The race is over and we safely arrived in Budapest. It is remarkable how a stick shift can take 30 years off the life of a grown man.
Back to Bill…
Split was a little hard to leave because we didn’t work very hard, it being primarily a beach zig.
There were a surprising number of people exercising at 6:30 am – multiple tennis players, the gym full, swimmers and runners on the beach. The runners, however, had to run on the boardwalk since the beach is large pebbles. The setting is every bit as appealing as the French or Italian Riviera, but none of them have the sand of Tahoe or Southern California.
There is also a spectacular (by definition they must be) UNESCO World Heritage site at the old town of Split, and the uplifting rock mountains are eye-catching, but the landscape is dry again as we climb east.
The 400 km. to Zagreb, Croatia could be a bitch, but the EU road again allows us to chew up kilometers and the landscape greened up. In late afternoon we crossed into Slovenia, certainly the little gem of the region. It starts to feel alpine and like the rest of this region, the farmers are harvesting like ants; hay, grain, corn, vegetables, fruits, burning stubble and plowing under. It is a good site and there is a familiar essence on the breeze.
The Slovenian language is more a romance and Germanic base using the Roman alphabet. The architecture is more Germanic.
We just turned into the micro village of Brezice – a few hundred wealthy villagers, some churches and a perfect little town castle built by/for Franz Joseph when he was in town. There were 4 restaurants, indoor/spilling onto the sidewalk types, 400 year old buildings and pleasant patrons and help.
So in the country side (and Austria) of these last few countries I have seen platform stands in the fields – certainly for hunting. I think if they are left up permanently the migratory game get’s used to them. In the fields I think they are for bird hunting, but near or in the tree lines I think deer and bear.
My reference to the quality of the Balkan wines remains true.
Lunch in Paris used to invariably be French onion soup, additional French bread and some non-labeled bottle of red called “vin ordinaire”. This was followed by a hike to the American embassy to read the IH Tribune. That option no longer exists…one can’t get through the concertina wire or past the heavily armed guards on the perimeter nearly two blocks out from most US embassies these days.
But I digress…
Wine making technology has certainly continued to evolve, and this region has paid attention. Most of them that we have tried have been above just drinkable.
BTW, with those meaningless apologies to George Carlin’s memory – if one is homesick when missing home, is one homewell if not missing home?
The drive to Budapest was more fun and uneventful. 400 km in three hours! Our GPS took us right back to Hertz/Marriott on the Danube and shortly we were at that wonderful architectural masterpiece of a station waiting for our 3 hour trip to Vienna.
The station is jammed with all types from backpackers to Muslims in full religious dress. I had 3 or 4 currencies from the Balkans which no Cambio would take, but after a hushed discussion and couple of phone calls by a friend of the Gyro vendor, we were on our way with euro of less value than face, but a whole bunch more than we had expected.
There has not been a lot opportunity for us to use loyalty points for hotels up to this point, but we are now on a roll – we are in the midst of a 20 night stretch in which 16 nights are paid with points!
We seem to being pretty lucky with the concierge floor too, which includes food and drink, so our euro are stretching a little further than these Euro–peans want them to.
Vienna is as advertised…….. no surprises but no disappointments. Streets are vast, clean and short of horn honking. The city is bicyclists, sausages, museums, classical music and the most robust, substantial, strong, permanent beefy buildings we have seen. Thanks to the Hapsburgs, spelled somehow, a nice piece of history has been built and preserved.
“To my mind, the greatest reward and luxury of travel is to be able to experience everyday things as if for the first time, to be in a position in which almost nothing is so familiar it is taken for granted.” – Bill Bryson