Hey everyone and welcome back to our continuing European adventure for 2016. We picked up Normie and headed over to Calais and stayed the night in Dunkirk before crossing through Belgium and hitting Middelburg in the Netherlands. I have to say that following the coastline of Belgium was a lot nicer than when we had previously travelled through the eastern side.
The skies were clear but the temps were still in single digits when we got to the little town of Gouda and after purchasing a month’s supply of cheese we headed off for Keukenhof
Keukenhof, for those not aware, is home to the annual tulip festival and we were extremely lucky that clear weather coincided with the blooming just as we arrived. Driving around the area the many fields in bloom and yet to be harvested made a colourful sight but attending the show was even better. There is even a parade through all the little towns in the area and though it’s mainly about tulips I’m sure I spotted 1 or 2 little pansies.
Our friends Cathy and Heino had told us about the quaint little town of Giethoorn and though the weather had now turned quite wet we managed to enjoy 2 days there.
We had a couple of days in Amsterdam where we met and lunched with an online photo buddy of mine, but just as well we had visited previously because the weather was disgusting. Moving on to Bremen in Germany it was still wet so we headed south to Osnabrück to meet up with Danielle who couch surfed with us back in 2010 with her friend Rike, who we had a wonderful day with at the next town of Braunschweig.
The weather had finally cleared and the temps were headed north by the time we reached Potsdam and we spent 2 days exploring the gardens and palaces there.
Warm weather awaited us in Berlin and we managed to make it to all the sights from Checkpoint Charlie and the Brandenburg gate through to the Reichstag and Stasi HQ but the best times were the ones spent with new friends Foko (our greeter) and Zenaida, a friend of Robert & Vivians.
Crossing into Poland we spent a few days in Poznan where the biggest tourism attraction is gathering at noon in the square to watch 2 wooden goats emerge from the tower on the town hall and head butt each other. Once we recovered from this excitement (people actually applauded) Deb had lined up a surprise cooking course (more hands on exhibition) on the local specialty, a St Martin’s Croissant.
Breslau was a German town before WWII and the birthplace of Deb’s parents, Peter & Margot. Now called Wroclaw in Poland it is trying hard to modernise 27 years after communism but this structure was built in the very early 1900’s and is still very impressive today.
Only 20km from the Slovakian border and in full view of the snow capped High Tatras, Normie decided he needed a new water pump. With the temp gauge at max we were kindly escorted to the nearest mechanic by a couple of border guards out on patrol. Bad news was it was Saturday afternoon and they couldn’t get the part ’til Monday, good news was Chris, the mechanic, and his lovely family made us very welcome on their property and even BBQ’d us some Polish sausage for dinner that night. A little under 48 hours and we were on our way again after an amazing weekend with some more new friends.
We didn’t know what to expect from Slovakia but the next 3 days were spent visiting 3 castles in the northwest area and the landscape was just gorgeous.
Crossing the Danube into Esztergom we were met by the wonderful sight of the basilica which is Hungary’s largest church.
Next we spent 2 days at Szentendre, a small riverside town with a quaint medieval tourist strip, before finally arriving in Budapest. Having heard many times about the beauty of the city we were not disappointed. It was nice being in a capital city that was not TOO big and still retained loads of charm. The public transport was very efficient and we managed to find our way to every sight worth seeing over the next few days.
Today we leave for central Hungary where we hope to spend time in the lake area before moving on to Slovenia.