The 1984 tourists

The Hill Club's 1982 and 1984 Continental Tours

These articles by Dale Vargas first appeared in the Eton Fives Association Annual Report 1981/82 and 1983/84

Having introduced the Art of Coarse Fives to England during the last three years, the idea was advanced at one of the Clubs apres-tournamant soirees, of letting Europe in on this innovation to the ancient game.

Some weeks later eight club members were found who had no recollection of events of that night. They were duly informed that they had, indeed, agreed to join this expeditionary party and all had been arranged, so would they now hand over the tour money they had promised on that fateful night.

On a Friday evening in July eight Players (?) duly set off from "The Castle", first stop being Epsom Downs, for champagne. After all, the team had been 'on the road' for at least 25 minutes! Dover was reached, the Channel crossed, followed by an all night drive to Freiburg in the Black Forest where that day and evening were spent relaxing in the usual Hill Club manner.

Next morning, at the peak of physical fitness, the team set off for Zurich where, after lunching with the Zuoz Club, Zurich, the afternoon was spent playing excellent Fives before adjourning to a superb barbecue party which was great fun.

The following day found us at Zuoz. 7,000 ft up. in the Engadine, ready to play the Lyceum Alpinum. Here, our previous altitude training at Harrow-on-the-Hill, (406 ft), ensured our success. Good matches were played by all, followed by a visit to St Moritz and a night of eating and drinking, Engadiner style, in Zuoz.

Three hours sleep. then via Liechtenstein and Austria. to Germany and to the City of Augsburg. There we were entertained to a fine lunch by the Prince and Princess Fugger-Babenhausen at their family home, Schloss Wellenburg. Then a most enjoyable afternoon playing Fives with the Prince at his court in the castle. We had by now been joined by a further Hill Club member to ensure that our complement of players was the usual odd number. A fine dinner in beautiful surroundings at the castle was then enjoyed by all.

A couple of hours sleep, then a six hour drive to play the Zuoz-Rhineland Club at their two newly-built courts in Dusseldorf. News of such an illustrious touring team had spread, for awaiting our arrival were camera crews from the ZDF and WDR German television channels. The match was duly played under the tensions of spectators and spotlights and to the Hill Club battle cries of. "Is my nose shiny!": "Can I wave to Mum!", and "I hope they take my best side!" A tremendous game was played by all but the deprivations and hardships already suffered by the tourists slowly took their toll and the match was narrowly lost. However, recovery was rapid and an entertaining evening followed at the Rhine Drinking Fair.

The next two days were spent sampling the hostelries of Cologne and Monshau in the Eifel, before heading home to Harrow, so ending a thoroughly enjoyable week. Our thanks to all our hosts for making it such a memorable tour, especially to Werner Ahrens in Zurich: Roger Myrsep in Zuoz: Prince Fugger-Babenhausen in Augsberg and to Richard Dorrenberg in Dusseldorf and we conclude by misquoting the famous words of General MacArther in 1942 "We shall return!"

The Hill Club's 1984 Continental Tour

In July the Hill Club spent a successful and enormously enjoyable ten days in West Germany, Switzerland and Austria on our second Continental Tour. We visited four centres: Dusseldorf, Rheinberg, Zuoz and Zurich, Furst Fugger-Babenhausen being away and unable to accommodate us this time at Augsburg. An unfortunate cricket injury to John Temple reduced the party to five shortly before departure. John Hammond flew up from Milan, David Elliott from Heathrow while the main party, Derek Palmer-Brown, Malcolm Gasper and Dale Vargas came by Hoverspeed and car to converge on the appointed bar in Dusseldorf for lunch. Refreshed by an afternoon nap we made our way to Hansa-Allee for our first match. The May Dorrenberg Company has had an unhappy time lately; there has been little play in the courts this season and their future must be in considerable doubt. We were therefore particularly pleased that Richard Dorrenberg, his brother Edward and Niki Muller should have turned out to play with us.

The trip to Rheinberg is just under the hour and it is something of a surprise to hit on this charming little town where the Underberg presence is all around. The sports ground of the Turn-und Sportverein club was given by Carl Underberg's father to the town. It has a Hockey and Soccer pitch, Athletics track and Tennis courts, the Fives court lying on the far side of the ground from the entrance and changing rooms. Our opponents and their friends, all in the 16 to 19 age range, came and went on their bicycles and scooters through the afternoon. There are some fifteen or so playing at Rheinberg and they are unique on the continent in that they have no connection with Zuoz. Considering how little competitive play they have, they performed pretty well, Wynfried Wunderlich and Oudo Frank looking the best of the bunch. We were pleased also that one of the two or three girls who have started playing joined in too. It was a beautiful afternoon and after playing for nearly four hours we were grateful to be guided in the direction of the Gasthof Prophet where Herr Ober made us extremely welcome, arranged rooms for us and served us an excellent meal. The Hill E.F.C. badge is now on display alongside that of the Zuoz Club and a pair of Fives gloves on the wall over the bar.

We took two days to drive south up the Rhine. After stops for sightseeing and refreshment we spent the night at Frankfurt. Next day, after a coffee break in Heidelberg we embarked on the long haul to the Swiss border, skirting Lake Konstanz past Lichtenstein and up into the Alps, over the Albula Pass, eerily silent even in summer, and finally into the Engadin Valley around 6.30. We made straight for the Lyceum and were delighted to run into Dirk Key, himself just arrived from Zurich, who booked us into his hotel and introduced us to the magic of Zuoz.

It is impossible to describe the atmosphere in the village on Old Boys' week end. We had imagined that we might be de trop and were anxious not to outstay our welcome but their warmth and hospitality were unbelievable. On the Friday morning we played a two pair match against the O.Zs: Benny Oei, Edward Dorrenberg, Hank Demmers and Thomas Geise. Then in the afternoon some six more games for each pair against and mixed with a variety of Zuoz boys. In the clear thin mountain air the ball seems to fly faster and rallies are shorter which is just as well as breathing is more difficult too. We were well tired after our efforts and impressed with the standard of some of the boys compared with two years ago, notably Mingming Fravi (son of the 'Doc') and Lennart Berg. (No doubt credit is due here to Messrs. Hughes and Lambert for their recent coaching).

In the evening we were guests at the Reception and Buffet at the Engiadina Hotel, welcomed by the President of the Old Boys' Association, Jean Francois Kurz in his speech and given a memorable evening.

On Saturday we went over the river to witness an unusual sight: that of four cricket matches being played between the Lyceum and O.Z. Limited over, artificial wickets, splendid barbecue lunch all to a backdrop of pine covered slopes and snow capped peaks. There we met Eddie Freitag, Carl Underberg, the Director of the Lyceum, Roger Myrsep and many others. Then on a trip of exploration east.....We drove through the afternoon to Garmisch, an attractive Bavarian town on the border. Sunday morning saw us up the Zugspitz, West Germany's highest mountain, by train and cable car but unfortunate weather made visibility zero.

On Sunday on to Saltzburg, surely one of the most beautiful cities in Europe. For many the attraction is of course the music festival but time was limited and, for The Hill, the chief interest was finding the Eton Fives court reputed to be in the grounds of tha Hotel Monstein. The evening visit brought no lunch at the Hotel but some advanced detection work (one of our number was formerly in the C.I.D.) and a chance meeting with the owner of the adjoining estate identified the court. The following morning we were allowed to examine it: now used as a wood store, it appeared to be in good condition and certainly authentic.

We then set off again for Zurich. After spending the night on the Austro-Swiss border we arrived mid-morning to be greeted by Werner Ahrens and Rita at their shop. It was a sweltering day. We were given cups of coffee and glasses of Spritzer in Werner's office behind the shop, itself decorated with pictures and posters of Fives memorabilia. After a short trip round Lake Zurich by ferry boat we eventually found our hotel and passed the heat of the day quietly saving our energies. But at five we were off for a glass of beer with Eddie Freitag in his delightful flat overlooking the Lake. Eddie is the architect of the Spencer courts at Zuoz and the Zurich court and probably knows as much about Eton Fives and certainly its courts as anyone in the U.K. Then we were away to the court: in the heat the games were a sharp contrast to our previous match. Dale Vargas and John Hammond had three splendid games against Warner Ahrens and Richard Miksicek while Malcolm Gasper and Derek Brown played George Stucki and Philip Bodmer. Barbara Stucki, a very welcome new recruit to the game, and 'Doc' Fravi played too but Benny Oei and Philip Ronner were on the injured list. After an excellent meal in the nearby restaurant it was back to Warner's flat in Zumikon to round off our trip. It had been a tour full of good Fives, interesting places and rich in experiences. We were delighted to renew some old friendships and to make new ones and everywhere we were overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of our hosts. It was a visit to remember.

The following photos are from the 1984 tour:

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