Ah, so nice to be home. I can sleep in – no wake-up call to get on a bus. No need to gawp at palaces and stuff all day, hearing about a bunch of (usually depressing) historical stuff, no eating rich food morning, noon and night.
On the other hand, I have make my own meals now...and they don't involve duck, dumplings and cream-cakes. (On the third hand, that's just as well.)
And I'm free-free-free to do whatever I like.
But what do I want to do??
“What will we do without you when we get home?” we-all said to our tour-guide, Mr. Wormburger, when he clucked at us for milling about and not knowing whether to get on the bus. “I'll have to email you all every day and tell you what to do,” he said.
But he clucked at me when I did take some initiative and left the hop-on/hop-off afternoon and caught a taxi back to the hotel, where he happened to be lurking at the front door. “Did you just take a TAXI?!”
All in good fun. And actually Mr. W. was a very good tour guide. His South Effrican/German tendencies were put to good use.
But, really, I'm happy to be home, too.
My friend and I took this particular tour because it stayed a couple of days in each of the three cities visited (Prague, Vienna and Budapest) instead of the usual if-this-is-Belgium-it-must-be-Tuesday thing. And when we did travel, the bus boarded at 9 rather than ungodlier hours of some tours we'd been on. It was billed as an “at Leisure” type, where we would have lots of spare time to “explore on our own”. However, I signed up for all optional things, and that left relatively little spare time...or spare energy when the spare time came around.
THO I DID USE THE FREE AFTERNOON IN VIENNA TO SEE THE VENUS OF WILLENDORF!
Also, I did get a bit weary of the fun-fun-fun (“I promise you it'll be a lot of fun,” quoth Mr. Wormburger) of the evening food and wine fests. On TWO occasions this involved manic accordionists. The accordion is not one of my favorite instruments. The only thing worse is the musical instrument of *My People*, the bagpipe. Fortunately there was a lot of beer available. (I am not into the drink of *My People*, which someone I know compared, appropriately I thought, to lighter fluid.)
Why this particular tour? Well, M. and I wanted to do a trip together – it's been a couple of years. And I've never been to central Europe, except the ever-lovin' Frankfurter airport. And once, during an overnight layover, to Ff city-centre. M. had gone to school for a year in Vienna half a century ago and wanted to revisit. And we'd diddled about too long to do Scandinavia (my first choice) this year. And there was the “at leisure” and 9 o'clock bus thing.
Travel is always fun...and not-so-fun. Sometimes it brings you face to face with your own stupidity.
TRIP (of the negative variety) - I was preparing to leave for Friday when M. emailed me to check on how we'd rendezvous on Thursday to go to the airport. Yikes. Fortunately I was more prepared than sometimes. But at the last minute, looking for my hearing aids, which I only wear on special occasions, I found them missing. Eventually, tracing back the last time I'd seen them, and a recollection of putting them in my pocket instead of waiting to get home, I checked the washing machine ... and there they were, in the bottom. Non-functioning, of course. SEMI-RECOVERY: I took a device that I clip on the front of my blouse, lines to ears. Scarf and hair hide it. Works pretty well.
TRIP - I wanted to take a card-reader, with the intention of uploading my pictures daily. When I went to use it, I found it was some useless piece of cable I'd grabbed. SEMI-RECOVERY: Halfway thru the trip I stumbled across a computer store and got one, so M. and I were able to admire our pictures and I posted a couple to Facebook. Lose points for this being now the third card-reader I own, having got No. 2 on some previous trip. (Also, Austrian card-reader, tho it worked fine on the trip, wiped out some of my pix when I used it at home.)
TRIP - In Dresdan (side-trip) (and you'd never know Slaughterhouse 5 had happened) I got lost. Time was running out, and the spot I thought must be the pick-up point didn't look right. And there was nobody else from the tour there. At the last minute I started walking back toward the Old Town centre and saw a bit of glass roof and *remembered* that the first place we went to, before being turned loose, had that glass roof. Oh, and there was the tour bus. And I wasn't actually the last one one, even. Second-last, but still... But take off points because that was the second time that day I'd got lost – first time, while we were still being herded about, I got distracted and then pursued another Trafalgar tour group wearing the same kind of head-sets... Mr. Wormburger fetched me that time. And assured me he'd have got me this second time... (God, I'd hate to be a tour-guide.) (I got lost in Turkey, Egypt and Spain, too. In Egypt the tour-guide found me, but in Spain and Turkey the tour-guide couldn't have cared less...)
Now it's very easy to get lost in the hordes of tourists in unfamiliar places. At least that's my argument. What I can't explain is how come everybody else finds the bus, no problem.
I should have stuck with some of the group members in Dresden (M. had stayed behind to catch up on snore-destroyed sleep), but I was looking for a photo shop so I could get a card-reader. Found shop, it was closed cuz it was Sunday, I had a mango ice-cream instead, and anyway photo shops don't carry them – need computer store. BONUS – Got to observe some other tour group doing their thing on Segways.
TRIP - First night I got up to pee and M. said, “Can you do anything about your snoring?” Actually, I had to ask her to repeat, since, like, I didn't have my hearing aids. Not that I wear them to bed anyway. “Sorry, haven't a clue,” I said, and went back to bed, and presumably snored some more. RECOVERY: next day I got a separate room myself from the hotel and Mr. Wormburger worked on getting us split up for the rest of the trip. Mentioning jovially that as a result he himself had to sleep in some inferior hotel for the Budapest time. I joked that the bus-driver could sleep on the bus. Joke lost in translation and Mr. Wormburger reacted in horror. The tour bus-drivers are always treated with deference, reverence, wined & dined & well-tipped. Which, to be fair, they do earn. EXTRA BONUS – I spent this past weekend sharing a room with two other friends, and they assured me that I didn't snore there.
TRIP – I lost my car-keys on the park-and-fly shuttle, but RECOVERY – I always have a spare surgically attached to my body, and I eventually got the good (electronic) key back from the park-and-fly extensive collection of lost keys. I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE.
TRIP – As the bus was pulling into Budapest, Mr. Wormburger went on and on about how our first stop would be at the Great Synagogue, an architectural marvel, and even if we didn't go inside we should go down the side street and peek thru the fence at the Tree of Life. Okay, I know about the horrors of WWII, I was even alive and somewhat conscious during and afterwards. Still I was taken by surprise, and not of the good kind, when the main feature turned out to be a mass grave, plus memorial installations. And the Tree of Life – well, as someone who dabbles in the fringes of the *occult* and all that, I was expecting a Kabbalistic mural or something; what it was, was a huge metal tree, each of its many leaves representing a Jewish victim. I really didn't have any appetite to follow the exhortations of a billboard at the gate directing us down the street to a cafe that served some kind of famous traditional Jewish cake, cooked and served by survivors.
THANK G-D THE TOUR DIDN'T INCLUDE THE RIVER-SIDE MEMORIAL OF METAL SHOES...if you want to know what that's about, google it.
TRIP – Mr. Wormburger set us loose on the hop-on/hop-off Budapest tourist thingy with careful directions on how to get off at the proper stop – number 6 – in order to visit the market. A group of us duly got off at number 6, only to find ourselves in some desolate place with nothing like the market in view. We stopped a couple of Budapestians, but the language problem prevented any progress. We all complained to Mr. Wormburger later – he hadn't specified staying on past the green-line number six and getting off at the PINK-line number six. Anyway, we looked at the map to see what else we might go to, and found we were within walking distance of the New York Cafe, billed as the world's most beautiful restaurant. We trudged along the back streets and, RECOVERY!, found it. An amazing place, with splendid Pans holding lamps on the outside, and inside sufficient gilt, paintings, whatever, to rival the palaces and cathedrals we'd been ushered through. A veritable palace of gastronomy. I had basil ice-cream, cuz I make a point of ordering the weirdest thing on the menu. It was indeed weird, in a low-key kind of way.
After which M. wanted to go on to see the Horrors of Communism museum, and I took the taxi back to the hotel (as above, not being able to sneak in past Mr. Wormburger).
TRIP – I then went next door to the mall, looking for something to bring home to my daughter, preferably fancy stockings...of which Budapest has an unaccountable shortage. They have everything else, and in great abundance. If you've seen the movie version of Tinker Tailor, yes, Budapest looks just like that – only colorful and cheerful. SEMI-RECOVERY: I did find a pharmacy and got some decongestant, cuz a cold was coming on...but TRIP – I suffered mightily in the eustachian tubes on our airplane descent into Ottawa anyway...
TRIP – Not in any order, as you will have noted: I looked forward to wonderful Viennese pastries. Eh. And wonderful Hungarian goulash. Eh. And wonderful Czech dumplings – there are, oddly enough, Czech restaurants in each of the two small towns closest to my country hermitage and they serve equal or better dumplings (and the rest of it). AND NO ACCORDIANS.
Hoping you are the same...
P.S. - Contemplating a quickie to Iceland in mid-winter to see northern lights (we got 'em too, but less grand) and the other weird things there. The rest of Scandinavia some summertime. (Tho that might entail trying lukefisk...)