Day 75 – 2.8.2016
Copenhagen (Denmark)  to Szczecin (Poland)

We left from Copenhagen via Kolding to Szczecin. We avoided the ferry route as the cost for the ticket was too high. So we decided to drive straight via the Great Belt Fixed Link, a 16-km long suspension bridge across the Great Belt (Storebælt) linking the eastern and western parts of Denmark together. It is the world’s second longest suspension bridge, with a span of 1,624 meters. It runs between the Danish islands of Zealand and Funen. It consists of five structures: a road suspension bridge, a railway tunnel between Zealand and the small island Sprogø located in the middle of the Great Belt, a box girder bridge for both road and rail traffic between Sprogø and Funen. This link has reduced travel times significantly; previously taking about an hour by ferry, the Great Belt can now be crossed in about ten minutes. The construction of the link and the Øresund Bridge have together enabled driving from mainland Europe to Sweden and the rest of Scandinavia through Denmark. There were a lot of windmills also erected in the sea. It was a nice drive.

After a long drive, we were passing through a village where we stopped at a church just a few kms before arriving into Szczecin. We went inside the church and clicked some pictures both from inside and outside before returning back to the car.

We reached our destination at around 6.00 pm. Immediately after checking into Campanile Hotel Szczecin, we took a map and directions from the reception and walked to the old town.

On the way we came across this Castle called Dual Castle which was the seat of the dukes of Pomerania-Stettin of the House of Pomerania, who ruled the Duchy of Pomerania from 1121 to 1637. Since it was late, we could not go inside.

We walked further through the old town situated on the left bank of the Oder river. It is the oldest historical district in the city with a population of around 5000. We met a couple of locals with whom we had chat and we were informed that though it is an old town it was built in the late 1990s, with new buildings, some of which were reconstructions of buildings destroyed in World War II.after its destruction during the World War, but in the same old style.

Old Town Hall was constructed in the 15th century. In 1968, the building was brought back to its original look and got a new shingle roof. Gothic ornaments of the interior walls and other details were restored. A sumptuously adorned elevation was to raise the prestige of the city officials.

Part of this house is used as Szczecin’s History Museum and has collection of Pomeranian coins from 14th and 15th centuries, silver and gold decorations of the townsmen’s dress, pieces of furniture, silver, paintings from 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, collection of Szczecin’s plans. Since 1869, the building also houses a popular restaurant and tavern.

We then walked towards the Port and saw beautiful museum buildings, etc.

The Szczecin port is located at the Oder and Regalica rivers in the Lower Oder Valley, off the Szczecin Lagoon. In 2006, cargo traffic in the seaport equaled 9,965,000 tons, comprising 16.5% of all cargo traffic in Polish seaports. In 2007, 2895 ships entered the port with gross tonnage of more than 100.

Museum Morskie in Szczecin was established on 1 August 1945. The museum collections include maritime technical objects, ship-board equipment, building ships, equipment boatswain’s and propelling devices, instruments and navigation aids. It also includes a collection of historical and contemporary nautical charts and radio communication equipment. A significant part of the collection are the scale models of vessels, consisting of: commercial vessels, port and auxiliary fleet and floating vessels and historical. Also the collections include of marine miniature vessels.

Academia Morska is a public Maritime University of Szczecin providing maritime education with Faculty of Navigation, Faculty of Maritime Engineering, Faculty of Economics and Transport Engineering. It also includes Centre for Maritime Technology Transfer.

A monument to the Victims of December 1970 known as the Angel of Freedom built in memory of people killed on his Square

Royal Gate – Brama Krolewska – the gateway city of Szczecin was established between 1725 – 28 to celebrate the seizure of the city by Prussia. Now it is used as a Door Jazz Cafe.

Monument to Polish Endeavor dedicated to the three Generations of Poles in Western Pomerania: the pre-war Poles in Szczecin, the Poles who rebuilt the city after World War II and the modern generation

After having dinner at BUDDHA, a Thai Fusion Restaurant we returned back to the hotel. From the decor, we thought that it may belong to an Indian, and as usual got inquisitive to find out who it belonged to. We had guessed it right, it belonged to some Indian owner.

The next day morning before leaving from the hotel we visited the Cathedral just diagonally opposite our hotel.

Before dinner we walked to the Cathedral but found it closed. We decided to visit it in the morning again since it was just 10 minutes walk from our hotel. It was so beautiful from the inside.

We then came back to the car and left Szczecin for Prague.

Our visit to Szczecin was memorable. If not for our road trip, probably we would never have thought of visiting this part of Poland. We are happy that we visited Szczecin.

Day 76 – 3.8.2016
Szczecin (Poland) to Prague (Czech Republic) via Berlin (Germany)

We left Szczecin in the morning after a visit to the Cathedral. We were on our way to Prague, but since the road leading to Prague was via Berlin, we decided to stop over at the Berlin Wall.

After we reached Berlin, we tried hard to find the Berlin Wall on the GPS, but could not find it. Louis then decided to speak to a Cab driver to lead us to the Berlin Wall. He agreed, but do not know what he heard. At the Berlin Mall, he stopped his vehicle and said that your destination is here. We had to tell him that we want to go to see the Berlin wall and not the mall. Finally he understood and drove us up to the Berlin Wall and charged us Euro 50.-. There was no time to argue so we thanked him and moved on.

Only about 2km of the Berlin Wall still stands as a symbol of the triumph of freedom over oppression. The longest, best-preserved and most interesting stretch is the 1.3km-long section with the many murals painted by international artists in 1990 and again in 2009. Satisfied at finally being able to reach the Berlin wall site, we proceeded on our journey to Prague.

Prague

We arrived in Prague at around 5.00 pm and Alex, at whose place we were supposed to be staying, was waiting with the keys. He showed us around the house, guided us to go to the old town and left. After a few minutes and some coffee, we left to explore Prague, the capital and largest city of the Czech Republic and the historical capital of Bohemia. It is situated in the north-west of the country on the Vltava River, and is home to about 1.26 million people, while its larger urban zone is estimated to have a population of nearly 2 million. The city has a temperate climate, with warm summers and chilly winters. Prague has the lowest unemployment rate in the European Union.

We loved wandering around Prague’s maze of cobbled lanes and hidden courtyards. Just a few blocks away from the Old Town Square we stumbled across ancient chapels, lovely gardens, cute cafes and old-fashioned bars with huge number of tourists around.

Prague also has an extensive modern public transportation system connecting the city. Besides it’s low cost of living makes it a popular destination for expats relocating to Europe.

St. Vitus Cathedral at Prague Castle is a Roman Catholic cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop of Prague. Up to 1997, the cathedral was dedicated only to Saint Vitus, and is still commonly named only as St. Vitus Cathedral. This cathedral is an excellent example of Gothic architecture and is the biggest and most important church in the country.

Located on the south facade of St. Vitus Cathedral is the mosaic of the Last Judgment with the figure of Christ surrounded by angels; kneeling beneath them are the figures of six saints of the Czech lands. On the triptych’s two side panels are images of heaven and hell. Thirty-one shades of colored glass, plus gilded tesserae, can be found in the approximately one million glass pieces that compose the mosaic. Originally, the entire background of the mosaic was gilded, hence the name of the southern portal of the cathedral—The Golden Gate.

Prague Castle a castle complex, dating from the 9th century is now the official residence of the President of the Czech Republic. The castle was a seat of power for kings of Bohemia, Holy Roman emperors, and presidents of Czechoslovakia. The Bohemian Crown Jewels are kept within a hidden room inside it. It occupies an area of almost 70,000 sq.m., at about 570 meters in length and an average of about 130 meters wide.

We then visited the Prague astronomical clock which was installed in 1410 on the southern wall of Old Town Hall in the Old Town Square, making it the third-oldest astronomical clock in the world and the oldest one still working.

Charles Bridge by night after dinner on our way back to the apartment – It connects Old Town with Lesser Town that crosses the Vltava river. Its construction started in the 14th century and it is one of Prague’s most beautiful structures and decorated by a continuous alley of 30 statues and statuaries, most of them baroque-style, originally erected around 1700 but now all replaced by replicas.

Vyšehrad which means “upper castle” is a historical fort built, probably in the 10th century, on a hill over the Vltava River. Situated within the castle is the Basilica of St Peter and St Paul, as well as the Vyšehrad Cemetery, containing the remains of many famous people from Czech history, among them Antonín Dvořák, Bedřich Smetana, Karel Čapek, and Alphonse Mucha.

Prague New Town, where we were staying now, has quite a few high-rise buildings, constructions of which started only after 1995.

We had some wine and dinner at one of the Cafes on the river front before we decided to return back to the apartment.

Day 77 – 4.8.2016
Prague (Czech Republic) to Bukfurdo(Hungary) via Bratislava (Slovakia)

We arrived into Bratislava, the charming tiny old town. Trying to find parking in the old town with loads of tourists around was very difficult. We spent almost an hour in search of the parking. After parking our car, we started walking through the narrow pedestrian streets with pastel-coloured 18th-century buildings and myriad sidewalk cafes around.

Bratislava, the largest city and capital of Slovakia, has a population of about 450,000. It is situated on the southwestern Slovakia, occupying both banks of the River Danube and the left bank of the River Morava. It borders both Austria and Hungary and the only national capital to border two independent countries.

Old Town Hall consists of a complex of buildings from the 14th century in the Old Town of Bratislava. It is the oldest city hall in the country and one of the oldest stone buildings still standing in Bratislava, with the tower being built approximately in 1370.

Michael’s Gate is the only city gate that has been preserved of the medieval fortifications and ranks among the oldest town buildings. Built about the year 1300, its present shape is the result of baroque reconstructions in 1758, when the statue of St. Michael and the Dragon was placed on its top. The tower houses the Exhibition of Weapons of Bratislava City Museum.

Presidential Palace – Grassalkovich Palace is the residence of the president of Slovakia. It is situated on Hodžovo námestie, near the Summer Archbishop’s Palace. The building is a Rococo-late Baroque summer palace with a French garden. in Bratislava and the residence of the president of Slovakia.

Bratislava Castle is a massive rectangular building with four corner towers and it stands on an isolated rocky hill of the Little Carpathians directly above the Danube river in the middle of Bratislava. The castle belonged to the medieval times.

Gothic St. Martin’s Cathedral built in the 13th–16th centuries, served as the coronation church of the Kingdom of Hungary between 1563 and 1830.

We then left from there after spending about 2 hours as we had to drive to Bukfardo, Hungary.

Days 77 & 78 – 4.8.2016 & 5.8.2016
Bukfurdo in Hungary

We left Prague for Hungary. On the way we stopped over at Bratislava as we were driving through Slovakia. Just as we were exiting from Slovakia, a cop stopped us and found that we had no ticket purchased for the toll. He seemed to be a corrupt guy, extracted €50 from Louis and then warned us to buy the toll tickets in advance at the border for the next countries and let us pass by.

We then drove through various beautiful villages with nice small houses onto Bukfurdo. We arrived around 6.00 pm at Romantic Camping Hotel that we had booked about 500 mtrs from the Thermal Baths. We had decided to relax for a day at the Baths.

Bük had found an enormous treasure by discovering hot water near the town’s boundaries. The thermal waters of unique components containing more than 15 000 mg/l minerals were classified as medicinal water in 1965, and with the construction of pools, and later on a covered spa followed by further developments Bükfürdő gradually became a medicinal spa and healing centre known across the whole of Europe.

We had read that this place is a real paradise for anyone wishing to find an opportunity for healing, relaxation, recreation and bathing. Hence, we decided to unwind and relax. Bukfardo was a nice small village with several apartment hotels, private villas, restaurants and snack bars with delicious foods, especially catering to people coming to enjoy the thermal baths and relaxation. We had a nice Thai massage at the Thermal Spa and then soaked myself in the medicinal water pool.

We also met a few people camping with their caravans. They have been coming here for the last 10-15 years practically every year all the way from Antwerp, etc.

We had two lovely days of relaxation. Tomorrow, we move on to Austria.