A recent letter from Frank P. of Perrysburg had us all in a geographical tizzy. We hate to be beaten by any travel question and the thought that we might be considered “The Weakest Link” sent us way beyond our usual research.
Here's the problem. Frank's father, it transpires, was born in 1905 in “a small town called Lipov, near Prague,” and came to the U.S. when he was 20. His mother was also born in Czechoslovakia. Frank and his wife, who have never traveled abroad before, would like to visit his father's hometown, and they have questions about the feasibility of such a venture.
Should they rent a car? Are there concerns about traveling outside Prague to a small town? Should they take precautions regarding restaurants, water, food, hotels?
They also sent us the itinerary for a 12-day organized tour to Slovenia, Slovakia, and the Czech Republic that they're thinking of joining.
Try as we might, we were unable to locate a Lipov anywhere near Prague. The only one we came up with (in the Times Gazetteer) was in Slovakia, a goodly distance from Prague and an unlikely candidate, we believe.
There is a small village called Lipova on the German border northeast of Prague. But that doesn't sound quite right either. We have put out more feelers, but suggest that Frank question his Czech-born mother, who's still living, in greater detail.
The bus tour that Frank is considering spends much of its time in Slovenia and Slovakia and has only two days allotted to Prague (worth a week in itself, in our prejudiced view). That would make it nearly impossible for him to carry out the kind of genealogical detective work he has in mind.
Our suggestion is to query the tour company and see if he can extend for an extra week at the conclusion of the tour, which ends up in Prague anyway.
Failing that, we'd suggest that Frank and his wife simply fly to Prague for a week, set up in a nicely located hotel like The Adria, Vaclavske namesti (Wenceslas Square) 26, 110 00, Prague 1 Tel: 420-2-210 81 291, Fax: 420-2-210 81300. www.hoteladria.cz:
Then, using the extremely efficient and knowledgeable front office staff, who could help with any ground arrangements, he could then try to track down his father's village ... as well as exploring magnificent Prague more thoroughly.
There's no problem these days with water, food, or restaurants in the cities, but when visiting the Czech countryside, it would probably be advisable to hire an experienced bilingual driver/guide for a day or two.
Good luck, Frank!
IRELAND IN JUNE is on the mind of Nancy from Fremont. She and three compadres are thinking of renting a car and visiting the Cliffs of Moher, Galway, and Dublin, and spending a couple of days on family history research on the Dingle Peninsula. Two weeks total.
One of the four has been to Ireland before on an organized tour; the rest are adventuresome but have no European experience.
The burning question on Nancy's mind is whether they can go it alone using B&Bs as bases. (If so, any suggestions on locations?) Or should they take an escorted tour?
Our advice for this adventuresome crew is to go it alone and rent a car, using the local tourist offices to help them find lodgings in two or three base towns or villages.
Flying into Shannon on the west of Ireland and out of Dublin on the east - and roughly following the coast - would show them some of the republic's most exquisite scenery. Using the base approach rather than moving each night also makes a great deal of sense in this compact country.
The only proviso to all this is that driving on Ireland's narrow and sometimes single-track country roads has to be handled very carefully - with cows and sheep often greater hazards than the other drivers!
Also they should practice with the right-hand-drive rental car before setting off in traffic, and at the end of the trip, drop the car off as soon as they arrive in Dublin. No need for a car there, as public transportation and shanks pony (walking) are the way to go.
As far as B&B and hotel recommendations: The following would make good bases, if space is available.
Try the Greenmount House, Gortonora, Dingle. County Kerry. Phone 066-51414, Fax 066-51974.
Hanora's Cottage, Nire Valley via Clonmel, County Waterford. Phone (052) 36134/36442. Fax (052) 36540.
FINALLY, SOME questions from Mary O. of Northwood.
She's traveling with her 21-year-old granddaughter the last three weeks of June to meet a Youth For Understanding family in Rome, then going on with them to Munich for a couple of days. After that it's rail to Hamburg and Copenhagen for more YFU visits.
They then plan to go to Paris, down to Lourdes in the south of France, and back up to Normandy. A ferry to Ireland or the UK and a flight home from Ireland.
Is this, they ask, a doable trip? The writer is 69.
Anything's doable, of course, given Europe's excellent rail system. But frankly, Mary, trying to follow your proposed itinerary on the map made us giddy! From southern Italy to Northern Germany. Northern France to Southern France and back. Not to mention the U.K, and Ireland.
We would suggest some serious consolidation. Buy a copy of The Thomas Cook European Train Timetable (From 1-800 Forsythe) and work out the distances and times with your granddaughter. We think you'll come to the same conclusion.
Readers may write to travel advisers Roger Holliday and Claudia Fischer at P.O. Box 272, Bowling Green, OH 43402. If a reply is desired, please enclose a self-addressed, stamped envelope.