My Grandparents European Tour – Part One

Before we talk about my grandparents European Tour, I want to introduce them to you. My grandparents were amazing people. They met as air cadets around 16 years old and fell madly in love with each other. They were inseparable. So much so that they had to be on the same bicycle and were well known for riding their tandem miles to the beach – I say riding, my Nan sat on the back with her feet up and my Pop’s did all the hard work!  They soon married, settled down and started a family. The Push Bike Song, by Mungo Jerry, was played at Nan’s funeral in homage to their tandem adventures.

Push Bike Song – Mungo Jerry

As well as raising my mother and my Uncle, they also cared for foster children when they were younger. This impacted their freedom to travel until the children had grown up and they got their free time back. As a young couple I don’t believe they had ever left the country. My grandfather was evacuated to Leeds Castle during the war so it was a long time before tourism was at the top of the family list of things to do for many years as the country recovered. If you go to Leeds Castle and you look behind the Organ, you will find his initials carved there DWB Circa 1942.

Travel Bug – Is it contagious?

As soon as the children had left home, my grandparents caught a really bad case of the travel bug and there was no cure for it. They took to travelling to some really amazing locations such as Russia, California and on an African Jeep Safari. Sadly, as they became older their travelling got less.

When my grandparents passed away just 12 weeks apart, the job of clearing the house became enlightening as well as heart breaking. I thought I knew everything there was to know about them but discovering notebooks and trinkets in the house I have so many more questions I want answers to. Perhaps the urge to travel is genetic and that is where I get my inspiration from, as well as Pop’s stacks of national Geographic magazines I thumbed through for hours when we visited.

The Notebook.

Nan's diary grandparents european tour

One of the discoveries made amongst my Nan’s belongings, in her 1980’s decorated mint green coloured bedroom, held a beautiful surprise. A tiny notebook, the size of a mobile phone. On the outside it held no clues as to its contents. It was light blue and held together with a tight ring bound spine. It was a little bit grubby – you could see it had been handled frequently and it smelled like a cross between my Nan’s handbag (tissues and Trebor mints she would carry for her beloved husband) and old book. The smell that will soon be lost to technology no doubt.

Did I want to know what was inside? Of course I did! But I was scared too – what if it was something I didn’t want to know? I took myself off to a quiet corner of the house whilst other family members were tidying her belongings. The house was quiet but I felt as though my nan wanted me to read it.

What did it say?

Monday 10th

Day 1 – Rained all day”

It was a diary. A European tour that my grandparents had been on with friends. I read the whole thing from start to finish and was amazed at the details my Nan had thought to capture. From the hotels, the weather and purchases made to some funny moments along the way which were a bit of a shock to read! The 17 day tour saw them travel through many countries, over thousands of kilometres and from cities to mountain passes.

We would like to share their journey with you as we discover more about their schedule. A spot of research will help us tell you a little about the places they visited however we have not yet been ourselves! We are still trying to fill in some of the blanks so if you know anyone who could help us, please do get in touch.

My Grandparents European Tour – the story.

grandparents european tour coach

The tour was 17 days from start to finish and due to that, I will be bringing you this series in several parts.

Looking at some of the markers in the notes this must have been mid to late 1980’s? We are now researching their itinerary and looking at retracing their steps. We are now planning a European tour, incorporating the same locations my grandparents visited, in homage to the wonderful adventure they had. I would love to have a good look through their photo albums and see if we could recreate some of the pictures they took, however, they got rid of many photos when they were getting older as they didn’t want too much clutter in the house when they passed away for others to have to sort through… perhaps there are a few tucked away in the boxes we have yet to sort through.

London to Amsterdam

 “Day 1 – Arrived at Victoria 8:30. Train departed 10:30 Boat dep 1:30 to Ostend 13 ½ hours. Then caught coach – Arrived Amsterdam 8:30. Hotel terminus right near red light dist. Also near church where bells rang and tune played every 30 mins. Met Joanie, Lisa, Meg and Donna and we all went for a walk to red light district. Lisa took photo which could have turned very nasty. Went to bed 12:00 no sleep at all.”

After a little research we believe that this hotel is still operating today.  The Hotel Terminus is listed as a first class hotel located in the heart of Amsterdam, near many area attractions. The hotel is comprised of ten fine, monumental houses dating back to the 18th century.  We were also then able to try and locate a nearby church and I think we found the church my Nan was talking about. Not just any church, no, my Nan got the hump with what appears to be the oldest building in Amsterdam.

Oude Kerk.

Dedicated to the patron saint of the people of Amsterdam, St Nicholas, this church has been in situe since 1306. The original building was a small wooden chapel but has now grown into a Gothic hall church of today. It has stood through the iconoclastic fury of 1566, where an angry crowd barged in and destroyed statues, alter pieces and stained glass windows.  It is the final resting place of more than 20,000 Amsterdam citizens including famous names. The more prolific of these is artist Rembrandt van Rijn’s wife Saskia van Uylenburgh, who was buried here on 15 June 1638.

As for my grandparents visiting the red light district – I am shocked. They didn’t even like people kissing on the TV!!! To think that my grandparents went there and almost got kicked out – or worse – on day 1 of their European tour sounds like it’s a good job they are going to be moving constantly!

Volandam and Edam.

Volendam grandparents european tour
Volendam

                “Tues 11th

Day 2 – got on coach 9.00 went to Diamond House. All very nice but too expensive. Then went back to Central station and bought a ticket for 7 guilders 50. Went to Edam and had a picnic then, to Volandam. Pretty little fishing village. Then to cultural centre of Amsterdam and saw cheese being made, pewter being made and copper being hammered, very interesting. We walked to Anne Franks House but too late to go in. Had dinner in hotel then another trip to red light district where Donna went in sex shop. Bed at 10:30 Dry and Sunny all day. Bad storms all night. Hotel Terminus.

GUYS! AGAIN? Donna, I don’t know you but were you leading my lovely innocent grandparents astray? The Diamond House appears to be a very large looking Jewellery shop. In the 17th Century, Amsterdam had the largest diamond manufacturing centre in the world. As such, even today there is a large amount of Diamond retailers and places to visit. We are unsure if Diamond House is still open, if anyone knows please do get in touch!

Volendam

A charming harbour village, with the main harbour strip full of lively shops on one side and working fishing trawlers on the other. Apparently fresh seafood vendors line the path tempting you with their latest catch. To find out more about the area there is a museum featuring an assortment of traditional clothing, paintings and dioramas. There is also cheese factory, a popular attraction with visitors to the area! We will be sure to take a bag for life that day!

Edam

Situated on the edge of Ijsselmeer Lake and less than half an hour from Amsterdam you will find, not only a popular Cheese, but a one of the most important trading cities in Holland. It was also important in the timber trade and until 1922 a market was hosted. Through July and August, this market is recreated every Wednesday.

To Frankfurt

frankfurt grandparents european tour
Frankfurt City Skyline

“Wed 12th Day 3 – nice all day

Up at 6.00, left hotel 7:30 on way to Germany. Lunch in Cologne, then trip up the river. Had German Sausage and chips for lunch. Trip up the River Rhine. Took boat from Koblensk to Loreley Rock then caught coach to overnight. Hotel Zum Kurfuersten in Frankfurt. Arrived 6:50 had dinner 7:15 nice food. Hotel in woods – hope to see some deer.

Sadly, I do not have any information about where they ate in Cologne, or where they visited whilst there, perhaps this was just a short lunch break. According to google maps its around 4 and a half hours by car but would presumably be longer by coach. As far as recreating the European tour my grandparents undertook, some destinations may be a guess.

Cologne

The 4th largest city in Germany. As a liberal city, the inhabitants are incredibly proud and vibrant. The main language is German but there are English speaking guides and information available for tourists. Colognes Dom Cathedral is one of the highlights of a visit here. Travel up 509 stairs to the top of the south tower to see the views. Among the Dom are 12 other Romanesque churches to see. Place a lock on Hohenzollern Bridge, the locking bridge, famous for its romantic ‘love padlocks’.

Lots of River Cruise tours can be taken and we have looked at tours to Loreley Rock. Legend has it that a siren named Loreley used to sit on this rock and bewitch sailors. This would cause them to ground their ships or lose control, sinking the cargo. Loreley, meaning murmuring rock, is a 433ft outcrop of Granite rock on the edge of the narrowest part of the river. Surrounded by reefs and rapids, a safe path is now marked with buoys. 

The hotel currently remains a mystery, I have found a hotel with that name but it isn’t in a forest. Could it be that with the surge in tourism, the forest has been a casualty of the travel industry? Has it been paved over in order to create a large holiday resort? Time will tell. I have tried to contact the hotel directly to ask more questions.

Innsbruck

“Day 4 Thurs 13th

Up at 6:00 again. Went for a walk by hotel lake to see rabbits. Ate breakfast at 7:15. Went on coach to see Heidelberg (most shops closed but bought some sweets) which is on Neckar river. Then motorway to Ulm on Danube to Germany, stopping for lunch on motorway. Long wait at German customs. The took the Tachometer from coach as they thought someone had tampered with it. So it made us very late. Stopped at Alpine Village Lermoos for cake and chocolate (scrummy) but expensive. Then through Tyrol to Innsbruck. Stopped in Olympic Village, Hotel Ibis – Front seat that day, beautiful weather. Then went to a Tyrol evening in Innsbruck. Quite Jolly! Bed at 12:00

Today, they travelled over 530km from Frankfurt, Germany to Innsbruck Austria. Stopping first in Heidelberg, 78km south of Frankfurt, we are not given any clues as to how long they spent here. We can imagine it was not that long given the miles they covered but there must be a good reason they stopped here. Looking at current tourism stats for this city, we are told that over three million day trippers a year pass through to see the Old Bridge and the mighty castle. With ‘unparalleled choice of culture and entertainment, hearty yet heavenly cuisine and a picturesque setting nestled between the Neckar river and the foothills of the Odenwald Forest.

Ulm

The birthplace of Albert Einstein. It is home to the tallest church in the world (Ulm Minster) and early renaissance town hall coated with trompe-l’œil frescoes. The city is located on the banks of the river Danube and therefore a really good location for trade over the years. From shipbuilding to fishing, this location is really important within the town. The defensive walls are still present and a great location for a stroll.

Lermoos.

Zuspitze, Lermoos, Vanlifediary
Zugspitze, Lermoos

What everyone pictures when they think if an Austrian ski resort! Attractive traditional accommodation in a compact village clustered around the base of the ski slopes, with spectacular views of the surrounding mountains. In summer, para-gliders flock here to see the area from a different angle. Tandem flights are available for those who wish to have an adrenaline rush or you can take advantage of a wide range of walking and cycle routes.

After stopping here they travelled to Innsbruck. The Winter Olympic village, built to accommodate world class athletes and officials during the Winter Olympics of 1964 and 1976 are now home to 7000 people. Built on the eastern edge of the city, the high rise apartments, gym, indoor pool and multi-purpose hall and leisure centre. I have found an Ibis hotel nearby that could have been the one they stayed at however we are not sure. Again – if anyone has any leads we would be over the moon to connect with you.

Next Time… on my grandparents European tour…

In the next edition, we learn that my Grandparents travel over the Dolomites and continue their European tour to Venice, Rome, Capri and Sorrneto!

We are desperate for any information that could help us track down the hotels mentioned or help us discover more about the tour. We don’t know exactly what year or even what month this trip took place, that’s making it hard for us to find out the original tour operator.

Please feel free to get in touch at contactvanlifediary@gmail.com. Visit our facebook page, instagram or twitter.

Visit our Locations tab for other places we have visited.


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