For our Christmas vacation at the end of 1997, Rali and I decided to travel with our friends Heinz and Sylvana to Western Europe. Heinz and Sylvana were driving, but they were leaving from Skopje, the capital of the former Yugoslav republic of Macedonia. So Rali and I took a bus from Sofia to Skopje and met them there, and we drove through Yugoslavia overnight and into Hungary in time for an early lunch on the banks of the Danube River. We continued through Hungary, but found out at the Austrian border that Rali's visa wasn't valid for two more days. So Heinz and Sylvana left us in the Hungarian town of Mosonmagyarovar and drove on to Holland.
After two days of eating goulash, pizza, and beer (the only things we could order--nobody we met in Mosonmagyarovar spoke English), we took a train to Vienna, then to Salzburg, then across the German border to Munich, where we stayed with Nickolai and Margarita, friends of Rali's family. Here's Rali in the center of Munich with a street pastry. Nobody does street pastries like the Munich street vendors!
Here we are at Nickolai and Margarita's home on Christmas day, 1997. That's me on the sofa with Ruppert, the British boyfriend of our hosts' daughter, Magdalena. Ruppert and I were the only non-Bulgarians in the house. Anyway, here we are, carefully pouring our beers. Note that this is no ordinary beer. This is the German weissbier, so named because of the yeast that stays in the bottle. You're supposed to pour it very slowly, saving the yeast in the bottle, then warm the yeast in the bottle with your hands before pouring it into your glass. It's a labor-intensive effort! Anyway, Ruppert and I were concentrating so hard on doing it right that we didn't even remember Rali taking this photo.
Munich is the site of BMW World Headquarters, which includes a BMW museum. This tiny vehicle is a BMW marketed (only in Europe) in the 1960's. It has four wheels, although the rear ones are narrowly set, and the entire front of the car opened up for the driver to get in and out.
We left Munich after Christmas and took a spectacular train ride up the Rhein River valley, eventually arriving at Heinz and Sylvana's house in Venlo, Holland, just across the German border from Moenchengladbach. We celebrated the end of 1997 at home with Heinz and Sylvana: here's our New Year's Eve dinner. That appliance in the center of the table is a raclette (I'd never heard of it before). We enjoyed it so much that Heinz and Sylvana gave us one as a wedding gift!
The Germany city of Dusseldorf was only about an hour away by train, so Rali and I made a day trip there. It's a very attractive city...but Munich is still our favorite German city.
After quite a few day trips around German, Holland, and Belgium, Rali and I took a train back south into Germany and visited friends of my family, Siger and Anita in Bavaria, about an hour east of Munich. We stayed with them for a short time only, but hope to go back again. We made a day trip to picturesque Passau (the Danube River that far north is a lot prettier than the Danube between Bulgaria and Romania), then Siger and Anita drove us to Salzburg, Austria, where we spent the day together.
From Salzburg, we started the train trip home to Bulgaria. We took a wonderful train from Salzburg to Vienna. Then we took a good train from Vienna to Budapest. Then we took a not-so-good train from Budapest to Nis, Yugoslavia. From there, well, let's not talk about the condition of the train to Bulgaria. Suffice it to say that you're better off with the literary images associated with the "Orient Express" than with the reality. Anyway, we were stretching out on the Budapest-Nis leg of the trip, and my socks were keeping my toes warm, but Rali's stockings weren't exactly cozy for her toes. So I offered to help...
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