Introduction. An Army lieutenant colonel, I was twenty months into my tour at USAREUR Headquarters in Heidelberg, Germany. We had already done quite a bit of traveling on this tour, but mostly without our four sons (Larry, 16; Dennis, 15; Randall, 13; and Kevin, 12). They just were not interested in anything historical or cultural. So we went out of our way to try to find things that might interest them. When we mentioned the possibility of going to Yugoslavia during their Easter break, their eyes lit up. "That's behind the Iron Curtain, isn't it? They had been thrilled to go with us into East Berlin and were fascinated at the idea of visiting another forbidden spot. So I had carefully planned a visit to as many of Yugoslavia's most interesting places as we could comfortably see in the available time. The high spots for the boys were to be Dubrovnik, Split, and Sarajevo.
Friday, 9 April. We loaded up our 1965 Mercedes 300 SEL and left our quarters in Patrick Henry Village about 04:30, hoping to beat some of the traffic we expected because Good Friday is a German holiday. We took the autobahn south to Karlsruhe, then turned east toward Munich. The traffic wasn't bad until we got to Stuttgart, where two autobahns merge. Fortunately, most of the Germans were on their way to ski resorts and turned south at Ulm.
We had clear sailing into Munich, but traffic was almost at a
standstill (der Stahl) as we approached the east side. Once we cleared Munich,
we stopped and ate the breakfast we'd brought with us. The heavy traffic
continued until we turned south where the autobahn split at Inntal. This was the
same way we had come five months earlier when we'd gone skiing in Austria, so we
knew it fairly well.
We gassed up the car at Kiefersfelden, the last Esso station in
Germany, and crossed into Austria. Again traffic grew heavy with people headed
for the ski slopes (although there wasn't much snow visible from the road). As I expected when
I chose this route, we lost most of the skiers when we
finally passed through the Felber Tauern Tunnel. We bought a round trip ticket
(220 schillings, about $0.55) for the tunnel since we expected to return the
We stopped along the mountain road to eat the lunch we'd brought. It was a beautiful Alpine area, only a few steps above the banks of the Isel River. It was about 14:00 when we reached Koetschach-Mauthen, where we'd spent a week skiing the previous December. The odometer read 616 kilometers (385 miles). We almost had the road to ourselves by this time.
The empty road really made driving a pleasure, even on these narrow, winding roads. We crossed in Italy at the Ploecken Pass, where the road was barely a foot wider than the car, with the snow piled fifteen feet straight up on either side. But the temperature was in the 60s and it was melting fast. Just a few miles south of the border, the snow had already melted back from the road so we were able to stop (without blocking the road) to let the boys have a snowball fight in their shirt sleeves.
We decided to push on to Trieste since there was an autostrada all the rest of the way. By 16:00 we were in Grignano (Trieste) at the very nice Riviera Hotel (located, of course, on the Trieste Riviera). The hotel overlooked the Adriatic Sea and had a splendid view of Miramare, a beautiful white palace on the sea, built for Austrian Archduke Maximilian (executed by firing squad in 1867 after being deposed as Emperor of Mexico).
The boys went to play on the beach while we walked into town. It
turned out to be a longer walk than intended, due to my "short cut" back
to the hotel. For dinner we took the boys to a pizzeria in the city. Then Jane
and I had dinner at the hotel. It was quite late by this time, though, and the dining room had
almost nothing left. We had spaghetti alle vongole (clams) and
calamari (deep fried squid). I wouldn't have chosen either but struggled
through the dinner with the aid of a delicious Friuli white wine.
It had been a hard day, 790 kilometers (494 miles) and eleven and a half hours of driving. We were all happy to call it a day.