Saturday 25th July (20th day)
We got up at 8 a.m., fried chips and eggs, and rescued the farmer's little boy when Gordon's bike fell on him
We followed the Isere valley, which is flat and quite wide, with steep mountain walls on each side. It was very hot. At the third attempt we found a roadside restaurant where we got a 300 fr lunch. It was quite good, with a generous fruit course. We sat in the garden at a table sheltered by bushes.
In Chambery, we were impressed by the many new shops. We bought milk, apples, ice cream, and a cake (pain d'epice). We began thinking about gifts to take home, and looked around a large store.
Leaving Chambery, the road continued flat, with a cycle track in places. The road ran along beside the Lac du Bourget to Aix-les-Bains. We asked at a farm-house which was right in the middle of a residential area. They were very helpful, and let us use their table and chairs in the garden. They even offered us the use of their stove, and tuned in English radio programmes. We fried eggs, chips and bread. Again we slept on the hay, and again had electric light. I went to sleep whilst still unfolding my sleeping-bag. We slept well and woke at 8. We fried pate de pore (from a tin) and had creamed potatoes, and tea. At lunchtime we had a long break beside the R.Rhone, which is wide yet very turbulent and fast-flowing. We had our "wash and brush up" whilst sheltering from the midday sun
Later on, we bought a 'pure fruit juice' drink, grape juice. We discovered that the bus we had hoped to take from Frangy to Viry, over a high range of hills, did not run as it was Sunday. We decided to walk it. There were two fairly stiff climbs, about six miles in all, Gordon remarked that as his bike had not given any trouble in the 1000 miles so far, he would send a testimonial to Phillips when he got back. Little did he realise what was to happen in an hour's time! We saw a village fete, with dancing, a tea party, and shooting range.
We saw children (photo) with bright red paint on their knees, and we wondered what it was. We reached the summit, Mount Sion (2000ft) and started the long straight run down to Geneva.
We were coasting merrily down, with the road to ourselves, when suddenly out of a side road came a motor-car which stopped right across our path. We both jammed on our brakes, and skid nearly to a top. I hit the side of the car, denting it with my front wheel, yet not even marking my tyre or wheel. Gordon did not stop quite so well, and his front wheel caught in the back bumper of the car, threw him over the handlebars, buckled his front wheel, and twisted his forks and handlebars. So much for his testimonial to Phillips! We both sustained grazes, but fortunately nothing more serious. Gordon's grazes on the face, knuckles, and one knee totalled 16, and mine on knees, elbow, and arm, 8. This occurred in the small village of Maison-Neuve outside the hotel "Au Bon Coin" (the Good Corner). All the villagers seemed to appear at once to help us. They gave us brandy, bathed our injuries, and put on a modern (painless) form of iodine, the red paint we had seen earlier on the children. The people cleared up the broken glass from a bottle Gordon had been carrying in his handlebar-bag. Strangely enough, the thermos flask which was beside this bottle was undamaged Owing to the shock, our French temporarily left us, and we were very glad when a school-teacher, M. Cudet, appeared as he could speak some English. He acted on our behalf in the discussions with the car driver. We were chiefly worried about getting Gordon's bike repaired to continue our Tour.
There was no doubt that we had had the right of way, and we gathered that the driver offered to pay "provided the police were not called in". We were taken into the Post Office house to bathe our arms and legs, and were offered a drink of rum. They tied Gordon's bike on the back of the car, and we all went to the cycle repairer in the nearest town, St Jullien-en-Genevois. The grumpy repairer did not want the job, but he eventually agreed to get it ready in two days' time. He though that French spares would not fit, so it was very fortunate that we were only a mile from the Swiss border, as British-made bikes are common in Switzerland. The cost was £4.15.0, which the driver paid. An old lady who happened to be near acted as interpreter as M Cudet did not come with us in the car. The driver, a man of about 25, stopped on the way back, and treated us all to a drink, a Vin Rose. In the hotel "Au Bon Coin" we all settled around a table and negotiations began. (The Little Geneva Conference!) M.Cudet got the driver to pay each of us £1 a day for our two days' delay, and £1 for Gordon's watch, which was damaged. Since we were actually living on less than 10/- a day, this meant four days extra holiday for us! The contract signed by all, the driver ordered another Vin Rose for us, and departed with handshaking all round.
Vers, le 26 Juillet 1953
Monsieur VINCHARD Edmond
15 Avenue Berthollet
A verse une somme de cinq mille frances francais (5000f) four frais d'hotel et reparation de la montre
A Mr L R Jenkin
16 South Avenue, Exeter (Devon)
et a M G W Newbery 87 Wardrew Road
Exeter (Devon) England
(soit trois mille francs a M Newbery et deux mille francs a M Jenkin)
Temoins M Cudet Edmond, professeur en vacances a Vers, et M Saint-Germain Louis, employe a Vers.
La reparation de la bicyclette sera acquitte directement par Monsieur Vinchard (la bicyclette a ete examinee par M Duparc Fernand, garagiste a St Julien) et soit etre reparee mardi le 28 juilet 1953
Ont sine -- M Vinchard
M Jenkin -- M Cudet
M Newbery -- M St Germain
M. Cudet was a school-teacher on the Ivory Coast on holiday in his brother's hotel. He asked if we would like some 'sup'. We thought he meant soup, but it was supper. We had soup, quantities of roast potatoes, cheese, fruit, and coffee. Then M.Cudet took us to the village school-room and we slept there on the floor.
In the morning at about 9 o'clock, the village school teacher's wife brought in breakfast, Continental style. This consisted of lovely brown bread, homemade jam, butter, and a big bowl of coffee each. We had not lost our appetites, and soon cleared that lot. We then washed, shaved, put more "red paint" on our wounds, and did some laundry. Then M. Cudet asked us over to the hotel for lunch, consisting of hors d'oeuvres, veal, green peas, potatoes, carrots, cheese, fruit, and wine. Sitting there, we watched the Frangy-viry bus, on which we might have been riding, go past. In the afternoon, M. Cudet took us into St Julien in his little 4 h.p. Renault car, and insisted on having us examined by a doctor. After a long time in the waiting room, the doctor looked over our grazes, which were all clean wounds, and prescribed more Soluchrom ("red paint") only. M. Cudet insisted on buying this and some cotton wool to apply it, and also bought us a whole kilo of grapes.
In the early evening we went for a walk. We discovered that, in the village of Vers, less than half a mile from The Crossroads, a shrine was being built to St Christopher, the Patron Saint of Travellers!
That evening, M. Cudet invited us to dinner. We were shown around the cheese factory in the village and watched the people from the farms carrying their milk to the factory in specially shaped containers. Most of the cheese mad is gruyere (the kind with the holes in!) and we certainly enjoyed the piece we had at dinner. We also tried goat's cheese, but did not care for it. We listened to songs in the hotel and watched the villagers come and go. We slept in the schoolroom again, and did not wake until 9 a.m.
Once again we had breakfast brought to us, with the same or an even more generous quantity of rich home-made butter. We said good-bye to the schoolmaster and his wife, and promised to visit them if we ever were near there. We drank some Anis, and they gave us a lot of plums to take with us. We said good-bye to the people in the hotel, and to the postmistress. Finally, we bade farewell to M.Cudet, who had helped us more than we could ever hope to repay. We sent a present when we returned home. Gordon caught the bus into St Julien, and I cycled. We had another real-strawberry ice, and went to see the bike repairer. After a little persuasion, he finished the job. Gordon's bike now has a 27" front wheel and a 26" back one, and the very latest fashion in French curves for handlebars!
We cycled to the Swiss border post at Perly. Not many tourists use this entry to Switzerland, and the grey-uniformed official did not even look inside my passport when he saw the British cover. We went into Geneva, it seemed very clean, as did most other Swiss towns. We sat by the lakeside watching the illuminations, which were like those at any English seaside resort, and looked at the great fountain. The Jet d'Eau, 400 ft high, which we had seen from Vers ten miles away.
As in many French holiday resorts, there was a casino. We bought ice-creams from a stall which offered 12 different flavours. They were much cheaper than in France, but about the same as English prices.
A dear old lady thought our red paint was blood, and pleaded with us to go to a hospital. We left Geneva after dark, and called at a farm on the main road. The old farmer was of German stock, and not at all helpful. Nevertheless we did get a little of last year's hay to sleep on. The next day we ate chocolate for breakfast and made an early start. The weather was cloudy the whole time during our stay in Switzerland. We set out on the Lausanne road (no.1) through Nyon, and Rolle, to Morges. There we found a restaurant near the station. The meal was very good. The meat course was kept on the table, until we required it, on a little hot-plate heated by two wax "night-lights". We were given a second helping of the vegetables.
After Morges, the road became very hilly, with a rough surface. We stopped for the night at the Orbe Youth Hostel, the first hostel of our tour. It was small, and very pleasant. Nearly all the hostellers were German-speaking, including the two little boys aged about twelve, who are always found in Swiss Youth Hostels. They seem to have no luggage, and sleep in their clothes on the bare mattress. We fried chips and omelette for supper. It rained during the night. We woke at 8a.m. and continued towards Neuchatel. We had a picnic lunch near the lake at Yverdon: bread, cheese, lettuce, and fruit. Continuing alongside the lake, we reached
Neuchtel at about teatime. We looked around the shops, and bought several souvenirs. Outside a pastry shop we met a man who said he was going to Birmingham soon. We talked a little, and bought us a pastry. He told us of some cheap restaurants, but we did not require a meal then. We looked in the camera shops with eyes bulging. The selection
Was far superior to that in French of English shops. We went on to La Neuveville Youth Hostel. The little boys on bikes, who led us up the cobbled side-roads to it, cycled up the steep streets at great speed, and we dare no dismount for fear of losing them (and a certain amount of nation prestige!) On arrival we met a German lad who spoke very good English. No! American. Almost the first thing he said was: "Do you know Henry Jelinek?" Now, we were at school in the same form as Henry for seven years, so we knew him well. This German boy had been in his form when Henry spent a year at school in Germany. It is a small world! We also met a French lad, Jean (Rheimo 3339) who was very friendly with the German boy. The common language they used was English! We often noticed that. In Youth Hostels, the language second to that of the country concerned was always English. We slept quite well in spite of the crowded hostel. As at Orve, there were no separate beds, but one long straw-filled mattress, each person having his own blankets and cotton sleeping-bag. Again it rained during the night. The next day we proceeded to Biel (Bienne). We cashed another Traveller's Cheque there, as we found that Switzerland was draining our money. Coming out of the bank, two ladies began speaking to us in German, as they thought we were Germans on holiday. Luckily one of them could speak English, as she had been an interpreter. They were very interested in our story, and took us along to a cafe to hear about it. They treated us to coffee and cakes, and taught us the German sentence which we used more than any other: "Ich verstehe nicht"- I do no understand! We were now entering the German-speaking part of Switzerland, but most shop assistants could speak French also. The gradual transition was very useful, as notices and shop-fronts were printed in both languages, and so it taught us some German, as we knew very little, and could speak none. In fact, the only complete and intelligible German conversation I had was in Orve Youth Hostel, when a little boy, seeing that both Gordon and I had grazes on our arms, pointed to them saying "Beide"(Both?) and I replied "Ja"(Yes). After Solothurn we climbed a 3000ft. Pass over the Jura Mountains. It was quite cold coasting down the other side. The girl in a shop near the top had just returned from a stay in Scotland! We had a lovely ice-cream (at reduced price!) with many flavours.
Going down the other side of the pass we were rather surprised, as can be imagined, to meet a railway train coming up the road! The steam engine was like one out of an American wild-west film. All the main-line railways in Switzerland are electric, and we probably saw our last stream train in the country. Even this one will have gone by now, as they were putting in poles for electrification. We reached Basle and stayed at the Youth Hostel there. This is large (140 beds) and well equipped, including interior-sprung mattresses. This Hostel is really just one big transit camp, for Basle is a key railway junction, often called the "Gateway to Switzerland". The girl in the office speaks German, French, and English, in rapid succession, and she is hardened to all sorts of worries. As we were booking in, some-one came to her to say that the party of thirty-six girls from Grenoble had arrived. "Filles?" (girls), she said, "but we were expecting fils" (boys). "you will have to tell the boys in D3 to move to E4 and E1". We cooked macaroni for supper, and ate it talking to two students from the USA, and one from Cambridge. In another part of the room, they were singing, mostly in German.
August 1st, Swiss National Day.
We noticed that they had put out all of the flags for us. We looked around Basle until 2.30, buying flat German -style sausages for lunch. I posted a greetings card to a friend in Edinburgh. Although I did not know it, she was actually in Geneva all the time!
We crossed the border into Germany. After a lot of tiresome formality, the German frontier official gave us a blue card to hand in when we left Germany. We got the impression that if we could not produce our cards they would not let us out. The road was very rough, worse than an English 'B' road, yet it was Germany's road no 3. Motor-cycles were plentiful; Germany is sometimes called the land of motor-cyclists. We bought jam, eggs, banana ice-cream, etc., in a small village, and arrived at Freiburg at dusk. As we did not know where the Youth Hostel was, we went into a police station. We managed to ask: "Gute nacht, wo ist der Jugendherberge?" but we could not understand the answer! However, a policeman directed us in a mixture of English, French, German and sign language. We followed his directions but after a while we began to wonder whether we were still on the right road, so we stopped to ask an old lady. She spoke English! The youth Hostel is a long way out, about two miles into the Black Forest. There are two wooden buildings, on the slope of a fir-covered hill. The Nazis, as part of their Youth campaign originally built it. There is a fine kitchen, and excellent washing facilities. Although its capacity is 260, it was crowded and many had to sleep in tents. Fortunately we were given places in a dormitory. For supper we had a thick slab of cold luncheon meat, and plenty of roast potatoes.
After a good night's sleep, we had a Continental breakfast in the canteen. The ersatz coffee was almost undrinkable. Real coffee is very expensive in Germany, Nescafe being 10/- or 12/- a 2 oz tin. Gordon mended a puncture then we cycled back into the city, and visited the cathedral. There were stalls in the yard outside, selling fruit, postcards, souvenirs, "hot dogs", etc.
We continued on the road no 3. which did not improve. There were many cyclists. Each one, as he passed, called out the greeting "Servos!" and we returned it. By the time we left Germany we were utterly sick of the word. The scenery was monotonous, and there was a head-wind. We reached Baden-Baden at nightfall. As we cycled through the streets we were stopped by a policeman for having no lights. We asked him where the Youth Hostel was, and he tried to explain in terms we could understand. Whilst he was doing this, three German lads came cycling by, also without lights. He stopped them and discovered that they were also making for the Youth Hostel. Luckily they could speak very good English, and we discovered that the Hostel was too far to walk before it closed. Having been dismissed with a caution by the policeman, we all five tried to get one room in a small hotel, but the proprietor said he could only take us if we booked five rooms, and that would be 7/6 each without breakfast. That was far too expensive, so we decided to spend the night in the station waiting-room. When we got there we found that it was due to close at 11 p.m., but we learnt that the main-line station of Baden-Ooos, 3 miles away, was open all night as several trains, including the Orient Express, called there. So the five of us decided to go Baden-Oos. As it was so far, we cycled and again were stopped by a policeman. We said our party-piece "Ich verstehe nicht", our German friends whispered the magic word "Englisch", and we were allowed to continue on foot.
We settled down as comfortably as it is possible on a wooden seat, and dozed off. At about 2.15am we were rudely awakened by the grumpy old ticket collector, and as we had no tickets, evicted. Gordon and I found a trolley-bus shelter outside the station and we slept on the seat until the buses started at 5 a.m. We made an early start, at 6.15, without breakfast. Stopping in a little village just off the main road, we bought cheese, bread, and milk. There was still a strong head-wind, and we did only 64 miles in 10 hours cycling. We passed Karlsruge, which was badly damaged by bombs. The autobahn (special motor-road) began here, but it is not open to cyclists. A network of autobahnen covers Germany, and they are built to enable traffic to keep up a steady speed of 60 miles an hour for hundreds of miles. Cars may enter and leave the autobahn only at certain points (Auffahrten), which may be up to 20 miles apart! Owing to the autobahn, the road we had to use was in a very poor condition. We had lunch in a restaurant near Bruchsal station. It was more like an English meal than a French one. We tried to buy macaroni in a village shop. The woman showed us dozens of different wiggly shapes, but she had no straight pieces! We reached Heidelberg at 7 p.m.
Here is a translation of the poem by Scheffel
Old Heidelberg, dear city, with honours crowned and rare,
O'er Rhein and Neckar rising, none can with thee compare
The Youth Hostel, which holds 390, was full. We wanted to visit an Exeter boy, Keith Walling, a student of King's College, London, who was spending a term at Heidelberg University as part of his German course. After being nearly pushed off the road by a tram with a loudly clanging bell, and after Gordon had fallen off his bike due to some other tramlines, we called at Keith's lodgings, Bei Hammer. However, we found that he had moved into the students' Hostel. We found this, a fine three-storied building, but as we had no idea which room was his, it looked as though we might not find him. Fortunately, the first student to pass us could speak English, and even more fortunate, he knew Keith. So we had a little gathering of Exonians-in-exile. We were lucky to find him in, as he was planning to go to Switzerland the next day! We stayed talking until late, and listened to the BBC. Only then did we realise that it was August Bank Holiday at home. We visited one of the wood-panelled student inns by the river, which are over 500 years old, and it was midnight when we left. Keith was able to arrange for us to sleep in his room. The next day we woke at 9 a.m. after a very good night's rest. We had a refreshing wash in the fine bathroom. For breakfast we had tasty brown bread (misch-brot), jam, and excellent margarine (mit Nuss- nut flavoured) which was almost as good as butter. Keith showed us around the city, which entirely escaped bombing in the last war. It is now in the American Zone of Occupation, and the streets are lined with big cars owned by the G.I.s. There is even a Woolworths store, pronounced by the Germans a s Voolvort, of course. One shop offered twenty different ice-cream flavours. Fancy cakes are cheaper in Germany than in Switzerland, and cheaper there than in France. In delicacy, however, the order is reversed. We bought little shortcakes called Americanos.
The University of Heidelberg is the oldest in Germany, and was founded in 1386. Thus it is not as old as that of Oxford, England.
The weather was sunny, with a heat-haze. Keith took us up to the castle. This was founded in 1214, and destroyed by the French in 1693. It commands an extensive view, from the lovely wooded hills bordering the River Neckar, across the flat Rhine valley to the smoking chimneys of Mannheim. In the castle is the "Great Tun", a monster cask of 49,000 gallons, built in 1751 to hold the annual tithe of wine. Descending again to the city, we had lunch in the University Dining Hall, and then sat beside the river. In the evening, as we did not want to inconvenience Keith any more, we slept out in a camping ground beside the river, about 3 miles upstream. There were cars of all nationalities (except British) there, French F, Swiss CCH, Dutch NL, Belgian B, Italian I, Danish DK, Swedish S, and of course German D. The next day we woke at 6 am, and had mushroom soup, bread, butter, and jam. We would have had a sausage too, but a dog ran off with it. We gave chase, but without a hope. We started cycling on the last leg of our long journey. There was a strong head-wind and the roads were very poor. Although the country was mostly flat, we only did 40 miles in 8 hours. We stopped at Mannheim and interchanged seat-tubes as Gordon's was breaking. Mannheim, and
Photo 97. This picture illustrates an old German custom. When a house which is being built reaches the rafters the owner throws a party to which the builders are invited. A small fir tree is decorated with coloured paper, rather like one of our Christmas trees, and fixed to the roof to bring good luck. We even saw these decorated trees on six-storey city office-blocks.
its neighbour across the Rheine, Ludwigshafen, were heavily bombed. Rebuilding is quite considerable, but there are still many blitzed areas. We saw the largest wine-cask in the world at Bad Durkheim, It is fitted out as a three-storied wine restaurant, with room for 500 guests! The roads were very bad and we often cycled on the pavement. The only- half buried drainpipes running from each house to the kerb were better than the bone-shaking stone pave in the road! In the evening we came to a hill, with a long climb up. Just over the top we decided to camp for the night near a village named Frankenstein, We got some water at a house with a notice "Hunde bissige" (biting dog) we prepared to camp in a field near the stream. Then we heard the warning wheeeee of mosquitoes, and if it is true that "Once bitten, twice shy" we were about sixty times shy! So we took our bikes and bags up a steep path through the wood, and that seemed to do the trick. We cooked macaroni for supper, and were eating it when rain began to fall. It soon came down in torrents, dripping through the trees, and we heard a thunderstorm approaching. Everywhere was wet by now, and so were we, so we did not know where to sleep. Fortunately Gordon remembered seeing a potting shed in the garden of a house near the road. Wearing our cycling capes we trudged down the long steep path and back towards the road, our shoes oozing in the mud.
We climbed over a wall, and found that luckily the padlock on the door had not been closed. We went back up the hill again and fetched our baggage but left the bikes under the trees. Our torch gave out, and we had to find our way along the muddy path by touch. We dumped our possessions in the hut and lit a candle. Gordon had laughed when I packed it, with several other things which did turn out to be useless. We took off our wet clothes and made ourselves as comfortable as possible. We slept well in spite of the rain lashing on the roof. We woke early and cleared out of the shed as soon as possible, as we could not have explained in German! We fried egg and chips in the lane, and fetched down our bikes, which had kept surprisingly dry. We continued to Kaiserslautern, where there is a large American depot, complete with trolleybuses, traffic lights, baseball fields, large cars, and signs everywhere.
TRINK COCA-COLA EIS KALT
We bought an apfelsaft (unfermented apple juice), with our remaining German coins, and then crossed the frontier into the Saar.
This is a mining and industrial area, and is not at all pleasant. We noticed the effect of the international Agreements in which the Saar and its people have been a pawn passed forward and back between Germany and France. The people of the Saar are Germans, now forced to use French coinage and manufactured goods. They seem embittered, and refuse to speak or answer to the French language. We discovered a type of large cooked sausage which was excellent when spread on bread. We stayed at the Youth Hostel in Saarbrucken. One man was kind enough to direct us there in French. The hostel was very up-to-date. Several English cyclists were there. We gathered from the Warden, who could (or would) only speak German, that the kitchen was "Kaput" so we cooked macaroni and eggs on our stove in the garden. There was a fine view over Saarbrucken from the dormitory window. We slept well on good beds. The next day we crossed the frontier into France. At the Customs post we spoke to a motor-cyclist from Leicester, who told us of several cheap restaurants in Paris.
We were now passing within about 30 miles of Luxembourg. During the day, two long detours, owing to road repairs, slowed us up. We reached a point just outside Metz and called at a farm, hoping to be able to sleep on the hay as we had done when we were last in France. However, they were not very helpful, and we pressed on. Very soon we came to a sign which told us that there was a Youth Hostel in Metz which was not mentioned in our Handbook. As we found out later, it was one of the hostels belonging to the Communist Youth Organisation, although this was not obvious at the time, We saw Metz cathedral, and asked a policeman how to get to the Place Coislin, where the Hostel was situated, He said he didn't know, as he belonged to another beat! The hostel consisted of several wooden huts in a square in a poorer part of the town. Bikes and motor-bikes were kept in an extension of the bedroom. We cooked our meal on a Calor-gas stove which seemed to be suffering from asthma! Even music-while-you-sleep was provided.