Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Weekend in Slovakia, my final day in Krakow

Tuesday 10th September
Although these episodes of my travelogue are titled "Weekend in Slovakia" my final day was spend in Krakow, covering a waking tour of the former Jewish areas of Kazimierz & Podgorze.

I had spent the night in the B-Movie hostel & I was up about 7.50, having corn-flakes, tea & toast for breakfast. I met several of the guests including Helena & Catherine. The sun shone and it became pleasently warm. I walked to the centre and arrived at about 10am to meet Tomek in Plac Mariacka/Rynek & many other visitors who were joining us for the free walking tour. Based on the Jewish history & including stops in Kazimierz & Podgorze. We also learned about the bread rolls which are sold in the streets of Krakow, zapiekanky from the stands in Plac Nowy, a new foot bridge which is popular with young people who use padlocks (lovers' name engraved) to show their devotion & commitment.
Our tour finished outside the former Oskar Schindler factory, which contains a museum, not just devoted to Oskar Schindler, but also to Krakow, the Cracovian people at the time of the second world war.
After saying "goodbye" to everyone I went to Plac Nowy and bought for my lunch a Zapiekanka Polska from one of the stalls. I then returned to the hostel, collected my bag, and took a No 52 tram at 15.00 to Dworzec Glowny (trailer 567) and then travelled on the 15.35 train to Balice, then a shuttle bus to Terminal 1 of Jan Paul II Airport. Quick through security, time for a Tyskie beer & chatted to couple while waiting to be called to the aeroplane. We then waited in line to board Airbus 380-800 EI-EFS which left Krakow on time & arrived ahead of schedule. While leaving the plane I started talking with a Polish lady called Wioleta. Quick through customs I was on the 19.45 Stansted express to London Liverpool Street. Underground train at 20.40- Liverpool St-Paddington (Hammersmith & City), FGW HST to Reading
and a No 26 bus back home to Calcot.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Weekend in Slovakia part 4, Bardejovske Kupele & a return to Krakow

Monday 9th September 2013 

Monday 9th September 2013
The day had started sunny, but soon clouded over after we had breakfast of tea & selection of bread, cold meat, cheese, peppers and coffee
The children, Lorianna & Rastik also came with Jitka and me & we went to the spa town of Bardejovske Kupele, a small spa town only 6 kilometres from Bardejov. The town consists of several fine hotels and a spa colonnade set in a wooded area of streets & parks. We visited the sources (pramen) of different mineral waters, and we were able to taste these waters which have natural trace elements which are good for curing people with aches and pains. We saw the Astoria and Alzebet hotels, which are the finest in the town. There is also an outdoor museum (skanzen) of traditional buildings set in the woods.
We finished off with a coffee & cake outside a favourite cafe of Jitka's. It started to rain, as we were leaving Bardejovske Kupele.
We returned to Jitka's apartment for lunch of bean, carrot, potato & sausage (klobasa) soup with bread. Rasty had also come home for lunch, but Rasty had to go back to work.  Jitka with the children & I went to Krynica & I they left me at the same place we had met the previous Friday. I walked to catch the bus to Krakow. Despite the info on the bus stops &  internet, the "next" bus was 18.00. This meant I wouldn't be able to do what I had wanted, that is arrive in Krakow in daylight, but had three hours to explore Krynica. After walking by the Krynicianka river & through the park I took a "trail" through the woods behind ? Park. By this time the rain was falling again, but fortunately the trees kept me dry. I returned to the station & waited for the bus. The rain eased off slightly, but during the bus journey, the rain became heavier & persistent. We arrived Krakow bus station about 21.15. I took a 52 tram from Dworzec Glowny to Stradom at 21.50 (MPK 565) arriving at hostel 22.00 & after checking in went to kitchen & started talking with other guests & later went with sisters Catherine & Helena, Peter & his friend & others and we had a drink in the Alchemedia pub in Plac Nowy, Kazimierz. I also had szarlotta jabulkowe with my beer.

Cultural day in Reykjavik

My last day in Reykjavik was also the "Reykjavik Culture Night" or Menningarnott. Although it is referred to as "night" there are events all day all over the city. Museums are free (without charge) to enter, and even people in private homes open their doors to visitors and give the visitors coffee, pancakes and one family even cooked chilli-con-carne. A former mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson opened his house and served pancakes to visitors. The current mayor was standing outside.
I had my breakfast in the hostel and as the weather was damp, I decided to visit the National Museum, which is only a short walk from the hostel. Entrance was free due to the Cultural event, which is the Saturday on or after 18th August. The museum staff offered guided tours, and exhibits in the museum are from the 9th century to the late 20th century. Iceland was first occupied by Celtic monks and then Nordic voyagers, mostly from Norway and Denmark. There are examples of ships and personal effects from these early times, and our guide started our tour in this part of the museum. Later Norway and then Denmark ruled Iceland. One of the prized exhibits is a carved church door.As well as the permanent exhibition, there were temporary exhibitions, one was a collection of early photographs all taken in Iceland, which highlighted how Icelandic people lived in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Another was a collection of silverware.
After spending 4 hours I realised I needed to visit the library building which also had a "photographic" exhibition, but I arrived there & had a look around, there only appeared to be photos of American bikers.
I also received a message from Regina, and we met soon after, and made our way to the old town.
Here we saw more cultural events, two sisters singing lovely songs in English & Icelandic and some of their songs are on you-tube. Here is their recording "Desire" which is sung in English, but the scenery is definitely Icelandic
Almost at every corner there was something happening, magic shows, dancing and Viking battle re-enactments, and we saw another singer playing an acoustic guitar.  I think her name was Ingunn Huld, but I have not been able to find any reference to this name on the schedule as published on the internet, and if anyone can help me please let me know.
Later we visited a home, where the family had a "yard-sale" selling knicks-knacks, but they also offered us a coffee and a pancake.
All too soon it was time for me to leave Reykjavik, and I caught the 18.00 bus to Keflavik. It was still heavy drizzle, when I arrived at the Fit hostel in Keflavik. The hostel looked like it was in the "middle of nowhere" and I wondered how on earth I would be able to get to the airport. There was no receptionist the hostel, and so I had to use a telephone, and talked to a guy, who told me how to get a key, and to reach my room. I met Andrew, who was also leaving the hostel and catching the same 'plane home, and we arranged a taxi to get us there in the morning.
It was getting quite late, and I wanted something for my supper, and managed to find a small grocery store and I had some pasta and beer, back in the well equipped kitchen. The hostel also had free WI-Fi and a computers, which were being used by children.
As I needed to be up early the following morning, the taxi was leaving 05.30, I had an early night, and met Andrew, just after 5am.
The flight left Keflavik airport at about 7.30am and was busy, although the staff were not as entertaining as those who brought me to Iceland.
I was quick passing through passport control and managed to catch the 11.08 train for reading and was home by about 1,15pm.

Monday, 16 September 2013

My weekend in Slovakia part 3 return to Bardejov

Sunday 8th September

We had our breakfast in the kitchen of the apartment. We left Zdiar about 9 and we went to Stary Smokovce, one of four villages which form the Smokovce resorts, which there are early 20th century grand half-timbered  hotels & churches. From Stary Smokovce, there has been a funicular railway (pozemna lanovka) to Hrebienok altitude 1280 metres, since the late 1800s. From Hrebienok there are several hiking paths, and we took one towards a waterfall & we also stopped for a coffee at the Rainerova Chata, one of many "Chata" which are mountain huts, some of which have accommodation as well as catering.
After hiking for a couple of hours we returned to Hrebienok, and took the funicular back to Stary Smokovce. We returned to Bardejov passing Poprad & stopped for lunch at Koliba (a rustic building & restaurant) where I had duck served with red cabbage & knidnicky. By the time we returned to Bardejov, the sun was still hot & we had coffee & apple cake. 

After tea Jitka took me to Bardejov where we walked around the historic centre. Jitka & I visited :-

Lower Gate, Bastions  & fortifications. The city has been fortified since the middle ages.
Protestant Evangelical church, where Jitka & Rasty were married.

The library dedicated to David Gutgesel (an early 20th century building).

Church of  St. Aegidis, a Gothic styled basilica, which has 11 winged carved altar pieces built 1460-1510 (inside the church)
Town Hall (Radnica) with the Statue of the knight Roland.  The town hall building is in the centre of a large square (Radnicne namesta)  is surrounded by medieval burgher's houses.

We watched a Folk music competition in the amphitheatre. Two folk bands from neighbouring villages were competing, and there were many people watching them.  

We also passed Jitka's Gymnasium (grammar school) and the Orthodox church, complete with its onion-shaped topped towers in a shaded area of trees.

We also came across a Beatle memorabilia area around J Lennon street. We don't know why there is a street dedicated to an English pop group, but it was interested for me to see this.
A small river (Sibska voda) flows to the south & east of the town, and there is Fountain of colour & music
Jitka and I stopped for Coffee at a bastion cafe, before we visited the Synagogue & Haulocaust memorial
Soon after seeing these Jewish sights we returned to Jitka's apartment as it was becoming dark. For our supper we Sauce with bread,  Omelette and a "lemon-beer" & stayed in for the evening.

My weekend in Slovakia part 2 Zdiar, High Tatra Mountains

Saturday 7th September started for me with breakfast of egg-bread, coffee & fruit-tea with Jitka. 
Rasty had gone to work, and when he returned we (Jitka, Rasty, Rastek & I) travelled to the High Tatras (Vysoke Tatry) by car. The sun was shining & it was quite hot. We passed through several small villages, then Stara L'ubovn'a, passing the castle high up on the hill. We arrived in Zdiar, a settlement since the 16th century which predates the High Tatra resorts. In Zdiar there are mostly traditional built houses, hotels & pensions which jaw dropping views of the High Tatra mountains. We settled in to an apartment, belonging to the Penzion Strachan. I took a short walk around Zdiar, before we had dinner in the pension's restaurant. I had pirohy (small pillows of meat or vegetarian food, or cheese) with sheep-cheese (brynzcovy) & kofola. Earlier while I was exploring the area I managed to hear some of the traditional Gorale style music, as there was a wedding in the restaurant.  The band had left but we still had recorded "Gorale" music while we ate.
The restaurant was in the traditional "rustic" style, and the doors had an interesting way, or self closing, by using a stone attached to a rope.
After our meal we visited Spider Park, a children's activity park with climbing equipment resembling an army assault course. There is a interesting cave near by.
Later we took a short walk through the forest towards ? from  Javorina. However as it became cooler & darker we decided to return to our apartment, where we had some supper of bread, ham, cheese & peppers. In the evening Rasty & I watched "Farma" Slovak reality show with contestants living & working on a farm, and like UK reality shows, a person was eliminated each week.
For those interested in Gorale music, there has been a Polish-Slovak band who have used the traditional music & fused it with contemporary music. They are called "Bratanki" and their album "Ano" (Slovak for "yes") was very popular in Poland & Slovakia. Here is a link to one of their songs "Czerwone korale"

Friday, 13 September 2013

A weekend in Slovakia part 1

Friday 6th September 2013
This is an account on how I reached Bardejov and spent the weekend with my friends there.
I needed to be awake @ 02.30, as I had booked a taxi for 03.25 to Reading Station. I caught the 03.54 FGW to London Paddington (165-114) & then a 23 bus to Liverpool Street. On the 05.55 Stansted Express to Stansted airport which arrived 06.44, this allowed me the necessary time to pass through a crowded security checking area, and still had time for a hot chocolate & muffin. The Flight to Krakow was Ryanair FR2432 arrived 12.05. After passing through passport control I caught the Shuttlebus 19 to Krakow Balice railway station & then took the Train to Krakow Glowny 12.30-12.49. I went to the bus station and waited because at 13.30 there was a bus to Krynica Zdroj (Spa) via Bzesno,  Czcho,  Nowy Sacz, Nowa  Wies,  Krzykowa & arrived Krynica 16.50. Krynica is a popular spa town in south-eastern Poland at the foot of the Beskidy mountains. I had some time before Jitka & Rasty were due to arrive to explore the town, the river, interesting buildings & park. I  visited the park, walked along the river & met many young people who had just completed a "fun" run & took photos of  a pijalnia (a building which contains several taps which visitors can taste the mineral waters) & the statue of Lemk artist Nikiforsa, who lived in Krynica. His art can be compared with British artist LS Lowry.
When Jitka & Rasty arrived we went by car straight to Bardejov, passing some attractive villages with wooden churches (cerkwie) in Wojkowa, Muszynka & Tylicz. We had a little drive around the outside of this fortified city. The historical centre is now closed to traffic. I will write more about historical and modern Bardejov in another account soon, as Jitka & I visited the town late Sunday afternoon.
At Jitka's & Rasty's we had supper, beer & slivovice. Later we went to a pub, where we sat outside & met some of their friends. During  the evening there was a football match between Slovakia & Bosnia & Hercegovina. We finished the evening by visiting a cellar-bar & watched a live gig (where the band had reformed for their 10th anniversary). They played rock music.