Eurailpass trip following high school graduation

August 1st 1968
Published: April 27th 2011
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Half an RTW in 1968

Amazingly I just found the two cassette tapes I recorded just after arriving in the States; so if the following is very detailed, it’s not from my memory 42 years after I took the trip!

1 August 1968 Thursday. My Mom and Dad took me to the airport at 5:30 pm after I said farewell to my dog Punky who had been my faithful pet since I was four years old. This was the last time I saw Punky. It would be four and a half years before I would return to Thailand following college; this time with my new wife, Linda.

My Swissair flight departed Bangkok about 8 pm.. On the 4 hour flight from Bangkok to Calcutta, I sat next to a biology professor from the University of Indiana. He was with a group on a round the world tour. They all got off at Calcutta. The plane was practically empty for the four hour flight to Karachi so I was able to get some sleep spread out across three seats. In Karachi, the plane filled up with Muslim pilgrims on their way to Mecca. It seemed that they had just come off the street. Their clothes were filthy and smelly. Now I know what the other passengers thought of me when I boarded the flight in Chiang Mai after my hike down from Doi Inthanon in January. The man sitting next to me was also really fat, so I was squeezed into my seat. I didn’t get any more sleep on the five hour flight to Athens.

2 August 1968 Friday. I arrived at the Athens airport about 3 am and caught the airlines bus into town. Swissair arranged a four star hotel for me for the rest of that night and the following night. I was using Arthur Frommer’s Europe On $5 Per Day as my guide book for finding hotels and restaurants for this trip, and the $6 I spent per night at this hotel was over budget. I only slept in until 7 am.

I walked around the downtown and located a travel agency to schedule a tour for that afternoon. The tour took me to the National Museum, the Acropolis, and a Greek Orthodox church on the top of a high hill in the center of Athens. The tour ended about 5 pm. I was starving for American food so ordered a hamburger and milkshake. The hamburger was full of chili spices, and the milk shake was cold lemon flavored milk…not what I had in mind. I had planned to return to the Acropolis at night to see the ruins again, but I had indigestion and jet lag, so returned to the hotel and got 12 hours sleep.

3 August 1968 Saturday. My flight to Rome left at 12:30 pm and I arrived in Rome about 3 pm. I caught the airport bus which deposited me at the Termini train station. From there I walked five blocks carrying my 25 pound suitcase and attaché case to the CREI office to obtain a youth hostel card. However, it being Saturday, the office was closed. An Italian gentleman noticed my predicament and asked if I needed a room. My answer in the affirmative resulted in me staying in his apartment for 400 lira per night (about $.65) with two other travelers, teachers who had just graduated from Arizona State. They recommended a restaurant just down the street, so I had a full spaghetti dinner for about $.50 (please not the decimal points in these prices…no wonder I could live on less than $5.00 per day!). I also booked a tour for the next morning.

4 August 1968 Sunday. I left my luggage in the room while I took the morning tour to the Borghese Gardens, the Piazza del Popolo, and the Vatican, where Mass was being celebrated. My train to Venice left Termini about 12:30 pm so I had to take a taxi back to my room to get my bags. I had a little panic when I couldn’t find the building where the apartment was, but after driving around a bit, found the room and made it to the train station just in time to activate my 21 day first class Eurailpass (cost $85.00, but was a graduation present from my Uncle Tom), and catch the train to Venice.

I hopped on the first car I got to and into the first compartment. Trains then were compartmentalized, with three seats on each side facing each other. These seats could be pulled together when traveling overnight, which made three sleeping spots if there were only three people in the compartment. I did this a number of nights.

Anyway, there was an American girl, Barbara, a language major from the University of Wisconsin, as the only occupant. We got to talking. She had to be in Vienna in three days to join up with a choral group that was touring Europe. She agreed to spend the next three days going with me to Venice, Innsbruck, and Salzburg. We arrived in Venice about 6 pm. We were going to a hostel recommended by Frommer, but it was full. Finding two single rooms proved to be difficult, but we found rooms in two separate pensiones.

5 August 1968 Monday. I took a vaparetto to St. Marks Square and spent the morning touring St. Mark’s Cathedral and the Doges Palace. I met Barbara back at the train station at noon to catch the train to Innsbruck. Sharing our compartment was a German lady and a child. It turned out that she was the governess. She was well acquainted with the area we passed through (the Dolomites and Brenner Pass) as she had been a member of a partisan group that was active in this area during WWII. She told us many stories of her wartime experiences. She told us that even today, the German speaking minority in northern Italy was treated
Trevi FountainTrevi FountainTrevi Fountain

I tossed in the three coins and wished to return someday...which I did many times.
as second class citizens and there were still tensions between these communities with the German speaking areas wanting to be a part of Austria. The trip through the Alps was just unbelievably beautiful with snow capped mountains all around. We had dinner on the train.

We arrived in Innsbruck about 6 pm and went to the tourist information both to reserve two single rooms. There were two guys in line with us, a Brit and an American from Southern California. There were only two doubles available at this gasthaus on the Inn River. The four of us took the two rooms. Barb whispered in my ear that she wanted me to share her room if there were only double beds in each room. I was a bit nervous about this. It turned out that the first room we looked into was a triple so Barbara was relieved to have a room of her own; as was I.

6 August 1968 Tuesday. Barbara and I had breakfast at the gasthaus at 8 am and then strolled around the town and the Hofgarten park. We bought bread, cheese, cold cuts, fruit, and chocolates for lunch. The train departed about 2 pm. The trip down the Inn Valley was as scenic as the day before. We arrived in Salzburg about 6 pm. Arriving late in the day pretty much guarantees that no single rooms would be available, so Barbara and another girl decided to share a double. That was where we parted. As I was trying to figure out where I would stay, an elderly lady with a daschund dog asked me if I needed a room. So for 50 schillings ($2.00) I stayed at a room above a shop on Mozartstrasse, right in the middle of the old town. There was a music student also sharing the room.

After unloading my bags, I went in search of a free concert as the Salzburg Music Festival was on. I met some Americans who seemed to know what they were doing, so we went to a free organ concert at the Dom zu Salzburg, their huge Gothic cathedral. Every time I watch the wedding scene in “The Sound of Music” where Julie Andrews glides down the aisle to the triumphal sound of the organ, I am reminded of the concert I heard that evening. Afterwards we went out for dinner, and then I returned to my room.

7 August 1968 Wednesday. I planned to meet my friends from the previous evening for a tour of the salt mines at Hallein. It was raining pretty hard, so they decided not to go. I took the bus anyway, but when I arrived the lines were too long. I had a train to catch so returned to Salzburg, retrieved my bags, and walked two miles in the rain to the train station. This taught me another lesson. From then on I checked my suitcase into a locker at the train station, and took whatever clothes I need for that night and the next day in my attaché case.

The train for Vienna left about 2 pm. I met some Canadian professors on their way to a conference in Prague. It turns out that they were there when the Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia to put down the Dubcek regime that was introducing more freedoms than the Soviets would allow.

I arrived in Vienna about 7 pm and there was no tourist information office and no other students looking for rooms. So some guy asked me if I needed a room. I was a bit leery, but desperate enough to drive in his car to his home. It turned out ok.

8 August 1968 Thursday. He dropped me off at the metro about 9 am so I had until 7 pm to see the city. I had been there with my family in 1964, so wanted to see some of the places we had been together. I walked miles that day, visiting all the major museums, cathedrals, and palaces. I had a loaf of bread, cheese, and cold cuts for lunch in a park. I bought too much cheese so fed the leftovers to the squirrels and pigeons.

At 7 pm I caught the night train to Zurich in order to save the cost of a hotel room. I was able to pull the seats together in the first class compartment and got about 8 hours sleep before arriving in Zurich at 7 am the next morning.

9 August 1968 Friday. I had about two hours to tour Zurich before I caught the train to Munich. Two hours was enough for me. The trip through Switzerland and Bavaria was very scenic.

I arrived in Munich late afternoon and found a room with two American teachers. That evening we went to the Hofbrauhaus for a liter beer, my first. There were parents with children at the next table all drinking beer, so I figured “Why not?” We then walked to the Schwabing district which is where the university students hung out at clubs. I made it back to my room about midnight.

10 August 1968 Saturday. I was on my way at 9 am. I caught the Europabus that took the Romantischstrasse to Frankfurt. Along the way we stopped in all these quaint walled towns of Nordlingen, Dinkelsbuhl, and Rothenburg ob der Tauber so that we could walk around each town. In Rothenburg I had lunch of bread, cheese, lunch meat, chocolate and cider on the front steps of their cathedral. I had enough left over for supper when I got to Frankfurt about 7 pm.

I planned to take the 9 pm overnight train to Berlin. About 2 hours out of Frankfurt the conductor looked at my Eurailpass and politely informed me that the pass was not good in East Germany. I got off at the next station at 11 pm and determined that the next rain through at midnight was going to Hamburg. The first class section was almost empty, so I pulled out the seats, and had I nice sleep until we arrived at 6 am.

11 August 1968 Sunday. I had ten minutes to make the connection to my train to Copenhagen. This trip, which involved taking a train ferry from Fehmarn to Rodbyhavn, was quite interesting. The companionship in our compartment was also fine. I arrived about 6 pm, which isn’t conducive for finding rooms at a reasonable price, but I was fortunate to find a room for $5 on a sailing ship that had been converted into a hotel. The ship was docked about four blocks from Tivoli Gardens, which is one of the most unique amusement parks in the world. I took a few rides, but most of the time I listened to the symphony orchestra. The night ended with fireworks. I made it back to the ship about midnight.

12 August 1968 Monday. In the morning I went to the Glyptoteket Museum with the Rodin sculptures and impressionist art. In the afternoon I walked the two miles to the Little Mermaid statue, passing the Amalienborg Palace on the way, and two miles back to the Stroget pedestrian street. I bought a turtleneck sweater for $6 as I would be traveling to colder climes. I had dinner along the way, and then listened to young people playing their guitars in the park. That evening I took the ferry to Malmo, Sweden, and the overnight train to Stockholm, with a first class compartment all to myself so I had a good sleep.

13 August 1968 Tuesday. I arrived in Stockholm at 7 am, and after checking my bags I went up the Katarina Elevator to the top where I had a panoramic view of the city and the five major islands it is on. From there I took a ferry to the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a warship that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. It was salvaged in 1961 and the museum preserves it in the appropriate humidity and atmospheric conditions. From there I walked to the Skansen Folklore Museum where old houses from all over Sweden have been brought together in one place so that people can see what life was like before. I took a bus back to the center of town and saw the building where Nobel prizes are given out.

As I wasn’t able to go to Berlin, I had a couple extra days in my schedule. I decided rather than going to Oslo and then south, I would go to Narvik, in northern Norway above the Arctic Circle. The train departed at 4:30 pm. The train was quite crowded and didn’t have a first class section, which is more common in Scandinavian countries, which I guess seeks to have a classless society. Anyway, I didn’t get much sleep.

14 August 1968 Wednesday. We passed through Koruna, Lapland, and the desolate taiga forest and tundra, and arrived in Narvik at 4:30 pm, which was the longest continuous train ride I took. I figured based upon my map that I would be able to catch the next train south to Bodo, which was about an hour away. However, I found out there is no train to Bodo. I had to take a bus, which left the next afternoon at 1:30 pm and took 9 hours to get to the train junction just east of Bodo, where I could catch an overnight train to Trondheim. So I would have almost 24 hours in Narvik.

I found a nice room with hot water, and decided to wash clothes (my Mom had packed some detergent). Then I walked around the town which is in a very nice setting on a fjord surrounded by mountains. The town was very pleasant. That far north there is no tourists, and I felt like I was at the end of the world. It didn’t get dark that night.

15 August 1968 Thursday. I relaxed until the bus left at 1:30 pm. The drive down the coast was broken up with many ferry rides across the fjords; one reason that the time and distance was confusing. It takes a lot of time to travel the Atlantic coastline of Norway! The bus met the train at the junction and soon I was on my way south to Trondheim. Again the train was crowded and didn’t have first class, so it was another sleepless night.

16 August 1968 Friday. I arrived in Trondheim and caught the day train to Oslo. I arrived that evening and was pretty tired (the distance from Narvik to Oslo is the same as from Oslo to Rome), so decided to find a room for the night. Since I had visited Oslo with my family in 1964, I didn’t do the tourist sites, but just walked around the center of town which had the king’s palace at one end and the train station at the other. I had a fish sandwich by the City Hall.

17 August 1968 Saturday. I caught the early train to Copenhagen. The scenery along the east side of the Oslo Fjord was magnificent, and not so much down the west coast of Sweden. I arrived in Copenhagen in the evening and immediately caught the night train to Amsterdam. It was good to be back in a country where the train wasn’t crowded and they had first class so I had a good sleep that night.

18 August 1968 Sunday. I arrived in Amsterdam in the morning. While waiting in line at tourist information to get a room, a little old lady asked me if I needed a room. I walked with her to her home. She had a guest book with the names of visitors form all over the world and asked me to sign. She then told me where to go and what trams to take. I visited the Anne Frank House and the Rijksmuseum, and took a canal boat tour. I returned to my room not too late as I didn’t want to disturb my hostess.

19 August 1968 Monday. The next day I took the rain to Brussels, and walked around the Grand Place, before continuing to Luxembourg where I arived in the late afternoon. After checking into a hotel, I walked all around the old part of town. At the farthest end of town, nature inconveniently called, and there were no facilities around. I barely made it back to my hotel.

20 August 1968 Tuesday. I took the train from Luxembourg along the Mosel River to Coblenz and from there along the Rhine River to Basel, Switzerland. This trip is very scenic with castles every few miles. During the Middle Ages, the Rhine was a major trade route that the robber barons exacted taxes from all traffic passing their castles.

In Basel I changed trains to Lucerne, arriving in the early evening. I found a very nice, reasonably priced hotel operated by the Swiss Women’s Temperance Society. They also ran a restaurant; $.50 for a filling delicious meal. The beer was non-alcoholic, of course. As I had been here with my family in 1958, I wanted to do some of the things we had done then; just by way of remembering my family.

21 August 1968 Wednesday. I started early, taking the cable car to the top of Mt. Pilatus, recreating my visit here in 1958. It was a beautiful day. I walked from the restaurant along the path that leads to the top edge of the mountain. On the north side, the cliff drops off thousands of feet, and I could see all northern Switzerland almost to Germany. Looking south, the mountain sloped downward with a field of green grass and alpine flowers. And in the distance was arrayed the Alps, going from Austria in the east to France in the west. I just laid there soaking in the sun and the view. I had my typical picnic lunch, and by 4 pm I was ready to take the cable car down to catch the lake steamer back to Lucerne. I had dinner at the hotel and then walked around town. Back at the hotel I read until I fell asleep.

22 August 1968 Thursday. The next morning I took the train to Andermat where I changed to a train to Brig and then again to Geneva. I arrived at Geneva just before supper. I wanted to have cheese fondue before leaving Switzerland. I had two Swiss Francs left which was enough for the fondue, but not for a drink. So after dinner I went in search of a drinking fountain to no avail. I ended up back at the train station and scooped water from the bathroom sink.

I caught the 8:30 pm train to Cannes. In my first class compartment were three American girls and an old French man. Initially our sleeping arrangement was to put all our bags in the hall outside the compartment. I slept on one luggage rack; one girl had the other; another girl slept across the three seats on one side; and the last girl slept on two of the seat on the other side. Just as we got settled, the conductor arrived and told us to move our bags into the compartment. Two girls shared the three seats on one side while I slept on the floor...not very comfortably I might add. Anyway, the girls were a riot, and even though we didn’t get much sleep, we had a great time.

23 August 1968 Friday. I arrived in Cannes in the rain. It didn’t look like it was going to let up any time soon. I figured that a rainy day on the French Riviera was a waste of time, so I caught the 10 am train to Paris, arriving that evening, a day sooner than planned. I found a single room within my budget at the Le Brun Hotel on the Rive Gauche (Left Bank) for the next three nights. I had a steak dinner in a nearby restaurant and then turned in.

24 August 1968 Saturday. Although I could have used the Eurailpass today, I was pretty tired of traveling and I was in Paris. Today I would walk miles. I walked across the Luxembourg Gardens to the Ile de la Cite and the Notre Dame Cathedral. From there I walked past the Louvre, where I was scheduled to meet friends the following day, through the Tuileries Gardens, and up the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, where I had lunch.

Then I walked to the hotel where the U.S. and North Vietnamese diplomats were negotiating a peace treaty, which wouldn’t be signed until January 1973 when the Christmas bombings drove them to what was to be a short lived peace. I would return to Thailand in February 1973 after finishing college and getting married.

Then I walked to the Palais de Chaillot, which looks across the Seine River to the Eiffel Tower. NATO headquarters was located here until 1967, at which time France left the integrated military structure and the headquarters was moved to Brussels. Little did I know that I would work at NATO headquarters 16 years later. I was at the Palais until evening when they turned the lights on the Eiffel Tower, and then returned to my hotel by way of des Invalides, where Napoleon is entombed.

25 August 1968 Sunday. I had arranged to meet with friends at the Louvre Museum at 9 am under the statue of the Winged Victory. We then spent the rest of the day there; and still didn’t see everything.

26 August 1968 Monday. I flew Japan Airlines from Paris to New York where I was met by my grandparents and my cousin Bonnie Gay. She and I shared a bottle of wine that I brought from Paris. I spent a couple days at Nyack before flying to Pittsburgh and taking a taxi to Geneva College. I had $60 left of the $300 I took to Europe…which came to $11.00 per day. Not bad!

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23rd May 2011

I am thrilled that you are posting blogs from the past.
We hope to do that when we settled down again. Right now all of our old photos are in storage near Pittsburgh. We lived in Pittsburgh from 2008-2010. Very nice blog! Europe on less than $300-- amazing.
23rd May 2011

Digging old photos out of the many cubby holes and then digitizing them is the difficult part. I look forward to the results of your efforts someday. That's less than $300 for 26 days in Europe. That much buys me about 2 days at the most today.

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