Slovakia and Poland

After a fabulous time in Hungary we made our way North into the High Tatras mountains in Northern Slovakia for a few days. We have had enough City site-seeing for a while and are craving a little countryside and some Mountains again. Known as the smallest Alps in Europe in area, although after hiking up a couple I can assure you the peaks are still pretty high around here. The thought of hurtling down the ski jump below and throwing yourself off seems madness. Rock on Eddie the Eagle .Of course no visit to an alpine area would be complete without donning our rucksack and hiking shoes…..Allen just loves his old hiking shoes..!. We were pleasantly surprised , a chairlift was actually in operation (so many have not been working) , but oh no , we had to walk up to Lomnicky Stit ( isn’t that a fantastic name ) one of the highest peaks in the range of course and it was blooming high and darn right hard ! The first 40 minutes is pretty easy going really. Then a couple of hours hard slog. Unfortunately or fortunately depending how you look at it, the weather closed in quickly at 1,800 metres and we had to abort……..luckily, Alpal was feeling great but my knees were playing up a treat. .where’s my blanket ? . The lake in the pic below was at nearly 6,000 ft and is so clear but the clouds above it started to close in really quickly so we turned around and scampered back down…….on a chairlift and my little knees were so thankful. Allen (minus $50 ?would have been much happier walking back down bless him..Our base here for the next few days was right behind this lovely spot. Slnecny Doma a really lovely Restaurant and Hotel in Tatranská Lomnica. Room in the rear car park with electric and water for three Motorhomes although we were the only one there. Six steps away for morning coffee, perfect !!…..or a pre dinner beer in their beer garden even better. They roast a pig on a spit and some chickenss every day. The smell is gorgeous .Great little restaurant around the corner where we had a lovely meal and a very expensive bottle of wine …because the waiter did not speak English and I think just basically ripped us off! Try and explain that was not the wine we ordered in Slovakian-but it was damn near impossible . Another argument of a different kind happened in a car park the following day at Strbske Pleso. I went to pay while Allen looked at the map but was charged for an auto bus , you know the 45 people carrying large coach variety , well I approached the gruff arrogant attendant and questioned the price …. and asked him where on the board did it say we were a auto bus … oh my god !!! He slammed his office door and locked it not before grabbing what looked like a huge screwdriver ! I was scared , err excuse me hello , excuse me hello what are you doing ??? Visions of him coming to slash our tyres …. (might add it was pouring down with rain at this stage …) no, he marched me , yes marched me 🤣 through to the other end of the car park and screamed you are a caravany !!!! I know I am a caravany I said but, I am not an Autobus !!! Hard to explain in words but long story short no one hurt , we paid for an Autobus. Al Pal meantime was oblivious to the drama as he was planning our next stop. Must say the Slovakians do not smile a lot. Maybe they just do not like the English language.

The pic below was taken whilst driving through a small village on the way up to to mountains , children and adults selling a single bucket of mushrooms or cherries , bless em and they looked penniless all lined up in each side of the road, there was no way we could stop as we would have been surrounded by the whole village and would have to buy all 50 or so buckets I fear .leaving Slovakia through the mountains we passed through another empty border crossing into Poland. The ski towns on the Polish side are really well set up. On the highway just over the border, the roads are full of advertising boards. Visual pollution at its worst. Ads for dentistry, huge boards with almost naked young women showing breast augmentations….I damned near crashed twice 😉 The ads just go on and on then slowly stop to a trickle.

.We really had no idea where we were headed and found a great little site just 200 meters down a lane outside a nice village Makow Podhalanski…….we even had our very own tennis court and we were the only campers on the site……..Western Europe would be chockers at this time of year. We are so happy we have headed East..We ventured into town and Amanda found a lovely lady for a quiet chat. I think she gets fed up with my yes / no answers and needs a little female chat now and again lol.On another note, we found these cakes similar to the ones we enjoyed in Slovenia. Polish claim them as theirs and are called Kremowka Paplieska here. Every bit as gorgeous and probably every bit as bad for you and only $6.25 for 2 cakes and 2 coffees, we may never leave…..and if we do and make it home, look out for two lard asses in the arrivals lounge at Brisbane International Airport..Next morning we decided to catch the Express bus into Krakow. I thought we’d be getting a 40 seat luxury coach for an anticipated one hour express trip. Good God was I mistaken. Amanda was looking forward to a nice comfortable trip when…..a little Merc smaller than Pinot rocked up and squeezed us on with another dozen Polish ladies. It stopped EVERYWHERE and Amanda had 7 different passengers sit beside her over the course of the 2 hour stop start journey.Not all of whom had put their deodorant on that morning ;-(.Krakow….another day walking and enjoying the delights of this City. I have to say, the Poles don’t initially appear to be overly friendly and it takes a bit of work to get them smiling. I guess a n invasion by a foreign power, a lot of your people sent to Concentration camps and murdered and then your Cities bombed to hell by the incoming Allies followed by nearly 50 years of being downtrodden by the Commies takes a little getting over. However the Polish must be a resilient lot. They have accomplished so much over the past 25 years and are rising like the Phoenix and boy do they deserve some good luck now. We are really starting to love Poland..It’s a very impressive City and the market square is HUGE. In fact it’s the largest Medieval Town Square in Europe....Horse and carriages can whizz you around the town for a fraction of what you’d pay in Vienna and the drivers are a wee bit smarter. The horses are beautifully turned out and have rubber shoes on their feet, presumably to keep it quieter on the cobblestones or maybe to protect the cobbles…dunno!.It’s initially quite hard to see the how vast the Square is because you have a couple of Cathedrals right in the middle. The very impressive St Mary’s Basillica is a cracker and Cloth Hall opposite. ......Almost all of Polands major Cities were devastated in World War 11. Krakow was barely touched and in fact after it surrendered to Germany in September 1939 it was pretty well protected and even enhanced by Germany. It did though suffer terribly through the occupation with harsh totalitarian rules racial and National segregation and of course the extermination of Jews and Poles of Jewish origin. Krakow Polish history was erased and artworks were stolen by the Nazis. WE walked across town into the Jewish quarter across the Bernatek foot bridge built in 2010…in the pictures below.Sadly the inhabitants were rounded up and sent off eventually to be murered in Death camps. There are still remnants of the old walls built as a ghetto to keep the Jews in. Heroes Square below has 33 bronze chairs symbolizing the tragedy of the Polish Jews. 20,000 people were kept in this ghetto where there was only 3,000 before occupation. .From here we walked to Schindler factory, made famous in Spielberg film Schindler list with Liam Neeson . The factory is still there and unfortunately we coudn’t get tickets to the museum as they were sold out for the day.Wroclaw is a wonderful City and after a very long day we decided to miss the EXPRESS bus and catch the train……a much better mode of transport lol

Next day and another destination. The fabulous City of Wroclaw. We drove right into the very heart of the Old Town and found a car park which let us park there for 24 hours for only $20 per night. No services which doesn’t bother us as we have a small apartment on wheels with every convenience included and our own power. It’s boom gated and has full security. We expected a noisy evening but it was reall quiet. We stayed 2 nights and slept soundly both. The beauty is it’s only a 2 minute walk to the centre. Fabulous… Wroclaw is referred to by the locals as WRO….now that’s easier. Unlike Krakow, this City was raised to the ground in 1945 and suffered greatly. It’s a testament to the Polish who have basically faithfully rebuilt the place into a beautiful vibrant place full of enthusiasm and its inhabitants are out enjoying life. It hasn’t always been this way. After the war and the Russians took over, Communism bit hard . In the early to mid eighties the communist Government imposed Marshall Law in an attempt to crush political opposition. Moscow and communism was starting to crumble. Although the MIlitary Dictatorship instituted major price rises and the population suffered badly Most basics and foods were. then rationed. What a nightmare. Almost 700,000 Poles managed to emigrate to the West in only 7 years it was that bad.On a lighter note, some Uni students wanted to protest and a movement called the Orange Alternative grew. It was basically an anti Communist movement and one of the funnier outcomes was they opposed the regime through peaceful protest and started leaving comical painted GNOMES as a sign of opposition………it has now become a symbol around the City and there are an estimated 300 little bronze gnomes depicting normal life…..they are lol over the place and below are only a few examples. ..

....There’s a whole lotta looove going on in this town based on the sheer number of padlocks.

Below is a picture taken in 1945 of the Cathedral….and the one below that is how it looks today, it basically should have been pulled down. Yet they rebuilt this whole City brick by brick and it is unbelievable what they have achieved and most of it done since the commies fell...Before and after shots below………now that’s a builders dream advertising campaign..Generally the prices are cheaper than the West, however the people we have spoken to said they are still struggling as most thing are made in the West yet Polands wages are still lower so they are finding it a bit tough, but as I said earlier these guys are so resilient, tough and doers………I am very impressed .....Watching the World Cup final in an old church in Wroclaw..

.French kids peacefully celebrating their World Cup win.

If you fancy a cheap weekend from UK then get to Wroclaw, it’s a great City and apparently Ryan Air fly direct for pennies. The pic below says how we felt about our few days here.

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