I arrived at Venice airport and my friend's husband was late picking me up, but I had some Lire from a previous visit and stopped at a gift shop to get change to use the telephone. If I had checked before leaving, I would have found out that Italy was now using Euro and my Lire was little more than something to add to my scrap book. There was no plan B so I waited, and waited and waited. Finally, he reached the airport after battling traffic on the motorway between Aviano and Venice. It was late afternoon when we arrived at their house in Sacile which is a beautiful town developed in the seventh century. A short rest and something to eat, then we were off to the base. It was 6:00 p.m. and already the sun was dipping low over the Italian Alps.
Post 9/11 the security on the Aviano Air Force Base had heightened since my previous visit. We had to obtain a pass for me to enter the base to board the bus. Getting a bunch of women collectively on a bus (some were air force personnel, some were wives) was like herding worms. After finding out there was access to video on the bus and a television screen, there were stops to the base video store. We boarded with sleeping bags, pillows, snacks and a few bottles of wine (it was going to be a long night). Unfortunately, although we had enough entertainment for the 15 hour drive, the bus wasn't the one we had booked, and there was no toilet!
With promises of castle views scattered in the Austrian mountains and clear roads I was excited to visit three countries I had not seen before. We had two Italian drivers and the idea was that one would sleep while the other drove. There was a huge communication problem because neither of them spoke English and the few women who had taken some Italian language classes couldn't communicate effectively. This caused a big problem because the drivers thought they were going to drop us off and we would shop all day while they slept, but the plan was that they would drive us from pottery to pottery. Instead of alternating sleep, they chatted all through the night and I don't think we were the only ones drinking the wine! I slept for a while and when I awoke it was snowing and we were at the Austrian border.
Austria has an open border with Italy so we sailed through without mishap. The full moon lighted the villages, and castles scattered along the mountain sides were well lit. I got a few blurred pictures of what I thought might be a castle or two. The scenery, even at night, was spectacular. The fastest route would have been through the Czech Republic but there had been reports of problems at the borders and so it was decided to drive around the Czech Republic and go through Germany. I slept on and off for a few hours, but although this was my second night with little sleep I was awake most of the time. We reached the German border without incident and stopped at 4:00 a.m. for breakfast.
While talking to two ladies on the bus, I found out that the Czech Republic wasn't the only border where there were problems. Apparently, the Polish aren't overly enthusiastic about tourists and the ladies were happy to tell me stories of aggressive border guards. Someone popped in a video and while watching a badly chosen movie, The Pianist which was about war torn Poland, we headed toward Boleslawiec.