The Great Continent Tour (1974) III – Austria & Italy – Mom’s diaries

After Germany my parents headed to Austria and then Italy. Coincidentally 27 years later my mom’s youngest sister and my dad’s pet and her family are unconsciously retracing their steps as they holiday in Europe.

These are the first two posts by my mom in the series:

Here’s the next. My little sis in law did the keying in and scanning which left me with very little work to do. Photos were taken by my father with his Pentax - K

Austria – The Sound of Music


After crossing the German border, we reached Austria. Our aim was to visit Salzburg and Innsbruck. Surrounded by the snow capped mountain Alps, this country is an extremely picturesque one.

First we went to Salzburg. Austria was so beautiful that many English films of that time were shot there. The main among them was ‘The Sound of Music’. It is the story of a love affair of a military man with the Governess of his seven children. The actual background of the story was not in Austria but it was shot in Salzburg, Austria because the location was very beautiful. The story may not be very great but as the title suggests, the songs are superb. We went to see the castle in Salzburg, where this film was shot. The castle was on the table land of a mountain top with a lot of space. It was magnificent to look at. A year or two back, I read in the newspaper that the castle was going up for sale. It made me a bit sad.

A happy birthday at Innsbruck

Our next destination was Innsbruck. Innsbruck is a tourist centre by the river Inns. It did not have many high rise buildings. Most of the houses were cottage shaped. Even today I remember that all the first floor houses had some cemented/wooden rack just below the balconies to keep small flower pots. There was no exception to it in any house. From the top of the mountain, the River Inns looked like a milky white thread winding its way through the mountains and the forests.

We stayed at Innsbruck for a day or two. People were very friendly, as in all tourist centres, and mostly spoke German.

We went to the market place of Innsbruck where all arrangements were made to entertain the tourists, free of cost. Men played on military band/orchestra and the girls danced to its tune. The buildings in the market place had ornamental architecture in the front. A three storied building had a golden slanting roof at the top.
Out of all European cities, Innsbruck is very special to me because I had the best birthday celebration there. It so happened that my birthday fell on a day when we were in Innsbruck.

We went to the mount Alps by a cable car to celebrate my birthday. The concept of cable car was quite new to me at that time. All around there were snow clad mountains and the cable car went through them round and round. Below we could see the winding river Inns. It felt heavenly.

The white cable cars and even the stations were maintained very well. We had my birthday lunch in a restaurant on the top of the Alps. Tiger-Lily flowers, picked from the mount Alps, and two huge birthday cards were my birthday gifts from K and his dad. K, though only six months old, looked very happy in all the photos.

 Aerial view of River Inns Building with a golden roof Cable car to Alps Birthday on the Alps Birthday lunch on the Alps birthday gifts Innsbruck

Milan – lost in translation

Next country in our itinerary was the famous canal city Venice in Italy. Before reaching Venice, we stopped in a motel at Milan. Every house in the city had vines loaded with green, unripe grapes.
In the motel, K’s dad drew the picture of a cow and a few drops of milk coming out of it. He gave the picture to a waiter to explain that we wanted some milk for K. But the waiter mistook the drawing of the cow to be a hen and bought a couple of eggs, in place of milk. More drawings followed and finally a glass of milk arrived. We did not, however, return the eggs and thought of putting it to good use. K’s dad took out the gas stove and boiled some rice and potatoes (a few items we always carried with us) along with the eggs. Taps in the bathroom were kept open so that the hissing sound of the gas stove would not go out. We had a gala dinner with the boiled rice, potatoes, eggs, a pinch of salt and a dollop of butter.

The romance of Venice


Next day we reached Venice. No car or any petrol/diesel vehicle was allowed in this city. So we parked our car in a multi-storeyed car park for a few days outside Venice.

Venice is different from all other European countries. This island in the sea is criss-crossed with canals. The only modes of conveyance were water buses and ‘gondolas.’ The Gondolas were ornamental boats for the tourists. Anybody going to Venice used to bring back a miniature ‘gondola’ as a souvenir. Some of the houses stood dangerously in the brink of the water. There were steep bridges over the canals to cross from one side to another. It was difficult for us to cross the bridges with the baby, his pushchair and a couple of bags. The Venetians admired K very much by calling him ‘bambino, bambino’(meaning a cute baby), pressing his cheeks and even kissing him. But they did not lend a hand to carry over the luggage which was very much unlike the Europeans.

At night, we went to see the Red Light city. There were small cottages with red lights in them standing at least 10 feet apart from each other. In all European cities, red light cities were shown as tourist spots, which seemed to be bizarre to me and showed the other side of the human face which revelled in the helplessness of the fellow humans.

Saint Marcus square was the main attraction of Venice. It was a big church with two statues ringing a bell at the top of the tower. The whole square was crowded with tourists and pigeons. There was a spirit of revelry all around. I, too, was gripped with the fever and insisted on buying an exquisitely woven cream coloured stole, which was beyond our pocket. K’s dad was very surprised as I was usually very undemanding. He, however, finally gave in and we got the stole. That stole still lies in one corner of my wardrobe, neglected, old and haggard like me. I did not, however, have the heart to throw it away.

In the evening there was an orchestra to entertain the tourists. You could ask for a tune to be played by paying a price for it. K’s dad asked for the music of ‘Love Story’ to be played. At night we had dinner like the Royals in a restaurant.

Next day we became paupers as we had spent most of the Liras kept for Venice. We survived the whole day by eating bread and sausages. But this could not hamper our spirit of happiness.

I still remember, though faintly, that we had pizza and some boiled legs/arms of an octopus in a small shop near the canal. But the pizza was very plain and I did not like the taste. Pizza was not so popular then either in Britain or India.

We always used to try the national food of the country when we were there. For example, we had tried ‘goulash,’ (boiled meat in gravy type of dish) while in Germany and Austria.

Saying goodbye to Venice, we proceeded towards Switzerland, which is everyone’s dream location for honeymoon.”  RK

To be continued

K at St Marcus Sq, Venice


Scarlett said…
And 'Bambino' you were! Hahaha :D
Kalyan Karmakar said…
From Facebook:

Anahita Mody Very beautiful & all the imagery just comes alive as always. Mrs K has a very picturesque style of description. Loved it !
Just a very minor correction... the capital of Austria is Vienna.

Yajnaseni Chakraborty Maybe she should write about them! Or maybe you should. Not many people I know went on a continental tour in the 70s

Kalyan Karmakar Click on the link Jaggo

Vandana Joshi Hey K,we are in Italy as I write this...came here after a week in Austria :)... Haven't read the post yet but will definitely do once we are back. But the places are such a beauty today am assuming it must've been 10folds better then when your mom was here! Cheers :)

.Madhumita Pyne brings back beautiful memories, very well documented...i had tasted my first schnitzel also in salzburg...
rita roy said…
As a child I would treasure those beautiful picture postcards that would come from all over the world from my sister and brother-in-law. They would take me away to another place altogether.....Beautiful buildings, fountains, statues, sunset,sunrise, snow capped mountains, queens, kings, picturesque boulevards and along with them would be interesting stories and those tales would carry me along the journey....I still have those cards with me! No one posts cards anymore, everything is posted on FB!
Now that I am visiting almost the same places, everything seems so familiar! K you say that nothing has changed for over 35 years but this time my visit to Austria and Switzerland prove that over past 600-700 years, nothing outwardly has changed in terms of architecture, natural beauty except may be better roads. There are very strict laws in place which does not allow any building that does not conform to the rest of the historic city to come up unless of course you are a world renowned architect like the famous french architect Jean Nouvel who designed the KKL building in Lucerne. These countries take huge pride in preserving their heritage and use it to the hilt for tourism purposes. Now Switzerland is full of Indians and world has become a much smaller place than in the 70's. How much more exciting it must have been then!
On the surface of it time stands still yet there is a constant advancement made in various fields of life. One of the richest countries of the world! More later.
rita roy said…
K, this is for you....Austrian and Swiss food will make you crave for your blog more....nothing more than schnitzel, ghoulash, cheese and fries! The chocolates and pastries are amazing though! Had the famous Sacher seems the secret recipe of Sacher cake in Vienna was patronized by the then king of Austria and soon became very popular.The poor baker became so rich that he built a lavish hotel (which is now a five star one) and chains of confectioneries all over Vienna. Taste of Sacher cake is a must if you are a visitor to this country. Though I am not very fond of pastries and cakes, I must say it was delicious and very different from any thing I have ever had!
Unknown said…
Wonderful memories...very helpful for travellers wanting to go to these for the 1st time..Birthday on the top of Alps is as cool as it gets...cheers..Sid
Kalyan said…
Wonder if they will presss my cheeks and kiss me this time