A note about the journal
A week ago a container with our North American possessions arrived in France, and with it the chance to see things not seen for at least twelve years, and in some cases, several decades.
Among all this was a journal, along with photos, of my first trip to Europe, in the summer of 1980. It was a guided tour with high school friends. Looking back forty-two years later, it’s very cringe worthy, but nonetheless I’ve transcribed it almost completely as originally written.
<<>> means illegible and items in brackets [ ] are my notes from 2022.
A note about the photographs
I have no idea what camera I used, but I’m thinking it was a Kodak, with those funny film cartridges and replaceable four shot rotating flash things. Still, even if I actually had a real SLR, at that time I had absolutely no understanding of the concepts of shutter speed, aperture, and film sensitivity (ISO), never mind any eye for composition.
I’ve scanned the images at a high resolution, so they may be slow to render.
Left National Airport on time, no problems. Luggage was way under minimum. Arrived at Kennedy on time and attempted to purchase liquor at a duty-free shop, but supposedly we were running late, and thus could not buy any rum. As it turned out, we had more than enough time, but we could not go back once we had gone through customs. Instead we sat on the plan and vegged. Thus we will have to make the trip sober.
There are massive amounts of people on the plane [Icelandic Air?], and there is not much room. And they don’t serve any alcohol in the plane – extreme bummer. One of the girls has somehow lost her seat belt, and another needs to go to the bathroom, but the flight attendant will not let her, supposedly due to turbulence.
Many hours later, not much happened, vegged, etc. Passed over France – excellent view of the French Alps, incredibly high and snow capped. Munched a continental breakfast – not really enough to eat. Now over the Mediterranean.
Landed at the airport [Rome], through customs, got on the bus – our tour guide is Trudy, who is English and seems pretty cool. All the drivers are insane, and there are ruins everywhere. Dumped our stuff at the hotel which seems okay. Went to the bar and drank two Tuborgs. Went to the Sistine Chapel and saw stuff by Raphael, Michelangelo, etc. It was pretty wail’n.
Walked around town with Russell through some market area, then snagged some wine (red). It was about $1 for a quart. Went back to the hotel and drank with Russell, Matt, and company, crashed, woke up, then walked around. Ate dinner with Chez, Allyson, Alicia, and Greg. We had more wine with dinner. After we went somewhere, the Colosseum? Drank on the way and got wasted. Chez and I got separated, stole a bottle of wine, and walked around for a while, I think. After some time we made it back to the hotel, but no one was around, so went back out and munched some pizza somewhere, then returned. I passed out and was DOA when I hit the bed. Everyone else was all wasted also, and Matt made out with some girl from Arkansas (sorry Debbie) and it’s only his first night. Greg was with Allyson and Alicia1In my journal this is crossed out, and … Continue reading, at least that’s what Matt said. And if anyone is reading this you will suck cocks in hell for the rest of your life.
Woke up feeling okay, although felt worse as the day went along. Breakfast wasn’t much, as expected, but enough considering the condition of my stomach. Went on a guided tour that morning, saw the Forum, the Victor Emmanuel Monument, the Colosseum, the Vatican, and St. Peter’s. Then we walked around and exchanged some money, which took a while, then ate lunch at a small café: white wine, cannelloni, cappuccino. It was wail’n.
Came back, rested up, then went out with Chez, Paul, Jill, and Alicia. We took a bus to the <<>> shopping district and walked all over. Sat in a cafe for a while drinking cappuccino, etc. Excellent. Walked over to some indoor mall plaza place, nice with massive ceilings, great amounts of marble everywhere. Alicia and Jill went to the Vatican to see the pope, and the rest of us walked around, going in and out of all the stores. We then hung out for a while at the Spanish Steps, which seems a hangout for many types, artists, babes, etc. It was real cool. The women, while well dressed all have curly, kinky hair. We cruised back, but it took a while since we got lost, and after much walking, we got a cab and got back. We had a meeting to make sure we would be mellower in the future, seeing how is we had cruised around all night all over town with mass quantities.
After dinner we went to the Trevor [Trevi] Fountain, where there were massive amounts of people, tourists, and Italian dudes trying to pick up the American women. These dudes were pretty <<>> and incredibly horny, and would attack in mass amounts the girls on our trip. About eight dudes would surround one girl, like Leigh, who was with one guy (Italian) later. We went into the side streets later, drinking beer and wine, then met some dudes from Rhode Island who went with us to the Spanish Steps, We then had to hurry to make the bus back to the hotel, and barely made it.
I went out for a cappuccino and sat around for a while, then Chez came along. Walking back we met up with Primm and Russell, who were out looking for us since it was way past our curfew. They gave us a mild lecture and were basically cool. We then sat in a cafe and talked of many things. At the hotel Matt, Wat (?), Ed, and some girl were sitting around drinking while Greg filled up the sink, tasting his wine for a second time. Chez and I sat around some, then crashed.
Woke up at 4:30 and could not go back to sleep. Ate, packed, and bolted out of Rome, and right now we’re on the bus headed for Florence. We arrived about midday, and went to an overlook of the city. It seemed cleaner than Rome, and the food was much cheaper. The women here seem better dressed and looking. The town was smaller, everything was located much closer in, and made walking around easier. We ate lunch then went on a walking guided tour of the churches and buildings, which had many great art works. The churches had high ceilings, esp. the Medici Palace, there was more marble everywhere. There seems to be lots of attention, detail in everything everywhere. The tour guide was boring, and we were all pretty ragged out. After a while people began to drop out, and it got down to a pretty small group.
Later Russell, Chez, Leigh, and I walked over to some markets. We could not bargain with the merchants, they all had fixed prices. We walked around some more, went in all the leather and gold store, all of which had nice stuff, but didn’t seem like that great of a deal.
Next we went to the Uffizi and saw Michelangelo, Raphael, and other artists, some of which quite boring. We staggered back. Chez and I split a bottle of wine and sat on the balcony before dinner. Dinner was at a restaurant down the street. After dinner we went to a disco which wasn’t too bad. We staggered back about 1:00 A.M. Alicia puked in our bathroom while Greg, Matt, and Ed abused her in a non-sexual manner, including piling mattresses on top of her.
Woke up, packed, and left for Venice. Weather was nasty, cool and overcast, and I wore only shorts, flip-flops, and a light shirt. We were dropped off as soon as we got to town, without first going to the hotel. There are water and boats everywhere, no cars, over 140 bridges.
While Chez and I were looking at some stuff, the rest of the group got on a boat without telling us. Chez and I walked around looking for them, but their boat had already <<>>. Chez has been to Venice before, so he knew how to use the transportation system. We took the next available boat to the main square. All the buildings are right up against the water, it looks as if they were dropped there accidently. We walked around the main square until we met up with Primm, Russell, and the others. They were really ticked off. We ate lunch at a small restaurant; there was glass in Primm’s lemonade. We walked around for the rest of the afternoon, window shopping and getting lost in the narrow back streets. We went to the top of a main tower, which has a spectacular view of the town. We all went back to the hotel, with me, Matt, Greg, and Ed sharing a room.
After dinner we went back to the main square. While Matt and Greg were buying wine, Ed and I had some shots of Strega, a super sweet Italian liqueur, quite strong. After thorough cleaning out our heads [?], the same four of us got in the last gondola with about two gallons of wine. Unfortunately we did not have a bottle opener, and the guide, who seemed pretty old, didn’t have one either. After a while, using the hotel key and breaking Greg’s knife, we forced the cork into the bottle. The ride was excellent, through the back canals. We finished the wine as the trip ended.
When we got back to the hotel, we drank some Strega, then went back to the hotel. We stayed up late, harassing Matt and destroying the room.
Left Venice pretty early, heading for Innsbruck. The drive became better as we went along, for we went into the mountains, big and beautiful. The weather became cooler, and the women far superior to anything we had seen earlier. Unfortunately, as we got into the mountains, the driving became intense, and some people became or at least felt sick, thus we had to stop a couple of times.
We continued on although we were behind schedule, even with Franz’s insane driving on the narrow highway. We ate lunch in an excellent town in the Dolomites near the Austrian border, Cortina [d’Ampezzo]. The food was excellent, and for the first time we could eat as much as we wanted, and for the first time there was beer that was really cold. Before and after lunch we sat in the field in front of the hotel.
We drove into Innsbruck and took a quick tour of the Olympic sights, then we had a few hours free. Greg, Matt, Phil, Ed, and I walked around for a while, then sat in a restaurant sampling beer: first was a very dark beer with a different flavor, the second was lighter yet stronger, We all then checked into the hotel. Chez, Paul, and I stayed in the same room. The shower had high pressure and hot water, the view from the window was a mountain range. Dinner was good, and afterwards we sat around a massive table drinking mass quantities and singing songs. Later I went for a walk, then came back to the hotel where Matt, Greg, and Ed set off a fire extinguisher [alarm?], forcing everybody to leave the floor. I left with Leigh. We walked over to some small monument, and stayed there for a while, then went back to the hotel rather late.
Back at the hotel Primm and Russell were arguing about what to do with Matt, Ed, and Greg. Apparently some of the girls became pissed off at them, i.e. Jenny, Jill, Allyson, Sherry, and Mary, and, of course there arose more misunderstanding and confusion, it wasn’t clear who was at fault or to blame. Big shit. The three were pissed off at some of the girls the next day. So I got <<>>, crashed, although I had to kick Alicia out of my bed.
Woke up after a great sleep on the best bed so far. Excellent. Steamy hot shower. Left that morning for Germany and got to the border fairly soon. Stopped at some castle of Ludwig II, a real space case, king of Bavaria. The castle was located on the side of a mountain range, and had spectacular views from all sides. The interior, of which only a small part had been completed, was designed in a strange manner – the dude was obviously way off the beaten track. Before this was stopped at a baroque/rococo church, and sat around for a while.
During the bus ride Leigh and I sat together. This was spotted by Allyson, who put this information over the PA system. I’m sure she’ll have a great career as a write for the Ear2I believe this was the gossip column … Continue reading. But it was cool. We cruised for about two hours after leaving the castle, then arrived in Munich. This is probably the best town we have been to so far. We took a tour then went to the Hotel Alexandra, where Edwardo and I shared a room. Chez and I walked around some before dinner, looking at the stores, etc. Then Chez, Paul, and I went to a nearby restaurant which seemed typical of Munich where <<>> of German men sit around in a smoke filled room drinking dark beer. We each had a beer, about half a liter, strong, lighter than usual. We went back to the hotel, only to return to the same restaurant for dinner. We had some sort of meat, French fries, and of course, beer. After dinner we all went to the Hofbrau Haus and everyone consumed mass quantities. I sat with Leigh most of the evening, at a table with Jenny, Jill, Allyson, Chez, and possibly others. Allyson provided a play by play report of even the most discrete physical contact. Sat around getting drunk most of the night, as did everyone else.
As we made out way back to the hotel, I walked and talked with Alicia and Chez, who again put forth these ideas. Then I walked around with Leigh, away from everyone else, and could not hold back. But we cleared the air of a lot of <<>> stuff, and agreed to stop messing around.
Intense talk with Edwardo that night, whose sense in relationships is incredibly sharp. He gave me some advice, and since I couldn’t have a long term relationship, just establish a good friendship. He told me about his relationship with April, and how he almost had to marry her, and he would have. He lucked out however, but I doubt if it turned out too well for her. I’ll have to be sure to consult him about future relationships, since he seems to see quite clearly what is going to happen, such as in the case of Greg and Ellen. Too bad he couldn’t be wiser in his own case.
That morning we took a tour of Munich, then we had the rest of the day free. Camille, Mary, Paul, Chez, and I went around together that afternoon. The others went to a concentration camp. I didn’t go because I did not feel like becoming depressed, and I already knew enough about the atrocities of war. We had a lunch of schnitzel, and a weissen beer, a lighter, tasty beer with not much alcohol. Then walked around the market while eating pastries, not buying anything.
We ended up back at the Hofbrau Haus, and had liters of beer, potato salad, and bratwurst. In the bathroom Paul and I bought German rubbers. We went back and ate dinner at the same restaurant. Matt, Ed, and Greg had not shown up for dinner. They had gotten lost coming back from the Hofbrau Haus [?]. Primm and Russell were pissed because on of them would have to stay behind to wait for them. But they showed up in time.
After dinner a bus took us to the train station, although the train didn’t depart until nine. The time before departure we spent buying beer, food, or whatever, to spend all the marks. The train arrived late, and when we got to our compartments, (me, Camille, Paul, Chez, Sherry, and Mary) there was some smell guy from Czechoslovakia sitting in our compartment. The dude was incredibly stupid or else pretending not to understand when we told him to move out. We tried everything possible to make him understand, but he wouldn’t leave. The conductor finally came along, and after about five minutes of obvious gestures, the guy finally left. The compartment window went down immediately.
The early part of the evening was spent drinking, or was that the rest of the evening. A note from Leigh and encouragement from Primm forced me out into the hall to talk to Leigh. In the end it worked out fine, but I ain’t no nice guy – Larry Underwood3Larry Underwood was a character from … Continue reading. The rest of the evening we stayed in the compartment drinking heavily. Ed came in and had a long conversation with Camille and Paul about the trip and us and everything else. We all finally crashed about 2:00 A.M. Sleeping on the train was a pain, but I slept okay because I was drunk.
Woke up about 6 in Paris, and we took a bus tour of the town. We drove past all the major sites, but most of us fell asleep during the ride. We went to the Hotel Est, Greg, Ed, and I shared a room. We wanted to change money, but could only do it at the train station. Went to the American Embassy to visit family friend Daphne M. Trying to ride the subway was a first a pain since I don’t know any French and there were no signs in English. Soon I figured it out, and afterwards was a piece of cake. It took a little more asking to find the American embassy.
At the embassy I found out Daphne had taken a leave of absence since she had been hit by a motorcycle. The receptionist gave me her number, and I called and made arrangements to meet her. Afterwards I made it easily back to the hotel, where we sat around drinking until dinner.
After dinner we went on a boatride on the Seine. It was cold and rainy, but still nice. Afterwards Chez and I went to munch on some pizza and Kronenbourg.
That morning we had free so Matt and I went shopping in one of the huge department stores, where I bought some gifts. Afterwards we bought a baguette, some cheese, and a six pack, and sat in a park near the Concord Square. That afternoon we went to Versailles and also to the <<>>. Chez and I agreed that it should all be made into a parking lot. That night most went to the Follies, but Matt, Chez, and I went out to some bars, talked to some people from Holland, then staggered back late. We talked with the girls for a while, then crashed in our rooms. I had the pleasure of waking up with a bed full of beer bottles, a present from Ed and Greg.
Packed up in the morning, and while waiting for the late bus, someone bought the first cold milk since we’ve been on the trip. The bus eventually showed up, but we were way behind schedule. Not feeling well, I tried to sleep on the floor. Stopped somewhere before Brussel for lunch. Feeling really bad. Once in town we made a tour, the highlight being a statue of a kid pissing into a fountain. We then drove straight to Amsterdam.
The Hotel Cork in Amsterdam was a sort of hostel place. After dinner Matt, Greg, Ed, and I went straight to the red light district. There were sex shops that sold every sort of sex device, films, magazines, books, etc. The women would sit in windows with the red light on. When at work, the chair was empty, curtains drawn. Later we went to a peep show and saw something really strange between two nuns and a German Shepard. Afterwards we went to a bar, then got back about 12:30.
In the morning we took a tour of the canals, boring, then had to tip the guide at the end. We planned a tour of the Heineken brewery, but all tours were sold out. Instead we went to the Rijksmuseum then the Van Gogh Museum. This was worthwhile, and I bought some prints for me, C [sister Courtenay], and Nora [Bethany Beach summer love interest that came to nothing]. We were pretty tired after the museums; Phil and I shared a platter of meat, cheese, bread, and of course, beer. We then went to the Anne Frank house, but there was a massive line to get in. We got some coffee and waited, hoping the line would go down, but when we went back, it had not changed. I didn’t feel like waiting, so I hopped on the first trolley, which turned out to be headed in the wrong direction.
I finally made it back to the hotel where Matt, Ed, and Greg were passed out [I think they had waited in a line to get into the Heineken brewery]. After dinner we planned to go to a disco, but that took a while to find, and when we got there it was empty. We sat in a nearby bar, then got on a tram back to the hotel, but got off halfway to look for Ed, who was lost in space somewhere. I looked around for a while, but could not find him. Trying to get back to the hotel, I again got on the wrong tram, got lost, but eventually got directions from the driver and made it back. It turns out that Ed had come back earlier with Wat [I have no recollection of what was going with Ed].
Woke because we had a bus ride, then a six hour boat ride on the North Sea, then an hour train ride to London. At breakfast I took one Dramamine and passed out on the bus ride. Once we got on the boat I took another Dramamine and passed out again. The sea was calm and flat. Later went on deck, it was cold and windy. Drank a few beers at the bar with Greg. After a while, very bored, we bought some cigarettes in the first class bar, then ‘smoked’ these out on deck. Lunch aboard was greasy chicken, filling. Sleeping was a pain since you usually fell asleep on someone, or someone fell asleep on you [no idea what I am referring to]. Departing was a pain because there were massive amounts of people leaving the boat, and customs took a while.
The train ride to London was fine, I slept for most of it. The hotel in London was nice; I roomed with Russell. That night we sat around drinking. Greg and I shared some rum that we had bought on the boat. I went to bed early, still tired from the Dramamine [by this time I was pretty tired from the continuous drinking].
We took a morning bus tour of London: the Tower of London [?], St, Pauls, and some other shit. We all went to see the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace. It was incredibly boring and very crowded. Russell, Ed, Wat, and I got a cab to the center of town (Lester Square?), had some fish and chips for lunch which were greasy, hot, and good. Afterwards we went to a pub, drank pints of bitter, which was good, but different. At the pub, St. James, I bought two t-shirts, one for me and one for Bill [neighborhood friend whose high school was named St. James]. We walked around some more, then went to Madame Toussands, which was pretty cool.
In addition to the above, there are a few memories not captured:
- In Rome I was struck by the women walking arm in arm, wearing tapered jeans with high heels, their faces angular, different from the faces of women in the United States.
- In Venice, as much as we tried, we could not get any girls to go in a gondola with us. We were (not) consoled by Ed’s serenade:
Ed: Put your head on my shoooulder….
Us as chorus: Stick in my ear, ba-bee…
- In Munich, although my camera was a simple affair, there was something wrong with it. I went with Camille4She was a German teacher. to a camera shop. As I explained to her what was wrong, she translated for the technician, and then explained to me what he had said. This may have been my first time seeing a live back and forth in to and out of another language. I felt like a monkey trying to understand a chemistry experiment involving a Bunsen burner and a beaker. The language curriculum at my high school had been three years of Latin, of which there was been few opportunities to use on the trip. I had also taken one semester of Spanish, with the lovely, slender Senorita Harmon, but at that time, I didn’t care for it (not her, but the Spanish).
- In London at one of the bars was a black bartender and when I went up to the bar to order drinks, he asked me, “What would you like, sir?” God help me, I paused and looked at him. I had never heard a black person speak with an English accent. I felt like a mouth breathing hillbilly. Dude smiled, took my order, never missed a beat – maybe I wasn’t his first cracker. Still think about that one, clearly.
- We flew El Al Airlines back to the United States. During check-in, an El Al employee, an man in a dark suit, sifted through the contents of my luggage, asking a series of questions:
Where will you be studying this Fall, Mr….Elder?
Ah yes, the university of Vermont. And what will you be studying?
A biology major? Interesting. And why biology?
And so on. At that time I couldn’t understand the pattern of questioning.
As noted, the above is pretty cringe-worthy.
But more than anything, what that stands out is not only the teen angst and my own naiveté, but also the luck of circumstances: born at a particular time in a certain country into a very easy social milieu. It’s a bit of a gift, really and I’m not sure I’ve made the best use of it. But regardless, at the time, it was still wail’n.
I’ll add more photos to the gallery as I find them among all my junk. I also found the negatives, and once developed, will scan and add here. Click in a photo to go to gallery view.
Thank you Kane Emery for the additional photos:
|↑1||In my journal this is crossed out, and in the margins, in someone else’s handwriting, is written WRONG. This explains the next sentence.|
|↑2||I believe this was the gossip column for the Washington Post.|
|↑3||Larry Underwood was a character from Stephen King’s The Stand. The ‘I ain’t no nice guy’ quote originated with him, and was something Matt and I would often say to each other.|
|↑4||She was a German teacher.|
It’s cool that you kept a journal. I never recorded my (mis)adventures, so they are fuzzy fragments that don’t have place or time or names.
It's crazy, awkward, funny to go back through those old things. I've got a few more I'm looking through now. One was a road trip to Florida with a couple of the guys that were on that European trip. Another was a summer spend in Wyoming, summer of '81, again, with one of those friends. Stay tuned, not that they make great reading.