Tales from the Man who would be King

Rex Jaeschke's Personal Blog

Travel: Memories of Prague, Salzburg, and München

© 2014 Rex Jaeschke. All rights reserved.

Join me as I spend a week in Prague, Czech Republic, working from my hotel and attending business meetings. Then it's playtime in and around Salzburg, Austria, and Munich, in the German state of Bavaria.

[Diary] By the time we landed at PRG, I was running on empty. I coaxed 3,000 CZK (Czech Korunas/crowns) from a cash machine and waited five minutes for my luggage. (It still amazes me each time it comes out when one considers the amount of baggage processed at large airports.) I bought a ticket for the bus to downtown and boarded that soon after. The passengers were like me, very subdued, probably because they had flown overnight too. Forty minutes later, I found my hotel right where I'd left it two+ years ago. This was my fourth trip to Prague, and my third time at this hotel. The reception staff was ever so happy to have me back for six nights. Although I was there more than three hours before the official check-in time started, they called housekeeping to get a room ready as soon as possible, and that took an hour. In the meantime, I walked to the supermarket nearby and bought a liter of cold, whole milk and a small block of Milka chocolate with hazelnuts, as comfort food. I sat on the edge of a fountain in a plaza and watched the locals at play.

[Diary] At 06:30 am, I was at the front desk buying postcard stamps, after which I headed for the breakfast area, which is a glass-enclosed platform that seems to be hanging from the ceiling, with walkways leading to it from several sides. (In fact, it's built on top of a glass-walled conference room on the level below.) The buffet was included in my room rate, and it was open from 06:30 until 11:00, which was very civilized. I took my time eating and drinking a variety of things while working on a Sudoku puzzle and perusing some brochures for musical concerts. I packed a small snack for Ron (as in "later on"). The whole experience was very pleasant and took 90 minutes.

I was hard at work on my laptop by 08:30, and hardly stopped until just before 14:00 when I went downstairs to the fitness room. There, I met Luci, a tall, thin, and very strong, young Czech woman who asked me to get naked and to lie on a bench. As she looked like she wasn't about to take NO for an answer, I complied, and my 60-minute Swedish, full-body massage began. She rubbed so vigorously that I feared she might ignite the oil! It had been a long while since I'd had a massage, and it felt good. Despite the physical nature of it, I almost went to sleep.

Earlier in the day, a tag-team from housekeeping appeared, to give my room the once-over. I'd asked at the desk for a light blanket to replace the super-efficient, one-piece, oven-like quilt on my bed. (I'd woken up several times during the previous night covered in perspiration.) Unfortunately, they brought me a blanket that was Leprechaun-sized, so it wasn't clear just which of my ends would be exposed to the elements.

As the day had looked nice out my window, I decided to venture out into the Old Town. Everything was just where I'd left it from my previous visit, which was very convenient. My first stop was a theater box office to buy tickets for some concerts later in the week. Then I wound through the cobblestone-paved alleys in the general direction of the river that divides the city. There, I crossed the famous Charles Bridge, which was filled with stalls selling paintings, jewelry, and various crafts. The tourists were out in force and I chatted with a woman from Bavaria. I came across a jazz quintet that included trumpet, double bass, clarinet, and banjo. The percussion section consisted of a metal washboard with two small cymbals attached, which the man played using metal thimbles on his fingers or with a pair of egg whisks. I stood there for 15 minutes tapping my toes as the lead singer, a white Czech guy, did a pretty good imitation of Louis Armstrong singing "What a Wonderful World" and "When the Saints go Marching In." Soon after, the band packed up for the day and I made a small donation.

A light breeze blew down the river and there were some tour boats and a group of kayakers moving up and down. I walked all the way across the long bridge and a little way on the other side before turning around. On the way home, next to the famous astronomical clock that performs several times each day, I spied a gelato stand where I had a small cone of hazelnut ice cream. It was altogether satisfactory.

I was back in my room at 19:00, where I treated myself to a glass of ice-cold milk. Then it was time to bring this diary up to date, and to write postcards to twin boys in California.

At 20:15, I looked at the time, and thought, "After all that exercise and fresh air, I'm no longer tired. So, what's next?" The answer was easy. I headed back to the fitness room, got naked, again, had a hot shower, and assumed the position on a bench, again. However, this time there would be none of that massaging business; no, this would involve some serious hanky-panky sauna time. I poured several ladles of cold water over the hot coals and lay flat on a bench with my head on a wooden support. The roof was a high dome that was floodlit from recessed lights, which seemed to be changing between white, yellow, lime green, and pink. Either that or I was hallucinating from dehydration! After 10 minutes, a middle-aged Polack man from Gdansk joined me and we chatted a bit. Then when we went outside to cool off, we shared a newspaper, and he had many questions; I got a good reminder of Polish history, and how things were going there these days. Then we went back into the steam for another session, after which I had a not-too-cold shower. It was all quite enjoyable.

[Diary] At noon, I was back in the fitness room with Luci. Even though we were old friends by now, she didn't ask me to strip naked; I only had to take off my shirt. For 30 minutes, she worked on my hands and arms, and then she spent another 30 minutes on my neck, head, and face. We chatted a bit and I found that this was her second job; her main job was being a pre-school teacher.

Back in my room, I packed up my computer bag and put on some casual-business clothes. I stepped out into sunshine with a cool breeze and walked the 10 minutes to my meeting place. There, I met eight other colleagues from six countries: Japan, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, UK, and US. We had a meeting for 2½ hours, which really didn't achieve anything other than to let some delegates restate their old positions and to dig in their heels further. Afterwards, the Chinese delegation made a presentation on a new idea they had. I left at 17:00 and walked back to my hotel. Fifteen minutes later, I was having a conference via Skype with a colleague who was attending meetings in Switzerland.

[Diary] At 18:30, my Czech friend of 18 years, Robin, arrived at my hotel, and we walked to my favorite restaurant nearby for three hours of eating and conversation. My pork ribs in gravy were divine as was the large mug of grapefruit lemonade. We topped it off with apple strudel and whipped cream. Afterwards, I walked Robin back to the subway station, and then went and had several sessions in the sauna.

[Diary] I headed out in warm sunshine and walked 15 minutes to St. Michael monastery, where I joined 25 other patrons for a musical concert. I sat in the front row several arms'-length from the performers. Promptly at 18:30, the concert began, alternating with a female singer and male clarinet/saxophone player. Both were accompanied by a pianist. The theme was Broadway musicals, and without a doubt, the highlight was the sax and piano rendition of Rhapsody in Blue. It was 60 minutes of non-stop professional music.

After a 30-minute break, another 1-hour concert started, but this time it was classical with a good dose of Baroque. The singer from the first performance sang quite a few numbers and she did a great job, especially with Ave Maria and Amazing Grace. Three musicians played violins while the fourth played cello.

It was a glorious night out, so I walked to the river and out on the Charles Bridge. There a couple was playing well-known Baroque pieces on violin and accordion. They were so good, I stayed and listened for at least 15 minutes after which I gave them a generous donation. Back in my room, I ended my last day in Prague with a glass of cold, whole milk.

[Diary] The breakfast area was completely empty, just my five personal attendants and me. Really! Fortunately, they didn't hover too close to my table. I had a light meal and packed a sandwich for my trip. Afterwards, I dropped by the supermarket to rescue a liter of pear juice. Back in my room, I got my last email fix and closed my luggage and computer bag. Friendly Michaela was working the front desk, and as she'd remembered my name the whole week, I gave her a block of my finest Milka chocolate with hazelnuts. I settled my bill and walked out into a quite cool morning. It was 08:00, but busy for a Saturday morning, especially as I got closer to the main train station. Many people were going on the train with their hiking or bike-riding gear.

My train, Regional 1543, was listed on the main board, but no platform had been assigned, so I waited there for 10 minutes. Up flashed 7J, so I headed off in search of that. Signage was decidedly lacking, and I recalled the difficulty I'd had the last time there. I found my platform, but was at the wrong end, way away from the train! Don't you hate that when that happens? The good news was that the First-Class carriage was at the very end of the train, nearest to me. There were nine 6-person compartments, and even though it was a Saturday, I'd paid to reserve a seat. However, I'd forgotten to ask for a forward-looking seat, and got one looking backward, against the window. By the time we pulled out the station at 09:36, three whole minutes late, two other people had seen fit to sit in MY compartment.

We went due south through an industrial area with numerous high-rise apartment buildings. Then the countryside opened up and it was all rolling hills of green cereal crops, some bales of hay, and green fields topped with white flowers. In the distance, I saw a couple of yellow flowering fields of rapeseed. Mid-morning, I had an unnecessary snack, and as I was eating my Lay's potato chips (a very popular brand in the US) I started reading the back of the packet. The bag was packed in Poland, and the labelling on the back came in a multitude of languages: Estonian, Latvian, Lithuanian, Czech, Slovakian, Hungarian, Polish, and English.

[Diary] I'd known about the accommodation website www.airBnB.com for some years, but didn't use it until August 2013 when I stayed three nights in Amsterdam. That first experience was so good I thought I'd try it again. Anyone with a room to rent short-term, and who can comply with the rules, can join. I found this place in Salzburg, on-line within minutes and paid about US$60/night. The resident was at a wedding reception, but had arranged for his father to meet me. He got me oriented and then we sat and talked for 30 minutes, which was just an excuse for me to pat his dog, who was so smart he understood German! The apartment was quite large, had large windows over a small park, and a fresh breeze wafted through. After I unpacked a few things, I set up my computer, was connected to the outside world, and started working on this diary.

[Diary] Around 13:30, I ventured out to meet the day. It was quite warm with a gentle breeze. I walked to the bus stop and several minutes later a Number 6 arrived. I rode it three stops and then walked to the river to cross on a large pedestrian bridge. Both railings were chain-wire mesh and they were covered with padlocks with lovers' names attached, something I'd seen in a number of countries. On the other side of the river, there was a very long row of stalls along a river walk. They were selling all sorts of crafts, clothing, and food. I soon heard a distinctive noise, an Australian Aboriginal didgeridoo. A man was playing it along with a percussion instrument. Further down, there was a booth selling jewelry made from Australian opals.

From there I wandered the back streets and alleys of the Old Town, sticking my head in churches, courtyards, and shops as the mood took me. In an attempt to improve my Kulcha-quotient, I paid €7 to go into the Salzburg Museum. It contained a mixture of art, ceramics, photos, and film, and covered history, architecture, and World War I when this area was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

I stopped to take the occasional photo and to people-watch. It was a gorgeous day to be out, and every hundred meters there was another outdoor eating-place. I crossed back over the river and headed home through a park containing some abstract sculptures. I'd only been out three hours, but that was enough. Besides, I had to leave something for the next visit!

[Diary] At 18:00, I headed out to a restaurant across the street whose menu I'd perused the night before. A pleasant young waitress seated me in the sunshine in the biergarten, and after my attempts at German, she asked if I'd like an English menu. I took both, and switched to the English one whenever I needed something translated. I ordered the chicken cordon blue, which came with parsley-covered boiled potatoes and some berry sauce along with a mixed salad. I washed that down with a glass of apricot juice. It was a lot of food, so I took my time. A big-screen TV was showing a World Cup soccer game. Once again, I had no room for apple strudel; bugger! I read some chapters of my novel and worked on this diary. Diners came and went, and a small boy at the next table worked on filling his pockets with gravel.

[Diary] After a small breakfast complete with a custom mug of milch-café, I headed out to play tourist. It was quite hot out, so I kept in the shade as much as possible, which included a walk through a nice park. In 15 minutes, I was across the river in the old town and winding my way through back alleys in search of the funicular railway that went up to the famous castle of the Salzburg Prince-Bishops.

I paid €11:50 for a return ticket, admission to the castle, an audio tour, and several museum admissions. Although I saved some energy and perspiration by riding the tram up, once inside the castle and its grounds, I still had many stairs some of which were quite steep for an old man. I—and most tourists with whom I spoke—gave the organizers a failing grade for the lack of signs, especially for the tours included in our ticket. The view from the top was very nice. You could see so far, it took two people to look! Two hours there was more than enough, and as I rode the tram back down, I chatted with a Canadian couple. They were travelling with a group down the river. More than 100 Aussies were on their boat, and as I walked around the castle and town, I heard their accents.

I walked along the river a good way in the shade before crossing over and entering the grounds of the summer castle and its Mirabell Gardens. Flowers of all shapes and sizes abounded along with manicured lawns and large fountains with statutes. From there it was quite a hike back home.

Once I got my shoes off and splashed some cold water on my face, I was ready for a large glass of ice-cold milk. It sure tasted good and represented one of life's simple pleasures. Then I settled down to business email, which led to a 30-minute phone call with a colleague in Hawaii, 10 hours behind me. Afterwards, I posted the June essay to my blog.

[Diary] I packed my gear and got my final email fix just as my host got back from grocery shopping. We chatted a while and then I departed soon after 11:30. It had rained heavily that morning, but was clearing up as I walked to the bus stop. After only a few minutes, my bus arrived and I managed to convince the driver to sell me a ticket to the main train station. All of the city buses ran on electricity, so there were many overhead wires. It took 20 minutes to get to the station, and then I had to find out where the 120 bus to Mattsee departed from. I finally asked a bus-company employee who pointed me in the right direction. However, my bus had just left, and I had a 30-minute wait for the next one.

The bus trip was comfortable and pleasant with quite a few passengers. We had many stops and passed through a number of large towns and small villages on the 25-km drive. The end of the line was near my destination, Mattsee, the town in which my friend, Renate, lived. She had given me directions to her house, and as I got off at the town shop, I asked another passenger to confirm, and she sent me in the wrong direction. However, a young woman at a restaurant came to my rescue and gave me a map of the town. Soon after, I was knocking on Renate's front door.

We had met in the summer of 1989 when she was our second guest through the American Host Program. European teachers and librarians who were fluent in English came to the US for 30 days where they stayed with host families for 10 or 15 days to experience American culture first-hand. My family and I visited her and her mother in Mattsee in 1992, and my brother-in-law, Colin, and I visited again in 1996. However, although we'd kept in phone and email contact over the years, we hadn't seen each other in 18 years. When I saw her, she looked the same to me, and she was enjoying her retirement from teaching.

The weather improved as the day wore on, and she proposed we head up into the surrounding mountains for a nice walk through the fields and forests. It certainly was a little piece of Paradise. At the top, we climbed a wooden tower and looked out over the valley. We came home by a different path that brought us along the lake and yacht club where Renate keeps her boat and teaches children how to sail. We caught up with a lot of each other's news along the way, and so we didn't notice we were exercising. We walked at least six kilometers.

We had some pastries and drinks for a late afternoon tea after which Renate had an engagement for 90 minutes. I pulled up a chair in the sun in the garden, and finished my novel. Having less than my sleep quota the night before, that caught up with me and I fell asleep sitting up in the chair. We sat down to a late supper around 20:15 when we had hausgemacht (homemade) soup with semolina dumpling-like thingies. By then it was 22:00 and I was thinking about sleep. Lights out soon after.

[Diary] At 09:00, we sat down to breakfast outdoors. The sun was streaming down and all was right in this little corner of the world. I savored fresh bread rolls with ham and hausgemacht orange marmalade.

By 10:00, we were packed and on the road to our next adventure, hiking at the top of a mountain. After a short drive, we reached the parking lot of the cable car that would take us to the top of Der Untersberg. We had 30 minutes to wait for the next car, so we sat outdoors in the sunshine drinking milk coffee, which was served with a piece of chocolate; very civilized! As the car ascending the steep slope, the clouds came in and visibility was quite limited when we got off. We walked over the rocks and some loose gravel, and the wind came up a bit. Occasionally, the clouds cleared and we could see way down to the valley below. We went all the way to the top of the mountain, but couldn't see through the fog. On the walk back at the cable car station, it rained lightly, but got heavier as we went inside. We looked at the restaurant menu to see if they had any hausgemacht soup, which they did. Renate had the goulashsuppe and I had the würstsuppe with noodles. Mine was "just like Grandma used to make", and, with some bread, it was just the right amount of food. By the time we got back to our car, the sun was out; however, light rain continued to fall. The locals call this "liquid sun".

By the time we got back home it was 16:30, time for afternoon tea. We consumed some pastries whose use-by date was 15 minutes later, and Renate made me her style of milch-café. Afterwards, we walked a short way to a new car museum created by the grandson of the creator of the Porsche car brand. All the old cars are registered and are driven on a regular basis. Some are available to rent. Back home, I set up my laptop in Renate's office and started working on this diary while listening to an album by Andrea Bocelli.

We had a late supper of wurst with salad and talked until late. Lights out by 22:30.

[Diary] We headed out of town for a 75-minute drive to the south. We spent a long day in the National Park along the Groβglockner Hochalpenstrasse some 7,000 feet up. We drove the 45 kms of the winding mountain road. There was quite a bit of traffic especially motor cycles. Entrance to the park for the day cost €43! The views were spectacular. The deep glacial valleys were braced on each side by green pastures and mountainsides right up to the snow line. There was quite a bit of snow left from the winter, and it's possible to have snowfall in the summer as well. We parked at the end of the road where we met Renate's friend, Johanna. The remnants of a glacier were below us. We visited some exhibitions and then had a nice lunch. We'd planned a hike there, but that route would not open until July 1, so we drove a short way back to a small restaurant set down a steep slope from a parking area. We hiked a kilometer or so down and across a lush, green field among some grazing cows, where we jumped across a raging stream that came down from a waterfall further up the mountain. A marmot (US: groundhog) was guarding his burrow nearby and watched as we passed. Back at the restaurant, I had another bowl of soup while the ladies had apple strudel and coffee. It was all very civilized.

[Diary] It was another glorious day outside, so we put on our walking shoes and headed out through the neighborhood and to the lake where we toured the very nice swimming club and playground. (Rumor has it that Big Kid Rex was seen riding one of the kiddie rocking horses.) From there, we dropped by the boat-rental place, and then at the sailing club, of which Renate is a member. It's a very nice facility, and Renate proudly showed off her refurbished sailboat, which is made of brightly varnished mahogany. We walked into town and sat in the sun while sipping coffee and chatting. It was all hard work, but someone has to do it, right?

At noon, after we took photos of each other in the garden by Renate's house, we said our "Goodbyes". Now friends help you move, good friends help you move bodies, and great friends pick up with you where they left off, even if that was 18 years ago. Renate is a great friend!

It was another Travel Day; another city in another country. I walked the few hundred yards to the bus stop. Three young women were already waiting. Compared to them, I looked boringly normal. The first was dressed as a Goth and was busy with her music player. The second was wearing a top that she had thrown on as she left the house, and she nearly missed! Inside one upper arm, she had a large amount of tattooed text. The third was also dressed completely in black, and she had a large tattoo on her shoulder. Half her head was shaved, and the other half had long hair that was dyed bright red. She had a small ring through her bottom lip. I couldn't decide which of the three I should take home to meet Mother!

The bus arrived at least 10 minutes late, and quite a few students boarded, and by the time I got on, it was quite full. I sat down next to a girl, who immediately decided I fit the profile of suspicious-old-men-her-mother-had-warned-her-about, and she escaped to safety on the other side of the aisle. Several stops later, a large group of students boarded with lots of luggage; apparently, they were headed out on a trip.

When I walked into the Salzburg Hauptbahnhof, the train to München was just leaving. Don't you just hate that when that happens? I went to buy a ticket, but found it a bit confusing. There was a long line at the ticket for the Austrian train company and a very short one for Germany's Deutsche Bahn. After I asked for help, I was directed to the DB line where I chatted with two American women. I bought a First-Class ticket with a reserved seat, and was directed to the First-Class Lounge next door. There I had a drink and some nuts, and chatted with a family from Oregon.

At 12:50, I headed for Gleis (Track) 1 where my train awaited, and a conductor pointed me towards Wagen 262, Sitzplatz 76. Well don't you know there was a couple in MY compartment and the man was sitting in MY seat! We greeted each other in German and after a few sentences, I knew they weren't native speakers, so I asked where they were from. Melbourne, bloody Australia. Fair suck of the sauce bottle, Cyril! Which, roughly translated from Orstralyan means, Strewth! or Stone the Flamin' Crows, Bruce! (Is that clear? Probably not.)

As we bounced along in the glorious sunshine through lush, green pastures, it was boringly beautiful. I cleaned out my collection of papers, used tickets, and the other flotsam and jetsam of travel, and worked on my diary while eating delicious, fresh cherries from Renate's neighbors' garden. I chatted with the Aussies off and on. They were on their annual 6-week tour of Europe, and he was a professional musician who was performing along the way.

We arrived in München on time, at 15:40, and I went in search of a bank to change my leftover Czech money. The cashier politely directed me the Tourist Office a couple blocks away. There I got a city map and information about getting to my hotel and the airport on Sunday morning.

[Diary] At 11:00, it was time to head out on my cultural tour. It was hot, so I kept to the shady side of the street. Soon, I was at the famous square, Marienplatz, with its Town Hall complete with performing figures and bells. I arrived a few minutes after the production began, and watched along with a few thousand of my close friends. I seemed to recall that it looked a lot like it did when I last saw it, 22 years earlier.

From there, I took a fortuitous wrong turn and found myself at the Viktualienmarkt, a large plaza with many stalls selling food, beer, fruit, vegetables, and crafts. A maypole stood there and some sort of ceremony regarding beer and brewing was taking place. Hundreds of men milled around in traditional Bavarian costumes. Four large beer wagons each pulled by a team of four beautiful horses stood nearby.

Next stop was the Hofbräuhaus, the famous beer-drinking hall. As it was early in the day, only a few tourists were inside drinking. I took some photos of the ceiling and the metal stands where regular patrons keep their beer steins locked up. Out front, a mime was performing.

For my Kulcha fix, I dropped into the former royal palace complex, the Residenz Museum. Knowing that it would be "over the top", I bought just the basic ticket, forgoing all the extra rooms and smaller museums one could visit. It was room after room of huge wall tapestries, ornate furniture, elaborate ceilings, and gold-covered everything! Although all the contents were moved out during WWII, almost all the buildings were destroyed, so much of it had been reconstructed.

I walked back to my hotel through the market. By the time I got my shoes off in my room, my legs were complaining about all the work they'd done in recent days. I tried napping, but that didn't work; I was simply too tired to sleep! So, what to do, but sip on a bottle of cold Coke while working on this diary while off in the distance some church bells pealed out a tune for quite a long time.

I finished off a travel essay for my blog, and worked on some other personal projects. Around 17:45, I was thinking about going out for my last supper and a walk, but the Heavens opened and the rain came down quite heavily. It cooled things down and left a fresh smell in the air. I had my large window wide open throughout to get the full effect. After 30 minutes, the rain stopped, so I went out in search of just the right place for just the right meal. After 10 minutes of walking around, I found the end of the rainbow, a small snack bar near my hotel. All the young staff were friendly. I had a large bowl of creamy potato soup with large bits of sausage in it along with a liberal dose of fresh parsley. "Was it good?" you ask. Well let's just say that it was the kind of soup that your Grandma wished she could make! Even before getting the soup, I was dreaming about dessert, but, once again, I had no room, so I settled on a very nice, large mug of hot chocolate. As I finished up, the kitchen crew was shutting down for the day.

I walked a number of blocks down a pedestrian shopping area, and as I passed a bakery, the aromas coming out the door lured me in. However, I was very disciplined and only looked. I figured that with each sniff I took in 50 calories!

Back in my room, I worked on this diary while listening to an album by Elton John. Lights out at 22:30; asleep much later!

[Diary] I was awake at 07:00, before my 07:30 alarm. I'd had the window open all night, and it had been pleasant. Light rain was falling. After a quick shower, I packed my gear. As the front desk was not yet open, I dropped my key in the night-box and stepped out into a light drizzle. The city was quiet at that hour, and it took me 15 minutes to walk to the central train station, where I rescued breakfast from a bakery, and bought a ticket for the S-Bahn to the airport. I walked up to Track 26, and less than a minute after I boarded, the doors closed and we were off. Apparently, the train had been waiting just for me! It took 40 minutes and the passengers were all very subdued. The young American couple opposite me was reading a very thick Lonely Planet guide to Western Europe. They were on their last leg of a 6-week trip around the continent. As I ate my ham and cheese croissant and drank the last of my rhubarb nectar, I was pretty sure I was the only person in the greater München area (maybe even the world!) to be having that for breakfast that morning.

At MUC, I found my way to the United Airlines Business-Class counter where a young woman from New Mexico politely ran me through the security checks. I said goodbye to my luggage, and went through security and passport control. The Lufthansa Business Lounge was ever so happy to have me as a guest. I gathered up some English-language newspapers and a banana for the flight, and found a worktable in a secluded corner where I sipped my hot chocolate while sorting through photos and bringing this diary up to date.

Soon after 10:30, I ambled through the terminal arriving at Gate H8 just before boarding started. UA133 departed, on time, at 11:40. As the Boeing 767 rose up through the clouds, we had quite a bit of turbulence. The flight was more than eight hours, and I was tired, but attempts to sleep were futile. I had a very nice Thai chicken curry on rice for lunch. Then it was Movie Time! First up was Saving Mr. Banks, the story of how Walt Disney (Tom Hanks) convinced P.L. Travers (Emma Thompson) to let him make a movie version of her books on Mary Poppins. Colin Farrell played Travers' father. Next, was Winter's Tale, also starring Colin Ferrell, with Russell Crowe as the bad guy. Finally, it was Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in Gravity. All were excellent, and I found the space catastrophe scenes in Gravity to be so convincing, I was gripping my seat. Then after all that sedentary time, a nice snack was served. Touchdown at IAD was quite rough.

I was through the Immigration Express Lane, luggage, and customs in double-quick time, and was in a taxi heading for Reston in less than 40 minutes. From there, I took care of a few chores before driving home on the express toll road. It was hot out, with much hotter days to come. On the way, I picked up some groceries to tide me over until I did a full grocery shop. My house was right where I'd left it, and neighbor Mary had kept my indoor plants alive. My grass was freshly cut that morning. I spent a couple of hours unwinding from the 2-week trip, unpacking my luggage, and making some lists for the week. At 6 pm, it was lights out (despite the bright sun outside). And while I woke a few times during the night, I managed to get more than nine hours of sleep. It was good to be home and in my own bed!


I've had more than a few trips to Prague, and have enjoyed each one. I always take in a couple of concerts, and I have a favorite hotel and restaurant. Salzburg is always a great place to visit, although less so in winter. Munich has plenty to offer as well.