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A European trip that taught life lessons

A European trip that taught life lessons

Photo for representational purpose only. iStock file photo

RK Saboo

IN the summer of 1957, my wife Usha and I took our first trip to Europe. My sister Sneh and her husband Gajanandji, who were staying in London, came to receive us at the airport. We loaded our suitcases in a taxi, but upon arrival at their apartment, one bag was missing. Alarmed, I and Gajanandji rushed back to the airport; to our surprise, we found our bag at the BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) ‘lost and found’ counter. An official told us that the bag, which had dropped off the taxi, had been picked up by a gentleman and delivered here. Upon opening it, we found everything intact and were amazed at the honesty of our unknown benefactor. Silently, we thanked him and returned home.

My sister had rented a one-room apartment for £1.5 per day. We hired a nearby bedroom for £1 a day. We spent a month in London and visited all the tourist attractions there. Madame Tussauds wax museum, the Changing of the Guard at the Buckingham Palace and the air show at Battersea Park were particularly interesting. The efficient underground Tube and escalators were new experiences.

After an enjoyable month in London, we started our journey from Dover to Ostend on a ship en route to Germany, France, Italy and Switzerland. We had visas for all four countries, but when we went from Ostend to Germany, the train conductor said a transit visa for Belgium was required. ‘So, next time, you must have a Belgium visa,’ he said. We took it lightly and suffered a penalty on the way back. We were off-loaded from the train in Ostend to get a transit visa — a hard lesson learnt to obey other countries’ rules.

In Frankfurt, we hired a taxi for sightseeing. One day, we left our camera in the taxi. The honest driver returned it to our gastfamilie (host family). We had another interesting experience on a tourist bus while we were making fun of a funnily dressed German in Hindi. He greeted us in chaste Hindi and said he was teaching at Banaras University. We were ashamed of our behaviour and vowed to never take a stranger at face value.

From Frankfurt, we went by train to Paris, where we visited the usual tourist attractions — the Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles and the famous Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Our next destination was Rome, where we did a lot of sightseeing, including the magnificent ruins of Pompeii.

Our last stop was Zurich, where we went in a mountain train and ropeways to Jungfrau Glacier and Ice Palace, but we were not well equipped for walking on snow. The sparkling lakes and meadows with cows grazing were very charming. Everything worked on time and with precision in Switzerland.

The honesty of people everywhere was noteworthy, while it was a cultural shock for us to see people kissing in public.

On a small budget of Rs 17,000, including airfare, we had two months of great fun and some good lessons learnt.

#England #Europe #London

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