Moments in Europe


London, 1969.

After living and working in Thailand for ten months in 1969, I flew to London where the cold weather was a welcome relief from the heat and humidity of Bangkok.  I managed to find cheap hostels and pubs, thanks to the travel book, “Europe on $5 a Day.” There was so much to see in London — Buckingham Palace, Westminster Abbey, the Tower — sites I’d learned about in school, but which never seemed real to me.  Touring the city made my college history lectures come alive.

People stared at me wherever I went, apparently assuming I was Japanese.  I remember while staying on the Left Bank in Paris, several Frenchmen bowed before me and said, “Konichiwa, Mademoiselle.”  I was tempted to answer, “Aloha.”

It was different in Zurich.  Unlike Parisians, the Swiss obeyed traffic signals and always walked on crosswalks.  In fact, I was sure I was on a different planet when I looked out the window one day and wondered, “Why is the rain so white?”  It was my first snowfall.

Of all the cities I visited in Europe, Rome was by far the most intriguing with all those sculpted fountains, cobblestone streets, cathedrals, and the ancient Coliseum and catacombs.

While in Venice, I met a young Yugoslav woman who spoke limited English.  Together with two men — a German and an Italian — as our guides, we visited a nearby island and a glass-blowing shop.  As we sat in a gondola between locations, the German said to me, “You know, Americans are so ashamed of their involvement in the Vietnam War, they are reluctant to admit they are Americans.  When I asked someone if he was from America, he said, ‘No, I’m from California.’”

When I arrived in Munich a few days later, it seemed like a good idea to settle there to study music.  But the frigid winter challenged this island girl.  My inability to adjust to the climate, combined with not being able to find work, made it impossible to continue living in Munich.  So three months after landing in London and touring the European continent, I rode a bus to Amsterdam Airport.  There, I kissed Europe good-bye and flew to New York.  It was a relief to again hear American English.

8 Responses to “Moments in Europe”

  1. Olga Says:

    You have had some wonderful opportunities in life–quite intrepid as a young woman, too, to make those opportunities for yourself.

  2. Jan Says:

    You have such wonderful memories, and a really good way of expressing yourself. I enjoyed this story. 🙂

  3. Christine Says:

    I loved Zurich when I was there. What a wonderful experience you had!

  4. SchmidleysScribbling Says:

    I was never ashamed of Vietnam, why should I be? Many of the German people have much to be ashamed about, as do Croats (who worked for the Nazis) and Serbs (who committed genocide against Muslims. Shame on him, whatever he was.

    People still disagree about Viet Nam, especially the non-communist Vietnamese (now US citizens) who fled for their lives. Communism is bad and anyone who hasn’t figured that out is a fool.

    As for your travels, what fun. When I was in Geneva, attending a UNESCO conference, and wanted to understand how to use a bus token dispenser, I asked a “Chinese” fellow standing with me at the bus stop. He spoke perfect British English, as I guessed he would.

    Long ago, I learned to never judge a book by its cover. And never assume all people feel the same way about a political event.

    When David worked as a contractor for NATO in Germany, he knew more than one German who still carried his SS Waffen ID, although it was illegal.

    • gigihawaii Says:

      I was an anti-war activist back in the 1960s and 1970s. I hated the American involvement in the Vietnam War, which was a civil war, best decided by the Vietnamese themselves. We had no right to be there.

      Hitler and Japan, on the other hand, sought to conquer the world, which is why they had to be stopped. No civil wars, there.

  5. Joanne Noragon Says:

    I admire your intrepid adventurous soul. Just think, if you could have acclimated, you could have done the world.

  6. Linda Reeder Says:

    I enjoy hearing about your life experiences.

  7. Kay G. Says:

    I loved reading this memory of your life, so interesting!

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