Adamses begin their European trip

(Editor’s Note: The following travellogue, written by Jerry Adams, a retired Brady teacher, relates his recent wanderings in Europe with his wife, Eileen, also a recently retired teacher. They rejected the “don’t go overseas” warning from many folks and dove into their favorite pasttime of seeing how others live. This trip covered 30 days.) By Jerry Adams with assistance by Eileen Adams On Oct. 3 our son, Jason, a Methodist pastor in San Antonio, dropped us off at the San Antonio International Airport to catch a flight to Chicago where we were to connect with our flight to London Heathrow. Putting flights together because of so many cancellations, our seats were taken. and we had to fly first class, soo-o sad! We were waited on hand and foot and had to eat off china plates instead of the usual airplane fare served in plastic. Upon arrival, we changed money, caught the tube to Victoria Station and located a B&B all before 9:00 a.m. Not many travelers at this time of year so we got some really special rates. We left our bags and took off on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour which took all day. We visited the National Art Gallery and St. Martin’s in the field where a musical ensemble was practicing for a concert that evening. The last stop was in Picadilly Circus, the theater district, but we were too tired to see a play. After eating some “pub grub,” we caught the last bus back to our B&B in Belgravia for a much needed rest. The weather in London was fine with only occasional showers that were short in duration and which washed the city’s fumes away. The next morning after a late breakfast we headed off for Buckingham Palace. Then we walked all the way to Harrod’s Department Store (where Princess Diana liked to shop). Eileen bought her sister some scented soaps which she later noticed were Crab Tree and Evelyn, something we could have found at any U.S. mall. The rest of our time was spent at the Tate Museums, old and new. And they were much farther away than we had anticipated but well worth the time and effort. We walked all day and in the evenings we reported to a local pub, which is short for public house, where even children are welcome. We would eat and relax until bedtime which always came very early. That was when we washed out our clothes and read up for the next day’s sights. We had a great time wandering around on Saturday because there was very little traffic and few people. That is because London proper is only one square mile and very few people live there. Most of the shops were closed. We had already visited Foyle’s, my favorite book store where we both found a book to read during those long waits for train connections. So we whiled away the day waiting out a rain shower or two, visiting a museum and watching a soccer game (which they call football) in a pub. Actually, Eileen was sitting right under the TV and says she enjoyed watching the excitement on the faces of the fans. At 7 p.m. we picked up our bags at the B&B and headed for the Victoria Bus Station. We had a small lunch to eat on the bus, but Eileen gave half of hers to a boy who said he was hungry. (There are lots of beggars all over Europe.) We were the last in line, but you know the old saying. That meant that we got to sit in the very first seat. We had the most room and the best view of all. For me the trip through the English Channel on a big bus was a non-event, but Eileen liked it even though there was nothing to see. Our ears popped because we were 40 meters below the ocean bed. French customs delayed us for a long while; I think just because they could. Some things never change. The bus dropped us off in Amsterdam at 5:30 a.m. way out on the edge of town. It was Sunday morning and the subways didn’t operate until 8:00, and the buses only ran once an hour, so we took a taxi, but we had nowhere to go. Eileen said, “Take us to a coffee shop.” He drove like a madman, deposited us on a curbside, got our bags, took our money and zoomed off. By then it was 5:55 and the coffee shop closed at 6 a. m. We took off walking for the train station, but it was a little bit spooky. It was still dark and it was evidently trash day because trash was everywhere. After an hour’s walk, we arrived at the train station only to find that nothing was open there either. A woman asked us in very broken English if we had anything for her head. Eileen fished around in our bags for about 10 minutes and found some aspirin. She was so grateful and thanked us several times. Finally at 8:15 a.m. Burger King came to the rescue. No breakfast, but some coffee and chicken sandwiches hit the spot. We validated our Eurail passes and headed off for Harlaam where we took a room in a small hotel. We spent our days in Amsterdam, but our nights were safer in Harlaam. I often think the Dutch are too tolerant and accepting. Staying in Harlaam yielded one very delightful afternoon in the Frans Hals’ museum which I didn’t even know existed. We had a great time there without the crowds’one of our best afternoons. The next day we spent an entire morning at the Rijksmuseum, most of it gazing at the “Night Watch.” We both had just finished reading a book, “Through Rembrandt’s Eyes.” It really made the paintings come alive. After Holland, we went to Berlin. We had never been there before because of the Cold War. I was very pleasantly surprised. The city was bright, clean and very green. All the Cold War stories I had read led me to picture the city as cold, gray, and inhospitable. Berlin wasn’t in our guide book so we were on our own. A German who didn’t speak much English wanted to help us and pointed us in the direction of the hotels. We crossed a small park and Eileen heard a lady pushing a baby carriage speaking English. She recommended a hotel just three blocks away which was very nice and not too expensive. When we arrived there it was locked, but we pounded on the door and some guests who were eating dinner let us in and called a waitress. They were fully-booked, but she called another hotel, made us a reservation and called a taxi to take us there. It was a good thing because it was getting dark, and it was way over on the other side of town. We signed on for another hop-on, hop-off bus tour, but to get to the start we had to travel to the Alexanderplatz. Eileen thought she understood how to get tickets for the Metro. She got the right change and the right tickets but failed to validate them before getting on the train. That is a no-no. The conductor grabbed the tickets out of her hand and began muttering away in German. We had already arrived at our first stop, but we had to change trains to get to the next. I said, “Let’s go.” But not my wife, she followed him saying, “That ticket is good for all day.” Finally after arguing back and forth, a lady took our side because we were tourists.The conductor then marched over to the ticket machine and validated them. We said, “Danka” and smiled and went merrily on our way. I bet we won’t make that mistake again. But we did finally find the big yellow buses (with a little help) and began our tour. It took all day, and we visited as many attractions as we could squeeze in. The Wall is now gone with the exception of a segment for tourists and the shops were selling little plastic bags with little bits of it. “Checkpoint Charlie” is now a museum that you have to pay to see. But what really impressed us was the entrance to the American Sector which looked like a toll booth. It had such a lovely message of thanks to the Americans who saved at least part of Berlin from the Russians. Another area we really liked was Kurfunstendamm. This is the famous shopping street of Berlin. We had lunch on a second-story terrace overlooking this beautiful tree-lined street with its many flower beds. At one end of this street is the bombed-out cathedral called Ge-dachtniskirche. It is there as a reminder to all, of the atrocities of war. A memorial church is built beside it, but it could never compare to the original. It made Eileen cry to see the remnants of such beauty and know that even today the human race cannot seem to find a better way to solve their differences. I’d always heard of the Bran-denburg Gate but was very disappointed that it was under repair and all we could see was a white cloth cover. We had skipped the palace of Charlottenburg and its museum so we hopped off the bus at the Kulturforum where there were several impressive buildings. We spent a couple of hours in the art museum, and since it was getting dark we caught the bus back to Alexanderplatz and took the subway back to our hotel. (This time we did it right.) We ate dinner in the same restaurant as the previous night. Our waiter remembered us and gave us really good service. It was raining the next morning as we made our way to the train station and left for Prague. On the way we met some girls (travel agents from California) and believe it or not, we were the ones giving travel tips to them. After crossing the border into The Czech Republic, we had to move to the next car down because we had second-class tickets. But it was lucky that we did, for there we met a young backpacker from Niagara Falls who was living in Europe and was familiar with the area. Arriving in Prague at the wrong station, she took charge, led us to the underground, bought our tickets, helped us change money and pointed us in the direction of the hotels. She wouldn’t even let us reimburse her for the tickets, saying that so many people had helped her over the past two years that she was grateful to be able to do the same. We had read that Prague was a baroque gem but we were not prepared for the beauty of this town. It was a delight just walking around. And it was very clean. We didn’t spend any time here in museums; the town itself was the grandest work of art. We did manage to find the palace on top of the hill, after several trips around the block in order to find the entrance. We also visited the Jewish Quarter, strolled down Wencenslaus Square then crossed over the St.Charles bridge. Wow, were there ever a lot of people’ A lot of things were for sale, too. We could hardly find a spot to stand and take our pictures. As the sun began to set it was a glorious view. We picked up our bags at the hotel and arrived at the train station in time to catch an overnight coach to Krakow. We met two girls from Santiago at the station. They were very happy to speak Spanish with me. We sort of adopted them, and next morning we stowed their luggage and helped them find the bus station to go to Auschwitz, the World War II death camp. They didn’t know anyone who had been in the camp, nor were they Jewish. A cab driver wanted to take them, but I felt much better about keeping them with a group. They were glad for the advice, hugged us good bye and made us promise to meet them at 8 p.m. for coffee. During the day, which started very early with a 6 o’clock arrival, we made our way to the town center. It was Sunday morning, and we wanted to see the cathedral where Pope John Paul II was bishop. Services were being held, but we went in and sat in the back. Eileen said she had plenty of time to pray since the sermon was all in Polish. After a good rest, we headed up to the palace. Since it was Sunday, we got in free, and it was probably one of the best palaces we visited. Returning to the town center, we found covered stalls to do a little shopping. We found a pizzaria and ate with the locals. One of the crowd came and told us our pizza was ready since we didn’t understand the procedure. There were two little Polish kids, just over a year old who were fascinated with each other and were so cute to watch. It made us homesick for our grandson. At 8 o’clock we met our new friends, had coffee and visited about our day. They had evidently shopped at the same stalls as we did and gave Eileen a little wooden jewelry box. We exchanged addresses and said a fond farewell as they caught the overnight train to Vienna, and we to Buda-pest. We are supposed to show up in Santiago some day and visit them. Who knows’ We’ve done goofier things. From Krakow we moved on to Budapest. Eileen loved the place as did I. The hotel which we found after a couple of hours of walking was right on the Danube near a pedestrian mall. We had a great view from our window of the river and the Castle which is beautifully lit up at night as is the Hungarian Parliament. The Hungarians are noted linguists and communication was never a serious problem. I think if your native language was Urdu, you’d find someone to converse with you. And they are so nice. One lady we asked for directions asked us if we spoke German, Dutch, or Spanish. She apologized for not speaking English but gave us directions in Spanish When she couldn’t think of the word for “underground pedestrian walk” in Spanish, she walked with us for two blocks, went down the stairs and pointed to the correct stairs to exit. Later we walked down a beautiful boulevard lined with embassies and arrived at Hero’s Square. There was another palace to visit which looked like it was falling down. So we walked back to the pedestrian mall. We ate dinner at a cute little spot which served Hungarian goulash and only as we were eating noticed it was called Little Havana. But the food was wonderful! The next morning, after staying on the Pest side of the river, we crossed over to the Buda side and walked for two hours to find the second train station for our trip to Vienna. We made it in plenty of time (after a little help from the locals) and arrived in Vienna before noon. We ate lunch on the train so we were ready to start walking again. We found the center of town, cashed our travelers’ check, and found the same hotel we had stayed in back in 1982. It was expensive, but well worth it. It was right on the Graben, a large pedestrian area consisting of shops, hotels, restaurants and and street musicians, some of whom were good enough to be recruited by the Vienna Symphony. Every form of entertainent is performed nightly on the Graben. Our personal favorites were two young men (a violinist and a cellist) who were wonderful to see and hear. If you like any of the performers, just drop a few shillings in the hat or container which they prominently display. Vienna is a cultural hub. All of the arts are alive and thriving in this town. It has great buildings, great art, great churches/cathedrals, great museums, great history, great palaces amd great boulevards. We stayed four days because Eileen was determined to do and see it all. At the end of it all we were very tired but not in the least disappointed. By the way, if you see Eileen ask her how she got kicked out of the opera. (Eileen’s note: I didn’t get kicked out. We left when there was no standing room left, and they even refunded our money. It seems that the Viennese arrive at about 3 p.m. and mark their spots, so we had to move when they came back at concert time. The next morning we started on our next adventure. On the train we sat in the children’s compartment where there were toys and a TV with cartoons. A young man with a child got on and sat by us. He had written information on the War on Terrorism. Turns out that he was a Palestinian on vacation and we got the Palestinian slant on the war and on the conflict in Jerusalem. It’s so true when they say that travel broadens your perspective. Outside of Vienna is the small town of Melk which is famous for its old abbey and magnificent rococo church that may be the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The abbey is still used as a school and Eileen and I “accidentally” took a wrong turn and saw the whole school and classrooms. A guide spotted us and showed us to the old library and display rooms beside the gorgeous church. The town of Melk itself is a jewel of a place. We enjoyed the slower pace and the peaceful atmosphere. Eileen and I had quite an adventure in Melk. The local folk society was sponsoring an evening of traditional German folk dancing all in costume. We talked it over and decided it would be a fun and instructive evening. We sat toward the back with a good view of the evening’s entertainment. The dances looked great, and they performed very well indeed. It was a fun, colorful and entertaining experience up to the point when a German couple invited us to be their partners in the dance. It was rather like a polka and with our respective partners, we whirled around the room until we were dizzy. We managed not to fall down or step on our partner’s toes, but that is about the best light I can put on our personal performances. Fred and Ginger, we are not. At the part where we were supposed to march around and find new partners, Eileen slipped back to her chair and I followed suit. We left shortly thereafter in order to find some dinner. I hope they understood. From Melk we pushed on to Salzsburg, a city in the mountains of northwestern Austria. It’s famous because of the movie “Sound of Music” filmed there. The city itself, especially the old quarter, is quite charming, but it is the natural surroundings’ the mountains, the river which bisects it, and the forests that surround it which make it such a visual delight. Mozart lived there as a boy, and we saw his home. We also saw a statue of him on the Mozartplatz in the Old Town. There is another statue in an adjoining platz of Mary, the mother of Jesus. An optical illusion occurs when you stand under the entrance to the plaza. It appears as though Mary is being crowned by two angels on the church facade behind her. Don’t take my word for it, check it out. The Hohenzalburg Fortress stands on a rock 400 feet above the city. We took the elevator up the inside of the rock. From the top there were trails called the “Sound of Music Walk,” and we ended up at the foot of the fortress. It was a beautiful walk on a beautiful fall day. We departed Saltzburg for Fussen, the 700-year-old German town closest to Konigsschloss Neuschwanstein or the king’s castle of Bavarian King Ludwig II. This is Germany’s most popular castle and is supposedly the one after which Walt Disney fashioned his Magic Kingdom. The castle was never completed because Ludwig died after only 21 days of living in his private quarters. We saw his throne room, his private quarters, kitchens, a total of 15 rooms in all. His death at age 41 was very suspicious. He was declared mad, and then accidentally drowned after nearly bankrupting Bavaria to build his castles. Not a statue nor painting of Ludwig is to be seen as the castle was built as a tribute to his hero, Wagner. Before our tour, we climbed to Mary’s Bridge for a beautiful view of the castle. Horse and buggy rides are available for the trips up and down the mountainside but having plenty of time we opted to walk. We waved to a couple from Mexico City that we had met on the train, and they said they had an hour’s wait for the tour in Spanish. We also met some young men from Austin on the train, saw them again on the English tour, and again on the train to Munich. At the station, they headed us in the right direction to find a street lined with hotels, as Munich was dark by the time we arrived. It was raining lightly the next morning as we headed out to see the town. Munich is lovely with a long pedestrian street, beautiful churches, and lots of museums. We walked to the Alte Pinakothek (the old museum) and then across the street to the Neue Pinakothek (paintings from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries). We stopped for hibiscus tea in the cafeteria to rest our tired feet before pushing on to find “Madame Pom-pador” by Boucher, a must see for Eileen. After lunch and a rest, we pushed on to the Marianplatz. We saw the glockenspiel as it chimed at 5 o’clock and the figures on the clock began to move with jousting knights. Behind this platz were the food stalls which were wonderful, probably because we were getting hungry. We returned to the Marionplatz where an anti-war rally was going on. As best as I could translate their banner said, “War does not Combat Terrorism, War is Terrorism.” I was actually surprised that we saw so little of this type of sentiment anywhere in Europe. Mostly people were sympathetic and had placed flowers and flags on their monuments. The next day on the train a young German lad who was practicing his English asked me if he could “rent” my pen. I taught him the word “borrow.” He soon returned it and sat down for some conversation. Asking us how we felt when the planes crashed in U.S., we replied, “sad” and motioned the tears that fell from our eyes. He also motioned for the tears from his eyes and said, “We feel with you.” In route to the Rhine Valley we detoured over the German border to Strasbourg, France. Eileen’s friend, Patti Carroll, had suggested we visit this cute little French town. Its cathedral is magnificent, noted for its rose window and celestial calendar. We took many pictures, quaint buildings reflected in the river, the oldest pharmacy in France and several old French houses. We shopped, ate wonderful French food, sat at sidewalk cafes and people-watched, and just enjoyed the ambience. After two days, we caught a train back to Germany. We said goodby to a whole group of German kids as we changed trains for St. Goar. School was out the previous day, and they were out celebrating. It was also the last weekend for the River Cruises on the Rhine. Before we got off the next train to find a hotel and jump on a boat, we met a young U.S. couple, actually American missionaries on leave. They were staying in a town on up the river from St. Goar where we planned to stay the next night. We walked with them to their room in a private home and made a reservation for the following night. Rhenfels Castle is supposedly the best ruins on the river. We decided to enjoy a quiet evening at our hotel and tour it the next morning. During our morning tour we met a couple living in Cologne and working for NASA. Then we headed on to Bacarat, another clean, small but totally delightful German town. It was Sunday and the town was almost shut down, but my dauntless-shopper wife managed to find a few art stores and spend some more money. I opted for touring the town and then resting up in a wine stubb. Our missionary friends, Trey and Tania, had left us a note to be sure and eat at a romantic little restaurant they had discovered. But we put off dinner too long and by the time we arrived, the kitchen was closed and they were only serving wine. Early the next morning after a big German breakfast, we headed on to Frankfurt, got a hotel and stowed our luggage. We didn’t return until bedtime. Our day’s adventure was a halfway trip to Dresden which we decided was too far. So we changed trains and headed for Heidleburg. Lunch had been a weinerschnitzel sandwich grabbed at the train station so we were ready for a nice meal. And the Da Vinci restaurant was perfect. Eileen had spinach soup and I had my usual, spaghetti bolognese. The next morning was our last day of vacation. Our train pass had expired, but we fully enjoyed our day in Frankfurt. We crossed the Main River to check out the left bank before crossing back to find the Old Town with its little church. I kept a flyer they were distributing for a Halloween party whose proceeds were going to the Sept. 11 victims. After tea and coffee, inside the cafe this time because it was getting chilly, we headed out to a shopping area, another Italian lunch, and Eileen took my picture by the bull in front of the stock exchange. That night we ate at a fancy little restaurant on top of the train station. Our waiter tried to translate the menu, and we only decided that we were eating a fowl, bigger than a chicken, but smaller than a duck. It tasted really good and sometimes it’s better not to know. At 7 a.m. we caught the train to the airport. A man on the train going to work for American Airlines told us to follow him and another “angel” rescued us and took us straight to the right place in the airport. “Angel” is what Eileen called all the people who helped out two very confused and lost travelers in just about every city we visited. And I’m sure she was right because there were people in three cities all praying for us. Then arriving in San Antonio another “angel” our son was waiting for us at the airport, and we spent the evening resting and playing with our five-week-old grandson before heading home to Brady. Yes, travel in Europe is safe. We can’t let terrorists dictate our lives, so as travel guru Rick Steves says, “Keep on travelin’!” (Editor’s Note: The following travellogue, written by Jerry Adams, a retired Brady teacher, relates his recent wanderings in Europe with his wife, Eileen, also a recently retired teacher. They rejected the “don’t go overseas” warning from many folks and dove into their favorite pasttime of seeing how others live. This trip covered 30 days.) By Jerry Adams with assistance by Eileen Adams On Oct. 3 our son, Jason, a Methodist pastor in San Antonio, dropped us off at the San Antonio International Airport to catch a flight to Chicago where we were to connect with our flight to London Heathrow. Putting flights together because of so many cancellations, our seats were taken. and we had to fly first class, soo-o sad! We were waited on hand and foot and had to eat off china plates instead of the usual airplane fare served in plastic. Upon arrival, we changed money, caught the tube to Victoria Station and located a B&B all before 9:00 a.m. Not many travelers at this time of year so we got some really special rates. We left our bags and took off on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour which took all day. We visited the National Art Gallery and St. Martin’s in the field where a musical ensemble was practicing for a concert that evening. The last stop was in Picadilly Circus, the theater district, but we were too tired to see a play. After eating some “pub grub,” we caught the last bus back to our B&B in Belgravia for a much needed rest. The weather in London was fine with only occasional showers that were short in duration and which washed the city’s fumes away. The next morning after a late breakfast we headed off for Buckingham Palace. Then we walked all the way to Harrod’s Department Store (where Princess Diana liked to shop). Eileen bought her sister some scented soaps which she later noticed were Crab Tree and Evelyn, something we could have found at any U.S. mall. The rest of our time was spent at the Tate Museums, old and new. And they were much farther away than we had anticipated but well worth the time and effort. We walked all day and in the evenings we reported to a local pub, which is short for public house, where even children are welcome. We would eat and relax until bedtime which always came very early. That was when we washed out our clothes and read up for the next day’s sights. We had a great time wandering around on Saturday because there was very little traffic and few people. That is because London proper is only one square mile and very few people live there. Most of the shops were closed. We had already visited Foyle’s, my favorite book store where we both found a book to read during those long waits for train connections. So we whiled away the day waiting out a rain shower or two, visiting a museum and watching a soccer game (which they call football) in a pub. Actually, Eileen was sitting right under the TV and says she enjoyed watching the excitement on the faces of the fans. At 7 p.m. we picked up our bags at the B&B and headed for the Victoria Bus Station. We had a small lunch to eat on the bus, but Eileen gave half of hers to a boy who said he was hungry. (There are lots of beggars all over Europe.) We were the last in line, but you know the old saying. That meant that we got to sit in the very first seat. We had the most room and the best view of all. For me the trip through the English Channel on a big bus was a non-event, but Eileen liked it even though there was nothing to see. Our ears popped because we were 40 meters below the ocean bed. French customs delayed us for a long while; I think just because they could. Some things never change. The bus dropped us off in Amsterdam at 5:30 a.m. way out on the edge of town. It was Sunday morning and the subways didn’t operate until 8:00, and the buses only ran once an hour, so we took a taxi, but we had nowhere to go. Eileen said, “Take us to a coffee shop.” He drove like a madman, deposited us on a curbside, got our bags, took our money and zoomed off. By then it was 5:55 and the coffee shop closed at 6 a. m. We took off walking for the train station, but it was a little bit spooky. It was still dark and it was evidently trash day because trash was everywhere. After an hour’s walk, we arrived at the train station only to find that nothing was open there either. A woman asked us in very broken English if we had anything for her head. Eileen fished around in our bags for about 10 minutes and found some aspirin. She was so grateful and thanked us several times. Finally at 8:15 a.m. Burger King came to the rescue. No breakfast, but some coffee and chicken sandwiches hit the spot. We validated our Eurail passes and headed off for Harlaam where we took a room in a small hotel. We spent our days in Amsterdam, but our nights were safer in Harlaam. I often think the Dutch are too tolerant and accepting. Staying in Harlaam yielded one very delightful afternoon in the Frans Hals’ museum which I didn’t even know existed. We had a great time there without the crowds’one of our best afternoons. The next day we spent an entire morning at the Rijksmuseum, most of it gazing at the “Night Watch.” We both had just finished reading a book, “Through Rembrandt’s Eyes.” It really made the paintings come alive. After Holland, we went to Berlin. We had never been there before because of the Cold War. I was very pleasantly surprised. The city was bright, clean and very green. All the Cold War stories I had read led me to picture the city as cold, gray, and inhospitable. Berlin wasn’t in our guide book so we were on our own. A German who didn’t speak much English wanted to help us and pointed us in the direction of the hotels. We crossed a small park and Eileen heard a lady pushing a baby carriage speaking English. She recommended a hotel just three blocks away which was very nice and not too expensive. When we arrived there it was locked, but we pounded on the door and some guests who were eating dinner let us in and called a waitress. They were fully-booked, but she called another hotel, made us a reservation and called a taxi to take us there. It was a good thing because it was getting dark, and it was way over on the other side of town. We signed on for another hop-on, hop-off bus tour, but to get to the start we had to travel to the Alexanderplatz. Eileen thought she understood how to get tickets for the Metro. She got the right change and the right tickets but failed to validate them before getting on the train. That is a no-no. The conductor grabbed the tickets out of her hand and began muttering away in German. We had already arrived at our first stop, but we had to change trains to get to the next. I said, “Let’s go.” But not my wife, she followed him saying, “That ticket is good for all day.” Finally after arguing back and forth, a lady took our side because we were tourists.The conductor then marched over to the ticket machine and validated them. We said, “Danka” and smiled and went merrily on our way. I bet we won’t make that mistake again. But we did finally find the big yellow buses (with a little help) and began our tour. It took all day, and we visited as many attractions as we could squeeze in. The Wall is now gone with the exception of a segment for tourists and the shops were selling little plastic bags with little bits of it. “Checkpoint Charlie” is now a museum that you have to pay to see. But what really impressed us was the entrance to the American Sector which looked like a toll booth. It had such a lovely message of thanks to the Americans who saved at least part of Berlin from the Russians. Another area we really liked was Kurfunstendamm. This is the famous shopping street of Berlin. We had lunch on a second-story terrace overlooking this beautiful tree-lined street with its many flower beds. At one end of this street is the bombed-out cathedral called Ge-dachtniskirche. It is there as a reminder to all, of the atrocities of war. A memorial church is built beside it, but it could never compare to the original. It made Eileen cry to see the remnants of such beauty and know that even today the human race cannot seem to find a better way to solve their differences. I’d always heard of the Bran-denburg Gate but was very disappointed that it was under repair and all we could see was a white cloth cover. We had skipped the palace of Charlottenburg and its museum so we hopped off the bus at the Kulturforum where there were several impressive buildings. We spent a couple of hours in the art museum, and since it was getting dark we caught the bus back to Alexanderplatz and took the subway back to our hotel. (This time we did it right.) We ate dinner in the same restaurant as the previous night. Our waiter remembered us and gave us really good service. It was raining the next morning as we made our way to the train station and left for Prague. On the way we met some girls (travel agents from California) and believe it or not, we were the ones giving travel tips to them. After crossing the border into The Czech Republic, we had to move to the next car down because we had second-class tickets. But it was lucky that we did, for there we met a young backpacker from Niagara Falls who was living in Europe and was familiar with the area. Arriving in Prague at the wrong station, she took charge, led us to the underground, bought our tickets, helped us change money and pointed us in the direction of the hotels. She wouldn’t even let us reimburse her for the tickets, saying that so many people had helped her over the past two years that she was grateful to be able to do the same. We had read that Prague was a baroque gem but we were not prepared for the beauty of this town. It was a delight just walking around. And it was very clean. We didn’t spend any time here in museums; the town itself was the grandest work of art. We did manage to find the palace on top of the hill, after several trips around the block in order to find the entrance. We also visited the Jewish Quarter, strolled down Wencenslaus Square then crossed over the St.Charles bridge. Wow, were there ever a lot of people’ A lot of things were for sale, too. We could hardly find a spot to stand and take our pictures. As the sun began to set it was a glorious view. We picked up our bags at the hotel and arrived at the train station in time to catch an overnight coach to Krakow. We met two girls from Santiago at the station. They were very happy to speak Spanish with me. We sort of adopted them, and next morning we stowed their luggage and helped them find the bus station to go to Auschwitz, the World War II death camp. They didn’t know anyone who had been in the camp, nor were they Jewish. A cab driver wanted to take them, but I felt much better about keeping them with a group. They were glad for the advice, hugged us good bye and made us promise to meet them at 8 p.m. for coffee. During the day, which started very early with a 6 o’clock arrival, we made our way to the town center. It was Sunday morning, and we wanted to see the cathedral where Pope John Paul II was bishop. Services were being held, but we went in and sat in the back. Eileen said she had plenty of time to pray since the sermon was all in Polish. After a good rest, we headed up to the palace. Since it was Sunday, we got in free, and it was probably one of the best palaces we visited. Returning to the town center, we found covered stalls to do a little shopping. We found a pizzaria and ate with the locals. One of the crowd came and told us our pizza was ready since we didn’t understand the procedure. There were two little Polish kids, just over a year old who were fascinated with each other and were so cute to watch. It made us homesick for our grandson. At 8 o’clock we met our new friends, had coffee and visited about our day. They had evidently shopped at the same stalls as we did and gave Eileen a little wooden jewelry box. We exchanged addresses and said a fond farewell as they caught the overnight train to Vienna, and we to Buda-pest. We are supposed to show up in Santiago some day and visit them. Who knows’ We’ve done goofier things. From Krakow we moved on to Budapest. Eileen loved the place as did I. The hotel which we found after a couple of hours of walking was right on the Danube near a pedestrian mall. We had a great view from our window of the river and the Castle which is beautifully lit up at night as is the Hungarian Parliament. The Hungarians are noted linguists and communication was never a serious problem. I think if your native language was Urdu, you’d find someone to converse with you. And they are so nice. One lady we asked for directions asked us if we spoke German, Dutch, or Spanish. She apologized for not speaking English but gave us directions in Spanish When she couldn’t think of the word for “underground pedestrian walk” in Spanish, she walked with us for two blocks, went down the stairs and pointed to the correct stairs to exit. Later we walked down a beautiful boulevard lined with embassies and arrived at Hero’s Square. There was another palace to visit which looked like it was falling down. So we walked back to the pedestrian mall. We ate dinner at a cute little spot which served Hungarian goulash and only as we were eating noticed it was called Little Havana. But the food was wonderful! The next morning, after staying on the Pest side of the river, we crossed over to the Buda side and walked for two hours to find the second train station for our trip to Vienna. We made it in plenty of time (after a little help from the locals) and arrived in Vienna before noon. We ate lunch on the train so we were ready to start walking again. We found the center of town, cashed our travelers’ check, and found the same hotel we had stayed in back in 1982. It was expensive, but well worth it. It was right on the Graben, a large pedestrian area consisting of shops, hotels, restaurants and and street musicians, some of whom were good enough to be recruited by the Vienna Symphony. Every form of entertainent is performed nightly on the Graben. Our personal favorites were two young men (a violinist and a cellist) who were wonderful to see and hear. If you like any of the performers, just drop a few shillings in the hat or container which they prominently display. Vienna is a cultural hub. All of the arts are alive and thriving in this town. It has great buildings, great art, great churches/cathedrals, great museums, great history, great palaces amd great boulevards. We stayed four days because Eileen was determined to do and see it all. At the end of it all we were very tired but not in the least disappointed. By the way, if you see Eileen ask her how she got kicked out of the opera. (Eileen’s note: I didn’t get kicked out. We left when there was no standing room left, and they even refunded our money. It seems that the Viennese arrive at about 3 p.m. and mark their spots, so we had to move when they came back at concert time. The next morning we started on our next adventure. On the train we sat in the children’s compartment where there were toys and a TV with cartoons. A young man with a child got on and sat by us. He had written information on the War on Terrorism. Turns out that he was a Palestinian on vacation and we got the Palestinian slant on the war and on the conflict in Jerusalem. It’s so true when they say that travel broadens your perspective. Outside of Vienna is the small town of Melk which is famous for its old abbey and magnificent rococo church that may be the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The abbey is still used as a school and Eileen and I “accidentally” took a wrong turn and saw the whole school and classrooms. A guide spotted us and showed us to the old library and display rooms beside the gorgeous church. The town of Melk itself is a jewel of a place. We enjoyed the slower pace and the peaceful atmosphere. Eileen and I had quite an adventure in Melk. The local folk society was sponsoring an evening of traditional German folk dancing all in costume. We talked it over and decided it would be a fun and instructive evening. We sat toward the back with a good view of the evening’s entertainment. The dances looked great, and they performed very well indeed. It was a fun, colorful and entertaining experience up to the point when a German couple invited us to be their partners in the dance. It was rather like a polka and with our respective partners, we whirled around the room until we were dizzy. We managed not to fall down or step on our partner’s toes, but that is about the best light I can put on our personal performances. Fred and Ginger, we are not. At the part where we were supposed to march around and find new partners, Eileen slipped back to her chair and I followed suit. We left shortly thereafter in order to find some dinner. I hope they understood. From Melk we pushed on to Salzsburg, a city in the mountains of northwestern Austria. It’s famous because of the movie “Sound of Music” filmed there. The city itself, especially the old quarter, is quite charming, but it is the natural surroundings’ the mountains, the river which bisects it, and the forests that surround it which make it such a visual delight. Mozart lived there as a boy, and we saw his home. We also saw a statue of him on the Mozartplatz in the Old Town. There is another statue in an adjoining platz of Mary, the mother of Jesus. An optical illusion occurs when you stand under the entrance to the plaza. It appears as though Mary is being crowned by two angels on the church facade behind her. Don’t take my word for it, check it out. The Hohenzalburg Fortress stands on a rock 400 feet above the city. We took the elevator up the inside of the rock. From the top there were trails called the “Sound of Music Walk,” and we ended up at the foot of the fortress. It was a beautiful walk on a beautiful fall day. We departed Saltzburg for Fussen, the 700-year-old German town closest to Konigsschloss Neuschwanstein or the king’s castle of Bavarian King Ludwig II. This is Germany’s most popular castle and is supposedly the one after which Walt Disney fashioned his Magic Kingdom. The castle was never completed because Ludwig died after only 21 days of living in his private quarters. We saw his throne room, his private quarters, kitchens, a total of 15 rooms in all. His death at age 41 was very suspicious. He was declared mad, and then accidentally drowned after nearly bankrupting Bavaria to build his castles. Not a statue nor painting of Ludwig is to be seen as the castle was built as a tribute to his hero, Wagner. Before our tour, we climbed to Mary’s Bridge for a beautiful view of the castle. Horse and buggy rides are available for the trips up and down the mountainside but having plenty of time we opted to walk. We waved to a couple from Mexico City that we had met on the train, and they said they had an hour’s wait for the tour in Spanish. We also met some young men from Austin on the train, saw them again on the English tour, and again on the train to Munich. At the station, they headed us in the right direction to find a street lined with hotels, as Munich was dark by the time we arrived. It was raining lightly the next morning as we headed out to see the town. Munich is lovely with a long pedestrian street, beautiful churches, and lots of museums. We walked to the Alte Pinakothek (the old museum) and then across the street to the Neue Pinakothek (paintings from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries). We stopped for hibiscus tea in the cafeteria to rest our tired feet before pushing on to find “Madame Pom-pador” by Boucher, a must see for Eileen. After lunch and a rest, we pushed on to the Marianplatz. We saw the glockenspiel as it chimed at 5 o’clock and the figures on the clock began to move with jousting knights. Behind this platz were the food stalls which were wonderful, probably because we were getting hungry. We returned to the Marionplatz where an anti-war rally was going on. As best as I could translate their banner said, “War does not Combat Terrorism, War is Terrorism.” I was actually surprised that we saw so little of this type of sentiment anywhere in Europe. Mostly people were sympathetic and had placed flowers and flags on their monuments. The next day on the train a young German lad who was practicing his English asked me if he could “rent” my pen. I taught him the word “borrow.” He soon returned it and sat down for some conversation. Asking us how we felt when the planes crashed in U.S., we replied, “sad” and motioned the tears that fell from our eyes. He also motioned for the tears from his eyes and said, “We feel with you.” In route to the Rhine Valley we detoured over the German border to Strasbourg, France. Eileen’s friend, Patti Carroll, had suggested we visit this cute little French town. Its cathedral is magnificent, noted for its rose window and celestial calendar. We took many pictures, quaint buildings reflected in the river, the oldest pharmacy in France and several old French houses. We shopped, ate wonderful French food, sat at sidewalk cafes and people-watched, and just enjoyed the ambience. After two days, we caught a train back to Germany. We said goodby to a whole group of German kids as we changed trains for St. Goar. School was out the previous day, and they were out celebrating. It was also the last weekend for the River Cruises on the Rhine. Before we got off the next train to find a hotel and jump on a boat, we met a young U.S. couple, actually American missionaries on leave. They were staying in a town on up the river from St. Goar where we planned to stay the next night. We walked with them to their room in a private home and made a reservation for the following night. Rhenfels Castle is supposedly the best ruins on the river. We decided to enjoy a quiet evening at our hotel and tour it the next morning. During our morning tour we met a couple living in Cologne and working for NASA. Then we headed on to Bacarat, another clean, small but totally delightful German town. It was Sunday and the town was almost shut down, but my dauntless-shopper wife managed to find a few art stores and spend some more money. I opted for touring the town and then resting up in a wine stubb. Our missionary friends, Trey and Tania, had left us a note to be sure and eat at a romantic little restaurant they had discovered. But we put off dinner too long and by the time we arrived, the kitchen was closed and they were only serving wine. Early the next morning after a big German breakfast, we headed on to Frankfurt, got a hotel and stowed our luggage. We didn’t return until bedtime. Our day’s adventure was a halfway trip to Dresden which we decided was too far. So we changed trains and headed for Heidleburg. Lunch had been a weinerschnitzel sandwich grabbed at the train station so we were ready for a nice meal. And the Da Vinci restaurant was perfect. Eileen had spinach soup and I had my usual, spaghetti bolognese. The next morning was our last day of vacation. Our train pass had expired, but we fully enjoyed our day in Frankfurt. We crossed the Main River to check out the left bank before crossing back to find the Old Town with its little church. I kept a flyer they were distributing for a Halloween party whose proceeds were going to the Sept. 11 victims. After tea and coffee, inside the cafe this time because it was getting chilly, we headed out to a shopping area, another Italian lunch, and Eileen took my picture by the bull in front of the stock exchange. That night we ate at a fancy little restaurant on top of the train station. Our waiter tried to translate the menu, and we only decided that we were eating a fowl, bigger than a chicken, but smaller than a duck. It tasted really good and sometimes it’s better not to know. At 7 a.m. we caught the train to the airport. A man on the train going to work for American Airlines told us to follow him and another “angel” rescued us and took us straight to the right place in the airport. “Angel” is what Eileen called all the people who helped out two very confused and lost travelers in just about every city we visited. And I’m sure she was right because there were people in three cities all praying for us. Then arriving in San Antonio another “angel” our son was waiting for us at the airport, and we spent the evening resting and playing with our five-week-old grandson before heading home to Brady. Yes, travel in Europe is safe. We can’t let terrorists dictate our lives, so as travel guru Rick Steves says, “Keep on travelin’!”

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