The last few days have flown by, with a lot of driving, good meals, quick hotel stays, and more driving.
After finishing a whirlwind tour of southern Germany (see earlier post) the Koomans were off through Austria. It may need to be repeated how truly beautiful Germany is: quaint towns, colourful river valley, incredible farmland. And King Ludwig’s castle is something else. The hiking in the valley, view from the bridge, and tour of Schloss Neuswhanstein (sleeping Beauty’s castle) made for an awesome day.
Austria was quick. Really, it was only 24 hours. A drive to Vienna, where we stayed at another great Ibis room (European hotel chain: cheap prices, two tiny beds and a bathroom that looks like an awesome space capsule!). Our dinner was at a wonderful restaurant recommended by our concierge (read: young lady who works at cheap hotel chain) and was a number of blocks away. Considering the size and intensity of European cities, it’s surprising how dead they are on Saturdays and especially Sundays. Nothing is open. Stores are closed, people aren’t walking around and it’s very quiet. This changes a bit in the evening. We walked a few blocks to the restaurant, and it sort of looked like a scene from I Am Legend, I was waiting for the zombies to come out of the woodwork. We walked through a little doorway, and BAM! suddenly restaurants everywhere, people laughing and eating, and opportunities to spend Euros abound.
The twins picked a small restaurant that served a variety of dishes for a decent price (careful, meat and potatoes sold separately). The ‘slow eating’ movement is alive and well in Europe, and it was a perfect night for that. After a swell sleep (dad gave up his bed for the twins’ birthday) the clan was off for a walk to city center – apparently farther than we thought. Nice town though.
Quickly, we were back to our van, and on to country number 8! In case you’re keeping track, we landed in England (day 1), chunnelled to France (day 1-3), drove through Belgium (day 3 and 4), made it to Holland (days 4-11), bombed through Germany (days 11-16), zipped through Austria (days 16, 17) and safely arrived in Hungary. Sounds like only 7? We made it into Luxembourg on day 13 🙂
At the border, we stopped for gas and purchased a vignette for driving in Hungary. They are part of the EU, but seem like a reluctant member. They require tolls on the roads and their currency is different. I took 50,000 of their dollars out today. Sounds like enough for a small duchy, but I barely could afford a loaf of bread for $500.
And now, a word about our van: we rented a Mercedes Vito, a nine passenger beauty. It’s diesel, gets good gas mileage, and is a pleasure to drive. everyone fits in easily, it has plenty of room for our gear, and it’s beginning to smell a lot like garbage. We do clean it, but it’s got a funky tang. Chris seems to notice more than anyone else. It could be the dirty laundry that we’re starting to amass (been a while since we had the washer and dryer in Holland), so Shana has been busy doing loads in the little European number in the Budapestian apartment. It is drying on a rock as I type.
Budapest (as everyone here knows) is actually two cities divided by the river: Buda and Pest. Hmmm. It’s an old city and quite beautiful. Thankfully it was only 40 degrees celsius when we arrived in town this afternoon. It was a bit of an adventure finding and claiming our apartment. It is quite quaint, however the facade and staircase look like an outtake from a Bourne movie. And not a happy scene either. The old doors have an antiquated look and old world charm, and an electronic system that was probably invented in pre-war Czechoslovakia. It works…sometimes. The lift is like a coffin that stands on its end, clunks when beginning only slightly quieter than when it clunks at the landing. It works though. The apartment has a large master bedroom with an additional bed, a living room with two pull-out couches, a large bathroom, and a very cute kitchen.
Marg, Nick and Chris went out for some groceries, and were caught in Hungary’s biggest thunderstorm – or at least the biggest they’ve seen anyways. Supper was made and laundry continues to spin out. It’s great to be in a place for a few days consecutively, and we will enjoy hanging out here. It’s neat to be in a place that family comes from – the earth around smells sort of familiar…