'A wonderful world' MY FAVORITE PLACES

PERSONAL JOURNEYS

July 19, 1998|By JANET KUSTERER | JANET KUSTERER,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

My son David puts on his Louis Armstrong CD, and suddenly I am 20 again, listening to that marvelous, gravelly voice celebrating "What a Wonderful World" it is while I sit and blissfully soak up the ambience of - where was I, anyway?

It was August 1968, and with five college friends I was visiting Europe for the first time - on a standard "If it's Tuesday this must be Belgium" whirlwind (in fact, the cast of that movie actually traveled with our group on one leg of the trip).

Six young women who usually summered in Ocean City - and all of whom lived at home while attending college - suddenly on their own, immersed in the glories of London, Paris, Rome and Berlin, however fleetingly. We had spent the winter analyzing travel brochures and newspaper ads until we came up with the ultimate - seven countries in 22 days.

Energetic, although clueless, we knew that this was the trip for us. Another attractive feature was that the trip cost $730, including many meals - a deal even then. Three hundred dollars in spending money was quite enough for three weeks of theater, food, sightseeing and souvenirs.

We would fly between major cities, thereby theoretically saving time as compared with a bus trip. It explains a lot to mention that none of us had ever flown before - but we were 20, remember? I'm surprised, in retrospect, that air travel went so smoothly for us. Only one flight was canceled, and we managed the alternate bus ride from Milan to Venice with good grace, complaining only that our first meal in Italy was roast turkey at a truck stop - while our tour guide ate pasta.

Oh, yes - I haven't mentioned the tour guide yet. Jens was the key to the success of our trip. Twenty-seven and German, he promised not to let us sleep for three weeks. We didn't, and gloried in it. He was a pied piper, reveling in our pleasures and encouraging new adventures - like eating onion soup in Paris at 2 a.m. and partying at flamenco shows in Madrid. Of course, we all fell in love with him.

I know I heard Louis sing and agreed that the world was wonderful, but can't pinpoint the location. Was it in the pub in Cork where I managed to down only an inch of stout in approximately three hours, or at Tivoli Park in Copenhagen where we heard American music and felt fleetingly homesick? Perhaps it was on top of Mount Pilatus in Luzerne, where it snowed in August, or on a radio blaring out of a window in Venice as we floated by in a gondola.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of that trip. The photos are starting to fade, and the messages on the postcards that I have saved seem written by another person, but I still remember those three weeks as the threshold of my adulthood, a milestone in my life.

Janet Kusterer lives in Ellicott City.

Betty Rippel, Ellicott City

"This park - three miles southeast of Hanover, Pa., on state Route 216 - is one of the best-kept secrets. Year-round recreation here includes camping, hiking, swimming, fishing, hunting, cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and boating on sparkling Lake Marburg with its 26 miles of shoreline. We've sailed here for six summers."

Bennard Perlman, Baltimore

"One of our favorite spots was the Design Museum. Lovers of well-conceived household items will have their spirits buoyed by the stunning modernity, the clean lines of everything from tableware, chairs, radios and televisions to vacuum cleaners, microwaves, washers and refrigerators."

Volcano towers over forests; MY BEST SHOT

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