My love of Europe started back in 1988 when my boyfriend (now husband), and I took a six week holiday to Europe. After a 14 day Contiki Tour, a Greek Island cruise and visiting some of my husband's relatives, I was in love with the continent. We had to wait another 12 years to return (after adding two new members to our family in the meantime), but we weren't disappointed and my love of travelling in Europe has grown stronger with every subsequent trip.
There are still so many places in Europe that I desperately want to visit, but when summarising my European holidays to date, I have to admit that I've been blessed to have seen so much and visited so many wonderful places already. As I haven't written about my earlier trips to Europe on the website, I thought that 2013, as the 25th anniversary of my first trip to Europe, was a good time to share with you my European travel journey so far.
On April 28, 1988, I set off on my first big overseas adventure with my boyfriend, Jurgen. His grandmother (who lives in northern Italy) was turning 75 and a big party was planned which all of her 12 children and many of their children were going to attend. We decided to join in the fun!
After flying into London, we spent a couple of days checking out the sights and doing all the usual 'touristy' things before starting a 14 day Contiki tour. Our tour visited six countries - France, Switzerland, Italy, Austria, Germany and Holland. Highlights included Lauterbrunnen in Switzerland (which we've now returned to four times), Venice, the Austrian Tyrol and a Rhine River cruise in Germany. As much as I hate to admit it now, Paris didn't leave a great impression on me - mind you, with just a two night stay, we really only had one full day to look around and it was quite rushed.
When the Contiki tour finished back in London, we had another couple of days to enjoy the sights so we did a day tour to Bath, Stonehenge and Salisbury Cathedral (a busy, but enjoyable day), and caught up with friends who were living in London at the time.
Then it was off to northern Italy for Oma's party. We took a ferry from Dover to Oostend in Belgium and then trains to Bolzano. After a few days staying with Jurgen's family and celebrating Oma's birthday, we caught a train to Bern (Switzerland) to stay with an aunt and uncle. They showed us the city's sights and fed us until we could eat no more and it was just as well - we were about to embark on a 48 hour train trip from Bern to Athens.
Unfortunately in 1988 'budget' airlines weren't yet heard of, so we joined a train load of others for the long trek to Greece. Our sleeper compartment consisted of six berths (beds that folded down from the walls - luckily we had the top two) and our travelling companions were mainly Yugoslavs heading home from Germany for the weekend. They spoke little English and munched on raw onions (with stems intact!) frequently during the trip.
Luckily Auntie Anita had packed us some sandwiches and apples for the trip as the cat that slept in the food display cabinet in the restaurant car didn't make buying any food onboard very appealing! We were just about able to ration our food out to make it last until we reached Athens.
Towards the end of the train trip (after most of the Yugoslavs had disembarked and there were empty berths), we met two girls from Sweden who are now great friends. We spent a couple of days with them in Athens and still regularly keep in touch (and we've visited them in Sweden on a couple of occasions since).
Our reason for heading to Athens, though, was to join a Contiki tour and cruise around the Greek Islands. The 8 day tour included 3 nights in Athens and 4 nights onboard a cruise ship which visited Mykonos, Rhodes, Patmos and then Kusadasi and Ephesus in Turkey. It was a fantastic way to see the Greek Islands.
After flying back to London (we had flown from Australia with Air New Zealand who only flew into London or Frankfurt at the time), it was then time to return to Australia. We had packed a lot into our six weeks away but felt we'd only just touched the surface of the diverse and beautiful continent of Europe - and we knew we'd be back in the future.
Things that stick in my mind
- The Aussie dollar was at an all-time low against most foreign currencies. One Aussie dollar only bought us 33 British pence, making everything very expensive for a couple of young Aussies on a tight budget.
- Each country still had its own currency so every time we entered a new country we had to change our cash into the local Mark, Franc, Lire or Drachma - a costly and annoying necessity (although some would now argue that their economies were better off back then!)
- Continental breakfast at our London hotel consisted of tea and coffee and a soft white bread roll with marmalade or jam, hardly enough to sustain us until lunch time (and there were definitely no opportunites to 'pinch' some muffins or fruit from the buffet to eat later!)
What were the highlights of your first trip to Europe - or are you planning your first trip now?
© Holidays to Europe
(Apologies for the quality of the pre-digital era photos!)