Strasbourg

Cathedral in Strasbourg

We’ve left my Aunt and headed to my Uncle. On the way, we decided to make a few stops. One of them was in Strasbourg, France, where we’ve spend a lovely afternoon (despite unstable weather).

The city was grounded by Celtic tribes in 12 B.C., then over the years governed by the French and the German. Since 1944 it’s part of France. It is here, where  Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle wrote La Marseillaise (the French national anthem). It’s also believed that Johannes Gutenberg invented here his printing press (however, other sources point to his hometown of Mainz).

 

 

Saarbrucken

Walking in the rain

My Aunt and her Family lives in Volklingen, a small town 13 km (8 miles) from Saarbrucken, the capitol of the Saarland region of Germany. While the weather during our stay in Germany was almost always rainy and cold, we’ve decided to take a walk in the old part of this frontier town.

Just like Silesia in Poland, Saarland has been changing hands several times over it’s two thousands plus years of history. Grounded by Celtic tribes, colonized by the Romans and conquered by the French, in 1957 Saarland settled as German region after a plebiscite  held in 1955.

Since the weather was really nasty, we only managed a quick loop around the old town, before a heavy down pour forced us to seek refuge in the car. We decided to take a stroll around the city, but when the weather stabilized, we’ve stopped for a few hours in the French German Gardens – a park in the suburbs of Saarbrucken.

08-Aug-2011 07:34, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 6.7, 55.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 400
08-Aug-2011 07:28, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 400
08-Aug-2011 07:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 108.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
 
08-Aug-2011 06:35, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 200.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 800
08-Aug-2011 07:17, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 108.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
08-Aug-2011 06:39, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.011 sec, ISO 400
 
08-Aug-2011 07:21, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 135.0mm, 0.004 sec, ISO 200
08-Aug-2011 05:35, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.006 sec, ISO 200
08-Aug-2011 05:25, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 8.0, 108.0mm, 0.017 sec, ISO 400
 
08-Aug-2011 05:35, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.022 sec, ISO 400
08-Aug-2011 05:28, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
08-Aug-2011 05:45, PENTAX Corporation PENTAX K100D , 5.6, 28.0mm, 0.008 sec, ISO 200
 

Merzig

Wolf in Merzig

While visiting my Father’s sister in Volklingen, we went to Merzig to see a park with various species of wolf. We all had a good time walking in the woods and spotting the animals – some hiding in the trees, some sunbathing, others seeking refuge from the sun in the shade. After that we went to a small petting zoo, where the kids had a chance to feed goats, emu, lamas and all sorts of birds. The icing on a cake was an hour in Trampolini, the German equivalent of Bounce-It-Out.

Kaiserslautern

Keiserslautern

Kaiserslautern is an old town mid way between Mannheim and Saarbrücken, the capitol of the Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz) region. We’ve stopped here for lunch and a walk around the old town. Good thing we did as this was one off the very few sunny days in Germany.

Erfurt

Erfurt

Yesterday, we’ve left Bratków and half way through Germany visited Erfurt. It’s an old commercial town, where the influences of the by-gone era of real communism are still visible. A view from a medieval church tower gives a great impression. The old town and the cathedral on one side and large, ugly concrete block buildings on the other.

 

 

Headache

The road is wide open, the sun is high and except for a few birds in the sky, there is no one around. There is no wind, it’s warm and pleasant. The only sound is my motorcycle engine roar. I ride on a country road, no traffic what so ever. Suddenly a road cleaning vehicle is passing on my right. It’s rollers systematically scrubbing the asphalt. At the same time a garbage truck is approaching from ahead. I turn left and there is a constant flow of vehicles going in both directions. I look up and I see a large passenger jet descending in approach for landing.

I wake up in horror. The traffic quickly disappears, replaced by the familiar surroundings of my Parent’s house attic, but the terrible sounds still rumble in my head. The road is near-by, so is the airport. Today is Friday, hence the garbage truck and the road cleaning vehicle. I’m not sure about the motorcycle – was it part of my dream or was it just one of the noises from outside…? I’ll never know, it’s 7.30 AM and the neighbor started drilling and knocking again. He just bought the adjacent townhouse and is determined to complete all repairs within a month.

I’m not sure if that’s related, but my headache started few days ago. I have no problems sleeping, and quite frankly a horizontal position is much more bearable, but days at the house are rather painful. At first I thought the pain is related to excess partying in the last few weeks, but despite laying low last few days, the pain didn’t go away. The next suspect was my occasionally high blood pressure, but after putting coffee and salt aside, my blood pressure is so low, I’m falling asleep all the time, and yet the pain is still here. At one point, my wife thought it might be allergic, but her medicine didn’t help me at all.

I don’t know what it is and how long it’s going to last, but the trip around Europe is at risk if it doesn’t go away soon. I am sure that living in a city is definitely not my cup of tea. It’s only been few weeks, but I already miss our quiet house in the country, where the only loud noises are the birds in the morning and the frogs serenades at night…

German Consulate in Opole

Locks on foot bridge over Odra river.

Yesterday Grandma took Agnieszka and the kids to a large pool complex, where the kids had a really good time. Alex doesn’t want to do anything else now – he constantly talks about the slides and tubes. He wants to go to the pool every day.

In the meantime, I took my Father to Opole – a town about 100 km North West from Chorzów. We had some business at the German Consulate, and despite the bad weather forecast I decided to take the camera with me. I’m glad I did. Opole is an old German town and thanks to significant support from the European Union it starts to look nice again. I didn’t have much time to walk around, but due to my credit card failure, I had to find an ATM. The German Consulate is very close to the center of the city, where I’ve found the nearest machine. That gave me an opportunity to take a few shots.

On the way back it started raining. First it was just a few drops, but then the temperature dropped from 33C (92F) down to 17C (62F) in just half an hour and the clouds spilled tons of water. In Poland usually everyone drives on a highway slightly (<10%) over the speed limit of 130 km/h (80 mph). Some people drive significantly faster (125 mph or more). And that regardless of weather. For them pouring rain and poor visibility is no excuse to slow down. Good thing the road between Opole and Chorzów is kept in excellet shape.

 

Chorzów City Center

Chorzów Town Hall

Even though Chorzów’s history dates back to 13th century (or even 12th according to some sources), the city became an important landmark of Upper Silesia only towards the end of the 18th century. For centuries, until the end of the Second World War the city was known as  Königshütte or Królewska Huta. There is about 113 thousands people living in Chorzów today – same as before the Second World War, but the number is slowly declining. Back in 1977, there’s been almost 157 thousands people.

The bureaucracy in this country is still enormous and it took us almost half a day and tons of money to achieve… almost nothing. Apparently the road to Polish passports for our kids is more bumpy than the cobblestone streets in some parts of this city. We also wanted to renew Agnieszka’s Polish passport which expires next year, but run out of money and patience. We’ll do it next year in Mexico City or New York. Fortunately today we took the camera with us, while trying to finalize the official matters in the Registry Office. Unfortunately, I didn’t check the camera settings before shooting and it looks like most pictures are over exposed. I decided to post them here anyway and made a mental note to myself to always double check the settings before pressing the trigger. Or take my wife’s point and shoot camera, which despite being pink is probably more suited to my photography skills. But hey! It’s one of my goals for this trip to learn digital SLR photography, so you’ll have to suffer and watch my progress (if any).

Chorzów – Amelung

Amelung is a name of a small pond, which has been recently revitalized. Located in the middle of a large residential district, this body of water attracts mostly children and anglers. Not sure about fish, but there is a large playground area, where local youngsters with or without their parents spend countless hours swinging, sliding and building sand castles.

Since we were too lazy to do anything more challenging in the afternoon, we’ve decided to spend a few hours watching our kids integrate with the locals. It quickly became apparent that even though Nadia and Alex speak perfect Polish they have a tendency to build sentences in English. It doesn’t seem to bother other kids, so they had a really good time playing. The one thing we’re a bit afraid of is that they will learn few new words from the angry anglers, which even though very popular, are not among the ones to be used in company…