Saturday, 29 April 1978
Unfortunately for the two nights that Jim and Elsie were in Paris, Jim didn’t record anything in his diary.
Friday, 28 April 1978
Lucerne to Basel
½ hour into Lucerne. Very clean, quite colourful. 1½ hours to shop before boat trip on lake.
An elderly lady, Mrs Case, had a partial stroke. Ambulance called and she was taken to Lucerne Hospital for tests. She is to stay in hospital for 5-7 days and arrangements were made for a relative to come across.
An hours boat trip out on the lake, across to see a funicular railway and an exposed lift to the top of the mountain.
Lunch at Hotel Monopol.
Another Cosmos group joined us to go up the mountain (Titlis). They had considerable bus troubles.
Magnificent drive through cultivated and improved hillsides. Houses dotted the countryside. Some trees starting to blossom.
Saw cog railway. Steep climb to funicular railway.
Very steep climb. Carriage holds 50 people. Gradually the valley drops away as the carriage lifts. We progress via three cable cars and much clipping of tickets to top. Spectacular views of the ice and snow as we rise to 10,000 feet. Air was still and it was very cold outside but pleasant in the four-storey building with snack bar, kiosk and restaurant. It seemed to be perched up the rocky cliffs.
Walked through an ice tunnel to an ice cave in a glacier. Cold and slippery.
Takes about 40 minutes to come back down including time waiting at the interchanges.
Drove from Lucerne to Basel. Second largest city in Switzerland. More industry.
Walked the streets. Beautifully clean. Brightly lit. Excellent window displays. Saw a craggy fountain. Nine moving mechanical displays. Wit said one appeared to say ‘I can squirt further than you.’ Large pool surrounds the displays.
People well dressed. Only shops open were bars and restaurants.
City hotel VG [very good].
Thursday, 27 April 1978
Milan to outside Lucerne.
Early start (7.30) to see the cathedral in Milan – Gothic style, 1500 spires, statues large inside, poor light, many stained windows.
Through very interesting country to Lugano (Switz) for lunch. Beautiful lakeside. Rich colour in flowers. Cooler.
St Goddard tunnel not open (or coach too wide for train). Had to take another pass – San Bernadino. Magnificent views.
This detour involved much extra travel but traversed high mountains where you could see villages down in the valley even though it was very misty.
Reached the hotel right on Lake Lucerne at 7.30. Day very long and a number of people sick on the bus in the last section.
Hotel window overlooked the lake and high snow covered peaks were in the distance.
Wednesday, 26 April 1978
Rome to Milan 600km
Magnificent motorways. Through 56/58 tunnels of varying length – many over 1000m (14 in the first 50). Longest 1900m+ and several over 1700m.
Came out of tunnels and travelled over high viaducts of varying lengths.
7.30 to hotel at Magenta.
Tuesday, 25 April 1978
Holiday in Rome for the ending of the Second World War. Must be a type of Remembrance Day. P.M. to lay a wreath on the tomb of the unknown warrior.
Sistine Chapel fully painted by Michelangelo. Ceiling has the story of creation. One fresco near the top tells of the story of Jesus. On the opposite side the story of Moses. Need a pair of field-glasses and a book to get the meaning out of each picture.
The end wall tells of the Creation – done by Michelangelo in his later life. Took 8-12? years. Some later painter covered the nude bodies with a veil like effect.
St Peter’s Basilica is immense, very bright and spacious inside. ‘La Pieta‘ now enclosed by large glass screen.
Thousands in the cathedral as a mass was being celebrated. Rich colours in the High Altar as the priests conducted the service. Beautiful choral singing. Solo girls. One sang ‘Nearer My God to Thee’ in Italian. Deep diapason notes in the concluding accompaniment to each verse. To the top of the dome over 400 feet designed by Michelangelo.
Afternoon tour to EUR – the new section of Rome and the Catacombs.
New apartment blocks, office blocks, artificial lake, churches, stadium and park areas. Clean. Different impression altogether.
Catacombs where Christians buried their dead. Five levels, visited 2nd level. Many tunnels and galleries 10 to 14 feet high. Built in volcanic rock, soft and stable. 140,000 in this one.
Went to a church to see the statue of Moses by Michelangelo.
Monday, 24 April 1978
By autostrade through very interesting country – irrigated, rice, fruit trees pruned so branches run in a straight line. Very fast road. Some difficulty finding hotel. Very nice hotel.
Visited the Colossium. It really lives up to the word. Says it only took 8 years to build. It is a maze of tunnels underneath.
Looked at Rome from Michelangelo’s Square that has a bronze statue of David. Very hazy and bridges and river not very clear. Remains of old Roman wall and tower on hill. Drove up the Farvole Hills past many of the villas that were owned by the richer section.
At night went around to see Rome by floodlight but I couldn’t see many floodlights – must have a different meaning. Drizzle rain made it hard to see out of the windows.
Stopped at the [Trevi] Fountain to throw in two coins for me and one coin for Elsie. Alan’s and Bob’s kids wouldn’t let me throw them all in at once.
Called in at a night club for a FREE WINE and be serenaded by two men, two women and three instrumentalists. One singer then took the tambourine around.
The whole night was something like the weather – a bit of a washout.
Sunday, 23 April 1978
Fine, warm, clear
Breakfast at 7.15 – departed 7.50.
Lush farmlands of the Po Valley. Through the Tuscan Hills. Beautiful cultivated hills as the road starts to rise. Road is a wonderful piece of engineering as it rises and snakes its way through and over the hills and gullies. Many tunnels and high viaducts vary in length from 150m to 600m (quite common), 800m and one must have been about a mile long. One tunnel of 800 odd metres came straight into a viaduct of 400m to the opposite hill. A very fast and well graded road. As we descended you could look back and see four of these viaducts that we had crossed. Florence for lunch.
Afternoon to Florence leather shop. Many coats and other leather goods.
Guided tour of city – Ponte Vecchio bridge, old Roman watch towers, Michelangelo Square. Started to rain – Palazzio Vecchio – the meeting place of the Commune (statues & towers), Florence Cathedral – immense Tuscan arches – huge dome 130 feet (like St Paul’s) built in 14/15 hundreds – an immense church inside.
Up to Fiesole in the Tuscan hills – coffee and pizza. Struck traffic jam from football on way back. Six lanes wide across the road blocked. Hotel at 7.30. Meals so far quite satisfactory.
Saturday, 22 April 1978
Fine, warm, sunny
Early start. Followed a mountain stream. Peaks on both sides. Very high mountains covered with snow, precipitous sides but road followed stream between hills. In narrow parts road has been supported on piles. Past villages that were devastated in earthquake 12-18 months ago. Along the autostrade – very fast road – bus travelled at 130 km to hotel outside Venice for lunch at 12. Hotel on road to Chioggia.
Bus into Venice 20 minutes. Left at Roma Square and took water bus to Rialto. Walked to St Marks Square through a maze of narrow alleys crowded with little shops. Guided tour – bell tower, clock tower, Bridge of Sighs. Taken into the cathedral. Many mosaics. Saw glass blowing. Elsie purchased liqueur set (40,000), vase (30,000) and tall vase (38,000) – 108,000 lira (£70 stg).
Group loaded onto five gondolas, very choppy on main canal. Gondoliers waited for each other even though the place was busy with boats and five abreast we slowly went down the canal. In one gondola was a fellow with a piano accordion. He played a number or two then another fellow we had not noticed before stood up and started to sing, O Sole Mio. Crowded water buses slowed down to have a look as we were serenaded. When we came to a side canal to turn off, some barges were in the way and there was a great argument for 5 minutes to have them shifted. We moved very slowly up the little canal and the fellow started singing songs again. The buildings on either side were four-storey’s high and people opened their windows and stuck their heads out to look and listen. As we came to the little overpass bridges we were photographed and one bloke in the house above got out his movie camera.
Was a very crowded and long ride back to Roma Square at 7.35. Back to hotel at 8.05 and dinner.
Friday, 21 April 1978
Good motorway. Lots of cultivated fields, fertile plains, very windy. Steep climb to top of Semmering Pass. Snow on hills – a winter skiing area. Travelled alongside river Mur and passed many little villages.
Lunch at —– a very interesting host. Anxious to look after everybody. Very neat and well painted dining room. Soup, salad, meat loaf, slice of rich cake.
Three-hour drive to Italian border. Road narrower. Lots of heavy traffic. Many timber trucks, large timber mills. Passports collected and stamped at the border. Whole process takes about ½ an hour. (£1 = 1550 lira).
Went to the bank and collected 64,470 lira – at this rate we will soon be millionaires. Inflation in Italy is running at 20-25%. Cup of coffee 400 lira, tea 300 lira, Kit Kat 200 lira and [only] a 100 lira coin from a thousand lira note. It is like using monopoly money.
From the border [it] was not far to Tarvisio – a ski resort for the overnight stop. The hills are quite steep, covered with snow but are shrouded in mist. The room has a large balcony that overlooks the mountains. Should be a good view but it was still mist-covered the next morning. The sides of the roads are lined with snow that has been cleared from them. The footpaths have heavy drifts in some places.
Much slurping and laughing in the dining room as everybody ate their spaghetti. Meat (camel’s meat the waiter told one small girl) and small chunks of fried potato and fruit.
Elsie thirsty at 9.30 and said she would have a large beer thinking it would be in a glass. Came in a large 1 pint mug. Helen (Alan’s girl) took a photo.
Thursday, 20 April 1978
In Vienna 9.00 am. City sightseeing. Klaus the guide had an excellent command of English expression and was very subtle. Vienna occupied by four powers until 1955. Monument to the Russian soldier commemorates 17,000 Soviet soldiers.
Visited the palace of Schönbrunn (1400+ rooms). Inspected about 40 rooms. Decorated walls and ceilings – timber covered with gilt. Original furniture still in rooms. Magnificent ceramic stoves 8-10 feet high in the corners of the rooms. Stoves fuelled by wood from out of the room. Rooms of Maria Theresa, the various Habsburgs, Franz Joseph, Napoleon. Small reception hall, large reception hall 150 x 35 feet. Painted ceilings, oriental rooms.
Afternoon, walked down to the main shopping area. People very well dressed. Lots of dogs and dog dirt everywhere.
Had meal in snack bar. Soup, ham and eggs.