Buses and planes, boats cars and trains …

England, France, Germany, India, Poland, Spain, Travelling in Europe, Yorkshire

The best way of travelling hopefully? Let’s see.

A bus can be fun, but that’s strictly for local exploring. Unless you can get yourself to India and hitch a lift in God’s Own Palace … Though you’re much more likely to be catching the long-distance bus whose driving seat I feature here …

Air travel has lost its sheen, since Airport Security and Queuing became a A Thing, not to mention those CO2 emissions of which we’re now so horribly aware. Even so, there is something thrilling about watching the changing landscapes of the earth far below, and cloud formations too.

You could take to the water, and sail to your destination near or far…

On the way to Rotterdam

Car travel gives you the opportunity to please yourselves and follow your noses, and even to get off the beaten track, but again … all those emissions.

My own favourite way to get from A to a distant B is by train. I sit, I watch the world go by. I read. If I’m lucky, there may be coffee on offer. And the journey eases the transition from home to away by gradually introducing fresh landscapes, fresh outlooks. There’s something discombobulating about leaving – say – foggy England by plane and arriving two hours later – say – in sunny Spain. Here’s the TGV from Barcelona to Paris. It says it all …

Station architecture may be inspired, whether from the Golden Age of Steam, or assertively twenty first century.

All things considered, I can’t agree with the disconsolate boredom of this particular passenger. By the way, you, get your feet off the seat!

Or … there’s always the motorbike … as spotted in their dozens and dozens outside Mysore Station.

Bike park outside the Station

All the same, modern travel with all its advantages can seem busy, stressful. Sometimes, we might just want to exchange the traffic jam for something rather simpler.

John has provided this week’s LENS-ARTISTS CHALLENGE #215 – Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, and the places they take you.

Of Gargoyles, Griffins and other Graven Images

Barcelona, France, Poland, Scotland, Spain, Valencia

This week, Ann-Christine is urging us, in Lens-Artists Challenge #214 to indulge ourselves and our readers with Favourite Finds in our collections of photos. Well. Where to start? What to choose? I’ve settled on those things that we sometimes notice as we glance up above, or find ourselves gazing at, such as drainpipes or old walls in city streets: we’ll see everything from … well, let’s have a look …

Click on the image to discover where to find it.

The featured image is from the Millennium Clock in the National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh

Dragons in odd places

Poland, Spain

The header shows a splendid pair of dragons topping off a perfectly ordinary drainpipe on a perfectly ordinary house in Sagunt in the Province of Valencia. How perfectly odd. Here they both are, shown singly, to keep to the Rule of Squares.

And just to keep them company, let’s show two more dragons, gargoyles this time, one from Gdansk, and one from Krakow.

For Becky’s Square Odds.

Lighting our way home

Blogging challenges, London, North Yorkshire, Poland, South Korea, Spain

Electric light outside – as streetlights, spotlights, making our streets and subways safer: an undeniable blessing. But spotlights, bright and colourful advertising? The featured photo is of a rainy night in Busan South Korea. Cheery colours certainly, but far more than we needed to find out way round. And look at this. These hotels are out in the country, in a small mountain resort, surrounded by forest. The lights went on as dusk fell, and remained on till morning …

The JaJa, Gyeryongsang

All the same, it’s hard not to enjoy streetlights reflected in the water while mooching round a city. Here are a couple of shots near the river Guadalquivir in Seville.

It’s mood-enhancing to see the city become a playground at night. Here are the fountains of La Alameda, also in Seville. And the neighbourhood of la Viña in Cádiz, where post-Christmas groups relax over a meal or a few drinks in the still-decorated street.

La Alameda, Seville
la Viña in Cádiz

But metro stations and subways need lighting too. Here’s Barcelona, and London.

But the other evening, taking a late walk round the village, best of all was the glow surrounding the houses as families wound down for the day. A cosy, comforting and gentle radiance.

North Stainley: an evening in September

Lens-Artists Challenge #166

Snapshot Saturday: a window on Krakow

Poland, WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

We’re just back from our holiday – that epic journey through Poland and to Berlin. It feels like the beginnings of a voyage of discovery into a so far almost unknown part of my family history. And I may have a post or two to share still. You have been warned.

But here’s just a bit of fun.  Walking down a street in Krakow the other day, I spotted the streetscape behind us reflected in the window of this car.  Here it is:

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is ‘windows’

Very flat, Poland.

Poland

By train, we’ve travelled from Gdansk to Krakow, from Krakow to Warsaw, and now we’re on the train from Warsaw to Berlin.  In all, that’s some 1400 km.

What is astonishing me is that the countryside is almost all the same. It’s flat, flat, flat. Long narrow unboundaried fields – and gosh, Polish cows don’t need fencing in – are interspersed with swathes of forest.

No wonder that that throughout history, invading armies have been able to march unimpeded across the land, conquering as they went. Hitler’s tanks, Stalin’s tanks all had a pretty easy ride here.

Just now, we’ve been passing through flatlands of long, wide peaceful lakes. And we’re drawing closer to Poznan, near to which my father was born, to a farming family.  I feel surprisingly emotional.

View from the train window, almost anywhere in Poland.

Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau

Poland

I’m glad I went to Auschwitz. I’m still processing what I saw, what I heard. Most of you will know the histories of the dreadful death camps.

The weather was appalling today. Double speed windscreen wipers on the way there. I was cold and wet. But I was well-clothed and shod, I’d had a good breakfast, and soon I’d be warm and dry. The inmates of Auschwitz and Auschwitz-Birkenau had their one and only pair of never-washed louse-infested pyjamas and next to no food inside them. They wouldn’t be going somewhere cosy for a change of clothes and a nice hot drink in a couple of hours.

I’ll just share two vignettes. Imagine a long narrow room, with a display case on each side running the length of the room. Each is filled with human hair. This hair comes from the heads of women and girls exterminated in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. A very small proportion of the total. This is the hair of some 80,000 women.

In the next, similar room are shoes. Thousands of shoes. They belonged to some of the thousands of murdered Jews.

I took no photos in Auschwitz. It seemed disrespectful to take snapshots of those glimpses of real lives, real tragedies. I’ll just include one familiar image of Auschwitz-Birkenau, with the train lines which transported people to their almost certain deaths.

I’m glad to have gone because I left with a certain feeling of optimism. The custodians of these camps and the guides who bring those dreadful days back to life are passionate about sharing the stories, to try to make sure, against the odds, that they are never repeated. Our young guide told us he had been trained by an Auschwitz survivor. He clearly saw his job as no ordinary responsibility.

Today, and every single day, thousands of visitors take these lessons away with them.

My visit there does deserve a more considered post. Just – not yet.

Krakow 1940

Poland

It’s a toss-up whether to showcase our simple but delicious lunch – soup, crammed with every veg. known to the allotment patch, eaten in the company of a pile of Polish students and workers, or whether to hark back once more to the war.

All these vegetables were lined up in the café waiting to be transformed into soups and stews.

For positively the last time, the war wins.

My mother always acknowledged that she was lucky and lost nobody she cared about in WWII. She was a young teacher in York and evening fire-watching duties were rather fun. And all those handsome Polish airmen …. reader, she married one.

Compare Krakow for the first four years and five months of the war. German troops marched through the city and occupied it. If your house was requisitioned by the army, so were its furniture and contents. You just had to leave. Familiar streets were renamed in German. Polish news sources of all kinds were banned. Secondary and University education was banned, and teachers who taught in secret risked the camps. Foods were in such short supply that Poles and Jews alike subsisted on under 300 calories a day for stretches of the war. Minor infringements, such as boarding a tram intended for Germans, or breaking the curfew resulted in a stretch in a labour camp. And if all that was tough, the Russians who succeeded the Nazis as occupiers were even worse.

I know all this from our visit to Oskar Schindler’s Enamel Factory, now a museum of Krakow under Nazi Occupation.

Polish street names ripped down, to be replaced by different, German names.

I decided to bite the bullet, and tomorrow, I go to Auschwitz. Malcolm’s chosen not to go. I don’t blame him.

A day down the salt mines

Poland

We weren’t sure about visiting the salt mines near Krakow. They have over a million visitors a year, so mightn’t they be, well, a bit tacky?

Actually no. It was quite a special experience. And a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot.

They’ve been mining salt in Wielicza since the 13th century.  We walked down 800 steps to get to a depth of more than 300 feet to see some of the earlier workings. Further seams can plunge to a depth of over 1000 feet.  Miners routinely walked down to their seams, or in the early days, were winched down on precarious rope hoists.

 Salt encrusted wooden pit props.

English coal mining is the only mining history I know. So it was wonderful to learn that visiting these mines has been a tourist attraction since the 15th century. There are pictures of elegant 18th century balls being held in the more spacious caverns.

And which English coal mines ever had built in chapels? Miners constructed and ornamented these places of worship so they could give thanks for surviving another day in these dangerous surroundings. They would greet each other ‘God be with you’ (so you survive another day).

A man I talked to at the end said his Fitbit revealed that we had walked 5 km. in our four hours down the mine. Just think how much else I could tell you about this fascinating place if I put my mind to it.

This is a cavern where dancing and other events took place. The walls and floor are made of salt. As are the droplets of the chandeliers.