I generally wrote letters to my parents and sent postcards to my sister, Helen, who was at boarding school back in the UK. She used to go back to the family home most weekends and so would pass on any postcards she had received. My sister joined me in Asia for about six weeks in the summer of 1992 so I sent the postcards to my parents instead during this period.
I sat down and read a few of the postcards when I re-discovered them. My initial thoughts were that they were quite unimaginative and pretty boring. The grammar was appalling and often I displayed a lack of enthusiasm for what I was writing about. I wasn’t exactly creative with my descriptions either, with the word nice being the most commonly used adjective!
I decided I would simply enjoy the memories that reading the postcards brought back to me and then place them back in the box, ready for a dusting off in another twenty years’ time. But then I thought, actually they may hold some interest for those outside the inner-circle (i.e. me) and it’s not too much effort to scan the front of some of the cards and write out the words on the back so that is exactly what I’ve done.
I’m really just indulging myself with this little project but feel free to read away and have a chuckle at some of the daft comments I made, both the intentional and unintentional ones. I’ll put the cards up in two batches as I went a bit crazy on the copying front and scanned too many for just one post.
This is part one of two and features postcards I sent from my first backpacking adventure: to Europe way back in 1988! The second part features my first independent travels to Asia, a few years later in 1992.
Keep in mind there was no internet back then – no email, Facebook, Twitter etc. Postcards, letters and the odd telephone call were the only ways of keeping in touch with family and friends while travelling. Postcards to my mates were far more amusing (IMHO) but I doubt very much if I will ever get my hands on any of them.
Paris 7th November 1988 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Helen, Spent 3 days in Paris in this shitty hotel and spent 7 hours walking round Paris. It cost £4.50 each to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower, and we also went to the top of Notre Dame. Sitting in our local bar waiting for a train to Bordeaux at the moment. Love, Mark
Mark: The hotel owner in Paris was really unpleasant. When we left, we hid a camembert cheese in the room. Please remember I was only twenty-one! £4.50 is approximately €5.50. It now costs €17 to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Lisbon 2nd December 1988 (postcard to my sister)
Hi, moved on again, this time to Lisbon. It’s a very small city and a cross between Latin America and San Francisco, as it’s very hilly and everyone travels by tram. Travelling south towards Algarve (Lagos) for a week of rest. Love, Mark
p.s. sorry about state of writing – on the train.
Mark: Not sure on what authority I was comparing Lisbon with Latin America, I’d not been to Latin America at that point!
Cordoba 21st December 1988 (postcard to my sister)
Took us 6hrs to get to Cordoba from Granada, which is a long time considering the distance travelled (lots of changes and stops). Staying in a nice hostel in the Jewish quarter of the city, which is very nice. It’s much, much warmer than Granada although the nights are still pretty chilly. Cordoba is one of the nicest cities we have been to so far. Going back to the apartment for xmas shopping in Gib on the 24th. Love, Mark
Mark: Gib is Gibraltar. The photo of Cordoba looks very dated and can’t have been taken in the 1980s.
Gibraltar 22nd December 1988 (postcard to my maternal nan)
Dear Nan, Happy birthday for today. Not really much to say as you’ve probably heard it all and we haven’t done much since, so I will not repeat it. Hope everybody is OK. Gibraltar is weird but nice – walked up the Rock – took 2 hours. Nearly killed me. Write soon. Love, Mark
Meknes 7th January 1989 (postcard to my maternal nan)
Dear Nan, Hope you had a pleasant New Year, ours was very nice. Morocco is very different from the rest of Europe and very cheap. We are staying in a 3 star hotel for only £6 each and meals are only £2 each. Haven’t learnt any Arabic but they all speak French. Going onto Casablanca, Fez, Rabat and Meknes, and then by boat to Italy. Write soon. Love Mark
Mark: I know, I know – Morocco is not in Europe!
Rabat 12th January 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, spent most of the day walking around the medina in Rabat. Everything is very cheap – bread 1.25 pence, popcorn 7 pence and our accommodation £1.50 each – stand up toilets and cold showers. No tourists in Rabat – people are happy and friendly. Got the shits real bad, which isn’t fun on the standup toilet due to splash back. Write soon, love Mark
Milan 19th January 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, Caught 2 night trains Malaga – Barcelona and then Barcelona – Geneva and then caught a train to Milan, which is a very nice city, but very expensive so we are staying in the Youth Hostel which is still £6 each per night. Saw the Last Supper which is very faded but it was OK. Write soon, Love Mark
Mark: Describing the Last Supper as being OK – I would never had made it as an art critic!
Vatican City 15th February 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Went to Rome to see the big papa as everybody out here calls him in order to trade some skin, but it was some sort of religious day so he wasn’t doing any concerts. Also been to see the coliseum which was good. Rome is very nice. Love, Mark
Mark: “trade some skin”. Now there’s an expression you don’t hear these days.
Megalopolis 24th February 1989 (postcard to my paternal nan and grandad)
Dear Nan and Grandad, Greece is excellent, much better than expected and they really like the British. Megalopolis is famous for having the largest amphitheatre in Europe. Going to Sparta then Argos, then Athens and onto Crete for a rest. Becoming interested in Greek mythology. Say hello to John, Maureen, Sarah and Steven. Hope everything is OK. Love Mark
Athens 28th February 1989 (postcard to my maternal nan)
Dear Nan, Athens is excellent, as is all Greece. The Greeks love the British and hate the Germans because of the War. Been to Olympia, Sparta, Argos and Corfu. Might go to Crete for a week to get brown as it’s cheap to get there. Say hello to everybody for me. Love, Mark
Mark: Classic comment about WWII. I wouldn’t make such a remark these days but it was different back then!
Athens 28th February 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, Spent the night in Argos and then caught the train to Athens. It’s much nicer than I remember it – seen all the famous sites and are going onto Delphi for a couple of days, then back to Athens. Not sure after that. Thinking of flying to Vienna and then going to Germany – let you know in due time. Love, Mark
Delphi 3rd March 1989 (postcard to my aunt and uncle; Anne and Mick)
Dear All, Writing this postcard from Athens airport while we’re waiting for a flight to Vienna. Haven’t done any flying yet so we are looking forward to it as it makes a change from trains and buses. Delphi is about 4 hours from Athens and we didn’t bother going, but I went a couple of years ago so I’m not too worried. Love, Mark
Mark: Oh dear, the flippancy with which I dismissed visiting Delphi!
Vienna 3rd March 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, hello how is everybody. The flight is very pleasant indeed. We have nicked loads of soap and face towels for the rest of the journey and tell dad I’ve got him a glass. We arrived in Vienna about 5.30pm and went straight to the hostel, so I’ll write from Vienna. Love, Mark
Mark: To explain the reference to a glass for my father. He travelled extensively in those days and he collected logo-embossed airline glasses as souvenirs.
Brugge 23rd March 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, Brugge is very nice – hired bikes to go around the town which is better than walking. Staying in a nice hotel with a bar downstairs – not sure where we’re going next but I’ll write from there. Love, Mark
Amsterdam 25th March 1989 (postcard to my aunt and uncle; Sally and John)
Dear All, John, you and dad would love it here – porn shop upon porn shop everywhere you go. Loads of big horrible whores sitting in little rooms trying to get you to come in but Justine wouldn’t let me! The rest of Amsterdam is nice as well. Say hello to everyone, love Mark
Mark: I not sure how to comment about this postcard but I feel I probably should!
Hassleholm 30th March 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, Met this Danish chap who told us to see Christiania (ask dad what that is) and then in the afternoon we caught the ferry from Dragor to Limhamn and then a train up to Hassleholm which is on the way to Stockholm. Hassleholm is very nice. Going to stay in Scandinavia for a while. Love, Mark
Mark: Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood in Copenhagen. I’m more interested in visiting these kind of ‘countries that don’t exist’ these days!
Stockholm 1st April 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, Stockholm is one of the nicest places we’ve been to so far and just as we were leaving it started to snow. Tell dad we saw the Royal Viking Hotel, but it’s not as the Grand so he should stay there next time. The old ship you see is part of the youth hostel buts it’s closed at the moment so we’re in the building on land next door. Love, Mark
Oslo 5th April 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, Norway is even more expensive than the rest of Scandinavia which is a shame as it is the best. We are catching the night train to the end of the line up north and then buses until we reach the northern tip. Bought a new ski jacket as it is very cold as well as expensive. Write soon. Love, Mark
Mark: to tell the truth, I didn’t buy the ski jacket. My parents did. We used their credit card details.
Bjorkliden 7th April 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, we must have been mad. We were happy going through the mountains from Narvik (above the Arctic Circle) to Stockholm when we decided to get off the train in the middle of nowhere. The room is £45 each per night and we can’t even afford to ski. Love, Mark
Hamburg 9th April 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, took the night train from Stockholm, after stopping to buy Justine’s birthday present, to Hamburg which is a great place. Bit of culture, a bit of porn and a great big fair where we spent lots of money as Justine’s birthday present. Only stop in Germany, going to Switzerland for the last week. Love, Mark
Mark: Not sure why I thought this was a suitable postcard to send to my little sister!
Lucerne 14th April 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, Lucerne is very nice although it’s misty and raining so we can’t see any of the surrounding Alps which is a pity. Also it is not worth going to the top of Mt. Titlis, which is the highest mountain in Switzerland, because we won’t see anything. Love, Mark
Mark: Mount Titlis is not the highest mountain in Switzerland – I have no idea where I got that information from?!
Geneva 17th April 1989 (postcard to my sister)
Dear Hel, Geneva isn’t too bad, not really that much to do and it has been raining as usual. We are about to catch the French TGV train to Paris which is one of the fastest trains in the world which should be good. Not sure where we are going from Paris, somewhere near the coast. Love, Mark
Mark: My sister eventually ended up moving to Geneva and still lives very close to the city now, albeit in France rather than Switzerland.
I hope you have enjoyed this peek into some of my earlier travelling days? It’s amazing how much some places have changed. Have you visited, or do you live in, any of these cities and do you find them unrecognisable from these postcards? Do let us know in the comments below.