Eger, Hungary

The drive from southern Poland, through Slovakia, to Hungary was scenic.  It was quite hilly.  We got to see gypsy children running through fields and camps near the roadways.  The houses definitely changed as we got into Hungary.  Most houses had little yards with fences around them.  Interestingly, we had be talking among ourselves about how we hadn’t seen any fences . . . And then we hit Hungary.  The houses were often single-storey and surprisingly looked similar to my maternal grandparents’ house (they were Hungarian).  The gardens had lots of flowers and vegetables behind the fences.  Unfortunately, this was difficult to photograph from a bus.

  
Our first meal in Hungary was spectacular!  It was like being at my grandma’s!  We had veal paprikas and galouska, with a side of cabbage rolls and hot pickled peppers!  Anyone who knows me, knows how much I love galouska.  I ate it every day while I was in Hungary.  It is similar to German spätzle but much more satisfying.  For dessert, we had palancinta, which are like crepes (I also added another side of hot peppers).  All my favourites!  

   
 

See the hot peppers on both my dinner and dessert plates?

The next day we went to the local market.  We are visiting at the perfect time of year for markets.  Peppers upon peppers in Hungary.

   
  

In Canada, these tomatoes would be called “heirloom” tomatoes, but they have so many original varieties here that they are all heirloom.

   

One special visit we made was to a local school.  Perhaps that seems like a strange place to visit, but we all can relate to being a student, so this was a very unique  visit.  We met a teacher who is retiring in November.  She taught some summer classes over the years, so that is why she won’t be teaching the full school year.  She talked about teaching under the communist system and now.  She also talked about Hungarian kids today and the challenges teachers face.  Our problems in Canada are similar.  They wish they could get the gypsy children to attend pre-kindergarten to help them get a better basis, but they cannot convince the parents.  They struggle a lot with trying to get the gypsies to succeed.

We met her in the school’s language lab, which was of particular interest to me.  They no longer use the antiquated lab.  Instead they have a computer and Smart Board for lessons.

   
 

She explained that in Hungary, all children are served lunch.  The kids want food like pizza and burgers, but they refuse to serve that.  Instead they feed them traditional meals.  Then, we went to the cafeteria to eat a typical meal.  It was wonderful!

Homemade chicken soup, just like my mom’s!   
Round noodles, paprikas, and pickles.

 

Later, we drove through wine country, where the famous Bull’s Blood wine is made.  We stopped at a winery for a tasting, but it was unlike any wine-tasting I’ve been too.  We started with a shot of grappa, and then we all went to the patio for snacks to eat in between the wines.  The exciting part is that we had a live violinist play for us during the tastings!  He played traditional songs and other songs too.  It reminded me of being at a Hungarian wedding!  We have recordings of my grandfather playing these songs.

   
     

This little boy must have been a relative.  He was hiding in the bushes playing the “violin” on his arm.  Adorable!

 
We also went into the cellars.

   

  

Back toward the main road, we saw what our yard would look like, Hungarian style:

  
2 caravans in the yard!

  

Auschwitz – Birkenau

Where do I begin?  What can I say?  Visiting these two places in one day was highly emotional.  I doubt anyone can see these sites without bile rising in the throat or tears filling the eyes.  These are memorials of human atrocities.  

Birkenau

I had no idea of the size of Birkenau.  It is approximately 10 times larger than Auschwitz.  Most of it was destroyed before liberation, so there are only a few buildings standing, foundations, and ruins of the crematorium.  There is a reconstructed railcar there so that you can see the actual size and then imagine how many people were crammed in it — standing room only. In each car, there were two buckets:  one with water and one for sewage.  When you see pictures of people lifting up children to those cars, you can’t help but wonder why people boarded them willingly, and also handed their children up to the arms of people in the cars.  Well, the people were told that they were just being relocated, and they were instructed to bring no more than 50 pounds of possessions with them.  They had no reason to assume they were being sent to their deaths or to work until they died.

   
   

   
   When the trains arrived, people were separated into 2 lines: those selected for work and those that went directly to the gas chambers.  The elderly, young, and sick were killed immediately.

The voltage on the fences was significantly higher than was at Auschwitz.  I’m sure that some of those who survived the selection process grabbed on to the fence to bring on death.  What horror!

Auschwitz

When you tour this site, you will have a guide.  I think that the quality of your experience depends on the guide. However, I wouldn’t doubt that they all mostly rattle off a memorized speech, which was too bad.  The script wasn’t very heartfelt.  Nevertheless, I was so moved by the mounds of possessions and photographs on display. We moved from building block to building block.  Each block showed a different aspect of the work/death/extermination camp.  (Auschwitz-Birkenau was all three.).  

   
Brick “blocks” in Auschwitz  

Zyklon B gas cans 

I was curious about the sanitation display or sleeping display, but I was sickened when we saw the mounds of possessions and personal items.  We saw heaps of shoes — some fancy shoes, some working shoes, some baby shoes.  We saw items like hairbrushes and shaving brushes, and shoe polish — just everyday items that people thought they’d need in their relocation.  Remember, they brought 50 pounds of goods with them.  When I saw these items, it just became too real.  I was overwhelmed with sadness.  Then, we came to a room that was piled high with human hair.  No, those hairbrushes would not have been needed because their heads were shaved and the hair was being transported to Germany to be used as stuffing and handcrafts.  Pictures of that display were forbidden to show respect.  As we left that building, I had to fight back the bile rising in my throat.  I thought I was going to vomit.  I was getting light-headed and tears were welling up.  It was an experience everyone needs to have.  

Suitcases   
Cookware       

People who were chosen for work were sent to different assignments.  The most prestigious assignment was working in the “Canada” blocks.  The prisoners chose the name Canada because it symbolized a wealthy and free land.  Those that worked in Canada were the sorters.  They went through the items in the suitcases of the new arrivals.  Sometimes, they pocketed medicines or other useful items and took them back to the barracks to help others or use for bartering.  Of course, this was very risky.

Then, in another building, the walls were lined with photographs of the people when they arrived.  These were their identification photos.  Some people even tried to smile a little bit.  Most had blank expressions.  I could see these people chosen for work, strong and vibrant with a sparkle in their eyes and round faces.  The Nazis soon learned that the ID photos were useless to identify escapees because they looked so different after a short time in the camp.  That’s when tattooing started.  

 Twins, just 16 years old: 
I am glad that I saw both Auschwitz and Birkenau.  Three years ago, we also went to Dachau.  What I appreciated about Dachau was that at the end of the self-guided tour, there was a space dedicated to each group that was targeted and victimized.  There was a clear explanation of what each symbol worn signified.  Many of the victims wore triangles, and each triangle was in a different color, denoting the victimized group.  The Jews wore the Star of David.  At Auschwitz, our guide just said there were different colours of triangles, but he didn’t seem to know which was which and he didn’t elaborate on the other groups.  He listed a few.  Yet, in the black and white photos, there were many triangles, but there was no mention of their colours below each photo.  This is an important element that needs to be a part of this tour.

Never forget the atrocities of humans.  

Kraków 

Ahhh — flat land, sort of.  For people who have spent 20+ years on the Canadian prairies, the flatness of Kraków was welcomed.  Many people ride Dutch-style bikes and beach cruisers, and other interesting rides.

  
Although the architecture was beautiful and ornate, more brick was exposed, giving it a different vibe from Prague.  Also, the people definitely smiled more.  Kraków is a very easy city to navigate compared to Prague. I don’t know why I couldn’t get oriented in Prague.  I tried!  

   
        We arrived in the evening, so we set out to enjoy the nightlife.  The street musicians/buskers were phenomenal!  One trio played classical music on 3 accordions.  Another played a variety of music, including the Benny Hill race song using mostly traditional instruments.  We were filled with wonder!  It’s refreshing to see young people playing stand-up bass, violin, accordion etc.

Communism

On the second day, we had a local guide.  Poland has only been democratic for about 18 years, so communism is still fresh in their minds.  Some people long for the old days, as is to be expected.  Everyone was guaranteed a job, housing, and food, and they could eventually buy a car, though the waiting list was long.  They were all equally poor in equally small apartments, so it was ok.  They only had to work 7-8 hours per day, but they mostly visited with their friends on their jobs.  She said, “We pretended to work, while the communists pretended to pay us.”  I love that line!

Anyway, one throw back to communism is “milk bars”.  They are cheap luncheon eateries, sort of like cafeterias, but you order from a menu on a wall.  Cheap cheap, and what a feast!  We paid about $18 CAD for this:
   
  

 

Of course, we like to have a full cultural experience, so we also tried a vodka bar. The one we chose had great communist decor, and it was covered with newspapers from the communist era.

   
 Polish TV

You can find many American TV shows and movies.  However, instead of subtitles or voice-overs for each character, there will be one boring male voice dubbing ALL of the roles.  It’s so entertaining!  Better yet is the sign-language.  Do you remember the little old man from Benny Hill?  Well, he works in Poland doing sign language now!  Kidding!  So, during a movie, there will be lots of dialogue, and his little image will be in the corner, but he won’t be signing.  Then, he’ll sign about 5 words for 5 minutes of dialogue!  Is he summarizing?   We saw him again and again!

Harvest Festival

We were fortunate to arrive during the harvest or wheat festival.  It was like being at a Folkfest pavilion in Saskatoon, only better!  There was a stage with live singling, dancing, and music, not to mention the STREET FOOD!  We tried smoked sheep’s cheese that was wrapped in bacon and barbecued.  Just imagine that for a moment.  Are you imagining?  Remember, sheep’s cheese squeaks when you chew it.  NIRVANA!

   
    We wandered around for a bit and came across a potter.  We each bought items from her.  Of course, we can’t fit much in our Airstream, but we wanted a little memento of our time in Kraków.  I bought a raven, and Paul bought a little pot to use as a shot glass.

   
  

Dinner:  Street food again!  Spicy pork, sautéed mushrooms, and pierogies.  Is it wrong to have pierogies twice in one day?  Then, we met some people from our group who told us we had to go to a certain restaurant for apple pancakes.  We were full, but we will never miss an opportunity to taste more culture!  They were divine!

  
OK, not all of our travel is food-related.  We did visit some historical sites, such as this church with Art Nouveau stained-glass windows.  I thought they were so lovely.  Also, all the walls are painted with Art Nouveau floral motifs.

   
    

Creation of earth:  

Ceiling:

  

Even dandilions look heavenly: 

Kraków has several universities.  I believe our guide said this one was established in the 1200 or 1300s:  

   

Thoughts on Prague

Czech people are very funny and they don’t take themselves seriously.  I wish I could remember the exact words from our local guide, Jana, but she said something to the effect that Czechs are really good at being second best.  They have very dry humour, even though they don’t smile much.  

Here is a statue at Prague castle.  Yes, many bronze statues get rubbed for certain reasons, like luck.  No one knows why this one get rubbed:

 
Prague Castle also had torture chambers.  Some instruments of torture are downright gruesome.  Here is a mild one:

   

The people of Prague are so industrious.  They were constantly repairing cobblestone roads and sidewalks.  There are also young apprentices learning the trade.

There are many dogs, large and small.  Many walk beside their humans without leashes!

Locals haven’t discovered Lululemon and the horror of wearing yoga pants as pants.  So refreshing!

Street food rocks!  Raclette, sausage, crepes, trdlo.  The list goes on and on.

 
Raclette:  melted cheese on boiled potatoes, with cocktail onions and baby gherkins.  Yes!  You’ll want to bathe in it.  Of course, this is a Swiss treat, but it’s perfect street food.

First stop: Prague

We booked a trip to Eastern Europe last September.  Although this trip is not related to Airstreaming, I will still post about our adventures.  No doubt, I will find caravans to photograph!

Prague is glorious!  It combines the beauty of both Paris and Venice.  I’m overwhelmed by the architecture.  Stunning.  I can’t get enough of Art Nouveau and spires!  Spires and spires!  Prague was nicknamed “The City of 100 Spires,” but there are really thousands upon thousands.

We went to Prague Castle on Saturday without a guide, but today we went with a guide and learned so much more, and saw so much more.  Guides are worth their salt!  We also saw a white guide with her hair in cornrows, dressed in Bohemian garb (as should be expected, but it’s more common in Canada!), speaking Mandarin to a group of Chinese!  How interesting to see!  Europeans are wizards with language.

My camera wasn’t ready when I saw this beautiful Asian woman was scratching something off her bucket list.  There are many 1920s and 30s cars in the city, mostly for tourists.  This woman was dressed in full Art Nouveau style standing next to one of these vintage cars and her husband was photographing her.  She was living out some fantastic fantasy!  It was adorable.

 Municipal House  
  

This was the first place we stopped for Czech beer (the first stop of MANY).  It is important for its cubist architecture:    

In the golden cage, you can see the Black Madonna. 

 Stairway in the cubist building:  
Astronomical clock:

      

I can’t get enough of flying buttresses!    

Convent of St. Agnes of Bohemia  

View from Prague Castle  

Street in the Jewish Quarter (Josefov). Basically, all the streets look like this!  

Walking to Dancing House across one of the many bridges   

Dancing House:

  
Apparently, the Czechs don’t like this piece of modern architecture.  They think it is an eyesore, but I had to see it. I think it’s lovely.  It was worth the walk at the end of today.

We met up with our friends from our European tour in 2014.  We were all strangers, but became fast friends.  We came to Europe again as a reunion tour.  Two couples are from Canada (SK & BC), one from the US (Minnesota), and one from Australia (Melbourne).  Here we are meeting up after 3 years apart:

  
Tuesday morning, we leave the Czech Republic and head for Poland.

Goodnight sweet girls.  I see grandma is taking good care of you:

  

Heading East

We spent our first night as “free wheelers” at friends’ property northeast of Saskatoon.  We had to drive both the new-to-us Chinook motorhome and the truck and Airstream there.  A few days later, my sister went to Saskatoon to pick up our Jeep.  So much for simplifying.  We still own too much stuff.

Our little camp in Wakaw.  (We will use the Chinook over the winter.  It will be more nimble for going into Mexico and US National Parks and BLM land.)

We left Saskatchewan on August 1st and started our journey east, back to the Niagara Region, where we are originally from.

This time, we drove through Canada instead of the US.  It takes longer, but northern Ontario is very scenic around Lake Superior.

   
  

This time, we put the girls in crates.  Poppy was still stressed, but she seemed slightly better. 

Check out our Wal-Mart Hilton in Sudbury!  What a beautiful spot with the rock wall and grass for the girls:

   
Love those Anderson levellers!

 
We arrived in Port Colborne, ON in time for the last day of Canal Days.  This is a festival which started some time after we left Ontario, so we were happy to participate this year.  Daisy even got to go on a tall ship.

   
     

We spent 1.5 weeks in the Niagara Region touring the sites.  It was fun being tourists in a place where we grew up. 

 Poppy in Lake Erie near Pt. Colborne:  
A laker passing by:  

Port Colborne Farmers Market:

   

Port Dover (not technically part of the Niagara Region, but still nearby on Lk. Erie):    

No trip to Niagara would be complete without a stop to Niagara-on-the-Lake:      

Canada has a short history, and I love it when the few old buildings we have are preserved. The following are plaques on homes.   

We had a wonderful time with family and friends.  Our Airstream is tucked away in my parents’ backyard.  It is a B&B of sorts — my girls are sleeping out there with my mom while we are away in Europe.  Poppy and the kitty don’t love each other yet, so they get separated at night.  Dad and Butch in the house; mom and Daisy & Poppy in the Airstream.  Thanks mom and dad!

Here is a picture my mom sent of Butch trying to play with Daisy:

  

Leaving Main & Arlington

“We live on the corner of Main and Arlington.  The address is 902 Arlington, but the house faces Main.”

How many times did we say that over the last 17 years?

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We loved our neighbourhood and especially our neighbours.  We developed such close friendships, so we hope to go back to visit often — in the summer!

Dianne & Les and also Lynne & Rick threw us parties.  That was so special.  Thank you to all!

Here is the spread that Lynne prepared.  I didn’t have my camera for either party, unfortunately.  Thanks for the pictures, Lynne!

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Pulling out of the driveway for the last time:

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