mousse and coffee. The ice cream was great, it wasn't like Baskin Robbins but instead it was sort of pasty, but oh so good!
Unfortunately Andy had a little too much and was feeling sort of lousy. David once again split-up temporarily going to the hostel (our group had enlarged to six) and we went back to the Santa Monica. I was making my way up the stairs when I looked out the window taking in some fresh air and just happened to see into the girl's shower room! (ho ho ho) Boy, I got an eyeful and just happened to pass by that window a few more times before the night was out (I should have said that this was an unabridged version). But, enough kid stuff, that's not really important.
Wednesday, July 17
David met Andy to leave for Rome a day early while Hank, Martin, Rod and I went back to the botanical gardens and then went to the Piazza Michelangelo where the other copy of the David was located. It was sort of green-colored, set in a plaza that gave a wonderful overview of Firenze. Afterwards we walked to the Museum of Science but it was closed (our student cards wouldn't have worked anyway!) so we went back to Vivoli's, had lemon which was very strong just as the rum crisp was. Then we walked way out to the edge of town, to a swimming pool, and had a refreshing swim (we also had the chance to watch some Italian men do their thing on an unsuspecting American female). Italians were an enormous change from the reserved Swiss, Germans, and Austrians; they were loud and not as orderly.
We listened to "Rebel, Rebel" and then made our way back to the center of the city and Vivoli's of course. We ate a cheap stand-up meal of spaghetti and a glass of mineral water, also. Then, we shared a two-liter bottle of wine which made me slightly light-headed. I was surprised that I wasn't hit by any cars; that's another thing to note: drivers don't try to push like Greek or Turkish drivers and will stop if you're in the intersection. Imagine that! They actually try to avoid accidents!
We returned to the hostel; I wrote a bit in the journal before turning in (as I write this I'm in Rome – a couple of hours ago I was nearly a week behind in this journal, now I'm only two days behind!). I can safely say I liked Florence as much as I disliked Venice: the David, Vivoli's, the museums; I believe that Florence had something new to offer on every street corner. Walking around a city is, in my opinion, definitely the best way to see it, get to know it, and remember it.
Thursday, July 18
We left the hostel headed for the railway station to press on to Rome. We saw one train that left at about 9:00 AM, but it was, to our misfortune, what is known as a Rapidi which would cost us extra and only had first class. The next train, a Diretto, which had second class seating, left at 10:21 leaving us 1-1/2 hours to kill, so we took advantage of that by changing some more money and buying some bread and cheese, which happened to be Kraft, and sort of had a picnic. Hank used his pocket knife to cut the loaf of bread, which also came in handy for opening bottles (Lord knows we've had enough "vino", wine, or Fanta, Coke, and Lemonade bottles to be opened. Hank's pocketknife was exactly the same as Martin's though they purchased them thousands of miles apart.
After polishing that off, we went over to the tracks to await the train. Once more there were drinking fountains which help to was down food. Italy had many fountains just as Switzerland did, in contrast to the lack of drinking fountains in Germany, Austria, or last summer in Greece. Yes, we actually opened Pandora's box and drank the water. In fact, we also defied nature by enjoying some Italian salads, believe it or not!
The train was inexplicably late, a half hour late. Up till then, my experience with trains led me to believe that they all arrived and departed exactly as scheduled. When we boarded the train, we found it was almost filled. As it turned out, the (ugh!) aisle was where we sat. Trains conveniently have fold-out seats; just pull on the handle in the wall and wammo! -you've got a seat. We put our packs up on the rack; mine was hanging precariously because of the curved Kelty frame. I was wondering whether it would fall off. Before, it sat in the same way, but it was more stable in the compartments; now we were out in the aisle. To my chagrin, the pack fell square on my head (or fell on my square head, it depends on how you look at it!). Luckily for me, I had bought some Ritz crackers and placed them in one of the side pockets of my pack. To make my handbag lighter, I'd put more stuff in the pack making it weigh 25 lbs. The crash of 25 lbs. on my head was sufficiently absorbed by the crackers that my pack and I felt no ill effects or damages from it. The box was crushed, but the crackers inside were still intact.
Inside the compartment were two American girls, both just graduated from Denver University and intended to become grammar school teachers in their respective home towns, Boston and Chicago. Debbie was from the former while Carol was from the latter, and the two had met each other at the university. They had bought box lunches including chicken, potato chips, pears, cake, and wine (or coke), but filled up quick so they gave us some of it in return for a couple cups of water. They sang some American folk songs to the Italians they were sitting next to. Apparently those were the ones they intended to get their future classes to sing.
Eventually we arrived in Rome after a 3-1/2 hour ride. When we got off, we were joined by our 7th Zany by the name of Don, who goes to Northern Illinois, and soon after in the information center we were joined by Miguel, a Mexican, who was quiet and soft-spoken, our 8th Zany. Imagine out group swelling to 8. We of course have people coming in and out from time to time, and the size changes like a variable star.
We reached a hostel near the river Tevere (Tiber). We walked to the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, and the Piazza Venezia before having dinner at Mario's, which was an experience in itself. The service was more than slow, it was like waiting for the second coming of Christ. I must have broke a house rule or tradition by ordering something other than a fixed price dinner, because there was a space of an hour between each dish I ordered. The reason might also lie in the fact that there was only one waiter to serve a section holding at least 25 people. In all it took 2-1/2 hours, but it must be said that the food was tasty and most important, I guess it was cheap.
As for the sights, the Roman Forum was fun to walk around in, mainly since it reminded me of the many ruins I'd visited in Greece the year before. The feeling that I get from a place like that is one of exploring, investigating, and discovering. I've always kind of liked the idea of going to an archaeological site sometime if I could. Right across the street from it was the Colosseum, which wasn't as huge as I'd imagined it to be; it certainly wasn't nearly large enough to play baseball in. One note: the cat population of Rome must equal that of the humans. I've never seen so many cats in my whole life! It was reminiscent of "Planet of the Apes", only it seemed that here the feline civilization rose to prominence and reigned over Rome (sorry, as I've said before my spelling and grammar won't be so good because I haven't the time to correct, reread, or censor it).
From there, we walked along the main boulevard which led to the Piazza Venezia, where a marvelous building, the Vittoriano, stood. It wasn't colorful, but rather grand and majestic, a center square from where many major streets radiated out like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Afterwards, we wandered over to the Trevi Fountain, where supposedly street gangs used to fight over collecting the coins people would throw in, resulting in the police stepping in and collecting the money for itself (I don't make up these stories, I just call ‘em as I see ‘em). We were told some none-to-comforting stories about Italy, but frankly I've enjoyed it so far, especially since it's cheap.
But getting back to the sights we saw, I will conclude by saying we circumambulated the Pantheon, though it was closed. The hostel included sheets and the use of the baggage room in the 900 lira price. This gave me a chance to air out my sheets. Soon I'll be forced to do the laundry; the smell of the dirty clothes becomes rapidly more and more overpowering!
Friday, July 19
Today, we started off by visiting the Vatican and the Piazza S. Pietro with two beautiful fountains and long rows of columns adorned by myriads of statues. Rome was supposed to be hot like Athens was last year, so we dressed ourselves in shorts. One must show respect at churches and therefore obey the wishes, however trivial, and be properly dressed. The attendant told us to go over and get something which the church provides for proper "protection". We were forced to give a 100-lira offering for the black plastic coats (which were stupid because they failed to cover our legs with any degree adequacy any!). The basilica was enormous featuring busts and statues of former Popes over the centuries, as well as the Pieta. The paintings and general scope of the place were breathtaking. I still can't get over how ridiculous I looked in that costume.
After that thrilling episode, we rounded the perimeter of the walls of Vatican City and entered the Vatican Museum including the Sistine Chapel. It was so large that we spent two hours and a half in it. It even had a display of mummies (in the Vatican? No, impossible!) and Greek vases. Michelangelo, of course, painted Last Judgment and the Volta in the Sistine Chapel which were absolute masterpieces. (By the way, in working his way through the ranks of journeyman, apprentice, etc., for one to become a master and have people working under him, he must do his masterpiece which is where the word, as it is widely applied, was derived. Hank told me that.)
After that exhausting museum marathon, we wanted to have lunch, and, since we hadn't had breakfast, we were willing to spend a little more (there is a difference between spending a little more and splurging). One place had advertised a fixed price meal for 1300 lira. However, in trying to find out whether the cover charge, bread, and wine were included, we felt that we were being given the runaround. Though she brought a bottle of wine to the table, we didn't want to get shafted, and since she was so incoherent and paid so little attention to us, we got up and left. We found a much cheaper place and had a stand-up meal.
From there we passed by St. Angelo where Hadrian's Tomb was located, but the place was closed at 1:00, so we went on to the Spanish Steps to the American Express to meet Andy and David. We arrived early and had time to get some stuff to eat. While buying cookies I discovered the meaning of d'Etto which meant "per 100 grams". That changed the whole complexion of buying anything from bread to cheese. We waited for awhile, but Andy and David didn't show. Later on, we were to find that a lot of things wouldn't show, including the Pope. It rained a bit, so we decided that, even though not meeting the two might mean not seeing them until the charter flight back, we should find a place to eat. Hank and Rod remembered a pizzeria near the Pantheon, so that's where we headed. It was wonderful to fill up on pizzas of all kinds including one that had spinach filling (hear that Mom?) and each piece only cost 100 lira with the most expensive costing 120 lira (with mushrooms). We intended to visit it often during out stay in Rome, but it was closed over the weekend. Most places give you very little pizza; on the contrary, at this pizzeria, if the pizza weighed just a gram too little, more would be added so that you got your money's worth.
We ambled back to the hostel stopping here and there, really getting to know the city. There was still some time before the midnight curfew, so we went back out to enjoy more of the city. We told Martin and Miguel, who went off on their own today, about the pizzeria, and we, too, ended up going back, but we returned too late and it was closed by 9:00 when we arrived. From there we stopped by the Trevi Fountain the second time during our stay in Rome, went back to the Spanish Steps, walked around awhile longer, and finally returned to our youth hostel to get some much needed sleep.
Saturday, July 20
The hostel sold sandwiches for 100 lira so that it substituted for breakfast. We ventured past the Piazza Venezia and the Colosseum to reach a mausoleum called "St. Peter in Chains". It was interesting in a mysterious way with a relief on one of the side walls showing St. Peter with horns! It was bizarre, that's the word, bizarre! From this church it was easier to find the next (in searching for directions to this church, we had many incorrect suggestions and had to slowly zero in on the target), which was located in the vicinity of the train station. It was beautiful, but only in the ordinary sense. There wasn't anything that stood in my mind, nothing significant to remember it by.
While we were near the station we checked the train situation and decided that the most expedient train to take would be 8:25 on Monday. The distance from the train station to the Olympic Stadium (Rome had the honor of hosting the 1960 Summer Olympics) was quite large leaving almost no choice but to take a bus, which only cost 50 lira per person anyway. The Foro Italico was adjacent to the Olympic Stadium and was decorated with a great deal of statues portraying different Olympic events regardless of whether they were ancient or modern ones which we see today. It was built in the style of the Delphic stadium and was pleasant to look at as well.
It began to rain or, at any rate, drizzle (this day was sort of overcast creating a slightly blah feeling). We took another bus to the Ville Borghese, went to the Museum of Modern Art, but it was closed (yet another no show). Somewhat bothered by the early closing hours (1:00 pm or 12:00) we went to a sure bet, the zoo! The animals were a nice change from churches and museums, some gorillas drank coke, chimps and mandrills demonstrated their tremendous catching ability, one-handing peanuts thrown to them by visitors like a Brooks Robinson.
We wandered slowly out of the park, finding in the process an underground parking lot in the most unlikely place. Above it was a field that hardly led on to the existence of the lot; the elevators totally baffled me at first. From there we hiked back to find a place to eat and we did! It was on the street that we usually take back to the hostel and I got two pizzas, a roll filled with meat and stuffing, and two large, sugary, satisfying donuts. That almost filled me for only 850 lira, but later on the way back I got a chocolate ice cream cone (the chocolate was smooth and rich!).
We ran into a festival of some sort which featured a carnival atmosphere and loads of cheering, excited Italians. However, we were sort of tired, so we returned to the hostel to do some writing in this journal and met a couple interesting people. First there was Amidou, an Egyptian who could literally speak 7 languages (it was interesting to hear him speak German), and he told me that he'd been LA after buying a car in Vancouver. He didn't like Los Angeles because it was expensive, spread out, lousy transportation and hectic in the downtown area. I also met Perry, a black Britisher who in a year or more would get his Masters and his Ph.D. He said he'd bought a shirt, made out of good material, had nice looks, and was only 350 lira! I really wanted to find the place but couldn't; I guess I didn't try hard enough. He had a bit of an accent and told about his parents who were very proper. He was really a great guy. He said that he was meeting another guy in Yugoslavia in a week. After that, lights out.
Sunday, July 21
Today, we began with another 100 lira sandwich before heading off for what was going to be apparently our best view of Rome. Of course, there aren't any mountains to speak of, so the view wasn't much. I probably could have had the same view from a three-story building. I was rather pissed off when tons of tourist buses came rolling up the hill; they seem to be everywhere. It just destroyed the atmosphere when we saw so many tourists moving in and out of San Marco Square. Not that they hadn't any rights to be there, but that they all seemed to center in one area all at once.
After walking down the hill, we went to the Piazza San Pietro to see the Pope come out at 12:00, which is what he does every Sunday. That's what we thought! Waiting at least an hour, we had the misfortune of hearing a message over the loudspeaker saying that the Pope was at his summer home, but that the people in the Square could listen. Big deal to hear the Pope! We wanted to see him. He turned out to be another no show!
Just by chance, we ran into Martin there, however we split up again because he hadn't seen the Vatican yet. Hoping to make up for that loss, we headed for the Church of St. Angelo, where the Hadrian's Tomb was located. That turned out to be still another no show! Darn (a euphemism for "Damn") it! Missed another sight. It closed (now hold on) at 12:00 noon for the whole day!
In disbelief, we walked along a main blvd., and happened to find yet another pizzeria (we saw a second one just before going to the railroad station). This one was a bit more expensive, but the pizza was good just the same. We walked only a block further when I spotted ice cream for 50 lira. The shopkeeper showed me that it was a misprint, but I just acted dumb, pointing to my 50-lira coin, so he gave it to me for only that amount (what a steal!).
Just by sheer coincidence, Martin came down the same street, stopped at the very same pizzeria, and then met us again. We were planning to go to the catacombs, but we had a little extra time because of all the no shows. I wanted to see the Circus Maximus so I convinced everybody else to come along. On the way there, Hank and I discussed music, most specifically soul music, and said that he'd liked to have heard a new song which his friend told him about, but his friend misquoted the name, calling it Where You Got the Notion. Setting the matter straight, I told him that it was called Rock the Boat and that it was just recently #1 in the states. I told Rod at that moment that I'd bought the record a day before leaving.
After talking for awhile, we came to the Circus Maximus, which really could be termed a "Circus Minimus". All that remained was a field fitting the general shape of an ellipse, not much at all. On we trudged, heading for a pyramid. It turned out to be a bit more interesting, especially since it too was inhabited by a horde of cats. We decided to also try and squeeze in the Roman Baths. It took us some time to reach because of fortress-like walls which were the outskirts of ancient Rome. It gave me an extremely funny impression at first of being the locale for a Hollywood, Cecil B. Demille classic with the formidable statues (actually modern man works quicker and cheaper than the ancient Egyptians making his statues out of wood and plaster of paris). Actually an opera or play was performed there and the baths seemed almost nonexistent as well as the toilets (Jesus, I really had to go to the restroom!).
We walked from there to the Colosseum to catch the bus to the catacombs. At all these sights, our Student Identification Cards pulled more magic for us. We arrived viewing a bus which was about to leave, so we hopped on it. We sure had a haphazard way of choosing the proper mode of transportation, but it just happened to be the right one. As coincidence would have it, Miguel jumped on the bus just before we got off for the catacombs.
At the catacombs, we saw a film describing the many features of the catacombs (I found that Americans frequently comprised the majority of tourists at most places). The part which I enjoyed most of all was of course experiencing it for myself. The feeling it gave me was sort of spooky! It was quite a nice (not to be confused with the city on the French Riviera by the same name) change of paste [sic] (also not to be confused with the Italian type of food), from the usual, dull, redundant churches.
We met some guys who told us about a cheap, but filling stand-up, self-service restaurant in the vicinity of the railroad station, a row of Gelati's (ice cream parlors), and a monastery decorated with the bones of fellow monks who had passed away (dirty cannibals!) which they showed us a picture of (oh, so lovely?!). We were leaving the very next morning, so we didn't have time to see it. All the Gelati's seemed rather ubiquitous much like McDonald's, except for the section where we were supposed to find the best ones according to these guys. Instead, we found a Wimpy Burger place, McDonald's' New Yorker counterpart, but we refrained from eating there. We ambled back for a third time (or at least I think it was the third?) to the Trevi Fountain and had a lemon and creme cone to boot.
We passed by the old pizzeria again, but like everything in this very religious country on Sunday, it was closed. No show again! But we saw a lot in Rome, including the police or carabinieri which was active getting ready to deal with what some people told us was a Communist demonstration. There was an awful large amount of graffiti on monuments, street signs, and the like, communicating the Communist slogans, defacing a lot of beautiful, respectable sights.
I talked with Perry when we returned to the hostel; he was a very handsome, lively soul who rounded out a tiring, but constructive day in "smashing" (as he would say) style. He also had a girlfriend who he referred to saying he was sort of glad to be free of her temporarily. I told him I still hadn't found the place where he bought his inexpensive yellow shirt. In the meantime, I exchanged addresses with Martin and finally caught some sleep.
Monday, July 22
Once more we were able to get a strong start with the
breads, meats, coffee, and an egg, this time hard-boiled which I
actually enjoyed. Today we went on a memorable journey through
East Berlin. We took the tube to Kochstrasse which was only 50
yards from famous Checkpoint Charlie, one of two common checkpoints,
the other being at Friedrichstrasse. Before putting ourselves
through the process of entering "no man's land" to reach East Berlin,
we toured the Haus am Checkpoint Charlie and saw the whole history of
the escapes, attempts, protests, and conflicts and the like set up much
as the Anne Frank House. After turning the place inside out
reading everything and anything, we then walked unassuredly past the
"Allied Checkpoint" sign and then still another, which was very
sobering, which read, "You are now leaving the American sector".
It was then that I realized how real World War II and then the cold war
actually was. Here I saw the blockades, walls, barbed wire
fences, watchtowers, and soldiers. We waited for quite some time
in order to get through; it took up about 45 minutes altogether.
We had to exchange 5 DM/west for the same amount in DM/ost though
DM/west were worth 4 times more in the exchange rates. We
actually got 10 DM/ost since we didn't have any change.
Fortunately things were quite inexpensive; Berliner Weisse was only
about -.65 DM which was cheaper than West Berlin. In fact I've
come to enjoy it very much and hope that I might be able to find it in
I immediately got that cold chill feeling almost exactly
of Orwell's 1984; the streets were wide, but empty of cars,
pedestrians, or cafes on its sidewalks. Police, or the Volks
Polizei, as they're known were everywhere, and I thought that I was
fast becoming paranoid since I would continuously glance over my
shoulder. We read that it gave the most vivid feeling of gloom on
a cold, rainy day. Yesterday would have sufficed, however today
was the first time that the sun had appeared in Berlin in quite
awhile. Still you had that eerie tingling down your spine.
There was virtually nothing at all in the way of entertainment, a
direct and clear contrast to West Berlin where there was always
something. No bars, discos, and in fact few cafes either (they
had a funny way of reserving tables considering that the restaurants
were all of a lower standard). There was almost no place to spend
our money. I can't stress anything as much as that. The
only thing which East Berlin had were people and a few museums, nothing
We walked along huge, empty Friedrichstrasse till we came to Unter
den Linden, which we walked to the end to see the fabulous Brandenburg
Gates from the inside out. We walked the length of this avenue
past the Museum Island and also past what was supposed to be the site
of the Marx Engles Platz, however a new building was being constructed
on the land there, and I would think that it no longer exists. We
came to the Marienkirche, the oldest church in East Germany, and
fruitlessly waited in line to see the panorama from atop the Television
Tower. For some reason they regulated the small number of people
who could go up and see the view at respective intervals, which caused
us to waste half an hour and if we hadn't left probably still another
half hour at least.
We went back and saw the Pergamon Museum which had not only the
altar, but large columns etc. from other civilizations such as the
Assyrians. By this time I wasn't afraid to take pictures; Lorena
told me beforehand that it was okay to bring my camera into East Berlin
though Dad said not to. We also said the Red Rathaus, or city
hall, which seemed unoccupied now, not unlike everything else in the
city (a double negative for a metropolis which could also be called a
double negative of sorts).
We went into the Hedwig Church which was similar to the Pantheon
which we'd seen in Rome. We also went to a Russian war memorial
with a tomb to the "Unbekkanter Soldat". It was guarded outside
by two Russian soldiers, and at 5:00 pm we saw the changing of the
guards, getting a look at their marching using the infamous "goose
step". We had to get rid of our DM/ost since you aren't allowed
to bring them in or take them out of East Germany. Unfortunately
nothing was open and I mean nothing! That was ont he main street
yet, the biggest boulevard in East Berlin and we couldn't even buy a
glass of water or a toothpick. Saddled with the coins we laid
them on the ground, and later when we were leaving we saw a
or something sounding like that, which extra, left-over money was put
into. Better to have left it in the street and leave it for a
poor person than to give it right back to the government.
The departure wasn't as involved as I thought it would be.
They only checked our passports before letting us reenter the civilized
world. It really was out of this world, a totally off-beat
experience drumming up feelings of fear that war could flare up at any
moment. There seemed to be a lack of culture as well as
self-expression, but a great abundance of oppression.
I took numerous photos of Checkpoint Charlie before returning by
tube to the Ku Damm. Once there we had soft eis, pizza at the
pizzeria we ate at yesterday (today they played two, count 'em two
songs by Al Green, "Stand Up" and "You Ought to Be With Me"!), then
finally the third Eden, Big Eden, where I talked to a 17-year-old girl
from near Düsseldorf called Althea or something Spanish like that;
it could hardly have been a German name. I told her about my trip
and then I in turn listened to her talk about her travels to
Ireland. She knew one of the barmaids and had a coke on the
house. She was thoroughly surprised when I told her I was
sixteen, and told me she thought I was older. She said that it
was unusual to find someone of my age in a place like Big Eden.
Just to tease me afterwards she told me that it was my "bed
time". Nevertheless it was the first time I socialized with such
a stranger chatting at a bar like that. I guess I'm still at that
teenage stage of my life where I'm testing everything, trying new
things and hoping to gain maturity. On the contrary, though, I
can see where gaining maturity might be related to not having to prove
masculinity or penetrating shallow goals and discovering for yourself
what should genuinely be valued. Hank said it best when he
mentioned to me, "Let it happen naturally as a part of life, don't
force things which shouldn't or needn't be forced; for some people it
might not happen at all, so big deal!" Still I had to say I
enjoyed exchanging experiences and thoughts with her, which I similarly
liked to do with anybody at all regardless of race, color, or
sex. That's the way to make the best use of bars - to meet all
sorts of people and learn from them and hopefully you can contribute
something to them also.
I said goodbye earlier than I might otherwise have wanted to since
the night needed to be used for writing, and soon afterwards for
sleeping so we could cram in all of the sights we had yet to see.
Just for your information, I initiated the conversation with the
question, "Ist es immer so voll hier oder nur am Wochenende?".
Lucky for me she spoke English quite well since the Big Eden was
crowded and noisy. Rod and I returned to the Beckers' and ate
some delectable plum pie which was left for us. I, of course, am
writing now in this journal at 1:30 am to catch up.
Sunday, August 25
We were left with one day to see the rest of interesting sights in
West Berlin. We started off by walking down Martin Luther Strasse
to the Schöneberg Rathaus where John F Kennedy said, "Ich bein ein
Berliner," the summer preceding his assassination. The Rathaus
was celebrating its 60th year as well; it's been, of course, much more
recently that it became the city hall of West Berlin. We planned
to leave Berlin later that evening, so we took the tube from the
Rathaus to the Zoo Station and purchased tickets to Heimstadt, the
border city just inside West Germany, from where our student rail
would be of value once again. The tickets cost a bit less than 20
DM whereas the tickets from Hamburg cost 28 DM, and if we'd taken the
train from Copenhagen to Berlin via Gedser it would've cost about 42
We left the station by S-bahn to the Victory Column. I'd only
a few exposures left on my roll, so I became very selective until we
returned to the apartment and got a new roll. After walking
around to the front of the enormous, golden structure, we ambled past
the Bellevue Palace, the residence of the Chancellor when he is in West
Berlin, which had the same sort of entrance facade as the White
House. In the Tiergarten we saw, as you would expect, a lot of
little animals: rabbits, porcupines, and the like. Through the
trees we had a view of our next destination, the Congress Hall, which
we had also been to the day before yesterday. In the fountain we
saw the most unnerving sight, which was of remote-controlled,
scale-model ships which could go in reverse as well as forward.
One shot firecrackers into the air like missiles which exploded with
quite a startling jolt.
Soon after, we went to the picture taking highlight of the day, the
Brandenburg Gate and its surroundings. We were lucky to find an
especially well-centered view of the Russian War Memorial, guarded by
Russian soldiers who have to be guarded by East Germans, West Germans,
and Britons since a Russian guard was shot once. We also took a
shot of the gate itself from the West this time. To our surprise
the Reichstag was accessible though we were only able to penetrate its
cafeteria for a Berliner Weisse. We also snatched some literature
pertaining to the history of the Reichstag which was free of
charge. The building was burned down around 1935 or so, and now
stands as monumental as before with a classical facade.
We had returned simply to get closer looks or take photos of these
historical sights. We still had time so we took the U-Bahn to the
Olympic Stadium and as luck would have it, there was a North West
German track meet which proceeded so slowly that it got tiring to wait
for each event. I can categorically state that Birmingham High
track meets are run smoother as well as faster. I put Rod out of
his misery by walking about finding a plaque with the winners of each
event in the 1936 games with Jesse Owens' name heading the list.
We walked from there to the Teufelsberg, a hill built upon the remains
and ruins of World War II as a reminder of peace.
Lorena and Hartmut were there earlier the same day to go grass
skiing, but returned home before we got there. We found
remote-controlled model airplanes which were even more interesting to
watch than the model boats earlier. One was so extravagant as to
release a parachute upont he command of the owner. These owners
and patrons of model gliders were not young kids, but on the contrary,
were common adults out to enjoy a Sunday afternoon. One didn't
use his head and tried to throw the plane over the field instead of
over the cliff to catch the updrafts for a take off.
We relaxed there for a while before calling it quits and returning
to the Zoo Station and finding a pizzeria where we filled up on
spaghetti and pizza. We had some soft eis before going back to the
Beckers' to collect our packs. They were kind enough to invite us
to have some drinks with them just before taking us to the
station. First I had helles or light beer, and then I couldn't
resist the offer of a Berliner Weisse. I also listened intently
to, "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" by Donnie Ellert which reminded me just how
much I wanted to listen to the full sound of my stereo.
Berlin has provided me with many pleasant surprises which I've
previously described, therefore though we are approaching the time to
go home, I wish I could stay longer in Germany's largest city.
But all bad things must have a beginning as all good things must come
to an end; I do look forward to seeing all my friends and telling each
one of them as vividly as I can about what I've seen, learned or in any
other way experienced. I want to relax and take pleasure int he
comforts of home and the old routine. I've come to have a routine
on this trip, one which is too rapidly paced since I find all too often
we frenetically run here and there to see this and that, tired or
not! I can't believe that I've been away so long and now I can't
believe either that it's time to go back home. We thanked the
Beckers for making our visit to Berlin so pleasant and easy. We
told them if they come to America in 1976 for the Olympics in nearby
Montreal that they're welcome to our house. At 11:00 pm, we said
a last "Wiedersehen" to the Beckers and got a compartment all to
ourselves on the train.
Monday, August 26
I woke up after a few hours of sleep to find the train had stopped
in Essen, where we had topped through earlier. I went back to
sleep and finally we reached Köln, so I stayed awake the last
fraction of the train ride to be ready to disembark. Before we could
even get out of the station, we were confronted with the huge, gothic
cathedral which equaled Notre Dame in size and grandeur. I had
to back-peddle for several hundred feet in order to capture a shot of
the dome which would include ever spire of it. On the inside it
was spacious, but sparsely decorated and contained a marvelous
organ. I also saw a plaque reminding me of those I'd seen in
Westminster Abbey, dedicated to Kaiser Wilhelm I. When I was on
one of the bridges which spanned the Rhine, I took a good photo which
included part of the old market, the cathedral, the station, and
another large bridge.
We walked around only a short time longer before heading for Bonn to
catch the Rhine Steamer. However at Bonn we learned of some
unforeseen problems: our father said that it would only take 5 hrs for
the whole thing, but actually it took 13 hrs, and it left Bonn 3 or
more hours before we got there. We were almost going to skip it
and go instead to Trier, however the best idea which we followed up was
to catch the ship at Koblenz. While it took the ship 5 hrs or
more to go from Bonn to Koblenz, it only took us 30 minutes to get
Although the Rhein trip is free with the student rail pass, we had
sit out on the side deck. The train ran along the side of the
river all the way to Mainz and did it far quicker. Still, it was
relaxing to take the time to drift past castles and small German
towns. When we passed the Lorelei, the song of the Lorelei was
played over a loudspeaker on the ship, sounding just like the version
that I'd heard on the tape recorder in Melden's class. The
scenery was pretty, but we decided to get off early at Bingen since we
wanted to stay in a hostel and would be arriving at 9:00 pm in Mainz,
which was too late. We were lucky to latch onto two French
people, one called Theresa, she was a doctor, and her brother, who we
had pizza later with. We made it to the hostel and got in a room
with wild, rowdy Scots and young English boys.
Tuesday, August 27
We ate breakfast with Theresa and her brother. He spoke a
little German and even less English so I talked to him in German and we
managed to communicate. We walked down to the station at Bingen
and caught the next train to Heidelberg. We stashed our packs in
lockers at the station and walked to the old section of the city in the
Neckartal and walked past many pizzerias, record shops, and other
assorted student-oriented facilities. I was enchanted with the
rusty color of the castle against the green, foresty backdrop with the
statue of the baroque, golden style in the foreground which made a
frequent picture for the covers of Heidelberg tourists books and
guides. The view from the castle was fascinating, displaying the
bridge, the Neckar river, the church spires, and the red roofs of
tudor-styled houses. I only had a very limited number of shots
because I failed to bring along an extra roll of film, leaving me
restricted to shooting only the best of photos.
Heidelberg was as green as any city which I'd seen in England and
had a blue river cutting and winding between the beautiful, rolling
hills with the new, modern, industrious university city spreading and
sprawling out on the plain in the distance. We walked down to the
Rathaus and started a walking tour of the old city, passing by the
birthplace of Friedrich Ebert, the first Reich president, a house where
Goethe wrote during his prime, and the bridge decorated with a statue
of Athena and St George, to name a few. We also walked past some
university structures like the library, all having brilliant
facades with relief sculpture of such people such as, once
again, St. George. I also took the opportunity to get a coke,
cookies, and wafers at one of the many markets along the Hauptstrasse.
We unfortunately didn't have the time to go on the Philosopher's
Walk which had some great views, and was a relaxing way to enjoy the
nature all around you. That will have to wait until I return to
Europe and certainly Heidelberg will be visited. It gave the same
feeling of pleasantness and tranquility that Grindelwald gave me.
We were obligated to meet Andy and David at 6:00 pm, platform 1, of
the Frankfurt Main HBF (Rod has misplaced a note which he made, but
searched carefully, revealing it in his flea-bitten wallet). We
met Andy, but not David, who we met the next day at 12:00 noon at the
same place. After talking for awhile, at the station we got a
room for 3 at Elben Hotel, 3 blocks from the station, costing 59 DM all
together. We ate at an Asian restaurant having a dinner for 3
costing 55 DM n all. One man near our table brought his dog in,
and the dog hassled the waiter. We walked past Frankfurt's Red
Jokes and Sayings
"Why do all the trains go to Bahnsteig?"
"Oh no, we're back in Bahnsteig!"
"Oh, we were supposed to transfer at Freilassing!"
"King Rod II and his insane brother" - allusion to King Ludwig II of Bavaria.
"Trattoria must have a monopoly of restaurants because the only places to eat fall under that name."
"Oh no, we're back in Binario!"
"Hey, isn't that the original copy of the David?"
"Oh, do you blow your nose properly," Perry quoted, "Firenze, Roma, and countryside, lend me your ears of corn!"