Europe, the good, the bad and the very ugly

I got home last night after three weeks in Europe. I'm trying to put my impressions on paper and I realize that the bad still outweighs the good.

We flew into Frankfurt and took the train to Dresden. I'm glad we saw it--it is a completely recreated old city. You'd think the buildings had stood since the middle ages but actually most were faithfully rebuilt after WW2. Still, it was pleasant and we had the most fabulous duck and red cabbage.

Then on to Prague, which to me was a disappointment. Everyone had said, "You're going to love Prague." and I did love the old city and the castle and the view from the Charles bridge. But outside of that it was still a rather grim, graffiti laden city with an Eastern bloc feel to it. Beer was ridiculously cheap, meal portions were huge and not expensive and almost everyone spoke some English, but .... I still think that other mediavel cities are just as pretty--Salzburg, Regensburg, Rottenburg ..and not as crime laden. We were warned to watch for pick pockets everywhere, which we did. We are seasoned travelers and yet we were caught in a scam we had no idea could exist:

We left Prague by train. We found our first class compartment and our seats. A young man came to sit opposite. He was tall and complained he needed more leg room. John put his travel bag up on the rack. Just before the train was pulling out someone arrived and caused a commotion--the young man jumped up. "Oh, this is first class. I didn't realize," grabbed his bag from the rack and left--- only we discovered too late that it was our bag he grabbed. Train pulled out. No hope of recovery. Luckily we had tickets and passports in our jackets and very luckily I didn't let him touch my bag. But John's expensive beautiful camera, his Palm PDA with all his bank account and credit card numbers filed on it, all his medications and a hundred other necessary items... all gone.

We spent the next morning making phone calls to stop credit cards, warn banks etc. So Budapest started with a bad taste in our mouths. We did a lovely tour of th city and saw it in its best light, and then it rained, and rained. Four days without a break. so we were glad to fly to sunny Venice, from which I have many happy childhood memories. My parents used to rent part of an old villa in Treviso when I was a child and my brother and I used to wander around on our own, so that I know the city like the back of my hand.

Of course Venice is unchanged, except that it is overrun with tourists. St. Marks square--well, you dont' want to go near St. Marks during daylight hours. And prices are through the roof. We met one couple who had been charges $20 for two coffees. And we only had one good meal there. So mixed impressions of Venice too--fighting to get on the water buses, already jam packed with tourists. But the Murano glass, the fashions, the leather goods are still fabulous. Nobody does fashion like the Italians!.

And last of all, we flew out of Frankfurt and spent an extra day at a local spa. An afternoon in thermal waters at Bad Nauheim did a little to restore our tense muscles. Next time I plan a spa vacation--from one warm pool to the next, and no tourists!

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