Can you believe that when we first went to Europe in the early 70s, the compulsory travel reading was Frommer’s Europe on $10 a Day (that’s per person). What we’d give to be able to do that now…I doubt even the most frugal backpacker could manage it! We’d decided to exchange our employment-funded return-to-Australia fares for what would likely be our first and last trip to Europe taking our 1 year old and our 3 year old. What were we thinking??!!
We had all our flights booked when my parents offered to have the children to stay for the whole time. I’m not even going to tell you how long we deserted them for (hang our heads in shame), all I can say is that I was pleased to discover, years later, that my friend and former bridesmaid had left their kids behind for even longer. There’s always someone who’s worse than you <wink>. As it happened, Miss One came down with German measles soon after we left, so that alone made it a good decision to leave them behind. though who knows how many people she infected on the flight down (there was no immunisation at that point).
Having been teaching Miss Three that we were going to Athens and Rome, we now said “going to Grandma, going to the beach”. She was most definitely not amused and insisted “Go Rome, Go Athens!” She was so peeved with me, that she snubbed me entirely on the day I left but welcomed me with gusto when I returned, while Miss One sent me to Coventry.
If I recollect correctly we had the pretty paltry sum of about $2000 in travellers’ cheques (and no credit cards) to get us through the long holiday. We were fine until we reached Switzerland where we nearly died of shock at the prices. We soon learnt not to book through the tourist bureau but find a telephone book and suss out the location of various pensions (aka B&Bs) via a walk-by, having left our luggage in lockers. Remember this was the pre-internet, pre-Trip Advisor, pre-Wotif days.
Our first stop was Athens at 4 in the morning – so from the Highlands of PNG to the ancient seat of civilisation, a different alphabet and an unknown language, soon after the university student uprisings and towards the end of the military junta’s coup. We had sent the deposit for our first night’s accommodation by snail mail (the only option) and on arrival were relieved to discover they did indeed have our booking. Mr Cassmob remembers that our deposit came through a few days later, with a sliced-open and re-stuck-down envelope. We were also astonished that Greece was the only country where they knew where Papua New Guinea was, mainly because there were quite a few Greeks who’d travelled to Australia and their ships had gone via Port Moresby.
From there on, we hurtled from pillar to post in that quintessential image of a frenetic tourist rather than the “superior” traveller. Eurail was our best friend as we notched up the railway miles through ten countries visiting cathedrals and art galleries, watching cultural festivals (often by chance), and eating new and different food. We often saved money by sleeping on the train – no mean feat with passports and Eurail passes checked whenever you crossed a national border (no European Union then). And just for good measure, in between times I was receiving lecture notes by correspondence and writing assignments. We packed in anything and everything, either never expecting to be back, or knowing we’d have children in tow. Every once in a while we’d collapse for a few days in a place where we decided we were comfortable (and not going broke).
It was the most amazing experience, and as you will have gathered previously, not at all our final excursion to Europe, rather the start of a life-long addiction for travel…helped in no small measure by the increasing accessibility of long-distance travel and the decreasing cost. Prior to the 70s, travelling by boat to Europe from Australia was more the norm. Bearing in mind it took about 30 hours to fly to Europe with stops ex Moresby via Manila, Bangkok, Karachi, Teheran, Rome. There was no in-flight entertainment at all other than airline supplied magazines and papers, plus your own books. There were no iPads or iPods. Meal times were rigid and unable to be adjusted –you ate or you starved. You slept when you could and you got off at the transit stops. Smoking was also allowed throughout the aircraft which was less of a bother than one might assume given that everywhere you went, this was the case.
From a family history point of view (in which I had no interest in those far-off days), I wrote to my parents saying I didn’t like Austria but did like Germany (Bavaria in particular), so assuming perhaps my German name originated there (correct). Funny how life turns out isn’t it? There’s a good chance that along the way we may have passed through or near Dorfprozelten but little did I know. Now the main purpose of our travel is often family history sleuthing.
These images are scanned from photos and have lost colour, so I can see I’m going to have to go back to the slides and scan them for better clarity…another task for the “to do” list.