You guys, isn’t my mom the coolest? If you missed Part One of her adventures, check those out. The story continues today right where we left off on Monday:
MUSIC AND MORE
It can be expensive attending concerts and visiting museums and art galleries, but isn’t that what Europe and England are all about? I had a long list of classical essentials, but our first cultural experience was a foray into The Sound of Music. The first day in the gorgeous city of Salzburg, we walked down to the old part of the city and looked for a tram to take us to the majestic castle on the hill. We kept walking up – up this path and finally figured we were walking up to the castle without paying to ride the tram. The castle gave us a beautiful view of Salzburg
so we walked around the courtyard.
There were museums, but we didn’t pay to go in any of them.
We decided to walk out to Leopoldskron, a palace and grounds where the Sound of
Music was filmed. The grounds were owned by the University of Illinois and housed their American Studies college. There were signs announcing “Entritt Verboten” on them. We asked and were given permission to walk around the grounds, but as we left the entrance the gardener began yelling, “Verboten! Polizei!” so we left.
It was starting to rain and we had a train to a catch. By the time we got back to Mirabelle Platz, we were slipping on the stones and drenched. A bus stopped in front of us so we hopped on and rode the rest of the way to the train depot. We couldn’t figure out how to pay for the ride and so we just hopped off at the station. Everyone seemed fine with that so we were too. We hadn’t figured out everything yet.
Vienna beckoned and I really wanted to attend a classical concert at the famous Vienna Rathaus (Town Hall) but when we got there it had been moved and was all sold out. I didn’t want to give up so we followed some students to the concert hall and watched them all enter with tickets. Someone told us to hang around and buy unwanted tickets. We waited and everytime someone had a ticket to sell, one of the German speaking waiters got it. Finally, the concert had begun and there were 4 or 5 unclaimed reserved seats. We had been at the front of the line for an hour and a half and the lady got to know us. She motioned for us to come forward and sold us the tickets. We tore into that hall and up the stairs and saw a young, very energetic conductor leading the orchestra in my favorite Dvorak’s Slavonic Dance #1 twice as
fast as my recording. They did some Mozart, Beethoven, Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet overture. Beautiful!
Classical music wasn’t my roommate’s favorite flavor so to thank her for her support, we walked to McDonald’s and had hamburgers and milkshakes. They didn’t taste American at all.
In Paris I heard teachers could get into the Louvre for free, but I had no proof I was a teacher with me so we paid about $2.50 a piece to see the Mona Lisa, Rembrandts, Goyas,Venus de Milo until our feet were killing us. We walked down St. Michael and up St. Germain and finally found Notre Dame, but it was closed so we hopped on the Metro and went back to a Cinema by our Pension and saw Silver Streak with French subtitles. Next morning we went out to Versailles and sat in the gardens because we didn’t want to pay to walk through the palace.
It was time to cross the Channel. We jumped on a train and quoting from my Journal, “We are on a train going to ?? we have tickets across the channel on a Ferry. This train goes to the airport at heaven knows where so anything can happen.” (I think this was the time we slept in a doorway) The next day my Journal says, “As usual everything worked out all right. We’re still alive, rested and saved a night of board.”
We had ended up at the airport and had to take another train to Calais and were able to use our tickets to go across the channel there for $10. This involved a lot of walking and hoping and luckily we met a couple of nice Italian medical students going to London and some equally nice British Backpackers returning to London. The Ferry left at 2am and arrived in Dover at 4am. The train pulled into Victoria station around 8am and we wandered around the station for a while trying to figure out what to do. The people were so friendly, calling us daring and luv and helping us. It was great. We got on a train to Cambridge and arrived there at 10:30am and set off in search of a bed. We found ourselves in the dirtiest ugliest, scariest looking hotel. We were in a Charles Dickens novel with a weaselly little man, a sailor and a myna bird. They oozed around us trying to get us to look at their rooms – I was sure they were seconds from tossing us into a closet, locking us up and putting us on a slave ship to Hong Kong in the morning. We got out fast with the weasel following us down the street trying to get us to take another look. But because we had become such competent travelers, we ended up in the nicest house, owned by a lovely English woman, Mrs. Bland (you can’t make this stuff up) where we found two double beds, breakfast and the most comfortable sheets I’ve ever slept in. We slept
all afternoon, then went out for a dinner of – what else – bland fish n chips and then to a Somerset Maugham play, The Sacred Flame. Not too good, really, but some good performances – especially by a loony lady in the audience who was finally booted out. My first English play so I’m glad we went.
Before we left America, my Great Aunt asked me to look up her cousin in Yorkshire so a day later we got off the train in Halifax,Yorkshire and I called my distant Cousin Colin thinking to say hello and then we could find a place to stay and attend church in the morning. Colin’s wife, Alwyn answered the phone and I tried to explain who I was, which was not easy, because I wasn’t sure of my relationship to her. After a few minutes of futility, she said she’d send her husband down to the station to get me so we could all meet. He came directly and took us to their home where they had the tea things out and invited us to join them. Everything was quite
formal and very nice. They lived in a flat with a little sitting room, large dining area, kitchen and two bedrooms. After tea, we talked a little then Alwyn put down her cup and said, “Now that we’ve had tea, how are we related?”
They invited us to stay the night. We watched some British TV and Sunday morning we awoke to a great breakfast of bacon and eggs and Colin had already gone to the church to check on meeting times. Their kindness and hospitality really overwhelmed us.
The last week of our adventure we took our one and only tour bus in Edinburgh – (a smart move because the streets are steep plus we got to take pictures with the Castle Guards), had some late nights where we either stayed in very uncomfortable circumstances or sat up all night on the train and took in the ambiance of Weston-Super-Mare, beach vacation spot for elderly Britons, little children and complete with donkey carts and rather unclean sand. We also spent a couple nights at a clean, convenient Youth Hostel in London and were able to see a couple affordable shows just off the West End and meander through the book stores and parks where a biker grabbed my purse and tried to make off with it. Luckily, I was mad enough to jerk
him right off his bike and watch him scramble away leaving me triumphant.
We had to meet our group in Frankfurt so paid $52 a piece to train from London to
Dover, ferry to Oostende and train from Brussels to Frankfurt. We tried to sleep on the train by shutting our compartment doors which worked about half of the time. We met some wonderful fellow travelers on that train so we were glad to be interrupted now and then. When we got into Frankfurt, we were amazed at how much we had learned. Instead of wandering around for hours, we checked trains for future reference, went to the Tourist Information for a room and a map and as was our custom after all-nighters, slept all day. Our last day before we met our group for the flight home, we hit the town with all our leftover money in our pockets.
We each bought some clogs, presents for home and a box of 16 pieces of really beautiful Heinrich Porcelain dishes for $11 a box. I still have those dishes.
I recently sent my traveling companion a picture of us in Venice taken about 40 years ago. She remembers the trip as fun, but exhausting. My records are not accurate to reflect exactly how much we spent and we spent a little extra getting back over the channel (I had to use my credit card), but otherwise, it’s a good
bet it was around $10 a piece a day. No wonder it was so exhausting.
Ed Hewitt writing for Independent traveler.com quotes a book by Dick Davis in which he tries to visit the places Arthur Frommer visited in 1957 in his book, Europe on $5 a Day. To quote from Dick Davis, “If I were truly on a 5 dollar a day budget, I’d still be at the airport.” He then remarks, “you could probably do Europe on $100 a day today —so more like $5 an hour.”
Do it anyway.