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Good intentions waylaid by a Stau…

We have nice weather today, and several fests are going on. I was thinking I might like to go to one in a town near us, since I knew there would be wine, food, and live music. But just after we got on A 66, we hit a Stau… that is, a traffic jam. We must have gotten to it pretty soon after a wreck, as a couple of ambulances passed us while we sat behind an endless processional of cars.

It was just after one o’clock when we hit the Stau, and about 1:45pm when we were finally moving again. We were both so irritated and hangry that we decided to just go to AAFES on post and pick up a few necessary items. I hadn’t been to the PX in many months… it’s probably been over a year. I needed to get some new makeup, because the stuff I’ve been using is probably from the pre-pandemic days. Bill also wanted to get shit bags for the dogs, and an Internet extender for the house.

By the time we were done shopping, we had spent well over $200, mostly on my cosmetics, because I don’t use cheap stuff. I usually buy Lancome, but there wasn’t any way to tell which shades things were, so I switched to Estee Lauder. Then we went to the Pizza Hut Express and got a pizza, which was pretty crappy. Pizza Hut used to be pretty good, back when you could go there and sit in the restaurant for dinner. Now, it’s kind of yucky. But it was handy to get it, since it was after 2pm, and we were both grouchy.

When we got home, the dogs were ecstatic. Noyzi goosed us both in the ass. Then I noticed a funny Carolyn Hax column in the Washington Post, about a woman who was pregnant and having to deal with her mother-in-law treating her like her grandchild’s vessel. For example, they’d go out for Thai food, and Grandma would say, “If that’s what Baby wants…”

My response was, “I’d tell her Baby would rather have a double gin martini.” For some reason, people thought that was a really funny quip. In honor of it, Bill made us gin martinis. See the featured photo for that. 😉

Below are a few photos from the highly annoying Stau. We were used to those in Stuttgart. They aren’t so common up here in Wiesbaden. Good thing we didn’t have our hearts set on doing anything special or having lunch anywhere good.

And no, I did not commit Beleidigung today, although the impulse was there. The martini was made from gin we bought from Vom Fass in Wels, Austria. We finally finished the bottle.

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Austria, Croatia, road trips, Slovenia

Ten things I learned on my Aus-cro-slo-aus trip…

I always like to cap off my travel series with a top ten list of things I learned while traveling. Even when I’ve been to places repeatedly, I usually do learn something new on every trip. That was especially true as we visited Croatia overnight for the first time. We had visited there once before, but only for a couple of hours as we took a “joyride” while visiting Trieste, Italy. So, I’ll dispense with the useless palaver, and commence with my list. Here goes.

10. The word “slap” means waterfall, both in Croatian and Slovenian.

As we know, “slap” means something entirely different in English. But when you see it on signs in Croatia and Slovenia, it means you might be in for a beautiful view of something special.

9. Croatia is very friendly to English speakers.

I couldn’t help but notice that Croatia really seems to have embraced visitors who speak English. A lot of Europeans know English, because it’s a very practical language to learn. If one speaks English, he or she can communicate with Americans, Brits, and Aussies, just to name a few. But I was still surprised that so many people in Croatia spoke English so fluently, and many of the signs were also in English.

8. The off season in Croatia and Slovenia means very few crowds, but also a lot of closed businesses.

The Lake Bohinj area was especially empty of tourists, although to be fair, we were there in early November, rather than late October. November 1 seems to be the cut off day for things to close up for the winter.

7. But even though places were closed, the fall colors were fantastic, and there were still some things to do.

We still managed to see and do some things, even if it was harder to find open shops and restaurants. And the trip was so worth it, if only to see the incredible fall colors along with so many lakes and waterfalls.

6. Salzburg is still hopping, even though it’s November.

Of course this isn’t a surprise, but the fact that Salzburg was still in full swing was great, especially after spending time in places where it was so quiet. We managed to do a little shopping and enjoy a very fine meal in a restaurant. I could definitely spend more time in Salzburg, and Austria as a whole.

5. Wels, Austria is known for its catfish.

I don’t really enjoy eating catfish, but this was something I didn’t know before we visited Wels. In fact, I didn’t even know Wels existed before we took our trip.

4. Sometimes it’s interesting to visit lesser known cities.

I’m truly glad we visited Wels. It’s probably not high on most people’s travel itineraries, but I found it a pleasant place to spend a couple of nights. I wouldn’t mind going back. I’m also glad we visited different places. I’m rather proud that I came up with a plan to visit Plitvice Lakes and Lake Bohinj. And I’m glad I listened to Slovenians in Lake Bled who recommended Lake Bohinj.

3. I need a genuine kit bag for all my stuff.

I typically carry a digital camera, a phone, and my iPad when I tour places. I could have used a better bag, especially when we were hiking. If anything, I could have used a place to put my layers as I stripped them off. I got hot at Plitvice Lakes and ended up having to carry my sweater and hoodie. I also need to bring snacks.

2. The word “jezera” means “lake” in Croatian. And the word “ključ” means “key” in Croatian.

I only learned the word for “key” because the lovely couple at the house we rented used it several times.

And finally, 1. Planning ahead is difficult, especially in the age of COVID-19, but it’s always a good idea to try…

I wish we could have visited the Krka National Park during our time in Croatia, even though it would have been physically challenging. But now we have a reason to go back. I hope we’ll have the opportunity. It’s good that we came back when we did, as COVID-19 has become even more concerning in the past week. I still don’t regret our trip. We had a really great time, in spite of my occasional crankiness and griping.

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Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part three

Wednesday morning, we awoke in lovely Wels, Austria, and headed down to the restaurant for breakfast. Breakfast is supposedly very highly rated at Hotel Ploberger. Many reviewers commented on how extensive the buffet is, and the varied and expensive items that can be found there. They did have breads, cheeses, cold cuts, vegetables, fruits, smoked salmon, cheeses, and even a machine that would squeeze marginally ripe oranges into juice. I will agree that the buffet was extensive, but it wasn’t particularly well-stocked when we visited. I got the sense that like all good food and beverage managers, the manager at the hotel instructed the employees to put out only a little bit, as I don’t think the hotel was particularly well populated during our visit.

I noticed that the buffet appeared to be a bit picked over both mornings of our stay. I understand that it was probably a cost or labor cutting method, but to be honest, it wasn’t a great look. The breakfast lady brought us coffee with a no nonsense attitude. It was strong and fresh, and that definitely perked up my ex Mormon husband.

It was pretty foggy and chilly the morning of our one full day in Wels. We decided to walk around the town and take more pictures. Here are some shots from our walk.

Right next to the church is Der Weinphilosoph, a bookstore owned by a genius… Or maybe not. I saw a similar concept in Rostock, Germany, where one can buy wine and books in the same place. I wouldn’t have minded going in there for a few minutes, if only to pick up a few new jigsaw for the probable tighter COVID-19 restrictions that will be in store as the weather gets colder and more folks stay inside with other people.

We continued walking until we reached an “Energy Park”, which offered lots of activities for children. Right next to the park was a kiosk and a WC, where one could get a coffee and take a piss. And there were vending machines dispensing smokes, playing cards, and other items for committing sins. 😉

Bill and I kept walking and noticing what was available in Wels. We could have visited the science museum. I probably would have enjoyed that. There was an art museum, and a spa, which I would have been all for attending. Bill is less enthusiastic about spas than I am.

For lunch, we decided to go to a well regarded Greek restaurant called Zum Kleinen Grieschen. It had been too long since our last Greek fix, and this turned out to be a good place to stop for lunch. We were the first ones there for lunch, and we were warmly welcomed. The food was excellent! I had my usual pork gyros with flatbread and t’zatziki. Bill had souvlaki. We both had large draft Gössers, a beer I used to drink in Armenia, when I had the drams to spare.

We took our time walking back from the Greek restaurant, as there’s a small park area nearby that has some interesting memorials to people who died in the Holocaust.

We decided to stop by Vom Fass, an awesome chain store that sells liqueurs, oils, vinegars, and other gourmet goodies. An English speaking associate quickly realized we were easy sells. By the time she was finished with us, we’d dropped some major euros on new items for the home bar. And by that time, of course, I figured it was time to redeem our free drinks at the wine bar… which we proceeded to do.

We weren’t hungry again after our huge Greek lunch. I wasn’t really wanting to hang out in the hotel room after dark. We thought maybe we’d go look for a place with small plates or something… but before we could venture out, I got a phone call from USAA. They wanted to talk to me about my complaint about their tendency to block my credit card at the drop of a hat. I wasn’t really in the mood to talk to them, and they had already called and missed me the night before. So I talked to the poor lady who had the misfortune of calling me.

In all seriousness, I wasn’t as pissed off on Wednesday as I had been the previous Saturday. Still, I was pretty stern as I let her know in no uncertain terms that the way they’ve changed their practices of fraud protection really suck. I don’t want to have to call the bank every time I use my money. And it IS my money, since they also block the debit card at the drop of a hat. SIGH…

After that conversation, we headed out… and ended up in a somewhat unauthentic Irish pub called Labi’s. It turned out to be an entertaining place, though, because a bunch of young Austrian guys came in and started playing darts. We sat in the dark for about an hour before they arrived, drinking Guinness, which turned out to be our dinner.

The proprietor who checked our vaccine certs seemed to be trying to cater to our musical tastes. At first, they were playing Eminem and similar stuff. Then, “You Make My Dreams”, a song by Hall & Oates, came on. I mentioned that I liked it, and it was popular in 1981. Next thing I knew, “The Best That You Can Do (Arthur’s Theme)” by Christopher Cross, also from 1981, came on. Then, the proprietor wisely switched to more Irish music by The Pogues.

We were thinking about leaving when the Austrian college lads came in and started playing darts. It was interesting to watch them and their friendly competition as they swilled Austrian beers. One of the guys was clearly an outside. He wore casual clothes, while the others had on business attire. I got the sense that the casual guy was someone’s little brother or maybe a guy they knew from the village. He was the worst dart thrower, too. The other guys were pretty players, and I alternated between feeling really old and wondering where the time went, to seriously enjoying their game.

I also noticed the urgent walk of a person about to either hurl or piss themselves, as two young ladies charged to the bathroom with the heavy gait of people who have had way too much to drink. Trust me, I know. 😉

When we settled up with the bartender, he asked us where we were from. I think he knew damned well we’re Americans. What he really wanted to know was what the hell we were doing in Wels! So I helpfully volunteered that we live in Germany. That seemed to satisfy his curiosity. With that, we headed back to the hotel to sleep before our big journey to Croatia on Thursday, the 28th.

Stay tuned for part four.

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Chasing lakes and waterfalls in Aus-cro-slo-aus… part two

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.