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Monday, 26 October 2015

355: Peregrinations in Posnan

Decided to visit Poznan,  the fourth largest metropolitan area in Poland. My Inter-City train left Warsaw at 9.55 and arrived in Poznan some 2½ hours later. Amazing conversation in my compartment. There were 6 people: a Brit, a Russian, and 4 Germans. Each of us spoke at least 2 languages, in differing degrees of proficiency. It was really funny speaking Russian to one, stilted German to the next and English to the next. After a while I ran out of foreign words and stuck my nose in my Learn Polish text book.
On the Saturday evening I had a wander around the  old town (the cynic within me is beginning to think - if you've seen one old town in Poland, you've seen them all). Finished up in a very nice Mexican restaurant for an enormous chimichanga. Wanted posters were hanging from the ceiling and the light "chandeliers" were empty beer bottles.
Next, a quandary. I was due to have a Skype with a student at 9 a.m. Moscow time on Sunday morning. I figured out that because Europe (but not Russia) changes its clocks at 3 a.m on Sunday and Poland therefore became 2 hours behind Moscow then the lesson should take place at 7 a.m. Central European Time. I know that not everybody would be happy, or even awake, at 7 o'clock on a Sunday morning but I'm a lark and have no problem with this kind of routine. The trouble was that my watch and my mobile both have the capability to change automatically. So, waking up during the night after 3 a.m., I had no idea whether they had changed themselves or not. Luckily, the few grey cells I have left swung into action and caused me to look at the website where I discovered that Moscow was indeed 2 hours ahead. So my timepieces had, after all, changed themselves and I could go back to sleep fully synchronised with myself.

The hotel where I am staying is the Platinum Palace in Poznan, the sister, probably more accurately daughter, hotel of the one I stayed at in Wroclaw recently. On the plus side the tropical shower head is enormous and really nice to use. On the not quite so plus side the doors and side panels to the toilet/wash room/shower are of an (almost!) opaque glass and there are slits between the doors and the panels. If you should happen to be staying here with somebody it would be better if you knew them quite well!

On Sunday I decided to visit Lake Malta where there is a very large thermal waterpark. Wish I had thought to take some trunks with me. The largest waterpark in Poland with various pools and several types of sauna and steam bath including a tepidarium (??) and chill out zone. Termy Maltanskie

Off back to Warsaw today. Back to normality. Well,as normal as I do.

A couple of 'crazy' photos to finish. I'm not publishing many as the bandwidth in the hotel is not excessive.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

354: The Mannie

A very very quick blog today. Isn't it strange how some days there seems to be all the time in the world and others you don't know whether you're coming or going. You don't know whether you're on your bottom or your head to use the polite vernacular. Today is one of those days but I must try and squeeze in a blog because I want to share three photos and a video clip with you.
I took the first photo yesterday as I was walking to the shops. It was amusing watching the men handing building material down from floor to floor from hand to hand. As a computer nerd I have a quite different understanding of the term downloading!
I was trying to visualise the same thing happening when they were building the Shard in London! Took this photo on Waterloo East station when I was in UK last week.
How to switch topic from the Shard to a local flower shop? Well, I suppose as the Shard was being constructed it ROSE from the ground upwards. Boom boom!

And, to finish, a stolen (shared) video clip of the monument on Ben Bhraggie hill in Golspie, Sutherland. I climb to the top (of the hill, not the monument) every Summer as training for a Munro. Sadly no Munros conquered this Summer as the weather was too bad. Nice music too - a perfect day.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

353: Four countries in two days

It's nice to be back 'home' in Warsaw after my weekend trip to Slovakia. I stayed in a very pleasant boatel (a newish word for a boat that has been converted to a hotel) on the Danube at Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. The overnight train from Warsaw arrived at 5.30 on Saturday morning and I was immediately (but not literally) struck by how many hundreds of local people were milling about the station at that time of the morning. I found my way to the river (courtesy of google maps and piggybacking off a local hotel's wifi)  and the staff of the botel Gracia were kind enough to allow me to check in extremely early and to allow me an extra breakfast. Then a short nap - the overnight train journey had been enjoyable enough but the hard mattress put me in mind of what a morgue is probably like.
Having woken up refreshed I set off to explore the old town. (I'm beginning to think there's not a city in Eastern Europe that doesn't have an old town component). Very picturesque and chock-a-block full of tourists, even this late in the season. Some of the locals were dressed in period costume and performing re-enactments of various battles. Shots and explosions could be heard throughout the day. It takes more than that to wake me from my power naps. A nice city but apart from the old town and the castle, high on a hill overlooking the Danube, I don't think Bratislava itself has too much to offer tourists. I decided therefore to head to Vienna the next day. It is only an hour or so West along the Danube. I would have gone by boat but the water level was particularly low so lots of 'cruises' had been cancelled. I went by coach instead. Cheaper anyway. Vienna, capital of Austria, formerly one the two centres of the great Austro-Hungarian Empire, is a very grand city indeed with lots to see and do. It needed more than the few hours I gave it to do it justice. I managed to visit St Stephen's cathedral and then a short walk to view the (outside of the) opera house. After finally catching the right tram going in the right direction, I visited the Hundertwasser house and museum. What is that I hear you asking, as indeed I was until two days ago. It is a fine example of expressionist architecture (co-)designed by the Austrian architect Friedensreich Hundertwasser (1928-2000). It is a very unusual multi-coloured, multi-faceted, apartment block. Do please click here for some images. Found a nice little cafe there where I was able to speak Russian with the ByeloRussian ladies who were serving there and preparing the food. What a mix of cultures and nationalities everywhere these days. From there out to Belvedere (not that Belvedere, Hazel) to look at the Royal Palaces and gardens and then back to the centre of Vienna where it was time for afternoon coffee and cake in the very swish and suave (and of course pricey) Mozart Cafe.  Click here for more images.
Cultured out.
Time to head back to Bratislavia where, in stark contrast to the upmarket sophistication of the Mozart Cafe, I enjoyed a beer and a quesadilla in a pub/restaurant called Slang.
Monday arrived and it was time to catch a series of three trains back to Warsaw. The first train was 10 minutes late arriving so I was in mild panic mode for the 50 minutes or so up to Breclav, in the Czech Republic. The train stopped at 11.00 which was the right time for it to stop at Breclav. The burning question was had it made up the lost time or was it still running late. Looking down the platform I saw only a sign that said Kuty. Was that the name of the station or was it the Czech word for Exit? I got off and then mentally tossed a coin. Together with my weekend case, I jumped back on the train as it was moving off. Turned out to be the right decision as Breclav was 10 minutes further down the track. Thankfully they had been holding the next train until this one arrived so a quick change of platform and settle down on the next train, heading for Ostrava. Again in the Czech Republic. At Ostrava there was an hour to wait before catching the Prague->Warsaw express for the last leg of the journey. Time enough for lunch but whereas Slovakia now has the Euro for its currency, the Czech Republic uses Czech Krone so there was a need to change some Euros for Krone before buying food. Of course I could have waited until the train arrived and then eaten in the restaurant car and paid in Polish Zlotties but when it's lunch time it's lunch time.
This particular blog is now too long. Time to stop. Here are just a few photos of the trip but I do recommend clicking on the two links above - for the hundertwasserhaus and Mozart cafe.
Naturally enough there is also a video clip of the Blue Danube walz.
P.S. for Gareth - I think we must have Europe pretty much sewn up between us?
Statues like this are all over Europe and just as you convince yourself it is real the damn thing winks at you.

How incongruous is this - downtown Bratislava!

Bacchanalia - I'm sure I went to parties like this when I was (a lot) younger. If only I could remember.

I'm still trying to work out if the guy with the machine gun is supporting a wounded comrade or strangling an enemy.

Botel Gracia. I think I was 3 down and 1 across, or was it 1 down and 3 across. Who cares.

Bratislava castle at dusk.

I'd dearly love to be..... If I knew then what I know now.......