Sunday night we decided to try a restaurant that we saw on our walk back and forth to the Burgerfest. Re the fest, we, foolishly, thought that meant burgers would be on the menu, but burger, it seems, means something like local citizen, and we got some strange looks when our troop initially arrived at the fest the night before. Anyway, the restaurant, with a heavy Italian leaning, served lots of seafood (their menu had English translations, so at least we weren’t going in blind) and that appealed to my non-meat eating wife (in my book, seafood is still ‘meat,’ but not in hers). The food was quite good. The service… not so much – perhaps they weren’t expecting to be so busy on a Sunday night with the Burgerfest going on and hadn’t staffed up enough. We wound up with around 10 people, but they arrived in three waves. My group was first and our service was pretty good and we got our food quickly. The second group had a much longer wait and the third nearly an hour. We joked that the staff were slipping out the back to the Burgerfest and that’s why things were taking so long. All this made for a late night (well, late for me, normally, plus late for everyone, since we had to be going so early). What was interesting to me, was the _north_ sky was bright, even after 10. I was telling everyone that the the sky was light because we were so far north that we were getting reflections from the 24 hour sun at the pole. It’s really screwed us up for estimating what time it is by the light available, though.
I believe I mentioned the four plus hour bus ride to Prague and how I wasn’t looking forward to it? Well, it pretty much managed to live up (or down, I guess) to my expectations. We got up at around 3:30 AM, or, rather, my wife woke me up as she started packing, since she woke up even earlier. The breakfast buffet began at 4 and the taxies to pick us up were due at 5, so my wife couldn’t sleep. The trip to the bus station was fairly uneventful, it seems morning traffic gets a much later start in Munich than in the Washington, DC area rat hole. That meant that we got to the bus station, in central Munich, two hours early. This is what I really hate about travel, the endless waiting.
Our bus finally arrived. We assumed we had assigned seats, but couldn’t find any evidence of seat information on the ticket, even when they tediously translated each word. One of our members asked the lady that seemed to be managing the tickets, but her English was basically nonexistent. We, therefore, assumed that the bus had open seating, so arranged to be very first in line so my wife could get the seat in the front to minimize her motion sickness. It wasn’t cold, but there was a cool breeze coming around the corner that ‘built up’ after sitting/standing for two hours and I was really glad I had the foresight to pack a jacket and pants in my backpack.
The bus finally arrived, much later than I expected, but it didn’t have to unload any passengers, it was empty. Getting everyone on the bus was tedious, each ticket verified along with each passport. We all piled onto the front seats and waited for everyone else to get on board. I saw several people look at the seat numbers (btw, they started at 26, wtf?), their tickets, then shrug and wander to the back. I commented about assigned seats again, but, once more, any attempt to find such on our tickets failed.
There was a last minute dash to the (paid) toilet (at the other end of the depot, naturally), when it seemed there wasn’t a toilet on the bus. Which was absurd, but there was no visible evidence of one. I started to escalate my typical sarcastic comments, which was steadily pissing my wife off (she already had a headache and was very much not looking forward to bus motion; normally she can handle a lot more of my asshole-ish before things get this bad), but, thankfully, all the pee-ers made it back and the bus, remarkably, left only a minute or two late.
To drive back almost the entire way to the hotel where we had been staying! Except this time in dense rush-hour traffic. Whee!
The traffic, though thick, moved better than around the rat hole and the distance from the city center to the rural areas much, much shorter than back home, so the pace picked up fairly quickly. The countryside is very quaint and picturesque. The same small farms, but, from time to time pretty little villages that seemed to have been formulated from paintings. Though, I suppose, the paintings were all based on these villages in the first place.
I tried to sleep, to very little effect. Most of my companions seemed to trot off to dream land quickly and without any real effort. My knees were bothering me, the front-most seats didn’t have any place for me to extend my legs, and eventually I switched spots with my wife so I could stick my legs down the entrance stairs.
After a while, instead of the patchwork of wheat, corn, what looked like potatoes, probably rye and a few other grains, I started to see hops. Then more hops. Then lots of hops. I guess with all the beer produced there, they needed lots (and lots) of hops, so eventually it made sense to me. Much of the area was very flat and there were lots of what I assume were drainage lakes or ponds, to let the ground get dry enough to farm. At some point the character of the ground became more rolling and there were eventually places that actually looked parched, like it hadn’t rained in weeks. So either the weather was highly variable or the lower-lying areas diligently collected rain so it could be used to water the crops.
So the ‘express’ did make a stop. And that’s where the seat assignment thing reared its head once again. _These_ people didn’t shrug and head to the back when they saw us in their seats and the driver, with something like a half dozen words in English, angrily pointed to these random numbers in the center of ONE of the tickets and loudly said we needed to move. No problem, except, of course, the new arrivals were all standing in the space between the seats, where we all needed to occupy in order to move anywhere. The driver got angrier that we were just sitting there, since he clearly didn’t understand I was saying we couldn’t move because the people were in the way and I started to get angry (of course) that we were stuck in analysis paralysis instead of motoring down the road. Eventually, I just reached over the newcomers heads to start dragging out the luggage from the overhead compartment and handing it out. I later learned that Mitch, the other white guy in our entourage, got the feeling that several of the new arrivals were saying disparaging things, so in his own charming asshole way, made a loud comment that contained the word ‘shit’ in it. Evidently, that word is somewhat of a universal one, as they all got really polite all the sudden. Mitch isn’t as tall as me, but he is otherwise big and can look very intimidating when he wants to.
Anyway, we finally get everyone to their assigned seats, which is where we would have gone in the first place if someone had pointed out the damn random-seeming numbers to begin with. I announced, in my normal, loud, forthright manner that my wife hates so much, that next time, we needed to bring a local language expert with us, as I’m quite certain the seat number fiasco would never have happened if there wasn’t the language barrier. Speaking of which, after everyone else trooped to Munich to see off Mara, Tom and the kids, they missed their intended train as they did some chicken-with-head-cut-off running around trying to figure out where the elevators linked up. Eventually, it seems, the wheelchair riders had to climb up a couple flights of stairs just to make it to the right platform. Mara made things so much easier when she was around!
The bus got going and the rest of the trip was largely uneventful. Except my wife wouldn’t talk to me any longer, as it seems I exceeded my allowed quota of asshole-ish behavior.
It turns out the bus actually did have a bathroom. The recorded briefing (in three languages) mentioned it was at the back of the bus, ‘down below.’ It wasn’t at the back, though, it was at the middle. How would anyone think the middle was the back? Anyway, the bathroom, about the size of a typical airplane one, could only be reached by stepping part way down to the exit ramp, then opening the door, then doing this limbo-like twist and turn to finish going down the steps, pulling the door closed behind you. Into pitch blackness. EVERYONE had to open the door so they could find the light switch. What fun.
After arriving in Prague we manage to link up with the guy to take us to the hotel without much trouble. He had a large enough van for us all and was towing a trailer that wasn’t quite big enough for everything and had to stick one of the wheelchairs in the back of the van. The hotel was nice and we managed to check in without any huge issue. The huge issue was for later, when we got to the room.
My wife stewed the entire 4+ hour trip, which, naturally, fed back into my upset. Normally, if not reminded, I quickly forget when I’ve been upset, often within minutes. But her constant reminder reinforced mine to the point we were irritating each other without even speaking, looking or touching. When we got to the room the others announced they were hungry and decided to check out the restaurant for a late lunch (it was around 1:30 PM by this time). I wasn’t that hungry (I’ve worked for years to get my body to metabolize fat and have been (attempting to) do the single-meal fasting thing as a way to reduce my caloric intake without reducing my meal size – there have been slight signs of efficacy, but the jury is still out) and, frankly, didn’t want to spend any time with my wife, so lay down to take a nap and told her to go without me.
At some point later (I can’t be sure if I actually slept; I was really tired, and it had been a long day, so I might have started snoring before she reached the elevator) she came back to the room and insisted I come down for the meal. We had a rather heated discussion about the day’s events and, though it was angst filled, it was remarkable that we aired our disagreements so quickly. In the past these feelings might have marinated/fermented for days, even weeks, so hours is rather astounding. After rehashing some old ‘scores’ and talking over the day’s events, we somewhat agreed that we were both at fault, kissed and made up. Hopefully that will be the nadir of our trip.
The dinner was very tasty (steak tartar for me, which is really just raw hamburger), but ssslllooowww. I don’t know if it’s a European thing or if we just got (un)lucky (as before, there didn’t seem to be enough staff for the size of our group), but it was very tedious waiting. I had no intention to join the tour that afternoon, planning on writing (yeah, right), and Don and his cousin Kaelan also stayed. I wound up reading (and dozing) until Don and Ky showed up (they’re in the room right next to ours) saying they wanted to go to dinner. We headed down and I figured we’d try the other restaurant, since the first was so slow. Except that one, it seems, is used as a buffet for group tours and was blocked off from us. So we went back to the same restaurant that had the slow service from before. But, I figured, it was only three of us, so it should go much faster.
Nope. Still glacial. We all ordered the same hamburger, which was quite good when it eventually arrived. Our drink glasses were made of crystal, it seems, as Don asked about the music making ability and, while I said I had never been able to make it work, immediately demonstrated. And it immediately worked! So that amused me for part of the time we waited.
This morning we had the breakfast buffet in the other restaurant and it was very good indeed. I ate too much, and am only just slightly hungry now, at 5:30 PM, after having eaten at around 7:30 this morning and working out in the gym. The gym is reasonably well appointed and I spent nearly an hour there. Managed to squeeze out two miles on the treadmill (I hate treadmills) by doing one to warm up and another after I was done with the weights.
I did managed to get some writing done today (other than this blog). About 3,600 words total (out of an estimated 20-25K), approximately 17 pages (out of 90-100) and about 22% of my synopsis (9 out of 41 sections). Not as far as I’d like, it flows in fits and starts (like usual), but I feel like I’m on a good track and can reach my goal for the vacation.
Tomorrow we’re touring and repositioning, so I can’t sit in the hotel and write. I suppose, in principle, I could write on the bus, but doubt that’ll work. I’ll bring my laptop in case I get inspired. Oh, did I mention one of the places we’re going tomorrow? Munich! I think we wind up in Innsbruck or something at the end of the day. It took me a while to get over that. Hopefully the bus tomorrow is an easier time compared to the last one.
Sorry I didn’t get the pictures posted. When the wifi worked, it was high speed, but it was off for several hours today. Earlier, I attempted to copy the files off my wife’s phone, but it seems the POS Chrome software wants to make a mirror of the damn thing, rather than let me pick and choose the images. My wife emailed me a couple of pictures, but not all the ones I wanted.