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Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book Entry 175: 1986 Our Big Adventure Across the Sea (Part Four)

       While in Germany we visited the largest inside train station in the world.  It was massive.  We ended our day at a huge local pub wanting to try some authentic German food.  The servers were all dressed in German clothing.  The beer steins had to hold a half gallon each.  They were huge.  Those servers would come away from the bar holding two or three steins in each hand and literally run to the tables to set them down.  I watched in disbelief.  
As happened several times, we ordered not knowing exactly what we were asking for, ate it not knowing how it was prepared, and having finished not knowing what we’d eaten.  If I remember correctly the food was pretty good.  Larry and Bob and Bob’s friend each ordered one of the beers.  Bob and his friend drank theirs.  Larry tasted his a couple times so he could say he did but he didn’t like it much.  

        While we sat eating we could hear a disturbance at the far end of the restaurant.  Over the next few minutes the noise grew louder as it moved our way and an occasional flash from a camera could be seen.  In a few minutes this little man dressed as a leprechaun made his way to the table next to us.  He very rudely would scold anyone taking his photo.  He would point his finger and tilt his head and rattle of curse words in German.  He’d jump up on the tops of tables and do a little dance which caused me to think he wanted his photo taken…then would come the rant when someone took it.  I took his picture and took my verbal beating with a smile.  It was a good act and certainly entertaining to tourists like us.  I think the tourists were entertaining to the German men and women who sat and laughed at him.           

        I’m glad the “leprechaun” was there.  He made that meal one of my favorite memories of he trip.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Book Entry 174: 1986 Our Big Adventure Across the Sea (Part Three)

      Everywhere we went was beautiful.  It was incredibly clean.  No litter or graffiti anywhere!  We visited Switzerland, Austria, Germany, and Italy.  

We even  passed through Liechtenstein, the smallest country in the world.  I think it is about nine miles wide and twenty miles long so we weren’t in it very long!    

         While driving through the mountains of Switzerland we realized the small size of the country made workable land a premium when we saw the efforts made to utilize every inch of dirt space.  I mean every inch!  Vineyards were built by forming man-made plateaus no wider than 2 feet in some spots.
         One of the rooms we had overlooked a train track.  During our one night at that place six very long trains passed by pulling dozens of cars full of coal. 
On the far side of the tracks was a community garden.  Again it showed the scarcity of dirt available.  In the fenced garden were twenty to thirty small raised beds growing vegetables.  From our window we could see the individual beds had labels on them.  We assumed the labels showed ownership.  During the evening and early morning we saw many people come in to the garden.  They would pick a handful of vegetables, throw a weed or two in the waste can, and carefully let themselves out the gate being sure not to drop their prizes.
          It was early in the morning we watched a fellow walk up to the gate.  He slowly looked around before seeming to creep inside.  This fellow, unlike the others, picked items from several of the beds while he constantly checked to see if others were coming.  As he picked the vegetables he would slip them into his coat pockets.  Once out the gate he left the area in a hurry.  We think he was helping himself to vegetables that didn’t belong to him.

        This photo is Larry and me somewhere in the Alps.  Notice the statue on the rocks behind us.  Statues and little prayer centers were at the entry to most of the little towns and most of the driveways to homes. 
          While we were traveling through Italy all of the roofs were red tile.  At the boarder it changed to shingle roofs.  We could actually tell what country we were in by the roof tops. 

         The streets were incredibly narrow, barely enough for the small car we had rented, and yet they were two way streets.
         I’m not sure where we were when we drove on the Autobahn but it was a freeway that seems did not have a speed limit.  I know there had to be a limit but at one point, for a minute, we were going in excess of 90 mph and cars were shooting past us like we were standing still.  The very next evening we saw an article in a newspaper about a wreck on the Autobahn involving more than 200 cars and a handful of deaths. 

       While driving one afternoon we entered a short valley.  It was much like our Yosemite with tall mountains on either side.  In the side of the mountains we could see bunkers.  Jet planes were going in and coming out of the bunkers.  On one side of the road was a short landing strip.  Jet planes were taking off and flying up and down the valley.  They flew directly over us several times.  Within seconds of when we stopped to take this photo two uniformed airmen pulled up beside our car.  They scolded us and told us, not asked us, to put our cameras away and keep moving down the road.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Book Entry 173: 1986 Our Big Adventure Across the Sea (part two)

After spending a night in a the Montrose Palace, the rest of our trip we spent our nights in little rooms over bars or little hotel rooms…what an adventure.  It might have been the very first night “after the Palace”  we spent in a tiny room over an eatery.  The room was so small and narrow there was only room for single beds end to end on one wall.   

 The room was said to come with a Continental breakfast.  A cute little table was set in the corner of the restaurant for us.  On the table were two slices of rye bread and a boiled egg for each of us.   We never knew where we were going to end up.  We saw a little of Germany and Italy but Switzerland was by far my favorite.

Everything we saw was new and different than what we were used to.  Labels were in a foreign language, statues were of things I knew nothing about, and vendors in the streets selling flowers and chocolates were just a few of the new and wonderful sights.
At the boarder of Italy the guards were young and forceful.  Larry laughed at how close they got to his face when they questioned him.  It made them mad and they made us sit in a room for over two hours before letting us continue on our way.
We toured the home of the Von Trapps, the Sound of Music family. The hills were so beautiful.  At one point we stopped just to look at the scenery.  We could hear a bell ringing in the distance.  It was the bell tied around a goat’s neck with his flock.  It was so beautiful…just like in the movie.


We visited Rotterdam, the walled city.  It was beautiful!  We spent a whole day there looking in shops.  Rotterdam is where we bought a clock and shipped it home.  We paid with a Wells Fargo card and the clerk asked if we really did ride in stagecoaches like on the card.


We saw herds of sheep wandering the hills.  Their tails were not docked.  We saw herds of pigs running and playing on mountain sides.  The animals were so clean, not in pig pens, but on grassy hills.  They seemed peculiar until we figured out what was different with them.

          We toured a real castle.  When we arrived in our tour bus the opening of the wall was so narrow the bus needed to be backed up several times in order to make it through.  We saw the dungeons, the small hallways, and ornate carvings on the walls.  I thought it was interesting that the hallways were so small.  The guide said they were like that so when an intruder came in his amour fittings he could not fit in the hallway.  

(You can see the gentlemen coming from the hallway – these were not tall men – imagine a person in full body armour trying to fit!)

         In the same castle we were shown the upper story restroom where the people who lived and worked at the castle used the potty.  The potty contents went directly to the lower story where it was funneled into buckets.  The lower room was where local prisoners were kept.  The liquid waste had a ditch going out under the castle wall.  There were shovels in the lower room and high open windows where the “occupants” were required to pitch out the solid waste.