Today was all about relaxation. It rained a good part of the day, either light or heavy showers, until after I had a fancy dinner, at which point I didn't really feel like going out. And then there's the bags to pack before heading off again tomorrow. Since I didn't do much today in the way of sightseeing, I thought I'd tell you all about some of the things that you realize - about yourself, the world, etc - when you have to live out of a suitcase for this long.
On days when I don't have to get up for a train or a tour that I've already paid for, I make a point of not setting an alarm. If I sleep later than normal, then apparently my body needed the extra sleep. That's one of the perks of being on vacation. If I get up earlier than expected, well, then I just have extra time to do whatever I want. Breakfast ended at 10 this morning, and I didn't wake up until 9:15 - I think my body still hasn't adjusted to the new time zone. Anyway, I put some clothes on and ate a huge breakfast. This
hotel does not disappoint when it comes to food. That's probably the largest breakfast I've had all year, much less this trip. It had started to get ugly outside while I was at breakfast, so when I got back to the room, I figured I would bite the bullet and grade my students' exams. That didn't take as long as I expected, which was both a curse and a blessing; a blessing because it was done, but a curse because now I had to find something to do besides leaving the hotel.
Ultimately, I decided it was time for the jacuzzi downstairs in the hotel's sauna facilities. That was a relaxing 15 minutes, but it's one a cycle of 15 minutes bubble, 15 minutes off. I came back upstairs and showered and got ready to go to the hotel's restaurant, which did not disappoint. I had cheese crepes (which they called pancakes) as an appetizer and grilled trout for the main course. The waiter was even nice enough to remove the spine and most of the ribs of the fish when it got to my table. My dessert was a chocolate/mint concoction. It was a pretty enjoyable experience, and
I left the restaurant satisfied. It only cost $17, and that's with the tip.
Now I've packed up my things, because I'm leaving this town in the morning. I'm sad that the weather didn't cooperate today, since there's a nice citadel across the street from my hotel, and then there's Bran Castle, which they market as the home of Dracula, not far at all from here. I'm glad I hadn't already booked tickets, because then I'd feel obligated to go, or sad that I wasted the money.
Now here's some stuff that might be kind of boring to some of my readers, but it's important for me to remember or even to recommend (both to you and to me, for my next trip). After all, I'm doing this travel blog as much for my own purposes as I am to entertain you wonderful folks.
First thing, I really can tell when I've neglected my stretches for more than a day. After I blew out my knee skiing last year, the doctors recommended doing stretches every day (and sometimes multiple times a day). I thought I wouldn't have any problem getting them in every day, since I get
to plan my days most of the time. But sometimes when you have to check out to catch an early train, or if you get in late, it's just one more thing to take up time. I'll admit to skipping the stretches a couple times a week - not intentionally, but as a practical matter. But then, I do get them in about 5 or 6 days/week.
I've usually not worried about the quality of hotels I have picked, other than the most awful online reviews. And I had picked out all my hotels before I left America, but then the trip changed. So, it's been a fun time trying to find hotels that are decent quality plus near enough to the train station or the best tourist sites. If I have to choose, I always go for nearer to the train station, since that's always the first and last things I have to do in a town. At the hotel, I can always get good directions. Also, I've only today booked my hotel for Wednesday and Thursday of next week, and I still have no idea where I'm staying on Friday. This hotel is the best overall quality, I think, and a couple of my remaining hotels also look rather posh. I'm looking forward to them almost as much as the cities they're in.
I mention food on here a lot, but food choices are somewhat of a dilemma for me at times, mainly because I'm very picky. There are a lot of things I just won't eat, and I do like to try new foods, if I know what's in them. One of the easier ways to do that is trying to find variations on familiar items. For instance, that Shokata flavor of Fanta, or Cheeseburger flavor potato chips. And do I splurge? Not often, since I'm not rich. But I've done well enough with my money up to now (averaging less than $30/day) that I can start to enjoy better food (if that's the right phrase) more often.
Some friends who travel frequently seem to be always running when they travel. I can appreciate that, but I tend to find a slower pace. You could blame my aging or my crippled knee or whatever, but I think I've always been that way when it comes to travel. Yes, I'd like to squeeze in as much as possible, but I'm not going to make myself (or any traveling companions) miserable in the process. I've never understood the "I'll sleep when I'm dead" mentality - I'll sleep when I want to and feel refreshed in the morning, ready for whatever I feel like doing next. I suppose shorter trips - a week, maybe 2 - you can get away with going and going and going, but with 11 weeks, that's just not sustainable. Besides, this is vacation, not a marathon to see if I can see more places and check more things off the list than you before I die.
One of the things that I've noticed is all the people listening to music on trains or just walking around town. I'll admit that I do that sometimes, but only in the past couple of weeks. I want to engage in the surroundings, really observe the scenes, the people, or whatever, and I feel like I can't do that if my attention (even minimally) is elsewhere. I know it's a way to tune people or places out, especially on a train, where you don't want to have to deal with anyone. But really, that's kind of the whole reason I'm here.
The social media question bothers me frequently. It's a way of keeping up with people back home, or anywhere else around the world, but it doesn't tie me down the same way it does in America. True, I'll see something that I'm wanting to post - either a picture or a thought - but then my data plan interferes, and I have to either store it for later or just forget about it. I wonder if everybody had the same limitations, whether we'd get all the crap or addiction that we normally do.
I don't normally watch much TV to begin with, so I can't say I'm missing that on this trip. True, I do get to watch some weird foreign programs (or just American programs overdubbed), but that's usually for about 10 minutes before bed, if I can't think of anything else to do. I am keeping up with sports, which is really what most of my TV watching in America would be. It's a bit different keeping up without being able to see videos or live events. But I do know the Braves are doing better than expected, a couple of UGA football players got good drafts, the Hawks have advanced to the next round of the NBA playoffs, and the UGA men's tennis team won the regular-season SEC championship and finished the season at #7 before going into the tournament, which starts next week.
Classwork has been somewhat of a hassle, but it was never laborious. Even writing that paper in Budapest became more pleasant as I worked on it. Plus, schoolwork gave me a chance to rest my physical body while flexing my mind, in some ways. Now that it's all over, I'm glad.
If you've kept up with this blog, you know how much I've had to deal with laundry. I even washed some clothes in my hotel sink in Andorra. I'm always happy when I get clean clothes, and I've learned how far I can stretch between doing laundry. I also think that next time, I won't pack so much clothing.
It's mundane, but yes I have trimmed my fingernails and my beard, about every 2 weeks. I packed the necessary devices for that, like a good Boy Scout. And I haven't had a haircut, and I'm not planning on getting one, since it's not really hot enough to demand shorter hair.
I do like collecting foreign money, specifically all the coins of the countries I visit. That's much easier with non-euro countries, but I'm working my way through them. ATMs really are the best way to get money once you get to a foreign country. I've not used a single exchange place for that purpose on this whole trip.
I don't really get much in the way of souvenirs: the coins, a stamp for my written travel journal, and usually a pin for my traveling hat. I send postcards to people instead of bringing them back stuff, unless your name is Hope Shackelford, in which case I'll also look for a snow globe from places you haven't been yet.
One of the worst things is dealing with separation, especially during graduation season. I see all the high schoolers that I've worked with over the years who are graduating, and it makes me a little sad that I can't be there. Also, the same is true for college friends, Jack in particular. I mean, we've been through just about everything together at UGA - after all, I was his professor in his first semester at UGA. Weird. And then I got the news this week that one our little puppies, Whiskers, isn't doing so well. But he seems to be doing better now, though how much better he can possibly get is open for debate. Things like this make me want to be back, but I guess that's part of life - learning to deal with the fact that you won't always be where you want to be, or where other people want you to be.
I've now been caffeine-free since Prague - when I had a cup of tea the morning I left. I don't know how long I can keep it up, but I do find that I sleep better when I'm off the stuff. I do crave a nice, ice-cold Coke, though. And sweet tea, but fat chance of that while I'm in Europe.
Lastly, I realize that this whole thing - traveling in general, but this blog in particular - is a bit self-indulgent. It's a little vain to expect anyone else to read this, to think that I've got anything worth saying. And yeah, I'm doing this when there's all the other crap in the world, or when I could be doing something else a little less frivolous, perhaps. But it's what I've wanted to do for ages, and I'm finally getting to do it. Sometimes, I think my money could be going to help other people, or I could use it to do something more productive in my own life. But I do think that life is, in the end, a collection of experiences that make you who you are. And no amount of money can buy that. That probably sounds a little selfish, and I guess that's part of what it means to be a human being.
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