My Travel Journal through Italy and Yugoslavia in 1968

My journey from Paris towards the Ukraine in Russia continues ... with entry into our first Communist country, Yugoslavia, and the drive along the spectacular coastline there.  Once again we are delayed by car troubles, this time a forced stopover at Camp Borik, a beautiful lakeside camping ground near Zadar, where we meet up with young Italian men, who take us dancing and romancing. Pulling ourselves away, with regret, we continue ever onwards towards Dubrovnik, Titograd and Kaselin.   The 4th Day, July: The Adriatic Coastline in Italy The romance of the Adriatic coastline!  It had captivated us from Venice onwards. We'd made good headway and reached Trieste—beautiful Trieste—on the rocky Adriatic seashore at 8.30. The sun had gone down; the sky was pink. We passed along the cliff road leading around the city.  The youth hostel was marvellous, like a palace set in trees at the foot of the hills, overlooking the sea.  We were given the last beds.  I took a cold shower and changed into my one sun dress.  We rushed out with little over half-an-hour to eat and return to the hostel.  Luckily, we found a tiny bar, where we were served pizza and gelato very quickly and sat there, marvelling at this beautiful Italian environment. We recognized other Australian voices as we went in to sleep at the hostel. Liz moved out on to the balcony. We slept well.

My Travel Journal

The first leg: Paris to Italy

me-in-amiens-1I set out from Paris, with two girlfriends, Liz and Kay from Melbourne, in the summer of 1968. We were studying at university and working at the Air Attachée in Paris, which is where I met Liz. The trip stands out in my memory as one of the high points of my life.

The Italy leg would set the tone for the whole trip: exciting, adventurous, frustrating, exhilirating, with breakdowns and meetings with foreign mechanics ("machina caput!") in every country.

July, 1968: Paris It hardly seems credible now, when I think back on this time. I was young, naiive, and looking for adventure. I’d just lived through the student and workers' strike in France, which ended in a near revolution. The fear at the time was that General de Gaulle might send in troops to break the stand-off between police and radical students in the Boulevard Saint Michel. I’d spent the previous twelve months in Paris, working as a clerk at the Australian Embassy, the Air Attaché section; handling secret files labelled “Mirage Jets” or some such. It was boring work, but I’d earned enough money to move on to a more interesting job as a teacher’s assistant in a provincial high school. I was also enrolled in the first year of an Arts degree. During my time at the Embassy, I’d made some good friends, in particular, two girls from Melbourne. Liz was studying Linguistics at the Sorbonne, while Kay was writing a thesis on Jean-Paul Sartre; me, an ex-primary school teacher with no degree under my belt at all. At the end of the twelve-month Embassy position, instead of saving my money, I’d acted impulsively, as usual, and lashed out on a second-hand car.

My Travel Journal Continued: "From Paris to Russia and Back"

I visit the Ukraine in 1968

Saturday  24th August, 1968 (Day 55 of our journey)

I awoke feeling sick on our 5th day in Russia. So Liz drove us into the Intourist Centre where  we asked for a guide, who was sent for immediately.  Kiev was a very beautiful city with wide streets,  huge buildings,  many shops and more western-looking than Odessa. Our chubby, round-faced guide, who said he was not Ukrainian but of Tartar origin, attempted to amuse us with an American-style accent. He was an extremely good guide, and told us many interesting facts about each monument.  As if in passing, he also announced the news that Russian troops were currently occupying Czechoslovakia, and said it was to stop Czechoslovakia from moving towards capitalism.  We saw the statue of St Vladimir the Grand Duke,  who  brought Christianity to Kiev: it overlooked the River Dnieper and showed a fine view of the city.

According to American author Marian Roach Smith's definition, "Memoirs are selections from your life story, shaped by theme, driven by a few burning questions.  So the question the reader brings is: why these bits of your life? The answer to that question will lead you to your opening." See her website for more gems about this genre that I love to read and strive to write well. One part of my life that  I enjoyed was the post-adolescent period of adventure, spent in Paris, France, and travelling throughout Europe and into the USSR during the "Cold War" years. However it was the Inner Journeying that I had to set out on after I returned to Australia that forms the important part of my memoir. I now wonder if these two journeys are too much to include in one memoir?

Are you afraid of Death?

When I was sixteen, a boyfriend said during one of our many debates on the existence or not of God: "What if we decide not to believe, and wake up one day to realise we were wrong all along. Maybe we should hedge our bets just in case." I tried to do that, but I was the original "Doubting Thomas". I went through periods of believing in a higher being; then sometimes my belief would evaporate like the morning dew, just as quickly as it had appeared. Now I realise that "the truth" might be outside of our limited human understanding. I like the introduction to the following trailer, but would take issue with it as it progresses. The conclusions are very depressing. It speaks to the head, and not to the heart, as it draws to its dark conclusions. It is not recommended that you watch the complete video, unless, of course, that you agree with its premises.