I knew by looking at the map that it was going to be difficult driving out of Vienna to go the direction we needed to go. Vienna, being such an old city, has no proper outer ring freeway, no straight streets, no grid, no obvious commuter routes, and lots of pedestrian zones, squares, and one way streets. I won’t say we were lost, because I thought I knew where we were most of the time, but I couldn’t figure out how to get there from here most of the time. Eventually we escaped the confusion and got on the right road out of the city. It wasn’t the autobahn that we needed, but generally in the right direction. After zig-zagging through the villages and wine country of northern Austria, we linked up with the freeway.
When we got to the border of the Czech Republic, there were police there to check our passports. I didn’t think they did that anymore after the Czech Republic joined the EU. After a few minutes delay, we were on our way. (The thing happened at the Polish border) There is a marked difference in the quality of the roads around here. The German roads were superior in every way. The autobahns and other roads have smooth, new surfaces, easy to read signs, and rest stops, gas stations, and restaurants every few miles. The Austrian roads were not quite as good. The Czech roads were bumpy, and typically under construction with lengthy detours through small towns. We were hungry for lunch, and couldn’t find anywhere to stop to eat other than getting candy bars in a gas station.
Once we got into Poland, we drove on a smooth new highway from Ciescen towards Bielsko. But after that, we turned off onto an old, bumpy road. We navigated our way to the small village of Laka, where my extended family lives. I was pretty sure how to get there, but knew we would have to look carefully at the street signs once we got close. As we slowed down coming in to Laka, there was my niece Dorota on the side of the road waving at us! She had come down their street to look for us just a couple of minutes before.
The rest of the day was a blur of food, conversation, food, more conversation, food, and more food.