CENTRAL EUROPE/VENICE 2008

Exploring Central Europe With A Touch Of Venice

DSC04763.JPG - Version 2A Month In the Czech Republic, Poland, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia & Venice

Beautiful scenery such as Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia (above) made this trip to Central Europe one of our most magnificent journeys we have ever undertaken.  It took us a long time to “discover” this part of the world, but hopefully it won’t be long before we return to some of the unforgettable places we visited.  So I raise a glass, and dream of the Buza Bar in Dubrovnik as we relive an amazing 28 days!


Chapter One: Walk Till We Drop – Prague Day One

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter One:  Walk Till We Drop – Prague Day One Day One – The Heathrow Nightmare is Only a Dream, Is That A Bomb Under Your Hood and Introducing “The Stairs” I had been very excited about our upcoming trip that would take us to five countries we had never visited (well, had Montenegro had the decency to let us in their damned country, it would have been five, but as time drew closer to leaving, I felt a slight twinge of trepidation.  Was the pace going to be too fast?  Were we trying to see too many things?  Diesel or Super Gas … Read more…

Chapter Two: Prague’s History Explored

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Two:  Prague’s History Explored Day Three – A Jewish History Lesson, Thai-ing One On, Seeing Red, Cellar Dwellers, Beware Of Flying Mice And Perhaps One Does Come To Prague For The Food Since I didn’t know yet that St. John of Nepomuk really didn’t grant ones’ wishes, I decided to meet our friends Doug and Jackie at his statue on The Charles Bridge to start the day.  They looked none-the-worse for jet lag, and our day was underway. After hooking up with the rest of the gang, we walked over to Josefov (Jewish Quarter), which we had been told had some of … Read more…

Chapter Three: Kutna Hora & Sedlec

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Three:  Kutna Hora & Sedlec Day Four – License To Kill, Cutting Out To Kutna Hora, Dem Bones, Now That’s What I Call Stacked, Who’s Steven And Introducing Lady Garmin Each morning before the taskmaster (aka maitaitom or “you idiot,” depending on who you talk to) had us zigzagging all over town, we would stop at Malostranska Kavarna (across from the wine cellar) and enjoy coffee and muffins to get us going.  On this morning, Kim ordered a chocolate croissant, and after one bite, he said, “Tom, I recommend you buy one of these.”  Good call! Bolstered by extra sugar, we crossed … Read more…

Chapter Four: Our Final Day In Prague

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Four:  Our Final Day In Prague Day Five – Sweet Peacock, Tracy Gets Her Gardens, A Farewell To Arm, Is That The Eiffel Tower, And Au Revoir To Prague Although I slept well, I woke up at 6:40 a.m. with a case of Anthophobia, which is the abnormal and persistent fear of flowers.  It is a phobia that only occurs for me when Tracy and I visit Europe. Every vacation, I promise Tracy we will find some nice and colorful gardens, and invariably every trip we had taken in the past seven years, the gardens I chose turned out to be terrible.  … Read more…

Chapter Five: Captivating Český Krumlov

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Five:  Captivating Český Krumlov Day Six – Bohemian Rhapsody, Bear With Me, Is She Alive Or Is She Memorex, Where Is Everybody, The Restaurant At The Bottom Of The World And The Wedding Crashers There was less than a hour left for us in Prague, but that did not deter me from one last goal; two chocolate-filled croissants down the street.  Fortified by those incredible treats and a double espresso, I was ready for the drive to Český Krumlov. Although the apartments had been a little on the Spartan side, they were clean, the location was terrific and Pasquale (aka Steven) had … Read more…

Chapter Six: A Brief Overnight in Olomouc

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Six:  A Brief Overnight in Olomouc Day Seven – The Road Less Traveled, Watch Out For That Pole (And We’re Not Even In Poland), Like The Plague, Magic Cream, Kim’s Departure Is Confirmed And The Dinner Shut Out Despite staying out late the night before and (perhaps) consuming one too many glasses of wine, I was up at exactly 6 a.m.  I was trying to be quiet, but the floors were a tad creaky, which in turn made my wife a little cranky.  “You’re going to wake up Kim and Mary,” she said.  As I made a few more fateful (and loud) … Read more…

Chapter Seven: The Heart Of Kraków

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Seven:  The Heart Of Kraków Day Eight – Cracowdays, Hip To Be (at the) Square, A Shot Of Cough Syrup, Pork Project, Here Comes The Bride and Where Are All The Old People We were up at seven and were greeted by a young man in the lobby of the Na Hradě, who was setting up a breakfast buffet.  There was cereal, lunch meats, cheese, sausage links, delicious pastries and he made us some very good egg dishes.  Yes, this was breakfast heaven. I asked Tracy why she didn’t do this for me every day, and she replied, “Because I work harder … Read more…

Chapter Eight: Kraków’s Cathedral

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Eight:  Kraków’s Cathedral Day Nine – The Incredible Shrinking Man, Fools On The Hill, My Legs Are Dragon, Got Milk, Free Art And Our Poll Of Poles As you have noticed, the four of us (and especially me, the dessert king) had consumed a lot of calories during the past week.   For many months before the trip, I had been on the Jenny Craig diet (well, the modified Jenny Craig, which includes martinis, mai tais and the occasional chocolate flourless cake that Jenny doesn’t tell anyone about in her literature).

I had lost a little more than 30 pounds on the diet, … Read more…

Chapter Nine: Walking Kraków

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Nine:  Walking Kraków Day Ten – Park Place, Goodbye Kim, Give Me Your Dirty Laundry, The Feet Get a Work Out, Jewish Quarter, “Can’t Go Up There” And The Girl From Ipanema I awoke with a start remembering that the free parking on the street ended on Monday, and even with a mini-espresso martini hangover, I remembered that today was Monday.  The apartment manager had told me that I should ask a man in a yellow vest about getting the necessary parking passes for the street.  Instead, I ran into someone who looked more interesting than a guy in a vest. I … Read more…

Chapter Ten: Salt Of The Earth

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Ten:  Salt Of The Earth Day Eleven – Breakfast In America, Worth Its Salt, Shocking Development, The Kids Are Alright and Très Magnificent Dinner Our group does not usually pass on places of historical significance, but we decided to forgo Auschwitz in favor of the salt mines.  The three of us have all visited concentration camps (I have been to a couple), and although Auschwitz is definitely deserving of a visit, on this day we opted for a more cheerful experience. For breakfast, we stopped in to a spot that reminded me of being back in Los Angeles (well, except people were … Read more…

Chapter Eleven: Dubrovnik & The Buza Bar

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Eleven:  Dubrovnik & The Buza Bar Day Thirteen – Will Kim (And His Luggage) Make The Dubrovnik Plane, Rooms With A View, Mirror Image, Cruise (Out-Of Control), The Eighth Wonder Of The Modern World and A Peaceful Dubrovnik Night We awoke to a driving rainstorm and had a delicious, little breakfast in the charming breakfast room of the Pension Nossek.  The hotel had pre-ordered the taxi to meet us, and the driver was up (you have to take a lift to get to the pension lobby) at the reception desk after we finished breakfast and helped us with our luggage.  Mary was … Read more…

Chapter Twelve: Walking Dubrovnik’s Walls

Central Europe 2008:  From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Twelve:  Walking Dubrovnik’s Walls Day Fourteen – Delightful Dubrovnik, Where Are Kim’s Clothes, A Monastery By Any Other Name, English Spoken Here, Hitting The Walls, Watch Out For That Cruise Ship, Wine And Cheese With Jadranka and Springtime For You Know Who As dreams of the Buza Bar and the blue water of the Adriatic swirled in my brain, I had a restful sleep at the Benrussi Apartments. Although it was at our apartments, the four of us started getting ready to face the new day, because we knew that shortly we would encounter the “Attack of the Umbrella People” (aka the … Read more…

Chapter Thirteen: A Change In Plans

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Thirteen:  A Change In Plans Day Fifteen – Maybe We Can Visit Hugo Montenegro, T (As In Trouble) With Mussolini, Detour To Another Coastal Town, Danger: Parking Ahead, Goodbye Buza, Dinner By The Sea And Mary Takes A “Short-Cut”  This was the day we had all been waiting for; our much anticipated day trip to mysterious Montenegro.  I didn’t even have to rally the troops on this misty morning.  It was as if everyone had been injected with double espressos. We scurried down the 99 stairs, pushed our way through the assembled multitude of umbrella people at the Pile Gate, zipped down … Read more…

Chapter Fourteen: Trogir In Red And White

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Day Sixteen – The Coast With The Most, At Least They Let Us Into Bosnia, Going To The Dogs, Go Croatia, Who’ll Stop The Rain and What’s The Buzz Since this was to be a traveling day, we all got some extra shut-eye and didn’t weave our way out of Dubrovnik until almost 10 a.m.  We walked to our car, bypassing Mary’s unique shortcut of the night before, thus saving ourselves about 15 minutes and undo leg pain.

  The human chain worked to perfection and no pedestrians were injured exiting the parking lot.  We easily found the huge bridge heading north out of … Read more…

Chapter Fifteen: Split Decision

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Fifteen: Split Decision Day Seventeen – Bite Me, Palace Aforethought, Maitai’s Harem, Let’s Split Split, The Tom/Kim “Short-Cut,” Jump Starting Our Vacation And “Oh, I Thought You Said Marijuana” And the answer is…the insect by TKO.  Laying in bed on this cloudy morning, I was covered with multiple mosquito bites, but these weren’t the average run-of-the mill Southern California mosquito bites.  These babies were huge, and there was one bite so big on the inside of my elbow that I thought I was growing a new appendage.  The good news, the West Nile Virus was nowhere to be found in Trogir.

  There … Read more…

Chapter Sixteen: Paradise Found in Plitvice

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Sixteen:  Paradise Found in Plitvice Day Eighteen – Hells Bells, On The Boardwalk In Park Place, Plitvice Perfect And The Nightcap From Hell For once, it was not Tom who jarred Tracy from her deep slumber. Instead, it was the never-ending sound of bells from a nearby church that jarred her from her blissful repose. By the time she had finished counting (why she was counting, I don’t know), she had tallied 144 rings.  Being my loving companion, she, of course, then woke me up to tell me all about how she was awakened from a deep sleep. I could relate. Well, … Read more…

Chapter Seventeen – Lovely Ljubljana

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Seventeen – Lovely Ljubljana Day Nineteen – Good Day Not To Be A Pig, On to Ljubljana, Bush Whacked, Great B&B, Down By The Lazy River And Dining Al Fresco Happy to still be alive and still have a pair of lips after the Slivovitz show of the previous night, I turned toward Tracy in the morning to whisper sweet nothings in her ear.  Her reply, “Go brush your teeth.  Your breath would kill an ox.”   Romance was in the air.  We met Kim and Mary for a leisurely breakfast in the Hotel Plitvice restaurant.  Croatia would be in the rear view mirror … Read more…

Chapter Eighteen – Caves, Castle & Sabrage

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Eighteen – Caves, Castle & Sabrage Day Twenty – Losing Our Heads (Almost), Cave Dwellers, Gee Your Skin Is Soft, Surely You Joust, Tea For Two, Sword Play And Lost In Translation The forecast of rain turned out to be correct (yes, miracles occur even in meteorology).  We met in the cozy breakfast room for cereal, croissants, hard rolls and yogurt. We saw a dog precariously perched in the window across from us, who looked longingly at my croissant. Then it was time for our drive to Postojnska Jama, which was not something we put on our rolls. We were about to … Read more…

Chapter Nineteen – Lovely Lake Bled

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Nineteen – Lovely Lake Bled Day Twenty One – Copping A Plea, A Cake Walk, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head And The Old Fake Fireplace Trick Backfires Big Time Overcast skies greeted us on this morning and after breakfast at the B&B Slamič, we were on the highway for the short one hour jaunt to Lake Bled.  As we neared the Bled turnoff, the highway quickly shrunk from four lanes down to two, and after another 100 yards, off to the side of the road, I spotted a man in uniform. As it turned out, he had spotted me as well, … Read more…

Chapter Twenty – Walking In The Lake Bled Rain

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Twenty – Walking In The Lake Bled Rain Day Twenty Two – Too Early For Champagne, Get Me To The Church On Time, Can You Give Me A Lift, Walk Around The Lake, Pubbing It, The Weather Blows, Here Comes That Rainy Day Feeling Again And Never Can Have Too Much Gnocchi By morning the rain had subsided, and we decided to get an early start because Luka had said the forecast called for more rain by the middle of the day.  Our local Southern California goofball weather forecasters are about as accurate as my golf shots (that would basically be never), … Read more…

Chapter Twenty One – Gorgeous Gorge

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Twenty One – Gorgeous Gorge Day Twenty Three – Lake Bled Swan Song, This Takes The Cake, Gorging Ourselves, Horsing Around, The Road To Zanibar, Taking Harbor In Rovinj And Location! Location! Location! Sunshine!  Blue skies!  Finally!  So this is what Lake Bled looks like on a beautiful day?  It was stunning. I wish we would have had one more day to explore the area, especially since the weather turned so delightful. Up very early, we strolled about half way around the lake, taking new and improved sunshine pictures of the lake, the castle, the island and anything else we could find. … Read more…

Chapter Twenty Two – Roving Rovinj

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Twenty Two – Roving Rovinj Day Twenty Four – Tracy Gets In Hot Water, Scary Stairs, Alley Oops, Truffle Time, The Glass Bottom Boat and Wine Time Worried about our cat, Cupid, we didn’t sleep too well, but it was not the fault of our apartment (Porta Antica) or it’s location (quiet).  We both looked forward to a nice hot shower the next morning, and being the consummate gentleman (ok, I was just trying to get an extra ten minutes of shut eye), I let Tracy go first (the view below is from Kim and Mary’s room, which was one floor up … Read more…

Chapter Twenty Three – Daytripping in Istria

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Twenty Three – Daytripping in Istria Day Twenty Five – Where’s That Hill Town, Chasing Andretti, Somebody’s Gotta Go Back And Get A Shitload Of Dimes, That Drop Off Fee Really Hertz, A Laker Fan In Poreč, Bus Stop And A Toni Restaurant After another restless night’s sleep, we found some croissants and espresso and made  our way to the parking lot.  We had to return the car to Poreč, but before we hit that coastal town, we had decided to travel to one or two of the Istrian Peninsula’s hill towns.  Number one on our list was Motovun. Before heading out … Read more…

Chapter Twenty Four – Fast Boat To Venezia

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Twenty Four – Fast Boat To Venezia Day Twenty Six – Vortex Of Sorrow, The Coffee Comedy Caper, Bella Venezia, Cupid Lends A Helping Paw, It’s The Big One Elizabeth, Wine On A Rooftop, She’s Got Panna Cotta Thighs And Cupid Shines From Above It was between 4:30 and 5 a.m. when Tracy and I started to get ready to hop on the 7 a.m. ferry that would transport the four of us to our final European destination, Venice.  I was out of bed first.  Kim and Mary had given us their satellite phone to us to call home, and although I … Read more…

Chapter Twenty Five – Picture Perfect Venice

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Twenty Five – Picture Perfect Venice Day Twenty Seven – A Near Slip Up, By Giorgio What A View, No Abbot In Castello, Who Is That Masked Man, Alas No Cat Puppets, Up On The Rooftop (part two), Intimate Canal Dining, Not So Wild About Harry’s And Battle Of The Bands (San Marco Style) There is nothing quite like having your breakfast on a sunny, Venice morning overlooking a canal, but that is just what the four of us did at La Calcina.  After my requisite number of espressos and cappuccinos (perhaps I should invent intravenous caffeine), it was on to the … Read more…

Chapter Twenty Six – The Saga Concludes

Central Europe 2008: From The Czech Republic to Poland to Austria to Croatia to Slovenia to Italy Chapter Twenty Six – The Saga Concludes Days Twenty Eight & Twenty Nine – Some Like It Not (Not Us), A Day At The Opera (House), Sighs Matters, Stoppa The Grappa, The Last Supper, I Shutter To Think Where His Camera Went And Arrivederci Venezia  Once we dragged our tired bodies out of bed, we knew that this day was going to be a scorcher.  It was so hot that I limited myself to two espressos and one cappuccino on the La Calcina breakfast deck.  My caffeine intake was reaching dangerous levels and coupled with heat, I decided that was the prudent route … Read more…