About Allan

Family, travel, drums and watches. Marla and I have been traveling together for over 40 years. I love going somewhere new experiencing that wonderful feeling of the unknown, getting uncomfortable and having an adventure. As Anthony Bourdain said, “… travel leaves a mark on you and you leave a mark on it…”

A Tale of Two Bridges

Bratislava, Slovakia
May 9, 2022

Our guide Martin was wonderful with great since of humor who promised us an easy walk and not to be too boring. He was studying economics at the university and his wife had recently had a baby. He felt it necessary to have more than one job because having only one was not good for the brain.

Photo credit: Expedia.com

He started our tour at the riverside and called our attention to the bridges behind us. The bridge on the left was the first bridge for the city that crossed the river and was named after King James upon its inauguration but later changed when the country became independent. Hitler invaded and renamed the bridge Hitler and when the Nazis left the city gave it another name I couldn’t possibly spell or pronounce. The people of the city by now just referred to the bridge as The Old Bridge so that became the official name to this day.

Another bridge was built upstream a few hundred yards away and that became known as and then named as The New Bridge. All was good until a boat crashed into the Old Bridge so it was torn down and rebuilt. The Old Bridge was now newer than the New Bridge and such is Bratislava, old new and old made into new.

This country has seen several changes in the time, the worst was when they were given two options during World War 2: become part of the Nazi regime or be forced to become part of the Nazi regime. They took the easy route until the Russians liberated them from the Nazis but then made them communists. Finally the Soviet Union collapsed in 1993, the Iron Curtain came down and they split from the Soviet Union. Czechoslovakia and part of that country had a “ Velvet Divorce” becoming Slovakia and Czech Republic.

Got that?

-Slovakia is not Slovenia however during the Olympics the Slovenia national anthem was played when the Slovakia hockey team won-ouch.

-Slovakia is not slang for Czechoslovakia and Czechoslovakia became Czech Republic anyway.

-The town of Bratislava is in Slovakia and there is no “via” at the end of Bratislava like BratislaVIA.

-Don’t get me started on why the Skoda car not being pronounced “SkoDIA” because they are made in the former CzechoslovaKIA and that the KIA is not made by IKEA.

Our tour wound through a few cobblestone streets and courtyards until we came upon a cannon ball stuck in the wall above the door of the city hall. Apparently you could get financial help if Nepolian’s army damaged your building during the war and these cannonballs began appearing in buildings as people scammed the system.

At the end of our tour we came upon the most photographed manhole on the planet. Without any rhyme or reason, or political statement (rare these days) there is a bronze statue of a man rising out of a manhole in the ground that was installed for pure whimsy and fun. Like many statues in Europe, if you rub it you will have good luck, but this rubbed statue will also help with fertility. I passed.

A Day on River

Vienna to Bratislavia, Slovakia
May 9, 2022

Ocean cruises refer to cruising from one port to another as a day at sea but we are on the Danube river so a day on river it is. Today we left Vienna and headed towards Bratislava, the weather was good as it has been been for the whole trip. We were prepared for rain and only got some occasional drizzle. The boat usually cruises at night moving through the river locks and this gave us an opportunity to see the lock procedure during the day. The boat pulls into a big concrete box, the big door shuts, the big box is flooded, the other big door opens and the boats leaves to a higher or lower level of the river. You have to see it.

Today was also the beginning of the end, during our morning update our tour guide explained the transfers to the airports and which luggage tags to use. Ending a trip is not as hard as it used to be because we don’t have to go back to work and we have started planning our next trips.

As I write this we are in the Cookie Room or rear lounge with a coffee machine and cookies that overlooks the stern of the ship and the TV is on showing a loop of Gate 1 travel adventures around the world. The videos of Thailand and Morocco brought back pleasant memories and other clips are of destinations to be explored and are sparking the wanderlust gene. I’m certain my ancient ancestors roamed the plains hunting, gathering and kept moving to survive. Not much has changed, gotta keep moving. However there is still some melancholy with our exit ritual preparation.

Marla is wonderfully annoying in gathering the passports forms and what-nots needed to travel. Tomorrow we get our Covid test after lunch, some call it a brain scan regarding the depth they probe your nose. How quickly have we adapted in the last two years with the pandemic, to borrow a line from Jurassic Park, life will find a way to survive.

Keep moving.

There is Always One in Every Group

Danube River
May 9, 2022

In every tour there can be certain kinds of travelers: the tardy ones, the quiet ones, the drinkers and the friendly ones. The strays are the ones who instantly wander away from the group while listening on their Vox Box to the tour guide. They seem to take pride in “not being told what to do”, and they peel off looking for photo ops or shopping, or they may want to distance themselves from the herd and I get it. Most are somewhat furtive about their side trips with well timed exits during a direction change of the group or will drift backwards more and more before splitting off to appear respectful.

Another category are the ones who ask unnecessary questions up the ass. Maybe they weren’t listening, or couldn’t hear well or simply enjoy trying to stump the tour guide with “ why questions” like a three year old child. Others in this category like to flaunt their knowledge while posing it as a question, “ so isn’t it true…didn’t they say…”. Some perhaps don’t like the dead air of nothing being said at the moment and need to fill the space up with thinking out loud. I’ve seen some politely wait to ask their question while practicing it in their head but not listening as the tour guide answered it before they ask. They ask anyway.

This trip had Mr. Q and A nicknamed by some of our table mates one night after he asked the tour guide many questions including asking where they got the sand to make glass and he was also a wondering stray.

His wife was a stray too and they would both stray away from each other while looking at anything other than the tour guide was talking about. She would dart about like a chicken on Retilin. He would strut and promenade down the middle of the street away while the group shuffled down a sidewalk. He spoke loudly, with confidence no matter how dumb the question in a show of bravado not to be envied but avoided. People started to avoid him at dinner and whatever tour group he was with. We had him at our dinner table once and after arriving 20 minutes late he had to dominate the conversation with his knowledge of all topics. He let us know within his first two minutes at the table that he was a doctor too. A few nights later I noticed they were eating alone but not alone in a cozy corner, alone in a sea of tables of 6-8 guests all engaged in our daily recaps and other adventures.

I once switched tour groups to avoid him to the amusement of a insightful tour employee and then unbeknownst to me his wife had already joined our tour group so he did too.

Today we got him again in our group and I counted 10 questions he asked during a 1 hour tour and he was close enough to the tour guide’s microphone that we could all hear him. He started before we crossed the street and the tour guide must have sensed what was to become before immediately blowing him off stating that we should cross the street before any questions.

He later started a debate with our guide about socialism with undoubtedly some information gleamed from the internet, he lost. It was near the end of our walking tour and Martin shut him down with two curt replys.