Saturday, August 24, 2013

Looking forward to Europe Again

Europe always carry a special fascination to me because it was my first overseas holiday destination way way back in 1985. Things may have changed much now but the romanticism that the history, people and culture of Europe continue to excite me. But because of its distance and the fact that to enjoy Europe one needs to be fit and willing to commit to 2 weeks or longer, Europe eluded my radar. There are areas of Europe (it's so huge) that I've not been but like to see, the Scandinavia, exotic Spain and Portugal, the Mediterranean flavor and mystic Eastern Europe with its ageless charm that has withstood the challenge of modernization.

In February this year a dear church friend asked if my wife and I would like to join his tour group for a 13D/11N holiday to Eastern Europe covering Austria, Slovenia, Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Apart from Austria which I visited in 1999 the other destinations are new to me. I was attracted to the proposal because it consist of mainly seniors like me. I said yes without really consulting my wife fully because she dislike long flights that cramps her blood flow and give her joint fatigue. Yet I know if we defer holidaying especially long ones like this the likelihood gets slimmer. My friend encouraged saying we should travel when our legs can still carry us. I agree. I'm more of a travel bug than my wife and I started looking forward to this holiday as soon as I've paid our deposit. Secretly I wondered if this would be our last long distance holiday but I hope not. I still want to go places my heart yearns after but only if my wife accompanies me. We've married 40 years and are inseparable as far as I am concerned.

Well, the EE holiday is dawning next month in the autumn season. Temperatures are falling but not expected to be very cold and perhaps the trees will be shedding their hues and transforming their foliage into a riot of colors. That'll be really nice as I love autumn and spring, symbolic of retirement and eagerness that I can identify myself, especially the autumn part now. The four seasons in temperate countries mark out the changing phases of the year, and expresses the rise and fall of our life. I shan't see my spring and summer anymore but autumn is where I am, and I hope to remain there for many many years before I enter my own winter life.

I borrowed a clamshell luggage from a son-in-law rather than buying a new one since we won't need it regularly. And we don't intend to have many bags to lug around. One heavy one plus a lighter trolley bag and 2 hand carry travel bags ought to satisfy our space requirement since we won't be souvenir hunting. As the tour is full board we won't need to carry much cash for food and entrance fees so I just bought a small sum of euros to cover incidental expenses. I'm glad I bought it 2 weeks ago before the ringgit weakened further. It was exchanged for 4.288 to a euro but has gone up to almost 4.5 now. Not a good sign for holidaying abroad since every cost item will go up. Already this tour cost us just over RM10,000 each so I can imagine how unaffordable such holidays will become if our currency don't strengthen back soon.

We've started packing those items that need earlier preparation. The warm clothing need to be aired and spare walking shoes clean out and packed. Like always I had my checklist out and went searching the house for the travel umbrellas, thermo flasks and heater to bring along. And yes, our medicine, which reminds me to pack those that we, especially me, may need, should we get sick. I've not had a good health record in both our Europe holidays before, having fallen sick on both. I hope this won't be my unlucky third.

As usual I look forward to capturing memories for my next photo album to share with friends, relatives and family. Earlier this year I purchased the Canon Powershot S100 and recently the HTC One smartphone that has an incredible camera that shoots panoramas on the go! That really puts my iPad to shame as it need an app to stitch the pictures. And all three get to travel with us on this trip. How lucky!

I am as excited as a schoolboy going for his class excursion to a popular destination. And I shall consider this holiday one I must enjoy thoroughly since I may not revisit it again. I want to sing like Tony  Bennett sang, I left my heart in Eastern Europe. I shall share more after I return from it. Speaking of Tony, we shall be enjoying his upcoming concert in Kuala Lumpur before we fly.

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