A Travellerspoint blog

Mike's Thoughts on the Final Run to the UK

rain 15 °C

Entering Poland and the Czech Republic makes one feel that we have re-entered civilization as we know it today. Sure there are old buildings and cities but somehow we seem to be heading into modern Europe. The roads are Highways full of expensive cars, travelling up to 130kph and the whole trip has become easier. We have had more time to do tourist things such as visiting Auschwitz and Passendaele. Quite moving and emotional to see the evidence of what we already knew about. Also a chance to visit the Porsche and Mercedes Museums == such German efficiency. An even bigger surprise was the Museum at Sinshein. None of our party realised that such a place existed. To see both a Concord and the Russian equivilant suspended on top of the roof of one of the two enormous buildings, in which this museum is housed, blew us all away. And you can walk up into each of them!!! The exhibits included hundreds of rare race cars, vintage cars, millitary vehicles, aircraft and trains. Just too much to describe. The final stretch down through Belgium and France and across the Channel to Dover was exactly as we expected. The wet weather started and we got drowned visiting Dover Castle. The official ending following a celebratory dinner, was at The National Motor Museum, at Beaulieu, which was previously the home of Lord Montague.
The adventurous part of the trip was certainly, China, Mongolia and Russia, with all the difficulc conditions and language challenges to cope with, and perhaps the final two weeks flew by pretty easily. Maybe we were just getting better at it. The pressure is off us now and we intend to have 3 pleasant weeks playing tourist in England and Scotland, and catching up with the Colchesters and others. I know it will sound corny but NZ is still a stand-out country to live in.
This is our last Blog Entry and are looking forward to catching up with family and friends when we get home.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 18.07.2012 13:35 Archived in England Comments (0)

Germany

overcast 19 °C

11th July Prague to Stuttgart, Germany.
Fine and sunny all day. When we arrived in Stuttgart we visited the Mercedes Car Museum which was a fantastic building. You got in a pod-lift and ascended to the top of the building, and then walked your way down 7 floors of exhibits. All Mercedes from early 1900 to the present day. Including race cars etc etc. Quite an amazing aray of vehicles. Then we went to the Porsch Museum at the other side of the city. Much the same thing but more modern cars. Another fabulous building of modern architecture. Mike really enjoyed both these excursions.
12th July Stuttgart to Boppard.
A shorter drive today but first stopping at Sinshein to visit the Motor Museum. Well this place was really worth a look. All sorts of cars, and aeroplanes. War vehicles, trains, bikes, prams and dolls, pedal cars, dodgems, road scooters, just about anything ever made. We all thoroughly enjoyed that stop. Arrived in Boppard, 4pm. It is on the banks of the Rhine and is a lovely quaint old village with lots of cruise boats moored along the banks. Nice to be in early and to be able to explore the streets. We have just had a fun evening with Steve & Tony, and for ‘afters’ went for a ride on the Rhine Ferry from our bank to the other side of the river and back again.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 12.07.2012 12:19 Archived in Germany Comments (1)

Poland/ Czech

sunny 28 °C

8th July Warsaw to Krakow
We only have 400kms to go today but also a visit to Auschwitz. The morning started cool and overcast but soon bloomed to full strength sun and heat. Had a bit of a team meeting on the side of the road after about 1/2hour driving. Well we didn’t know about the salt mines and it seemed that some wanted to go there. Later we find out that that didn’t happen. A few strong words from a few people and most of the group then were on our way to Auschwitz. Quite a pleasant stroll through the country roads. The rolling hills continue and farms and crops etc. Didn’t really have time for lunch as our tickets were bought and we were then organised with headphones and transmitters. There are lots of groups of people. It was of course Sunday again and lots of people visiting the place. I was a bit sceptical about going but you have to do it I guess. It certainly is a dreadful period of history and hopefully will never be repeated. It was a 3hour tour and we went to both camps Auschwitz and Birkenau. We will remember it all. So after another hour or so on the road back to Krakow, arrived about 7pm. Another long day from 8 in the morning.
9thJuly Krakow to Prague (Czech Republic)
An early 7.30am start as we have nearly 600kms to drive. Mostly on motorways though. But we need it as we career off on a tangent and have to re-route to get to the correct road to cross the Czech border at the right town. It is very hot again 28deg. The land is much the same again with crops and farms, but not much animal life to be seen, as such. So not much to relate in that respect. Are staying in a rather old (Best Western) hotel but seem central to the main attractions etc. have cobbled streets at the door and a grand old church on the corner. Will be exploring in the morning. We have a day free tomorrow to see the sights. Obviously a large city of i.3million people, so we will only see a fraction of it of course.(as is usual on this trip). We can’t believe that we are nearly at the end of this driving adventure. And it is a driving holiday!
10th July Our Day in Prague
We have had a lovely leisurely day walking around the old Prague. Had the company of Tony & Steve and met Sue & Rob around lunch time and went on a small boat, ride with them. Just the 6 of us which was nicer than doing it on a huge tourist boat with a hundred others. We climbed the Astrological Clock Tower to have the most fantastic view over the city, and by chance it was an o’clock (as in 11) so the Trumpeter in his Jesters Jacket was ‘blowing his trumpet’ right in front of us. These ‘old’ areas just give me goose bumps. They are so cool, the cobbles and narrow streets and all the rest of it. We have had to time 4pm; breakfast, morning tea, lunch and afternoon coffees. That should be enough for anyone, but alas we are off again at 6pm for drinks and dinner. This holiday is fast becoming a food fest and you can tell by the waistlines!!! Another early off tomorrow as we head for Stuttgart and a Motor Museum. The male contingent are hanging out for this as it is supposed to be great. May find something else to do.

Thanks to you all for sending messages. We love to hear a bit of family and local news.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 10.07.2012 07:05 Archived in Czech Republic Comments (1)

Baltic States and Mike's latest Thoughts

sunny 32 °C

5th July, Riga to Vilnius, Lithuania.
Up at sparrow fart again to be on the road by 8am. Easy to get out of town on onto the highway, but there are a lot of road works for quite a few kms which makes the going a bit slow. Nice countryside, farming crops, and woods interspersed. The whole of the three Baltic States are very tidy, farm buildings all in good repair and it just looks healthy. Having arrived in Vilnius just after lunch was great. Had a bit of a snooze then hit the streets to do some people watching and drink beer and wine and yes have another pizza. We had such a fabulous meal last night we had to downsize! Off to Warsaw tomorrow and have nearly 600kms to cover. The Vilnius we saw today was the old city and we love the old buildings. Lots of people about, families, obvious students, and the beggars. They just come up to people while you are sitting having a beer and quietly ask for money. Some of them young adults which is pretty sad. But lots of people having a lovely time and enjoying life. That’s what we all need.
6th July Vilnius to Warsaw, Poland.
Today’s tiki tour takes us out of Vilnius and heads us in the direction of Poland. The countryside is pleasant. We have to avoid taking the most direct route that the GPs wants us to, so are driving on secondary roads. Not such a bad thing actually as we seem to be avoiding heavy trucks. But it is mostly a two-way highway so not lots of opportunity to pass as there is always something coming the other way! A very hot day and at about midday we pass through a town with a lighted temperature board telling us it is 32deg. Arrived in Warsaw 5pm traffic but wasn’t too bad as we seemed to get to the Novotel reasonably easily, apart from the diversion we had to take to avoid the huge hole in the middle of the main road, which is for the new Metro Line. It is still hot when we head out for a meal. Wherever we have been we are experiencing hotter temps than normal this summer. And even the locals are commenting.
7th July Our day in Warsaw.
Once again another scorcher, punctuated by a small thunder storm mid- afternoon. We managed to return to the hotel just as the rain started. Have had a pleasant few hours wandering the city, or some small part of it. We set off early morning and found ourselves a Historic Tram ride around the old and new city areas with a Polish guide chatting away. Luckily we were procrastinating about how to buy the tickets when he (the young guide) heard us. We tried with one credit card which got declined, and as the tram was leaving in 2minutes he said it was our lucky day and we could go for free as he didn’t have time to wait to try another card. He obviously spoke English, so he would speak to us personally at pertinent places of interest. What a sad city history, 85% of the city destroyed during the war and over half the population killed. Just mind chilling. So the buildings are relatively new accept for some that survived the war. It is clean and tidy and had a huge Park and gardens in the central area. An interesting morning, but were ready for a zizz when the thunder struck and we were nearly back to the hotel .We plan another exciting meal tonight I suppose but I can’t tell you about it yet as it is only 5pm.
Mikes Thoughts on the Baltic States.
Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are known collectively as the Baltic States which implies that they are similar and work together. However this does not seem to be the case and they are quite different. Estonia, the smallest seems to have its act together. As we left Russia the farming looked well organised and efficient, the houses were clean and tidy, with gardens around them and the people were helpful and smiling. And they used Euros. Latvia, however seemed to be years behind and looked scruffy. They had their own currency and the prices seemed quite cheap. and the people were helpful and happy with tourists. The food was excellent. Lithuania, again had their own currency and thing seemed expensive, the people were dour and unhelpful. The countryside in all three countries is green and rolling like the Waikato but in Lithuania it still resembles peasant farming, with small plots of different crops being grown on what appear to be the same farms. Spending only one day in each country it is hard to be sure what things are really like but it was great to get across the border into Poland where the people seem to be smiling, helpful and happy.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 07.07.2012 08:06 Archived in Poland Comments (2)

Travelling fast, Latvia

overcast 20 °C

4th July Tallinn Estonia, to Riga Latvia.
I have been told in no uncertain terms, by daughter #1 that I have omitted to regale the food delicacies of Russian cuisine. We did of-course eat borsch at times and stroganoff which were pretty nice in some places. Also had our fair share of pickled herring, duck, tongue and rabbit. This is summer remember and after sitting in the car for the day we have often been happy enough with salads and lighter meals. We have even had Russian sausage at a German restaurant. So how’s that? We have finally got the Garmin to do its thing for Europe which will be great, trial run today down the Estonian Coast to Riga. We start the day with bad news that the Daimler has been broken into while parked at the carpark down the road. Ours is there also, as are the two Land Cruisers. Don’t find out till later that they also have had the same treatment. We think we are somehow immune but alas we are to discover that the BMW has had an attempt to push in the lock on the driver’s door, but luckily to no avail. We feel extremely lucky that we have escaped the burglars. We have the morning to ourselves and have another look at this cute ‘old city’, have yet another coffee and cake , before setting off down the coast to Latvia and ending up in Riga. The countryside was lovely with the woods brushing the coastline and good smooth roads. Mind you didn’t get in till 7pm, so a quick shower and out to eat. Found the best outdoor place in the old square and had a fab meal of Ribs, and Kebabs. Who cares what country you are in if the food is good. There was also a band playing and a female singer which was up there with the best. I must say that Tallinn was overrun with tourists. Mostly from Cruise Ships. Everywhere you looked there were people with maps in their hands looking for direction. Mike wanted to add that now we are out of Russia, the wine and beer has changed price. We quite liked cheap local Russian beer and the Chilean wines were ok too. But now things have changed, we might be on water!! But not tonight. What we have seen of Riga’s old city area, where our hotel is, pleases us. It is quite late when we hit the sack and of course it is still light.

Posted by THEMIKNADS 04.07.2012 13:04 Archived in Latvia Comments (1)

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