THE GRAND TOUR OF EASTERN EUROPE

7 09 2010

Well once again I must try to excuse myself for not posting but as usual we have been on the go since my last post and have not actually had any time to stop and get something written. The last time I posted was from Poland so that is where I will start with this post. Overall we spent a little more than a week at Justyna’s Mothers house where we spent the vast majority of the day working around the farm. In preparation for the upcoming harvest she was having a new storage container built out of reinforced concrete to hold and ferment the corn to be used later for feed. Over all the structure required tons of rebar and four truckloads of concrete which had to be poured using the aid of a 35 meter boom on a pump truck. In addition to rebar tying, form work building, post hole digging and  concrete pouring I managed to find time to fit in several other chores around the farm like milling 500 lbs of grain for feed, collecting fresh grass and unloading a dump truck load of hot fermenting spent grains from a brewery also to be used for feed. I must say it is truly amazing how much 50 cows can eat. Although it was tough at times, it was a nice change of pace and I really did enjoy getting down to work and having something to show at the end of the day. I also enjoyed working with the crew of Polish guys, even though there a major language barrier with hardly a common word between us I still managed to figure out what needed to be done and got to it. So overall my time in Poland which I had originally planned on being our break from travelling for a week turned out to be quite the opposite but it also turned out to be one of the more rewarding times of our trip. After that and before heading out on our rail tour of Europe we spent a few more days in Poland. First we spent a day in Krakow touring some of the major sites. After that we met up with our friends from Warsaw and drove to a beautiful cabin on a lake near a town called Nowy Scaz. There we spent the weekend playing games and just having fun. From there we headed back to Krakow where we caught the train to Prague in the Czech Republic. I had visited this city a few years ago on my own and I always wanted to bring Justyna back as it was one of my favorites in all of Europe. Instead of boring you with all of the minute details of each and every day I will again just briefly sum up the route we have taken over the past week or so and attach some picture hoping that they will again be able to convey the beauty of these cities in a way that my words simply cannot. So once in Prague we activated our rail pass so I usually take this as a challenge to see how many miles I can get out of it before it expires. So after a day in Prague we took a night train to Budapest,  Hungary where unfortunately we had a miserable day of weather which limited us on some of the sights but did allow us to spend some more time in some of the museums. We went to the Terror Museum which covered in great detail the occupation of the country by both the Nazis and the Communists. We also spent a bit of time in the National Gallery which housed a nice collection of paintings from the 19th and 20th centuries. From Budapest we again took another night train to a town in the Transylvanian area of Romania called Brasov. We spent the rest of the day wandering around the old town and hiking on the near by mountain overlooking the valley below. We spent the night at a great little hostel where the owner shared what he called a traditional Romanian drink consisting of red wine and Pepsi (try it, it is not half bad). The next day we had the hostel owners father drive us to a few of the area’s famous castles. Bran Castle is the most famous of the ones we saw and is usually mistakenly refered to as the home of Dracula or Vlad the Impaler. Although neither the character nor the persona he was likely based on had much to do with the castle it was still quite interesting. After visiting a few more castles we were dropped off in another town called Sinaia which also had a spectacular castle. We then caught a train to Bucharest the capital of Romania where we took a couple of hours to hastily walk around the city before catching another night train to Belgrade in Serbia. In Belgrade we had a wonderful day visiting some museums including one that I was very excited about called the Tesla Museum. Nicoli Tesla was born in Serbia and was in my eyes one of the greatest men to have ever lived and it does not require you to look to far to see some of his inventions around you. If you are reading this on a computer it is probably plugged in and if it is not you will have to plug it in to charge it well Tesla was the creator AC or alternating current system we use for the distribution of electricity through out the world. Also he was instrumental in the creation of radio transmitters and receivers as well as the ac electric motor which is used in everything from your washing machine to 6000 HP locomotives. It is fairly safe to say the life for us would be different if Tesla had never walked the earth. After the museum we visited another castle complex and a military museum which outlined some of the conflicts in the area over the past several centuries. From Belgrade we took another night train to a town called Bar on the coast of the Adriatic sea in Montenegro (if you haven’t figured it out by now we like to take night trains because you not only save on the cost of lodging but you do not waste your days travelling between cities). After what turned out to be one of the most incredible train rides of my life we took a bus to the amazing old fortified  town called Kotor. We found ourselves a room in a nice little old Grandmothers apartment right in the middle of the old town before exploring the old streets and castle. The Castle was really something you could spend days there just wandering through the hundreds of passages and along the walls that stretched for well over a thousand vertical feet up the mountain behind the town. That evening enjoyed a nice dinner in one of the squares along with some very good Montenegrin wine. From Kotor we took a bus across the border and up the coast to the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia. We again found a great place to stay in an apartment in the heart of the old town and set out to explore. We finished off the day with some pizza and wine out on some rocks right at the foot of the water below the castle walls. The next day we walked the entire 2km perimeter of the castle before hiking up the hill overlooking the city to Fort Imperial which now houses a museum dedicated to the war from 1991 to 1992. Later we took another bus to the town called Split about four hours up the coast where we visited some huge basement tunnels built during Roman times. We also got to hear some live music along the water front before we had to head back to the train station to catch another train this time to Zagreb. We unfortunately where not able to book a sleeper berth on that train so we had to get some seats which turned out to be a complete mess. The first hour was fine but then two large old women came barging in around one in the morning turning on lights, talking and adjusting and readjusting baggage for what seemed like forever. The two of them managed to take up most of the six person compartment. It was incredibly hot and every time we opened the window she would slam it shut and huff and puff for a while. To top it all off every fifteen minutes of so someone would open the door and whip open the curtain on the compartment and look inside and then just walk away leaving it open. Needless to say we where not very rested this morning. Well we got in around 7am and took a walk around the old town in what turned out to be another wet and cold day. We then made our way to the Technical Museum (yeah it was my idea) which was really great it was filled with tons of big old engines, electrical equipment, machinery, mining tools and fire fighting equipment which was right up my alley. I think Justyna may have even enjoyed it a little bit too. After that we grabbed a quick bite to eat and took another train to Ljubljana in Slovenia where we are staying now. After getting a room at a hostel we took a funicular up to the Castle overlooking the city. At the castle they where having a huge party for the opening of a new restaurant. I am not sure if we were sapposed to be there or not but we managed to stick around and sample just about everything they where offering which included an entire cow roasted over a fire as well as five roasted pigs we also enjoyed several glasses of good Slovenian red wine. So now we are just resting in the hostel trying to digest some of the food we just had and planning what little is eft of our trip. Tomorrow we will be visiting a mountainous region of Slovenia called Bled before returning in the evening to catch another night train to Munich. Our original plan had been to spend some time in the Alps in Switzerland and Austria but the weather has been bad for a while and does not show many signs of improving so as usual I think things again will be day by day. I am not sure If I will be able to post agin before I return so at the very latest look for another one around the 26th when we get back to the States.

PICTURES TO FOLLOW…

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