When I was four-years-old, I learned what it was like to camp. This was the first year that I was allowed to go on holiday with the rest of the family. These first years of camping holidays weren’t really a good example of camping holidays. It could have been possible that I myself would have developed an aversion when it comes to camping. But we are going on a camping holiday this year. Learn more about the way we camped in the Eighties.
I grew up in the last part of the Seventies and throughout the Eighties. I can recall those memories from the period between 1980 and 1989. Before that, I can’t remember anything.
When I was four-years-old, I was allowed to go on holiday with the rest of the family. This didn’t mean I didn’t go on holiday. I was never allowed to go with the rest of the family when they went to Switzerland. My father had lived there during his childhood, because of his asthma. During these holidays, we were kept to a strict schedule. One day of walking (almost throughout the day) and taking some rest the day after. All this hiking wasn’t really adjusted to the youthful attendees. This led to some discussion and even mutiny. Especially the ladies in the travelling party weren’t really a fan of this schedule.
When I was four years old, I learned about a new world. I lived in a country that is mostly flat. Switzerland has mountains and these can make you feel even smaller. I also learned what it was like to travel in a wobbly cable car. More important: I also learned that you could reach certain destinations with this cable car, without having to walk to these destinations for hours and hours.
Routine was very important. The days before leaving the country, an Esterel caravan was parked outside the house. This box-like caravan was very useful. It could be stashed with all sort of products that were most certainly not available in Switzerland. Take for instance potatoes, cheese (everyone knows there isn’t enough cheese in this country) and that what we call hagelslag in Dutch. These are chocolate sprinkles and in The Netherlands, we sprinkle these on bread (yes, strange). We also took with us toys that were mostly abandoned during the time we were abroad. God forbid that we left something out!
While other children were eating meat from the BBQ, we were eating different things. I ate meat when I was younger. This changed when I was eighteen-years-old; I became more sensible 😊. This Haute Cuisine consisted of hamburgers from vacuum packs and instant stew. All you need to do: adding some boiled water. While others ate Summer food, we ate food that is mostly eaten during the Winter period. What we didn’t take with us was Dutch marmalade. We were forced to use the cheap sour marmalade from the local supermarket.
There was one advantage. My mother was fond of chocolate. She would only settle for the chocolate of the Swiss brand Frey. This was also a disadvantage since she really liked the chocolate with those horrible nuts…
Every year it was a good tradition to forget things. I remember that time of total panic when someone started asking questions about a bedroom window. Was it locked? This panic made my father turn home. Luckily we were only about 100 kilometres from where we lived. Perhaps this explains why I nowadays check everything five times. After that, I also check if I checked everything. Travelling with me is such fun!
We always left on a Friday. It was a normal working day for my father and afterwards, there was this “little” trip to Switzerland. Intermediate stops? No way! Just driving on and on. Well, the only stops were to turn the back seat of the car – A Citroen GS, into sleeping quarters for my two sisters. I was forced to sleep on a wooden plank that was placed instead of the hat shelf of the car. As my father was the only one with a driver’s license, he was the chauffeur. We needed to be on time for the train in Kandersteg. This was the only moment that my father had some rest. Nowadays, you would call this madness. Still, it wasn’t the most striking detail of our trips.
We all know the importance of child seats in cars. In the Eighties, you were pretty much outlawed as a child. It all depended on what your parents thought was safe. I slept on a wooden plank, with a sleeping bag. If my father was to make an emergency stop, I was most certainly launched like a cannonball.
After a safe trip, we found out that making reservations is something that is very important. If the campsite was fully booked, my parents always knew of someplace that was in the vicinity… let’s say a two or three hours drive…
At the place of where we planned (or not) our vacation, the children immediately took of, leaving our parents with the wonderful task to set up the campsite. Two tents for my sisters and the caravan. I slept in the caravan, together with my parents. My parents weren’t fans of a tent in front of the caravan. So every day my mother was busy removing the beds inside the caravan. This would allow us to stay indoors if it rained.
You immediately knew that it was time to go home when your parents started packing three or four days before we really went home. Slowly. It was also that moment when we visited the woman who took care of my father when he lived in Switzerland. On the way home, you realized that eating that much stuffed and rich food – including chocolate, chocolate and more chocolate – wasn’t really the best idea.
When we finally did travel home, one of my sisters always started sobbing. She would definitely immigrate to Switzerland in the future. Nowadays, she lives in The Netherlands by the way. The other sister became very grumpy and started to complain. Next year we should visit France. This would be useful for learning the French language. A language that wasn’t spoken in Switzerland, of course…
After a long ride home, a wilderness in our front yard greeted us from a distance. Somewhere in there, the two cats also greeted us. The house looked like a villa. Toys that were forgotten were found again and the most pleasant thing happened: the shower had something that we know as warm water.
Did I mention yet that my parents were really, really, really fond of those campsites with only fresh, cold mountain water?