Krakow and East Germany 1994

16th May 1994 - Amsterdam to Krakow

I left Amsterdam in the middle of the night a drove East. Out of Holland, across Germany, by-passing Berlin at around 8am and hit the Polish Border at about 10am. Changed some money. £100 got me 4,000,000 Zùoty. Poland was in the process of knocking of some zeros at the time having created the New Zùoty . 10,000 Polish Zùoty to 1 New Polish Zùoty. Had to look carefully before handing over notes!

After getting across the border I filled up with petrol and my first sight of Polish people were 3 prostitutes at the truck stop. Obviously Germans pop across the border or some 'fun'. For the next hour every lay-by contain someone selling something. Flowers, furs or gnomes?!?! Arrived at the camp site at about 5pm after about 16 hours of driving. I hit my first traffic jam about 2 hours into Poland. Seemed as though the whole country was being rebuilt but judging by the condition of the roads that wasn't a bad thing.

My first impression of Poland are of an over industrialised nightmare. Over ground pipes, chimneys bellowing smoke, no clean air. Lorries and buses spurting out black smoke. Women in the fields plough the fields by hand, riding on horse and cart and Fiat 126s everywhere half of which were on the side of the road with someone's head under the bonnet.

17th May 1994 - Auschwitz

Auschwitz is amazing, it's been turned into a big Expo. The size of the place is the most amazing thing and we're told Birkenau is even bigger. Unbelievable, there was a really good Dutch exhibition. Enough has been written about Auschwitz by far better writers than me so I'll move on.

18th May 1994 - Krakow

Krakow is such a contrast to everything I'd seen driving across Poland. Smart city, very young and good looking. It's grand, clean and impressive. Came across a farmers market, old women selling farm produce and clothes, real old fashioned. Potatoes with mud still on them straight from the back of a Lada. Did the cathedral (where the Pope is from) the church and the castle. Spotted some young children who were obviously from out of town. They looked bored when looking at the Cathedral etc but a McDonalds had just opened and that was obviously the greatest thing they had every seen!

19th May 1994 - Zakopane

Down to the mountains but a bit disappointing. The clouds came over and totally spoilt any views. Could see some tree covered hills and if the weather had been better I'm sure I would've walked for hours.

20th May 1994 - Zakopane

21st May 1994 - Wielczka

The Wieliczka salt mines are beyond belief and out of the rain! A 4km walk through the tunnels which took about 3 hours. From InYourPocket:'A listed UNESCO monument since 1978, the Wieliczka mine is thought to have been created by the forces of nature around 15 million years ago. The mine features nine floors, ranging from 64 metres to 327 metres in depth, with one shaft dating from medieval times. The tour takes in a series of chambers full of carvings and statues, the late 17th century St. Anthony's chapel and the huge 22,000m3 Chapel of St. Kinga, which is completely decorated with salt. The bas-relief wall carvings, made by talented miners, depict scenes from the New Testament and display amazing dimension and realism. After passing a salt lake that holds more than 300g of salt per litre, and a hall big enough to fly a hot-air balloon in, the tour ends at the underground restaurant and souvenir shop. A rattling high-speed mining lift brings you back up to the surface.'I think that just about covers the facts but to be there and see the scale of the caverns and the intricacy of the carves blows your mind.

22nd May 1994 - Pszczyna

The next day I drove to Pszczyna, try pronouncing that. A quiet little market town with a huge square and some nice park land.

23rd May 1994 - Meissen and Dresden

Spent 2 hours either side or the river. First up Meissen.

Then Dresden which really is work in progress. They are only now rebuilding after the bombing in the war. It's actually quite a nice city, one thing that can be said for the bombing it created a lot of open spaces!

24th May 1994 - Wiemar

My last day away. Weimar is a lovely place. Old, well kept and plenty of parks, ideal for a lazy day.

25th May 1994 - Amsterdam

Headed back to Amsterdam. I made it back in time to watch the European Cup final and so glad I did. Ajax won and Amsterdam went crazy.