Mon 29-Oct-56: Roamed around, quick look at Louvre & saw Picasso film again – dinner alone at St Germain.
Tue 30-Oct-56: Rose 5am & got 6:30 train to Chartres, cold but enjoyable. Dinner with Bob Close & others.
Wed 31-Oct-56: Went to Louvre. Quiet day.
Thu 1-Nov-56: All Souls Day here. Everything shut, did nothing much, went to Place de Vosges.
Mon 29 ‘56
Another very grey day, with the significant difference that it looks grey to me, too. I’ve just come back from a scouting trip to the Louvre. And these great galleries can depress one very easily. One is forced to contemplate one’s own inadequacies & other’s noble communications with succeeding generations. It was very dark in the gallery but I managed to locate some beautiful things. Leonardo’s “Virgin with Jesus & St Anne”, so much better than the “Mona Lisa”. Giorgione’s “Le Concert Champetre” Titian “Virgin au Lapin” del Sarto “La Charité” & a superb portrait by Raphael of “Jeanne D’Aragon”. Very beautiful. All this beauty of city & past efforts are saddening. Perhaps I’m tired – and reaction has set in after yesterday’s strong impact. I felt like giving it away, but the more one sees of this fabulous city, the more one realises how little one can accomplish in the time allowed. God, how I’d like a month here with you. We could give back to each other the needed help. I hope you understood why I had to become so direct at the end of my last letter. It was very necessary to combat the upward surge. I know, anyway, that you would have been all you could to me. I think I’ll go out and find myself something to eat. I’ve been roaming around a fair bit & am getting rather hungry. Strange as it may seem I wish I could hear you chatter madly, and not too pontifically about all the things we could have seen together. I’d like to buy you some wine, & to get you slightly high, and be (that is me) all sort of mildly amused & knowledgably superior. Miss you darling. Au revoir.
Have just come in – it’s about 11pm. Went & saw the Picasso picture again but couldn’t manage to keep awake. Went and had a feed alone. Cost about £1 for a very indifferent meal.
Very cold out – and the streets are wet & full of reflections from the lights of the city. The Seine doesn’t look too inviting in this sort of weather. Roley must have been in & out again. No sign of him at the moment. Don’t know whether to go to Chartres on the 6.20am train tomorrow – or not. Just can’t make up my mind at the moment. Don’t fancy it in the rain. Perhaps it would be better for me to see some galleries although the bigger ones are closed on Tuesdays. Good night sweetheart.
Good Heaven! It’s Thursday morning already! [31 Oct 1956]. On Tuesday morning I got up at 5am. Cold & very dark. Took myself off on a train at 6.30am to revisit Chartres Cathedral – arrived Chartres about 8am, not long after daylight. It was bitterly cold & a perhaps a perfect day to get the full impression of the cathedral. Austere & keen. I had slightly expected a letdown in emotional feeling on a second view – but all my first raptures were held. It is the most moving building I have seen. A wonderful work of the human spirit. Seems to completely embody the medieval gothic soul.
The great and simple southern spire – soaring without any commonplace cake like decorations into the cold grey sky – Everything very silent, save for the squawk of the black birds flying in & around the open chambers the high peaked top.
Around the main entrance – the typical Gothic carvings – but these so much better than most. Pure Gothic – as moving as can be – quite up to the Indian gift for sculptured embroidery conceived as a grand and united whole. A beautiful church. Went over to the Louvre but find the pictures hard to see – Paris is very dull & grey – cold too now. So dark, little light comes into the gallery. Most disappointing as there were many fine pictures to be seen. I getting too tired to really take them in. It’s a big gallery with plenty of walking to be done, and my legs have just about had it. Am looking forward to getting home for a rest for a few days.
All the world tension & disaster doesn’t add to the gaiety over here. I hope to God I can get home on time. What with the way things are shaping up it’s becoming a bit disturbing – Not knowing just how big the Anglo French war with Egypt will get. I guess you are getting worried about it. However, I think I will get through all right. I’m going to London tomorrow or the day after & will find out better how the flights home are standing. Shouldn’t be any trouble, as apparently plenty of French athletes are getting ready to take off for the Melbourne Olympics.
Here it is Thursday & midday already. Days are getting short here – I was up at 8am & big[?] a fair bit of washing. Managed to boil my handkerchiefs for the first time. Roley’s got a fire going & the flat is all tightly closed up – makes me sleepy – so I suppose I’d better go out & liven up in the grey chill. Very hazy & all – the buildings appearing like photographs with their almost complete lack of colour. Very paintable though.
I must get this letter off – perhaps my last from here. Longing to see you and Graham again. Nothing like having your own family around even if I never realise it when I have got it! Sorry that this is not a more enthusiastic letter, darling. When I am all keyed up to get the details good & hot – some interference takes place – much as you have complained about at home. Give my regards to the Dolemans – Watsons & Price Jones. I send you very loving thoughts – your Bill. XXX
It’s about 7.30am and is a bit on the cool side. I got out of bed ¾ hour ago as I found little comfort there. Now if I was out on the front verandah at 85 I reckon I could show you a thing or two. There’s nothing much to look at here. My old machinery is getting out of practice. But my thoughts are ardent – and, I hope acceptable. As all this doesn’t help one little bit. I suppose I had best carry on with the historical & geographical aspects of this one man caravanserie. But truly, I do miss you so very much. I’m getting a bit tired of gazing at churches, & public monuments, parks, rivers, street names, traffic policemen, food shops, dress shops, German phrase books, city maps, handfuls of all sorts of currency and foreign menus. I am not tired of looking at girls or book shops, although it is my much considered opinion that the latter are of much better quality. It seems surprising how few top line sorts one sees in Europe – so far. However, talking about that is preferable to writing. The book shops here are very good – really go in for art publications with German thoroughness, but I dare say that in Paris & London I shall find them as good – probably better. I have only just realised that my last letter to you was posted from Orasul Stalin in Rumania last Sunday. God, knows when you will receive it – possibly after this one. I have been a bit too busy travelling to give you much of myself. I did get a kick out of ringing you in Sydney and even if the connection was bad, we did manage to make some real contact. It was nice to hear you sweetie, although for the life of me, I can’t remember anything much about it except the important items of date of return – seeing the Edgleys – giving you the tip off to write c/o Roley Pullen, and hearing Graham too. I bet he gave the schoolboys & the neighbours an earbashing about a telephone call from Vienna. I hope you felt I was loving you very much. Because I was. I didn’t get the address of the street too well – so went to a travel agency & with their help found the Australian Commission’s premises. Edgley was away at Linz – and was due back at 6pm Friday. About 6.30 I rang his wife – she was delighted to hear a dirty old Australian accent & insisted I catch a cab straight out, which I did & while trying to find out, with my filthy German, which house they lived in – the doctor arrived home. Only to find his youngest child, a girl of 2 ½ down with pneumonia. Mrs E wanted to dine out, so papa stayed home to look after sick child. They have invited me to stay with them for the day or two before I leave for Paris. Quite a lively couple – she is 6 months gone again – making it her 3rd. They are getting pretty sick of the climate here – but have to stay on another 12 months or so.
This rushing around is tiring and confusing – for the life of me I can’t remember where I was up to in my travels. Did I tell you about a beautiful old church in Orasul Stalin. It was over 800 years old. The stone of its exterior quite fretted away like rocks by the sea, so dark grey as to have occasioned its name of Biserica Neagra which means Black Church. It was very big and the interior all around the bottom end where the altar was placed was painted white. The towering shafts of stone appeared to radiate a purity of light – the altar itself nicely proportioned & with just the right amount of gold. It gave me rare pleasure. That white – unbelievably effective. The churches in Vienna, are even blacker in surface appearance – and more huge. But inside is all the original grey aged stone – & the effort is gloomy. The old black church had spirit – plus buoyancy. The maniacal driver managed to bash a mud guard in & that held us up for ½ day at O. Stalin. On the Monday morning we took off for Cluj at 8am. Transylvania! A country in everyone’s imagination – full of werewolves, bats, vampires and horrifying mysteries. Ruritania – with princes on sombre missions. Pine trees – dark recesses of the mountains & snow. And the whole damn place looks more like Australia than anything I have seen since I left home. It is a twin to the Monaro district. Autumnal brown grass rolling slopes, very few trees, and the Alps in the distance. Tell Price Jones to tear the word Transylvania out of his accumulated imaginings. It just ‘aint so. I am afraid I disappointed Mrs Edgley, too, with my account of it. Visited a vineyard on the way up & had a couple of quick snorts. They seem to only make white wines up here & pretty sour Riesling at that. Crumby stuff – which everyone drinks with soda water. Breaks your flaming romantic heart. To save something from the wreck you can tell Bill that the peasants do wear white trousers & white aprons – with great shaggy sheep skins coats to cover. They do carry long sticks & lead the flocks to various pastures. The only thing that was un-Australian was the complete & utter lack of fences anywhere. The peasants all live in clustered houses in the villages & at early morning set out in their carts drawn by horses or oxen for their plot which may be anywhere between one village & the next. Apparently they know their own ground backward & there is no dispute as to where one man’s lot begins & ends. The peasants give their stock (sheep or cattle) to the shepherd & he takes them all out to grass.
Met some artists and sculptors in Cluj. They were being very well done by. Storybook studios & apparently adequate money. Also met a director of a folk lore museum who suggested we nick out & see some peasant potters. We did so – found out, was about 35 miles out. Practically on the Hungarian border – near a town named Oradea. Quite interesting. Next day returned to Bucharest – got in about 1.30am.
Had a meeting with the director of the Institute. All very amiable. Asked what I thought about Rumania, what I didn’t like, etc. Received a present of a little bit of folk art. An old Rumanian custom I gather. Was happy to be able to reciprocate with the books. When I got back to the pub – found that more books & records had arrived. Such was the enormous weight of books – the Institute are sending them out. I hope they all arrive safely. Was explained to me that the early departure was due to the fact that it was the only booking they could get me before the Olympics.
All very pleasant – a great pity the country is so poor. Also wrote a little piece about Australian art & did a short talk for the air, this they took on tape in the hotel room. Heard it played back.
Got to Vienna about 12 noon. Where I thought to let you know immediately. Got the bright idea of ringing – not much more than a cable. To confirm our talk – I catch a BOAC plane at Zurich on 21st Nov. at 10.30pm & should arrive in Sydney on Sunday 25 at 7.20am. You can insure me for the trip if you like. I was shocked to read in a German magazine – I stumbled through it in German – of the unfortunate crash of the Vulcan Bomber as it returned to London. It is now 9am. I better dress & have some rolls & coffee.
Sunday [21 Oct 1956]. 3pm. I am sitting in a lovely park out of Vienna. In the middle is the Franzensberg Castle built by Franz Joseph early last century. The castle is set in the middle of a fine artificial lake which has no water in it. The autumn trees are beautiful colours & in the distance a group of school girls are singing. The weather is most indulgent. A mild gentle setting sun. The Edgley girl made a magnificent recovery, playing like mad in the trees behind us. We had a picnic lunch.
Went to the Vienna gallery [Kunsthistorisches Museum (Museum of Fine Arts)] this morning & saw many fine paintings including Tintoretto’s Susanna & the Elders, Holbein’s Jane Eyre [Jane Seymour], Vermeer’s famous Painter & model. Wonderful Titians and 14 Brueghels. Pity I am leaving in the morning but I suppose I had better move on. Paris & London will take time. I telegrammed Roley Pullen to ask him to get me some cheap accommodation – I am going in the Arlberg Express from Vienna to Paris – via Zurich. Leaves at 9.10 in the morning & arrives Paris 8am the next day. Fare is about £7-10.0 against £17.10 by plane – also I will see up to the Alps in daylight. I stayed with the Edgleys last night & tonight – they seem to be a very happy coupe with two nice little girls. The Viennese are wandering up and down the lake – Yesterday, Rob took me for a drive through the Vienna Woods.
I shall have to finish now as we are about to return to Vienna, and I want to post this letter before I leave in the morning. Lots of love my darling. Give Graham my love & a pat for Trellie. Tell him I liked receiving his letters. I hope he gets all the different stamps that are coming over. A big thing for you. XXXXX for all. Your old loving roue [?]
[Apparently Wep’s visit to Romania was cut short as the people in the Institute wanted to get him out before trouble over flowed in Hungary. Five days after leaving Romania, widespread revolt erupted in Hungary 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.]
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.
Hotel Regina, Venice
[28 Sep 1956]
8pm before dinner
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.