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The First Seventy Years: Chapter 56 - Home Again

Eric Biddulph and his family arrive back in Britain after the road trip of a lifetime.

The summit of Mount Ararat at 5165 metres dominated the skyline as we approached the border crossing. It is traditionally famous, according to Genesis, as the place where Noah's Ark came to rest after the floods. Heading westward into Turkey we passed through the city of Erzurum en-route to Trabzon on the Black Sea.

We followed the coast road for several hundred kilometres. Eventually we took the road to Ankara passing over the mountain range separating it from the sea. A few pleasant days were spent sightseeing; the bazaar being one of the highlights. It was a day's drive to Istanbul. Crossing the River Bosporus Asia was finally left behind.
We had re-entered the European continent after more than three years absence. Eight percent of Turkish territory lies in Europe. Istanbul's main attractions; the bazaar and the Blue Mosque lie on the western side of the river. It was whilst we were sightseeing in the city that I noticed large photographs on the front pages of all the newspapers showing explosions and devastation. Although I did not understand the language I realised something big had happened. I gradually managed to piece together what momentous events had taken place. Egypt had attacked Israel in what came to be known as the Yom Kippur War. The whole of the Arab world appeared to have been drawn into the conflict. Events subsequently did take a turn for the worst so far as the West and most of the rest of the world was concerned. At this point we remained blissfully unaware of how events would eventually shape up.

Although beginning to suffer travel fatigue we were still very much in 'journey of a lifetime' mood. It was with some trepidation that I drove towards the Greek border. Relations between the two countries had been strained for many years over the island of Cyprus. I had learned that border crossing could be refused at any time. Yet again, as with the India-Pakistan border, luck was on our side. We had, after some eight thousand kilometres of travelling in countries with varying degrees of adherence to Islam, finally reached a predominantly Christian country.

Following the coastal road we reached the port city of Thessaloniki. After setting up camp for a couple of nights we let Paul and Jane enjoy the still warm waters of the Aegean Sea. We were now entering into a period of fairly rapid border crossings. The first was into what, in 1973, was still called Yugoslavia. I now know that we actually entered Macedonia, proceeding to its capital Skopje; scene of a devastating earthquake a few years earlier.

Passing through Pristina and Mitrovica, both names that came to haunt us during the 1990s, we travelled through Kosovo skirting the border with Albania. Dubrovnik, in what is today Croatia, was a wonderful experience of a mediaeval walled city with a dominating view over the Adriatic Sea. Proceeding up the coast we continued to enjoy the Dalmatian Coast.

Soon after crossing into Italy we entered Trieste. Surprise; surprise, what do I see in the harbour? MV Asia, the ship which carried us across the Indian Ocean. Trieste did not have an Italian feel to it. This is no doubt, due to it having been part of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire before being ceded to Italy at the end of the First World War. A short drive brought us to Venice. Having never previously visited we spent a few days sightseeing.

We were now feeling ready to put our feet on British soil. Following the motorway route across Northern Italy we entered Switzerland. Passing over the winding and steep Great St Bernard Pass we passed through Lucerne and Basle.

A few kilometres into France I was forced to brake sharply when a lady riding a mobylette suddenly slowed down and proceeded to make a left turn without signalling. Bang! The car behind, being driven by a Frenchman rammed us. The bootlid sprang open and subsequently had to be tied down for the remainder of the journey. Exchanging names and addresses I did not expect anything to come of it so I was pleasantly surprised when a few months later I received a cheque for the cost of the repair.

On to Paris; our first visit since our honeymoon some eleven years before. We set up camp a few kilometres from the centre. We delayed driving up to Calais for a few days to let Jane and Paul savoir the charms of the French capital. We cross the English Channel by hovercraft, our first and only journey by this means of transport. Arriving in Dover we book into the youth hostel. It is 1 November 1973. Phone our parents in Nottingham. The following morning we hit the A2 en-route for London. The Ml beckons. Two hours later we pull into Trowell Services where the family is waiting for us. The end of a momentous journey. One hundred and eight days; twenty thousand kilometres; Blantyre Malawi to Nottingham England. Truly an experience that has remained with me to this day.


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