Day 22, Warsaw

This was a somber day. I had been wanting to visit the sites that remembered Jews from WWII. The Jewish Ghetto is pretty much gone with the exception of a couple of wall remnants. We did not find these. The wall remnants near our apartment apparently are not parts of the Jewish Ghetto.

We did find a museum in the old Jewish Quarter. It turns out that the Ghetto covered 1.2 kilometers and held over 500,000 Jews. For some reason I had always thought that it covered just a few blocks, but it makes sense that it would cover such a large area. At 1.2 kilometers it was already teeming with people, disease and filth. If it had only been a few blocks, it would have been even more unbearable. Continue reading

Days 20 and 21, Goodbye, Budapest, Hello, Warsaw

Before retiring for the night on day 19, we took a stroll along the Danube again and visited a park in the middle of the river. A fountain and light show was occurring. It resembled something out of Bellagio in Las Vegas and was quite opulent.

Bob and the Burgermeister Meisterburger

Bob and the Burgermeister Meisterburger

Our last day in Budapest saw us taking in the world-famous mineral baths in Budapest. I had completely forgotten about them until Barry brought them up. Immediately, I was determined to go. Initially, Barry kind of hemmed and hawed. But as I prepared to leave for the spa, he decided to join me.

Budapest has about eight of these mineral baths and they are probably nothing like you imagine. I researched them online and each one seemed unique. Most are on the Buda side of the river. Ours was on our side, the Pest side so that’s where we decided to go. Whether or not it was the right decision, I don’t know, because it was quite a distance to walk. Continue reading

Day 19, Budapest

So, today was wonderful, too. I have to admit that Budapest is rapidly becoming one of my favorite cities in Europe. Of course, I still have many others to visit, but this place is capturing my heart. The fact that it’s so inexpensive helps!

Today was very warm, close to 90 degrees. We decided to walk to the Budapest Museum,  the Magyar (Gypsy) Galleria, and the Matthias Church. They were all magnificent. I have to admit, though, that my sensory perception is on overload. I don’t know how many more grand buildings with breathtaking architecture I can take. Every night I have to do a brain dump so I can absorb the glories that I will see the next day.

2014-07-15 11.36.29After spending several hours touring the grounds of these magnificent structures, it was

time for a nap. I have to sheepishly admit that we have been doing this every day we’ve been in Europe. We start out early with the best of intentions and by the time one or two o’clock rolls around, we’re ready for a snooze. Sucks. Continue reading

Day 18, Budapest

The dinner we had the night before we left Bratislava did not disappoint. Barry and I both had a chicken dinner with a mushroom sauce that was incredible. This, from a person who does not particularly care for mushrooms. The only negative was our waiter who had the personality of a brick and a bit of an attitude. We walked back to our hotel room and conked out again.

The next morning we took the bus to the train station in which we arrived. After speaking to a person at the booth, we found out we needed to go to a different train station to take us to Budapest. So, we got on another bus to get to the Central Station.

As we approached the final stop at the Central Station, a man came up to us asking to see our tickets. We showed him our tickets and he explained in very basic English that our tickets had expired and we would have to pay a fine–50 euros apiece! The equivalent of $67.50! Shocked, we started digging in our pockets. Barry found a 100 euro note and the guy generously told us he would charge us 50 euros for the two of us. Then he handed another 20 euros back. As a result, we ended up paying about $22 apiece. But it was an expensive lesson considering a bloody bus ticket is only the equivalent of $.94. Continue reading

Days 16 & 17, auf wedersehen Munich, ahoj Bratislava  

Up at 7:00 p.m. and Barry leaped into the shower while I tried to catch a few more zzzz’s. Eventually, though, I was forced to drag my sorry butt out of bed and clean up for the train ride to Bratislava. We got our train tickets the day before and opted to splurge a bit by purchasing business class seats. Even though we haven’t exactly been living a pauper’s life in our travels, we haven’t been living like jet-setters, either. How frustrating to realize later that the frau in the Munich ticket office screwed us royally on tickets to Bratislava.

After grabbing a breakfast of pastries and coffee (I LOVE European meals), we waited for the train to Vienna where we would disembark and catch another train for the final leg to Bratislava. Continue reading

Day 15, Munich and…Dachau…

Well, today provided a very somber experience. I guess one cannot really visit Germany without experiencing one of the concentration camps from the Nazi era. This is what we had on our agenda today. Dachau. As I’ve mentioned a number of times, Barry visited Germany last year and, as a high school teacher, is well read on these issues.

As for myself, I’ve obviously read about the concentration camps, but Barry filled in many of the blanks. Dachau was the first of the concentration camps and was not originally intended as a death center. Originally, it was for “processing” people for ultimate transit to other concentration camps where they would be tortured, gassed, shot or murdered in some other heinous fashion.

Walking through the gates of Dachau was a surreal experience. As one enters, the words “Work will set you free” in German greet you. I’ve heard of this “greeting” and seen it on TV many times. But witnessing it with my own two eyes was very troubling. Continue reading

Days 13 & 14, Munich

So, we arrived in Munich from Innsbruck and got here relatively early, around 12:30. After depositing our baggage at Amba Hotel near the train station, we started touring around Munich.

Barry visited Munich last year so I relied on him totally to navigate the subway system. I’ve been on the Metro in Rome, Vienna, Prague and Moscow. Moscow was difficult with that Cyrillic alphabet. But Munich would have been a disaster for me because I found none of the names were decipherable.

It amazes me how one word here can have sixteen letters. By the time a word has been spoken, you could have run around the block. And, at the risk of insulting my friends of German descent, I have to say that the German language does sound somewhat harsh. I listen to people on the Metro and it sounds like they’re all trying to hock loogies. Also, a couple of times I’ve heard someone yell out “Schnell!” or “Achtung!” which caused me to involuntarily raise my arms in surrender. Continue reading

Days 11 & 12, Innsbruck

Have not had a chance to blog lately so I have a bit of catching up to do.

Frankly, there has not been much going on. We left Ascoli Piceno two days ago. Took the train to San Benedetto del Tronto on the Adriatic Coast where we bought a ticket for Bologna. In Bologna we purchased a ticket for the remaining leg of the trip to Innsbruck. The trips were, essentially, uninteresting save for the fact that I did not screw anything up. No lives were lost, no humans forgotten, no eyeglasses were broken. No, kids, it was a painless and boring trip.

I was captivated, though, by the lush appearance of the Italian countryside. I live in Oregon, which is green, green, green. But there’s something about the Italian countryside that grabs me. Maybe it’s the way Italians cultivate every square inch of ground, even up to the tops of high hillsides. Maybe it’s the lack of forests unlike Oregon. Maybe it’s the exotic nature of the crops—olive trees, artichokes, orange groves. I don’t know. It’s just beautiful. Continue reading

Day 10, Leaving Ascoli Piceno

Today did not turn out as we had hoped. We had planned to take the train to San Benedetto del Tronto so we could spend some time at the seashore, in this case, the Adriatic. Well, there was only one bus going to San Benedetto and it left at noon and would have deposited us in San Benedetto at 1:00 p.m. It was 9:00 a.m. and we didn’t want to wait three hours for a bus. Too, we were scheduled to meet my aunt and uncle for dinner at 7:30 p.m. and the bus for Ascoli was to leave San Benedetto at 6:00 p.m. giving us little time to prepare. The net result was our lounging around the hotel taking naps and just being lazy. But isn’t that what Italy is about?

I need to remember that Italy is not a country built on convenience. It is a country built on, as I’ve said many times, la dolce vita. People here don’t live to work, they work to live and I believe that they have perfected the art of living. I must admit that I would probably lose my freaking mind if I had to work here–or live here? The reason is that I would have to alter what I expect from a society. Virtually nothing was open today. Grocery stores, bars (coffee shops), bakeries, pizza joints. Nothing was open. We were kinda stuck, especially when lunch time came and we could find no place to eat. I ended up ordering room service which was quite reasonable. Then I spent the afternoon surfing the Net like a good American. Continue reading

Days 8 & 9, Ascoli Piceno

So, time has slowed considerably here in Ascoli Piceno. In Rome and Florence we seemed rushed, despite our attempts to slow down. There was so much to see and so little time, that every day seemed to be chock full. Perhaps it’s because Ascoli is so small that we feel relaxed. Perhaps it’s because we have more time here to see everything–and the amount of sites is substantially lower than Rome or Paris.

Perhaps it’s because my family is here and they have a la dolce vita view of life. Whatever it is, it feels good to have a day where we can just hang and take a nap, have an espresso, go for a walk or just enjoy the atmosphere. Continue reading