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  • We ended up at a jazz bar just around the corner from our hostel and tried this amazing plum and herb liquor - it was 72% proof and it helped clear up my cough by this morning . I caught christty's cold a couple of days ago. Had breakfast and walked Christy to her train. Decided to go to Brno for three days instead of Prague. I'm meeting Denisa in Olomouc on saturday (our bunk mate) and she is going to show me around. Her mom lives there. After Brno I will head to Prague for a few days.Read more

  • What a great day! Pouring rain but that didn't stop us. Had a huge breakfast around the corner from our hostel and then headed into town. Went to the Bratislava Castle and museum and it was fabulous. Spent three hours there and climbed up to the bell tower. Walked down to St. Michaels church (last coronation of Ferdinand the II occurred there and then to St. Michael's Gate. We found a great wine bar called Trunk across the Bloominthal church where I was baptized snd gad some great fabulous Slovak wine. I had a wonderful St. Laurent from Ludwig vineyards 2015. We took a tour of Bloominthal church and then went to dinner to the Klastorska Pivnica (Monks Cellar). All the beer is made by the monks. Had some fabulous borscht and a pagac(bacon biscuit) and some awesome Ivan dark beer. Service was awesome and we had a great time. Put on about 10 k walking today.Read more

  • The program for today was a trip north into Slovakia, specifically its capital, Bratislava, sitting on the Danube. Rae was keen to have a rehearsal, which we did so after breakfast - we really needed to get together, not having done so for a couple of weeks on the other side of the world. Besides that, the guys had to get used to their borrowed instruments, and check that all the finger positions etc were comfortable. Always takes a while to get used to a new instrument, especially a big one!

    We set off at around 9.30 am. With a concert scheduled in Balf for 6.00 pm, we had to take all our gear with us, instruments, banners, music stands, uniforms. We were booked into a tour of Bratislava Castle and St Martin's church at 11.00am. Zoltan was not able to do the guided tour due to a Slovakian ruling about foreigners, so we had a Slovakian Tour guide. She gave us lots of information in a very small amount of time, so I found I retained very little of it. Very little indeed! Ok, almost nothing.

    We also had a walking tour around the streets, which Bill found very hard going. She kept up a road runner's pace and it was keep up or get left behind. A few of us were concerned that we didn't leave him behind, so consequently didn't really get to hear much, but what I did was soon lost

    By the end of the Castle tour, it was time for lunch. This was in a restaurant called Zylinder along a lovely tree lined pedestrian way. Potato soup, pork and mash, and pancake with strawberry coulis.

    Bought a few trinkets from a street stall in our free time after lunch, then hopped on the coach for the return journey. There were a few traffic hold ups, which delayed the time we were supposed to arrive in Balf for a rehearsal, set up and change. Instead of getting there at 5, it was more like 5.30, so there was a flurry of activity and only time for a quick re-tune. I think the jet lag combined with today's schedule, the heat and the rush to get on stage was beginning to fray some tempers.

    Although hot on the stage and we were quite dry, the audience was very appreciative, and asked for several encores! .Finally we had to call a halt, as our dinner and refreshments were waiting for us back at the hotel. After a wind down, we were well and truly ready for bed!
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  • We headed for the flea market this morning for some free shopping time. However, with a concert later in the day, we had to pack the instruments and uniforms onto the bus with us. The flea market was great with lots of local fresh produce downstairs, including souvenir paprika which we bought. Upstairs were some great bargains, the usual tourist stuff a la paddies,but also lots of locally made linen and so on.

    We stopped at a crowded food stall and wondered whether they had ever actually made coffee before. Back on the coach, we headed for Dorog where we had lunch in Grante Etterem. The tables were arranged very much like wedding tables. We had some lovely potato soup for entree, then a second course of pea soup with a schnitzel on the side, with some sort of tossed bun with poppy seeds.

    Passing Esztergom, we drove across the Danube in to Slovakia (Sturovo). Because of the rain, we had a problem in that the location of the concert was being used by some folk whose concert was originally supposed to be outside, delaying our changing and rehearsal. We were taken to a separate venue for a quick rehearsal and tune before going back to the Culture House. We mooched around a bit, and eventually got into the place. There were people dressed in majestic regalia, like mayoral robes for a 'wine knights' event. A couple of people were presented with some sort of certificate, and one wore a sash for 2015. Maybe some sort of promotional awards? We couldn't work it out.

    The second concert went well. The audience was again appreciative, and we had learned how to handle the encores without doing 6 of them! However, when we got back on the bus we found out that it had no power, so we walked down to the restaurant El Camino, I suppose about a kilometer away. Actually a bit of walking was a great idea after all the heavy food and bus travel.

    We sort of thought we might get some Spanish food, but Hungarian traditional seems to be the choice made for us - schnitzel, potatoes and pickles. At some stage during dinner, Bill had a brain snap and started telling Judith off when she tried to tell him not to tidy up the empty plates. It was a little unpleasant and uncharacteristic, and we were later told, possibly incorrectly, that she was taking photos of him eating with the wrong teeth! Not sure that we can still blame jet lag!
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  • Another trip over into Slovakia today to the historic township of Komarno, where the Danube and Vah rivers meet. Today the town is split - the northern half being in Slovakia (Komarno), the biggest, and the southern part on the other side of the Danube, in Hungary (Komarom). It is historically quite important and several items of interest are still here today to see including Klapka Square and the Komarno fortress.

    On arriving we were again handed over to a local tour guide (as explained previously, it is against the rules not to use a local tour guide). However, I think Zoltan would have done a much better job because of his much better command of English. This particular guide spoke with a very thick accent and we struggled to comprehend most of his spiel.

    First stop was a bathroom break. We formed a queue at the door and were amused at handing over a coin (10 huf) to receive a couple of sheets of toilet paper. One or two brave souls requested the ration be doubled, and we stood giggling, loo paper in hand while we waited our turn for the cubicle.

    The walking tour was quite extensive, and the town is again, very pretty and well kept. We were shown Klapka Square, the Museum, Town Hall, Courthouse, University, but the relevance and significance of most of them were lost in translation.

    One quite interesting place was 'Europe Square', where the buildings were specifically built to represent the architecture of different countries in Europe. All are shops and cafes hoping to attract the tourist dollars.

    Lunch was at Klapka Restaurant. where we were welcomed personally by the owner, and another feast of carbs and meat with few vegetables was presented. I discovered that young James had been eating almost nothing of the included meals, taking his mum after each of these meals in search of whatever fast food restaurant was to be found. During the afternoon, we were given free time to wander. The weather was beautiful, and Rae and I wandered up to the outside of the fortification. Inside I think was reserved for an additional paid tour which we weren't part of. Another beautiful European town to remember
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  • Left a lovely day in CK, headed south across the Czech border into Austria. Nice countryside, lots of agriculture, but yet to see a cow or sheep anywhere. Saw a chicken running around once, so not sure where they get their milk from around here.

    Mostly motorways today, good run until other side of Vienna where the traffic came to a stand still. Lost an hour, so didn't get to Bratislava until mid afternoon. Raining, and blowing equals cold. Taxi into the old town, a walk in the rain, and taxi back, so now sitting in a warm bar with a bubbles and a beer. No shortage of bars in this town!

    If the Czech Republic is the poorer cousin of Germany, then Slovakia (Bratislava) appears to be the poor cousin of the Czechs. No wonder they cut them adrift after the Socialists got kicked out. Commie architecture will never rival the vast range of styles evident in Prague. Austerity rules here in the newer parts, especially the vast apartments blocks for the workers.

    Broke my land speed record while Janine wasn't looking. Got overtaken while driving in the slow lane at 130 at one stage. Very civilized.

    Off to Vienna (Wein) tomorrow, drop the car, 2 nights there before joining the boat trip. Janine thinks she needs to go shopping now for warmer clothes, but we're heading south and down in altitude from here, so should be warmer.
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  • For a very long time I wanted to to a motorbike trip around Europe but if you had of asked me, even 12 months ago, "do you think you will be in the Slovakian' capital in August 2016" I don't know if I even new what city is the capital of Slovakia. Not too long a day riding, but when you only travel back roads and stay away from motorways and toll ways, it takes a while to cover kms.

    The city is quite bit smaller than Prague so you get to see more of it which means the disparities within the city are more obvious. Parts are fantastic, well maintained and impressive. Parts are really quite depressive.

    There is a small park opposite a cafe (where I managed to get a "normal" hot chocolate) just a few metres down from the hotel I stayed at. I noticed shat I gathered was an older homeless man lying unmoving, in relatively long grass, behind a park bench. A few hours later he was still there not having moved an arm or leg. I got a bit worried he might be in trouble do I gingerly went over and couldn't see any sign of life. I thought about letting some authority know but decided to shake his shoulder in case he was just asleep. A little shake elicited no response so I gave him a bigger one. Well, I think I found the guy who taught the two guys in Dresden how to swear in at least 5 languages. I'm not sure what he said but he was still going off at me as I walked/ran back past the cafe (where the crowd had gathered to see the fun - his swearing was replaced by their laughter as I passed). Sort of funny, but sad to see, homelessness seems to be everywhere, including at home.

    Lets go to Hungary next.
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  • After cocktails for Georges and champagne for me, we enjoyed dinner with guests from Cincinnati: salmon tartare, lobster bisque, veal medallions with cepi mushrooms & polenta, dessert trio all accompanied by pretty good German wines.

    Tonight's after dinner entertainment is presented by the crew. Lots of fun! Many of the crew are Filipino, extremely gracious. Pamela greets me with a double cappuccino at breakfast. She told me the crew works for eight months and then has for months off when Tauck doesn't sail. She said she loves her job.

    The first act was from Indonesian crew playing When the Saints Come Marching In on bamboo instruments. Next, the bartender demoed cocktail making! Then the crew presented Black & White; a dance between the entertainment director & a beautiful staff member; a spoof about poor service; river dance; crew song finale.
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  • Short cycle day today. Overcast and a lot cooler than yesterday.

    Short bumble around the city to take a couple of pictures, including 2 of the famous Bratislava statues.

    Tomorrow we head for Hungary. 1st stop will be Gyor.

  • Nice cycle through little villages, local forested areas and farms.

    Watched one combine harvester cut and collect wheat and another one bale up the "leftovers" for animal feed.

    Komarno has 2 parts. One on the Hungarian side of the Danube and the other on the Slovakian side of the river.

    Food is a lot cheaper in Hungary, who also still have their own currency - the Forint. Yesterday's lunch of 2 Kebap in Pita and Coke was a mere €3 😊.

    Many Slovakian people cross the bridge from Slovakia to go shopping at Tesco's on the Hungarian side of the river.
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