Monday, April 3, 2017

Europe 1997

Like so often as a teacher, I try to remember back to the time before I knew much about the world.  A perfect example of this was the time in 1997 when my family went to Europe.  One of my most vivid memories was telling my friend Stephani.  Her mom worked for an airline so unlike most kids in Cedar, Stephani had been places.  She loved to talk about her trip many trips like going to Beauty and the Beast on Broadway in New York City.  A world I never had been but dreamed of...  So as we were walking out of math class I told her that my family was going to Europe during the summer and she was so jealous.  Other than that I don't have much memory of what I thought Europe was going to be like.  I didn't know much.  I hadn't experienced much.  I just knew it was going to be wonderful.

But we should back up.  Why the Parson family was going to go to Europe.  This is a very important question because my family didn't travel.  My family never went on "vacation".  I had never been on an airplane.  And up to that point in my memory I had only stayed in 1 hotel, a Motel 6 in Las Vegas for my cousin's mission farewell. I came from a family where my dad worked 2 jobs, 6 days a week.  There was no such thing as vacation.  Our family trips consisted of driving two places and two places only.  North on 1-15 and South on 1-15.  North to Salt Lake to visit my grandparents and then onto the highlight of my childhood, Idaho.  And South to California to stay at Aunt Raine's or Grandpa Parson's where every other year we'd get to spend a day at Disneyland.   We also attended at least 4-7 family reunions every summer.  That was our vacations.  Not that I am complaining.... I just want to make sure it is clear how out of the ordinary it was when my family went to Europe.

And of course there was only one reason our family went to Europe, someone else paid for it.  Some how a wealthy LDS Latino German man contacted my dad and asked him to paint a mural for his office building. He said he would pay for our whole family to travel to Germany so my dad could paint the mural.  Of course my dad didn't want to paint for months in Germany so he painted the painting in our garage in Cedar then we all went to Germany so my dad could finish the painting and present it to this family.

One of the highlights of my mom's single days was a backpacking trip through Europe with her cousins and friends.  So she was excited to revisit a lot of places she had already been almost 20 years earlier.  We were each allowed to bring 1 carry on rolling suit case.  I don't remember many conversations about what we would see or what we would be doing in Europe.  All I knew was we were going to get a lot of good chocolate.  And with that we were off.

But before we start, we need to talk about how different our world is today than 20 years ago.  The world of film cameras.  I miss it and I loathe it.  I miss it because pictures were not the purpose for travel, it was a side note.  How much of my/society's world now revolves around taking pictures.  I loathe it because these pictures are TERRIBLE.  I am so sad we don't have better pictures.  But oh well.  On with the show.

Denver Airport
We had no idea what we were getting into...

Playing cards.  There is a painting in that crate but I have no idea of what.

We flew from Denver to Amsterdam.  My first memory was getting off the airplane in Amsterdam was  the Police or Military officers.  It was absolutely shocking and made me realize real fast that we were in a different world.  Each officer was carrier a huge machine gun with rounds and rounds of bullets wrapped around their bodies.  This imagine is firmly printed in my brain and has really affected me ever since.  It made me so grateful to live in my little bubble of Southern Utah.

We hopped straight onto a train and headed for Hamburg, Germany where we were welcomed with open arms by this Latino, Prussian, German family.  They had purchased a large red Mercedes van just for our visit.
When we pulled up to their house I remember seeing a row of Mercedes cars.  It was the first time I ever remember seeing a Mercedes.  Their house was very large but not really that showy that I remember.  I remember exploring through it and going into the basement and it smelled like Pirates of the Caribbean ride.  Shortly after we discovered the indoor pool, the workout room, the Sauna, and the tanning bed.

We were welcomed to our wing of the house by flowers, chocolate, and we thought regular water... our first experience with warm mineral water.  It about killed us.  It was the beginning of a lot of food that I thought was going to kill me.  

We had a great time playing around their house and in their huge yard.  But the most vivid memory of our time staying with this family was eating.  They had a huge banquet table where we ate each meal.  I was a very picky 14 year old and I can tell you almost exactly what we ate every meal because I hated it.  All of it.  And it was a miserable experience for me.  Well I did love breakfast.  One of their maids or cooks or servants would go to town every morning and bring back the most delicious rolls.  So every morning for breakfast I would eat rolls.  Then most often I would starve the rest of the day.  Some of the things I remember being served were: cucumber soup, white asparagus slop over rice, and the worst, whole wheat pizza with corn and tuna fish.  Oh, one night they served spaghetti and set large spoons with the forks to eat the spaghetti.  I remember thinking it was a joke that they set the spoons and pointed it out.  I was scolded because I didn't know to use a spoon with my spaghetti.

While staying with this family their adult daughter and son in law entertained us while my dad worked on the painting.  Some of the things we did were: visit the Birkenstocks Factory, hike to the top of the Hamburg bell tour, swim in the Baltic Sea, go to a carnival in Hamburg, drive through a wild animal park, and take a ferry over to Denmark to eat delicious ice cream.
Outside the Birkenstock's factory.
If only I knew how popular they would get again 20 years later.
Hamburg's St. Michaelis bell tower

Typical Teenager...

Of course after starving for a few days, we were SO excited to see our first McDonald's.

We felt  like such rebels drinking out of glass bottles that looked like wine bottles.
We did a lot of road trips in that Mercedes Sprinter.  Much of the time on the Autobahn.  It's probably a good thing my mom had no idea how fast we were going.  But I remember motorcycles zipping by like we were standing still.

The Baltic Sea - yes it was very cold. 
The cutest little beach town on the Baltic.
(The picture above is the view we had from this lunch of fried chicken and warm Sprite)

The Hamburg Carnival
A Log Ride

A parade at the Carnival (Just realized I am in the background of the picture!)
One memory of Germany and all of Europe really was I kept wondering, "Where are the kids?"  Even at this Carnival there were hardly any kids anywhere we went.  In the whole ward of Hamburg there were only 2 young women.  I was a seriously boy crazy 14 year old and I was so disappointed that I didn't see a single "hot European guy" the entire trip.  The only good looking guy I saw was one of the missionaries! (6 Elders came to dinner one night while we were there)

This is the only picture we have from Denmark.  Once we got to Denmark we walked around, ate delicious ice cream and wild raspberries and went home.  

At the end of our stay in Germany Broc joined us.  (He worked for BLM fighting fires and could only take a week off during the summer) We got a Eurorail pass for 6 days to see more of Europe.  Of course we wanted to do the rest of the trip as fast and as cheap as possible (because that's how my family rolls) so we spent every night on a night train from one location to the next.  So we always had our suitcases with us and didn't take a shower for 4 days. (Yes my entire family, and honestly I don't remember any smells, but then again... in Europe EVERYONE was stinky)  Just imagine 2 parents and 6 kids ages 22 - 9 wandering around Europe.  Our first adventure was to the Disneyland castle.  We rode the night train to Munich and on to Fussen. (From 10:23 pm to 7:04 am) Our only picture of Fussen:

When we got to Fussen we were all starving.  We were SO sick of the "gross" food we had to eat in Germany.  We were all dreaming of McDonald's.  And I think my mom had even done research to know that there was a McDonalds in Fussen.  The details of this story are a little shaky but one part, the best part we will never forget.  We were all getting frustrated and hungry and we we couldn't find the McDonalds.  My dad was starting to lose it.  He said, "This can't be this tough!  Let's just ask somebody!"  So he walked up to a group of nuns walking down the street and said, "Hey do you know where the McDonalds is?"  They all looked down and shook their heads clearly not understanding English.  My dad wasn't stopping there.  He needed some french fries!  He got in front of them as they tried to scurry off and said really loud and clear, "Mc DON  ALDS" as he used his hands to make the shape of the golden arches.  Those poor nuns.

Don't worry, eventually we did find that McDonalds and all was right in the world again.   We then got on a bus and went to the most magical castle of all.


(Chad and my mom aren't pictured because they didn't dare come out on the bridge to get this view)

Our evening in Munich:

Sometimes I forget how stinkin' cute this kid was.
Then we went to Paris.  When we pulled into Paris we were greeted with the information that there was a "situation" in the train station.  Some type of possible terrorist attack.  (Back in 1997 terrorism weren't even a part of our vocabulary so we weren't worried) It was just annoying.  They wouldn't let us use the lockers for our luggage in the train station like we had planned so we spent the day visiting all the sites of Paris with our luggage in tow.  I can still remember the sound of the wheels of our luggage bouncing along all of the cobble paths.  All of Paris could hear us coming.  In one day we visited Notre Dame, Museum d'Orsay, the Louve, the Arche de Triumphe, the Eiffel Tour, the Picasso Museum, and the Paris Nord train station.  Although I remember absolutely loving Paris I also remember how dirty it was and of course the smell of bathroom everywhere.  (since free public bathrooms don't exist in Europe)  Since we had our luggage, one of us had to take turns staying out of the art museums to watch our stuff since suitcases weren't allowed in the museums.  I took one for the team and watched our luggage outside of Museum d'Orsay.
Only picture outside of Museum d'Orsay.  
 Yes, my parents let me at 14 years old sit on a street of Paris guarding 8 suitcases.  Oh how different our world is today.  OH speaking of how different, we didn't try one crepe, or macaroon or any other French foods.  I feel like the world was different back then.  Maybe because of social media or the internet in general or maybe we were just uneducated, but we didn't know about delicious foods from other countries like we do now.  We were so excited to find a McDonalds.  Anyway, back to the story.

Off to see Paris.

Notre Dame was my first experience I can remember going into a different religion's house of worship. Oh how different than the standard meeting house I was used to.


I remember The Rose Stained Glass Window was amazing inside.

Then we went to stand in the huge long line to get into the Lourve.  (Where was Rick Steve's when we needed him back then?)

But of course I got to see what I went in for, the most overrated piece of art in the history of the world.

On to the Arche

My dad stopping traffic to get that picture.

The Eiffel Tower had a countdown until Y2K.  

Arguably my favorite picture of the entire trip.  Broc playing the gameboy underneath the Eiffel Tower.  

By the end of the day we were so stinkin' exhausted.  We thought this picture was hilarious, Broc with his glass bottle of water next to him looks like a drunk.  (We couldn't get over these glass bottles.  Obviously we didn't get out much.)

At 10:38 - 4:56 am that night we hopped on another night train to Basel, Switerland.  Then we took a train to Bern then to Interlaken.  Oh how different Switzerland was from Paris.  It was so clean and beautiful.  But my strongest memory is the color of the river and lake.  I had never seen a river or lake be that color.
Lake Cruise

The park in Interlaken

We then took a bus/gondala to Lauterbrunnen then to Grimmwald.  I remember walking around the tip top of the Alps and my dad complaining about how manicured everything was.  Everything was neat, clean, organized and mowed.  My dad kept asking where was the wild natural area.

But the best memory from Switzerland, probably the best food memory of all my life, happened because of pizza.  I don't remember all the details.  I don't remember the stress or waiting for a long time.  All I remember was we were all absolutely starving and biting into the most delicious 5 cheese pizza somewhere in Switzerland.  It was the best food experience of my life.

The last night of our Eurorail pass was a train from Interlaken back to Basel to Amsterdam. (11:25pm to 8:54 am)  I remember this train was the worst.  Our first night train was awesome.  Cool sleeping cabins with beds.  The last train was just a regular passenger train with regular front facing seats.  A whole night of that.  So most of us slept on the floor.

Yes, that means my whole family went at least 4 days without showers.  I look back and smile.

When we got to Amsterdam the most wonderful thing that had ever happened to us was the Marriott Hotel we stayed in.  It was the first American thing we had seen in days.  It was heaven.  And the best part of all?  An all you can eat buffet at Pizza Hut in the hotel.  That poor Pizza Hut.  We ate them out of house and home.
The most wonderful hotel I've ever stayed out.
While in Amsterdam we visiting the Anne Frank house.  I had just read her book in 8th grade so that was very memorable for me.

We also went to the Van Gogh Museum and the Rijksmuseum but by this point in our journey we were starting to lose it when it came to going to more art museums.  I don't remember who came up with the game but we started a game in one of the museums to see who could keep their tongue stuck out the longest.  So there were at least 4-5 Parson kids walking around Amsterdam museums with the tongues out for at least an hour.  But hey, at least that meant we were quiet.

Amsterdam and their bikes.

We even had a very Amsterdamining experience on the tram!  Of course we had never seen marijuana before so it was an absolute shock to watch a guy get on the tram and light up his joint.  He sat and smoked his weed right in front of us.  

Yes, that is what we are all staring at.

But the strongest impression I remember from Amsterdam was the beautiful park by our hotel.  Around 5 or 6 that evening it filled up with people.  All sorts of Dutch people.  I remember thinking how shocking it was that they would go out of the park every evening to hang out rather than sit home and watch tv.

At this point in our journey we were pretty dang excited to go home.  So we got up extra early and headed to the airport.

One last piece of European Chocolate before we headed home.

Hands down the most memorable moment of the entire trip to Europe was how grateful I was when we landed back in America.  I even made someone take a picture of me kissing the ground when we got off the ground in the Denver Airport.  I learned at an early age one of the most valuable lessons and one of the most important reason to travel, a new appreciation for what you have.  Because there is no place like home.

Total Stats from the Trip:
Countries: 6
Canada (Layover)
(We could country Austria because we could see it from Neuschwanstein)

World Famous Art Museums: 5 too many for kids
Museum d'Orsay
the Lourve
Van Gough

McDonalds Visits: 5
Luneburg, Germany
Fussen, Germany
Basel. Switzerland
Paris, France
Amsterdam, Netherlands
(Paying for ketchup and ice at each and every one.)

Money spent on public bathrooms: probably close to $50.

Fights, meltdowns, and wondering why in the world did we come on this trip: countless

Coolest parents in the world for dragging us to Europe: 2

(We never again flew on a plane as an entire family.  It is the last trip our entire family went on.)


Madeline Parson said...

So fun to see all of those photos!

Angela Ricks said...

Wow...this world-before-cell-phone-pictures. It really was different. Loved the Kristin in Europe blast from the past!

Marcie Parson said...

Craig still has that rolling suitcase :)

Stephani said...

Love the memory of your trip. I still remember being so jealous and wanting all the details and you just tellling me how excited your family was every time you came to a McDonalds.