Had a leisurely start to the morning and wandered across to the entrance gate to buy tickets for the park. There was real confusion at the ticket office but after about an hour we managed to buy our tickets and head off on the bikes for a cycle tour. The forest wasn't quite how I had imagined it would be. It has achieved UNESCO status because it is the last piece of the primaeval forest that used to cover the european continent before human beings started to chop it down. I must confess I was a little disappointed. As it was described as primaeval I had images of Jurassic Park style swamps and big old trees. It looked well managed with lots of cut stumps but perhaps that was all I could see from the cycle path, there were lots of different species of trees and I'm not an expert. We had a picnic lunch by the lake and it was eerily quiet with very little birdlife. There were 'wild animals' behind bars, bears in a cage. Deer, wolves and bison in separate enclosures. We didn't cycle up for a closer look as the sight of caged animals is upsetting. Partcularly the bears who looked crazed by being in such a small space. It was great day out and although this reads a bit on the negative side it wasn't at all.
We left Brest this morning and drove north to the C13 Kamianiec Tower, a UNESCO site. The museum inside was shut, apparently monuments and museums are usually closed on a Monday and Tuesday. There was a lot of improvement work going on in the town to statues and walkways. We then wandered up to the church. A workman went and got the key for us to look inside and then he took us up some rickety, wooden stairs to the belfry to look at the view.
While we were eating our lunch in the van a couple chatted to us through our window. They were on holiday from Wisconsin, the only US Continental State we haven't visited yet. She was Russian and her husband was American.
When we arrived at the forest we headed straight to the visitor centre but all the boards were in Cyrillic and no one spoke any english. While we were having drinks in the cafe a Polish lady overheard our conversation. She was with a group of Poles visiting their old homeland. This part of Belarus was in Poland before the war. Just goes to show an english speaker will pop up just when you least expect it.
It all looks a lot more prosperous here in Poland than I had imagined. The roads are in an excellent state of repair and are clearly marked and signed. The villages we drove through often had a new cycle path as well, roundabouts had flower beds on them and we saw many parks again, all looked very well maintained. There was hardly any litter either. When we arrived at our chosen camping spot on Saturday evening we were met by a Polish man on his golf cart. The campsite is set in the grounds of an old farm, in an orchard, with apple, pear and plum trees. He took us on a tour and showed us a small bar and across the road a 5 room pension with restaurant. He had done the carpentry himself and the wood was very nicely painted in the local colours of the region. He was quite difficult to understand as he spoke mostly in German.
Yesterday morning a Dutch couple came over and introduced themselves. Although they didn't own the site, they had an interest in it. They asked us how we had slept and I had to confess to our terrible night's sleep due to intermittent, loud and frequent dog barking all night. Reassurances were given that they would provide us with a pistol, one shot would stop them. Cripes, this did sound scary, we're not murderers.
Mike decided it was about time for a haircut and as we haven't seen a barber for a while Linda did a cracking job with her hair clippers.
Yesterday afternoon Cass our Polish guide from the night before led the way on his bicycle to a local festival. The first part was outside and we were entertained with dancing and singing local traditional songs and everyone wearing the most beautiful clothes. The dances, songs and clothing reminded me of Fiddler on the Roof. There were two stalls, one selling food and the other beer. Mike and I had our first perogies. Delicious mini pies, deep fried , filled with minced pork and cabbage. I had a very nice beer with a shot of cherry syrup in.
After the dancing we cycled back into the village and to an indoor hall with a stage. A few members of the Lodz Philharmonic Orchestra were to play a selection of film tunes. It was inside because of the risk of rain. The hall was filled to capacity and we all enjoyed the 50 minutes of music. The atmosphere was lively.
On our return to the campsite we were still in party mood so we went to the bar, and asked Cass if we could have a drink. The bar was opened, blues music was played and Linda, Jon and myself tried a selection of his home made flavoured vodkas. Linda and I were given one made with elderflowers and Jon had a grapefruit one which Cass called Anders, which we all preferred. He was highly amused that Mike drank his alcohol free Bavaria beers. He had a six pack that had been in stock since 2007. For him there was clearly no point at all having beer unless it had alcohol in it. Later his wife joined us bringing two boards, one with chopped cheese, the other local sausage and mustard. Just before we went to bed we mentioned the dogs. A pistol was retrieved from the house and given to Mike.
We settled down for the night, and hoped we wouldn't have to use it. Then they started, woof, woof, woof. As one stopped another would start, because it had heard the other. Then the rest of the gang joined in. Sleeping would be difficult, we were cross with these noisy canines. Mike got out of bed, he wasn't really going to use it was he? And he did, he fired a shot through the open roof window. I was braced for a huge sound, and it made a noise like a loud cap gun.The dogs instantly transformed from vicious, snarling hounds had clamped their jaws and shut up instantly. Like naughty children or the wide mouthed frog.
Poland, a new country! Always a source of delight for both of us, new customs, new people, new buildings, new language. However, I know Mike will continue to call me....
A couple of words he has picked up from the war films he watched as a child. When we shared this with Berndt back in Bavaria he laughed.
"You should be saying Stump furer, not Stump en furer. That's the real head boss in charge"
"A stumpen is..."
He made a cutting motion with his right hand above his left elbow.
"On second thoughts, keep saying Stumpenfurer, its much better"
So, after all these years I'm some kind of a bossy half limbed creature!
Last weekend was quite cool and wet back in Schwandorf, Northern Bavaria. It seemed such a shame as the town had their summer festival over the weekend. The main streets closed to traffic, with trestle tables and benches set out in front of the bars and stalls.
Last Sunday, the 22nd July we continued North on the motorway, via Dresden and parked at a place called Kittlitz, outside a fish farm. This region of Germany is called Saxony and used to be a part of the old Eastern Bloc. The legacy of which was the site of few derelict factories and ugly concrete blocks of flats. Many of the houses could have done with a lick of paint but apart from that, it's still Germany. Excellent roads, cycle paths and lots of places to stay.
We had two nights on our campsite by the lake waiting for the passports and then drove north to Gorlitz for one night. There were very few cars and people making it a very pleasant place for a stroll. Many of the buildings had been restored to their pre war state and were beautiful. All different styles, and painted various colours. Perhaps they were houses previously but now hotels and restaurants. Every turn we took presented itself with something lovely to look at, a square, fountain, or courtyard. While we were there Jon and Linda contacted us to say they were heading to Bad Muskau, another border town between Poland and Germany, a short hop north for us. It was great to catch up with them again, we also made a few plans for our long drive to St Peterburg. While we were at Bad Muskau we spent a day cycling around the UNESCO rated gardens and admired the castle.
Yesterday we drove into Poland, deciding to try out the national roads rather than the motorwary to see the real country and not be battling with the lorries. The roads were in an excellent state of repair. It appears that the Poles spent their EU road building money for its intended purpose unlike the Greeks.
I love travel, any type. There is always a buzz in finding & exploring a place for the first time, meeting and making new friends and if you return things are never quite the same.
Going away? Travel essentials from across Amazon
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