It was time to stop for the night, and I’m happy to report that it was still daylight. Unfortunately once again we met with the men in those snappy blue outfits. At the off ramp of the autobahn, everyone was required to produce documents, but this time the international driver’s license was at hand, and thank you Peter, one more time, for the heads up on the vignette. Whew! Chatting up the official, Keith asked where a good place to stay for the night was, and darn if the guy didn’t get all sociable and point us toward “Zimmer.” We pulled over and dug out the IPhone to search www.booking.com, a site that, along with www.venere.com was helpful for the entire trip, for a hotel in the area in our price range that took pets.There we found the Laabnerbach Hof in Laaben. Having only two single rooms left, they gave them both to us for the price of one double. They also told us that their restaurant would be closing soon, and advised us to go to a few hundred meters down the road.
Zur Post had an outdoor biergarten, but since the weather was chilly, we went inside. You’d have thought Oktoberfest had already started (or maybe it was still on); it was definitely the happening spot in this countryside. Clusters of men stood at the bar, sang, and clinked steins, thirty-somethings had their computers open, and cigarette smoke hung like a curtain in the air. After a plate of local sausages for Keith and teriyaki chicken with jasmine rice for me, we returned to our hotel to find the rooms clean and utilitarian, although I still didn’t get why so many bathrooms in Europe don’t have shower curtains or doors. The lack thereof necessitates standing under a small stream of water and not moving very much. I was starting to get the hang of it.
The following morning, breakfast was a complementary buffet of sliced meats, cheeses, eggs, breads, pastries, and fruit, and then we were on our way to Bratislava, Slovakia, which was en route to our ultimate destination of Hungary. Upon arrival at midday, we found public parking easy to locate and reasonably priced. As soon as we left the garage, we heard English-speaking voices behind us, and made the acquaintances of Naveen Kumar, Rita Freitas, and another friend. We had a friendly if brief chat, and thanked them for directing us to the right area of town for lunch.
One broad, tree-lined street offered over a dozen restaurants, so we walked its length assessing them, ending at one of the 130 fountains in the capital. We retraced our steps and decided on lunch at Café Verne. Again sampling local fare, Keith opted for Bryndzovó halušky so slaninkov, otherwise known as Sheep cheese gnocchi with ham. I enjoy a bite of something peculiar to the area, but also like my known quantities, so chose Grécky šalát. I bet you can figure that one out.
When we visited Bucharest, Romania last year, we came away with the sense that World War II had ended just a couple of years ago. Graffiti and bullet holes marred the walls of lovely buildings, and the zeitgeist was one of loss and sadness. In Slovakia there was a hint of that, as though perhaps the War had ended ten years ago, not two, and they are looking to the future. Looking forward to our own immediate one, we took off for Budapest.
(Laabnerhof, “on the slopes of the Vienna woods”: booking.com; Zur Post; Café Verne, Hviezdoslavovo Namestie 18, Bratislava, Slovakia)