Travels

Travels from Copenhagen

During the third year I did travel in the spring and summer as attendance of the lectures was not as important. I took two trips during term time one to Rome and one to Paris.

Trip to Rome

A Danish firm exporting dairy cattle to Italy was looking for someone to accompany 8 pregnant heifers on a train to Rome. For me it was quite well paid, and. I volunteered. I met the train in South Jutland and was duly given some straw at the front of the wagon beside the cattle, I was to feed and water the cattle. We had enough hay but I had to find water whenever we stopped. The cattle had to be taken off the train at the border between Switzerland and stay for veterinary inspection before they were allowed on to the train again. What a trip! but I did see a large part of Germany from the hole in the wagon side, as we were slow- moving. At large stations we had to stop and be shunted about all over the place. This was a goods train after all. There were some horrible bumps when it was allowed to freewheel into another wagon. I did not dare to leave the wagon at the stations as I had no idea when it was just being shunted and when it was leaving. Although I had learned some German it was really not sufficient to speak to the train drivers. I had stocked up with bread, butter and liver pate  so I would not starve. And at night I had to get right down in the straw to keep warm. One night one of the heifers broke loose, came up and put its wet mouth into my face. I was quick to get it back! Nothing untoward happened before we got to the Italian Swiss border at, Lugano. Here I had to take out the cows for veterinary inspection and for an inspection of all the paperwork. There was a problem with an eartag number and this of course was serious. I was not allowed to proceed with the cattle. Fortunately I had some hay they could eat, I tried to change some money to Italian lire and bought the cheapest bottle of red wine ever. Wine had to be imported and taxed to Denmark. ( I actually got sick on it.) A telex was sent back to Denmark about the hold up at the border, and I was able to see a little of Italian life. Italy was then in comparison with Denmark very poor. When I was sitting in the straw in the wagon a man in uniform turned up. He said “do you speak French.?” “ No” I said, “ do you speak English?” he said “no”, he said “Italian.?” I said “no,” German?, he said “no”. There was little communication. He then said “cigarette.?” Oh I thought, he wants a cigarette, so I found a packet in the straw and offered him one. He turned out to be a customs officer looking for smuggled cigarettes which was rife. He spent a long time working through the straw but found nothing, there was nothing. After three days I was given the all clear and the train trundled down the Po valley on a single track, very slowly having occasionally to stop at a small station where there was a double track in case a train came the other way. It was a few hours after leaving Lugano during the night that I noticed one of the heifers making preparation for calving. I was a bit worried as it was a delivery probably triggered by the many bumps in transit. As the birth became more imminent the train stopped at a small station to let another train by – I jumped out and went up to alert the driver and the fireman of the steam train. They could not understand me of course. I said veterinary but made no impression but I managed to get both of them to come and see what was happening. They were quite excited but the word “veterinary” made no impression. In the end I thought there is no way out but to manage as best I could.. I had a rope with me and tied it on the front legs of the calf and had the fireman and driver to pull the rope while I was doing the guiding out of the wet and bloody calf. After a successful birth they were quite excited. I doubt that they would have done something like that before or after! If they wrote a diary it would appear there for sure! The station master was getting impatient and wanted the train to leave and waited for a signal from me. I was in a bloody mess. so gave him a bucket and said “aqua” latin for water. It worked – somebody ran for water. It was a bull calf. I know Italian for girl – signorita, and I shook my head and so to say no female. It was understood. When the bucket of water arrived I shouted in the only Italian I had learned partiere. The station master gave the signal and the train puffed away again. I had yet another calf further down the track but this was a cow and an easy birth so I managed without the train driver! There was no information as to when we were likely to arrive in Rome and I got rather hungry. I was afraid to leave the wagon in case it went off while I was away, but on one occasion the traindriver became aware of the hungry beast and took me to the small station café. Here I was a blonde boy -they were dark haired. I was dressed differently. I had on my feet a pair of clogs. I was a novelty. It was not long before the table was surrounded by a lot of people watching me. One of them spoke a little English as he had been a prisoner. I was given a plate of spaghetti and I must admit that I had never had spaghetti before. I tried to cut it with the knife but a man demonstrated to me that you roll it up with a fork into your spoon and eat it. It was very welcome food. The next stop was our arrival in the ancient city of Rome. The train came to a halt. Fortunately here was a Danish chap there who spoke Italian and who could explain why there were two extra cattle which did not have eartags!

I cannot remember where I stayed in Rome but I spent a couple of days seeing the cathedral etc. and I even saw Pope John who was very popular. I saw how catholic people behaved in their church, I had not seen that before and it looked strange to me. The return journey by a slow passenger train was not nearly so exciting. I met a German girl on the train. It was her birthday she wanted to be my friend and wrote to me several times. I recall she worked in Munich in a shop called Ludwig Beck at Rathauseck.

The other trip was to deliver a new car to Paris and take another one back for a car hire firm. I then saw Paris and Brussels as well. On that trip I took my brother Åge with me. The spring and early summer of 1960 was enjoyable and I nurtured my craving for travel. In a very short time and at no cost I had visited Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Holland, Belgium and France.