Sunday, September 29, 2013

Wandering in Warsaw

We have spent a few delightful days in Warsaw.  Most of Warsaw was destroyed in World War 11 but much has been rebuilt with great attention to combining the old with the new seamlessly.

We have walked the Royal Way down to the Old Town several times, visiting the many churches, palaces, museums, gardens, restaurants ...... and shops. 

The Royal Castle was virtually destroyed with only one wall and foundations remaining.  Many of the pictures and sculptures were salvaged, some just before the invasion.  We visited 32 rooms of the castle and also a separate wing called the 'Tin Roof Palace'.  It was no backyard shed and was even more spectacular than the castle in many ways.

Another highlight was attending an organ recital played on a beautiful Baroque pipe organ.  This is Chopin's birthplace so we also visited the Chopin Museum.  This had ultra modern technology.  Unfortunately most of it wasn't working!

Today we are catching a train to Lublin for a couple of days.

Outside the castle

Inside the castle

The Tin Roofed Palace

The Barbican

The Baroque organ in St Anne's Church

How did Chopin compose his masterpieces on this?

Friday, September 27, 2013

What car is this

Name the car
Car 1

Car 2

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Atrocity of Auschwitz

We left the beautiful city of Krakow on the early morning bus to Oswiecim as we had decided we must visit Auschwitz. Why visit? Because it happened and must never happen again!

You can't visit without being moved to reflect on human nature and the atrocities  of this regime and war in general.

We visited the main site of Auschwitz with its very viable reminders of the events of the holocaust. We won't attempt to describe the displays but will put up a few photographs.

We also went to Birkenau-Auschwitz II. This was the real extermination camp with the train directly into the place. As the victims arrived 75% were sent direct to the gas chambers but the number of buildings evident by the remaining chimneys indicates the numbers. Over 1,500,000 Jews exterminated alone. Hitler's stated policy was to kill every Pole.

A sad but necessary day

At the entry to Auschwitz
The barracks of the Polish army were converted into quarters. The horse stable for 56 horses housed 400 prisoners
The halls of plundered goods that remained on liberation..Artificial limbs
Shoes..millions of shoes
The train line direct to the gas chambers
Only the foundations and chimneys remain of the Berkenau barracks
Remains of extermination chambers. Most was blown up by the Germans before the end of the war

Four seasons in one week

It is only a little over a week ago that we were complaining about the heat in Greece and Turkey. By the time we reached Kiev and drove into the city we commented on the beautiful colours of autumn. We collected red leaves and complained of the cold. In Lvid we really noticed the cold but by Krakow we decided that winter was definitely upon us. The temperatures are down to 4 overnight and about 11 or 12 during the day
Last night we finally made spring. We attended a concert of the Chamber Orchestra of St. Maurice and on the program was none other than Vivaldi The Four Seasons-Spring. We walked back home with jumpers and coats and decided it was back to winter.

The cloth hall on the way to the concert

 The concert venue. Great acoustics
 View from the venue
A levitator we passed on the way do they do that?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


We have spent two days exploring Krakow and there is much more to see.  It is the gem of Eastern Europe.

We are staying on the Royal Way.  It is a delightful stroll down to the main square of the old city.  We explored the churches, museums and even the shops.

We have been under the square to the Krakow Underground Museum, starting under the Cloth Hall and extending out under the square for 4000 square metres.  Holograms, artefacts and interactive screens tell the story of medieval Krakow.

We visited Wawel Castle, home of the Polish kings with its multitude of museums.  We inspected the Treasury and Armoury, the State Rooms and the Royal Apartments as well as the cathedral, the bell tower and the crypt where the kings of Poland were interred.

Across the Vistula River, we visited the museum on the site of Schindler's factory and walked through the old Jewish Quarter.

 Gail in the courtyard of the Royal apartments
Schindler's Factory display

 View of the square from under the fountain
View of the fountain from above
View of the Old Town from the Castle Bell tower

Monday, September 23, 2013

Out of Time in Lviv

Our last day in Lviv as we catch a train just before midnight. There is still so much to see and do!
We visited the 5th Cathedral this morning, the Greek Catholic Cathedral of St. George.  It was a long walk especially when we took the indirect route but we could hardly leave 1 cathedral unvisited.

On the way, we called in to the Potocki Palace but unfortunately we could only take photos from the outside as it was closed. It is certainly large and impressive.  En route we stopped and bought local delicacies and more before we came back which we enjoyed for lunch. 

We holed up in our room for a while this afternoon due to heavy rain but when it cleared, we visited the Benedictine Monastery.  Unfortunately it is not open for visitors but we were able to take some photos through windows. 

We also saw lots of interesting statues and found many interesting little shops.  Ukraine has specialist stocking shops and yes, Cinderella bought some.

 Yes it is raining as we visit the palace.
Inside the Greek Catholic Cathedral.

Lazing Around in Lviv.

We spent a lazy day in Lviv just like the locals - went to church - we visited the Dominican and the Jesuit Cathedrals and the Assumption Church.  We have now been to 4 of the 5 cathedrals in Lviv.  We believe Lviv is the only city other than Rome that has 2 Catholic cardinals.  We attended a few weddings and strolled the square.  We also ate a big lunch.

The things that the locals might not have done was go to the museums.  We went to 2.  The first one was the state rooms of the palace of the Polish king from the 1700s.  This was quite spectacular and included an Italian courtyard.  The other was the History Museum with items ranging from pre history to the 20th century.  We also spent some time shopping.

The highlight of our day was our outing to the Opera House.  We saw the ballet 'Don Quixote'.  The Opera House is stunning, built when Lviv was the largest and wealthiest city in the Ukraine.  An amazing theatre.  The production was superb, set on a huge, deep stage with a very large cast and full orchestra - even a harpist.  The depth of talent from principals to corps de ballet was world class.  It was worth coming to Lviv for this production alone.
He wouldn't share his beer

 Robert with the lolly girl
 Rynok Square
Outside the Opera House

A night at the ballet

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Thirty Weddings and a Funeral

We couldn't believe it but we saw even more weddings today.  Every church and every fountain had at least one. Perhaps they are all rushing to do the deed before the worst of winter sets in or perhaps they have a special wedding weekend in Lviv.  It was still very cold but at least the sun was shining on the bridal parties today.

The funeral - well that was yesterday at the cemetery that we visited in Lviv.

 Two brides racing for the fountain.
 What's the well dressed Lviv girl wear to her wedding?  Lace and fur of course.
Wedding in the Dominican Cathedral.

Stranded in Lviv

Lviv is a beautiful city.  Just as well as we are stranded, unable to catch a train onto Poland!

We arrived on Friday night, planning to leave on Sunday or even on Saturday night on the sleeper.  We finally secured a berth for Monday night, departing just before midnight.

We have a hotel on the side of the old town so from our room we can see the Opera House, three csthedrals, several churches and two palaces as well as the passing parade of life through the central plaza.

What to do when stranded in Lviv?  Yesterday we visited Rynok Square in the centre of the old town.  It is surrounded by museums and old palaces.  We also visited the 'Latin' Cathedral and the Armenian Cathedral where we stayed for a wedding.  We have never seen so many brides on the one day - what a shame it was drizzling with rain.

On the way to the main train station to negotiate our tickets, we saw the sign to the Lychakiv Cemetery so got off  the bus(like a HOHO!) and spent over an hour exploring the old cemetery.  It was reminiscent of the famous one in Buenos Aires but this time we did not know the famous authors, poets, playwrights, politician and generals who were interred here.  They certainly had impressive headstones and vaults.

After securing our tickets, we returned to the old town on a more direct bus and after lunch visited the markets of handicrafts and antiques (junk). 

We dined in one of the more upmarket restaurants for the cost of a café lunch in Australia.

Today we plan to explore more of the city, check out the shops and attend Don Quixote tonight at the Opera House.  We couldn't get tickets to last night's opera and couldn't even work out what opera it was.  We think we are off to the ballet tonight!

Lviv, known as the 'Paris of the East', is a good spot for an enforced rest.

The 'Latin Cathedral'.

 Two impressive memorials at the cemetery.

Wedding at the Armenian Cathedral.

Dual or duelling brides at the Opera House Fountain

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Shopping On Line

We spent the nine hour train trip from Kiev to Lviv shopping 'on line' - on train lines to be more precise!  At each stop, we had local hawkers come on and try to sell us their wares.

Shopping on line is always a little risky but this kind of on line shopping made the other type appear ultra conservative.  The goods were often similar - computers and mobiles, cosmetics etc but others were very different - animals skins and furs - fresh ones - but not quite fresh!  We think they were lynx and possibly red fox.  There are no social taboos in regard to the wearing of fur in the Ukraine!

Food was the most popular product and it came in every form.  If only we could have identified it, we may have made a purchase but like every good train traveler in the Ukraine, we were well prepared.  We had a separate carry bag of rolls, pastries, fruit, water and a hot thermos.

The salesmen, like in the other type of on line shopping, appeared at times to be a little dodgy but others were just local mums and dads supplementing their meager income.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Andrew's Descent Looking for More Chicken Kiev.

The day started off with rain and cold and we were frustrated at not being able to travel to Chernobyl or to visit the Pobugsky Strategic Missile Forces Museum but instead we set off down Kiev's oldest street, Andrew's Descent.

We visited St Andrew's Church and walked down the very steep street of cobblestones, finally coming to the Museum of One Street.  This street is indeed a museum in its own right and they have collected artifacts from many of the residents to display in a quirky little museum.  This ranged from living and dining rooms to shops, political material and death masks, plus lots more.

Finally at the bottom of the hill we sought out a restaurant for lunch and ordered what was possibly chicken kiev.  We sent the 1st one back as it was totally raw in the middle.  We can confirm that it is hard to come by a good chicken kiev in Kiev.

We returned to our apartment and then visited the National Art Gallery across the lane from us.  Later we watched from our balcony as they rolled out the red carpet for the guests attending the premiere of a new exhibition.  We did consider gatecrashing but we had to pack as we catch the train tomorrow for Lviv.

 The steps up to St Andrews
Museum of One Street

 Gail relaxing before heading out to the Gallery
 Geese by Kyriak Kostandi
 Two paintings that we liked

 Finishing the drinks..local beers and wine from Crimean region of the Ukraine
Another attempt at Ckicken Kiev..this one was raw

Extra photos of Kiev

Detail of the Cathedral of Dormition
 The main Cathedral at the Caves complex:The Dormition Cathedral
 Looking down on the Caves. We walked under the church to the original caves
The Kiev Carousel. I know lots of people who would like a ride on this fabulous two storey carousel