Our trip to Europe in 1972 – Part 2

Philip John

Recap from Part 1 of the story ….

In August 1972 I persuaded my boss T.C. Satyanath to let me have six weeks off for a holiday in the UK and Europe. We were married at the end of 1969 and this was sort of a delayed honeymoon. 

My friend Vijay Swaminadhan lent me his copy of Arthur Frommers  ‘Europe on $5 a Day!’ In days when foreign exchange was not available to ordinary Indian citizens, Frommers’ book raised hopes for the trip we were contemplating.

We flew from Coimbatore to Bombay, and then to Amsterdam via London to pick up the Opel Kadet car we had booked. It was going to be our companion for the next four weeks. This was my first experience driving on the right side of the road and I kept straying into the wrong lane in our first week.

Night had fallen but we could not locate a motor campsite. Just outside the city limits we saw an open space and decided to stop, pull down our tent and camp for the night. In the trunk, we had inflatable mattresses, sleeping bags and other equipment.

The next morning, we were awakened by the sound of the whirring of machines. As my eyes got used to the grey light around me, I saw a massive truck discharging stuff into a crusher. I looked around and saw a large pile not too far away from our tent. It had a bad odour!! By now my wife had come out of the tent and taken in the scene. We looked at each other and burst out laughing. We had spent the first night of our Europe trip in the city’s garbage dump!

Our Trip to Europe in 1972 – Part 2

We had rented an Opel Cadet car with an ingenious one-piece tent attached and carried on the roof of the car. This would get pulled down when we struck camp. The tent pegs, inflatable mattresses (with battery-operated pump), sleeping bags, and such equipment were provided in the trunk of the car. 

From Amsterdam, we drove to Cologne, then on to Frankfurt where I had a cousin who was starting out in an advertising company. My cousin, Ravi Arapurakal, was only a couple of years older and we were close. He had moved from Mumbai where he had had a traumatic experience. He had gone to the movies only to see the 5 storied apartment building near the Gateway of India burning down when he returned home. All his worldly possessions were in a 5th-floor apartment, which had become ashes before his very eyes! That is when he decided to get on a flight to Frankfurt to seek his fortunes in a new land and try and put that horrendous episode out of his mind. Fifty years later, the building called Carlyle Chambers, still remains in ruins!

We arrived in Frankfurt where Ravi had a one-bedroom apartment with a sitting cum dining area. There was a WC off the hallway but we did not see a bathroom or shower area. The next morning when we enquired he took us to the kitchen and pulled on a rope hanging on the side – and voila, a shower cubicle descended! This was indeed an ingenious space-saving provision.

From Frankfurt, we drove to Nuremberg. Our plan to have the car with the tent fitted was to use the motor camping sites along the way. Camping sites had toilet facilities and common kitchens for cooking. Remember we had set out to do Europe on $5 a day (this was 1972 – let me remind the readers). However, even where camping sites were open I had to check into ‘pensionés’ or small motels along much of the way since my wife refused to use the ‘facilities’ that the campsites provided!

We arrived late in Nuremberg (famous for the Nazi trials), and there were no rooms to be found. So we drove to the lake as dusk was settling and decided to spend the night inside the car. It was too chilly to pull down the tent and sleep inside. As night fell so did the temperature. We pulled out our sleeping bags to use as blankets but we could hear each other’s teeth chattering! I turned on the engine and switched on the heating but realized that we couldn’t keep it up all night. We prayed for dawn to break and we headed to the city to look for a pensioné. Found one and spent the morning sleeping in a warm bed with white bedsheets. Oh! It felt so good. From then on we looked for small motels along the way to spend the night till we reached Italy, where it was warmer.

Even though there is a historical castle and museum Nuremberg became famous for the trial of several Nazi leaders. This was known as the Nuremberg Trials. Some of you may have seen the movie Judgment at Nuremberg, with a star-studded cast.
We did some sightseeing and continued on our journey to Munich.

Munich was the capital of Bavaria and is the second most prominent city in Germany after Frankfurt. Munich seems to have a continuous Beer festival and is a fun city. I drank a lot of Beer – did so by the yard, while my wife was more circumspect. We had our fill of Bratwurst and other kinds of sausage.

Munich was the headquarters of Hitler’s Nazi party and the infamous Dachau Concentration Camp was not far. But after Nuremberg, we had had enough of Nazi history and so decided to skip this and instead ‘concentrated’ on the many eateries and beer parlours Munich was well-known for.

After a couple of days, we drove to Vienna! What an amazingly beautiful city this is! The Blue Danube flows through the town. Incidentally, the Danube River flows directly through many significant European cities, including four national capitals – Vienna (Austria), Bratislava (Slovakia), Budapest (Hungary) and Belgrade (Serbia).

Vienna was known as the cultural capital of Europe at one time and was the seat of Western Classical Music. Austria produced many top composers – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt, Johann Strauss, the list goes on. It is also the home to the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and Vienna Boys Choir, both world-renowned. 
We attended a performance by the famous Vienna Boys Choir and saw the amazing display at the Spanish Riding School.

We also visited two of the most celebrated places in Vienna – the Schönbrunn and the Belvedere Palace. It was a display of splendour both of architecture as well as fine furniture and adorned with priceless paintings and it was easy to visualize the grandeur of the past.

To be continued….






5 Responses

  1. Sir, I think you should write a book on your years in the TEA INDUSTRY, focusing particularly on your initial days with J.Thomas.
    Even today, J
    Thomas is a well entrenched force although many manufacturing groups have crumbled. So, the current crop of tea people will lap up your book.
    You should come to Calcutts and launch the book in Oxford Book Store, next to Trincas, Park Street.

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