My first travel abroad during 1972 Munich Olympic
Travel abroad was something beyond our imagination those days during 70s as Government of India was very strict. After one brave Indian I believe fought in the court ,” travel is a birth right and Government cannot restrict.” He won the case and travel became easier for all. When opportunity came my husband and I joined one group planning for the trip of Europe during the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich.
Traveling abroad being a big achievement, friends and families waited at New Delhi airport holding bouquet of flowers and garlands.( Pictures with those garlands remain a permanent memory.} The flight landed in Moscow after about six and half hour. That was the first stop in our itinerary for 29 days of travel in Europe. Entering Moscow, we immediately felt the uneasiness as we lined up for the immigration counter. The seriousness and stern look of those immigration officers made us feel as if we were some aliens from another planet. When my turn came, the officer took the passport and after scrutinyhe looked at my face and then to the passport and then looked at my face, he repeated three times. We were happy when it was over and could go to our hotel to rest for the night. Next morning we 70 of us boarded the two buses waiting for us for the city tour. Since it was our first adventure in a new big city like Moscow we were thrilled. All those majestic palaces Kremlin a fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, Red Square, the official resident of the President of Russia, state historical museum, the impressive Kremlin Palace, the residence of the Russian Tsars built in 1849 by architect Konstanin Ton. The first time when I saw the Ballet at Bolshoi Theater. Presenting a bouquet of flower after every performance on the stage was something new to me. After one and half day in Moscow we were taken to Leningrad where we felt as if we felt a bit different air unlike in Moscow,
After the tour of Leningrad we were flown over to London. We felt for the first time so relaxed there seeing all the names of the streets like Trafalgar Square and counties like Buckinghamshire, Essex which we used read in novels while growing up during our school days. At the end of London tour we passed the countryside to board the ship from Dover in UK to go to Calais in France. The beauty of the countryside remained as permanent imprint in my memory even after forty three years. During that time the tunnel in the English channel was not yet ready. When we landed in France no one spoke English I even those who knew the language. Luckily as the hotel receptionist was our consolation as he guided us in English. As planned ahead we had the full city tour of Paris and around.
Half way during the tour when we arrived in Frankfurt, the sad and shocking news flashed all over about the massacre in Munich Olympic campus. It was 4th September at 4:30 am local time. Eight Black September members entered the campus dressed in track suit with AK -47 assault riffles, pistols and grenades in duffel bags. It was unfortunate that because of wrong decision of the Israeli commandos the members of the Israeli athletes including those Black September members were all killed.
The games continued as usual after the incident. When we reached Munich next day Hockey game was going on. India and Pakistan were the main contenders, India did not go up to the final.
In our group we had few close friends who signed up together for the trip, one young couple who were always fighting and arguing, another two gentlemen of Marwari community who were strict vegetarian. In Europe no one understood what was a vegetarian meal supposed to be those days. These two gentlemen had some snacks brought from home and they lived on those and with water which was available free of cost. As they were reluctant to spend money on items like fruits they remained starved most of day. My husband was more concerned as they were almost starving and suggested to buy one electric stove and a pot with some rations and so that we could cook in the hotel room for them. After some consideration they agreed finally. We got a stove and a pot, rice and lentil, some vegetables, a small bottle of cooking oil. When night time came I cooked frying the onion and then adding the rice and the lentil in a pot with water and added all the vegetables, salt and some red pepper powder as condiments. The young couple came to know about it and joined us in our room. That was the most tastiest food we ever had after missing our home food for the last two weeks living mostly on bread, butter and fruits provided in the hotel. Thus we continued to cook off and on during the rest of journey.
Our tour of Russia, UK, France, Germany, Denmark, Switzerland, Italy, Rome was over by the end of 29 days. From Heathrow International airport we took our flight back to India. The electric stove and the utensils were divided among the two gentlemen and took home with them as souvenir. I have the memories of those as souvenirs.