Letters From Swaziland




The Journey Home Letters

Manzini to Mbabane - The Hard Way

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The Journey Home Letters
December 1970 - June 1971

Flying over Ethiopia
25 December 1970

I am high over Ethiopia at the moment heading out toward the Red Sea then north to Israel. The land below is beautifully rugged with deep valleys cutting the flat plains. I saw snow for the first time in two years Friday when flying from Nairobi to Addis Ababa.

I don’t know which mountain it was, but, ironically, it was on or near the equator. Yesterday was spent in Nairobi and the previous day was consumed in traveling from Swaziland to Nairobi with a long wait in the Johannesburg airport. The latter place was a most disgusting place with all their “white” & “non-white” signs in English & Dutch.

Nairobi by contrast was beautiful and very friendly. It is the nicest city and cleanest city I’ve seen in Africa – no slums no filth – very impressive. I used the day there visiting small commercial art galleries and then buying wood carving which I’ve posted off to the States.

In some months time you should be receiving two packages – a large one containing two level figures and a large carved Maasai woman’s head. The smaller package has two small elephants. I spent another carving to Rick & Sandy as they had requested one for their stereo set. It is a 1 1/2 – 2 foot figurine of somewhat abstract quality.

The carving artists are not bound to realism and expand on their themes. It’s quite nice though and the surface is splendid.

The night before I left, the Salesians had me in for supper as sort of a farewell and gave me an envelope in which I later found $75!.

Nairobi was a bit expensive with all the carvings I bought (and mailed) and high hotel prices. I got a copy of Europe on $5 a day before I left. This is a traveler’s classic by now and has all the information on the least expensive places to sleep and eat. I think I can exist quite comfortably on 2-3 dollars a day by staying a hostels and observing “starvation budget” hints in the book.

27 Dec. 1970

I flew an El Al (Israeli) airliner from Nairobi to Tel-Aviv. Security was very strict – carry-on bags were searched twice, cameras, radios etc were forbidden as carry-ons. Finally everyone was thoroughly frisked before we were taken out of the airliner which was being guarded by heavily-armed Kenyan soldiers.

The presence of military and the signs of impending warfare are everywhere. Troops are visible all the time many of them carrying sub-machine guns and clips of bullets. But it is an everyday occurrence and life and happiness go on in spite of this.

I spent two nights in Tel Aviv. I was a bit stunned by the heavy traffic, apartments bristling with TV antennas, and so many white people – particularly children. In Swaziland there are a good number of whites, but they send most or all their children off to school in South Africa.

Today I boarded the train for Jerusalem and arrived here by noon after a hectic ride through the extremely rugged Judea by noon after hills and valleys. For a “holy” land, it is a far cry from heaven or even Eden.

The old city (the walled area) is exotic in the strictest meaning of the word and despite its tourist appeal maintains its quaintness and flavor. There is very little that is modern inside it. After wandering through the streets, I perched myself up on top of the western wall and with binoculars scanned the Mount of Olives, Gesthemane and other spots that you are familiar with in name and verse.

I have been staying in Youth Hostels here – they cost about $1.20 a night for warm beds and another $1.50 for eats – good deal actually. I plan to stay here another two to five days and then head north to Galilee and Nazareth, then west to Haifa and back to Tel Aviv where I will either get myself onto a kibbutz or fly onto Greece.

The climate is about 60 in the day and 40-50 at night which is noticeably cold from my point of view. Since Europe is much colder, I may stay on here until March which means a kibbutz. However the ceasefire is ending in another month and that may change my mind if its not extended.

The country-side, what I have seen of it, is quiet well-developed particularly the coastal plains about Tel Aviv which is thick with orange & olive groves, but the cities and roads are a bit littered and messy.

11 Jan 1970

I’m back in Jerusalem after a few days on The Dead Sea. I’ve been here for over a week now and may stay much longer. I can’t make up my mind to go elsewhere because I’m very comfortable here and the costs are minimal. Room and food is running me about $2.00 a day! which is as cheap as can be for Israel. I’m living in Jordanian Jerusalem about two blocks from the Damascus gate city where good chicken and rice meals are 60 cents along with a variety of other good eats for similarly low prices.

I’m looking into working here for a month or so either on an archaeological dig or on a kibbutz. Since chances of the former are remote, it will probably be on a kibbutz that I land. For the moment however, I am still relaxing by absorbing the city and reading.

I’ve found a nice quiet spot on the mount of Olives overlooking the entire city where I can spend quiet days when the noise gets to me. I am also looking into the possibility of selling my airline ticket as I have found that by obtaining a student card I can travel by land, sea & air throughout Europe for ½ normal prices as well as getting into as many museums etc. for lower prices.

I’m figuring out an address so that you can write me here in Israel. I believe the best procedure is to write to the US Embassy in Jerusalem whose address I’ll find before I close & send this letter. I can then collect any letters upon returning to Jerusalem should I go off. I suppose you should put PLEASE HOLD FOR COLLECTION or something of the sort on the outside.

If you write, you should probably do so as immediately as possible for I’m never sure how long I’ll stay in Israel. I’m getting a bit more accustomed to the cooler weather now although the past week was exceptionally warm with temps in the 70’s every day. Today it is in the low 60’s following rain yesterday. Still the nights are cold – in the low 40’s I’d say.

I’ve gone through $100 already (since the 23rd) but that has been due to do some gift shopping, hostel card expenses to which are now past and now I’m drifting along at a $3.00 a day clip. Also, the money changers in E. Jerusalem give nearly $2.00 in Israeli lira for a US Dollar, better than official bank rates.

I’ve visited another “holy” spot – the holy sepulcher. These sites are a bit disgusting with guides hounding you, priests sticking donation plates under your nose and the whole affair trapped in gaudy medieval decoration. As modern tastes in piety and awe favors simplicity these sites which must have overawed people in past centuries but now seem something between humor and superstition to the modern visitor as the gaudiness seems to defile rather than sanctify.

In Bethlehem there is a 3 foot long plastic Jesus doll in the grotto where the birth supposedly occurred. With its plastic perspex covering it vaguely resembles a two-year old child in an incubator. And yet people kneel and pray to it. Such is ritual and I suppose it is meaningful to them.

Galilee, Israel
26 January 1971

“And Low, he went through Samaria and unto Capernaum in Galilee and there did walk by the Sea of Galilee.”

Can it be a month already since I left Swaziland? It is, I’m afraid. It became cold and rainy in Jerusalem so after catching a throat cold, I left for Tel Aviv and then for Galilee where I am now basking in the warm sun and overcoming my cold.

There is a pleasant youth hostel in a nicely wooded area on the Sea of Galilee where I am now staying. It is 800 or 900 feet below sea level here so the temp is in the 70-80’s every day and the Galilean countryside is very green and beautiful all making for a very pleasant time.

My position at the moment of this writing may be of interest to you as I am writing on the “Mount of Beatitudes” (Sermon on the Mount mountain) overlooking the entire Sea of Galilee. Below me are the reputed sites of where Peter became a disciple and the miracle of the loaves & fishes was performed. A mile to my left is Capernaum.

The mount (actually a big hill), has a church and convent at the top as well as a good deal of old trenches, barbed wire and machine gun nests as it was fortified prior to the 6-day war. (Blessed are the peace makers for they shall be called the children of God?)

At its base by the Sea (actually a lake) proprietors of the “Loves and Fishes” Restaurant are re-performing the feeding of the thousand by turning a handful of loaves and fishes into abundance through the medium of capitalist enterprise.

The lake is full of fish and where the water is calm one can see thousands of good size fish in the shallows. A kibbutz next to the hostel sends out trawlers each day and they easily fill their nets. Otherwise the countryside is peaceful grazing land and farm land so it is essentially unchanged after so much time.

The day after tomorrow I will return to Jerusalem to collect any mail then I will go either to Eilat on the Red Sea where I understand I can make money working construction or I will go back to Tel Aviv and get assigned to a kibbutz until March when I leave for Turkey and Greece.

The ceasefire expires on 5 Feb but I think that will only effect the Suez Canal area if even that. Much of course depends on the outcome of the negotiations. Yesterday I got quite fright as I was sitting in a quiet spot by the lake when about 30 Israeli jets came screaming over my head a mere 300 or 400 feet above me. I suppose they are practicing low level flying to fly under Egyptian radar, but the noise level is nerve shattering. (American-made jets too) Perhaps they were making an air strike up on the Lebanon border. There has been an increase of guerrilla activity there lately.

I hope to be settled in a week or so and to stop my money which is only going at 3-4 dollars a day - not bad really, but still flowering out . That’s why Eilat seems preferable to kibbutz – I can regain lost ground – I can earn about $5 a day and two meals.

Tel Aviv, Israel
January 26, 1971

I have signed on to a Kibbutz South of Haifa on the Mediterranean. I go there tomorrow. Note: Address


Kibbutz Nahsholim

January 29, 1970

I’m settled into a kibbutz now. I’ve been here for three days. The kibbutz is located about 15 miles south of Haifa on the shores of the Mediterranean. The beach is a beautiful mix of sand and rocks against which huge waves crash and pound.

Next to the kibbutz are the ruins of the ancient city of Dor (supposedly mentioned in the Bible). It was quite a large city and unexcavated. I don’t know when if dates from but it is very fascinating as the ground is strewn with potshards, broken columns, huge building blocks etc. It is a bit sad to when one thinks what a splendid city it must have been. Now it is only rubble nicely covered by grass and millions of red poppies. No doubt a victim of incessant warfare which continues today and threatens even this peaceful setting.

At the kibbutz, however, life is very communal and comfortable. I live in a comfortable room with two other kibbutz volunteers – there are about 16 volunteers here. All members of the kibbutz eat in a common dinning hall where the food is good and plenty. Life within the kibbutz is quite easy. All aspects of life – laundry, child care, education, food etc. are taken care of by the kibbutz.

Things like sweets, soap, shampoo, cigarettes, work clothes, even aerogrammes are distributed free and everyone gets an allowance of one Israeli Lira (27 cents) a day. For work, I work 8 hours a day in a plastic factory they have here. The work is very simple and light and the conditions of work are pleasant – lots of coffee, piped music, heaters etc. This kibbutz has the plastic factory, banana orchards, citrus fruit, dairy cows & laying hens, and fish ponds. The kibbutz idea seems quite good and would make an argument for a communistic way of life at the personal level. One has no worries here, but one also does not “get ahead” in the material sense. But is that important?

I like it here, even with the manual labor. For peace and quiet I can go to the ruins by the shores and watch the sun set into the Mediterranean.

Other than that nothing much has occurred since I last sent you a letter which I wrote when I was up in Galilee. I returned to Tel Aviv & Jerusalem after that passing through the Valley of Armageddon with Israeli jets over streaking by 500 foot about. Ominous.

Note the additions my address. The last word “Hakarmel” refers to Mt. Carmel which is just behind us. Also about 10 miles to the south is Caesarea which you will remember from Biblical references.

Kibbutz Nahsholim
13 February 1971

I’m getting on well at the kibbutz. Already half the time I had planned to spend here has gone – I am now into my third week. I chose a good time to settle down because it has been raining nearly every day for the past week and a half. It is a nice feeling to know I have a warm fire in my room and plenty of food to eat.

It is very secure and comfortable here. I suppose it most closely resembles life in college -- rooms, communal eating and schedules. From your experience it would resemble a Wisconsin camp meeting although the housing facilities are considerably better, each family having a comfortable flat.

I enjoy living next to the sea and the ruins and visit each almost every day. Ruins have a way of filling up with dirt and sand so they become a mound given time. The mound here is about 30-40 feet above the sea level making it an ideal spot to watch the sun set across the Mediterranean.

Another pleasant thing about Nahsholim is that there are no armed and uniformed troops here as there are everywhere else in Israel – except for when an occasional youngster from the kibbutz comes home on leave. The low flying, nerve-shattering jets are still here.

Yesterday, I went into Tel Aviv to buy some books on the way back I visited some friends of Rich & Sandy’s [Oded Bar Or and wife]. We had a pleasant visit and we plan to get together again before I depart.

The cease-fire continued as was expected. Terrorist activity is quite common although not around here. Rarely a day passes where there aren’t some people killed – civilians or terrorists by bombs or mines.

All kibbutzim (plural of kibbutz) have bomb shelters. About the only use ours gets is as a dance hall on Friday nights. Border kibbutzim have more extensive, deeper shelters where the children sleep every night, complete with TV, dining facilities, etc. It is a rough life, but one that is accepted stoically.

The Israelis are a hard-nosed lot (and sometimes a bit hard-headed as well). They are confident and determined. From the point of view of progress in a technological sense they are amazing. By use of the most modern farming methods and irrigation they have turned this country into a greenhouse in spite of its rocky, arid quality. (I think they could cultivate pavement if put to the test!)

Hills that are too steep and too rocky as in Judea are either terraced and used for citrus or olive orchards or they are made into forests. Even the impossibly dry Negev Desert is becoming green. From this aspect they stand in stark contrast to the Arab countries. Going from Israeli to Jordanian west bank territory is a matter of going from green to brown.

Regrettably, though their technological progress is too often used to point out that they are right and the Arabs wrong. It is the old convenient success=right equation in new clothes. There is a general attitude non-acceptance to come to terms with the technologically inferior Arabs.

If they were able to absorb the Palestinians into their system and brotherhood, the whole Middle East thing would dry up and blow away, but I suppose the years of mutual hatred, war and cultural differences make that possibility remote.

Kibbutz Nahsholim
13 February 1971

Having just watched the sun set into the Mediterranean from the nearby ruins I’m now waiting for supper which tonight, as it is Shabat (Sabbath begins at sundown on Friday), it will be chicken and rice at the kibbutz dining hall.

For the past three and one half weeks I’ve been living at this pleasant little kibbutz south of Haifa. The pace is very slow. Each day I do eight hours of dull work in the small plastic factory monotonously pulling small plastic parts out of automated machines. The work is light however and I am free to think about things and read books. So the time passes very quickly and I am rarely bored. I could work cutting bananas, but the bunches weight 80-100 pounds and one must carry the bunches after cutting them.

The first month here, I spent traveling about staying most of the time in and around Jerusalem and Judea. I did spend a few days on The Dead Sea and about a week near the Mount of the Beatitudes on The Sea of Galilee [aka Lake Kinneret aka Lake Tiberias].

I decided to come here at the end of January as I wanted to hold my money even and wait out the winter. (Also as the cease fire was due to end on Feb. 5 I wanted to get away from a border area – it was since extended until Mar. 7).

It is spring now and the days are very warm and pleasant. Israel is beautiful, but the pressure of war is disturbing. Every day, there are reports of someone or more people being killed by terrorists mines in fields or from grenade attacks especially in the areas near the Lebanese border and the Gaza strip.

The skies are full of jets that fly at ear and nerve-shattering levels of 500 feet and lower – often several at a time. Young uniformed soldiers – male and female – are everywhere to be seen. About half the male soldiers are carrying sub-machine guns and ammunition dips. It was a bit disturbing at first to see so many guns in bus, theaters, store etc. , but I’ve worn used to it.

Here at Nahsholim, there are no armed soldiers. The only soldiers I see are young boys from the kibbutz when they come home on leave. At the kibbutz two more bomb shelters have been completed bringing the number to four. Tonight one of them will be used as a discotheque.

The people are grim and determined. They matter-of-factly accept the situation.“It is there, we have no choice”, they say.

Jerusalem is very an exotic place. I liked it so much and it was so cheap that I stayed there over three weeks at different times. The old city with its narrow arched streets is packed with tiny open shops that are even more packed with goods. It still is a living city even though it is so old and such a tourist attraction.

The large size of the walled city (about 20-30 blocks area) absorbs the tourist into the crowded streets so that he doesn’t stand out and destroy the image. Also there are hundreds of children who play in the street, oblivious of all the tourists. Then too there are donkeys, small craftsmen and all the old buildings that add to the flavor.

The Christian “holy” spots are depressing as they are usually covered with dark dank cathedrals, with collection plates present and lurking within. The interiors are gaudy giving them a flavor of superstition rather than reverence. Yet they are a part of Jerusalem the way they are — a reverent quiet and simple place would be out of stride with the general atmosphere.

Anyway I will be continuing on in another two weeks time to Cyprus then over to Turkey and around the Aegean Sea by bus and thumb via Istanbul to Athens then over to Italy and up into central Europe by April.

Kibbutz Nahsholim
21 Feb. 1971

Another day of work has passed and I am spending the afternoon napping out on the ruins above the sea shore. I usually work a 4 am-12 noon shift which gives me the better part of the day and evening to myself.

Yesterday, Shabat (Sabbath) I joined the younger set of the kibbutz and went on a trip in the kibbutz school bus. The trip took us up via Safed, a city in the Galilean highlands that overlooks the entire Sea of Galilee and the Jordan Valley to the south of it, then up into the small northernmost finger of Israel that juts into Lebanon.

There is a series of waterfalls and a nature reserve there. From there we descended into the Jordan Valley and crossed into the Golan Heights and occupied Syrian territory stopping at Banias, an old Roman place that is one of the head waters of the river Jordan.

We next went up onto the Golan plateau to the main city of Golan [Quneitra] which is now only a ghost town. It must have been a town of about 30,000 or so. The Golan was bleak and desolate as all the inhabitants save a few have fled since the Six Days War. The signs of the war are still about. Syrian fortifications that once commanded the Jordan Valley and shelled the kibbutzim beneath, blown out and rusting trucks and tanks, leveled villages, and Israeli troops and armor.

The Israelis have already established a number of kibbutzim & moshavas (a collective by private enterprise-type community). If the Israelis intend to eventually return the Golan they are not showing it by expanding into it.

After the trip through the Golan we came back down into the Jordan Valley traveled along the East short of the Sea of Galilee to the South end and then returned through the Valley of Israel (Armageddon Valley) to the coast.

I have now finished 3 ½ weeks here at Nahsholim and I plan to leave sometime after the first week in March. My next mail stopping point will be c/o American Embassy in Athens which I will probably reach by the end of March. From there I plan to go down into the Peloponnese and then over to Italy.

Pleasant spring weather continues and flowers have burst out everywhere. Galilee is particularly nice this time of year as it is so green and flowery. It reminds me much of Swaziland after the first rains as it is mountainous like Swaziland.

I feel a wee bit of “homesickness” for Swaziland. It is such a peaceful and warm place and so friendly. It is not beyond possibility that I may go back there some time.

It’s good the trunk is back. The model Swazi Shield is one of the gifts my colleagues gave me in the going-away party as well as the strand of beaded horse tail hair – which by Xhosa tribal tradition I am to give to my wife with the name of the firstborn on it.

Tel Aviv, Israel
March 8, 1971

It has warmed up considerably of late and the days are 70-80 and sunny. The countryside is very green and flowery.

The police raided the kibbutz and caught some of the volunteers smoking hashish (something like marijuana) so they had to spend a night in jail and will have to pay a fine plus probably get deported.

Many seem to think that drinking alcoholic beverages is de-generate. It (marijuana) was quite common in universities when I left. I can’t say that I oppose the use of hashish or marijuana since they are not addictive like hard drugs such as heroin. Also, after people have used hashish or marijuana they are quiet, peaceful and friendly whereas drinkers are usually stumbling and belligerent.

Anyway the raid set the kibbutz abuzz for a week. Life was (is) very much the same there after a while. But it is such an easy and secure existence that it took some effort for me to pack up and begin the trudging about with a load on my back and no sure place to go. Still I always know there will interesting and friendly people to meet wherever I go.

I’ve left the kibbutz and plan to start traveling. I imagine I’ll catch a flight out of here tomorrow to Cyprus and from there I will try to get over to Turkey by boat or plane whichever is possible. I went to Jerusalem yesterday to collect any mail. There was none. Fairfield has not come through with a letter so I’ve left notice at the Consulate to have anything that comes sent back to the US.

Nicosia, Cyprus
14 March 1971

I left Israel on the night of the 10th and traveled on a small passenger liner from Haifa to the port of Famagusta on the eastern end of this island. The price of the trips was quite reasonable - $14 + $5 port tax that included a sleeping berth, supper and breakfast.

Cyprus is as green and flowery as Israel was when I left. Cyprus too has the signs of bitter conflict. Most of the cities are divided into a more prosperous majority Greek sector and a poorer Turkish minority sector. Between them there is a stretch of unoccupied area with Turk and Greek soldiers around and on guard. In the middle with their sky-blue berets sit the UN soldiers – mostly Swedes, Canadians & Irish.

In spite of all this the people on both sides have been extremely cordial and friendly. Perhaps it is somewhat due to the desire to leave a favorable impression of their respective community.

The island seems rather slow paced and dull. There are a number of interesting historical spots but the history of the island is a patchwork history as it has always seemed to be a fringe territory of some other empire of great power.

In Famagusta and again in Nicosia I’ve been staying in the Turkish quarter which is the oldest part and, of course, the cheapest.

Both contain a semi-ruined Roman Catholic cathedral from the great cathedral building era of the middle ages which have long since been converted into mosques by having minarets appended to the structure. I entered the Nicosia cathedral-mosque yesterday. Although it was badly in disrepair and completely whitewashed and carpeted for Moslem worship its immense and powerful architecture was awesome. I knew the cathedrals were big from picture etc. but I had not realized that they were so big.

The effect of cathedrals in the old days was to create an air of religiosity by drawing the eyes upward through the construction of a long high nave and immersing the worshipper in the light and color of the great stain glass windows. The Moslems being against the use of the human figure in any art have unfortunately removed all the stained glass work replacing it with geometric and grid works. Cathedrals shall be a regular stopping point for me when I come to Europe.

Since the boat trip here I’ve been traveling with a 23 year old Canadian and an energetic 64 year Englishman who has been retired and traveling for the past nine years. He’s quite broad-minded and fit and is more like one of his mid-forties. He even moves about with a back-pack and prefers the overland traveling.

We have been together since our attempt unsuccessfully to get a boat across to the Turkish coast. Now we have booked a flight to Adana on Tuesday although we will leave today (Sunday) if there are some cancellations. Adana is at the eastern end of the Turkish peninsula about where the Mediterranean coast bends south.

I’m planning to ride buses from Adana west along the coast to the Aegean and there head north along that coast to Izmir and Istanbul. Buses are very cheap throughout this area. The Adana to Istanbul stretch should only cost six or seven dollars for nearly 1300 kilometers. Istanbul to Delhi in central India is a mere $30 by bus.

Housing and food is also incredibly cheap. Beds – clean beds – are about 60 cents a night and food is about a dollar a day at the most. Of course the hotels don’t resemble Hilton’s but the owners are friendly poor people. There is a bit of dinginess about everything, toilets are usually grotesque places, and bathing facilities are generally non-existent.

Restaurants have an interesting custom in these parts of inviting diners into the kitchen to look over the selection and make his choice. Again this is the lesser side street restaurant. It all adds to the great amount of color and personality which are simply absent when one lives at a higher level where one has only contact with the employee and not the owner and manager. By the same manner those who travel at this level are always helpful and friendly. There’s no place for suspicion or snobbery at the bottom.

Silifke, Turkey

ca. 20 March 1971

I flew over to Turkey a few days ago after a week in Cyprus. I am now traveling along the south cost of Turkey although I haven’t gone far. I landed at Adana which is a short distance from Tarsus and then came to this small town Silifke (or Seleucia of ancient times.)

At this moment I’m perched up on top of the fortress looking out toward the coast and the Taurus Mts. I’m staying in a small hotel (extreme left on the river in photo).

It was in this river that the famous Holy Roman Emperor Fredrick “Barbarossa” drowned while bathing.

Money goes a very long way in Turkey and life is very comfortable for a dollar fifty or two dollars a day. The coast here is the most beautiful I’ve ever seen and is strewn with ruins from one end to the other.

Rome, Italy
9 April 1971

Much country has passed by me since I last wrote from Istanbul. From Istanbul I travelled by bus across Macedonia to Thessaloniki (Thessalonians of Bible fame) and then south to Athens where I stayed for four days. I collected my first mail since Israel there including two letters from you.

Athens was a calm town compared to bustling and dirty but exciting Istanbul. I liked Istanbul much better but felt more secure here in my short stay. I visited the Acropolis and the ruins of ancient Athens.

While in Athens I obtained an international student card although I had to doctor my University of Mich. ID card to get it. Inasmuch as I’m going to be a student this year, I’m entitled to one, but I lacked the evidence and they couldn’t take my word so two wrongs made a right. Once I got it, I got a cheap student flight ticket to Rome - $32 where I got caught up on my schedule.

Rome is by far the most interesting city I’ve yet seen. It is as full of historical sites, riches, churches, museums, fountains and other sites. I cannot begin to describe this city. Walking the streets of Rome turns up a new surprise practically every block. The Vatican and St. Peters Basilica there are without comparison the most beautiful and splendid buildings and art collections that I’ve seen. Other parts of the city have vast sculpted Bernini fountains surrounded by sumptuous Baroque-styled buildings.

From Rome, I’m first going south to Naples & Pompey then north to Florence and Venice. From there I plan to go to Paris via Munich and then get to London by the 1st of May.

From London I plan to go across N. Europe to Sweden then down into Germany to settle in a bit and study some German.

Venice, Italy
23 April 1971

I had planned to be in London by today but that has proven impossible for there is simply too much in Italy to pass by so quickly. I can’t remember where I wrote last, but I believe it was in Rome.

Since Rome I’ve traveled much and have met an enlightened friend with whom I am traveling. We went south to Naples & Pompey and then spent about three or four days on the Amalfi coast south of Naples and near the Isle of Capri. It was also near the city of Salerno which as you may remember is where the US Army landed in 1943 or 44. The Amalfi coast is a region where 3000 foot mountains drop nearly vertically into the Mediterranean. Yet all along this steep coast towns and farms have precariously perched themselves. It is the most beautiful and best this time of year when flowers are in blossom and most of the tourists still at home.

From there I returned north stopping at the ruins of Pompey beneath Vesuvius and then on back to Rome. After another two days in Rome, it was north to Florence for four days.

Florence has tremendous collections of Renaissance art, as great, perhaps greater than those of Rome including many of the famous sculptures of Michelangelo. (By the way I decided against fighting the masses of people on Easter to see the pope in the Vatican.)

After Florence I moved on to Venice arriving here yesterday. Venice is quiet and restful particularly as there are no automobiles in the city. All movement is by foot or by boat. Venice is truly a gem of cities and because of its canals and fine old buildings has a peculiar unrivaled beauty.

In Florence, I did some shopping. I purchased a suede jacket that can be used either as a sports jacket or an all-purpose jacket for $27 and a wool turtle neck for $3 – amazingly low prices for both. I hadn’t intended to buy any clothes but as my clothes are generally in shreds I decided to take advantage of the lower prices over here. I eat well, perhaps too well. Italian food is much more varied and tasty than the food one gets at home in restaurants. Eating is a pleasure here.

From here I plan to go on to Paris via Switzerland and from there to be in London within one or two weeks at the most. After time in London I hope to visit north Europe and Sweden. I’m now thinking of returning home by late June or early July. Much depends on what I can do about arranging a cheap charter flight across the Atlantic. That I may know after London. I think I will finish traveling by about the first of June, because the place will be getting the great flocks of tourists by then.

Paris, France
3 May 1971

I’ve finally reached France and Paris. I think now that I’ll be in London by next Monday where I expect to get some mail from you and others – the first since Athens.

I lost my binoculars while in Italy. I didn’t exactly lose them. I left them in a car when I was hitching south to the Amalfi coast and as the person with whom I had the lift seemed like a reasonable person I expect to have them returned. My name and a “% US Embassy” are written on the case, as I filed a lost report at the Embassy. Should the binoculars be returned they will notify me at your address. So if you get a letter from the Rome Embassy please open it and do what is necessary to have them returned. I hope I get them back and really miss them especially for viewing the interior detail of old churches and palaces.

I think I last wrote when I was in Venice. On the Sunday before I went to Venice’s old St. Mark’s Cathedral. I happened to have good luck as that particular Sunday was the feast day of St. Mark, the patron saint of Venice. It was celebrated by a splendid organ and choral mass led by a cardinal and several bishops. It was a beautiful show of color, music, and drama. The bishops and cardinal decked out in their finest red and gold were preceded by 40 altar boys and lower priests in a procession that wound through the church while the organ filled the entire cathedral whose ceiling is covered with medieval mosaics. The choir then sang the mass after which the clergy filed out to an organ recessional.

Venice was quite restful as there are no autos there. Transportation in Venice is either by foot or by ferry lines which operate like bus lines.

From Venice we hitched north into the Alps as far as Brenner Pass on the Italian-Austrian border. The following morning we thumbed to Innsbruck where it proved impossible to hitch and took a train to the Swiss border at Bregenz on Bodensee. The following day got us deep into Switzerland past Zürich and on a beautiful lake resort town of Vitznau whose previous visitors have included Goethe, Mendelssohn, Carl Jung and, yes, even Nixon.

It was a nice combination of snow covered Alps and calm clear lake. One day I rode by a cable car to sit high on the mountain above the lake. It was a beautiful day and being spring the mountainsides were covered with flowers. Switzerland has surpassed anything yet in natural beauty.

From there we thumbed to Interlaken and then to a tiny village called Lauterbrunnen in the high Alps. But weather was bad and one could only get occasional views of the high Alps. Nearby was the famous Eiger that has taken the lives of 27 mountaineers who have attempted to climb its north face. From Vitznau we thumbed north through Bern and Basel, up the Rhine Valley on the German side and then crossed at Strasbourg into France. From there we took the train into Paris.

On the way the train passed through some of the area that once made up the western front of the 1914-18 war especially the Marne where the great battle of 1914 was fought and Chateau Thierry where the Armenians were in 1918. It is now green quiet countryside much like you would find in Michigan.

London, England
11 May 1971

I know I’ve been spending a lot of money, but I didn’t think I would touch off an international monetary crisis. [A US dollar devaluation had just occurred.] Fortunately I was out of the countries that were affected by upward revaluations (Switzerland and Austria) before the crisis hit.

Now I’m busy changing my remaining dollars into sterling to avoid losing about 10% on exchange when I pass through Northern Europe and Germany en route to Sweden. I also obtained my home flight ticket to New York from a student charter flight agency for a fabulously low $103.

Presently I’m staying with Chris who is teaching metalwork and living on the west side of greater London. He is not happy with teaching here for the students are quite bitter and unruly. A far cry from our angelic students in Swaziland.

Today I bought my ticket than strolled from Piccadilly to Trafalgar then down to the Thames & Parliament later entering the House of Commons where debate on whether or not Britain should float the pound was in progress.

Actually I know the date of my flight to New York but not the time or number. I want to get to the Midwest on my own and I plan to stop up at Fairfield for a day or two, my scarce money supply permitting. I want to have a few days to take in the country on my own before seeing you. That is not because of you, it is because of me. My flight leaves London June 19 – Kay’s birthday.

I had planned to go to Sweden via Brussels, Amsterdam, Hamburg, Copenhagen to Hässleholm for a couple or three days then down to Berlin and back to about the 10th or 12th or earlier should I decide to take a side trip to Ireland May 13 – but just did some calculating. I now doubt if I can afford to go to Sweden. Pity but I’ve only $150 left and to go there means 2000 KM of hitching which I may not be up to. Still I’ll certainly go to Amsterdam at the least.

Hässleholm, Sweden
May 1971

And now Sweden…I have been in Sweden for two full days now. On Fri. the 21st I boarded a train in London that took me to the North Sea where I took a boat to Rotterdam in the Netherlands. There I climbed into another train which took me across the Netherlands, north Germany and arrived in Copenhagen, Denmark at 9 AM on Saturday – 23 hours of travel.

Following a 90 minute boat ride I reached Malmö by noon and from there I hitched the remaining 60 miles to Hässleholm. When I arrived I was warmly greeted and ever since I have been treated in a manner that would make the Prodigal son’s homecoming seem mediocre.

Already after two days I have been fed to bursting point, ushered about all over the countryside and treated in too many pleasant ways that space does not permit me to recount.(Even the table where I ate was thoughtfully decked with two miniature American flags on little flagstaffs.)

You will like the Swedes for they will “drink you under the table” when it comes to coffee. I’ve had coffee poured down me at every turn only having it broken by tasty little pastries that always accompany the coffee.

At night I was bedded (just now my writing has been interrupted as Matts, the older of Nil’s two sons, has placed a lamp before me saying that I must have more light – typical of the detailed attention I receive here) down in a separate room with an excellent stereo system at my disposal!

It is a beautiful time of year here. Mustard which is a mere weed to us is grown commercially here and covers the green countryside with brilliant patches of yellow. The country about Hässleholm and Österlöv where Grandma Boileau lived is remarkably like that of Cheboygan as there are pine forests, lakes and rocky soil.

We visited a farm near Österlöv on Sunday where a cousin of Dad’s – Anna Nilsson – and her husband live. They are very simple and warm people who fed us and showed me a number of old pictures that Grandma had sent to her with Klara – pictures of Dad as a boy and his brothers and sisters, a striking portrait of Harold, a 1900 portrait of Grandpa & Grandma which is the finest picture of them that I have seen, and a Saginaw Christmas 1948 picture: I with a toy truck, Karen with a doll and buggy and Richard with, of course, a basketball.

It is nice to be again among real people. What I mean is that most people I meet are people who enter my life and then disappear as if they were only a dream or they are people who only have a business concern with me. I was a bit apprehensive about blowing in upon these people after only a short notice, but now the situation is reversed and I am a bit uneasy because of all the unaccustomed warmth and consideration I’ve received. It takes time to get used to the warmth after being out in the cold so long.

So much for my good fortunes. I am going over to Copenhagen on Wed. evening and then will begin winding my way back to London where I plan arrive around about the 10th of June. Since you will have such little time I will come directly to Warsaw after I should be with you by the 20th or 21st. I still prefer to hitch into the Midwest so expect me when I arrive.

3 June 1971

Well, I’m on my way home now. I left Hässleholm over a week ago and began making my way back toward London. The stay in Hässleholm was the warmest moment of my travels. Those people were unbelievably kind to me. They send their greetings and welcome to you.

I crossed from Malmö to Copenhagen and stayed there for three nights – yet another beautiful city. I then hitched into Germany, but only made Hamburg by the first day as I ran into bad weather on my way.

The following day I thumbed to Bremen where I was fortunate to meet my pen friend of earlier years who happened to be in town that weekend. I spent that evening with him and his folks & fiancée. He is presently doing his internships for law and had to return for Kassel the following day.

I remained another day in Bremen then thumbed on toward the Netherlands planning to stay a while in Groningen (NE Holland) but my luck was so good that day that I got a ride all the way to Amsterdam and decided to take it. So here I am. It is the only city that is a bit familiar to me.

The weather is splendid here and the city is much more beautiful in the fullness of spring than it was in the cold winter day when I stopped on my way to Africa. European cities are simply something else. Six or seven of them are in my opinion far better than the best (San Francisco, New Orleans, NY) American cities. Amsterdam is the friendliest and most relaxed.

They are friendly to all tourists which is something that can’t be said for most cities. By this I mean that the low-budget youth travelers area both welcomed and accommodated. The city allows them to sleep in city parks, provides health & storage facilities & information on the cheapest accommodation and eating. The attitude of the man in the street and shop keeper is likewise universally friendly. I’ve idled my time reading in parks and strolling about.

I’m going to be back in London by the 10th as I’ll remain here for 3 more days then go to Antwerp or Brussels, Belgium to spend the remainder of time before getting a student train rate ride to London on the 10th. Ten days later I expect to see you in Warsaw.

My money is low now so I have to limit myself to about $3.00 a day which is a bit tough in north Europe. It is not too difficult though especially by buying bread cheese, cold cuts, fruit, milk and yogurt from the markets. It’s just not as easy as sitting down and ordering a meal.

I guess this will be the last letter from me from this side of the Atlantic. Time passes quickly and finally the time to write the last letter has come.


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