Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure, 28-30 Sep: Awe inspired by the artworks in Venice and Munich

 

Fri 28-Sep-56: Got lost all day but managed to see the Tintorettos at Scuola di S Rocco. Cashed £5
Sat 29-Sep-56: Cashed £2 Left 10:30am for Münich. Had a wonderful flight over the Alps. No room. Am in guesthouse 13kms from München. Grünwald quite full. Cashed £5 in Marks.
Sun 30-Sep-56: Went by train to city. Saw Alte Pinakothek Old Masters – magnificent show. Many people at Grünwald – had dinner with Dittmar & family.

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0015

Hotel Regina, Venice
Venezia Friday
[28 Sep 1956]
8pm before dinner

Little Sweetie,

I’m not very happy about bringing you back anything in the woolly line from Italy. It’s nothing but thick woolly cardigans because of the approaching winter I suppose and as far as shopping via window there is little to be seen. Really few of the attendants understand English & you can’t get anywhere much. Once or twice, I’ve managed to ask about a thingummy I liked but in a different colour. But as it happens they haven’t got it. Then again I didn’t want to go too high because 34” doesn’t mean much of a thing here. From what I can gather you are a 46 Italiano. That is at it may be. You’d better send me care of the Rumanian address your measurements in centimetres. That metal flexible ruler of mine is calibrated in centimetres under the ins. mark. Let me know other measurements. It’s sad, but it hasn’t been a lack of trying. I do hope to get you something nice somewhere. To tell the truth nothing I have seen has been a patch on that one of yours with the crossed over neck line. I miss you very much.

I managed to get someone’s cancellation flight to Munich & leave at 8.30-am in the morning. So that I am still keeping up to schedule. It doesn’t look like I can stay overnight in Budapest because I don’t think I can get any Hungarian currency. The dopey coots in Sydney endorsed the Travellers Cheques for Rumania only. This was purely an oversight because my passport OKs me for Hungary as well. So there, perhaps on the way back I may stay one day with Rumanian currency.

Anyway I’ve had the dutiful tramping around, being the best poor quarter finder in the world. I don’t know how it is but as soon as I start walking I finish up in the poorest area. How is this? I do know that I haven’t got a clue as to direction in the Northern hemisphere. Naturally down south you walk away from the sun to go south. Up here you have to face it. Plus the fact that there is a different velocity influence on the human balance. As in the South pole, people lost, always walk to the right & in the North pole area to the left (or vice versa, if I must be corrected). Christ I got soured this afternoon. Three times I finished up in the same end of the island, and it was not until I told myself my instinct for direction was arsy-boo that I got anywhere. I told myself (just like you would, in any emergency) to walk towards the sun. And do you know it worked! After one hour I was back to tors.

But thank God for big blessings. As I was lost in the morning I stumbled across the Scuola di S. Rocco (or something) [Scuola Grande di San Rocco], the church or palace in which are housed the finest Tintorettos paintings. They were on the heroic Italian scale – enormous & hard to see because of the light coming through the windows alongside them. Oh but what pictures. No reproduction could do justice to the wonderful subdued luminosity & grandiose virility of these really wonderful paintings. It is unbelievable that a human, one human could have conceived & carried through these huge and moving works. Everything was in them – humanity, wonderful abstraction. Lines of movement, colour & attitude, all the source from which El Greco got his thing. (By the way I saw two El Greks in Rome & Holbein & one Titian). I could if I was full, & alone, & without the TV, go on for hours about the Tintorettos. When I see that book of mine again together with the pamphlet I bought at the gallery (which cost me the same as my theoretical cheap lunch), I shall know what I know.

Enough for now. The last letter – must have been on awful heavy paper cost 4/9 to post, 480 lire to you. I shall see you (i.e. write to you), my dear, in Munich. I really missed you and needed you with me when I sat down in St Mark’s Square & had a beer. All Venice seemed to be walking around and the deepening blue of the night was showing up the red & white topped Campanile. Behind it a wedding cake joint of a church with gilt facings, pigeons flying around, lights under each of the hundreds of marble arches – people in chairs – people walking, & bowings & God knows what – with 3 different top class 5 pieces Restaurant orchestras playing to their clients in the open square. And the blue getting deeper and deeper as the white marble cake got greener & the great spire smouldered strong like a Fred. I can never tell you how I felt about it. Pictures won’t – what will. Perhaps one night with the help of a 25 lire postcard I may give you some idea. But then these vicarious jaunts can be boring.

I’m finished – for the second time I’m seeing everything. The first time in Italian – Charlie’s Aunt on television – I am looking at now – Goodnight darling.

8.30pm Saturday [29 Sep 1956]

I am in Munich or to be more truthful 13 kilometres out of it. There was no hotel booking & to cut a very hard luck story short, I am where I am.

Tannenhof, Marktplatz, Grünwald; 30 September 1956

Tannenhof Guesthouse, Marktplatz, Grünwald; 30 September 1956

Tannenhof, Marktplatz, Grünwald; 30 September 1956

Tannenhof Guesthouse, Marktplatz, Grünwald; 30 September 1956

Tannenhof, Marktplatz, Grünwald; 30 September 1956

View of Marktplatz from Tannenhof Guesthouse, Grünwald; 30 September 1956

Dearest darling don’t hammer me! For the first time in my life, I’m full in Germany. As you always say – things turn out for the best? When I arrived in Munich – München – I wandered up & down two blocks carrying all the garbage I possess, finally ran aground the C.I.T. agent. Of course he had never heard of me, & it was impossible (with a capital IMPOSSIBLE) to get accommodation in München. He had never heard of me or anything connected with Australia. However, he very kindly drove me (and his son) all the way out to a guesthouse – which is beautifully appointed & which I seem to have the bridal suite. Two nice loving single beds tight alongside each other with the sheets short sheeted on the sneaking-in side. Very nice, but I am 13,000 long miles off….

P.S. at this stage I went to sleep.

Dorothy darling,

Don’t take too much notice of the preceding page. Anyway it gave me the best & longest sleep I’ve had since leaving Australia. It is Sunday evening at 6.30pm and I have spent 4 hours of my one day in Munich in the Haus der Kunst (or Art Gallery). Can you imagine seeing 30 odd Rubens in one blow, about 10 Rembrandts, some Tintoretto, Velasquez, Titian, Goya, Giotto, Van der Weyden – the works. Wore me out it did – no eats or beer all day. Travelled all across Munich in the trams & spoke German like you imagine I would – Anyway, I got there & back. 3 different trams each way. I’ll tell you later about the wonderful pictures. From Vienna I am sending by book post some odds & ends of travel folders & things plus the catalogue of this show. I don’t want to build up my weight on plane travelling. It is possible I will be home before them – It seems so long ago since I left that time is unaccountable.

Looking southwest along the Isarwerkkanl near the Schlosshotel G

Looking southwest along the Isarwerkkanal near the Schlosshotel Grünwald; 30 September 1956

Schlosshotel Grünwald, Zeillerstraße 1, 82031, Grünwald, Germ

Schlosshotel Grünwald, Zeillerstraße 1, 82031, Grünwald, Germany; 30 September 1956

Schlosshotel Grünwald, Zeillerstraße 1, 82031, Grünwald, Germ

Schlosshotel Grünwald, Zeillerstraße 1, 82031, Grünwald, Germany just a short walk down the road from where Wep was staying at the Tannenhof Guesthouse; 30 September 1956

I don’t care much for Munich. It gives me the feeling of a grey stone prison. Despite the fact you always say things turns out for the best – they have here. This morning at 6.30 I went for a walk around Grünwald where I am staying. It means ‘Green Forest’ and is very lovely spot with silver beeches, & pines & plane trees thick & tall around the river Isar. Green & fresh & lovely. With a castle – and church bells (It is Sunday) and beautifully quiet then – restful. When I came home (every room you have is that important) there were thousands of people in Grunewald. There are a lot of beer gardens around here and they were all full of people, well behaved and drinking enormous things of beer. Grunwald must be something like Manly, everyone comes out here for a day in the forest & a beer & a bite before getting back to the barrack like city. Really choice here. Don’t take any notice of any illiteracy or lack of polish in these letters. All I want to do is talk to you. Not going too well am I, after only a week? I guess it’s the complete absence of conversation, It should be a lesson to me.

I leave here in the morning and will be on the way to Vienna where I know I’ll have more bloody trouble! I’ll have to alter the flight plan, because of that currency bother. And I suppose there will be no accom. & mod cons. I don’t know whether I mentioned that this fortnight in Munich is the annual Sep-Oct Autumn Festival – a very big affair – because this is the best & most reliable weather op the year. There’s no accommodation available. Things are like Sydney at Show time except this is mostly culture. Ballet, opera, concerts, art, etc, etc. Sport too. Included in the pile of trash I am sending back is the Festival programme which I can interpret well enough. I love you. I am going out again to get myself a beer & a bite. This seven dwarfs like darling establishment serves no meals. Last night I had a schnitzel in batter & potato salad & about a schooner of superb beer for less than 10/-. This Sunday afternoon before I came up to the room I had a big beer. Must have been more than a bottle & half for 3/-. It was served in a glass about as tall as a bottle & half again as wide. Lovely. Cheers me up no end and what is more, makes me very fond of you, you old dragon.

It has got a bit cold and I have put your dear woolly jumper on.

I don’t know what to write to Graham – fob him off with the information in these letters please. I did want to buy him a funny postcard here but the shop is shut. Give him my love and keep me in mind yourself.

Lots of love from your Bill.

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P.S. The CIT agent who drove me here turned up after I had finished this letter. He, and family, apparently live here. He asked me to be his guest at a Brau Haus or Wirt haus (means beer house – but they serve very good food & plenty of it.) So I accept. He and his family were very gracious. His son is learning English at school. They had just returned from a 400 mile trip to the Austrian Alps. When I asked him on Sat what the charge was likely to be he said about 20 marks which I thought was cheap. Now I find they want 40. That means I have to cash more Travellers Cheques. I would rather spend them on the way home – I don’t know what is ahead of me. If I have my fare back fixed up, I know where I am. I think I am being clipped. I tell you if I had a month in Europe nobody would do me more than the next. It is not that I don’t want to spend the damn money – I want to get you & Graham something for it! Oh, pull your big head in. This extra page is not for you – I’m just having a good honest to God whinge about anything that is around. And if you feel tough too, I will never sleep with you again.

How are you? How are your poor old limbs? Auf wiedersehen.

“Absence makes the heart grow fonder” as they say in the classics & fonder & fonder & fonder.

And so to Vienna.

WW2 bomb damaged Bayerische Staatsregierung, home of the Bavaria

WW2 bomb damaged Bayerische Staatsregierung, home of the Bavarian Government, Munich; 30 September 1956

Munich; 30 September 1956

Munich; 30 September 1956

Munich; 30 September 1956

Munich; 30 September 1956

Munich; 30 September 1956

Munich; 30 September 1956

Sankt Lukas Kirche in the distance on Mariannenplatz, taken from

Sankt Lukas Kirche in the distance on Mariannenplatz, taken from Maximilliansbrucke, Munich; 30 September 1956

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure, 27 Sep: Venice; Dinner with a view at Hotel Regina

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Thu 27-Sep-56: Left Rome about 3pm after cancelling early trip. Got luggage in from Karachi. Arrived Venice about 5:30pm. Trouble about accommodation. Cashed £5

CIGA Hotel Regina, Venezia (Wouldn’t it!)

[History of the Hotel Regina]

Wed night  [actually Thursday]

27 Sep 56

Happily my bag arrived intact & with a great steel band around it, to protect it from the thieving Pakistanis, and Italianos. It was cleared off only about an hour before the plane for Venice took off.

Had a good trip, less than two hours & landed on these little mounds of earth that just show above the sea level. The area looks very small from the air – what made it tick & why, I hope to find out. Nowadays it is quite obviously tourists. There are thousands of the beasts. Seems like a fair percentage of Americans as is fit, I suppose, because who else could stand this clip joint racket for long.

(If I sound a bit disjointed in parts – blame the screaming quiz show in Italiano which is disrupting the peace & quiet. The reproduction photographically is good – but the ensemble with talk is beyond me.)

The Orbit travel service has let me down badly in the matter of hotel bookings. In both Rome & here the bookings weren’t confirmed & in Venice there is no such hotel as they named. What with the millions of tourists here I had no option but to take the single room & bath C.I.T. the biggest Italian agency (to whom Orbit referred me) managed to get for my stopover. To make things easier I am not on the plane to Munich on the 29th. I have to ask again tomorrow to see if there has been any cancellations. How does one get out of here? Swim? I have a very fancy room in a second class hotel (for here) & a magnificent bathroom, complete with bidet (unused).

Dinner at the Hotel Regina, Venice; 27 September 1956

Dinner at the Hotel Regina, Venice; 27 September 1956

Looking at Santa Maria della Salute across the Grand Canal from the Hotel Regina restaurant

Looking at Santa Maria della Salute across the Grand Canal from the Hotel Regina restaurant, Venice; 27 September 1956

I had dinner seated on the edge of the canal, with gondolas parked alongside, and a fine view of the Santa Maria church just a hundred yards or so across the canal. All very dashing and fetching if you were here with me. Mostly, I’m sitting there chewing my nails & wondering how many 1000 lire a minute it is all ripping off the roll. I can’t get the hang of the way they bash your wallet in this country. They ask if you want full pension or half pension – which is about 1/6th cheaper. For half pension you have only two meals, breakfast & dinner or lunch. As you still have to pay separately for each of these meals, I don’t get it. The govt. taxes the bill total, which makes it extra – & having your meal brought to you apparently necessitates a service charge & so it goes on – HORRIFYING!

St Mark's Square (Pizza San Marco), Venice; 27 September 1956

St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), Venice; 27 September 1956

St Mark's Square (Pizza San Marco), Venice; 27 September 1956

St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), Venice; 27 September 1956

St Mark's Basilica in St Mark's Square (Pizza San Marco), Venice

St Mark’s Basilica in St Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), Venice; 27 September 1956

I can’t tell you much about Venice as by the time I had a shower & changed into fresh clothes it was too dark for me to begin an exploratory tour. I sort of tied a mental string around my waist & did a round of the block – or I mean where the block ought to be. St Mark’s Square, another example of Italian grandiosity – a massive open area with a very ancient church at its end & a huge campanile sort of thing alongside it. You may recollect hearing of the pigeons on the square. Just after dinner a combined drive of gondolas came past, accompanying a gaudily decorated barge with colored lights & professional serenaders singing into a flaming microphone full blast. How these Italians like noise. Gondola blokes yelling at each other like fish wives. It is still very beautiful despite the commercialisation. Delightful to have your meal in the open, pleasant lights, linen, good service – nice cool night – It could be done well in Sydney in some sheltered spot.

Later)

A funny thing just happened. After dutifully washing shirts & underwear & hanging same up on a cord which was attached to some thing over the bath, I was rudely awakened from my mediations on the can by a knocking on the door. On opening up – a chamber maid about 50 something agitatedly asked me some foreign questions & upon getting no reply came into the room & started mucking about with a switch beside the bedside light. All of the time nicking out of the front door to look at something. To no avail apparently. Back she nips into my odoriferous bathroom and a sigh of relief asks me to take the shirt off the cord over the bath. Seems like dear Willy hung his shirt on the cord you pull for help if you get stuck in the tub, etc. The ringing of bells ceased & the red light over my door miraculously went out on disengagement of the shirt. – What would they do without me?

6.45am Friday [28 Sep 1956].  A very nice bed to sleep on. In Italy the shops open at 8.30am and the millions pour out of the apartments, rooms, etc. the traffic starts and the noise begins. This goes on till 1pm when they all seem to go home again. The real peak hour rush starts again at 4pm when really everyone in Rome must go out on the streets. It’s deafening & you get jostled off the footpaths, if busy, cars and buses scrap your ass, and the cafes are setting up for the open air meal hour of 7 to 9.30. The uproar continues until 8pm. Then all is relatively quiet again. Not that the place dies, nothing like it – merely the commercial shipping is over for the day. Down near the pub I stayed at there is a park square slightly bigger than Wynyard which was always full of cats. Dozens & dozens of them. I couldn’t work it out until yesterday at noon when I was returning to book out. It seems that from about 10 till 12 the place is turned into a Paddy’s Markets. Double rows of stalls forming a corridor all round the park spring into life. They are brought in & set up and shelter beneath their own huge umbrellas or canvas awnings. Everything conceivable is sold. The real attraction being the food vendors, I imagine. You should see those cheeses & sausages, vegetables of every description, great yellow capsicums, long thin tomatoes, red and white speckled beans, eggplants, mushrooms, strings of garlic, all supported by a host of the commoner varieties. Many, many meat stalls displaying the frowsiest carcasses. Lambs, miserable skinny things only about a yard long. Yellow scrawny chickens, all peck and legs – tripes & bellies and kidneys & god knows what from beast & fowl all somewhat on the nose. Fish stalls stand opposite the meat. Squids, long fish, thick fish, herrings, sardines, mussels, pippies, lobsters, crabs, prawns, and any edible spawn of the sea. The buying & selling goes no for about an hour, when at 12 everything is carted away again, leaving behind a colossal litter. Hence the cats. I guess they feed on the offal from the meat & fish boys.

I shall now take me down to my collazione and find out where I can have a gander at the Tintorettos with a fist full of lire I suppose. A look at a couple of dozen pictures at the Rome Gallery cost me 3/6.

Possibly the bridge over the small canal heading back from St Ma

Possibly the bridge over the small canal heading back from St Mark’s Square to the Hotel Regina, Venice; 27 September 1956

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure, 26 Sep: Rome; I am in anything but a state of Splendor!

Mon 24-Sep-56: Took off 8:30am through Bangkok, Calcutta and Karachi, flew all day & night, arrived Cairo 3:55am.
Tue 25-Sep-56: Landed Rome 10am. Found suitcase had been left at Karachi. After lot of bother settled in Splendor Hotel. Cashed £10
Wed 26-Sep-56: Walked miles saw Vatican & Colosseum

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[Roma, Italy, Splendor Hotel via Luigi Luzzatti N. 20.A]

Wed 27th 9.45pm [26 Sep 1956]

To My dear little wife & Graham,

I am in anything but a state of Splendor! I’m done in, I’m finished, I’m in bed, and I miss you both very much. I’ve walked Rome down to its original foundations and have had no one to whom to speak of it. Haven’t spoken to an Englisher since I arrived on Tues morning at 10.30am with the exception of tonight at dinner when one of the passengers of the plane turned up at the Hotel.

Things have got off to a bad start for the fool Qantas crowd left my baggage behind at Karachi. I hope to get it off the first available plane, which arrives tomorrow morning at 9am or so. I had to change my booking for Venice as that plane leaves at 8.45am. However a plane leaves at 2.55pm and have booked that. God knows what I’ll do if the bloody bag doesn’t arrive, or is half missing. It has been awkward without the gear. I have to walk everywhere because I can’t understand the gabling lingo, am ignorant of the destinations of trams & buses and don’t trust myself on finding a way out of the predicament. I must have cyclometered 20 miles, & the old dogs are killing me.

Had a very smooth trip on the plane but saw little of the land before we got to Singapore, as we were flying at 16,500 ft (i.e. about 3 miles up). After Bangkok we flew over thick cloud all the way to Rome. Ian Hamilton met me at the airport and drove me to Raffles where I had a shower & we had a look at the city on Sunday afternoon. It is a fantastic place with myriads of people milling around like ants of all conceivable shape & color, and in all stages of dress & undress. I haven’t the energy to elaborate much on the curiosities of Singapore but must mention that Ian, his wife, two other wives (not his) and myself went to a fantastic joint called Happy World, which is a collection of everything like the side shows & display stalls of the RAS and then some. But, my dear, the people! Polygot!

We had a Chinese meal there sitting in the open amongst the passers by. The chop shop had all its uncooked wares on display & as we pointed out what we wanted they would chop it up & cook it. Very good & very light. How Bill P Jones’ eyes would have stuck out, etc, etc.

I’m half asleep writing this in bed.

I wouldn’t care much to lose myself in Singapore. Even for the wonderful  chinese dolls.

You’d love Rome and I think I could now show you round a bit if you were with me. Sheer exhaustion is taking the edge off it for me. It is full of contrast & movement. Great slabs of it are like very much better done Kings X & Macleay St. Huge open places alternate with old past centuries dwellings flanking narrow streets. The city proper is built in the old area. Streets not much wider than Rowe St, down which busses, cars & motor scooters by the million whiz down with breakneck speed in a truly terrifying way. I really am frightened of the traffic here, it’s unbelievably fast & seemingly chaotic but strangely I haven’t seen an accident or a bent car. Every mobile thing is used, bicycles with box carriers in front, horse drawn phaetons, motor bike trucks, etc, all with practically open exhausts, and horns blowing & blasting ad nauseum. To make matters worse it runs in the opposite way to ours, which is what makes it dangerous for me because I am fixed on looking for oncoming cars where they aint. Only my increasing old womanishness has kept me in tack.

St Peter's Square, Vatican City; 26 September 1956

St Peter’s Square, Vatican City; 26 September 1956

St Peter's Square, Vatican City; 26 September 1956

St Peter’s Square, Vatican City; 26 September 1956

A few tired words couldn’t give you any idea of what the Vatican is like. Stupendous – and not in the Hollywood use of the term although most of the interior is Hollywood. In the conception & execution this general headquarters of the R.C.’s is gigantic.

Sorry I can’t write any more dear.

Ian Hamilton asked to be remembered.

Don’t be too misstressful with the young bloke. Tell him postcard sending will be in abeyance for a while as Airmail fee is pretty high. ¾ for one letter.

Lots & lots of love for you both.

Bill

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0007 copy

Last page included an illustration “Me exercising in Roma”

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Rome; 26 September 1956

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Rome; 26 September 1956

Lots of love sweetie. Am feeling stronger. Have dashed this off before breakfast or colazione to you. The whole town reeks of Expresso coffee & no one seems to wear a hat – male or female.

Tell P Jones I’ve heard everything. Tell him to tell Bert Gardiner I came over from Singapore with a young Chinese student who attends the University of Belfast – and talks like Bert Gardiner.

P.S. Just got word to say my bag has turned up. Thank Heavens. I hope nothing is missing/it was not locked.

Via della Conciliazione, Rome; 26 September 1956

Via della Conciliazione, Rome; 26 September 1956

Via della Conciliazione, Rome looking towards St Peter's Square,

Via della Conciliazione, Rome looking towards St Peter’s Square, Vatican City; 26 September 1956

St Peter's Square, Vatican City; 26 September 1956

St Peter’s Square, Vatican City; 26 September 1956

The Colosseum, Rome; 26 September 1956

The Colosseum, Rome; 26 September 1956

The Colosseum, Rome; 26 September 1956

The Colosseum, Rome; 26 September 1956

The Colosseum, Rome; 26 September 1956

The Colosseum, Rome; 26 September 1956

The Colosseum, Rome; 26 September 1956

The Colosseum, Rome; 26 September 1956

Rome; 26 September 1956

Rome; 26 September 1956

Via di Tor di Nona, Rome; 26 September 1956

Via di Tor di Nona, Rome; 26 September 1956

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Wep’s 1956 Romanian adventure, 22-23 Sep 1956: Northern Territory; in need of a cold beer

1956 MM-DD WEP Romania_0001 - Copy

Sat 22-Sep-56:  Left Sydney 10:30pm – slept most of the way to Darwin. Plane very empty.

Sun 23-Sep-56: Took off 8:05am. Arrived at Singapore 3:55pm. Saw Ian Hamilton and had fun at ‘Happy World’. Slept at Raffles Hotel. Cashed £5

[Berrimah, Northern Territory]
7am Sunday
[23 September 1956]

Dear Mugs,

Had a magnificently smooth trip up and landed about 5:30am in the blinking dark. They seem to have the clocks too fast up here because it was about 6:30am local time before we had the dawn. It is very hot and the birds make different noises outside in the scrub. They caw and gurgle, and the ensemble has a liquid, gurgling note. Not sharp & gay, as in the antiquary No. 85.

I’m dying for a long cold beer but suppose I’ll have to wait till I get back on the plane. We are at a dump in the never-never called Berrimah. Qantas have a comfortable sort of motel looking establishment here. Bedrooms sprawled in lines round a swimming pool, dining room, etc. Unfortunately we don’t go anywhere near Darwin town. I’d like to have seen it – It was Sep 1945 when I last came through.

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Singapore, 23 September 1956

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Singapore, 23 September 1956

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Singapore, 23 September 1956

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1956: Wep travels behind the Iron Curtain on a cultural exchange visa

In 1956, acclaimed Australian artist, William Edwin Pidgeon (WEP) was issued with a Visa for travel behind the “Iron Curtain” to Romania as part of a cultural exchange program.  This series of posts will include extracts from letters he sent back home to his wife, Dorothy, describing his adventures and depicting the places, people and life as he witnessed it. Included with posts will be some of the photos he took and art work inspired from his trip.

Wep left Sydney on September 22, 1956 with stopovers in Darwin, Singapore, Rome, Venice, Munich, and Vienna. He arrived in Budapest, Hungary on October 2nd, travelling to Bucharest in Romania the next day. He spent two weeks in Romania, returing to Vienna on October 18. Five days later a cloud fell over Hungary when widespread revolt erupted against the Soviet backed government leading to its fall from power. On November 4, the Soviets invaded, crushing the revolt, and by November 10, all resistance had ceased.

Wep then spent time in Paris and London, arriving back home in Sydney on December 2, 1956.

WEP Passport_0004 WEP Passport_0005

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Kosciusko – August 1932: “Never to my dying day will I forget the skies of the Southern Alps.”

Kosciusko – August 1932

One who has never visited the snow country can have no conception of its solemn beauty.

We leave Cooma in a crowded growling bus, chattering its way over hills and plains, brown as if painted by Rembrandt. Granite rocks dropped in clusters of tombstones squat on the surface of the earth, and great, dark, obsequious trees, like shrouded mourners round the graves. Wind-swept desolation. Our driver says it was once desert country. Scurrying wastes of sand, now tethered by tender roots of grass on which the dunnish sheep browse and merge intermittently with the still cairns. Miles of granite hewed into smooth masses by the powerful hand of the wind, blowing even now.

We reach Berridale, a shy village hidden behind huge rows of gaunt poplars. English trees, naked before the tourists, elms, oaks, beeches. A squat hotel, boasting a 6 x 4 bar wherein one has a thimble of lager for 6d and listens to those great tuning forks, the poplars, shaking in the wind.

Jindabyne, the Snowy River, what romance in the name, mustangs, ringing hoofs, leaping trout – Picturesque, we grant, but the Man from Snowy River lies full length on a bench in the sun, behind him, behind him the white-washed wall of the hotel gleams yellow. A dog lazily scratches fleas. The store, the garage with its mechanical broncho, the blacksmith’s shop, all sprawl lazily like cats too warm to move. His Majesty’s post-office sadly supports its leaning frame on a gentle rise. Slinking in and out between lucky-stones and fresh dark trees the Snowy indifferently finds the sea.

Eight miles we climb, a rising crescendo of grinding gears, relieved by staccato twitterings as we see patches of snow alongside the road, carelessly flung there by the gods. An Olympian paper-chase leading to our goal.

Gears still grind their music, changing at last to a treble and a squeal from the playing brakes. We top the hill and the hotel appears stuck on a quilt of snow. Snow covers the valley and Colin [Wills] and I goo with delight, our eyes popping.

The eight buses pull up and disgorge their passengers into the slush. 260 feet drag mud into the vestibule. We get our rooms, eat, go to the ballroom where the expert tells us how to ski, and how to fall. We are fitted to the skis and trust to them for our safe-keeping. Ill founded trust! They behave like rutting females, dashing hither and thither. We pick our flanks off the snow and half an hour later are asserting masculine powers over the skis.

Snow begins to fall. Feathery foolish stuff, too light to land. Overnight it continues. On Sunday morning it drives into our faces with a bleak blasting howl. My ears feel as they have been chewed beyond pain. They are icy cold and slimy. Jess’s eyebrows and eyelashes support icicles, a handkerchief half out of my pocket is frozen stiff. Colin falls and rolls in the snow, his face rises white and laughing out of a drift. The hairs on my moustache are ice-coated. Our clothes carry a thin layer of frozen-hard snow, which cracks in the folds of the cloth. We are tremendously warm and happy, we fall, we trip, and sprawl, the snow is accommodatingly soft and as glorious to muzzle into as a woman’s breast. We laugh and yodel. Ha-e-e-e! It is easy to ski; the snow is soft, thick and slow. Perfect snow sent to us. We thank the Lord.

Snow fell throughout the day, 6 inches of marvellous clinging purity.

Monday dawned a cloudless day. We experienced fine weather for the rest of the week.

The sky was fit to worship. Never was sky so transparent, nor colour so pure. The far distant mountains are lines with a needle point against the sky. Atmosphere as experienced in the Blue Mountains is unknown. Miles and miles of etched clarity backed by a heaven of marvellous amethyst, now turquoise, now an infinite blue. One wants to be enveloped in the glorious glaring nothing. Never to my dying day will I forget the skies of the Southern Alps. The finest days in the country elsewhere cannot emulate such masterpieces. As we know them the heaven’s colours are neutralised by dust, destroying the limpid purity. There, no dust trammels the scene and the snow reflects the brilliancy of the sun back into the heavens creating a magic dome of unpaintable magnificence.

Forgive the rhapsody, for such beauty is well nigh breath taking. The country is by far more fascinating than the sport it has to offer.

The winds are clean and crisp, filling one’s lungs with superabundant energy and delicious life.

We breast a hill; we are on the Plains of Heaven, God what a view! A blast sweeps off the Main Range forcing our lungs to capacity; we could tear a horse in two.

We turn and descend, gather speed, faster, faster, plonk! We unravel the tangle of skis and limbs. Gurgle with glee.

Would that I had the style of a Stevenson or other to tell of the beauties of leafless trees reaching their stringy fingers to the sky. Fingers clawing, supplicating, for the life that was once theirs and is now gone forever. The scene is Buddha-like in its indifferent serenity, a very god; compelling worship.

I would go alone to these places, Dainer’s Gap and the Plains of Heaven and stand seeking to imbibe the essence of such beauty, to become omniscient and humble, to identify myself with the calm life around, and could only murmur “oh, god.”

Jess and I left for the Chalet on Monday Aug. 22 passing through Dainer’s Gap, Smiggins Holes, Piper’s Gap, Piper’s Plain, about 4 miles of it! The Perishers Gap, the Perisher Plain, about 2 miles to Bett’s Camp arriving at 2.30pm.

This camp was once an accommodation house before the chalet was built, and is now used merely as an emergency hut. It was disgustingly dirty, the beds, a tangled mass of sheets and blankets, jam and butter splodged about the tables, the lavatory chock-a-bloc, and the entrance and bathroom full of snow. The previous Saturday Aug 13, a party were trapped by a blizzard and stayed at Bett’s overnight.

The Chalet is about 23 miles further on. A roaring gale began to blow as we left Bett’s. Across the plain 3 of our party were blown to the ground. At each gust of wind we stood stock still, huddled like horses in blasts of rain. Clouds were racing over Mt. Guthrie licking its summit as they dashed north. We would stop and look, oft times being blown backwards on our skis. Huge black brutes edged with blazing light, fifty miles an hour or more, casting great ugly bruises of shadow across our track through the valley. The Chalet seemed to be on wheels, receding at each step we took. All were just about done in. With feeble hurrahs our skis were undone and we slumped into the dining room at 3.30pm to polish off promptly a bottle of beer each. What if it was 2/6 per! We made a slow trip, 5½ hours but the snow was soft and there was not one run downhill.

The storm brought up hail and sleet. Tuesday saw us kept indoors, fog being so thick as to limit visibility to 5 yards. Unfortunately we had to return the next day, money being scarce.

6.15am Wednesday I was up and climbed Mt. Stilwell which is just behind the Chalet. I took the camera with me to get photos of the Main Range but the clouds were very low and covered everything.

Dawn broke while I was perched on the mountain, and filled the misty valley with a vast veil of light. Mt. Guthrie showed up dimly behind the gossamer on one side, on the other Mt. Twynam squatted with its head wrapped in cotton wool clouds. It was well worth the early rising to see white shining plains and white mountains shrouded in luminous mist, and I dare say I was the highest human in Australia at that hour. A most icy wind blew incessantly from the direction of Mt. Kosciusko, numbing hands to a painful degree, most discomforting when my gloves were off.

The trees were poor stunted shrubs caked with ice blown hard in ridges on the edges of the twigs. These last of trees appear like growths of coral behind which extend long lines of wind swept snow, perfectly streamlined.

Underfoot the snow crunched, packed hard by eternal wind, the sleet had frozen into a solid gravel surface holding here and there patches of soft dust snow fallen overnight. I made my way back and had breakfast. We left for the hotel at 10am. Ruc sac containing the necessities of luggage for Jess and I weighing down my back. The snow across the plain from the chalet was icy and jagged, scraping off in no time all the wax which had been melted on to the bottoms of our skis. Two miles of slithering and scraping, occasionally on foot, for the skis would not hold on the glistening surface, to arrive at Bett’s Camp. More intolerably hard plains to the Perisher Gap, where snow covered mountains glistened in the sunlight – so many huge iced cakes. The icing gathered in rolls, sooth and shiny. Across Spencer’s plain it looks but few steps, but we cover 4 miles before it is behind.

Midday now and excessively hot. The snow is thawing and is soft and slushy. We have to push ourselves down hills, sometimes striking a hard patch over which we shoot at increased speed to pull up dead on more slush – an over! More miles and terrific glare. Sun glasses are donned and with bent heads we struggle across Smiggins Plain to the foot of a climb to Dainer’s Gap. I am just about done-in, the pack feels like a piano, I am dizzy with glare and fatigue, but the bus leaves within an hour and we still have 2½ miles to go.

Jess is in front pace making. I curse and wish I hadn’t climbed round the mountains before breakfast. Twice, no three times, I fall over, while going up hill, too tired to keep my skis apart. I curse Jess for being ahead and with horrible, spiteful effort pass her. I feel like lying down and ignoring bus, time and everything else. Automatically we reach Dainer’s Gap and start the run down hill to the Hotel. Normally the road is icy and fast. Today it is slow mush and calls for effort to descend. Push – push – I push myself over. Dried spittle clucks around my tongue. We lurch into the hotel with half an hour to spare. Have mouthful of food and board the car for Cooma, so worn out as to be actually glad to get away. The snow has rapidly disappeared around the hotel, leaving great bare patches of rock and dank grass. We turn the corner and Kosciusko is lost to view.

More notes on Kosciusko

No doubt you already know that the snow covered mountain down south was so named because of its fancied resemblance to the North Pole, Kosciusko.

Hills are dreadfully bald, due no doubt to the dandruffy like substance which accumulates on the brow of the hills and on the heads of the ranges.

The hotel is a large rambling place built to provide cover for the passage ways which abound. These passage ways serve the dual purpose of allowing Mr. Speet (the manager) to take his “constitutional” within, and for the accommodation of ill-positioned trophies.

One must “keep moving in a blizzard.” Thanks to the practice in dodging Mr. Speet around the corridors, incessant movement becomes second nature.

A bar is discovered conveniently situated near the surgery, and but a few steps from the drying room wherein are placed all the guests who inadvertently get “soaked.” The bar when full resembles a club sandwich. Wood, meat, wood, meat, wood, all tightly packed and garnished with hiccoughs.

The lucky Irish charm must always be carried by a novice else the snow will probably bite him in the back or severely maul his thumbs and ankles.

Most everybody has a snow blind. This handy little invention ensures, when pulled down, such privacy as is indispensable while on the snow.

Solemn information is given that the snow must not be eaten. I take it there is not enough to feed all the guests and is very difficult to import, tariff being high and what not.

Skis are provided free to Govt. tourists, a wise provision which encourages people to crack their necks and thus cause no end of employment in State Hospitals, Funeral parlours, flower shops and the like.

Bett’s Camp was erected to accommodate a tin of baked beans left on the spot by Charles Bett and his partners after a game of strip poker during the winter of ’68. The tin is still untouched, even by the most hungry and blizzard blasted skier who may happen along. Such respect. However, icicles on toast and a lovely cup of warm snow are provided on presentation of one’s dole-ticket to the concierge, if about.

The Chalet was discovered by the Man for Snowy River and respectfully dedicated to the Govt. During the service “Banjo” Patterson played his ukulele as the sun went down on the historic scene.

It is now used exclusively by honey-mooning couples, and known chiefly for the fact that whiskey is 19/6 per. This latter state of affairs has given rise to a thriving industry. St. Bernard dogs are reared in huge numbers and as soon as the pups are born the little barrel of rum which is always round their necks is snatched off and enthusiastically drunk to the accompaniment of rousing sea-chanties by the entire population.

At present the snow fields are sadly underdeveloped. One can blame the under-secretary for land, obviously. With a little expense and enterprise the govt. could have slalom flags growing all over the place, and the snow jazzed up and dyed like a dazzle boat. Safety zones dotted hither and thither around the isobars where one could order anything from Swedish Plonk to gin-titters. Classes of gay Oberland yodellers led by Charlie Lawrence or the local milkman, and shoals of Swiss miss carving bubbles in gruyere. Peanut vendors selling as a side line, hundred and thousands to Millions Club members and service stations for the trading in of old skis on new skies. That’ll be the day!

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