Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

199807 Norway Denmark Germany Poland

Wednesday 1 July 1998  25 years since we met and so we plan to go out for a celebratory meal tonight.  Call at the local camera repair shop but the technician is off sick.  Having decided we want to take the Fjord line crossing from Bergen to Hanstholm (Denmark) we are shocked to find that they are fully booked for the following two weeks. The alternatives are more expensive and not as convenient.  Will have to keep trying for a cancellation.  Have started to notice the steering juddering when we brake going downhill so will have to get it checked in Trondheim.  Surprisingly the American Ford E350 trucks are really common here but instead of a motorhome on the back they have a cross between a mini bus and a weekend camper van. Stop for lunch at Mosjoen with an area of original tradition wooden houses, warehouses and piers.  It is now cloudy, windy and with alternating drizzle and sun.  Pull up to view Laksforsen Falls where the force of the water shakes the van and the spray pours over us.  Catch a bright spell in the afternoon and pull up by a river to sunbathe.  Having set off late, stopped for lunch and later a sunbathing session we are now on a road with not a town in sight and so the celebratory meal looks like being in Charlie’s restaurant.  Stop on a side road in the forest and "make do" with:-
 Succulent slices of Norwegian salmon on whole-wheat crackers
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 Crispy Chicken pieces tossed in sage and onion
 Crunchy French fries
 Cauliflower, peas and carrots dripping with butter (well marg actually) 
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Mandarin segments soaked in Cointreau and served with warm creamy custard
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Gallons of wine.
Funny how we actually manage to notice that for the first time in weeks it has started to get dark and we have to turn the lights on to read – can’t have had quite enough wine.
SIDE OF ROAD IN FOREST
Thursday 2 July  Get up late (wonder why?) and set off at 10.00am  Stop for lunch at Steinkjer (we call it stinker) and get some excellent information from the tourist centre enabling us to make more plans.  Approaching Trondheim we notice a distinct increase in the traffic and even spot some Police cars for the first time in Norway. We have to pay 10  NOK road toll followed by 12 NOK toll to enter Trondheim during business hours. Find the Ford dealer but we need new disc drums which will cost about £500 and he can’t get the parts for some time.  He assures us we are safe to carry on until we return to England in August but to brake gradually. There is a special Bobil park where you can stay for 40 NOK 24 hours.  The city has a system of free bikes where you insert a 20NOK coin like a supermarket trolley and get your money back when you return it, there’s a rack of them in the car park.  Call at the PO to collect mail and post a film, same system as Sweden with a numbered ticket but by British standards atrocious service as I have to wait 25 minutes – would have had a queue down to town if that had happened at Broomhill.  Find a video camera dealer but the technician is on holiday until Monday.  Having finished the film we examine the still camera and can see a pad sticking up inside which looks like it shouldn’t be.
TRONDHEIM
Friday 3 July  A dull drizzly morning for our bicycle sightseeing programme.  Call at a Minolta still camera dealer who is unable to help as the camera need a part!  Find the (unique to Trondheim) bicycle lift and begin the think we are being set up for candid camera.  There is a track going up the hill and a machine at the bottom.  The instructions seem to imply that you sit on your bike on the track  put the lift pass in and press a button.  Suddenly my bike is propelled forward but within a few yards I have lost my balance and fallen off.  A friendly spectator informs me that you are not supposed to put you bike on the track but only your foot.  With bike on the road and foot on the track I try again.  A metal pad comes along the track and you should brace your foot in it to propel you up the hill, the only problem is that your knee bends and the metal platforms overtakes you at which point you fall off.  Steve has a go and fares little better.  After we have been photographed and made total fools of ourselves we walk up the hill pushing the bikes.  The fort at the top gives us a good view over the town but there will be no camera or video shots.  Back into town over the old wooden bridge and past the water side warehouses on stilts.  Try three more camera shops and finally find one who can mend the video if they can get the part on Monday but for the equivalent of £200.  Think we may be able to get it done cheaper in Germany or Poland so you are spared the boring video for the time being but I may just have to make up for it in my diary!  E6 route south takes us out over the moors past lots of cabins with "live" grass roofs. Wonder how they get the lawn mower up there!  Lots of wild Lupins and Foxgloves at the roadside. Park at Dovrefell in the national park and Steve just happens to spot a lodge which just happens to be showing football – would you believe it.  I thought once England were out I would be spared all this!
DOYREFELL
Saturday 4 July  Leave the E6 at Dombas having phoned Fjord line to find there are still no places on the ferry.  Put a film in the still camera as we have managed to get the zoom lens back in.  Head West to join the "Golden Road" route 63.  Troll pass is hair raising with 11 hair pin bins before a bridge over a waterfall and then a very very steep climb up the troll wall to a view point.  You have to take a ferry from Eidsal to Linge (105 NOK) and then up more hairpin bends before dropping down the Eagle Road to Geiranger.  This is the fjord shown in most tourist brochures and with two cruise ships in the bay it makes a superb photo.  One of the visiting ships is the Radisson Diamond a massive catamaran which looks really posh.  As we wait to board the boat for the fjord trip (70 NOK 1 1/2 hours) the Americans complete with baseball caps and trainers file past.  You can see the famous seven sisters waterfalls, pulpit rock and lots of abandoned hill farms (and probably a lot more if you don’t nod off!).  Walking back to Charlie Steve spots a bar with football on (has he got radar ears and eyes or what).  As usual I go back to cook tea whilst he catches the match.  He comes back for tea and says he has just overheard a young couple saying they are fed up of eating hot dogs and fish fingers – sounds like they are also finding Norway expensive.  Leave after tea and pick up a couple of hitchhikers.  It turns out they were the ones complaining about the food, the lad works at the campsite and the girl in a restaurant and they want a lift up the steep hill to the site.  He asks if we are from Shropshire or Staffordshire as he recognises our accent – he used to live at Cosford!  Drop them off and continue to climb the mountain into Winter.  Lots of snow piled up at the side of the road and unrealistically clear blue water in the rivers and waterfalls.  The road flattens at the top and reveals a big blue frozen lake.  What a sight.  Spot a lot of motorhomes parked up but Steve decides that he would prefer to press on and drive through the impending tunnels tonight when there is less traffic on the road.  There are numerous tunnels, some over 5km long narrow and unlit.  Many more than the map shows and Steve is much happier doing it now with nothing coming towards us.  Steve doesn’t like driving in the tunnels and Charlie doesn’t like the steep hills with hair pins – what a pair.   Emerge into clouds and mist so press on as the road winds it’s way down to the valley and eventually takes us to the town of Stryn on a lakeside where we park for the night by a stadium.   Steve popped into the supermarket earlier to buy some cheese and we have to laugh when we open it and it is a dark gold colour and tastes like caramel.  He did  check with someone in the shop that it was cheese, so it must be a local speciality.  Steve goes out to watch football while I plan the route.  As the weather is bad we both agree it would be pointless to go as far South as the Hardanger fjord and will cut across to Bergen by a shorter more northern road.
JUST S OF HARDANGER FJORD
Sunday 5 July   Rain all night so we linger in bed.  Wake up to find lots of young lads arriving at the stadium and some adults in a ticket booth – are we about the be invaded by cars rolling up for a soccer match.  It turns out that the adults are just sheltering in the ticket booth whilst deciding whether to call off the match – they do. Drive around the tip of Nordfjord but the clouds and drizzle don’t present the views at their best.  Lunch stop at Skei where we decide to curtail our planned route even further and head straight across to Bergen in the hope of getting a ferry cancellation for tomorrow.   Travel along the edge of Sognefjord and take the ferry from Lavik to Oppedal (NOK 132)  Bridge North of Bergen relieves us of another NOK 45 but we are reprieved the 5 NOK city entrance fee on a Sunday.  Bobil parking is NOK 90 24 hours including hot showers.  There are supposed to be electric points but it is so full he has vans parking all over the place as well as the designated spots.  Looks like a nice little earner as it is the only place you are allowed to stay overnight in a motorhome in Bergen.  Steve spots a GB van and invites Pat and Raymond in for a drink.  They are from the Shetland Isles which has a direct ferry connection with Bergen.  Exchange a few books and bits of info before settling down for the night ready for an early visit to the ferry booking office.
BERGEN
Sunday 6 July  Early start (well it is for us) and a walk to the ferry office in time for them to open at 8.00am.  We are in luck and get a place on the MS Bergen 4.30 sailing today with sleeper chairs.  Quite expensive at 2335 NOK but still the best deal we could find.  Begin the "Berlitz" walking tour of Bergen passing the pretty old harbour houses and many monuments.  Steve spots a Minolta shop where the film is removed in a black bag with hand holes.  The owner can’t help but there is an old man (customer) in the shop who is a camera enthusiast and he mends it for us there and then (this is the still camera that should have required a new part!).  Stop at the fish market where Steve takes a sample from every stall before buying a piece of Whale meat for me to fry with onions (how kind). The Japs are buying up loads of caviar and salmon (think they must be one of the few people for whom Norway is cheap!). Move Charlie round to the docks ready for boarding.  Set sail on time and I find a seat with an electric socket nearby to type my computer diary.  Book a table at 8.30 for the smorgasbord buffet as a late celebratory meal.  Spend ages on the computer as we seem to have done so much this week with the weather not being so good.  Although we have enjoyed Norway and are very glad we made it to Nordkapp the cost of living is beginning to get us down and we are ready to move South.  Apparently central  Europe are having a bit of a heatwave at the moment – typical, when we were there this time last year they were having heavy rain.  Will see what the weather is like in Denmark and move accordingly.   Can’t wait  till 8.30 and so sneak in for the meal at 8.00.  All you can eat for NOK 169 – bargain.  It’s nice to sit down and enjoy a meal out for a change as it is the first one since we left England.  Steve makes numerous visits to the fish and cold meats section and I make numerous visits to the dessert trolley.  Main course is a choice of Beef, Salmon in a cream sauce or Curried Chicken.  Steve has all three.  During the course of the meal we pass through a very narrow channel and it looks like we are in people’s gardens as there houses are so close to the shore.  Manage to make our meal last until 10.00 and feel satisfied we have had our moneys worth even at Norwegian prices.  Retire to our sleeperettes where Steve takes his blanket and crashes down on the floor as the third seat in our row is empty.  A man arrives to take his seat and Steve shuffles into the next empty row.
FERRY FROM NORWAY TO DENMARK
Tuesday 7 July  At 1.00am we call at Egersund to pick up more passengers.  Steve is evicted and moves to the area behind the seats.  Manage to get some sleep and the 6.30am announcement of breakfast wakes us.  Pop into the duty free shop and spend the last of our Krone on Liver Pate, Sild, Beer and Mars Bars (guess whose is whose?).  Dock at 8.00am in DENMARK.  Hanstholm is on the NW coast of Jutland and we head down the 181 coast road.  Pull over for a snooze before driving into North Vorupor.  Tourist info, Bank for dosh (Approx. 11 Danish Krone = £1) Petrol station for diesel (around 5DKK litre).  There is a tourist route throughout Denmark called the Marguerite Route signposted with a flower and it takes in interesting places and scenery.  Our original planned route is replaced with this as it also goes down the coast to Germany but with some detours.  Small ferry from Agger to Thyboron (68 DKK) which is a pretty holiday village with a Sneglehuset (shell house). There were nearly 200 bunkers here in the war and most have survived including some very big ones.  The landscape consists of long fine sandy beaches with sand dunes backed by grass covered dunes then a very flat area often with water on both sides of the road. Lots of wind farms and strange big wooden landmarks high on the dunes which ships used to use to navigate. Pretty old houses and farms the roofs thatched with reeds.  Steve gets his fix of ten pin bowling in Lemvig.  100 DKK for 1 hour including shoe hire.  Steve scores 179 – 139  – 174 total 492 and I score 128 –  123 – 158 total 409.  Not much worse than when we used to bowl regularly. Stop for our meal and try out the Whale meat fried with onions.  At first taste it is a bit like mud but it looks like liver and is OK but nothing to write home about (except that I am doing).  Suspect it is one of these unusual meats that you see in posh restaurants served with a very fancy sauce at a fancy price as the meat itself is a non event. Continuing South we park for the night by the harbour at Hvide Sande, on a very narrow strip of road between the North Sea and Ringkobing Fjord.  It’s said to be the best known windsurfing spot in northern Europe.
HARBOUR AT HYIDE SANDE
Wednesday 8 July   A short drive further along the route brings us to Henne Sands with a Naturist Camp site.  125 DKK including electric and hot showers.  15 DKK to use the washing machine and so I get stuck in doing the chores.  Still quite windy but we make the most of the sunny spells.  A nice site with friendly staff who take orders for fresh bread and sell beer and pop at reasonable prices.  At last we can afford to spend on non essentials.  It’s nice to have electric and catch up on watching videos etc or as the Australians say to have a plop day.
HENNE SANDS NATURIST CAMPSITE
Thursday 9 July  Rain throughout the night and until early afternoon.  Fester and watch videos and postpone our leaving until tomorrow as we want to visit Ribe the oldest town in Denmark and do a walking tour.  Phone Franz & Margaret Wappelhurst whom we met earlier this year in Sicily.  They live just over the German border near Husum and I arrange for us to visit them on Saturday.  With luck they may know of a Hitachi dealer who can fix the video camera as we would like to have it in use before we reach Berlin.  Looks like our route will now be Hamburg to check on the boats to America, Berlin to pick up a green card for Poland, Warsaw, Krakow, Prague then back to England.  No response to our offer to swap the van with someone in America, Canada or Australia (seems like most people advertise about a year in advance so we may have to wait until next spring to arrange it) and unless we can get a better shipping price from Hamburg we may be forced to Winter in Portugal or Spain and Morocco – how sad!
HENNE SANDS NATURIST CAMPSITE 2
Friday 10 July  Brighter day but the wind keeps blowing the clouds across the sun.  An active morning defrosting the fridge/freezer, doing another load of washing and dying my hair. Leave around 2.00 and stop first in Varde where a band playing in the town square creates a nice holiday feel.  I spend our last few DKK on a mega huge ice cream which Steve can’t believe.  Next to Ribe the oldest medieval town in Denmark where we do a 1 hour walking tour taking in the most attractive buildings and streets. Stork’s nests on the roofs, one with some birds inside.  Cross into GERMANY just before 7.00pm and to our surprise we are stopped and asked to produce our passports for the first time since leaving England.  Spot a Lidl supermarket in the first town and pull over to shop.  We are a bit like kids with new toys as at last we can afford to buy.  At the checkout they sell plastic carrier bags but for 25p you can buy a really nice cream coloured cotton bag which I decide will do very nicely as a laundry bag.  Park for the night on a nearby car park.
NEAR LIDL, JUST OVER THE BORDER INTO GERMANY
Saturday 11 July   A short drive via Husum takes us to Ostenfeld where we easily find our friend’s house.  Franz is working until lunch time but Margaret invites us in and introduces us to her Dad "Oppa" who is staying with them for 3 weeks.  They live in a large bungalow with the top half a holiday flat complete with two large bedrooms, kitchen/dining room/ lounge and bathroom with sauna. They are both 60 and they stay here in the summer and get rent for the flat whilst  Franz does odd jobs and then spend the winter travelling in their motorhome. Whilst chatting we explain the problems with the cameras and van and she says Franz knows the dealers in the area well. We go into Husum with Franz in his car and drop the video off for an estimate, make an appointment for 9.30am Monday to take the van to the Ford dealer and then get the bad news that the still camera could cost over £100 to repair and it is not worth it so we ought to buy a new one.  We will hang fire on that until we get the price for the other jobs.  We are surprised by how busy and touristy Husum is and enjoy a walk around.  Franz speaks less English than Steve speaks German so all the conversations are in German. We are totally immersed in German to the extent that Steve answers me in German at one point even though we are alone!.  In the evening we stay in the van whilst the others go out to a Birthday party.
HUSUM
 
Sunday 12 July  We all go out for the day in their motorhome.  Oppa who is 80 and a bit handicapped manages to climb up the steps and sit at the dining table.  We go over to Schleswig  and then up the Ostensee coast.  Stop at Langballig for fish butties and Margaret spots a couple in a restaurant whom they met last year in a motorhome in Spain.  Kurtz is German and Carmen from Equador and both in their 70’s.  They spend 100 days a year at home in Germany and the rest travelling.  Steve says Franz insists we go in to watch the World Cup final together (do I smell a rat or what).  Fortunately Margaret is about as interested as me so we both go to bed just after half time.  Steve comes in a little worse for wear having drunk a lot of the Brandy that Franz kept offering.  (Must remember to teach him the German for No Thank You I’ve had enough!).
HUSUM 2
Monday 13 July  Well it may not be Friday the 13th but we are not off to a good start when we get a quote for DM400 – DM450 for the video camera.  It is a good camera and we have some very interesting places to visit so decide to cough up but will have to wait for a couple of days for a part.  The Ford dealer says we need a new disc but this means we need two new discs and pads – parts and labour come to about £700 so we go away to chew over the problem.  Phone Peter our mechanic in England who knows our van and thinks it is a different problem and suggests we try another garage somewhere else.  We have details of an American motorhome dealer in Berlin so will see what they have to say – the brakes are responding well but the juddering of the steering wheel is a concern.  Franz prepares a BBQ in the evening and we all sit in the large garden shed to eat it as the weather is not brilliant.  Margaret has prepared garlic butter to go on the bread and some pasta but the bulk of the meal consists of different meat and sausages.  The Germans do seem to eat a large proportion of meat (hense the toilet design – or for those of you who didn’t read or have forgotten – the toilets have a flat area with the flush at the back so that they can inspect their poo for worms brought on by eating so much meat, yum yum)  Later we are joined by their neighbours the "egg man" whose name I have forgotten and his wife Helga.  My turn to drink too much tonight as we drink wine with the meal and then Franz produces a liqueur after.
HUSUM 3
Tuesday 14 July   Heavy rain on and off all the time.  Call at the local lorry repair garage and make an appointment to get the brake problem checked tomorrow morning.  Franz gives us a photocopy of a 7 week Morocco tour for motorhomes which proves interesting reading and inspiration – I never knew Morocco was so diverse with desert, mountains, hot springs, gorges etc, maybe not being able to swap the van won’t be so bad.
HUSSUM 4
Wednesday 15 July    Up early and round to the garage for 9.00am but they are busy and ask us to call back between 12.00 and 1.00.  Call back at 12.00 and they are closed for lunch until 1.00.  Fortunately a mechanic speaks English and having explained the problem he puts the van on a machine the same as the Ford garage did on Monday and declares a problem with the brakes.  He then takes the wheel off to look at the discs and spots that there has been some dirt on the disc drum which has worn an off centre circle on the pads.  This means new disc pads and drums on both sides at the front.  He cannot supply these so we make some phonecalls –   The American dealer in Berlin says he can get the parts & fit them in 3 weeks for around 1000DM.  Our friend Peter in England comes back with a similar price but it depends on whether we have two or four  wheel ABS as that price is for the two wheel.  Travelworld "think" we have two wheel ABS, the Ford and local garage check and say we have only front wheel ABS, Peter says that if we have ABS on the front then we must have it on the back also!  At least everyone agrees that we can come to no harm continuing our trip as we are (don’t panic the brakes are working fine it is just the steering wheel that judders) so we will wait until we get back at the end of August so that either Peter or Travelworld can see for themselves as it is doing our heads in.  The video camera is ready following the repair and surprisingly costs 400DM.  Having been quoted 400 – 450 we expected it to be 450 although anything is too much for us at the moment. Kohl Rabi were on special offer at the Spar shop so I bought one to cook for tea as Margret says they are good boiled then tossed in butter and with black pepper.  Having removed the sprouting leaves it looks like a very small cabbage which is what Kohl means (Rabi is not in my dictionary).  When I chop it up it is firm but moist (a bit like a swede) and once cooked tastes good but not like anything we have had before but it goes down well with roast potatoes, chicken and gravy.   Chat and have drinks in the house in the evening.  Phone the man from Hamburg who said he would get us some shipping info – his friend is on holiday until the end of this month but he has an address in Dusseldorf.  Franz very kindly writes and sends a fax for info on our behalf.  Can’t see any point in going back to Hamburg now so we will head towards Berlin next.
HUSSUM 5
Thursday 16 July  Say our farewells to Margret, Franz and Oppa.  There is a good chance we will meet up again this winter as they are going down to Torre del Mar in Spain early December and then over to Morocco to start the tour around 18 January.  Try to take a photo of everyone but the still camera is not working at all now with or without the zoom or flash.  Think the motor has finally given up on us.  Lubeck comes as a pleasant surprise – for one thing it has stopped raining.   Park by the riverside harbour and walk around the old town.  The Holstentor is a huge old gateway with round towers supporting it and surrounded by gardens.  Lots of old houses and little alleyways leading to courtyards with higgledy piggledy cottages.  Jacobikirche is the fisherman’s church with a boat inside.  Return to Charlie just as the rain starts again.  Head SE towards Schwerin.  Lubeck used to be in West Germany and we are now travelling in what was East Germany.  Quite a noticeable difference as there are fewer motorways, houses, large towns and big shops and the price of Diesel is creeping up – DM1.17 being the norm now.   As we drive through each village we have to slow down as the streets are cobbled.   Many villages have pretty lakes and old buildings and you can see storks in the fields.  Approaching the large town of Schwerin we see lots of areas which look like allotments with sheds but upon closer inspection turn out to be people’s houses.   The car park shows hourly rates up to 12 hours for DM9.50.  I negotiate with the man to pay DM9.50 to stay from 4.00pm until 10.00am and feel quite pleased with the deal.  He takes me in the office and gives me a special ticket to make the barrier go up in the morning.  A short stroll around the nearby lake brings the impressive castle into view.  On an island in the lake it looks like a picture postcard.  Amble around the town and try to get information and maps for Berlin from the tourist office.  Very few people speak English here, a distinct lack of motorhomes, tourists and a non existence of Brits apart from ourselves.  Back at the car park we are the only motorhome amongst about 6 cars.  At 7.00pm the man raises the barriers, locks the pay booth and disappears.  The car park is now free (so much for my negotiations!).  It’s most entertaining seeing the last few people return to their cars and try to pay.  One man spends about 5 minutes trying to force the machine open to put his money in even though he can just drive out under the barrier without paying anything.  Steve says it could be a first for someone breaking into a machine to pay instead of to rob it.
SCHWERIN
 
Friday 17 July  The man returns at 8.00am to "open" the car park.  It seems we need only have paid from 4.00-7.00 yesterday and  for 2 hours this morning.  Lesson learnt – arrive late leave early and don’t pay as much or not at all.  Cloudy skies but at least the rain stopped in the early hours.  In Crevitz we spot a Netto store and park to do some shopping.  Steve goes to get the trolley whilst I go in.  After about 5 minutes he hasn’t appeared and I am struggling to carry the things we want.  I’m just in the process of putting the things back to check where Steve is when he appears at the door.  I am in Sky the shop next door to Netto and he has been waiting for me, what a Wally!  End up doing a bit of shopping at each to pick up the different special offers.  Manage to pull over and catch a bit of sun in the afternoon before "hitting" Berlin.  On the outskirts the traffic is much less than we expected but at 4.00pm when we spot an out of town shopping mall at Havel it seems a good place to pull over until the main rush hour has died down.  Diesel now down to 1.00DM – the cheapest we have ever seen in Germany.  Potter round the shops to kill a bit of time and find out that if we want to we can stay on the car park and catch a bus to the underground station.  Just after 8.00 the shops are closed and we are almost alone on the car park.  Not over happy so think we will head  to one of the special motorhome car parks nearer the city centre.  Find the Zitadelle car park OK and are just debating whether to stay when a German motorhome pulls up.  They say that they know of a better place and to follow them.  We only have a small map with brief details of places to park motorhomes whereas they have a proper book and the added bonus of understanding the language.  Despite this we trail them for about  an hour and have to keep doubling back when they get lost.  Pull up onto a petrol station whilst the girl goes to ask directions.  I spot an English car and get chatting to ask for car parking details.  Sian from Sheffield who has lived in Berlin for 2 years says we can park in his garden and then sees that we have a big motorhome and not a car!  Find the spot the Germans were looking for but it is very isolated and unsuitable so we agree to part company and we return to Zitadelle having been reassured by Sian that anywhere in the Spandau region of Berlin in very safe and this place is handy near the "U" bahn station.
BERLIN 1, ZITADELLE
Saturday 18 July    Clear blue skies and sunshine and not the weather for tramping round a city.  Change plans and drive to Lake Heiligensee where there is a Naturist site.  No motorised vehicles are allowed on the site only caravans so we park in the quiet lane outside.  It looks like there is a holiday camp for kids as two big marquees are filled with rows of camp beds and  the kids easily outnumber the adults.   Enjoy stripping off, relaxing and soaking up the sun – until 3.00pm when the clouds appear.  After tea we catch the local bus to connect with the "U" bahn.  DM7.80 buys a full days travel on all the public transport.  The underground system in Berlin is crazy.  Before the wall came down the East had an "S" bahn above ground system and the West the "U" bahn underground.  The have now been joined but non too well.  The maps are unclear as they both use the same colours but prefix the routes with U or S and spurs running off each line in the same colour.  They are also rebuilding a lot of it so you get to the station to find a poster telling you it is closed and detailing alternative transport.  Make it to the Hauptbahnhof which used to be in the East.  From here we walk about 1km along remaining wall which has been preserved as an art gallery because of the outstanding graffiti.   Over the very impressively restored Oberbaumbrucke and into the Kreuzberg area dominated by the Turkish.  Connect via the derelict Potsdamer Platz station to Zoologisher gardens where the nightlife is happening.  Lots of people, neon lights and music.  The bombed out church stands illuminated in the centre of the square and we head off down the Kurfurstendam.  Having soaked in the atmosphere we hop back on the "U" bahn to see the Brandenburg gate floodlit on our way back home.  Arrive back exhausted at midnight but with a better plan for our serious attack on the city tomorrow.
BERLIN 2, LAKE HELIGENSEE NATURIST SITE
Sunday 19 July  On the bus by 8.45 and without hesitation onto the next bus and then the "U" bahn to visit Checkpoint Charlie.  Having visited Berlin around 30 years ago it is strange for me now to see it all again without the wall.  I remember most places but the wall seemed much bigger and even more intimidating that it does now.  The Checkpoint museum is crammed with information and vehicles used by people in their escapes – hard to believe how recently it all happened.  Walk to Potsdamer Platz now known as the largest building site in Europe.  The hundreds of cranes to be seen bear witness to that.  The project to build new offices etc and landscape the area started in 1994 should have been finished in 1998 – now put back to 2005. A special building has been set up in the area to give you information on the site and the whole area is a tourist attraction as it now stands.   Continue our walk to the Reichtag also in the process of being renovated as are so many of the buildings here.  Through the Brandenburg gate and along Unter den Linden with the impressive library and university.  Bebel Platz the site of the Nazi book burning with a hollowed out chamber beneath the square containing empty bookshelves.  Gendarmenmarkt with the twin churches and Schauspielhaus.  Into the Museum of German History (free) and then over the bridge to Museum Island dominated by the multi domes Berlin Dom which has already been restored.  You can visit all the museums for one entrance fee of DM8 which includes an Audio guide.  Dial the number of any item that interests you to get a 5 minute talk which fortunately you can stop after 30 seconds!   Pergamonmuseum is fantastic with massive exhibits – the Babylonian Ishtar Gate, Altar of Zeus from Pergamon (also known as Bergama and one of the sites we visited in Turkey last October), and the Roman Market Gate of Miletus. Back into the West side and out to Charlottenburg Palace to sunbathe and look at the gardens.  Half way back home we change buses at Alt Tegal where there is a festival in the lakeside park.  Lots of stalls selling food and drinks and a band playing.  The planned visit to a Chinese restaurant is replaced with Chinese take aways, Steak sandwich, Beers and Guinness enjoyed whilst sitting on a wooden bench by the lake listening to music.  A nice way to round off our Berlin visit.  Think we will have to return in about 10 years to see how all the restoration turns out but will perhaps allow for a 3 day visit next time as we have worn ourselves out today and last night.  Guess we aren’t getting any younger and just can’t hack it anymore.
BERLIN 3, LAKE HELIGENSEE
Monday 20 July  Very hot day, perfect for sunbathing and the occasional dip in the lake which is great until the kids return from an outing and begin the water games.
BERLIN 4, LAKE HELIGENSEE
  
Tuesday 21 July  Ditto.  Early evening drive to Templiner See near Potsdam.  Good car parking by the Strandbad – free from 1800 – 0800 and then only DM 3.00 for the day so having arrived late we don’t have to pay until tomorrow, lesson learnt.
NR POTSDAM, TEMPLINER SEE
Wednesday 22 July  Up and out early to catch the 0823 bus into Potsdam except that I read the timetable wrongly last night and there isn’t one for some time.  Hitch a ride and a man soon picks us up on his way to work.  He speaks some English and points out the sights en route.  He says that if we would like a lift tomorrow he will pick us up at the same time.  He drops us off in the Dutch area where the main street with trams used to be a canal.  A short walk to the Sans-Souci Palace and Park.  Lots of Palaces all clustered together in beautiful gardens which we spend a good hour strolling through.  Bus back to Templiner See (DM1.40) and then to the beach.  DM4 for each adult or DM7 for a family of two adults and up to 3 kids.  For once we wish we had kids with us – or for the extra DM1 saving perhaps not!  A nice beach at the side of the lake with the last area set aside for Naturists although apart from an FKK sign there is no barrier.  Very hot day necessitating lots of cooling dips in the lake.  A very friendly family of swans with 3 signets patrol the beach and there are also small ducks.  Stay on the car park again overnight.
NR POTSDAM 2, TEMPLINER SEE
Thursday 23 July  Back to the beach until around 4.00pm.  Have to chuckle when I use the toilets as the toilet roll dispenser is called Big Willy.  Head East on the motorway towards Frankfurt ob den Oder by the border with Poland.  About 80km before we get there we start to see motorway signs telling the traffic for Poland to use the hard shoulder and the through traffic the other lanes.  Fortunately it is covered up at the moment.  About 20km from Frankfurt we are moved into a contraflow on the opposite carriageway as the side we were on is for the border queues.  There are lots of rubbish bins and toilets so they obviously have regular tail backs and the lorries are already being made to wait.  Drive into Frankfurt as we have to pick up mail in the morning.  Luckily we spot the main Post Office straight away and then find a tourist office to pick up a map and find a place to park.  Take a stroll around the town and over the bridge (the River Oder separates the two countries) with the border control and into Poland.  No idea of the exchange rate but I get 200 Zloties from the ATM. In the supermarket they are showing an exchange rate of  PLZ 5.70 = £1.   A quick check on prices shows that Germany is cheaper for most things so we may have to do a big shop tomorrow.  Another problem is that the bridge has a height barrier of 2.50m and we need 3.20m clearance so we will have to go back out of town to the motorway bridge crossing.  I realise as we cross back into Germany that I have just broken the law as you are not permitted to take Zloties in or out of Poland, oops. Some thunder, lightening and rain late evening but still hot.
FRANKFURT OB DEN ODER
Friday 24 July  Steve pops to the Post Office when it opens and having had great difficulty explaining to the clerk that he wants his Poste Restante mail he returns with letters from Netty, Mavis & Trevor and the Insurance companies Green Card.  He sends me back  to explain that we are also waiting for a small packet from Claire.  From my understanding packets take longer, packets cannot be received Poste Restante or it may arrive tomorrow as there are no more deliveries due in today.  The man from the Tourist Office returns with us in his lunch hour to translate.  A letter from Claire has now appeared (despite no more deliveries coming in) and it seem that in German Packet is the word for Parcel which is why they don’t accept them.  Packets in Germany are grouped as letters and there is no reason it hasn’t been received unless it was such a large letter it was classed as a "Packchen" German for packet! (but the clerk said they didn’t have such a category).  Although we now have a Green card for two weeks in Poland commencing today we decide to wait until tomorrow to see if the letter packet appears as the clerk says there will be another delivery tomorrow at 11.00am.  Do a big grocery shop in the Mall and end up trolling through the street with the supermarket trolley to take the stuff back to the van which is parked quite a long way away – glad no one knows us.  Catch up on some letter writing which gives me another excuse to go and harass the Post Office staff.  New staff now and the clerk says the next delivery will be in by 10.00am.
FRANKFURT OB DEN ODER 2
Saturday 25 July  Call at the Post Office around 10.30 and the delivery has arrived but nothing for us.  We don’t want to wait until Monday so ask for the packet to be returned to Claire (quick reminder if anyone sends anything to us be sure to put the senders name and address including country on the back).  Head out to the Motorway to queue for the border but the queues are horrendous.  Change of plan and we carry on to Helene See just South where there is a Naturist beach.  3DM each for the beach and 3DM for parking.  All well and good until the clouds roll in 1 hour later.  Time for a stroll.  The lake used to be a brown quarry and it is over 7m deep with good visibility to 6m.  Almost all around the edge is a huge campsite with bungalows as well as normal pitches for over 1000 tents and caravans.  It’s rather like Butlins with bands playing, a fun fair, lots of stalls, activities, diving courses and even a Noddy Train.  The beach is fantastic with what looks like very clean gold imported sand.  Glad we are not on the site though as it looks extremely crowded and noisy.  Nearly out of water so we fill a couple of containers from the toilet sinks.  Leave the car park and find a quieter spot further on to stay overnight.
HELENE SEE
Sunday 26 July   At about 2.30am we hear a lot of noise and a Trabant car pulls up at the side of us and someone gets out, takes a torch and some other gear from the boot and disappears into the forest.  Steve thinks it must be a poacher.  Get up late and rather than face the notoriously bad weekend border queues we reckon we might as well hang on now until tomorrow and leave after we have collected the letter from Claire.  The Trabant owner must have a lot of faith in his vehicle as he has a tow bar and a crook lock fitted!  Take a walk in the forest and nearly end up getting lost on the many paths.  Stay by the van to sunbathe as it keeps clouding over, notice lots of cyclists and in line skaters of all ages going past.  The "poacher" returns around 4.00pm and it’s a girl.  Drive back into Frankfurt an der Oder to park overnight.  We are nearly out of gas so make do with cheese and crackers for tea rather than using any gas to cook.
FRANKFURT AN DER ODER
Monday 27 July  Round to the PO just before it opens at 8.00am.  Don’t think they can have the same pension system and England as there are only 7 people waiting outside.  No letter but another delivery due so we wait until 9.30 when it still hasn’t arrived.  Should have given up on Friday really but we lived in hope.  Fill up the water at the petrol station and head out on the motorway where there is no traffic at all.  Quite a long drive to the border and then through customs into POLAND in less than 5 minutes with just a quick stamp on the passports.  Diesel is cheap at 1.53PLZ litre (around 26p) and lots of stations selling LPG .90PLZ litre.  I feel a lot happier when we are all "tanked up".   Terrible roads with ruts in the tarmac from where the lorries have been.  The problem for us is that with having twin wheels at the back we are too narrow for the lorry tracks but too big to fit inside as the cars do.  Lots of prostitutes at the road side in Day Glow clothing and looking very friendly waving at all the vehicles.  Radar traps by the towns with overhead cameras and digital screens which display your speed as you approach.  Large roadside stalls selling big soft toys and garden ornaments ranging from small  statues to life-size horses!    First stop Poznon where we park in a guarded car park as advised and walk to the town.  Unusual old market square with a castle like town hall in the middle and all sides surrounded by attractive tall narrow 14c merchants houses in different designs.  In front of all the houses are large pavement cafes tempting you to stop for a beer but Steve resists as you cannot drink and drive in Poland.  The synagogue converted into a swimming pool in 1940 is still in use today.  It is very hot and humid but just after we leave at 4.00pm the heavens open up and slows down our progress.  Arrive in Gniezno 5 minutes too late to visit the church which closes at 5.00pm.  Overnight parking in a security compound at 20 PLZ gives us a chance to explore the town now that it has stopped raining.   A small attractive town with the main attraction the church where the first King of Poland was crowned in 1025.   Very little English or any other language spoken but we manage to understand enough of the menus to order steak and chicken with salad and chips.  A beer and a vodka cocktail to wash it down for a very reasonable 26PLZ (£5).  Steve spots another bar selling Grolsch and Irish Coffee so decide to make pigs of ourselves and have more drinks with a Pizza as well.  Unfortunately they don’t have either the Grolsch or Irish Coffee so we abandon that greedy plan.  Phone Piotr and Ewa (whom we met in Norway) and they say to phone again when we arrive in Warsaw where they live.  Piotr is a translator and Ewa has a book company and both are well travelled and speak excellent English. 
GNIEZNO
Tuesday 28 July  Rain throughout the night  and having arrived at the church for the 10.00am opening we are on the road by 10.20am.  Think someone did a good advertising job promoting it as we were not over impressed.  We join one of the very few stretches of motorway in Poland but even this has big ruts on the inside lane.  Notice Police vans that look like clapped out old ice cream vans which couldn’t catch anything.  A sharp reminder of the changes that have taken place here over the last decade although so far it looks to be the most prosperous of the Eastern European countries we have visited – lots of modern cars and lots of new buildings going up.  Can’t seem to spot any shops selling bread although it is very difficult when driving through towns as they don’t have any signs outside.  Stop at a McDonalds drive through but eat in as the height barrier is too low.  Big Mac meals for 8.50PLz (£1.50) and Happy Meals £1.20 to include a Disney souvenir baseball cap.  Approaching Warsaw the standard of driving is shocking with people overtaking you as you are already overtaking another vehicle.  The road signs are very poor and more by luck than judgement we reach a campsite.  Phone our friend  who tell us of a better and cheaper site South of the town.  Armed with a city map we head to the stadium which once again is difficult to find with only one sign the whole way.  The venue for the Winter International Ice Skating competitions and also a Hotel it makes use of the grass in the centre of the track for summer camping.  New shower and toilet block and electric hook up for 30PLZ as opposed to 46PLZ at the other site.  We are the only occupants on the camping area but the Hotel is full of Israeli’s.  Behind the stadium is a fairground but we are assured it is closed despite music coming from that direction but as it is Celine Dion Steve is not complaining.  Probably one of the strangest places we have stayed.  Pietro drives out to pick us up and takes us back to their house.  Ewa cooks us a meal and then we all go into the town centre to the Old Town area.  Learn a lot about Warsaw and that it was all demolished and has been rebuilt since the war in an exact reproduction of the original city following architects plans, photos and paintings.  It is so much more interesting learning about the way of life from someone rather than a book.    The roads are bad as the tarmac came from Russia and contains 10 times  the permitted amount of paraffin, the signs are also poor as different sections of road belong to different people and they can’t agree who is going to provide the signs so no one does.  The underground is still not finished as again no one can agree on a route or who pays for what.  Crazy.  Ewa takes a load of washing for me and we arrange to phone them when we return from our sightseeing tour tomorrow.
WARSAW – STADIUM CAMPING AREA
Wednesday 29 July  Catch a bus nearby to take us to the old town (1.40PLZ per journey).  We have a good plan following last nights preliminary visit and soon get round the castle area, old buildings and past the house where Marie Curie was born.  A long walk takes us to the Palace of Culture an enormous high building with the largest square in Europe in front of it.  There is a viewing area on the 30th floor but mainly modern blocks of buildings can be seen and nothing spectacular.  Steve says we have spoilt elsewhere although we have to admit to being impressed by the building itself.  Lazienki Park has a statue of Chopin who was born near here and two Palaces one surrounded by water and approached across bridges.  Pause for a beer by the lakeside.  Back to the van for a late afternoon siesta before our planned night on the town.  In line skaters are using the stadium track as a practice circuit and it looks pretty serious as they have stop watches.  Cliff Richard is playing at the fairground.  Piotr says the fair is officially closed but there is some money laundering going on which is why one or two rides operate in the day.  Reckon Warsaw definitely deserves the 1 star rating but we are looking forward to visiting Krakow which used to be the capital and gets 3 stars.  Back to the old town area to Pod Samsoneum a Jewish Polish restaurant.  Enjoy an excellent meal with some unusual items – a platter of mixed typical Jewish starters, buckwheat, warm sweet and sour salad fruit, chicken rolled up with butter inside and then battered and deep fried, all excellent value with the total bill only 91PLZ (about £4 each).
WARSAW 2 – STADIUM CAMPING AREA
Thursday 30 July  Hop on a bus to Wilanow Palace and gardens on the SE outskirts of town.  It started out as a village but one of the Kings bought it all and built up the biggest mansion into a Baroque style palace.  Back at the stadium we are joined by a Dutch couple in a motorhome who have also had great difficulty finding the site.  They spend each year from May until September checking the existing campsites in Northern Poland which are entered in the Dutch camping book and also look for new ones.  Maybe in the future our little haven will be more densely populated.  We have seen only one Polish motorhome but lots of very old small fibreglass caravans, apparently designed to be towed by the very popular Fiat 126.   We would have thought the Polish would be looking to tourism to boost their business but apparently they don’t need it and consequently don’t do much to promote it.  Settle the campsite bill which is instantly reduced from a total of 60PLZ to 50PLZ on production of the camping card international.   Head South following the course of the River Wista.  Very much a rural area with lots of horses and carts and women working in the fields.  Roadside sellers with Apples and Tomatoes.  People taking their "pet" cows for walks as we also saw last year in Bulgaria and Romania.  Kazimierz Dolny is where we are aiming for but on arrival we find that the campsite is only for tents and inaccessible to us.  There are no 24hour secure car parks and so we have to keep on driving.  Next port of call is to be Sandomierz but we are now also worried that the site there will be the same.  Campsites in Poland are numbered and only the very new ones are known by a name (but still have to keep the number system).  We have been warned that the standards can be very poor but that wild camping is not recommended and can be dangerous.  Luckily we spot a 24hr petrol station advertising a restaurant, bar and parking.  Put some Diesel in and the very friendly old man says we are welcome to park overnight and he will keep an eye on us.  What a find – draught beer at only 1.80PLZ (35p) half litre as opposed to 4 – 7PLZ in Warsaw.  A Magnum type lolly for only  1.20PLZ.  Sit outside the bar playing backgammon while Steve gets stuck into the beer.  Lots of locals keep arriving in cars, motorbikes, pushbikes, tractors and lorries.   A really lively spot in the middle of nowhere about 5km North of Opole Lubelskie the nearest town.  There are toilets in a shed in the field but the old man insist that we should use the indoor ones and we are welcome to have a shower all "gratis".  The bar closes at 11.00pm and we enjoy a peaceful night.
GARAGE JUST N OF OPOLE LUBELSKIE
Friday 31 July  It’s a lot further to Sandomierz than we had imagined and there is no campsite so we definitely made the right decision last night. Take a tour under the town through stone and brick chambers inhabited by Tartar ghosts – or so my Lets Go book tells me as the guide doesn’t speak a word of English.  Wieliczka just SW of Krakow is the home of the 700 year old salt mine.  The new campsite Wierzynek with a Motel is excellent with everything new and clean.  Back to rainy weather so we chill out and watch some videos.
WIELICZKA, WIERZYNEK MOTEL CAMPSITE
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