January 8, 1969
We leave the Toronto bus terminal at 9:00 pm and arrive in New York City at 9:00 am.
January 9 New York City
We spend the day sightseeing in New York. It’s easy to get around the city and all the main landmarks are within walking distance. We see Times Square, Broadway, Fifth Avenue, the Empire State Building, Madison Avenue and we wander around in the U.N. building. We don’t go up the Empire State Building because it is cloudy and we won’t be able to see anything. We go for a beer in a run-down little bar around 3rd Avenue and 40th St. East and order a draft. We meet John Hyland (obviously a semi-permanent resident of the establishment) who buys us three more rounds. Mary, the bar mistress won’t take our Canadian quarters, but gives us a round on the house, instead. We say goodbye to the tipsy Mr. Hyland before he can buy us even more beer. We make our way to the bus for the airport and sit beside some pretty blonde stewardesses. Too bad United Airlines doesn’t fly to Europe. New York is fine (for a visit). Maybe we’ll come back some day (for a visit).
Our baggage is checked and we await only the departure call! Finally, we board our plane. There is an empty seat beside us and lo and behold if it isn’t filled by a sweet young American thing from Philadelphia, off on a tour of Europe all by herself. Naturally, Reed is very glad to meet some fellow travelers and she agrees to hitch-hike with us, at least as far as France. She seems a good sort.
Icelandic Airlines does not fly sleek modern passenger jets like the better-known airlines. Icelandic Airlines flies venerable Super Constellations; four-engine turboprop aircraft, that have proven their worth and dependability over millions of air miles. It is a long flight, twelve hours in the air, with a one-hour stop in Reykjavik, but the tall, blonde, Icelandic stewardesses do their best to make it enjoyable. They serve a small bottle of French wine with each of several excellent meals and duty-free drinks only cost twenty-five cents. Keflavik airport is overcast and rainy, so we don’t see much of Iceland.
January 10 Hotel Splendide, Luxembourg
We made it! Hallelujah! We arrive at Luxembourg Airport, get a bus into town and discover the youth hostel is closed for the winter. Undaunted, we set off into the less-busy part of town and soon discover a shabby, but very clean and well-run hotel for 100 Luxembourg francs (US$2.00) and a terrific supper for 60 francs.
January 11 Luxembourg 207 Luxembourg Francs (US$4.14)
First day in Europe! We go sightseeing in Luxembourg City and around the tiny country. We take a walking tour through the old part of the city, which is enclosed by ancient walls and ramparts. Then we leave the city and head for Ettlebruk, passing through Mersch and Diekirk. At Bettendorf, we are picked up by Rene Takes, a Dutch fellow, who takes us to his home in Riesdorf for coffee and then drives us to Vianden and Beaufort to see some castles. Vianden is a beautiful old castle (in ruins), sitting high on a cliff, overlooking a valley, and a tiny picturesque village. Rene then takes us to Echternacht and from there we get a ride back to Luxembourg City. Altogether, we cover 100 Km in six rides and see a large part of the country (the most interesting part, we are told). Although, it is rainy and misty, it is quite comfortable, except we can’t see the scenery too well. Demain, En France!
January 12 Nancy, France 17 French francs (US$3.35)
First day on the road! Oh, my aching…back, shoulders, neck, calves, feet – choose one! We leave Luxembourg City about 8:30 am and walk eight Km until we get our first ride. He takes us to Thionville. From there we get a ride to Metz. At Metz, we are picked up and the driver says he is going to Nancy, our destination (about 56 Km). He drives for half an hour, stops at an intersection, way out in the country and says: “Nancy est en cette direction! After he drives off, we look at the signs. We are now 35 Km almost due west of Metz and more than 70 Km from Nancy. We wait for a while, but the traffic is light and local, so we start to walk towards a small village, in the direction of Nancy. In a short time, we are picked up by the local gendarmes, who not only give us a ride into the village, but escort us into the Gendarmerie, ask us for our passports and detain us while checking us out by phone. They turn us loose and we walk three weary Km back to the crossroad, where we eventually get a ride back to Metz. There, we get a ride immediately all the way to Nancy. We find the Youth Hostel, called the Chateau Remicourt, with the help of the local Agents de Police, who are more friendly this time, and here we are. A fantastic dinner – first meal all day – for 10 francs each, and we await tomorrow.
January 13 Nancy, Lorraine, France
Quel beau jour! We speak French all day and love it! We set out to see the city and walk for miles. The first landmark we see is the Place Stanislaus – a large square in the centre of the city -- very beautiful, with large sculptures and wrought iron works, decorated with gilt. We see part of the original city fortifications built in 1313. We go to the Musée Zoologique, but it is closed. We wander into a huge cathedral, which is just beautiful. At 2:00, we have a “hitch-hikers’ lunch” – bread, cheese et une trés grande bouteille du vin rouge. It’s just local plonk, -- a litre bottle only costs 1.20 francs (35 cents) -- but it is better than any wine we ever drank in Canada. We walk back towards the hostel and find a pub, in which we sit and drink more wine until 9 o’clock. We have a sandwich and then go back to the hostel.
January 14 Lyon, France
Today is a travelling day. We leave the Chateau Remicourt de bonne heure and get a quick ride for about 25 Km. Then in a short while, we get a ride all the way to Lyon. We arrive about 4:30, having covered a distance of nearly 400 Km. French drivers are completely insane! They always want to talk, facing us in the back seat and using both hands – to talk – not to drive! On the other hand, they are very friendly and love to pick up hitchhikers. Another man picks us up at the edge of the city and drives us right to the youth hostel. We then hitch-hike into the city and eat in a café near the University of Lyon. Lyon is just too big; a huge city, at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers.
Is it ever fun speaking French! We are just rattling along, using words we don’t even remember learning. We have never yet been unable to communicate with someone. We got into a conversation about politics today, with a guy that picked us up. He was talking 90 miles an hour and we managed to catch the gist of everything he said. The people are really nice and are always willing to help us. Those who give us rides, often insist on driving out of their way to take us to the edge of town or somewhere else we want to go. Last night we went to a small restaurant and we didn’t even tackle the menu. The waiter just asked if we wanted to eat and then he brought us salad, bread, fried chicken, peas and carrots and bière. A fantastic meal for 10 francs ($2.00) each. It was more than we had planned to spend, but it was worth every centime. Anyway the hostel only cost us 40¢ for the night. Figuring out the money is a bit of a circus, but we are starting to get the hang of it.
The weather has been cloudy, damp and sometimes misty but not too cold and never uncomfortable. We think it is worth putting up with the weather at this time of the year to avoid the tourists. We are the only ones hitchhiking and often a driver will stop for us just to ask why it is that we are traveling at this time of year.
January 15 Montpellier 8 francs (US$1.60)
The day starts out really badly and ends up great! We have a terrible time getting out of Lyon. By 2:00 in the afternoon, we have had two rides and are still in the city. Then we get a ride about 25 Km to Vienne and then are stuck there. Finally, at 5:20, we get a ride with a fellow who is going all the way to Montpellier. Having no fixed itinerary, we decide to go to Montpellier, instead of Avignon. This looks like a beautiful city and we are going to stay for two or three days. We spend the night in what seems to be some sort of Catholic Mission.
January 16 Montpellier, France 20 francs (US$4.00)
We spend the day sightseeing in Montpellier. It isn’t very warm, even though there are palm trees (the first ones I have ever seen!). We see some very interesting things, a Roman aqueduct, in particular. La Rue de la Université is narrow and twisty and very busy. There is a large university here and the city literally swarms with students, but we haven’t met any yet.
January 17 Montpellier 26 francs (US$5.20)
A really beautiful day; more what we expected of southern France. We set out in the morning to visit Les Grottes de Clamouse about 40 Km from the city. These are caves in the limestone rock and are really beautiful. Then we walk about two and a half Km to the village of St. Guilhem le Desert and see a very beautiful and ancient church, dating from the eleventh century. The church is awe-inspiring in its simplicity and its truly majestic pipe organ. The village is also very old and very simple. On the way home, the gendarmes pick us up again but don’t question us much. We go out to sample the night life, but only sample the bière à demipression. We meet a lady who helped us the first night and neither of us is sure whether we were really picked up, or not. We love Montpellier, but tomorrow, to Spain!
January 18 Barcelona, Spain US$2.50
We have the greatest luck at autostop! Today, we leave Montpellier about 11:00, heading in the general direction of the Spanish border and Barcelona. One ride takes us to Narbonne, where we have lunch and then another ride, this time with a Spaniard, takes us all the way to the centre of Barcelona. It seems we only have to say to ourselves where we want to go and somebody comes along and takes us there. We have travelled from Luxembourg to Barcelona in four travel days. At Narbonne, we watch part of the Ralleye de Monte Carlo go by. Spaniards are even worse drivers than Frenchmen! Shee! Tonight a hot shower – ever great! We are staying in the Pension Barcelona for a dollar each and it is just like a small hotel – very nice! Tomorrow we are going to explore Barcelona.
January 19 Barcelona 250 pesetas (US$3.57)
Today, we see some of Barcelona, which is quite nice. We meet some Canadian guys, from Calgary and Toronto. We see Columbus’ ship, the Santa Maria and go up in the Columbus Monument, 197 feet high, to look out over the city. Our Spanish is beginning; a few weeks will see an improvement, we think. Tonight, we see our first honest-to-goodness Red Light District. Calle Robodard is a short side street in the downtown area that on a Sunday evening is crammed with drunk, horny Spaniards and the bars all have girls lined up along the walls. We just kind of blunder into it and there we are, and with Reed, too. She feels quite out of place. We put her in between us, link arms, and slowly work our way through the crowd. The action only fills a couple of blocks and then we turn around and walk back through it again just to assure ourselves that we really see what we think we see. It is quite an eye-opener for a farm boy from Oxdrift!
January 20 Barcelona 150 ₧ (US$2.50)
A pleasant day. We visit the Picasso Museum. In the evening, we notice a bodega or wine shop next door to our pension. I volunteer to go and purchase a bottle of wine. The bodega looks like a dimly-lit cave with huge wooden casks set into the walls. The proprietor first asks if I brought my own bottle. Then he asks if I want dry or sweet wine. Having no idea, I waggle my hand to suggest something medium. He nods, takes an empty bottle and fills it half full from the dry-wine cask. Then he goes to the sweet-wine cask and fills the bottle up. “There you are Señor: medium wine!” I return for a refill at least once (and possibly more than once). The next day is very thirsty!
January 21 Tarragona 165 ₧ (US$2.75)
We start off at the crack of dawn (about 1:30 pm) heading for Tarragona. It is 4:30 pm, and we have walked five Km out of Barcelona, when we get our first ride. Then the next ride takes us right to Tarragona. We just can’t seem to lose. We find a good pension here for 215 pts for the three of us.
January 22 Valencia 220 ₧. (US$3.67)
Tarragona is a pretty little town. It has Roman ruins and a beautiful Romanesque church. These old churches are really impressive. Inside, it is quiet and dim with great soaring pillars and buttresses and enormous stained glass windows.
We make it to Valencia, eventually. The road lies along the coast and is very pretty. The scenery alternates from orange groves to vineyards to mountains. I still haven’t fulfilled my ambition to pick an orange off a tree and eat it, but I intend to before long. This is harvest season and the oranges are just hanging on the trees, but we get the impression that farmers are quite possessive about their oranges! We get several short rides and finally a long one in a VW camper van – very comfortable after the tiny cars we usually squeeze into. There is another hitch-hiker already in the van, an American, who says he is going to stay in Europe for four more years until he finds out who the next U.S. President is going to be (Richard Nixon was inaugurated yesterday). He also shows us his hitch-hiking strategy: a Canadian flag fastened inside the top of his backpack that he can flip out when he is trying to get a ride. Valencia seems bigger than Barcelona but actually is only about half a million. Tomorrow night, we plan to take the ferry boat to Ibiza, one of the Balearic Islands.
Boy, this traveling is really hard work! Every night we are exhausted from walking and carrying our packs. Even if we don’t have to walk far, hitch-hiking is still very tiring. We haven’t had any trouble with Generalissimo Franco’s boys, but there are sure a lot of them around, and do they ever look tough! About every 40 Km or so along the highway there will be a cop on each side of the road, standing beside his motorcycle, just watching the traffic go by. They are always friendly to us as we walk by or ask for directions. Of course, we haven’t tried yelling: “FASCIST PEEG!” or “DOWN WITH FRANCO!” or anything like that.
January 23 Valencia 250 ₧ including 165 ₧ for ferry tickets (US$4.12)
We spend the day in Valencia looking around this very pleasant, but big and busy, city. Then we take a bus to the port. We wait around, reading and relaxing until the boat leaves at 11:00 pm We meet three young Spanish fellows in the waiting room, who invite us to join them for supper. From their several bags, they produce an endless succession of bread, meats, cheese, walnuts. The overnight boat ride is fun, the boat is quite new and about the size of an ocean liner and the sea is flat calm. I sleep for a while.
January 24 Ibiza 205 ₧ (US$3.40)
I love Ibiza! Today is brilliantly sunny, about 70° and apparently, this is considered a cool winter. The island is just beautiful and we plan to spend at least ten days. We have a really nice pension for 40 ₧ a night with hot and cold water and it’s only 100 meters from the sea. As we hike through town looking for a pension, a guy offers us an apartment for rent, all furnished, 3 bedrooms, living room with fireplace, kitchen with fridge, stove and dishes, for 2200 ₧ ($31.00) a month. It is really lovely and right on the edge of the water, but we don’t plan to stay that long.
January 25 Ibiza
We spend the day sitting in the sun at a sidewalk cafe, drinking beer and watching the Spanish Navy, part of which is tied up at the dock. The palm trees give enough shade so it doesn’t get too hot. Very exhausting, really. We meet the Canadians that we met in Barcelona again and watch them go swimming in the sea. A bit cool for my taste; it is winter here, after all. In the evening, we meet Julia, an interesting British girl who lives on a yacht in Piraeus, Greece and works in the charter business. During the off-season she is travelling around Europe, just like we are. She invites us to look her up when we get to Greece. After supper, we go pub crawling, Ibiza-style. The Spanish Navy has taken over most of the town, but they will be gone in a few days.
January 26 Ibiza 170 ₧ (US$2.43)
Not much exciting happens. It really is nice to take a break from the road and stay in one place for a bit. We get up about noon, wander downtown and sit in the sun and drink beer all afternoon. Then we wander around, working up an appetite for dinner, which happens about 8:00 or 9:00 o’clock. The major challenge of the day is deciding what kind of beer to order and what to have for supper, the main event of the day. We find a little restaurant where they spread all the food out on the counter and you order by pointing. I usually start with putaje (bean soup), a small meal in itself. Then there is a great variety. Tonight I have potato salad, fresh shrimps with head and legs still on, rice, spinach, bread and wine and it only costs 45 ₧ (65¢) I eat so much I am in pain.
January 27 Ibiza 243 ₧ (US$3.35)
We spend the morning washing clothes. Don makes friends with a British author who lives on Ibiza and we go to meet him. I think he is queer, but not having met many, I could be wrong. We have a fabulous dinner of fresh shrimp for 45 ₧ – can hardly move after.
January 28 Ibiza 436 ₧ (US$6.22)
Today we rent a couple of motorcycles and set out to tour the island. The bikes are 125 cc Ossas, very modest in the power and speed categories, but on these narrow, twisty roads, we have a fine time. One road runs about 4 or 5 miles along the edge of a mountain side and we have a wonderful “road-race” along it. We visit the smaller towns of Sant’ Antoni and Santa Eulalia. The island is 50 Km long and about 20 wide and we pretty well travel it all. The country is largely farmland with a lot of terracing on the side hills. The sea is beautiful; the water is turquoise and very clear. I can hardly wait to swim and snorkel when we get to southern Spain, where it is supposed to be warmer.
January 29 Ibiza 230 ₧ (US$3.30)
Nothing much happens today. Sit in the sun, write a letter. Fresh sole for supper.
This evening, I attend my first-ever pot party at Julia’s (I take along a jug of vino tinto). Evidently, this island is a mecca for pot-smokers and other characters of that ilk. Julia promises to introduce us to her friends when we get to Greece and help us find jobs on charter boats. That would be cool!
February 1 Ibiza 180 ₧ (US$2.57)
We spend the day at Julia’s apartment – quite an interesting women. Don seems to be falling in love (or some reasonable facsimile, thereof). He is flying around just under the ceiling, anyway. We go to a bar that has really good music and order a bottle of wine that cost 60 pesetas. It is very good – a highlight of the trip so far! It would probably cost eight or ten dollars in a bar at home.
February 2 Ibiza
We go to another pot party. Never been to such a dull event in my whole life. Everyone sits around saying absolutely nothing, even when they are talking. Beer fests may not be very sophisticated or cool, but they sure are a lot more fun.
February 3 Alicante
We pack and head for the harbour to catch the ferry boat to Alicante. It feels good to be moving again. Finally, we board the Ciudad de Mahon, our ferry for the overnight trip to the mainland. We think this boat was left behind when the Spanish Armada sailed for England in 1588, because it was already too old and decrepit to make the trip. It shows no signs of having been repaired since. The weather forecast is for a rough crossing. We are in Deck Class, which consists of a large compartment with about fifty reclining seats, like on a bus. To our dismay, about forty of these seats are occupied by a gypsy wedding party on their honeymoon. The bride and groom are there, along with their respective parents, both extended families and most of the gypsies of Ibiza. They have obviously been partying all day and judging by the amount of wine, food and musical instruments they bring aboard, they intend to continue well into the night. The crossing is very rough with gale-force winds and huge seas. The creaky old ship wallows like a hay-wagon and before long the entire gypsy wedding party is seasick. Between the earlier singing, shouting and guitar-playing and the later moaning and groaning and retching, there is little sleep to be had. I don’t get sea-sick, but the combination of the rough weather and a bad cold makes me feel pretty bad. The loud ignorant Spanish gypsies ensure that we don’t get much sleep. All passengers are glad to set foot on land.
February 4 Murcia
We arrive in Alicante in the early morning, after the miserable, eleven-hour boat trip and hitch-hike about 75 Km to Murcia, getting there about 3:00. We sleep until 7:00, have paella for supper and then go to bed again. Spaniards are the loudest, most obnoxious, most ignorant, most lecherous, most impolite, most disagreeable people we have ever met (and those are some of their good points!).
February 5 Puerto Lambreras
The aforementioned characteristics of Spaniards are exceedingly evident in their attitude towards hitch-hikers. We have a terrible day! From Murcia to God-knows-where, 85 Km, takes us eleven hours. Our first ride does not stop for us until 5:20 in the afternoon and we have been on the road since 10:00 am. At 9:00 in the evening, we finally give up and take a hotel. We meet a French fellow-traveler along the way and he stays with us to share the cost.
February 6 Grenada
Today was our best hitch-hiking day yet. The first car in the morning picks us up and takes us 30 Km. The next car comes along right after we get out of the first one, stops for us and takes us all the way into Grenada. Can’t ask for more than that – I guess some Spaniards are pretty decent after all! In the evening, we meet a Spanish fellow who has worked in the States. He shows us a good restaurant and we talk to him for two hours. Ahora, hablamos español muy bien!
February 7 Grenada 278 ₧ (US$4.63)
Grenada doesn’t have much to offer; a busy city, but dirty and somewhat old and run-down, are the impressions we get. We do visit The Alhambra, though and it is spectacular. It started off as a Moorish castle and fortification and then became the palace of Charles V. We spend the day looking around Grenada and leave at 4:00 on the bus for Malaga. We travel through some of the most beautiful mountain scenery on the trip to Malaga and the road is just unbelievable. At one point, we are looking down on the clouds – from a bus! We meet Missionary Bill, a Canadian from New Brunswick. He buys us all a beer. He has been to 83 countries and filled three passports. A real interesting guy. While we are traveling through the region of Almeria, Don remarks on how much the landscape looks like the deserts in the American west. I agree, then ask him if he has ever been to the American west, because I haven’t. He says, no but it looks just like every cowboy movie he has ever seen. Then we both laugh because this is where most American cowboy movies are made. No wonder we think it looks like American cowboy country!
February 8 Malaga
We do the tourist bit in Malaga, a really pleasant city. We climb up to the old Gibralfaro Castle on a mountain above the city. It was first built by the Phoenicians and then occupied for centuries by the Moors. We also see the Catedral de la Encarnación, a lovely old church. Really unbelievable! We also see the ruins of a Roman theatre from the 1st century B.C.
February 9 Algeciras
We make good time hitch-hiking, but the weather isn’t cooperating. We pass through the famed Costa del Sol, but never see it once -- El Sol -- that is. Today, we actually stand in the rain and get wet. Then we get a ride with an elderly American from Illinois in his large, new Mercedes. He is a really neat old guy, about 60, doing a tour of Europe, too. He gives us a ride to La Linea, the access point to Gibraltar. The land border is closed because Spain and Britain are having another one of their endless disputes over the ownership of Gibraltar. He then drives us around the bay to the town of Algeciras, because the only way to get to Gibraltar is to take the ferry across the bay from there. We find out that the ferry to Gibraltar is not running because today is Sunday. We find a good hotel with hot water and all the comforts – 200 ₧ for the three of us. The ferry for Tangiers also leaves from Algeciras, so we decide to go there first and then visit Gibraltar after that.
February 10 Algeciras (still)
El barco no salida hoy, causa viento. (The boat isn’t going today because of wind!) Perhaps mañana. We spend the day in our hotel room, writing letters and watching the rain fall – a real thrill!
February 11 Algeciras (still!)
El barco no salida hoy….etc. etc…! We spend the day in the hotel room again. We meet some girls from Oregon. There is a big hassle over Rick staying here. We finally bribe the watchman with 50 ₧ and a litre of beer. We drink about ten litres of beer all day. Sure is a lot!
February 12 Tangier, Morocco
We catch the 11:00 am ferry boat, disembark in Tangier and are immediately immersed in a completely new and unbelievably different world. I guess it’s called “culture shock”. From six to 75, every person in Tangier is trying to sell you something: hashish, money, hashish, leather goods, hashish, guided tours, hashish and maybe even a little kief or some opium if you want! Very strange experience having a ten-year-old boy approach you on the street, holding out a chunk of hash that would keep a Vancouver hippie high for a week and say: “Hey, Meester! You want buy?” And he can barter in seven or eight languages. Quite unbelievable! Apart from this, it is a fascinating place. The Medina or old town, is right out of The Arabian Nights: narrow, crooked streets, open shops selling rugs, leather goods, anything you can imagine (and some you have never thought of). I have quite an interesting evening. It starts out in what looks like an opium den in the Medina, and ends in a Moroccan night club in the tender company of an Arab and his American accomplice. Using one of the oldest scams in the book, they easily swindle me out of nearly $100. Night life in Tangier is interesting and eventful, but very expensive! I am enormously embarrassed at having been taken in so easily! By this time, we have all had enough culture shock and we decide to leave the next day. We aren’t going to see any of Morocco outside of Tangiers and that is too bad as we hear that the rest of the country is very appealing.
February 12 Algeciras (again)
We catch the boat from Tangier back to Algeciras, but it is too late to get the ferry boat over to Gibraltar, so we stay in our usual pension again.
February 14 Gibraltar
We catch the ferry to Gibraltar and spend the rest of the day there. The little town, is very crowded and busy. We get a room in the Youth Hostel, where we meet Mrs. Street, the caretaker, a 76 year-old eccentric British-Australian. She has many a tale to tell – and tells them all! Gib is quite a fascinating place, very British and quite cosmopolitan. It is curious to see a traditional British bobby speaking fluent Spanish. We climb to the top of the Rock (1400 feet high in the middle part) and see the Barbary apes. We clamber all around the various batteries and explore the Windsor Galleries. We are fascinated by the old cannons and fortifications. There are some 1300 British private school kids touring as well, which makes for some good sight-seeing…mini-skirts, y’know!
We leave Algeciras and do so poorly hitch-hiking that about 2:00 pm, we decide to split up and try our luck separately. We agree to go to the Canadian embassy in Madrid every day at noon until we meet up again. I strike out by myself, while Don and Reed try their luck. I hike about six Km and finally get a ride with a Portuguese fellow who takes me all the way into Seville. It is a bright and sunny day and we pass through beautiful country. I enjoy being on my own and it is much easier for one person to get a ride than three. As we approach Seville, I really have to pee, but no hitch-hiker is ever going to get out of a car that is still going in the desired direction. Finally, the driver stops and lets me out in the centre of the city. I immediately stumble into the nearest bar and ask where the toilet is. The bartender says: “Perdon, señor, no hay toiletta, aqui.” He must have seen the panic-stricken look on my face, because he says: ”Hay solo un pissoir”. I spend an hour looking for the Albergo Juvenile and then take a cheap pension. It is somewhat crumby, but my pack is getting heavy and it has been a long day.
February 16 Carmona
I spend most of the day touring Seville, a very beautiful city, with great, wide boulevards, huge parks and Moorish, Roman and renaissance architecture . The Plaza d’España is especially impressive. As it is Sunday, I watch mass being said in the Cathedral of Seville. I can’t follow the service but I kneel down, stand up and put money in the basket when everybody else does. The cathedral – the third largest Christian church in the world – is a real mind-boggler! It might not be as awe-inspiring on the inside as the big gothic churches we saw in France, but the Moorish influence on the architecture is really a sight. I climb the world-famous Giralda bell tower – 93 meters high for a look out over this beautiful city. I think that, in the unlikely event I ever get married someday, this is where I would like to come for my honeymoon! About 4:30, I decide to leave Seville and make a start towards Madrid. I walk for 8 – 10 Km until well after dark. It is very difficult to hitch-hike and there are no rides, no restaurants and no hotels. Bad scene! I am prepared to sleep under a hedge, but the land is swampy on both sides. I finally get a short ride to this little town and find a nice room and a good supper.
February 17 Madrid 125 ₧ (US$1.80)
I leave Carmona at 8:30 and by 9:00 get a ride, over 500 Km, all the way into Madrid. I arrive about 5:30, find out where the Youth Hostel is and make my way there by subway. I meet eight Canadians in the hostel and go downtown with them for supper. The Madrid subway is hot, crowded and smelly, but very efficient. There are eight or ten different lines and they all interconnect so it is easy to get around the city. I walk many miles back to the Youth Hostel and get checked out by the Guardia Civil – I guess there really is martial law in Spain. Apparently, a state of emergency has been declared because of student riots and such. We are in a café where a lot of students hang out and the police come in checking ID. Two guys give them some backtalk and end up in the police station for awhile. One doesn’t fool around with Spanish police!
February 18 Madrid
I go to the Canadian embassy and pick up my mail. First mail I have received on the trip and it is good to hear from home. I get three letters so I have a good bit of news to catch up on. Getting mail makes me realize that I really am away from home and this isn’t just some sort of daydream. I meet Don at the embassy at noon and get him settled at the Youth Hostel. Reed has left by train to meet up with her boyfriend in France; they are going to travel around together. We go to a university dining hall for a cheap lunch: bean soup, fries and a pork chop for 15 ₧. We check out the possibilities of getting work in a movie: “Maybe next week!” We try to sell blood: “Too late today, maybe tomorrow!” Tomorrow we leave for Barcelona. Julia promised that if we make it to Piraeus by March 8, she will have a 21st birthday party for me and invite all her friends in the charter yacht business. It would be a great opportunity to meet them and help our chances of getting jobs on the charter boats. We have many Km to go and only about 15 days to get there, so we have some hard travelling ahead of us.
February 19 Fraga
We leave Madrid early and take a bus to the first small village outside the city. We meet two nice girls from New Zealand in the bus station. Maybe we will meet them again in Greece. We are standing in the rain, when we get a ride to Zaragoza and the driver buys us a fabulous lunch – about 100₧ worth – along the way. We really do alright! After walking about 10 Km out of the city, we come upon a traveling businessman stopped to clean his windows and we ask him if he will give us a ride. He brings us this far, buys us lunch and a beer and offers to share a room with us for the night. He speaks only Spanish and some high school French but we have been getting along great. His native language is actually Catalan. He shows me a book and I try to puzzle out a little bit of it.
February 20 Nîmes
Our ride from yesterday drops us off on the far side of Barcelona and by a variety of rides and walking, we get 10 Km past Nîmes, France. Hotels are expensive here, so we sleep under a hedge. The temperature drops below 0°C and we awake shivering, with frost on our sleeping bags. It’s a little cool!
February 21 Nice
We pass though Avignon, take a picture of the famous bridge and carry on out of town. Actually, the Pont d’Avignon is a bit of a letdown because it is only a fragment. The original bridge across the Rhone river hasn’t been used since 1668, when it was damaged in a flood. Now, only four of the original 22 arches still exist. The French Riviera is beautiful but I think the Costa Brava in Spain is more appealing. The Riviera is very commercialized and developed with hotels and apartments right down to the beach. The Costa Brava stretches for miles with nothing but little villages and empty beaches. We stood on one beach of pure, white sand, in brilliant sunshine with pounding surf. For as far as we could see, there was no other person. I still haven’t been swimming in the sea because it has been too darn cold. I guess it is winter in Spain, too. A variety of rides brings us to Nice by 6:00 pm. By 7:30, we find the hostel (on top of a mountain) and make a good supper of bread, cheese, ham, wine and orange pop. Apparently, we are only a day or two late for one of the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations in the world. Too bad. The hostel is nice –very international. We play a francophone game of cards: two of us with our high-school French, a couple of Dutch fellows who are fluent, a Swiss from the French part, one or two from France, a Vietnamese who speaks French well…and one French-Canadian from Quebec. Nobody bats an eye at our basic efforts to speak the language, but every time the Quebecois opens his mouth, they scream with laughter at his accent. He is a bit miffed by the end of the game.
February 22 Genova, Italy
We leave the hostel and walk up a mountain and back down again. We get two short rides and walk many Km. We see Monaco-Monte Carlo in the rain. A nice place if you have lots of money. We wander into the Casino, curious to see what it is like. A supercilious doorman immediately figures out that we are hitchhikers and have nowhere near enough money to be welcome in this palace of wealth, so he politely but firmly suggests we leave. We leave! Hitch-hiking is very bad – it is always difficult to get a ride in the rain – so we finally take a train from Ventemiglia, just inside the Italian border to Genova. The hostel here is very nice.
February 23 Venezia
We take the train from Genova to Milano and then to Venice. We see a lot of snow between Milan and Venice and we are glad we are on the train. We get directions to the youth hostel and take #6 water-bus to get here. The hostel is very nice; it has central heating!
February 24 Venice
We spend the day in the city. It is fascinating! Venice is one of those places that is even more incredible in real-life than in your imagination. There are canals everywhere and the whole economy of the city moves by water: taxi boats, ambulance boats, grocery boats, even garbage boats. There are even a few traditional gondolas around, although this is not tourist season. There is not a car, truck or motorcycle in the whole city. Actually, it would be impossible because there are only narrow pedestrian streets and tiny footbridges over the canals. We meet some really great guys in the hostel and a couple who have spent 2 1/2 months skiing in Austria. The Piazza San Marco is really something and St. Mark’s Basilica at the end of it is very ornate and beautiful. We only stay for one day, so we don’t visit any museums or art galleries, but you could spend weeks here and still not see everything. People tell us that this is actually a good time of the year to visit, partly because there are no crowds of tourists in February and partly because in the summer the canals smell very bad.
February 25 Rijeka, Yugoslavia
We take the train from Venice to the mainland and then after several rides, we arrive at the Yugoslavian border. Crossing this border is a hassle! We are riding with a very helpful Italian man who translates for us and patiently waits for nearly half an hour while our visas are issued. We finally get through and after three more rides, we arrive in Rijeka. Most people speak only Croatian (and maybe, Russian). Older people speak a little German, which doesn’t help us much, either, so we have quite a time communicating. We find the university dining hall and get a pretty good meal for about 15 cents. We talk to a student who has one year of university German. Our conversation is not very stimulating. We find the tourist office and by means of a little old lady, we have a room in a private home for a dollar and a half. We still aren’t too sure how it happened, but here we are and the room is nice. Apparently, the price is much lower than a hotel. Tonight, we are studying German.
February 26 Split
We leave Rijeka early, say goodbye to the little old lady, and get on our way. A short ride and then a truck stops for us and takes us all the way to Split. The truck is an old Soviet behemoth that does a maximum of 50 Km per hour. It takes us from 10:00 am until 7:00 pm to travel 385 Km. The driver speaks a little German. Several times during the long day, he reaches under his seat, pulls out a bottle, takes a healthy swig and offers it to us: “Slivovitz, Sehr gut”! We decline, and find out later that Slivovitz is a locally-distilled plum brandy and something of a Yugoslavian institution. At one point, he pulls the truck over to the side of the road, says: “Schlauffen, tzen minuten! and collapses over the steering wheel. We get out to stretch our legs and about half an hour later, he regains consciousness, cranks up the engine and we continue our journey. The Dalmation Coast is spectacular! It is often called the Yugoslavian Riviera. The road winds in and out following the seashore. Offshore, are beautiful islands. The countryside is incredibly rugged and there are more stones than we have ever seen. The farmers collect the stones off their fields and pile them up into stone walls. Still, more area is covered with stone wall than there is field in between. We arrive in Split and ask directions to the youth hostel. We take the indicated bus and find the proper place, but soon discover that, while it may be a youth hostel in the summertime, in the winter it is a university men’s residence and fully-occupied. The students are really friendly and after a lot of incomprehensible dialogue, it appears that we are being allowed to sleep for free in the beds of two students who are away at the moment. The only people in the whole place who speak English are a Pakistani and a Jordanian. Both are very nice and make us feel welcome. We are given a cup of tea and we talk for a while, It is really interesting to meet some other university students. A senior student appears, who seems to be in some position of authority and expresses great concern about our health status. Everyone here has heard about the Hong Kong flu epidemic in North America, which is getting a lot of media coverage all over the world and he is afraid we might infect the student body. We show him our International Vaccination Certificates, which of course, say nothing about Hong Kong flu, but which look very official, nevertheless. He studies them carefully, pretending that he can actually read them and then goes away, apparently satisfied that we aren’t a health hazard. A law student appears who asks if we can speak: Russki?... Serbski?... Croatski?...?...or possibly …Latinski…? He speaks neither English, French, Spanish nor German, but he has studied Latin. So we converse for a time – in Latin! His is much better than mine, because although I studied it for five years in high school, this is the very first time I have ever actually tried to speak it! When I come upon a word I don’t know, I ask the Jordanian in English, he asks the Yugoslavian in Croatian what the word is in Latin and then relays it back to me. What a hoot!
February 27 Dubrovnik
We hitch-hike until 2:00 pm with almost no success, so we take a bus to get to Dubrovnik. We meet a little old lady who takes us to her home and rents us a room for 12 1/2 dinars each (US$1.00). It seems that the thing to do in this country is to stay with a family. The people are very poor and they are keen to rent rooms as a source of extra income. The people we have met have been simple and uneducated, but very friendly and open to us. Our first impression is that this is a really beautiful and unique city.
February 28 Dubrovnik
We spend the day sightseeing in the old town. This is probably the most interesting and unique town in Europe and not far down the list on beauty, either. The whole town is surrounded by the walls of a fortress, just like a medieval town in a history book, but, this town still lives within the walls. The town and the castle are in perfect repair and it is just like stepping back 500 years in time. You enter by walking across a drawbridge and through the main gates onto a wide main street. Unlike most castle towns that we have seen, the streets are perfectly laid out, not twisty and narrow. Everything is built of stone and it is certainly the cleanest town we have visited so far. There are churches, fountains and narrow little side streets. You can climb up onto the ramparts and look out to sea and it wouldn’t surprise you a bit to see a Venetian warship or a Byzantine galleon. You can walk around the entire town on the walls. At the tiny harbour, there are huge water gates which swing open so that cargo can be carried between the town and the ships. The whole place contains a wealth of history and it is like a living museum. Every evening, people walk up and down the main street, talking and laughing. The town sits between high mountains and the sea. The climate is mild nearly all year long and it really is a lovely place. Certainly, worth the trip. We visit a Marine Museum with beautiful salt-water aquaria, full of sea life.
Our next destination is about 185 Km through the mountains to Skopje, via Titograd, but we are told that the road is frequently impassable at this time of year and we are advised not to attempt it. There is a high pass on the route and it is often closed due to snowstorms. Not being keen on hitch-hiking in snowstorms, we choose a much longer, but easier option. We buy train tickets, which will take us first to Belgrad and there connect with the train to Skopje. They cost us $8.00.
March 1 On the train – somewhere in Bosnia
We catch the train out of Dubrovnik at about 1:30 pm. The first one is a little narrow-gauge, commuter-type train. The engine has a clutch and transmission, like a heavy truck and you can feel it changing gears. Near Mostar, we change to a standard-gauge train, which passes through Sarajevo on the way to Belgrad. We meet a Norwegian artist who has spent a month in Dubrovnik. Mr. Ingebrigsten invites us to come to Tromsø, Norway to visit his museum. He also tells us that Tromsø has the world’s most northerly Youth Hostel and we vow to go there, someday. We start this part of the journey with an eight-seat compartment all to ourselves, but by the time we reach Belgrad in the morning, there are nine of us in it.
March 2 Titov Veles
In Belgrad, we connect with the famed Orient Express for the rest of the journey. Pretending we don’t know any better and hoping nobody will notice, we climb aboard a first-class carriage and settle into a very comfortable compartment. We are soon joined by a very pretty (but married) young Greek lady. Fortunately for us, she speaks several languages fluently, including English and Serbian, because the conductor soon arrives and throws a minor fit when he sees our third-class tickets. We pretend not to understand, hoping he will give up and go away, but then he starts demanding our passports. The Greek lady helpfully intercedes on our behalf and we quickly arrive at a solution. We agree to pay the difference in the fare (a few dollars) and he agrees not to seize our passports and throw us off the train. We all consider this to be a fine compromise. We travel all day though a fertile plain, which is quite a contrast to the barren, rocky terrain along the coast. The country is very poor and primitive in a bleak Soviet way. The houses are grey and unpainted and the small towns are shabby and untidy. We arrive in Skopje, Macedonia at 4:30 pm and start hiking out of town. At one point we are standing on a road somewhere away out in the country. We hear a strange sound in the distance – it is a steam locomotive whistle! Soon we can hear the chuff-chuff-chuff of the engine and then we watch it go by. Neither of has seen or heard anything like that in many years. Eventually, a truck picks us up and brings us to this small town, which is only about 100 Km from the Greek border.
March 3 Travelling through Northern Greece
We leave the hotel in Titov Veles and try to hitch-hike for a couple of hours. One thing we have learned, for sure, is that very few drivers are going to pick up hitch-hikers near a border crossing. Especially, in an iron-curtain country, like this one. We spend about five hours waiting for a bus out of town and eventually arrive at Gevgelija, the little town nearest the Greek border. We finally walk across the border about 5:00 pm with out any trouble. Soon, a Swiss-Greek picks us up and takes us about 50 Km. Now it is dark and we have no luck trying to get a ride and there are no hotels along the road. About 10:00 pm, we come upon a policeman, directing traffic and ask him if there is a Youth Hostel or a hotel nearby. He says there is not, but to wait a few minutes. He flags down the next car and asks the driver to take us to the next town, about ten Km away, so we can find a place to stay. The driver agrees and as he is slowing down to let us out, we manage to ask him if this town is his destination. He says: “No! no! Athinai!, Athinai!” We say: “What an amazing coincidence! That is our destination, too!” He drives all night and at 5:30 in the morning, we arrive in downtown Athens.
March 4 Piraeus, Greece (four days ahead of schedule!)
After a very strange cup of coffee (Turkish), we find a bus to Piraeus and then spend most of the morning looking for Julia. We trek around the harbour (with our packs on) about six times looking for her boat (we walked right past it on our first round without recognizing it) or for Roger’s apartment (for which we had been given the wrong address). Finally, after walking many miles, asking many people, we find Roger’s apartment and then the boat and then Julia. Soooo, we are now living on a 33-foot sailing yacht called Mouja, in Passilimani harbour, Piraeus! To celebrate our arrival, Julia, who is a cordon bleu chef, cooks coq au vin. Sure is great to have a home again!
March 5 Pasilimani Harbour
We are all settled in to our semi-permanent home aboard Mouja. Life on a yacht is cool, if a bit cramped. We meet Richard Griffiths and visit his boat, The Rosalind of St. Ives. She is a fascinating old boat, built in 1903, as a fishing boat in Cornwall. Richard restored her as a ketch and then re-rigged her as a schooner. Inside, is all sorts of varnished woodwork and nautical things. In the saloon, there is an old rusty cutlass, leaning up against a bulkhead. I ask Richard what that might be for. “Arrhh!”, he says. “That’s for Spaniards!! Those bastards sailed up the Channel in 1588 and ye just never know when they might come back again!”
A small, expatriate community of people lives in this harbour. A lot of yacht owners are businessmen or professionals who only spend a few weeks of the year on their boats. The rest of the time, they hire crew to look after and maintain the boat and charter it in the summer to help pay the costs. The people who are in the harbour at this time of year are a kind of an odd breed who wander around the world most of their lives and as a result tend to be very interesting people. We haven’t found jobs yet, but soon they will begin preparing the boats for the coming sailing season and this will mean all sorts of sanding, varnishing and scraping work. If we hang around long enough, we might even get on as crew later on. Don has always been fascinated by sailboats and I’m not exactly put off by them either.
The days become much the same, cool and rainy. We shop in the morning and then clean the inside of the boat and swab the deck. We are scrubbing the deck this morning, when an elderly Canadian couple stops to talk to us. They ask if we have any sailing and navigational experience because they are planning to buy a 36-foot motor-sailer in Hong Kong and they need someone to deliver it to Jacksonville, Florida. We think we aren’t quite ready, yet.
We go to see an Italian movie, dubbed into English, with Greek sub-titles, about the Italian campaign in North Africa during WWII. Sort of the Italian version of the battle of El Alamein, Rommel and Montgomery. I am quite surprised at how brave and courageous the Italian soldiers were in the war…and some of the atrocities committed by the British…tsk, tsk, tsk! Nearly all the movies here are in English with Greek subtitles so it is very handy for us. The problem is that they tend to turn the soundtrack down and the Greeks talk all through the movie, since nobody (except us) listens to it anyway. The other problem is that the subtitles and the soundtrack aren’t always synched, so the Greeks laugh at different times and we miss the punch lines.
Piraeus is a busy port and a very interesting city. The streets are crowded all day and the shops are open to the street, like one big village market. We haven’t done any sight-seeing yet, but on Sunday we are going to Athens to see the Acropolis. I’m just as enthused about Greek ruins as Gothic churches so I am looking forward to it.
This is a pretty nice life at the moment. We get up at 7:00 and have a “spot of tea”. At 8:00, we walk up to the grocery store for fresh eggs and yoghurt and then we go next door to the bakery and wait for the bread to come out of the oven. It is so hot we have to have a basket to carry it back to the boat. Then we gorge ourselves on fresh, hot bread, honey and yoghurt. I am not a great fan of dairy products and am initially quite suspicious of yoghurt. Eventually, I am prevailed upon to try it and instantly become a convert. Greek yoghurt is made from sheep’s milk (as a dairy farmer, I have a hard time imagining milking a sheep). It is very tart and comes in only one flavour: plain. It is wonderful!
There is an interesting aperitif here, called ouzo. It is flavoured with anise and is similar to pernod. It is quite an unusual taste and very popular. It is always served with a little plate of canapés, called mezés, in Greek. The most popular beverage, though, is retsina, a local white wine which, for some strange reason, is flavoured with pine resin. As you might expect, it tastes quite a bit like turpentine! However, it is very cheap and once you gag down the first litre or two, it becomes an acquired taste.
Julia cooks us another terrific meal for supper-- artichokes, leeks, halva -- all sorts of new foods. Maybe, I am beginning to see why Don finds Julia attractive… No, it must be more than the cooking!
I have a wonderful 21st birthday. Don and Julia buy me a birthday cake and give me a Greek knock-off of a Swiss Army knife. I am really tickled! As Julia promised, there is a party for me and it is held on Richard’s boat, The Rosalind. About fifteen people from the harbour come. There is Don, Julia, Richard and I. Then there is Roger, an English fellow who lives here permanently with his Greek wife, Charisse. Derek and Pat Whitmore, from Winnipeg, work as skipper and crew on a small Greek boat called Beelzebub Jones II. Felix and Jane are English and work as professional crew. Peter and Joan Throckmorton are American archeologists who do underwater research off the coasts of Italy and Turkey and Robin from New Zealand, who is their au pair girl. There is also Takis, a Greek crane-operator who speaks no English but likes to hang around with foreigners and who seems to enjoy himself. Much retsina and ouzo is consumed and a good time is had all around. They are very nice people and all of them are very interesting.
We are employed! I am working on Rosalind and Don is on Peter Throckmorton’s diving boat, Archangel. Richard’s boat has gotten pretty run down over the last year or so because he didn’t have the money to maintain it. A few days ago, he got a big break. The Savages, an American family, are on a year-long, low-budget tour of Europe. The parents and four strapping sons are traveling in a VW camper van with a pop-top. How they all fit into such a small space doesn’t bear thinking about. As part of their once-in-a-lifetime trip, they want to cruise around the Aegean. They can’t possibly afford the typical charter rate of $100, per day, so Roger helps to put together a deal that will work for them and also help Richard refit the Rosalind. The Savages agree to pay $40. a day for a two-month charter, but they will pay in advance so Richard can use the money to refit the boat and get it ready for sea. The Savages set off to tour in Turkey for six weeks and Richard begins working furiously to get the boat ready by the time they return. I have spent the last few days, hanging from a bosun’s chair, scraping, sanding and varnishing the mainmast. Great fun! The weather has been really lovely for days – bright sun and very warm. The pay isn’t great – 100 drachmas a day (US$3.00) for working from 9:00 to 2:00 – but it costs practically nothing to live either.
On the other side of the harbour, there is a 42 foot trimaran owned by an American. It has a gasoline engine, something that is almost unheard of in Europe. While I am scraping the mast up in the bosun’s chair, I watch the owner and his elderly Greek gardener step on board. The gardener heads forward to take in the anchor while the owner goes below to start the engine. Suddenly, there is an explosion and a sheet of flame envelops the boat. The owner escapes with minor burns, the gardener leaps into the harbour where he undoubtedly is in greater danger from pollution and disease than from the fire on the boat. The boat burns to the waterline and sinks. I never again feel totally comfortable on a boat with a gasoline engine.
Rain today, so no work. Richard has the flu and has stayed in bed for the last couple of days. Julia is in a foul mood and the atmosphere on Mouja is uncomfortable (and overcrowded). Peter said one or both of us can move onto Archangel and I might do it to take the strain off.
Richard is temporarily broke, so I am temporarily unemployed. I make plans to spend a week tramping around the Peloponnesian Peninsula to see some of the Greek countryside. We have a meltemi wind, today. It is very cold and miserable and no one works. This is a strong northeast wind that blows down from the Russian steppes. Apparently, it is quite unusual for this time of year. Tomorrow I am going to head for Corinth.
I change my mind at the last minute. We all go out to a taverna for dinner as usual and are joined by a group of young Americans and Canadians, who just arrived. They hear I am planning to travel to the Peloponnese the next day and one of them says: “We are all going to Crete tomorrow. Why don’t you come with us?” Without batting an eye, I say: “Sure, Why not?” This kind of spontaneity is so far removed from my normal life, that it practically leaves me breathless.
We go aboard the overnight ferry from Piraeus to Iraklion, Crete early and put our packs on bunks to claim them. By the time we go back on the boat as it gets ready to sail, about 100 Greek soldiers have come on board. I am distressed to find a 250 lb. soldier sitting on MY bunk. I express my dismay by calling him a son of a bitch in a rather unfriendly tone of voice. I am even more distressed to discover he understands English perfectly, including naughty words. Fortunately, a polite apology, (also in perfect English) smoothes things over and avoids a diplomatic crisis between our two countries (and me getting a punch in the nose).
March 24 Aghios Nikolaos, Crete
From Iraklion, we take a bus to this pretty little village at the east end of Crete. Along the way I pick up a food bug, which knocks me flat for 24 hours. I feel much better today, but still a little shaky.
March 25 Ierapetra, Crete
Sharon, one of the Americans, and I go to the small town of Ierapetra. Then her friend, Cathy comes to join us and the two of them have a big row about something. I just try to stay out of it and mostly succeed.
March 25 is Crete’s Independence Day, commemorating freedom from 400 years of Ottoman occupation. In Ierapetra, we watch about 300 girls in traditional costumes, dancing in big circles on a sports field.
I set out on my own towards the town of Psychro. Traveling with women is fine, but very complicated. The hitch-hiking is so poor that I eventually turn back, but I walk through some really beautiful scenery. I find a lovely, clean beach but don’t have my swim suit along. I meet some shepherds and walk with them a short way. When they find out I am travelling by hitch-hiking, they laughingly convince me to ride on their donkey. It may be the most unique ride of my whole trip. I love Crete. It is warm and sunny, and the countryside is more green and fertile than the rest of Greece. Actually, it is only a couple of hundred miles from North Africa. The people seem warmer and friendlier (not to mention, more polite) than the typical mainland Greek, too. I return to Ierapetra again for the night.
March 27 Malia, Crete
Tonight , I am staying at my favourite Youth Hostel of the trip, so far. It is a little farmhouse, on the edge of a tiny village, quite near the sea and has only six beds. Goats graze outside and chickens scratch and peck in the yard. There is only one other person staying in the hostel, a really nice German fellow called Ben Jose. He gives me a lesson in German grammar – how to conjugate a verb. I walk to the nearby beach and it is so impressive. For miles in either direction, there is nothing but beautiful clean sand beach, breaking surf and the sun blazing down. Not another living soul as far as the eye can see. I don’t think I will ever forget this place.
March 28 Matala
I leave Malia and Ben Jose goes with me. We try to hitch-hike until noon with no luck, so we take the bus into Iraklion. Then we get another bus to Matala. Matala is a picturesque village on the south coast of Crete, about 75 Km from Iraklion. There is a lovely sand beach between steep sandstone cliffs, which extend right down into the sea on either side. The cliffs are honeycombed with caves, dating from Neolithic times. The bible claims that St. Andrew was shipwrecked here on one of his voyages. It has been occupied by the Minoans, the Greeks and the Romans and other powers in between. During the sixties, it was invaded by hippies, much to the consternation of the military junta and the local residents. This beautiful place has essentially been overrun and ruined by the hippie hordes. The local villagers make a living from the visitors but are the most sour and unfriendly people I have met in Greece so far. There are only two restaurants, the Dolphin Café and the Mermaid Café. One of them is run by a bad-tempered old man, who only serves beans and fried potatoes, and who I am pretty sure is an actual eunuch! He is big and fat, with a high voice and no beard, and his face is lined and wrinkled just like an elderly lady, Fascinating! Neither Ben nor I are tempted to make friends with any of the unwashed inhabitants and apparently there are no vacant caves, so we bed down on the beach in our sleeping bags.
The following year, 1970, Joni Mitchell spent some time in Matala and wrote a song about her experience, called: “Carey” She evidently had more fun there than I did!
March 29 Iraklion
We catch the bus back to Iraklion, happy to leave Matala behind. We find the Youth Hostel in Iraklion. It is a small but busy town and much nicer than my first impression. Ben Jose is going to stay in Crete for a while longer and I am waiting for the ferry back to Piraeus.
March 31 Piraeus
The ferry trip home is pleasant. I don’t exactly get a hero’s welcome from Julia and am glad for the opportunity to go to work for Richard in the boatyard in Perama, a small town about five miles down the coast.
April 1 Perama
From the Piraeus railway station, we take the ”Perama Flyer”, as Richard calls it. It is an ancient street car, powered by overhead electric wires, running on equally ancient light railway tracks. It sways and clatters its way out along the harbour. At night, arc-flashes from the overhead power lines light up the neighbourhood. I am now working in the boatyard on Rosalind, who is up on the ways having her bottom done. I work 8:00 am to 6:00 pm for room and board. We are living on board while the work is being done and eating in a nearby working-man’s taverna. It is not fancy, but the food is OK. It is hard, dirty work and I am up to my ears in grease, paint, antifouling compound and substances that I have never seen before.
April 2 Perama
Today, at lunch Richard asks for salt and pepper and the waiter brings over the usual little pots. Customarily, you take a pinch between your fingers and sprinkle it on your food. The waiter looks at Richard’s hands, all covered with paint, grease, tar and God-knows-what-else and takes a pinch of salt in his own fingers and sprinkles it on Richard’s food for him.
April 3 Perama
Today, we spend the day priming the hull. Richard’s friends, Robin and Jill arrive. They drove out from England in their beautifully restored 1947 Bentley saloon car. Unfortunately, the Bentley doesn’t arrive with them as it is sitting somewhere north of Athens with a burnt rear wheel bearing.
April 4 Pasilimani
We finish the refit this afternoon and re-launch Rosalind. Then we motor back to her usual berth in the yacht harbour. I can hardly wait to go to sea and experience the boat under sail. To celebrate Ros’ return from the shipyards, we start with some gin-and-tonics on the afterdeck about five o’clock and progress through beer, ouzo, some Yugoslavian wine and several bottles of retsina. Then, we adjourn to a nearby taverna for dinner and more retsina. In fact, one waiter does nothing else all evening but carry pitchers of wine to our table. This turns into some party! The bill, when it comes, is quite reasonable, but this being Greece, we feel we ought to haggle just on principle. We contest the bill loudly and endlessly in fractured Greek and in the end we pay quite cheerfully, with a generous tip.
The merciless, early morning sun shines through the skylight upon at least one very thirsty crewmember.
Robin and Jill asked Richard what he would like them to bring out from Britain and he told them to bring lots of bacon and a dart board. Bacon is virtually unobtainable in Greece and it is a rare delicacy for expats. They brought thirty pounds, so on Saturday evening, we have a “Bacon and Arrows” party at Groovy John’s apartment on top of Kastella hill. It is a terrifically interesting crowd of people. We play darts and eat ALL the bacon.
So far, the weekend has been pretty entertaining, but it is not over yet. Peter and Joan Throckmorton invite us all to a “Mezes” (canapés) party at their home. I am somewhat intimidated on arrival to find the place filled with elderly and distinguished-looking people, rather than our familiar motley crew. I call on my experience with grandma’s bridge parties, find a wine glass and head into the crowd. I have a wonderful time chatting up all the old people.
April 9 Pasilimani
I keep on working for Richard, enjoying it very much because he is so interesting and so is his boat. Today, though, I get a new job through one of Richard’s friends. Terry is the engineer on Ivara, a beautiful, 95-foot luxury motor yacht. My job is sanding the teak decks with a big power sander. It is hard work, but I am making 230 drachmas a day (US$7.00) – a princely sum, indeed – and they feed me lunch! The boat belongs to the Dutch Royal family or Shell Oil, which is pretty much the same thing. The boat is like nothing I have ever seen. There is a permanent crew of six: the Captain and Terry are both retired Royal Navy; the cook, steward and two deckhands are from Malta. The crew lives on the boat year-round and go wherever the owners want. The engine room is painted gleaming white and is absolutely spotless. The only reason I don’t take my shoes off is in case my socks are dirty. The two main engines are 16-litre Rolls-Royce marine diesels and two smaller diesels run generators. The boat has accommodations for six passengers in three staterooms, each with a double bed and an en suite head with an electric toilet! What decadence!
As an illustration of the competence and professionalism of his crew, the Captain describes his mooring procedure. The anchor is dropped in the harbour and he backs the boat in toward the quay – at seven knots, to maintain effective steerage! The Captain cannot see the stern of the boat from the bridge, but there is a button on the stern rail that sounds a buzzer in the wheelhouse. At the precise moment, a deckhand sounds the buzzer and the Captain gives the engines a big burst in forward, stopping the boat dead in the water. The deckhand steps off onto the quay and makes the mooring lines fast. The Captain, without even checking to see if the lines are secure, shuts the engines off and goes below to his cabin. He just KNOWS that the boat has been moored securely!
Today is Greek Easter. This year the Orthodox calendar places Easter one week later than ours. On this day, everyone greets each other with: “Christos anesti!” (Christ is risen!) and everyone eats lamb! Easter is not a good time to be a lamb in Greece! Groovy John has an Easter Sunday Lamb Party (any excuse will do for a party) and we have good fun. John’s old friend, George Morisson from Munich, is here to visit for a few days. He brings along his girlfriend and Tartsan, his Hungarian Sheep Dog.
My job on Ivara is finished and I made almost $50.
April 17 Methoni
Today I finally get to go to the Peloponnese. An elderly English lady, Pelly Konstas, wants someone to drive her Volkswagen beetle, taking her and a couple from New England, around the Peloponnesian peninsula. Who am I to refuse a free trip? From Athens we drive to Corinth and cross over the famous canal. The we drive about 50 Km to visit the archeological excavations at Mycenae. This is a fascinating site, the remains of a pre-Hellenic bronze-age civilization. Legend has it that King Agamemnon left from here to rescue Helen from the Trojans. From there, we pass through fertile countryside with fields and vineyards until we reach the beautiful little village of Methoni in the southwest corner of the peninsula. Pelly and her husband built a vacation cottage here before he passed away. There is a long, beautiful beach and a very interesting Frankish castle dating from the crusades. There are few tourists in this out-of-the-way place and it is very quiet and peaceful. Pelly used to work as a tour guide so she tells us all the history and myths of the places we see.
April 19 Pasilimani
We arrive back from our trip to Methoni without incident and I start working for Richard again. We put in two days of frantic work to finish getting Rosalind ready for the charterers to come aboard. We become involved in a horrendous argument with Greek officials about things piled up on the quay while we work on the boat. A big event is imminent and, apparently, Col. Papadopoulos, himself, drove past this morning and said: “We can’t have that messy boat right in the middle of the celebration.” So, we have been harassed in every possible way by Greek officialdom. Of course, a Greek official never thinks to just politely ask us to move the boat, in which case, Richard, being a British gentleman, would fall all over himself to comply. Instead, the official strides up and begins shouting orders and waving his arms. This naturally causes Richard, being a British gentleman, to flatly refuse to move and to tell the official to contact the British Embassy if he has a problem. At one point, while I am in the middle of changing the engine oil and have oily filters, and greasy engine parts spread all over the place, Richard comes back to the boat to find me engaged in a loud, arm-waving argument with a Mr. Skylitsi. I later find out he is the Mayor of Piraeus. Lucky I don’t end up in jail!
April 21 ZΗTΩ H 21 AΠΡIΛIOΥ! (VIVA THE 21ST OF APRIL)
Well, the 21st of April is some big deal Greek national holiday! It commemorates the seizing of power in 1967 by the military junta and the aforementioned Col. Papadopoulos. No wonder Mayor Skylitsi was so uptight about us making an oily mess on his sidewalk, when he was trying to get everything tidy and clean for the big holiday! What fuss and ceremony has been going on for the last few days: military music, from 6:00 am until midnight, fireworks, parades of tanks, more uniforms than civilians and all the paraphernalia that goes with a fascist government