Friday, 29 April 2011

55 Germany Pt 1

Saturday 23rd
We have decided to stay here until after Easter, we know that the site we wanted to stay at in Germany is full until then, so after a relatively quiet day, we headed back into Prague for what was described as a traditional folk evening.  We met up with our transport and were taken to one of the villages outside Prague and to a typical Czech restaurant.  There was 9 of us on our bus and at the restaurant, there was only one other couple. A total of 11, we were outnumbered by the staff.
We were treated to a three piece band and 2 dancers, who performed throughout the meal, which was quite tasty and laced with garlic.   
"Take That" - Czech style

If you look closely, you will see that the right foot is actually nailed to the floor.

We both enjoyed it, helped by the fact that the wine and beer were free and that an Australian couple, originally from China were sat with us and we had a guessing game about what the dancers would be wearing.  
And then despite prior protestations, I was captured.

 We were even dropped off back at the campsite rather than have to face the night train.
Sunday 24th
The weather was again beautiful and we went for a ride on Wallace.  We visited another glass factory, this one made coloured glass and we were able to watch them do this close up and personal.  We then went into Prague again and went in search of a fountain that “danced” to music, and when we found it, it was switched off and being worked on, there was however a fair so we had a walk around and then headed for home.
Tuesday 26th
After getting everything ready yesterday, we set off for Germany. We were headed to Stadsteinach which is a peaceful camp site on the southern edge of the Frankenwald forest.  We got caught out once on the journey when we followed the signs for a particular town, only for the road to be closed.  We had to unhook the trailer and do a 50 point turn in the road, that was only about a meter wider than our vehicle is long.  That was fun.  Anyway we made it without further problems and got settled in.  We are here mainly to visit the Frankia dealer and get a couple of bits and pieces for the mobile home and for Ray to feast on Curry wurst.  It was also wet, haven’t had a thunder storm for a while.
This is the famed "Currywurst mit Pommes frites".

Wednesday 27th
Today was wash day and Ray went to visit Frankia.  On his return, we walked down into the town and found a supermarket and also had to partake in a light lunch of curry wurst. The weather today was dry this morning and throughout our walk, but it started raining again later on. 
There is a really nice restaurant on site so both evenings we have gone there, yesterday we met up with a german couple, the wife could speak a little english, the husband none, but between us we all managed to have a conversation for about an hour and even tell jokes.  It was a pleasant way to spend the evening.  Today we were there to use the internet, well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.  The food and beer are very good too.  Ray had to return to Frankia in the afternoon and now tomorrow we have to take the mobile home to them so that they can match up one of the parts.

Thursday 28th

We upped sticks, for a short time and got the bits ready for replacing on Lizzie and collected them from Frankia.  Shopping at the supermarket, so that we could sit in peace and nibbles for the royal wedding tomorrow.

Friday 29th

We were up early to catch all the build up for the wedding. Ray printed off several Union Jacks and we stuck them around Lizzie. It’s a bit surreal, middle of Germay, no other Brits about, singing the national anthem and drinking beer, both of us welling up, and feeling really patriotic.  Loved it.  
Yes, I know they are little, but at least we tried.

We then came to the bar, ordered Champagne, fizzy sweet wine was on the menu, and when Ray tried to toast the happy couple, we were looked at kind of funny, never mind, we are getting used to it now.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

54 Tenzin – A somber day

Friday 22nd April 2011

Those of you that know me, know that I am an “eye for an eye” kind of guy despite the shackles of my former employment I and believe in proper justice rather than the mamby pamby crap that our legal system delivers. No punishment, currently deliverable in Europe is strong enough for what we saw today.
Today we visited a sort of concentration camp. I say “sort of” because it was actually more of a transit camp and the prisoners, predominantly Jewish with other resistance prisoners did not spend too long here before being sent to extermination camps including Auschwitz. During the period of operation, June 1940 to May 1945, 141,000 prisoners passed through the camp. Of these, about a quarter died in this camp, the victims of disease and starvation. Most of these were cremated and the remainder buried in a mass grave within the camp grounds. 601 of these corpses were later exhumed and buried with dignity outside perimeter of the camp.
The figures make tragic reading: of the 15,000 children who passed through Terezin, only 100 survived; of the 88,000 deported from the camp (about half of whom went straight to Auschwitz), 84,500 were murdered; only 23,000 of the 141,000 sent to TerezĂ­n before April 1945 survived the war.
Many were tortured to death and others executed by firing squad at the firing range of the fortress for minor “offences” such as illegal associations and smoking. 3, including a woman were hanged for trying to escape.
In 1942, the monthly death-rate in the ghetto climbed from 1,000 in July to 4,000 (with an average age of 76) by September.
Even when liberated by the Russians on May 11th 1945, the bad news was still not over. In the 2 weeks preceding this, non Jewish prisoners, from other concentration camps were sent to Terezin infected with Typhoid. In the week leading to liberation the remainder of inmates were dying from the disease. 500 died following the liberation despite valiant efforts from Russian doctors.
The history of the camp is that it was initially built as a military fortress at the end of the 18th century, however it was only ever used as a normal prison. Inmates included, the Serbian assassins of Franz Ferdinand d’Este, the murder that started the First World War.

The entrance and the re-buried 601 coprses

ARBEIT MACHT FREI – a German lie that translates to WORK MAKES ONE FREE seen at all concentration camps.

The hospital/doctors room

The mass shower block (not a gas chamber)

The clothes de-lousing chamber

The military firing range used for executions

The Gallows

The monument

A large quadruple bunk cell

One of the courtyards, at the far end, execution of escapees was done in full view of the other inmates.

A small triple bunk cell. 75 beds !

The solitary confinement block. Used for prisoners to be executed.

Friday, 22 April 2011

53 Czech Rep - church of bones

Thursday 21st April 2011
Kostnice – The Church of Bones
A colleague on the Web made us aware of a church decorated with bones. We looked it up and it was about 90km from our camp so we decided to go.
The weather was glorious and the ride to Kostnice was a little bit fraught, as I got seriously too warm and for some reason had a very itchy nose.  I kept muttering through the microphone headset, and having spent the 90km’s scratching my nose, I looked like “Rudolph” by the time we got there, nice.  The Church is in a small town, which again was beautifully tended to and interesting.
This Church was surreal. The walls and ceiling were adorned with the bones and skulls of up to 40,000 people. On top of this in each of the 4 corners of the church were a pile of bones neatly stacked that filled in total about half of the floor space. Most of the bones are the legacy of the bubonic plague, and from battles. (There was a cabinet which had skulls with holes in them, showing different types of weapon marks00). It was a very humbling visit.
The decoration is the idea of a half blind monk, who, in 1511, took as many of the bones as possible, initially piled up outside the church, inside, and made the “decorations”, he then piled as many as possible into the 4 “shrines” in the corners and buried the rest in the churchyard outside. Most of the ornate bone structes were made in about 1870 by a famous Czech wood carver, Frantisek Rint.
Kostnice church

The view on entering the church

One on the “shrines”. An organised pile of bones in the shape of a bell in each of the 4 corners. Note the crown made of wood above it.
A close up of one of the “shrines”

Close up of one of the corners of a “shrine”
A general view of the centre area
In the centre there were 4 of these

A chandelier containing all bones in the human body.
The Schwarzenbergs family crest. They were the ruling family in the area in the 1700s
Part of the Schwarzenbergs Crest. A rook poking out the eye of a Turkish soldier symbolizing their battle victory.
Most churches have statues on their plinths.
We then, as part of the same entry ticket, took the two minute walk to the towns cathedral. This place is one of the oldest cathedrals in Europe. It was strange, as we walked inside from the 25 deg heat, the Cathedral was at least 10 degrees colder. Another amazing feat of engineering in a small town.
The Kutna Hora Cathedral
The view inside
Chapel of Virgin Mary, built by a monk between 1712 and 1771.
The staircase to the loft area
In the loft area amongst the roof support timbers.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

52 Czech Pepublic and Prague

Sunday 17th April 2011
We had the usual shopping trip in the morning and this afternoon we got on the Prague metro and headed into the centre of the city.  The metro was quite clean and reasonably easy to use.  Unfortunately when we got off the train, Ray pulled out the map, and due to our failing eyesight, neither of us could read it.  I reached into my trusty girl scout bag, retrieved my glasses case, which was empty, so we wandered around trying to find a pharmacy or similar where we could get a cheap pair, or a magnifying glass, no such luck, but we soaked up the atmosphere anyway.  The place was buzzing and lots of groups, some obviously finishing off stag do’s and some big groups of tourists.
The town hall

An astronomical clock on the town hall

Some of the detail was macrbe

Ray had been part of a stag do some 6 years ago, and had harped on about these fantastic statues that had been in the centre of the road, or square, or somewhere, anyway after walking miles and seeing several places that “this looks familiar dear”, we were no closer.  We did however find some absolutely fabulous buildings and sights that are really quite mind blowing.  I was a little bit apprehensive, after all the cultural touring we have done recently, that I would be a bit bored by it all, but no, I can honestly say it is in a league of its own.   We came upon the town square, by the Town Hall, on the hour, some bloke leaned out of the top bit and played the trumpet, waved to everyone then moved around the tower. Apparently this is a tradition of long standing.
You can just see the buglar above the clock

The detail was incredible and everywhere

We love retirement

The square was completely decorated for Easter and there was live music (questionable and Czech, wierdsville).Everything though added to the complete ambience of the place. I love it.
It was a perty atmospher - and there's another week of this - Wohooo

Hey, they got a band (ish)

We came across a Thai massage parlour in one of the normal streets and it appeared that this really was a massage parlour. There were people in the window getting their legs exfoliated by some sort of nibbling fish.
Would that be a massage or cheese nibble, Sir....

Eventually, we resorted to what we do best, and found a pub. It was called “Zombie”.  It wasn’t even that lively, (nor are Zombie’s !) so we left and headed back to the campsite. We reached the train station and decided that while we waited for it, we would get a beer in the Jazz Bar.  This was one of those really strange moments.  I can’t stand “heavy Jazz”, George Benson on a commercial day is fine for me.  We entered this room at the side of the station.   We went to grab a seat and a female ran up to us saying this will cost you like one hundred Korunas, so we could see the jazz players, call me MRS PICKY, but, a) these guys were ugly, b) I hate heavy Jazz, and c)they were playing heavier than heavier Jazz, it was awful, so we headed for the door, only to be grabbed by the owner who said, “alright you can sit in the cheap seats, have a beer, but you still gotta listen to da music”.  We are good at devouring beer, but even we had bleeding ear drums before we had finished it.  I do apologise if we are becoming heathens in the music world.
The train back was more like the late bus in London, everyone stank, most were drunk, and you realize that everywhere is the same.  I will say though, that foreign languages make an argument or apparently a normal conversation sound far more exciting, except, everyone then pats each other on the back and walks away smiling, yeah try that in Haringey.
The money is different again, although they do use the euro, but we went local, and I’m still confused.  I think everything is expensive, (well anything Ray wants to buy, mine is all really cheap!!), and I keep having to ask for help.  If you are reading this blog, you may not agree, but I was always better at English and sport.  Ray does the Maths.
When we got home we told Leon about all our adventures and within 30 seconds his interest was blatantly obvious.
Snoring and uniterested cat...
Monday 18th April 2011
We had a lazy start to the day and sorted out some of the motorhome admin (emptying and filling of tanks etc and a bit of housework) intending to go into Prague late afternoon and mill around waiting for a boat trip that we had sorted out over the internet.
At about 3pm we set off for Prague and 30 minutes later we were in amongst the tourists.  Again, the atmosphere was fantastic. It is such a warm and welcoming place. We set off and wandered about looking for the museum of Torture. Karen had been on the internet, located the place and carefully marked it on the map. We arrived at the place marked on the map and lo and behold, it was not there. We were fairly sure we had seen it somewhere the night before so were convinced that it did exist. We asked around, including the local fuzz, but nobody seemed to know where it was. Eventually we found a tourist desk that pointed us to where she thought it might be. We found it, exactly where we had seen it the night before. I was amazed it had not moved overnight.
The Torture museum was small but interesting, including his and hers, matching chastity belts along with the usual array of nasty implements.

and his....

One, a Garrotte, where the victim is tied to a high back chair and a large screw, screwed through from behind into his brain was last used in Spain in 1975.

And slimmer of the year award goes to....
 The centre of town was again like a big party with the Easter celebrations and entertainment in full swing. After a bit more strolling around and a beer or two later and we set off for the night time boat trip.
One of the city gates
We were taken by a small bus to the boat which was a 100 feet long (ish) river cruiser. There was a hot and cold buffet supplied and a glass of some thick indescribable liquid as a taster on the way in. We think it was to make you buy a beer real quick to get the taste out of your mouth.
Incidentally, beer and the like are really cheap here. In a bar we paid 112 thingies (about £4.10) for 2 small beers and 2 glasses of wine. In the supermarkets you can buy a half litre of beer for about 50p.
The boat trip was very relaxing and the views were spectacular. The photos do not do it justice. It is difficult to take a picture in low light from a moving, vibrating boat.

Instead of driving the boat, the captain was watching "The Simpsons" followed by "Tegeshies Castle"

The passage through the lock was a bit cramped

 After the boat is was a 10 minute walk back to the metro and once back near the campsite it was a quick visit to a 24 hour bar cum casino underneath Tescos and a couple of beers later we went to bed.
Tuesday 19th April 2011
Today was a visit to the Bohemian Glass blowing factory. Wallace did his bit and took us there via the back roads to see some countryside.
Once there we asked for the factory tour and after a £4 fee which included a glass tumbler as a present, we were given a private tour by a young lady who spoke near perfect English. It was amazing.
We were first taken to the cutting room. This is where they use diamond grinding wheels and cut the designs into the raw glass forms, all by hand.
Cutting the grooves into the glass
Next was the polishing room where the matt grinding finish is removed. They unfortunately were on a tea break.  Finally, the glass blowing room. This was a mazing. The furnace was in the middle of the room and the molten white hot glass was bubbling away at 1500 deg C.  There were two processes going on in here on either side of the furnace. On one side, there was the glass blowing where several people were involved. One dipping his tube into the molten glass and then slowly turning and blowing the bubble into it. He then passes the big bubble to the next guy who forms it into its final shape using a wooden form.
I missed the bubble by seconds

Getting the rough shape

Finalising the shape in a wooden form

Removing the unwanted bits
On the other side was a guy making solid glass forms into moulds.
Making a solid lid of some sort in a mould
Lastly was the inevitable shopping visit. Karen spent a Kings ransome on pretty glasses and a jug. Only joking, it was very reasonable and very worth while. (Obviously a man’s opinion, it was great fun and absolutely necessary, not just “worth while”)!!!

Then it was back on our trusty steed and a 60km ride to a city by the name of Plzen. You would be forgiven for thinking that it sounds a lot like the European light beer called Pilzner. You’d be right. This is the birthplace of what we call Lager …. Wohooo
First stop was the museum and a quick history lesson on the golden throat charmer.

 Apparently, there were many places making beer of some sort or another and it was often disgusting and was flavoured with some God awful materials including dog poo. The council at Plzen decided to do something about it and collected many barels of crappy beer and poured it down the sewer in the town square. They then decreed to pull all the brewers together and control the ingredients and process and there was formed the beer we now drink as Lager. The Pilzner was so good (and it is – trust me) that it was exported all over the world and many breweries have tried to copy the recipe and according to the original company “Pilzner Urquell”, have never succeeded.
Some bottling machines

Drying the barley

A cooper making barrels

Old wax person playing with his sons chemistry set


Dont mess with me baldy or I'll shove this Ace up your nose..

Love is......
Included in the entry fee was a free beer so after demolishing that.
Cloudy beer...lovely

 We headed of into the town centre for a look around.
 Again there was an Easter celebration going on around the main church and the atmosphere was very friendly and lively. Karen got her finger bitten by a donkey whist trying to feed a sheep. (I couldn’t resist getting some food, unfortunately the Donkey was greedy and a bully)
A half litre of beer - about £1.10 - nice

She just can't leave the sheep alone....

Some of you may be thinking that our retirement is just one long drinking session. Well let me tell you, it could not be further from the truth. 
OK, maybe it is, but who cares, we are enjoyiong ourselves.
Methinks he doth protest too much !