March 8, 1958
Dear Dad and Russ,
Just after sending you a postcard yesterday afternoon, I received your most welcome letter of March 2, so decided to make a real effort to get this letter written this weekend.
Was glad to hear the news about your new job at the “Y”, Dad and congratulations! Also glad to hear that the coloured slides arrived alright and that you both are enjoying them. Please don’t worry about the cost of the slides as I’m only too glad to send them along to you. Besides, coloured film over here doesn’t cost anywhere near what it costs in Ottawa, so it’s a not too expensive hobby. Tell you what you might do though – how about buying a screen to show the pictures on? Really makes a tremendous difference in the colour of the pictures.
Well, my Italian venture couldn’t have been more wonderful! Left Bonn on Friday night, February 7 via the night train to Munich, arriving in Munich early (7:30) Saturday morning. The two chaps that were going with me from Berlin – Barry Leahy (Canadian) and Jack Ryder (British) – arrived at the Munich train station about noon and we caught a train about 15 minutes later bound for Innsbruck. This train was called the “Alpine Express” and took us through that lovely Austrian scenery that we three saw last September. We stayed in Innsbruck Saturday night and left at 11 Sunday morning. This portion of the trip took us through the Brenner Pass where we stopped for about half an hour for customs etc. While we were stopped at the Brenner an Italian passed by our window with little shopping bags yelling “in cestino”. Being curious we opened our window and asked him what it was he was selling. Well, it’s turned out “in cestino” was Italian for “box lunch” and what a lunch that was! Each bag contained: an entrée of macaroni with cheese and tomato sauce (serve HOT in little metal dishes), half a roast chicken, rolls, cheese, an orange, potato chips and a small bottle of Chianti wine. Total cost: one dollar!! From the Brenner Pass we went on to a place called Fortezza where we had to change trains. This train took us to another place called Dobbiaco where we were met by a VW bus labeled “Grand Hotel Misurina“. Twenty-two hair-raising (but breathtakingly beautiful) kilometers later we arrived at our hotel.
I’m sending you (by surface mail) a brochure from the hotel which will give much to help you imagine just how beautiful the hotel and its surroundings word. Misurina is a wee bit of a town (population: 23) situated around the lake about 15 km UP from Cortina. It was in Misurina that they held the 1956 Olympic skating competitions. The lake, of course, was completely frozen over this time of the year and they had cleared the end nearest our hotel for skating purposes. Well, anyways, we were given an enormous room for the three of us complete with full bathroom, the whole thing being extremely modern and comfortable. It would, of course, be impossible to recount in a letter all that happened during the following two weeks, but just let me say I don’t know when I felt so completely rested and just bursting with health, vim and vigour as I did when I returned to Bonn! We had beautiful weather with the temperatures going up as high as 80 and one day when we were up on top of one of the mountains (3000 metres) the temperature even soared as high as 120! All this I found most disconcerting when we were surrounded with tons of beautiful white snow! Each morning usually we would just loaf on a deck chair on the sun terrace drinking gallons of fresh Italian orange juice. Then after lunch we would sometimes go skating or just go for long walks in the mountains. And when I say “long” walks I really mean it. One day for instance we walked 10 miles after lunch! I even got on Barry’s skis once – my only mistake was trying to go down a little hill on them. The result was highly hilarious – after speeding down the hill for about three inches I just sat down in about six feet of soft snow!! Now if you ever tried to get yourself up again after falling into six feet of soft snow with skis on your feet you’ll know just how funny that can be. We were all laughing so much that I am sure it must have taken a good fifteen minutes to get me on my feet again!
We made all sorts of nice acquaintances at the hotel but I think our favorites were two Belgian couples who were there the full time we were. These people were just a barrel of fun. As a matter of fact the way we met and was during one of our walks when they ambushed us from behind some trees and started pelting snowballs at us. A rollicking snow-fight ensued and then we all went to a little ski “refuge” where we became better acquainted over steaming mugs of rum punch. These people took us into Cortina a couple of times in their car. I think, however, that we were all of one opinion concerning Cortina – that is, none of us would have stayed there if we were paid to! For one thing it is terribly, terribly posh and expensive with the main street just like a fashion show with pink, purple, orange, etc. ski slacks, mink parkas and Cadillacs a dime a dozen! And it is fast becoming THE place for European celebrities to spend their winter holidays. Ingrid Bergman and Brigitte Bardot were visiting while we were there. However, not to be outdone by Bergman or Bardot, yours truly had a whole column devoted to him in the Cortina publication “Notiziario di Cortina“. It was all in Italian but I had one of the hotel clerks tell me what it said in English – I was most amused to say the least. The column was entitled “Between Our Guests” and said something to the effect that “Nixon David Glenson of the Canadian Ministry for Foreign Affairs was spending a long sojourn at the Grand Hotel in nearby Misurina”. The hotel clerk also explained that the social editors in Cortina phone Misurina daily to ascertain if there are any IMPORTANT guests staying at the Grand Hotel. That probably explains how come my name came out slightly backwards!
Whether or not it was because I was an “important guest” or just usual procedure I do not know, but the service in the hotel was really completely superb. And the food!! Being on “full pension” I was quite prepared to accept what was put in front of me. However, much to my surprise I found that if I didn’t like what was on the menu I could have anything I wanted and also just as much as I wanted! The cooking was a clever blend of Italian and German and most tasty and satisfying. On most occasions I had second helpings and very often even third and fourth helpings (after 10 mile walks especially!).
In the basement of the hotel they have a beautiful little nightclub complete with five-piece orchestra that also played upstairs at tea time. We spent several pleasant evenings in the club and as so many people go “stag” to ski resorts, there was no shortage of dancing partners. We had one wonderful evening when they had a “Mardi Gras” party and a great time was had by all.
One time that our Belgian friends drove us into Cortina we were fortunate enough to see some international ski-jumping competitions. It was the first time I had ever seen ski-jumping and I must say I was most thrilled with the whole thing, more so because they were using the ski jump built especially for the Olympic Games in 1956. Barry and I were especially pleased with the afternoon’s events because one of the Canadian chaps finished third out of the 27 entrants!
Arrived back here in Bonn late at night on the 23rd and only then, on seeing the pale-faces of Bonn, did I realize what a glorious suntan I had acquired in Misurina. Was all covered with freckles too. Then, on Wednesday something happened here to make me wish I had stayed in Italy. The romantic old Rhine overflowed its banks and part of it was gurgling right through my basement and garage! Well, what a mess! It came up so quickly that none of us here in this apartment had really any time at all to get anything moved out of the basement. All my coal was, of course, underwater and there was a continuous procession of empty beer bottles floating out of my part of the basement (must take them back to the store one of these days!). I quickly phoned my coal man and had a few sacks deposited in my spare room. However, in spite of the furnace going full blast it soon became unbearably damp here and I finally moved in with the Arbuckles for a few days. The flood has gone now but it will take weeks for the basement to really dry out again. Oh well, I suppose that’s what I get for choosing a pleasant location CLOSE to the Rhine!
Was talking to Bob and Joan on the phone last night. We are forever phoning one another with the result that both of us usually have quite high phone bills at the end of the month. And you know how Bob likes to talk! However, it was the Rivoires who phoned me last night so that call was on them. They are both getting terribly excited about Easter. Did I tell you about Easter? Bob and Joan and Dorothy Gross and I are all going to visit Paris. Dot and I can only take the four-day weekend but Bob and Joan are planning to stay on for a few more days. Should be lots of fun.
I was visiting with the Jenkins yesterday evening and will be having dinner with them tomorrow night. Both Bill and Joy send their best.
I had a houseguest for a few days just before I went to Italy. His name was Graham Creelman from Ottawa. Graham has just finished up at Carleton and was hitchhiking through Europe for a holiday. When he was in London he was talking to Gord Happy who told him to look me up when and if he was ever in Bonn. I think Graham appreciated a slight pause in his travels and a chance to do a washing, ironing, etc. He was also a good cook so we had some pretty tremendous meals while he was here. My cleaning woman is still talking about the day she came in to find Graham in the kitchen, singing away like mad, mixing up a chocolate cake and making some ice cream in the fridge! Although Graham and I were complete strangers we found, on comparing notes, that we knew a lot of each other’s friends in Ottawa. Graham, especially, knew quite a few of the gang from Commerce.
Well, really must get cracking on some more letters tonight if at all possible so will close off now with
Lots of love, Dave