17 May 2009


Two little girls enjoying the birthday party.

Last view of Mondsee, Austria

I drag myself out of bed this morning—not quite at 6:00am, but before 6:30. I shower, but decide to wash my hair in Bratislava—snagging 10 extra minutes in the bed. I didn’t fall asleep easily last night and think that translates to less than 4 hours of sleep.

We organize our luggage and the leftover groceries that are transportable. Everything weighs much less this trip as DM+MK took a lot of the weight home with them in the Kangoo to help ensure that the Citroen has starts and not fits-and-starts. DM now believes that all the drama was driver error… I have considered that maybe I was in third gear instead of 1st… But, I KNOW I was in the proper gear all the time (or at least most J) because sometimes the car was actually moving steadily along uphill and then would begin to power down. It has been working well for two days and except for the two cushiony grandmas there is less than half the luggage/baggage weight to drag us down.

Everything goes perfectly well. We stop at a Raustation near Mondsee. The views are spectacular and there is nothing like this rest stop in the U.S. –a lovely restaurant/gift shop with a dramatic terrace and views to die for. We find wonderfully strong coffee and pastries for the road, deciding to eat in the parking lot as the pastry is too, too crumbly and yummy to manage in the car. We find Salzburg easily and the A1 toward Vienna. We are leaving the Alps, but the countryside is still picturesque with patchwork quilt farm fields and forests and streams. The sun has come out and Austria is lovely.

All goes well until we get past Vienna—DM’s pointers have been right-on. I take him too literally and end up in Hungary when I should have actually taken that final Bratislava turn. I ruminate on the likelihood that I have made a mistake and by the time I decide to turn back the next exit is 15km. That is the longest 15km of our trip and the closest I have come to crying. I have been stoic, no actually good natured about every stumbling block along the way. But, I am tired and sick of driving and worried that we won’t get to the birthday party in time—which is crazy because we still have 1-1/2 hours and are not so very far from Bratislava. If I knew this geography I could cut across country somewhere and get to Chorvatsky Grob in a flash.

I pull into a Hungarian gas station for gas… Guess what? They have real guys to fill your tank and clean your windows. But then, I remember that they are not on the Euro yet and I do not have local currency. The road signs are indecipherable (In Austria you can almost figure out all the signs like ausfahrt and einfahrt, raustation, and others—Latin-based language and all.), and I have no energy for stumbling in broken English and absolutely no Hungarian words to sort out the necessary tasks required to get gas. Do they take credit cards? Do I tip the attendants? Am I illegally driving on the highway without a Hungarian Autobahn permit? Once in Austria as we were driving with DM+MK to Český Krumlov we stopped at a Raustation and after we had eaten we returned to our car to find a local policeman issuing a ticket for a whole lot of Euros (like $150 worth) because our Autobahn driving sticker had expired. DM thought it was good for a month and it was only good for one week.

I skip the gas-up deciding that there is enough in the tank to get us to Chorvatsky Grob and I will give DM cash to fill his Citroen’s tank for Monday morning.

It is a lovely, sun-shiny day when we arrive. The doors and windows are open and there is a wonderful breeze drifting through the house. DM+MK know how to throw a party! There are fresh strawberries and veggies, chips and pretzels—lots to drink and eat. The little girls are happy to see us. LG is wearing the red bandanna-print sundress I chose for her. Grandpa REALLY didn’t like that dress and urged me several times to return it to the store, but LG looks very good in red… Turns out this is her favorite of all the new summer clothes we brought along. She is queen of this day and proud of it. KF is adorable in denim capris and a pretty yellow summer shirt. There will soon be a jumping castle. LG knows jumping castles and is beside herself. KF doesn’t have a clue, but she loves a good party…

Friends arrive with the castle and, in no time it is inflated and the jumping begins. There just aren’t enough words or space to describe how much these little girls LOVE the castle. LG rough-houses with the boys and girls, her daddy, and his friends. 16 month-old KF is fearless and joins right in, but keeps more to herself, though sometimes falling into the pile…

The daddies have to actually partially deflate the castle to get the children to rest and have refreshments. Slovaks never eat ice cream with their cake, but DM has insisted. No one turns it down. One friend says that Americans introduced him to the concept and now he never wants his cake without ice cream. LG blows out her four candles with help from Daddy. This is a harder than usual task because the chocolate cake is hugely rectangular and someone put one candle in each corner—an unintentional obstacle, of course.

Next come the presents. Reality strikes. Gift unwrapping at a four-year old’s birthday party is not a pretty sight or occurrence. Let’s just say that LG had help and that the only gift that got any special attention at all was the Strawberry Shortcake DVD from JE-MA-JA-and LE in Omaha.

Oh, and then there were the in-line roller skates from her Slovak grandparents… Those also got her attention. Uncle Radko is helping LG put on the skates and then discovers there is still paper stuffed in the toes! In her zeal to get moving, LG hadn’t bothered to complain. Live and learn, and now Radko will remember to check the toes for all of his future children!

Radko, Evka, and her sister, brother-in-law, young niece and nephew arrive a bit late, but still in time for the birthday part, and the jumping castle. So, so cute—the little ones line up to shake the birthday girl Liliana’s hand, a Slovak tradition.

Everyone stays too long, but this has been a terrific, blow-out 4th birthday for LG. Mommy and daddy are exhausted, the little ones are up too late, and the two cushiony grandmas settle in to enjoy a quiet evening with books and conversation. This grandma stays up too late downloading photos—grandpa and the friends and relatives in the States are anxiously awaiting the updates.

No comments: