ellensagh

Europe 2011

Europe,
 Here We Come!

Our friend, arrives at 6 am, April 22, 2011 and not only takes us to
 the airport but visits with us till boarding.  Bob finds the $100.00
bill he thought he had lost just before we leave Saskatoon.  More
 snow than expected on way to Winnipeg.  Bumpy ride.  Gave a thank you 
note to Air Canada Employees that their service during my 9 flights
 since November exceeded my expectations.

Saw
a double decker A382 Emirates Jet in Toronto – 16 tires says Bob, the
re tired tire man.   NDP higher than the Bloc Q in the polls. $60. For 
lunch and dinner in airports.  And then a full hot meal at 9pm on the 
500 plus passenger plane.  Good night.

Picked
up by the Cosmos tour people in London at Heathrow.  Delivered to a 5-
star hotel.  Best digs Bob says he’s been in over there.  Took the
 Tube to Picadilly. Toured the Royal Academy of Art. Rode Tube all
 day.  24 degrees and no sunscreen. Full blown summer  here.  National 
Museum of Art – paintings from 1250 – 1900.  Lots of religious ones.  
It’s Easter Weekend and St. George’s Day, kids are on holidays 
and a week before THE royal wedding.   Tons of tourists.  50 p to go 
to the bathroom in subway outside Westminster Abbey where block long 
line ups are.

Bob
takes pictures in 4 directions off the Thames Bridge. See the London 
eye ( ferris wheel type of thing.)  Hot Sausage and mustard on brown 
bread with a pint in Trafalgar Square; past Picadilly Circus, 10
 Downing St; (Arab protest going on across the street) House of
 Parliament, Big Ben, like the Hub of the World, all ethnic groups, 
all kinds of languages.  Walk past Buckingham Palace.

Back
to hotel again and serenaded by a young guy on a grand piano during
 downpour with Thunderstorm side effects. Out again and  fish and
 chips in an English Pub.  Learn to order at the Bar by table # as you
 don’t get served at the table.

Mind
the gap, please, mind the gap, door closing,  says the voice on the 
subway about the door.   Bathroom music “ You look so nice” , as 
I’m looking in the mirror.  Complimentary breakfast set up for
 every nationality.

Bike
after bike parked on street meridian. Bikes for rent every ½ block.
  Past Royal Albert Hall, Prince of Wales Gate, Kensington Gardens,
  Princess Di’s memorial; big Bus Company Tour; Hard Rock Café; get 
off at Hyde Park; listen to Speakers Corner for awhile; anyone can 
speak; but can’t be obscene, blasphemous or breach the Peace, go 
for a walk;  back on the bus; past the Dorchester Hotel; only $27000
 pounds per night, Oxford Street, Madame Tousauds, Her Majesty’s
 Theatre where Phantom of The Opera is on.

No
one can describe the immensity and solidity of the buildings.
  Besides Lloyds of London, 500 foreign banks according to the audio 
commentary.  More American banks than in New York; more Japanese than
 in Tokyo. See London Bridge and the Tower of London.  A guy said , I
f you control the Tower, controlled London, if you controlled London,
 Controlled England and if you controlled England, controlled the
World.  For much of the last 2000 years.

Going
under London Bridge on our River Thames tour having a beer.  7 ½
 million people live in Greater London.  Guide pointed out places
 where people had lived, Milton, Shakespeare, Bacon and Beckam.  Said
porpoises, dolphins, one whale, 150 species of fish in Thames.  He
 called the 1852 built House of Parliament the house of parasites.  He
 also said that Big Ben had not originally been named after a
 Benjamin; had been named after Richard; but people didn’t want it 
called a Big ____!

Showed
us where Victoria Station had been bombed by the IRA.  I took a 
picture of Chelsea Football Club’s Home for Brett.

Had
a super chilled pint of Foster’s in the Prince of Wales Pub.  A
 feeling similar to when we’re in Phoenix sometimes. We are the 
Minority as white people.  Was it the beer or tiredness?  Left my 
sunglasses on to have a shower before dinner.  Back in a pub for
 Sunday traditional roast beef with seasonal vegetables, roast
 potatoes, gravy in a giant yorkshire pudding and Bob has fish and
 chips again.  Union Jack flags and high tables part of pub’s decor.
  Soccer on every screen. Wondering how the English are less obese
 than Americans and Canadians with their pints, yorkshire pudding and 
meat pies.

In
Canada 24 beer is about $36.00; England $36 pounds; which is nearly 
$70.00 and in US 30 beer are $20 bucks.

YELLOW 
SIGN on ROAD:  March 14 6:05PM Incident.

Guinness
nightcap in quiet Thai and English Food Restaurant.  Hotel sheet has 
bottom sheet and duvet.  No top sheet. Different!

Monday
morning – Suitcase outside of room.  Porter will take to Bus to start
 our tour.  Breakfast 8:15.  Scenic 70 mile tour along the Thames 
River; over the Tower Bridge;  through Black Heath on outskirts of 
London where Black Plague dead are buried; on to the Clearway
 (meaning Freeway) at 50 mph.  Through Rochester where Charles Dickens
 lived, rolling hills, thick, abundant trees; green but not fully
 leafed out.  New plantings with protection around them.  County Kent
 known as the garden of England.  Pretty much green all year round.
  SIGN: Dual Carriageway ahead.

See
white cliffs ahead; then sign saying Dover.  White cliffs of Dover is 
a song I learned when I was young.  French Police stamp passport at
 Calais.  No idea we were going through France.   1 ½ hour ferry ride
 and met Tunde; our Tour guide.   Bus driver for the day is from
 Belgium and said will be in Belgium after a one hour drive through 
France.  See the Beaches of Normandy. Sign for Dunkirk.   See red
 poppies and see the Flanders sign.  Hear about Belgium – the Antwerp 
diamonds, 350,000 lbs of chocolate made a year; has a comic book
 museum.

Brussels,
where we’re staying the night has head of the European Union, NATO,
Belgium parliament, a king and queen, the people speak Flemish,
 French and German; are 10 ½ million people.  Had supper in the
 square, gyros and waffle for dessert; after seeing statue of David.
  Met a young woman who works for NATO who is from Monte Negro which
 was formed in 2006 from former Yugoslavia.

Back
on the bus next morning,  notice could be in the Sask 
countryside with yellow canola fields, poplar trees, sloughs, fields, 
but they have red higher pitched roofs, BP Gas stations here and 
in UK, dairy herds for the chocolate?  Saw an eagle I think.  Left 
sided drivers. Ambulance went by on the right.

42
tour members mostly from Australia, Singapore, Malaysia, India, UK,
 Hong Kong, One other Canadian, 3 couples US.  2nd
 morning of tour , Bob says “Come on girl, I’ll buy you breakfast
- when they are all complimentary.” We’d already paid for them, 
so I guess I bought my own.

Leaving
Belgium and on to Luxembourg was like driving through a row of
 trees; there are so many trees.  Small Fields, Dandelions the world
 over.  Lots of cattle. Stacks and stacks of wood and fence posts
 close to the yards. Reforestation happening.  No garbage or litter.

Rest
stop is a gas station on each side of double lane highway that is 
connected with an overpass; restaurant and hotel above the highway.
A Best Western!

Luxembourg
is a country of 2500 sq miles. City of Luxembourg is 500,000 people;
 1/3 foreigners as less taxes.  ½ hour to go through the country.
  Stopped in Triere, Germany for lunch.  80 million people in Germany.  
9000 boats are on the Rhine river daily.  Germany is home to BMW,
 Mercedes Benz, Audi and Volkswagon.  Last night all the menu was in
 French; today in German.  2 hour walk of Roman ruins, the Constantine
 Basillica, now Lutheran church, this is the 2000 year old Port of
 Nero; was the entrance to the Roman Empire.  They were Great Builders
- mosaics, roman baths.

Left
for the romantic road of Bavaria. Landscape looks like a picture from
 a picture book or the Christmas cards of my youth.  Germany is # 2 in
world of beer drinkers.  Cabbage, potato, sausage country.  16 states
 in German.  Largest is Bavaria.  In Neurenbourg, Bob bought a hat.  
One lunch, we couldn’t speak the language so watched what a woman
 ordered; looked like sausage cut up with ketchup; so we pointed and
 ordered and came out of the shop with Curry schnitzel or something
 like that.

We
drove through wine country; wine plots all the way up huge hills with 
paved roads in between so tells you lots of $ in the wine business.
  1/3 of the fields were yellow canola in full bloom.  This is April
 26th
and like July in Sask.   We had to stop twice for a young woman to be 
sick; or she had diareah, however you spell that; bus stopped; she
 ran down an embankment that was so far down we could hardly see her.  
The Tour Director was very there for her; so that was great; but it
 put us nearly late for our River boat cruise; so the bus driver was 
racing around these hair pin turns.  He was a good driver.  The boat
 was gone; but they left someone behind to tell us if we raced about 5
km upstream, we could get on; and so we did; and just got settled in;
 relaxing with a drink ; and a police boat came along side and took 2
 people off the boat.  Wasn’t with our group; but was a little 
disconcerting.  But the next few hours slowly moving down the Rhine
river seeing  castles and quaint villages had Bob saying, “Now,
 this is the life.” Included was the largest glass of wine I’ve 
ever had.

As
we left there and were going to our hotel in Frankfurt; the tour
 director told us about the wake up call for the next morning; and to 
the groan from someone, she said, “You are not on holiday, you are
 on Tour.”  Other things I learned, No speed limits; Germany is so 
clean and tidy, They recycle everything; 43%  of central heating 
comes from recycling.  You see Roman, Gothic and the Wooden Timber 
Architecture.  See a SIGN: Give way; means to yield.   Where we put 
about 3 cars in a parking area, they park about 8.  Horse Chestnut
 trees in full bloom.  Spent time with Aussie couple; she was a 
principle; and when you have 10 years service in; you get 13 weeks 
paid long service leave; and a week for each year after; now has 10
 years in so she was having 26 weeks off;  52 years old.

Overnight
in Frankfurt; wake up call is nice. Deluxe dinner. Bed linens to die
 for.  Eat at 8 pm.  Driving through Germany the next day. Learn semi
drivers/ bus drivers must take rest stop every 3 hours.  Thick thick
 bush, vines on the walls, the trees; everywhere; no gravel or dirt
roads; very clean vehicles.   We saw sign “Auschfaart”  about a
 100 times; means off ramp or exit.   In Munich, the rule is no new 
buildings over 4 stories; no traffic in the centre of the city at
 all; we drove in tunnels underneath the city.   I ordered water and
 they asked “with or without gas?”   Without. And got like tonic 
water.

Into
Austria and noticing there’s not been one English speaking
 newspaper; book or maps or anything.  Black forest as dense as 
northern Saskatchewan.  Deer hunting stands all along the forest
 edges.

Saltzburg
-
Years past Salt was worth as much money as silver.   Where the 
Sound of Music was made – based on a real story but opposite; nun was 
the authoritarian person and the dad was the musical one.   Mozart
 was born there. Known for chocolate making factories where workers 
had to sing or whistle all the time they worked so manager knew they
 weren’t eating chocolate.   100% Roman Catholic.   Had a zip line
 to the top of the Alps.  Saltzburg Hotel – had to have a “How to
 Use the Key to the Hotel Room Demonstration “ as everywhere we go 
different way to open the doors.

Went
to a restaurant called Humboldt with Carol and Paul from Newcastle
 Australia. Gigantic platter of Wiener Schnitzel, veal, chicken and
bratwurst.  Had to take a picture.  Winding streets in city centre;
 restaurants on the upper floors; much fine dining; fine shopping, 
fancy shoes $340.00 euro; about $500 C.  Church on every corner.
  Narrow, narrow streets.  Went upstairs to a bathroom – Be careful as 
I came down on another street.  Graveyards with crypts, catacombs
 next to a monastary.  Woman was taking care of her parents tomb;
 talked to her as she put new flowers and  ornaments.  Horse and
 carriages with Austrians dressed in traditional wear; pointed hats,
 woolen dressy suits.  All are classy dressers; very uptown as Bob
 would say.

Driving
from Saltzburg to Vienna; even more incredible scenery as Alps over
 the lake; must be quite something in winter as well.  Debating about 
the hugeness of the houses; one has 17 windows on one side; debating 
whether house and barns are attached.  Have a lot of solar happening,
logging, oil and farming.  90% reliance on tourism.   Notice they 
have McDonalds, Burger King, Ramada, Subway and Best Western in all
 big towns so far.

Very
high standard of living;  food is the wiener schnitzel, apple
strudel, chocolate torte; (layers of chocolate); cappachenio.

½
beer; ½ wine country.  They say when you’re in the Vienniese woods
 and you have the white fresh wine; you have one glass; you enjoy;
 second glass you say is very very good and third glass you don’t
 know where you are.  The people are very formal; always smiling;
 dressed to the 9s; animal lovers; say there are 16 million people;
 16 million doggies.  You can take your doggies everywhere but
 hospitals; servers in the restaurants bring water for your dogs and
 have canned food for them.  They have a kindergarten for dogs.  36 
euro fine if you don’t clean up after your dog.  46%  recycling of
 trash to central heating.  They have 4 kinds of pick up per week.
 Austrian Crystal is big.  Schubert and Beethoven from Germany lived 
in Vienna.  Adolf Hitler was born in Austria.

Tidy
clean towns.   No old cars, grass all cut, pavement, machinery all
 inside, wood neatly stacked.  Flowers and ribbons ornate the
 balconies and window boxes.  WE ARE IN VIENNA 2 nights.  The first
 night Bob and I use a tram train or something like that ( 2.20 euro
 each)  and go exploring by ourselves.   People help us as we don’t
 understand language; Guder Schuder Mashta was our stop; but like we 
don’t know where we are going.  They told us to say Kris Kot and
 people would think we were fluent in Austrian.  Found a wonderful
 Austrian Pub, close to a famous St. Stephen’s church; and had their 
version of the wiener schnitzel.  I was kind of leary about whether
 we’d know the right stop to get back to our hotel which was not
 downtown; but next to a Golf and Country Club.  We did go in to check
out the prices for golfing, (52 euro a round-  need to belong to RCGC 
to play; 4:30 pro shop is closed) had a beer in the bar, watched a
 bit of Madrid vs Barcelona on TV; Barcelona had Unicef sponsored 
shirts on; but left soon after as had too much other to see.  Vienna
 has the second largest palace in all of Europe; after Versaille;
 mosaics on the street; down the shopping district; no one knows
 shopping like they do in Europe.  Saw signs – Sun Factory, Beauty
Factory,  Massage 45 Euro; Clubs, sports bars, Discrete clubs, Audio
 Machine.  Physiotherapy; Ambulatorium for hospital I think.
  Breakfast at the hotel here; 30-40 things, most breakfasty but -
vegetables, meats, cold cuts, cheeses, white baby onions, little
corn, 5-10 kinds of bread; you cut off what you want.  White linen 
all over.  All BMW taxis. Coffee Houses all over with cakes,
 desserts, lots of chocolate.

Sigmund
Freud lived here; spent most of his time at the Land Mand Café; and
 our guide suggested we spend some time there analyzing ourselves.
  Rose gardens all over; ring road around this historical city.  They 
were honoring the writers, musicians and artists of Austria who hid
 Jews from the Nazis during WWII.

1000
employed at the Opera House; 600 as technicians, 100 inside during an 
Opera.  Vienniese Woods are 3-4 times as big as Vienna.  People go 
out to the woods for inspiration.  Saw where Strauss and Mozart 
lived.

In
the city they have made a sand beach along the Danube.    Bob and I 
sat for hours and it’s where we had this huge beer.  Every city you
 go they have their own beer.  I had the most skin showing on the 
beach; as they do dress quite formal.  I needed the quiet time as was
 feeling quite grouchy; and after that afternoon was back to feeling
 quite content.

That
night went back into Vienna for a Mozart and Strauss concert put on
 by the country’s principle symphony.  It was in a Room at the
 Hoffart Palace; about 200 people; 16 chandaliers in the room; was
 where both Mozart and Strauss performed; and room off to the side 
where Mozart did most of his composing.  They gave us complimentary
 champagne at intermission and the Cosmo tour company gave us a CD of
 the symphony playing only Mozart and Strauss music.

OFF
TO HUNGARY – Had their own currency.  1000 note is 4 euros or about
 $6.00 Canadian.  Drove through Bourgeland; flat land, wind farms,
they built a bridge – get this – 6000 frogs need to migrate under the 
highway; as they were being killed by cars; so made a tunnel under
 highway so they and deer, fox, wild boars can get from one side to 
other.   Bob said don’t tell anyone; someone might build something
 for gophers.

Rabbits
so big in the fields;  seem ½ the size of deer; brown with long
 ears.  They have 22 wine regions and say for cheers EGGASHEGADRA
 which means “to your health.” Hungarian Service station was very
 clean, upscale; was brand new; fancy decorations, displays of
 desserts, garlic, peppers, wood and apples, with a full size green
 cow inside the restaurant part.  Still had to use money to get into
 the watercloset (toilet) (bathroom).  We had just come over the
 border and you could see the many checkpoints;  memories of the
 patrolled border of the past.    10 million people in Hungary; 2 
million in Budapest.   Hungary was and is known as the garden of
 Europe; and they took 2 cities; Buda ( hillside with Roman baths )
and Pest (Flat water area) and made capital, Budapest.  Have 463 hot
springs in Hungary.  Bells ring out at noon there as a historical
 memory of Hungary beating the Turks.

Food
was goulash (like a beef stew), lots of paprika in everything.  A red
dry wine called Boer’s Blood.   The farmland did not look really
 great; saw workers in the field working by hand.  Saw a Statue of
 Jesus out in the field.  Really old yard sites and we are shocked
 that someone is living there; saw the blind move in the house or 
wouldn’t have believed it.  Poor homes and yards, small fields.
  Saw a huge stork on its nest. Trees not as lush.  People look like
 they are walking into town.  Wells and toilets in back yards, outdoor
 cellars, wood sheds,. Planting potatoes behind tractors. Lots of
 gardens in towns, weeping willows; fruit trees, cedars, tulips.
  Small villages all over countryside with 5 or 6 streets, clay roads
through fields; we crossed lots of train tracks; vehicles don’t
 stop for train crossings.  It was a graduation day in a town we went
 through. People dressed in their Sunday best, but reminded me of 
years ago.  See a Jaguar and a Lada parked side by side.

It
was May 1st; 
Labour Day,  Mother’s Day and May Day.  Saw a May Pole in a back
yard; says the Girl at that house is still available.

Stop
at the largest lake in Hungary; an ancient sea that is 72 km wide,
 can walk out in it for 300 meters and is 3 meters deep. Touristy.
  Show off the Hungarian lace tablecloths, shirts, basketry, pottery,
 linen, weaving and paprika that looks like peppers hanging 
everywhere.   Churchy pictures. Did not buy.  Bought a soccer shirt 
for Brett as he has Hungarian in from his maternal grandfather’s
 side.  Bob tried out the Hungarian Beer being served and I tried a
 Huns Blood Wine. Very Good.  Different type of toilet there with tank 
on wall up high with a pull handle on a string.

In
Budapest it was World Green Day; they were attempting a critical mass
 day to get more people out of cars and onto bicycles.  Two years ago
 had a turn out of 10,000 bicyclists; this year 30,000.  Police
 organized the crossings and maybe ½ had helmets.  We had a round
 room in a round hotel; doors opened out.  Elevator in the middle.
  Bare minimum in the room.  I love that the luggage is always taken
 care of; getting to and from the rooms and that we have wake up calls 
arranged if have to go anywhere.  Meal times here pretty regimented, 
servers and people do not look happy.

Walks
in Budapest; some falling apart buildings, grounds run down and
 unkempt; people not dressed anywhere close to how they were in
 Germany and Austria; no money I guess.  Fruit and Vegetable Markets -
radishes size of baseballs, mouthwatering strawberries, tomatoes, can
 smell them, absolutely healthy and fresh looking.   Holes in 
buildings; not from hail but from bullet holes.  Did a night river
cruise on the Danube.  All the major historical buildings, statues 
along the river; the bridge called Pearls of Light bridge all lit up
 in white lights.   Some buildings designed by Eiffel.  Hungary had 
600,000 Jews; 2nd
 largest after Poland.  500,000 died in 1944; 100,000 in 1945. The
 last 100,000 were marched to the icy river in 1945, forced to strip
 and walk into the river.  There are now bronzed shoes of women, men
 and children set up beside the river as a testimony to that day.

We
had a rainy, cool sightseeing day tour of Budapest.  Matched our 
mood.  Then had a sleep and walked on our own about 1 hour walk from 
our hotel.  Saw both beautiful redone buildings and falling apart
 bullet riddled buildings.

Went
to a Hungarian night out in like a hall that was covered in wheat and
 corn sheaf wreathes, plates, baskets, and oxen yoke decorations.  We 
were met at the door with what seemed like 70% proof shot of like a
 peach brandy; took your breath away; was in a souvenir glass we could 
keep; they poured wine for us from a flask that had a 2 foot hose on 
it; and the man carrying it could shoot the wine to your glass about
 2 feet away from it; filling your glass to the brim without spilling 
and that continued all night.  We had soup, goulash, bread, paprikosh 
chicken in a pancake, salad; goulash doughy dumplings, continual 
wine, music and dancing in traditional dress; similar to their
 wedding feasts that go on for 2 days .

MONDAY
May 2, 2011 – US killed Osama Bin Laden is the news at breakfast.  As
 we left Hungary , our tour director filled us in on what it had been 
like for her living under Communist rule until 1989.  She spoke of
 the no freedom, control was difficult, if someone were to say
 something; family disappeared, only way to escape was sports.   If 
you told your name in taxi, they knew your address.  Took 9 years 
after 1989 to get a car; before that had cardboard car called a 
Trevant.  She spoke of taking 16 classes in school; as they were kept
 busy so no freedom.  She was 18 when she had her first pair of jeans.
  Now better but controlled by European Union.   Interesting that it’s
 our election day at home; and haven’t seen an English newspaper or
 heard Canada mentioned since we left.   Today is High School Exam day
 in Hungary. Exam delivered by police; so important whether they get 
into university or not.

By
11 am we are in Slovakia (1993 it became a country on its own from
 Former Checkoslovakia)  Capital Bratslavia; there is a promenade 
built around the Danube.  Their specialty foods are dumplings, 
potatoes, cottage cheese and roast pork and of course have own beer
 and wines. ( we had like a mushroom soup and perogies with cream dill 
sauce-so good)  We went off on our own; had gone into a pharmacy;
 like one at our Western Dev’t Museum; tell the pharmacist through a 
glass wall toothpaste and listerine you want. Only two kinds.  There 
are blocks of apartments buildings; all grey and brown; 600 sq feet
 each; about 160 families in each building.   We saw the historical 
part of the city that was hosting the International World Hockey this
 week.  Lots of festive singing and partying; hockey jerseys 
everywhere.

As
we were walking and saw blood  splattered all over the sidewalk at
 one street corner, Bob said, “somone was doing too much talking and
 not enough listening.”

By
2 pm we are in the Czeck Republic (1993 – own democratic free country
 as above.)  Ghost town looking border; bumpy cement road; really bad
for an hour; did get to see police with radar; water trucks watering
 plants along highway, black bunnies, deer, huge horned owl, wells in 
fields, old abandoned factories, lots of towns, crowded together
 houses, pipelines over railways, solar fields, old orchards, sprayers
 on fields; can smell inside the bus; lighter land than Austria and 
Germany; driving through Bohemia; forests, meadows, lakes, rivers,
 beautiful, yellow canola here as well.  2nd
largest city of Czeck Republic is Bruno and there is a major mall 
outside of it; and tour guide says buses take the people out to the
mall.  No malls fit in the city.  In the 50s, 60s and 70s ,
the communists had tore down all the old historic buildings and built
 hundreds of 10 floor apartments; no elevators; imagine summer
 carrying groceries; no airconditioning.   When we saw them today and
 they were colored on the outside; they had been renovated; if were 
still grey colored were original.  Majority were grey.

#
1
for beer drinkers per capita in the world. 10 million people live
 in this country.  Pilsner and a Black beer.  Also have an Amber beer.
  Have to say something like “nasdrove” for cheers.  Have their 
own currency.  1 Euro is 24 Czeck Crowns so tell myself about 4 euros
 for 100 Czeck crowns.  8 % here are Roman Catholic.  When Pope John
 Paul came to the country, 3000 came out to see him; when Michael
 Jackson came to the country, 30000 were there.

Food
is dumplings, dumplings and dumplings.  All good.  Bohemian crystal,
 garnets, marionettes, wooden toys; more warnings here re pickpockets
and watching our money and passports than anywhere else.   Put em in
 a safe!  Stayed in a villa with a 6pm dinner included in PRAGUE.
Sightseeing tour in the day and a folklore evening.  Rain the next
 day; so had a in the bus tour for most of it; past Jewish cemetary;
 had a Woman guide who sounded depressed but was pretty depressing 
history; control by nazi’s; 162 Jewish communities had brought all 
Jewish things to Prague for safekeeping.  Hitler was going to
 showcase all the gold/etc that Jews had had.  77,000 Jews were killed
 there.

Noon
-
in a Czeck pub; had goolash , dumplings, beer and apple strudel.  
People smoke inside.   Had so much fun with others on tour;  the
 different languages; even English; toque is a beannie; bunny hug is a
_____; saying; when it was cool out. “ A little chilly on the 
willy”   Nearly bought a Flemish bag but would have been about 
$1200.

Bob
and I got a little lost in Prague; looking for the Old Town Square;
 there are lots of squares; buildings since medieval times; so 
beautiful; narrow, narrow streets; only ¼ of our block and the
 street turns sideways, cobblestone streets out of marble squares about 
2 inches square; wanted to bring one home; we were quite lost
 actually; young people learn English; wasn’t sure we were being 
sent in right direction; but found the river; we knew we just had to
 find a bridge with 4 yellow columns.  Found our bus just in time for
 a tour of Prague Royal palace, a Castle, quite the police presence;
 biggest cathedral; nicest stained glass I ever saw;  and the most 
spectacular view of the whole of Prague.  Actually a breath taking 
view!

Back
to the villa; hot shower and off to an unlimited drinks with folklore 
music from all different parts of the country the whole night.  Saw
instruments I never saw before; the grandfather to the piano.

We
leave Prague; ½ hour out; small and old farms; gov’t farms; hilly 
area; haven’t seen any new farm equipment; pass long line of army 
vehicles; heard we may have a majority gov’t in Canada.  Neither 
Bob or I have looked at an internet or email.  Sheep are on the
 hillside in a small pasture; forest covered hills; huge smoke stack in 
centre of town; gardens by houses; tv antennaes, open pit coal
 mining.

In
between Prague and Berlin we heard the history of life in communist
 camps; labor camps, ghetto camps, death and concentration camps.  10
days in wagons like animals with no food; no water; were lied to and
 that 2 ½ million died in Aushwitz; the terror camps from the area we
 were driving through; and looking out at the beautiful country; river
flowing through green country.  When we entered former East Germany,
 a lot of police were at the border.   We stayed at a  5 star hotel in
 downtown Berlin.  White asparagus in a hollandaise sauce, schnitzel,
 bread with a dill cream sauce  – 43 euro each dinner; a long walk and 
tea and dessert in an upscale neighbourhood – Gucci, yves St.
Laurent, Channel, Prada, Cartier, On and on; in hotel; these pencil
 reading lights we really liked, a chandalier; in the bathroom; shower
glass only comes ½ way across; square sink high and above counter; 
magnified mirror; a pant’s press we don’t know how to use; in
 hallways of hotel; lights come on by movement; same with revolving
 door at entrance to hotel; starts moving when we get close.  Everyone
 we saw seemed to be so enjoying themselves.  Was different than the 
eastern european people; here people were jovial, laughing and
 drinking and having a good time; friendly; made you feel at home; in
 a restaurant; the noise level was at about a 9 out of 10 and there 
was no music happening.

There
is a KOODOM street; 2 miles long; 200 shops, 100 koffee houses, drink 
and people watch; people sit outside; blankets on the backs of 
chairs.  End of 19th
century; was richest city in Europe. 500 churches in Berlin; but
 guide said communist regime destroyed religion; over 50% aetheist.
Berlin is 1 city again; but Post war architechture in East part of 
Berlin as 73% was levelled in WWII.  Now opera houses, concert halls,
 museums; drove past where they burned all the Jewish books.  Berlin
 had been founded in 1236.  Museums on an Island.  44 different 
theatres. An Artist’s area; 5000 trains a day come and go out of
 Berlin.   140,000 students in University; there is no charge for 
University.  It is a very green, cosmopolitan city. 1/3 of the city 
is forest, parks, and lakes, inside the city.  Guide said 105,000
 dogs in city; each owns 3 trees; 15 tons of shit a day.  Actually
 guide told us so much history; by the time we got to Checkpoint
 Charlie and the Berlin Wall; wall was 100 miles long; started in 
1961; opened in 1989; the excavated torture chambers; topography of 
terror ;  and they talked about big dogs, sentry shot point blank;
pipe and wire on top; we bought a guide book and DVD as couldn’t
 take it in anymore.

Was
quite incredible; the whole city.  Spectator Stands on each side of
 the Freeway for Formula Racing there.  Loved the Brandenburg Gate; 
but didn’t feel comfortable there as the US embassy was right
 beside it; security big; as the aftermath of the Osama Bin Laden
 Killing was everyone wondering what will happen next.   Was kind of 
fitting by that time; to see the Holocaust Memorial ; like all sizes
 of steel grey coffins; blocks and blocks of them; like a maze of
 them; the money to build the memorial was given by a company that
 supplied the gas at Aushwitz.

After
that went to Las Vegas style World Class show where theme
 was love and beauty.  Similar to a Circus Soleil. Gymists, trapeze,
dancers, water, circular swimming pool on stage.

Dreamt
most of the night about people trying to get over the wall; not
 enough to eat.

LAST
Tour Day; figure out the tip; saying our good-byes to everyone;
 driving back though the German, Belgium, France countryside; so green 
fields and forests; pastureland, comfort stops both sides of highway,
 lots of traffic today; 130 km/hr; saw maybe one accident in one city.
 Lots of semis ; not as big as ours; have one unit; not 3 like
 ours.

Stopped
in Dresden Germany and also in Hammelyn where Pied Piper is from.
  Hammilyn looks like  Kimberly BC to me. Quaint clean countryside,
we’ve gone 4500 km.  Last hotel is in Bonn. Last dinner is lamb,
 pork, fillet of fish and wonderful salads, frozen cream puff; lots of 
pictures; giving the gratuities, to Tunde, our wonderful tour 
director and the skillful bus driver, Jean Claude.  Given our landing
 card for stop in France; ferry card for landing in UK.  Sign says 
Paris  284 km away.  Another time.

Mons,
France had a marina with yachts, pretty decorative bridges cover the 
rivers. We have party music playing on the bus. In town called Lille,
France, apartment blocks covered with satelite dishes. Getting close
 to the sea at Calais; fields looking alkaline; wanted to get a 
picture of tractor or seeding but crops are too far along.

Coming
into London like a familiar landscape; recognized the landmarks and
 bus driver pointed out more.  To a hotel in Kensington.  Underground
 to Euston station next day and used the tickets a friend mailed to 
the hotel to take train to Manchester.  Spent time checking out 
Linconshire and Yorkshire for 3 days; and then went through Cheshire 
and Wales to Hollyhead; where we caught the Irish Ferry; crossed the
 Irish Sea; bought a ticket in Dublin to take a bus and stay at my new
 found cousin’s bed and breakfast for 3 nights in Mulling, Ireland
 (about an hour out of Dublin) and 3 days exploring Irish roots before
heading home.

No
catastrophes; except I lost Bob on the plane on the ride home but
 that is another story.

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