Europe 2012 – Week 3

October 15th, 2013

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28-June-2012

28-June-2012 <br /><br /> Today we drive into town to put a couple of postcards in the mail and exchange some US dollars for Forints. But first, let me describe our new campsite. Last night after we set up camp and were relaxing with our bottle of wine we heard what sounded like fire crackers. But the sound became louder and more thunderous until it climaxed with a big boom. We think we may have heard a rock slide off the mountain in the not so far off distance. <br /><br /> During the night a couple of cats decided it was mating season. What a racket! Roosters started crowing at 4:30am which is when it is just starting to get light out. Thankfully a light rain quieted the animals down and we were able to sleep a little late this morning. <br /><br /> So we are driving all over town trying to find the bank that Hildegard says should be there. We stopped at another bank that does not exchange currency. They suggested we go to the “auto-pay”. I am thinking, “We don’t want an ATM, we need to exchange money. Man, the language barrier sure makes simple things tough.” The lady senses my frustration and writes down “OTP” - pronounced “Aw-Toe-Pay”. Ok, let’s go find the “auto-pay”. We stop and ask for directions again and finally find it. It was right were Hildegard said – we just did not recognize it was a bank. It was in the equivalent of a strip mall with a small sign hidden by a tree outside that said “OTP”. <br /><br /> After running the errands, we went towards the city center to find breakfast (of course it is now almost 11:00am). We park in what looks like a questionable parking lot, but figure we will not be gone long. After walking down a short corridor with an archway, we are in the middle of the downtown area, with banks in every direction. Standing in one spot, I could count 6 banks. <br /><br /> Breakfast has now become lunch but we did get a couple of “coffees”. The coffees came in tiny little mugs and are really no more than shots of espresso. As Chris described it, “the mugs were little more than a porcelain thimble.” <br /><br /> So our goal is to visit the <a href=\"http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cave_Bath\">Miskolctapolca Cave Bath</a>. One of the caves had a domed ceiling with stars painted on it. The room was relatively dark and illuminated with a black light. We came to the conclusion that this room was a popular make-out room as many couples seemed to hang out here. <br /><br /> Within the system of caves and tunnels we find the entrance to a room that has saunas and a steam room. This sounds good to us but as there is a turnstile here that doesn’t seem to like our bracelets we are not sure the deal. We communicate with the attendant and upon seeing a computer screen with much Hungarian and prices listed we determine that we need to pay extra. I head back through the streams, under the bridge, through the tunnels and to the changing area where I have a locker. I get the required bills and put in the coins to relock the locker and head back through the maze keeping my hand above the water so as not to get the money too wet. Finally I get there and attempt to pay, but she doesn’t want my wet money, and she speaks much Hungarian to us which we don’t quite understand. She keeps saying “finish” and we finally conclude that we can come here after we have finished in the caves so we nod our heads and with a beep of the computer our bracelets are reprogrammed for entry. After an enjoyable well earned sit in the heated rooms we relax in the lounge chairs by the pool. As we are leaving she seems to tells us that we can leave through the turnstile and come again, but we are done and so we smile and wave goodbye. <br /><br /> After a shower and a change into dry clothes we walk to the entrance booth where we are to turn in our bracelet. As I lay my bracelet on the sensor it turns red and beeps, Vicky’s does the same so we start looking around for what to do now. We soon learn that we have to pay more. The price is the same wet 3000 Forints. Now we know what “finish” meant. <br /><br /> After our swim we stopped for lunch (dinner?) at the <a href=\"http://hotelkitty.hu/\">Hotel Kitty Restaurant</a>. Vicky had bacon wrapped fried bananas on a thinly cut chicken breast with a lemon sauce. I had port medallions with chili and potato wedges with cream cheese. I had tried to order the pork knuckles but they were out. Chris had the wiener schnitzel and fries. <br /><br /> Paprika is commonly used here and is often found on the table right next to the salt and pepper. Paprika is one of Hungary’s biggest exports. So we sprinkle a little here and there on things. <br /><br /> After dinner, Hildegard took us on another one of her “shortcuts.” At first it was a gravely road that later turned into a one way (impossible to turn around) one lane road that was little more than two tire ruts with over grown grass between. On one side was a fence and the other side an over grown weeds taller than the car. Vicky and Chris are busting up laughing at the scene before us. I keep asking Hildegard, “Really?!?! Are you kidding me!?!?! Really!?!!” I put the car in reverse and take out half the weeds on the driver side. Even as I write this there are weeds attached to the side view mirror. <br /><br /> After we finally make it back to the camp, the hosts is attempting (language barrier) to inquire about our day and we attempt to explain we went to the Cave Baths. She asked if there were many foreigners there. Vicky and I look at each other and we are both thinking, “How would we know? They are all foreigners (to us).” <br /><br /> The two nights camping here came to 11,500 Ft or about $50.

29-June-2012

29-June-2012 <br /><br /> Today it is time to pack up camp again as our new destination is Slovakia. We find an all you can eat buffet breakfast around the corner from the campsite. For the 3 of us it just 5000 Forints or about $22. <br /><br /> It is time for another stop for gas. Here are the vitals: 44.18L @ 411.9 Ft/L = 18,198 Ft (translation: 11.66gal @ $6.85/gal = $79.81). Thus far we have traveled 3133km (1942 miles) averaging about 29.5 mpg. <br /><br /> Before we cross the border, we decide to try and use up the last of the Forints as we will no longer need them. Vicky yells out “Ice cream!” and points to an ice cream shop. I have never seen her so excited about ice cream. Chris is laughing. After the ice cream we still have some change left and order some cookies for the road. I determine that I have enough for 3 cookies of 3 different varieties. I point to the first variety, hold up three fingers and say “three”. She gives me four cookies. Hum, ok. I point to the next variety I had chosen, I hold up three fingers and say three. Again she gives me four cookies. At this point I decided I better stop even though eight does not divide well by three people. Here is the thing – holding up 3 fingers gets you 4 cookies. Apparently the thumb is 1. Then you start with the fingers – 2, 3, 4… Not holding up the thumb doesn’t matter as it is understood you meant to it up too. <br /><br /> Our new campsite is near a river that we will raft down in the next couple of days. We don’t have an exact address but we think we have found it based on the driving directions. As we approach a young lady runs out to the car and asks if we are there to go rafting. It appears that there are several rafting companies in the area. We say no, but ask her for directions to the campgrounds as she speaks English somewhat. She points back in the direction that we had just come and says 100 meters on the left. Ok, we drive back through town and all we see is a camping area on the other side of the river, which we can’t drive to. At this time Vicky points out some GPS coordinates on the instructions for the campsite so we plug those into Hildegard and she indicates that it is very close to where we just were, so back we go. The next building over hosts a penzión with a nice resturant, a camp ground in back, and you guessed it, a rafting excursion. After we get the tents set up, we have dinner at the restaurant overlooking the river. Then we walk down the street to where we could take a pedestrian bridge across the river and into Poland. Nice dinner, beautiful scenery, I am thinking of a pleasant evening playing a few hands of “hierarchy”, I card game Chris has taught us, and then bedtime. <br /><br /> Upon returning to the campsite we find a group of college age campers partying across from our campsite. They are playing loud music, singing along, and playing drinking games. This could make for an interesting evening.

30-June-2012

30-June-2012 <br /><br /> As expected it was a noisy evening. At some point in time, well after midnight I suspect, I awoke to an accordion playing with a bunch of people singing along <br /><br /> We had breakfast at the campground restaurant. It is good, cheap, and convenient. Vicky has bacon and eggs, I have an omelet, and Chris has a ham a cheese plate. Best of all though is that they have an espresso machine and they understand “cappuccino”. <br /><br /> Afterwards we head off to see a folk festival in Východná. At the folk fair we see a wide variety of arts and crafts. There are quite a number of wood carvers and wooden utensils for sale, as well a handmade clothing and embroidery. In addition to the shops selling their wares, there were a number of food bins where we pick up a couple of chicken skewers and watch some teenagers perform some traditional song and dance. <br /><br /> It was quite hot so we decide not to stick around too long. In addition, Vicky’s right ear has begun to bother her quite a bit. We fear an ear infection may be setting in after getting water in her ear at the cave baths a couple of days ago. On the way out we ask a parking attendant who spoke a little English about a pharmacy in the area. He directed us to where we could get a program for the events at the folk fair. So try again, Vicky points to the ear makes a face and says “Doctor”. This works and he directs us back to a first aide clinic. Now the real adventure begins. <br /><br /> After finding the clinic, we were happy to find that one of the doctors spoke English. She confirmed that the ear was inflamed and she gave us the name of an over the counter ear drop that we could pick up in town at the Stop & Shop. “Just follow the main road back into town. It’s on the right-hand side, big yellow sign with black letters”. <br /><br /> As we are driving down the main road, it becomes apparent that the main road is also becoming a thoroughfare for the Fair’s parade. Police are blocking off the intersections, performers are getting into formation, and crowds are gathering on the sidewalks. And here we are driving down the road obviously not knowing where we belong. We get to the far side of town without incident, but no sign of the Stop & Shop with the big yellow sign that we couldn’t miss. <br /><br /> We ask Hildegard and the only Stop & Shop that she knows about is 30 km west of here in a larger town. Well may be the doctor meant this larger town. Well it is early in the day and Vicky needs something for her ear, so off we go. <br /><br /> After finding the Stop & Shop we discover that it is nothing more than a small shopping center with no pharmacy. Shoe store – yes, electronics – yes, clothes – yes, pharmacy – no. <br /><br /> At this point we play with the navigation system to see if it can tell us where a pharmacy might be located. The closest we can get is to select showing hospital locations. Success, just down the road from our current location is a medical facility! Off we go only to find a building that looks run down and is obviously closed – at least for the day as it is Saturday. <br /><br /> Alright, new plan, let’s try the hospital. We get there only to find the entrance gated with no way to get in. Or perhaps they are trying to keep the patients in? We try another hospital down the street only to find another run down looking building that is also closed. We are not sure if it is closed for good or because it is Saturday. <br /><br / I now scope out an even larger city on the way back towards the campsite and there is a hospital on the map that looks promising, a big gray block that looks substantial. After a few more missed turns and U-turns, we make it to our destination. We park and start looking for the entrance. <br /><br /> As we are roaming around the courtyard we see a big sign with outlines of buildings and different words by them. Trying to comprehend what was being presented, a nurse who is leaving her shift stops and tries to help. The language barrier is obviously in the way, but we are able to communicate enough that we need an ear doctor. She attempts to give us directions to an open clinic down the road, but again the language barrier is interfering. She suggests that we follow her. We jump in our car and off we go. <br /><br /> We follow several blocks with several turns and are thankful she is leading us. She parks and we also find a parking spot. We enter a gray build that could be a school, offices, or anything, and she leads us up to the second floor into what looks like it may be a waiting room. But there is no receptionist, just a few chairs and three people waiting. Our friendly nurse leaves and we go in a take a seat and wait. Without the help of the nurse we would have never found this place, and even so we are not convinced we are in the right place. <br /><br /> Soon the door opens, people come out, and people go in, and we wait. Our turn comes up and we go in to see the doctor. A very nice gentleman, but he doesn’t speak any English. He tried really hard to communicate and after handing over our passports, he sees that we are from the United States. He says “Obama” and see-saws his hand to ask if we like him or not, then he says “Swarchenegger” and makes a muscle with his arm. Vicky indicates that her ear hurts and hoping that he might know the German word for water says “Wasser, zwei tages“, holding up the thumb and forefinger to indicate two days ago. He gets the idea and pulls over what looks like a bright floor lamp. He shines the light toward Vicky’s ear and takes a look inside confirming the ear infection. He writes out a perscription and charges us for the visit, all of 35 Euro. The assistant gives us the name of a pharmacy and the street name, yellow, but no number. He draws out the picture of a box with a steep triangle on top and then a cross, ah, near the church! <br /><br /> With prescription in hand we head off looking for the pharmacy. We park nearby but are having trouble locating “the big yellow building next to the church”. After roaming down the street we find a different pharmacy and learn that a green cross on the building probably indicates the presence of a pharmacy inside, but alas it is closed; it is Saturday. A little more searching and we find it! And they are still open! Vicky is much relieved and I am too once I determine that the prescription is what appears to be amoxicillin! To top it off; the prescription was only 9.83 Euro. <br /><br /> Upon our return to the campsite, we find our tents almost hidden as they are now surrounded by many other tents. Glancing down the way we also see that the party group is already engaged in their evening activities. Sigh… I wonder how much sleep we will get tonight… <br /><br /> We settle in for the evening. We’ve developed a new routine. We’ll play several hands of a card game called “Hierarchy” that Chris has taught us, followed by his reading a chapter of a book called “The Paradise War”. This evening as we are playing cards, we are sitting at the picnic table. Behind me our new camping neighbors are playing Slovak rap music. Across the way, another group of campers are playing an interesting game. Each side has a set of 4”x4”x12” boards stood on end. Each player then tosses a small wooden dowel to knock down the blocks. This seems something between bowling and horseshoes. Directly in front of me are two young ladies hitting a badminton shuttlecock back and forth. One is wearing a small black mini-skirt. <br /><br /> Now, in front of our very eyes, a tour bus pulls into the campground with another whole group of campers. We are wondering where their tents will wind up.

01-July-2012

1-July-2012 <br /><br /> It was very noisy last next as we expected it might be. The noise was not so much from the late arrivals last night, but rather the group from Friday night playing load music until 2:00am. They are at the “far side” of the campground, but the music is load enough for all to hear. They played the Chicken Dance, a Slovak version of Pink Floyd’s The Wall complete with a sing along, and many other songs I do not recognize. <br /><br /> The group that set up tents around us were also very noisy. Tent walls do not insolate noise very well, and I don’t believe they made any attempt to keep the noise levels down. Many times they started singing to the songs the other group was playing. One thing Jason mentioned about the German language is that it is very harsh. Two people can be having a normal conversation but it would appear (to us) as if they are arguing. The same could be said for the local language. <br /><br /> The gentleman in the red tent next to us returned around 1:00am and continued to have a long conversation with either his girlfriend or the girl in the next tent. I might not understand a bit of the language, but I understood quite well what he was wanting. <br /><br /> It looks like today will hold its own set of challenges. The showers this morning ranged from a trickle of scalding hot water to a trickle of glacier ice melt with no in between temperatures. Then, as we order breakfast, we find out the espresso machine is broken. They have instant coffee – but no other options. Sigh. <br /><br /> After breakfast we head into town to get some real coffee before going rafting. As we walk back to our campsite, the same young lady that sent us into town for our “campsite” runs out and asks if we want to go rafting. It turns out that these two companies are aggressively competing for business and they are literally grabbing the people off the street before they get to the competitors site. <br /><br /> The boat trip took us down the river with Poland on the left and Slovakia on the right. The boat trip guide told Polish mother-in-law jokes while another tourist from the Ukraine translated for us. “How many teeth does the Polish mother-in-law have? 2 – one to open the beer and the other to complain of a tooth ache.” <br /><br /> The river depth ranged from 20cm to 12m. Even though both countries were part of the Eastern Block, travel between countries was limited. Farmers would cheat and cross the river as transport was easier on the Slovakia side. <br /><br /> There was a black stork flying across the river and the tour guide says that is a bad bird as it is this one who brings the gypsy babies. I guess they have the same fairy tale as we do about the storks bringing the babies, but I am beginning to wonder about the kinship of our boat guide to Archie Bunker with his jokes and comments. <br /><br /> After rafting we decided to pack up camp early and begin the drive to Vienna. Two nights of little sleep were enough and we didn’t want to chance a third night. As we were checking out, the campground host said it got up to +45°C. I am not sure it was quite that hot – but it was hot! On the drive we locate a full grocery store/pharmacy where we can get some ear drops for Vicky. As we drive, the antibiotics and eardrops are kicking in and clearing the infection. She is relieved to hear out of the ear once again. <br /><br /> Vicky mentions some caves are nearby and it is only about 3:30pm so we figure why not… off we go… We get to the parking lot about 3:55pm and the parking attendant, who charges us 5€ to park, tells us they close at 4:00pm but if we hurry we can make it. Actually, we have no idea what he was saying at the time, but that was the impression/interpretation that we came up with. <br /><br /> We begin our brisk walk up the very steep hill pausing a couple of times to catch our breath. On the way we see a sign that says “Just 15 minutes away!” Must walk faster…. Chris does a run up the 30 degree slope and we get to the top at 30 seconds after 4:00pm to find the doors closed and locked. Panting we rest on a nearby bench, then time to hike back down… Of course the parking attendant was nowhere to be found as was my 5€. <br /><br /> After driving for a bit we begin searching for a gasthof and find one for 43.80€. A pleasant view overlooking a lake, a couple of beers, and a hot dinner put things back on the up and up. Seated at a table next to us is a group of gentleman in their sixties or so. All are attired in hiking clothes and having friendly conversation in German. I think what a neat thing to do when you are retired; just hike country to country with your buddies.

02-July-2012

2-July-2012 <br /><br /> It was still hot at night as they do not have air conditioning here so I had a bit of trouble sleeping. I suppose it was still better than at the campground. After getting a shower, I ask Vicky to bring me a new towel as I have apparently grabbed a bath mat made of some weird rough material. When she brought me the towel, I found it made of the same material. What do they do, starch these things? <br /><br /> Soon we hear was seems to be local news or some other announcements made on a speaker down the street. I wonder what is going on, but then it is followed with music, like a radio broadcast. People act like this is a normal occurrence, so not to worry. May be they just want the whole village to hear the news every morning. <br /><br /> Before we continue the drive to Vienna, we stop at the local castle ruins. The climb up the hill was not so bad being that it is still early and cool in the morning. We were rewarded with an awesome view over the valley and the river flowing below. Castles were strategically located on major rivers to control and tax the boats carrying goods up the river. Pay the tax or your boat becomes an archery target. <br /><br /> It is time for another stop for gas. Here are the vitals: 61.55L @ 1.52€/L = 93.56€ (translation: 16.26gal @ $7.28/gal = $118.45). Thus far we have traveled 3938km (2442 miles) averaging about 29.7 mpg. <br /><br /> We stop in Vienna to do laundry before heading to the campsite. This is one city where we actually know where the Laundromat is located thanks to the brochure from Salzburg. The laundry was like a sauna and it was not much cooler outside – the temperature was +37°C. But a bit over a hour later we are done and it is nice to have clean clothes again. <br /><br /> We get to the campsite late so we quickly pitch the tents to claim a spot and then set out in search of a restaurant before they start closing. While we were setting up we notice quite a number of ladybugs about. <br /><br /> After a few u-turns, we found a quaint spot just 5 minutes from the campsite. There is a fountain and pool in the outside dining area that adds to the atmosphere. The waiter is wearing traditional Austrian lederhosen, except that they are shorts. The food and beer is very good and the waiter is very friendly. I suspect we’ll return several times over the next few days. <br /><br /> When we get back to the campsite and we are settling in, Chris discovers lightning bugs as the darkness sets in. He devises a plan to catch a bunch of bugs and put them in a glass jar. Then he would be able to continue reading in the darkness of the night by the light of the bugs. I dash his plans when I explain I’ve already tried that about 35 years ago – and it didn’t work. <br /><br /> The temperatures are cooling down nicely… this campground is quite… lightning bugs blink… and my eyes close.

03-July-2012

3-July-2012 <br /><br /> The cooler temperatures made for a very restful night’s sleep. Since we got in late last night, we needed to formally check-in with the office. We walk into the office to find it empty. Approximately 3 seconds after entering the office, a bread oven buzzes and pops open startling both Vicky and I. Fresh bread for the campers! I like this place already! <br /><br /> We drive to Liesing to catch the metro and we conveniently find the parking garage right next to the metro station for the S-Bahn. We find a coffee shop next to the station and enjoy a couple of cappuccinos before heading into the city. This day is off to an awesome start! <br /><br /> Once in Vienna, we find the location of the tour bus that will take us to a boat for a trip up the Danube River. Then we find a nice coffee shop right across the street. As we have plenty of time we take some seats and enjoy another cup while we observe some of the locals. The coffee shop also doubles as a bar and it appears a couple of fellows have already been indulging or perhaps it is still yesterday for them. The coffee is good, strong, bigger than thimble size, and comes with a little cookie. Smile. <br /><br /> Soon it is time to make our way to the bus which is a double-decker. Grabbing seats on the top deck we enjoy the scenery as we make our way to the boat dock. Once on the boat, we order a nice lunch, relax, and take in the scenery. As we are travelling up the river, I mention all of the grape vines we can see from the boat. Vicky corrects me in pointing out, “They are not growing grapes; they are growing wine!” At lunch we had a Kaiser Spritzer to partake of some of the best wine growing region of Austria. <br /><br /> At the conclusion of the boat trip, we are dropped off at the town of Melk where we take a tour of the <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melk_Abbey>Melk Abbey</a>. This was one of the few museums we were allowed to take pictures, provided we did not use a flash. It is time to break out the trusty 50mm lens. <br /><br /> The abbey is still active today and has a monastic school. It is quite rich in history and has beautiful artifacts which were gifts to the abbey from the many travelers in the early centuries. It was a popular stop over for a royal party on their travels to and from Vienna, and many expressed their appreciation with beautifully gilded chalices or crosses. <br /><br /> As we enjoy a nice dessert at the abbey restaurant, it begins to rain and lightning. Vicky begins to fret over the tent being left open as it was beautiful in the morning when we left. A wet sleeping bag would be most uncomfortable! <br /><br /> The abbey gift shop has postcards, and Chris picks up his souvenir Austrian hat that he has been wanting ever since we last left Austria. <br /><br /> The scenery from the bus is impressive as we see a rolling landscape patched with the gold and green of crops of wheat and corn dotted with lazily turning windmills. As the bus takes us from the abbey back to Vienna we are keep a close watch the clouds. Once in Vienna we get to the metro and find our way back to the parking garage. As we are driving back to the campsite, the skies darken and lightning begins to race across the sky. Rain drops are beginning to hit the windshield. “Drive faster!” Vicky exclaims! <br /><br /> We get to the campsite just in time to secure the tents before the heavens unleash their fury. That done, we drive to the local restaurant for a bite to eat. Vicky laughs at me as I randomly point at the menu and I get exactly what I wanted – meat & potatoes! Score! Ein Bier Bitte! <br /><br /> After dinner we make a mad dash for the tents as the rain is coming down pretty heavy now. Lightning continues to light the sky which has an eerie effect inside the tent. As I lay awake listening to the rain and watching the flashes of lightning, I imagine cartoons from my younger years. The ancient gods are rolling a bowling ball down the alley. First a boom as the ball hits the lane to be followed by a stead rumble as the ball makes its way towards the pins. Finally, a climatic crash of thunder as the gods rolled yet another perfect strike. At one point during the night a lightning strike is particularly close and I sit “bolt upright” and exclaim, “That was close!” Vicky laughs at me and I explain, “I could feel the earth move!”

04-July-2012

4-July-2012 <br /><br /> So it turns out that they do have a 4th of July in Vienna. No big celebrations, but it is the 4th of July. <br /><br /> We grab some fresh baked bread from the campground office and drive to Liesing to catch the metro again into Vienna. Halfway between Liesing and Vienna (on the metro) we realize we do not have the tour vouchers with us. We get off at the next rail station in order to return to the car. Fortunately we have ample time to retrieve the voucher and get to the bus in time for the tour. <br /><br /> The bus tour took us around the city as the guide pointed out numerous historical landmarks. Many times it seemed that we would just get a glimpse of the famous building between the trees and/or other buildings as the bus drove by. Unfortunately this did not offer very many picture taking opportunities. <br /><br /> As part of the tour, we visited the <a href= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sch%C3%B6nbrunn_Palace > Schönbrunn Palace</a>. This was the summer palace for the ruling Hapsburg family. Maria Theresa inherited the empires as she had no brothers. But the desire for a male heir was not a problem as she had 16 children that made it to adulthood. One daughter was Marie Antoinette who married King Louis-Auguste of France. <br /><br /> Following the bus tour we are in the downtown area of Vienna and stroll around for a while. We have tickets to a dinner and a show later, so roam around a bit, and do some souvenir shopping. But first we have a light snack at the <a href= http://www.cafe-mozart.at/en/das-cafe/ > Café Mozart </a> anno 1794. The outdoor seating is under large umbrellas which have built in misters, making the casual dining cool and pleasant. We chase the snacks down with some desserts and drinks before walking to <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Stephen%27s_Cathedral,_Vienna> St. Stephen’s Cathedral</a>. There we Ascend! Ascend! Ascend! To the top of 343 steps for a view overlooking the city. The camera battery is low so we refrain from taking any pictures and save what little juice is left for this evening’s show. That is one thing about the Nikon D50 – once the low battery indicator is showing there is not much opportunity for too many more pictures. Tomorrow’s drive to Prague will give us ample opportunity to recharge the battery. <br /><br /> After the “Stair Master” workout we search out some air conditioning. Vicky spots a retail store and we enter. The first floor is all women’s shoes and purses. As we enter, I jokingly comment how we can’t go anywhere without going shoe shopping. Unlike many women, Vicky does not particularly care for shoes (heels), purses, or shopping in general. <br /><br /> After our break, we head to our pick up spot for the dinner/concert. We get there earlier than expected and wind up just killing a bit of time. While waiting, we find two other couples also waiting for our guide. As the time approached 6:30pm we begin wonder if we were in the right spot. But with seven of us waiting, we figure we must be and our guide was just late for some unknown reason. Sure enough, our guide shows up about 6:35pm (20 minutes late) and takes us to a restaurant that is right around the corner. There, we enjoy some wiener schnitzel, beer, & strudel. <br /><br /> Following the dinner we take a bus to the <a href= http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musikverein >Wiener Musikverein</a> concert hall where we watch a full orchestra perform music by Mozart. In fact, the musicians were dressed in period costume. The concert consisted of both musical and operatic pieces - a couple of which we recognized from a performance of “The Magic Flute.” The concert hall was quite grand with the ornate gold decorations and painted ceiling frescos. <br /><br /> When we leave the concert hall it is dark, here in the northern latitudes it doesn’t get dark until about 9:30 or so and it is well after 10:00pm. The late evening makes for a late drive back to the campsite, and we don’t make it back to the tents until around midnight.

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