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Magnificent Europe

Beginning of the autumn reminded me about a wonderful time that I had spent in Europe last year. The decision to rest so far from home was unexpected even for me. A good friend of mine was going to an international exhibition that was held in a German city Dusseldorf. He knew that I had a strong wish to rest somewhere and he offered me to visit several European countries during about a week or eight days. At first I hesitated because I preferred to pay for the sun and sea while resting, but then I realized that, probably, I would not go to Europe alone another time, so it was a great opportunity to visit Grand Dame Europe.

It is a well-known fact that German car manufacturers produce the best automobiles in the world. By the way, one of the recent surveys has proven it, “German vehicles took seven of the top 10 places in a customer satisfaction table complied by WhatCar? magazine and car quality experts JD Power” (Massey, 2014). Anyway, both of us agreed that to be in Europe and not drive a European car would be a crime. However, a huge problem surfaced at once: which car to choose? Even the least popular producers offered very attractive variants, but we chose not to pay our attention to the least popular and try something exquisite instead. Yet, this decision did not solve the problem: my friend was dreaming to drive Audi, and I considered BMW as the world’s best automobile. After an hour-debate and strong arguments from both sides, we made a compromise and rented Mercedes. The moment I saw it, I felt as if I were a child celebrating the Christmas for the first time in my life. It was long, low-slung, business-class, the color transitioned from silver to grey, dark-blue and brownish depending on refraction of the light. In other words, it was a real masterpiece from the first sight and even more than that after opening the door. If I were a good poet, I would compose several rhymes and sell them to the company as an advertising slogan. Well, poetry was not one of my strong suits, so I was so excited that I had no words, and please, dear reader, take into account that it was before the car even started to move. My friend and I agreed to drive in turns not to get too tired and, perish the thought, inattentive. I was lucky to be the first one to drive. Some readers may think that I talk about that car too much, but I assure you that you would understand me if you had a chance to drive it at least once. Besides, Germany is the country where it is possible to drive as fast as you wish, so I gave myself a treat and drove 200 kilometers per hour, but not for a long time, of course, because a five-lined road in one direction was not always enough. My friend wondered why it was allowed in such a luring-for-rules country. Well, why produce the best cars and not let buyers try the good?

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People in Germany fix their roads round-the-clock, and I mean it. Now and then, a pleasant female voice coming from the GPS navigator announced that there were repairing works several kilometers away. In general, it seemed like somebody had drawn Austria and Germany using colorful pencils and a ruler. Neat and accurate lines and forms were a delight for the eye, and even sown fields looked like a picture. We drove many kilometers and did not make many stops. Along the road, we noticed many huge turbine towers and solar generators which prove Europeans’ love for protecting the environment and energy efficiency technologies. We drove by Frankfurt Airport that is considered the second biggest airport in Europe, and I made sure of it because it took us some time to drive it by. While driving, the most impressive building that we saw was the Hilton Hotel near Frankfurt Airport. The building was enormous; it was bright, modern and unusual, creatively constructed, silver, and looked like a spaceship. If I visit Germany again, I will stay there no matter how much money it will cost me. To purchase some souvenirs, we drove to an outlet called Wertheim Village. Wertheim Village is a complex of many boutiques designed as a small village. In the outlet, we met many “women’s friends”: Prada, Gucci, Versace, Calvin Klein, Diesel, Ecco, Fred Perry, Lagerfeld and many others. The ‘village’ looks as luxurious as the brands mentioned above. I am ready to bet that my girlfriend would die of happiness or at least experience a culture shock at that place. Of course, my friend and I did not enter all of the stores because it would take us too much time, but we saw enough to get tired. Luckily, there were comfortable benches and cafes to sit and relax, so we ordered coffee and had some rest.

It was a great relief for us that there was a variety of hotels in both Austria and Germany. There were hotels for any taste and budget. We decided not to spend much money on hotels because even modest ones were quite tolerable. Once we even stayed in a Gasthaus. A Gasthaus is a small hotel usually owned by one family or a person who lives there, too. As far as I understand, it has about four-nine rooms. The Gasthaus made a good impression on me because it was cozy, there was no crowd during the breakfast if to compare with other hotels, and it felt like home. Yet, the Gasthaus had several disadvantages: instant coffee and a small parking lot. The owner was very pleasant but asked too many questions about us and the purpose of our arrival. Other hotels were rather good, the personnel were very professional, and administrators even offered free apples for the road. I also noticed that most of the hotels had a playground for children on their territory that was very convenient for family trips. Unfortunately, there was one exception. Surprisingly, the one we did not fond of had four stars. However, four stars did not prevent a hotel servant from bringing us a pizza with tomatoes only though we expected to taste some chicken and mushrooms there, as well. One thing also astonished us: we saw hotels that allowed clients to check in only before 10 p.m.

As for the food, I would say that it is delicious, substantial and difficult-to-find in the evening. Restaurants in hotels that we visited worked till 11 or even 10 p.m. Several times we did not manage to check in before the closure and had to stay hungry. Well, one time there was a possibility to order pizza and it was not a nice experience as I described above. Another time we went to look for food and found it at a gas station only. Well, I think that everybody can imagine what kind of food is sold at gas stations. So, if you decide to visit Austria or Germany, keep in mind that you should eat before darkness unless you want to stay without dinner. By the way, helpings are huge. To tell the truth, I did not manage to eat the whole helping no matter how hungry I was. Although, the situation with food is not very good in towns, it is fine while driving. Every several kilometers a person can find either McDonalds or other fast-food cafe. Of course, the food is not healthy in those places, but at least it is available at any time.

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The most exciting moment of the trip was our visit to the Austrian town Hallstatt, situated in the Alps. I had not seen such a magnificent corner in my entire life. The town is surrounded by mountains and the views are fascinating. It is not only my opinion, “In 1997, it was listed as a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site” (Carolyn, 2013). Hallstatt is not big, houses are small and well-groomed. Streets are very narrow. At the center of the town, there is a square with a beautiful monument, and a church nearby. Many tourists visit Hallstatt, so there are many stores full of various souvenirs, starting with pottery and ending with natural soap of different interesting shapes. There is also a big lake. The water of lake is so clear that it is possible to see every rock at the bottom, and clouds are reflected in the water. White swans and ducks swim in the lake. They are used to tourists and come out of the water to pose in exchange for some food.  My friend and I relished the opportunity and took several photos. However, not all tourists were interested in beautiful rare birds, so they were chasing a cat to snap a photo. The Alps and the lake make the air so fresh that a person may stay there for hours just breathing it in; that air is still in my memory.