Salient. An Organ of Student Opinion at Victoria College, Wellington, N.Z. Vol. 1, No. 18 August 3, 1938
Peter and Wendy Haus,Hirschegg, bel Oberstdorf, in Allgan, Germany,
This address looks rather complicated but it is our skiing hut (euphemistically called "chalet") up the side of the Henberg (a mountain) and it is even more complicated as one never knows whether it is in Austria or Germany (particularly now they are joined). Actually we are across the official boundary and in Austria, but the official boundary is so impossible for administrative purposes that the Germans administer this valley and the customs and administrative boundary is further up (It rather shows up the brilliant boundary drawing at Versailles), yet you buy Austrian stamps and (worse luck) pay Austrian postage rates on letters. We came out here just a day or two after Hitler had marched into Austria and found the Germans very excited about it and pleasantly amazed that there had not been more violent opposition from England. Despite Hitler's message to Mussolini assuring him that he had no designs on the South Tyrol, there were many excited rumours flying round that Mussolini was going to give them back the South Tyrol: the individual Germans are far from regarding the Brenner as a natural boundary: the South Tyrol they still call a "bleeding sore."
This place, I am told, is usually full of English people, but they have been frightened away this year by the march into Austria and so we are surrounded by Germans, but very pleasant skiing Germans [unclear: o] very now and again German bombers zoom overhead, and troops of Hitler [unclear: fliige] march in formation up the valley singing songs. Even in this [unclear: t] over-civilised mountain valley it you visit one of the local villages you frequently hear a loudspeaker blaring out at the local population. Sometimes it is just a speech from Berlin, sometimes it is a travelling van from Berlin advertising X's sunburn cream.
Back in London again before I could finish this off, and the mail leaves to-morrow.
It has been a marvellous holiday. Twenty-four hours' (continuous) travelling to get from there to London is not exactly comfortable, especially when you spend some 18 of these hours on the hard wooden benches that Germans seem to think good enough for seats. You have no idea what absolute luxury it seems to get on to the southern railway sunshine. My nose of course peeled at once and my face is as dark as it has ever been. The difficult thing about skiing is turning, for on the steeper slopes you have to twist and turn about to keep your speed under control at all; however, I picked up rather shakily one or two versions of stem and Christie turns from Dover to London, where you sink into nice soft cushions that spare the bruises of skiing and attempting to sleep on hard boards. Both going out and coming back we spent the night in the train between Koln and about Ulm or later. Very few got any sleep: the most comfortable place in the train is easily the luggage rack: not being an old campaigner I wasn't quick enough to grab a luggage rack on the way out and so spent the night on the floor as being. If anything, slightly preferable to a seat. However, on the way back I made certain of a luggage rack and by dint of a certain amount of padding got several hours' sleep. The party was very jolly: we learned a lot of German songs and there were several well-trained voices who did some part-singing one or two nights, and we had many thoroughly good evenings playing various sorts of games, old dances, modern dances, everything, even Sir Roger de Coverley for the benefit of some German spectators. Several of them could play instruments, concertinas, mouth organs, pipes, etc. That is one particularly strong contrast between New Zealand students and English ones, that the English have far more varied attainments in these odd little ways.
For the first ten days we had absolutely solid sunshine, bright, burning though I still fall over with them as often as they come off. It seems jolly funny at first on skis; they run about all over the place and you can't stop them however much you concentrate on them; then later, doing turns, you are taught to do everything with your shoulders and hips and forget about the skis altogether—look after the shoulders and the skis look after themselves sort of idea.
On the fine days we would either practice on the slopes near the hut in the morning, eat, and then go for a ski down to one of the villages in the valley, tea and dance, and then walk back for dinner—or go for a tour on ski to one of the neighbouring vantage points, carrying our ski up If the ways were steep, picnic, lunch, and then running down. It was absolutely ideal; it is a marvellous position when you just put your ski on at the hut and ski right down over very different types of slopes, first sleep, then long and even, practically right on to the village main street.
The last four days it snowed practically continuously. We stayed inside for a while, but when it became lighter wo did a bit in the soft powdery snow, which is completely different to ski on, but all good experience I suppose. Now back in London, and I must get some thesis done.
I suppose it was a fairly historic time to be right on the border of Germany and Austria (two days after Hitler's march) and the Germans were fairly (not hilariously) excited, but we were too busy skiing to do much about it.