Alf's Post-Prague Journal

Part I: Austria

Continuing from Alf's Impromptu Prague Journal

Saturday, August 30, 1997

This morning we are off to Austria. Since we will be retracing our route of last week, for part of the way, we intend to refresh ourselves again at the brewery in Budvar. The crew’s supply of beer, which was last replenished a week ago, has been sorely damaged by consumption.

I finished packing my meager possessions about an hour ago. As Jean bought loads and loads of stuff in Prague, she is having a major difficulty wedging all the bits and pieces into her suitcase. A lot of expletives punctuate her packing.

Horror of horrors! The Budvar brewery restaurant was fully booked when we arrived. A couple of tour groups had reserved all of the tables. Oh God ... what were we to do? We didn't panic, dear reader. We downed a couple of brews and decided to press on to Cesky Krumlov for lunch. This is the UNESCO protected town that we stayed in last year when Stephani was doing the journal. It is a beautiful city with a river and castle, both of which were designed by Disney ... or, so it appears.

The big treat came after lunch. Actually, at the end of the next paragraph.

The Crew (12432 bytes)The five of us wandered about for a bit of shopping when we came across an engaging little bar just shy of the castle. After about an hour of chat, Julian (one of my crew) bounced in to let us know that the weather had made a sudden change for the best and we were about to fly. So, let's go!

We huffed our way back to the hotel just in time to Previa it to a take off site south west of the city. The crew put the balloon in the air in record time. And what a flight it was. We drifted over fields and through forests right up until the time that we descended over the roofs of Cesky Krumlov. Cesky Krumlov (9040 bytes)Hundreds of people and scores of dogs and cats tracked us in the sky. Our landing was dramatic! We hit the ground at about 10MPH ... after two large bumps we spilled onto our side and came to a horizontal rest. A dozen locals, who must have thought that we crash landed, showed up with cameras and video cams. We treated them to Champagne ... as is our wont in these situations.

Hey, these late flights end in very late dinners. Rarely do we eat before 10PM. I don't mind. Until the next morning when I have to get up after only burying five hours of sleep. Tomorrow we will see Salzburg. This will be the last leg of the journey.

Sunday, August 31, 1997

This morning we left the Hotel Ruze in Cesky Krumlov and headed toward the border. It was about a 40 minute drive before we reached a border crossing shop where we spent most of our remaining Czech money on snacks for the road (Snicker Bars, Slim Jims and Czech beer).

Schloss Fuschl (7008 bytes)A few hours later we checked into a hotel with one of the most stunningly beautiful views in the world. It is the Hotel Schloss Fuschl. The main tower of the hotel was built in 1450 by the Princes/Archbishops of Salzburg as their private hunting castle. The hotel is perched on a bucolic promontory on a lake surrounded by natural beauty.

The best part was that our ballooning friend of many years was here to balloon with us. Herman Seiger from Germany drove here in his Zeppelin automobile. Zeppelin (10296 bytes)This, dear reader, is an automobile that was built in 1933 by the German manufacturer of the Zeppelin balloons. It is a fantastic machine that is so tall that it might even be barred from some European tunnels (just kidding). But, it is a huge machine that is made out of real steel. Even today it is capable of touring down the Autobahn at over 150 KPM. Herman, as is his custom, brought me a corkscrew for my collection. I should mention, parenthetically, that every time Herman flies he flies in my corkscrew balloon.

Foggy Mountains (4634 bytes)This afternoon we had a spectacular balloon flight that carried us from one valley to another. Twice during the flight we ascended to over 6,500 feet to capture a panoramic view of the mountains. It was a crystal clear day so we were able to see forever. We landed near the shore of a lake ... and again a score or so locals came to inspect us.

Monday, September 1, 1997

Driving the Boad (7397 bytes)This morning while Jeff, Beth and Lisa went for a tour of Salzburg (apparently this tour was followed by a longish lunch), Jean and I decided to do and did something entirely different. As we've visited, several times, what the trio were off to see today, we opted instead to rent a really cool boat to explore Lake Fuschl. The boat was an electric powered craft that had its battery constantly topped off via built in, flush fitted, solar panels. It had two forward and two reverse speeds. Of course, it wasn't very speedy. We spent more than two hours cruising the lake, listening to the neatest music from Radio Danube and watching nudes. Nudist Beach (9221 bytes)You see, on the top side of the lake there is a well stocked bunch of nudist beaches ... the bottom side, however, was largely inhabited by forests and rock formations. But, the water was so clear that we could see the bottom most of the time'along with the zillions of fresh water trout that call this lake home. Incidentally, this is a pretty good sized lake ... it even has resident sailboats, albeit small ones. The nice thing about it is that all the boats have to be powered by sail or by battery: no petrol engines are allowed, thank God.

Dining (9444 bytes)After boating we went to the verandah of the hotel for lunch. Of course, I had smoked trout that had been taken from the lake. Here, there is a trout farm that uses both the lake and land tanks for harvesting. It is not more than a hundred yards from the hotel. I'm sure that it is an independent outfit ... however, I do think it is the hotel's sole supplier of smoked fish.

It could not have been a more beautiful afternoon.

As I type this, some swans and some coots are swimming toward our immediate shore. Our previous tenants must have fed them about this time of day.

In about 45 minutes we are off for some more ballooning. With a little luck for a still wind we'll be able to take off from the hotel grounds ... and drift over the lake. God, I hope so because it is such an incredibly beautiful venue.

Hey, while I was writing this Lisa walked by the beach I front of our room. We yelled out to her. She, Jeff and Beth had a nice time in Salzburg ... but, the lunch was a killer three or four course meal. Jeff and Beth are getting some ZZZZZZs before we have to fly.

Aloft (8698 bytes)Hey, we set a trip record this afternoon. We lifted off from the same lake shore that we landed on yesterday. Shortly after leaving the ground we popped up to 8,000 feet. A few minutes later we held at 8,600 feet. Mountains (5066 bytes)At this point Jeff brought his paper airplane skills to the forefront. His first vehicle sailed gloriously out of sight. His second model corkscrewed straight into the ground killing all on board. Ominous!

This afternoon we had a sky that was even more pristine than the one we sailed through last night. We had 360 degrees of mountains; about 10% of which were snow capped.

Jeff, that was a foul trick that you pulled with those Margaritas! You should have told us that they were made with pure Tequila. We are going to hate you in the morning.

That sentence is a bit out of context. Whatever, after our uneventful landing (sans welcoming crowd) we rushed back to the hotel to catch the dining room before it closed. However, Jeff who has not had a Margarita since he left the states spotted a bottle of Tequila in the lobby bar. Our march to the dining room was halted while we all downed Jeff's favorite drink. After dinner he insisted that we sample more of the same. That is why I predict that most of us will feel like shit tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 2, 1997

We do!

Morning After (8075 bytes)Sources tell me that Jeff was seen this morning sitting in a tub wearing sunglasses. And the lights were off in the room. How did YOU feel, Jeff? Like shit?

I forgot to mention one salient thing from yesterday. Jeff almost beat up a Brit last night at the bar. The less said about that the better. It is all vaguely tied in with why a very fat Italian opera singer might have been driving a motor cycle at high speed on a motor way in Paris on Sunday night. But, it has nothing to do with why Jeff likes to drink his coffee laced with salt. For those of you who are really curious about this stuff Jeff can be reached at 954 761-1110.

Boating (10540 bytes)This morning we left "home" at about 10:00AM. About an hour later we arrived at Hallstat, a magnificent lakeside village. For the next couple of hours we piloted electric boats all about the lake. It was great fun and no one drowned. But, we worked up an appetite without burning up any calories. Bad sign!

Lunch followed. Jeff had six cups of coffee and three meals, just for starters. The rest of us had normal lunch beverages with our normal meals. After that Jeff had even more coffee, this time it was laced with some beer. Bad sign again!

A few hours later the great paper airplane contest began. Beth, Lisa and Jeff had spent hours the night before designing their best pieces. For just this contest we took the balloon up to about 3,000 feet. Jeff launched his ship first ... it made a few wonderful circular passes beneath the balloon before heading south and killing all on board (sounds familiar?). Then Lisa had a go: hers went straight down never to be seen again. Finally, Beth had a chance with her one off design. Dear reader, this was a thing of beauty to behold. After a few virginal wing shakes it glided gracefully for hours (well, minutes) before landing sans damage. Accolades were heaped upon her by all of the unbiased observers. Even the ground chase crew cheered from afar. Sadly, Jeff just muttered dark thoughts about a rematch. But, since Beth's victory was so overwhelming in every point category there was no support for another round of competition.

Skimming (5762 bytes)Anyway, back to the balloon flight itself. Again we inflated at a lake shore. But, this time Mike allowed the balloon basket to drop into the lake water ... sure, but only about up to an inch deep. [1] As we were cruising at about 1 MPH, even slow swimmers could keep up with us ... canoes and faster craft had to miss a stroke or two to keep from overtaking us. We must have spent 20 minutes playing like a boat before we kicked in the burners full time to drive us up a thousand meters. At that point the paper airplane contest began. [See just above.]

Until tomorrow.

[1] I don't like doing footnotes, but I have to inform my new readers that Mike Lincicome is the best and most artistic hot air balloon pilot in the world.

Wednesday, September 3, 1997

Lunch by Shamane (8620 bytes)This morning we drove to St. Gilgen on Lake Wolfgang and boarded a ferry for the hour ride to Saint Wolfgang, a picture postcard Austrian town. After a visit to a Baroque church and a brief drive we picked up a privately chartered boat on Lake Mondsee. We were treated to a picnic lunch on board; that treat was the exclusive creation of Shamane ... our only female crew member (though Dan tried to take exclusive credit for it by wearing the chef's hat). Hey, you probably remember Shamane from the France trip in July. If not, go read Stephani's Journal.

After getting back to the hotel, my friend Herman took us all for a spin in his fabulous Zeppelin. We drove to Fuschl and back. Needless to say, a lot of heads turned at the sight and sound of his huge horseless carriage.

The last balloon flight was through misty skies ... and we landed on the lawn of our hotel near sunset. Nice piloting, Mike.

OK, dear reader, I have again done something impulsive. Rather than resigning myself to flying home tomorrow, Jean and I have decided to take the balloon to France for some additional flying. I really don't know when we'll be home. I sort of like these open ended things.

Thursday, September 4, 1997

It turned out to be a lazy day. Finished a good novel. Had lunch overlooking the lake. Cruised the lake on our little solar panel powered boat. Had dinner.

That's all, folks.

Friday, September 5, 1997

Today's auto journey was 412 miles long. We started in Austria, passed through a bit of Germany, tucked back into Austria, crossed into Liechtenstein and finally made it to Switzerland. As it was a fairly mountainous route, we had to bore through 32 tunnels today. The longest one was 14 kilometers in length while the shortest one was just a pop in and out.

Near the Austrian-Liechtenstein border we stopped in Feldkirch for lunch. Surprisingly, the town was celebrating an extremely local Septemberfest, of sorts. All of the neighboring breweries had their wares up for tasting. Hooters (10428 bytes)And get this: there was a Hooter's tent in the midst of things. It seems that little Feldkirch will have the very first Hooter's saloon in Europe. The two girls who worked the tent were garbed in traditional Hooter's attire: bright orange short shorts and skimpy shirts. Our very own Sandra would have thrown stones, according to Ken. Anyway, we shunned all the above stuff, for the moment, and piled into a Chinese restaurant. We should have known better; we were the only ones in the place. The food was very marginal: sort of like what Hong Kong chefs would prepare for palates that really preferred heavy Germanic food. After our "lunch" we had pretzels and beer for dessert back in the Septemberfest area of Feldkirch.

A few hours later we were at the Hotel Bellevue Palace in Bern. We were last here only a few weeks ago ... though it feels that it was a year ago that Paul, Sandra, Ken and Jean & I were here. So many cities, so many balloon flights, so many meals ... it is like a time accordion that expands way beyond its original size.

Tonight we are off for pizza and an early shut down.

Next: On to Beaune, France

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