14.08.2012 - 14.08.2012 84 °F
We’re ready – both of us at this point. It will be so nice not to be living out of a suitcase, to actually have a closet and drawers to organize our clothes and a washer and dryer – all the time. It will be nice to always have fresh fish, fruit and vegetables that don’t “break the bank”. And just to be certain of things. I mean here, everything is different. And basic things too, like toilets. Some you flush by pressing a button on the back of the toilet, some you pull up a handle on the back of the toilet, some you pull a chain above the toilet, some you step on a button on the floor next to the toilet, others you press a button above the sink. I’m sure I’ve left out some variations. And it may even vary on different toilets in the same house! Occasionally, on the train, I’d enter a WC and the toilet hadn’t been flushed. I truly believe it wasn’t because the previous user was rude but rather they simply could not figure out how the blasted thing worked! The buses and trams also kept us on our toes. Some require you to pay on the bus, others you need to buy a ticket from a machine at the bus stop. Sometimes you validate the ticket on the bus or tram, others in the machine at the bus stop. Plus it was challenging figuring out the best ticket for our purposes. There were short-ride tickets, day passes, multi-day passes and several choices in between. And you didn’t have much time to make your choice before the machine would time out! Also, there are steep fines if you get it wrong – you can’t get off just by (honestly) using the “dumb tourist” plea. Additionally, even with the European Union, there are just enough different currencies to keep you sharp. As soon as we were getting on to the Euro, we found ourselves in Prague, where they have their own system. And some countries, like Switzerland, that are in the EU, still use their own currency. So we were regularly trying to dump all of our change before we left those renegade countries (since you can’t exchange coins). Still, all of those differences kept us sharp. And humble too. Just as we learned the ropes of one place (so we didn’t consistently look like fools), we’d be off to a new place starting over again.
Still, there’s so much we’ll miss! All of the gorgeous sites: medieval towns and castles, lovely lakes and mountains. But best of all were the people. So many complete strangers took time from their busy day to help these often-confused tourists. Others quickly became more than strangers, like so many of our wonderful hosts. We’ve asked ourselves: What would we change? Now, knowing and experiencing what we have. Of course, there are some things. But they’re few. Certainly the approach: immersing ourselves in foreign ways, staying in little apartments and Guesthouses (rather than hotels) – that we wouldn’t change. It’s been the experience of a lifetime!