KK: This is the last instalment of Mom’s Continent tour memoirs from 1974.
These are the earlier posts:
Mom ends the posts by asking readers to write in with their experiences if they have visited the same places. I was reading about the Switzerland tales and what struck my was how similar things seemed when I went back about 35 years later.
The post is written by my mom. Keyed in by my sis in law. Photographs taken by my father. I modelled for the photos!
It’s her birthday tomorrow :)
So here you go
“Two generations of Swiss Memories
Switzerland is too beautiful to be described. On our way, we saw snow covered Alps and fountains falling from the mountains.
We first went to Geneva. There we saw Lake Genève. Inside the lake there was a man made fountain which went up very high and then fell down in the lake itself. We liked it so much that we stood there for a long time and got ourselves photographed in different poses.
In Geneva, we also liked the clock on the ground made with flowers. Little plants were planted in the shape of a clock. It had metal arms and showed time accurately. Switzerland is very famous for its watches.
Then we went to see the UN House, Red Cross house and WHO building and got ourselves photographed with the baby K.
Next we went to Lucerne. There we saw a beautiful lake named Lake Lucerne. There was a wooden bridge over it. The bridge was covered with wooden structures.
Years later when K grew up, he went to Switzerland, with his wife, to read a paper in a conference. They got themselves photographed in front of the same Lake Genève, the flower clock, Red Cross, U.N.O, and WHO buildings. They also went to Lucerne and stood on the wooden bridge over the lake. But K told me that the wooden bridge was burnt down in the in-between time and was reconstructed again. History, really, repeats itself.
At night, we stayed in a ‘bed and breakfast’ near Lucerne. This place was away from the city. It was surrounded by snow covered mountains. Miles and miles of land were cultivated to grow vegetables. As we were towards the end of our trip, money was also diminishing. So more meals of boiled rice and potatoes followed. Looking at the fresh vegetables, we got tempted. K’s dad asked the care-taker if we could have some vegetables. The man very gladly handed over some white turnips and cauliflowers. At night, the boiled rice with vegetables and eggs, cooked in the gas stove, tasted better than a five star hotel meal.
After dinner, we went to sleep. It was almost midnight when K’s dad woke me up from sleep and asked me to see outside the window. I was awe-struck/moon-struck when I looked outside. The snow-capped mountains were flooded with moonlight. The snow of the mountains reflected back the moon rays. The whole scene seemed ethereal. It could only be compared with the Taj Mahal on a full moon night. When young, we read in fairy-tales about ‘Chander Pahar’ (in Bengali) meaning ‘hills made of the moon light’. That day I realized what it meant. Almost the whole night was spent watching the scene.
Next day we went to a place called Schilthorn in Switzerland by cable-car. At that time it was the longest cable car in the world. It cost us six pound each in 1974 (scribbled at the back of the photo). There was a revolving restaurant named ‘Piz Gloria’ at the end of the cable-car road. ‘Piz Gloria’ was at the top of the mountain. You could go there only by cable-car. It revolved very slowly and all around we could see only mountains covered with snow. We had some coffee and cake there. I wrote at the back of a picture postcard, ‘K had a great time with the girls in the restaurant.’
The next and the last city to be visited was Paris, the centre of art, culture, fashion, as well as night life. The city bustled with life and was very much unlike the port cities of Calais and Boulogne.
First we visited Eiffel Tower, the landmark of Paris. In front of the tower, we saw the bust of Eiffel. The tower was a huge and magnificent structure made of metal. We went to the top by a lift that too in stages. Up above, it was very windy. From the top, Paris looked like a perfect picture postcard.
We had put up in a hotel, which was very costly. K’s dad had discovered a ‘jalebi’ type of sweet in a shop and was very excited about it. The ‘rounds’ were a bit thinner but the sweet did look and taste somewhat like a ‘jalebi’.
Next day we went to the famous Art Gallery/ Louvre. As push-chairs were not allowed inside, K’s dad carried K, the six month old baby in his lap. It became a little strenuous at times.
Though I am not too much of an art person, I was looking forward to see the painting of Monalisa and her enigmatic smile. It is a painting worth seeing. From whichever side I looked at her, it seemed she was looking at me and smiling. We did take a few photos of Monalisa but as we were not allowed to use ‘flash bulbs’, all of them looked dark. We also saw many other statues and sculptures. One day was too little time to see the whole gallery. Now-a-days many books are being written about the conspiracies and secret graves under the Louvre but we were blissfully unaware of all those things at that time.
We also saw the Cathedral of Notre Dam and Napoleon’s tomb.
Before I finish writing about Paris, I must say a few words about the ‘Pay-&-Use’ toilets of Paris as I have not seen toilets like that before. In Britain, this concept was almost unknown at that time as all the public toilets were kept very clean, free of cost, by the attendants. In India also, we had not heard about them. In Paris, however, there were quite a few. Most of these, ‘pay-&-use’ toilets were womanned/manned by ladies. There are many funny stories about these toilets and their lady attendants.
Finally, we reached Calais in the evening and Dover (UK) in the morning by crossing English Channel. This is, in short, the story of my visit to the European continent.
Almost four decades have passed since then. Until and unless some miracle happens, I shall never go back to these places again. I shall be very happy, if my young readers, who may go there on work or on vacation, let me know if they find any similarities with my experiences or the changes that have taken place. Many NRIs, living in the UK wrote to me about the present NHS system and the changes that have occurred, after reading my ‘UK Diaries’. This has emboldened me to make this request.
27 July, 2011 “