March 24th to April 11th 2005
Thursday, march 24'th
On this trip I will visit some cultural cities in centraleurope. The trip takes me to Sczcecin, Warsaw, Krakow, Prague and Dresden
But as usual the trip starts in my hometown of Vejle and a train to Copenhagen.
In Copehagen I board the Pol-Ferries's vessel of Pomerania for Świnoujście. I like sailing on ships like this. Plenty of bars and restaurants. In the "duty-free" you can buy this weeks offer - 12 bottles of vodka. There's a movie in the cafeteria, but Robin Williams and Robert deNiro speaks polish, so thats kind of useless. Instead I play the slot-machines on board before going to bed.
Friday, march 25'th
I have been sleeping in a chair for the purpose, in a quiet part of the ship. Pretty comfortable, but not the best kind of sleep you can get.
The ferry arrives at Świnoujście at 7.30 am. From there I take a minibus to Szczecin. I arrive in Szczecin at 10 am.
I check-in at the nice Hotel Rycerski. A big room and all necessities are available.
Actually there is no special need for me to visit Szczecin. But it would make a hush to go straight for Warsaw, so I have decided to spend a day here.
So I better check out the 1½ sight Szczecin has to offer. First the half one. Thats the Cathedral of Szczecin. There's a lot of people at the church. It's Good Friday today, so a lot of people are passing by in this very religious country.
Then on to the main attraction in Szczecin. The Dukes castle. It's located on a little hill. The castle is from the times when Pommern was a soveraign duchy. It was so for more than 500 years until Bogoslaw XIV died childless during the 30-years war in 1637. Then it was split into two. One part for Sweden and one part for Brandenburg. The castle is from the mid 14'th century but had a major rebuild in 1577. It was badly damaged during WW2, but later rebuild. And since there is no longer a duke to stay at the place, it's used for museums, galleries, an opera-auditorium and other cultural things.
The rest of the day I spend walking around this city. A lot of development is going on in Poland these years - but here and there, there are still work to be done.
Saturday, march 26'th
Leavin Szczecin at 10 am on the train to Warsaw.
Trains are cheap in Poland, so to make it more comfy I travel 1. class. It's a 5½ hour ride through the rather dull polish landscape before arriving at Warsaw central station.
On to my hotel Dom Literatury. The hotel has sent me some good advice by e-mail. You can take the bus, but if you do remember to stamp your ticket - or "else you will pay the penalty". And dont take a pirate-taxi "because then you will pay twice". I take an authorised taxi, and pay 14 zloty for the trip to the hotel - and that's dirt-cheap.
Dom Literatury is a great place. It's got character. Of course some would argue that walking the stairs to the 3'rd floor with all your luggage is a little tough. An old lady escorts me to the room from the reception and make sure I feel comfortable.
The hotel is right on the corner of the old part of Warsaw, known as Stare Miasto. There's a great view to the old kings castle from my room.
Now I head for the city - and especially Stare Miasto. It's a buys day before Easter-day. There's a special thing going on at some of the churches. People bring small baskets of food to get it blessed at the church. I don't know the reason for this phenomenon.
Dinner at a local restaurant. And my first - and last - go for the Flaki, a strange local soup, not very tasty.
Then I head for the Cameliter-church close to my hotel. A service is going on, and there is a full house for the show. All the people go up and down, then on their knees before rising again etc. etc. About 10-15 priests are involved. There's even one designated for just holding the hole book for the major priest at the show. I stay there for ½ hour. I will never learn to understand this.
Sunday, march 27'th
While having breakfast outside my room, the old lady from the reception suddenly appears up the stairs. She says something that I don't understand, and then starts to jump up and down in front of the clock hanging on the wall. Then I findt out - from today it's "summer-time", and she cant reach the clock to change it. So I step up, and take the clock down, and we're on right time again.
So it's 10 am before I head out into the city. It's a quiet morning. Eastermorning. People stay indoors with their families this morning. There's plenty of room in Stare Miasto, with it's beautiful houses, squares and churches. Especially the Rynek-Square is nice. There are 2 horsedrawn carriages for the tourist, doing nothing at all this morning. Most restaurants and cafe's are closed. That also goes for the museums. Stare Miasto was almost totally destroyd during WW2, but rebuilt in the old style between 1949 and 1963.
From old city to new city - just on the other site of a small moat. Nowa Miesto was built in the 14. century, not long after Stare Miasto. They used to be two small independent cities. Now they are just a small part of Warsaw, but certainly the nicest part.
You don't have to walk very far from here to find old eastern-europan architecture, that isn't nice at all. This was made to replace what was destroyd during WW2 - and it's very ugly. And plenty of old communist monuments is still around town.
My second walk of the day is in the afternoon down the Krakowskie Przedmiescie. Here are more churches and different kinds of monuments. On down Nowy Swiat, a nice shopping-street. No shopping today though - all shops are closed, except for a few cafe's.
Dinner at a restaurant in Stare Miasto. A soup, the a steak and some fries.
Monday, march 28'th
Something is terribly wrong today. All kids are armed. Thank god - it's only water-pisols. On the day after easter-day it's a local custom for the kids to spray water on those people they know.
I know noone here, so I can walk dry on the 4 km. long "Royal Way" to Lazienki Park. Lazienki Park is nice. Plenty of locals use their day off down here. But the park is huge, so there's plenty of room for everyone. The park used to be a summerresidens for King Stanislaw August Popniatowski. Now a days it's used for everyone to stroll, feed the ducks, gees and even some peacocks. The only drawback is that there's another 4 km. walk back from the park.
Later another walk looking for the jewish ghetto in Warsaw. Around 100.000 people were killed here. Not much left of the ghetto now. Only a memoryplate from the 1943-rise, some stones in granite raised for the same reason and then a sqaure called "Umschlagsplatz", where jews were gathered before sent to the concentration-camps.The area is surrounded by ugly grey concrete buildings. Not many visitors - just a group of israeli schoolchildren, learning their history on the spot.
Tuesday, march 29'th
Leaving Warsaw central at 9 am and arriving at Krakow Glowny 3 hours later. My hotel - Hotel Polonia - is just opposite the railway station. Room is not ready yet, so time for a short walk before checkin-in.
Later another walk around the Stare Miasto of Krakow - the old neighbourhood. This part of the town is from the 13. century, and used to be surrounded by a solid bank. Now not much of this is left, instead there's a nice park. Cars are not allowed in most parts of Stare Miasto, so it's a nice area to stroll.
There's a nice marketplace - called Rynek Glowny. The sun is shining, and the temperature is nice, so it's time for a coffee at one of the cafe's outside. A lot of people are enjoying the cafe's, and those that aren't are bying souvenirs in the old sokiennice - the old markethall in the middle of the square
In one corner of the square I visit the fine St. Mary's churc. It's built from the late 13. century to the beginning of th 15'th. They were not so much in a hurry these days. It's a gothic church, with 2 different towers - one for the church and one for the city. From the city-tower a trumpet-signal is played every hour. The signal stops quite dramatically in the middle of the tune. Rumors are, that a guard using the signal to warn of an attack on the city back in the old times, were hit throgh his neck by the attackers, right where the signal stops nowadays.
From the church it's out into Stare Miasto once more. A quick look at Collegium Maius - the oldest part of the Krakow University - before sunset, where they close down the place.
Wednesday, march 30'th
Bus to Oswiecim. That might say a lot - but if you use the german term Auschwitz, it's hopefully something different.
Arriving in Auschwitz at 11 where I take a guided tour around the area. We start under the "Arbeit macht frei"-sign at the original Auschwitz KZ-camp - or Auschwitz 1. A part of the camp is transferred into museums, telling the ugly story of what happened here.
From Auschwitz 1 we take a bus the 3 km to Birkenau - or Auschwitz 2 as it also was called. It was built in 1941-42 because the original Auschwitz was to small. Birkenau is the place you see in "Schindler's List" and "La Vita è bella".
Birkenau is huge compared to Auschwitz 1. At the same time there could be 100.000 people out her. The nazis destroyd most of Birkenau before leaving the place.
1 hour later the bus returns to Auschwitz 1. Here I take a walk on my own around the area - and takes another look at the horrible museums. About 1½ mio. people died in Auschwitz, Birkenau and Monowitz - some 6 km's from Auschwitz.
Thursday, march 31'st
Until the beginning of the 17'th century Krakow was the political and cultural center of Poland. All the kings used to live her on the castle Wavel, on the top of the hill just south of Stare Miasto. I take a look around this nice castle and the Wavel-cathedral just beside. Most of the kings are now buried here. There's also a nice tower, with a huge bell and a great view of Krakow.
The rest of the day I spend in Stare Miasto. Very nice place - especially the small streets and alleys.
In the evening I try to take some pictures from the old part of the city, before a late dinner at my hotel
Friday, april 1'st
Bus to Wielicka, just outside Krakow. Here are the impressive Wielicka saltmines.
There's a guided tour down the mines. You walk 70 down on some wooden stairs. From there it's a 2 km. walk around the mines passing a lot of exiting figures, different rooms, chapels etc. The largest room is St. Kinga's chapel. It's 50 meters long and 10 meters high with chandalliers hanging from the ceiling. The chapel was made in 1896. I'm especially impressed by a "painting"-lookalike of Leonardo DaVincis "The last supper".
Everything you see down here are made by salt - and most have been made by the workers in the mine in their spare-time.
Back in Krakow another walk around town. Huge number of people are gathered outside the Franciskan-church and the home of the bishop. And plenty of international TV-crews are here. The reason is that the pope is close to dying, and he was born near Krakow and used to be a bishop in the city. So this is a main event here.
Krakow has suddenly turned into the center of the universe. CNN is here, BBC is here - every bloody TV-channel is here.
Most are gathered at the Franciskan-church and the home of the bishop. This morning severel thousand people was gathered here. I pass the plade on my way to the Wavel-castle once again. This time not to see the castle but to walk through "The Dragons cave" on my way to Kazimierz.
Kazimierz is a nice neighbourhood south of Stare Miesto. It used to be an independent city. It's a mixture of polish and jewish neighbourhood, and there are several nice churches and synagogues. And then of course some nice cafe's, restaurants and beautiful squares - a nice place to stroll around for some hours.
In the evening it's time for something I have never tried before. A church-concert in the Bernadonow-church. Very nice - but slightly boring.
On my way home I pass the home of the bishop again. Still thousand of people, and almost as many candles. A mass in transmissioned to the people from inside the church. Som munks are standing in the corner giving soup to those who need is. When I reach my hotel I open the TV just as they annonced the death of the Pope.
Sunday, april 3'rd
Tram no. 15 to Nowa Huta 10 km east of Krakow. Nowa Huta was a communist settlement build around a steel-work in the beginning of 1950's. No special reason to put a steelwork here. All materials had to be transported to the place.
Around the plant they build a city for 200.000 people. It's terribly ugly. But they forgot one thing - a church. And the polish people wasn't happy about that. The local bishop - and later pope - started to celebrate masses in the outdoors, before the the communist allowed a church to be built in 1977
Back in Krakow it's time for another walk in the city. All churches are full only standing space outside. And the media-people are still here covering the thing. And even my favourite pop-radiostation is playing classical music for mourning all day long
Monday, april 4'th
Another day of transportation. Train from Krakow at 6 am. Change of train in Katowice. And finally arriving Prague at 3 pm. I take the metro to Holesevice, and a short walk to Extol Inn, my hotel in Prague.
There's a few hours for a sightseeing-walk. Tram no. 3 to the tourist-ghetto at Starometske Namesti. Tourists all over, so I head for the small streets and the area aroung Molday before returnint to the hotel.
Tuesday, april 5'th
First metro to Namesti Republicy. From their by foot through Stare Mesto to Moldau - crossing a bridge - uphill to Hanavsky Pavillon, and a great view of the city and the river Molday.
Downhill again and following the river on the "wrong side" to Mala Strana. In my opinion this is the nicest part of Prague. The area was hit by the floods a few years ago, but has now been reconstructed and looks as nice as ever.
Then I head for Petrin Hill for the cablecar to the top. But cablecar is shut down due to repair, so I have to walk to the top instead. On the top I pass the Eiffel-tower look-a-like in Prague and head for the Strahov-monestary. Lunch at a nice little cafe round the corner, that I also treid last time I was in Prague.
Downhill from now - passing the castle and through some more nice streets before I arrive at Malostranske Namesti. Now I'm tired, and I take a tram back to the hotel. A very nice walk in the nice parts of Prague, where there are not to many tourists.
In the evening a short walk in my local neighbourhood. Dinner at a local restaurant with local prices. Thats app. half the price you pay at the restaurants downtown, that mainly cater for the tourists, and where noone local would ever consider going. Less then 1 Euro for a pint of lager - thats cheap.
Wednesday, april 6'th
Trip 1 with tram 3 to Vysehrad. Here there's a nice churchyard, a nice church and a nice view of Prague and Moldau - and almost no tourists.
Trip 2 is another walk passing most nice places in Stare Mesto. Passing the Powder-tower, through the small alleys and the jewish quarter Josofov. Then to the tourist-traps - Starometske Namesti and the Charles-bridge. On the other side of the bridge I take tram 12 back to the hotel
Thursday, april 7'th
Some morning-shopping at the yellow market close to my hotel. I buy myself a new pair of sneakers in a shop that looks respectabel.
In the afternoon I head for Nove Mesto - the new city. New and new - it was established in 1348 - but Stere Mesto - old city - is older. Not that many sights in Nove Mesto, but a nice place to take a walk. There's a very nice park Frantiskanska Zahrada - an old monestary garden - hidden just behind the hazzle and dazzle of Vazlavske Namesti.
In the evening it's time for a little culture. Black-light theatre - a special kind of local performance-theatre including pantomime and dance. Pretty weird. The show is called "Cabinet" and the theatre is Divadlo Image. A group of german scoolchildren in the audience is quite anoying. But the thing is also a little to strange for my taste.
Friday, april 8'th
Bye-bye to Prague and a train to Dresden a 2½ hour journey.
Taxi to Rothenburger Hof my hotel in this city. Very nice place. Chocolate on the bed for a nice welcome.
I have bought myself some kind of package for this place, including a "Dresden-card" with free local public transport, free admission for some museums and a free Stadtrundfahrt on a double-decker. I start of with this tour, that gives a nice expression of Dresden and it's close surroundings.
The tour ends in the middle of Altstadt, where all the Dresden Monuments are placed. Some of them are pretty much run down - but they are working on this problem.
For instance they work on the castle Zwinger. It's a nice places with a lot of photo-opportunities with plenty of strange details.
From there to another old building called "Schloss". Here you also find a long painting on the wall calles "the prince's procession". It covers the whole length of the 102 m wall on the outside.
On to Frauenkirche that is also being restored. It was built in 1738 but bombed during WW2. The communist government declared it a war-memorial, so it couldn't be restored. Efter the german reunification the restoration started, and it's supposed to finish in 2006.
The bombings in the end of WW2 has put it's mark on Dresden. Huge parts of the town was destroyed, and ugle concrete-buildings was built in the 50's to substitute. It doesn't look nice in the center of a big city.
From Altstadt I take a tram to Neustadt, where my hotel is located. It's like a different world. Plenty of cafe's and ethnic restaurants. This is the alternative Germany. Hip-hop people wearing hip-hop clothes, strange shops and plenty of graffiti - some of it very nice.
Saturday, april 9'th
A nice little tour for today.
First tram 41 to Kleinzschahwitz. From there a nice little walk to a small ferry crossing the River Elbe to Pillnitz
In Pillnitz you will find Schloss Pillnitz with a nice park around. The place used to be a summerresidens for Kings and Queens of Sachsen between 1765 and 1918. Very nice place.
From Pillnitz bus 83 to Körnerplatz. Here there's a cablecar to Louisenhof, where there's supposed to be a nice wiew of the river. But the view has been privatized - you have to go to a restaurant to see it - and I don't want to do that. Anyway it's foggy so there's not much of a view today.
Down again it starts to rain. Time for lunch, and there's a nice pizzaria. I get a nice pizza, and after finishing the meal there's a little competition. I have bo mention a number between 1 and 40 - and if I draw that number from a pot, the pizza is free. I say no. 1 - and draw no 1 - so free pizza today.
From Körnerplatz I cross the Elbe via Loschwitzer Brücke - or "Blaues Wunder" because of the colour of the bridge. On the other side I take tram 42 back to Dresden Altstadt
It's raining now - and getting windy and cold - first bad weather on this trip. It's time to get indoors.
I visit the Verkehrsmuseum Dresden, a nice little museum with old trains and trams. And some of the old east-german cars as well - Trabant and Wartburg. Then a little shopping before heading home to the hotel. There's free coffee and homemade cake at the hotel - very nice place.
Sunday, april 10'th
A long walk today. First though a tram to Fetscherplatz. From here a walk in the neighourhood of Striesen, an area restored quite nicely after the reunification.
From Striesen to Grosser Garten, a huge park with a nice little castle in the middle. There's also a small zoo, that I visit.
From the zoo through Blüherpark to Altstadt. In Kulturpalast they sell second-hand CD's today. I take a look but doesn't buy.
From Altstadt I cross The Elbe via Augustusbrugge to Neustadt. More graffiti, more ethnic and a dönerkebab at every corner. Nice place to stroll around. There's even an old shop selling things from the old DDR - "Do you remember the taste" a sign on the window asks.
Then to Rothenburger Hof, a cup of coffee and a nice piece of their homemade cake.
In the evening a visit to one of the local restaurants - a thai-place, before heading back to the hotel and som german pop-music on the PSR radiostation.
Monday, april 11'th
Exit Dresden and a train from Dresden Hauptbahnhof at noon. This train goes all the way to Vejle, where I arrive at 8.30 pm. Nice ride - nothing much more to say about that.