Yes, I was off on holiday yet again! This time I went on the Classic Rhapsody trek with Busabout. Very different to the Scandi-Baltic tour I did back in June, but I loved it all the same.
6th Sept 2012
Object – Off to Prague I go.
Instead of the usual ridiculously early morning start I managed to get a later flight from London to Prague. However, this too has it downsides Getting a later flight meant that I got into Prague later (obviously) but it also meant it was getting dark by the time I managed to find a taxi and actually make my way from the airport to my hostel. So I didn’t venture very far. Unfortunately, unlike the Scandi-Baltic tour we didn’t see Prague as a group on the first day of the tour. So Prague is back on my list of places to go (although to be honest, it’s not very high up the list).
7th Sept 2012
Object – Join the Classic Rhapsody Trek.
After an early night and noisy people in the hostel I had very little sleep.
I met up with the Busabout group for breakfast and before I knew it we were heading off to Kutna Hora to see the “Bone Church” (Sedlec Ossuary). Apparently it is estimated to have the bones of between 40,000 and 70,000 people!!!
Legend has it that in 1278 a handful of earth from “The Holy Land” was sprinkled over this site making it a desirably place to be buried. During the 14th century during the Black Death, thousands more people were buried here and eventually new burials outgrew the space available. The older bones were eventually removed and stored in the Crypt. In 1870 Frantisek Rink (a wood-carver) was given the task of decorating the chapel. There is a massive chandelier that contains every single bone in the human body! There is also a coat of arms made of bones.
After everyone had taken all the photos they wanted we then headed off to Olomouc, Czech Republic.
We had a walking tour of the city when we first got there. We saw the huge Astronomical Clock. Apparently this one is a rare heliocentric astronomical clock – basically this means that the model shows the earth and planets revolving around a relatively stationary sun at the center of the solar system.
We also got to see the Holy Trinity column in the town square. We saw St Wenceslas Church which is amazing from the outside, but not so amazing on the inside. However, we did also see the Church of St Michael – on the outside it is very plain (I thought it was very similar to those in Vilnius in Lithuania), but when you go inside its breathtaking. We all went out for dinner as a group that night – the food was extremely average that I can’t even remember what we had haha!
8th Sept 2012
Object – Auschwitz – Birkenau
**Please note these are my thoughts and feelings. Auschwitz is an extremely personal experience. Skip this part if you don’t want to read it**
Our first stop today was Auschwitz and Birkenau. I have to admit I was quite nervous about going. I had wanted to go for so long and I’ve read so much and seen so many documentaries and movies about it that I thought I knew what I was getting myself into. However, the closer we got, the more reality hit and the more nervous I got.
So many people lost their lives in these places, there is so much history here but nothing can prepare you for actually being there.
Auschwitz 1 was restored and turned into a museum honouring the victims. You can see the sleeping arrangements and toilet facilities. Depending on the area determined what you actually saw, in some cases it was nothing but straw on a floor to sleep on. The gas chamber in Auschwitz 1 was converted into an air raid shelter for the SS when the gas chambers in Auschwitz II-Birkenau were created. This building has actually been restored. There are huge cases filled with a collection of items the victims were encouraged to bring with them.
The museum has the following in its collection
- about 110,000 shoes
- about 3,800 suitcases – 2,100 of these have the owners names on them
- over 12,000 kitchen utensils
- 470 prosthetics
- 350 striped camp garments
There were a lot of personal items on display. Things like glasses, shoe polish, children’s dolls, brushes and combs etc.
There is also a glass case about 30 meters long filled with human hair.
This is what I found the hardest to deal with. To me, looking at a case filled with shoes and combs seemed so impersonal. But seeing human hair, knowing they had to get this hair somehow – a lot of it was after death, it was heart breaking and really hard to deal with. I think a lot of people found it hard to be in this room. I definitely struggled with it and had to force the tears back.
However, after seeing all of this we then headed to Auschwitz II – Birkenau which was just up the road.
Standing outside the barbed wire fence, I tried to take it all in. I didn’t expect this place to be as big as it was. From this point you could not see the boundary on the other side. Even now, I still can’t comprehend how huge Birkenau was. I never expected that.
Birkenau was mainly made up of buildings that couldn’t withstand the harsh weather. Instead of restoring Birkenau they have preserved it. Nineteen of the 300 wooden barracks have been reconstructed from authentic materials. You can even still see the chimneys that provided (inefficient) heating to these barracks. The remains of the gas chambers are still here too.
Birkenau is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage site and the ashes of the victims have been scattered between the huts. There is also a massive international memorial site with plaques in different languages. You can also see one of the deportation trains/carriage – it’s very small!
This was a sign that was inside Auschwitz 1 which unfortunately my photo didn’t turn out so I’m putting here because I think its important for people to see this.
“In the years 1940 – 1945 the nazis deported at least 1,300,000 people in Auschwitz:
140,000 – 150,000 Poles
23,000 Roma (Gypsies)
15,000 Soviet Prisoners of war
25,000 Prisoners from other ethnic groups
1,000,000 of these people died in Auschwitz. Approximately 99% of these victims were Jews. The SS murdered the majority of them in the gas chambers”
I left Auschwitz-Birkenau feeling very grateful for the life that I have, my family, my friends etc.
Be thankful for the lives you currently have. Even when it seems like all hope is gone, just remember you didn’t have to wear those striped pyjamas.
9th Sept 2012
Object – Discover Krakow by bike
This morning we had a free bike tour of the city. I’m still unsure of bikes, but I went along for the ride (see what I did there? haha!) and I have to admit I thoroughly enjoyed it. We cycled through the old town and saw the castle from a distance. About half way through the tour we stopped at a cafe. This cafe was awesome! It was situated along the river with a little “beach” in the front. We crashed out on the bean bags and enjoyed the hot sun for 20 minutes before having to continue on the bike tour.
After the bike tour we had free time. So first stop was to get some souvenirs. We then wandered down to St Andrews Church which was stunning both inside and out. I stopped and bought a wee soft toy dragon for AJ. We then headed out to the Jewish Quarter. I wanted to see the Synagogue, but it looked so unimpressive from the outside and you had to pay to go in, so we didn’t bother. We did however go to the small Jewish Cemetery which was really cool. It’s all over grown with ground cover and vines creeping all over everything. After taking some (a lot) of photos here we then made our way to the castle. We didn’t go in here but we walked around the grounds and went down in the dragons caves. For only 2 zlotys to go through the caves it was actually pretty cool through there.
By this point we had already had a massive day, so we went and sat along the river sitting in the sun for an hour or two before heading back to the old town for ice cream.
On our way back to the hostel we stopped at the Dominican Church where we got to hear Monks chanting. I have to admit this was truly awesome!!
10th Sept 2012
Object – Zakopane
After a 3 hour drive we ended up in Zakopane. A Polish holiday destination. This place was gorgeous. It reminded me a lot of Lauterbrennen in Switzerland. It was very hot here, which was awesome! Being in london I miss the sun – a lot!
Instead of walking up the mountain, which Abbers assured us only took 25 minutes to walk up (rumour has it, it takes longer than that haha), we took the cable car up the mountain and the views were spectacular. We took a lot of photos up there. We stopped for lunch when we got there. We had potato pancake things, they were actually pretty good, they had mushroom and bacon and cheese on the top. So good! We wandered about for post cards etc and some ice cream – seeing as it was hot! It was a good thing we only had a small lunch because for dinner we’re off to the meat palace.
OMG this place was insane. We got a four person platter of meat. Holy Crap it was crazy! Pork Knuckle, Red & White Sausages, blood sausages, black pudding, bacon, garlic potatoes. I considered becoming a vegetarian after this haha.
11th Sept 2012
Object – Tank rides in Slovakia, Budapest & a Danube River cruise
This morning we set off for Budapest. However, our first stop was actually Slovakia where we were going to ride a tank. Yes, you read that right, a military tank. I was a little worried about how my ears where going to handle this, the last thing I needed was vertigo to the point where I can’t get out of bed. So I decided to watch the first group of 15 go first. I really wish I hadn’t! I almost talked myself out of it as I watched 15 people being thrown about & screaming in a tank. However, Id already paid for it and so 15 minutes later I found myself on the front of the tank being thrown about. Apparently you don’t feel it as bad in the front compared to the back, but nothing prepares you for that moment you go up a steep mud hill and then suddenly drop down. You feel like you’re about to be thrown over the top of the tank and into the mud. Or those moments you’re almost flat on the side of the tank rather than being the right way up. However, I did it and I loved it. It was like 4wdriving but in a military tank. So much fun!
We stayed at a Wombat hostel in Budapest, it was quite nice actually. I’m not a hostel person, but this place was funky. They had a massive area for people to gather, and a bar so people can drink.
We went out for dinner as a group – I had goulash but I didn’t think it was that nice, and it left me feeling rather ill. After dinner we went on a night river cruise down the Danube. All the buildings were lit up, looking pretty spectacular. There were heaps of bird circling the building as well, like moths to a flame, it was birds to a lit up building. It was a bit creepy actually. Like something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Tomorrow is a free day to explore.
Well today didn’t have the best start. I woke up feeling really sick – cold sweats, dizzy, shaking, light-headed. I got up and managed a small amount of muesli. Just 3 minutes before we were due to head out on the hop on hop off bus I decided it was best not to go. Thankfully I chose my timing well and by the time I got to my floor I knew I was going to be sick. Sure enough, within seconds of me opening the door I was throwing up (TMI). However, afterwards I felt about 90% better. So not wanting to waste the day I set off on my own on the bus and headed down to Hero Square. I took a few photos here, but I really wasnt feeling it. So I got back on the bus and headed out to the castle district. I had only been here about 10-15 minutes when I ran into the girls I was meant to go out with this morning. After some photos we headed back to the bus and went to the Citadel and took some photos of the amazing view. There is even a photo of me which never happens! We also went to the Parliament buildings as well, after this I headed back to the hostel, I was shattered by this point but it wasnt far off dinner time either, so I’d still managed a big day.
After freshening up we decided that instead of going to the thermal baths we were going to go out for dinner. I stuck with salad – or at least I tried to, but couldn’t manage it.
Tonight we said goodbye to a large number of people who were leaving the tour, but apparently we pick up some new people tomorrow for the rest of the tour.
13th sept 2012
Object – Mememto Park & Croatia
Its raining. I can not believe its raining, and not just a light drizzle, its properly raining. Unimpressed and not dressed for it. Our first stop this morning was the Mememto Park. This park has massive statues of people relating to Budapest’s Communist period (1949 – 1989). There are statues of Lenin, Marx & Engels to name a few. Getting out of the coach in the rain to take photos was a mission in itself, but it was worth it, even if it only took us a couple of minutes.
We then headed off to the Croatian border. Because Croatia isnt part of the EU (although they will be in 2013) their border patrols are a bit all over the place. One of the guys came on board and took everyone’s passports which I wasnt so keen on. Another guy came on board and went through the bus looking for stuff. All up we were there just over an hour. BUT I got a stamp on my passport! YAY!
By the time we got to our campsite (don’t worry we weren’t actually camping, we had cute wee cabins that I wish Id taken a photo of but didn’t), it was cold and wet and I was pretty over it. We were having a BBQ for dinner – in the rain. A couple of us prepared all the vegetables and in the end, Nicole and I went back to our cabin and sat about chatting and missed out on dinner anyways.
14th Sept 2012
Object – Plitvice National Park
Well its still raining. My white canvas shoes are now wet canvas shoes, but they are the only shoes – apart from my jandals that I have. So it was an early start to get to the National Park before the crowds appeared. I really wasnt feeling it, I was cold and wet and just miserable. However, this place is beautiful. Despite the rain I really enjoyed it here. At the start of the day I had no idea how we were going to spend 4 hours here, but we did it easily. We wandered about looking at the waterfalls and taking photos. We took the boat across the lake to the other side and had hot chocolate when we got there. Amazing hot chocolate. Then we took the bus up the top of the hill to take some more photos. Before we knew it, it was time to head back to the coach. We were all pretty wet by this point. However, we were on our way to Split where we hoped the weather would be better. We had a long day on the coach as we had a number of detours, but thankfully I got a bit of a sleep on the way!
We eventually got into the hotels at about 6.30, we had a short city walk where the main places were pointed out and then we all went off on our separate ways. This was the end of the tour. Some people were off on Sail Croatia, some people were doing other busabout tours, some people were sticking about in Split for a few days – I however, had to head home the next day 😦
15th Sept 2012
Object – sight seeing during the day then fly back to london
This morning Nicola and I set off to do a spot of shopping and see some of the sights in Split. It was a stunning day, the sun was shinning and Split is beautiful. We wandered down by the water front and then through the markets. We also went up the Bell Tower, oh wow the views from here were so cool, we had to walk up quite a few steps and there was only one set for both up and down traffic which was so annoying and not easy in a short skirt and jandals – especially because some of the steps were quite high.
We then met up with some of the other girls and walked up to the view-point, which is even more steps!!! But the views from here were just as amazing. After this is was then time for me to leave 😦 The girls were all staying and had booked what looked to be an awesome tour of the blue lagoon – I was totally jealous.
As it was, I should have just stayed. My flight was delayed by 7 hours and I ended up having to get a taxi home from Luton Airport which cost me an arm and a leg. I’m now in dispute with WizzAir about that. Trust me, never ever fly WizzAir!
Now I’m back in London, the weather sucks and I have about 900 photos to sort through from this trip.
However, in only 2 weeks my sister will be here 😀 YAY!