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Europe Through the Front Door

During the 1970s, cheap charter flights and a strong dollar made Europe accessible to legions of American tourists. My parents and I were among this horde. I took thousands of pictures during our annual European vacations between 1972 and 1978. As I was only a teenager then, most of those images are mere snapshots. But I consider a very select few (63) of them interesting enough as photographs to present here.

I took these pictures with a Kodak Pocket Instamatic 60 camera, on two generations of the now-extinct Kodachrome slide film. The camera had a very sharp lens that allowed the little slides to capture a surprising amount of detail. I wouldn’t try to make posters from them, but you probably couldn’t tell that an 8 x 10 (20 x 25cm) print was from “110.” I have written a technically-oriented article about scanning 110-format film based on what I learned from preparing these pictures.

This collection of images is too fragmented (and too old) to fit into any kind of coherent travelogue. So I’ve made a thumbnail gallery, with relevant commentary on the pages containing the larger version of each picture.

Click on any picture to see a larger version.






Amsterdam  ·  Lucerne  ·  Moselle Valley

The title of this page is a play on Europe Through the Back Door, a guidebook (and associated television series and tour company) by Rick Steves. He emphasizes lesser-known regions and inexpensive accommodations that provide a glimpse into “the real Europe” while maximizing value for money. The guidebook is written in a breezy, irreverent, highly accessible style that’s enjoyable even if you’re not planning a trip. (For example, while discussing the Egyptian antiquities found in European museums, he remarks that taking a side trip to Egypt to see the real thing is “worth the diarrhea.”) I can’t vouch for the tours, but I do enjoy the PBS television series on which he serves as the genial, slightly nerdy, Everyman Traveler host.

Rick Steves is perhaps the 21st century’s reincarnation of Arthur Frommer, whose Europe On $5 A Day books convinced millions of Americans in the 1960s and 1970s that they could afford to visit Europe. (Mr. Frommer is still traveling and writing, but the travel books that bear his name have gone significantly upscale.) Some— but certainly not all— of my family’s European adventures involved conventional packaged tours and motorcoaches that visited Europe “through the front door.” We never experienced the stereotypical “See 10 Countries in 14 Days” whirlwind, but chose tours that spent a reasonable amount of time in a few places. Those could often provide a great bargain for couples and families whose tastes and budgets weren’t as Spartan as Frommer’s.

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