Pegontheroad in eastern Europe

Old Jul 12th, 2015, 04:48 PM
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Still with you, PEG, keep going...
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Old Jul 12th, 2015, 08:24 PM
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Glad you decided to go to Gdansk.

I too thought the solidarity Museum and Monument was moving.

I breaks your heart to see pictures of those poor Polish dock yard workers.


Gee too bad you missed Westerplatte as you were so close, about a 15 minute taxi ride.

Thank you for taking the time to post your trip as I know it requires a lot of work.

I admire your spunk !
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Old Jul 13th, 2015, 08:21 AM
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Peg - Oskar in the Hilton is obviously a treasure - $411 well spent! We have thought about making another trip to Poland after we went to Krakow for a long weekend but haven't got round to it yet but your trip is very inspiring.

BTW, I thought that menu looked pretty good, compared to McDs but we obviously have different tastes!
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Old Jul 13th, 2015, 03:52 PM
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My next destination was Ketrzyn, a town very near Hitler's eastern headquarters, "The Wolf's Lair." The drive from Gdansk really wasn't bad most of the way except that my car's transmission was standard, and I said a lot of foul words when I shifted. (I suspect that drivers behind me also said a few foul words when I couldn't get the car in gear and wasn't moving.) Although I drove a shift car for 15 years, it was hard for me to get used to this particular gear box.

I had a GPS, which worked well, except that when I finally arrived at my Ketrzyn, it got a bit confused and tried to convince me that I was at my destination when I clearly was not. After roaming around a bit, I did find my hotel, Zajazd pod Zakiem, which means "beside the castle," as there was a little castle next door.

My room was satisfactory, but it made me realize that Lonely Planet's idea of a hotel is not the same as mine. The staff were accommodating, though. I strolled into town and found a tourist office, which had a brochure on the the Wolf's Lain (in German "Wolfschanze." The clerk there marked a map and encouraged me to drive there, but in a fit of insecurity, I decided to get a taxi.

I spent a couple of hours sitting in a little park watching children play and wandered back to my hotel for dinner.

The next morning I taxied to the Wolf's Lair, where my cabbie said he'd wait while I toured the place. I arrived before office had opened, so I didn't have my own guide. Instead I tagged along with a German couple who had a Polish guide. I didn't learn much from her because she seemed to talk more about how many meters thick the concrete was and who lived in which bunker.

The site itself was impressive, in the middle of a mysterious overgrown forest, but it was the ruins which were stunning. These huge blocks of concrete knocked over, ripped apart, tumbled against each other.

Hitler had ordered the bunkers to be destroyed, but most of them were blown apart rather than destroyed. They buildings were truly indestructible. As I trailed along the paths which led to more bunkers
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Old Jul 13th, 2015, 04:14 PM
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My next destination was Ketrzyn, a town very near Hitler's eastern headquarters, "The Wolf's Lair." The drive from Gdansk really wasn't bad most of the way except that my car's transmission was standard, and I said a lot of foul words when I shifted. (I suspect that drivers behind me also said a few foul words when I couldn't get the car in gear and wasn't moving right away.) Although I drove a shift car for 15 years, it was hard for me to get used to this particular gear box.

I had a GPS, which worked well, except that when I finally arrived at my Ketrzyn, it got a bit confused and tried to convince me that I was at my destination when I clearly was not. After roaming around a bit, I did find my hotel, Zajazd pod Zakiem, which means "beside the castle," as there was a little castle next door.

My room was satisfactory, but it made me realize that Lonely Planet's idea of a hotel is not the same as mine. The staff were accommodating, though. I strolled into town and found a tourist office, which had a brochure on the the Wolf's Lain (in German "Wolfschanze.") The clerk there marked a map and encouraged me to drive there, but in a fit of insecurity, I decided to get a taxi.

I spent a couple of hours sitting in a little park watching children play and wandered back to my hotel for dinner.

The next morning I taxied to the Wolf's Lair, where my cabbie said he'd wait while I toured the place. I arrived before office had opened, so I didn't have my own guide. Instead I tagged along with a German couple who had a Polish guide. I didn't learn much from her because she seemed to talk more about how many meters thick the concrete was and who lived in which bunker.

The site itself was impressive, in the middle of a mysterious overgrown forest, but it was the ruins which were stunning. These huge blocks of concrete knocked over, ripped apart, tumbled against each other.

Hitler had ordered the bunkers to be destroyed, but most of them were merely blown apart rather than destroyed. They were so thick as to be truly indestructible. While I trailed along the paths which led to more bunkers, I kept thinking that Hitler claimed his Reich would last a thousand years. I thought of the lines in Shelley's poem "Ozymandias,"--"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair.

When I arrived at Torun, my next destination, I had the poem printed, and I memorized it.

I met a traveler from an antique land,
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies
Whose frown and wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
On the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair."
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away



I think I may be printing this section twice, but I'll see when I post it.
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Old Jul 13th, 2015, 04:25 PM
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such a great trip report. It is a treasure.
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Old Jul 13th, 2015, 04:35 PM
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This is a great report, Peg. I am now anxious to visit the Solidarity Museum and the Wof's Lair. Perhaps next summer!
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Old Jul 13th, 2015, 05:43 PM
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Oops! I'm not sure why that happened.

Also, sorry about including the whole poem. I couldn't help myself.

I almost forgot to say that on the way back to the hotel my taxi driver took me on a little side trip. I didn't exactly know where we were going, but he drove on some bumpy roads for a few minutes, then stopped by a tall iron fence with a large manor house behind it. "Eva Braun," he said. "Eva Braun lived there." I don't know whether he was right or not, but it seems logical. I can't imagine Eva spending 3 years at the Eagle's Nest by herself when Adolph was here in East Prussia.

So I saw the "Wolf's Lair" and I sat around the rest of the day reading my biography of Oscar Wilde. Two days is too much for that place unless one goes back in the afternoon for a continuation of the tour.

As I drove back to Gdansk, I'd sometimes hear a chime. I thought it meant that I needed to shift gears, but I finally saw on my GPS that there was a red circle with a number in it and that the chime seemed to correlate with the circle. I finally realized that the red circle number was the speed limit, and that if I exceeded the speed limit, the chime sounded. Duh! Welcome to the 21st century, Peggy!

I also had trouble with meters. The GPS would tell me to take the turn in X number of meters. I know that a meter is about 3 feet, but it's still hard for me to estimate the distance that way.

I drove back to Gdansk, still cursing the gears, and returned the car to the Hilton, where my new best friend Oskar said he'd call the rental company and have them come and get the car. He also bought a ticket for me on the Polski bus to Torun and told me when the next one departed. I took a taxi to the bus station, which was pretty bad-looking and disorganized. When I tried to buy a ticket, the cashier snarled at me "On the bus."

So I went to find the gate, which turned out to be a disappointment. Unlike the stations at St.Petersburg, Tallinn, and Riga, there was no indication of which gate the bus would use. A driver told me which gate it would be, but the time Oskar had written down came and went, and there was still no bus.

I was getting nervous, and nobody seemed to speak English. There was a scruffy-looking guy sitting next to me, so I decided to ask him. I asked if he spoke English. He said no. German? No. Then just for the h*ll of it, I said, "Español? and he said, "Un poco." Amazing! When I asked how come he spoke Spanish, he said he'd studied it in school.

However, he didn't know if the bus came to that gate either, so I went back into the cashier, and before I even had time to ask, she snarled again "gate 10, ticket on the bus." I said I knew that, but what time, so she wrote down the time. What a sweetheart!

The bus trip to Torun lasted less than two and a half hours and was comfortable and clean. I took a taxi to the wonderful Hotel 1231. It was a really charming, elegant hotel, perhaps my favorite. It was close to the river and the town wall. It was build on a former mill of some kind, which dated to the year 1231.

It's hard to say which was my favorite city, since Riga was beautiful and Ggansk was wonderful, but it could have been Torun, a UNESCO world heritage city. Beautiful Old Town, with full of students, young couples, children. Lots of kids' school groups.

Eager to see the old town, I left my hotel for the main drag, but I had to stop to look at modern but medieval-looking paintings featuring a fair lady and a knight, with a big ole dragon nearby. The dragon motif was continued a little farther down the street with a ceramic dragon close to three feet long and above it a plaque giving the testimony (maybe court testimony?) in which a woman told how she saw a dragon, described it and said it flew away.

The ceramic dragon and the placard are in a small fenced-in area on a side street.
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Old Jul 13th, 2015, 05:46 PM
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Florida or anyone else who thinks of visiting the Wolf's Lair: I suggest that you get an English-speaking guide, which I was not able to do. I think it would add to the experience.
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Old Jul 13th, 2015, 06:15 PM
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https://www.rome2rio.com/s/Gdańsk/Wolf-s-Lair

Here is where Pegontheroad drove.
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Old Jul 14th, 2015, 12:17 AM
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definitely the road less trodden, Peg.

how did you find ouT about Torun? - I've never heard of it. [not sure why I think that I should have done, but as a World Heritage Site it might have come up on my radar].
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Old Jul 14th, 2015, 05:33 AM
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Annhig: I'm a big fan of the Gonzaga Bulldogs basketball team. One of the players, Shemek Karnowski, is from Torun, and I had some unplanned days in Poland. Out of curiosity, I looked in my Lonely Planet and saw the description.

It's half-way between Gdansk and Warsaw, so it seemed like a good place to visit.

By the way, back to Ketrzyn: When I was going to leave Ketrzyn, I tried to reprogram the GPS, but I couldn't do it. I was dithering outside my hotel by my car when I saw an older couple with a young girl about 10 or 11. With my faith that men can do some technical things that I can't do, I asked them if they (the man) could help me program the GPS, but it turned out that they didn't speak English or German (my go-to foreign language).

However, the little girl did. The girl was American but was visiting her Polish grandparents and was fluent in both languages. It was a thing of beauty to hear her tell her grandfather what I wanted done and have him do it.
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Old Jul 14th, 2015, 06:25 AM
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Peg - you do meet some interesting people. Actually I think that this is one of the advantages of solo travel - you have no-one with you to communicate with so you have to reach out to other people.

And what a great way to find somewhere to visit.
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Old Jul 14th, 2015, 06:33 AM
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Wonderful report, Peg! Looking forward to the next installment. Thanks!
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Old Jul 14th, 2015, 09:31 AM
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annhig: I think you're right. If I traveled with someone else, I'd be more likely to talk to them rather than with strangers.

Also, I'm a chatty girl with white hair. I don't look intimidating, and I feel free to talk to people, because I don't have any ulterior motives. I also find people very interesting, and I no longer feel hesitant to talk to people--not under normal circumstances, any way.
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Old Jul 14th, 2015, 09:41 AM
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Peg, you make me want to do the exact same trip. What an adventure.
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Old Jul 14th, 2015, 09:41 AM
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Peg, you make me want to do the exact same trip. What an adventure!
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Old Jul 20th, 2015, 01:01 PM
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Hint for anyone who wants to visit the "Wolf's Lair"--bring a flashlight so that you can see inside those bunkers that you're able to enter. Also, do try to get a guide. The one I was trailing along after spoke German with a strong Polish accent, but I could still understand her. If you don't speak German, you can undoubtedly get a guide who speaks English.

As I drove back to Gdansk, I could see why the foreign invaders wanted Poland (aside from political reasons) because the country was beautiful--green, with stands of trees and plenty of water. It reminded me of parts of Oregon.

This report is kind of disorganized because I keep coming across things I want to add and they're out of chronological order. One thing I just remembered was a cab driver, in Torun, who said "The Germans were honest. They came to take our over our land, but they didn't lie to us. The Soviets pretended to be our friends, but they also just wanted to take our land." He asked me what I thought about Hillary, and I said I liked her. He said he'd been reading a Polish magazine which said that the Republicans would be better for Poland. He didn't say why.

Then he said that Poland is so far from America...I didn't think to mention how many people I know who have Polish ancestry--my former broker, a woman I have coffee with every Sunday and a young guy who teaches engineering at Gonzaga U, my neighbor down the street. In places like Chicago there are large enclaves of Poles.

On to Torun. It was really beautiful, with an Old Town filled with pedestrians, most of them young, and lots of children. I spent most of my time strolling around, just taking in the ambiance. At one point I stopped into--you guessed it!--McDonald's--for a sundae.

I was sitting next to a young woman with a beautiful little boy. She said, "Bad boy!" with a strong Polish accent. She turned to me and said, "He's so moody since his dad died." She told me she'd moved to Ireland to be with the boy's father, and that one morning he had a heart attack and died. She showed me his picture--good-looking guy of 35. She had met him through the internet.

She was back visiting her parents, but she planned to return to Ireland, since that was now her home. I told her how I'd heard of Torun--that one of the Gonzaga basketball players--a 7-footer--came from Torun. She asked what was his name, and I said Karnowski. She said,"Is his dad a coach?" I said I thought so, and she said, "He was my teacher."

Oh, wow! Talk about small world.

I went inside one attractive-looking church, but I don't do museums, so my sight-seeing was confined mostly to checking out the charming city. I did see something going on one day with the name Husqvarna prominent on signs. It turned out there was a competition between firemen.

More about the firemen later. I'm afraid I'll lose this.
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Old Jul 20th, 2015, 02:31 PM
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thanks for continuing, Peg! You are writing an interesting report full of useful info!
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Old Jul 21st, 2015, 11:11 AM
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I watched the firemen for a while. They were having a competition with skills firemen would need--racing up stairs and carrying a "victim" down, dragging a victim across an expanse, pushing a heavy weight across the expanse. Tough guys! I wonder if we have these kinds of competitions in the States.

As I said, there were lots of kids in groups, doing the things that kids do. When I stopped at a kiosk to buy a couple of refrigerator magnets (one of Copernicus, as this was his hometown), the kiosk was being swamped with children about 10 or 11 years old. The boys were fascinated with the little souvenirs, one of the items being these tiny swords. I have no doubt that some of those little swords made it into little boys' pockets without benefit of payment.

Nearby was a fountain on the west side of the city hall. It commemorated a story similar to the pied piper story, but this one had to do with an invasion of frogs. The frogs were led away into the forest by a boy playing the violin, so the fountain has a statue of the boy and also of several frogs standing on the rim. The frogs are spouting water, and naturally the little boys are putting their finger over the frogs' mouths so that they can spray someone else with it.

Later I took a stroll along a path along the outside the remnants of the city walls. Very peaceful and beautiful. As I walked, I had a feeling sweep over me of how lucky I was to be able to do this trip and to do everything at my own pace.

Back at the hotel, when the receptionist was making out my bus ticket for Warsaw, there was a quiet little girl standing next to her. I was telling them about the argument I'd had with the taxi driver with him speaking Russian and me speaking English, neither of us understanding anything the other said. The quiet little girl said, "Who won?" I thought that was pretty funny. Subtle. I include it in this TR because I don't want to forget it.
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