17 July 2019

Basic requirements: food, drink, clothing, accommodation, coffee and wifi

Maslow's hierarchy of needs includes the first four as base level needs. The other two are also essential IMHO.
We have not been particularly focussed on gastronomic experiences on this trip. Not sure whether that is because the food is not special, we are no longer interested in large meals, or it's just been too hot. Probably a combination. We have sampled most things from the standard "authentic Czech" menu: duck, rabbit, goulash, trout, but not yet tried pork knuckle. In Vienna, Budapest and Bratislava we eat a lot of salads because it is so hot, much too hot for goulash and dumplings. We do have at least one schnitzel in Vienna - typically they are pork, not veal.
Meals/restaurants that stick in the memory are
- lunch at Julius Meinl
- lunch at Cafe Central, Vienna
- dinner at F├╝hrich
- sampling langos (delicious fried bread) in Szentendre
- breakfasts at the Schloss Belvedere cafe and Cafe Goldegg
- interesting light meals at "Why not" and "Up and Down", both Hungarian
- first class Italian food at Toscana, with the best creme brulee I've eaten (one of the few desserts I like)
- dinner at Cafe Louvre
- lunch at the cafe at Smetana Hall
- fish soup lunch at Les Moules (Belgian)
- dinners at Maitrea (see below)
To avoid the sameness of the local menus, we have gone a bit vegetarian. It starts in Bratislava with an interesting lunch at Good Mood Food. In Prague we discover Country Life, where you help yourself from a cafeteria style buffet, and are charged by weight - just right for lunch, and Maitrea, an excellent and very popular dinner destination where we go three times. Here in Cesky Krumlov we are eating at Laibon (the only vegetarian restaurant). The attraction of vegetarian restaurants is that you choose from a mix of styles: pizza, quesadilla, pasta, curry, and local dishes like stuffed cabbage. So you can keep going to the same place and not run out of choices.
For the first couple of weeks we drink local draft beer, or iced tea or lemonade, because we always arrive at restaurants hot and thirsty. In Prague, we drink Czech beer, but also move on to sampling the local wines as the weather is cooler. We are yet to drink more than one glass of anything with our meals, except at Louvre, where we try Becherovka at the end of the meal - a delicious herb flavoured liqueur.
We are travelling fairly light, less than 10kg of luggage each. Our choices of what to bring and not bring have worked pretty well. Peter has had to buy a hat and bathers and thinks his second pair of pajamas is surplus to requirements. My 3 pairs of pants, 10 tops, 2 cardigans and 2 light jackets have allowed good outfit variation, and I've worn every piece at least once. We have managed to look appropriately well-dressed for our nights at the Opera.
Not sure whether it's good luck or good management, but all our accommodation has been great. We had one recommendation, one suggestion (based on seeing rather than actually staying) and three just picked off the web. To date we've had 3 self-catering apartments and 2 B&Bs. We prefer the self-catering option as it means you don't have to get to breakfast, and no one comes to clean your room. We like to move at our own speed in the mornings. All have been spacious and comfortable, all well-situated, and all quiet except Vienna, where it was noisy if you opened the windows and hot if you didn't. Only Budapest had aircon, but we've survived the heat without it elsewhere.
All four countries treat coffee with appropriate respect. The nearest I can get to an Australian long black is a double espresso. Sometimes these are a bit too short for my liking, but the coffee is still really good. The thing I miss most is the automatic provision of water that you get at any cafe in Oz. If you are drinking short black coffees in hot weather you can get very thirsty.
Free and fast in all accommodation. Gone are the days of having to search for libraries and internet cafes. I bought a TravelSim with a fair quantity of data download, but even with constant use for navigation, I'm not going to use it all. And things like FaceTime, Skype and WhatsApp make it so easy to keep in touch with home at no cost.
This is just as well because Peter's first wife collapsed a week or so ago, and died in hospital 6 days later. There have been a lot of conversations supporting his kids through a difficult time, and this is on-going because there is now some conflict between them and her second husband over funeral arrangements.

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