While other writers jetted to New York this week for the RWA conference, I stayed home, winding down from my ten day trip to Germany and Austria.
My daughter, son-in-law, and one-year-old granddaughter live in Germany, so, we have free accommodations in Germany, but this year, my daughter booked us rooms in Austria so we could tour Salzburg. What a beautiful city!
What’s not to love, right?
And the breakfast buffet was to die for, not only was there a huge assortment of German, Austrian, and American breakfast foods, but they had Champagne on the buffet so you could make your own mimosas…and it was real French Champagne.
But the electricity was a bit of a culture shock for me.
Forget the weird, two pronged round plugs, the switches are all backwards. Granted, I like the square switches better than the tiny little flip switches in the states, but they were backward, with up being off and down being on.
I did like the red light that signaled an occupied restroom, but the hotel electricity was kind of spooky. Everything was connected to motion detectors. There were no lights in the hall until someone stepped into the hall, and then the lights would turn on. It was kind of creepy with the lights flicking silently on and off every time I stepped in or out of my room. I kept thinking someone could crouch in the dark and as soon as you stepped out into the hall, the lights would flick on and there the person would be just lurking and waiting. Like I said, creepy. Still, it was very Eco-friendly.
But that was only half of it. The electricity in our room didn’t work unless we put the key card in a small electric box above the light switch. Without the key card engaged, the electricity didn’t work. So, every time we left our room, we either left one of our key cards in the electric box or the air conditioning turned off.
And that’s another thing. Air conditioning. There isn’t any.
We were lucky enough to have air conditioning in our hotel room in Austria, but we didn’t eat in a single restaurant in either country with air-conditioning. They just opened up the doors and windows to let in a breeze…and the flies.
My daughter’s house had just one small portable unit in the living room, but our room was on the ground floor so the fan kept us quite cool at night.
Thankfully, western Europe is neither as hot nor as humid as NC, but this year has been one of the hottest years on record in Europe, and a couple of days we were there, the temperatures soared into the low 90’s. And let me tell you, if you’re hiking up a mountain to a fortress in Salzburg in 90 degree heat and you have a history of asthma, you will wish you had packed your inhaler!
But once at the top, we were able to refresh ourselves with a dark beer–another thing to love about Western Europe.
Then there’s the food. Delicious and plentiful.
When my husband ordered a schnitzel at Schinderhannes in Wieden, Germany, he had no idea how big it was going to be, and he paid no more for it than he would a big Mac, fries, and a drink. The beer was even reasonably price, especially since the dollar is so strong at $1.00 to .90 Euros. Now that’s a good exchange rate.
But, if you’re in a hurry, don’t eat in a European restaurant. We waited to get our menus, waited for the waiters/waitresses to take our orders, and waited for the food. The good part was that we all got our food at the same time, even if more than one server had to deliver it. Then, we had to wait for our check.
It was definitely a leisure dining experience, but I’d trade the slower service for the lower prices and portion sizes in a heartbeat.
Food and alcohol were definitely cheaper in Germany and Austria, and we didn’t have to break the bank to have a great meal. Not to mention the fact that there’s no tipping and no taxes added. The price you see on the menu is the price you pay.
Gas, on the other hand, is not cheap. Looking at the signs and seeing 1.14 Euros looked like a great deal until I realized the price was per liter…not per gallon. Since there are about 3.7 liters in a gallon, that put the price of gas at approximately 4.32 Euros. In dollars, that’s about $4.75, and that’s cheaper than it normally is, or so my daughter says.
I also love the fact that Germans are so environmentally conscientious. Not only do they recycle, but the government makes it easier than here in NC. My daughter and son in law were supplied with color-code recycle dumpsters for glass, plastic, and paper, but they didn’t have to sort the plastic or the glass the way we do in NC, and they don’t have to haul it to a recycle center themselves.
And it was a bit disconcerting to be walking down a busy street in town while smelling cow dung and freshly mowed hay. It was even more odd to see tractors and combines driving down city streets behind transfer trucks and Aston Martins.
Every street we walked down was a beautiful mix of old and new. From centuries old stucco to modern service stations, I fell in love with the architecture and history, especially the churches, which seem to be the focal point of every city and town.
While riding on the audubon, we passed hops fields and pastures dotted by houses and businesses clustered around churches. These towns of various sizes dotted the countryside.
Even from the air, you can see the differences between Germany and America.
In cities like Munich, there was some trash and graffiti, but not like I’ve seen in some American Cities. And there were beggars on the street, but the seemed to add rather than detract from the landscape. It might have helped that I couldn’t understand them, so they didn’t seem to stand out as much, but they seemed less intrusive and demanding than some of the panhandlers I’ve seen standing in the medium at busy intersections in Raleigh and Durham.
But of all the things I enjoyed seeing and doing while visiting Germany and Austria, the most favorite thing of all was spending time with my daughter, granddaughter, and son-in-law. They made the trip worth while and my daughter is one heck of a tour guide.