DIARY 1: June 1974 - February 1975

18 June, The English Channel


Last day in England. I drive father into work because his car is in the garage waiting for the fridge man. At Endsleigh I buy five months insurance for £16 - the chemist can't get me any Daraprim. I pack and bathe after salmon salad - watch the football - pick father up. Half way through Scotland-Brazil I leave home - I am crying and so is Mum - I virtually run out. I am in a daze right the way through to Brent, it is as much as I can do to keep my eyes dry on the tube. Total funds: £150 in envelope, £85 in wallet, $240 in traveller cheques, £150 in Singapore.

19 June, Brussels


meet a Kiwi on the coach from the waiting room to the ferry. He's from Christchurch - we have a couple of lifts together. He's off to Amsterdam and me to Brussels. Oh dear what a job to remember my French. I am quite weary and despondent. I ask a copper how to get to Rue Charles De Groux and walk the long way round Congress to Rue Belliard. A pharmacie is getting me the Daraprim. My forged letter gets me a current international student card. Mutti, my stepfather's mother, makes me very welcome. I fall asleep on Mutti's floor watching the football.

20 June, Brussels


Mutti talks and talks and there's never anything I can directly disagree and debate with her, it's always 'yes I suppose so'. She is very healthy - we walk miles and I am more tired than she. At the Musee, there is a large section on ancient Iran and Anatolie and Egypt - some fine examples of original letters and envelopes of the day. Mutti dresses for bridge - I suss out the tram system and go north. I'm most impressed by the Atomium from Expo 60. Father turns up before seven and we go to a typical Belgian restaurant - plain decor, good service and excellent food - Waterzooie - prawn croquets. I walk a little - rub a brass for luck and visit the Manikin Piss.

21 June, Nurnberg


Say goodbye to Mutti and am on the road by 11.30. First lift is from a friendly van driver - we communicate little in French. Lifts take me past Liege and Aachen and Koln - from the autobahn there is a magnificent view of Koln and the cathedral. Two splendid lifts follow - the first to Frankfurt from a young guy who offers to take me into town for a meal after two hours at a conference - I decline. But I am very lucky to change some money - the E-5 goes straight by the airport - phew! - I will eat this weekend. A student in a rented car takes me to and around Wurzburg. It is very lovely - there's an old chateaux by the castle on the hill overlooking all, and an old palace where an international Mozart festival is being held. I finish off the night with a non-talking falling-asleep lift to just outside Nurnberg.

22 June, Wallhalla


I sleep reasonably well on lumpy ground in some services - and feel really ace after a thorough wash and clean in the services. It takes me over an hour to get a lift to Nurnberg. I tour round all the lovely buildings c/o Nurnburg tourist organisation. I am sitting underneath a cloudless sky on some parapets overlooking the city. Just now more tourists are coming to see the view. Nurnberg is more lovely than Wurzburg. The countryside is splendid, forests rolling like dunes out of sight. A long walk, a long beer and big hassle getting out of town. Regensburg is second rate - but I am hungry, the last thing I are was a roll yesterday morning. I look and look for a non rip-off place to eat and eventually find a snack bar - schnitzel and chips for DM 3.95 (like a dream come true finding this). I lie in the park and clean my feet in the fountain. I have a bad head all afternoon and evening, from the sun I suppose. One beer lasts the whole of the Scotland-Yugoslavia match - 1-1.

23 June, Vienna


A heavy dew in the night. An hour and a half till 8:30 to get a lift - two lifts to Passau. Everywhere in this area there are churches - very beautiful, very old. Here in Passau does one of them contains the biggest organ in Europe? Many houses too are old, and the castle-type houses on the tops of small hills always make the scene beautiful. I am sitting on a bench looking out across where the Danube and the Inn meet - church bells are peeling and the sun is hot. It is so peaceful here, the water flowing fast to pass Wien and Budapest and Bucharest, a long way to the Adriatic. 

I get a lift from the head of the largest spectacles frame-maker in the world, in a Merc - following the Danube with the forest and fields and beautiful views to Linz. Some Austrian hamburgers 'mit salat' - tasty. A little sleep and a hefty walk and a long wait for a lift to Wien, but I make it by 6:00. A bier and football - Poland 2 Italy 1 - and a map from tourist information. I walk around, although it's a bit of hassle, of course, with the pack - some fabulous buildings - the Hofburg home of the Habsburgs in winter -Baroque mostly - statues abound - Austrian elections for President - everyone must vote.

A real hassle finding somewhere to sleep - I'm wandering around this park up by the Sud Bahnhof - strange men keep following - it is half an hour before I realise it's the local gay playground. I storm off and sleep very well in the gardens of some college.

24 June, Vienna


About 7:00, I buy a lemon tea, wash in the toilets, and a sit in Goethe Park. I talk for a while to a pigeon man - he's a much travelled journalist, but getting old now he works in a library and writes - every morning he brings food for the pigeons and talks to them. He shows me the way to the periodicals room where I read the Guardian 19 June. It's also a good place to leave my bag. I go to the Esperanto museum but it looks dead and decayed so I don't bother - the Neue Gallerie where I find Cezanne, Van Gogh (best of which is his self portrait), Degas, Munch. I meet two chatty girls from Brighton - graduates who've been to Prague and Budapest.

We meet outside the Vienna State Opera at 4:00 - crowds of people, and our numbers are shouted out. This entitles us to a place in the queue where we wait until 5:30. I buy a ticket and then have to wait again to have the ticket torn and again, with even more of crush near the top of the stairs, to find a place - but I have to check my rucksack in and so lose the chance of securing a place. I meet a couple from New Zealand who let me join their patch, and for one act I have a seat. This is first ballet I've ever seen live, and what a way to start - Carol Cain and Nureyev in Swan Lake. Cain is fabulous. Her movements, with Nureyev controlling her, are faultless - apparently Nureyev rewrote acts 1, 3 and 4 and changed Tchaikovsky's music. There are tremendous applauses through each act and after - at the end I leave before the encores have finished. I am invited to join the NZ couple for coffee but I don't have enough Austrian funds. I sleep in the same place.

25 June, Ljubljana


About 6:00, I walk about four miles while hitching - a lorry picks me up (this was is my first lorry and my first lift while walking!) - and he is going towards Bruck od Mur, my way. There are many long waits and uninteresting lifts. An old bloke near Klangfurt gives me some blackcurrant juice. The Alps are very very pretty. In a cafe on the Yugoslav border I buy a beer and tomato soup and have a wash. Two cars take me into Ljubljana. I get a map from the tourist office, walk around and eat beef and sauerkraut. Then I walk to Rozmanova 12, but am told that my friend Maja is in Idrija. I sit a while and smoke in the park before trying to phone through to Idrija - mumble mumble Ljubljana mumble mumble. I walk around down by the river - it's a boring place to see but lively and there are many pretty girls. I doss down in some park near the edge of town.

26 June, Ljubljana


I wait for the swimming pool to open for an hour and take a very short swim - it's cold. A search through my luggage reveals that I've lost my plastic bag containing needles, thread, hair cutter and pills. I go back to where I slept to search but there is nothing. I wash in the shower and feel superfine, and proceed to Rozmanova once again. I'm not sure what to do if Maja isn't there - but she is! We talk about past things and walk around and meet some of her girlfriends at the campus. We play minigolf, buy bread and sausage, and walk a little up a hill talk of more things. Back at the college we watch Yugoslavia- E. Germany 0-1 at half time. We walk to another of Maja's aunts and drink lemon juice. Maja calls her boyfriend, Mira, and we go back to town to see 'Lady Sings the Blues'.

27 June, Ljubljana


It rains in the night - its the first time and I have shelter, which is very lucky for me. Maja is off doing odd things this morning, I wash clothes and read and write a little. For some reason, I feel lonely. I change money and buy a toothbrush. Maja cooks for a couple of hours. Mira arrives having passed his exams. We eat eggy noodle soup, turkeyhen with salati and saute potatoes. We walk a while and sit in bar drinking beer, he and her and me. We talk about mathematics and god - then we wait another hour for a pizza and continue to talk. Mira is very much a mathematician, if a question cannot be answered then it is an illogical question - he accepts the infinite value of things - very much the way I feel I suppose. It is raining again. We come home and play cards (Cheat) and laugh very much, to tears sometimes.

28 June, Ljubljana


Maja is working all morning - I alternate between reading my book (Restoration plays - I am on a comedy by William Wycheley) and doing nothing. Later I walk up the hill to Ljubljana Castle and to a superb rip off: there is an entrance saying 'Tower' so I walk up all these stairs to find a little man in a little room who want three dinars. I walk down and away. Maja cooks liver and rushes off to work. I walk to Mira's pad - we jostle over to the computer room in his university and he puts a programme through several times - this computer serves about 100 people. We play a while with a boomerang - eat in the refectory and sit around talking and telling jokes all evening. We stay in Mira's room for the night.

29 June, Idrija


Mira and Maja slip away to breakfast - I join them soon for hot milk, bread and jam - Mira's parents pick him up to take him to Kapra. We walk around the shops. I look for interflora and cigarette papers, but don't find either. Maja does, though, find me some sterilising tablets. I write a happy birthday letter for Mum, and we set off for Idrija in pouring rain. At Maja's home, we munch pancake, bilberries and walnuts. I listen to the World Service and get up to date with the sport. Milosh (with a beard) and Igor come round - we eat steak. After dark, in still pouring rain, Maja's father drives us up to Maja's. It is nearly at the top of a hill by a farm - a fire is lit in the stove for tea and they all talk Slovene until late. I walk a little singing to myself. A beautiful white cloud hangs in the valleys but the tops of the hills are cloud-free - the opposite of snow-capped mountains. There are supposed to be rats in the hut, but Maja and I fall asleep easily.

30 June, Idrija


Today is Sunday - we see the cloud leave the valley and it is so fine. We go walking - it is only 8:30am but I am without a top. An old lady comes to talk and then leads us through the forest and valley to a house she wants to sell - she makes us tea and shows us around. These houses have enormous ovens for warming the main room, sometimes with beautiful tiles; plastered walls with line designs rollered on. This house has its own slivovitch cellar complete with old barrels; and there is also a working spinning jenny. We walk back a different way to Maja's brother's house where we drink more tea. For hours we laze in the sun eating bilberries and walnuts, and talking about the future and people, being silly and having fun. Eventually we go back to the hut, make a fire and eat steak and eggs. Then we tidy and lock up before heading back to Idrija and catching the last bus to Ljubljana. In the city again, we drink a beer and watch each other climbing trees.

July 1974

Paul K Lyons


Copyright © PiKLe PuBLiSHiNG

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