I’ve come to the WiFi cafe, only to find, as I often do, that WiFi doesn’t necessarily mean I can connect easily to the webs and read/write stuff I want to. Damn. This is very frustrating - I keep getting an error message suggesting that my network settings need to be changed, but danged if I can work out how. Sometimes it just spontaneously gets a grrip and lets me into the webs; sometime no matter what I do (I even sink so low as to follow the instructions) I can’t get in. There is a fleeting moment when I see all the little green lights of the ‘connected and working’ list of ISP/airport etc stuff go on, meaning the webs is alive and waiting, but it flashes on and then straight off again. Argggghhhh...
But as I am very comfy, with a nice rock wall to look at, a candle for my purrsonal fang shui, and a latte and a fresh orange juice to hand, I shall rattle on and hope to upload this onto ze blog fairly soon. This will probably be when we get to Berlin - we travel there by train on Wednesday. I think we are both pretty much over travelling in ex-Communist states; places where we don’t spikka de lingo; places of relative difficulty even for two smarty-parties like us; the combination of unexpected travails (M’s health; the whole Vilnius experience; my mood swings) has led to us both feeling that we’ve travelled enough. Enough! Berlin offers respite in a number of different ways - M speaks fluent German; we will be staying in a studio apartment so I can cook (M thinks this is a problem - hardly so! I’m really looking forward to have some control over the amount of salt, fat, garlic/onion and UFOs* in our food). And we can make our own coffee and tea whenever we want it, instead of the blind searching for a cafe which might be orright - today we did this and instead of the usual $A3:00 coffee we were stiffed for $A8:00 per latte. NOT worth it imho. There is some sort of implicit code about which restaurants/cafes are the cheaper, ‘ordinary’ ones, but we haven’t cracked it.
The food is definably different from everything we’ve had so far - Scandinavia, Russia (to my great surprise), Estonia and Latvia all seemed to have as much or more fresh food on offer than stodge - ie salads, grills, plain fruit salad in various forms, and freshly-squeezed juice everywhere. Here the fried cheese with fried everything else cuisine dominates - we have got to the point where we are sick of Italian a la Polish, the Kebab cafes (everywhere) are tempting because the grilled chicken is good, but there is so much sauce and cheese etc etc added. And no, not so many people speak English, so it’s tricky trying to mime ‘no onion, sauce, chilli’... last night we went to the Pronto Restaurant because M fancied their risotto - which was pretty good, nice and slushy and full of cream and parmesan. Quite rich, even for a risotto. I chose grilled vegetables, and they were grilled, but also doused in oil during and after cooking. Don’t get me wrong, I was glad to have it, but I am not so keen on oily, garlicky food. My little tummy tends to wake me up at 2am saying ‘GRIPE’ and ‘BLOAT’ and ‘YUCKY-POO’ and demand Alka-Seltzer what we only have a very tiny bit of left which M needs more than me. The list of over-the-counter meds we could have brought, aside from those we did, is alarmingly long!
*Unnecessarily Fatty and Objectionable
M is keeping a list of hotel room pros and cons, and sometimes we discuss it - things like extra pillows; towels which are not so old you can see through them; staff who don’t have any manners; bathroom fittings which don’t either spray water where it’s not wanted, or fall off their hooks, or both... a bar fridge; reading lights for both beds; and, dammit, ONE bed big enough for two instead of the ‘push two singles together and jam something between the mattresses so you don’t ding your elbows on the wooden edges of the beds’ option. Don’t couples in these parts of the world want to hold hands at night??? And how can you put the teddy bears between the pillows if there is a chasm? Teddy bears don’t like chasms, they told me so.
There’s a more general ‘desirable features of hotels’ list which is mostly linked to steps and our preference for none. We have got to the point of laughing about it, just. Arriving at ungodly times, fried from the trip and in my case nice and stiff as to back, makes for interesting moments wrangling luggage. M is patient enough about lugging everything up the front steps, but once we find a lift we expect it to take us to the same floor as our room. This is a real Lucky Dip of a concept - one can be on the same floor and have hallways with steps up and down, ramps, narrow suitcase-unfriendly corners, heavy doors which won’t stay propped open and therefore tend to bang shut and leave the one outside without the room card stranded... one can also happily ascend to the fourth floor and discover that there is a choice between half a flight of steps up or down, to get to one’s room. Up, was the answer. It always is.
On my last trip to Europe I said, with great feeling, that it is made up of marble staircases, and one is always at the bottom and one always needs to be at the top. This Murphy’s Law is compounded by the number and weight of one’s bags. [For example, if I only had a handbag, I’d have about 20 steps to go up, and I’d probably have a handrail. Once I’m fully loaded with my two cases, backpack, extra bag or two plus handbag, the steps go around the corner and up two more flights, every step is a different height and width, and the handrails have fallen off. If M has the same amount of luggage all this climbing will be outside, on a hot humid day, and his sunhat will be at the bottom of a case and he won’t open it because gypsies are hanging around hoping for some easy takeaway loot. Add a paper bag of sammos and fruit and it will suddenly rain; two lattes in a box will cause a strong wind to blow up, and if I have a hed of deth we’ll get to the top and discover the hotel has two buildings and ours is the one back down the steps, across the canal with the marble-stepped bridge, and up four more flights of steps into a west-facing room with no airconditioning and a screaming baby in the room next door ... I have been accused of exaggeration; I maintain that I am just more prepared than some to put down the TRUTH.]
We came out today to see an organ concert at 4pm, at the church of St Peter and St Paul. It was looking suspiciously empty and un-concertlike; M discovered firstly that it was at 4.30, and then that these concerts aren’t on this week. The flyer didn’t mention that.. perhaps it was an unexpected cancellation, because the dates were listed; we’re not entirely incompetent. M has travel ennui today; worse than mine the other day. He’s gone back to the hotel to rest and have time out .. I, naturally, have been shopping. I found a little shop selling ceramic, wood and print pieces by local artists. I’ve come away with a delightfully full bag of goodies; a large packing problem because most of the things I bought are breakable; and a new Krakow friend. The young woman minding the shop was embarrassed because she was snoozing when I walked in. She told me she’s in the last four days of writing her Masters! Reason enough to snooze I’d say. She put a tiny angel in my bag, a gift, to bring us good luck for the rest of our travels. The goodness of people...
I’ve been thinking a lot about my Aussie pals - particularly the two others who make up the Good Wimmin’s Group. They have just left on a trip to Tibet and China. I hope they’ve got away without having as huge a nervous wrangle as I did. They’re on the road for three weeks - gone and back before I return! Another very close friend is on the way to Paris, and she’ll be there during our time in Freiburg. You can catch a train from there to Paris you know - I’m still entertaining a fantasy about doing just that and meeting her for coffee. It seems a very fine fantasy and one that has a decent chance of coming true. We’ll see! Two years ago there was hope that I could get my darling dorter posted over to me when *I* was in Paris, to celebrate her 21st birdy, but alas it was not to be. Coffee with my pal would be a most suitable and delightful second try.
I’d better stop here, I promised M I’d be back at the hotel by 6pm and time is marching on. I do hope I can find a way to transport all these delightful but breakable goodies acquired today. Bubble wrap is a good thing, but boxes can be dropped and flung and not treated right. I shall carry them to Berlin I think, and with luck we’ll find a post office where we can wrap them in layers of bubbles and shock-absorbing filler and paper the outside with FRAGILE stickers.
I still need a cat. This place is full of people walking very healthy dawgs, and budgies in the restaurants, and bloody pigeons everywhere. So where are all the lil pusscats trying to murderate the pigeons???
Today brought to you by coffee and shopping. Keep your fingers crossed for M please. I fear that even blasts of Chanel No. 5 on HIS heart chakra, may not be enough to cheer him up...
3 hours ago