Tag Archives: Life

Entrance Tickets – Wawel Royal Castle, Krakow

The Historic Centre of Kraków, located on the River Vistula in southern Poland, is formed by three urban ensembles: the medieval chartered City of Kraków, the Wawel Hill complex, and the town of Kazimierz. It is one of the most outstanding examples of European urban planning, characterised by the harmonious development and accumulation of features representing all architectural styles from the early Romanesque to the Modernist periods.” – UNESCO

The Wawel Royal Castle is located in central Kraków and among the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. It was admitted to the list at the very first session in 1978 (there were only twelve from seven countries). It was one of two Polish sites, the other being the Wieliczka salt mine also in Krakow. It was the first European City to be added to the list. It played a blinder there, getting in before Paris, Rome, Madrid and London. The following year Poland got two more – Auschwitz Birkenau German Nazi Concentration Camp near Krakow and Białowieża Forest and in 1980 it added the city of Warsaw.

In many respects it seems a rather curious first list. To begin with it is rather like Noah’s Ark with sites going in two by two. Two for Canada – L’Anse aux Meadows National Historic Site and Nahanni National Park. Two for Ecuador – the city of Quito and the Galapagos Islands. Two also for Ethiopia – Simien National Park and Rock Hewn Churches, the USA with two National Parks, Messe Verde and Yellowstone and two for Poland. To complete the list only one for Senegal, the Island of Goree and one for Germany and the Cathedral at Aachan.

Italy had to wait until 1978 to get a listing, France until 1981 and United Kingdom until 1986. Australia had to wait even longer until 2003.

There are only two European countries without a UNESCO site – Monaco and Liechtenstein. I don’t hold out a lot of hope for Liechtenstein, I went there once and it went straight onto my list of most boring places I have ever visited, the capital Vaduz especially so.  I have never been to Monaco and don’t really expect to, it doesn’t look especially fascinating either.

Anyway, back to Krakow. At the ticket office we had a lot of difficulty working out the ticket options that were nearly as confusing as buying a lottery scratch card at the local Co-op.

The place has so many precious treasures that understandably visitors can’t just buy a ticket and go wandering about by themselves in case precious treasures go wandering about.

Our first choice of the Royal Palace was no longer available because the English speaking guides had all gone home already so instead we bought tickets for the State Rooms. The tickets were timed and there was clearly no leeway but fortunately we made our entry time by the skin of our teeth and made the tour of the impressive rooms and displays.

Of course Kim, who has a history of this sort of thing, had to let us down by touching an exhibit in the very first room and that bought a sharp rebuke from the attendant museum guard.

This was a very impressive place full of treasures that we can see today because at the outbreak of World War Two they were rapidly evacuated out of Poland to safe storage in Canada where they remained until 1961 to prevent the Soviet Union getting possession.  We especially liked the room with the heads in the ceiling and everywhere there were remarkable tapestries and medieval furniture and treasures exhibited with generous space in which to appreciate them.

I have no photographs of the interior because picture taking is predictably not permitted. These are the Polish Crown Jewels courtesy of Wikipedia.

The rooms were huge, each one as big as a modern four bedroom detached house and I bet they were a bugger to heat in the Winter.  The tour ended in the most impressive room of all, the Senators Hall, which was large and spacious with a balcony at one end, an interestingly slanting ceiling and an obsession with tapestries depicting Noah and his Ark.

After an hour or so the tour was over and we were back in the courtyard, it was beginning to get cold and dark so we walked the mile or so back to our hotel stopping off at the Crocodile Bar on the way.

Postcards From France

More memories, this time from Family Holidays in Northern France (1978-2017)…


Memory Post – Barmeston Road, Catford, London

One day in 1995 I was at work and driving through London and on impulse took a detour to Catford and to Barmeston Road where my grandparents used to live to see the house that I used to visit with my parents when I was a boy.

It was having a bit of renovation work carried out to it at the time but although it seemed smaller (everything looks smaller as you grow older, especially chocolate biscuits) it looked however almost as I remembered it and the memories came flooding back.

Read The Full Story Here…

Memory Post – Tyndale Street, Leicester

Every now and again I do a memory post – something from my past.  This is one of a sequence of posts about houses that I lived in.

The West End of Leicester was developed around about the 1900s when affordable housing was required to provide accommodation for the workers in the booming footwear and hosiery industries in the city.

The land was acquired from a wealthy protestant landowner who had some residual say in the naming of the streets – Luther, Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer and Tyndale, all sixteenth century Protestant martyrs.  The area is predictably called the Martyrs and the Church of the Martyrs stands nearby.

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On This Day – Jurmala in Latvia

In January 2007 we made our third visit to the Latvian capital of Riga and on 28th January we took a ride to the nearby seaside resort of Jurmala…

We walked along the frozen shore and enjoyed every minute of kicking through snow and picking our way along tracks made of ice. None of us had seen a beach frozen solid before and none of us had walked on water before either.

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Essaouira – Men at Work

On This Day – Lost Manuscripts

On 25th January 2016, I was on my third and final day in Essaouira.

“The camel and his driver — each has his own plan.”
African Proverb

The day started badly and it was my own fault. Entirely without question my own fault. After an excellent breakfast in the Riad Chakaris the plan was to visit the beach.

This meant walking once again past the fishing port and this morning by chance straying into the boat building yard. I was admiring the boats when a man appeared and beckoned me over. I wasn’t sufficiently alert and wandered across and he invited me inside a wooden picket fence to take a closer look.

To be fair he gave me an informative ten minute tour of the yard but then at the furthest point from the fence he asked me in a rather threatening way for 200 dirham (about £15). I said no way but he was big and smelly and intimidating and blocked my way. I stood my ground but even so eventually handed over 50 dirham which was still too much and money that I would have preferred to give to a street beggar rather than a thief. Lesson learned!

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On This Day – The Blue Boats and Doors of Essaouira

In 2016 our post Christmas travel was to Morocco. On 25th January we were in the port of Essaouira on the Atlantic Coast…

It was once the most important ports in West Africa where there was a monopoly in trade with Europe for spices, precious metals, sugar and molasses and in the slave trade to the Americas. Later it was overtaken in importance by Casablanca and Agadir but today it remains a lively, thriving fishing port and the local centre of the boat building industry.

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On This Day – Essaouira in Morocco

On this day in 2016 I was in the Moroccan city of Essaouira on the Atlantic coast…

I really need to be careful about making bold statements because upon returning from Morocco in December 2011 I said that I would never return there.  This is what I said…

“I enjoyed the experience of Fez, the Riad was excellent, the food was good, the sightseeing was unexpected and we were treated with courtesy and respect by everyone associated with the Riad but I have seen Morocco now and I think it may be some time before I return to North Africa as we resume our travels through Europe.”

Well, now I have to eat my words because our first overseas trip in 2016 was to Essouria on the Atlantic coast of Morocco.

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On This Day – Amsterdam in The Netherlands

I continue to raid the archives for pictures and past travel stories. On 22nd January 2004 in the early days of low cost flying I was in a bitterly cold Amsterdam…

My first visit to Amsterdam was in 1980 and it was on an organised coach tour paid for by exchanging Persil washing powder vouchers and I can only imagine now that I must have done an awful lot of washing to get enough vouchers for two people to go to Amsterdam for a weekend.

This was my first time back to The Netherlands this time with my son Jonathan on my very first Ryanair flight and on this occasion the city was in the grip of a Winter squeeze. We walked the canals of course but it was so cold that we did most of our sightseeing indoors in the city museums.

The first of these was the Scheepvaartmuseum or Maritime Museum which was a short walk from our hotel, the Amsterdam, on Damrak and told the story of the Dutch association with the sea through an interesting collection of maps, atlases, charts, paintings and scale models but best of all a full sized replica of the three masted ‘Amsterdam’, a ship of the Dutch East India Company, which in its maiden voyage sank in a storm in the English Channel in winter of 1749.

To sink on a maiden voyage always seems rather wasteful and sad to me, ships like Henry VIII’s Mary Rose, the German battleship Bismarck and most famous of all the passenger liner RMS Titanic; all that money, blood and sweat just for the ship to go to the bottom of the sea in a much shorter space of time than it took to build it.

Admission to the museum included entry to the ship and we wandered around the decks and cabins completely alone because this was an early morning in January and the temperature was some considerable way below zero.

In the old town we warmed up when we visited the Rembrandt house museum and visited the reconstructed rooms and historically correct restoration based on the artists own sketches and drawings. In the afternoon we walked to the Van Gogh museum which is the most visited museum in the Netherlands and contains the largest collection of paintings by Vincent van Gogh in the World.

Together with those of Pablo Picasso, Van Gogh’s works are among the world’s most expensive paintings ever sold and some of the most valuable ever. Actually, I found the museum rather disappointing because there were lots of gaps where paintings were on loan to other galleries around the World and some of his best known works that I would like to have seen are tucked away in private collections and vaults.

I like Van Gogh paintings and the museum shop was full of prints and reproductions but I am not an art critic and have to confess that alongside those I find brilliant I find some that quite frankly are not so good (shock, horror). The sort of things that my children used to bring home from school, I’d say well done and give them words of patronising encouragement and then after they had gone to bed I’d tape it up inside a kitchen cupboard!