A Blog of Lists

After a busy month, California is in our rearview mirror and so is August. We have had good days with friends and tough days missing Dad and anticipating leaving here again. I’ve been packing and I’m into lists right now because they’re keeping my mind from insanity so I will be doing some listing today. First, some main events that have happened since getting back from Europe.

  • Skyler&Ann’s lovely reception at Ballico.
  • Michigan for 2 weeks with my family- trail rides, Lake Michigan, fishing, my wonderful family.
  • Kansas with Mom and Madison to help set up Mom’s classroom in Garden View.
  • Monday morning coffee group with Mom Yolanda.
  • Lunches and suppers and coffees with friends that are family. Uncle Evan’s, Jon’s, Dan’s, James’, Benny’s, Skyler’s, Jesse’s, Gary’s, Perrin’s to name a few.
  • Santa Cruz for a day with my honey.
  • D&D coffee shop on Saturdays.
  • Stops on travels at Tony&Tara, Darvin&Diane, and Mark&Melody.

Some things I see outside the Jeep window as we drive along that speak of California.

  • Oleander bushes blooming in the median in bursts of pink and white.
  • Rows of dusty almond trees baking in the sunshine.
  • A line of cars waiting in the In-n-Out drive thru.
  • Spindly palm trees standing out against the sky.
  • A neon sign proclaiming “extreme heat. conserve energy from 4-9 pm.”
  • Seedy taco trucks with plastic chairs and string lights.
  • Brake lights from the ever stop-and-go hwy 99 traffic.
  • A semi truck trailer loaded with piles of red tomatoes.

School started in California this week so Morgan and I stopped in and chatted with the teachers a couple times and checked out some of the classrooms. Since then, and because we are driving towards our own school year, I have been thinking of the top things/perks I enjoy as a teacher. actually, these ideas could also be for friends who are low, widows or ladies without a spouse to do these things for them, or busy moms.

  • Iced coffees after school. Or any drink really. You’d be surprised what an ice water would even do for me after some school days.
  • Meals that we can just heat up. Like these are perfect for taking back to the house to heat up or for warming up while you work late at school. And leftovers wouldn’t be shunned even.
  • Money. You might think the teachers just want another coffee mug but you’re probably wrong. Honestly sometimes we just want the cash to put in our “go home for Christmas” jar or to buy gas on the weekend.
  • Invites. Even if we say no because we’re exhausted and have been busy every evening that week, please don’t stop trying. It’s nice to know you’ve tried at least.
  • Snacks, obviously. If you left a sleeve of saltine crackers on our Enderby table we would eat them happily. It doesn’t have to be fresh that day or beautiful. We just like food.
  • Gift cards. It is so nice to know if you work late at school that you can just stop and grab food on your way home from the local Cafe. It’s also a nice bonus to get fuel cards that can help out your spring break or Thanksgiving trip.

We are driving straight thru the night so hopefully we will arrive to our little bus up on the mountain by early afternoon. It will be nice to be home. No big plans when we get back except to unpack our backpacks for the first time since May and drop some things off at school.

Also I need to tell you about this thing I received in the mail. I know other people around have got them also and they are neat. After Dad-in-law passed away, a group of my dear friends put together money and sent me a gift basket loaded with goodies. And now I am using my Harper&Jade minky blanket from the basket as we drive towards Canada. I have a card with all of your names on it so if you’re reading this, thanks from the bottom of my heart.

Have a good Labor Day weekend. And a safe one.

Italy + London

Burano, Italy

Monday morning we cruised out into the little cobblestone streets and found a place with muffins and lattes for breakfast. The city of Venice does not wake up early so it was fairly quiet in the streets. I wrote out some things to mail to my students:) and then we bought tickets to take the boat out to Burano. Burano is one of many little islands north of Venice and it took about an hour in a very warm ferry to get there. It’s a little fishing town with stone streets and lovely colorful houses lining the canals. They are also known for their lace making and there are lots of shops selling lace tablecloths and scarves. We had seafood pasta for lunch and walked through some of the town, then took the ferry back to Venice. We cooled off for a couple hours at the house. Our apartment is on the ground floor and you step directly out of a cobblestone alley through a big wrought iron door and into the hall. We went for a pizza and pasta supper and of course got gelato later.

Yesterday morning we were up at 4:00, packing and getting ready to leave. We had to take our trash with us to a trash barge when we left, although it was so early we couldn’t find one so we just found a garbage can in the main square. We took a water taxi to the main bus station in Venice, then a bus from Venice to the Marco Polo airport on the mainland. We flew out at 8:00, a 2 hour flight from Venice to London. Once in London we went to Borough Barista for a latte before touring some more around Buckingham Palace. We did a lot of casual walking around making sure we didn’t miss anything. It was only 72* here so it was a welcome break from the heat we’ve had lately. By late afternoon we were quite tired so we went to the mission house where we were a over a month ago. Gary&Bonnie left a few weeks ago and have been replaced by Dalton&Yvonne so we had messaged them a week ago to see if we could come meet them this time! We had a lovely time with them and a delicious breakfast this morning with Devon custard and crumpets. We left at 9 and stopped at a shop on the way out to the airport. Now we are boarded in London for San Francisco and I’m finishing this post.

We left on this trip with mixed emotions. Life had thrown a lot of things at us before we left, so we were glad to relax and take a breather for this time even though there were people who thought we were crazy. But of course underneath it all has been the sadness of what we will go home to. We have been so thankful for this time to focus on each other and Madison and other things, so in some ways we haven’t even grasped that Dad is gone. So once again, we ask for your prayers as we work with things when we get back to folks’, and as we anticipate going back to teach where we don’t have family around us. It looks overwhelming. Thanks for your love and the messages you have sent, even if we haven’t been too great at responding the last few weeks.♡

Slovenia and Italy

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Friday morning we left the little house on stilts around 8 and drove back to Zagreb for the last time to drop off our Fiat 500 rental car. Luckily we were able to put all the extra space haha in the car to use by drying laundry while we drove. Nobody has dryers here, of course. Then we caught a FlixBus to Ljubljana, Slovenia which ended up being a city we really liked despite the intense heat as soon as we stepped off the bus. More up with the times in some areas, and with the old architecture in others. We went straight to the apartment where Morgan made spaghetti and veggies for supper.

After some poking around online, I came up with a Saturday market to go to so we got a start on the day mid morning. We took the bus to the Dragon Bridge where the Market was close to and spent awhile perusing produce before we had lunch. Madison and I had pad thai from a street vendor and Morgan had breaded fish, sardines maybe? and fries. After lunch we walked through the handmade side of the market, no different than the ones in Canada and the US we go to with candles, soap, and knitted mittens. We discovered a little Nordic style coffee shop called Mariposa Coffee Roasters so we got iced coffees and blackberry lemonade while we talked with the owner. There is only one other coffee place in the world using the Mariposa Coffee title and that’s in Mariposa, California so the guy thought it superb we had been to that little place up in the Sierra foothills. After refreshing, (which is necessary like often because the stone streets here with brick walls on either side are basically a Dutch oven) we got bus tickets out to Lake Bled, Slovenia. The Ljubljana airport is far out of the city, surrounded by pine trees, so with only that stop, we arrived in an hour to Lake Bled.

Lake Bled, Slovenia

The water was so blue and green and it was breezy so little waves added white in the color mix against the mountains. A white church with a tall spire standing on an island in the middle of the lake completed the idyllic picture. We spent the rest of the afternoon hiking along the lake through the pines, and then walked through a market before we caught the bus back to Ljubljana. We collapsed in the a/c for a couple hours and Morgan brought pizza and kebaps back for supper.

We left early on Sunday morning and found a flea market that we walked through before going to Le Petit Cafe where we had scones and marmalade and eggs. Then we took our last FlixBus of the trip down to Venice, Italy, one of my top 3 favorite cities. We were here a couple years ago and have wanted to come back because we loved it. We arrived into the train station and caught a water taxi down the Grande Canal to San Marco Square close to where our apartment was. It was unseasonably warm here too, so we dumped off our packs at the house and took a break. Morgan has been living the dream cooking in all these countries and trying new foods. I’m living the dream because he loves to cook. Anyways he made a mushroom cream chicken with rice for supper and we went out late for gelato. Supper is in full swing between 9 and 10 here so the city was very busy while we were out. Men in striped shirts and flat straw hats sail people about the canals in gondolas and the sunshine on plants in faded courtyards paints a picture of serenity. There are lots of people in the main areas, but we find little streets, old walls on both sides and the smell of pizzas chasing us as we go. Its bittersweet that this is our last stop, but fitting that its a place we love and are comfortable.

Bosnia+Herzegovina

Typical house here.

I have so much to write but I dont think I can do justice to everything we have seen so I may ramble.

First, Bosnia and Herzegovina. We crossed from Croatia on Monday and stayed in a little town close to the border called Novi Grad Monday night. It was an apartment up a flight of stairs in an old building that a little lady came to open for us. She could speak zero English. None. She was jabbering away and I was talking too and we were getting nowhere until I had the idea to get out Google translate on my phone. I typed to her in English that translated to Bosnian and her face lit up and she typed back in Bosnian. So we had a whole conversation about her age (65), her three sons (age 33, 30, 29) and that she needed an hour to make beds so could we please go eat supper. We went to a little place where again the man couldn’t understand us so we made our point with gestures and pointing. Something available everywhere here to eat is a cevapi in lepinja bread, like a sausage sandwich in pita. Their sausages are made of pork, lamb, beef and paprika and put in a grilled pita bread thing. They are medium. Not great but okay. Thats what we had for supper before hustling back to the apartment and sleeping. In the morning I had more typed conversations with the lady and she wished us good luck and said if she was young she would come with us right now. It was cute. We quickly discovered at a coffee place that cash is the only currency here basically. Our waiter spoke good English and said he has lived in Bosnia six years and that it is half Communist and half Democrat. The banks charge 40% and up on transactions so cash is king. We paid $4 total for 3 Italian coffees so its a budget destination for sure.

Tuesday morning we drove a half hour off into Bosnia to our house for the next 3 days, a little wood house on stilts on the bank of River Una. We stopped at a market on the way to our place and got groceries. The stores carry lots of pasta and cheeses and breads so we usually find what we need. Mayonnaise is in squirt tubes, not jars,and ketchup comes in flavors pizza, mild, or spicy. My Google translate actually brings it up as “angry” ketchup, not spicy. You also have to weigh out and price your veggies before you take them up to pay, which we have learned the hard way and a huffy cashier has had to do it for us a couple times because we forget. We drove by fields of corn and sunflowers and through villages spread across hills. There are so many trees and lots of dense underbrush everywhere. The fields are small and broken up by patches of trees. The town we are in is known for the surrounding forests having lots of chestnut trees, and the River Una has 147 different medicinal herbs along its banks. Its wild and unkempt and I love it. It’s been warm so we walk a few feet to the river and swim for part of the morning, eat jam tarts or pesto spaghetti for lunch, take a nap in the sun, and finish with more floating down the river. We’ve only found chest deep water and the water is absolutely crystal clear all day. It’s lovely. Yesterday I sat in the shallows by the bank and watched baby suckerfish on the riverbottom. There is an area 50 feet upstream that has grassy banks and a volleyball net and grill that is a public swimming area. Again, very few people here have a/c so there are lots of people sitting outside in the shade or at the swimming area near us. We are starting to recognize some of the people. The old men come and dive in off the rocks, float down to the landing, and sit at the picnic table talking until the cycle repeats. The families come with their naked little children and coax them to jump off the rocks. The old women lay on towels in their bikinis, gossiping and occasionally going into the water. We swim with them and smile because we can’t speak and I watch them all from our deck while I sit in the sun and think about how all these people are experiencing sadness and depression and joy and grief and love, just like me. I wonder about their lives and where they were 30 years ago when the Bosnian war atrocities were happening around them. The 90s do not seem very far in the past when I read about the things that happened here then. Last night we took a drive into the surrounding countryside, through tunnels of trees and brush on narrow roads with potholes. A church was lit on the hillside, people were cheering at a soccer game in the little town, and old ladies sat on walkers outside their wooden doorways hollering across the narrow streets to each other. The houses in Bosnia and Herzegovina are almost exactly the same. They are made of brick, with the main difference being that some have stucco and some don’t. The stucco is chipped off in places on lots of the houses, and most of them have orange tile roofs with chimneys poking up. It gives the countryside a rustic feel, and in all our exploring we haven’t been able to decipher which people are more wealthy than the next. The houses are the same style, they drive older vehicles, and very few of them have spotless yards. Most of the houses have yards though, or enough space to put big vegetable gardens in.

Jasenovac Concentration Camp Memorial

Today we decided to take a day trip into Serbia and I’m so glad we did! We crossed back into Croatia and then into Serbia and the border crossing into Serbia was long, around an hour. We have had no issues on any of our crossings, and today weren’t asked even one question. We spent some time driving in Serbia and then went into a town called Сремска Митровица where we had lunch outside at The Promenade on the Sava River. We had this delicious kind of salty saurkrat and sausage and chicken and pork. And bread of course. Our waiter said he knew English but he didn’t. I had to use Google translate. It was so hot today so lunch was short and everyone else was heading swimming while we ate. We headed back out of town and once in Croatia we stopped at the Jasenovac Concentration Camp. Even though it’s not the most heard of, it was the 3rd largest in Europe and the most brutal. We went to the memorial which is an opening cement flower where the camp once stood, the only thing left in an otherwise beautiful place. It was eerie when Morgan and I went to Dachau, Germany a couple years ago, and it was eerie now. The scars of WW2 hang over some of these countries with a heaviness rarely felt anywhere else and even the birds and cicadas were quiet in the trees today. We weren’t able to go through the museum today so we went back to the house and went for a swim. We had pasta for supper and I packed up my bag because its the last night in this house!

Memories of My Dad

My Dad was cool. I was so proud of him. He was a big guy with black hair and dark eyes and lovely tan Navajo skin and I think lots of people were intimidated by him. He was sometimes quiet in groups, but he could sure have corn-on-the-cob eating contests with friends Greg Koehn and Lance Johnson, or “Chubby Bunny” marshmallow contests with cousins Jerry Ensz and Dawn Nikkel. He had a big heart for his friends and would check in on people if he felt a nudge to. Usually when he talked, people listened. I loved how he stood up for what was right and that through his struggles he never doubted that this was the right Church. He was analytical, smart, and could physically outwork anyone I know. He would come home at the end of a 16 hour day of walking through cornfields in 100* Kansas heat and we would eat burgers and then he’d relax for awhile on the living room floor while we all sat around with him and Mom. He’d always let our dog, Spencer, inside in the evenings and he would just lay there with Dad. Sometimes we would take Herbie our hedgehog out and he and Dad would play tug-of-war with a sock.

I spent lots of my teens being rebellious and shallow, and unfortunately some of you reading this will remember those years. Before I could wear a new pair of Sunday shoes I’d have to have them proofed by Dad and that was the worst. Invariably they were too high. Now, I am so thankful for his and Moms direction. It seemed like I was grounded a lot of my youth for various infractions, and he was famous for telling me, “You know what I think about it but you do what you think.” Then I’d be forced to deal with the guilt of knowing I was going against his opinion, and it wouldn’t end well. I had a terrible car accident when I was 16, and Dad was the first one to me, always calm and cool. That night he was up by the couch all night checking on me, and I remember feeling totally safe. I was so proud of him for helping people and being an EMT. When we were little we would lay on folks’ bed in the old pink Gaye Moore house, and Dad would be out on a call and we would listen to the scanner to see if we could figure out who it was at the scene with him. When he was doing his EMT training, he would practice his blood draws on us kids and we would just beg for him to use needles on us. I was always competing with him to see who was darker, always him obviously, or we would wrestle in the kitchen. One of my favorite things to do with Dad was watch storms rolling in from the southwest there in Kansas. He would put up his lawn chair and take his peach iced tea and sit out by the garage and we’d watch the rain and lightning coming. I was never scared of storms while Dad was around. For my 18th birthday, our family went to Pueblo, Colorado. Dad loved skydiving and I had always wanted to since he did, so Dad took me skydiving over the Royal Gorge for my birthday. And Dad loved being in the kitchen. When folks and Mark&Rhoda would do meal ticket suppers together, he was in his zone, entertaining and serving food. His bbq ribs were delicious , as many of you know:) One evening I had a Valentines supper for the youth girls at Copeland, and Dad went and bought a bow-tie and wore a white shirt and waited on us for the evening. Our friends were equally in awe and scared of him, probably because he had no qualms about treating them like his own kids. He loved harassing them and loved when they gave it back. He and Jessica Jo would go in circles and he loved it.

There was aways fishing. It was Dad’s therapy. While I taught school I missed some of the good fishing trips to Colorado, so I mostly remember the ones to Lake Michigan. He loved Frankfort so we spent a good amount of time camping there. We would sleep in the vehicle, all but Dad, who would be out at the end of the pier under the lighthouse, fishing all night. Someone would occasionally awake and make the long walk out to fish with him, but that usually didn’t last long. Once, we all slept on the beach, a summer evening under the moon listening to the waves a few feet away, praying we wouldn’t get kicked off. Dad hit it off with Brian Murphy and that became his next obsession, charter fishing out on the lake with Brian. He lived for those days.

My Dad. I miss buying him Father’s Day cards and getting hugs from him. His hugs were the best. I miss how he would say “love you Sis” and knowing that if somebody wronged me, he always had my back. I miss seeing him in his suit on Sundays. I miss that he’s not there to call for advice. I miss my Dad. People say 9 years is enough time to get over someone. It’s not. I still think of him most days and wonder what he would think of us now. He’s part of us, and our life, and our memories. I cried more tonight missing him than I have for the last couple years. Please tell your Dads (and families) that you love them.

Croatia

Cat Cafe

Tuesday- This morning we were heartbroken to hear the news of Taylor&Keelas child. They are special people to Morgans family and were just at Dads funeral and now we are grieving with them from over the water.

Heroes Square, Budapest

We packed up our clean laundry YAY and went for another good breaky before heading into the city with our packs for our final day here in Budapest. We went to a couple thrift stores this morning and wandered in there for awhile, and then Madi found a Cat Cafe so we sat and drank raspberry lemonade while the cats plodded around us and purred. Morgan took a walk rather:) For lunch we found a pizza place that made us think of Cyrus because his pizza is easily as delicious as this was! It rained while we ate and charged our phones so it was quite cozy. After lunch we went to the largest square in Budapest called Heroes Square which features a bunch of impressive statues of famous Hungarian chieftains that have impacted Hungary. We stopped for coffees on our way to the bus station, and our bus left for Zagreb, Croatia, at 6pm. I’ve been reading and watching the scenery which is tasseled cornfields and fields of sunflowers and tree rows. It’s beautiful here in Hungary, one of my favorite countries we’ve been to so far. Our border stops on the bus have been uneventful traveling through the EU but Croatia isn’t part of that so we had a 30minute passport check stop now. Our bus is pretty empty, and I can hear classical music that the driver is listening to and snatches of unknown languages in conversation around me. We have been steadily putting out tracts, quite a few in Budapest it seemed like, so we are going to run out soon. I was trying to carry too many with my phone today and I thought how tired I was of carrying them and I felt reproved immediately because it is something I can do and I was tired of doing it, like what in the world? I have just hoped that our head coverings and actions have shared of Jesus because it seems so small in these countries with sadness and fear that need Him. We arrived a little after 11 into Zagreb, and walked 5 minutes to our hotel.

Wednesday- We had a sleep in day and left the hotel at 11 for Verde Brunch and caffe where we had toast sandwiches which are really common here apparently. Also we had coffee while we sat under the umbrella outside. Its quite warm here today, some of the first actual heat we have had this trip and I haven’t minded the cooler weather! We went to a street market after brunch and looked at clothes and produce and fish. Now we are sitting in a gazebo eating ice cream cones after a failed thrift store attempt. There isnt a lot of things to do here so we’ve explored some of the city on foot and our bus leaves soon to take us to the coast, a tiny place close to Zadar. We are going to spend five days in our house 50 meters from the sea so you may not hear from me:)

Croatia

Thursday- Now we are here at our house and have watched the sunset over the Adriatic Sea and just had chicken for supper. Morgan and I went for a swim this morning on our walk. The water is beautiful greens and blues and the shore is white pebbles. There are lots of white stucco houses with orange tile roofs and laundry fluttering from the little balconies. Its not commercialized like some of the Mexico beaches we’ve been to, and there are lots of locals at the beach. We walked a mile to Spar and got groceries for the next couple days. It was hot out so we had siesta hour and then we all went down and got cold drinks at a restaurant because our house doesn’t have ice or a freezer, unfortunately. We took a swim again this evening before supper when the people were fewer. When we walked home I could smell delicious things cooking in houses we passed. There are little vineyards in peoples yards and giant purple bushes blooming everywhere. We can hear the waves on the shore from our little balcony and its wonderful. I love this warm, been-in-the-sun-so-Im-gonna-sleep-good feeling after these days, so goodnight.

Budapest, Hungary

Hungarian Parliament Building at night

Sunday- We left Patio Hostel in decent time. We had to bring our bed linens down at this hostel which they sometimes have you do at more hostel, less hotel places. We took another FlixBus out of Bratislava and arrived into Budapest around 1 pm. Our first business was to walk along the Danube some more because we still hadn’t got enough of it. Then we took our bags and dropped them off at the Meininger Hostel which is essentially a cheap hotel but super nice. We went walking across the Liberty Bridge and up to the Gellert Hill Cave that’s part of a cave network and now is a church built into the cave and hillside. We found a pub close to our hostel called “For Sale” and decided to eat there. Inside the ceilings were low and everything was made of dark wood, with straw scattered on the floor and bowls of peanuts on the tables. Every available ceiling or wall surface was covered with notes from people around the world who had also eaten there so overall the fire risk of the place was high. Haha. Anyways Morgan had Hungarian goulash that was so good, and Madison and I had chicken in mushroom gravy with croquettes. It was a fun experience. After supper we got tickets to go on a Danube river cruise that started at 9. We ended up outside at the front of the boat sharing a table with a nice couple from London and had a good time with them. The cruise was fantastic with lavendar lemonade served for the ride and the glowing lights of the Budapest shores to watch. Everything that looks grand during the day looks so much more so all lit up on a clear, cool night. It was a highlight for sure.

Monday- We went downstairs for breakfast-toast and marmalade and gouda cheese and coffee- and then walked across the street to the Central Market Hall, a huge market of meats, cheeses, and Hungarian things in general. There were lots of handmade embroidered cloths and paprika is a very popular spice here so that was everywhere. Then we rented scooters and cruised towards the Parliament Building, which is the third largest Parliament in the world. It is a phenomenal building and so I will share a link if you would like to learn something new. https://visithungary.com/articles/parliament

Shoes on the Danube Memorial

Close to the Parliament Building, we made a stop at a monument along the river called “Shoes on the Danube Bank”. In WW2 Jews were ordered to line up along the Danube and remove their shoes before they were shot and fell back into the river. There are sixty pairs of metal shoes along the river as a monument for those who died there, and it is such a sad place. Another read: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/shoes-on-the-danube-promenade

Szechenyi Thermal Baths

After we got lunch we took the train to the Szechenyi Thermal Baths. Budapest is called the “City of Baths” and is known for its thermal waters so we of course wanted to see for ourselves. The Szechenyi are the biggest and most popular, and when we got there we could see why. Built in 1913, the building that houses the baths is old and looks more like a capital building. There are huge tiled rooms with pools of varying temperatures, and then outdoor pools as well which is where we spent most of the time except when Morgan and I did a dip in the polar pool. We talked about you Jalen, cuz you would have liked it. It was so relaxing and we did a lot of people watching too. We left late in the evening and got supper on the way back to the hotel.

Vienna Day & Travel

Friday- We haven’t spent time yet in Vienna exactly since all we did was rent a car so I am counting today as day one in Vienna. We had a random day today. We slept in until 9, for one thing, and didn’t have any plan at all made for the day. Morgan decided to knock something off his bucket list and made supper reservations for a Michelin star restaurant called “Apron”here in Vienna. Unfortunately we have hikers clothing and nothing was dressy enough for a nice evening out but we didn’t mind because we decided to hit up some thrift stores. Does it get better than thrifting in Vienna? We spent the morning pilfering and came up with a blazer for Morgan but decided to go to a mall to look for shoes for me since I only have sandals and runners along. We ate lunch in the mall and Madison and I both found a couple things for the evening. We took the train and at 6 exactly we arrived at Apron and were ushered in to a warm, black toned restaurant with stone tabletops and cushy booths. We had the 7-course menu which I will post here.

•Arctic Char with carp caviar, celery, and pistachio nuts

•Jerusalem Artichoke and Pear with Gruyère, verjus, mustard, and pumpkin seeds


•Scallops with wild asparagus, green strawberries, and ossetra caviar


• Asparagus and Heart with smoked cheese curd, radish, and sorrel


•Arctic Char with carp caviar, celery, and pistachio nuts


•an intermission with popcorn ice cream 


•Rabbit with onion, beluga lentils, and XO vinegar


•Lamb Shank with bell pepper dashi, “Beuscherl”, fermentet garlic

•Lamb Heart and Lung with bone broth


•Blanc De Noir with raspberry, rice pudding, “Yuna 37%”


Also, with compliments from the pastry chef, a tree laden with mojito lollipops, churros, and hazelnut chocolates. One of the highlights to me was a butter candle in a brass candle holder that our server lit. There was a gravy vinaigrette at the base of the candle holder and as the butter candle melted it ran down into the vinaigrette, where we then dipped our bread. So cool.

Butter candle, goat cheese, olive butter, baby potatoes

Everything was centered around earth and nature as it was served, from rocks and pottery to leaves and trees. Presentation and service were at the forefront of the evening and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Morgan went to the kitchen afterwards to meet the Michelin star chef and we decided to really splurge and take an Uber back to the apartment. What an incredible evening for any foodie. We thought of James&Jenn and wished you were with us!

Saturday- We went to a market that Vienna is famous for called Naschmarkt. It ended up being 1/3 of a mile long and packed with any kind of foreign spice or food you could ever want and booths full of paintings and embroidery. Think the Turlock sale except everything was vintage and there were priceless paintings that we only dream of finding in thrift stores in the States. Like they were just shoved in boxes and around. I thought Madison was going to have a cow. She was horrified. I mean, we are nerds for cool paintings and here they are just nothing because they’re so common. Anyways we did a lot of sorting and Madi actually came up with one to bring home in her backpack. We had breakfast at the market also, a Viennese breakfast with soft boiled egg, cheese, Viennese bread, and marmalade. Oh and of courrrrse a latte. Then we got tickets out of Vienna and away to Bratislava, Slovakia.

Old Town, Bratislava, Slovakia

We arrived into Bratislava after an hour bus ride and walked to the Danube River where we sat for awhile admiring the boats and the people. Then we walked to the Main Square in Old Town where a curly haired pianist was playing “Hallelujah” and it was beautiful. Every kind of person was sitting and listening: an older man with a green vest chugging a 2-liter of coke, little children sitting on the steps, families walking. A little farther on a man was producing huge bubbles with a rope and the children were jumping and laughing and bubbles were floating upward in a haze of summer. We got to our hostel, Patio Hostel, and relaxed there.

Some notes: 1. Bratislava is surprisingly up to date. I figured it would be more like Vienna but it’s ahead. 2. McDonald’s here has real flowers on some of the tables. 3. We are averaging 6-8 miles of walking a day. There weren’t many escalators in Vienna so we got a lot more steps in. 4. Way less people here in Bratislava speak English. We literally cannot communicate with most of the people we need to.

Hallstatt, Austria

Hallstatt

Wednesday- This morning all of our clothes were dry which is cause for celebration! We left Wels and stopped for pecan croissants and lattes at a place with a red velvet couch and two ladies running the bakery that reminded us of Mom and Rhoda. Then we drove 1.5 hours to Hallstatt, over rivers and mountains and through lots of tunnels. There are lots of pine trees and today there was sunshine. We got into Halstatt midmorning and walked the town. Most of the houses are made of wood with shutters and window boxes with geraniums in them. The houses go up and up the mountain all joined together but with little alleys running all over underneath them. The lake is a lovely blue green color and there are swan boats and actual swans cruising around on it and we decided to get a little boat so we could too. It was such a fun time going around the lake and relaxing on the boat and soaking up the sun. I know I sound like a broken record but it is absolutely gorgeous here and we are loving it 100%. Its doubly cool for Morgan because he had planned this cool anniversary trip for us here to Austria a couple years ago and covid canceled it so we are excited to finally be here! After touring around Hallstatt and getting coffee to go, we started driving towards our Airbnb an hour away. Morgan took a scenic route to Lake Gosau, this alpine lake beneath the Dachstein glacier. We hiked out to some rocks, past cows with actual bells on! and swam out into clear blue water where we were for a while. Then our trip continued on to Golling an der Salzach where we went to some downstairs burger place for supper and then went to our place which is a hotel tonight.

Our swimming hole.

Thursday- Morgan got up early and went on a hike this morning while Madison and I slept in and organized our stuff. We went down with Morgan when he got back for a yum breakfast buffet. Again, no sweet waffles and pancakes and donuts, just meat, cheese, yogurt bar, and different kinds of bread. Morgan had a destination in mind so we drove up past where he’d hiked through a bunch of little towns. We were right in the heart of ski country with lifts right by the road and beautiful green ski runs everywhere. We ended up in a little Cafe where we got hot chocolates and more pecan pastries. It was a very blustery , cool day but the scenery was tops. We drove a couple hours back to Vienna and Morgan dropped us off at our Airbnb and then went to drop off the car. We have usually stayed in hostels but with Madison along we can split an Airbnb for cheaper so we have been doing a lot of those instead. We had spaghetti and veggies for supper and Morgan brought back flowers for me:)

Some notes: 1. We discovered some kind of addictive shortbread cookies here and are going through a surprising amount. Then we stopped today and bought 2 boxes and got 2 free so yay. 2. The cows wear bells. Yes. And a little boy just like Peter in “Heidi” was walking with them in his little hat and short pants. It made us think of you Rosemary!

Travel Day

Monday- This morning we packed our bags, made sure the kitchen and our room were cleaned up, and left the apartment for the last time. We found our way to Kafe Francin, a little coffee place I’ve been eyeing from the train every day. Then we went to a couple thrift stores where surprisingly, I made my first personal purchases since the trip began. Stuff was cheap, less than a dollar for a lot of it and I found a lace edged, mustard handkerchief thing for me and also something for Mom♡ Madison found a super cool vintage brown leather purse that she is going to restitch. Like what a cool thing to remember Prague by. We went to a shopping mall and had lunch and went into a grocery store. The stores here never cease to surprise me. The cheese, for example. When we went to the Netherlands a couple years ago we took cheese home for Dad Kevin because he loved weird cheese. He would always say “a little mold never hurt anybody ” so the cheese we see here wouldn’t bother him like it does me. It is full of mold. Far past the stage of common bleu cheese. It’s disgusting but it’s for sale everywhere.

Train compartment. This looks much more welcoming than our cars did.

Then we were off to Prague Central Station. I love the central stations here. They are like airports with the people pulling suitcases and hauling backpacks, but they’re also like a shopping mall with a food court and any kind of store you’d need. Our train was delayed half an hour so Madison and I sat in a Burger King booth and read while Morgan wandered around. This train was the first long-ride train we’ve taken on this trip, from Prague, Czechia, to Vienna, Austria. Some of the longer trains like the one today have little compartments with six seats in each of them. Morgan and I were in one compartment with 4 other guys, and Madi was in one a couple down from us with other people. The doors slide closed on them and they basically are little hotboxes. It was absolutely stifling and why we won’t take that particular train again. Anyways one of the men in our compartment was from Ohio and was originally from Hanford, near Fresno! He was a professor who taught teachers how to teach. You just never know who you’ll meet. I read John Grisham for most of the trip but we did see some stunning scenery. We went through mountainous regions in Czechia with pine trees and rivers, and then into Austria we had fields and fields of wheat being harvested and even wind towers so we really felt like we were getting close to Montezuma. We arrived into Vienna station at 9:30, about an hour behind so it was darkish already. We got supper in the food court and caught a train just a couple minutes down the line, close to where we are staying for night. We got an airbnb close to where we leave from tomorrow so we are putting the washing machine here to use and then going to bed. We are on the same time zone that we were in Czech, the Central European Summer Time which is 6 hours ahead of Michigan time and 9 ahead of California.

Traunsee Lake in Gmunden, Austria

Tuesday- Our Airbnb is probably the worst we’ve had on this trip, although it was actually fine. The dryer didn’t dry our clothes so we stuffed them into trash bags and hauled them along while we walked over to the car rental. In hindsight I’m glad we had the wet clothes bags because Madison and I used them for seating at the car rental place. With some bribing Morgan was able to get his international drivers license and then a car rented. Then we spread the wet laundry over every possible surface in the vehicle and were off. We’ve been living high on the hog compared to other backpacking trips: warm showers, clean clothes every day, a washing machine at some of the houses, etc. so wet laundry doesn’t matter. We headed west out of Vienna and after a couple hours or so of beautiful scenery, we arrived in Gmunden. It is a little town on the north tip of Traunsee, Austria’s deepest lake. It is so absolutely beautiful. Mountains that go right to the water, trees on hills and the blue lake. We got gelatos and walked around the town until it started raining so we drove back to Wels, where we are spending the evening rewashing some clothes and relaxing. We have a 10th floor apartment with a lovely view of green hills and the sun shining in patches down on them. Morgan went out to get supper for us and Madison is sleeping off a headache while I write.

Some notes: 1. One thing I notice here is the lack of standing signs from places like McDonald’s or Burger King or hotels. The view from our window is just city lights and no tall neon or lighted signs. 2. Our little SUV has glorious a/c.