The Semi Final Leg – Lithuania to the English Channel
Several thousand kilometres later after leaving Lithuania since the previous blog, we have finally again arrived on the English Channel in France at Dunkirk! Due both to rather poor Internet connections over the past few weeks and general laziness (and not wanting to bore our readers), we have regretfully not religiously updated the blog regularly we know. (Surprisingly sometimes in the 1st world countries like Germany it is harder to get Internet connection at camping grounds etc without paying exhorbitant prices for “hotspot” access etc than it is in most of Africa)?!
But now this long expedition originally starting at Cape Town South Africa in January 2012 and now coming to its final conclusion in two weeks or so once we again cross to England is coming to an end. Some 60,000 kilometres later, it has been a blast – and with surprisingly few major problems. We have seen a lot of the World.
So before the final post- a brief update of the final leg through Poland, Czech Republic, Germany, Luxembourg and France to finally arrive on the Channel again:
We didn’t really do Poland justice doing 1,000 kms over 5 days from the Eastern border west through Augustowe to Gdansk and then southwards towards Torun, Poznan and then the east German border at Frankfurt am Oder. The roads vary from some very narrow and ordinary secondary roads to some nice new Autostradas as you get near Germany. (Poles drive like crazy)!
But what we saw was interesting. Gdansk (Danzig) where the Solidarity Movement started the fall of Communism back in the late 1980’s was both beautifully restored after its WW11 devastation and full of tourists. Poland is fast becoming a modern European country and the Poles are a friendly, brash, noisy but hardworking lot. (Particularly when we ended up camping at an initially quiet forest campsite near a lake near Poznan in central Poland and were joined by a friendly group of youngsters at our campfire -who insisted on plying us with endless shots of vodka while trying to understand our story)!
An interesting interlude (for Stan anyway) was a tour of Hitler’s “Ostwall” at Pniewo. A massive 100kms of deep underground bunkers,tunnels and fortifications that never kept the Red Army out anyway in 1945! (as it was undermanned and only half completed).
The final campsite in Poland was a delightful spot near the Ostwall run by an elderly German at Wyzoka called Woma Badenplatz (N 52*22’22.3” E15*27’10.9”) Highly recommended! A lovely Polish village.
Then the next day was on to Berlin (where we stayed two days) and did the usual things of checking out Checkpoint Charlie, the Berlin Wall and the Brandenburg Gate and Reichstag.
Berlin is an impressive, modern city and strolling down the Unter Den Linden to the Tiergarden was a great experience. (I guess not much of it was left in 1945, so most buildings are modern)? The way it has removed the old Wall since 1990 and integrated East and West is also impressive. It is interesting to reflect on the sad divide that was occasioned by the Berlin Wall for 50 years and how it split families and relatives living on either side of the Wall, never mind the deaths of those who tried to escape from the East and cross it?
Massive industry like the Siemens works and the number of construction cranes on the skyline was and eye opener.
After Berlin, it was south-east to the beautiful city of Dresden (again wonderfully restored after almost total devastation in 1945 from Allied fire bombing – which killed 40,000 people in one night and could be considered a war crime if the Allies weren’t the victors and calling the legal shots)?
Then across the Czech border and to what we think is Europe’s most beautiful city – Prague. We spent two days in Prague at a well run campsite some 10kms out of the centre and caught the train in. Long walks in brilliant weather through the Old Town and up the hill to Prague Hrad (castle and seat of Government) wore us out. Prague is definitely a favourite city and worth a visit. (Maybe the great 28*C weather helped our outlook)? Then we headed west with a brief look at the city of Pilzn where Pilsen beer was invented. (Bought a few)!
Our last campsite in the Czech Republic near Pilzn confirmed our positive view of the country and people. The campsite was in great surroundings with an old clock tower in the grounds of an old Communist era hotel -and Czech camping next to us insisted on giving us no less than four beers and a whole lot of sheep’s cheese to eat despite our protestations!
Then back to Germany, south to Nuremburg and then Munich once again (as I can’t stay away from the Deutsche Museum where you can spend days and also notwithstanding the BMW and other museums). Munich is another favourite city of ours. Marianne enjoyed shopping.
Then across through the Black Forest to the Rhine (aThe Balck Forest is a lovely part of Germany). We camped at Silmaringen one night and inspected the old Schloss of the Hohenzollern royal family and then the next night camped in the Black Forest at the tiny village of Sulzburg. A 400 year old Jewish cemetery in the campsite at Sulzburg which was one of only a few Jewish graveyards to avoid destruction by the Nazis was thought provoking. Apparently its remoteness saved it from senseless destruction? The last recorded grave headstone date we could find was of 1941 and was a poignant reminder also that there are no Jews left in Sulzburg today.
Then it rained for the next two days driving up the German side of the Rhine, dampening our enthusiasm to spend much time in Strasbourg until we got to the Luxembourg border and the again beautiful Mosel and Saar valleys where the weather cleared up a bit.
Luxembourg City itself was small but old and interesting (the way it is built on a steep river valley). However it does not take long to cross the tiny country of Luxembourg and after camping one night in the hillside village of Ettelbrucke, we were through the Ardennes and into Belgium at Bastogne (Band of Brothers, Battle of the Bulge and all that) and then on to Brussels where we camped at Grimbergen some 10kms out and caught the bus in to Brussels to find the Australian Embassy in order to vote in the coming elections. (They graciously received us at the Embassy and told us we were lucky we were voting there rather than London as the London Embassy was the busiest voting centre of all – even including those in Australia)!
Two days later (and after negotiating the very heavy Brussels traffic )has seen us back in France again and relaxing in glorious Autumn sunshine at a beachside campground on the English Channel near Dunkirk for a few days while we wait for a ferry on Monday 2nd Sept. to take us to Dover and to where we can understand the language again after some 3 months! Driving on the “proper” side of the road again is going to be a challenge after the brain has altered in the last 3 months also! Its now become second nature driving on the right.
Shipping of Tin Can back to OZ is being organised as we speak and the next (and last) blog will hopefully summarise a year and a half expedition and journey successfully concluded?
More pictures in the Gallery and at:
Czech Republic: https://picasaweb.google.com/110392977689469430264/CzechRepublic
Follow our route on the “Route” page