Sharing the Wonder of My First Solo Trip, 1973

On my first solo trip to Europe, in 1973 — just after high school graduation — I wrote postcards home nearly every day. I packed so much information onto each card that it was a challenge to read them without a magnifying glass. Looking back on these exuberant little reports back to my family (42 years later!) I can see a travel writer in waiting. While the writing is pretty goofy and the spelling may be off, the passion for experience was solid. (I would even tuck a little piece of sauerkraut under the postage stamp in an attempt to share the wonder of my experiences.) Here’s a card from Austria.

Rick Steves postcard from 1973 Salzburg Austria


Hi Grandma + everyone. I’m in the Salzburg Train Station now + we just finished a beautiful stay in the music capitol of the world. Well now – where was I? I think we were leaving Reutte. Well we got to lnnsbruck late + the hostels were all full so we decided to spend a free night on the porch of the hostel. We left our packs there + walked around the town, rather aimlessly, just killing time till it was dark + everyone was asleep. We saw the old + nice section of Innsbruck, bought their version of a hot dog + returned to our hard, cold, but FREE bed. We had some bouillon + then went to sleep. We got up around 6:00 + quietly packed + left. We checked our packs at the station + saw 3 more hours of Innsbruck. It’s a nice town but it didn’t deserve any more of our time. We bought another grocery store feast + caught the 9:30 train to Salzburg. The ride was a real experience. We snuck into the first class section + in our room we had a rich pansy stuck up lady from New York, a Vienna Monk trying to convert the world to the universal language of Esperanto + 2 nice Austrian girls who spoke a little English. The lady from New York was a real character to say the least (she told me I wouldn’t look so Bohemian if I’d cut off my beard + then she wanted me to carry her bags off the train for her! – No way.) Well we got to the Salzburg by 12:30 + that was lucky ‘cause the place was jammed. We found a nice double in the beautiful old part of town for $7.20 (That was the best price anywhere) + then we took off to take in the town. We tried to find out all about what concerts there were tonight + we were lucky to find a ticket to a chamber music concert in the palace at 9:15. It cost us 66 shillings or $4.50. Then we just strolled around one of the world’s neatest towns. We saw a Tyrolean band in the street + listened to music coming out of the walls everywhere. We went back to our hotel (must be a good 400 yrs old) + had a nice dinner in our room (bouillon, peanut butter + jam + Ginger Ale), dressed up the best we could + hobbled back to the center. We were doing so much walking that our feet rattle + legs are killing us. We walked around some more (that in itself is an experience) + then walked through some Royal gardens to the Palace + upstairs to a solid gold, fancy room where the chamber music takes place. We heard a sextet from Munich (2 horns, 2 clarinets + 2 bassoons) + they played Beethoven, Mozart, Haydn, another one + an encore. Whoever thought I’d spend $4.50 for a chamber music concert. It was really a thrill – one of the highlights of our trip + a cultural highlight of my life (along with Rod Stewart, Mick Jagger + The Who). It was just unbelievable how good they were. Then we walked home + I stopped by a discotheque for a few minutes to keep well rounded. We slept like logs + even overslept till 9:30. Then we gulped breakfast + dashed to the huge 1,200 yr old Salzburg Cathedral to see + hear a Mass. The music was a concert in itself. They had 3 choirs a pipe organ a brass ensemble + a small orchestra + the acoustics were heavenly. Ooo if our high school band director, Mrs. Dezzle, could see me now! Then we climbed to two castles to see two different + cool views + then we checked out of our hotel + headed to the station where we are now. The sun is finally out so everything’s cool. It’s back to Germany tonight (Passau) + then Rödhammers (Jan’s ski teacher’s parents) + then Vienna. Ooo ooo Tuttie! Have fun + see ya in 4 weeks. Love – RICK.


5 Replies to “Sharing the Wonder of My First Solo Trip, 1973”

  1. Great synopsis of your Austrian adventure from the eyes of an 18-yr-old. Rod Stewart, the Stones, and the Who were on my list too back then – and are still on it. Saw Rod Stewart in concert last year. 42 years later, he still rocks!

  2. What a fun, funny and interesting bit of the past! You captured so many details. I have similar postcards from my son, who chooses non-European locations (India, Africa, Turkey). And even though we have text & E-mail, he always sends postcards (which I use as bookmarks). He also writes daily as part of his job. Postcards and writers – a perfect match! Thanks for sharing your early writing.

  3. Thanks for sharing this. Your writing and enthusiasm are both great to read! Love your blog.

  4. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this. It reminds of postcards I sent to Rick via his Europe Through the Back Door Office address in the 1990s, when I began traveling. My postcards were crammed with tidbits of my daily experiences in Europe and written in vision-killing small letters. I always wondered if Rick got bored with these postcards, but he sent the same kinds of missives from Europe, too, when he was young. I also appreciate that Rick loves both classical music and The Who, just like me! Now, wherever I go, I still send postcards to Rick’s ETBD office. Back in the day, I used to get replies from Rick himself, and it was a big thrill. Now I sometimes get replies from an employee of ETBD. It doesn’t bother me that Rick does not reply because his operation has grown and does so much for people who love travel, like me.

Comments are closed.