Trip Of A Lifetime

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Adie's Birthday!!!

It's Adie's birthday today. He is now the same age as me.

Even though he is not at home for this day, he's scored big time on the present stakes and was totally chuffed to find out that members of his family have organised a trial plane flight for him to finally get the chance to fly a plane. (Something he's wanted to do for as long as I've known him.) Thanks mum, dad, surfer, hippy-chic, gorgeous girl and bump!
As well as the fab pressie, he also was treated to a phone call from home... even though this meant that his family had to wake up really early so that they caught him last night. He was so hoping that they would call. As soon as I walked in the door he was telling me that they had called Robocop and that maybe they would call him as well. Kudos to the people back home.

My pressie kinda pales by comparison. I'm taking him bowling. But what was my alternative? A trip to Italy? Hehehe.

Thanks also to all of those fabulous friends who sent cards to wish Adie well. He has displayed them proudly on our little table. I'm not sure what we're going to eat at tonight, but we'll work something out. Hopefully I can get home early enough to cook the risotto before Chip and Dale arrive. I think I can manage it.

So happy birthday Adie.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Religion & Death

Our journey from Warsaw to Krakow was a busy one. Firstly we stopped at Jasna Gora for a morning at the church and monastery that house the Black Madonna, a religious icon of great importance to the Catholic world.

While I'm not a religious person, I have to admit that this was an interesting place to visit. (Even though the nun showing us around was barely audible and slightly strange.) I was surprised a the sheer number of people visiting on a Friday morning, although it was one week before Easter and many people come to this place on a pilgramage.

Our tour showed us around various places within the grounds. The painting of the Black Madonna is itself in the Chapel, but there is a replica outside so that people can take photos and really have the chance to look at it. I have to say that it is a very beautiful painting.

The original painting is "dressed", whihch means that they put a sort of facade in front of it so that only the two faces are showing. The "dressing" is usually gold, silver and bejewelled. They change it for special occaisions.

Our group was able to file through a mass and crane our necks awkwardly to have a look a the real painting. Part of me wishes that they hadn't allowed this because the chapel was packed tight with people who were quite obviously involved in their worship and as they were this ugly group of tourists with cameras slung around their necks start ploughing through the middle of them. It just felt rude.

After we'd seen enough, Adie and I broke off from the group in search of lunch before we had to get back on the bus. Unfortunately with it being Friday there was no meat. There were also hundreds of people lined up to buy the chips and vegie burgers that were on offer. The only line moving quickly was the one selling ice-cream... so we had ice-cream for lunch.

From Jasna Gora we drove to Auschwitz. Our first stop was at Birkenau, a site about 3 kilometres away from the main camp. Thi splace has been changed very little from the original while the main camp has been set up to educate people about what happened.

I knew that I would be emotional here, and I was right. I didn't wander around Birkenau, I just stood near the train tracks. It was quite surreal. Unfortunately there were some people who stood in the on the train tracks and smiled big cheesy grins as their friends took photos. Bad taste as far as I'm concerned.

At Auschwitz we had a guided tour that took us into several barracks, some punishment cells and the crematorium. There were many confronting things to see and difficult stories to lear, but I'm glad I went.

It would seem to me that the more aware we are of the atrocities of the past, the better able we are to prevent them from happening again.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Warsawa, Poland

I really enjoyed Poland. I learned so much about the history and the people that I was fascinated the entire time we were there.

Before actually hitting Warsaw, we stopped in Poznan for lunch. This was where we saw the first of many aminated clocks. The Poznan clock featured two goats who very slowly butted their heads together.

In Poznan, like a lot of Poland, all buildings were levelled in WW2. It is actually very rare to find buildings that are very old. Everything still looks old though, because the people have rebuilt everything in it's original style. While it's a little bit disappointing to know that everything around you is relatively new, it's amazing to think about the work that's gone into getting everything back to how it was.

Now, back to Warsaw. One of the nicest aspects of this city is all of the greenery. There are a lot of parks and they tend to be big and beautiful with fountains (that aren't on in winter), flowers (that don't bloom in winter) and statues (the same all year round I suspect). Although this may sound like I'm complaining, I'm not. We loved spending time in the parks of Poland and some of my favourite memories are of slowly walking through one of them back to the hotel.

The parks were all so tranquil. We want to go back to Lazienkowski Park in summer one day because they haul in a piano and hold open air Chopin concerts as the audience sit amongst the rose bushes filling all of their senses with sounds, sights and smells.

There are a lot of monuments and places of interest in Warsaw. Far too many to list. One place that we spent a lot of time in was the Old Town (all European cities seem to have an Old Town). It tends to be a whole lot of old buildings surrounding a square that has been preserved to shop a slice of life gone by.

One night in Warsaw we went to a Chopin concert. We entered this huge park that contained several palaces. (Apparently the Royal family all wanted to live nea each other but in their own home.) In one of those buildings we sat on expensive chairs, surrounded by gold leafed everything as this amazing pianist gave a one hour performane of some of Chopin's music. Never have I seen fingers move so quickly and with such precision.
Warsaw was lovely. We were there for a good amount of time and we were able to see heaps. There is still so much more to write about, I hope that you have patience as I slowly get around to writing about it all.

An Assortment Of Fruity Flavours

In European McDonalds, you can get many exciting variations on the humble apple pie. It all depends on the country you happen to be in.

Our favourite was by far the raspberry pie, but we also saw strawberry and mixed berry. Mmmmm.

Thursday, April 20, 2006


Just taking a short break from writing about our travels while I wait patiently for the photos to be transferred onto CD. In the meantime I thought I'd write about a couple of wonderful events in the life on Noshie and Adie in the past two weeks.

We've been fortunate enough to catch up with family! First it was with my Dad in Munich where he was looking after his mum, my Oma. She is amazing woman who is just days away from her 100th birthday! Gosh I come from good stock. Her neighbour picked us up from our hotel and we were able to spend a few hours with Dad and Oma.

The visit was nice. Dad made coffee and Oma climbed out of bed to sit in the lounge with us. It's what she wanted to do and she did it on her own. At 99! (I may go on about that a little because I am so blown away by her.) Adie obviously couldn't understand her because of his not speaking German, but I couldn't understand her either because she has such a thick Bavarian dialect. Dad was happy to translate though.

She was really happy to see us and I'm so glad that we had the chance to see her. She such a strong and determined woman. It's a little sad to see her not feeling very well, but at her age you can't expect anyone to be dancing a jig without a care in the world.

Seeing her also meant that we got to see my Dad, which was fantastic. You don't really notice how much support you get from family until you leave them for awhile. I guess that's true of a lot of things. He's looking good and, considering the reason for his early departure for Germany, he was in good spirits. Love ya Dad.

As well as catching up with my dad, we also caught up with Adie's brother (we'll call him... there are so many possibly names... CSI) and his girlfriend (The Winner). They came over last night and crammed into our little flat for dinner.

It was really nice to catch up with them. They look happy and healthy and seem to be having a really good time on their holiday. (Soon they head for America.) We chatted about things at home, family and all that we've been doing. Robocop had also brought Adie a nice present from Ireland and a package from home for his birthday. (April 27th) He'd beed told via phone not to open his birthday envelope until his actual birthday, so instead we opened the other envelope. It was fabulous, with photos and paintings for us to hang on the wall. Perhaps luckily, I read the accompanying letter out loud and was able to edit the first paragraph that I think eluded to what Adie's pressie might be.

We are sooo sorry if we misinterpreted and were not meant to open anything until Adie birthday, but rest asured that Adie has not read anything he should not have and that his curiosity is still totally piqued. Everyday I hear, "I wonder what it could be? Maybe it's this... or that? Whatdo you think Noshie?"

Anyway, it's been lovely to have a slice of home after four months overseas. Anyone else who'd like to visit, we'll cook a lovely dinner for you as an incentive. :)

Monday, April 17, 2006

Deutchland #1

Our holiday started in Germany with an overnight stay with Tante Namesake before we headed for Frankfurt to meet our tour. Tante is doing well and it was really good to catch up with her. A little difficult for Adie because he speaks no German and she speaks no English, but I was fine sitting in the middle. I'm hoping to get back there in September/October when we're not in such a rush.

We met up with our tour group the next day and that was odd... sitting in a room full of strangers hoping that you wouldn't find any of them too offensive. It turned out that we weer really lucky with our group. Everyone was friendly, punctual and no-one was particularly over-bearing, and with a group of 41 that's not bad. There were people from Australia, New Zealand, America, Canada, South Africa and one lady from Japan.

Nothing really happened in Frankfurt except a quick breakfast before getting on the bus to Berlin. We stopped at Eisenach, which used to be an old border crossing in to East Germany. They have kept all of the original guard towers and buildings and have converted them into a pertrol station with public toilets and a restaurant. Eisenach has a reputation as being one of the worst places to cross over and we could still see how people would feel intimidated here.

Our next stop was for lunch in the town of Weimar. This is also where we started our sausage tour of Europe. Here it was the Thurlinger bratwurst and we had two from different shops. Both were delicious! Weimar is a pretty little town with cobbled streets and lots of statues. We went into the Stadtkirche and saw an original bell from the 1500s. Here's a photo of us in the town square.

After a few more hours of driving we landed in Berlin. After freshening up we headed out to dinner in a traditional Berlin restaurant. The food was fabulous. Three courses including a main of, you guessed it, sausages... with sauerkraut. I was in heaven.

After dinner we went on a tour of the city and were able to stop at places like Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg Gate, all it up to look spectacular in the dark. They have ripped most of the wall down and only small sections remain as a reminder and, let's face it, as a tourist attraction. In it's place they've put a line of bricks into the road so that you can still see where it was. It's subtle, but effective.

Once we'd checked everything out, we headed back to the hotel. The following day we had a lot of free time so we got a real feel for the place. We both really liked Berlin. We had the chance to see a piece of the wall that still stands, but it's all behind a chainlink fence. I guess too many people were chipping off souvenirs.

Berlin has this major street called Kurfurstendam Strasse... or something like that... that goes on for a couple of kilometres and has a lot of shops. Adie bought shoes, as you do when travelling in Europe, and we wandered up and down this street checking everything out. There were decorated bears everywhere and lots of statues, monuments and churches. We also took a train ride to Grunewald Station to see the memorial they have there for all of the Jewish people who were sent from that particular station to various camps. It was quite eerie being there. It's still a part of the regular train station, although it's tracks are no longer used, and the numbers of people that were moved out from here is staggering at times.
Berlin was a fascinating and beautiful place that I would recommend to all travellers. The history just grips you and there is so much to see. More than we could manage in a mere 24 hours! I have to run now but remind me to tell you about the controversy that surrounded one of the memorials they built in the city.

Happy Easter!!!

Just a quickie to wish you all a happy easter and to let you know that we are back in London. I'll be writing up our two weeks worth of adventures over the next week so stay tuned.

Hope you all had some good quality chocolate to help celebrate this time of year!

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Tour Of Eastern Europe

We have been travelling on our tour for one week now and we are really enjoying ourselves. Right now I am sitting in a small Internet cafe in Krakow near the Old Town Square... and it's totally surreal. I only have a few minutes because we have to catch a bus to the Wieliczka Salt Mines, which are supposed to be incredible! I will of course find time when I get back to the UK to flesh out all that we've been up to, including photos, but until then here's a quick overview:
  • Monchengladbach. We visited Tante Namesake and she is the same as always. She fed us too much and then talked the entire time we were there. Fascinating for me, not so interesting for Adie, who doesn't understand any German! We hopr to get back there in around September/October.
  • Frankfurt. This is where we net up with our tour. The guide is nice, organised and thorough. Brilliant! Apart from two children, we are the youngest on the tour, but it's not been a problem. If anything it's worked out well because a few of the people with us are really experienced and knowledgable and have helped our understanding of the places we're seeing.
  • Berlin. We loved Berlin! Not just because of how cheap the really good quality chocolate was. Seeing the wall, Checkpoint Charlie, the Brandenburg Gate... all of these places are just so interesting. Lots more on that to come.
  • Warsaw. Here we were introduced to Polish history. How glad am I that we've never had to live under communist rule. These people really have lived through some horrible times, but they are strong and able to rebuild their lives.
  • Black Madonna. Those of you who know me, know that I'm not a religious type (and that certainly hasn't changed) but this place was astounding. It's such a holy place and people from all over the world come here on pilgramages, so the place was swarming with people of all ages. We saw the painting and I admit, it's gorgeous. Adie bought a prayer card for his dad and asked one of the priests to bless it... so that'll be on it's way home soon.
  • Auschwitz and Birkenau. I don't really want to talk about these places right now, but I will say one thing. There is a quote at the entrance to one of the building that states "The one who does not remember history is bound to live through it again". It is important for people to visit this place.
  • Krakow. It's where we are now. We went to the old Jewish quarter this morning, and also to the Royal Palace. It's so huge!

Will try to write more before we get home. Otherwise it could be another week.