In 1979, Pentecost fell on the first Sunday of June (June 3). That’s because Easter wasn’t until mid-April that year, and Pentecost is fifty days after Easter (the word is derived from ‘the fiftieth [day]’ in Greek). Since June 13 is the latest possible date for Pentecost to occur, we were well along that year.
And in Switzerland, the Pentecostal holiday lasted for five days, beginning on Thursday, or on May 31 in 1979. For those of us who were students at the Université de Fribourg that year, it was a sweet holiday toward the end of what was a truly memorable year abroad. Five days off! Of course, few of us had enough money for train travel, but hitchhiking was accepted, especially if done in pairs. Most girls knew enough not to hitch alone. Two girls had a greater chance of being picked up. Sometimes it seems absurd that we’d done this, but times were different. Really, they were.
My pal Peter and I decided, like most students in our group, to head south, to the French Riviera, where our journey had begun the previous September in Nice. The general idea was to take a train from Fribourg to Geneva, head out to where the autoroute began, and hope for a long ride by a kind driver. One of our friends advised taking a different route, however. It’s better and more scenic to travel on the secondary roads, he said. And we believed him.
It took two days and nearly twenty rides to get to Saint-Raphaël, along the Côte d’Azur in southern France. But once there, we were richly rewarded, with pristine beaches, hot sun, sweet oranges, and a nightly fish soup that was recommended to us by a very dear friend.
And fortunately, on the way back home, we were picked up by a young couple in Citroën 2CV who brought us all the way back to Fribourg (via the autoroute).