A Tale of Two Cruises - early winter 2009 travel blog

lighting the candle

grave marker

Driving days are never all that exciting be they in an RV or a rental car, but we are happy to report that everything went smoothly on this one. Because we were staying in a time share, we had a few extra chores emptying the garbage and stripping the beds, but the comfort of living in our own "home" more than made up for it. We had used the laundry and internet and were not sure if we would have regretted that when we got the bill, but since it was a homey atmosphere, all was included. I hate to sound like a broken record every time we go to Europe, but it is #$%^&&* expensive here. The prices would be reasonable if they were in dollars, but the Euro is worth 50% more. However, thanks to the generosity of friends and family and the fact that we had no time to go shopping, we will be getting on the plane to Rome tomorrow relatively unscathed thus far.

It also looks like our rental car will be returned tomorrow unscathed. Ken may marvel at my ability to pull German out of the deeply buried recesses of my mind, but when it comes to driving he's the best! It's the rare street in Vienna that's more than two blocks long. And all these short lanes intersect at angles; the street plan must have been laid out by drunken cows. Obviously the GPS was a big help, but I found I had to look two turns ahead to make sure that Ken was in the right lane at the right time for the next turn. Because the streets are so narrow, many of them are one way which the GPS handled with aplomb and left me wondering - how did we ever manage here without it? It did struggle a bit when we first came out of the underground parking garage because the tall buildings along the narrow buildings prevented a clear shot at the satellites. Most of the locals only get into their cars to drive out of town and they patronize the street cars. We shared the narrow lanes with street cars, buses, and frequent bike riders. It started to get dark at 3pm and many days were rainy so that reading the uniformly placed, but dark blue street signs was also a challenge. No wonder that many of our neighbors prefer to take tours when they travel overseas.

We had visited all the deceased members of my family in town, but my grandfather is buried about an hour outside Vienna with his great grandmother very near the expressway. Lots of tricky family details here... My aunt suggested that we stop there as well on the drive back to Munich. As she described how to get there, it was one of those drive into town, look for the church, you can't miss it descriptions. Well, we found the town and saw the church up on a hill, but couldn't figure out what road to take up there. The GPS did not know that the church existed so we were on our own. Hartmut got out of the car to ask two women on the street for help and they did their best, but we still thrashed around. The cemetery was small, and we had to do a bit of wandering to find my grandfather's grave.

My aunt had brought red commemorative candles on our last cemetery trip, but I was empty handed. A vending machine nearby sold candles of varying degrees of fanciness. Now I had a candle, but no way to light it. I went into a nearby hardware store and used my best German, saying that I was from America and had just found my grandfather's grave and wanted to honor him with the candle. Matches were instantly provided and I could finish the job I had come to Vienna to do. It was not nearly as sad to be here without my aunt, because I never knew my grandfather, and I was left with a feeling of completeness.

Time to move on. We returned to Munich and dropped off Hartmut; we are so glad that he came with us. It made the trip so much more fun and he always gives us background and perspective we would not have on our own. While we made it to our hotel near the airport tonight without his help, we had a feeling of security because he was in the back seat. When we are in Rome tomorrow, we will wish he had continued the trip with us.

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