All images and associated pages copyrighted © by Don Chesnut, 2010
This is all I took on this trip.
My oldest daughter was in Vienna, Austria for a semester of studies. I went to visit her in late February and then extended my trip to visit areas of Slovakia, the Czech Republic, and Germany. I also made arrangements to study collections at natural history museums and visit colleagues. I visited six natural history museum including the one in Vienna, one in Brno and the Mendel Museum in Brno, one in Prague, one in Berlin, and one in Frankfurt. The following is composed of my daily journal and photographs taken during the trip (please excuse the tedious nature of the journal). Or you may rather go through my thumbnail catalog (pages A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, J, K).
24 February 2010 Wednesday
I got up at 6, took a shower and had two mugs of coffee. At 7:15 I drove Mary to school and said goodbye to her. At about 8 am, Anne drove me to the airport. It's about 34 degrees F and completely cloudy. We're supposed to get some snow later today.
At the airport, I learned that some of the flights to Atlanta are delayed due to snow in Atlanta, but my flight has not been delayed so far.
I have a long wait at the airport, so after passing security, I started my daily journal. I'm making this journey with my usual small red pack and camera bag. I'm not taking an overcoat, but I hope to stay warm with a shirt, sweater, sport jacket and jeans. I'm also traveling with a painful outbreak of shingles on the left half of my scalp. This has been so painful that I haven't been sleeping well. I even had acupuncture treatment by Dr. Armstrong last Sunday in hopes that it would reduce the pain. I finished off my prescription of anti-virus medication this morning, but am taking the pain pills with me on this trip.
For the first time, I'm taking a new Toshiba mini-computer (netbook) so that I will be able to communicate with my family while traveling. I should find plenty of WiFi or other internet connections in Europe as opposed to my past travels in rural Asia.
I just found out that my flight is delayed about 2 hours. I will have little time to make my connection in Atlanta.
I'm reading Mark Twain's "Innocents Abroad," a travelogue of a steamship cruise to Europe the he made in 1867. It seems appropriate even though our trips are not similar.
I boarded the plane at 1 pm amidst heavy snowfall. They decided to delay the flight for a few minutes to de-ice the plane. After the plane was de-iced, the captain announced that the plane would be delayed at least another hour because of conditions in Atlanta. They returned us to the gate area and we left the plane. I will miss all of my connections. I went to the gate desk and they now have me completely re-routed. I now leave on a later flight to Detroit. The rest of the schedule is all changed too. I will change planes again in Amsterdam instead of Paris. I won't have a seat assignment or boarding pass for that flight for some reason I don't understand. Anyway, the plane took off a little after 2 pm.
I arrived in Detroit and disembarked the plane about 3:15. I had to walk briskly to get to the other concourse and was one of the last to board the plane to Amsterdam. There was a long wait aboard the plane (an A330) while they de-iced it. We took off about 4:45. There is snow on the ground in Detroit and it's been snowing lightly most of the time here.
The plane was not full, so I moved to an empty two-seat row (window and aisle). On the overnight flight I watched "The Informant," and "Up." Both were entertaining, but my seats were close to the engine and it was hard to hear the dialogue with the earphones. For dinner, I was served a chicken and vegetable dish, a roll, butter, cheese, salad and a brownie.
25 February 2010 Thursday
I tried to sleep a bit, but my shingles wouldn't let me. We landed at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam and I disembarked at 6:30 AM. My flight to Vienna leaves at 7:00 in another concourse. These tickets should never have been issued; I guess that's why they couldn't get a boarding pass for it in Lexington (the computer knew better). I had to go to another terminal and go through security and passport control. When I finally got to the transfer desk in order to get a boarding pass, they told me I was too late. The next flight is at 13:00 (1 PM), so now I have to wait at this airport for six hours. I won't arrive in Vienna now till 3 PM. I won't get to my hotel till about 5 PM. Elizabeth had wanted to do some things with me this afternoon, but that is now out of the question. Shingles and flying make me grouchy.
I went to an airport restaurant, and caught up in my journal. I played a few games on my computer but didn't obtain the internet. No free WiFi at the airport. I waited six long hours. Finally, I boarded the plane and flew to Vienna. I disembarked the plane about 3:30 and made my way to the S-Bahn (rail system). I bought a 72-hour transit pass, good on any S-Bahn, U-Bahn or tram. I waited a half hour for the S-Bahn and took the half-hour ride to the Wien-Mitte station. There, I caught the U-Bahn number 4 underground train to my hotel stop, Hietzinger, near Schönbrunn Palace. I walked about 5 minutes and found my Hotel Ekazent (www.hotelekazent.at). Reception was on the 3rd floor. I checked in and got to my room by 5 PM. At reception, they gave me a note that Elizabeth had called and wanted me to meet her at the Art History Museum at 3 PM, two hours ago. I tried to hook the computer up to the internet but haven't been successful yet.
Elizabeth called while I was trying to fool with the computer. We agreed to meet at the U-Bahn in 10 minutes. I met her there and we hugged and then walked around my hotel area looking for a restaurant. We settled on Brandauers Schloßbräu at Am Platz (www.bierig.at). Elizabeth had tomatoes and mozzarella disks marinated in oil and basil (Mary also makes this) and a pretzel. I had a "Hausspecial" beer and a ham cutlet grilled with a fried egg over it, all on french fries. There was a ketchup sauce and a mustard-onion sauce/relish too. It was a very nice dinner and visit with Elizabeth. We made our plans for tomorrow. We will visit the natural history museum and a paleontologist who works there.
We walked back to the hotel and I showed her the room. Mary and Anne may stay here when they come. I gave Elizabeth her Valentine's Day present and shoes from home that she requested. I went back to my room and filled out my journal. I went to bed at 9:30.
26 February 2010 Friday
I took a pain pill last night and slept very well till 1 AM. I slept off and on till 6 AM when I got up, took a nice shower and went to breakfast. Breakfast was on the 5th floor and I had a nice view of sunrise in this part of Vienna. There are wooded hills off to the south and west. These are part of the Wienerwald (Vienna Woods). Breakfast was the typical German-Austrian-style buffet of breads, cold cuts, cheeses, cereal, variety of nuts, dried fruit, seeds, jellies, juices, and yogurt. One could also order cooked eggs and meat, etc. I didn't. I like this kind of breakfast. The coffee was very good and brought back a lot of memories of past trips. [I remember having breakfast with friends in Alois Floris farmhouse in Tiefenbach near the Kalk Alps on the Bavarian-Austrian border in 1972. We were there taking a geology field mapping course with the Free University of Berlin.] While eating, I noticed a lot of crows, some pigeons and one gull or tern flying around, and a couple of sparrow-sized birds (probably the ubiquitous house sparrow).
So far, the weather is nicer than in Kentucky right now. It seems to be in the low 40's F, cloudy, but no rain or snow. It was snowing in Atlanta, Kentucky and Detroit when I left on this trip. I brought boots, gloves and a knit cap for cold weather. At the last minute, I decided to bring some shoes; I'm glad I did.
Some notes about the computer: the computer didn't blow up when I plugged it in. I used the simple adapter for their socket (two-round-pronged type). Most modern computers will take 100 to 240 volts without a transformer. There are two ways to hook up to the internet at this hotel, by ethernet cable in the room and by WiFi in the lobby. I recommend the WiFi in the lobby. Pick the network labeled "Hotel" and type in "hotel" for the security key and it will connect. The ethernet connection in the rooms is by a proxy server and my computer security will not allow easy connection through a proxy. I can re-configure my computer to work with a proxy server, but why bother, just use the WiFi down the hall. I was finally able to get the correct security key this morning. The elderly man that I talked to last night didn't know how to connect by WiFi.
Elizabeth called at 8:30 and I met her in the lobby. We took the U-Bahn to Karlsplatz and then walked to the natural history museum (Das Naturhistorische Museum Wien). We walked to the side entrance and got a special pass to get in to see Dr. Herbert Summesberger. He is one of the paleontologists there. Elizabeth went to her class and Dr. Summesberger gave me a tour of the very nice museum exhibits. He then introduced me to Dr. Andreas Kroh, the echinoderm paleontologist. I donated five specimens of Pentremites conoideus that I collected years ago. I also donated my big publication on Carboniferous echinoderms of Kentucky. Dr. Kroh and other staff took a coffee break and we all talked about our specialties and I talked about the creationist museum in Kentucky. Then Dr. Kroh took me to the collections area and spent several hours showing me the echinoderm part of the collection. After that, I thanked him and left to roam around the exhibits. A friend, Terry Chase, I found, made many of the dioramas (Chase Studio). This is an excellent museum and I recommend it to anyone interested in natural history. I took several pictures including some of the famous statuette of the "Venus of Willendorf" one of the oldest known statues (ca 26,000 years old) (see Wikipedia entry). It was carved from oolitic limestone. I also saw the oldest statuette called "Fanny," carved from green schist.
I left the museum to wait for Elizabeth at the Maria Theresa statue in the park between the two museums. I was to meet her at 12:30, but by 1:30, it was turning cold and raining, so I didn't wait any longer and returned by U-Bahn to my hotel. There, I caught up on my journal.
Elizabeth called me about 5 PM and I walked to her apartment. It was raining lightly. I found the apartment building and she was waiting for me outside. We went in and she introduced me to her roommates. We then walked to a market and I bought some Austrian beers to take back to my room (I save beer labels). Then Elizabeth and I went back to my hotel neighborhood and found a nice restaurant, Plachutta, on Anhofstrasse (Plachutta Hietzing, www.plachutta.at). Elizabeth had a nice noodle soup and I ordered a goose liver appetizer with toast points and a very good calf's liver and rice dish (excellent flavor) and a glass of Austrian red wine (Glbel?), which was nice. We both liked the meal.
I walked Elizabeth back to her apartment and then returned to my hotel by 7:30 to work on my journal and e-mails. I sent off two e-mail journal entries. I had a beer and soaked off three labels (two from earlier in the day). The last beer was not so good, I only drank about a quarter of it. I went to bed about 9:30. It is very windy outside.
27 February 2010 Saturday
After taking a pain pill last night, I slept well till about 1:30 and then not so well till 6:20 when I got up. It was very windy all night long and into the morning. A couple of gusts, I thought, might blow the windows out, but they held. I got up, took a quick shower and went to breakfast. I had the usual cold cuts, cheese, bread, coffee, granola, yogurt and juice. While eating, a church bell rang out (7 o'clock). It was the church near to my hotel. I am the only English-speaking guest at the hotel. All the rest appear to be German speaking. There was only one other person in the breakfast room; this is early Saturday morning. It is partly cloudy with some blue sky. Maybe it won't rain today. I went back to my room, turned on CNN and typed out my journal (Chilean earthquake less than half hour ago).
Elizabeth knocked on my door about 9:15 and we went to the Westbahnhof (train station) by a couple of U-bahn trains. We went to the OBB (Austrian national train service) ticket office and spent about 20 minutes there getting seat reservations for some of my rail excursions. Anne and Mary (with Elizabeth) will come here to get their tickets and seat reservations for their rail trips.
Then Elizabeth and I walked around the Old Town. We stopped at an old Austrian-style coffee cafe at the Albertinaplatz. After the coffee we walked to Stephans Dom. Many people are out walking on this beautiful Saturday morning. We went into the church but couldn't circulate because there was an ongoing service. We went to the Hofburg Tor, stopped in the Demel chocolateria (www.demel.at)(Wikipedia entry) and the national library. It was interesting seeing these places again after my first visit in 1983.
Then Elizabeth and I went to the Naschmarkt, a multi-block series of vendors offering just about any kind of food. This is in the boulevard between the two main streets. The Naschmarkt was very crowded and too overwhelming to actually order or buy anything (for me anyway).
We then walked back to the U-Bahn at Karlsplatz and caught the U-4 back to my hotel. We went to my room and had one of the beers from my refrigerator. Elizabeth took a nap and I filled out my journal. CNN is talking about the 8.8 magnitude earthquake that occurred in Chile. This 8.8 magnitude is huge! I went down to the reception desk and had a nice discussion with the older man working there. He is Italian in origin, has two kids and several grandchildren and has lived in Vienna since 1968. I told him how one should hook up to the WiFi connection and now he can give good advice. I also mentioned to him that the Ostbahnhof is open while the Sudbahnhof is closed. My train tomorrow will leave from the Ostbahnhof next to the Sudbahnhof. I told him I was checking out early, which is apparently no problem. Someone is always at the desk.
Elizabeth woke up and we asked about regional restaurants in the area. We walked down the street and found a nice neighborhood hurigen on Maxingstraße and went in. There was a tile oven to warm the place and a capercaille (stuffed) on the wall. The owner was friendly and we went in and sat down. Elizabeth ordered fried chicken and I ordered blutwurst, sauerkraut and kartoffeln. We had a fresh red wine and wasser mit gass to drink. I got up to take a photo and another local couple offered to take our photo. Very friendly. The lady also motioned that the blutwurst was an excellent choice. We had a great time. I took additional photos. Hopefully, Elizabeth will take the rest of the family there.
After dinner, I walked Elizabeth back to her apartment and hugged her goodbye. I went back to my room to pack up. I caught up on my journal. On CNN they are worried about a tsunami hitting Hawaii (from the Chilean earthquake).
28 February 2010 Sunday
I woke up at 2 AM and slept fitfully till 6, when I got up. I guess I was worried about catching my trains. I took a quick shower and then checked out of the hotel. I grabbed an apple, a cup of yogurt and a bread roll of some type, from the breakfast room. I have a piece of chicken from Elizabeth's meal last night in my refrigerator that I will pack too for lunch.
I took the U-4 train to Wien Mitte and the S-6 to Sudbahnhof-Ostbahnhof. I walked about a block from the S-Bahn stop to the Ost Bahnhof. The Sudbahnhof has been razed in order to build a new, main (Haupt) Wien Bahnhof. Anyway, I found the train schedule display and saw that my Bratislava train was on platform 2. I boarded the train and filled out my journal. The trip to Bratislava is only about an hour; it left at 7:25 and arrived at Bratislava at 8:37.
At Bratislava, I had a little time, so I went into the station and bought some mixed dried fruit and a bottle of carbonated water. The train to Košice came early (this is the start of the line), so I boarded early. I'm using the East European rail pass and my seat reservation that I got yesterday. This pass is the only one that includes Slovakia. There is one first-class car and about 10 second-class cars. The first class car filled up fairly quickly, to my surprise. Some skiers came aboard. They must be going to the Tatra Mountains along the way. This is an express train (an IC or InterCity) and only makes a few stops between here and Košice in the eastern part of the country. I think we are next to a dining car, but I brought my own food.
As we headed to the northeast, I saw more and more rounded and wooded mountains and hills. The train tracks are in a broad valley. I can see snow still on the ground in shaded areas. One lake still was partly covered in ice. There are all sorts of waterfowl including ducks, geese, swans, etc. East of Zilina, I saw a castle ruins perched on a rock outcrop (see Google Earth map). I took a brief photo before we ducked into a tunnel. I hope it turns out. After passing the tunnel we are in closer-spaced mountains, heavily wooded with a nice stream; looks like a good fishing stream. After a couple of miles, we're back in a somewhat broader valley surrounded by real mountains. I've tried getting photos, but my side of the train has glaring sunlight and the other side is occupied. The mountains now are snow covered and bald and starting to be peaked.
Between Zilina and Liptovsky Mikulas, I got out my lunch. This is certainly beautiful countryside and one of the most scenic train trips I've had in Europe. More people ought to know about this place. At Liptovsky Mikulas, the mountains were larger and peaked. A lake in front of the mountains suggest the Grand Tetons in the Rockies. I bought a beer from the cart lady to have with lunch. It was a canned beer called Velkopopovicky "Kozel" which appears to be a bock beer.
The train is now up in the mountains and there is snow on the ground everywhere. The trees are almost entirely conifer. It appears that the train is going over a pass. We have seen several ski areas. The train slowed down a great deal before we got to Poprad Tatry and then speeded up after going over the pass. If you do this journey, book the seats on the north side of the train (left if heading east) for the best view.
After Poprad Tatry station we appeared to change to a more southerly route. There was another ski slope near here. We're definitely going downhill for a change. Many of the creeks and small rivers are running, but many are covered by ice and there are places where there are many ice blocks that have been rafted and caught up along the bank. The creeks are full. All the land looks very wet and muddy. I think it's from snow melt. The ground is still frozen except for the upper inch or two and it is holding the water. Some places look almost flooded from the melt water. They have had a lot of snow here (between Poprad and Košice).
My train got to Košice (Slovakia) about 2:35 PM and I walked across the small park to the pedestrian street (Mlynska) in the old town, I turned down Olicia street and found my hotel right away. It is the Pension Slovakia (www.penzionslovakia.sk), a very charming place. Downstairs is their Rosto Steakhouse (web site). I checked in and went to my room. I also replaced a missing Cotter ring in my backpack with a paper clip. I still had some daylight left so I walked all over the old town pedestrian area. This is a very interesting and picturesque place, but you never hear anything about it. The temperature was in the 20's F, with a mild breeze. I was perfectly comfortable. I read photocopied guide book entries and took lots of photos.
At dark, I walked back to the Rosto Steakhouse and had pork medallions marinated in olive oil and garlic along with a salad, french fries, bread and a Krušovice beer. It was just what I needed. I went back to my room, caught up in my journal and turned on my computer. They have free WiFi at this pension.
1 March 2010 Monday
I didn't take a pain pill last night and slept pretty well. I did wake up a couple of times but went right back to sleep. I got up at 6 thinking I might take the latest morning train to Spiš Castle, but it leaves at 7:25 and I didn't think I wanted to spend 6-8 hours outside all the time at Spiš, where there are no cafes, etc. and the castle is closed for the season.
Instead, I had breakfast and walked around the old town. I went into the St. Elizabeth church and looked around for awhile. Photography was not permitted. I walked to the East Slovakia Museum, but today is Monday and most museums in this part of Europe are closed on Mondays. I walked through many of the pedestrian side streets, looking at the various shops. I also went into a Billa supermarket to see what all they had. I walked back to the hotel, watched a little CNN and checked on rail schedules. I will visit Spišske Castle this afternoon.
At 1:40 PM I left the hotel and walked to the train station. I boarded the 14:21 train to Poprad. I'm getting off at Spišske Vlachy to catch another train to the Castle. All this for a castle ruins that are closed for the season. At Spišske Vlachy, I caught a train that was really a bus on rails. It was one car with built-in engine. It made the run from Spišskie Vlachy to Spišske Podhradie only. The "train" even changed gears and stopped at some crossings. When I arrived at Spišske Podhradie (pod-hradie means "below the castle, or hrad), I saw the castle at the top of the hill. In fact, the station offers one of the best views of the castle (see Google Earth map). I walked up the hill a bit and took some pictures in the perfect afternoon light. I'm guessing that the morning lighting from the station area is not so good. The light would possibly be behind the castle. That was luck on my part. The castle is the largest in central Europe (we used to call it eastern Europe) and occupies 10 acres (see Wikipedia entry).
I quickly walked back to the bus-train. It stops here only 20 minutes before heading back to Spišske Vlachy, my rail connection. Otherwise, I would have to stay here for a couple of hours, partly in the dark. The town is small but I did notice at least one pension (there are three according to my guidebook). The train started at 16:03. I took a picture of the monastery chapter and cathedral from the train window. At Spišske Vlachy, I only waited about 4-5 minutes before our stop train picked us up and headed for Košice [Note: Košice is pronounced "kosh-ee-tze," and Spišske Podhradie is pronounced "spish-ski pohd (rhymes with snowed)-rad-ee-ah" with rolled r).
The late afternoon glow lights up the mountains nicely, but my train window is a bit too dirty. One of the tunnels we went through must be two miles long.By the time that I left the train at Košice and got to my hotel, it was dark (5:30). At about six, I went down to the pension restaurant (Rosto) and had a beer, a pickled cheese (Hermilin) and pickled chili pepper plate and then a Greek Salad. I paid for my meal (meal plus tip was 10 Euros) and they also asked me to settle up at the reception desk. I paid for my two nights and breakfasts (one tomorrow) and they accepted my credit card. I have been the only guest here for two nights although the restaurant stays busy. I would come back here.
After all that, I went to my room, caught up on my journal, and started packing. I have another long day tomorrow.
2 March 2010 Tuesday
Today I travel. I woke up about 6, but didn't get up till 7. I took a shower and went down to breakfast at 7:30. Yesterday, I was given a menu and had a hot breakfast of fried eggs and ham (hamundeggs), bread, juice and hot cappuccino. Today I was offered either frankfurters or ham and cheese. I ordered ham and cheese and got a plate of ham cold cuts, sliced cheese, bread, juice and a large cup of cappuccino. I don't know why there was a difference in the offerings. It was a different staff.
I left the hotel about 8:10, gave my key to the receptionist and walked to the train station. I waited there about 15 minutes until the platform number was shown for my train. I got on board. This is a 2nd class car with little roomettes that seat six. It was very nice for 2nd class. There were three of us in our compartment. The train left at 9:02. We're headed to Bratislava, but by a more southern route than my previous trip. I asked my fellow passengers if this was the correct train to Bratislava. The lady said it was. The little old man talked continuously.
Last night, CNN was talking about a huge windstorm that hit most of Europe, especially France and Germany. I bet that was the windstorm we had in Vienna the other night. Today the weather is clear and sunny, just like yesterday. The temperature is around 25-30 degrees F with a slight breeze. Another storm is supposed to hit Europe again and bring some snow fall.
At Turna nad Bodvou, the lady pointed out a castle and I took a couple of photos, also a nice canyon, all on the north side of the train. These mountains are the Slovensky kras. The mountains to our south are the Aggteleki karszt, just beyond a lake. I bought a very nice Michelin map of the Czech and Slovak republics several years ago, on sale. I had no plans to go at that time, but I'm glad I bought it.
The lady pointed out another castle (hrad), Krasna Horka, between Jablonov nad Turnou and Roznava (just north of a long tunnel through the Slovensky kras) (see Google Earth map). I took a few photos. Around Plesivec the mountains are composed mostly of limestone and there are lots of quarries and cement works. This must be part of the famous Slovak karst region. My photos are going to be a bit cloudy because of the dirty windows. We can see Hungary from here; the border is a mile or two from the tracks. The sky is pretty much entirely cloudy now, perhaps part of that new storm system.
We saw another hrad at Šid (sheed) and I took a quick photo. It sat on a small outcrop of stone. A couple of miles afterward at Filakovo, there was a big castle close to the tracks (in town) (see Google Earth map). It was on the sunny and very dirty side of the train. I got a very cloudy photo which is probably not good. The sun lit up the dirt and was behind the castle.
We arrived Zvolen about 12:15 and there was another large castle close to the tracks. I took a quick couple of photos; probably one will come out (see Google Earth map). I'll take a photo of the train station in order to identify the castle.
We left the mountains for the foothills at Kozarovce. The Tribec mountains were to the northwest and the Stiavnicke on the southeast. We're now in a broad valley of the Hron River, a tributary of the Danube. It flows due south after leaving the mountains. After Levice, we headed west for two hours to Bratislava. We will cross several north-south drainages. At Sala, we crossed the Vah River, another north-south tributary to the Danube.
We arrived at the main station in Bratislava at a little after 3:30 PM. My map seemed to indicate that it was only one-half to two-thirds of a mile to my hotel, although a policeman suggested bus #93. It's a nice day and I've been sitting too long so I decided to walk. I passed a nice palace and park about halfway. I took a couple of photos. Crossing the streets was easy, there was one pedestrian bridge and good signals and walk lanes everywhere. I got to my hotel "President Hotel," (www.presidenthotel.sk) just outside the city gate (Michaels). I checked in and was in my room by 4. It's very nice, modern and clean. There is an entry room, a toilet room, a bedroom and a shower room. Free WiFi is available too. I went down to the bar and had a beer and caught up in my journal. They didn't have a Slovak beer so I ordered a Czech beer, Budweiser Budejovicky Budvar.
I then walked along the extensive pedestrian lanes and squares in the old town and took a few pictures before it got too dark.
It started raining lightly and I left my umbrella in the room. I went back to the hotel and asked where there was a good Slovak restaurant. They mentioned "1. Slovak Pub," meaning the first Slovak pub (www.slovakpub.sk). Rick Steves also mentioned it so I went there (it was close to my hotel). The hotel staff suggested I get a Bryndrové Halušky. I ordered Bryndzové halušky s oštiepkom a slaninou, which is something like spetzel, but with smoked sheep cheese and bits of crisp thick bacon. It was good, but really filled me up. I couldn't try anything else. I'll have to try again tomorrow. The place was crowded and apparently very popular. I got one of the last tables (but turn-around was pretty quick). The meal made me sleepy and it's been a long day, so I went back to my room to catch up in my journal and send out my e-mail.
3 March 2010 Wednesday
I slept in today. I got up at 7, took a shower and went to breakfast. I had hot hemendex (ham and eggs) with cheese, coffee, orange juice and bread. There were the usual cold cuts and cheese as well. In addition, there was yogurt, flake cereal and apples. Breakfast is included.
After breakfast, I walked back to the old town, only a block away. It's a nice, bright, sunny day. The temperature was 35 degrees F at first but rose to 43 (6 C) by noon. I see that Lexington is 28 (-2 C) this morning. I took more photos. I walked down to the Danube and then along the old city moat/creek, now a pedestrian park (Hviezdoslav Square). I walked to St. M:ichaels Church and took more photos, and then crossed under the highway and took the steps up to Bratislava Castle. There are many nice walkways around the castle. The castle is undergoing renovations and was closed, but I got a lot of photos anyway. I also bought a couple of pins for my hat at the "suvenir" store.
I crossed the UFO bridge across the Danube and took pictures of old town and the castle from the other side. I would have gone up the flying saucer restaurant at the top of the bridge (hence the name), but it was too expensive.
After the bridge, I walked back through Old Town and stopped at the "Cokoladovna pod Michalom" chocolate shop mentioned by Rick Steves. I had cappuccino, Bratislavske rozky, and Strudie (strudel, this one with cheeries). The rozky is a pastry with some kind of sweet fruit filling. Pod Michalom means under Michaels gate. I then went back to the hotel to get a camera battery and catch up on my journal.
Later, I went back to the Old Town to the "Primates Palace Museum" (Primate as in church leader, not as in great apes, no pun intended). The museum has a nice collection of 16th and 17th century paintings, many from the Flemish and Netherland schools. The amazing items here are the several large tapestries dating to the early 1600's. They were made in England by a German craftsman (he was the head of the shop). When the church sold the palace to the city, they took all the furnishings. When the city refurbished the building, they found a bricked-over vault, and within the vault, they found six carefully folded large tapestries. The church tried to get the tapestries back, but they didn't even know they were there till the city found them. There is no record of how the tapestries got there in the first place. The courts ruled in favor of the city. The tapestries tell the Greek story about Hero and Leander (see Wikipedia entry). Photographs were not permitted in the museum part of the building but I got a couple of shots of other palace sights.
After the museum excursion, it was time to eat, so I went back to 1. Slovak Pub. The hotel receptionist suggested another couple of Slovak dishes, Zemiaková placka s mašom, and Kačka s loksami. I took the list to the restaurant and showed it to the waiter. They didn't have the latter one, but they had several versions of the first. I had Bacova kapsa (a zemiaková with meat). It's called "Shepherd's bag" and is a "spicy pork mixture in a potato pancake." It was as big as a plate and contained charcoal-grilled pork, a gravy, peas, shredded cheese, chilies, parsley, all topped with ketchup. It was actually very good. I almost finished it off.
I slowly walked back to my hotel and caught up in my journal. I will be packing again tonight.
4 March 2010 Thursday
I woke up repeatedly through the night because I was worried about oversleeping. I got up at 6:15 and took a shower. I checked out of the hotel by 6:45 and walked to the train station. I got there at 7:08, exactly an hour before my train to Brno leaves. I didn't eat breakfast at the hotel because I didn't think I had time, but apparently I did. Anyway, I went to a small snack shop at the station and got some dried fruit and nuts and a bottle of water.
It's pretty cold today and entirely cloudy. With the breeze, I think this is the coolest day I've had so far. The train left at 8:08. I'm surprised that it's not snowing.
There is a line of low mountains just off to our east; these are the Male Karpaty. We're headed due north to Brno, where I get off. The train continues to Prague, Berlin and Hamburg. The train started in Budapest. This is the same train that I will take tomorrow to Prague. I even have the same seat reservation. I have a First Class roomette all to my self (there aren't many people traveling today). The trip from Bratislava to Brno is only about an hour and a half.
I got to Brno a little after 9:30 and headed into the Old Town to find my hotel "Slavia" (www.slaviabrno.cz) I didn't have a very clear map and had a difficult time getting oriented and finding my hotel. Street names are not on every corner; they're not common at all, in fact. I got to my hotel and checked in and was in my room by 10:20. Because I only have this day in Brno, I left the room soon after.
I used photocopies of pages from tour books I left back home, and a map a man sold me on the street. I haven't found any good walking guide for Brno and many of the prominent sites aren't labeled. At any rate I managed to cobble together some idea about the churches, city halls, etc. I spent the morning in the Old Town and walked up the hill to the Peter and Paul Church. Photography was not permitted in that one. I then crossed out of Old Town and walked up the hill to Spilberk Castle, a nicely preserved structure. Of course, the main part of the castle was closed for the season. The castle restaurant was open and so I ordered kettle goulash and a mixed salad and a Starobrno beer (it means Old Brno). The goulash was one of the house specialties and was very good. It was a kettle with a stew of brown gravy, onions, variety of sweet pepper, mild chilies, mushrooms and meat (it was not a goulash with noodles).
After walking around Spilberk some more, I decided I should go out of my way and walk to Gregor Mendel's garden at the Augustinian monastery. When I got there, I got a ticket and walked through the Mendel Museum. I bought a Mendel T-shirt for Mary there. In the museum, I was surprised to see a picture of Thomas Hunt Morgan, of Lexington. After the museum and the gardens (no gardens this time of year), I walked right behind the museum and saw the Starobrno brewery (and took a picture).
[Note: The rocks at Bratislava Castle (on the walls, etc) were largely granitoids of varying grain size with minor amounts of other lithologies including some brown conglomerates. However, the Spilberk and Peter and Paul Church have outcrops of metasediments. Some of the walls have brown to red conglomerates which include pebbles of quartz and other rocks up to 1.5 inches in diameter.]
I walked back to the Old Town and entered the Moravian Museum (Moravské zemské muzeum)(www.mzm.cz)(Brno is capital of the Moravian region). The museum closed at 5 so I only had a little time. I went directly to the second floor exhibits on prehistory of this region. They have some of the famous Paleolithic Venus figures here too (see Wikipedia entry). I then went to the smaller paleontology exhibit on the first floor. I didn't think this part of the museum was up to par, but the archaeology part was great, I recommend it.
After the museum, I walked back to the hotel, cold and tired. I went to my room and watched CNN and warmed up. I caught up in my journal and typed it up. Although they have free WiFi here, I can't seem to log on with the information that they gave me. I went to the desk and got more information and now I can log on.
5 March 2010 Friday
I slept hard till about 5 and got up a little after 6. I took a shower and then went to the hotel restaurant, Restaurant Slavia which is mentioned in one of my guidebooks as a good place to eat (in a classy, old-time Czech restaurant). There was a very nice buffet set up. I had fried eggs, a filo-type triangular pastry with ground sausage, etc. in the middle. There are a whole series of cold cuts, cheeses, flake and granola cereals, sweet pastries, breads, fruit, and some unusual prepared dishes of cut and marinated vegetables. I also had shredded cold cut dish, potato and egg and pickle salad, an aspic with ham and sweet peppers, a bell pepper and feta salad, several different kinds of cole slaw-type salads, and mixed marinated vegetables. I noticed that some fellows also ordered items from the kitchen. There were a lot of dishes here that I've never had before and they were all good. There was also a nice selection of pastries. I had a croissant-shaped pastry with some sort of chocolate filling. I also had half a kiwi, banana and orange wedge. Orange juice was also available as was fresh-made yogurt and some sort of cherries and syrup to go with it, a nice combination. The coffee was good too. I wasn't hungry enough to eat dinner last night but this breakfast is welcomed. I tried a little of everything that I didn't recognize. Breakfast is included (I hope; I walked out without paying).
The morning is bright with clear blue skies and cold. By the time I got to the train station (about 10-15 minutes, now that I have my bearings), it clouded up and started to snow lightly. I had some time to kill so I went through the underpass to a shopping mall and walked around a bit. I saw a fountain with a large crocodile statue. This is a replica of the famous Brno Krak (Brno dragon). I saw the original stuffed crocodile at the town hall. No one is sure how Brno got a large stuffed crocodile, but it is believed that it was given to Brno by a Middle Eastern country a couple hundred years ago.
Leaving Brno (9:35), we are in some rugged, wooded hills which must be part of the Moravsky kras. There is still some snow on the ground here in patches. I took a photo of a yellow and white castle at Letovice. There is some nice scenery in this area with fast-flowing creeks, rugged hills, tile-roofed houses, etc. There appears to be some mining here but I can't tell what it is. We come in and out of light to moderate snowing as we travel. On the shady side of the hills there is continuous coverage of snow on the ground but only patches of snow on sunnier sides. Some of this new snow is starting to stick.
At Svitavy, there is fresh and old snow covering the ground everywhere. At Ceska Trebova, there is a very large train yard. We headed due north from Brno to the town of Usti nad Orlici (I see sedimentary rocks here), where we turned due west and head toward Pardubice. We left the rugged hills at Chocen for an area of rolling hills. The sun came out once again at Pardubice.
I took a photo (looking into the sun) of a large church compound probably at St. Civice, not too far from a very large coal-fired (Chvaletice Power Station) power plant (one tall chimney and three cooling towers). And it's starting to snow again. This is part of the wrap-around snows from the second storm to hit this part of Europe in a week. In the Mediterranean, there were gale-force winds that produced huge waves that hit a cruise ship. I believe that two people were killed in that event.
After Kolin, it started snowing again. I saw a large hare the size of a dog in a farm field next to the tracks.
I got to Prague at 12:35 during a heavy snow storm. I left the station and headed to Old Town. Within one block, I was covered in snow. Many of the street corners do not have street signs and most streets do not go all the way through, so one has to constantly zig and zag to get anywhere. I finally got to my hotel, Hotel Haštal and tried to check in. They had no record of my reservation. I showed them my reservation confirmation printout (I'm glad I brought it), but they still could not find it. They had room so they could still check me in at the same rate. The problem must be with Hastal because I used the same web service for all my hotel reservations and this is the only one that didn't seem to register it. Anyway, they said my room wouldn't be ready till 2 PM. I went to the bar-cafe and waited. I'm supposed to meet my colleagues at 2 here anyway.
My Czech friends, Drs. Opluštil and Šimůnek showed up at the cafe and we had a beer and caught up for awhile. Dr. Oplustil is a paleontology professor at Charles University in Prague and Dr. Šimůnek is also a paleontologist and head of the Paleozoic Section of the Czech Geological Survey, also in Prague. I gave them both a copy of my (and Greb and Eble, etc) publication on Carboniferous Stratigraphy of the Appalachian and Black Warrior Basins. They know many of the co-authors of the publication.
We left and walked to the National Museum. There, they introduced me to the paleontology staff (including Dr. Kvaček) and we all talked a bit. I donated specimens of Pentremites conoideus from Kentucky to the museum and gave them all the details. They told me that I was very lucky in that most of the specimens in the paleontological exhibits will be transported shortly to storage and will be there for about 7 years while the museum is being restored. Even then, 90% of the specimens will be put away into the collections and not be exhibited. They said I would probably be the last American paleontologist to see their vast paleontological exhibits. Then my two Czech friends gave me a tour through perhaps the last classical paleontological exhibits in Europe, perhaps in the world. I couldn't believe how many exhibits they had of fossils. They also told me how they found or worked on some of the specimens and other stories relating to the specimens. For example, Kaspar Sternberg, a coal magnate, started the collections (in the early 1800's) and founded the museum somewhat later. Anyway, my two friends spent hours of their own time to show me around the museum. It was a fantastic day.
At closing time, we had to leave the museum. Dr. Kvacek suggest a good Czech restaurant near the museum, Mušketýr (Musketeer). So my two colleagues and I went. I ordered Pražský guláš s houskovými knedliky a bramboráčky, which is beef-based Prague goulash served with bread dumplings and potato (and garlic) pancakes. The goulash was flavored with pepper and marjoram and garnished with onion and horseradish. It was very good.
After we finished, it was dark and they both had to catch trains out of town to get home. I thanked them and walked back to my hotel about a mile. At the hotel, I decided to get a beer at the bar-cafe before I turned in. However, I didn't get to finish it. A couple of fellows across the cafe were talking louder and louder and then got into a fight (sort of a wrestling match) and crossed the room and crashed into my table and knocking my beer to the floor. I saw what was coming and got up and moved away just as they careened across the room. I just left without paying and went to my room. They may still be fighting for all I know. I went to my room and caught up in my journal and then went to bed. It's been a long day.
6 March 2010 Saturday
I woke up to a bright world. It snowed during the night and continues to snow. There is about half an inch on the ground.
Last night was a little dicey. The walls are thin and I could hear one fellow snoring. He may have been on my floor or one of the lower floors. I'm on the top floor. At 3:30, a drunk came bumbling up the stairs and his wife? kept going "shsss," to keep him quiet. I thought I would hear more from him, but didn't.
However, all night long, I kept hearing intense scratching noised over my head. The scratching noise lasted about 10 minutes each episode. I heard some cooing and figured they were pigeons, but the intense thrashing about on the metal was unusual, especially during the night when they should have been roosting. Then, occasionally I would hear a thud. I think some animal, perhaps a rat, was trying to kill the pigeons. I call it the "Great Pigeon Slaughter" whatever it was. There were about 3 or 4 episodes during the night and I'm sure that everyone that stays in this room complains about it, as I will.
Well, anyway, I got up, took a shower and went down to breakfast. the small cafe was packed (no signs of a fight scene). I went for coffee first and a table opened up and I took it. I went back for food. All eggs were gone, there were frankfurters, cold cuts, cheese, breads, flake and granola cereal, yogurt and canned mixed fruit. I started with granola, milk and rye bread with sour cherry jam. I went back and the eggs were replenished, so I got some and a frankfurter, and a roll.
One of the Czechs, Dr. Oplustil, said that he would meet me here around 10 or 11 and we would go out and tour Prague. I don't know if the plans are still on or not, with the snow now. I don't know what sightseeing will be like either. By 10, the snow appears to be about one inch deep.
I went to the desk and asked if it were possible to change rooms. I told them about the animal noises. I also asked if anyone else had reported it. The reception lady said that no one had ever reported it before and that it would not be possible to change rooms (they had plenty of extra rooms yesterday). So, they didn't have my reservation, there was a fight in the cafe, and there was the Great Pigeon Slaughter and no possibility of changing rooms. Three strikes and you're out. I went next door to the Hotel Maximilian (www.maximilianhotel.com). It is a hotel mentioned in Rick Steves' book. I told them that I was in the Hotel Hastal, but wanted to change. The lady looked at their web price, but gave me a very special price well below that, so I took the room. I went back to Hastal and checked out, took my things to Maximilian. This is a very nice hotel.
I went back to Hastal and Dr. Oplustil was waiting for me. By now there was 1.5 inches of snow. He gave me a tour of the Old Town as the snow continued. I didn't have an overcoat, but was not uncomfortable. The sidewalks were very slick, but we continued our tour. I took lots of photos with snow coming down, so I don't know what the results will be. Temperature is in the 20's F with some breeze. We stopped at a street vendor and bought cups of hot wine (like mulled wine). We then crossed the Charles Bridge, a very old (1357) pedestrian bridge across the Vltava River (Moldau in German). We saw Smetana's statue and museum, Franz Kafka's Museum and walked on to the Prague Castle area. By the time we climbed the castle hill, snow was about 4 inches deep and treacherous to walk on, but we continued. I took lots of photos. Around 4 PM, we stopped at Restaurant Švejk (www.svejk.cz) and I ordered Svičková and knedliky which was beef in a cream gravy with sour cream and cranberries with bread dumplings. It was good, but made me very sleepy. I paid for the meal with credit card. We then went back outside and headed to the old Jewish Quarter in the northwestern part of Old Town. At about 5 PM, Dr. Oplustil departed by underground train and I made my way back to my new hotel. I got there just before dark, cold and tired. I will warm up, watch a little TV and go to bed early after I do my journal. I didn't get much sleep last night.
7 March 2010 Sunday
I slept very well last night. The shingles have not bothered me too badly either. I got up at 7 and took a shower. I noticed that it is 12 degrees F outside, part of the arctic mass that dropped in after the snow. I haven't heard from anyone here and I'm sure it's too cold to do much touring, but we'll see. I have a knit cap and wool gloves which I haven't used yet.
I went to the breakfast room, a bright, modern and clean room. Everything about this hotel is modern. Apparently everything is available at the buffet. I started with scrambled eggs, bacon, link sausage, multi-grained baguette, croissant, camembert cheese and good coffee. Cold cuts, cheeses in great variety, many kinds of bread, pastries, various yogurts, homemade farmers cheeses, several kinds of spreads and relishes, etc. are available. For seconds, I got a plate of fresh-cut fruit, nuts, yogurt, more multi-grained bread. I may stay here all morning. Fruit included green and red grapes, cantaloupe, honey des and watermelon, strawberries, kiwi, and pineapple as well as Carpathian walnuts. Apples, grapefruit, oranges and bananas were available too. After a leisurely breakfast, I went back to my room to get ready for the day.
I got my Rick Steves guide and went to the center of Old Town and read his descriptions as I walked around. Then I wandered around the New Town and then to the Jewish Quarter. The sun is shining brightly but the temperature is cold. The sun helped the temperature rise up into the 20's however.
I went back to my room around 4 or 5 PM, cold and tired. I asked the receptionist about a good place to eat. She suggested a good Czech restaurant about a 5 or 10-minute away. After I warmed up a bit and watched a little CNN, I decided to try the restaurant before crowds filled it up.
The restaurant is popular, there were lots of locals there. It's called Kolkovna (www.kolkovna.cz) and is at an intersection of several angled streets. I had a cottage salad of a variety of leafy greens, olives, cottage cheese, pumpkin seeds, olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some herbs. I then had the Kolkovna Traditional Bohemian Platter which includes 500g of meat such as one-quarter duck, Moravian "sparrow" (pieces of roast pork cooked with garlic and onion), beer sausage, ham, red and white cabbage (saurerkraut), bread dumplings, bacon dumplings, and potato dumplings. It was brought out in a big high-rimmed serving platter. It would have been enough food for my family. It was very good, but I could only eat a quarter of it. But I tried everything. This is my last Czech meal.
I left the restaurant but got twisted around on the angled streets, but eventually got myself re-oriented. I went back to the hotel, caught up in my journal, typed it up and sent it out. Later, I will pack. I travel to Berlin tomorrow.
8 March 2010 Monday
I got up at six and took a shower. I went to breakfast and was the first there. I had the same things to eat as yesterday. After breakfast, I checked out and left the hotel about 7:20. I got to the train station in about 15-20 minutes. I had some time to spare when I got there so I took some photos. I boarded my train at 8:20 and the train departed at 8:31. According to an information card at breakfast, temperature this morning was 15 degrees F and will heat up to freezing by this afternoon.
It's a cold, cloudy, gray morning so far. On this trip, I learned about ten phrases in Slovaki and ten in Czech. Next time I will not hesitate to travel all over both countries, preferably when it's warmer.
I got a bottle of carbonated water on the train for 50 korunas. We are travelling north by northwest along the Labe (Vltava) River. I saw a large church/cathedral at Roudnice nad Labem but it passed too quickly to get a picture. It's still snowing from place to place. North of Lovosice, we went through a rocky gorge and have entered a new mountainous region. Snowfall is so heavy that visibility is limited. I took some photos. I saw one definite, vertical dike with curved basaltiform columns just south of Usti nad Labem. These mountains must be foothills of the Krusne Hory (or Erzgebirge in German) mountains. Fresh snow is about 3 inches at the Usti station. I took photos of two interesting bridges here. Usti seems to be a fairly large industrial area for this rugged, hilly region. Snowfall is so heavy, I can't see how high the mountains are. We made a stop at Děčín and I took a photo of a palace or castle after we departed. There appears to be 4-5 inches of fresh snow on the ground here now. This is a very scenic train journey through these mountains and along the river. North of Děčín, we entered a cliff-lined gorge with thick strata of horizontal, massive sandstone. The snow has stopped. North of Bad Schaudau (in Germany), we passed a castle perched on a high table of sandstone. This is Königstein (ca 1241)(Wikipedia entry). I took a photo that hopefully will turn out (I only had a second).
We continue through the sandstone gorge. The name of the river has changed to Elbe in Germany. The sun is out at Pirna. We stopped at Dresden for awhile; this is a hub of sorts. It is now cloudy again and started snowing here and there. An hour after Dresden, I saw about 15 deer standing in an open field and there were many hunter's stands. This must not be deer season. Between Dresden and Berlin the train went much slower than usual. I don't know why, but it is probably due to track maintenance. And the trip from Dresden to Berlin is not overwhelmingly interesting (pretty boring). I got to the Berlin Haupt (main) Bahnhof (train station) about 1:30 and caught an S-Bahn to the Warschauer Strasse station and walked about a block to Hotel Klassik (www.hotelklassik-berlin.de). The hotel seems very nice and clean. I got to my room by 2:00. I'm pretty tired for some reason and I might be getting a cold. There is no snow in Berlin and not even a trace of old snow. There is plenty of match-head-sized gravel on the sidewalks that must have been spread there during previous snow storms though.
I walked around the neighborhood for a couple of hours. I have an urge to eat very spicy food which I haven't had since Kentucky. I found a nice-looking IndoChina restaurant. I ordered a Laotian curry dish and I asked for sehr, sehr scharf. The waiter didn't believe me, but I assured him that I meant five chilies. It was very good and I thanked the cooks and thanked them in Thai (they were Thai). Then I walked back in the cold to my hotel. I caught up in my journal, typed it up and watched a little TV before I went to bed. There has been an earthquake in Turkey now.
9 March 2010 Tuesday
I woke up a little before 6 but didn't get up till 7. Breakfast starts at 7:30. I took a shower, checked the directions for the natural history museum and went to breakfast. There was a large variety at the buffet. I had scrambled eggs, bread roll, olives, 3 kinds of cheese and some good espresso. I then went back for fruit, I had kiwi, honey dew melon, orange slices, two kinds of grapes and cottage cheese.
After breakfast I went back to my room. I put three of my publications and specimens of Pentremites in my camera bag and headed for the museum. I went to the S-Bahn station and got a day pass for a little more than 6 Euros. I took the train to Hackescher Markt and walked the rest of the way.
At the museum, I met Dr. Dieter Korn (I had met him earlier on a Carboniferous field trip in west-central Germany about 3 years ago). He led me to the collections area and unlocked the cabinets for me. I gave him the specimens and the publications that I had brought. I spent several hours by myself going through the collections, and taking photos of specimens from Sloans Valley, Kentucky. These specimens were collected by Kreutz (sp.) in 1894 (some of the labels said 1844, but I think that must have been a mis-reading by the label maker). Anyway, I even found some old labels that I had added to the specimen boxes when I was here in 1972.
A little after 12 (I had just finished my study), Dr. Korn came and got me and about eight of us went to the university cafeteria. All the others were paleontologists, some were students. I was not at all hungry and got only an apple, a tangerine and a cold tea. Dieter and I and a reef ecologist from southern France talked quite a bit and had a good time.
After lunch, we returned to the museum. I took a photo of part of the museum that had been bombed in WWII, but was now being restored. At the museum, Dieter got me a pass and introduced me to the exhibits. I spent several hours walking through the museum. I took a lot of photos, including of the original Archaeopteryx that I had seen in 1972 (it was not on display then, a facsimile was).
I then walked to Museum Island. Many of the museums are being reconstructed. I didn't have enough time to go in a museum but I enjoyed walking around and taking photos of them. I used Rick Steves' guide as I wandered around. The last time I was here was in 1983 and the first time, in 1972. This area was all East Berlin both times. Everything is different and for the better. I will have photos of the same buildings from all three visits, so one should be able to see the changes.
I walked to Alexander Platz where the giant TV tower was constructed. This was a socialist landmark through the decades. Near here, I went to the Rathaus Cafe and Restaurant (www.rathaus-cafe-berlin.de) in the Nikolaiviertel (Nicholai Church quarter) about 5:30. I ordered Schweinesschnitzel an Waldpilzrahm/Escalope mit Pommes Frittes und Salatgarniture (with forest mushroom cream, etc). I ate it all. After the dinner, I walked to the Alexanderplatz S-Bahn station and took the train back to my hotel.
I got to my room about 7, cold and tired, as usual. I caught up in my journal, typed it out and watched a little CNN. Tonight, I have to pack and get ready for my train trip to Dresden tomorrow morning.
10 March 2010 Wednesday
I woke up around 6 but didn't get up till 6:20. I took a shower and went down to breakfast. I had the same as yesterday, minus the fruit plate. After breakfast, I checked out and walked to the S-Bahn. There was a light dusting of snow and the temperature was in the 20's. I picked this hotel because it was close to an S-Bahn. I would stay here again. I love Berlin. I would stay longer but there are other places I haven't seen before.
I got to the Hauptbahnhof about 7:30, an hour before my train leaves. I walked around and looked at the shops (there is a large shopping mall in the train station). I bought a Berlin pin for my alpine hat. The train left about 8:40. It's a cloudy, foggy day so far. After an hour on the train, the sun is out and has burnt off the fog. There was more old snow on the ground as we approached Dresden. I got to the Dresden main station at 10:52 and caught another train a short hop to the Dresden Naustadt station. My hotel, Bayerische Hof (www.bayerischer-hof-dresden.de), is only a block away and was recommended by Rick Steves. I checked in and wandered around the hotel briefly and then went back to the station and caught a train to Gorlitz on the German and Polish border. While waiting for the train, I had a hot bockwurst, bread and mustard from a sausage stand. I love these kinds of stands. I asked about all the sausages there, perhaps 20 different kinds altogether, although only a few were hot.
The train left a little after 1:30 and arrived in Görlitz about 2:40. The landscape could have been farmland in central Kentucky. I saw 16 deer standing in one field and a kite (a falcon like-bird) flying in another.
I left the Görlitz station and walked to the Old Town. I followed Rick Steves short guide for this town and took a lot of photos. The temperature must have been in the lower 20's, but the stiff breeze makes it feel really cold. I had planned to return to Dresden on the 6:26 train, but I didn't find enough here to keep me interested while freezing. I had finished the guide and most of the museums were closed, so I caught the 4:26 train back instead of the later one. On the ride back, I took a photo of a church and other structures at Bautzen that I was unable to photograph earlier.
I got back to my hotel just at sunset. And once again, I'm very cold and tired. The hotel doesn't have free WiFi, but they do have a public computer. I sent off an e-mail to the family that I was in Dresden and OK. The keyboard is all different and it's a little difficult to type out a message.
I went to the hotel dining room and sat down. There was another fellow there and I started talking to him. He was from Dresden originally, but his family escaped to the west at the end of the 1940's. He has lived in Koln and Munchen (Munich) for most of his life. He knows the owner of the hotel, who is also from Munchen (hence the name of the hotel, Bayerische Hof)(Bavarian House). I ordered a glass of local Saxony red wine (sweet and fruity) and salmon, and potatoes. We continued to talk across the room throughout the meal. I told him my wife was an attorney and he said he was too. We talked a lot about travels, etc. We shook hands after the meal. The salmon was very good, but I probably wouldn't order the wine again (I like dry wines).
I went to my room and typed out my journal. I'll mail it out tomorrow or the next day when I get a better connection.
11 March 2010 Thursday
I woke up around 6 and got up at 6:20. I took a shower and got ready for the morning. I didn't buy breakfast here (it's not included) and I was still full from last night.
I left the hotel and headed east to Albert Platz and then south on Albertstraße. The temperature was upper teens or lower 20's with a biting breeze. I crossed the Carolabrucke (Charles Bridge) over the Elbe and took lots of photos as I headed to Old Town and the Theatre Platz. Once there, I started Rick Steves' walking tour. I was so cold that I interrupted the walk and went into a nice little cafe where I got an extra large cappuccino (to warm my hands) and some sort of fruit torte (for calories). Where is the lard now that I need it? I must have stayed for a good half-hour and then I continued my walking tour.
After my walk was finished, it was 10:30 AM and museums are open at 10. I went to the Zwinger compound and first entered the Old Masters Painting museum. I had bought a tourist card that included transit and museum entry passes yesterday. The Old Masters gallery contained 750 Early Renaissance to 18th century art by all the old masters from the Dutch, Flemish, German, French, Italian and Spanish regions. I got an audio guide for 3 Euros and spent 4 hours looking at the paintings. There were paintings by Rembrandt, Frans Hals, van Eyck, Holbein, Vermeer, Durer, Rubens, Titian, Goya, El Greco, Cornelisz, Poissons, Canaletto, Botticelli, Correggio, Raphael, and many others I can't remember just now. By then my back was starting to ache from standing. I went next door to the armor and weapons museum and spent a half hour there. At that point, I was museumed out.
I left and caught a tram to my hotel. I caught up in my journal and typed it out. I noticed that in the late afternoon, the temperature seemed to be in the 30's. Before dinner, I washed out my socks. In most of the hotels that I've stayed in, the bathrooms have heated towel racks. One can adjust the heat on them. They're great for drying your laundry. I also packed up again. I leave early tomorrow for Trier.
12 March 2010 Friday
I woke up several times but got up for good at 7. I took a shower and then went down for breakfast. Because I have a long day on the train, I decided to buy breakfast this morning. For starters, I had a fried egg and roll. Then I had about four kinds of cheese, lox, horseradish sauce, a sort of cabbage salad, a pickled-sausage salad, and mixed pickles. I just took small helpings in order to try everything. Although full, I went back for granola and I added about 5 or 6 different kinds of seeds. It was crunchy. I also had coffee and orange juice.
After breakfast, I checked out. This has been a nice hotel and I would come back. It is conveniently close to the Neustadt train station and a tram line. I walked to the train station and caught a fast ICE train to Frankfurt Airport train station. It wasn't snowing when I walked to the station but it started snowing as soon as we left the Neustadt station. It's a gray day so far. I should have reserved a seat. They were all taken except for one which I took. Half the people plop their luggage in the seat next to them so that no one will sit next to them. Not a nice thing when the train is full.
After Leipzig, some of the seats opened up. I saw four deer in a field about 30 minutes past Leipzig. They all appear to be does. In fact, I don't think I've seen any stags during this entire trip. I've seen quite a number of vineyards since Leipzig, now that the snow has stopped. I saw a large limestone quarry and two castle ruins at one town (I couldn't catch the name). I got a couple of photos. I missed a photo of a third (about 10 miles east of Niedetreb village, not far from Weimar. Near here I saw some sort of white eagle or osprey in a tree. I've seen lots of hawks throughout this trip.
The seat I was sitting in became reserved at Weimar and I had to go back to my old one. The train filled up again at Erfurt. West of Eisenach I took a photo of another castle ruins, but it was hazy and toward the sun. At one point there was a very large mountain of mine waste about a mile or two south of the tracks, at Honebach. It's snowing lightly at Fulda where we stopped. There was another large mine dump at Neuhof-Fulda. There was a very long tunnel, about 3 miles long, past Neuhof.
After a long train ride, I arrived at the Frankfurt Airport train station. This is the station I will come to when I fly back home. I have a little less than an hour here this time, so I checked out the route to the shuttles that will take me to my departing terminal when I fly. At the train station, I went to a cafe calle "Wurst Station" and ordered their wurst special (you may ask why I didn't get the best special). For 5 Euros, I got a hot sausage of some type, a large bread roll and a Bitburger beer.
The train was a little late. I boarded it and it took off immediately. I take this train for about 70 minutes to Koblenz, and there, I transfer again. At Bingen, we encounterd some pretty rugged hills. On the north side of the valley, there are many vineyards (to face the sun). There were a couple of castles but it was too hazy and the windows too dirty to photograph them (plus looking into the sun). For some reason, it's been hazy all day today. It is not snowing here though.
We passed a very picturesque town, Bacharacher Hohn, west of Bingen with charming houses and castles, but I just can't photograph them. These are the castles along the Rhine (Rhein). The Rhine cuts a steep gorge for many miles. If you want to see the most castles you should sit on the north side of the train. The tracks tend to hug the hill-side on the south side of the valley. This is a very scenic train trip. It would be much better with clean windows. Strata along the gorge are generally steeply dipping. I just did the "Poor Man's Rhine Cruise." The Bingen to Koblenz segment is the best.
I got off the train at Koblenz and within 10 minutes, got on my train to Trier (in German, it's pronounced as "treer," one syllable). The train left at 3:23. The windows on this train are actually clean, but the day is still hazy and gray. This time I have a compartment all to myself. The trip south to Trier was a bit like the "Rhine Cruise," but on a smaller scale. There are fewer castles, but the setting is the same. I took some photos including a castle. There are vineyards and a gorge, and charming towns.
At Cochem (on dem Mosel), there was a big castle but I only got pictures of poles and housed that jumped in front of my camera. And immediately we went into a long tunnel about 3 or 4 miles long. I knew it was going to be long because of the large ventilation turbines in front of the tunnel. On the other end of the tunnel, I could see tunnel boring machines preparing to bore an adjacent tunnel. By the way, this river is the Mosel. So I also went on the "Poor Man's Mosel Cruise." There are actually many tunnels along this segment. One tunnel had exposures of very red sandstone at both ends. I wonder if this is the Bund Sandstein or perhaps the Rotliegendes? I got to Trier about an hour after we left Koblenz. I used my map printout that I brought along and found my way easily to the Astoria Hotel (www.astoria-hotel.de), recommended by Rick Steves. I checked in and talked to the lady at the desk. She is co-owner, along with her husband, of the hotel. She said that she was born at Fort Knox, Kentucky (her father was in the Air Force) and she was only there for 1.5 years and remembers nothing about it. She also has family in Georgia and Florida. Her husband, whom I met later, was born in Rajasthan. I settled in and then asked the lady about places to eat. She mentioned several and marked them on a map for me. I walked down the old town. This is a very charming and likeable town. The Old Town is compact and long. One can walk down one pedestrian street and back up another. It has a comfortable feeling about it. Lots of shops too, for those who care.
At the southern end of Old Town, I came across one of the recommended restaurants, "Flammkuchenhaus" (www.dasflammkuchenhaus.de), a special Elsass (Alsace) restaurant that makes a special dish. It's a dough, rolled out very thin and then topped by fresh cream. Toppings like cheese, meats, or vegetable are put on that. The it is put in a flame oven (like a pizza oven) and cooked till the crust is almost crisp. I ordered one and took photos of the oven and the restaurant. I ordered one of the more extreme types that most American wouldn't eat. It was the "Pfalzer" with sauerkraut, blutwurst and leberwurst. It was good. They also have dessert flammkuchen. I had a cappuccino for dessert though.
I walked back to the hotel and got there by 8. I met the husband-owner and we talked about India and travels there.
I then went to the lounge next to the breakfast area. It was comfortable and decorated with lots of Indian pillows, cloths, books, multicultural ceramics and paintings. Eclectic mix and match of cultures. I caught up in my journal. There is no internet so I will have to post my journal later. I went to bed at 9:00.
13 March 2010 Saturday
I slept very well. I received a wake-up call at 7:20. I got up, took a shower and went down to breakfast (breakfast starts at 8). At breakfast, some portions are served and some are at the buffet. I started out with fruit, chopped apples, grapes, kiwi, canned lichees, apricots, cherries, a variety of nuts and all topped with plain yogurt. Then the coffee, orange juice and bread arrived. I was also offered selections of cold cuts, etc. I had a wedge of camembert, preserved raw ham (like prosciutto), cooked ham, salami, and slice cheese. More was available but I couldn't eat anymore. I caught up in my journal and finished my coffee.
I still have shingles. My scalp still has itchy spots and some areas are still swollen and lumpy, but it is manageable and not as intense as before.
After breakfast, I left the hotel and went to the old Roman Black Gate or Porta Nigra (see Wikipedia entry). I started Rick Steves' walking tour and took lots of photos. The local Celts were called Trevori by the Romans. Augustus Caesar started a town here and called it Augustus Treverorum (Augustus of the Treveri). In classic Latin, "v"s are pronounced as "w" so I think the town Trevera would have been pronounced "treh-werh-eh" and then just shortened to "trehr."
Shortly after Constantin became a Christian, he authorized the construction of two important churches, St. Peters in Rome and the St. Peters cathedral in Trier in 326 AD (www.dominformation.de). I toured the cathedral which has repeatedly been rebuilt over the old Roman ruins. I took photos outside of the old Roman part, in red brick.
I also went to the Bischofliches Diozesanmuseum (Bishop's Museum)(www.bistum-trier.de). During WWII, bombs destroyed part of the church. During reconstruction, the workers discovered old frescoes. The Bishop's Museum displays these restored frescoes which were put together with the help of computers. It was a very interesting museum and I took photos.
I then went to the Konstantine Basilica. This is a huge building without supporting columns. According to Rick Steves, it is "the largest intact Roman structure outside of Rome." I got there just as it closed at noon (it re-opens late this afternoon).
Then I went to the Rheinisches Landesmuseum (www.landesmuseum-trier.de), an excellent archaeological museum. I spent several hours there, looking at all the Paleolithic to Renaissance exhibits. There are a great many Roman tomb structures, mosaics, money and other artifacts. I used an English audioguide, and I also took lots of photos.
I went on to the Kaiserthermen (Imperial Baths) and went through several of the underground tunnels. Some of the outer walls survive at this ruin.
I exited the old Roman city walls and walked up a hill to the Amphitheater. I walked all around this structure and through some of the tunnels there.
I went back to the old town and proceeded to the Karl Marx Museum. This is one of two of his homes in Trier. I took photos of both.
I went back to the Basilica and was able to go inside this time. It is an amazing interior space. Photos were not allowed.
My back has been aching since the archaeological museum, so after the Basilica, I went to Glockenstrasse to the Restaurant Krim (www.restokrim.de), recommended by my hotel. It felt good to finally sit down (4:30 PM). I ordered a beer and a Spanish tapas appetizer plate (this is their Spanish week. I caught up in my journal while I waited. The tapas were enough for 3 people to snack on. They included a dish with meatballs (albondigas) in a tomato-bell pepper sauce and spices, a cured Spanish ham, deep fried potatoes, cooked plum with bacon wrapped around it, a shrimp wrapped in a spaghetti noodle and deep fried, a plateful of deep-fried and lightly battered mussels, squid, octopus and white bait. There was also marinated manchego cheese, a breaded, deep-fried paella ball (good use of extra paella) and bread and relish. It was all very good and filling!
I got back to my hotel about 6 PM. It's been a very nice day. It was dark and cloudy, but never got below freezing, I think. I didn't have to keep my hands in my pockets. I sat down in the lounge area of the hotel and filled out my journal. Tomorrow I go to Baden Baden by 3 trains, so I'll have to pack and get out my information for that trip. I typed out my journal entry and got to bed by 9.
I really liked Trier and recommend it to others.
14 March 2010 Sunday
I woke up around 6 but didn't get up till 7:20. I took a shower and organized my things and watched a little CNN. At 8 I went down to breakfast and had my fruit bowl with nuts and yogurt. Then I chose the prosciutto-type ham and cheese. I also had a multigrain bread, butter and coffee and orange juice.
After a quick breakfast, I checked out. I left the hotel by 8:30 and took a 15-minute walk to the station. It's another gray day, temperature about 38. My train arrived early (it's the start of a run), so I got onboard early and filled out my journal. The train departed at 9:01. I take this train to Saarbrucken. This is what I call a Stop Train; it stops at every station, averaging about once every 3 or 4 minutes. This trip is part of the "Poor Man's Saar Cruise," it travels along the Saar River.
We're still very much in wine country. At Serrig, I noticed that we were in a sort of gorge and there is a cliff of sorts high on the hill. The gorge got narrower and more rugged as we proceeded. The valley opened up at Mettlach. From there to Sarrbrucken the region is a very industrial area, with coal mines, steel works, and other industries.
At Saarbrucken, I got on a TGV (a superfast train). I got a single seat on the right side. Before the train departed, the police came through and checked our passports. They haven't done that on the other trains I've been on this trip. They hesitated when they saw some of my visas, but then gave it back to me and left. I have been on TGV's before and they go more than 300 km/hr (some of the ICE trains go that fast too). I saw a castle on top of a hill at Ramstein (?). We never did hit top speed but the fastest was probably 130. I've seen lots of red sandstone on this trip.
We entered a large forested area past Kaiserlautern, and it has steep hills. This is a very scenic area if you like mountainous areas and forests. I saw yet another castle on top of a hill at Neustadt (Weinst.) and there we exited the mountains. The train also picked up speed and we're going much faster than the traffic on the road (prob. 200).
At Mannheim, I got on an ICE train and it departed at 12:44. It's headed for Zurich but I'm getting off at Baden Baden. The ICE trains are very nice and this one got up to pretty fast speed, well over 100 (actually close to 200). At Karlsruhe, there was still some snow on the ground, but I think the temperature must be in the upper 30's. I arrived at Baden Baden about 1:30 and immediately boarded bus #201 to Leopoldplatz (aka Stadtmitte). My hotel is close to this platz, but with my crappy map and lack of street signs when you need them, I walked many kilometers all over the place before I found a spot on the map that I could identify. And it was raining lightly (and the map was getting wet). After wandering around for half an hour, I finally found my hotel, Hotel am Markt (www.hotel-am-markt-baden.de)(also recommended by Rick Steves).
After checking in and getting adjusted to my room, I decided to try what Baden is famous for, the thermal baths. These baths date back to Roman times and probably before then. I bought a three-hour ticket at my hotel for the most famous and classic bath, the Friedrichsbad (www.carasana.de/home/en/roemisch.html). I've had several weeks of cold weather, I needed some warming up. I walked about a block away and there it was. I entered the doors and showed them my pass. They gave me a little wrist-watch-like electronic badge and told me where to enter (Rick Steves gives a complete description of the process). There were signs everywhere in German, English and French and they were numbered so one knew where to go next. I put my wrist thing in an electronic device and the gate opened. I went into a changing cabinet and took off my clothes. I exited the other side to find a locker. There was a completely nude couple standing there working on their locker. Apparently this is coed. [According to Rick Steves, this is one of the days when everything is mixed.] Well I remember the old saying "When in Rome, grin and bare it." I asked the couple how to operate the lockers and they showed me. I didn't even have a towel (nor did they). This requires some mental fortitude. I made my way to the next station, put on plastic shoes and went to the large shower room. This was mixed as well. I took my shower but couldn't find any towels. A lady told me to go back down the hall and get a sheet-like towel. I got one and went to the next station. The floors were hot, you needed the shoes so that your feet wouldn't get scalded. The next room was a dry sauna and you use the sheet to lay down on, otherwise the wooden slats would be too hot. Then I moved to the next room which was a little bit hotter. They even suggest how much time you should spend at each station. Then on to the steam room (I bypassed the community massage area, I didn't buy the optional massage pass). Before you go to the steam room, you remove your plastic shoes and sheet-towel and they give you a cloth pad to sit on. I entered the steam room, put my pad on the top multi-level marble platform. All was coed. My glasses steamed up immediately. I stayed there for awhile and then moved to a hotter steam room.
After that, I put my pad in the container and went to a room with a warm-water pool. Every room is filled with buck-naked adults, mostly couples and many in their 70's or 80's. I got in the warm pool and relaxed a bit (as relaxed as you can get in this situation). I then went into a larger area and spent 10 minutes in a shallow jacuzzi-type marble pool. There is no hiding here. Then I went to the largest pool, which was pretty cool. It was difficult to get in after all the warm pools. I went back and forth between the heated and the cold pools quite a few times. After a couple of hours in the place, I made my way to the next station, the frigid pool. It was next to and opened up in front of the common shower area. I was the only person that I saw get into the frigid pool and it was really cold. I didn't stay there long. I got another towel and dried off. Next I went to the cream room where you rub lots of moisturizing lotion all over yourself. Otherwise, you'd have really dry skin. They had a couple of other rooms. One was dark and everyone was laying down all wrapped up (swaddled) and they were resting for the recommended half hour. It looked pretty boring to me, so I didn't try it. The next room was a library-reading room with lawn chairs. It looked pretty boring too, so I went back to my locker, grabbed my clothes, put them on and left. I felt really good and ready to tour some more.
I got Rick Steves' quide and made my way to the Casino, the starting place for his walking tour. I did about half the trip till it got too dark. I was close to my hotel at that point and decided to get something to eat. I went to the nearby "Rathausglockel Historic Hotel and Restaurant" (www.rathausgloeckel.de) They had a nice fire in the big tile oven. I sat down and ordered two house specials (both Baden historic dishes from the 1820's), a cream of Chestnut soup with cognac and caramelized walnuts, and, for main course, a salmon filet in Beer Brew with mixed vegetables. The soup was really, really good. I've not had anything like it; good combination. After that, the salmon came out. It came in a big bowl and was partly submerged in a broth. It was served with a spoon. The salmon was good, there wasn't anything wrong with it, but it wasn't particularly special either. It didn't have much flavor, actually. Anyway, I ate it all and had a cup of coffee afterwards. I sat close to the tile oven and filled out my journal.
After dinner, I went back to my hotel. I went to the lounge to get on the internet. They don't have free WiFi here, but they do have a public computer with internet. However, the internet connection wasn't working for some reason. The computer was working fine otherwise. I tried a variety of web addressed but none would connect. No one is at the desk this time of the evening, so I will have to ask tomorrow.
While I was in the lounge, an oriental man walked in to see what was there. We ended up talking for about an hour. His name was Dr. Mori and he is a neuroscientist at the University of Nagasaki. He studies aging of neurons. We had an enjoyable time.
I then went back to my room and went to bed at 10.
15 March 2010 Monday
I got up at 6:40 feeling very tired. I took a shower and went down to breakfast by 7. I had dark bread, hard-boiled egg, cold cuts, cheese, muesli with milk, orange juice and a large cappuccino.
I left the hotel about 7:40 and walked to the bus stop. It's very gray and cool (in the 30's). I took the bus to the Baden Bahnhof and had almost an hour before my train to Freiburg. I got a coffee at the Fellows coffee shop. They have free WiFi, so I sent off 2-days worth of journal entries. Then I boarded a very sleek ICE that goes to Basel. I get off at the very next stop at Freiburg. I'm making a day trip to Freiburg and will return to Baden later today.
I got to Freiburg at 10 and made my way to the Old Town. I followed Rick Steves walking tour. I finished the tour, all in rain (I had my umbrella) and got back to the station by noon. I hopped on the train to Baden Baden. I had considered going to Staufen, but the first train to arrive was headed to Baden.
The trip from Freiburg to Baden is along the Rhine river on one side and the hills of the Schwarzwald (Black Forest) on the eastern side. There is still lots of snow on the hills, almost none elsewhere. Heading back to Baden, we were hitting speeds well over 200 km/hr, perhaps 300.
I got to Baden Baden about 12:30, I got a bus ticket and made my way to Leopoldplatz. Then I headed to Gernsbacher Strasse. Mark Twain walked these streets (I gave Elizabeth my "Innocents Abroad"), and Nickolai Golgol, as well (I took a photo of a plaque with his quote; I've read most of his short stories). On this street, I went to the Cafe Beeg at 4 PM, and got a cappuccino and a big piece of Schwartzwald torte (Black Forest torte; we are in the Black Forest). I'm not a dessert eater but I had to get one here. And it's not raining.
I finished the rest of Rick Steves' walking tour by mid-afternoon. I went back to my hotel room and took a nap. When I woke up, the sun was shining. I spent the rest of the daylight hours walking around the pedestrian areas. I also bought a pin for my alpine hat. After dark, I went back to the Rathausglockel restaurant and ordered Baden White Wine soup (with extremely tiny shrimp)(Badische Weissweinsuppe) and "Heaven and Hell" (Himmel und Holle) which was potatoes filled with blood sausage with mixed salad and sour cream. The soup was excellent and the main dish was good. The salad greens were fresh and tasty. I had coffee for dessert.
After dinner I went back to my room (by 8 PM) and filled out my journal and typed it out. Tomorrow, I travel again. I went to bed at 9:30.
16 March 2010 Tuesday
I didn't sleep very well, but got up a little after 7 and took a shower. I went down to breakfast and had orange juice, a little pot of coffee, salami and other cold cuts, some cheese, bread roll, hard-boiled egg and preserves. After breakfast, I checked out.
I walked to Leopoldplatz, put 2.10 Euros in the bus ticket machine and got my ticket to the Baden Bahnhof. I got to the Bahnhof about 1.5 hours before my train so that I could go to the coffee shop. I got a Cafe Amerikaner and sent out two days-worth of journal entries. I also looked at Mapquest to see where I'm supposed to meet Dr. Schindler in Frankfurt. I also caught up in my journal.
When I went to my track, the sun popped out briefly and the temperature seems to be in the lower 40's. I boarded my sleek ICE and took it to Frankfurt. It hit some pretty fast speeds, over 200 km/hr. I got to Frankfurt a little after 11:30 and walked directly to my hotel, Hotel Paris (www.hotelparis.de), about a block away. It was mentioned in Rick Steves book. It was not a topnotch hotel, not even a half notch. I would rate it right up there with other one star hotels. But it seemed safe enough. There is no internet.
After checking in, I walked back to the train station and got a one-day transit pass. I took the S-Bahn to the Frankfurt West Station and walked a couple of blocks to the Senkenberg research and collections buildings. They are not at the famous museum. I had an appointment with Dr. Eberhard Schindler at 1:30 and I was there on the dot. He took me in to his office and we had a fun conversation. I gave him my echinoderm publication and the publication that Steve Greb and I published this last summer on Carboniferous of the Appalachian and Black Warrior Basins. I also donated my remaining specimens of Pentremites to the collection (with the details). Although Dr. Schindler and I had never met before, we knew many of the same people. Very nice fellow.
He took me back to the echinoderm collections and I spent about 1.5 hours there looking at and photographing some specimens. Afterwards, he took me to another floor and showed me the famous Hunsrücker fauna (a lagerstätte). The specimens were exquisite and I took a few photos. I don't study the Hunsrücker or I would have spent my whole time there (see this Virtual Fossil Museum site and this Wikipedia entry).
Dr. Schindler also told me an easy way to get back to the train station (bus #17) and how to get to the airport in the morning (which had confused me).
I left and went back to the train station and started Rick Steves walking tour. I've been to Frankfurt many times but I learned some new things by using this guide. I took some photos along the way although it was a very gray day. The tour ended near the picturesque Römer platz and I got a hot pork sausage, bread, mustard and beer at a wurst stand there.
Instead of taking the transit back, I decided to walk all the way back to my hotel. I got there just at sunset. I went to my room and filled out my journal. I will have to e-mail it when I get back home. I fly home early tomorrow morning.
I went to a restaurant around the corner (I don't remember the name) and had a very nice lamb stew. I came back to the hotel, packed up and watched CNN. Everyone I've talked to has said that this has been an unusually hard and long winter for this part of Europe (CNN also said this). CNN just said that they are expecting a big spring thaw tomorrow. I'm glad I won't be here when that happens.
17 March 2010 Wednesday
I woke up throughout the night, but finally got up at 5:45. I took a quick shower, packed all my things and was down at the desk by 6:00. I checked out but had a quick cup of coffee, a bread roll, cheese and salami. I walked to the train station and took the S-9 train to the airport. The ticket was a little more than 3 Euros. At the airport, I took a shuttle train to Terminal 2 and checked in at the Delta desk. I got my boarding passes but was not allowed into the gate area until later. So I wandered around the shops and sat down to fill out my journal.
At 7:30 I got into the gate area. I then got in line for security but it wasn't open yet. A line of people got in behind me.. Then they announced that we would have to get out of line and wait down the hall while a late flight from Alitalia came through security. After waiting almost an hour, we were allowed to pass through security. I then sat down in the gate area and typed out my journal entry for yesterday. It still seems to be a gray day. I don't understand why they want a person to come to the airport 3 hours before your international flight if they won't let you in.
We finally boarded the plane and took off around 9:45. I watched "The Invention of Lying," "The Men Who Stare at Goats," a Twilight movie, and the Disney animation "Fantastic Mr. Fox." I chuckled pretty continuously throughout the goat movie. We landed in Atlanta at 3 PM. We didn't de-plane till a serviceman's body and escort left the plane, out of respect.
It took about an hour to go through passport control, customs, and another security checkpoint. I got to my gate area at 4. I found that my flight to Lexington is delayed, but don't know why. It's raining in Atlanta, but there is no thunderstorm.
I finally boarded the plane around 6:30 and I'm very tired. I got to Lexington about 7:30, got a cab and came home. The doors were all locked and no one was home, so I walked to Tibby's and got a key to get in the house. Tibby said she thought the e-mails about the steam bath were pretty funny. Snoopy was very glad to see me. It's good to be home.