My 1973 “Europe Through the Gutter” Trip Frieze

For several years, I’d pass the time on the flight home from my annual summer trip making a crude one-page frieze summarizing my trip. On my best trip ever (in 1973 with Gene Openshaw — who co-authors many guidebooks with me to this day — making our first trip without parents), Gene and I alternated scenes producing this pictorial review of the most memorable events of our 10-week “Europe Through the Gutter” trip, which we kicked off the day after our high school graduation.



Reviewing these scenes, laced together by our beloved Eurail transportation, we: Flew from Seattle’s Space Needle to Germany where we stowed away in lofts, slept in barns in the Alps (notice how for impoverished 18-year-old vagabonds, mere survival — eating and sleeping — is a huge part of this trip…on which we spent literally $3 a day plus our flights and rail passes), stumbled upon a street party inaugurating a new public toilet in Geneva, got kicked out of the casino in Monte Carlo, took the hot and slow-as-a-snail train across Spain, enjoyed flamenco and bullfights, delved into hot and scary Morocco (my parents made me promise to not go to Turkey… but they didn’t think to be concerned about Morocco), puked our guts out, purchased the horns after a bullfight (and kept them lashed to my backpack until they rotted and got infested with bugs), luxuriated in the art of Paris, stuffed our shrunken stomachs at an Indonesian rice-table feast in the Netherlands, slept on a dike, explored the sex shops of Amsterdam, stopped by Copenhagen on the way to my relatives in Norway (where we were fed lavishly and once again stretched out our “sandwich a day” bellies), dropped by Germany’s piano royalty (the Grotrian family, from whom my father imported pianos), were wowed by Hitler sites, climbed to castles in Bavaria (4 in a day: at Neuschwanstein and Ehrenburg), sampled Salzburg, soaked up Venice, ogled art in Florence, saw ancient sights and open-air opera at the Baths of Caracalla in Rome, crossed Italy on the train (being repeatedly kicked off because we had no reservations…and hopping back on) to catch the Brindisi-Patras boat for Athens, slept in the rocks under the temple at Cape Sounion, camped out drunk at the Dafni wine festival, suffered through the endless train ride across Yugoslavia, sloshed through Munich’s Hofbräuhaus, and spent our last nights in Rothenburg before heading home for college (inspired to travel more…but still happy to keep it a hobby and pay for my trips by teaching piano).


It’s fun to think of the wonder created by being overseas, on your own, living on a shoestring, as a teenager. While Europe has changed, the impact of travel is still just as powerful.


4 Replies to “My 1973 “Europe Through the Gutter” Trip Frieze”

  1. Rick: Enjoyed the post; did a similar trip 3 years early at 19 as I am 4 years older than you. People don’t believe me when I said I travelled through Europe on $3.00 CDN a day. I was gone for 4 months and travelled on my own; wish I’d had a companion to share the stores with but reading your blog brings it all back. I was back again in 1973 with a friend but only England that time and have been over at least 25 times since the first trip. Cheers Glenn

  2. Sounds like someone may be turning 60 (you are my husbands age and he just turned the big 60!) and reliving your youth! Great to have these fantastic memories. But I am glad I can afford a nice hotel room now!

  3. Gene & Rick,

    You guys were amazing travelers even when you were fresh out of high school. Wow – what an adventure! Considering you were in the days before the web and cellphones you experienced a lot of amazing sights and cultures.

    Thank you Rick for converting your piano studio into Europe Thru The Back Door and helping us travel smarter!

    Thanks Gene for helping Rick and your team write such great guidebooks!

    It would be nice to know how many people you guys have inspired to get out of their comfort zones and get their butts in gear.


    Rick’s Tampa Twin

  4. Hi Rick, I did the same trip when I was in college and the memories are still vivid and unforgettable! My Mother only warned me about white slavery which I have never heard about since. Mothers do say some of the most unusual things…..

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