Vail traveler goes beyond the wall |

Vail traveler goes beyond the wall

Luc Pols
Travel Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Vail Daily/Luc PolsVail Daily travel: Salzburg and its famous castle.

“Ants in my pants” – that is what one of my friends calls my obsession with travel. She even goes so far as to question why I have a home: “You never spend any time there.” Nobody likes to admit faults, so I still have my house in Vail even though I spend very little time there nowadays.

Recently having returned from a four-month adventure in Africa, I spent about two months in town. I did not ski this year, but left that to the multitude of enthusiastic visitors who came to spend a lot of money in our town.

Instead I spent my time sorting through the thousands of photographs from Africa and created two new books about that adventure. Where is that illusive publisher when you need him?

It was ironic – the snow fall wasn’t up to par this year, but just before I left for Africa in early October we had the first snow. Now that I am leaving on my next trip, the snow has been falling for days again. You could call this an omen. Let’s pray it is a good one.

This upcoming adventure will take me back to Europe, combining the familiar with the unknown. I have to conduct some business in the western part, but then it is off to the old Eastern Bloc.

During all my years of extensive travel, by now having visited 65 countries, I never had the opportunity to visit the “Baltic states.” When I lived in Europe, that part of the continent was behind the Iron Curtain and tough to visit.

Additionally, let’s face it, who really wanted to visit there back then. A visit to East Berlin (behind the Wall) and a subsequent visit to still occupied Czechoslovakia were more than enough to taste the East. The (Russian) repression hit you like a ton of bricks and while always interesting to admire the architecture and other historic monuments, it wasn’t a lot of fun spending time among people who it seemed had absolutely no interest in life – if that is what you could call their existence in those days.

In any case, enough about philosophizing … the wall and its resulting life style have disappeared and I look forward to exploring this part of Europe.

This trip will take me through Austria, into Slovakia and maybe, depending on the visa requirements, I’ll spend a day in Ukraine to visit a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the town of L’viv. From there it is into Poland and then north to the Baltics. I hope I’ll be able to visit all three Baltic countries – Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia – and take a look at the various UNESCO sites.

You have probably come to realize by now that these sites are always high on my list of priorities. As opposed to my trip through Africa, most of these sites relate to historic towns and monuments and, for once, I will be somewhat prepared and will bring a list of these sites in the various countries.

Unfortunately the omen I referred to above wasn’t a particularly good one – the weather in Holland is just absolutely atrocious. If it isn’t pouring rain, then the hail storms make life relatively miserable.

I feel sorry for the surprisingly high number of tourists running around here already, who are mainly trying to escape the deluges and a lot of them do so by trying to take shelter in the various museums, admittedly great places for this purpose. The lines at the Van Gogh Museum and Rijksmuseum wrap around the block and the umbrella salesmen are doing a brisk business.

While I do take my camera with me a couple of days, it is tough to keep it dry and then virtually impossible to find good opportunities for pictures – especially photos of people, because all they are doing is trying to either find shelter or hurrying indoors. Let’s just hope the east will have better weather. If not, it’s going to be a long couple of weeks.

One of the things I need to do is open up a bank account here, since the company which is producing my postcards has requested a way to pay me here. That’s a lot easier said than done and basically a royal pain in the you-know-what. I

have been told that the same holds true all over the European Union, so for those of you who have plans or need to have accounts somewhere on this continent, make sure you have patience and be prepared to deal with a lot of bureaucrats.

Anyway, off to Austria, where I spend the night in Salzburg of “The Sound of Music” fame, and one of my favorite cities,, but I’ll tell you about Austria next week.

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