Before graduation we were asked to provide a list of preferred postings to the Armed Forces. I asked for Germany, Montreal and Quebec City. They split the difference and I was sent to Halifax. A trend that would follow my requests. As I have told it was, in fact an enjoyable experience. In fact when I arrived in Summerside Prince Edward Island I think I might have liked to settle there. But, I was at the Dental Corp’s beckon call and they needed a bilingual dentist at Canadian Forces Base St Hubert. This is an Air base on the South shore of Montreal, off the Island of Montreal . It is also Army HQ. So I set off a little over a year after graduation, back to where I started, in Montreal. Again I had the real pleasure of serving with a great clinic crew, dentists, hygienists, assistants and a wonderful laboratory staff. All added to the professional knowledge that serves me still.
           And of course the legendary night life of Montreal was a welcome return bonus as well. On one excursion to down town Montreal I met a gal whose brother was the president of the Montreal Irish Rugby Club. I had played a season in Halifax with the Navy so I was really pleased to get in with one of North America’s most renowned clubs both on the field and socially. I honed my skills, such as they were and I managed to make the first team no less. I was quite fit and my football experience helped. I was asked to play on the “thirds , or Turds, as the Irish pronounced it. The game was at 10 AM or so and at another club grounds. I had a fun match and when we went back to the club in St Julie ( Near Montreal) I was asked to play for the firsts. I cringe when I think back to two rugby matches in one day. As I have mentioned this , I was quite fit J . I persuaded my rough and tumble travel buddy Rick into joining the team and we both were a presence on the Montreal Irish “Firsts”. In fact at one spring team trail, euphemistically called the “Club friendlies” , Rick and I were placed on opposing teams. On one line out, where the ball is thrown into the field from the sidelines in a “face off” like play, Rick and I got into a bit of a shoving match which quickly degenerated into a few punches being thrown. The potential violence was kind of defused when the players stood around and laughed at how lifelong friends could get into it during “The club friendlies” ( Pronounced 'cloub', in Irish dialect). It is interesting note that this was my sole “fight” in my adult years. A few other “Discussions” between other players broke out during the “friendly match”.
           Rugby was a  great sport and social venue. A friend, originally from Argentina, told me that the saying was , “Soccer is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans and rugby is a hooligan’s game played by gentlemen”. Kind of a bow to the British class system, in a small way. Regardless it was a great experience. The most vigorously contended match would always end in the club house over one or 10 beers J . I often got into discussions with more skilled opponents and learned some of the rules I was not really trained in. I also was impressed with during one match one of our lads was yakking at the ref. Our captain came over and said “If I hear one more word out of you, you are out of the game” . Imagine showing respect for the ref. A concept so many sports could learn from. I still look back on my time with the Montreal Irish as a gem socially and physically.

             During my time in St Hubert I managed two trips, on temporary duty, to Goose Bay Labrador, as I have described. As well I attended a wonderful three week periodontal surgical course. It was directed by Lt/Col Lee Reynolds. It was about the soft tissue management of the oral environment. A real advantage of life as a dentist ,in the Canadian Forces, was the mentorship one experienced. This course involved theoretical and actual clinical surgical experience. As a side benefit Lt/ Col Paul Sills gave us a half day on clinical denture design. This was an experience I still apply to my professional practice. Wonderful mentors. Both have passed on but their legacy remains with me and so many others. R.I.P.

           After the course at Base Borden in the Royal Canadian Dental Corps School , I had arranged for a one month holiday leave session. I was the master of the $2 flight to Europe and I had put my name in two weeks before. Early feedback was that I was on the flight I had signed up for. So off I went for my third trip to Europe. I spent a few days in Lahr Germany at our NATO base. I had a few friends and we spent some time sampling the lovely wines of the region. I am far from being a sommelier but I can see where it would be such a satisfying profession. One fellow told us of some of his experiences on a wine tour. Real connoisseurs sample wines from various sides of the hills on which the wines in the Black Forest thrived. If the sun was particularly brilliant in the grape growing season, a wine from the more shaded side might be of a better vintage. If there was a lot of rain that season , in fact too much, then wine from plantings further up the hill side might be more favorable. I won’t attempt to go into the permutations and combinations; but, weather, placement of the vines time of harvest, all add up to make distinct differences in the wines. Bouquet, body and a number of characteristics to which I can only nod in agreement, when presented to me J . I also learned about ice wine.
Ice wine (or ice-wine; German Eiswein) is a type of dessert wine produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the vine. The sugars and other dissolved solids do not freeze, but the water does, allowing a more concentrated grape must to be pressed from the frozen grapes, resulting in a smaller amount of more concentrated, very sweet wine.
       The Niagara Peninsula, in Ontario has developed a world class wine industry, and since Canada can tend to be cold at times J , our ice wine now wines international recognition and prizes. It is a thicker and sweeter wine. Also very expensive, a must sip type of wine J

           When I travel I never really make detailed plans, as I have been known to change them at the last minute if someone gives me some information I was not aware of. When people ask where I am going I often said, with variances ,” People are talking about Switzerland”, in this case. I was rather proud of myself as I had decided to travel to Switzerland by train. The previous day I called the station and made a reservation in German. And lo and behold, when I got to the station a reservation in my name , to the right destination was being held. To paraphrase JFK, “Ich Bin Ein Berlitzer”
          Only one small problem. I was new at taking the train in Europe. I could have made a complete trip reservation to Geneva. Instead I figured I would get to Basel Bad, make another reservation and go from there. I got off at Basel Bad not realizing that Basel was in fact across town. Interestingly the station is in Germany so I had to cross a border. After the border formalities I took a street car to the Basel station to get a Geneva train. Oh well I was learning which is part of the fun in my adventures . I found a tram station, checked out the map and waited till the correct tram came by. I asked , while on the tram, where I would buy my ticket. A Swiss passenger laughed and said, “You are supposed to buy them before you get on”. when in Basel  I guess on should do what the Swiss do J . I was told I could be fined if discovered without a ticket. But all went well ( St Pesmo again thanks) .
       In the Basel train station I bought a ticket to Geneva and learned another lesson. A train came in and it said, “Geneve/ Genf. My train; but, I didn’t quite notice the TGV after the destination tag. So I found a nice seat and was all set for my trip to Geneva. Well almost the conductor took exception with my ticket. It seem TGV means “High Speed Train” . Read.... "you have to pay more." J I was a bit befuddled. But the efficient conductor explained without a smile that I had to pay a few francs more. Another lesson learned. Hell I had been in Switzerland less than an hour and I had cheated the tram and was now a scoundrel on the train.. J . I guess I had broken even.
        It was a fast trip through some lovely scenery, as I had expected. In Geneva I found a nice small hotel and set out to check out the town. It is a bureaucratic town full of international types there on UN agency missions. One organization was the International Telecommunications Union, which hosts a ham radio station. 4U1ITU was their call. I had spoken with this station a few times and I was quite excited when they let me operate the station. Ham radio was a particularly exciting hobby for me. I got to meet people from around the world on a common basis. One could be talking to a king, such as King Hussein of Jordan whom I once heard on; but, never “worked” , to just ordinary people like myself. A great equalizer. A nice time at 4U1ITU. and one that I chalked up in my ham log
           Geneva is a pretty town, not a Paris; but ,sort of exotic in it’s ”Europeaness” if I can be excused a bit of naiveté. I went to a few pubs but it was a conservative atmosphere , which in itself was distinctive. In one restaurant I was looking about, as is my habit, and I noticed a man kind of checking me out. As I said I am not adverse to gays; but, I am a bit on the straight side and this was a first...he seemed to be making a pass at me. Strange, as I kind of became uncomfortable; but, I figured it was just my imagination. But, as I got up to leave I noticed him following me, so I did my best quick trick and hiked quickly around a corner and into an alley where I kind of hid in the shadows. Likely no real threat but hey...:)

        The next day I was wandering about and I noticed an advert for a ski holiday, CLUB SOLEIL. I enquired and was told the package was organized by a company who had reserved a specific number of accommodations at an area in the Berneroberland area of Switzerland in the town of Lenk. The package included 5 nights in a colourful older hotel, three meals a day and ski lifts in the Alps. For a total of $70 for 5 days. Today a small meal would cost you $70. I was thrilled and bought the trip. It involved a train from Geneva with two transfers. The times were set out and I was told they were precise, if a train was slated to arrive at 10:28 Am and the transfer left at 10:42, there was no slack time, get off and on post haste. period.

    At Lenk I was met by someone from the tour group and taken to my hotel. A quaint little hotel that had been a Spa. It was called the Kurs Hotel ( Kurs meaning Cures). It was an older; but,  very tidy hotel, I had my own room and a bed with what seemed like a foot thick down comforter. The room was narrow but about 3 meters high and had a door onto a balcony. I had a note on the bed that the group was meeting at 5 PM. There were 12 of us in the group , people from Italy France and Switzerland. I felt quite the international traveler. A few were of the female variety not so bad at all J
      Bobby was our tour leader, he was fluent in English German and French. The group was a variety of languages and during the evening get togethers, which were arranged as part of the tour, one would often be chatting in French, turn to another person and be reminded they only spoke German. In Switzerland most of the German speaking people spoke French but the reverse was not always the case. Coming from Canada where few English people spoke French but most French speakers , spoke English . I felt at home J Some German Swiss were not happy with this one sided language ability.
      The trip to Lenk was actually my first “social” visit with Europeans. I had met many Europeans , ‘en passant’ in my trips but this was different and enjoyably so. Every night the Club Soleil group would meet and socialize in one form or other, a fondue, a wine and cheese evening or just a round table chit chat. This will sound a bit strange; but, I was a bit intimidated by the “sophisticated” Europeans. All in my imagination; but, for instance, when it came to wine tasting they seemed to know what to look for, the aroma, the body etc of the wine. I on the other hand tended to distinguish if it was red or white wine . J I should have spent more time in Lahr Germany honing my wine skills J
       To put it bluntly I had the savoir faire of an awkward teen. I think I missed a few social cues from the young ladies in the group. One time I recall seeing some Swedish women looking at me, I kind of figured they were pegging me for the village rube J But as the weeks wore on I came out of my shell and fitted in more. Not that I was ever a wall flower, but hey just a crazy Canuck…
     The skiing in the Berner Oberland Alps was a dream experience, it was sunny the two weeks I stayed there ( I signed up for an extra 2 days and then 5 more) The runs were excellent and the chair lifts were something I had never experienced to that point. After 2 days I was told we could get a meal ticket and have lunch at one of several hillside restaurants. So a full day on the hills from about 8 till 4 PM. I also took ski lessons, it was a small group of 6 to 10 and our instructor was Ferdinand Balzinger. He was a German Swiss but spoke excellent French. He had only met one group of Canadians before and they were RCAF personnel from the Canadian NATO Base in Baden Baden Germany. He told me he liked the fact they were last in the bars at night and first on the hills in the morning. My kind of people. The Swiss are a lovely people; but, very conservative so many seemed to take a shine to the more outgoing Canadians. After three days of lessons Mr. Balzinger and his wife joined me at the hotel for a bottle of wine and some pleasant conversation. In a small skiing village a senior instructor is a respected person and the fact that Mr. Balsinger came to meet me one evening raised my status in the hotel. He was really an excellent instructor and I became the teacher’s pet. He almost neglected the others to give me individual attention. In five minutes he corrected a problem I had in turning . Advice I still use to this day. Merci Ferdinand, danke.

      I have to be honest bear with me. In dental school I was elected “Class social chairman” after a spring formal ,where I took a rather lovely as my date. At class elections a classmate got up and said, “Hey did you see the gal Mike took to the formal, there is only one guy for our social chairman J At Christmas of 4th year I organized a wine and cheese party. The party was after clinical lab time and on an empty stomach. I tended to get a bit too close to the wine. Hey the sins of one’s youth etc J In fact I drank 20 glasses of wine that first hour…Okay not smooth but I think it may have been a bad batch as I kind of got violently ill. <Said he with no expectation anyone would believe him.> Man how do we survive our youth ?  I often wonder. The sins weighed on me for several years. My brother and I would often visit my parents on weekends, in a Montreal suburb . He would bring a fine wine and I couldn’t even look at it J
         Well one evening the Club Soleil group met for a wine and cheese. I was not too eager but someone offered me a nice Swiss white wine. Apparently it is rarely exported as they produce so little of it. One sip and my “fear” of wine was cured. It was a fine full bodied but not overpowering, white wine. I was far short of 20 glasses and my self induced “allergies” to wine were cured. I also made some new friends as my rather limiting view of my Canadian awkwardness was disappearing. We walked back to the hotel through the village and it was evident a storm was brewing. Now I have always tended to like to sleep with a window open, till I got married and my warm blooded wife ended that J In the mornings in winter I would throw the accumulated snow, on the floor, out the window. In the hotel in Lenk I had a balcony with a nice big door. I always kept it open at night. The bed had a very thick down comforter so I always had a warm and restful sleep.

       The next day my new Swiss friends came to get me up for breakfast and as I got up I noticed that indeed a storm had struck and snow was driven about 2 meters into the room. My friends got a real kick out of it and as I scurried about the hotel to get a shovel and some brooms the word spread that the Canadian had snow in his room. As I was cleaning out the snow several staff from the hotel came to apologize for the fact that the door had blown open. When I explained that I, in fact, like to sleep with the door open, the word got out and I became a legend at the hotel. So much for the sophisticate Canadian but the gals seemed to figure I was worth a second look. Arctic Mike and all J
         During my stay I had a great time practicing my German and coming to realize that people are in fact people. Something I felt; but, something I was learning to a greater depth. My stay in Lenk was heartwarming, even with snow in the room J

I took a train back to Geneva and I still had 2 weeks left on my holidays. For some reason I decided that a trip to Spain seemed like a good idea. I left my skis at the hotel and booked a train to Barcelona. This time I had the right trains figured out and didn’t have to pay the extra TGV fare J

      I guess it goes back to my history studies in High school; but, the trip to Spain was something I was looking forward to. Quite a contract from the snow in the Alps and actually the first time I had ever been in a country where I could not speak the language. Actually Puerto Rico was Spanish speaking; but, being a US Territory many spoke English. Spain was still under the strong rule of Generalissimo Franco and the border crossing was interesting. Not quite what I had seen on the way to Berlin but tighter than in other European crossings. Our luggage was opened and most items checked. And a few of the people on the train had magazines which were not allowed in. These were what we used to euphemistically call “adult” magazine, or more commonly “skin books “ J . I still wonder if they were destroyed or…ah..taken home for deeper study .
        Barcelona was intriguing. I understand that most people now speak English; but, at that time Spanish was the lingua franca. Catalan is in fact the language of the Catalonia region of Spain but during the Franco times it was suppressed. I was kind of outside this internal dispute in my travels. Barcelona is said to date back t 3BC in some reports. It has influences going back to Phoenicia, Greece and Rome. As such it is humbling to walk streets that may have seen several millennia in different incarnations. The Olympics of 1992 revised much of the city and it is now a major tourist destination
       I have since learned Spanish as a result of feeling a bit out of the main stream; but, then I was using a lot of sign language. I went to one café and the menu was in Spanish on a chalk board. I figured knowing French would be a good start but….the café was called Café Matias, and for two days I feasted on the “Especial Matias” , the Matias Special. A rice and meat ball dish which was quite good. But, in a short while I braved a few questions, I would point at an item in the buffet style counter and asked what I figured was the proper question. In fact I was asking “What is its’ name” But I got a good shot of a few new items. And Spanish wine was wonderful. Now that I had overcome my “fear” of wine , as I mentioned in my Swiss adventure J
      Barcelona had a number of very special places. Las Ramblas is a series of streets off the Ramblas main street in the center of the city . It is a popular tourist attraction; but, many Barcelonans as well , spend time there. During my initial stay in Barcelona I enjoyed a number of nice restaurants and bars in this region.
       At the train station when I arrived a man, who owned a bed and breakfast , approached me asking if I had a place to stay. It turned out to be a great spot, more like an apartment. Clean and friendly and pleasant. In fact one of my first B&B’s, they call it a pensione. Breakfast wasn’t quite my usual fare. I had grown used to the small European breakfasts and so it was not a total surprise. The coffee was excellent, they served it from two pots, one with coffee the other warm milk. Again , a bit of local atmosphere. I met a fellow Canadian at breakfast and we set off to tour Barcelona. He was originally from the UK and still had a British accent. He was as interested in Spain as I was so it was a great union in which we fed off each other’s enthusiasm. We went to sight see up the small hill side.
       I had heard about Antoni Gaudi’s Cathedral and what I heard was even short of what I expected. It is really hard to adequately describe what can only be called a three dimensional work of genius. Not all agree with my assessment , The Church of the Holy Family , Sagrada Família, was begun in 1882, Gaudi assumed control of the design in 1883. It is a UNESCO heritage site and has been recognized by Pope Benedict as minor basilica status. It is expected to be completed in 2020 and will be the largest church in the world when this monument is completed.
This description from Wikipedia says it best. “The style of la Sagrada Família is variously likened to Spanish Late Gothic, Spanish Baroque and to Art Nouveau. While la Sagrada Família falls within the Art Nouveau period, known as "Modernisme" in Spain, Nikolaus Pevsner points out that, along with Charles Rennie Macintosh in Glasgow, Gaudi carried the Art Nouveau style far beyond its usual application as a surface decoration.
      I have spoken with some pride of my ability to sleep when and where it suits me. After wandering about the Cathedral site for a couple of hours I told my friend that I needed a mental break and I sat on a nearby bench and managed to get a nice 20 minute nap. This was not meant as an insult to this wonderful work of art; but ,in fact it was my intent to allow my overloaded mind to regroup. This was the pre-computer era, today we would call it defragmenting J As we walked through the neighborhood where the Cathedral was located, we came across an apartment that appeared to have had been influenced by the design of Gaudi. I never found out if it was in fact his design but it was also a treat for the eyes. Several balconies were each of a different outline.. One square, another rounded a third sweeping in wave like rails.


Again from Wikipedia: Tibidabo is a mountain overlooking Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. At 512 meters it is the tallest mountain in the Serra de Collserola. Rising sharply to the north-west, it affords spectacular views over the city and the surrounding coastline There is an amusement park, a telecommunications tower (Torre de Collserola), and a Catholic church, the Temple de Sagrat Cor, at the top, all of which are visible from most of the city.
      At Tibidabo my friend and I rode a kind of bucket at the end of a rotating pole. Kind of similar to the lifts one sees with hydro repair projects. Not the most secure ride I have ever taken but a nice view of the city.
           Back at the hotel / pensione my friend suggested I go with him to meet his brother in Malaga, in southern Spain. I still had some 10 days left so it seemed like a good idea. Did I mention I never make concrete plans J The next day we made our way to the station and bought 4 bottles of wine along the way. It was interesting as the wine was tapped right from the keg, none of this liquor store stuff for these wine loving people. I asked the price and I understood that it was the equivalent of 70 cents per bottle, which at the time was a bargain. In my limited Spanish I asked “Each ?” ..”No for four” Man I was in heaven, some fine Spanish wine for about 20 cents a bottle. As I mentioned I had overcome my “fear of wine” in Switzerland. So we boarded and Ole we went south.
         We met some similar minded people and before long we were into wine tasting mode. One thing we over looked. The water on the train was apparently not drinkable so after many sips we were a bit eager for some water. But we had to wait till our first stop where we eagerly hit the soft drink machine. Not the last time I would be faced with a scarcity of water in my travels J
          We got to Malaga and found my friend’s brother, again another nice social circle. The group we mingled with came from all over the world. And many tales of travels were shared. One young fellow told me about Morocco, which I would visit a few years later. No problems of the world were solved but we sure had some nice conversations. I was invited to join my friend and his brother at their “residence”; but, there were no free beds except one which was outside. Hey no problem I am Canadian and love the cold ( remember the snow in the room in Switzerland…? ) Well it turns out snow in a room when one is under a down comforter is almost luxury compared to a night on a bed with only my coat to keep me warm. So when day broke I set out to find a real hotel  I ran into one of my new friends from the previous evening. He was from the US and was also looking for a hotel. So we found a hotel which charged $2 each…hey I am a big flyer. My new roomy was on a voyage of self discovery and he told me at great length how he was he was becoming a new person. His sincerity was quite moving and when we parted a few days later he seemed to have come up another peg. It is always nice to see people who introspect. It is a gift we can all work on. A group of us went to Toremolinas, which is a short bus ride west of Malaga. At this time it was a very much , British get away center. Some people found this boring; but, even a British influence in Spain was something intriguing to me. Between pubs and fish and chip shops one could mistake it for a UK seaside town. All in all I enjoyed my stay and even got into a few conversations about nothing in particular in several of the pubs we visited
      There were fond farewells all around when I left Malaga. Unfortunately I lost my addresses from my stay and I never contacted any of these people again to follow up on their travels. A shame really as there were some rather interesting types in this journey. This is what I refer to as my “hippy “ part of the travel. They were not really hippies; but, like minded people who were out to learn about the world in a fun way. And often an imaginative way in meeting locals and taking in local habitats.
     My train took me to Cordoba where I spent three hours wandering about in an historical city. Cordoba's diverse history has left behind an array of splendid sacred sites reflecting its various cultures. The most notable of these is the Mezquita, a unique combination of cathedral and mosque. Cordoba is also home to a splendid synagogue carved with Andalusian-style decoration and Hebrew texts. Cordoba was also a major seat of Jewish learning in the Middle Ages, and although few Jews have returned to the city since their forced exile from Spain in 1492, the historic Jewish Quarter of Cordoba remains well preserved. I only had three hours to visit so much of interest that I relied on a tour book and did a quick walking tour. As always I felt in a trance as I wandered about. Not in a negative sense; but ,in a deep almost spiritual sense. I was a witness to history , or at least the reflection of history and many influences. Some, such as the exile of the Jews and Moors evoked a sad emotion. But, again I felt privileged to see this in the rather safe confines of a modern environment. My all too brief visit came to a quick end ;but ,the beauty and charm of this city left a lasting warm spot in my heart.
     On the train to Barcelona I shared my third class cabin with 7 other people. I always traveled third class. The main reason is that basically I am a cheap bastard J but, again I discovered warm people to share a day with. My train coach colleagues were  Spanish and I did not speak Spanish nor they English. So it was close to 24 hours of sign language and printed diagrams. It was a great time. Again I experienced the warmth of local hospitality. If they brought out a sandwich or another food morsel I was given the first bite as it were. I feel I may have been the first Canadian they had ever met so I was a bit of a curiosity. With our limited formal vocabularies we still managed to have a nice time. They knew Canada was ‘cold” or “frio”, one of few words I knew J . One lad was only 16, His father was particularly proud that he was apprenticing in construction. I gathered it was seasonal employment but they all seemed happy to be able to provide for their families. We bid each other a fond farewell at the Barcelona train station and I made my way back to the pension , ( B&B) where I had stayed. I reflected on the trip to Malaga, the “neat” people I met who were fellow travelers, and the sights and sounds I had seen . Not the least of which was my 2 day shared train coach with the construction workers who again showed me the real purpose of travel. Meet people and appreciate the difference and more importantly what we have in common.
     The trip back to Lahr Germany went quickly. When I got back to the Base in St Hubert ( Montreal) I was given the great news that I had been selected to be the dental officer in the Canadian Contingent in the UN Peace Force in Cyprus. This was a dream come true. I was to actually be “paid” to live in a foreign land. I know that may sound a bit trite way to put it but the thought of working in a foreign land was something I had hoped for since I joined the Service. I read up about the island including a great book called “Biter Lemons” by author Lawrence Durrell. It gave me an outsiders view of Cyprus. Including the complex ritual of bartering that would serve me well during my stay on the Island. When I arrived in Cyprus I often mentally referred back to this book. It was to be an adventure of a life time with some great side trips. I left for Cyprus in July of 1971. I played a few more matches with the Montreal Irish; but, I must admit I was a bit cautious as a broken arm or leg might just interfere a tad with my posting to Cyprus J . My dear mother was a tad worried, and as a parent I could relate years later. But, an uncle who was a career Army member assured her it was a safe posting . Uncle Bob Sutherland was the Royal Canadian Artillery “Master Gunner” a title that was an honorary recognition of his long time service and knowledge. It is interesting to note that when I was set to leave Montréal I did the usual base clearances, to assure that all and any paper work followed me. Pay, mail , medical records etc. I went to the section on the base where my furniture storage was to be organized. For some reason there were no provisions for a single officer. I was told I could not keep it in my room as the quarters were slated for renovation and the Forces would not store it. Somehow there were no provisions for my status as a single officer who was leaving. As good fortune would have it the base movements officer took charge and assured me my belongings would be moved and stored at Forces expense. Thanks God for people who think outside the box. After I arrived in Cyprus. I did received a telex telling me all was covered  I was set to hit the road. First a month of holidays in Europe then on to Cyprus.