04/06/2018 Zilina, Slovakia
For our last stop in Slovakia, we travelled 125 miles northward towards the Polish border and pulled into the most beautiful campsite (as you will see from the pictures) near the town of Zilina.
The owner was very friendly and said that he would be barbequing that evening if we wanted to join him. There was a corral that had goats and a sheep and a large cage full of songbirds and the nature noticeboard showed bears and boar amongst the animals that can be found roaming around the local countryside.
Google picture My Picture We saw a hedge hog and then an animal that we couldn’t recognise. It turned out to be a wild hamster. The hamster shot off as soon as I approached so I will show my picture and one I got off the internet to identify what it was.
Suddenly the heavens opened. The storm that ensued meant we couldn’t go on a hike in the wilderness around the camping field, so we sat under our sun canopy and played RummiKub. I think it is unfair that I was accused of cheating just because I won the afternoon competition. We collected the rain that poured off the canopy and it almost filled our water tank in the van.
In the evening we went to the bar and enjoyed an amazing barbeque. The fish the owner cooked was cooked to perfection. It was fascinating to hear his views on living in Slovakia.
05/06/2018 Wieliczka, Poland
We crossed the border and stopped at the first town we came to, so we could get some zloty (the polish currency). Some of the countries in Europe that do not have Euros as their currency are still happy to take Euros, but we have been told that is not the case in Poland. The route we chose, unbeknown to us, was on the route of a new motorway that is under construction. There was hold up after holdup and then we would just get going when a tractor, driven by one of the construction workers would pull in front of us. Finally, we pulled into the car park of the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Luckily for us we were still in time to get to the 5 pm English tour of this amazing visitor attraction.
The mine opened 700 years ago, and they have only, in the last 20 years, stopped mining salt although they still produce salt but by a different process, which is less hazardous to the workers lives. The place now is a goldmine but for a different reason. Coaches bring visitors from 8 am to the evening. The car parks around are always full of vehicles. This is a massive visitor attraction. Our guide came out to collect us and we were provided with an ear piece and a device, so he could show us around whilst listening to him talking about the mine and its workers. There were 10 in our group and first we had to descend 364 steps down to the first level.
The temperature remained a constant 13-14 degrees and there was a nice breeze pumped around from fans on the surface. Every so often we would have to go through doors that were necessary to keep the atmosphere at a constant level. All along we were being told aboutut the life of the miners and their 10 hour a day, six days a week spent underground. Mock ups of workers going about the business of extracting salt were cleverly arranged to explain what was done.
In one area, three models were arranged to show how they dealt with the hazardous explosive gases. In the early days, a gang would go around with long sticks with lighted tapers at the end. They would reach up to the ceilings to set light to the gas. The guide then set off a demonstration flash, bang effect.
As we got down further we then went into different areas to see what has made the mine world famous and why the site has been listed by UNESCO as a world heritage site. There are statues, all carved by the miners from solid salt.
There are chapels where everything is made from salt and the huge chandeliers have been constructed using hundreds of salt crystals.
I will show some of the many photographs I took, and I think you will understand why it was such an amazing experience. The lowest level we got down to was 130 metres and down there, there is a restaurant, and lots of other ways you can spend your money. Luckily, we didn’t have to climb stairs to get back to the surface as a lift brought us from that level in just 30 seconds.
We stayed in the car park for the night and the four of us agreed that our first day in Poland had been very pleasurable and we couldn’t wait to see what else the country had to offer during what will be an all too short visit of this very large country.
6th7th 8th /06/2018 Cracow
Cracow is known for being one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. We drove just 12 miles to get from our parking place at the salt mines to get parked by the river. We had left early so we were soon ready for the 3 km walk into the centre. Most of the way took us along the wide river Wisla and soon the first of many magnificent buildings came into view.
Cracow was the capital city of the country until 1596, when the capital was moved to Warsaw. The city escaped significant damage during two World Wars and in 1978 UNESCO declared it a World Heritage site.
If you do not feel like walking than there are lots of alternatives. There is a great tram system and of course there are the city buses. In the huge square there are beautifully decorated horse and carriages, lots with smartly dressed ladies all vying with one another to get a fare.
Open air electric vehicles are everywhere and on every corner around the centre are sales persons advertising for people who want one tour or another. One company has 1930’s style, modern vehicles doing the tours and when you get near the river there are small and large boats to chose from for your cruise. We walked everywhere and by the end of our first day Wendy’s Fit Watch showed that we had walked over 11,000 steps.
The city is as beautiful as it is known for. I compare all the cities we have visited by the number of photographs I take as we walk around, and I took an awful lot in Cracow. In the main market square there was a girl, dancing troupe performing and that added to the colour and the excited hub-bub of the countless people in the huge square.
As we have done in other cities, we went to join an English speaking, free walking tour. Unfortunately. The girl’s voice was so quiet that we couldn’t hear what she had to say so we just took ourselves around the city.
Later on, we went off to the Jewish quarter and had quite a walk to get to Oskar Schindler’s enamel factory. He, I am sure you will know, saved many Jews from being taken to the concentration camps.
After all the steps around the salt mine and the around this city we took a taxi back to the campsite and had a great barbeque. There is so much we still haven’t seen that we will walk back into the centre for a second day.
Day 2 in Cracow
Before we went off for a second day in the city we arranged to stay here another day and that we would be picked up here the following day for a day trip with a guide to go to the sites of one of history’s most horrific crimes, Auschwitz and Birkenau. It will not be a fun day out, but it is something we all feel we must do.
The weather was much warmer in the morning and we walked the other side of the river to get into the city.
We wandered around so we could see more of this wonderful place. When we got to the main square, a huge track had been formed all around the square and a large stage had been erected overnight. There was to be a bike race held there in the afternoon, so we made sure we would be back in time for the start. We had a great “meal of the day” in a fabulous restaurant decorated in a medieval style.
Back at the main square, we set ourselves up at just past the fourth corner. Cyclist of all ages warmed up going around and around the cobbled track. Then the racing started in earnest.
The children raced in different age groups and we felt for the lad who didn’t make it around the corner. His tyres skidded on the cobbles and he was lucky not to be run over by the young competitor just behind him. After medical treatment he got up and hobbled away.
Then came the proper race. These were professional teams. There easily must have been 60-70 riders all in teams. Finally, off they went and the last riders each lap were sent off the field.
As the race continued the field dwindled down to about 20 riders and they were left to battle it out. One rider built up such a lead he wasn’t far off lapping some of the others. I have, without success, tried to find who the winner was and what team he belonged to. It was exciting to watch as each circuit, the riders got so close to the metal barriers we were standing behind. On the way back, we called into a bar which is on top of a hotel and gives great views over the river.
Day 3 in Cracow
The very modern mini-bus arrived prompt at 8 am. We were pleased that the bus was mostly full, and we didn’t have to go from hotel to hotel picking people up before going to Auschwitz and Birkenau. During the hour journey the guide played a video that was used at the Nuremberg War Trials. The film was awful to watch but gave a lot of information about what happened just over 70 years ago.
Different to any other blog I have done I will give no details of what we saw. The only pictures I will show are of the gates of the two camps.
The rest of what we saw and heard today will remain with us. What we have seen and heard today will never be forgotten. I am glad we went, but I wish we hadn’t learnt what we have learnt today. My only comment is that today we learnt more about the horrible depths of man’s inhumanity to man.
9th/06/2018 In a forest near the small village of Hutki
75 miles north- west of Cracow is our next stop for the night. Brian and Wendy have gone off in a different direction. They have headed north as they intend, amongst other things, to fit in a visit to some relatives of Wendy who live in Copenhagen. It is very quiet here. The only noises are the gentle breeze, the bird song, and my stomach rumbling as I wait for my lunch. There is one other noise that I will tell you about, as long as no-one tells Elaine. It is the croaking of the little green frog that I spotted by the lily pads in the pond beside us.
I will not put the picture I took of the frog, in consideration of the people I know that suffer from ranidaphobia (the fear of frogs).
Hope you like the picture of the dragon fly; the little fella is such a gorgeous colour. As I typed that last sentence, Google underlined the word fella, telling me I should consider using gender-neutral language. I humbly apologise to anyone is offended but I know it is a male dragonfly as the females are a totally different colour. You would have thought Google would have known that as well.
After the mental bashing of yesterday It is so nice to be on this quirky little site. Once again, we are the only campers here and I must say, the tranquillity here is bliss. The blue skies disappeared, covered by a blanket of high cloud and it certainly cooled it down to a nice comfortable temperature
10th, 11th/06/2018 Wroclaw
Our chosen destination today is Wroclaw. The sat nav kept trying to turn us onto a motorway that is just at the start of being built. Every time we didn’t turn when we were told, for the next umpteen miles we were given detailed instructions of where to turn around. Just to demonstrate my patience, I have to tell you that the wretched thing didn’t get thrown out of the window. It, I mean the sat nav, showed its impatience with us for not following its instructions: it just turned itself off and wouldn’t be started again.
So, Elaine’s map reading came into play and after 142 miles, we arrived at our stop for the night. Tomorrow we will take ourselves into the City as our book says that there are lots to be seen there. We met a German woman in Greece. When we told her about going into Poland, she said “What do you want to go to Poland for? It will be like stepping back into the 1950s” She is just the proof that you shouldn’t make wild statements when you do not know what you are talking about. So far, and I know it is early days in our travels here but there is nothing old fashioned or dated in anything we have seen so far. We do not see British motorhomes travelling the Eastern European countries. All I can say is that they do not know what they are missing.