Our pandemic dog rescue story… part three

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When we take trips, I usually take a lot of photos, even from the car. Before a couple of weeks ago, I had never heard of Kransjka Gora, and had no idea of what we were in for. I did remember how beautiful Lake Bled was and had been wanting to visit Slovenia again. But Bill and I are getting older and it’s hard to drive for seven or eight hours straight, so that means it’s best if we can break up the trip. And, as most Americans know, there’s only so much leave a person can take. When Bill worked for his first company, the pay wasn’t as good, but they were very generous about letting him take time off. His current employer pays very well, but it’s not as easy to go away for longer trips. Not that we’re complaining. Six years ago, when we first came to Germany, I still owed $40,000 on my student loans. I managed to pay them off two years ago, nine years ahead of time!

While I usually like to take a lot of photos on our trips, I was more preoccupied this time. I didn’t think to take any pictures until we stopped for lunch at a KFC. German KFC is not like American KFC. And American KFC is not like the Kentucky Fried Chicken of my youth, which used to be a lot better than it is now. We decided to stop for chicken, even though it’s not as quick and convenient as other fast food is. I was kind of astonished by the rest stop where we pulled off. It had an amazing assortment of choices, especially for Germany. There was a McDonald’s, a Burger King, a KFC and a Subway!

And right next to the Subway was an enormous “adult” book store, complete with blow up dolls outside the entrance! I didn’t get a chance to take a picture of the erotic book store. I wish I had. In the United States, the adult book stores aren’t quite as prominent as they are in Germany, although I do remember repeatedly passing Club Risque in North Carolina many times as I drove back and forth from Virginia to South Carolina to and from graduate school.

I guess the erotic book stores are intended for the lonely truckers who traverse Germany from all over Europe, especially the East. I notice that they are well catered to in this country. Many rest stops have showers, as well as pay toilets that are clean. Where I come in the States, the rest stops are a little bit nicer than the free ones in Europe, which are really bare bones. But they don’t usually have restaurants (except in the Northeast). In Europe, the rest stops that aren’t just a place to pee have restaurants, fully stocked convenience stores, gas stations, and yes, something for the truckers who need a little distraction from the road.

Lunch was pretty filling. We ate it in the car, mainly due to having Arran with us and because of COVID-19. I watched people going in and out of the restaurant, ignoring the request to exit from the opposite side of the entrance. I also noticed in the ladies room, that someone had dumped pasta all over the bathroom floor. I couldn’t tell if it was cooked or not. It was an odd sight.

Once we got lunch sorted, we got back on A3 and headed south. I had forgotten how long the drive to Austria by way of Salzburg is. It seems to take forever to cross the border because you have to keep going east. I always enjoy driving over borders, but on this first day of our trip, we were about 90% in Germany before we arrived in Salzburg. We made another quick stop at an excellent rest stop not far from the border so Bill could buy an Austrian vignette (toll sticker). They are required for the Autobahn and you can buy them for ten days at just under 10 euros.

That’s another interesting thing about Europe. Many countries over here either have systems where you either pay for a vignette to use the motorways or you pay tolls. In Switzerland, you buy a sticker for the year and it costs about $40 (40 Swiss Francs or 30 Euros). In other countries, they are for shorter time periods and cost less. Many of the countries that have vignettes also have tolls for when you go through a long mountain pass. Germany is the only country I’ve seen so far where the Autobahn is free. But we don’t know for how much longer it will be free. Of course, you still have to pay 70 cents to use the bathroom at the fancy rest stops. That’s why it’s not at all unusual to see people peeing on trees here. They’re pretty brazen about it, too.

The proprietors at the Haslachmühle B&B had requested that we check in by 6:00pm. We arrived there at about 5:30pm, having driven through Salzburg’s traffic and passed by a guy driving a carriage pulled by two white horses. The horses spooked Arran, who barked and startled us both. I wish I’d had my camera, though. Those horses were a lovely sight.

So… about that B&B. It’s a winner. Getting to it is a little bit tricky, since it’s located on a very narrow “goat trail” type of road. But it’s a very charming place, with six unique rooms and a small free parking lot for guests. The lady in charge, along with her very sweet female dachshund “Luezy” (pronounced as if you were rhyming it with “noisy”), met us as we pulled up. She was quick to check us in and show us to the beautiful room I rented for the night. We stayed in the Room City View, which was just awesome. It had a big bed, a huge balcony that offered a view of the city, and a gorgeous masonry heater. I especially loved how the walls had built in bookshelves loaded with books (in German, of course). It was really unique and lovely. I was sorry we could only stay one night.

We were tired from the drive and still full from lunch, so we had no need for dinner. However, the B&B has a fridge where guests can get wine, beer, or soft drinks, as well as snacks. You just write down what you took and pay on checkout. Our room came with two bottles of water (looked like they came from a Penguin), mini Ritter Sports on the pillows, and three apples. Adding in some crackers and wine, we were pretty much set for the night. I enjoyed watching the sun set over the mountain. We also watched some network TV, which we rarely have the chance to do.

If we had needed food, we could have ordered from Lieferando.at or, if we were feeling determined, driven into town. There aren’t any restaurants near the B&B that I could see.

Breakfast in the morning included the usual buffet spread, with cheeses, cold cuts, fruits, juices, and breads. The proprietor made us coffee and scrambled eggs. While we were eating, Arran started pitching a fit. We hadn’t brought him into the breakfast room. I was very pleased to see that the proprietor didn’t mind Arran’s howling and even said we could bring him into the breakfast room, which we ended up doing. Another couple also had a dog with them and Arran behaved like a perfect gentleman.

After a leisurely breakfast, we loaded up the car and checked out. I would definitely go back to Die Haslachmühle B&B, next time without any canines. However, I am happy to report that they are very welcome there, even if children aren’t (according to Booking.com, anyway). We weren’t even charged extra for Arran. I was expecting a pet fee, so that was a really nice surprise. Below are some more photos from our stop in Salzburg. It really is a beautiful city. I would love to go back and do another tour of it when we don’t have business to attend to.

By late morning, we were heading south to Slovenia, which isn’t that far from Salzburg. I think it was about a three hour drive. I managed to get a few pictures of castles from the side of the Autobahn… again impressive sights. We really should come down and actually visit sometime. We had a chance to tour Salzburg when we did our very first Space A hop from the USA back in 2012, but that was just a day trip that we took from Munich. We had a great time, but it wasn’t long enough. Time to look into visiting again. We’ve been to Salzburg three times and still haven’t done the Sound of Music tour. 😉

More on the drive to Slovenia in the next post.

Winding down in an hourlong Stau… coming home

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Sunday morning, we got up and packed the Mini with all of our stuff.  After a nice breakfast, we checked out and headed toward Austria with plans to spend one night in Salzburg on the way home.  I was actually looking forward to going to Salzburg.  We were there once in 2012, when we took our very first military hop to Europe.  I ended up getting us a blind booking on Germanwings.  We flew from Cologne to Munich, spent a couple of days there, then took a day trip to Salzburg.  I remember wishing we’d based in Salzburg instead of Munich because I thought the town was so pretty.

We plugged in the GPS and decided to drive through Klagenfurt, Austria to see if it’s worth a future visit.  The drive out of Slovenia to Klagenfurt was rather scary, because it involved driving through some very steep Alpine passes.  Poor Bill had his foot on the brake the whole time and was kind of freaking out, especially when we got to the Austrian side of the border.  Incidentally, there was a passport check, though the border patrol seemed to wave through anyone with Austrian plates.

We drove around Klagenfurt, but weren’t inspired to park and walk around for awhile.  That doesn’t mean it’s not a nice town.  It just means we were a bit tired and on a Sunday morning, things were looking pretty dead there.  I was curious about it because when we did our first hop, I was looking at potential blind booking cities and Klagenfurt was among them.  The pictures I’d seen of Klagenfurt made it look like a nice town.  In retrospect, it’s a good thing we didn’t stop.  Just after we left Klagenfurt, the GPS added an hour to our travel time.

“What the hell?!” Bill exclaimed as he checked the GPS, which I consider the bane of our existence.  Apparently, there’s some major construction going on in the tunnels and they have one shut down.  Since it’s the main route north and many people were heading that way, we were pretty much forced to endure yet another stressful traffic jam.  I entertained us with old Kenny Rogers songs on the iPod. I don’t need to describe what it’s like to sit in a traffic jam for an hour, though being on a mountain while driving a stick definitely made it more tiring.  I saw lots of guys casually doing their business on the side of the road, too.  😀

By the time we got to Salzburg, it was mid afternoon.  Bill and I were both exhausted and a bit exasperated as we pulled into Haus Arenberg for the night.  Any thoughts we had of walking into the city disappeared, especially when the sky clouded up and it started to rain.  But we did enjoy a couple of nice beers out on the patio and listened to some fun German folk music on TV while sipping Slovenian wine and eating chips and cookies.

We also watched an interesting reality show about horsey people in their 40s and 50s looking for love.  Since I grew up around horses, that was pretty interesting for me, even if I didn’t understand everything.  We probably should have gone ahead and gotten German cable TV again.

Yesterday morning, we loaded up again and headed into Germany.  We were prepared for another delay at the border, since we saw one the week prior on our way to Austria.  German authorities were checking passports.  In fact, on Sunday, they were checking passports and there was a twenty-five minute delay getting across the border.  But yesterday, it was pretty smooth sailing.  I was even pleasantly surprised by the usually perpetually backed up A8.

Bill picked up the boys while I did the laundry and cleaned up some old food we neglected to toss out before we left.  I heard a smoke detector chirping, as they usually seem to do after we’ve been on a trip.  We changed the battery.  I wrote some hotel reviews and am pretty much done blogging about this trip.  We had a wonderful time and I truly hope we have another chance to visit Slovenia.  If we make it to Croatia during our time here, I will definitely make a point of spending a couple of days there in a different area.  It really is a cool place.

I already miss the views…  This was from our balcony in Salzburg after a rain storm.

 

Stay tuned for my ten things I learned post.  I think it will be fun to write!  I don’t know when our next trip will be, though I’m definitely prioritizing Ireland and Berlin, two places I must see before we move out of Europe.  I don’t know when that will be, so we need to take those trips sooner rather than later.

Repost of my 2012 Space A trip report… Part two

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Our very first military hop to Europe! Part 2… places we saw– part one

May 29, 2012 (Updated May 30, 2012)

The Bottom Line Our travels in Europe.

For part one, click here.

Our blind booking…

After enjoying a tasty German Sunday evening repast and Kolsch beers at a Kolsch brewery, Bill and I went to the lobby in the Ibis and completed our blind booking flight. I was hoping we’d end up somewhere exotic or interesting, but it turned out we got a flight to Munich.

I wasn’t that disappointed about going to Munich. Munich is a fun town and I hadn’t been there with Bill, except to stay overnight before an early flight to Oslo. As soon as I started looking for Munich hotels online, I realized that our cheap flight would lead to high hotel prices! But thanks to that trip in 2009, we knew of a good hotel. It happened to be at the Munich airport. At first I was reluctant to book a stay at the Hotel Kempinski because I wanted to be in Munich. But then it occurred to Bill that we had an early flight back to Cologne on Thursday and being in an airport hotel would be convenient. Plus, we also knew that the Munich airport is awesomely populated with conveniences. So we booked our expensive Munich room, confident we’d be happy with our choice.

Monday morning

We enjoyed a typical German breakfast at the Ibis, included in our rate. All in all, I was pretty happy with the Ibis. The room was tiny, but had a nice hot shower, a flatscreen TV, and free Internet in the lobby. The bed wasn’t the best, but I was so tired, it didn’t matter.

Since our flight to Munich wasn’t until the afternoon, Bill and I strolled around Cologne’s old town. Right next to the train station stands the city’s very impressive cathedral. We walked inside and I was awestruck by its vastness. Bill was overtaken by how beautiful everything was. I always get a kick at the ease he gets moved by beautiful places and Cologne’s cathedral is definitely beautiful.

We walked around Cologne and I took pictures of graffiti. For some reason, I have a knack for finding stuff. On the other hand, Germans post a lot of goofy stuff on signposts and walls. That afternoon, we took a train to the Cologne airport. Bill was upset because Germanwings never sent me a confirmation for our flight. We went to the counter and the ticket agent found my reservation with no trouble. We dropped off our bags and had lunch at a German Argentinian chain restaurant called Mareda. Its speciality is beef, but I’m not usually impressed by German beef, so I ordered Wienerschnitzel. Bill had goulash. We both enjoyed the free wifi in the airport. Free wifi is apparently a rarity in Germany!

Our flight to Munich was quick, painless, and peaceful. It lasted about 40 minutes. The most memorable thing about it was the sight of a young guy walking around with a t-shirt depicting a naked picture of Claudia Schiffer.

We landed in Munich and checked into the Kempinski, where a very elegant man gave us the full tour of our expensive five star room. The Kempinski was even more lux than I remembered it. The huge flatscreen television had British channels; the bathroom was huge; and the Internet was not free. The Kempinski is a business hotel, though, so that’s not surprising.

That first night, I didn’t feel like going into Munich, so we headed to the Airbrau restaurant/brewery and drank some very tasty wheat beers. I was pretty fascinated by the people watching. I saw a vast array of interesting fashion choices, including one swarthy looking man wearing a t-shirt that said “I’m what Willis was talking about.” I had to wonder if the man even knew what famous television program his shirt was referring to… Those of us who grew up in the 80s certainly know!

Tuesday

The next morning, we went to McDonalds for breakfast because we didn’t feel like paying 30 euros for a hotel breakfast. I was amazed by the fact that the McDonalds had kiosks where people could order their food from a computer. It was sort of like a self checkout for fast food. I don’t tend to enjoy McDonalds that much anymore, but I had to admit the quality of the breakfast was pretty good and at seven euros for both of us, cheap.

After breakfast, we took the train into Munich and visited my favorite German gourmet store, Dallmayr, before touring the Residenz museum. Bill had never been there and I wanted to show it off to him. Imagine my surprise when I saw jars of Bone Sucking Sauce on sale for about $10. Bone Sucking Sauce is made right here in North Carolina.

Next, we went to the Residenz. I had been before, but had only seen the crown jewels/treasury. We purchased combo tickets and toured the whole museum. By the time we were done, it was time for lunch. We made our way to the Hofbrauhaus. Bill was sure it would be touristy and crowded, but it really wasn’t. We had mas krugs of fine German brew and enjoyed some very yummy German cuisine. One of Bill’s favorite German meals is roasted chicken. That’s what he had, along with potato salad. I had a wurst with sauerkraut. I let Bill eat the cabbage, though.

We wandered around Munich until evening and checked out the Farmer’s Market, which had a very handy public pay bathroom. I made use of that, needing to get rid of some of the two liters of beer I drank at the Hofbrauhaus. Then we climbed a very tall church tower, which helped burn off more beer and offered a gorgeous view of the city. We got to the top in time to see the glockenspiel show, then climbed down and visited a couple of churches, one of which had an atheist message stenciled/graffitied on the side of it. We went into one church that was having high mass and stood in the back, trying to be inconspicuous. Sweet Bill was overcome with emotion again, so we left quietly and went looking for dinner.

I was getting pretty tired of German food, so we stopped at an Italian trattoria I had visited on one of my day trips to Munich. Bill and I enjoyed pasta, wine, coffee, tiramisu, and people watching. We were the only Americans in there. I recognized one of the waiters, who I think actually might have owned the place. Last time I was there, he laughed when I tried to say “schtimpt”… meaning he could keep the change. I probably still haven’t gotten it right.

Wednesday

We started Wednesday with breakfast at an Italian cafe and deep conversation. We had plans to visit Salzburg, which was included as a stop on our three day German railpass, even though it’s in Austria. I had never been to Salzburg. Bill had been once in the late 80s. But I have seen The Sound of Music many times, so I knew I was in for a treat!

We took the train from the Munich airport to the main train station, then switched trains to go to Salzburg. It took a couple of hours traveling through beautiful countryside to get to our destination. When we arrived, it was about 1:30 pm. We walked toward the centrum and stopped for lunch at a charming family owned restaurant where we enjoyed Austrian beer and some local specialties. I had green and white asparagus with Hollandaise sauce, ham, and potatoes. Bill had roasted pork, I think. I remember two big dumplings.

After lunch, we wandered to the centrum and I was awestruck by how beautiful Salzburg is. We passed the building where the composer of “Silent Night” was born, then crossed the river into the old town. We toured the cathedral and saw some beautiful horse drawn carriages. We were about to move on when a female driver approached with a couple of gorgeous black stallions. If I had to guess, I’d say maybe they were Friesians (I was a horse geek as a kid). I stood there capitvated for several minutes by these beautiful steeds, wishing I still had horses in my life.

I was drawn away from the horses by the sound of music. A quartet of four Russian Cossack soldiers were singing folk songs, accompanied by accordion. Now it was my turn to be moved to tears. After listening for a few minutes, I had to buy one of their CDs. Then we walked up the hill toward the Stiegl Brewery. I wish we had been there earlier; maybe we could have taken a tour! I was suddenly wishing we had booked a room in Salzburg instead of Munich.

As it was, we had to leave quickly because a storm was rolling in. We managed to get to the same restaurant where we had lunch before the sky opened. The man who owned the restaurant was delighted to welcome us back for beer and schnapps! He said the schnapps would make the hair on my arms stand on end, but it was actually not bad at all. Just tasted a little like minty gin.

On the way to the train station, I needed to make a pit stop. Fortunately, there was a shopping mall where peeing was free. We also ran into a group of ladies engaged in a “hen party”. I think it was in honor of someone’s 50th birthday… We will have to go back to Salzburg for a closer look sometime soon!