The Hills Really Are Alive…

Again … apologies for the delay in posting.  Internet has been intermittent and expensive for the last few days, so I, being the lesser overall priority, have not been able to send anything out and the catching up has been all-absorbing.

We are now in Munich, or Muenchen, as the locals call it.  We stayed at a nice “apartment” style hotel but found the internet access to be less than what we needed so we moved to the A&O City Hackerbrucke – no kitchen but that’s okay at half the price with onsite laundry facilities.  Okay, so they only kind of work and we ended up with soap residue on all of our clothes — at least we tried.  We have been moving around so much that we haven’t had time to wash in a while and are almost all out of clean clothes so it was fortuitous and hopefully will dry before we have to “check out” of the room we’re in at 11 am only to check back into another room at 4 pm.  Gotta end the hotel juggling soon.  We’ll be in Munich for a while longer to allow Maylene the stability she needs to do some training over Skype.  If anyone has been here and has recommendations of things to see and do – we’d love to hear it.  Tripadvisor is helpful but Munich didn’t make my trusty guidebook and I feel lost without it.  Pics of Munich to follow.

In the meantime, let’s talk Sound of Music, shall we?  We had a lot of fun on the super-cheesy SOM tour in Salzburg.  We loaded onto a bus with 48 other singing SOM fans and headed off to many of the locations used in the filming of the movie.  They also took us all the way out to the lake district of Salzburg – a very beautiful area (and home to Red Bull).  As Trudy, the tour guide put it, “They take all of the crystal clear, beautiful water from this lake and turn it into that nasty drink.”  Hahaha…  She was very entertaining and kept us laughing the whole time.

We definitely did our fair share of singing on the bus – though I have to admit – No, Mo – we couldn’t lead the sing-along.  There were others that knew WAY more of the words to the more obscure songs than we did! 😉

Some of the more interesting tidbits from the tour: did you know that the eldest child was not Leizl but rather Rupert who himself refused to join the Nazi party as a young man?  Yes, indeed – Maylene and I both thought that would make a much better story.  BUT – then I guess you couldn’t have the “I am 16 going on 17” song… and the gorgeous little pavilion where the romance between Leizl and Rolf blossoms.  We actually saw the gazebo but couldn’t enter it because, get this…  a woman a few years ago decided that she needed her Leizl moment of skipping across the benches in the gazebo.  Remember how the gap over the entrance is rather large and Leizl had to use Rolf’s knee?  Well – this lady didn’t bring her Rolf and … actually, she was 82 when she had her Leizl moment.  So she fell and broke her hip – tried to sue the palace where the gazebo is and of course failed because, as Trudy put it “we just don’t do that here in Austria.”  LOL… no more gazebo moments for us.  We also didn’t get to do the “hills are alive” dancing in the field moment because even though there are lovely fields in Salzburg to do that in, the filming was actually done in a private farmer’s field in Germany – so it wasn’t on the tour.  Bummer….   Lots of other things were on the tour though:

do you see the monkey in the tree? ;-)  and no...she didn't fall down...

do you see the monkey in the tree? 😉 and no...she didn't fall down...

yes, we actually rode around in a bus decorated with SOM scenes... =)

yes, we actually rode around in a bus decorated with SOM scenes... =)

arbor where maria taught the kids to sing in the montage

arbor where maria taught the kids to sing in the montage

statue inside the Do Re Mi montage

statue inside the Do Re Mi montage

used as the family's home - lake where they fell off the boat

used as the family's home - lake where they fell off the boat

area used for opening shots with pretty flowers

area used for opening shots with pretty flowers

church where Maria and Cpt. VonTrapp were married in the movie (not in real life - it was too small for Hollywood)

church where Maria and Cpt. VonTrapp were married in the movie (not in real life - it was too small for Hollywood)

Whoever You Are, I Want To Thank You

I know, I know.  I really should write more.  Too often, Charity is the only one updating this blog.  Let it be known that I’m not a complete slacker– just a little bit after I’m pau (finished) with work.  So on that subject…

As many of you know, I am lucky enough to have a job that allows me to work remotely.  For the last couple of years, this has not been an issue as we had stable domiciles with high speed broadband internet access.  We had a couple of minor roadbumps in Hawai`i but nothing that couldn’t be fixed with some elbow grease and/or creativity.  We’ve chosen our accomodations in Europe very carefully, always booking hotels that promised broadband internet, preferably WiFi (or W-LAN, as they call it here).  Amsterdam was no problem– we stayed in a hotel located in the heart of the business district, so WiFi was fast and easy.  Of course, my alias at work was disabled during that time, so I couldn’t access work, but that is a separate story not worth retelling here.  Since Amsterdam, we have had… challenges… in the area of consistent and accessible internet.

In Berlin, the hotel’s promised internet access was non-existent, so we hung out at a lot of cafes with free WiFi access.  Sweet.

In Prague, the first hotel had internet in the room… but only the wired kind which didn’t help with the itinerary-planning Charity needed to do while I was working.  So we hung out in the lobby for WiFi.  We moved to another hotel that promised in-room WiFi, but the signal was so weak, work was reeeeaaaaaally slooooooooow.  Ah well, at least I was getting things done.  One morning, I woke up super-motivated and got a bunch done before sightseeing (normally, I waited to work in the afternoon/evening) which turned out to be a good thing since the tool I use at work was taken down for “a day” for updates.  Yeah.  Think two-and-a-half days.  Good times.

When we got to Vienna, we were surprised to find that the budget hotel we were in actually had good WiFi we both could use.  Wow, great.  When the tool updates were finally done, I found I could access work quickly and efficiently.  But oh wait.  Now I have to update some other software (SQL Server Management Express… 2005 -> 2008… yeah, good times) to work with the updates the tool team made.  Holy moly.  Ok, updated my software… oh crud, now what??   Oh, the tool updates also crashed some of the networks at work.  Fun.  Oh, and the internet isn’t working right again.  Oh, there it is.  Working again.  Oh, no, my bad, it’s not…

By this time, you should appreciate how much time and research Charity invests in each and every hotel we book.  She has spent (literally) hours researching.  That said, there is only so much research that can be done beforehand– we really don’t know what to expect until we get there.  As you can imagine, it has been a source of some stress.

So when we booked the Snooze Hotel in Salzburg, we were sure we had a clear winner.  Opened last year, the Snooze is a budget, modern designer hotel.  In-room wireless internet is a key feature prominently advertised everywhere on the website with rave reviews from former guests on hotels.com and tripadvisor.  When we checked-in, it was everything we thought it would be.  Quiet, modern– really cool.  AND it had wireless internet in the room.  Sweet!!  So I login to work.  Oh crud.  Can’t login.  Try again.  Nope.  I recognize that error.  It means the router at the hotel does not support VPN Passthrough.  Translation:  I can’t login to work even though I have a killer quick signal.  *sigh*

We spent a good deal of time Monday afternoon wandering around Salzburg (including a long bus ride into the ‘burbs) looking for WiFi.  We went everywhere with our WiFi finder (read: IPod Touch) scanning the streets and alleys for open signals.  Even tried McDonalds which actually had free WiFi but again, no VPN Passthrough.  Finally, we had to give up for the day and headed back to the hotel out in the non-touristy part of Salzburg.  Wandered around the neighborhood just for kicks, and whaddaya know??  There was a tiny, weak signal named “NETGEAR” near the bus stop.  Immediately, I tried my work computer, and holy moly, the dang thing worked!  I then proceeded to hang out on the corner near the bus stop, working until my computer died, ignoring stares and nodding at the car full of teen boys who honked and waved at me.  Got back to the room after dark and finished up e-mails which don’t require VPN.

After sightseeing today, Charity decided to accompany me while I worked the corner again (haha), but I just couldn’t let her be subjected to that.  I tried finding more discreet spots that still had WiFi, but it just wasn’t happening.  Finally, I decided to just try to find the source of the signal, and lo and behold– it was near a quiet pedestrian/bike bridge over a really neat stream.  We still got stares but not nearly as many as from the busy street.  And we got to watch a family of ducks swim up and down the stream.  We watched an older lady feed the ducks, Charity finished her book while I worked, and we enjoyed watching the sun light the tops of the trees down the stream.  Yeah, it was pretty low stress.

working the corner again...

working the corner again...

on the pedestrian / bike bridge - no, there were no seats...

on the pedestrian / bike bridge - no, there were no seats...

Instead of focusing on the negatives here, I’d like to thank whoever’s signal I’ve been borrowing for the last two days, the same signal I’ll need to borrow again tomorrow and possibly the day after.  As Geggy Tah sang, whoever you are, I want to thank you.  Thank you.  Danke.  Domo.  Mahalo.  Thank you for opening your signal to complete strangers.  Thank you for not locking down your VPN Passthrough so schmucks like me can hang out on that bridge behind you all evening, working.  I really, truly appreciate it.  You’re making me re-think my attitude towards locking down my own signal at home…

And so, here is Geggy Tah, singing my one line.  Yeah, he’s talking about traffic, but essentially, the sentiment is the same.  Danke.