The Great Continent Tour of 1974 – IV – Switzerland & Paris – Mom’s Diaries

KK: This is the last instalment of Mom’s Continent tour memoirs from 1974.

These are the earlier posts:

1. Belgium & Holland

2. W Germany

3. Austria & Italy

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.

K at lake Geneve

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.

K & his father outside the Red Cross Building

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.

The Eiffel Tower   The view from Eiffel TowerK with bust of Eiffel

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.

Photo of the painting of the  Mona Lisa at the LouvreStone statue of Venus at the Louvre  

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.

Good Bye



27 July, 2011 “


Nikhil Merchant said…
Good God ! this is like Nostalgia written down ! or rather this is what i'd call 'Nostalgia' - beautiful memories, beautiful family ! cheers to all and Happy Birthday to your dearest Mom !
The Knife said…
From FB

Anahita Mody First lemme wish Mrs K a Very Happy Birthday ! Wishing you many Blessings & all your fondest dreams fulfilled ! :-)
Each & every installment is a most beautiful rendition that takes you to the very locales by Mrs K's discriptive prowess. Lov...ed it ! Pls find something more to write about, we love reading your posts that Kalyan puts up. Might I suggest the theme of Kolkata with it's varied art & culture from a local point of view now that Durga Puja is just round the corner.
Just to share with you ... I was posted with my airline in Amsterdam some 15 yrs ago for 2 yrs & your write-up brought back all those fond memories of beautiful Holland & the very genteel Dutch people. Thank you.

Sanchita Ganguly Dey ‎@ Mrs.K....many happy returns of the day....please keep posting...i love reading them...
Me said…
Dear Aunty,

Am really going to miss the series and the memories..! Do write in fact would really suggest if all of this could be compiled some way..I almost visited these places those many years back :) Wish you a very Happy Birthday..Wish you a very long life full of all the love, luck and happiness..!

Satya said…
Accidentally came across your blog... a lovely post ... hopefully I will get to visit these places one day..Happy birthday to your mom

Super Yummy Recipes

What a lovely piece of closure for a well-documented series. Kalyan, please tell your mum that she should probably start a blog of her own, given the great an following she's garnered here.

I was just wondering if the jalebi-like sweet she writes about might be "Zalabia." I think it is of Turkish origin but her description fits.

Wishing Aunty a very happy birthday--may that miracle happen soon, and may she get to revisit those old times once again, albeit with a fully grown model ;)
~@$HIM@~ said…
Well, as i mentioned in on of ur previous post, that i have recently shifted to Holland and have been travelling to these places and can relate to what ur mom has written and where else to go.

Infact, now after reading this .. i dunno if i would be able to remember all this 4 decades later .. i should rather start blog about my travels!

Wish your mom a very happy birthday!
The Knife said…
From FB:

Shraboni Gupta I have stayed in Switzerland for 6 every weekend we used to have a short trip..We stayed in Zurich so we mostly returned home by late in the evening. I could relate to Maam's Chander pahar.... In Paris I was saw jalebis..which tagged as' yalebias' but i loved the crepes most...infact during the few days in paris..i mostly suvived on Crepes.. When i read her travel blogs..i really wish i too could pen down so eloquently to the places i have been to...
The Knife said…
From FB:

Madhumita Bhattacharya Birthday wishes to her for a happy, healthy, wonderful year ahead
about an hour ago ·

Kaniska Chakraborty a very happy birthday to her. may she writes many more such posts

Journospeak: platform to unwind happy birthday auntie. its always a pleasure reading your posts. :)

On twitter:

Rekhakakr Rekha K
@ @Finelychopped .. wish her happy birthday from my side too.. :)
The Knife said…
from FB:
Sharmila Here Wishing Mashima a very happy b'day Kalyan! Am huge fan of her travel writings ... but am always at a loss when it comes to saying anything about them. Any words of praise will fall short in front of such wonderful and vivid memories. Wishing her good health, happiness and peace always. :-)
The Knife said…
from FB

Sue Cope: you're mum is a star Kalyan! Hope someone is cooking her up a treat. Please pass our warm wishes!
Unknown said…
Happy Birthday Aunty- not sure if i missed it.
I was reading through your posts and i had a big smile. I went to Berlin, Amsterdam and Switzerland (zurich, lucerne and bern) this June. I have to say I felt like I was reliving my trip through your posts. It was my first time. I also blogged about them. Im linking a few articles.. I hope you also enjoy them.

I was in Berlin the longest. Each day was an adventure.

Kalyan- please share these with your mum. What a fantastic series she has written. I love it.
Kalyan Karmakar said…
Thanks for sharing these links Jyotika. I had been following your adventures but the connection hadn't struck me. Mom would love to see how the places look now. Probably will send her printouts
Kalyan Karmakar said…
From FB:

Susmita Misra:

Happy birthday aunty! I credit myself with a good memory but you truly amaze me with yours. You remember everything so vividly..37 years later..and one can feel your excitement and enthusiasm at discovering things new. Thank you for the posts and do keep writing. Kalyan also remembers quite a bit especially the food memories. Best Regards.

Rita Chakrabarti:

Happy Birthday to your mom, Kalyan. Loved reading her posts. Hope she continues.
SC said…
Dear Aunty,

Belated Happy Birthday to you. Your travel memoirs are beautiful and make for a very enjoyable read. I hope you have some more anecdotes that you can share with us. Incidentally my parents did a very similar trip through the continent in the 70s (I think it was '77) and their pictures are similar to yours. We revisited some of those places this year and a couple of years ago (Rome, Paris and Venice) and they tell me that a lot has changed since then (more public transport, better highways, more people) but some of the old charm has now gone. Still, these are beautiful places to visit. I really do hope that you have a chance to visit these places and relive your memories once again.

Love and best wishes,
The Knife said…
‎' When 1 door closes, god opens another door. Who wd have expected it at this age? ' Mom when she heard about the bd wishes on her post from my brother

And thanks all from me...will send her the comments soon