Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   Europe (
-   -   MasterPhil (long-winded) Trip Report..... (

Masterphil Sep 18th, 2009 04:45 PM

MasterPhil (long-winded) Trip Report.....
Two hour flight from SFO to Denver. Wait 2 1/2 hours at Denver Airport. Board flight to London for a 9 hour flight. It turns out there are 117mph tail winds all along the route, so we cruise to London at 670mph and arrive in 7 hours 56 minutes!!!! Thank God!! My butt couldn't handle sitting in it’s cramped space for any more than that! No sleep for Kelly or I on the plane. We land at LHR and find our way to Terminal 5 for our flight to Prague. When doing my planning, people told me the 2 hour turn around in Heathrow might not be enough to make the connection. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous. Turns out we got to Terminal 5 in 40 minutes! Piece of cake.
I didn't realize Prague is only 650 miles from London. 1 1/2 hour flight with free sandwich and complimentary booze on British Airways!! My orange juice became a screwdriver real quick!
We checked into our hotel, the Four Seasons Prague, at about 7:00pm. We showered, and headed out to the beautiful city of Prague! We walked across the Charles Bridge (which unfortunately is under construction) and we had an outdoor dinner at the Four Seasons Restaurant (which overlooks the castle which is illuminated across the river).
I chose the Four Seasons, because after flights from SFO to Denver to LHR to Prague, I didn’t want to have to deal with any potential hotel problems. Going with the Four Seasons would insure that we had a nice place, in a good area to crash after our long travel day.
In retrospect, the Four Seasons is nice, the service is excellent, but it’s overkill for the city of Prague. We spent so little time in the hotel in Prague, we could have stayed almost anywhere.
Staying in walking distance to Old Town was definitely the best place to stay.
I’m making it a point to drink as much wonderful Czech beer as possible!
Day 1 we wound up staying up for 33 straight hours!? To sleep at 10pm and awake now at 6am.
Weather is beautiful! Looking forward to exploring this city.
I woke up 6:00am this morning after 8 hours sleep. Jet lag has hit Kelly a little harder. Bored to tears at 6am, I went out for a walk to explore.
After my walkabout, Kelly was ready to see the sights. We walked to the Old Town where Prague started. This is comprised of a large square, with street vendors (including the poor suckling pig getting nicely crisped over an open fire), artists and many restaurants. We than walked across the Charles Bridge to Mala Stranka near Prague Castle. We walked uphill (sorry Kelly!) to a seminary. Not because we were interested in the seminary, but because it has a large beer garden restaurant with an incredible view of Prague. I was told to try the Pilsner Urquell dark beer. I did! Quite tasty! After one drink each there, we moved on to the neighboring Klasterni Strahov Pivovar (brewery) which promoted it's special beer made right at the restaurant. I had two St. Norbert Amber's and Kelly had a Weissbier. What you don't realize (until you start pounding the stuff) is that these beers have a high (over 5) alcohol percentage! I have to tell you, three beers and I was feeling kind of giddy. Now combine felling pretty looped and cobblestone streets! There are ladies over here walking around these cobblestoned streets with the equivalent of spike high heeled flip flops. I'm having a hard enough time walking around in rubber soled shoes!
Everything is meat and potatoes over here. Kelly had a fried cheese plate with potatoes and tartar sauce! I had Schweinbraten (roast pork with sauerkraut and potato dumplings. Good stuff. Kind of sticks to your innards.
We than went to Prague Castle and the immediate area. We didn't go in the castle. First of all, you have to pay. Secondly, we stopped in the souvenir shop and looked at pictures of the inside. It looks like most other castles we have been to. Thirdly, we are not really museum/castle people.
We walked back to Old Town through the Jewish Quarter and then back to our hotel.
I'm taking advantage of the hot tub, Kelly's catching up on some sleep.
We are gearing up for the night's actiivities, whatever they may be.
Prague is just a really beautiful place!
We just got back into our room at midnight (that's late for us old folk) after a wonderful night. We had a great dinner at Cervena Sedma which is over the Charles Bridge on Kampa Island. We had Old Bohemian Potato Soup served in a bread bowl, chicken wings in a spicy chili sauce, great schnitzel, apfel strudel and many beers. I also discovered one of the world's best beers....Kozel Black Beer!!!!! I will not divulge how many I had, but they are incredible. Kind of like Guinness without the coffee flavor. Dark, creamy wonderful flavor.
But I digress..
Prague is really happening!
After dinner, we walked back to Old Town and sat down in the square to people watch and drink more beer. Even "Ms. Coors Light" Kelly is throwing down Pilsner Urquell!! The architecture, the people, the nightlife is just amazing.
This place continues to grow on me! I would definitely come back here.
We are back at the hotel and Kelly has free porn on the TV!!! hahaha I'm serious. Just changing the channels and up pops porn.
We have cancelled going to Cesky Krumlov. According to many we have spoken to, Cesky Krumlov is a smaller version of Prague. Instead we will add one more day in the Alps.
Dobre vecher
Final Day/Night Prague
August 30, 2009
Day 3 - Prague
We are still suffering from jet lag. After our big night, Kelly was awake, I fell asleep. I woke up, Kelly fell asleep. We both fell asleep! We woke up together at 1:00pm!!? I have never slept until 1pm in my entire life. I guess it's all down hill once you turn 50!
We got a late start but had another wonderful day! We walked through Old Town Prague and down to Wenceslas Square. This is considered the seedy part of town, but it is also the big shopping area. There were some young vagrants, druggy looking people, etc. but this pales in comparison to the "seedy areas" we have back in the States! We know how to do "seedy!"
We stopped at an outdoor street market. Kelly's been doing a lot of looking and no buying. The big thing to buy over here is puppets (Marionettes). They have many stores that sell nothing but puppets. Last night one lady had a puppet break dancing to a hip hop song blaring over a speaker she put in the doorway. She had this puppet moonwalking, doing splits, doing the was quite good actually.
We got back to Old Town Prague right in time to see the main clock there (built in 1410) perform it's act at 6pm. Kind of many tourist tours here. You constantly see a large group of people following someone holding an umbrella or some other flag, pole, etc. to be able to follow the leader. At 6pm, the place in front of the clock was jammed. One Chinese guy caught my attention, he wore a kind of bucket looking hat with the brim flipped up in front. I told Kelly he was the "Chinese Soupy Sales." I didn't have to meet the guy to know he was the real clown in the group. Kelly and I saw an open table at the restaurant with primo view of said clock and we plopped our butts down. Kelly who is being very adventurous this trip (she's been drinking Pilsner Urquell!!! Something she would never do back in the states.) I order my new found favorite beer, Kozel Black and Kelly orders the same! 6pm here comes the clock, the crowd which has been waiting for up to 25 minutes all have there video cameras trained on the clock. Two doors pop open, through the doors you see wooden figures spinning past the open windows, on the outside of the clock a small skeleton is ringing a bell. This takes all of 20 seconds, then the doors shut and the church bells ring 6. That's All Folks!! It was funny to listen to a hush fall over the crowd. Their tour groups escorted them to their positions, got them there plenty early for a good spot, and the mass sigh of disbelief when the little 20 second presentation was over was pretty funny (to me at least!). The Chinese Soupy Sales looked at his two buddies and started laughing as they kind of had "That's It??!!" looks on their faces. Kelly and I didn't care, we had a great view and more importantly, we had Czech beer!!
We paid our tab ($11 for 2 beers) and moved down to our favorite outdoor café (Starcmestska Restaurant). The same place we spent most of last night. I ordered by Black beer and Kelly got the Pilsner Urquell (as they say here "one dark, one light"). I ordered a crispy baked pork ribs and Kelly just ordered some potato dumplings with onions. My dish was really incredible, crispy pork ribs with meat falling off of the bone and an apple horseradish mustard!! Also on the plate were two types of sauerkraut - one made with red cabbage, one with regular cabbage. One thing to mention is that your tab for the cafes can run 20 to 50% higher if you sit outside vs getting a table inside, because you are paying for the view of the beautiful churches and buildings. For us it was definitely worth it to be outside.
Anyway, we have just spent our last night in Prague. The night we arrived here, we took a casual walk across the Charles Bridge and down a couple of main drags. At that moment, I wasn't sure if I had made a mistake or not. I was expecting something over the top beautiful from all I have read, and based on that first walk I (we) didn't get it. Part of the problem may have been the distraction of the restoration and reconstruction taking place not only on the bridge, but throughout the city. In a city where buildings date back to the 15th century, a facelift is bound to be necessary. On the bridge alone, one side is totally blocked off and the floor is all chewed up and big machines are sitting around waiting to do some work. However, once you sit in the cafes and just admire the detailed craftmanship and design not just on one of the buildings, but literally every building around you and you see the castle across the bridge at night illuminating the sky, finally 2 days later, we get it!! This city is rich in history (the architecture tells so many stories), perseverance, romanticism (many couples acting like they are on their honeymoon), pride (how they speak of their country), cleanliness (I wish our streets were as clean and graffiti is at a minimum) and all of these things make it truly a city to see.
Two of the funniest things to note would be watching ladies trying to walk around town in their high heels. Cobblestone streets and sidewalks are everywhere, so flat shoes are the only way to go. Also, we have never seen so many groups of men hanging out together and they are all ages. We can't figure out if the wives are just shopping so the men are in the cafes or if they are here for a convention or just friends on holiday together. The other amusing sight is men with “pocketbooks!?” Not manly to this alpha male! hahaha
Tomorrow, we board a train at 1:30pm and travel 4 1/2 hours south to Vienna, Austria.
Prague has been absolutely great! Kelly and I have spent some wonderful times together here!
It is a beautiful city (not as beautiful as Paris IMO as many have stated on many travel boards). Would I come here again? I have to say definitely "yes." Would I make it a point to include it on future trips (as I have done with Paris a couple of times) "no."
What's really weird. I haven't encountered one person who doesn't speak English! Every shop, restaurant, etc. speaks English. I haven't used “Dobry den” or “Genekowya” once! Amazing! It seems to me the entire world speaks English. Right now it seems the only places in the world that don't speak English are Miami and California!! :)
4:30am we are both wide awake watching SkyNews for a third time.
Time to go!
Next stop...Wien!!
We have arrived in Vienna!!!
August 30, 2009
The idea of a 4 1/2 train ride to Vienna wasn't sounding too good this morning.
Still suffering from jet lag, we were up until 4 am. We set our room alarm for 11am. Sure enough 11am we were awakened from a sound sleep. We packed and decided to get to the train station a little early. We arrive at the train station to find an earlier train waiting to depart. We jumped on the earlier train and had a very quick and relaxing 4 1/2 hour ride to Vienna.
Out of the train station, we had to get a taxi to get to our hotel. The guys who operate the taxi service in Vienna, look like the guys you hear about that rip off tourists. We get in the taxi and I ask, "how much to the Grand Hotel Wien?" He replies, "I don't know." O.K. now I'm going to get ripped off! Kelly is on it too. She points out that his meter isn't on. My thought is that when I get to the hotel, I will ask the hotel personnel what the proper charge for a cab ride from the train station is, before I pay this guy. We arrive and tell the cabbie that I have to go inside and get change. Inside they tell me the cost is between 10-15 euros. The guy charged us 10.6 euros? OK, he wasn’t ripping us off after all!
On the train, we had some dining car food. One Czech meal that we took a liking to is (all healthy eating people might want to skip this part)...ready?....deep fried cheese and potatoes served with tartar sauce! Certainly doesn't sound good, especially the tartar sauce part, but it is surprising awesome! That's what we ate on the train.
We arrive at the Grand Hotel Wien and are met by Vladislav the manager. Vladimir is an absolutely great guy. He also plays concierge and plans a nice walk and makes reservations at a restaurant 45 minutes walk from the hotel called "Plachutta." This was one of the greatest meals of all time!! Chef Plachutta has a cook book available which I am going to buy from Amazon.

They specialize in boiled beef! My waiter suggested I get a shoulder cut so I follow his lead. They set up hot plates on your table and bring pots of food and set them on the hot plates. There is a instruction card to tell you how to eat the boiled beef. First they spoon the beef broth which has vegetables in it, into a bowl. First sip and we know we are in for a real treat!!! After finishing the soup, you pick a bone out of the broth and spoon out the marrow which you eat on a piece of rye bread!! Are you feeling it yet?! Finally, you fork that beautiful piece of meat onto the plate and break it with your fork. The side dishes are hash brown potatoes and pureed spinach with peas and nutmeg. For the meat an apple sauce with horseradish and sour cream with chives. Kelly had the equivalent of beef goulash. She was in heaven! Beef in a creamy, burgundy sauce over noodles. With sauce left in the pot, she requested more noodles to sop up all that wonderful sauce. We left that place very, very happy!
Vienna is definitely a larger city. Tomorrow will be touring day. We also had our dinner set for tomorrow night. "Figlmueller" the best Wiener Schnitzel in the world. Over 100 years old, making schnitzel differently than everybody in the world. NOT according to our waiter this evening. He told me go eat their schnitzel than come back and eat ours and tell me which one is best. Looking at Figlmueller's, we decided to cancel the reservations and allowed Vlad at the front desk to pick another restaurant for us. He is sending us to Niky's (Restaurant Kuchl Masterei) He says Niky's is better than the place we ate tonight (Plachutta’s)!! We will see.
All is well! It is 11pm on Sunday night here. Kelly is sleeping, so hopely this jet lag thing is over with.
Tomorrow we tour Vienna and take lots of pictures. Tuesday morning we rent our car and head to Durnstein, Melk, St. Wolfgang and finally Hallstatt.
Time for me to (try) to sleep.
Guten Nacht from Vienna
Day 2 - Vienna
August 31, 2009
Day 2 in Vienna was awesome!! This place is grand in every respect.
It's a large city and every building is grand in scale and grade in architecture. Nothing is plain here. It's grand scale all the way.
Kelly and I woke up at 10am (after falling asleep at about 4am again!?) We forced ourselves to get up and about to beat this jet lag thing. We walked all over the place! I wish I had a pedometer to measure how far we walked today.
Yesterday, Kelly spotted a shop that carried cookie cutters. We woke up and made a bee line to the place. She spent “some significant time” in there (how is that for politically correct?) She added to her cookie cutter collection "significantly." It made her quite happy!!! Again we are finding it quite easy to travel in Austria, because everyone speaks English (as well as many other languages).
We then hit all of the major attractions in Vienna. OK not all of them, but most. We stumbled across an outdoor fair which was being covered by Austrian TV. No idea what it was for, but we were there! Fun stuff! Beerhall band, beer, bretzen, all kinds of food, lots of sunshine!!
Vladislav, the manager of our Hotel recommended Niky's Kuchlmeisterei Restaurant. He recommended Plachutta yesterday and that was great. It had to be, it's ranked #2 in Vienna on Niky's on the other hand could not be found on tripadvisor. Actually, I couldn't find any reviews of it on the web. I was suspicious. We went. It's a really quirky place. There is sort of a big disco ball over the front door casting a Saturday Night Fever spinning light show on the ground in front. Walk in and there are a number of statues in places that make you think they are real people. Somebody sitting at the bar? No, it's just a statue. Gargols, roman statues, gargols over the urinals, very, very eclectic! We started off our meal with some burata cheese. Burata means "butter" in Italian. Burata cheese is a fresh mozzarella made with fresh cream ridiculously rich and creamy. The burata was great but the tomatoes were the tomatoes I remember before people started genetically messing with them (before there was such a thing as an “heirloom” tomato). Incredible starter!! Next, Kelly gets their signature soup, cream of mushroom. I got the bouillabaisse like soup (more soup than fish, true bouillabaisse is more fish than soup). I make a pretty good cream of mushroom soup (some reading this have already tasted it). This soup blew mine away big time! My fish soup was great too! A great Austrian red wine recommended by our host, "Tommy" named "Opus something" was wonderful. Next our entrees come...Wiener schnitzel and Roasted Suckling Pig!! The Wiener schnitzel was made the original way with a beautiful veal chop (not pounded thin), the suckling pig was prepared at our table. Both were to die for!!! What another great meal in Austria. Tommy mentioned they have had the same French chef for 26 years and it is clear why they keep him. We decided to skip dessert because we scoped out a Zanoni Zanoni ice cream place that is always packed. We had taken a taxi to dinner, but decided to walk back and enjoy the beautiful weather. We stopped at Zanoni and it turns out they have coconut ice cream!!! Turns out they have incredible coconut ice cream!!!! We walk back to our hotel like two little kids eating our cups of ice cream. The end of another wonderful day in this beautiful city of Vienna.
Tomorrow morning we pick up our rental car and start driving. I plan on hitting Durnstein (a small wine making town, they actually utilize tourists to harvest their grapes. Tourists are welcome to volunteer to pick the grapes. If they think I'm going to pick grapes, they are out of their grape pickin' minds! (just trying to make a joke).
Then it is on to Melk. We will also stop in the town most famous for filming the wedding scene in "The Sound of Music."
We continue on to St. Gilgen, St. Wolfgang, Bad Ischl and finally our home for the next couple of nights, Hallstatt. Hallstatt is a tiny, romantic town nestled in the Alps on the shores of a beautiful lake. It will be nice to get to the quite of the mountains after having spent the last 5 days in fairly large cities.
I played Mr. Fixit today. My garmin nuvi 255w GPS hasn't been working. Not able to acquire satellites! I was getting ticked because I paid a couple of hundred for the GPS and more for the Europe upgrade. I couldn't test it back in the US because it needs to be in Europe to work. I get to Europe and find out it doesn't work. Now not only am I out the money I spent for it, but also the money to rent a GPS system from the rental agency!!??
I get on the internet. Do some research. Find out I might need to download some new firmware. Download the firmware, take the GPS out to a big park with no tall buildings and voila! It works!
Guten nacht!
We have made it to Berchtesgaden!! Thursday 9/3 3:00pm
September 3, 2009
Just got into Berch...
Kelly and I went to the Wergen Ice Caves on the way over here. I will get to that at a later time. Basically you walk up hill to get to a lift to get to another uphill walk at altitude to get to the world's biggest stair master in a giant cave which is 30 degrees (over 750 stairs to climb up into the Ice Cave.) Inside is really cool (both ways!)
Here is what we have been up to for the past couple of days....
Hallstatt was awesome!
Day 6 - Vienna to Hallstatt
Day 6 will go down as one of those great days in your life (and yes, excessive booze was involved!)
We started off getting up at a normal time, 9am. I think we have this jet lag thing licked at last!
We went to the car rental place where we were supposed to pick up a mid-sized Volkswagen (that's an economy car in the States). Our request was for an automatic. The gentleman behind the counter asked me, "You need an automatic?" I said, "Oh, yeah!" He conversed with his colleague, searched through a bunch of keys and only found one automatic. A 4 door station wagon with loads of hidden cargo space!! It's a Skoda?! Sounds Swedish to me (just like my new golf shoes). Great, great car. We load up and wait for the GPS unit to kick in. It, thankfully, does! We hit lots of traffic as we leave Vienna. Kelly has a panicked look on her face and her right hand on the door (this is the position she usually sits in when driving with me. The right hand on the door somehow gives her security.) She is one of the worst back seat driver's, but rightfully so. I was schooled back on the streets of NYC where you have to be more aggressive than the other guy (if someone cuts you off from the right, you cut the guy off to your left!) Anyway, we almost get in an accident with our nice new car. I was that lost tourist deciding to make a right turn at the last minute. The drivers over here don't give you a break either! A couple of them did have to stop short to miss me, but we got out of Vienna unscathed.
(It is the morning of Day 7. To be honest, I really don't know off hand what day of the week it is. I can figure it out, but why? I am sitting on the large terrace of our room (it's easily 20' x 20') which overlooks the beautiful Hallstattsee (Lake Hallstatt). The beauty that is all around me is inspiring! I write today, an inspired man! :) )
Our first stop yesterday, which was Monday (I just figured it out) (wrong it was Tuesday! Today is Wednesday 9/2), was Durnstein, Austria (approx. 1 hour NW of Vienna on the Danube River.) Durnstein is a cute, little cobble stoned town that sits right on the Danube. It is located in the Wachau Valley which is wine country. Our scenery during this drive (prior to the Wachau Valley) consisted primarily of fields of corn, some fields of sunflowers and maybe 5% of crops we couldn't identify. Around Durnstein, we drove through lots of vineyards, unlike the States, we find no apparent wine tastings. They are also known for their apricot brandy ("Baloni" is the maker of the apricot brandy and that is no baloney <insert groan here>. We found a station on the radio that plays the worst of the cheesiest 70's music, so we start singing along to songs like "Kung Fu Fighting", "Dizzy" by Tommy Roe. Whenever a different song came on, we reacted like we were watching a bad horror movie. Aaarrggghhh! Eeeewwwwweeee!
It was quite breathtaking driving from Krems to Durnstein to Melk with the Danube on our left and vineyards to our right and castles perched up on hilltops!
Next stop was Melk (this was another 40 minutes down the road. Another great little town! Melk is home to a large, ornate monastery (if you Google it you will see pictures of it). We got out of our car and walked around town and bought a refrigerator magnet. (That has become the one souvenir we buy on our trips. Some small refrigerator magnet that reminds us of the trip. This one is a tiny cuckoo clock that actually keeps time! I was amazed when I saw the little second hand going around. It was worth every bit of the 7 euros we paid for it. All of the buildings in these little towns are so ornate and colorful. It reminds Kelly of the bright buildings she remembers seeing in Aruba a long time ago.
Once we got back in the car in Melk, we had about a two hour drive to Mondsee. Mondsee is where the wedding scene in "The Sound of Music" was filmed. What surprised me about the place is how they made it look so big in the movie. That movie remains one of my favorites. I can vividly remember going to see it with my Mom and our next door neighbor. It gives me great memories of my Mom. In fact, years after she died, "The Sound of Music" still brings tears to my eyes when I watch it.
People move very slowly here! Kelly went into a little bakery to purchase one can of Diet Coke. She stood there with that Diet Coke and the owner (who was making some sort of Irish coffee for someone sitting outside) proceeded to not even acknowledge Kelly or say, "I'll be right with you." Yes it ticked off this impatient person! We left leaving the soda behind. Driving into Hallstatt, yesterday....I'm driving with this big station wagon and people are standing in front of me like deer caught in headlights. Being as impatient as I am, I thought about opening the window and telling them to get the heck out of the way, using my best NYC cabbie impression. But I didn't. You wouldn't believe it...when they finally did move out of the way, they cleared both mirrors on each side of the car by no more than 2 inches? (Is it me??!!) Also, nobody smiles over here. In Czech Republic, I went out for a few walks and looked to make eye contact with the person coming the other way to say "Dobry Den!" nobody looked back! Vienna was a little better. Driving into Hallstatt, you have to drive through a long tunnel. In this tunnel, you lose GPS. The second you come out of the tunnel, you have to make a quick left. I didn't, so now the GPS has me down streets which look like people's driveways, just a couple of inches wider than the car. People standing on their front lawns looking at us, we wave, they give us a scowl like "who the heck are you and why the heck are you doing driving here?" Anyway, we find our way to Hallstatt.
On the way to Hallstatt, we passed Wolfgangsee. Beautiful spot of gorgeous lake with mountains surrounding! We will be visiting St. Gilgen and St. Wolfgang in the coming days. St. Wolfgang is known for their Christman celebration, so Kelly is hoping to score big "Chirstmas stuff wise."
OK..last night. We bought some great wine and Prosecco in the local grocery store. We met a sweet woman who worked the deli part of the store. She spoke no English, but we worked together to order prosciutto and local ham. She helped us pick out some local alpine cheeses. She smiled the whole way through the process. Kelly thought she was so sweet, she gave her a little box of See's candies that Kelly brought along to give to someone just like this lady. We get back to our room and break out the food and wine. We eat and drink half of the bottle. We go for a walk. On the way back, there is an outdoor concert in front of our hotel (Seehotel Gruner Baum). Austrian female lead singer, English guy on acoustic guitar and Austrian guy playing a box. You know that box you sit on and by hitting different parts of the box produces the equivalent of different drum sounds. They were good, playing stuff like, "You sexy thing," "I Feel Good," Tracy Chapman, etc. We are staying in a small square called Marktplatz. The square had about 100 people all drinking and having a good time. It turns out this concert happens one night a week on Tuesday nights. Just our luck! We went to our room got some wine and champagne and went back out to the music. This group played until 11:30pm. I finished the bottle of red wine and then went to visit my newfound Austrian buddy, Gary. I learned about Gary's whole life in 2 minutes. He is the bartender, waiter, dish washer, etc. for the restaurant in the Hotel Gruner Baum. He is also a very outgoing, smiling Austrian. He is 53 years old, when he was young he took his guitar to Memphis to play country western music and stayed for about 3 years. He bought a Harley in Minnesota, he hang glides and crashed his kite into a mountain and broke numerous bones, he was the Austrian karate champ two times..... He truly is "a wild and crazy guy!" Well, I had somewhere between 4 and 5 .5 liter beers Trimmel Pils made in Salzburg. In going to buy the beer from Gary, I met a German guy who lives in a big manor on the Baltic Sea. He actually showed me pictures of the place on his iPhone. So me, Gary and this other guy had lots of laughs. Every time I told Gary to keep the change, he clicked his heels together and saluted and said "Yessir, master sargeant!" (I don’t know why he called me that?) He wanted to know how fellow Austrian Arnold Schwarzenegger was doing as governor of California. I told him that in California there are many Mexicans and lots of people speak both English and Spanish. The next time I gave him a tip, he said "Muchas Gracias!" He is quite a character.
In case you are wondering where Kelly is during these visits with Gary, she is outside listening to the music, saving our seats and talking with the other guests that sit down at the end of our bench. Two girls asked where we were from and I said San Francisco. They were surprised. They have never to been to the states, but were interested to hear about it. They wanted to know where we had been so far. When I told them we went to Mondsee to see the church in The Sound of Music, they said people in Austria don't really know that movie. The only reason she did was because she saw it in school because they had to do a report on it, but most people there aren't familiar with it. I told her I was surprised by this, and also sitting outside listening to a concert where the singer is singing English songs instead of Austrian. The girls were from a town about 16km away from Hallstatt.
We finally got back to our room and went out on the terrace. The night was very still, the stars were out, it was just beautiful. There is a certain smell in the mountains (either that or this terrace is made of cedar). But to kick back, and just absorb the beauty and tranquility with my great wife, Kelly, is just what life is all about!
The sun is now peeking out from behind the mountain across the lake, it is 7:15am. We are going to walk to the lift, which will take us to the top of the mountain behind us. Up there, there is a salt mine that we will go into, various caves, great viewpoints and a World Heritage trail that we will hike down back to our hotel. It should be another beautiful day!
Today is Thursday, September 3rd. We are starting to get to that part of the trip that I didn't have planned out, and, I still don't have it planned out!
Anyway, yesterday was a quieter day for us. We started out by walking to the end of town and jumping on a funicular that would take us to the top of the mountain to visit a salt mine. Apparently, 250 million years ago, the ocean levels rose significantly (probably from global warming caused by dinosaurs driving SUVs...ok..ok..I'll stop with the political stuff). The oceans flooded the mountains of Austria. The water than receded leaving pools of salt water between the mountains. The water evaporated through the years leaving salt. Through rain it made it's way into the ground. The discovery of a salt water stream alerted prehistoric people to the salt. Salt was mined over 7000 years ago! At least that's their story and they're sticking to it. The city of Salzburg became the beautiful city it is because salt was a major commodity back then. The money brought in from selling salt, was utilized to build the great city of Salzburg..thus the name "Salzburg."
Enough about history...
The highlights of the mine trip are: 1) you get to dress up in a funky outfit (miner's overalls), 2) you get to go down 2 slides one of them being 65 meters long, 3) the train ride out through a narrow tunnel carved out of the mountain. I wanted to get the first slide on video. I'm supposed to hold onto Kelly from behind. Pushing off to go down the slide, I got stuck. This caused a separation of about 8 feet between us. (kind of a no no). Sure enough Kelly reaches the bottom of the slide and 2 seconds later I come crashing into her! OK..I deserve everything she said to me!! haha Fortunately, she wasn't injured. We got it right on the long slide. 65 meters is a long way to hold the "sliding position" and you move pretty darn fast. At the bottom of the run, they snap your picture which always looks hideous. Kelly was prepared for the camera this time (she is seen giving the "thumbs up!" This was my 3rd time to a salt mine and Kelly's second. Like Kelly said walking out of there, "you can never go to a salt mine too many times!" Believe it or not, it's a cool thing to do and only available in the Salzburg area.
After the salt mine, we came back to town and had some lunch at the Brauhaus. More Schwein for me. I had pork with a mushroom gravy with spaetzel and Kelly had more of the addicting fried cheese. Deep fried cheese is really good stuff! Kind of like mozzarella sticks, but with a much lighter coating and real cheese.
We decided to take a ride to Sankt Wolfgang and Sankt Gilgen on the Wolfgangsee. St. Wolfgang was just OK. St. Gilgen looked like a really great town with many shops and restaurants, a gondola ride to the top of the mountain, and boat rentals (which unfortunately Hallstatt doesn't have).
Once again, impatient guy meets ho-hum customer service of stone-faced Austrians! Kelly and I walk into the lakeside cafe to have some drinks and some food. 4 service people are standing at the entrance. We walk in not one of them says anything to us. We sit at a table and wait and not one of them makes a move to serve us! You know my move by now, I tell Kelly let's go somewhere else and get up and walk away. I don't know what it is, but is this whole world just angry??? Nobody (except our hotel guy, Gary) smiles over here! Nobody jokes around; everybody seems so serious and walk around with sour pusses on! I need to export smiley face buttons over here. Actually the smiley face buttons they sell here don't have a smile. It's just the two dots for the eyes and a straight horizontal line for the mouth. That is the expression that most Austrians walk around with. No wonder there aren't any Austrian comedians!! I would have liked to have seen Rodney Dangerfield perform in front of an Austrian crowd. "Hey, tough crowd, tough crowd!"
We got back from our trip to the Sankt's and stopped by to see Gary and get a couple of quick beers to take to the room to freshen up before dinner. We told him we would be down shortly. Kelly and I had eaten the free breakfast in the morning and (based on that) didn't expect anything too good from our hotel restaurant. We were wrong!! We started out with a tagliatelle with a truffle cream sauce as an appetizer. This was better than good!! I think we were just so glad to have something that wasn't meat and potatoes. Then Kelly had a perfectly cooked grilled chicken with wild rice and an incredible creamed spinach!!! I went for the boiled beef with apple sauce and horseradish chive sour cream (this tastes similar to corned beef). Two wonderful dinners, a perfect night sitting right next to the lake. We missed the one table which is actually on a floating platform on the lake. You step onto this rocking platform to get to the table. Once again, this Gary guy is quite a character. We gave him a nice tip and he said "oh no that's too much." We told him he made our trip here that much more enjoyable. We all exchanged hugs goodbye. We exchanged business cards and he wants to remain in touch.
We then had a good sound sleep!
I sit here this morning on another beautiful day. Somehow we missed rain yesterday. It had rained in Paris the day before and rained in Vienna yesterday, but we had another sunny day?
We drive to Berchtesgaden today. It turns out that Berchtesgaden is where Adolf Hitler and his henchmen ran WWII from. (I didn't know this at the time of my booking). Anyway, it is now the 70th "anniversary" of the starting of WWII. It started with a German battleship firing on the Polish port city of Gdansk. That was the first "shot" to start the war.
We are staying in a beautiful hotel there (Hotel Intercontinental Berchtesgaden). I'm hoping for some good hiking, some swimming in the heated outdoor pool, and some relaxation. In the middle of all of this, I still have to plan the following 5 nights!? At this point, I am clueless. We shall see what that translates to travel-wise.
Kelly and I continue to have a wonderful time together. She is just a truly amazing person.
Auf wiedersehen! (I know I'm getting closer to the proper spelling!)
OK...The Werfen Ice Caves!!
September 3, 2009
I had read about the Werfen Ice Caves back in 1981 the first time I ever went to Europe. Me and my two buddies never went there. This time around, I decide to take Kelly there. Werfen is where the movie "Where Eagles Dare" starring Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood was filmed. HohenWerfen is the castle where the movie was filmed and the cable car up to the Ice Caves is also where some exciting parts of the movie were filmed.

I didn't know what to expect there. I knew we needed to bring jackets and hiking boots. We hike up a couple of hundred feet to get to the ticket office. We pay roughly 40euros for the two of us. Next we have a 25 minute hike uphill to get to the cable car. Kelly was unaware that a hike of this magnitude was involved. She said she would have dressed differently. I said I had no idea you had to hike up this mountain to get to the cable car. Anyway, we do it! We get on the cable car and start our ascent. Approximately 5 minutes up and we get off the cable car. We start following the crowd and realize we now have a hell of a climb ahead of us! We plod away gasping for breathe in the thin air and make it to the cave entrance. I give Kelly a high five for the achievement. She did well! Next the guide asks for all English speaking people to move to the front of the line. He has the German speaking folks following. We are presented with gas lamps that have an open flame with a reflector behind it, turns out there is no artificial lighting in the place. The guide opens the door to let us in, and the lamps are immediately blown out by the cold air rushing out of the door. Science! It's cold inside, it's warm outside. In the middle of the summer when it is really warm, they have experienced wind speeds (by just opening the door) of 90+ mph!! Anyway, we are inside this huge cave (it's 42 kilometers long, that's approx. 25 miles). Turns out, the cave runs UP into the mountain! That means we have 750 stairs to deal with over the next 1 hour of our tour. The first thing we do is climb 300 steps in the cold, darkness! Some of the older folks behind us were yelling "give us a break!!!" We didn't stop until we got to our first resting place. The guide lights some flares that light up the area we are in. Amazing ice formations!! Giant cave (40meters high). He says we just scaled 300 steps but that is not the worst part. Next we have to climb a very steep set of stairs, it's probably at a 65 degree grade. Almost more of a ladder than a staircase. We get to see more ice. Once we got up to the next rest area, the guide told us that the next portion flattens out a bit, but he continues that "flattens out for an Austrian." In other words, we are still climbing stairs. We arrive in a chamber that is 450meters below the peak of the mountain, 1 kilometer from our starting point. Next we start climbing back down! Back out the door of the cave and a downhill walk to the cable car. Before we get on the cable car, Kelly makes a great suggestion that we reward ourselves with a beer! One Stiegl bier and one Stiegl Weissenbier and an incredible view!
The Ice Cave was much more physical than I could have imagined! It was one of those things that once it's over, you sit back and enjoy the accomplishment.
We got back in the car and have arrived at the Hotel InterContinental in Berchtesgaden. This is an extremely modern hotel built on the site of what was Adolf Hitler's top men, Hermann Goring’s home. It was bombed by the allies during WWII. The bomb holes were filled in and they built this hotel.
We got into our room and kicked back. The shower has a rainfall head!! I took an exhilarating shower as soon as I got in. 1 hour after we arrived, a major rainstorm went through. You couldn't see more than 100 feet in front of you. Fortunately, we got to watch it from our hotel room. It passed in about 1/2 hour.

Not sure what we are going to do here. There is the Berchtesgaden Golf Club within walking distance. It is a 9 hole par 70 golf course. I might have to try out my new blue golf shoes purchased in Vienna!!
Time to figure out what we are doing for dinner...
Auf .....
Dolomites it is!!
September 4, 2009
I stayed up all last night trying to figure out what to do with the rest of the vacation. At one point. I actually had a flight to Dublin, Ireland with a return to London all ready to go.
Turns out the weather in northern Italy is great. The Hotel Gardiner Grudenhof in Ortisei made us an offer we couldn't refuse. A last minute deal!!!
So we are going to the Dolomites.
Rain today in Berchtesgaden. We went to Konigsee (which would mean a beautiful boat ride in good weather.) than we walked around the town of Berchtesgaden looking for fig mustard. We had it with a cheese plate last night and it is remarkable stuff!! Little bread, little brie, a little fig mustard and you are golden!!!
Lunch was McDonald's today!!! Do you believe they still sell the McRib sandwich over here?! The pressed meat into the form of ribs? yeeeeuuckk!
4pm here. We are drenched from the rain. Going to head down to the pool, saunas, etc. to warm up!
Internet connections should be cutting off in 5 minutes! bye!
We have landed in HEAVEN!!!!!
September 5, 2009
The Hotel Gardena Grodnerhof is one of the greatest hotels we have ever stayed in!! Upon arrival the check-in lady, manager, bell boy, bartender all came and shook our hands and introduced themselves. The check-in lady took us on a tour of the place, while the bell boy unloaded our car, brought the bags to the room and parked the car. The bartender brought two "welcome" champagnes to our room!! We went to the bar to have a couple of drinks after a long ride (more details later).

The bartender, Bruno, is the nicest guy! He has already introduced us to some of the regions most popular wines.
Our breakfast and dinner is included in our low price. The dinner was one of the best dinners Kelly and I have ever had!! I am serious!!
First dish...Fresh mozzarella with basil and tomato. Pretty basic right? WRONG!! Fresh mozzarella, basil sorbet!!! and tomato aspic with some sort of cream!!!!! Are you kidding me??!! Outrageously great!! A simple dish prepared "outside the box!"
Next..cream of potato soup. Once again, a simple soup, right?! WRONG!!! This tasted like the inside of a varenyky/pierogi in liquid form. This soup was one of the greatest soups ever!!
'Next, I get a pasta with speck (smoked prosciutto) that is cooked perfectly and super delicious. Kelly got a truffle risotto that was ridiculously good.
I feel like I am a judge on “Iron Chef.” This food is just far and above anything I have ever tasted.
We finish with beef, the most incredible mashed potatoes and the most incredible pureed spinach (I don't know how they made it. both the spinach and mashed potatoes).
Next, the dessert buffet!!!!! Are you kidding me????? There are at least 50 different desserts and we can eat as many as we want. Each is a piece of art. I can't describe to you what was served. Imagine getting the greatest pastry chefs from all over the world to come up with their favorite desserts. It was nuts! The most incredible was included in our room price????!!!
I feel like I am stealing! What is wrong with this picture???
Anyway...we drove from Berchtesgaden and stopped by Eagle's nest parking lot (didn't go up). Had a scare when GPS lost satelites and couldn't retrieve them. Finally got it to work. Drove to Kitzbuhel. We decided to follow a tour bus figuring they knew the hotspots in Kitzbuhel. The next thing you know we are paying 12euros to drive up to the top of Kitzbuhel horn. 7 km up following a bus!? Nice view over the whole area. Not exactly what we needed. A wrong turn cost of some time.
Stopped in Innsbruck and walked around. Nice place.
Drove 1 1/2 hours to Ortisei where we now stay for the next 3 nights!!
Internet time running out...
Ortisei Sunday/Monday 9/6 and 9/7
September 7, 2009
We have just been having a blast here!!!
The Dolomites are extremely beautiful!
Sunday, we took the gondola to the top of Alpe de Siusi and walked 2 hours down to town. Rough trip, hard on the knees, not much of a trail. Kelly was a real trooper.
We went to a restaurant across the street from our hotel (“Vedl Mulin”). Great pizza, incredible pasta!! Gnocchietti in cream sauce with speck (kind of like a carbonara sauce) and spinach mezzeluna with a sage butter sauce!! The pasta is incredible!! We stuffed our faces (again!!)
We walked back across the street and decided to swim in the hotel's indoor pool. I walk down to see this big rock protruding from the wall and right next to the pool. I see a little white button, so I press it. Out from about 8 feet above the pool comes a pounding stream of water. It's a waterfall!!!! The heavy water pounding my neck is putting me to sleep. It is like the greatest message ever!!! I hit the button again and here comes Kelly. I'm really not sure how many times we hit that button, but neither of us wanted to leave.
Back to the hotel room and ready for another 7 course meal included in our rate.
We head down to dinner and lo and behold, they have a party going on for all guests. Our bartender friend, Bruno, is heading towards us with a couple of glasses of champagne!! So much for not drinking tonight! Many more champagnes. The owner of the hotel greeted us. I told him I might golf and he offered for me to use his golf clubs! This hotel is just the best!
We head into dinner and Bruno tells us he won't see us anymore, because he if off tomorrow. We tell him we will stop by for an after dinner drink. One 20 year old Porto and one Delamain XO and Kelly's Prosecco and it's arriverderci Bruno and off to bed.
This morning, we awake and drive to Passo Sella. Passo Sella is famous for phone booth sized gondola with no room for seats. It's kind of funny. The things don't slow down to load. The way it works...Kelly stood 8 feet to my left. Here comes the gondola, Kelly hops in the gondola with a little push from the attendant and I get pushed in and they slam the door shut! Off we go!! Getting off is equally as fun, with the attendants basically pulling you out and catching you.
This gondola takes you straight up the face of the mountain.
Off to downtown Ortisei for some walkabout time.

Tomorrow we are off to Fussen. We will be visiting Ludwig's castles. The following day we will stay near Munich. Thursday, we fly to London and stay for 2 nights. Saturday, we fly home arriving on Sunday morning.
The trip has been wonderful so far!!
Kelly and I always realize on these trips that we need to spend more time with each other!!!
Tuesday 9/8...
September 9, 2009
I'm not sure how to describe this day...
Everything started off well.
We had breakfast at our hotel in Ortisei, Italy and got on the road at 8:15am. Driving up, nobody was on the roads. When we drove the same route on the way down on Saturday, there was a major traffic jam heading back towards Innsbrouck. Today, nothing. We got back to Innsbruck in 1 hour. The plan was to drive to Fussen and spend the night and go see Neuschwanstein Castle and Hohenschwangau castles.
We have to drive through Fernpass stuck behind a convoy of trucks, so we just kicked back and enjoyed the scenery and took our time. We arrive in Fussen, to find it a major tourist town. Traffic jams, tons of people, tour buses!!! We come up with Plan B. We will go see the castles, take some pictures and head to Munich to kick back for 2 nights.
From Fusen, we are driving on the Romantic Road. It's beautiful. We finally make our way to the highway..yes..the autobahn in Germany!! I'm doing 85mph to start and cars are flying by me like I am standing still. Kelly was checking emails on her Blackberry and wasn't paying attention to her husband's driving. The next thing you know I have it up to 100mph! I'm waiting to hear the "slow it down!" from my wife, but I'm smirking because she is too interested in her email. Even at 100mph, there were cars flying by me. They had to be doing 120-130!!! Nuts!!
Anyway, we make it to Munich. Since my original plan was to get to Munich the following day. I have failed to make hotel reservations. I remember staying by the train station the last time we were in Munich. I couldn't remember the name of the hotel, but I could recognize it. I plug Bahnhoffstrasse into my GPS and the GPS directs me to the train station. Turns out it is the wrong train station! I plug Marienplatz into the GPS and we are retracing our steps. We drove all around Munich in some major traffic jams for hours. It was now 3:30pm and I see the Haupbahnhof which looks real familiar to me! We drive around the corner and there is our hotel, Le Meridian!! We park, walk in, ask for vacancies and expect to pay some exorbitant rate. Wrong!! They have a room for the same price I was going to pay at a crummy little hotel in Fussen (179euros)!!!

We go to walk to Marienplatz and catch the (once a day) Marienplatz event where when the clock strikes 5pm, the bells start playing songs and the figurines start moving.
We then make the mistake of going to the Hofbrau House!! We sit right in front of the band with a bunch of locals who have a table reserved for them. We never saw the reserved sign, but they "allowed" us to join them. At first, they were a little standoff-ish. By the end of the night we were hugging and kissing them good-bye. I can't tell you how many 1 liter beers I drank! I think it was 5?! I'm afraid to look at the photos we took!
Anyway, it was really cute seeing these older Bavarians out dancing and teaching us how to clink our beer mugs properly! The 86 year old who danced and at one point "conducted" the band. She was up on stage with one of the drummer's drum sticks in her hand, directing the band. Funny stuff! By the way, you clink mugs by clinking the bottoms of the mugs.
We walked home and crashed!!
It's now noon here and we are just about ready to make a move outdoors!
"I'm never drinking again!" haha
London Calling!!!!!!
September 10, 2009
Another interesting day...
We got off to another early start and drove to the Olympic Stadium in Munich on our way to the airport. The whole Stadium complex is shut down for security reasons, so we saw it from a distance.
Next GPS told us we were only 7 miles from the concentration camp at Dachau.
We went.
I won't get into it, but when you see what happened and see some of the pictures of those who were in the camp, and realize what transpired at the camp....I, personally, realize how great my life really is! When you realize the hell that lots of people had to endure, when lots of them ran to the fence knowing they would be shot, just to end their misery....
We got on our plane on time and it was a quick 90 minutes from Munich to London.

We checked into the Sofitel Hotel St. James, which is located right down the street from Picadilly Circus and around the corner from Trafalgar Square. Nice Hotel and great location. (avg. 200euros per night)
London is happening!!! Oh my God!! I thought New York City was bustling!!! I think it might pale in comparison to London!!
Kelly and I did a quick, brisk walk around part of the town. First, we went to the Red Lion Pub for a quick pint of "Honey Dew Ale" and some fish and chips. Great stuff (both the ale and fish and chips). Then it was off to Buckingham Palace, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliment, Westminister Abbey, the Eye of London and Trafalgar Square. We walked lots.
We then stopped in restaurant Wagamama. There was a line waiting to get there when we went by. Kelly got her curry with rice and I had some Soba noodles with hot spicy sauce and chicken. Good stuff! When we had finished dinner, it was time to walk past the Eye again and walk across the Westminister Bridge and see the bridge, House of Parlinment and Big Ben all lit up.
I can't get over the pace of this city. There are cars, taxis, buses flying all over the place. Out with the cars are thousands of people on bicycles. There are thousands of pedestrians. There are thousands of people running and jogging among the cars, taxis, pedestrians, etc. There are street musicians, magicians, performers! I was standing right underneath Big Ben at 6pm and could hardly hear the bells ringing. All of the street noise made it difficult to hear.
The plan for tomorrow is to see the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, the Tower Bridge, and to go to Harrad's store. We also need to get some Pakistani food. I made the mistake of telling our Pakistani driver that I heard London has some of the best Indian food in the world. He told me most Indian restaurant's are own by Pakistani's. He said Indian's are vegeterians, Chicken Tikka Masala was invented by Pakistani's! It was funny to see his nice, quiet reserved demeanor change when I mentioned Indian food. He gave us the name of a Pakistani restaurant to try..."Baboo's" (OK..that's a Seinfeld reference..just joking). But we will be eating Chicken Tikka Masala at a Pakistani restaurant tomorrow. If you need a car service in London, I highly recommend Mr. Tariq Rana his cell phone is 44 7862218622 or contact at [email protected].
We have one more full day tomorrow (Friday) and we have the morning of Saturday to check this place out.
So far, it is really happening!!!

Friday, September 11
September 11, 2009
My poor wife!!!!
I told my wife we were going to the Tower of London today. We decided to walk. It's 2 1/2 miles from our hotel. With all of the detours it was more than that.
No problem.
We walk and head into the Tower of London. Kelly loved it!!
We got there bright and early and made a beeline to see the Crown Jewels. Real impressive!! The most impressive was the Royal Septer which contains the world's largest diamond, the "Star of Africa!" We also go to see all of the crowns, plates and us course, the Royal Orb!
Next, we went to the White Tower (the tower of London is actually 20 towers). The White Tower contained all of the armor of King Henry VIII. We went to another tower (Beatchum Tower). What was cool about this tower was that it was used to house prisoners. Back in those days, if you belonged to the wrong religious group you could have been held as a prisoner! The carved graffiti of these prisoners is preserved on the walls.
Kelly really loved spending time at the Tower of London.
Next, we went to the Tower Bridge. We didn't cross the bridge because the bridge was up and to cross the top required you to pay and stand in line.
Next it was a 3 mile walk back to the Indian restaurant I wanted to eat at, "Masala Zone."
We started walking back and realized it was going to take awhile, so I flagged down a taxi. Too bad we are now stuck in traffic and the meter is running. We made it all the way back to Trafalgar Square and got out of the cab at 15 pounds sterling. Next, we are following the Google maps directions I printed out to get to this restaurant. Turns out we are in Soho and walking through "Adult store" area. Next we are walking up a back alley. Kelly is looking at me like, where the hell are we going?? We get to the end of the alley and make a left onto a nice street and there is our restaurant.

It was great to get some Indian food after eating so much schnitzel, pork and beef in Czech, Austria and Germany. We got some Samosas, Chicken Tikka in spicy sauce and Kelly's favorite, chicken in yellow curry sauce. Good meal, not great. I was expecting some incredible things from what I heard about Indian food in London. I've had Indian food in California that has been better.
From lunch, we were back walking 1 1/2 miles to Harrod's store. This store is the most incredible store in the world! It has to be! Just picture a store that has the best of the best of everything!!! The food court was ridiculous!! Pizza (looked incredible with pizza cook singing opera, dim sum, sushi, incredible cheese section, caviar, ham, fish, just when you thought it was over, there is more!!! We had some of the greatest coconut gelato ever! I was blown away with this store!! You really have to see it to believe it. Kelly said it was too overwhelming! I mean you want to buy mustard? They have hundreds of the best mustards from all over the world!! It is like that for everything!! (except cookie cutters much to Kelly's chagrin.)
We walked back to Piccadilly Circus and walked back to our hotel.
A couple of hot baths and we are almost back to normal. We easily walked 6-7 miles today. We were on our feet (with the exception of 45 minute lunch) for 9 hours!!!!
We wound up eating at Gaucho Grill for dinner. Gaucho Grill had some great Argentine steaks. Unfortunately, the restaurant was basically the equivalent of eating in a dance club! Loud hip-hop/techno music blaring throughout the 3 stories of the restaurant??? You couldn’t hear the waitress present the specials, you couldn’t hear her descriptions of the cuts of meat available. I couldn’t converse with my wife!! Good food but ridiculous atmosphere!
Tomorrow morning we have about 4 hours to run around.
We did everything I had planned to do in out 2 days in London.
In retrospect, we may have wanted to stay a little longer in London.
I think London is awesome!!!! It is controlled chaos everywhere you go! It's loud, it's forever moving, it's exciting!!! I love it!
I never thought anywhere in the world could move at a faster pace than New York City. I think London moves at a faster pace! We were walking all day and people just kept racing by us! So many joggers no matter what part of the city you were in. 2 times today we say a motorcyclist riding a wheelie down the street!? We might need to come back here for an extended visit!
We are exhausted!
Once againl, we are at the end of a vacation and don't have a great need to race home yet!
Europe is a wonderful place!
We are almost in final preparation for the trip home.
A quick trip to the Eye of London!! Super clear day!!! Wonderful experience!!! Glad we did it!
Cheers from London!!!
September 13, 2009
Now that we are safely back, it was very disconcerting watching all of the 9/11 coverage on CNN.
This combined with the conviction (in London) of 3 guys who were caught conspiring to blow up TransAtlantic flights to the US from London Heathrow!
Let's just say, it is nice to be back home!!!
Now, we have to get our body's back on the proper time zone!
Stay tuned for our next adventure...

Luhimari Sep 18th, 2009 05:35 PM

Good report, Masterphil!

unclegus Sep 18th, 2009 11:37 PM

so when does it come out in paperback.
what a great report really has cheered me up early on a saturday morning.
Glad you made it to the klasterini Pivovar,it is one of my favourite stops in Prague and the St Norberts amber is superb.
well less that 8 months till I am back there again.
Thanks for such a great report.

Songdoc Sep 19th, 2009 04:07 AM

Wow. What a great report--and trip. I'm exhausted ;-) Thanks for sharing.

alihutch Sep 19th, 2009 04:16 AM

"Also, we have never seen so many groups of men hanging out together and they are all ages."

Prague is a big Stag weekend destination

ParisAmsterdam Sep 19th, 2009 08:08 AM

Fun report.

FYI Skoda is Czech. They've made cars
(and other things) since 1905.

Currently owned by VW.

Kwoo Sep 19th, 2009 08:41 AM

Hi Masterphil,
I LOVE reading your trip report about Prague and the detailed info on your meals!! It brought back so many wonderful memories of our trip in August. I will read the remainder later on this weekend. We have company coming soon so I have to start cooking!

Sounds like you were traveling all over the place. How many weeks were you gone? Which countries?

I am so happy you liked Cervena Sedema!!! Did your wife enjoy all the potato dishes? I'm disappointed we didn't know about the restaurant at the Strahov Monastery. We walked up there but for some reason we didn't see the outdoor restaurant. Well, I guess I'll just have to save that for our next trip to Prague!

Kwoo Sep 19th, 2009 08:54 PM

Enjoyed reading the rest of your trip report. You are a great writer, very humorous. I love your descriptions of your meals and I could just envision myself driving through the countryside with the Danube on one side and with vineyards on the other side. The ice caves sound amazing!!! Was it slippery? Any danger of falling & hurting yourself?

EmilyC Sep 20th, 2009 09:27 AM

So, what were your impressions about the Intercontinental in B'gaden....were you glad that you picked it?

Masterphil Sep 21st, 2009 08:12 AM

Thanks for all of your wonderful comments!!

Emily...The Hotel Intercontinental Berchtesgaden...was I glad that I picked it? It turns out that the only 2 days of rain during our whole trip was the two days we stayed at the Hotel Intercontinental. So it was nice that we had a beautiful place with great indoor/outdoor pool. The staff and the service was the "problem?" here. It wasn't that the service was bad, it was that it was just cold. There was no feeling of "hey, thanks for staying here!! Welcome!!" It was very business like.

Think about two bars. Bar "A" you walk into every day and the same bartender acts like it's your first time there, asks what you would like to drink, get's you your drink promptly, makes a great drink, and then walks away and starts doing the dishes.

Bar "B" you walk into and despite the fact that it is your first time there, the bartender greets you like an old friend. He too makes a great drink, does it promptly, brings you some bar snacks, asks you where you are from, etc.

Which bar do you return to? Me? It's bar "B!" Hotel Intercontinental was bar "A"

Despite that, if in Berchtesgaden again, I guess I would stay there. I don't think I need to go to Berchtesgaden again.

Kwoo, mait, etc. thanks for all of your wonderful suggestions in Prague and elsewhere. Once again, Fodorites come through with some great, great recommendations!!

You folks are the best!!

bettyk Sep 21st, 2009 11:02 AM

Enjoyed your report. We are currently beginning our 3rd week of vacation in Germany and Austria.

Glad you liked the Gruner Baum in Hallstatt. We have stayed there on 3 or 4 different occasions. It underwent a major renovation a few years ago. We have always had good meals in their restaurant and I'm sure we would have enjoyed meeting someone like Gary the bartender!

We've been very lucky with the weather on this trip too. A little rain on one or two occasions but mostly very warm and sunny. (If it makes you feel any better, it also rained on us in Berchtesgaden 2 yrs ago, but we still enjoyed the boat ride on Koenigsee.)

Masterphil Sep 21st, 2009 12:22 PM

bettyk...I wish we were still there! Already having vacation-withdrawal.

Gary the bartender could not be missed! He is unlike any other Austrian! haha

I look foward to reading your trip report upon your return.

Continue to enjoy!!

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:35 AM.