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Holiday in Austria (2)


Initial thoughts
Entries in The Cooper Diaries
Holiday photos
The “Hängebrücke”

As well as the aforementioned photo, I still have the following souvenirs of the holiday:
  • Postcards, and clippings from the holiday brochure, in a blue album (album with blue covers)
  • Postcards in another album
  • Loose postcards and clippings
  • A brochure about the Brenner Autobahn
  • A folding map of Interlaken
Luton Airport (blue album)

The package holiday was arranged by tour operator Blue Cars, who arranged the flights, accommodation, excursions and activities, and the services of our courier, Philip. I think the aircraft in the holiday-brochure clipping is a turbo-prop Vickers Vanguard, operated by Invicta International Airlines. I have the impression, though, that the turbo-prop aircraft (of whatever kind) in which I flew both ways was operated by Dan-Air. On the return journey, the landing at Luton Airport was rather bumpy, and the stewardess’s accented announcement confirmed this: “Ladies and chentlemen, vee haf chust bounced into Luton Airport!” We assumed that she was Danish, and she may well have been, though the basis of the assumption was flawed because (according to Wikipedia, anyway) Dan-Air (not the Danish Danair) was a British firm.

“Pole” and his mum
In an email to Chris I wrote (2 September 2011):
“Pole”: “Now you know what it was like to be in the Lencarsters!”
I spelled “Paul” and “Lancasters” that way because he had a very pronounced London accent. Chris wrote back (13 September 2011):
That was certainly a holiday with its fair share of characters: I can still picture “Pole” with his mum.
I asked (17 September 2011):
Wasn’t the incident with “Pole” and the “Lencarsters” one of the first things that happened after you took your seats in the plane?
He replied (26 September 2011):
Yes, my first encounter with “Pole” was in the plane. I remember walking across the tarmac and looking back the whole time, half-expecting you to appear at the last minute!* However, that didn’t happen, and we took our seats. Pamela, her mother and I sat together in a row of three seats. Across the aisle there were only two seats, and that was where “Pole” and his mum were sitting — “Pole” next to the window and Mum in the aisle-seat. I remember him leaning forward a couple of times and smiling at me, and then, after we were airborne, making his comment about the “Lencarsters”.
* See Entries in The Cooper Diaries for an account of why I was absent.
Gasthof–Pension–Café Neuwirt, where we stayed in Untermieming (blue album)

Gasthof–Pension–Café Neuwirt, where we stayed in Untermieming (other album).

One of the people in our party was Connie. My chief recollection of her is her talent for stating the absolutely obvious! A letter Chris wrote on 17 October 1971 recalls that she came from Sheffield, and suggests that another trait of hers on the holiday was to try to get everyone to dance on the social occasions that we had. (Whether or not she did work in a record shop, I don’t remember.)

I went to the famous Sheffield for
the day yesterday to visit my
dear cousin Brian who is now
at college there. I was dreading
meeting the dreaded “Connie”. For
some reason I could just imagine
seeing her working in a record shop
trying to get everybody to dance.

I recalled (2 September 2011) that she would say:
“Philip, love!”
—when addressing our courier.

The couple from Coventry
I asked Chris (29 September 2011):
Does my memory of a Brummie couple belong to [the Austria trip]? “(What was his name?) had his beer while oi had a cUp of tea.
He replied (29 September 2011):
The Brummie couple actually came from Coventry. I can’t remember her name, but he was called David. Wasn’t he partially handicapped in that he had something wrong with one of his arms? Anyway, she was telling us about their usual Saturday morning routine when they went out shopping together. They had recently discovered a pub-cum-café where one could not only have a beer, but also tea and coffee. Maybe in the Britain of the 1970s such cafés were not so common. “So Doiveed had his beer and oi had moi cUp of tea.
Klara and Vroni
I asked Chris (17 September 2011):
Didn’t you fancy the daughter at Gasthof-Pension-Café Neuwirt?
He replied (26 September 2011):
I fancied Klara’s younger sister, Vroni. Klara worked in the hotel, usually behind the bar of an evening. It was there that she would say, rather abruptly, “What you want?” I actually wrote to Vroni on returning home (℅ Klara at the hotel), and she wrote back in very good English. She told me that, the following year, she would be coming to England on a exchange visit, and that she would be attending a school in Cheltenham. After that, I think the contact just fizzled out.
I commented (27 September 2011):
I’d forgotten the somewhat brusque Klara. I think it was she who bid us “Schlafen Sie gut!” one night when we left the bar to go upstairs. And it may also have been she who told us about the “Hängebrücke” and how to get there.
The way to the “Hängebrücke” was along a narrow gravel road or farm track on the plateau through fields, then down the steep wooded side of the Inn valley. It was very hot and sunny when we went. I remember seeing a motionless small black snake on the path. The field was bounded by a low wire fence — electrified by the look of it; but when I touched it, I got no sensation. There were big grasshoppers chirruping in the grass, though; as I bent down to try to pick one up, my upper arm touched the wire, and immediately when the back of my fingers touched the grass I received an electric shock. On the steep forested descent to the valley-bottom, I’ve got the vaguest memory of a fat German woman dropping her pants to answer the call of nature behind a barely-concealing nearby bush. This may have been on a second occasion when, going down there, the near-kiss with Maureen occurred (see Initial thoughts). Near the “Hängebrücke” Chris took the photo of me and Pamela; I was acting the part of silent-movie wicked suitor and she was fending me off.

Holey cheese
I wrote (3 October 2011):
On the subject of the Holiday in Austria, I just remembered something else: pale yellow cheese with big holes in it! We had full board at Gasthaus Neuwirt, and the odd time or times when there was a whole-day outing, they provided a packed lunch, which included slices of the holey cheese in the sandwiches.
Chris commented (4 October 2011):
Yes, I do vaguely remember the packed lunches and the holey cheese. This kind of cheese is also quite common in Germany, so probably wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. I guess we thought that we weren’t getting a good deal, and that there were more holes in it than cheese! :-(
I wrote (17 September 2011):
All sorts of half-remembered things come to mind… [e.g.] Ropy Austrian fags [cigarettes]!
Chris commented (26 September 2011):
I remember the ropey Austrian fags, too!
I remember vending machines selling, according to some, “Cigaretten”, and according to others, “Zigaretten”. The American brands were acceptable, but we found the cheaper native Austrian ones, as I said, “ropy”: the tobacco was very hard and dry, and the smoking experience was rough and unpleasant.

The “other party” and the “mutiny”
I wrote (2 September 2011):
There was an attractive black girl in the other party. And there was an Iranian, whom I later saw in Blackpool.
And later I asked (17 September 2011):
Where was the other party stationed? Wasn’t theirs a skiing holiday? (Do you get skiing in September?) Did Philip kind of commute between the two? Pfunds springs to mind, but that was 30-odd miles away from where we were.… I remember the black girl and others waving frantically to us from the back of their coach as it finally departed — where was that? Luton? London?… Wasn’t there a kind of mutiny against Philip among some members of our party? I seem to remember him being pissed off and threatening to resign if the grumbling and bickering against him didn’t stop.
Chris replied (26 September 2011):
While we were at Untermieming, Philip also had responsibility for another group which was based, I think, and as you said, in Pfunds. They wouldn’t have been on a skiing holiday there in September because it’s too early. As far as our having any contact with them, I can’t say very much. I don’t remember the black girl, and the only Iranian or middle-eastern guy that I can recall was staying at our hotel. He was with a very attractive English girl from London.… It was this group in Pfunds, or rather the amount of time Philip spent with them, which became the bone of contention, and which led to the “mutiny”. I remember that exactly as you have described it. Looking at the road-atlas, however, I reckon that Pfunds is nearer 45 miles from Untermieming, so it’s hardly surprising that Philip had difficulty dividing his time to everyone’s satisfaction.
Chris, Pamela and I were perhaps the youngest members of our party. The Iranian/middle eastern guy and his girlfriend were also in the younger bracket. “Pole”: I’m not sure — youngish? But everyone else seemed middle-aged. In contrast, it seemed to me that the other party, when we met up with it on one or more occasions, had a larger contingent of young people — female, at that — attractive, too!

Regarding the Iranian/middle eastern guy, I wrote back (27 September 2011):
I’d forgotten that the Persian chap was at our hotel (and indeed, regrettably, don’t remember the “very attractive English girl from London”) but my record (which I’ve now found) of seeing him again at the Beehive coffee bar in Blackpool confirms it (“in our party at Untermieming”):

LinkMonday 25th October 1971
Steve and I went in [the] Beehive opp[osite the] Odeon
for a coffee.…
I was v[ery] surprised indeed when in [the]
Beehive I saw the Persian chap who
had been in our party at Untermeiming [sic].
I didn’t get to speak to him, unfortunately.
Wrote Chris, home, 11-ish.

I discovered the following in a letter that Chris wrote on 13 November 1971:

How funny it was to read that
you’d seen him in Blackpool
that evening. He was without his
girlfriend I presume.
They came from Clacton-on-Sea
actually as he was at the University
of Essex
which is quite near there.
Small world, isn’t it?

Chris commented (29 September 2011):
I remember now that you saw that Persian guy again in Blackpool, but had forgotten that he and his girlfriend came from Clacton-on-Sea.
Stams (blue album)

We visited Stams one day after traversing the “Hängebrücke”.

Innsbruck (blue album)

Innsbruck (other album)

Innsbruck (loose postcards and clipping)

We visited Innsbruck on more than one occasion. There was a daytime visit, when we visited the sites shown in the above pictures; and an evening one, a “Tyrolean Evening”, perhaps with drinking beer from a pewter-lidded stoneware stein, and entertainments including lederhosen-clad dancers slapping each other. (There was another evening when we went by coach to a village, where wine and spirits were flowing. I remember that I consumed, among the other beverages that were served, both my and the others’ schnapps, and that on the coach back I opened my eyes suddenly, concentrating hard to stabilise myself, because I found myself drifting off into a nauseous unconsciousness.)

I wrote to Chris (17 September 2011):
I’ve got a vague memory of walking up from Untermeiming to the junction with the main road and waiting for a post bus. Where were we going?
He replied (26 September 2011):
I vaguely remember waiting on the main road for the post bus, but have no idea where we were heading.
I commented (27 September 2011):
The only destination that springs to mind for the post-bus is Innsbruck. The postcards suggest that we saw the Golden Roof, the Helblinghaus, and other sights, and went in the Wilten Basilica and saw Our Lady of the Four Pillars — though all that could have been an organised outing one day. There’s also the memory of being called a Communist because of the red star on my T-shirt and being squirted with Chanel for Men.
Italy (blue album)

We went by coach to the small town of Sterzing (Vipiteno) in the northern Italian province of South Tyrol. There were many souvenir and duty-free shops there. We went along the Brenner Autobahn: I thought we entered it near the Olympic ski jump at Innsbruck; but if Chris’s recollections are correct, we may have exited it there. On the Italian side, construction of the viaduct for the carriageway had not been completed, and (if my recollection is correct) we had to leave the motorway and descend into the valley. The view from the vantage point on the Jaufenpass, pictured above, was breathtaking; the postcard does not begin to convey the impression of it.

I asked Chris, concerning the “other party” (17 September 2011):
What points of contact were there between the two, so that I remember the black girl and the Iranian?
(The “memory” of the Iranian in this context was spurious.) Chris replied (26 September 2011):
The only possible meeting point with the other group, as far as I can think, may have been when we made the tour into Italy, to the Südtirol, and when we stopped for lunch (or something) in a place called Vipiteno. This was a circular tour, and we would have passed through Pfunds before reaching the Italian border. Maybe they joined us on that trip.
I commented (27 September 2011):
“We stopped for lunch (or something)”, you said; the “something” could be souvenir and duty-free shops. I remember that we went along the Brenner-Autobahn (for I have a souvenir brochure (in German) and a souvenir sticker). I have a mental picture of the Olympic ski-jump at Innsbruck as being near where we joined it. A viaduct or something wasn’t completed on the Italian side, for we left the autobahn and descended into the valley; I seem to recall seeing the unfinished carriageway above us. I’d not really considered the geography of the trip, and had thought we’d gone there and back; but we did go along the Jaufenpass which I now realise is beyond Vipiteno (from the standpoint of approaching it on the Brenner-Autobahn). The fact that the postcard of the Jaufenpass is displayed below the one of Vipiteno suggests that indeed this was the order of events. Perhaps we passed through Pfunds on the way back. Could the Pfunds people have already been on the coach when we boarded it at the start of our journey? Do you remember a lake on our journey? I don’t; but the route (SS40-180) from the Jaufenpass to Pfunds would take us past Lago di Resia. (A more direct route back (186) would miss Pfunds and bring us back to the Inn valley nearer Stams.)
The only other thing I remember from that day is that we stopped somewhere on the Italian side for a comfort break. The way to the ladies’ toilets passed the gents’ pissoirs. (That indeed may be where I first encountered with amusement the word “pissoir”, even though it’s French; it could have been the sign on the door). And there was a vending machine with multilingual instructions; the English said, “Introduce a piece of 100 lire…”
Chris replied (29 September 2011):
I think that Philip referred to our day-trip in the Südtirol as the “Grand Italian Tour”! My recollections of the day are very similar to yours, but with one exception: as I remember it, we first headed in a westerly direction, and then passed through Merano before arriving at Vipiteno/Sterzing. I still have no clear recollection of the people from Pfunds, although I'm sure that we did encounter them at some point during the holiday.
“The Pink Cow
I wrote (2 September 2011):
“One of those dreadful Berni Inn places!” Wasn’t that some guy on our Austria trip?
Chris replied (13 September 2011):
Yes, those “dreadful Berni Inn places”. That was a strange comment to make, because I thought they were pretty good, actually!
He added (29 September 2011):
That guy had been an officer, or something, during the war, and had been involved in the North Africa Campaign. He and his wife seemed to think themselves a cut above the rest of us. The wife wore pink a lot, and Pamela began referring to her as “the pink cow”. They joined us on the “Grand Italian Tour” and, when we made a break somewhere on very high terrain, I remember being in conversation with them (maybe you remember this, too). There was a clear sky and the sun was beating down on our heads, when the “pink cow” started telling us about some of her husband’s experiences in the desert. “Even in that heat,” she said, “they only had a water ration of one gallon a day — and that was for everything: drinking, washing and shaving!” At this point, the husband, in a very superior and Jones-like manner, interrupted her: “Darling, when you only have a gallon of water a day, you do NOT shave!”
Brenner Autobahn (Brenner Autobahn brochure)

Arlbergstraße and Liechtenstein (blue album)
When we left Untermieming for the Switzerland leg of our tour, we went along the Arlberg pass (Arlbergstraße) between Tyrol and Vorarlberg, and thence through Liechtenstein and Lucerne to Interlaken. (Or perhaps our stop at Lucerne was on the final journey from Interlaken to Basel and the airport for the flight home.)

Philip promised us at one point en route that we would see a “brass monkey”, and indeed shortly afterwards as we passed through the village of Braz, there in an enclosure was a monkey.

I wrote (2 September 2011):
Feldkirch: “That must mean the church in the field.”
I was quoting Connie, who as I said had a talent for stating the absolutely obvious.
And a restaurant with an entrance-hall full of clocks. No prizes for guessing what Connie said!…
I have the impression of being one of the first to file into the building, seeing all the clocks — and instantly thinking: “Connie!” Chris wrote (13 September 2011):
“Oooh, look at all the clocks!” said Connie, as the guy standing next to her started to cringe, just waiting for her to say it!
Lucerne (loose clippings)

Kapellbrücke, with its triangular interior paintings. (We walked along it in the daytime, though.)

Interlaken (blue album)

We stayed in a hotel in a village outside Interlaken up a steep valley. There was a trip to Grindelwald, affording a grand view of the Eiger. I didn’t buy one of the postcards of the Eiger on sale there, though, because the publishers had “vandalised” all of them with lines showing the routes by which the mountain had been climbed. Just as there was a Spar shop in Untermieming, so there was a Co-op in Grindelwald (both of which I had thought were purely British retailers).

I wrote to Chris (17 September 2011):
I seem to remember that our party was split between two hotels when we got to the village (wherever that was) up a valley from Interlaken, but that we had dinner and perhaps after-dinner activities together in one place. I vaguely remember a very attractive waitress in a sort of black waitressy dress.
And I asked him, concerning the “other party” in Pfunds:
What points of contact were there between the two [ourselves and the other party]…?
He replied (26 September 2011) that the contact may have been when we made the tour into Italy, and commented about my first point:
I only have vague memories of our stop-over in Interlaken, which was on the last leg of the holiday before we were delivered back to the airport in Basel. I can’t remember our group being split up between two hotels, but only that our hotel was up a steep road and that it offered a rather breathtaking view over the lake.
I suggested (27 September 2011):
If ours was a two-stage tour, the other party’s could have been too. We could have encountered them (again?), say, in Grindelwald. Or their presence could account for my impression of a split between two hotels in the place up the (steep) valley from Interlaken. I wrote previously that we had “…perhaps after-dinner activities”. Indeed, there was some sort of a social evening, because I remember speaking a few words to the “very attractive waitress in a sort of black waitressy dress” (after I’d had a few!). But whether it was our party or both parties I don’t know. (I redden with shame as I write this, even after 40 years, for I asked her what colour her knickers were. I don’t think I made myself understood, though.)
“Ten Frencs”
I wrote (2 September 2011):
How much did he [“Pole”] want for the loan of his shaver-cord that would fit Austrian power-sockets? Or was it Swiss? “Ten Frencs!” Fixed vacuous smile with hand extended palm-up.
For some reason we couldn’t plug in an electric shaver, and needed to borrow Paul’s cord. The fact that I seem to remember his wanting “ten francs” (not “schillings”) suggests that this was when we got to our hotel in Switzerland. After we received it from him, laughing politely at what we took to be his little joke, he just stood there, palm extended, repeating his condition of the loan — “Ten Frencs” — till his mother intervened with the single syllable “Pole!”

Albert Schild, Interlaken
Chris wrote to me on 4 June 2015:
I remember the village outside of Interlaken where we stayed “up a steep road on a valley side”, and I could hardly forget the negotiations with “Pole” over the shaver adapter. It would seem logical that we only stayed one night, as we were on our way back to the airport in Basel. Having said that, we seem to have done quite a lot there. We certainly spent an afternoon in Interlaken, or part thereof, because I remember our buying some postcards from a souvenir shop. The cards were placed in a paper bag bearing the name of the shop: “Albert Schild — Interlaken”. I googled this and found that there is now an Albert Schild AG. Whether it was a big concern then, I don't know, but we assumed the grey-haired man who served us to be Albert Schild!

Whether we were in Grindelwald before this “afternoon in Interlaken”, or after, I don’t know. My own mental picture of buying postcards, and not finding one with a plain photo of the Eiger, is set in Grindelwald. The lack of any postcard of the Eiger in the blue album, above, is ample evidence that my search in Interlaken for an unmarked image was also in vain. The postcards of Interlaken and the Jungfrau may have been bought there, though.

Here is Swiss Souvenir’s account:

Four Generations
In 1898 Albert Schild opened his special shop of wood carvings at
Bahnhofstrasse 19 in Interlaken, Bernese Oberland. He sold his own
exclusive wood carvings and also those made in nearby Brienz.
At the end of 1920 his son Ernst joined the firm – he extended the
selection of articles also including personally designed wooden toys.
These articles were subsequently sold all over Switzerland. Today,
the popular hand-painted wooden red cow with its leather ears is still
a favourite.
In 1973, his nephew Walter Andreas Fuchs took over the firm.
Besides the wood carvings and wooden toys Swiss made souvenirs
were included.
Albert Schild Ernst Schild Walter Andreas Fuchs
Since 1995 his son Kaspar Fuchs is in charge of this traditional house
– the fourth generation. Since 2006 Albert Schild AG runs the museum
shop in the Swiss National Museum in Zurich.
Chris commented (1 July 2013):
Thanks for the additional info on Albert Schild and, yes, I think it could have been Walter Andreas Fuchs who served us. Maybe it’s just my imagination running wild, but there is something vaguely familiar about him.
Interlaken and Bernese Oberland (map of Interlaken)

Click for PDF document.
This “map” faces south, so e.g. it is the north face of the Eiger that is shown.

Back in England
Concerning the “other party”, I wrote (17 September 2011):
I remember the black girl and others waving frantically to us from the back of their coach as it finally departed — where was that? Luton? London?…
And again, I wrote (27 September 2011):
When people filed past Philip and finally farewelled him they tipped him. (Where was this?) I felt embarrassed because I didn’t have enough money left to do so; I'd made unanticipated inroads into it during the initial 24 hours in Luton. Perhaps my memory of a couple or so girls (including, I thought, a black one) waving frantically through the rear window of a coach as it passed and receded from us belongs soon afterwards. It may have been a taxi. Indeed, it may have been an unexpected re-encounter in London after we thought we’d all gone our separate ways.

Chris commented in an email to me (3 October 2011 11:31): The "Holiday in Austria" blog is really good, and it includes a lot of interesting material. I suppose it's not bad that, after 40 years, we could still piece together a considerable amount of detail!
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