A Travellerspoint blog

WROCLAW, Poland- A new rival for no 1?

snow 28 °F
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Miles traveled…. 992
As you read this, you must imagine the large smile on my face. This is one of my new favorite places (possibly number one), but it is hard to communicate that in every sentence!
We landed in Wroclaw, Poland on New Year’s Eve and the snow was coming down. wroclaw airport

wroclaw airport

We took a bus to the Mercure Hotel. It was great – beautiful, immaculately clean, fantastic shower(with shampoo and soap), posh bar & restaurant, beautiful Christmas lights, great location, the staff were friendly, and the price was a steal! We had an incredible dinner in our restaurant hotel before prepping for New Year. New Years Fireworks

New Years Fireworks

New Years eve

New Years eve

We settled in to watch the New Year’s festivities on TV and the local display from our window. We had a great bay window where we made our champagne toast to Sylwester 2009! Novy Roc! After that, we busted out skype and called our family members on free internet! HURRAY POLAND!
Over the course of the next week we explored the Old Centre of Wroclaw. We visited local restaurants with home cooked foods and hung out at funky underground and student bars. we also visited bar Sarah in the Jewish neighborhood! I expressed to Sara that I felt a real feeling of connection in Wroclaw. City hall

City hall

sara by square

sara by square

rynek square

rynek square

St. elizabeth tower

St. elizabeth tower

Boleslaw monument

Boleslaw monument

Cultural center

Cultural center

Merucre tree

Merucre tree

Twin towers of Wroclaw

Twin towers of Wroclaw

Monument near tumski island

Monument near tumski island

Bishop of reconciliation with germany

Bishop of reconciliation with germany

Bridge with locks

Bridge with locks

Church

Church

snowy trees

snowy trees

Priests on tumski

Priests on tumski

St. John cathedral tumski

St. John cathedral tumski

Sara twin tower

Sara twin tower

WALTER!!!

WALTER!!!

sara at the rambles!!

sara at the rambles!!

Plus I turned 37 there. Sara took me out to the "Fly Bar" and got me some sweet new duds!

Walking the streets, I felt comfortable and at home despite the language barrier. For example, Wroclaw is pronounced Vroatswaff…who knew.
It is sprinkled with old churches, house and tree lined squares, and cobbled streets. The two main squares are Rynek and Salt square. The town has more than 120 bridges, the third or fourth most of any city in Europe depending on who you ask. The city was about 70% destroyed in WWII, but still maintains much of its old Character. It was the third biggest city in Germany at the outbreak of WWII. It was then called Breslau. Sadly this part of Poland has a long history of being the playground of Europe’s powers and being parts of other countries before it finally emerged again as part of Poland after WWII.
We enjoyed the food and drink very much. We had potatoe pancakes, various pierogie plates, hot wine, hot cider, and mulled beer. They also have a wide variety of delicious sausages and other foods available quite reasonably priced. Frozen holy water St. elizabeth

Frozen holy water St. elizabeth

St. elizabeth creche

St. elizabeth creche

Angels at st. elizabeth

Angels at st. elizabeth

Pulpit in St. Elizabeth

Pulpit in St. Elizabeth

Pope John paul chaqpel

Pope John paul chaqpel


We visited the panaroma of the battle of Raclowice which portrays a victory over the Russians by Kosciusko’s army and a big group of peasant volunteers. We toured various Churches and especially liked the cathedral on Tumski Island.
On a sad note, I busted up my good ankle : ( and visited the ER. It really cut down on our adventures and we missed Berlin : ( #2. On the upside, it gave us a great chance to see the inside of the polish healthcare system and make two new friends Ula and Kasia!! Thanks for your help guys! They shared with us about their lives in Wroclaw and their dreams and we talked about all kinds of fun topics at late hours of the night!! another upside, Sara got some flowers in poland.sara's marriage bouquay

sara's marriage bouquay

Sara's I love you boquay

Sara's I love you boquay

Natasha sara's stylist

Natasha sara's stylist

sara's new do for January

sara's new do for January

P.S. It snowed every day!!

Wroclaw we’ll be back! We’ll be back!

Posted by tourdeflor 12:01 Archived in Poland Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Rome

overcast 46 °F
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Miles travelled 109.
On this visit to Rome, we did our first real “Roman Tourist” stops. In our previous trip to Rome we didn’t go to any of the usual spots. So when people asked us did you go to the Coliseum we had to say no. ditto for Trevi fountain. This time we decided to make sure to hit some of the highlights.
Our first stop by the subway exit was Maria Degli Angeli.
Santa Maria Degli Angeli from the front-- used to be a Roman Bath!

Santa Maria Degli Angeli from the front-- used to be a Roman Bath!

Cool sculpture in the door of St. Maria degli Angeli

Cool sculpture in the door of St. Maria degli Angeli

Sculpture of beheaded John the Baptist  YIKES

Sculpture of beheaded John the Baptist YIKES


It was previously a Roman Bath house which was converted to a Church. The Church was fairly impressive, but even more so the art being exhibited there along with an exhibit about Galileo and his discoveries. Galileo very much believed that by investigating “Science” it was like asking questions to God and receiving answers from the “Book of Nature. We wandered this sector of the city looking for the Opera. It turns out they were sold out for our whole visit. I guess the opera is pretty popular over the holidays.
Our second stop in Rome was the Coliseum and Constantine’s arch.
Colisseum

Colisseum

Colisseum signature dip   Kiss

Colisseum signature dip + Kiss

Out of the Subway and there it was

Out of the Subway and there it was

Constantine's Arch

Constantine's Arch

The Colisseum attacks Sara

The Colisseum attacks Sara


They did not disappoint, though we were surprised because as soon as we came out of the subway the Coliseum was right there in front of us. We did our trademark “dip and kiss” and enjoyed the site lit up for the night time toursists. We then walked along the Via Forii and saw many of the Forums constructed by various emperors to do the business of governing.
One of the many Roman Forums...go figure

One of the many Roman Forums...go figure

Marcus Aurelius Statue

Marcus Aurelius Statue

Hadrian's column with church in Background

Hadrian's column with church in Background

Hadrian's column

Hadrian's column


We also saw the Monument to Victor Emmanuel II, we enjoyed it very much though many view it as an “eyesore”.
Victor Emmanuel monument 2

Victor Emmanuel monument 2

Victor emmanuale II monument-- they say it is an eyesore  we loved it!

Victor emmanuale II monument-- they say it is an eyesore we loved it!


We also saw the Trevi fountain and visited a Church across from it.
Trevi crowds

Trevi crowds

Trevi sculptures

Trevi sculptures

Sara preparing for Trevi wish

Sara preparing for Trevi wish

The church was nice and prayerful, with a multitude of people lighting candles and meditating inside. We completed the tradition of tossing our coins in the Trevi fountain to make sure we would return to Rome before heading out. Next we walked to the Spanish Steps. The Spanish steps were decorated for Christmas with a subtle tree and nativity scene.
spanish steps nativity

spanish steps nativity

Spanish steps Christmas tree

Spanish steps Christmas tree

View of church domes from top of Spanish Steps

View of church domes from top of Spanish Steps

Pope's nativity

Pope's nativity

Trevi fountain

Trevi fountain


The next day we went by the Vatican to see about getting a Mass said for a friend who passed away. It turns out that the office that does that is only open from 4-6 and we arrived at 2!
Outside vatican city

Outside vatican city

Outside vatican City

Outside vatican City

Swiss guard at bronze door

Swiss guard at bronze door


Well, we decided to jaunt over to St. John Lateran to see something on my “to see list”. It was the Popes’ seat before St. Peters was built. The land was donated by emperor Constatine himself, but the church that is there now only has pieces of the original church due to sackings, earthquakes etc though most of the early popes are still buried there. lateran Front 2

lateran Front 2

Lateran Front

Lateran Front

Lateran apse mosaic

Lateran apse mosaic

John Lateran Pope's chair

John Lateran Pope's chair

John Lateran

John Lateran

lateran Angels...there were a lot

lateran Angels...there were a lot

Donations anyone?

Donations anyone?

view to St. Peter's from Lateran

view to St. Peter's from Lateran

Sunset on Lateran Baptistry.

Sunset on Lateran Baptistry.

Moonrise outside Lateran

Moonrise outside Lateran


I twisted my ankle (again) on the uneven pavers outside St. John Lateran as we began the dash back to the Vatican while the Mass office was open. Sara left me outside the pharmacy to seek cough medicine and an ankle wrap while she went on to the office alone. She succeeded in her mission and we were reunited in time for dinner. Sara and I really felt good to have accomplished this goal for our friend.
We also partook of some good Italian food including Gelato and Tiramisu. I had been tempted on several occasions in different countries by the fresh roasted chestnuts, well I finally got some. They are not quite what I expected. They smelled good, but had a strange semi-solid texture and a somewhat bland flavor.
We got a better feel for Rome this time, but the graffiti and garbage around the city still leave us a little disenchanted with the Eternal City. Next, Onward to Poland!

Posted by tourdeflor 09:22 Archived in Italy Tagged train_travel Comments (1)

Rimini landing plus Christmas in Assisi, Italy

snow 32 °F
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Miles travelled 870.
Landing in Rimini proved to be a little of a shock. I told Sara that I expected Italy to be around 55 degrees, but when we landed it was snowing and about 32 degrees. Rimini turned out to be a cute seaside town that was mostly shuttered for the winter season. We had a nice meal and rested up before making the drive through the Appenine mountains to Assisi the next day.
Almost to town after touchdown in Rimini International!

Almost to town after touchdown in Rimini International!

Snowy streets of Italy

Snowy streets of Italy

the Italians have landed.

the Italians have landed.

Hotel Trieste,  Mike found this one for $50! Nice

Hotel Trieste, Mike found this one for $50! Nice

Rimini Streets of snow!

Rimini Streets of snow!


The drive turned out to be amazing. The roads were clear and easily navigable as we made our way to Perugia to drop off the car and pick up the local train. We saw lovely Italian hill towns and snow clad mountains through the whole trip.
Appenine 7

Appenine 7

Gubbio 2

Gubbio 2

Gubbio, Cute town

Gubbio, Cute town

Appenine 5

Appenine 5

Appenine 2

Appenine 2

Appenine snowfall en route to Assisi

Appenine snowfall en route to Assisi

I want this house!

I want this house!


Unfortunately there was some confusion on our part about the train “to” Foligno or “from” Foligno, and we had an hour long train detour going the wrong way! On the plus side, we got to see the beautifule Lake Trasimeno, which is to the north west of Perugia. It was a real stunner in the sunset.
Finally, we made it to Assisi after dark and had a really hard time locating our Hotel.
St. Francis Basilica night

St. Francis Basilica night

Assisi night view

Assisi night view


We asked a slew of people and hiked nearly the length of the town with our luggage. Finally, a girl in a nice homey restaurant gave us a map and pointed us to the exact spot. The meal was delicious, black truffle on home made strangozzi. We also had a salad and a liter of wine that cost $3. AWESOME. After that we headed to the hotel and walked right up to the door. Luckily, the hotel turned out to be fantastic. The staff was great and the location was perfect. Hotel Hermitage is the place for anyone who needs one!
So, for those of you who don’t know, St. Francis began the tradition of the Nativity in 1223. Needless to say, there were countless nativities of every variation spread about the town and in every church. We even went to the theater and saw a play about how St. Francis was inspired.

We enjoyed every minute of our time in Assisi. Sara and I each made several hikes. Sara went to Mass in about half the churches in town and visited almost all of them. We went to Christmas mass in the lower Basilica of St. Francis. Sara said she almost felt like she had the gift of “ears” since she understood nearly all of the homily which was in Italian. I told her I was not sure if there was any such thing as the gift of “ears” even though hers are very cute!
Among the new stops we found most enjoyable were the crypt of St. Clare and Mass at St. Stephen’s on his feast day. St. Stephen’s church was simple, small, and adorable. The bishop presided and a heavenly choir serenaded the forty of us gathered there with amazing music.
Nun and el Bambino!

Nun and el Bambino!


The crypt of St. Clare houses several amazing artifacts: a mass vestment made by St. Clare around 1300, bits of one of the original habits of Clare and St. Francis, and the original rule of the Franciscans. The portion of the crypt that housed the relics of St. Clare was beautifully decorated and very prayerful.
St. Clare's Chapel of San Damiano cross

St. Clare's Chapel of San Damiano cross

Cool present from Brother Sun

Cool present from Brother Sun


Other highlights were the Hermitage on Mt. Subasio (where we saw St. Francis’ prayer cave), the Rocca Maggiore,
View from Rocca Minore to Rocca Magiore

View from Rocca Minore to Rocca Magiore

Rocca Minore

Rocca Minore

Rocca Maggiore

Rocca Maggiore


and the crypts beneath San Rufino cathedral. The hike up Mt. Subasio took us through beautiful winter woodlands. The hillsides were festooned with green, brown, and orange making a delightful backdrop for our grueling two hour hike all uphill! Sara said the countryside reminded her of one of Bob Ross’ paintings with “happy little trees” placed here and there, and then scolded me for not knowing who Bob Ross even was! We also had the joy of feeding grass and petting some miniature donkeys along the roadside….so cute!
Sara enters the forest!

Sara enters the forest!

Subasio view

Subasio view

Sara art shot

Sara art shot

Friends on the hike to hermitage...their ancestors might have been preached to by Francis

Friends on the hike to hermitage...their ancestors might have been preached to by Francis

St. Francis grotto Hermitage

St. Francis grotto Hermitage

St. francis sculpture meditating on stars and moon

St. francis sculpture meditating on stars and moon

Subasio after the clouds rolled in...mysterious ..yes?

Subasio after the clouds rolled in...mysterious ..yes?

Entering St. Francis Grotto at Hermitage on Subasio

Entering St. Francis Grotto at Hermitage on Subasio

Subasion view of Assisi

Subasion view of Assisi


One of Sara’s hikes took her down off the hill of Assisi to the Sanctuary of the River Torto. She found amazing joy in hiking across the Italian countryside and finding a cute spot to have coffee in the little town with the old men that were playing cards!! Nearly every place we visited or walked during our first week we were the only tourists. The solitude refreshed us both.
Door to Francis house!

Door to Francis house!

francis mom grave

francis mom grave

Francis dad grave

Francis dad grave

Assisi view

Assisi view

Holy Cross church west of Assisi

Holy Cross church west of Assisi

Roman dated ruins

Roman dated ruins

Roman Tunnel

Roman Tunnel

Amphitheatre ruins

Amphitheatre ruins


A local Italian woman who works at the pastry shop befriended us. Christmas evening, we spent hours talking with her in the shop about the adventures of her life. It was a nice way to spend our holiday!
Pastry shop gang esp Concetta our pal on right

Pastry shop gang esp Concetta our pal on right

Some of the treats

Some of the treats

More amazing stuff

More amazing stuff


It was a hard day when we took the bus to the train station to go to Rome. Our previous experiences in Rome had left us with mixed emotions about the eternal city, but that is where we were headed for our final three days in Italy.

Posted by tourdeflor 02:35 Archived in Italy Tagged air_travel Comments (1)

Stonehenge, Salisbury, and London pics as promised

semi-overcast 53 °F
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Here are the pictures we promised that go with the last blog entry!

English sunrise

English sunrise

Spire rises from the city

Spire rises from the city

gate to old city

gate to old city

Spire sunrise

Spire sunrise

River mist with rising Spire

River mist with rising Spire

Sara views the Avon river!

Sara views the Avon river!


P1030380.jpgInside Cloister 2

Inside Cloister 2

Cloister at Salis B cathedral

Cloister at Salis B cathedral

Sarahenge

Sarahenge

MIKEhenge

MIKEhenge

Stonehenge!!

Stonehenge!!

Barrow mound near Stonehenge

Barrow mound near Stonehenge

Old Sarum
Old Sarum moat bridge

Old Sarum moat bridge

Ruined old sarum castle walls

Ruined old sarum castle walls

sara mimicks royal business to be done

sara mimicks royal business to be done

DOUBLE O N and Mike

DOUBLE O N and Mike

Old Sarum LOVERS!!

Old Sarum LOVERS!!

outline of Old sarum Cathedral columns

outline of Old sarum Cathedral columns

Ruined wall of Old Sarum Cathedral ca 1200

Ruined wall of Old Sarum Cathedral ca 1200

Back to Salisbury

salisbury decoration...

salisbury decoration...

Insecto takes out Haunch diners

Insecto takes out Haunch diners

Oh we love thee haunch of Venison

Oh we love thee haunch of Venison

Streets of Salis B

Streets of Salis B

Insecto takes down SPIRE!

Insecto takes down SPIRE!

cathedral entrance decorations

cathedral entrance decorations

Cathedral angels

Cathedral angels

Cathedral organ

Cathedral organ

Inside Cathedral 2

Inside Cathedral 2

Cathedral with tree

Cathedral with tree

Cathedral

Cathedral

Arch into old city of Salisbury

Arch into old city of Salisbury

Posted by tourdeflor 15:13 Archived in England Tagged automotive Comments (1)

Stonehenge, Salisbury & London

overcast 49 °F
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approximate travle distance-round trip 240 miles

  • *No pics this entry -- internet issues with uploading! Pics to come in a separate blog.

After our Paris we enjoyed a day of rest from adventure at the beautiful premier Inn. The next day, we tagged along with Neal to Salisbury where we saw a beautiful medieval town and cathedral, Stonehenge, and Old Sarum. Surprisingly our mascot decided to get back in the swing of things, I think Insecto is more comfortable in Europe. It was at old Sarum that William the Conqueror forced his subjects to swear the Oath of Salisbury following the Battle of Hastings. At Old Sarum, one of the sights we saw was the spot where kings did their royal business. It was also at Old Sarum that Eleanor of Aquitaine was imprisoned (several times…go figure).
In Salisbury, we enjoyed the tallest spire of the Medieval Ages. We also had a beautiful walk along the Avon river to reach the Cathedral and got some great pics of the spire rising out of the early morning mist. The weight of the stone making the steeple is so great that it actually bends the stones that form the base of the steeple. Also at the cathedral, we saw one of the original versions of the Magna Carta which is preserved in the chapter house there. We toured the old Cloister and the Cathedral close by which were a smaller, beautiful portion within the older section of Salisbury.
The mysteries of Stonehenge are captivating and scenic, but most noteworthy is that we still know hardly anything about it. Note to all…though it may have been used by Druids for a time, it was not contstructed by or originally used by Druids! It is the end of a nearly millennium long building project that was begun with a wooden henge in the same spot. There are also many burial mounds of various shapes concentrated around the Stonehenge site. We capped off the great morning with lunch at the Haunch of Venison. I dutifully devoured a haunch of venison before we headed back to High Wycomb.
After this we relocated to “Posh Pad London”, Rob Wyckes was kind enough to host us for a couple of days at his new place in London. His apartment is spacious and cute. He is in a nice residential area with several pubs (especially the Wheatsheaf) and shopping nearby as well as the Ealing Common Tube Station. This made for a great location for Sara and I.
Rob welcomed us with a glass of delightful wine. We drank in honor to Posh Pad Chicago (Cheers to Jeness and Tim), before catching up on Rob’s new work and telling him about our travels. Rob’s new rats hadn’t made it to town yet by our visit; other than that, it seems he enjoys his new academic-style gig. We hit a few pubs, and generally enjoyed ourselves. The next day, we saw a London snowfall, and we headed out to find Sara a coat to prepare for the frigid climate of continental Europe. Finally to the best part of our day, we met Rob down by his work for drinks and a tour of Covent Garden. We had a few drinks and ate some genuinely delicious pub food before heading home for some needed rest.
Early the next morning we hit the pavement via two trains, a bus, and finally caught our airplane from Stansted to reach the promised land of Italy where we would be spending Christmas.

The next chapter: Did you say “RIMINI” or were you trying to order a drink?

Posted by tourdeflor 14:34 Archived in England Tagged automotive Comments (0)

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