Catching Up

Trip Start Apr 24, 2006
Trip End May 28, 2006

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Where I stayed
Hotel National

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Saturday, May 20, 2006

As I write this, I'm sitting in Mark and Michelle's tiny flat in Praha. The moment of truth is approaching for Michelle as she's already started the induction process, that should result in the baby's birth sometime later today. Having a baby here is a tad different than in Canada. Michelle is in the care of a woman obstetrician, Dr Bittmanova. She is an English speaking doctor, with a great dry sense of humour. Later, she will drive over here to pick up Michelle and take her to the hospital. She has told Michelle that the baby has decided to be born today rather than tomorrow, so here goes!

Of course many adventures have happened since I last blogged, so here's a brief overview.
Rome-We arrived from East Midlands at 23:00, and had no idea where we were in relation to the city, and no prospects for a hotel. The option most viable was to roll out our sleeping bags on the concrete floor of the airport exit area and wait for morning. This we did and spent the night in the relative safety it provided. I have the pictures to prove it! We caught the bus into a metro station the next morning at about 8:00, and took the metro into Rome's station termini. From there we walked about with our full packs looking for accommodation. We tried a few hotels till we found one "Hotel New York". We checked in and set out to see the sights. The Coliseum was even bigger than we had imagined, and the other sights were almost sensory overload as they are all in a relatively small area of the city. We knew that in order to get to Prague in time for the baby's birth , we'd have to cut individual city visits short so did the whirlwind tour of Rome in a day. Obviously much was missed but we had our priorities. Next time (?) we'll see the Vatican etc., but this time it was the coliseum, and the tomb of the unknown soldier which is absolutely unbelievable in its grandure. Aleida and I actually loved Rome and agreed that we'd really like to see it again sometime and do it right.
Florence- We took the train from Rome to Florence, and almost missed it due to some very insistent and incorrect direction from a Trenitalia employee, but some quick deduction on my part cut through the b.s. and we got on the right train with about a minute to spare! Firenze, as it is correctly called, is a very beautiful old city, with a rich culture. The architecture, sculpture, and location make it a place that you could explore for weeks and not see it all. We stayed at a campground on a hill very close to the city center, and really liked it. You stay in a small tent house on a pad, with all the amenities close to hand. The washer and dryer were certainly put to good use, as our clothes were beginning to get a tad stiff! We sat out on the terrace in the starlight and enjoyed a couple of Corona's as our clothes dryed. Very romantic!
The next day we caught the train to Bern Switzerland via Milan. The train trip was again interesting due to trying to read the train schedules and tickets in Italian, with no knowledge of the language! I thought that we only had about 7 minutes to switch trains in Milan. The train from Florence to Milan was delayed by a few minutes due to a signal malfunction. Knowing that Trenitalia trains leave EXACTLY on time, I thought that we'd missed our connection. We raced to an information booth to try to get our tickets changed, and got the strangest look from the attendant. I had misread the ticket and we still had about 15 minutes to go. We made the train, and it left exactly on time.
We really enjoyed the trip from Milan to Bern through the Italian and Swiss Alps. The scenery is lovely, and we really should have gone trough there by bus. We realize now that the whole idea of spontaneous travel in Europe without guidance and reservations of some sort, can cause one to miss out on some neat experiences. We arrived in Bern and were fortunate to get a room in the "Hotel National". This hotel has existed as such for a hundred years or so, but was the location of a silk factory, from the fifteen hundreds till then. The Hotel has remained in the same family and they are proud of the fact that they grow their own food on the family farm, and its all organic. We had a great meal at their restaurant and I bravely ordered the traditional Swiss meal of the lining of a cows stomach, prepared with mushrooms and peas in gravy. Wifely had the bratwurst and schnitzel which actually was more to both of our taste. The "rind" wasn't something I'd order again, but for Dann's sake I got it down.( How about that Dann?!). The next morning we got the e-mail message from Michelle and Mark saying that the grandchilds arrival would be one day sooner than originally planned, so we decided to catch the train from Bern to Prague as soon as possible. We had breakfast and checked the train schedules on the net. We found that the train left Bern at 11:04, so at about 10:15 or so we headed to the Station to buy our tickets. At first we couldn't find the ticket sales place, and after inquiries and walking about, we found it. I stood in line for the tickets for quite a while till I was informed that I needed to be in another line. Nervously checking my watch I waited again. At last I stood before the ticket seller only to be told that for such a ticket, I'd need to go to yet another line! By 10:55 I had the needed tickets and we raced for the platform. 5 minutes later we left for the first leg of the journey, Bern to Basel. Changed trains from Basel to Frankfurt, again Frankfurt to Dresden, and finally Dresden to Praha. Almost 12 hrs of train travel in all, and finally met Michelle and Mark at the main station at 23:00hrs. Yesterday we toured around the town, and finished of the evening by attending a performance of various works of Mozart at the national symphony. Today, as stated we are awaiting the arrival of our first grandchild, Michelle is doing very well, and it's still business as usual. Typically Michelle is still carrying on with baking, and other routine stuff as she waits for the inducing drugs to do their thing. I'll get this to the net when possible and when I do, the baby will be here! Cheers, Barker

Praha May 20, 2006
Anika Michelle came into this world @ 21:15 last night. A healthy, 3.0 kilo's (6.6lbs).
Michelle is fine but a tad worn down by the ordeal! Omi and Gramp are justifiably proud of the little Rievaj family! I'll get more out to the net soon as possible but once more we're on the move to the hospital to visit. Michelle and Anika will probably be there till Monday, and when they come home Aleida and I shall head for other parts soon after. Tiny apartments being what they are, we'll run out of room. Catch ya later, Barker

Pictures will try to be posted today as well
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