Through War Torn Europe: An official trip after WWI told in the words of James Gordon Steese
Number Seventeen
Grand Hotel, Rome.
Monday, August 25th, 1919.
After sitting up all night in a primera, from Milan, we reached Rome this morning shortly after eleven. It is very hot and dusty. All the grass is burned up. It is exactly not the proper season in which to see Rome. In spite of that it is an extremely interesting place.

I have been all over town twice, from the Garibaldi equestrian statue to the Pincio; first by auto, and later by carriage. In between I spent an hour in St. Peters. I do not think I saw all of St. Peters. I, of course, did not have time to examine in detail lots of the treasures, but I had a verger take me in through all the looked doors for which he had keys. Then I found a priest who took me three lire worth farther and showed me the sacred vestments, jewels, vessels, etc. I had to sign my name in two books in the Pantheon. 

I had dinner tonight with the American Military Attache here at the Hotel. It was a mixed American, British, Italian party. Mr. and Mrs. ***** were the guests of honor, as near as I could figure it out. It was a delightful party anyway, and beautifully appointed.

It coat all of four lire, at 10 1/2 c., to ride for an hour in a carriage. The meter registered only 2.50 lire, but there was a double charge for climbing Monte Pincio. At any rate that was as near as I got to the driver's explanation, and, as the whole thing was so ridiculously cheap, I was in no mood to quarrel with him.

Rome, Tuesday, August 26th, 1919.
From London to Rome from Friday to Monday is considered pretty good traveling for these unsettled times, considering difficulties about passports, money, etc. Even aside from the difficulties of language, it is difficult to get information. No one seem to know anything, but he is too polite to tell you so and thus save your time, so he wastes your time stalling till you almost find him out, but also until he finds out what you would like to know. Then he will get rid of you by telling you emphatically that the very thing you hope for is exactly so. That gives you temporary pleasure and he is far away by the time you find, to your sorrow, that there is no such place or train, or the road is wrong, or whatever it is that has gone awry.

Another maddening thing to me is the utter absence everywhere, even in England, of any fixed or definite rules about anything. Everything is a special case. The European mind has no knack for classification or standardization. At the Savoy in London I asked five different headporters, clerks, etc., for a railway time-table and all seemed to think it was an amazing request. Of course the word "time-table" is not the usual English word, but I explained at great length just what I hoped to do with it and why I wanted it. Utter amazement; they all acted as though such a request had never been received before from any of the thousands of guests passing through that big prominent hotel. Finally, as I was shunted along from one helpless attendant to the next, I discovered right in the hotel lobby, beyond the main desk, an office of Thos. Cook & Son. There I got the information and was told that, if at any time this office was closed, by asking the head-porter, the man I had gone to in the first place, to see his ABC Guide, could find out about all trains in the British Isles. But the point I make is that every one know Cook's office was there, yet no one had enough sense or initiative to think of sending me there in the first place.

At the Regent Palace, one of my bags got to another officer's room on a different floor. I called the maid and asked for the bag to be transferred. She explained, at great length, how she could not leave her floor and she could think of no way I could get the bag except by going for it myself, adding "Of course, you do not want to see me lose my job, now, do you?" Finally I suggested it might be possible to send for a porter to do it, as I was partially undressed and did not fancy prowling around the hotel corridors with a bag anyway. She then got almost intelligent and said she would get me a bell boy who might be able to get me a porter. Then she went off and got the bag herself.

At 8:30 A.M., no one in the big railway station hotel in Liverpool was able to call up a garage and order me an automobile, because that was the function of the head doorman who was then having his breakfast. Of course he could not be disturbed, as no one hardly ever wanted a call so early in the morning, thereby again putting me in wrong and intimating that I was some sort of an unreasonable fool. I had to wait until 9:00, then could not get an open car, nor any at all before 10:00, so again I was wrong and had been needlessly impatient. In view of the considerable fee for an automobile for three hours, and my desire to catch the afternoon train for London, it seemed too bad to lose all that time, but they were adamant. Shortly after ten o'clock, after I had become thoroughly reconciled to a closed taxi, exactly the type of open car that I wanted showed up.

Money is quite a nuisance. The exchange is falling rapidly. Since I have been over here the franc has dropped from 6.45 to 8.50 to the dollar, and the pound from $4.45 to $4.10. The U. S. Paymaster's rate changes only monthly. About August 1st, I simply had to draw some mileage and pay in francs at Coblenz. I received only 7.10 when the commercial rate was 7.75, a loss of ten per cent. Then I changed my francs into pounds at 30.80, got more pounds in London by cashing a personal check on New York City, came back to Paris and changed what was left back into francs again at 33.70, a gain of ten per cent. Of course the amounts are too small to make any difference one way or the other, but if one did not have so many more important things to do, one could pay all  expenses by a proper manipulation of the exchange. I am now holding several government vouchers, waiting to cash them at the new government rate after September 1st.

Sunday I had breakfast in Swiss francs but paid in French francs as loss; luncheon in lire in Italy, also paid in French at a loss. Since then I have been using pounds at a gain.

About midnight last night, I took another turn around town by auto. It was glorious. Then I stopped in at my host's quarters for a night cap. He has succeeded to a studio apartment left by a Russian prince who has vanished. He has a reception room, studio, bedroom and bath. The studio is about 40 feet square with a ceiling 25 feet high. The floor is covered with expensive rags and fine old furniture. The malls are hung with rich tapestries and paintings. The ceiling and odd panels here and there were done by some forgotten artist and are really splendid. And for it all, including service, he pays some ridiculously small rental. He even parks his car in the court under an overhanging wing, among a collection of priceless old statuary.

End Notes and Bibliography