[Note: This trip journal was prepared in 2006 using original notes from the 1961 trip, only recently discovered. Because of the deterioration of our color slides over the ensuing 45 years, more recent pictures have been used for most scenes, matching the originals as best we could. The commentary is taken from the 1961 notes and sometimes differs from what we would say today, based on broader experience.]
Introduction. We had been stationed with the Army in Verona, Italy, almost two years, but we’d never gotten further into Germany than Oberammergau. Now my 17-year-old niece, Sharon, had accepted an invitation to visit us, and her charter flight was to land in Frankfurt. We decided that driving up there to pick her up would have many advantages: she would not have to travel alone by train (unthinkable considering her age and lack of experience); we would get a chance to see a little of Germany on our way up; and all three of us could visit Luxembourg, France, and Switzerland on the way back.
We had Rosa, our very gentle and reliable live-in maid, to look after our four sons (ages 2, 3, 5 and 6), so we decided to brave the trip in our huge 1953 eight-passenger Pontiac station wagon.
Saturday, 19 August. We left our condo in Verona about 07:45 and were just picking up speed when there was a loud clunk. I stopped the car and discovered one of my black dress shoes on top of the car. The other one had just fallen off, making the clunk. I had set the shoes on top of the car while loading something else and forgot all about them. Fortunately I recovered the shoe that fell.
With that incident behind us, we settled down for a peaceful trip. When we reached the lineup of cars at Brenner, on the Italian-Austrian border, we discovered that the trittico (customs document) for the car was not in the glove compartment. We were waived across the border without incident, but I parked and went into the customs office to try to get some documentation for the many other border crossings we had to make. The Italian official assured us we wouldn't need any, so we decided to take the chance.
We ate the lunch we'd brought in the car and then stopped for something to drink in Innsbruck, Austria. We crossed into Germany without incident and spent a little time at Garmisch, long a beautiful resort town in the Alps and, since the war, the site of many American recreational facilities.
Continuing north, we turned off the Munich road to visit Linderhof Palace (1878), built by "Mad" Ludwig II of Bavaria in a very ornate French Rococo style. We were impressed by some of the mantle-top sculptures. Whole groups of figures were beautifully carved from a single piece of marble. But probably the most impressive thing in the Palace was the King's bed chamber. Rococo gone mad! Another interesting feature was the the King's disappearing dining table which could be lowered through the floor after each course because he didn't like to have servants coming in while he was eating.
We also went into the Venus Grotto, supposedly modeled on a scene from a Wagner operas. It was very large and had a full-size boat and life-size sculptured figures in the pool. The Moorish Kiosk (tea house) was also interesting.
The weather had been pretty good, but it was getting worse all the time we were at Linderhof. There was a cloudburst as we returned to the Palace, and we had to wait for the rain let up enough for us to get to the car. We drove through Oberammergau (where we had attended the Passion Play the year before) and headed for Augsburg. We reached Augsburg without any trouble but there wasn't a single sign pointing out a US Army installation. (We had reservations at the Army Hotel).
I asked directions a couple of times in my Syd Cesar style German, but discovered that there were several different US installations in Augsburg and we didn't know at which one the hotel was located. Finally we spotted an MP jeep and got them to lead us to Reese Casern. The American Hotel was right near it. By the time we had dinner at the hotel, it was getting quite late so we went right to bed.