Trip Start May 07, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Germany  ,
Saturday, July 2, 2005

2005-07-02 Staffen (Dave)

All the time in Europe we've had a concern. When we entered Italy we never had our passport stamped. I think this is because there were 3000 passengers on the cruise ship and 80% of them were flying to their home country that same day. Customs officials were able to check our luggage and a copy of our passports but we were never challenged upon debarkation. This had us a bit worried, not so much for Western Europe but we didn't want any problems entering Eastern Europe. We tried to stop at the American consulate a few times but never when they were open. We found the perfect opportunity on the train to Munich.

We had a 30 minute stop to change trains at Sankt Margrethen on the Swiss-Austrian border. We got off the train and walked a few hundred feet to cross the border into Hoescht. Switzerland isn't part of Shengan space so the borders aren't completely open. The border guard tried to wave us into Austria but we said we wanted our passport stamped. He rolled his eyes and directed us to the office. In the office a bored border guard looked at us questioningly when we presented our passports. He didn't seem to mind that Kim was an American in Switzerland with no stamps in her new passport. We got our stamps and walked back to Switzerland. The Swiss guards gave us a funny look as if wondering if we were denied entry into Austria. In any case we got our stamps so we now have three more months to spend in Shengan space. Hopefully nobody will wonder why our only stamp is for a tiny little town in Austria with no airport. We hear all sorts of stories about people have trouble crossing customs. Not us - we have trouble getting customs to even notice us!

When we got to Munich we decided to buy a cell phone. Munich has all sorts of wonderful shops in train and subway stations and we ended up buying a used Nokia for about $50, plus $25 for a prepaid SIM card. Eric picked us up at the station and we spent the night at his and Kirsten's flat before driving to Staffen the next day. Staffen is the smallest "town" that we have been to. It consists of a single house. A few hundred years ago it was an important farm house so it made it on the maps and has never been taken off.

It's amazingly beautiful. There is a river and it is surrounded by mountains. There is a beautiful flower garden. We met Eric's parents and Kirsten's parents there. I've known Eric's parents for a long time and have met Kirsten's parents once or twice before but Kim met them all for the first time. Everybody seemed to like her (how could they not?!).

Mostly we relaxed there but we did a few things. We took a couple of hikes. One of them was a long hike where we ended up crossing the Austrian border although we didn't quite reach our goal of a lake and cabin. We picked a lot of wild strawberries. We spent a day in Salzburg, but that's another story. My favorite part was the 4th of July celebration. We grilled hamburgers and hotdogs and had potato salad. Everyone dressed in red, white, and blue and some of us wore ridiculous tall Uncle Sam hats. I wore one into the nearby town (Unterwossen). I didn't get many stares but a nun waved at me.

Jack and Uschi are fantastic hosts and Uschi is an amazing cook. We had some time to relax and spent a few evenings in the living room by the fire reading Scientific American and National Geographic.
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