Warsaw - A City Rebuilt

This morning we head off on a city tour - wide streets, modernist buildings, statues and squares and gardens. The main square is busy, there’s a dapper man grinding an old organ and there is red and yellow everywhere - the colours of Warsaw. This is an excellent people-watching city - woman yakking in the street, old men peering out of windows, couples lunching at outdoor cafes, families feeding pigeons ... some streets are deserted, others have horses and carriages clip-clopping by. The court is impressive - it’s a modern glass building that straddles the street. We are taken to the Wedel Cafe - a chocolate cafe. A large glass of warm thick liquid chocolate is put in front of each of us, and then a piece of chocolate cake. It’s rich and decadent and yummy. I’m a chocoholic but I couldn’t finish the chocolate drink!  There is free time for a spot of lunch (if any room after all the chocolate!) and shopping or relaxing or walking the city. For Sheila and I, it’s time to take a taxi to her…

Off to Warsaw We Go

We check out of our fortress hotel after an eclectic breakfast (thankfully no tripe but some other interesting bits and pieces!) The dining room is rustic and charming. We collect our picnic lunch bag as we leave. We’ve not seen apples so huge and, OMG, we will not go hungry!
We drive a short distance, past flat green fields and tidy hay bales, to the Wolf’s Lair in the Gierloz forest. The complex was constructed in 1941 as a top secret, high security site for The Fuhrer and his planned attack on the USSR. His infamous bunker is here amongst the trees and it is at this very site where the unsuccessful attempt on his life was made. We are standing right there. What a damn shame it failed.
Our very earnest guide is a Professor of History and he gives us a full-on history lecture as we stand in front of a large map showing how things used to look. We may have sweated our way around many sites on this trip, but here we are standing in shady woods with a cool breeze blowing. It’s actually jo…

Into Poland - Magical Moments on Polish Lakes

Having farewelled our lovely Baltic States guide Marianna and driver Viktor last night, we meet our new guide Fil and driver Mariusz. Fil is originally from Latvia and now lives in Krakow. He is young, energetic, on the ball and his English is perfect. He also speaks Latvian, Russian and Polish. I have a feeling we will be in excellent hands for our Polish sojourn. 
We leave Vilnius and drive south, the lush green countryside stretching on either side of the straight roads, the occasional roundabout transitioning traffic smoothly at the junctions. After a comfort stop - “coffee in, coffee out” Fil calls it - at the old Lithuanian/Polish border, which is a collection of derelict buildings, relics from the communist days, we swoop into Poland in our big shiny blue bus. 
We pass neat and tidy houses and miles of green fields. There is every tone of green imaginable. 
“Pol” means fields ... Poland = land of fields. Makes perfect sense now we know this.
We arrive at Lake Wigry, part of a large…

Out and About in Vilnius - Churches, Amber and a Castle

We are in Lithuania, day 13 and country no. 5 on 29th July (this blog is way behind real time but I’m working on catching up!)

Breakfast is delicious but we’re all getting a little worried about the amount of food we’re eating so trying not to overdo things at the start of the day. We set off on a tour of the city - population 550,000. A new president was recently elected - after 10 years with women in the position, this time it’s a man. The President can do two terms of five years, then must step down.
Cathedral Square is the heart of Vilnius. Most citizens are Catholics, with Russian Orthodox as well. It’s a very green city, with 44% of it being Parks and forests. But it’s also quite pink - many of the buildings and churches are pink. In fact, at one time all the buildings here were pink!
Lithuania is totally flat, there are no mountains. The highest point is just 300m. There are five universities, 3,000 lakes and 18 rivers.
We go into a rather lovely [pink] Orthodox church where a serv…

What we’ve been eating

A small selection of some of delicious meals we’ve enjoyed in the Baltic states. Breakfast, lunch or dinner - Every meal has been superb. Even beer and snacks at the roadside cafe!
Check out the psychedelic pink Baltic soup!

To Vilnius (Lithuania) - A Fine Baltic Capital

After a very nice breakfast we hit the road. Crossing the bridge to make our way out of Riga, we get great views of this river city. There is a big market which is open from 8am every day and not too far from our hotel - note for next time, early breakfast and market stop before leaving town would be ideal. People are keen to buy mementos and there’s nothing like a local market for treasure hunting and rummaging, even with limited time. 
We stop at Rundale Castle, another beautiful Palace that is in the middle of the countryside. Painted in lemon, white and gold (the entrance gate is tangerine), it’s a mini Versailles. We go through the many rooms and galleries, all sumptuous with a new and colourful delight around every turn. There are frescoes, mirrors and trompe de l’oeiul ? (clever 3D painting technique); rooms of pastel, others of vibrant colour. All the decorative work is carved of wood, intricate and substantial. The piece de resistance is the large ballroom which, in stark cont…