Home for Gpa (posted for Don via email)

This AM I decided to use the time to check out the airport and get my ticket….good move. I find it took me an hour to get to my gate. No wake up in this, the worst I have been in since Peru.
So rather than waste another 30 Euro I will be at the airport and sack in there this late PM…..Sammy is on her way to Brussels, etc, Paris and then Zurich so we say good bye after museums and more cribbage tonight. She has taken me 5 for 2 since Chad’s. I think she was giving me a beak for the first of the trip
We are in the midst of a cheese. bread, apple, juice breakfast
The Chad trip was great. The Boys are fine and the trip to Chemenix??? was wonderful. We also enjoyed a family dinner on Lake Geneva and Chad did a BBQ while I did a pasta. All in all his lamb chops were the best I have had
The trips from Venice and then to Amsterdam were eye opening. Northern Italy, France and Switzerland were all prosperous like Norway with clean villages, fine farms, managed forests and plenty of industry and car/truck traffic rather than the horse and foot traffic of the East.
The farms were both smaller family and huge corporate, but using modern technology and with profitable outcomes. Clean farm machinery, contours, irrigation and crops that were not only uniform, but healthy as hell/ Streams were clean, Chad says some of Europe is requiring cities to draw the water downstream, One way to improve sewage systems. Sharon is working on chemical sewage systems to assist disease control and better water supplies in developing countries…….Maybe she should start on the Mississippi
Have had 2 meetings here. Both were problems to locate, but not as bad as Harley Davidson, which is now out of business. The store is closed and the phone does not work, so Bobby is short a T shirt.
When Sammy gets back we start for museums. She has been to the Photography Museum, but I am anxious hot city history, Van Gogh and Jewish history. There are oodles to see and also a canal ride on my day pass. So will do my best to use all the time available and then sack in at the airport. This place is not worth another 30 Euro to sleep on a floor mattress
Sammy got to see a friend of hers who was in town for the day. Allot of value in this machine, I must eat my words as I thought it was extra luggage…So much for this old fart’s judgment
I am anxious to get home to my true love, but have some tough feelings about leaving Sammy. The trip has been great, we have seen and done a hell of a lot. We worked out the early bumps with the clock and the rest has been a piece of cake, a damn good cake. I am going to miss her and have some great memories.
I hope she has the same good feelings, I must admit traveling my poor man’s way leaves a lot to be desired especially this last looser

Venice to Paris(posted for Don via email)

All is well. We found a hostel in Paris, thanks to Sammy and had a trip from Venice with delays, interruptions, a station sleep over and finally in the city and comfortable. Northern Italy is prosperous, farms, industry and communities. What ever it is, they seem to be doing it right Venice is as interesting and beautiful as the tour guides suggest, but I had to wait for Paris for AA and that was a task that was well worth the effort. I got to see a lot of Paris from the outside but passed up the museums until we get a more convenient fall/spring visit. Our GLOBAL pass seems to require a limited seating, sort of like air miles travel. But it can be worked out with patience and a bit of manipulation….ask for the seating, obtain an OK and then present the Global pass and ask for help. Being old and demented seems to help….most of the time. Our trip would have been less exciting and not so much station sleep, scary international cab ride and fewer angry ticket sellers if I had gotten the act learned sooner and more effective. But then Nancy is the thespian. Our trip here included productive farming that would receive the Minnesota Farm bureau seal of approval. And then also the Traverse vintner’s gold medal. The towns and villages were more like Norway than we have experienced since Oslo. Sure there is some poverty and graffiti but minimal. Hydro electric and Atomic power and no smoking coal fired stacks…Take notice Michigan. The community rail stations are clean and some like castles. Food was usually good and inexpensive, but I learned to use the train heads and save $$$. Sammy did too.
The view here is spectacular with a vineyard for a neighbor, Geneva Lake for the view and a well kept village neighborhood. Sammy and I are getting royal treatment and clean clothes . Plus the pleasure of the company and the conversation about international health and International/USA politics. I even get to work in a few happy memories of India, Glen Lake and the fine times in Mexico thanks to Chad’s help. We got together, thanks to a couple of people who would not take $$ for the use of their cell phones as we arraigned to meet at the station. It gratifying to know there are kind and good people where ever we are. Back to Venice, my last day there was spent on city buses/barges as I hit every possible number and saw the backs of all those beautiful labyrinths.
By the way it is great that Chad is working to beat hell to assure international health. Back from a great birthday lunch for Chad, he is now at the grocery and has plans for Sunday, we will leave either Sun Night or Mon AM. The Boys are amazingly bright and spend happy time together. Sammy and I are catching up on Internet and Sammy is doing long overdo laundry too. I am without skives and in Chads shirt, my levies and sandals. Hope I don’t get arrested. The lunch was scrumptious, By the Lake and the perch could have been from the Manitou and that means, excellent. Sammy had a last night on the town in Paris, I think she will drop me off in Amsterdam and return to Paree ASAP. It was a great place for me too, but I still did not get inside the Louvre, My AA time was well spent and so was finding it. I Got to a lot of the places that I would like to have seen anyway, see being a drunk isn’t all lost time. I used the term TUBES and it should have been METRO. The one place, I wanted to see and missed was the sewer memorial. What in hell is it that has infected this Goy? I am carrying a stone from Auschwitz and I damn near got thrown out of Germany years ago because of my Dachau stones
Nancy let’s make sure we have a COOKS if we ever come to Europe again. I don’t know how many stores I have asked about a TIMETABLE, travel agencies and antique stores too. And thanks to you we had our nights on the trains when wanted and also those fine breakfasts in the stations. Admitted we were in Paris off and on for about a month because you were able to set our clocks by COOKS.
The farming and village life in Italy, France and Switzerland would be worth a separate trip.. I have noticed that the fields in the west seem so much nicer with a general organized and clean look. The equipment is modern and seldom do you see junk or junkers. Some are large farms but also they did not have that corporate look I have previously noted. Cars here are newer and cleaner and tend to high end. Let’s face it, long term peace, social democracy, and strong middle class has national advantages. Nancy’s coke bottle analogy has never been more evident than on this trip
Clean clothes, a great host family and surrounded by Swiss beauty is a hell of a great combination. What luck and happy times,
More hugs

VENICE (posted for Don via email)

After a night of good luck we have better luck thanks to Sam with a minor exception of a hot shower. But we leave tomorrow for Paris and then to Geneva on Friday. The weekend works well with chad and we get clean laundry to last us for the rest of the trip.

Sam got to Lido today, but it clouded up so her tan venture was not the best. She did, however, get a pass for the bus/canal service. I will get mine tomorrow and we will do the canals before we hit the road to Paris.

Today, like the last two, I have roamed the city streets and bridges, just going over and not in the canals. What is a street walker called in Venice?

There are wonderful museums here, but the cathedral which I have tried three days to enter has had 2+ hours of wait time, so I have walked instead and seen a lot of other cathedrals, The alters are memorable, but it is the breath taking art/architecture that is so impressive to me. The oils in the cathedrals are magnificent but As Nancy once said,”one more goddamn cathedral and I am going home”

But I did a few more and was deeply impressed. The interiors, however were no better than the exteriors in many instances. Certainly the adverse effects of age and acid were visible but to see multi-colored pillars from international quarries topped by multiple years of artist’s work to provide perfect adornment, and then to see statues lining the walls and intermittent sculptures placed strategically in walls presents one with the necessity to just sit in awe and take in exteriors with the same intensity of interiors. I will probable not get another chance, and if I do it will be in September or later

I also spent alot of time studying chimneys. Door handles, bridges and laundry arrangements between 2/3/4 different buildings. Housewives applied engineering that wands both intricate and functional. And who would think that chimneys were interesting? They were and as I walked these hidden neighborhoods it kept my mind off my sore feet to look up and enjoy chimneys and laundry.

And to think buildings with 10 centuries of age could have Anderson windows. Brass must have been widely available as some of the door handles kept a lot of craftsmen and designers busy back then. You can see all sorts of door handles that are works of functional design and beauty, add to those some very interesting name plates and multiple doorbell systems, Okay what is so interesting about 20 doorbells on a brass plate? different strokes for different folks. I also saw some fine craftsmen at work on boat building, not gondolas, they seem pretty much similar with fiberglass hulls a different plastic/gold paint seating and every now and then a Persian rug runner for the oarsmen as opposed to a rubber mat, But the Venetian boats, like the single oar lock on the gondola are something to see. It is also something to see a boat garage and a family pull out to go to shop or church, not in a Rolls but a boat that is a work
of art with bright work that would make Billy Olsen or Jack take notice. Some of the taxis and personal boats would bring joy to an wooden boat show and take prizes to boot

Tomorrow we travel and with luck in another day or two, we get A HOT SHOWER

STARI GRAD (posted for Don via email)

After innumerable trips to and from Budapest we have found a home. The trip to Split after a missed stop and a lucky Ljubljana??? change, we get to and leave Split, catch our bus, then ferry, another bus and we start through 24 centuries of changes and political conflict and peace to find our Peace in Stari-Grad. What great luck that keeps ahead or pursuing us. Our good fortunes keep coming.

After three bus drivers and the taxi man assure us of need to go elsewhere, our rescue by a kind father and child, the kind folks who take us next door to their accommodation placement business and get us a hostel we can afford rather than a money making, for them, apartment….we get settled in. Our town reconnoiter is a most welcome walk along a harbor filled with boats and a malacon filled with happy travelers. The town is a combination of home owning resort-ers and tourists, a lot like home.

We find we are again blessed with clean-close-cheap. Cribbage, coffee and some shopping and then an excellent Sammy salad, and more exploration besides a good sleep, ends another day of happy travel, THANK YOU NANCY

I get a mediocre breakfast and explore. The multi-century buildings with visible changes and topsy like additions are fascinating . The streets off the malacon are a labyrinth of stone with the multi-century changes plus 21st century additions of colorful stucco, Anderson windows, and a Mercedes in a garage, even patios and gardens. Frankfort revisited.

With a few minor changes. On our history walk the day before we leave we really get too see 24 centuries. There is a visible dig showing the lives of those who were here 324 BC. We then see the invasion of the Greeks, the peace and then the Romans and finally the Christian invasion and more peace. Until the Croats/Slavs try…and fail again as the good fathers, under St Stephens in the 13/14th centuries bring lasting peace to the island. It took building a few fortifications around the monastery, but peace has prevailed and the outcome is the one place I suggest good people visit. It has all those attributes travelers like me appreciate.

This is one history I have to read. I just can’t imagine the political, social, cultural and economic demands that brought this Island the miles and miles of stone walls marking boundaries. The Island is now challenged by another invasion, an invasive evergreen that is constantly battled to keep the vineyards, cropland and beautiful family gardens are productive. Point Betsy and the baby’s breath revisited. It is evident, however, that the people are winning this battle, the vineyards are beautifully farmed and the valley soil provides a host of truck crops and both provide a welcome addition to the tourist and fishing industries. And then the Olive trees just keep producing with their only enemy, fire, being occasionally visible in the hills

So after a lot of sun, great views and history, a visit to a creative artist/dreamer who creates the most fascinating objects out of all natural products that include crab legs on a shell, grass, driftwood, bird with fish scale wings…we reluctantly leave town.

And now for the rest of the story

Sam still wanted to go to Bar, our ill fated mission a week back. So we do.

First a ferry to Split and then an immediate bus change, or a wait for 3 days, and we are off to Bar with a crowd of touristy/international lovely young things and their scraggly followers, or is that my prejudice? YES

The bus ride was too hot and too long. It even included a 100 yard ferry ride to cut off a hundred miles of mountain road, a blessing.

We did get to Bar and a welcome and very happy ending

We are now ensconced in a seven story apartment, furnished by my sister Barbara after a big lottery win.

But how we got here is the miracle

The bus, loaded with happy kids leaving split for the Southern unknown parts, included a very drunk and big Ukrainian young man with a heart of gold and an eye for folks in need, or was it an eye for this old fart’s granddaughter

Whatever, the outcome is another of a traveler’s lucky breaks. Nancy, France all over again, but this time seven stories up, rather than a taxi driver’s secret garden with barrels of wine, clean sheets and furniture out of an antique dealers treasure trove.

The drunken Ukraine stops the bus, motions to me, I wake up Sam, the driver and we three disembark on a busy Bar street, with civilization on the other side of a traffic filled street. With help from the driver, who doesn’t speak English either, it is decided that we have found a home. The driver gets out our gear, motions across the street and gladly leaves. We brave the traffic and enter a SOBA, 2 stars, meaning clean and a bathroom. We are met by a kindly man who tells us, no room, then he converses with his wife, the Ukrainian leaves and the man says, “two beds, apartment, 30Euroes. He then heads for a parked car, we follow, the wife/husband discuss?????? We get in the car, drive in a Bar maze, park, get in an elevator, and here we are/

He gets the clean sheets on the bed with our help. He asks us to not leave until he returns at 9:30, we agree, he leaves with shower instructions and on time, returns to tell us he has to take his Brother to the hospital and now back again.

We pack and leave, the elevator is a bit crowded, but functional and safe. We get back to where we started, are introduced to the family, the kids are neat and hard workers with laundry, cleaning etc.

The place is neat, comfortable and a head a step away.

We are now off to the Beach for Sam, the bank and culture for me and a meal for both of us.

We will stay tonight and the next. I will check transportation and then north and west. Depending on connections it will be Trieste, Venice and Chad, then ????

All is happy and well the professor has finally got her prize student to correct his own spelling errors, and they are many

Hugs and happiness to all

A GREEK TRAGEDY (posted for Don via email)

Now on the way to Vienna via Budapest after a horrific day/night/day of travel and back track including a hustlers opal ride from Ruse Bulgaria back to Bucharest a night in the station, a 5:30 AM to Budapest to change to Vienna .

Yes it was complicated

We figured Thessalonian would be a great place to see, so we started via Bulgaria…..WHOOPS………we can’t travel there. We found out via a conductor and a USA 20 that back track was the best solution, while backtracking we read the small print and a map of Europe supplied by Eurail. We can’t go to Syria either so Belgrade and Croatia requires another plan. That we will do and have sun and sea as a reward for a 48 hour, $50.00 mistake

The trip from Ruse back to Bucharest was with anther stranded couple so the tab was only $30 US. Hey look at the bright side, we saved two nights lodging and saw new territory…..TWICE.

A good Greek attempt, we will catch it next time

So Sunday in Bucharest I again try the embassy, no one home except armed guards a parameter of fence and security and an embarrassment for me, send me your poor and hungry….hell even a citizen could not get in. Where in Hell were the Marines?? How do you say Doctor in Romanian?? Maybe I was just pissed, but every time I see an Embassy, I am bothered. There are oodles of them and ours is the only one that is an armed camp. STUPID….A mortar round does the damage and that could come from the thousands of windows in the neighborhood. And what about those damn Norwegians and our embassy there and similar dangerous enemy territory.

Ok so enough of my poiitics

It is evident both countries have an economic problem to solve, The cars on the streets were older, dirtier and scarce. Before we left Bucaresti……the first time…….. we were in a park that had crowds of folks enjoying a live concert of band/orchestra music, all ages, just sitting about while the kids had a ball with a lot of structural toys

The Romania/ Bulgaria trip gave us a couple of contrasts. The crylic words were impossible, hostile responses were in non verbals, not just language and Bulgaria agriculture and land use was far superior to Romania. We saw similar villages with few if any cars, backwork harvesting, a mix of machines and animals and a host of tiny villages that looked like the serfs still were in bondage. But the difference was the land use and farming methods. Sammy noticed it first as we crossed the border. The fields were neat, well defined and completely utilized where Romania seemed haphazard. There was much less fallow ground in Bulgaria and it seemed it was allowed to rest, not just ignored. Both countries had corn and grain, but Bulgaria’s
Seemed more productive as tho they used fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides

Both countries used contours, rotation and chemicals. Bulgaria seemed more sophisticated. Both had miles of sunflowers, but Bulgaria had timed the planting so that the different harvesting was possible. We also saw what I thought was the antiquated burning of the stubble after cutting

The hugs valley seemed never ending and good soil and results were visible, but from the boarder on Bulgaria just seemed more prosperous. In the cities the communist apartment complexes were all over while the rural areas had the older and dilapidated housing

Sammy is sleeping, no wonder a 24 hour ride with a few naps and a lot of cribbage.

The river separating the two countries is quite busy with barge traffic, but no tourist or pleasure craft in sight, both countries had terrible rust bucket areas with many rusted, windowless industrial complexes that stood idle but it seemed Bulgaria had more brand new manufacturing areas, The truck back up getting into Romania made our Mexican boarder look empty. The trucks were backed up for miles. The inspections had many hours of down/delayed time that damn costly. It seemed it was paper work not inspection or customs investigations

We are now in the beautiful mountains..Carpathian??????

At any rate, I am about to catch a bit of shut eye

Vienna and beyond (posted for Don via email)

Travel day, Vienna and then West and South

Last night a buddy played he bagpipes on a white bread pedestrian boulevard and was well received be the audience including a number of dancers in Vienna for a festival., Fun for the audience, free with applause and too often too free to contribute.

Had a great walk thanks to Sam who had us thru the palace gate and the Museum square with all the beautiful lighting of the statutes and buildings. Worth a visit just for that night time view. The lighting on all the columns and statuary with special highlights was a head turner/turner/turner. It was a sight too often missed. The daytime crowds allow a hurried and noisy view as the tour leaders tell the sheep where to look and foul the air with inane comments in ten languages, all increasing their volume to allow themselves to pontificate louder and longer than the competition

But beauty, Vienna has. And in spite of my aversion to having me hear a guide wax enthusiastic about a visual art I have just passed or not approached, or having the same guide (S) break my-reverie of absorption of the moment, the trip is beautiful

Even walking the streets and seeing the retail excellence and the sophisticated presentation is a pleasure. I do not have to be interested in the objects or specific presentation, the mannequin’s or the descriptions that include previews on what is to be IN next season, or bother with the film approach as to what is available, for a price, inside some of the more overt venues. It is the ambiance of the stroll, not enlightenment or desire to buy or rent. It is just the sophistication of the area.
And then it gradually changes to the more mundane as we approach our hostel and Banhof district. I wax to damn much about nothing

Which brings back my concerns about agriculture. Hell I can grow nothing but weeds so what right do I have to write about national differences??? NONE….but I do note a national economy correlation between the Austria and Hungary/Romania

The subsistence farming, poor villages sans cars and fewer dishes, I can understand. But even the large, corporate farms, miles of sunflowers and grain crops are different Management and ownership varies and it is mirrored in the the cars, cleanliness and citizen outlook and presence. The people at this hostel who are the employees even seem different. The politics of oppression and the decimation of the Jew seems to be forgotten here, Maybe that is not a good thing….no there should be more evidence of WW11 Generational guilt is not all bad. But the feudal remnants of Hungary/Romania sure aren’t good and either is the economic recovery…..Whoops, am I looking at a national image? YES, but let the agriculture mirror the retail and street scenes and the economic might benefit. I keep thinking back to our Scandinavian visit where prosperity and smiles pervaded….and so did a strong economy and beautiful fields. I again have made the error of categorizing and generalizing based upon my own shallow observations, experience and education. OK, I have thoroughly enjoyed Vienna, could it be built in guilt for a 36 hour mistake in Bulgaria?

Sam is on the way down, a 10 AM check out, then breakfast and storing the gear at the Banhof. I am off to a 6:45 meeting and then back to the station for parts unknown and more adventure. NO Bulgaria or Serbia, how in hell we got Poland in and out is a gift, but what the hell, so is this trip

The languages, families and camaraderie seem to overcome the smoke, Ligget and American tobacco are doing well

Other than a minor tea mishap, life is good, Nancy prepare to buy a used Mac, NO, I am pretty sure I caught it