Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Evonka's Gems: The final one.....

Frans wrote:

1 Dec '09: You might well think that I'm picking on Evonne but the point is that her 'Gems' were a part of our adventure through Europe and not revealing her Gems would leave out an important and funny item out off this story... so here goes for the last time 'vonka, I promise....sort off.....

There must be something in the Mountain air that has an effect on our Evonka because most of her Gems were created in Austria or Switzerland whilst we were there. The Mozart size one was a classic from Salzburg, the false money from Switserland and these final two also played in Austria so perhaps the height above sealevel has an effect on her creative thinking?




Her next Gem played out whilst we were driving along the Autobahn in Austria and we were once again looking for a place to stop for a bite to eat. Now I should explain beforehand that Evonka had a bit of trouble with this particular road sign, ....you see, she had convinced herself it represented a fork with a diagonal cross through it and hadn't recognized the knife.....




Evonka was taking her turn in the passenger's seat again and from the back of the car came the request to look out for a suitable place to stop as stomachs were growling and bladders needed to be relieved.


"Evonka, you better look for a place to stop because my bladder has reached 250 mills" came Maxine's cry from the back seat..


"and I'm getting hungry!", Karen added


"Well we better not stop at that place" 'vonka responded as we zoomed past the sign.


I pondered that for a moment trying to find some logic in that particular statement but as a logical explanation failed to spring to mind I just had to ask:

"What was wrong with that place?"

"hmphh" she responded with some undisguised disgust in her voice: "You have to bring your own forks there!"


.....?!?!?!!!....some chocking sounds were observed coming from the back seat whilst tears just jumped out of nowhere into my eyes.... Good thing the seats were made out of leather....



....and then we were on our way from Budapest to Vienna travelling on probably the same Autobahn but this time in the opposite direction and to pass the time we had a discussion amongst ourselves how time seemed to go so quickly....

Somewhere in the discussion 'vonka asked all of the sudden but quite timidly:


"Frans, can I ask a stupid question?"

As by now Evonne's Gems were a well known factor in our adventure and highly entertaining material the discussion fell immediately silent and all that was heard was a little bit of road noise and the distinct ticking of the dashboard clock......

"Off course, Evonne" I replied knowing full well she was sitting right behind me and wondering if she knew what the term 'Garroting' meant...


"Well, ......I just wondered, are the kilometers here in Europe just as long as in Australia?"

...I must admit that I had to take a few deep breaths before answering that one....

"Yes, they are exactly the same" I responded with an absolute straight face but then just couldn't leave it alone.....again....: "Why is that?"


"Well, they don't seem to take that long over here" she declared with some more confidence


"O, that" I smiled, "but that is easy to explain, you know?"


..by this time she trusts me as far as she can throw me so her next response was laced with mistrust..

"Really", she said...


"Sure", I said trying hard to keep my face out off the rear view mirror.... "we just skip a bit here and there"

"Yeah right!" she fired back with venom in her voice.... "I'm better off asking Gary when I get back"....


"*SIGH*" I just don't know what I've done to deserve that......


Dear Evonka, the trip wouldn't have been the same without you and your 'Gems'.....


This is my last posting on this blog. We had a great time and I called Evonne and Karen today letting them know that and to say I did miss them a little bit.


We're suppose to have a 'let's bore them to death' dinner soon for our friends and family so we can show them our pictures, reflect on our journey and recall all those things we have experienced but I didn't tell you about on this blog. For those details you better show up for this dinner...


One question remains.... would I travel another 6000 km with 3 women in a car through 8 different countries ????

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Day #23: And then we parted....

Frans wrote:

28 Nov '09: It had to happen some day and today it has come..., we came to the end of our journey and we had to part ways to go home and resume some sort of normal life again...

I'm sitting in our hotel room as I write this and it has been a few hours now since we said goodbye to Evonne and Karen. We'll follow them back to Australia tomorrow...

After I took our faithful Mercedes Benz to a nearby service station for a thorough clean up inside and out we packed our car to the fullest this morning and took the road to Delft to have a look at the church where the Dutch royal family is buried and soak up the last bit of Dutch culture of this trip. As usual we took the slow roads and some of the sites we seen are simply unique to this country and is rarely seen anywhere in The World. Just the fact that you can see that some of the waterways lie higher then the surrounding countrysite is enough to realize that this country is different to say the least.

We had a good lunch in Delft, drove back to the Airport and said goodby to our Merc who has served us so well. I know for sure that this car has helped to make this adventure as enjoyable as it has been and I'm truly thankfull we received this macnificent piece of machinery instead of the one we had originally ordered. The Sixt rental company had indeed done the right thing by us and we are all very appreciative of that.

We dropped Karen and Evonne off at Departures and returned our car. After that we finished this memorable adventure the way we started, at Delifrance in the Airport terminal. After a last glass of beer we all went up and walked together to the passport control where we said our last goodbyes to each other and despite my cries of "Now get out and stay out!" I felt quite sad to see them dissapear without us.... "I wonder if they'll get lost again....."

Our trip has come to an end and so has this blog..... nearly.... I owe our readers one last Evonka's Gems but that will have to wait for the last posting....

Day #22: The Ladies day....

Frans wrote:

27 Nov '09: I had to attend to some business this day somewhere else in the country and left the Ladies to explore Amsterdam by themselves...

When we met again that afternoon I was entertained with stories about shopping, visits to the Anne Frank house http://www.annefrank.org/content.asp?pid=1&lid=2, a coffee shop where a waiter got into trouble with our Yvonne and an expedition to the sex museum http://www.amsterdam.info/museums/sex-museum/ in the red light district....

...I can't help wondering jf they would have visisted the sex museum if I had been with them that day. They all swore that they visisted this particular museum 'for a laugh'..... only time will tell if they actually learned anything there.....

Dinner was held at the hotel's restaurant http://www.goldentulipamsterdamzaandam.com/?Language=EN and the Ladies learned another way of serving soup. There is a lot of discussion going on amongst them about holding a 'Let's bore them to death' dinner for the family and friends back home to demonstrate their new culinairy skills and show them all their holiday pics.....We'll see what eventuates there, I'm a bit doubtfull as to who will actually show up.....

Day #21: The Final leg....

Frans wrote:

26 Nov '09: We all knew that the day would come but it still crept up on us quite quickly. It was time this morning to pack our bags again and leave our precious chalet.

I think Yvonne and Karen will vouch that our little house on the Ijssel is a special place where it is very easy to relax and watch the boats go up and down the river whilst you sip a glass of red wine.....

We repacked our suitcases, this time for real because there was no coming back and whatever did not fit would have to be left behind...... including my mushroom hat.... We scrubbed the chalet, deposited the rubbish, turned down the heater and locked her up for the next visit which will be God only knows when...

The weather had truly settled into something only an Autumn can produce so I had decided there was no point in any side trips or excursions but head straight for our final destination...Amsterdam!

Knowing full well what traffic havoc can exists on the Dutch motorways and esspecially in the center off the country we took a route that took us via Lelystad and the dike from there to Enkhuizen. This way we avoided all the traffic jams that usually occur around Hoevelaken and Amersfoort and made a much more pleasant trip.

Enkhuizen is a very old Dutch fishing village with a lot of history and if hadn't been for the biting wind and rain we would have explored this beautiful place on foot but instead the ladies made it quite clear they can could just as well see this town from within the warmth and luxury of our Mercedes Benz and instructed their driver in no uncertain terms to make a slow tour through the old center and harbour.... how could I refuse....

We had booked our next and final accommodation in Zaandam instead of Amsterdam as this hotel was more affordable then the steep prices hotels charged there. We made a slow trip to Zaandam and when we were getting close to our hotel we became quite worried about the building works that surrounded it but as it turned out the rooms were pretty quiet with their double glazing and for once the beds and cushions were very comfortable and there was no need to raid Yvonne's..




After checking in we immediately took the train to Amsterdam which was only 12 minutes away as correctly advised by the receptionist of our hotel. We made our way from the central station into the main street of Amsterdam and do what most tourist do, look at the shops and into the cafes where they sell the local pot which is legal to do here.










We visited Madam Tussaud's wax museum at The Dam and gawked at the life like replicas of a lot of famous figures. I must admit that after a while I looked twice at a person to make sure he or she was real and the whole experience was a bit surreal and allthough there are many wax figures that strike a close resemblance to its true owner, some of them were not so great. I was impressed though with the figures of Elle Macpherson and Dame Edna Average.








Whilst having dinner we decided to join a candlelight tour of the canals and the red light district on one of the may tour boats that operate on the city's canals. Although the commentary wasn't that great, the cruise itself was most enjoyable and the walking visit to the red light district an eyeopener for my travelling companions. The ladies of leasure were applying their trade and it was great to experience that, although there are many people in The World that do not agree with their line of work, the atmosphere in that area was very pleasant and relaxed and at no time did we feel threatened or scared.


The Ladies had a sample of a small taste of the Dutch gin served in a local pub which made their skin crawl. Having had the pleasure of that particular poison in a previous life, I thanked for that honour and watched the ladies of leasure instead...


Being now seasoned travellers we jumped on the right train back to Zaandam but not before Evonka gave some well meant directions to two disorientated muslim women who most likely were looking for the same train to Zaandam as us but instead on 'vonka's directions dissapeared into the nearest lift only to look back up to us one floor down with a completely haunted and bewildered look in their eyes... Having some personal experience with Yvonne's directions skills, I knew exactly how they felt......

Day #20: Kampen again....

Frans wrote:

25 Nov '09: We had already visited Kampen on our first day after we arrived in Holland and during that shopping expedition Karen had discovered a handbag that just wasn't for sale anywhere in Europe so we visisted Kampen yet another time. We strolled around the same shopping mall for another few hours but to my great dissapointed Karen returned without the famous handbag in her possesion?! I still don't know whether it has lost its allure, it had sold out or Karen started to realize that there were weight limits enforced to luggage you carry onto planes?

We were visited by my brother Dominique and his wife Alie that afternoon. Alie and Dominique had prepared our chalet for us leaving some basic food stuffs for us and giving the place a good clean out. Karen and Yvonne got along with them like a house on fire and a lot of laughs were had amongst them.

That night Maxine and I treated everyone to an Indonesion meal at a famous Indonesian restaurant http://www.istanabali.nl/ near Apeldoorn. To make sure everyone had a good taste of all the different Indonesion dishes I ordered a 27 piece 'Rijst Tafel' which consisted of just about every dish in the Indonesion cuisine you can think off. The food was great, the wine acceptable and the company exceptional and I'm sure all of us simply ate too much. Award koalas were left, company parted and we made our way 'home' again.

This was our last night in our chalet whilst on this adventure and I think it all played a bit on our minds that this journey was slowly but surely coming to an end...

Day #19: A lazy day....

Frans wrote:

24 Nov '09: When you are so busy travelling around and soaking up new experiences it is sometimes just as pleasant to have a lazy and relaxing day. This day was like that allthough Karen, Yvonne and me walked into the local village of Terwolde http://www.terwolde.net/ and back to the chalet along the dike again which amounted to a 4km walk! Not bad, esspecially for me who by this time certainly can do with the excersize after sampling a good share of the local fare on offer along our trip...

Day #18: Oberhausen, Centro shopping center

Frans wrote:

23 Nov '09: During our prelimenary correspondence about which places we would visit and what things we would do the following discussion took place :

I wrote on the 14th of October to Karen:

I think that the area around Terwolde will appeal, esspecially to you. We're close to the pine forests where you can go for great walks and I think we would be better off doing a few 'closer to home' trips in the first few days because it will give us a chance to settle in and I'll bet you now we'll have to a bit of shopping to do anyway which we could combine... The German border is only an hour away and if shopping and fashion is your thing, one of the biggest shopping cetres of Germany (Centro) is only 1.5 hours via the Autobahn.

To which she replied:

[Karen] I am looking forward to doing a lot of walking & maybe a bike ride (weather permitting). I am not that much of a shopper – No doubt the ladies will enjoy a shop & I am happy to join them at anytime. I will need to come home with a souvenir or 2......

I can advice our dear followers and readers of this Travel Blog that this is the biggest fib Karen S. has ever told. Whenever there was a shop in sight she spearheaded the expedition flanked by her loyal accomplices and me struggling to keep up in the rear. I can truly state that I have blisters on my feet simply from standing on them waiting outside some new shoe shop like a faithfull puppy waiting for its master only this puppy was ready to kill !! How I wished I could have lifted my leg against yet another shop front to show my intense dislike for its wares, its For Sale signs in a variety of languages and for all I care its very existence in the Universe.

Stupid me had revealed in that particular email that a rather large shopping outlet http://www.centro.de/english.html existed only about an hour and a half away in Oberhausen, Germany and this particular day was chosen to explore this walhalla of shopping centers with its many boutique shoe shops. Fortunately I came well prepared this time and had my faithfull laptop with me and I spend a peacefull 2 hours or so at some ice cream parlors outdoor dining area but well within their wireless internet connection.

The weather was cold and miserable again that day and although we had planned to visit the old Roman village of Xanten as well we were forced to cancel that as the wind was just too cold to spend time outdoors. We made our way back to our faithfull and warm chalet and set down for our second home cooked meal in a row!

Day #17: Giethoorn

Frans wrote:

22 Nov '09: I think it is understandable that we woke up late the morning back in our chalet. For once in a long time we didn't have to be on time for breakfast, check out off our accommodation or be on the road by a certain time to make the next destination at some reasonable hour that night.

The suitcases were unpacked and a few items and souvenirs saw daylight again after they were packed away as quickly as they were bought. Maxine found the mushroom hat I had bought in Budapest and decided to put on a fashion show with that, a stick we use to lock the sliding door in the chalet and Karen's coat.

Admittedly I shouldn't have bought the hat in the first place because it will not pass custom inspection in Australia as it is made out of a plantlike material but it was such a curiousity where the whole hat is actually made out of some huge mushroom that I just couldn't help myself. Despite that, Max created such a laugh with it on our return to the chalet that that alone was worth the price of the hat!




The weather hadn't been too bad to us during our long trip. Sure there have been showers and wind but considering the time of year and the climate we had our fair share of nice days as well. unfortunately the weather in Holland had decided that it had really become time for real autumn weather and the long term forecast was for rain and wind as far it could see.

I thought it might have been a good idea to go to Giethoorn that day. Giethoorn is known as the Dutch version of Venice only it doesn't look anything like Venice. The best way to describe this place would be lots of houses and farms connected with small streams and pathways and cars are not only prohibited, it would be simply impossible to drive one there.

As we had already done so many times, I programmed our TomTom to find the way to Giethoorn for us but avoiding the motorways. This took us through a lot of old villages on the way which in itself was a tourist attraction and I think my companions enjoyed it as well..


When we arrived in Giethoorn we took a guided boat tour through the village and surrounding lake and fortunately our skipper/guide gave his narration in English as well although his jokes were way off the mark. It is possible to hire your own small punt and drive yourself around the town and the lake but that day it was frequently raining and the wind had a chill factor that was not appreciated by the ladies. Fortunately our tour boat was enclosed and heated.





The tour took about an hour and we returned all safe and well and full of knowledge of this strange village, its habits and its customs. We came straight out off the boat and into the Cafe for lunch where I introduced Karen and Evonne to the Dutch delicacy of pancakes. Evonka screwed her nose up when I ordered a pancake with bacon on which I had placed a generous helping of maple syrup and powdered sugar but once she had a taste of it she was immediately converted to a believer. She was so enchanted by the pancakes that a few days later she made them herself in the chalet for dinner.....











When our bellies were happily filled (again) we strolled into the village 'on foot' this time and visited a shop/museum called the Old Earth. http://www.deoudeaarde.nl/index.php?t_id=2 It is a place where they exhibit and sell semi precious stones of all sorts, colour and sizes. A lot of these stones are still in their natural form and you can even buy a Mexican Ball that is cracked open for you at your feet so that you can admire the hidden chrystals inside. I picked a not so commonly shaped 'ball' in that it seemed to be more elongated then round and I asked the young shop assistance to crack it lengthwise instead of across it as it is usually done. We were not dissapointed, I ended up with two halves filled with chrystals in various colours.





We drove back again to the chalet that night following whatever paths our navigation system could find without taking to the motorways and we had our first home cooked meal for a couple of weeks!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Day #16: Rudesheim am Rhein

Frans wrote:

20 Nov '09: I had the night before we left Prague a heafty discussion with the snotty receptionist at the Prague hotel about the use of my creditcard. Normally your creditcard does not get charged until you check out off an hotel, it is only used to secure a reservation and as a guarantee for use of the minibar, etc..

When Karen and Yvonne wanted to pay their bill that night they had found out from her that this hotel had already charged my creditcard that was used to secure the 'on line' booking for both rooms. When I enquired about this strange practise with this far from helpfull creature, I was advised in a very abrupt manner that that was what I had agreed to whilst making the booking?! Upon checking it turned out she was right, we had agreed to a special rate for the rooms and one of the conditions tucked away somewhere in the terms was that we would pay immediately!

Let this be a warning for anyone reading this blog, when you make your bookings on line, there too you have to read the fine print....

Anyway, on the morning we checked out and I went to reception to finalize our bill our receptionist was all of the sudden full of smiles, as I can't stand hypocrites and wasn't in the least interested to add her to my tribe I ignored the fake charm and paid the, what I thought then, was the full bill.

When we drove out off the Hotel's parking which was behind the building and through an alley way so narrow it took a seperate person to guide us out of there without scraping the walls, we came to a closed gate! When I pressed the intercom button to let us out and after submitting our room number I was advised by the receptionist in her sweetest voice that I still had to pay for parking the car for 2 days! It was obvious what was going on here, the parking charge was not put on the bill so that guests would pay for it seperately, in cash, without an invoice and preferably in Euros, a great way to earn some hard currency.... welcome to Prague in The Chech Republic! http://www.hotel-caesar-prague.com/

We were then on our way to Rudesheim am Rhein in Germany which was going to be our last stop of our journey before returning to home in Terwolde again.

We set out in first instance to Wurzburg which Yvonne had visited on an earlier journey and was supposed to be another old village where we could stop for lunch. We made good time as the dual highway out off the Chech Republic was a lot better then the single lane road we had used to get into it from Vienna.
When we arrived in Wurzburg we couldn't find what Yvonne had talked about, we had set our TomTom for the center of the city thinking this would be a good place to start but that had not brought us to the area Yvonne had described. As Wurzburg is not a very pretty city we continued on our way and we saw something on our way out that might have been the place Yvonne had visited some years ago but we decided to keep going towards Rudesheim.

We stopped somewhere on the way and I had read in the comments left by previous guests at the hotel where we were booked in for that night that parking might be a problem there unless you had made a reservation so I rang the hotel for that only to be advised to my great surprise that they were closed! I advised them that we had made a reservation with them that morning and that we were on our way! The lady was very apologetic and told me that they would open the hotel up just for us because we had been able to make the booking!

She rang us back about an hour later to tell us they had found our booking but that we had not made it for that night but for about a week later! Apparently when you book on http://www.booking.com/ it already puts in there as a default a date a week in advance and unless you change that every time you look at a new hotel it will keep putting that date into your reservation! ....another tip to be aware off for our readers......

Anyway, the lady still offered to open the hotel up for us and enquired politely when we would like breakfast the next morning and at what time we woudl like to check out, well, after our blunder we weren't going to make this lady's life difficult and we agreed to her suggestion of 8 am the next morning...

When we arrived at the hotel everything was arranged with typical German efficiency, the keys were left exactly where she said we find them, our internet voucher was included as was a tourist guide to Rudeshem and the wireless internet system was turned on and so we found us roaming around in a fair size hotel all by ourselves without any other guests and absolutely no staff, it was a bit 'strange' actually...



We explored Rudesheim on foot straight after settling into our accommodation and we wandered through this quaint old town wth its many alley ways and obligatory cobblestones. The town was preparing itself for their Christmas markets and many stalls were in the process of being erected and made ready for the opening the following Monday. It was a pity they weren't open yet but
Karen still managed to buy a hat from one of the stalls..... Even that didn't satisfy the urge for shopping in 'The one who had declared she wasn't much into shopping but who spearheads every excursion in every shoe shop anywhere in sight' and more local shops were explored for their wares.

To me these sodden shops look all the same but there must me something in the female gene or in the mystical cauldron of female hormones that lures them into them every time they see the word 'SALE!' ... what absolutely bewilders me is how they seem to recognize the word in any language....


After chasing Yvonne and Karen out off yet another shop we had our dinner in a local restaurant and made our way back to the hotel. Karen had her directions firmly in her sight and started proceeding uphill.... With a full stomach and no enthousiasm whatsoever to excersize I didn't even bother to argue this time and turned right around the next corner and started heading downhill to what I was sure was the shortest route to the hotel...



With no staff in the hotel to ask for a pair of extra pillows I wasn't looking forward to sleeping on a pillow that was so soft it wasn't going to support my weighty head so I went in search for a solution and found them in the Yvonne's and Karen's room. This pair was busy on the internet hurling abuse at Yvonne's husband Gary for not responding to any emails and giving no signs he was actually missing her so I snuck into their room, pinched their pillows and shoved them under my head..... A few minutes later a stern looking Yvonne came into our room and asked in this deadly voice: "So you think you were funny?" , I gave her my most innocent look and responded friendly: "What are you talking about, 'vonka?".. she wouldn't have any off it... "I'll have the pillows back, thank you!" she stated in her sternest matriachs voice.. "Ok then", I sighed.. Now how did she figure out it was me, I wondered, it could have been anyone in that hotel, right?.....

We got up a little later then usual the following morning to go to breakfast at the proposed time and we discovered that one other couple had arrived that night. I'm pleased that we had decided not to run around naked through the hotel after all because that would have been a trifle embarresing... Breakfast was set by the hotel staff that had magically appeared and we were overwelmed by the size and variety of it. I was quite embarresed that they had put on such a lavish spread for just us and 2 other guests, I don't think the hotel made a lot of money that day....

We left them with our heartfelt thanks, a generous tip and two koalas to compliment their reception area and without a doubt we'll leave some glowing comments about their service and hospitality for future guests to read. http://www.rheinhotel-ruedesheim.de/

We took the tourist road along the Rhine river towards Koblenz and we saw many castles and interesting places on the way. This section of the Rhine is one of the prettiest and is strictly maintained in its original style for tourists to enjoy.

At Koblenz we rejoined the highways as the Rhine area from there towards Holland becomes very industrialized and in some way we were looking forward to going 'Home' after having been on the road for 16 days in a row. By this time our faithfull Mercedes Benz had clocked up nearly 5000 kilometers and the driver was also looking forward sleeping in a bed with normal pillows that night....

Our journey through Europe had come to an end, we have nearly another week in Holland left..... God, please close the shops?!... pretty please?...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Trivia quiz....

Frans wrote:

24 nov '09:
During our travels we quite often come across strange objects or signs that we don't understand or of which we wonder what they are for, perhaps you can help us?

We would like to invite all the readers of our blog to our Trivia quiz. The rules are quite simple, just use the comments feature to answer the questions next to the pictures, the winner receives one of our prized Koala Awards!


1) What does the emblem with the Knife and Fork mean?


2) What does this thing do?
3) What is this strange hand tool used for?
4) What is the strange looking stool used for?

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thoughts to ourselves.....

Frans wrote:





23 Nov '09: I think everyone needs some time to themselves now and then and I think I need that more then most. Having 3 people so close in my immediate space for such a long time is something I certainly am not used to.

For that reason I'm sure we take whatever time we can get to gather our own private thoughts....

Day #15: Prague

Frans wrote:

18 Nov '09: After having breakfast at the hotel, squeezing our car out off the mini garage and saying goodbye to the snotty receptionist we left Vienna as early as we could en route to Prague in the Chech Republic via the walled city of Cesky Krumlov.

The trip was pretty uneventful until we passed the Chech border and we saw our first 'ladies of leasure' standing beside the road at a service station trying to pick up some customers... 'You've got to be joking, love', I thought... 'don't you think 3 in one car isn't enough already?!' when I saw her raise her thumb...

We came to Cesky Krumlov in the afternoon and I must admit that I was not looking forward to it, I thought I had seen enough walled cities for a while after spending 2 full days on the cobblestones of Brugge but this place was different enough to be interesting again.....besides the cobblestones that is.....



What it also made it special was our lunch in a cafe that was best described by Evonka as a dungeon. Obviously it wasn't such a thing but it had been an Inn in medieval times and the atmosphere they had created there was very different and pleasant indeed.




It was there that I came across a few old antique items that we couldn't place and from that the idea was borne we should have a trivia posting on our blog so my next post will be just that. We'll give you a few riddles to solve that we had a few troubles with ourselves and which we usually solved by saying : We'll Google it tonight'. .... After all, we did have long stretches of driving and we did have to occupy ourselves somehow in between ogling the local girls standing beside the roads trying to make a quid?




From the day that we landed Evonka wanted to kick her feet through a pile of fallen autumn leaves. When we returned to the car where the leaves had blown into thick piles we just had to that...




After Cesky Krumlov we proceeded to Praque and as the Chech republic is not considered part of Western Europe our faithfull TomTom had stopped her guidance at the border so we were relying once more on the inferior Mercedes Benz guidance system which was, of course, by the way of yet another female voice....

.......This reminds me of a bit of an incidence when we returned from Hungary back into Austria and the TomTom suddenly sprang to life again when we passed the border. We travelled along some diversion in the road and both navigation systems immediately sprang to life and started to give directions to get us back on the correct route, 'That's it' I cried, '5 of you are simply too much for one man to handle' and proceeded to switch at least one of them off to great hilarity of the other three women in the car.....

...but I digress... The Mercedes Benz system got us close to our Hotel in Prague but like she had done in Budapest, we were just not close enough to spot our Hotel by naked eye. Maxine got out and peeked around the corner and sure enough our hotel was just there. It goes to show that the TomTom system is just that little bit better...... I love my TomTom in case you hadn't noticed?

We stayed at the Ceasars Palace hotel in Prague on Evonka's recommendation and although it was much better then our previous hotel, please don't draw any comparisons with the famous namesake hotel in Las Vegas because it has a long way to go before catching up with that particular piece of opulance...

Our receptionist was yet again a snotty little so and so who obviously didn't like me from the very start and I've got no problem stating that the feeling was entirely mutual. If she was the face of Prague to welcome desperately needed tourists and their cash to the Chech economy I think that Count Dracula would have done better job....who knows, perhaps it was just simple jealousy that she wasn't invited to my tribe.....

As soon as we had settled into our rooms I happened to wander past Yvonne's and Karen's room and couldn't help notice how these two had managed to make such a mess there in the space of about 5 minutes after arriving. The place looked like a bomb had gone off and I just had to put that into a picture as I don't think our folks at home would believe it!


We wandered that same night into the town and we followed Evonka's directions which scared me to death. She reminded me then very much of my mother when her finger was raised and started to describe circles in thin air with the only difference that Yvonne was, at least as far as I could tell, stone cold sober.... It wasn't long before that famous question was uttered again: 'Frans, I think we are here, what do you reckon?'..... God, ...... give ...... me .........strength!....

I must admit that once we found the market square Evonka knew exactly where the famous Prague astronomical clock was but that was no great surprise either considering there was a group of about 150 people looking at it, .....you know...it was a bit hard to miss....

By that time I was thirsty, tired, cranky and longing for a place to sit down. Fortunately the whole square was just about surrounded by heated terraces so I was looking forward sinking down in one of those comfortable chairs, have a beer and let the warmth of the gas heater soak into me. To my utter chagrin I saw the Ladies dissapear in front of me into a Cafe and there I lost it. Here was this beautiful place with all those inviting terraces in the nice open fresh air and they were going to sit in a stuffy old cafe breathing recycled air?! I threw a wobbly, muttered under my breath what I thought of them and took my place amongst the other fellow tourists at the terrace.

A lady beside me had noticed my frustration and gave me a pitying smile... 'would you like to take me home with you', I asked hopefully, 'I can cook, wash, clean and I'll even do your laundry but save me from this trio?'... she just smiled and shook her head, so much for my pursuaviness....

The trio of Ladies appeared at my table quite soon after that again and all was immediately forgiven, take my advice, you just don't hold a grudge very long with 3 women with who you still have to share a few thousand kilometers with.....

After soaking my bones in the heat, quenching my thirst with a beer and filling my stomach with some food we noticed that they were setting up a jazz band in the cafe the girls had wandered in before so we decided to soak up some music and went inside. The jazz band kept us entertained for a while and besides giving them the customary tip we also presented them with one of our koalas because we did appreciate their efforts......see if you can spot our award on this picture....

The following day we went back into town and saw quite some Prague attractions again but this time we did it on foot. Prague is a beautiful city but also very busy with traffic and lots of people and considering we were there in the 'off season' I would hate to think what the city would be like when it is summer....certainly not a place I would like to be in then...

I took that afternoon off from walking through the city to work on our blog in the hotel whilst the ladies went....you guessed it... shopping! I'm still looking for that email from Karen when she stated before we left Australia that she wasn't all that interested in shopping, Boy! Can this lady tell fibs!!

In the evening we seperated for the first time in our trip together. Maxine and I went on a short guided tour of Prague followed by a dinner cruise over the river. Our experience is that a guided tour is so much more informative where you learn a lot more from a particular place then carrying out your own tour and try to interpret what you see on the way, lonely planet in one hand and a map in the other, and this time was no different.


Our guide was in his day job a teacher of English and Chech who earned a bit of extra money at night acting as a local guide. He took us through part of the city in a taxi and told us some of its history on the way. This guided tour only lasted for about 45 minutes but we did appreciate it very much.

On completion of our tour we were dropped off at one of the river boat cruisers which took us up and down the river someways and gave us another perspective on the city of Prague all together. The cruise came with a buffet dinner and live music and was very enjoyable indeed esspecially as it took us through the river's locks which particularly for me was quite interesting.


When we arrived back in the hotel, Yvonne and Karen had already gone to bed with a couple of whiskeys in them so we snuck into our own room as quiet as mouses.....

The next day we checked out after a pretty good breakfast and for once we were a bit later then usual... in hindsight those whiskeys Karen and Evonka had the night before might have had something to do with that......

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Day #14 Vienna, Austria

Frans wrote:

16 Nov '09: After leaving our secure hotel The President in Budapest we took off for Vienna in Austria again. We had a bit of a late start for a change and as Vienna is only about 2.5 hours from Budapest over the highway we decided to leave the highway once we crossed into Austria and take the secondary roads instead so we could see a bit more of the countryside.

It was whilst still driving on the highway that Yvonne let go with another of her now famous 'Gems' that completely took our breath away but I'll leave that for the next edition of Evonka's Gems, .....Part 2.

As soon as we became close to the Austrian border our faithfull TomTom kicked into life again and proceeded to take us to Vienna. Unfortunately I had made a mistake and instead of taking us to the address of the Hotel we had booked the night before, it took us to the center of Vienna. after rectifying this error she took us en route once more and this time to the correct place.

After leaving the city center and getting closer to our true destination we were becoming a bit dissapointed by the surroundings and a few misgivings were setting in. This feeling of disquiet only increased when we turned into the final one way alley way in which our Hotel was located. Parking at the hotel was a nightmare, along the street was impossible and I had to put the car in a garage that was very small and had to be shared with 2 other cars. After shuffling the cars around I was finally able to ease our Mercedes into it without damage but there were a few hairy moments and I managed at one stage to have all the car's in build parking sensors scream at me at the same time.





We checked into the hotel at their miniscule reception and after the usual formalities were completed I asked for the internet connection that had been advertised on their webpage. I was assured that it would work but had to pay for the privilige of using it off course and a hefty charge it was indeed esspecially if you consider that most hotels let you use their internet facilities for free these days. The internet connection simply did not work no matter how hard I tried by changing this and that settings on my laptop even going through the whole process again with the receptionist who by then had all put us on edge as a 'nose in the wind snotty bitch'. The wireless internet simply would not connect and instead I was offered one of their own computers at, you guessed it, an extra charge for that particular privelige.

You might well ask why this internet was so important to us but it had become our tool to keep family and friends updated with our whereabouts, we checked emails with it and most importantly we used it to look for suitable accommodation at our next stop!


After the failure of our connection to the outside world we held a council of war and esspecially the ladies were quite keen to leave Vienna immediately the next day and not stay a second night as we had planned and booked. I listened to their discussion but did not take part straight away leaving them to vent their dissapointed in the quality of the hotel amongst each other first and waiting for a later opportunity to give my views on the matter.

We wondered through the surrounding streets a bit looking for a place to have something to eat and we found this very local and suburban cafe-restaurant where some local residents had gathered to play cards, chess or backgammon. We ordered our meals and became quite friendly with the waitress who fortunately spoke good English and serviced us very well. During this meal I raised the question of us staying in Vienna for at least a day as we had originally planned because I could not imagine that this city with its worldwide reputation could really be so bad as we were thinking at that moment and fortunately I was able to convince my travel companions to give this city at least 'a go'.

The following morning we had a good breakfast at the hotel and that was just about the only satisfactory point about it as I was pretty grumpy about the fact that not only the internet did not work in the rooms but I also had to press my private parts hard into the shower controls in an effort to catch some water to fall on the tip of my nose! This hotel was definetly the pits and best described as the next level up from a backpackers!

We had decided that we would use the Vienna Underground that morning to go and see the Lipizzaner horses http://www.lipizzaner.com/lipizzaner_frameset.asp at training...what an adventure that was, I nearly got arrested for fare evasion and that to the great amusement of my travelling partners...

We had purchased our tickets for the metro at a machine on the wall of the first station and had to wonder around 3 stations to get to, what we then thought, was the right train. Once the train was going and we were following its progress against a metro station plan stuck on the train's wall we realized quickly we were going into the opposite direction then we're supposed to so we got out at the next stop. We then moved up the stairs to get to the stairs to the opposite platform, came to the top, saw a wall of uniformed Vienna transit guards in front of us waiting behind the turnstiles, turned around to take the steps down to the next platform and then I was politely but firmly stopped by a young female guard who showed me her badge and demanded to see my Underground ticket.....


Obviously our action to go to the top of the stairs and abruptly turning around to go down the next step of stairs had raised her suspicion and she was convinced I was a fare evader. When I produced my ticket and the ladies showed theirs it became soon obvious that I was just a dumb tourist who had a ticket but failed to have it stamped before gtting on the first train we took. She took us to her supervisor who was part of the line checking for fare evaders, explained the situation to him and he showed us what we had to do in the Vienna Underground to be nice and law abiding tourist....


Through all this The Ladies thought it was all a bit of a hoot and hilarious and I wonder how hard they would have laughed if I had really been arrested, I must say that I was quite dissapointed in their reaction, obviously they did not value me as much as I thought....

When the ticket supervisor, who wasn't that proficient in the English language, had completed his explanation of the Vienna Underground Ticket system http://www.wien.gv.at/english/transportation/publictrans.htm The Ladies asked him what the best way was to get to the Lipizaner horse show. I must admit that I was pretty peeved off with that because I knew exactly where we were and how to get there as by now I had studied the map thoroughly and was ready to proceed on the right train. Our ticket supervisor then started waving his arms around and quoting train and bus numbers and before I could say my opinion on the matter 'The Three' were dissapearing in a direction of which I was convinced there could absolutely be no undergroung connection for a very simple reason.... the direction they took went up! Not only didn't they have any idea where North was but now they had completely forgotten that there is a very good and simple reason why a train system that runs below the surface of the planet is called an UNDERground!

In frustration I threw my arms up in the air and hurried after them but whatever groan and grunts I could produce they were completely ignored because that fine Austrian man had pointed them in a certain direction and had quoted them a number... 'one'... God only knows what he really meant by it...

After surfacing ABOVE the UNDERground station I was finally able to get my message across to my companions that it wasn't a very good idea to take a bus or tram in any city unless you damned well know which is the right one, where it is going and where it stops whilst an Underground train system usually is quite easy to follow if it is only for the fact that it runs on rails and can't really deviate from its track for the simple reason it runs through tunnels.

I've noticed now a couple of times on our travels that my darling companions tend to take off on an excursion with full confidence in where they are and where they are going only to refer back to me after a while with the same question over and over again: 'Where do you reckon we are, Frans'.... usually when the wretched souls are once more lost again and I can start figuring out how we got into this situation in the first place.... If only they learned the first rule of navigating by a map: You do need to keep track on the map where you are actually going?!? ... but I suppose that's a bit much to ask if you just have to keep an eye on those shoe shops as well.....

Anyway, after getting on the underground again we arrived at the area where the Lipizzaner horses are trained very quickly and when we purchased our tickets and found out the training didn't start for another hour we went in search for a local Starbucks for a well deserved good quality cup of coffee....only to find out that Karen and Yvonne couldn't find the way to their front door.... now I ask you.....

The Lipizzaner training was a dissapointment, I can't say anything else about it. We had expected a full blown training with a lot horses where things weren't going smooth but where you would still get a good idea what the show would be like but it wasn't anything like that at all. All it was were a group of about 4 or 5 horses that were walking or ambling around the ring and who were taken through some paces but nothing really spectacular and there certainly wasn't any interaction between the horses themselves like formation riding and the like. The biggest dissapointment for me was the fact that there was no explanation given on what the training was about in particular or the Lipizzaner horses in general, the only public announcement that was made over and over again was the warning that no photography or filming was allowed.... they obviously were very keen to protect the DVD sales in the local shops!



After watching this training for about half an hour my neck was getting sore from looking around a stone pillar, my bum was getting cold for sitting on a wooden bench and my bladder was telling me it wanted to go to another place so I got up and we went to our next attraction. On the way out I did buy a DVD about these horses and what they did do because I certainly didn't get a half decent impresson from it sitting in this enclosure and watching a couple of them going around in circles.




From the Lipizzaners we went directly in the 'Sissi' exhibition. For those who are not familiar with Sissi, she was the last empress Elizabeth of Austria and a very popular one at that. Everywhere you looked there was impressions of 'Sissi', on keyhangers, cups, shopping bags, glasses, etc.. Everywhere you looked you saw 'Sissi'. Now I remembered the 'Sissi' television series and films from a long time agao and I'm sure that the European followers of this blog can remember the beautiful Romy Schneider in the elad role. I think the whole of the male population of Western Europe and a big chunk of Eastern Europe were madly in love with her.

The 'Sissi' exhibition took us through the silver and dinnerware that was used by the Habzburg imperial family during their lavious banquets, the imperial palace where they lived and a special exhibition on 'Sissi's' life as it is now seen in modern times. It was quite eerie to have such an insight in someone's life with not only the knowledge on how she lived and felt but also having her dresses and personal belongings in full view as well.

Photo's were once again not allowed to be taken so I bought myself another DVD with a compilation of the three Sissi movies that had been made and another one containing a documentary that was compiled recently on her life and sad assasination which threw Austria and Hungary in mourning. I suppose that Sissi and Lady Di had a lot in common....

The walk through the Sissi exhibition had taken the best part of two hours so we were ready for lunch which we took at the royal palaces and we had a look at what else we could achieve in Vienna that afternoon. We decided to taek another bus tour of the city as this would give us a good general impression of Vienna and would show us the most important attractions whilst giving us a running English commentary..

In the afternoon we wondered around the city and as this can be quite thristy work we came accross this cute little pub where two Australian girls were working as bar maids. The pub served its own type of brewed beer but was very smokey as patrons were freely smoking in the bar whilst it actually did have a seperate smoking area in the form of a small wooden box where two people could just fit in but which came with the warning there was no room to hang your coat. Obviously there were more smokers then non smokers amongst the patrons and they would not fit into this little cubicle.

After quenching our thirst we went in search for the lcoal casino where Maxine wanted to spend some Euro's. Karen and Yvonne joined us just 'for the experience' and we gambled away for a little while without improving our own budget balance but instead generously contributing to the general economy of Austria.

Dinner was held that night at another Nord See outlet with which we had a good experience in the one in Salzburg but this store was not quite of the same standard, I thought....

When we arrived back in the hotel the wireless internet had as by magic come back 'on line' but it had nothing to do with their system, it was all on my laptop... Yeah right, all I did was trurn it on and by magic it connected to their network. This is the only hotel that did not receive our prized Koala award simply due to a lack of service, placing deceiving information on the internet and leaving a sizeble imprint of their shower handles on my private parts......

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Where are we now...??

Frans wrote:

21 Nov '09: Karen received a comment from her husband Greg this morning that he could not work out where we were because I spend more time checking out toilets then updating the Blog!

Well... let me tell you this Greg... If I didn't spend so much time running after your wife in and out off those bloody shoe shops I would have loads of time to update the blog!!


FYI we are in Rudesheim, Germany and we are home in Terwolde tonight!!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Day #11: Budapest...

Frans wrote:

14 Nov '09: We drove out of Austria and into Hungary without any fuss, the highways in Austria are as good if not better then in Germany, perhaps that has something to do with the fact that there is an extra tax on vehicles travelling on the highways. We also had to buy a 'Vignette' or sticker that I placed behind the windscreen which allowed us to travel legally over the Austrian version of the 'Autobahns' although here they have a speed limit of 'only' 130 km.
It was on this leg of the tour that Evonka absolutely blew us away with another one of her 'Gems' but as that is another story in itself so I'll get back to that in Evonka's Gems Part #2...

To my dismay our TomTom would not give us any route directions as soon as we crossed into Hungary. that might have something to do with the fact that Hungary is not considered part of Western europe but rather of Eastern europe and I had not purchased, downloaded and installed that particular map. Thankfully our loyal Mercedes Benz comes with a build in navigation system and although insuperior to the TomTom in my opinion it worked quite well.

With the experience of the 'Vignettes' of Austria we now realized we had to get another one for Hungary so this time we actually got one at the border which we should have done when we entered Austria the first time and not in Salzburg after waking up to fact what this 'Vignette' business actually was.

The highway in Hungary were pretty good and we made good time to Budapest until we reached the outskirts, at that point of time we were getting a bit worried because the buildings looked pretty drab, most of the men wore black leather jackets and there was very little colour about, in short, this was not a place that stood out and made you smile. On top of that it became obvious that a particular bridge we had to take to cross the Danube river to the other side where our hotel was situated was closed off and we had to go looking for the next bridge to get to the other side.
After some travelling to force the Benz's navigation system to work out a route for us but using another bridge we managed to get to the right side of the Danube and followed the directions to the hotel but when the voice had spoken the famous words: 'You have reached your destination' there was no hotel in sight! We enquired with a few locals for the whereabouts of our hotel and after calling the reception for some directions we realized we just had to be near it.
As it turned out the hotel was only a few hundred meters behind us but this navigation system has not quite the edge of the TomToms that recognize oneway streets a bit better, I think.

When we arrived at Hotel President Budapest we were immediately impressed by its new and modern interior and I was equally impressed byt its security arrangement. I actually think that this newly opened hotel is still working out its bugs but that in the near future it will only be used for highly ranked visitors who require a great deal more security then 4 BMW travellers dragging their own luggage into the hotel lobby from a very dirty and far from shiny Mercedes Benz...

The rooms were quite a surprise, it had a big mirror behind the bed and mirror on the sealings. this brought on a lot squals from my travelling companions but I still don't know whether this was from surprise, delight or disgust. I did ask Maxine what she thought about it though... :




Although we had arrived quite early in the afternoon it was already dark around 4 PM. The prevailing fog mixed with the local smog had definetly something to do with that.
After another quick exploration of the streets surrounding the hotel and a quick view of the Danube river we had a few drinks at the hotel bar and planned the evening.




We decided on partaking into a local city tour that culminated in a dinner in the upper part of the city (=Buda-) where we were promised a local three course meal with authentic Gipsy music and Dance.... we were not dissapointed....

The meal was great and I think I speak for all of us that we thoroughly enjoyed the local music and dance that was performed live! When the leader of the band discovered we were from Australia he immediately started to play 'Waltzing Mathilda' and entrusted me with the news he would really like to go to Sydney! I'm sure sydney woud welcome him and his band, they were very good. Obviously the small orchestra received a tip and our by now famous Koala award!




When our dinner adventure was completed we were taken back to our hotel that is actually situated at the lower end of the city (=-pest) and together the two parts form now the capital of Hungary, Budapest.

The next day we enjoyed a sumptous breakfast in the hotel where everything was on offer from muesli and fruit to bacon and eggs on toast....I wondered what the poor ... o, never mind!!!

We had decided the previous evening to take a 'Hop on-Hop off' tour of the city so we could take in all the sites and from there decide whether we wanted to spend more time in any particular place. After some searching we finally discovered the bus stop where the Red Bus was elaving from and we took off. On the bus were head phones for each passengers and I shuddered to think what sort of desease I could pick up from these contraptions having visions from ear infections to lice!
Having not my own headphones in my pocket there wasn't much to it other then to inspect them closely for anything immediately visible that could play havoc with my general health and put them on. There was a selection of about a dozen different languages to choose from and at each stop we were given a brief description of each particular inetersting item along the way.

We got off the bus at a stop near the palace and after our customary coffee or tea stop I just had to take a picture of the Danube river below us that was indeed blue! The mixture of fog and smog that had hung over the city on our arrival the day before had lifted and we were pleasantly surprised with a full day of sunshine!

After satisfying my need to take some pictures and short movies we hopped on the bus once more only to get out again at the next stop at the citadel. Karen wanted to walk down the hill and have a look at the local spring fed baths whilst the rest of us decided that the walk down the hill was a great idea but the getting back up bit of that same enourmous mountain wasn't....so we left Karen to it....


Amongst the citadel was an old bunker that had been extensively used in WWII and now it housed an exhibition of the war and its aftermath. the exhibition was pretty graphic in particular what happened to the local Jews towards the end of the war and as a balance to the people that had perputrated those atrocities. It did make a considerable impression on me....
On top off the hill supporting the citadel we tried one of the local 'Gluh Wein' or hot wine but it made us cringe a fair bit with its very sweet taste and only drank a bit of it..



Karen returned a bit dissapointed from her exploration of the local baths, it wasn't quite what she expected and we hopped on the bus again only to get off 2 stops later near a local....you gussed it... shopping area for a pot of lunch. Lunch turned out to be a local McDonalds hamburger that everybody had a go at except for Karen who despises the food there. after eating another Bic Mac we all concurred with her, I think.... We wandered down a street without traffic for a change but flanked by shops on both sides and even came across the local casino where we went in for a curious look and to have Maxine put two Euros worth of local coins into a slot machine only to come out again about half an hour later....


We came upon the Danube again and we came across this rather bizarre display of metal shoes that certainly gave me the creeps somehow. Whatever the original artist that had created this monument wanted to achieve it certainly worked on me.... As there was no sign or plague explaining what these haunting shoes represented we decided to Google it when we came back to the hotel.... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shoes_on_the_Danube_Promenade

We had dinner at the Hotel that night and we discussed where we were going to go next. I had looked how far we were from Vienna and I expressed that we shoudl visit there considering we were only 2.5 hours away from it. After a brief discussion we all agreed that Vienna was going to be our next stop and we went on the Internet to book our next hotel.... what a dissapointment that place was...

Day #10: Salzburg...

Frans wrote:

12 Nov '09: (Posted from Prague 19 Nov '09) After another morning of walking I left my companions to it and deserted to my hotel room and laptop to catch up on my emails, comments and our Blog because we are getting behind a bit.... where were we.... right, Salzburg!

As posted earlier we checked into a fine hotel in Salzburg and we immediately went to explore the inner city as soon as we were settled in. That seems to be very well the routine wherever we stop now, even last night in Gorwhil we went for a walk and although there was little to see and just about everything was closed we did come upon a group of children and their parents near the local church where they had gathered to take off on a 'Saint Maarten' tour of the town together with their lampions. The idea is a bit like haloween although this practise entails singing songs instead of scaring people out off their skin to receive candy and sweets which always had a bit of a criminal intent, if you ask me..... and we wonder why there are so many muggings these days.....must be an American ritual by origin....

But I digress, Saltzburg.... We wandered through the old part of the city and I could get a good impression how this city must have been a rabbit warren in the old days with hidden passage ways and town squares joined by narrow alley ways. It held a great atmosphere also because all the stalls



were open and the local people were out on the streets and relaxing in the cafe's as well. As we are getting closer to Christmas obviously more and more shops were starting to display their Christmas wares which usually goes together with lighting and music to get into the Christmas spirit. In a way it is a shame we are not about 2 weeks later when the full Christmas preparations would have been in full swing....

We had some sort of a dinner at a 'Nord See' outlet which is a chain of fast food restaurants but who specialize in seafood and salads instead of only hamburgers and fish and chips.

The next day we started following the 'Sound of Music' trip to Mondsee and another place where Mozart's mother appearently had been borne and his sister had lived for a while. Unfortunately we discovered that also around the Salzburg area the local people take this time of the year off for their own holidays and nearly everything was closed. Fortunately the trip itself was quite pretty so that in itself made it worthwhile going.



In the afternoon we went to visit the Salzburg castle. We went up to it in a 'Venicular' train which is basically a system of 2 train carriages attached to each other by a cable that keep themselves 'in balance' that way so that if one goes down the hill it will pull the other one up.
It was in this train we briefly met up with another couple from Australia who were on a scheduled tour of Europe and had just come from Budapest and Vienna. After exchanging some information we asked them which city they liked better, Vienna or Budapest and their anser no doubt influenced our decision to bypass Vienna the next day and proceed directly to Budapest.

After some lunch of yet again what was on offer as a local meal, we explored the castle with all its own exhibitions and attractions including a -puppet on a string- exhibition which Karen obviously enjoyed getting involved in......



After coming down from the castle in the same train we went looking for the cemetry where some parts were filmed for the Sound of Music and after some searching we managed to locate it. I couldn't help myself after that and just had to buy a DVD of this film esspecially after Yvonne told us she had never seen the film at all?! I think I'll enjoy watching the movie again soon and then recognize the places we actually have been to!

After the visit to the cemetry I was looking forward to some time on my own and update our Blog which has become a bit of a hobby to me. I left my companions to.... you guessed it.... some shopping and after picking up a bottle of wine for dinner proceeded back to the hotel.

When my companions rejoined me they had not only contributed once again to the general economy of the Republic of Austria but also had joined a piano concert of Mozart. That night we had a light dinner of Biscuits, Bread, Red wine, some Cheeses and some Meats. It was pretty light stuff but quite enjoyable indeed. During our meal we discussed where to go next and there it was officially decided to push straight to Budapest the next day.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We are in Prague

Frans wrote:

18 Nov '09: When will I get time to bring our blog 'up to date' ?!? I'm becoming a bit frustrated by it..... Since my last post we've already visited Salzburg, Budapest and Vienna and now we've arrived in Prague and have a full day planned tomorrow.

We are staying here in Prague at the Ceasars Palace Hotel http://www.hotelcaesarprague.com/ . We've already had our first walk through the city and more exploring to do tomorrow.


At this stage we are planning to stay here for 2 nights so we're leaving again on the 20th of November but that might change. I wouldn't mind 'a lazy day' here before we start heading home again but we'll see.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

..another quicky...

Frans wrote:

17th Nov '09: Dear All, just a quicky whilst our Internet conenction is finally working in this #$#$%^ hotel. We're in Vienna and leave for Prague tomorrow.

Hopefully we'll have a better connection there to bring you all up to date again...

I did just manage to complete the Adults only entry... read at your own peril....

Monday, November 16, 2009

Adults only! ....What goes on behind the door...

Frans wrote:


16 Nov '09: I'm still waiting in my hotel room in Budapest and I've just been downstairs at reception asking if I can stay a little whilst longer because check out time is offically 11 o'clock and it is now already 11:30. Obviously my Ladies are going for a record here...


Now before you read any further let me give you a bit of a warning. what follows is strictly for Adults only and if you could be offended about what possibly can be found behind a men's toilet door in some of the Cafe's and Restaurant along the roads we have travelled I strongly advice you to skip the next part! ...but if you are anything like my three travelling companions you've just dug out your reading glasses out off the bottom of your handbag, polished the glasses for a better and unobstructed view and have put them on your face.....



We had stopped in Schiltag, the Lonely Planet's Black Forrest's Prettiest Town and we had wondered into this local Cafe for a spot of lunch. As we are now seasoned travellers we went to the bathroom before leaving the Cafe and there I came across this row of three urinals that had been nominated for each particular drinker:



Knowing this was a bit of a find that I just had to publish on our blog I proceeded to make a close up photo of each of the urinals so that the difference would be obvious:






Click on the picture to read the sign : 'For All Drinkers'
















Click on the picture to read the sign: 'For Beer Drinkers'



















Click on the picture to read the sign: 'For Wine Drinkers'










....I wonder why they keep it seperate......'Uuugh'....

My next Adults only blog entry was caused by a visit to a Men's toilet at a roadside Restaurant in Switzerland where we had stopped for coffee. I had wandered into the Men's toilet for the usual thing and had to look twice at what was hanging on the wall. Now I come from a country where all things erotic is just about allowed but even this made me blink a few times....perhaps I've spend too much time away from home?!

It took me a few seconds to realize that I was looking intently at a vending machine selling sex toys for the general pleasure of women... 'how considerate of the Swiss male' I thought.... I knew that this is one of those strange encounters that just had to be told about to my companions and our followers on 'The blog' so I proceeded to take a few pictures to the amusement of my fellow male toilet users who we're openly grinning at me. Little that they knew I took the pictures for 3 travelling companions, all female!











When I returned to my travelling companions who had gathered around a small table for a tea or coffee I recalled my discovery and offered to show my pictures. Up to now when I would offer my camera to any of them to show another fine picture I had taken they would obligingly look, screw their eyes for some sort of a focus and would standardly comment ...'Very nice, Frans' ...whilst their eyes would already wander around in search for the next shoe shop. This time, however, I had immediately their total attention and in a flurry of activity reading glasses were dug up from the bottom of handbags and where one couldn't find them quickly enough passed around from one to the other. Off course I had to 'zoom in' to make the different toys visible to the naked eye and each close up was throroughly examined, appropriate commented on ....'How disgusting' ....yeah right, you lot fool me....and brought into the proper perspective by turning the camera this way and then the other....



Click on the picture for a larger view....at your own peril......


The funniest thing still had to come though, after stopping at the next road side restaurant I had three pair of eyes waiting for me with that expecting look in their eyes.... 'Sorry Girls, no toys in this one'.....and you should have seen the look of utter dissapoinment on their faces....

Evonka's Gems Part 1

Frans wrote:

16 Nov '09: Whilst I'm waiting in my hotel room in Budapest, Hungary for my Ladies to return from yet another shopping spree I thought it might be a good opportunity to update you with those little anecdotes that happen on any holiday and that can make it quite special.

Now before I start let me assure you I have nothing against Yvonne and I don't mean to set out and pick on her but this blog would simply not reflect a good account of what our trip is really like without recalling some of those what we now call Evonka's Gems.

Let me set the scene for the first Gem......
We are travelling through The Black Forrest and it is that time in the afternoon where we can do with a stop to satisfy the craving for a cup of tea or coffee and answer the call of nature as one does have to do now and then.

We had noticed by now that a lot of road side Cafe's and Restaurants were closed for their own holidays and as it was Evonka's turn to sit in the front seat we had given her the task to look out for a nice Cafe.

After a few dissapointments Evonka spots this place with a lot of cars in front of it which is usually a good sign for a Cafe to be open:

'Look at that one', she cries whilst her hand points in the general direction, 'that's got a lot of cars in front off it!'

'I don't think so', comes back the reply ....'unless you're Japanese'...

'What's that got to do with it' she asks seriously

...from the darkness of the back seat comes the dry reply... 'it's a Mitsubishi dealer....'....

...and then we were on the road in Switzerland and we stopped for a coffee. From my previous entry you now know that the Swiss have their own currency and we don't have any of that on us. Unbelievably, Karen finds to what appears a 10 Swiss Franc note in the car park and hands that to Evonka as the bearer of the kitty.

'Here you go, Evonka', she says, 'We might use that for our coffee'

Not quite trusting this coincidence I reply: 'You sure it is not a fake?'

We sit down for coffee and we are discussing where we have to pay as each country and restaurant seems to have its own particular system and Evonka is determined to use the money Karen has found:

'I wonder if we can use this', she asks

'Sure', I reply, 'just don't do it whilst I'm around so I can't get arrested for forgery, the Swiss are pretty serious about their money, you know'

Evonka mulls this over for a little while and comes to a decision about the legality of this apparent 10 Franc note:

'It must be real, she declares with determination, 'otherwise it wouldn't have a number on it!'

To conclude this Part 1 of Evonla's Gems I can't get passed this one. We had returned to the car after walking through a village where the mother of the famous composer Mozart was born and whilst discussing Mozart's parentage Evonka lets go with this particular peace of wisdom:

'apparently he was only a small guy, he was only 3 foot!'

This particular statement is received with a bit of skeptisism by the rest of us so she adjusts her personal knowledge on Mozart a bit:

'Well it might have been 4 foot'

Even this statement is received with a few raised eyebrows but by now we have learned not too question her wisdom but she continues with another piece of personal knowledge of the by now severly shrunken Mozart:

'And he was pretty popular with the ladies' ...she states with total conviction in her voice

and I just can't help myself again: ....'then they must have been a bunch of bloody midgets'...