60 Years Ago Today

Thursday, 10 July 1952:

I just gained consciousness at 12:15 p.m. in the afternoon. What a wonderful 12 hours or more of sleep! It was the most sleep I had had since long before I can remember—long before I left the USA that’s for sure.

Wow! I realized I could eat a horse to put it mildly. A crowd of kids in front of the hotel directed us to their favorite restaurant. The restaurant was a red shuttered deal down the street in a charmingly typical village. Everyone seemed to be on their way to hike or returning from a hike. They wore coats by the way. Guess we didn’t lug ours all this way for nothing.

The waitress wore a Swiss costume. They even let us take their picture. I had a delicious dinner for 4.50 franc. I filled my soup bowl twice and there was still enough left for a third time. It was in a copper warmer on legs with candles inside. My platter included a pile of fluffy mashed potatoes on top of two pork chops, bowl of salad, and turnips. There was enough for several servings of each. But I had to gulp down the delicious ice cream because there went the mob around the bend to the ski lift. That made us tail-enders again.

Such a picturesque trail with all kinds of little chalets. There was a saying that Zermatt had the population of 1000 inhabitants and 7000 tourists. The natives were almost exclusively engaged in taking care of the visitors. I was glad that we made it in time to go with the mob because it saved me 1.50 franc, net cost 3.50 franc. Alicia and I were next to last in line. Herr Rogers and Mrs. Rogers brought up the rear after seeing that everyone was duly taken care of. It was my first ride on a ski lift! And it was quite a thrill with a wonderful view of the countryside. I went over the top of the first hill just to see another hill beyond that. The lift ended on the top. A sign on the bar that held us in the lift said “Do Not Swing.”

We hiked on up from the lift house and waited for the clouds to clear in order to take pictures of the Matterhorn. On the trail we met many Swiss German, Swiss French, and Swiss Italians. I tried to talk to them, but found it a little difficult. However, I managed to get a few ideas across. People were very friendly and most of them spoke several languages which usually included French and German.

We topped a couple of hills and returned to the lift. Then I had a great big bottle of orangeade. Now I was ready for the return ride. Halfway down the lift I had a tremendous urge to take a picture, but I had used my last picture up on the mountain. I had to curb that urge.

Back on the street, I saw a lady milking a cow. She was very friendly and lived above the barn. Next stop was the hotel. After a quick break to lighten our load, we took off for an excursion to the village. We picked up a bunch of food—apple, pear, box of raisins, delicious Swiss chocolate—as we left. We washed the fruit in the first watering trough. There were people returning from the mountains on every trail. It seemed all trails led back to Zermatt.

Switzerland was really international as you could hear any tongue your heart desires. Most of the people were dressed comfortably, but not richly with heavy shoes and socks, often long wool socks. I had picked up a picture of a beautiful waterfall at the hotel, so we inquired how to find our way to the real thing.

As we left for the waterfall we met people coming back from the fields with their scythes and forks. It was hay making time. Then we made our way to Gorner’s Villa, a little inn upon the mountainside. Around the corner a frau was waiting for us by a sign. It cost 1 franc to go by. Wouldn’t you know it! The man at the hotel didn’t mention this. Well if it was worth charging for, it must be worth seeing. I guess? Far be it from me to turn back now.

There were stairs going down to a bridge. The path was built right into the side of the perpendicular gorge. Another bridge went across the gorge with water foaming angrily below it. The waterfall was cutting its way through the mountain. A man came along behind us and explained that the rushing water had cut the gorge out of the mountain over a period of years. Now the gorge was deep. I chanced a couple of pictures even though the light was poor.

I think we missed the trail on the way back because we ended up in a hay field. A farmer stopped his work of turning hay and talked to us. In addition to his occupation as a farmer, he was a guide and professional skier. He was a farmer through the summer months in order to grow feed for the other nine months of the year. The cattle were put out to graze during the summer months. He tilled the same land ancestors had tilled for the last 600 years. Furthermore, he spoke very good English in addition to several other languages.

Now that we had found our way back on the pathway, we discovered a crossroad with several paths leading back to Zermatt. We tried to find out which path was the prettiest. “They were all pretty” was the answer. We chose by the eenie meenie miney mo method to decide our direction.
We ended up going back by the church graveyard, where all those who had been conquered by the Matterhorn were resting their bones. It was quite an imposing area of tombstones with some rather recent tombstones as well. Those who wanted to attempt to climb the Matterhorn should visit here first. Then perhaps they would exercise every precaution in their attempt to conquer the Matterhorn.

The graveyard was peaceful and beautiful. Flowers were growing on almost every grave with lots of big wreaths of little colored beads, trees, and shrubs. Many other natives of the village rest here along with the daring mountain climbers. I ate pretzels on the way home.

As we went back to Hotel Victoria everyone was all excited. A lady down the street was offering a 15% discount if our group bought $200 worth of merchandise. Most everyone succumbed to this deal as witnessed by the loot that was brought back later. From reports I gathered our mob had driven the shop lady slightly mad. Carol and Alene had succumbed earlier, as well, and both were sporting quite beautiful Swiss specimens. Carol and I crawled down through the village to see what was brewing, but things seemed relatively quiet.

So we returned and drooled over the loot before returning to our luscious beds. I would love to take this bed with me wherever I go. I received mail from my parents at each mail stop so far. I wrote them about Zermatt and the Matterhorn. It was as beautiful in its own way as Venice, Florence or Rome.

60 Years Ago Today

Monday, 7 July 1952:

I had a continental breakfast with the same dinner napkins from last night. Then I went down to the American Express office. I was the first one in line for the mail. Almost everybody was happy. Likewise I was quite lucky myself with letters from Mom, Twila, Craig and Caroline. Next stop was the bell tower, Campanile of St. Marks Square. It was the new one from 1912 as the old tower tumbled down in 1902. I even got to feed the pigeons in the square.

Then we were off to the cathedral, which was ornate inside and out, and had been rebuilt many times. I learned that the water came right into the building during the high winter sea. In the Venetian Museum of Art, every decade had left its own water mark. The original style was lost and now it seemed overburdened with too much stuff. In 832 a.d. the original structure was created, destroyed in 900 a.d., rebuilt in 978 a.d., and built larger in 1063 a.d. with materials from older structures. Venice had reached its splendor about 1492. There were mosaics in the interior. The building was progressively sinking with the body of St. Mark preserved under the altar. The cathedral was built in the form of a Greek cross.

Next on the agenda was the Ducal Palace that was the seat of the governor for the Venetian Republic and home of Doge, the chief magistrate. There were subterranean prisons inside. However, the importance of the palace was exclusively artistic and its history began in the 9th century. In the 13th century the palace was burned and then reconstructed. It housed the largest oil painting Tintoretto’s Paradise and a remarkable golden stairway of nobility. The stucco ceilings were designed by one of Michelangelo’s pupils. The ceiling of the next room was by Oslagio and had paintings by Titan. There was a room with medieval armor and another with swords and guns with eight to ten barrels each. Some of the rooms were large and others were small. They were decorated with Tintoretto’s dark paintings, I believe. I went onto the balcony where there were busts of Dukes, Dante, Marco Polo, and most everybody it seemed.

The subterranean state prisons were next. We came out and water was coming under the door from the canal. Everybody hurriedly rushed through a door and rushed right out again. It was the WC.

We proceeded to a glass factory. We watched the heating and shaping process of a vase. And then we saw the showrooms. It seemed like a block of the rooms were filled with the most beautiful, colorful, original, and expensive glassware and dishes one can imagine. We drooled over them, but kept our money for the most part. I nosed around the shops on our way back to the hotel for lunch. It sure took a lot of will power to look and not buy, cause there were so many pretty things.

After chow Lido Beach was our next activity. I took the bus boat to the beach, because I always like to try all the different means of transportation. Then I walked from a 1000 lire per person beach to a 80 lire per person beach. That distance covered quite a long stretch of road. The beach and water was wonderful and most enjoyable! Alicia had been left with all the watches, purses, and junk while the rest of us enjoyed the water. One Italian boy tried to teach me to swim. The Italian natives followed us in and out of the water.

Then back on the street to the bus boat to Pensione Conti. At 6:30 p.m we had a date to visit a USS Rodman, a destroyer. A Lieutenant and four men came to pick us up. We had to climb perpendicular stairs to get on the ship. They conducted the tour of the ship’s main points in smaller groups. Then the ship’s photographer took some pictures and we gave him a few pertinent facts about our BYU tour. As a result we missed some of the guided tour.

We talked to many of the fellows and hoped we didn’t make them too homesick. They said this was the first time they had shown off their ship to anyone. Also it was the first time we had been shown around a ship. We ended up in the lounge, I believe, and they gave us some souvenir booklets about the boat. We met the captain and got his autograph. One of the Rodman’s jobs was to sweep for mines. We got to see the guns, captain’s quarters, and movie theater with one screen and half a dozen chairs.

Afterwards we went back to the hotel for dinner. My whatta dirty blouse I had on! Alicia let me wear one of her blouses to go out shopping for the evening. Several sailors were hanging around and we talked to them for a few minutes. Then on to the square and another trip to the top of the bell tower where we met a guy from South Africa.

I drooled over the shops again, but couldn’t decide where my money would be best spent. There were too many things to choose from. At a street stand we met two students from Vienna who were wearing hiking shorts and small shoulder packs. We explored part of the city with them and bid them adieu at the square with a promise to look for them in Vienna. On our way home we met some of our friends from the ship. We talked to them until the boat picked them up to go back to their ship. And then I met a Swede and learned how to say thank you in Swedish. What a wonderful day I had today in Venice, Italy. Such interesting site and people.

Paintings of Great Masters Viewed in Tour of Florence

Editor’s note: This is the eighth in a series of letters written by Mrs. Afton A. Hansen of Provo on her impressions of an European tour she is making with a group of 36 college students from Weber and BYU.

Dear Friends;
It is only a day since we left Italy, but we are still talking about how much we like these people and their country—those curiously friendly people who so adeptly mix the human and sublime, as is shown in the name of a commercial bank in Rome—”Bank of the Holy Spirit.”
Wouldn’t you like to know something about Venice (Venezia) and Florence (Firenze)?

The city of Firenze is not beautiful at first sight, and we wondered why so many tourist loved it so much. The beauty, so rare and excellent of this old city is found in its treasures of art. It is the world’s greatest art center, and in the 13th century was the greatest money market.

Big money often makes bad art, but the historically prominent Medici family of Florence loved beautiful things and knew them when they saw them.

They made Florence a beautiful city. Their vast collection and creations are possessed now by the Italian government for the world to enjoy.

da Vinci Sketches
San Lorenz, the private church built by the Medici family contains rare and original manuscripts of the masters. In the chapel are the pen sketches of Leonardo da Vinci. He is perhaps the greatest of the masters of his time. The world is still paying tribute to this genius born 500 years ago.
In a small church in Milan, (Santa Maria de la Grazie) we saw what is now left of da Vinci’s painting The Last Supper. The building itself, bombed during the war, is now reconstructed. The painting though somewhat protected from bombs is being restored. It is told that when da Vinci was searching for a model for Judas in the picture, he found him on the street and approached him. The man answered, “Yes, I will pose for you. It is I who posed for you many years ago when you painted Christ.”

Leonardo da Vinci’s pen sketches of art subjects, music, architecture, engineering and science still hold good. In the library of the San Lorenz church are original manuscripts of Dante’s Inferno, Petarch and Laura and account books dating back to B.C., choral books with their square notes and four-lined staff, a wise sayings book by Cecco D’ Ascoli, a book of Greek poetry by Boctchio and Sappho.

The palace where the Medici lived, called Petti Pallzzio, has since been used for government office, but now houses the rare and costly treasures which the Medici used to show their guests when entertaining.

Works of Masters
We stood aghast at the vases, bowls, goblets, etc., which were made of semi-precious stones and decorated with gold, rubies and pearls. Figurines carved from ebony, ivory, coral and shell were numerous. Original paintings from da Vinci, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, del Sorto Murillio and others adorned the walls. It was breath-taking. On the ceiling in one room were scenes from the Iliad, done in such superbly rich colors that we felt like lying down on the huge covered ebony table beside the statue of sleeping infants to gaze forever at the ceiling.

The choice picture for me was of young John the Baptist by Murillio. Sometime, maybe, my newly found lady friend, who is a copiest of masterpieces will do one for me. She was a delightful person who was doing a reproduction of del Sorte’s Madonna.

Reluctantly leaving Pitti Palazzio, we walked across the oldest bridge the Arno river. It was protected from bombs during the war by sentiment and by blowing up the entrance to the bridge. Shops on either side of the street on the bridge have for more than 300 years now bought and sold some of the most alluring merchandise in silk, linen, wool, silver, leather, etc., that anyone could ever imagine. All we needed to more thoroughly enjoy it was more money.

Up the steps to Michelangelo Square, we stood near another statue of David (the original of which we saw in the Academy and Tribune of David) to see the city of Florence and locate the various spots of interest we had seen.

Impressions as well as expression come thick and fast on such a trip as this. Writing seems so slow compared to experience, but recollections are always enjoyable.
What a commotion we cause in Milano (Milan) when our bus load of 32 American girls and four men were unloaded in front of a boy’s dormitory — Casa delo Students! The boys were eating their evening meal at the time, but soon their severe dining room was buzzing with excitement, and then it was practically empty for about 54 of them came out to talk to the 12 girls and two men who were left. The others were to stay a block away. The manager of the dorm was concerned so he stayed up all night patrolling the corridor. The girls enjoyed good conversation with these fine college students who were studying engineering. We were on our way again by 7 a.m. Venezia (Venice) with its waterways and gondolas, 100 islands and 400 bridges, was enchanting. It took six gondolas to transport our group from bus to hotel, but what delightful transportation. Gliding smoothly along in a cushioned carpeted gondola, made of some kind of dark wood, we noticed the pretentious buildings, somewhat rusty and adorned with moss. White marble steps so close to the water were draped with green moss.

Sinking City
Parts of the city seem to be sinking into the Adriatic sea. One American benefactress, noting this has collected money for supports for San Marco church were Saint Mark is supposedly buried.
Gondolas anchored to blue and white striped poles conveniently await the lady for her shopping tour, to get fresh vegetables or other household supplies. Her private gondolier calls a warning as he approaches an intersection, or turns a corner. We would hardly believe our eyes, seeing directional street light anchored in the water— red, yellow, green, stop and go.

Transportation by motor boat is faster, but not nearly so interesting.

Docked in port was a ship flying the American flag. Cheers from the girls soon brought all hands on deck. “Hi-ho, anyone there from Arizona?” —”Yes, and Utah too.” It didn’t take long to get acquainted with these sailors from Trieste. They entertained the group on board ship the next day.

We’ll soon be in Switzerland gazing at the Matterhorn.

Afton A. Hansen

P.S.—Having received some of the first copies of these articles printed in the Herald, I notice the names of Senator and Mrs. Arthur V. Watkins were inadvertently missing. They did so many nice things for this group including opening their office to us where we parked our suitcases and bags. They took all 36 of us to dinner in the senate private dining room, gave each of us a souvenir menu card, directed us to the senate in session where Senator Watkins gave a nice speech about Provo, the BYU and this tour. They also arranged for six private cars to take us on a tour of the city. They were most generous and gracious.

60 Years Ago Today

Sunday, 6 July 1952:

We were off at 6:30 a.m. in the morning. We really were starting to get on the ball. We said we were going to leave early and we did! Florence, it was goodbye! It was definitely a fun place to experience. We started to take the road to Bologna across the Apennine Mountains, climbing gradually. There was beautiful scenery and green vegetation covering the mountains. Patchwork fields dotted all through the valleys. This area reminded me of Mexico.

Oh, oh! I guess the bus couldn’t quite handle the big load. We stopped. Andre let the engine cool and tinkered around a little bit. Then our four men got out and pushed. That was what the bus needed, because the bus started up and the men had to run and jump to get on the bus.

We were on to more picturesque mountains, valley farms, men shocking grain by the road on Sunday, and men putting up hay in another field. Oh, oh! As we were nearing the summit, another contest between the bus and grade. And the grade won. Andre backed down to a more level spot in the shade and got himself all dirty under the bus giving it a once over. Finally the bus was ready to go again.

Where was Herr Watkins? About five minutes later he appeared with an interesting story to tell. Luckily we had trouble at the right spot for him in order to pick him up from visiting his friends. He was back visiting Italy after spending about eight months here during the war.

Herr had sent a note ahead of time saying that he would stop to see his friends if it were at all possible. They had been waiting for him since yesterday with wine and food. During the meal his Italian friends asked if he had a bad stomach because he hadn’t drunk any wine, only water. He gave us a detailed account over the public address system in the bus, so we could all hear about it.

He also told us about how the American soldiers impressed the Italian people as compared with the English and German soldiers. He shared their weekly system of getting clean uniforms, equipment, and personal baths.

I saw Bologna with a big swimming pool and green milky water right by the road. There were wide streets with beautiful new buildings done with a brocaded look on the outside. Later I saw a big gold courtyard and palace looking building. Then I spotted a municipal building with huge pillars, public square, and a huge round villa or monastery on the hill. We learned that Bologna was the home of oldest university in Europe.

We continued down into Po Valley that was the most fertile section of Italy. The landscape was dotted with rows of trees, tree fences and fields. We surely left Po valley in a hurry though. I guess we had hit the edge of it. Once again we were back to the drier country mountains. However, after awhile Andre stopped to talk to some men. Whatta ya know we were going the wrong way! We started to head back to Bologna again!

As we turned around in the yard of a farmhouse two little girls stood watching us. Mrs. Hansen reached out the window and gave them some gum. We have really been lucky. This was only the second time on this trip that we have missed our road. Seems like everything happens to us on Sunday though. I couldn’t decide whether it’s just coincidental or chastisement. I noticed skull and cross bones for railroad crossing again.

Back in Bologna again. There were not very many cities we got to see twice on this trip. We stopped this time for a rest stop. It wasn’t such a hot spot with long waiting lines. It was a bad day for Alicia. She was not feeling well. We found lemonade at a corner stand. I guess it wasn’t such a bad spot after all. Vamos!

Back on the road again we passed fields looking suspiciously like sugar beets. Then I noticed some tall stuff. I recognized this plant from before but couldn’t remember what they used it for. Then I saw an irrigation system. Next was a strange looking rectangular and pale green pond affair with several piles of rocks. A canal that ran along the road had a milky appearance like irrigation water. The canal was really low and kinda slimy green looking.

I missed the tree lined roads on the drive that I was used to. However, there were double rows of trees on one side and a newly planted double row of trees on the other side. We crossed an almost dried up river. It looked like a drought this season in Po Valley. I kept seeing casa cantoniera which means rest area, at regular intervals so the Italians hadn’t forgotten the poor travelers in need.

Then we ventured onward to Ferrara, Padua and Venice. On our way we crossed the Po River with weeping willow trees on the banks. I noticed road construction as we passed kids playing in a big swimming hole and then back to tree lined roads again with pyramid shaped hills. One hill had tall dark slender trees along the road winding around to the top. Again there were kids swimming in a big canal along side the road. Like Padua there were sidewalks along the canal. There were many big churches there.

We took the Autostrada, the main highway system in Italy, into Venice. My glasses were giving me a bad time and kept crawling down on my nose. Finally the bus went over the causeway connecting us to the Island of Venice.

In Venice there were little boats and people bathing in the water that stretched out on both sides of us. We arrived and then had a conference to decide what to do about our big suitcases. It resulted in suitcases opened all over the sidewalks and a major traffic jam in the bus. Eventually we got out what we needed and left the large suitcases in the bus.

And soon we were off to the gondola. We ran into some kind of bottleneck on the money angle and had to wait for American Express to clear us. There was a man with a motorboat! All of us took a slight jaunt down to the docks to the motorboat. No! The coupon says gondola, so we go back again. Someone made a phone call and finally we get in a gondola. One more first for me, a gondola. That’s me. Tis the life!

Hey what was this? A traffic light on the canal and a bridge with white iron work. This canal crossed another canal into an intersection. What! A garage held two boats. Most of the front sides of buildings had little balconies on the water. There weren’t any porches unless they were inside the door or gate. I believed this must be the grand canal we were going down, because it was pretty wide. In Venice the gondolas were the slow taxis, small motor boats were the fast taxis, and big motor boats were the buses.

The big bridge came up. Lord Byron called it the Bridge of Sighs. It came from the suggestion that prisoners would sigh at their final view of beautiful Venice out the window before being taken down to their cells.Wrong bridge, that was another one! This was the Rialto Bridge.

Our gondola didn’t go under the bridge and went down an alley and came out on what looked like a lake, too big for a canal. I saw a navy boat with American sailors. We waved and asked if “Anybody was from Utah?” No one was from Utah it appeared.

There were beautiful facades on these waterfront buildings. It seemed to be the center part of the city. Someone spied our hotel, Conte Pensione. Meals were included with the hotel and were we ever ready for dinner. There was a monastery room overlooking the alley. Dinner was at 8 p.m. Everybody was on time and eager to chow down.

After dinner we took a stroll and found three American servicemen stationed in Trieste. Everyone crowded around them. As more of the mob came by, it was a U.S. reunion. Then we went on to St. Mark Square.

Venice at night was so enchanting and too beautiful to describe. On the island there were sidewalks between the buildings, but between the islands were canals. There were no wasted spaces with every inch in use.

I took another gondola ride with a song from the gondolier. What a delicious spot for a honeymoon! Need I say more? As we glided past the blue grotto there was divine music and atmosphere. But where wasn’t there atmosphere here? People were wandering back home down our alley into the night singing and chatting.