Mar and Gar's Adventures

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It’s A Wrap

I promised Garry I would wrap up our trip to Europe before too much time went by so I guess I had better get to it!

Our river cruise had many great stops, all of them really nice. Like all cruises you don’t get to do everything in a short time but with river cruises there is more time on shore, sometimes not leaving until late at night which means you can do meals on shore if you like. There were even two overnight stops. Our stops in this order were Basel, Switzerland (where we started), Breisach, Germany; Strasbourg, France; Mannheim, Germany; Rudesheim, Germany; Koblenz, Germany; Bonn and Cologne, Germany; and Amsterdam, Netherlands. At each town we had a choice of tours. We usually opted for the bus/walking tours and passed on the biking tours and hiking tours. Of course staying on the ship or walking around unguided was also an option.

The trip is pretty impossible to describe. There was no favorite part that we can pick. It was all so good. We met some of the best people in towns along the way and also on the cruise ship. We have cards we exchanged with people and now we need to share some pictures with them. We saw beautiful countries, each with their own personality and feel.

Would we change anything? The only thing we could think of was one place we stayed 3 nights and 2 would have given us more time in Austria, but we still enjoyed those 3 nights…. so maybe we would not change it.

In Amsterdam we missed meeting up with a friend from Des Moines… Lisa and her son. They arrived the afternoon the day before we were leaving and the timing and location where we were staying didn’t work out. And then we found out our friend from Seattle, Tanya, was going to be on a morning flight from Amsterdam to Seattle. She had been visiting family in Russia. We kept looking for her but we found out later she was one flight ahead of us. Wouldn’t that have been something if both of those meet-ups had happened!!??!!

Our flight home was uneventful and long but we arrived a little early, zoomed through customs and our travel agent had a driver and car waiting for us for our short ride home.

So, I guess it’s a wrap!!!!

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Odds and Ends

 

1. Many fuel/ rest stops on the main highways have cafes. Some of those are McDonalds and Burger King (I mentioned that before). McDonalds has the best free restrooms. Burger King was a pay restroom. Many public restrooms are pay. Usually 50 cents (euro). We did have a burger once at each. Burger King was best.

2. River cruising is great. Probably won’t ever go back to the floating hotel cruise ships again, but maybe another river cruise some time.

3. Packing light worked for the most part. I have bought a few clothes but mostly because I liked them, not because it was necessary.

4. 99% of the passengers on this cruise are Americans… from all over. There is a group of about 30 here from South Carolina all paid for by one of their local tv stations. All are advertisers on that station. They are really enjoying the cruise.

5. You rarely hear politics discussed on the ship.

6. There are interesting rivalries here between towns; sometimes between their soccer teams or their wine or their castles or their beer or their food. The tour guides give interesting and numerous insight on those topics.

7. There are an amazing amount of RV (caravan) parks over here. There are many right on banks of the Rhine River.

8. Cologne was the first town we were warned about pick pockets.

9. Have seen a total of 6 beggars the whole time we have traveled. And no homeless camps.

10. The 9 hour time difference is really frustrating. I keep forgetting what time it is at home, so forget to call people.

11. Sometimes river cruise boats raft to each other in port. You have to be careful at night about closing your curtain because you don’t know what or who might be staring into your stateroom when you wake up. If you walk on the top deck of your ship you can chat with people on the top deck of their ship. If you are rafted to the outside you walk through the other boat to get to shore.

12. Their were 5 cruise ships in one port but that is still only about 700 tourists.

13. The pilot house on the ship can go up and down if needed so we can clear bridges.

14. You are told not to touch the walls of the locks as you go through them. Most of the men touched the walls anyway. It figures.

15. Garry got to tour the engine room.

16. There are 800,000 people in Amsterdam, but 2.5 million bicycles. Bicycles have right of way over everything. Cars are lowest in priority.

17. It is legal to text and bike but not no texting and driving a car.

18. You don’t need to buy pot to get high in Amsterdam. Just inhale while you are walking around town.

19. Amsterdam is very confusing when walking. Thank goodness for google maps.

20. A huge marathon was in Amsterdam today. Someone said 40,000 runners. No wonder it is so crowded this weekend.

21. There was a marathon when we were in Salzburg, too, but only a half marathon.

22. Home tomorrow!!

 


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The Adventure Continues

We feel like we have been speeding through Europe. We spent so much time in Germany that we were almost rushed in Austria and Switzerland. We boarded the AMA Kristina river cruise ship yesterday in Basel, Switzerland so this is a good time for a quick catch up.

When we left Binz we made a meandering trip toward Austria . What could have been done in 1 or 2 days took us four, I think. Since we tried our best to stay off the autobahn everything took longer. The advantage is seeing more of the real towns and villages and meeting some great people.

We learned to stop driving by 4:00 p.m. if you want to try to find a hotel when you have no reservations. In one small town there was 1 hotel and it was full. They sent us 4 kilometers down the road to another one and it was full. They sent us another 4 kilometers down the road and we got a nice room overlooking a lake. They had a nice restaurant so dinner was great. I can’t remember the name of the town, but somewhere in my pile of receipts I have the name.

I had read a Rick Steves travel article about a town called Rothenburg ob der Tauber, so we headed there. It is possibly the largest medieval town in Europe. It is an old walled city, with some more modern city outside. Within the walls, though, the buildings go back hundreds and hundreds of years. There are many hotels within the city walls so we stayed in one for a couple nights. Even though it is a huge tourist stop, and souvenir stores are everywhere the buildings are amazing. There is an incredible four story crime museum that is all about how people were “disciplined” (tortured). Fascinating, creepy… I learned too much about the Iron Maiden. Also, if accused of a crime the only way to be found innocent was if you passed 3 levels of torture… not many passed.

We climbed the 200 foot tower to look over the city. That was an experience! It would not pass many safety tests but we made it. Garry also got a haircut in a salon in the city…. but it was done with modern instruments. One night we were having a beverage in a bar and met a nice young American couple. The guy was in the service, stationed in Kuwait. He had a couple days leave so his girlfriend flew over from New York. They were going to miss their haunted town tour waiting for their drink tab so we said we would take care of it, thanking the guy for his service.

Rothenburg was primarily spared from damage during WWII. There are varying stories of how this happened but one story is of an American commander who knew the importance of the city so sent 3 soldiers in with a white flag. They gave the town a choice – surrender within 3 hours or be bombed. The city chose surrender against their own orders and the damage to the city was minimal. Because of the history of the ancient city donations came from around the world to help with restoration.

After Rothenburg we headed toward Salzburg. I actually made a reservation on the way because it is such a busy city. It was a good thing. The town was packed but we had a pretty decent place not far from the old town. Just before we arrived there we got a call from an old business friend of Garry’s who lives in Linz…about 80 miles east. He had been on holiday in Italy so we didn’t think we would be able to see him but he got back and returned our call so we only spent one night in Salzburg, then headed to Linz.

Not knowing Linz at all I planned a day ahead and got a reservation at a very new very modern hotel adjacent to the New Cathedral. It is the largest church in Austria, but not the oldest. It was built starting in 1862 so it is just a baby compared to others. The contrast of our hotel and the cathedral was really something.

Back in the day, when Garry owned Insulate Industries the majority of their manufacturing equipment came from Austria. The man we visited in Linz (Walter) used to own a company called Actual where most of the equipment was from. Walter is retired and that part of the company was sold but his 3 sons run their window company. I had met Walter twice in the past on trips to Europe with Garry. Those two started talking and it was like they had seen each other last week not 25 years ago. Walter’s youngest son, Klaus, joined us for drinks and dinner. It was a great night and then the next morning we toured the window company before we left the area.

After Linz we started diving through the alps, staying in a variety of places. Our favorite was in a town called Worgl. We found an incredible 5 room bed and breakfast called Alexado Residenz Tirol. The room was fabulous, the food wonderful and the owner, Barbara, made us feel like we were home.

We had a very short drive through Lichtenstein and finally got to Switzerland. We spent a few days with Felix, a friend we had not seen in 25 years. We had met him and his then

cwife Linda on their honeymoon in about 1982 or 1983 on a Caribbean cruise, our first ever cruise.. we had seen him twice since then, but not since our last trip to Europe which is when we had also seen Walter.

You have to worry when you are going to stay in someone’s home and you have not seen that person in 25 years but thank goodness most of our changes were in looks, not senses of humor or philosophies on various topics.
Felix doesn’t like to be called a tour guide but he was a great one. One day we drove to Lucerne, a beautiful city, and it was having a its annual 2 week fair. It was packed with families enjoying the food, games, typical fair stuff. The next day we drove to Blausee (Blue Lake). The lake is so clear and even though we were at about 3000 ft elevation, it never freezes. It stays a constant 4 to 8 degrees centigrade year round. There are trout in the lake and we had a great lunch there. We had trout, of course. We drove from there to Interlaken. Now that is really a tourist place but for the really rich or the pretend to be really rich people. There must have been 30 watch stores if there was one.. many ranging in the $20,000 to $40,000 range. Yikes.

We got on the cruise ship yesterday. Our ship is the Kristina with AMA river cruises. She is only 6 months old and very modern. There are 150 passengers on board, so it is tons different than the other type of cruising we have done before. We have one of the four suites and our butler will bring us whatever we need. It seems to be mostly Americans on the cruise but we are just starting to meet people more today. We left Basel at 10:00 last night and I wrapped myself in the blanket provided and sat out on the balcony watching lights go by.

So now you are mostly up to date. Home next Monday.

Here are pictures in random order.