Sunday, November 23, 2014

First return to Europe for aj after 400 years

November 23-2014
Well now, just returned from Europe. Was randomly tagged by Homeland Security  in Germany for a pre-flight  frisk and swab of my cameras for unknown trace elements, one can only guess.
 Back to the start;
Another bit o luck in the resource department allowed us to travel to Germany, Austria and Italy with a skip through a tiny part of Switzerland recently.

Started the trip on board a well known Airline in a Boeing 777 aircraft..while heading to our destination we experienced an electrical problem while over the St. Lawrence River and were diverted 90 degrees South of our original course being diverted to Dulles Airport.
Upon arrival at Dulles we were escorted to the gate by a party of firetrucks and emergency vehicles, just in case.
While hanging out in Dulles, they switched our luggage and grub to a new jet. An hour or so later we took off again across the Atlantic and on to Frankfurt.

After an 8 or 9 hour flight we arrived in Germany, through Customs and out to our rental car.
Using the onboard computer we made our way out of the airport and on to a country hotel our first night in Europe.

My Wife has been to Europe several times with friends or family over a couple of decades or so. This was the first time she used a Global Satellite GSM.
As for me, this was my very first time on the Continent..

Driving in Europe, Germany and Italy that is; is quite different than the USA. Roads are narrow and parking is very tough to find in the larger cities and any serious historic attraction.
While my Wife navigated I drove through 4 countries as we visited friends and family including some exploration over Central and Southern Germany, Austria as well as Northern Italy.

We visited many 5th century buildings, churches, fortifications as well as one Coliseum that I believe was the fourth largest of the Roman was indeed, quite a rush to walk in the footsteps of Gladiators, Roman Civilians and enjoy the  thrill of imagination in that regard.
Sightseeing and Photographic activities were our prime activities when not tasting and relishing the old world cuisine of the countries we spent time in.
Of particular joy was cruising through the Alps of Germany, Austria and Italy spending several nights in each mountainous region as each day brought us into a new hotel and environment.
Of particular enjoyment was the morning ritual of a very European breakfast.
Cheese, Meat, Salmon, bread,, jam,  cereal, juice,  coffee, yogurt, liverwurst all, a part of our selections. Breakfast as we all know is the most important meal of the day.
Germany cuisine is in and of itself an incredible experience. The enjoyment of Bratwurst in many forms was found particularly joyful for myself along with Rabbit, Duck, Smoked Salmon to name a few of the choices we enjoyed.
Italy was again, another experience in discovering new choices including pumpkin ravioli, chestnut soup, new forms of spaghetti with ragu combinations to a midwestern palate. As for seafood, octopus, squid were offered as well as various types of fish and clams.

Every morning started out with a "full breakfast". The type of bread offered throughout our trip was quite different than that of the States. Dense bread with semi hardened crust was found in evidence wherever we went with local preserves available or pate, depending on your taste.

Away from the Inns, we journeyed throughout a 12 City route planned by a guidebook and the indefatigable Garmin on our dashboard.
Autobahn....for those who have traveled upon it only one word applies...Zooom.
As for this Midwesterner, traveling at 78 to 95 miles per hour takes some getting used to. We traveled in the middle lane most of the time and were brought to full sensory alert when cars whizzed by us at 100 + mph much of the time.
On state or country roads 55 to 70 was more common, less so in town of course.
Euro vs Dollar,
The devalued dollar requires astute awareness of money, and currency fluctuations as they shift daily.
England uses the British Pound Sterling making travel much more expensive than the continent.
The mountain towns we stayed in were a real treat. Surrounded by high snow covered peaks was a special treat for this flatlander..Castles built by King Ludwig were the coolest but only a small part of all that was to be seen.
The best time of course was at dinner with old friends and family who were both Citizens of Europe or relatives of mine who were beginning a three or more year assignment in Germany and Italy.
Touching Old installations of the 5th, 6th or later centuries, staying where Napoleon slept, Shakespeare walked and where recitations were inspired was, to say the least, awesome..
It is not a question of if but when we will return....all of my energy however low it  is, will be devoted to peparing for a return visit during the Warmer time of the year in which to experience the journey equal to the one endured, ever so joyful for the opportunity....that is the summation of this safe, travel often...ajf

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