Hi Readers,

I have now finished this blog but feel free to read on and take a look at the posts and photos. Have a look on the left of the page for a monthly archive of older posts, listed by month, as this front page has only the most recent posts.

If you would like to see more I am at www.agreenmoon.com

Love to you!

Monday, 3 September 2012

The Bikes

A closer look at the bikes.....

First up is 'The Action System', so named for it has all the tools and equipment you could EVER need!

And next 'Rog' named after the badge on the front and in addition after Rog the Lege (Grandad)...

Rog has as many accessories as The Action System its just that they aesthetically useful rather than practical, Rog does have a serious pannier bag not shown here!

Under the flowers is a 'beautiful' Venetian scarf made of 100% polyester and made in China, originally purchased to cover shoulders to allow access to the Basilica but generally making a better bike decoration.

The view from aboard!

: )

Prague in clouds

It turned out my photos from our days in Prague had great clouds in them...so here they are!

We visited Prague in 2004 and thought that it had changed in terms of the development of the city the hourds of tourists in some places were just the same and it is still an exciting and beautiful city to see.

We noticed the drip wall from the castle this time and went to find it the next day, I imagined it to be far more modern than it was and its mysterious and fantastical intentions were clear once you got near it.  The wall is  in the garden's of the Czech Senate near the castle.  

We stayed at a really nice (one of our favourite) campsite in Prague, about 45mins from the city on a bus and tube or walk and tube.  Camp Drusus was on the edge of a village but also very near the ring road and the shopping complex with a giant Tesco, IKEA etc.  This really seems to sum up the development of Prague at the moment, they city is spreading as are the big companies and housing developments nearer to the rural areas on the outskirts.  We wonder what it will be like next time we visit.

(The camp site had a farm house hotel/pension and restaurant too for non campers)

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Auschwitz Birkenau

Our brief trip to Poland took us to Oswiecim, Poland where the concentration/extermination camps Auschwitz 1 and 2 (Birkenau) are preserved and now museums.  They are also UNESCO world heritage sites.

I really wanted to visit and it has been on our list of places to go but as time got closer I was apprehensive of what it would be like...tourists in a place like that etc.  We met a man in Vienna (he was from Worcester!) who had been in the last week or two and he reassured us.  He felt that it was in the end uplifting that Auschwitz was there for us to learn from and that what happened would not be forgotten.  We also talked about the experience of visiting for people from different parts of the world, us from Britain, German, Jewish, Polish visitors.  I say visitors now because after going it wasn't about tourism.

We stayed at The Centre for Dialogue and Prayer which is about 200m away from the site, it seems to be a Christian based centre with a hotel and camp site attached.  Really convenient for us, most people make a day trip from Krakow on the buses although there are two car park type campervan stops at the site and opposite it.  I'm glad we didn't stop there though it was nice to have a green garden to be in before and after, and the loos were nicer!

The tour of Auschwitz is done with a guide and about 15/20 people to a group and you get a headset so you can hear the guide.  This also has the desired effect of people not talking to each other while you go around.  Although I think most people would be silent throughout anyway, except for the children that people brought with them.  It may be just me but I think I might censor some of the realities of history from my young children.

So we walked around and we saw where people walked in when they arrived, under the arch saying 'Work brings freedom' and along past all the blocks where the prisoners slept.  This was already a Polish barracks before the Germans arrived and we, not knowing this, were surprised at how solid it all looked as images of low temporary looking buildings were in our heads.  About four or five of the blocks have been made into museum type exhibits from pictures to personal belongings and documents displayed.  The walls of photos of the prisoners look down on you, these were taken after people had been stripped of belongings, hair and given their prisoner uniform and number.  They all have their name, date of arrival and death, most didn't survive past 3 months.  The most affective parts for me included walking up and down the stairs which were worn down from all the previous feet that had been there and the personal belongings.  Some of the room had been sectioned off so a third of a 20m room would be behind glass and then filled with items.  We saw hundreds, thousands of children's shoes piled up, suitcases all with people's names on and a room just filled with women's hair.  The hair was something else.

The guide was quite factual and kept to the point there wasn't much expansion or discussion from what was already written on boards around the place.  After the barracks you go to the death wall where people were shot, the gallows where people were hung in front of the other prisoners and then the prison within a prison.  isolation cells and the first small room where they experimented with gas poisoning and came up with the idea for Birkenau, the extermination camp.  The room where people were gassed and the adjoining room with the ovens still intact.  The old electric fences are mostly still in place as are the watch towers.

After two hours of this tour you then go by shuttle bus about 2km to Birkenau, this is the one I felt I'd seen on the TV.  The arch way with the train track coming up to it, the long platforms the length of the camp and one storey brick buildings.  This place is huge, it is sprawling.  Many of the buildings were destroyed but the chimneys of each block have been rebuilt and there are remnants of walls left.  Some buildings have been rebuilt and one of the women's blocks still has the stove and wooden slatted 'beds'.  There is a train carriage on the platform so you can see the space 80 people were made to stay in for their deportation journey.  Up to 5000 people arrived here in a day and many were immediately killed and not registered as being there at all.  Those who looked fit enough to work were kept alive (just) and registered at the camp.

At the far end of the site there is a huge memorial with stones with an inscription in many different languages saying the same thing (see the picture below), this is inbetween where the two gas chambers were.  They were destroyed by the Germans at the end of the war but you can still get the idea with one of them.  On the other side of one of these buildings the ground is like a pit and all white, this is where all the ashes were dumped.  The forest at the back of the site was used for open air burning of corpses when they could not keep up with the amount in the ovens in the buildings.

You can visit Birkenau for free and without a guide and its size and preservation makes it a different experience to the enclosed rooms that you visit in Auschwitz.

I read Victor Frankl's Mans Search for Meaning before we went, his book is made up of two essays one on his experiences as a prisoner and his reflections on the psychological processes he and others went through to survive or not in Auschwitz and other camps.  His second essay is his theory on the psychological treatment of people who have been prisoners.  He wrote shortly after his release in 1945.  Even if your not interested in the theory (its a bit hard going!) the first essay is a succinct and insightful account of camp 'life'.

In conclusion, its an experience but one that is worth it on different levels.  A history lesson in reality and a lesson in human behaviour, something that should never be forgotten.

Here's some pictures...

Monday, 20 August 2012

Ohhhh Vienna

Wein, has been home for the last three nights. It wasn't on the list of places to go but after deciding to avoid Slovakia on the way to Poland it was the obvious next stop.

(I am sorry to be missing out Slovakia, but all the reasons for going are the reasons to miss it, namely a lack of motorways and its beautiful landscape being on many mountains. Both need lots of time and attention that really if we are to fit in the 'must dos' we have to let go this time).

So Wein, Vienna as we know it. Really we've seen just a snippet but what we saw we saw through what you might call movie tourism. It made a good change from sight seeing old style. Although we did have a peek at the Habsburg palaces and stopped off at the butterfly house on the way.

The Burg Kino (cinema) has weekly showings of The Third Man. In case your film ignorant like me- It's set in Vienna just after WW2, British film, Oscar and Cannes award winner, Orson Welles is the main character if not most featured. We didn't recognise most spots as we hadn't done the sightseeing -theres a walking tour you know- but afterwards we went to the Prater, themepark since 1766 and saw the Reisenrad (a 1897 version of the london eye- also made by an English man) where the most famous scene is played out. A fun, quality story, in black and white with excellent music- which I thought would stick in my head for ages but it hasn't. Girls you might be impressed like me that for a film of it's time there is no happy love story ending, the main female character is able to resist the charms of a man who brings her flowers and likes a drink and a cigarette without being portrayed as a bad kind of woman. It has hilarious use of shadows and a small boy in a fur collared coat.

Vienna looks to have some excellent antique/junk shops, bars and food places but being a Sunday we couldn't make the most of them. Saying that we weren't energetic enough to head back into town today and try again! We've had a relaxing day on site attempting to stay cool.

I've spent most of the day planning a route and finding sites for the next bit of our trip. I've also continued to read a travelogue by a Hungarian/Austrian and Jewish guy who emigrated to Australia as a child after WW2 and then returned in 1991. (The Habsburg Cafe by Andrew Riemer)

We are moving on to Czech tomorrow heading east with a one night stop over before arriving in Oswiecim, Poland. I have mixed feelings about visiting Auschwitz but I want to see it. I have Victor Frankl's 'Mans Search for Meaning' lined up for the next few days.

After that we will head to Krakow to see the city and then back to Czech, south of Prague, to see my lovely friend Lucie and then to Prague itself to revisit, it was one of the first holidays Mark and I had (after IOW and Paris) and still one of our favourites 8 years on.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Eger and the valley of nice women

I've not said much about our few days at Lake Balaton. It's the only place on our trip so far that I wouldn't go back to. It could be that at this point of the journey I feel a preference for what I really like. What I do know is I don't like big dirty campsites with outdoor clubbing! This is not what I would do with the edge of a lake. : )

So as we have a 10 day road vignette (what you need to use motorways) for Hungary and I was keen to see more than Budapest on Sunday we drove from the lake to Eger, about 100k east of the capital. We arrived in the dark which was tricky but we found the site up and over a hill, just a little out of the town centre. Tulipan Camping, or Kemping as it's spelt here.

We had rain showers on our journey in and the lightning flashed over the hills as we got set up. Set up means bikes out the back of the van, electric plugged in, covers on the front windows and passenger seat spun round to face the back...then go camp.

The next morning was cool and a bit cloudy, weather we currently revel in! In the morning light we found ourselves on a small site, mostly tents and a few vans. They had about 5 old caravans they were renting out too. They had the excellent combination of people being able to choose where to camp but with some demarcation made only be trees and bushes. There were also picnic tables with roofs (rooves! How do you write that!) scattered about where people had there breakfast, dinners and did Bulgarian lessons-or maybe that last one was just me.

Eger is popular for it's small town centre with varied architecture, and it's wine production and selling in the valley of beautiful women (or nice women as one signpost translated it). The town is impressive with a huge Basilica, a minaret where the mosque used to be (ottomans we're fought off once but came back and moved in), a castle, and cobbled streets to wander and not forgetting the statue of the fight against the ottomans; one of the most animated sculptures/statues I've ever seen. I love the little streets but you cannot comfortably ride your bike on them! We cycled and pushed a bike round the town dodging a few sharp showers in antique shops and under trees.

The cycle home was a good challenge with the hill to contend with but the view of the valley helped your heart stop trying to escape your chest at the top. After a few hours, and lunch at the van we cycled off again and down the hill the other way to the valley. Essentially a tiny village with a horse shoe shape road lined with wine cellars on the outside and a park in the middle. You choose your cellar go in try a wine and then if you like buy a glass or bottle of your favourite. They all had indoor and outdoor seats so you could choose how musty you wanted your air while you drank. We decided to go to the ones that were mainly just a cave with an old man or lady outside and avoid the shiny signs and decor of the more modern places. After two or three of these we had tried 6 different mainly red wines and had a 2 litre plastic container of the old man's musty cave wine. This is how it goes: you go in say hello and the lady says "red white?", you choose one and then she says "dry, semi sweet, sweet?" and then you choose. You try a few sips and then buy a glass (about 200ft or 60p) or try something else. At the end you can choose a beautifully shaped plastic bottle and get 2 litres for from 1000ft or £3.

We tried one of the more modern places and with an actual wine list and wider selection we could try different things, including the famous bulls blood wine. I found a new favourite grape, which we will call K for now as this is what the word started with but I don't remember the name! This place also did snacks, so bread and dripping it was (garnished with onions and paprika) to soak up the K.

After an average dinner, this valley does not specialise in food, we found our final cave, it had a three piece string band and a lovely, if a bit drunk, old lady to introduce us to her family wine. She joined in the tasting and tried to encourage me to down the tasting wine (about two mouthfuls) and then you open your mouth wide and go ahhhhh. She was ace. As was her wine which came in an actual glass bottle so we had one of those for another day.

So here's some pictures of the Eger experience....

Ps. I hear it's complicated to comment on the blog which is annoying! We would love to have your comments. I have no idea how to change this though so use fb if you can and I will keep looking at the settings to try and work it out. X