7/01/01: Larissa - Kalambaka: After a breakfast of prepackaged croissants we caught a bus to Kalambaka at the foot of the Meteora Monasteries. So impressed by his first visit, Carlos felt Scott had to see them since he missed them while at the wedding. We quickly checked into a hotel and took a taxi to the Grand Meteoran Monastery to start our hike along the string of pillar perched monasteries. We also made stops at the Varlaam Monastery, St. Stephanos Nunnery, to rile up the nuns, and Agios Triados to eat more turkish delight with brother John. We met Kelly, from Vancouver, along the way and all hiked back down to town along the impressive sheer cliffs. After a short but powerful thunderstorm that knocked out all the lights in town we met Kelly for dinner with views of the lit up pillars (the power came back on eventually). Not used to expending so much energy compared to the beach days on the Greek Isles we crawled into bed tired pups.
7/02/01: Kalambaka - Thessaloniki: We spent most of the morning and midday training it to Thessaloniki. Once there we found a nice hotel and updated the website. It had been 10 days since our last update and our audience had grown restless. During the evening we walked around the port, had dinner, and faced a daunting task. Which one of the more than 20 portside cafes filled with young Thessalonikians were we going to patronize. Once the decision was made we enjoyed the rest of the relaxing evening.
7/03/01: Thessaloniki - Sofia: Having spent about 3 weeks lounging around Greece, it was time for some serious traveling again. A journey into an Eastern European country and to a country that neither one of us had been to before since Paraguay, Bulgaria seemed like a good destination. That was until the first couple Bulgarian people we met asked : "Why would you want to come to our country?" That left us a little unsettled, but we pressed ahead to our 21st country. We checked into a great hotel room complete with a couch, satelite TV and a jacuzzi tub and then discovered the wonders of a strong dollar. We ate a great dinner with a couple of beers each for 5 Dollars each. So far so good.
7/04/01: Sofia: We woke up to a beautiful July 4th and as we were new in town and had no barbeques to go to, we did the next best thing and ate at McDonalds. The rest of the day we toured Sofia visiting old churches, a mosque, the old Communist Party Headquarters, some nice parks and monuments. For dinner we went to State Side, an American theme restaurant, in search of a July 4th party. We spent the evening listening to a live band in the company of a few marines from the US Embassy and some software people from Orlando. With no fireworks in sight we ended the night at Caramba, a latin club, proving to people we really were from California.
7/05/01: Sofia: After our crazy 4th of July in Bulgaria celebration we spent a mellow day hanging out around our favorite places in Sofia. The street to the internet agency with its constant flow of works of art, Happy Grill, and State Side where we had possibly the best Brownie and Ice Cream ever. Ok, maybe it is because we miss a familiar taste of America and we are half way around the world, but it was GOOD! Most of the rest of the night was spent taking about the brownie.
7/06/01: Sofia - Varna: From Sofia we took a 6 and a half hour bus ride through the Bulgarian countryside to the "summer wonderland" city of Varna on the Black Sea coast. Our first female cab driver of the entire trip was not above charging us the special tourist fare and we arrived at Hotel Odessa. A walk around the waterside revealed an impressive nightlife infrastructure. Varna delivered that night as we were impressed by the hoards of Bulgarians dancing the night away at the gigantic outdoor clubs.
7/07/01: Varna: Today was all about the right intentions with not exactly the expected outcomes. Our beach day came quickly to an end with a powerful thunderstorm complete with large hail stones. One of those famour Black Sea beach days we had read about. Not exactly. Always happy to find a Mexican restaurant, El Taco would surely satisfy our south of the border cravings. Carlos: "Do you have enchiladas?" Waitress: "No" Carlos: "Quesadillas?" Waitress: "What is this? No." Carlos: "Tacos?" Waitress: "No!" Carlos: "But it is the name of your restaurant." Real Mexican food, not exactly. For the evening we hung out with Katia and Jenya for some traditional Bulgarian drinks, dancing and atmosphere. Carlos quickly realized how rusty his Bulgarian is but we enjoyed exchanging descriptions of what life is like in our respective countries. Was everything understood? Not exactly.
7/08/01: Varna: Starting late in the day we had lunch at happy Grill and then caught a "Men of Honor" matinee. Somehow the day passed by and we found ourselves not learning from our mistakes and we gave Bulgarian mexican food a second try at a different restaurant. Not quite there, but very tasty. Shortly thereafter we went to sleep.
7/09/01: Varna - Bucharest: Today we spent 8 hours on trains to Romania. Unfortunately the trains were moving for only 4 of those hours while we sweated the other 4. Strangely we needed a note from mom as our entry card and then we proceeded to fumigate ourselves as the train pulled through the pesticide wash with the windows down. Finally in Bucharest, we picked out a hotel solely on the aspect of whether it had AC. To our amazement, while nighttime temperatures are rather mild in Bulgaria and Romania, the air inside our hotels seems to defy the outside weather and take on a more tropical temperature. No thanks. We enjoyed a fine Romanian meal next door and after fending off the Romanian women peddlers we retired to our AC chilled room.
7/10/01: Bucharest: Our first order of business was a trip to the CFR office to buy our train ticket to Brasov. We spent the rest of the day walking around downtown Bucharest. We started off with a stroll in the park and visited the senate and old palace. Then we made our way south to the impressive and massive Parliament building and its fountain lined boulevard. After spending some time at an internet cafe to ride out some rain, it became late and all the restaurants were closed. Dinner turned out to be the last 4 slices of pizza at a closing Pizza Hut supplemented by McDonalds. Believe us this was the only food available.
7/11/01: Bucharest - Brasov: Getting the most out of the day, we stopped along our train ride to Brasov to see the picturesque Peles and Pelisor Castles where the royal family did their business. We continued on to Brasov and were surprised to find a wonderful little town with a very impressive plaza. After a tasty chinese dinner we explored the bar scene a bit before ending the night.
7/12/01: Brasov: After purchasing our train tickets to Budapest, we took a bus to Bran, the heart of Transylvania, to see the castle which inspired the creation of Dracula. While walking around the castle, we were allowed to see a "special secret room" where the curator proceeded to lock us in and try to sell us hand made wool hats, shoes and also to change some quarters for bills. Confused by the whole afair we continued our wandering of the castle and then bussed it back to Brasov. In the afternoon we hackeyd in the plaza and then had an italian dinner.
7/13/01: Brasov - Budapest: Thinking we had made the right decision by buying a first class ticket in an air conditioned compartment, we soon realized the downside of that decision. When the windows don't open because it is air conditioned but the AC does not actually work, the compartment turns into an oven. With the Wanderboys turning from medium to well done we rode out the rest of the journey into Hungary in the dinning car trying to decifer the food served from the Hungarian Romanian menu. We pulled into Budapest, checked into a nice hotel, and hit the Fat Old Man Pubs.
7/14/01: Budapest: Today we joined forces with the second set of Wanderparents, the Fonsecas. The Fonsecas decided against spending the afternoon Watching Us Wash and sprung for the chambermaid to do our entire laundry, poor woman. Off to Castle Hill on the Buda side of the Danube to see the impressive Matthias Church, Palace and the even more impressive view of Pest from the medieval wall. For lunch we were dragged around by Susan until the heat forced us to seek refuge at the Hilton's air conditioned cafeteria. Back to Pest we went to have a beer in a square where the temperature was supposedly 106 degrees F (that is F for Fonseca), it was only a bit cooler in Fahrenheit. For dinner we cabbed over to a local Hungarian restaurant and the Wanderparents parted ways with the Wanderboys for the evening festivities which after much effort landed us back at Fat Old Mo Mans Pub.
7/15/01: Budapest: Delighted to have our breakfast delivered to our door by Susan we all headed out to continue our tour of Budapest. Hero Square, the nearby castle and baths, the enormous parliament building and a beer by the Danube were the days activities. The evening was capped by a fantastic dinner at the Apostolok Restaurant, a walk along the Danube to see Castle Hill and the Chain Bridge lit up in an amazing display, and a few beers with Andrea and Jessice from Maryland.
7/16/01: Budapest - Slovakia - Krakow: After the Fonsecas had an interesting experience taking care of a speeding ticket, we all piled into the rental car for our 10 hour drive through Slovakia to Krakow. With 3 copilots Enrique drove us out of Hungary without a ticket and into Slovakia. We stopped in the beautiful countryside of Slovakia to have lunch in a ski resort valley. In and out of Slovakia in 4 hours through a thunderstorm, we entered Poland and got to Krakow. After checking into our hotel we walked over to the beautiful main plaza, around the marketplace and enjoyed a beer in a cafe while the rain subdsided. Dinner was once again memorable as we ate Polish cuisine at a quaint restaurant and survived the rest of the rainstorm that evening.
7/17/01: Krakow: We started off the day in the plaza with a quick visit to the twin towered St. Mary's Church and then made our way to the Wavel Castle. After visiting the cathedral there and the beautiful grounds, we turned our attention to slaying the fire breathing dragon down outside of the dragon's den. Driven to food once again by the rain, we enjoyed another tasty Polish meal at yet another Fonseca find. After facing some difficulty updating the website, we stuffed ourselves one more time with the Fonseca's, and solved our web issues to make the update.
7/18/01: Krakow - Telc: On the road again, we made our way from Krakow to visit the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps. At Auschwitz we viewed a movie about the liberation of the camp and visited a number of emotionally draining exhibits. At Birkenau we strolled around the grounds struck by the enormity of the solemn place. Quite drained both physically and emotionally we proceeded on our way to the Czech Republic. After more than a few wrong turns and a very small but beautiful country road, we arrived at the very quaint gingerbread-like center of Telc. Very beautiful but extremely quiet, we all had a tasty dinner at the one restaurant we could find, looked in at the one bar we could find, and called it an early night.
7/19/01: Telc - Prague: After a short drive to Prague and a bit of an adventure navigating the maze-like streets around our hotel, we all were ready to visit the gem of Eastern Europe. We headed straight for the Old Town Square and joined the packs of tourists absorbing the stunning views in every direction. After a quick Pizza snack, we moved on to the mesmerizing Jewish Cemetery and its intriguing crammed rows of leaning tombstones. Susan got the most for her money at the Old-New Synagogue before we all enjoyed the richly decorated Spanish Synagogue. Dinner was enjoyed at a typical Czech beer hall and the Wanderboys set off for their tour of the nightlife.
7/20/01: Prague: Once again we had breakfast delivered to our doorstep by the Fonseca's and headed over in the downpour to St. Vitus Cathedral and the Old Royal Palace. At the Cathedral we were treated to some grandious bone chilling organ music. Scott and Carlos then climbed the endless winding staircase for a clouded view of Prague. Afterwards we toured the rest of the premises running through the rain. The weather drove us early to U Fleck, the oldest beer hall in Prague, where we met up with Alicia, Wendy and Becca whom the Fonseca's had met earlier during the day. After much music and liveliness at the beerhall, Scott and Carlos roughed it back at the hotel by soaking their 7 month weary bones in the hotel jacuzzi accompanied by music and a couple of beers. Fully relaxed, we visited a local Czech hangout to end the evening. The absolute end of the evening found us 4 Canadiens ordering in fluent Czech plates of battered and deep fried cheesy goodness surprise, mystery extravaganza and for dessert, hot or stinky, turtle soup while singing "Oh Canada".
7/21/01: Prague: Our time with the Fonseca's running out, we all walked over to and across the Charles Bridge for a few last memories of a good week together. Susan scored one last great restaurant with a superb view of the bridge for our last meal together. We bid farewell at the train station and bought our tickets to Berlin for the following day. We met back up with the Philly girls for dinner and then some very entertaining people watching at an 80's party. Wendy was especially enamored with her first viewing of the original YMCA video. On the way home Wendy and Scott joined the high rollers at the local casino, throwing around 100's like nobody's business. What is that exchange rate again?
7/22/01: Prague: The highlight of the day was a very relaxing 2 hour lunch on a quiet street behind the main plaza with Wendy and Alicia. For the rest of the day we parted ways as everyone had their own sights to see: Alicia on her own, Scott joined forces with Wendy, and Carlos got lost in old Prague. We all reunited for not so Mexican-Mexican food, you think we would learn, and called it an early night.
7/23/01: Prague - Berlin: Having stayed in Prague an extra day we were delighted to find out that our tickets to the German boarder were still good and even more delightful was that they never checked our Eurail pass in Germany, thus saving a day on our pass. We pulled into Berlin, got a hotel next to the Zoo station and proceeded to bump into the Fonseca's during their last few hours before returning home. A second goodbye at a restaurant, a third goodbye on the street, and a fourth goodbye at an internet cafe finally seemed adequate for our farewell.
7/24/01: Berlin - Munich: Some early morning phonecalls saved us a great deal of time as we found out Scott could get his full and battered passport relaminated and have pages added at the US Citizens Services Offices. We checked out of our hotel, left our packs at the train station and subwayed it to the US Consulate. After a thorough security check it was no problem to relaminate and add pages for free as we waited. Finally, tax money put to good use. Back at the train station we boarded the, not so high speed, high speed ICE train to Munich on another free ride as they did not check our Eurail pass. In Munich we had a hell of a time finding a place to stay, but settled in and hit the famous Hofbrauhaus for some German beer and music. On our way home we peeked into the bar across the street from our hotel: Carlos to Scott: "This is a very small bar...", Lucy: "Small bar but BIG women..." We opted not and had a last beer at our hotel bar where we felt sorry for everyone including ourselves.
7/25/01: Munich: Our first stop of the day was at the super mega modern internet cafe "Easy Everything" which turned out to be not so easy to update the website. We decided to spend the rest of the day enjoying Munich as a local would, relaxing in the Englischer Garten and sampling some of the local brew at one of its summer beer gardens. A little hackey was thrown in until the swarms of bugs and naked badminton made the scene a bit unpleasant. We finally found an internet cafe to update the site and finished off our day with another meal at the Hofbrauhaus.
7/26/01: Munich: Our day started with the midday arrival of Bryan Wanderbro vL and John M. who came to join us for a couple of weeks with the excuse of seeing the U2 concert in Berlin. We went straight to the Englischer Garten where we proceeded to suffer all day long at a couple beer gardens surrounded by beautiful weather, scenery and brew. For dinner we visited the Hofbrauhaus again and joined in the revelry. Exhausted by their journey from the US, Bryan and John called it a night while Scott and CArlos went exploring.
7/27/01: Munich: The day started bright and early for Bryan and I as our internal clocks woke us up at 6am. Realizing we weren't going back to sleep, we proceeded to shower and then go get Scott and Carlos (assuming they would be up). Since Scott and Carlos got to bed the same time Bryan and I awoke, they were not too happy to see us and we were told "to go be tourists". So off we went. Since Bryan lived in Berlin before and he knew German, I had no need for a tour guide since my only knowledge of German consisted of references to "Hogan's Heroes". After a train to the beautiful and aptly named Nymphenburg Palace, we met up with the boys at 12:30 for lunch and beers at Marienplatz, home of the ever so touristy Glockenspiel. Since I wanted to see the German country side, Bryan suggested we all take a 2 hour train ride south to Fussen and see a beautiful castle called Neuschawnstein. The visit was highlighted by first, seing Bryan, who I found out was afraid of heights, on the bridge of vertigo, 300ft up overlooking the castle and the town. Looking at Bryan run off the bridge was priceless. The second highlight was meeting my future wife, my german fraulein Liesl (we forgot her name but a reference to the Sound of Music was appropriate). Liesl was our waitress at a little cafe we visited near the castle. I was lucky enough to have my picture taken with her which was surprising she would even allow it since we were all basically gawking at her the whole time. We were having so much fun with Liesl that we missed the last bus back to Fussen and had to walk 5 KM (3.2 miles) back to get the last train back to Munich. It was the end of an almost perfect day.
7/28/01: Munich - Berlin: A 7 hr train ride complete with card games, sit-down lunch and further discussion of our future business delivered us to Berlin. Not long thereafter, we were dining at Scott's old stomping grounds, Cafe Hardenberg. Try the Bratkartoffel mit drei spiegeln if you get the chance. A bottle of red wine may be necessary to clear the arteries. For some nightlife, we S-bahned over to Oranienbergstrasse and walked the streets, entertaining a german bachelorette party along the way.
7/29/01: Berlin: The day of the U2 concert (& Mom's b-day) had arrived . . . and so had the rain. But the mildly inclement weather did not keep us from enjoying some wurst in Alexanderplatz and a photo-op with our old friends, Joseph Engles and Karl Marx. After assuring them that democracy and capitalism had not ruined East Berlin . . . or the world (yet), we made our way through the puddles to the site of Checkpoint Charlie and the fantastic museum there. Many memories from the spring of 1989 before "Die Mauer" came down resurfaced as we gazed down one of the many street that used to be interrupted by the wall. But as eveing approached, thoughts turned to the main event- as well as the idea that we might be spending the evening with 20,000 other very wet Berliners at the open-air Waldbuhne amphitheater. Arriving at the Olympic Stadium on the appropriately named U2 U-Bahn, we realized it truly would be a "Beautiful Day" as the clouds cleared making for a perfect evening. We prepared for the concert with some tasty bratwurst and beer and settled into our seats. A friendly atmosphere pervaded the crowd as we shared several beers with some new German friends in the row behind us. John M. was particulalry happy that "One" was played in the encore, and of course, "Where the Streets Have No Name" had everyone singing into the night air. After the "Walk On" finale, we made like monkeys on the U-Bahn and made our way back to Oranienbergstrasse for some drinks to end the evening.
7/30/01: Berlin: Humming songs from last night's concert, we headed over to the Charlottenberg castle where we walked the beautiful garden. From there off to the under-construction Branderberg Gate and then a very long stroll through the Tiergarten including the 285 step ascent of the Victory Column. Quite beat, we kept going to Cafe Hardenberg for a business meeting, or as close as we get to a business meeting these days. We were interviewed by Jennie accompanied by her sister for research on her PhD dealing with around the world travel. Check out her website at www.globalivity.com. It appears that academia has taken an interest in us. I doubt we are the control group. After four hours at Cafe Hardenberg we went to Not-So-Easy-Everything to use the internet, and the night ended shortly thereafter.
7/31/01: Berlin - Hamburg: Off we go to Hamburg to meet the Bolash's. How happy we were to be staying in a home vs. a hotel. The laundry facilities were appreciated as well. Chris and Aimee set the bar at a new height for hospitality. Given :30 notice of our arrival, Chris took the day off from work and Aimee went off to the grocery store to fill up. After a long walk downtown (and dodging bicyclists), we had dinner at an excellent Turkish restaurant. After dinner, we had a drink at a bar on the waterfront and then Chris departed to do our laundry and bake us cookies while Aimee took us to the infamous Reeperbahn.