I am the original 'Uneasy Rider' .. not especially blessed with much natural motorcycling talent, nor am I a particularly courageous motorcycle rider.
Nevertheless I went 'Right Way Round' New Zealand (at least twice) followed by a wonderful ride around Australia.

Then it was up to southeast Asia, around Indo-China, across southern Central Asia to the Middle East, Asia Minor .. and finally into Europe.

Right Way Round - all the way home .. from New Zealand to England, 2-up on a Honda Transalp.

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PROGRESS SO FAR - Distance covered across Western Europe: 6,411 km [3,984 miles] - as at Thursday, October-22nd, 2015

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Time to Go Home


Sunday, 21st -to- Tuesday, 23rd June

Into Hungary, which for quite a while during my philatelist childhood years, I had thought, for naive and entirely logical, but forgiveable, reasons ...



.. was called 'Magyar Posta' in the local lingo. Duh!

Crossing the border into eh-hem Magyarország was again oh-so easy. A cursory glance by the border official at our European passports .. and we were 'in'. Due to the Schengen Agreement, state borders would be meaningless from now on until we cross the final border into England later this year (because the UK maintains an opt-out from Schengen) .. and there is no question that we will be refused entry into our native homeland .. of Cornwall.

KERNOW BYS VYKEN!

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Budapest - "The Paris of the East"

(Hungarian pronunciation: "boo-dah-pesht")

I didn't know it before, but Hungary's capital name is a derivative of two neighbouring cities:
Buda - The area west from the Danube River, and
Pest - The area east from the Danube, which is associated with a more pulsating, vibrant atmosphere.

Through a bit of careful pre-research, we secured some fantastic digs for three night, smack-bang in the heart of the city at the 'Trendy Deluxe Apartments' condominium, which provides access to, most importantly, totally secure underground parking for the bike.

Sod's law. The one whole day we set-aside for sightseeing .. it mostly pesht down with rain!

Standing 65 metres high, the Budapest Eye (officially known as the Sziget Eye) on Erzsebet Square. Nearly as good as the real thing in London, which is more than twice as high at 135 m.

Everywhere you look there's fabulous architecture ..

.. along with some bizarre paint jobs.

Matthias Church, Castle Hill


Heroes' Square

The Parliament Building (from Castle Hill)

Outside The Parliament Building are carefully placed, "Shoes on the Danube"

The memorial of 60 pairs of cast iron shoes honours the memory of the victims who were shot into the icy Danube by the fascist Arrow Cross militiamen during World War II. Very touching.

I would go back to Budapest .. in a heartbeat. It's a fab city.

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Wednesday-24th

Not a border official in sight, as we rode straight through the border into Slovakia; eventually finding some quite decent unresearched 'chance' accommodation in Poprad .. located in the foothills of the High Tatra mountains.

Pushing-on into Poland the following morning (Thu-24th).

It was cold. The High Tatras were shrouded in mist; therefore no point in stopping to get a cable-car ride up to one of the peaks.

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As we crossed the almost meaningless border, signified only by a modest kerbside post ...

.. and a change of tarmac grade, and slightly better road lines.

100 km [62 mi] later and we were checking into our penultimate hotel of this trip in Wieliczka (Polish pronunciation: "vyeh-leech-kah"), just south of the city of Kraków.

Wieliczka Salt Mine

Wieliczka is best known for its ancient salt mine, which is now a museum; on the UNESCO list and visited by over a million tourists every year.

Down 65 flights of wooden stairs to reach the first level.

The mine's attractions include dozens of statues that have been carved out of the rock salt by the miners. The rock salt is naturally grey (in various shades), resembling unpolished granite rather than the white or crystalline look that I was expecting.

Down further to the second level. The mine reaches a depth of 327 metres [1,073 ft] and is over 287 kilometres [178 mi] long.

There are four chapels down and around the mine, the show-piece being the ornamented Chapel of St Kinga.

Salt crystal chandeliers. Amazing.

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Friday-26th

From Wieliczka its about a 75-minute - 80 km [50 mi] - ride to the town of Oswiecim, better known by its German name, Auschwitz.

The notorious "Arbeit Macht Frei" message over the entrance gates of Auschwitz I Concentration Camp - a German phrase meaning "work makes (you) free."

As we approached the Camp a contingent of Jewish students were posing defiantly in front of the gates.

You feel a numbed disbelief wandering around the buildings.

Inside the Auschwitz gas chamber. Jesus Christ!

The Death Wall (reconstruction)

Located in the yard at the side of block 11. The condemned were led here for execution. The SS men shot several thousand people at this location — mostly Polish political prisoners and members of clandestine organizations.

The wall was dismantled in 1944.

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Even more shocking - if that could be possible - we rode the short distance of about 1½ km to Auschwitz II-Birkenau.

Construction of Auschwitz-Birkenau began in October 1941 to 'ease congestion' at the main camp (Auschwitz 1)

The site is HUGE

We walked the entire length, and a good deal of the breadth, of this second infamous concentration camp ..

.. and stepped inside two or three barracks along the way.

Think of the movie Sophie's Choice .. punctuated by Meryl Streep’s silent scream in that haunting, shattering scene, when a rapacious Nazi officer demanded she choose which of her children should survive.

'Just a movie' you might think, depicting events that happened long ago. That scene, in 'real life' would have happened right at this very spot (above) ..

.. as it did happen in 'real life' for hundreds of thousands of real people. It wasn't history for them; it was real  .. and it was now.

A "Güterwagen" (goods wagon) - one type of rail car used for the deportations.

If you disembarked a wagon here, at the end of the line, you were very unlikely to see the light of day again.

For this is where the exterminations took place in the four full-time gas chambers and crematoria.

Later dismantled, destroyed (with written records) or converted into an air raid shelter by the SS in November 1944, when the Soviet Red Army were nearing the site from eastern Poland.

I have seen the ghostly past of too much genocide and 'ethnic cleansing' during the last four years, which has been the dark side of my ride from New Zealand. East Timor, Cambodia, Armenia and more recently, Bosnia .. all spring to mind.

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Friday-26th June -to- Thursday, 2nd July

Onto the city of Wroclaw, in south-west Poland. There is a specific main reason why I chose to end this section of the ride in Wroclaw, about which I shall say more (with pics), when we return to the city in late September.

A secondary reason is that the budget airline, Ryanair, can fly us home (and back again) - dead cheap!

I washed the old girl down on Tuesday-30th, in readiness for yet another period of long-term sleep; this time for a period of 12½ weeks, until September-24th, when I'll be returning to Wroclaw to complete the long ride home to Cornwall.

Then I went and power-washed down my little black beauty at a nearby Auto-Spa facility .. and afterwards delivered it into the safe hands of a local Honda dealer for a thorough service, with a near empty fuel tank .. I was running out of liquidity faster than your average Greek bank vault!

'Er Indoors had to cope with yet another bout of the squits that she picked-up, we think, from eating a little pre-packed tray of Sushi + cold rice bought, unwisely in retrospect, from a service station on Sunday night. She should have been stuck to the beer (only), like me!

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We did manage to get a little sight-seeing done during Wednesday afternoon; our last full day in Poland, before returning home the following morning, Thursday-2nd July.




 
 Nice door!

The city will be the European Capital of Culture, World Book Capital and will host the Theatre Olympics and the European Film Awards in 2016.

Wroclaw is an important, delightful destination, of which I hope we will have the time to explore and see little more, when we return in the Autumn. It was a good choice to end this leg of the trip here.

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Conclusion

Total success this time 'round .. with no bike drops (for a change!) And as usual, we have seen more than we remember, and remember more than we have seen.

It will all come to an end in October. For that, I am sad.

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to visit these pages; my travel blog, my little labour of love.

Until next time.

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From Ellen's journal: click on this link →  The Penultimate leg - Hungary, Slovakia and Poland

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1 comment:

  1. Hi Keith, In the UK right now for family funeral.
    I've been following you all the way from Auzzie - what an adventure!
    Hopefully, I'll make it back to the UK for a ride in September / October before the weather get leave for s really bad - I'll look you up! Leave for VCR on Thursday
    Tally Ho!
    Stan

    ReplyDelete