Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Iberian Jalopy Seeks Mongolia

Stolen from slate's four word anthology, we have a slogan and a team name, I confidently report from the slowest internet cafe in Croatia (pronounced from the back of the throat). I last left from Switzerland, headed toward the fine country of Czech Republic with its romantic architecture and people. Many drives filled with laughs, naps, Hercules Theme, and I'm Yours beats have covered a third of our trip already. Peaking around 28 miles per gallon (all calculations done by hand from kilometers and liters), the 1990 Renault has proven itself already, and we intend to push it further than it ever imagined travelling in six weeks. Recent bets have been made as to the final final odometer reading upon entering Ulan Bataar, Mongolia, where someone will pay dearly for losing (more news when the bet is done).
Leaving some of the most hospitable hosts anyone had ever encountered, we crossed the Swiss-Austrian border with not only three days of water, but a universal power adapter, Switzerland's finest version of a leatherman, and full bellies from the kindess of Thomas and Antonia Kuettel. Our disguises, however did not relieve us from the duty of sharing our passports. No insurance check yet though. We entered Munich around lunchtime, found free parking at a broken lot, and wandered into the old town.
We left the old town, a little lost due to my poor sense of direction which walked us through a construction site, but a little rich due to my directing us to a free parking garage. Olympic park!!! We wandered through this historic landmark not sure why it was still there, amazed by the buildings and structures. We meandered over to the map of the area, considered a few things to see and realized that it was 3pm and we had another 200 km to cover before Prague, our evening destination. Skipping Dachau, we floored it for Prague, seeing a few gas stations and finally the border, where we loaded up on the honeyest, grossest cookies I've ever eaten nutella on. Still delicious when hungry. We met up with my friend Rachel Pole, saw a bar and then called it a night.
The next day, waking up outside Prague at a campsite where everyone had paid much more than we had, we rolled back into the city and the same parking spot - free on weekends. We ran through the city, seeing every site, and pausing only briefly for lunch at the sculpture garden near the Charles Bridge. I learned the lesson of guiding us too quickly when we ended the day exhausted and overwhelmed with memories of buildings, statues and couples wandering through squares. Rachel drank a beer with us atop the hill, looking down on the city, meanwhile we broke the news that we were ready to leave Prague and the city life to head for the country and some free camping. Fondest memory of Prague? The statues at the castle of a man beating another with a huge club. Awesome!
Free camping rarely exists, but we find it nonetheless, this time in a field outside Benesov and a crumbling castle we aspired to climb around, but lost interest in. The next day we woke up frozen, regretting the plan to sleep outside - my bivy sac is not as luxurious as I once thought, filling with condensation when the outside temperature drops below the inside temperature and dew point causes a change of state... thermodynamics in short.
Crossing the Austrian border, loaded up with duty free mini Snickers and Gummie Bears, we visited Eggenburg, purely for the name, drove by various humous sounding names and concluded that one day we would all return and found Burgerschlong, the ultimate Austrian city, full of tall beers and free camping, again lacking in this country. Vienna proved the opposite of everything we were looking for in a city, in terms of affordability, weather and convenience. We got lost, spent half our budget on parking, and got rained on. The buildings were architectural beauties, but we wasted no focus, energy, or money on museums, cruising instead through the courtyards and posing near statues. After an encounter with an internet cafe, I led the troops to a non-profit, more specifically the International Community of Sustainable Development. When we finished getting lost and eating lunch to give me courage, an older man opened the door to his apartment, and in moderate English informed me that his daughter was the organizer but was not in. I guess I found the non-physical organization. Something else to note. I'm still proud to have knocked, even if I have little to show for it.
From there we searched out the Pol Tollau National Park, visited our fourth church and camped pretty conspicuously on the top of hill while a pastor drove his smart car by a few times. When it started raining, we set a record for erecting the tent and recorded our stories from the previous nights on James' voice recorder. The next day embarking for Croatia proved rainy again, but successful. We drove down to the Plitvice Waterfalls, but didnt spend for the entrance ticket. Today we headed back to Zagreb, discovered we couldn't meet up with my friend Jon and now Ive run out of minutes. Pictures are at Couldnt post them. More to come.


Deborah Edward said...

glad you got to Petrim Hill in Prague....I'll drink a beer in your honor there next week.
Keep on trying with those interviews!

Shawbee said...

Oooh Gummi Baerchen!

I always knew that Thermodynamics was short. Maybe that is why I over-look it all the time.