Gra Nomad Wanderings

Tuesday, October 17, 2006


Well, somehow I've managed to score the job of catching up on our travels after THE BABY - so this is Fay.

We left you all last time at Mt St Michel on our way to Conty, near Amiens, in France. We stayed with a Servas host family, Franck and Claude with a young one just for us to practise grandparenting skills on. Conty was a great little village in the Somme Valley which those historians among you will recognise as being one of the battlefields Australians fought on in WWI. We didn't get to see the Australian cemetry there, but the countryside sure looked like the models I used to spend time with in the Canberra War Memorial as a kid.

From there we had a quick sprint through Belgium, Netherlands and Germany (with a short stop of 2 days in Mettingen in Germany with Servas hosts Lu and Meggi - those among you who spend time with disabled education would be very envious of Lu's school for the disabled with incredible facilities).

We arrived in Gorlev in Denmark to catch up with Henryk and Hanna and kids, Camilla and Christian. It is easy to feel at home with these folk and we had a great couple of days exploring the countryside learning about Vikings, burial mounds, boarding school life and social activities such as parent/teacher dinner/dances. Mind you, it was different being entertained in Denmark by a Scottish piano man with a repetoire including Scottish folk songs, Elvis, Frank Sinatra etc.!! These old folk (us) dropped out pretty early, however. Editor: We had a big day coming up Fay, give us a break!

Then to my (Fay's) planned and long-awaited historic journey. Many years ago I studied European history and became fascinated with names like Berlin, Dresden, Prague and Krakow (among others - but you can't do everthing.) So this part of our trip was planned to get me to those places to just wander and soak up the atmosphere.

Was it worth the wait? Yes, every bit. Berlin is as impressive as I imagined it to be as we wandered down the Unter den Linden and under the Brandenburg Gate - despite the presence of hundreds of motor cyclists who had a parade to remember their cohorts who had been killed over the years, on the Sunday we were there. Thank you Ole and Anett for your hospitality, walk in the cemetry and barbecue, and thanks also to Claus for the guided tour of Berlin by night.

Dresden, flattened by allied bombing in WWII has been slowly restored to its prewar beauty and was as I imagined/hoped it would be. Some small extras not expected as well, such as Ayres Rock Bar complete with cardboard cutout kangaroos holding menus, and an Irish piano girl!! She told us of the rebuilding processes of some of the buildings which included saving all old usable bricks and then waiting until enough money had been raised to buy new bricks etc. One "old" church we were looking at as we spoke was completed in 1998 - just as it used to look. Just incredible.

On to Prague in the Czech Republic. On the way we called in to Terezin which was an old walled city turned into a Jewish Ghetto by the Germans in WWII. (Another excursion into the past - still unbelievable to think it happened). Prague is indeed a city of great charm with beautiful buildings and gardens - we just wandered and kept finding some new enchantment at each turn. We also learned of the birth of Logan Jack in Prague so it will always be special for that as well.

We called at Nachod on the Polish/Czech border for a couple of days on the way to soak up some countryside with a bike ride one day along a river, and a hike in the hills, both of which created challenges, but were tremendous. (Especially afterwards!) Many thanks to our hosts Vladimir and Eva, along with their three children, who made our short stay memorable.

Along the road to Krakow, I remembered that one of the German concentration camps was at Oswiecim, just near Krakow, so we again made a short detour to see what was left. The camp was almost as it was in 1945, complete with gas chamber and cremation furnaces. Only a small amount of rebuilding had been necessary to complete the museum. A chilling reminder of man's inhumanity to man. (Gra - I reckon it was disturbing to say the least. Eerie!)

And what about Krakow? Well, our day today was like a return to past years. Krakow was almost undamaged in the war and is a town built continually over the past thousand years or so, with buildings of all eras still standing in place. The town square is the largest in Europe, and is surrounded on all sides by magic constructions with a huge craft market in the middle.

So from here on we still have a few places to go and people to see, but I feel more than content with my journey. Some quick impressions that may or may not be accurate, but certainly seem so to me:
1. cigarette companies are alive and well in Europe - restaurants are not smoke free. I didn't realise how much I enjoyed smoke free places.
2. Australians still need to learn about bread
3. age adds depth to cultures - won't Australia be great in about 1000 years?
4. people in Poland still get dressed up and go to church on Sunday
5. all roads in Eastern Europe are under construction or repair - they are also used by all and sundry vehicles (tractors, transport vehicles of every description).

Thanks Fay. You've done well. I might get myself pensioned off yet! Thanks also to Artur, Ania, Paulina, Nadia and Grafit for being great hosts here in the beautiful Krakow. Mind you it is getting a bit cooler here now. And guess who lost his good rugby top when it fell off the back of the bike a few days ago?

Tuesday: Walked round Vienna today and head to Budapest by the weekend. Do you want an update on the Pug? Eur photos coming shortly - we hope. Thanks Eva In Vienna for the loan of the puter. Great to meet up with former Servas colleagues from 1995 and 1998.


At 2:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Very well done! You painted many amazing pictures with that post.
What an incredible journey you and Grahame are experiencing.

If there is more to know about the PUG, do tell!


At 4:30 AM, Blogger Jennifer said...

Great job, Fay! As always, I am overwhelmed to read of the amazing adventures you are having.

At 5:41 AM, Blogger Keasty said...

Vienna, Austria to Budapest 355 km. Averaged 56 kph and fuel consumption 4.4 L/100 km. Do you like that Wil? Not on freeways.
Monday they celebrate 50 years of freedom here in Hungary. Just think it's only 15 years since Russia withdrew its troops from H. Unreal.

At 9:37 AM, Blogger Artur A. Kasprzyk said...

And we thank you for showing us the world from the other side, and from the other point of view :)
Have still so exciting journey, and see you some day.
We will be with you on your blog, waiting for next news!

At 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Grahame -
Those are great numbers!
That comes to 53.5 MPG!!
(Thank you
I gotta get me one of those PUG's some day.



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