Cycling, Himmler’s Bunker and Salad

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In a shady forest just outside Pozezdrze lies a huge slab of reinforced concrete. This fractured gigiantic block is testament to the cruely and barbarity of humans. For this was the bunker of the snappily Hugo Boss dressed Heinrich Himmler when he was in close attendance to Hitler, up the road in the Wolf’s Lair. An attempt to destroy the bunker failed, only fracturing the block.IMG_1145

There are two entrances on the left as you look down this corridor,  which lead into the the interior of the facility. The material for the bunker, built in 1941, was delivered via a single gauge rail line. The line is now defunct, but as you can see below, it makes a beautiful cycle path through the forest.Out of such political and racial ugliness, comes such beauty.IMG_1160 (2)

At the end of the cycle path lies the village of Ogonki, which is home to the Ognisty Ptak  restaurant. The Phoenix. Full of history, drained of energy we stopped off for a tasty chicken, mozarella and tomato salad with super strength coffee as an accompaniment. Very comfortable surroundings, with a view giving out onto a small lake and the food was inexpensive and tasty. Then back on the bike to finish the 30km for the day.

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Sleepy Beautiful Tropea, Italy

Half and hour by inexpensive train brought us to Tropea with its castle, monastery, cathedral and sleepy narrow streets.

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The view up from the beach. Flip flops are not the most practical footwear  for the descent nor for the tired ascent. The beach wasn’t overcrowded and plenty of places abounded for the essential tasty Italian ice-cream. The town has a little snooze in the afternoon so it is a good idea to have viands tucked away in a bag for the children who can become hungry anytime. Also remember to take that large fold up map. Good for directions, better for keeping off the sun when lying on the beach as a makeshift awning!

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The castle is small but is worth visiting as a museum gives an idea of hour people must have fared under the Italian sun. At its feet is a roundel which has now become an open air restaurant. Splendid views out across the Tyrrhenian Sea as the sunset set, was as stunning a backdrop as could be desired. Be careful about feeding one cute kitty that may well come your way though, as a few more will quickly note your largesse!

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View from our table,  without the cats . Sit back and soak in the atmosphere which is Tropea:-)

 

Polish-Russian Border Cycling

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Cycling from Gołdap to the sleepy village of Botkuny, in the heat Botkuny was enough for us..About 25km all told.

 

From an elevation in Gołdap we had a beautiful view off over Russia.We basically cycled a path by the Polish-Russian border through lush green fields and verdant forests..

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Beautiful, day, great cycle route and very, very hot with a good meal in Gołdap to help us get our strenght back. We  also stopped off at a place with natural spa water and a construction that filtered the water via a wall of ‘twigs’, which was both cooling and relaxing with a delightful backdrop sound of water in constant  motion.

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Road Trip Do’s and Dont’s

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In no particular order of priority.

Do -Do get off the motorways and take the quieter routes. They are toll free and give you the chance to pull over and stop in interesting place, off the beaten track.Independence is paramount.

Don’t – Don’t forget to take that spare key for the car, you know, the one you’re never going to need. So easy to lose when moving and constantly repacking from place to place. But so hard to replace when AWOL.

Do – Do take a fold up map. Useful for directions, even better as temporary sunshade on the beach.

Do – Do liberally sprinkle your tour with water parks and amusement parks for the children. Something for them to cling on to and continually ask about whilst sightseeing and travelling.

Don’t – Don’t leave earplugs or earphones in the boot, at the bottom under everything when on the move, especially when the children want to watch a particularly interesting kids film!

Do – Do down load all the maps and towns onto your mobile phone of the towns and countries on your itinerary, before leaving home. This way they can be used without connecting to the costly roaming services when abroad.

Don’t – Don’t eat heavy breakfasts when you’re going to sit in the car for hours, or later you may be sitting for hours! And make that a maximum 7-8 hour drive.

Don’t – Don’t rely on the GPS as if it is infallible. Crossing fields means the GPS may well be a little awry. Balance the GPS data with the best computer in the world, the brain between your ears!

Do – Do remember that many Southern European countries like a little snooze in the afternoon. So plan accordingly with fuel, shops and restaurants. There is nothing more desolate than a child’s face when you explain that the pizza restaurant, they are already sitting at the outside table,  is closed until later that day. Pizza DENIED!

Don’t – Don’t allow anyone, repeat anyone to remove socks in the car.

Do- Do pack a sense of humour and a smile.

Don’t – Don’t drink scalding hot coffee over your crotch as you drive.

Do- Do remind the navigator to have the map correctly orientated.

Do – Do go to the dentist before travelling for that niggly pain. Trying to sort out a dentist, and any other minor medical needs, is a nightmare, expensive and stressful.

Don’t – Don’t forget to remind the ladies to buy, pack, all of the hair clips, hair bands, hair pins and their favourite shampoos and conditioners.

Do- Do pack extra toilet roll, you have been warned!

Do – Do pack a torch, change and renew the batteries and take spare batteries as well.

Don’t – Don’t plan to travel to a country experiencing fuel strikes, rioting for assorted reasons and, oops, too late!

Do – Do learn the rudiments of polite etiquette and hello, thank you and goodbye in the language of your intended host countries.

Do – Do pack a smile as it is an international and friendly language:-)

 

 

 

Road Trip to Castle Neuschwanstein

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On to a slice of 19th century romanticism on what can be only termed, the grand style, courtesy of Ludwig II in beautiful Bavaria. Our faithful car laboured up the twisting, narrow switchbacks roads (get the picture?) until we finally swept into Hohenschwangau.

After some nifty maneuvering the driver got us parked behind a small restaurant for a nominal fee. Well done driver.Safely leaving and forgetting our bottles of water in the car, so that they would be at boiling temperature on our return, we set off on foot in earnest.  Hold onto the hands of young children as motorbikes cars and tour buses  pound up the stretch of road to the shops, restaurants and ticket offices serving the castle’s visiting public.

The  town was packed and temperatures had risen to 40 degrees. Everything was rather expensive and remember to have plenty of small change for the toilets. Which in an un-German like manner were not very clean. Having decide to visit the castle we joined a long twisting queue for tickets. Being English, queuing is kind of in the genes. However no cover had been provided and it was hot and tiring on everybody, especially people with young children. The lady who sold us the tickets spoke English well and told us that our tickets were for 4.30pm so we had time to eat.

A comment about language. We had to stop a couple of times earlier in Bavaria. On both occassions I spoke to a man over 50 in his front garden, and a woman over 60 at a small provincial hotel. On both occassions they were not only helpful but spoke pretty good English, too. Much appreciated when lost with wife children in the car:-)

Back to food. We went through the town until we came to a restaurant opposite a lake and a small beach for the children to paddle and play in. For ardent sun worshippers there is a larger beach area a little further on.

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Restaurant.The menu was in German and everything had a fancy name, and an even fancier price. What turned up on the plate was basically a burger, for the price of a steak!  Having secured a second mortgage and settled the bill we left to take a bus to the castle. We had been told by our helpful ticket seller that it would take about 40 minutes to walk. In the stifling heat the bus was the sensible option. We got on in an orderly fashion thanks to barriers that formed a snake like queue. A word on the return. The bus drops you in a small clearing and you continue up to the castle. At the top there are no barriers and people pushed and shoved almost in desperation to get back on the bus for the downward trip. Why? It wasn’t the last bus! Your status as an older person, child, or babe in arms was ignored and the tourists behaviour was atrocious! We stood apart and waited for the next bus.Cattle prod, please. Barriers would be a good idea.

Then we walked up to the castle itself which was an imposing and wonderful view.

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We took a minor detour to go onto a bridge that hangs precipitously over a gorge nearby. Oh, how I laughed when a group of people decided to show how it could be made to move a bit. Great!

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And finally the castle itself. Good, solid, well made castle. It stands majestically and shone almost white-like in the sun drenched Bavarian vista. The visits were well controlled and we waited patiently for our group to gain admittance.

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Inside the castle itself it pays homage to one man’s Wagnerian obsession along with folklore inspired murals and decor. Strangely enough one of the most interesting places was the cookhouse and its ‘state of the art’ equipment. Wonderful to look at, but in the back of the mind was the nagging thought that it is really all a bit of one man’s folly. Great to visit, wonderful to see but not exactly an inexpensive day all in all. Take small change for the toilets, a friends credit card for the restaurants and don’t leave the water in the car on such a hot day, unless you want to make tea. Oh yes,  and mind peoples behaviour getting on a bus in a a semi-remote area!!!

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Next would be an amusement park for the children and a place for me to enjoy more heights.

 

 

The Black Swan -Czarny Łabędź

Travels and Things

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After a lot of cycling a good meal was in order, so we headed further out to the Czarny Łabędz or Black Swan to sate our rumbling stomachs.

IMG_0474IMG_0466Inside is a little dark, and a little bit to much in the way of old furniture and bits and bobs.

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Each to their own. But the service was good and the food very tasty. And what was it?

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Essentially a large meat ball, full of flavour and moist, with potatoes, creamed carrots and cabbage, cabbage which tasted a lot better than it sounds! All round  a good effort and  thoroughly enjoyed.

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Road Trip Verona

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Verona

All aboard and off to Verona, which for us took about  30 minutes from Bardolino. As one of those quirks in life, we went one way and paid a toll, later returning another way toll free! Gliding in to Verona we were met by the vision of a beautiful town. No wonder Julius Caeser used to come here for some down time. Down one of the main thoroughfares we decided to park the car in a facility on the main street, which was built into and under the housing above. This afforded much needed shade, and a colourful owner. He told us that recently his garage had been a temporary home for 30 red Ferrari’s. Deciding that he had mafia connections I promised myself to pay the ticket without argument.

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The Roman amphitheatre sits at the central hub of a series of streets that radiate spoke like from its hub. An opera and all its paraphernalia littered the area around one part of the amphitheatre. A short tale exemplifies how easy it is to navigate Verona.

Young lady said she had left her ipad in the car. Everyone looked at me. I had to walk back the 20-25 minutes to the car park. Now this for a man who can get lost at home! With a Captain Oates,”I am just going outside and may be some time” type farewell I set off. Found the car, got the ipad and returned. My smile of triumph as I returned within the same solar year was met by stony faces. But why, was my clothing awry again?

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It was here that life taught us another lesson, a lesson combining technology, children and intellectual property. My wife took a picture of young lady, without her permission and much to her chagrin. Mum wanted to show that she had taken a beautiful picture and reassuringly handed the camera to her little lady, who duly fumbled and prodded at buttons in a flurry of digits and prodding. Result? Every photo deleted, lost gone like dust in the wind. All the holiday photos on that device to date. Happiness! Ask before taking pictures and think hard again before handing over said camera 😉

Wandering around Verona we happened on a market and bought delicious fresh fruit, at and devoured the fruit and the ambience. The heat and the architecture and ambling around the Piazza’s was wonderful. IMG_2227

Hey! What about Romeo and Juliet? Well yes, we went there, forging a path through the crowds. All very touristy, dubious in its validity and well, the photo tells the story. There is less physical argy- bargy in a Rugby Union scrum. No time to savour the place, people just wanted their photo ‘look where I have been moment’.

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Roadtrip Lake Garda and Bruised Shins

 

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Carefully shoveling everything back into the car we headed off to the rocky shores of Lake Garda. A lake along the banks of which Emperor Claudius defeated Germanic tribes and where Napoleon gave the Austrian army a bad away day. To follow were the battles of the ‘I’m not walking that far’ and ‘what are we doing?’. The route took in Innsbruck and the increasingly mountainous scenery as we ploughed on southwards. The children were fascinated by the mountains and stopped looking at their ipads and tablet etc., for…oh, about 2 seconds!  400km of a beautiful route to drive. The Brenner bridge over the Brenner pass. At 180 meters I declined to look to much at the stunning views, being the pilot, even when invited by the navigator. Although it was late June we did not encounter an real traffic jams or marmalades or other confiture.

For Italy we did not have to purchase a vignette, which was pleasing. Less pleasing was the way the road tolls racked up in Italy. Eventually making the  vignettes look good value! At Trento we left the motorway for the sake of our pockets and to better get a feel of the place on lesser roads.And there it was, diamond lights sparking on the surface of Lake Garda. We took the quite road down by the lake to Bardolino which snuggled on the east coast of Garda. Ah…Vacansoleil and our accommodation beckoned. The SR249 is not Russian spy plane, but the funky designation for the road which bisects this camp. I had a choice, pull in on the right and check in. Off course wrong, two receptions, back in the car back on the road and into the left-hand reception. A strange set up as the SR249 (or on alternating Tuesdays, the BR696) was a tad busy and there were many, many families with young children. Later after traversing the road we found out that there is a tunnel connecting the landlocked camp and the shore side area. The tunnel is a cycle and Llama free zone, but cars can go there, too. Super!

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The shins explained and our accommodation. After being read the rules we were led to our chalet. Small timber built chalets packed close together amongst very large mature trees.After coating the car in vaseline I just about managed to slip it in next to our chalet, up to the back of the neighbour’s chalet and a big knobbly tree. With children fleeing the car technology in hand we unpacked suitcases and the staggering volumes of blankets and divans. A timber sitting area is traversed and we’re in. Having once visited Chatham naval dockyard on a family visit, and having been aboard an Oberon class diesel-electric submarine , I wasn’t unduly shocked. It was tight. A tiny kitchenette was passed to get to the children’s room which was snugly snug and stifling in the heat. As for the bathroom, well just don’t turn round. If you drop the soap, leave the bathroom and come back in on your knees. Our room was an emaciated double bed with steel legs. Hardly enough room was left to go alongside the bed or get to the tiny wardrobe. Hence the oft repeated, ‘Oh gosh I seem to have hurt my shin again darling, what a clumsy soul I am”.

The camp was packed, noisy and the pool was old fashioned and undersized. An onsite camp shop was not the cheapest, but the supermarkets 10 minutes drive away were very good value.The entertainment reminded me of camps in England as a boy.Noooo! But our  submarine sized hut was merely a staging post for amusement parks, sightseeing Sirmione and Verona.

 

Rome Pinsa

Peckish after all that walking and sightseeing ? Maybe something a little less hard to digest?IMG_3108

Of course you can swan into a fancy restaurant and pay swanky prices. However Rome is replete with good tasty food at a fair price. Heaven for children as, naturally, pizza abounds everywhere. But for us even tastier was the pinsa. Now to you and  me it resembles a small pizza. But small differences are expounded by the locals. Small  flat bread topped with cheese, cured meat and tomato sauce, but still it definitely isn’t pizza. We ate ours in a small bar strike cafe just down from our hotel.

Yes the chairs were red plastic. And yes the tables white plastic that moved and shuddered when in contact with an over zealous child. But the food was super. Pinsa in any flavour you want, and even one with potato and fish on it which was to die for! The place bustled with locals so we knew it had their seal of approval. Great value from about 3 euro. Go to the small markets and load up on the tastiest oranges ever, and lots of other fresh fruit or have them whipped up into a super healthy smoothie.

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Oberza pod psem-Oberza under the dog

Located 30 minutes drive along narrow roads through the heart of a forest near Mikołaki, lies Oberza. A small timber built seasonal restaurant dispenses traditional fayre. As it was busy the only available seat was on the aged timber balcony. A sofa swathed in a blanket and looking suspiciously like the dog’s place! But beggars can’t be choosers and at least it was warm!IMG_0155