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Trip report for Poland, Romania and Germany from September 7th to September 29th 2001.

Trip report for Poland, Romania and Germany from September 7th to September 29th 2001.

Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:35 PM
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Trip report for Poland, Romania and Germany from September 7th to September 29th 2001.

Someone had asked on the forum a while back how close to your departing time you would be on the forum. I think that I may be the closest. I posted my HiHoHiHO off to Europe I go as the shuttle driver was loading my bags.

Out trip covered 6 countries over 3 weeks, merely passing through 1 of them and one or two day
stays in 3 others. I highly recommend renting a car in Poland and especially Romania, but only if you have a good navigator. Linda proved to be a great one. Poland is a beautiful country. The Transylvania area of Romania is also very pretty. A fair number of people in both countries speak English and of those that don’t many of them speak German. My German came in very handy on this trip. What surprised me was that more people in Poland and Romania spoke English than in Spain. I was very pleased with the reception that we got everywhere we went as far as the disaster on September 11th. People in every country where we stopped were very friendly and empathetic to us.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:36 PM
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For you tall people out there. Remember that people in general used to be shorter. A number of years ago, my wife brought home a German Shorthair dog. She was the most stupid dog that I’ve ever seen. You could play with her for an hour, go in the house for a drink of water, come back out and she would charge toward you. She had no brakes and would stop by running her head into your shinbone. When we fed her she stopped by running her head into the house. Over time she developed a callus on her head. I feel the same way. No matter how much I ducked I kept bumping my head. The next time I go to Europe, I’m going to take a hard hat with me.
Some time ago, someone asked about diesel engines on the forum. I have to say that we traveled through the Tatras and Carpithian mountains with no problem what so ever. It had plenty of power for the hills, switchbacks etc.
While in Poland, I was looking for a 6” blond blue eyed female Viking to plunder and pillage me but I guess they went back to Scandinavia.

 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:37 PM
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POLAND
Many of the cities that have been restored were done so by Poles through donations. The Soviet government would not spend any money doing it but they let the Poles fund and restore/rebuild.
The Polish people have a deep sense of pride and history. Not one documented case shows any Poles switching sides as so many of the French did.

I left Los Angeles at 7:00 PM on September 7th on American Airlines. I had purchased a discounted full coach fate and upgraded to business class. I flew non stop from LA to Heathrow England, I noticed a sign in the airport that there was an express train that ran every 15 minutes and took 15 minutes to get to central London but did not have enough time to check it out. Changed planes to British Airlines and arrived in Berlin Germany at 6:40 PM on Saturday the 8th. I waited at the airport for Linda, my traveling companion until her plane arrived at 7:55 PM. We grabbed a cab to the Hotel Bogota. A nice hotel ½ block from the Ku-Damm, not to expensive. We went out for dinner then collapsed in our rooms.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:37 PM
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Sunday Sept 9th. Rained most of the day. We took a hop-on hop-off tour of the city. We got off at Checkpoint Charlie and visited the museum for about 2 hours. It really brought back memories for me as the last time that I was in Berlin was in 1965. I visited east Berlin at that time and was approached by 3 German youths asking if I could help them leave the east. They could have been plants, but there was nothing I could do anyway as we were in uniform and had walked over. The museum showed some of the ingenious methods that people had used to attempt to get over to the west including removing the manifold of an Iseta and hiding a person in the engine compartment. A 5”7’ young woman was hid in two suitcases glued together with a cutout between them and placed on a train going to the west. This is just 2 examples of how much people wanted to leave the “Peoples State”. We continued on the tour and stopped at the Brandenburg gate. I did not even recognize it as the last time I saw it, it had no buildings around it and also this time it was covered by tarp and had buildings right up to it.

 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:38 PM
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Monday Sept 10th. Rained all day sometime very heavy. We took a cab from our hotel to Avis rent-a-car and picked up our vehicle. We were upgraded to an Opal Safera minivan. I had requested a diesel and received one. I also requested a secure device and received one at no extra charge. It hooked to the clutch or brake and steering wheel. We left Berlin (after getting somewhat lost) and headed for Turin Poland. We arrived at Turin around 5:00 PM, found the old town and our hotel. Linda got room no 1 up a half flight and I got room 6 on the 3rd floor (6 sets of half blights winding around.)
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:39 PM
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Tuesday Sept 11th. Rained most of the day. We explored the old town, visited the birthplace of Nicholas Copernicus. We also stopped to pick up some Gingerbread. We met an English couple at breakfast in the Hotel and after speaking to them we modified our trip to take in Gdansk. This is why I never like to make concrete plans for pre-booking all hotels, pensions etc in advance. We left for Gdansk around noon. Just 35 km before Gdansk is the Marbork Teutonic fortress. The fortress was HUGE. We spend about 3 hours there going through it. If you go, stop at the stands before you go in and buy a brochure to help guide you through it. From there we drove on to Gdansk. On the radio we heard the beginning of Bush’s statement about a national tragedy, but could not hear any more because of the Polish interpretation. We could make out American Airlines, United Airlines, Trade towers and pentagon but not much else. We booked into a private home for the night, but no CNN. We saw the last plane crash into the remaining tower and thought that it must be a movie. When we turned the TV on there was only one tower left and Linda mentioned that it could not be the World Trade Center as there are two towers. We just couldn’t believe that it was real. We were expecting to Bruce Willis at any moment. We then headed out to an Internet café and finally found out what had happened. We were both in shock.

 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:39 PM
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Wednesday Sept 12th. Rained most of the day. We had breakfast in a bakery that we had passed the prior evening. The coffee in Poland is great. The pastry is no where as sweet as here in the US. We went to the solidarity monument, the shipyards and then to the new town(13th century instead of 12th. The old town pretty much destroyed during the war, but the new town did not sustain to much damage. The town square was one of the most charming that I’ve seen. The largest brick church in Poland was in the town square. We left about noon for Warsaw (pronounced varshava). The Polish are very good and very considerate drivers. We only ran across maybe a total of 20 km of 4 lane roads through the whole country. The main roads were two lanes with a paved shoulder of about 2/3 lane wide. When you passed someone, they moved over into the shoulder so they straddled their lane and the shoulder. You passed part in their lane and part in the oncoming lane. The oncoming cars/trucks would also move over partly onto the shoulder so that you had room to pass. Everyone drove with their headlights on and would signal with their left blinker all the while during passing and the right turn signal when moving back over to their lane. When you put your left signal on, the vehicles behind you knew that you were going to pass and the vehicles coming toward you knew that they needed to move over onto the shoulder. We arrived in Warsaw late afternoon and found lodging in the Warsaw hotel with CNN available. We went to an Internet café that evening to get updated on the news.

 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:40 PM
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Thursday Sept 13th.. Rained most of the day. We visited the Ethnic museum in the morning and then took a tour of the city. As we passed the American Embassy, we say Poles lined up around the block bringing flowers and candles to place in front of the Embassy. We visited the summer palace and learned that the last king had over 30 mistresses but never married and never had any children. We then stopped at the winter Palace but did not go in. We saw some of the original wall around the city. As the tour returned to the Hotel, we passed the Embassy again and there were still lines around the block. The Polish army had stationed solders around the Embassy to assist with the security. We picked up our car and drove back down to the old town to visit Madam Currie’s birthplace. Never realized that she was so pretty as well as so smart. She had two daughters, one was pretty and the other was smart (she was the 2nd woman to get a Nobel prize. Form there we left Warsaw for Krakow and arrived there after dark. We stopped at a gas station to find the address of the apartments that we had booked and to buy a map. We were about 6 blocks from them and settled in around 8:00 PM.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:41 PM
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Friday Sept 14th. Rained all day. Visited Walwal Castle in the morning. The legend holds that when King Krac built the castle, there was a fire breathing dragon living in a cave at the bottom of the hill eating sheep, cattle and occasionally pretty young maidens. The king filled a sheepskin with burning sulfur and threw it into the cave. The dragon, of course, ate it (not a very smart dragon) and started burning up from inside. Made for the river and drank to quench the burn and exploded. They now commemorate it by shooting off fireworks. They had a sculpture of the dragon which is the strangest looking dragon that I’ve ever seen. After that, we drove out to the Salt Mines. As we walked up to the cashier we noticed a sign on the window that anyone holding an American passport the entrance was free. As we waited for a tour to start, we spoke with an English couple. The fellow was retired and was upset that there was no senior discount so they decided not to go in. Poland does not offer senior discounts yet. We walked down over 600 steps. If you are tall, remember to duck. I’ve been in several salt mines, but none so extensive as those. There are some beautiful salt sculptures. We drove back to Krakow and visited the old town later in the afternoon. Visited an Internet café for a couple of hours. Very inexpensive.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:41 PM
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Saturday Sept 15th – Rained most of the day.. Went to Auschwitz and Birkenau. We spent about 6 hours there. I visited Dachau 30 some years ago and was immediately shocked at the pictures that they had of emancipated prisoners and the mass graves there. Auschwitz seemed like a very efficient business and very sterile UNTILL we came to the mountains of eyeglasses, shoes and suitcases of the victims. I guess it was very efficiently run. We went to old town for dinner. We again visited an Internet café. Went back to apartment and washed out 6 days of underwear and polo shirts. We found it interesting that the Poles referred to them as Nazi’s and not Germans. Our guide was a 70 year old man and very interesting. He mentioned that his parents were given 1 hour to pack and move as the Nazi’s wanted the building that they were in. He was a very interesting guide.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:42 PM
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Sunday Sept 16th. – Rained most of the day. Visited the site where Schindler’s list was made and the Plaszow death camp close to the city. Nothing left but a memorial and some concrete slabs. Looked at the house where the commander of the Plaszow death camp had lived. It is in bad shape and empty. I guess no one has wanted to live there or even tear it down. It is in the middle of a residential community. The original Jewish Getto was razed to the ground and most of the buildings are new so Schindler filmed just across the river in an area that looks much more authentic. Went back to old town and wandered around. Visited part of the old wall the Florian Gate built around 1300, and the Barbican built around 1498 as part of a second wall surrounding the city.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:43 PM
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Monday Sept 16th – Rained most of the day. Headed south from Krakow on our long drive to Oradea Romania. I had printed out several maps/directions from Expedia for our trip, including one to get us from Krakow to Oradea. The directions were extraordinary. They took us close to Zakapone so we took a little detour to stop briefly in the village. You must pay attention to the detail including the miles/kilometers, especially when it says local roads. We went through a backwoods border crossing and almost missed it. On the other side of the Polish/ Slovakian border was a small one lane rickety bridge over a creek. This was followed by a series of “local Roads” that we would have completely missed if not watching the odometer. I do recommend that you do the directions in kilometers unless you are very good at converting tenths of miles to tenths of kilometers. We ended up on one road between villages that I was sure was going to dead end into a farmers pasture. When we arrived at the Slovakian Hungarian border we had the most scrutiny of any borders. . Before leaving on the trip, I created two clear cover report binders with expedia driving directions, in-your-pocket guides, fodor forum printouts, e-mail printouts etc, I created one for Poland and one for Romania. When the Slovakian border guard looked at the luggage compartment, he saw the Poland folder and leafed through all pages and studied the expedia directions for 5 to 10 minutes. It was kinda like “Can you do this on a computer?” Then the Hungarian guard studied our vehicle papers for several minutes. We were sure that he had no clue as to the contents, but he was doing his job. He spoke no English and only limited German. We arrived in Oradea around 8:30 PM (after dark) and had went looking for a hotel. It was pouring rain, as it had most of the day. We decided to stay at the Intercontinental as they offered Internet service but could not read street signs in the rain so stopped at a gas station to get directions. The young woman called to a cab driver who had stopped for fuel and he offered to lead us there for $2.00. He did that and we really splurged for one night. We had dinner in the hotel restaurant and the rate included breakfast. Parking was not included but was only $2.00. The total bill was $62.00 each including our dinner the night before.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:43 PM
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Tuesday Sept 17th. – We had originally planned to drive on to Bucharest that day, but as it was such a long drive, we decided to look over the city and drive on to Brasov in Transylvania that day. According to the guide books Oradea is supposed to be a charming left over city from the Austrian/Hungarian Empire. We did not find it particularly charming though. It did have a nice pedestrian mall. We wandered around for a while and then drove on to Brasov. It was rainy most of the day. We arrived in Brasov late afternoon and landed right in the middle of old town. We looked up hotels in oldtown and found one right on the pedestrian mall. It was listed at $27.00/night but they had upped their rates to $43.00. The exchange rate had increased to a little over 30,000 (yes 30 thousand lei per dollar) which meant for 3 nights it was 3 million 900 thousand lei.) It was a nice hotel, although a little worse for wear and both of our rooms were overlooking the mall. We found 3 internet café’s on the mall and the average rate was 10,000 lei per hour(that’s about 33 cents.) Had some very nice meals in restaurants on the mall.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:44 PM
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Wednesday Sept 18th. – The first day of seeing the sun. We drove up into the Carpathians to visit Bran Castle (so called Dracula’s Castle.) In fact, Dracula may have stayed here once or twice and it looks like a castle that Vlad might have built, but his castle is in ruins with not much left and is in Poienari Vallachia and not much left except ruins. Bran castle was built in 1377 by the people of Brasov as a fortress of the Bran pass authorized and supported by the Magyar (Hungarian) King. It was used not only to defend the Bran pass against the Turks, but to also levy a 3% tax for all products passing through. It is still in excellent condition today complete with a hidden staircase and turrets.. You can wander through most of the castle and see some areas that you cannot enter. I was lucky to be in a room where a 3 person tour was at the time and she opened the hunting trophy room for us.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:45 PM
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We left Bran castle and continued on to Peles Palace for a tour through the palace. Another example of extravagance at the peoples expense. It is worth a tour for the furnishings and decorations. We than drove back to Brasov for dinner and a visit to the Internet café to get the latest news.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:46 PM
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Thursday Sept 19th – We drove to Bucharest for the day. It is not a very pretty city and quiet dirty. There are buildings that seemed to have been bombed and never torn down or restored. The peoples palace is an eyesore on the city. Ceausescu spent 40% of the entire countries budget on building the palace for 5 years with shifts of workers 24 hours a day. The true cost is not known as he to material form various parts of the country, mostly Transylvania at no or low cost, but the cost is estimated between US 36 million and 3.3 billion. It is known as the thing to the people. The grounds are totally unkept as they can not afford to keep them up. In the 80’s when lit it consumed the equivalent electricity of the entire city of Bucharest in a mere 4 hours. To build it Ceausescu razed 12 churches, two monasteries, two synagogues and 7000 homes. Ceausescu meant it to be the largest building in the world but it is the 2nd largest after the Pentagon. There are 12 stories and over 1000 rooms. One of its 64 reception rooms is large enough to land a helicopter in. The rooms inside are very ornately furnished. You can only visit the first and part of the 2nd floors. We drove back to Brasov that evening for dinner. We visited a restaurant. We picked one where there was supposed to be local entertainment but the inside dinning room was closed for a private party and we sat outside. While we were eating dinner 7 police cars (some unmarked) pulled up with a Mercedes limo. They all (except the drivers) went inside while 2 solders were stationed outside the door about 7 feet from us. The outside cleared out and we were the only ones left. Even the wait staff went inside and we thought that they would not even be back to give us the check. They did however and the dinner cost us a tidy sum of about $3.50 each. This was the average cost of dinners everywhere we went in Romania.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:47 PM
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Friday Sept 20th. – Friday we checked out and drove to Sighisoara for the day. It is a charming village with a church dating back to 1282 at least. That was the first written reference to it. The town had a neat clock tower opposite the church. Also opposite the church is the house where Dracula was born. It is now a restaurant and we had dinner there starting with Tomato soup a la Dracula. It was very good, in fact the dinner there was the best that we had in Romania. Most of the walls around the city are still intact with several towers remaining.

Saturday Sept 21st. – We drove to Sibiu. I have to say that we were both disappointed in Sibiu. The only 2 museums were quite disappointing. We wandered around the oldtown and found a restaurant for dinner.
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:47 PM
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Sunday Sept 22ed. – We drove on to Pecs Hungary. As we were leaving town, we saw a car being pulled over to the side of the road by a policeman. Because of the recent disaster in the US and heightened security, I wasn’t sure what was going on so I slowed down and he motioned us to stop. The car that he had stopped had Hungarian plates and there were no other cars around then. After we had stopped, several cars with Romanian plates sped on by. He(the cop) spoke almost no English and very little German, but conveyed that we had been speeding and would have to go to the Bank and pay. After attempted discussion at length, he asked if we had any American or German money. We had 60 DM and he asked that we put it in the passport and hand it to him. After the payoff, he let us go and said not to make eye contact with any colleges of his. We arrived mid afternoon which happened to be the last day of a 2 week wine festival. We found the hotel that we were looking for on the man pedestrian mall by the town square. They had advertised a special rate on the internet which we were able to get. The hotel offered laundry services so I was able to get enough laundry done for the remainder of the trip. It was raining lightly in the afternoon and evening. In the town square there was a men’s choral group, an orchestra and some folk dancers. We got our umbrellas out and went to the square. It was very enjoyable. I video taped a few selections. We then sampled some of the wine and Linda bought a bottle to take home. It is a very lovely town, largely undiscovered by tourism yet. We again found an Internet café and spent an hour there.
Monday Sept 23rd – Had a nice breakfast at the hotel and explored the city. It was a sunny day and for the first time were able to enjoy sitting outside. Finally got to write the rest of my post cards and went to the post office to mail them out. Had a leisurely day. Found a nice restaurant for dinner that was recommended by some young American tourists that we had met at the wine tasting..
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:48 PM
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Tuesday Sept 25th. – Drove to Budapest. Arrived at Dr Fleps early afternoon. I stayed with the Fleps for 7 days 2 years ago and it was nice to visit them again. We took Dr Fleps out to a nice restaurant that evening. Dinner around $10.00 /person. He showed us around some areas that neither of us had seen before. Unfortunately, he has stopped taking in new guests although we have standing invitations if either of us is in Budapest again. It still is the most beautiful city in Europe.

Wednesday Sept 26th. – We drove on toward Salzburg. We hit the major highway and I got up to 160 km/hour and whoosh there goes a Mercedes, whoosh there goes a Volvo and whoosh there goes a BMW like we were standing still. That was not so bad, but then we were passed by a Volkswagen. We arrived in Salzburg in mid afternoon, booked our hotel and went exploring in the old town. It has been 30 + years since I was last there. The fortress is a very impressive sight up over the town. We had dinner in a restaurant across the square from Mozart’s birthplace
 
Old Oct 2nd, 2001, 02:49 PM
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Thursday Sept 27th. – We drove on through Munich to Ingolstadt, to our hotel. We drove partway into Munich to a park and ride and took the U-Bahn the rest of the way. It was terrific. The only things that seem to have changed is that there are new rides on the midway and the music instead of old German drinking songs are old American songs. The stimmung is the same as ever. Everyone had a lot of fun. We met up with 5 other fodorites at the original souvenir stand. There were Anna and her husband and a friend. Also made contact with Ken. Ken and his wife were at the Lowenbrau tent but said that they would try to join us in the Hacker brau tent. We wend to the Hacker brau tent and were very lucky to find an empty table toward the back near the entrance. The security was increased. They looked in all bags, backpacks etc that people were taking into the tent. Some Germans joined us at our table and we all had a ball. The tent was full with people looking for places to sit and standing in the back of the tent. I only had 2 liters of bier that evening, much less than I used to drink 30 + years ago, but I’m in nowhere the drinking condition that I was then. It sure was good though.

For Ursula – they served bratwurst in a Bun with senf spread on it. The first time I’ve ever seen it served that way. I managed to have bratwurst a couple of other times and it was served on a small paper plate with senf and a brotchen served on the side.
 

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