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Our big journey began on Tuesday, October 26th. It started on Tuesday, because Bill had to take his first two online courses at the Jung Institute in Zurich. He spent Monday at home, listening to lectures out of Switzerland. I could tell he was very interested, which was nice to see.

Tuesday morning, we packed our bags, loaded the car, and were on our way, with our first stop being the Hundepension where Arran and Noyzi stay when we travel. Noyzi was very excited about the car ride. Several months ago, he surprised us by willingly jumping into the cargo area of the Volvo. Two weeks ago, he actually jumped into the passenger seat and was all set to go for a ride. Of course, in Germany, it’s not legal for pets to ride in the front seat, so we had to relocate him. Arran used to like car rides too, but he was not very excited this time. I also noticed that while Noyzi couldn’t wait to get to the pension, Arran was less enthused. We told Natasha, the lady who takes care of the dogs most while they’re at the Hundepension, that it was okay for the dogs to be separated, if need be. I think the main issue is that Arran is annoyed by Noyzi, who is bigger and younger than he is. He’d rather hang out with a female dog, closer to his size.

Once the dogs were dropped off, we headed for our first destination, Wels, Austria. I mentioned in the first part of this series that we chose Wels because it’s about halfway to where we were headed. It’s also a city we had never seen before. I read up a bit on Wels before we booked there. Many people reported that the downtown area is pretty and pleasant, and I noticed there was a “Therme” (spa with mineral springs) there, and a few interesting looking museums. What I failed to notice, however, is that October 26th is Austrian National Day. It’s a national holiday, which means a lot of things are closed.

The drive to Wels was uneventful. We stopped at a McDonald’s in Bavaria on the way there. That visit went off without a hitch. We stopped at the same McDonald’s yesterday, and it was a no go. You can read today’s post on my main blog for the reason, and a rather peevish rant from yours truly. I amused myself by taking photos on the drive down and playing with my iPad, which has cellular abilities. What did I ever do before I had an iPad with a cellular function? I’m amazed I ever survived any road trips from my youth!

Entering Austria was no big deal. No one wanted to see our passports or our vaccine proof as we drove in from Germany. When we arrived at Hotel Ploberger, apparently the best hotel Wels has to offer, I steeled myself for encountering the receptionist, which isn’t always fun in the era of COVID. But she was low key and wore no mask… and, in fact, we weren’t required to wear masks, either. It was like 2019 again. I can’t say I didn’t love it.

Hotel Ploberger is very business oriented. A few weeks ago, when I was planning this trip, I went on their Web site and noticed how enticing the site was to add on things, like parking, breakfast, and a bigger room size. When I tried to X out, I got a pop up message that read something along the lines of, “Oh no! You’re leaving without booking?” Actually, since USAA and PenFed were being pains in the ass and blocking my cards, I did have to X out and let Bill book for us.

The hotel did turn out to be convenient, and they offered some nice perks that I wouldn’t have expected. For instance, because I booked directly with them, they gave us a free round at the wine bar next door. There was also a lovely fruit and chocolate plate and bottle of sparkling water for us in the fridge. The room itself reminded me of an Aloft Hotel. It was very modern and constructed in a way that was more functional than stylish. But, if we were missing our pets, we could borrow one of their pet goldfish. A huge parking garage is right under the hotel, and guests can access the hotel lobby directly from the garage. They also have a bar in the lobby, or, if one prefers, there’s a wine bar/buffet next door that features Austrian wines.

As I mentioned earlier, unbeknownst to us, it was Austrian National Day. A lot of restaurants and all of the stores were closed. I was still impressed by how pretty the old town is. Here are some shots from our first walk around Wels. As you can see, it’s a pretty town, even if it’s not a place I ever thought to visit before. They also have catfish, also known as “sheatfish”, there. I’m not sure if the fish is like what we get in America. I’m not a catfish fan, anyway. But they do have them in Wels.

I don’t think Wels is a particularly famous city in Austria. That’s kind of what made it appealing… I didn’t hear a lot of my countrymen. And they didn’t hear from me. There’s also lots of shopping in Wels, which is a nice thing, especially since there was little shopping in Slovenia and Croatia. I barely managed to get my mug and magnet from Croatia.

One of the biggest attractions in Wels is the Ledererturm. It’s the last surviving tower of the original Medieval fortification of Wels. If you walk around the city, you soon notice a wall that was built in Medieval times. I also noticed that a lot of the restaurants and other buildings we entered were thick walled with low ceilings and crappy cellphone reception. I guess it’s because this is an old town with old buildings in it. The Ledererturm is among the eldest, and it basically serves as a landmark. Cars can drive through it, one at a time.

After some dedicated sleuthing, I managed to find us a cute little Italian restaurant to have some dinner. The restaurant, which was called Rustica, was a tiny “hole in the wall” type of place. It was full and very busy the whole time we were there, but we managed to enjoy a nice dinner, even without reservations. Apparently, this joint is known as an excellent pizza place. I could see they were doing a brisk business, with many people dining in and even more picking up pizzas to go.

We had an interesting experience at Rustica, which was rated as Wels’ fourth best restaurant on TripAdvisor. The place was not expensive at all, nor was it a very private or romantic place. A very young couple was seated next to us. I kept noticing the male half watching us… I think he noticed my gadgets. My phone needs a new battery, so I carry my iPad with me. I also have an Apple Watch. I noticed that the guy and his girlfriend shared what would be a medium sized pizza in America, had a round of drinks, and dessert. It was plenty of food, but I got the sense that he would have rather have had what we had. Bill noticed it, too.

I wanted to tell the guy that we’re going on 19 years of marriage, and we were broke for the first few years… and there will be a day when he and his girl can each have their own entrees. We’re also over twice their ages.

Of course, I might be misinterpreting. Maybe they’re diet conscious or cheap. Anyway, that purely non-verbal experience gave us something to talk about as we headed back to the hotel.

Stay tuned for part three.

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