Through War Torn Europe: An official trip after WWI told in the words of James Gordon Steese
Number Twenty-Three
Metropole & Excelsior Hotel, Bordeaux,
Tuesday, September 9th, 1919.
It seems hardly possible that it was only yesterday that I wrote you from Milan, for Italy has already passed into dreamland.

We took another auto ride around the city yesterday afternoon, visited the Cathedral and the Palace of the Dukes of Milan, and then went out to the Caproni Factory. We were taken all through the works.

It is an enormous plant and dozens of the standard 600 horsepower, three engine, three propeller, biplanes, with cabin accommodations for seventeen passengers, or a corresponding weight of mail, were under construction. There were also many other types, including the famous 900 horsepower bombing triplane. We were also shown a model of the newest thing under construction, a five engine, 2000 horsepower triplane to
carry fifty passengers and a lot of mail. It is stupendous. One can scarcely imagine it getting off of the ground at all.

Then three fighting machines were sent into the air to do stunts for us. Such quick loops and turns I have never seen. They would loop right down till they grazed the tall grass and then swoop or zoom aloft again. Finally, one of the three engine type was sent up to do a loop for us. I can not yet believe that he actually did it, though I saw it with my own eyes.

A regular mail and passenger service is being maintained with a number of Italian cities and also to Vienna. Crossing the Alps seems child's play. When we were on top of Mt. Vignola on Sunday at about 5500, one of these machines sailed over at about 10,000 feet. The Capronis also have a big dirigible which was sailing over Milan when we arrived.

I deadbeated the reception yesterday afternoon, as I had to catch my train. The wagon-lit office had promised me a place, but, when I went to get it, a greasy little Italian refused it, nor would he even talk to me. He kept repeating with a sneer what sounded like "C'est completo” to all my questions. It is too bad that murder is no longer tolerated, even under special circumstances. I'd have given a hundred dollars for enough Italian to have handled his case effectively for about six generations each way. That was one thing I had to admire in my worst chauffeur. He had a flow of language which actually shriveled up the peasants, who, just like the French, persistently drove on the wrong side of the road and then would not turn out promptly. He seemed actually to be able to hurt their feelings.

Both In Italy and in France, all the countryfolk habitually drive on the wrong side of the road. The typical combination is a high wheeled open cart with three people on the driver's seat. At a reasonable distance you start blowing your horn. When you have closed to half the distance, the outside man looks leisurely around registers surprise, turns back and nudges the fellow next to him. The latter leisurely repeats the performance. Finally, as you are about to have apoplexy, the driver turns around, takes a good, long look, and then, a little later, starts to begin to turn out.

After I found I could get no satisfaction from the wagon-lit agent, I went on board, found a vacant stateroom and occupied it alone all the way to Lyons, where I had to change cars anyway. I was waked up at midnight to have my baggage inspected. In the shuffle, my only cap went through the window, or at any rate it was missing next morning. I traveled all day without a cap and arrived here tonight bareheaded. The femme de chambre, however, assures me there is a store where I can get another tomorrow. I left most of my stuff in Paris, as I had not expected to be gone so long on this trip.

I now expect to sail about the 20th and am beginning to get a bit anxious to be home.

End Notes and Bibliography