A Travellerspoint blog

Krakow


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Finding a camper shop is hard in the countries we have visited this year, then we find one we can stay the night at and has a bus stop into the city outside it. We got to the stellplatz quite early as we didn't hang about at the salt mine car park and both of us felt knackered, all day, so we decided to rest up again and go into Kraków in the morning.
We spent a lovely evening taking to a German couple parked next to us and promised to visit their home near Hanover. Although German, they had both been immigrants from the east and made a really good life in Germany, both teachers now, with grown up children. They were having a bit of trouble with the electrics of their van and the camper shop couldn't find anything wrong so they had decided on going home a few days early. They gave us a lift into the city the next morning and dropped us off as smoke was coming from the fridge switch, they returned to the camper shop and found a bad battery earth, we found out later.
The first view of walking into the old town is of the castle, set above the river and forms an impressive entry to the pedestrianised areas of the historic centre. The city has Europe's largest square, Krakow having once been the Capial, measuring 200m on a side and a beautiful cloth hall in the centre which housed tiny souvenir shops.
We were disappointed with the Jewish quarter as it had turned into a trendy eating area with tours by electric golf carts of the Schindler's List sets. Of course I had to try the local delicacy (toasted baguette with many toppings including pastrami, bacon, pickles, mayonnaise and topped with fried onions, not that easy to eat but delicious.
That evening we spent talking to a lovely Dutch couple who also asked us to visit them when next in Holland. Both evenings were interesting and different as we exchanged family stories and realised we share something in common. This couple had no real plans, like us, and we exchanged places to visit, not bad this parking outside a motorhome dealers!
Some of these places are merging into one, we realised we had a much more varied summer last year, visiting natural splendours and beaches, cities were fewer during the summer.

Posted by cjpolley 07:58 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Auschwitz


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Jacqui and I went here as an act of remembrance and it's an awful place looked after by caring, informed people, one of whom was our guide, Eva.
No photos from us, no commentary, just sadness.

Posted by cjpolley 06:05 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Wieliczka Salt Mine


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We had picked an a couple of sights to see in this area, one, the Wieliczka Salt Mine, the other, Auschwitz.
The salt mine claims to be the most visited tourist attraction in Poland and has been a UNESCO site since 1978 and judging by the number of people there when we visited, their claim may well be true. We took the advice of their website and didn't book tickets and ended up waiting an hour in a queue, but it's all part of the experience.
We didn't have to wait to go down into the mine and descended 64m down 55 flights of stairs, the first 450 of the day. The mine workings are 325m deep and have over 200 km of galleries and 2000 chambers and we were going to see about 1% of this in our 3 hour tour; we would only be going 135m down. The workings of the mine are awesome in size and to imagine this started 900 years ago and was hand dug! The chambers are normally formed from vertical digging when a huge rich deposit is found, timber is used extensively here to shore up not only tunnels but some of the 30m high chambers. Wood is not attacked by the salt and wood absorbs the solution and hardens; some of the supports are 5m logs piled crossways on each other to heights of 4 or 5m. The scale of all this work for salt is daunting and during the 16th & 17th centuries 30, 000 tonnes a year were extracted from this mine by hand!
The mine is equally well known for the carvings in and around the chambers, some sculptured by the miners, some by well known Polish artists. There are also lots of chandeliers, can't recall how many, all with salt crystals decorating the lamps.
We also saw some of the brine lakes, the tour guide had previously told us that water was bad in a mine especially one made of salt, but brine accumulates at the bottom of the deep shafts. There used to be a ferry along a tunnel between two lakes until some German soldiers drowned when it overturned, because of the density of the brine, or the beer they had consumed, they could not swim out from underneath the boat and drowned. The guide obviously had a Polish accent and it made the tour more interesting than listening to a recording, no one laughed at his one joke and, although I noticed it, I have since forgotten it!
The tour ended in one of the many shops and there are bars and restaurants 135m under ground and we were told we would be guided back to the lift to ascend to the surface. The walk took more than half an hour and when we arrived at the surface we had another walk back to the attraction entrance from the middle of town. Quite a day!

Posted by cjpolley 10:55 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

Wroclaw, Katowice, Krakow


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That's a mouthful of a title, especially with pronouncing w's as v's!
These are the medieval cities that everyone has heard of in the south of Poland with not only an immense amount of history behind them but technology and education firsts, of industry and humanity. Trying to take in all that has happened in one city or area of a country is impossible as we have realised and it's a bit wearing on the old brain box.
Look at this as an example, the first woman PhD at Breslau university was Clara Immerwahr, a Jew in the old Prussian empire, that achievement alone must have been hard. She married Fritz Haber of the ammonia process fame, but committed suicide after he he started using his considerable chemical knowledge to gas troops during WW1. A quote accredited to her, 'It has always been my attitude that a life has only been worth living if one has made full use of all one's abilities and tried to live out every kind of experience human life has to offer.' may show why she took such drastic action to end her life. I found this on a plaque at the university and wondered how many people stand by their beliefs?
Any how on a cheerier note, we travelled to Wroclaw over a couple of days in our usual way, mainly because the weather had decided to get hot and oppressive again. We stopped at a middle of nowhere very rustic stellplatz then a run down camping field next to a community swimming pool, which at that point in the afternoon was very welcome, it reminded me a bit of the old Broad Lane pool in Bracknell! We also tried to stop at a stellplatz outside of Wroclaw which turned out to have closed sometime ago, so we drove into the city to find one of the two available sites with not very good reviews.
The one we chose was close enough to the tram stop to get to see the city in the early evening and get a bit of the atmosphere of the city. The public transport has been first class in these Polish cities and we paid 70p for a 20 minutes ride into the city, over bridges and through parks, a nice way to see a bit further than walking.
The Old Town is stunning with the town hall being the centrepiece in the market square, lots of people on an evening walk or taking a drink in the range of bars lining the streets. We popped into a church or two with really high ceilings and walked along the river to the cathedral on an island.
As we walked from the tram into the centre we started to see small figures in funny poses, little bronze people pushing granite balls or using a mini ATM, we had to ask in the TI what they were? We were told they are icons to represent the struggle against communism when students in the 80s, dressed as dwarves, protested in the streets.
It's probably the same the world over, the old parts of any city are more interesting than the bits outside, shopping malls everywhere.
Katowice is a few hours drive away and we decided we needed a few days R&R, finding a site by a lake looked like a good start. First class showers and a well laid out site, even though we had to move pitches so we could get level; and this site is cheaper than the Wroclaw one that we didn't want to use the showers at!
We chilled for a couple of days and did the washing by hand because this swish site had a strange way of doing laundry and charging €12 for it, too much on a trekkers budget.
We used the bikes to go into the city centre, they needed a dust down as they have not been off the back of the van for 2 weeks! We had a hard job finding the old town but used the TI and even with a guidebook we were at a lose to find much that was interesting! In fact the first page of the guide features the coal mine near the centre of the city, now closed, and says,"yes they used to bring that crap up in the middle of the city" so even the author doesn't say much complimentary about Katowice.
We had a stroll round and Jacqui said it reminded her of Reading!
We have made friends with a number of little birds on the campsite who eat our crumbs from breakfast and we are having a rest before the last part of Poland, via Kraków.

Posted by cjpolley 08:18 Archived in Poland Comments (2)

Warsaw


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Jacqui had cooked pimenton rubbed slow roast pork with mashed potato and green beans on our last night in Sandomierz and there was some left for tea when we arrived at our site outside Warsaw. I had bubble and squeak with rocket because there are no sprouts this time of year, Jamie Oliver eat your heart out; bet he never thought of that, I'm a traditionalist when it comes to food that my mum used to make and Jacqui always cooks great stuff, but that addition of rocket tasted great.
We are so glad we took a few days to see Warsawa, we had a bit of trouble with the bus, being a Sunday it was only running every 2 hours and we missed one by 10 minutes, should have checked! The journey into the centre of the city took about an hour on a bus and tram at a ridiculous cost of €0.5 and we were dropped off right by the Old Town.
Warsaw was completely and utterly destroyed during WW2, the buildings we are enjoying on a fabulous Sunday were lovingly reconstructed to show that Poland has a magnificent history behind all the horror; the city honours all Polish citizens that were killed during the war and points out that 3000 a day were killed during this time. The casualties of the uprising and the Jewish population have a special place in the commerations. The very hot Sunday wasn't the time to visit these but we would like to return especially to see the other museums.
The Royal Castle was impressive and the gardens at the front had a few deckchairs to sit and enjoy the view, Jacqui nabbed one and said the only thing missing was a glass of champagne. We both think that the front of this palace with it's vaulted arches have been used in an MI or XXX film.
We strolled around the old town and came across a square with a large bronze bell in the centre. Jacqui started walking round it counting and passers by clapped. I thought she was having a "moment" but she had read that walking round it 3 times brings you luck, so I decided to join her. We found the science museum and Clive stood in front of the statue of Copernicus for a picture, clever bloke!
We walked for an hour through the Old Market Square with its gothic townhouses and statue of a mermaid (Pomnik Syrenki) who serves as the city's coat of arms and guardian. It was full of families prommenading and enjoying the bars and restaurants, we had to sample a cold beer as Clive is still trying to accumulate data for when we get to the Czech Republic because everywhere we have been claim the best beer comes from there.
In case you didn't know Warsaw is famous for Chopin, Marie Curie and Copernicus. We then strolled along Krakowskie Przedmiescie Street past the Presidential Palace and the famous Hotel Bristol. There were many young talented musicians along the route so we chipped in a few Zloty as encouragement. Beautiful sounds in a beautiful pristine city.
We had a pleasant meal along a little side street before we set off on our tram bus trip back to the campsite, thoroughly knackered and with another city on the 'must go back to' list.

Posted by cjpolley 04:01 Archived in Poland Comments (0)

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