|On my vacation I enjoyed swimming in a lake...|
|...and riding a bike.|
I could relax, as for the start of September I began to plan a trip to Europe — with kids at the university and Sid working in Colorado, it was getting urgent that the goaties be self-reliant, able and willing to take care of their feeding without constant care. It was enough that I was anxious about the trip itself — had I kept worrying about the animals, I may not have gone anywhere.
The older I am, the worse I cope with airline travel. I moved to Wyoming to be surrounded by as few people as possible — sitting for many hours together with several hundreds of fellow passengers is a true hell for me. The other infernal dimension is my helplessness — one is reduced to relying on pilot's skills, and if he makes a mistake, one is out of luck. Not that on a train or bus, one would not be dependent on a driver, but in the case of an accident there's still a great chance to walk away. You can always decide to get off, change the route or conveyance, turn back, or just take a break in the trip — you can't simply step off the airplane. What's more, you practically cannot properly move, being squished into a miniature seat, without a liberty to stretch your legs; most of the time you're strapped down in a mandatory harness, trapped by a lowered table blocked by something that pretends to be food suitable for human consumption — or simply by the fact that your neighbor is asleep. You're at mercy and good will of flight attendants who don't always feel in a good will mood. Simply put, I consider travel by plane to be very inhumane and undignified. Especially in the case — my case — of a trans-Atlantic flight, about ten hours long.
|Schleißheim Palace isn't round - only huge - panorama stitching created this optical illusion.|
|A look into the "New Palace".|
For a long time I've been convinced that I embody a traveling Calamity Jane — that I simply attract trouble, missed planes, late trains, broken down buses, canceled hotel rooms and lost luggage. Hence I prepared carefully for my trip — lost bags can be pre-empted by not having any checked-in luggage; I stuffed all necessities into a handy suitcase and a backpack, which I declared to be my "handbag". This also allowed me to be ready to run after about-to-depart conveyances, for confusion on the way, and for a commonly occurring situation, when I'm forced to drag all my momentary possessions up and/or down endless staircases.
|Schloss Schleißheim: baroque gardens Versailles style.|
|Schloss Schleißheim: baroque gardens Versailles style.|
The next problem with the girls consisted of the one next to me keeping her seat screen on, full of blazing and flashing animated figures, all night (it was an overnight flight and most people tried to nap) — while she played some games on her phone. I managed to filter out the screen flashing by covering my eyes with a shade the airline provided, but I had no way to filter out insistent mild vibrations of the seat, as she kept hitting the phone screen.
|Lustheim - original hunting mini-palace, which connects to the "New Palace" by a water channel and fountains.|
Vicky and I then took a few stops aboard an S-bahn train — like everywhere in a civilized world, except Prague — and walked the rest of the way. There, I was given a choice — whether I want a shower and a bed, or whether I want to swim with Vicky in the local lake. I chose the lake, of course. This one is a very luxurious affair, huge, deep and from three sides surrounded by trees and meadows — and a sandy beach, where kids can dig and play. Naturally, a stand with coffee and beer and other refreshments can't be missed. Few people were there, and the only stain on perfection was the water temperature. Vicky has been swimming there all summer, while I shamefully shuffled my feet, knee deep in water and watching as local pensioners fearlessly threw themselves into the playful waves. Vicky remarked that I should be used to a bit of chill from Wyoming — but we in Wyoming don't swim in icy lakes — we have HOT SPRINGS in Wyoming. I won't keep you suspended; I got into the water eventually, I even swam — and then I really enjoyed a warm coffee at the stand, having a feeling of a true beautiful vacation.
|While visiting Munich, one must no leave out Biergarten.|
I had spent the second day morning again with my guide Vicky, on a tour through the Olympic park. We reached the train station on bikes this time — I mention it because this an aspect of life I really admire. Everybody rides bikes — ladies with fancy hairdos and dresses, plumbers, kids, grannies, everybody. They ride bikes because it's the simplest and fastest kind of travel — bikers ride along a paved path, which is a part of a wide sidewalk — always in one direction, right from the road traffic and left from pedestrians. Train stations sport racks for tens, maybe hundreds of bicycles — and if you take a bike lock along, you can secure your conveyance there — and continue on a train. Naturally, much is influenced by the nature of landscape around Munich, which is flat, and thus favors city bikes — you don't have to own a tuned sporty machine.
I particularly like the combination of a mild athletic effort alternated with a view from a tower (the only downside there was smog — the tower promised a view to the Alps, but one could barely see the outskirts of Munich). Olympic park impressed my by being functional even after fifty years of existence. Athletic dormitories were typically converted into students' dorms, park is obviously open for recreation, while arenas and courtyards serve local sports teams, schools and the university. Everything is maintained, functional, and in use; no crumbling ghost town — all this despite tragic history of Munich Olympic Games in 1972.
|Evening at Schleißheim.|
A nervous-looking crowd gathered on the platform in Freising, making me nervous as well. Signs kept promising Prague over Schwandorf, Cham and Pilsen — but then mentioned something like Zugteil, which, I was afraid, meant that the train would split. Vicky pointed it already out about S-bahn on our way from the airport — some trains get split over time, some cars going in one direction, others somewhere else. Unfortunately, the Germans feel absolutely no compulsion to translate announcements into any other languages — not even English; not even on international express trains. Thus I decided to ask the train dispatcher, which car should I take when I want to go to Prague. She told me with a manic grin that I can sit wherever I want, as this train would end in Schwandorf anyway, and we would be bussed onward from there. I was taken aback; I had spent previous evening making specially sure the train was a direct connection, for I wanted to avoid layovers and figuring out where to find my next train. Deutsche Bahn website did not mention any deviations, nor did any sign in Freising station.
A chaos ensued in Schwandorf — we all got off, but people started getting on board of the train who DID NOT KNOW that the train ended there, therefore the conductor and dispatcher were chasing more confused passengers off the train. Meanwhile they argued between each other and called on their phones in all directions, demanding to know what they were supposed to do with us. The bus driver eventually shrugged and said that he apparently would not be driving us, and that we should catch that train on the third platform. There was no train on the third platform, but a train appeared to be about to leave from the fifth platform — we had to run for it. When I beheld our little herd how they all wrestled with baggage going down into the subway and up again, I renewed my smug feeling about my single small suitcase and a backpack.
An Oberpfalzbahn train, into which we all rushed, consisted of one motorized car and contained — besides a few locals (and — I presume — a driver) — one totally consternated conductor — who had visibly no idea why his little train got swarmed by a bunch of people squabbling in English, in addition toting a larger volume of suitcases and bags, waving tickets by Deutsche Bahn (he gave up checking tickets with marooned person number ten). He, too, spent most of the ride on his phone — although I don't understand German, I gathered that he was trying to figure out in fear, what to do with this gang of confused and aggravated people on his local line. In the end he proved to be the right man in the right place — though he could not speak and understand English, at the terminus he led us out like a pied piper leading rodents in front of the station, handing us into the care of a bus driver — one equally lacking English.
|Museum of BMW.|
The bus dropped us off at a station in Furth im Wald (whose name, if interpreted through the prism of Vienna dialect, sounds to us, Czechs, like "still [lost] in the woods"), where the first serious trouble appeared. The whole station was out of order and thus its bathrooms closed. Our train was due in ninety minutes. Still, I managed to strike a chat with a German, who sported a functional phone with data, about any open grocery stores, and I bought myself something to eat and drink. Vicky had equipped me with a small snack, some veggies and a chunk of cheese, expecting that I would not need to eat much, since I would be home for dinner. Yet the dinner time was upon me and I still found myself inside the Bundesrepublik. I also learned from my fellow traveler that we were actually quite lucky for being already on our way, though complicated and delayed. His mother had called him with frightful news, as the TV showed thousands of passengers stuck at the Munich Central Station due to interrupted traffic on this mainline. His mom declared that the station did not look this way since the time when Eastern Germans fled to West Germany in 1989 — thousands of displaced people with their luggage. I personally think that the Eastern Germans had a language advantage — in the current situation with Germans refusing to provide any information in any other language than German, it had to be an exceptional chaos.
|A view from the tower onto the Olympic park and BMW.|
An attentive reader already suspects where I'm going with this. Near Dobřichovice our express train stopped expressly. First for about ten minutes of "track issue". Then we moved a bit and stopped again. Eventually we languished for about half hour in Řevnice, allegedly because a broken car was blocking the tracks, and the only one remaining pair of rails had to accommodate trains in both directions. This built up to additional hour of delay. Fortunately, we still had wi-fi, and I was able to call off the welcome committee; shortly after eleven I saw my mother again, after five years. We even caught the last bus from Kačerov, thus the next phase of my vacation could proceed according to plan — after five hours of sleep, I was to get up and arrive with grandpa to an eye clinic.