Master of None

January 21, 2011

Is the phrase “Jack of all trades, master of none” still used? I don’t hear it as much as I once did. Then again, there’s a lot of things I don’t hear any more.

From time to time I like to do a self-evaluation. I think it is good for the soul. So, that’s what I’m doing today.

I once had a friend ask if there was anything I couldn’t do. He then listed a number of my accomplishments and made me feel better about myself than I had in years… maybe even decades! It was a wonderful compliment.

However, when I look at it through the lens of “Jack of all trades, BUT master of none”, I wonder where I really stand.

So, let’s take inventory.

I can sing. I’ve been singing ever since my parents paraded me out in front of our relatives and their friends and had me sing “Dear Hearts and Gentle People.” I have sung in church choirs, folk groups, a college choir, a fraternity trio known as “The Horny Toads”, the Tom Fallon Singers in Pittsburgh, and currently with the group called “Nostalgia” that entertains senior citizen groups.

I have never been offered a recording contract… and most likely will not. I’m too old to audition for “American Idol”, which is their loss, and probably wouldn’t get passed the initial auditions of “America’s Got Talent”. I’ll continue to sing in obscurity.

I can cook. I grew up with three brothers (our two sisters were married and had moved out while I was still an infant). All four of us boys were active outside the home and didn’t always make it home for dinner.

Mom made it clear that she was not running a cafeteria; if we were not there at dinner time, we’d have to fend for ourselves. While Dad was always there for Mom’s meals, he also liked to mess around in the kitchen. He served as a role model for his sons, and we were all fearless.

Over time, two of my brothers and myself evolved into the primary cooks in our homes. The other brother married an Italian woman who would not allow such foolishness.

I have cooked for people at homeless shelters, religious retreat weekends, pancake breakfasts, Irish dinners, and numerous other large groups. I cook the majority of meals at home.

I have never attended a culinary arts school and have never worked in a restaurant. I will never have my own show on the food channel and I will not run around the world sampling bizarre foods.

I’m a good cook, but will never be a master chef.

I can write. In high school I loved essay tests. I would write page after page about topics I knew nothing about, and the teachers would give me a decent grade rather than take the time to read it all and discover I was practicing for my B.S. degree.

I’ve written letters, essays, poems, limericks, novels, short stories, and newspaper and magazine articles. I was paid $100 by a magazine that went bust before my article was ever printed.

That is the bottom line of my writing career – $100 for something that was never read by the general public.

I’ll never be the next Mark Twain or Stephen King.

I can produce offspring. I have three sons and a daughter.

During their childhood, I tried to be a good father. I spent many hours with them in various sports, Indian Guides, and other activities. I attended open houses, school plays, band concerts, and other school sponsored events. I helped them move into dormitories and bailed them out financially. I loaned them money to buy cars and to make mortgage and rent payments. I attended weddings, and the births of grandchildren.

Our home today would appear to have children living here all the time. We have a room full of toys and children’s videos, a sand box, and a slide from the deck down to the sand box. We have a large wading pool set up during the summer months, and we have no children living here.

I like to think I was an above average father, but never expect to be nominated for father of the year. I’m sure my children see me more as Homer Simpson than Ward Cleaver.

So, there you have it. I’m sure there are other things I could list – work with wood to build furniture, build concrete walks and steps, screen in a porch, cut down trees and clear land for a house, finish a basement (wiring and all) and renovate a kitchen. But I would never qualify as a master builder or tradesman. I also built a free-standing two-car garage that is still standing after eleven years.

But I have to be totally honest.

I can’t dance.

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On Traveling Light

January 20, 2011

As we were planning our trip to Europe, we accumulated a number of tour books and maps. One of Lu’s friends went so far as to loan us a set of DVDs produced by Rick Steves.

One of the DVDs was full of tips on traveling. That DVD followed Rick on a trip through several European countries and covered numerous topics… from best times of year to travel to best budget priced hotels.

The one topic that really got our attention was “Packing for the Trip”. I don’t recall if that was the exact title, but that definitely was the subject matter. The statement made by Rick that stuck in my mind was, “No one ever says he wished he would’ve taken more stuff with him.” Again, I may be paraphrasing, but the point is the same.

We’ve all taken trips and crammed our suitcases with stuff we never used. Those extra jeans or shirts; the books we thought we’d read while basking in the sun, or… you name it. (I’ve even been known to take pots and pans… just in case the rental cottage didn’t have what I thought I’d need. Of course, I wasn’t flying on that trip… unless the radar unit on the police car said otherwise.)

Lu and I took that message to heart. I bought a back pack that was larger than most, but within the limits of carry-on luggage. Lu used a suitcase on wheels that was also within the airlines’ limits.

The bulk of our luggage.

I have to be honest. When I was watching the video I was convinced that Rick Steves’ filming crew was carrying the rest of his luggage. That is until he set the back pack on a bed, opened it up, and showed us everything but his dirty laundry.

He had one extra pair of pants, four shirts, underwear, and socks. He also had one or two tour books, some maps, and some pages he’d torn out of various books and magazines.  He had a minimum amount of toiletries and made another key point – Every country has stores where you can buy anything you need. Furthermore (and we have found this to be true) wandering through a store with shelves loaded with products labeled in a language you cannot read is an adventure in itself! If food products didn’t include pictures on the labels, we would’ve been at a total loss.

Another key point – Other countries do have laundromats; many times they can be found in the hotel in which you are staying.

Several years ago we took a two-week trip to Hawaii and stayed in condos. Our friends at Love to Travel advised us to pack light and take advantage of the laundry facilities that would be found right in the units themselves.

We listened, but failed to heed the advice. Fortunately, we over-packed with lightweight articles. But when we found ourselves doing one or two loads of laundry… while sitting on the lanai sipping our adult beverages, we realized that we’d brought twice as much as we needed.

So, how did we make out on this trip?

I took a total of three pairs of pants. (I wore one of them on the plane,) I took a total of five shirts… again wearing one on the plane. I took the shoes I was wearing, underwear and socks for the duration, maps and guide books, and toiletries. Because we had to pass through TSA security, my toothpaste and shampoo were the small travel sized containers. I figured I probably didn’t need the shampoo, but I needed to be extravagant somewhere along the line.

I also carried a computer case. In it, I carried our digital cameras, an electric currency-converter plug thingy, our airline tickets and other travel documents, and our notebook computer.

Lu carried about the same number of interchangeable garments, her knitting stuff, and various and sundry other small items.

As for the fact that I wore the same shirts and pants multiple times, not one person came up to me and commented that they had noticed. I guess they were more interested in looking at other things.

There was one other item we took with us… a collapsible duffel bag we’d bought on a Holland America cruise some years back. It folds and zips up to the size of a hard-back book. When we were finally ready to head home, we packed that bag with all our dirty clothes and used the space in our other bags to carry the souvenirs we’d bought. We then checked the bag of dirty clothes. If the airline lost that bag, it wouldn’t have broken our hearts.

So that’s that. We tried it Rick Steves’ way and will never go back to our old ways. It really works!

Considering the number of folks who were on our river cruise without their luggage (that the airlines had lost), we’re convinced that carry-on (which forces you to travel light) is the only way to go.

By the way, I know there were several people who only had the clothes they wore on their flights to Germany, but I never noticed who was wearing the same outfit day after day. I guess they weren’t checking out our clothes either.


Germany Minus Hitler = Today’s Super Power

January 19, 2011

If you ask any American who invented the telephone, you’ll get one of two answers: “I have no idea”, or “Alexander Graham Bell”.

In truth, both answers are incorrect. Bell did invent a telephone, but not the telephone. Fifteen years before Bell’s version proved to be a marketable success, a fellow named Johann Philipp Reis, invented the first operating telephone in Germany.

Ask an American who invented the car and many folks would say, “Somebody named Ford – I think his first name was Henry.”

That answer would also be very wrong. Henry Ford was a pioneer in the auto industry, but his claim to fame was making the assembly line process work.

The first cars were invented in Germany in 1885 by Karl Benz and Gottlieb Daimler.

The list of German inventions goes on and on. Starting in 1440, when Johannes Gutenberg invented the first movable type and revolutionized the printing industry, German ingenuity has been instrumental in the technological advancements of mankind.

The gramaphone, microphone, diesel engine, X-rays, glider, cathode-ray tube, aspirin, fluorescent lamp, decaffeination process, athletic shoe, pregnancy test, and electron microscope were all invented in Germany prior to 1931.

And then, Adolf Hitler and the Nazi’s took over. After that, there was tremendous research and development in aircraft and rocket science… all for evil purposes. And the German leadership dropped significantly.

A large part of that drop off was a result of Russia and the United States capturing the brightest minds and putting them to work on their own projects. Wernher von Braun was tremendously instrumental in the development of the U.S. space program which resulted in men walking on the moon.

Since World War II, the only significant inventions to come out of Germany are the Wankel rotary engines (used in Mazdas) and the MP3 technology.

There may be other inventions of note and I welcome the input of anyone more knowledgeable than myself.

My point is that Adolf Hitler and the Nazis harmed Germany in ways that go far beyond the Holocaust and other atrocities that brought shame to the German people. Hitler’s thirst for power set Germany back a hundred years… or more.

Today, Germany is one of the strongest nations in Europe. They are a leader in economics and a key political leader among the NATO countries. They could have been so much more.

My bride and I were extremely impressed by the people and places we visited during our recent trip. It is hard to imagine what German cities looked like after the war; most have been rebuilt to reflect their pre-war glory.

Recall that their nation was split in two following the war. But in the last decade of so, the Berlin Wall has been torn down and the two Germany nations are once again a single nation.

There is no doubt in my mind that, had Hitler never come into power, and the German people simply continued to advance through peaceful means, they would most likely be the most powerful nation on earth today.

By the way, here’s something I learned while playing a trivia contest on the Delta flight to Europe. The English language was adopted by our Founding Fathers as the “official” language of the United States… by one vote. Second place? German.

Many of the original settlers in our country were of German descent. They were instrumental in building our country. Surely they could have done the same back home.


Transportation Honor System

January 18, 2011

As I begin to write today’s entry, my mind has gone back twenty-five or thirty years. I’m trying to remember how the public transit system in Vienna worked during my first visit.

I recall buying my ticket in a vending machine. Then I walked down steps to the train platform. There were no turnstiles, just steps. I boarded the train and, several stops later, I got off. I walked up the steps to the street and continued on my way.

Thus, the “Honor System” has been in use for many years in Vienna.

This same system was in use in Munich, and is probably available in many transportation systems throughout Europe.

As I continue to search my memories, I’m pretty sure it was true in Paris. We bought passes that were good for a specified period of time. When riding a bus, we simply showed the passes to the driver. When riding the Metro, we simply got on and off without much ado.

Paris Metro

In London – the foreign  city where I’ve spent the most time – my mind is foggy. For one thing, during my ten-week stay, most of my traveling was on shank’s mare.  When we did ride the public transit, it was for a specific purpose with a specific destination.

The London Tube - Mind the Gap!

On further reflection, on one of our trips to London we did buy a multiple-day pass. So, they must also have the honor system.

One-way and round-trip tickets could be purchased in every one of the cities I’ve named. But the real bargains were with the multiple day passes.

In Munich, we purchased the City Tour Card. It was good for three days travel for up to five people. It also provided discounts at many of the tourist attractions. The cost was forty-eight Euros.

Munich S-Bahn station

On the surface, that sounds expensive. That’s approximately $65. However, to put it in perspective, it cost eight Euros to get from the airport to the main train station in Munich. So, for my bride and I, that would have been thirty-two Euros for the round trip. Then, every time we rode public transit within Munich, it would have cost each of us another two and a half Euros.

We knew in advance that we would be taking one round trip on a tram. That would have been ten Euros added to the thirty-two to get back and forth from the airport. Figuring we would take additional rides just to get a “lay of the land”, the forty-eight Euros was a bargain. It would’ve been an even bigger bargain had our friends been able to join us.

By the way, those people in Atlanta who think the MARTA fare is too high should be happy; $3.50 per ride is almost double what they are currently paying.

If it wasn’t for tax dollar subsidies, MARTA would be out of business unless they raised their fares dramatically. I have no idea if the Munich and Vienna transit systems would operate in the red without tax payers’ support. I do, however, believe that they save a lot of money using the honor system.

For one thing, they have no turnstiles to install and maintain. Next, they don’t have to fuss with tokens. And the operators of the various means of transportation don’t have to deal with selling or collecting tickets.

Tickets are purchased from vending machines or small shops close to the stations. In Munich, we used a vending machine at the airport. In Vienna, we bought our tickets in a small tobacco shop.

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages is also their biggest selling point. Getting on and off a bus, tram, or train is much faster when no one is trying to pay. With no turnstiles, it is much faster to pass through a transit station.

All of these advantages encourage people to use public transit. That’s something MARTA definitely needs to do.

I have ridden MARTA from North Springs to the airport during the morning rush hour and have had no problem finding a seat. By the time the train is nearing downtown Atlanta, there may be a few people standing, but very few. People don’t ride the trains; they’d rather sit in traffic.

That brings another thought to mind. I don’t recall seeing a single parking lot in downtown Munich… nor in downtown Vienna. The only parking was on the street, and most of those spaces were taken.

In Atlanta, there are too many reasonably priced parking lots. If the City Council really wants to make MARTA a success, they need to place heavy taxes on those parking lots and discourage people from driving into downtown.

Combine that move with installing the honor system, and they can expand MARTA and quit using tax dollars to keep it afloat.

By the way, there is one major factor that helps insure the honor system works.

Security personnel spend their days getting on and off transit vehicles. Their sole purpose in life is to ensure that all riders have valid tickets. Being caught on a tram, bus, or train in Munich without the proper ticket results in a forty Euro (about $55.00) fine.

In all four of the cities I’ve mentioned, their mass transit systems are far superior to most I’ve seen in the states. The only one that comes close is New York City. It’s been a few years since I’ve been to the Big Apple, but as I recall, the cleanliness of their trains left quite a bit to be desired.

So, in summary, I think that, next to the real German and Austrian food, the most important European item that we should import is the honor system for our public transportation.

I invite your thoughts.


Cuts of Meat

January 17, 2011

Nothing like a good meter-wurst!

Before I go any further, does anyone know of a good German butcher shop anywhere near Atlanta, Georgia?

In truth, there are lots of things as good, and better, than a good meter-wurst. We discovered that throughout our travels in Germany and Austria.

Our first day in Munich found us dining at a small cafe in the VictualMarkt. I’ve always loved old fashioned market places and Munich’s is better than any I’d seen before.

The first shop we saw was a butcher chop and its front window looked similar to the photo at this flickr website. Next door to that shop was another butcher shop with a similar display. Next came, you guessed it!, another butcher shop. There were three or four before the cheese shops started. Later we saw side-by-side seafood shops, pastry shops, and produce shops. All the food items displayed looked marvelously delicious. It would’ve been easy to spend hours just grazing.

By the way, there was also a soup shop or two. It made me think of the soup Nazi on the Jerry Seinfeld Show.

Instead of buying something and standing at an outdoor table (which many folks were doing), we opted for the cafe that would allow us to sit in a warm place and enjoy being served by a waiter who spoke very little English.

The name of the cafe is the Lowenbraun Pub and I highly recommend it. We each ordered a “sampler” platter. Lu’s was various cuts of meat cooked in different ways. It included schnitzel (with breading) and similar cuts (sliced very thin) cooked without the breading. Mine was a collection of wursts.

Mine came with sauerkraut and potato salad. Lu’s had vegetables and potato dumplings. All the meats were tender and delicious. As is often the case, I was very disappointed when I found myself stuffed to the gills and unable to even think about dessert.

Of course part of our problem was the basket of pretzels and bread that was on the table even before we sat down.

Over the years, Lu and I have had numerous soft pretzels, but these were the best we’d ever tasted. (This statement holds true even after we had a humongous pretzel at the HaufBrau Haus and numerous soft pretzels at other stops along the way.)

Fortunately, I remembered the words of Rick Steves.  The bread basket is part of the honor system. It was up to us to let the waiter know how many items we consumed so the cost could be added to our bill.

The next day found us “doing lunch” at the HaufBrau Haus.

Appetizers at the HaufBrau Haus.

I have to be honest and tell you that Lu and I did not eat all of this pretzel. To imagine the size of it, think of taking two French baguettes sitting end to end. Then tie them into the shape of a pretzel.

To us, the secret that made the German soft pretzels so good was that the dough itself tasted salty. In the US, it seems the salt is only sprinkled on the outside of the finished product.

For my main course at the HaufBrau Haus, I had the crisp roast knuckle of pork (it was the “bee’s knees”; no! Make that the pig’s knee.) It was delicious.

Lu had the roast pork with crackling. They cook it in such a way that the fat on the outside gets very crispy, yet the meat remains juicy and tender. It was also delicious and much better than any roast pork I’ve ever had.

Later in the trip, I dined on pork neck and various cold cuts like I’ve never seen outside of Europe. And I’m left wondering…

Where can I find a good German butcher shop anywhere near Atlanta, Georgia?


Wonderful Winter Vacation (Day 10)

January 13, 2011

Christmas morning and we were up before the sun… thanks to the wake-up call we’d requested the night before.

Wrapping up our Christmas Gift.

This was the last day of our trip – the final chapter of the gift we gave ourselves. The trip to Germany and Austria represented our Anniversary and Christmas gifts to each other, and it was a fantastic gift.

But we still had to get home!

We knew the train would take approximately thirty minutes to get us to the airport; we just didn’t know the time-table. Thus, we had already decided to get moving as early as possible, get to the airport with plenty of time to spare, and then worry about breakfast.

We checked out of the Imperial Riding School (although I never did see the horses) and headed up the road to the train station. Our wait was less than five minutes and we were at the airport before 8:00 AM.

There was only one position open at the KLM check-in desk, and the people in front of us were taking forever. Suddenly there were about fifty people behind us in line. They must have been part of a tour group, and once one couple discovered the self-serve kiosks, the entire swarm moved over to gather around the six or seven terminals.

Suddenly it was our turn to check in. Sadly, we were informed we had to use the self-serve kiosk first. Dang!

It took a while to get our turn and once we did, the system was most uncooperative. I had a choice: I could scan our passports or key in the Reservation code. I tried both and was told I had no reservation.

Finally a young lady from KLM came over to assist me. I still have no idea what I was doing wrong, but she worked her magic and we now had boarding passes for both flights. (Our itinerary had us flying from Vienna to Amsterdam, and from Amsterdam to Atlanta.)

We then got back in line and worked our way back to the check-in counter. The only bag we checked was our handy-dandy collapsible Holland America bag that was stuffed with our dirty clothes. That gave us room for the Christmas ornaments we’d bought for our children and grandchildren.

We then made our way to the food court and had one more Continental breakfast. By the way, a true Continental breakfast includes cold cuts, cheeses, fruit, cereal, various types of bread and rolls, herrings or kippers, and coffee, tea, juice, and milk. The next time that hotel in the US serves you Danish and coffee; ask them where the rest of it is.

We still had to go through security, but we had plenty of time.

Surprisingly, security at the Vienna airport did not require us to remove our shoes. Nor did they insist on a full-body scan or pat-down. Think back to what we went through prior to 9/11.

Soon we were squeezed into a plane and on our way to Amsterdam. I think this is what surprised me most about our trip. I’d expected very few people to be flying on Christmas Day. Perhaps that was true and the airlines simply cut back on their flights. In any case, both of our flights were absolutely stuffed with travelers.

A few years ago Lu and I had passed through the Amsterdam airport, so we knew what to expect. Instead of having one centralized security point, they have one at every gate. Perhaps the original design of their terminal gave them no choice.

At this checkpoint, we did get the pat-down. They had no multimillion dollar scanners, so they had no choice. The American government insists that anyone flying to the US be frisked. The gentleman who frisked me apologized and said people flying to the US were the only ones treated to this special service.

Aside from being unbelievably cramped in a jumbo jet, the flight was uneventful – just long… very long. In reading the KLM in-flight magazine I discovered that they had changed the configuration of the plane’s seating and made the first several rows in economy class a bit more inviting – and expensive. They’d added 10 centimeters of leg-room to each seat.

That’s about 4 inches.

Now, I have to ask, where did those 4 inches come from? I’m sure at least 3 of them came from my allotment.

I had my special circulation-inducing socks on and I did my best to exercise my calves from time to time, but I was thrilled when the plane came to a stop and I was able to stand up. We had arrived almost an hour early, but that created a problem – there was no place to park! We had to wait until the plane that was loading at our gate completed the process and moved.

Finally we were able to disembark. Now, we had to go through customs and pick up our luggage (dirty clothes).

I thought we were home free at that point. Wrong! We had to pass through US security once more. I’m still not convinced of the necessity of this step, but off came the shoes and belt, out came the computer. I walked through the metal detector and, even before the alarm sounded I knew I’d blown it. I’d forgotten to take the cell-phone out of my pocket.

Surprisingly, the TSA agent allowed me to step back, put my cell phone on the conveyor and try again.

Perhaps that was his way of saying “Merry Christmas”. In the past when I’ve forgotten to remove a belt or something else obvious, I was not permitted to step back and have a do-over. The TSA agents I’ve encountered in the past seemed to relish such situations. All I can say is I am deeply grateful. We were soon on our way out… into the snow.

We had parked at the Crown Plaza and I called to request their shuttle. I figured that their regular schedule would be pushed aside on Christmas Day. Once again I was wrong. I was informed that there should be one arriving within minutes.

Sure enough it was arriving as we got to the pick-up point. The snow was falling harder now, but I wasn’t worried… yet.

It didn’t take long to clear the snow off the car and within a short time we were on our way out of the parking lot. I followed the instructions at the electronic gate and was instructed to insert my credit card to pay what I owed. I figured I might be an hour or two over what I had previous paid, but was not prepared when the $98.00 figure flashed before my eyes.

After a relatively calm discussion with the folks at the hotel’s desk, we were again on our way.

We live approximately sixty miles north of the airport. The Interstate south of Atlanta was wet, as was the highway through the city. However, once we left I-85 and got onto Georgia 400, the wet pavement turned to white pavement.

We pressed onward and I was thankful for the meal KLM served about an hour prior to our landing. Had we needed to stop to eat, we may have spent the night in a Waffle House.

The roads grew progressively worse as we neared our home and I began to wonder if we’d be able to make it up our driveway.

We did, and sad to say, that was the end of our Wonderful Winter Vacation.

I realize I did not include many photos in this section, but since I have lots I have not yet included in this series of articles, I’ll add some now.

In the meantime, watch this space. Now that I’ve gotten back into the habit of writing, I plan on doing it on a more regular basis.

Munich

Nuremburg

Nuremburg Christmas Market

Regensburg - Franchise opportunity?

A Church in Passau

A real shoemaker in Vienna


Wonderful Winter Vacation (Day 9)

January 7, 2011

December 24th was our last day aboard the MS Amadeus Diamond. We had to leave the ship no later than 9:00 AM because they had to sail to Linz, Austria to prepare for their next cruise.

We had signed up for a taxi, and tried to make it perfectly clear that we were not traveling a great distance. Most of the people requesting cabs were headed for the airport… a trip that would cost them at least 30 Euros. We were headed for Nussdorf, less than a mile or two away.

After we finished our breakfast and said our farewells to the crew members who had taken care of us so well, we retrieved our luggage and prepared to depart. When we turned in our room key for the last time, they returned our passports and we were ready to set off on the final day of our wonderful winter vacation.

A note to first time travelers: When we boarded the cruise ship, we surrendered our passports. Whenever we left the ship for a tour, we were given boarding passes to prove we belonged with that ship. Had we found ourselves in trouble with the local authorities, the boarding passes would’ve led us to the place where we’d be able to show our passports and prove our identities… prior to being thrown into the slammer.

While no one ever stated what I thought was obvious, by holding our passports, the crew of the ship forced us to pay any outstanding bills before taking off for parts unknown.

In case you’re wondering, my camera was packed away at this time. So I took no pictures until after we had checked into our hotel.

The crew announced that our taxis had arrived, and the mass exodus began. I tried to make it clear that “our” taxi might be different… one who was prepared for a short trip and a shorter pay day. No one would listen and we were soon sitting in the back seat of a car with a driver who was less than pleased.

Our driver tried to convince us that he was perfectly capable of taking us to the airport. When we finally got him to understand that we were staying in Vienna for another day, he quickly volunteered to take us to the hotel. There was no doubt he was not a happy camper.

That all changed when I paid him about four times what was on the meter. I truly felt for him and figured he probably made out better with the very large tip. Had he driven us any further, the tip wouldn’t have been as large and, more importantly, the cash I gave him would have been part of the fare – money he would’ve had to turn into his boss. His demeanor changed dramatically and we wished each other a Merry Christmas.

Our savings from buying the 48 hour transit pass was significantly reduced, but neither Lu nor I minded one bit. We made the cabbie’s Christmas a little merrier and we were right on schedule to catch the tram that would take us to the U-Bahn that would take us to the tram that would take us to our hotel. All was right with the world!

We performed a small experiment on the way to our hotel; we waited until the stop after the Imperial Riding School before getting off the tram. Not only was it a shorter walk, we discovered an S-Bahn station where we could catch the train to the airport. Prior to that discovery, we were thinking we would have to backtrack a good deal to find the proper station.

As with the hotel in Munich, we were pleasantly surprised when they allowed us to immediately go to our room. I think part of our success resulted from the fact that both hotels had more vacant rooms than normal. They didn’t have to wait for housekeeping to prepare rooms for new guests.

As soon as we were settled in, we headed back to the inner-circle of Vienna. My goal was to see if I could find the hotel I stayed at back in the 1980s. Beyond that, we would simply wander around and do whatever seemed interesting. I was now re-armed with my camera!

Lu eventually figured it out.

We took the “O” back to the U-bahn station and traveled to the tram station where I thought we could catch a tram that did nothing more than make continuous loops around the inner-circle. I wanted to get back to the channel in front of the IBM building.

This looked like the winner!

We boarded the Ring Tram and immediately recognized our mistake. A man approached us with ear phones and guide books and asked for payment for the guided tour. We told him we had made a mistake and got off at the next stop.

We then consulted our transit map and took the next regular tram that would take us to the waterfront.

We got off at the “river” and walked across the bridge. I’m not sure it was the same bridge I stood on during my first visit, but it certainly felt the same. The major difference was that I now knew I was not looking at the Danube.

We walked past the IBM building and tried to locate the hotel I stayed at during my earlier visit. It was a losing battle. My memory was not at all sufficient to guide me to my destination. However, we did find something interesting.

St. Peter’s church?

The beautiful carving seemed to depict St. Peter being led to his own crucifixion.

We soon gave up trying to find that hotel. It may have gone out of business decades ago. We decided to simply wander around until we saw something of interest. Unfortunately, the first thing that jumped out at us was a great price on schnitzel.

In Vienna, any place to grab a bite to eat that is right on the street front has very little seating; most of their business is the “to go” variety. Finding a place to sit down comfortably to eat your snack or meal is a bit of a challenge. We were lucky? We found two places that were side by side. The one was an Irish Pub.

No offense to the Irish – I love Irish food and drink – but we were in Austria. I wanted something that fit in with our surroundings.

We walked into the alley way that led to the Austrian restaurant and were soon seated at a table that would have done the best North Georgia Bar-B-Que place proud. It looked to be hand-hewn out of Georgia pine.

Lu ordered a sandwich and I ordered some sort of chicken dish. Chicken seemed to be a rarity in Germany and Austria; their dishes were usually heavy on the pork and beef. I also ordered a dark beer. When I asked the waiter if he was sure of what I wanted, he responded by saying, “A large glass of dark beer”. He knew precisely what I wanted. Whatever he brought with the beer would’ve been fine with me.

Lu wasn’t able to finish her sandwich and wrapped half of it in a napkin to take with us. This was a good move because we had already been warned that most of Vienna would close down in the middle of the afternoon.

The people in Austria – and Germany – celebrate Christmas with their families on the evening of December 24th. It seems that December 25th is just another day.

Thus, it was important for us to have our evening meal taken care of long before the evening. Otherwise, we would go hungry. So, at this point, Lu was taken care of and I was on the outside looking in.

Following lunch, we roamed the city some more.

A shop that would interest my sons.

Lu and I didn’t go into this little shop, but it immediately reminded me of my sons. They are big fans of comic books and have invested quite a bit of money into uncirculated titles. Hopefully, those comic books will pay off like the baseball trading cards that I threw away as a child would have.

Christmas Markets were everywhere.

The thing that made this market unique was that it was operated by two international Service clubs. This stall was run by the LIONS.

Kiwanis Booth.

This one was sponsored by the Kiwanis.

In our wanderings we soon came across something that our “official” tour guide had completely ignored. Roman ruins had been discovered beneath the street and were uncovered by archaeologists.

Ruins of a Roman settlement.

Another view of the ruins.

Yet another view.

I have no idea why our guide did not point these out to us. We were less than fifty feet away! In any case, we found them and they are most interesting.

So often during our trip, the Roman Empire was acknowledged. They were (and are) a civilization to be reckoned with!

From that point on, it was more of the same and I took very few photographs. Besides, we were running out of steam and getting concerned about finding a restaurant open for dinner. Lu had her dinner packed away, but – unless she’d be willing to share – I was about to go hungry.

We found our way back to a transit stop and began our transfers back to the hotel. We took a closer look at the train station near our hotel to be sure we could catch the train to the airport and found a restaurant nearby that was still open. I bought a sandwich and a beer to go and Lu bought a dessert for us to share. We then walked back to the hotel and settled in for a quiet Christmas Eve.

We ate our dinner and settled in to watch whatever Austria deemed important enough to televise on such an auspicious date. We soon fell asleep. I guess we were even more tired than we thought.

Tomorrow – the trip home: One last adventure!