April 30, 2024 Zalipie PL

After several days of bustling around Krakow we headed off to the small village of Zalipie. Zalipie is a village of about 60 or 70 homes 100 kilometers east of Krakow.

One of the homes in Zalapie decorated in flowers.

Around 1900 some of the women in the village began to paint flowers on smudges on the outside of their homes caused by wood smoke. They used a paint made of powdered dye and milk.

The interior of one of the homes in Zalapie.

This art spread from home to home in the village. The artists were mostly the women of the village. The flowers are not based on real flowers, but the imagination of the artist.

A painting on an exterior wall of one of the homes.

We joined a tour of several of the homes in the heart of the village. As we were parking for the tour we met up with a Polish/Dutch family who now lived in Switzerland. I heard the mom asking someone if it was ok to park where we were in Polish, after I heard her speaking English with her daughter. I asked her to translate the answer for me and she laughed and said yes it was ok. They were a very interesting family of polyglots. Mom was Polish, Dad was Dutch, the kids were going to school in Zurich which is a German speaking town, the daughter who was about 10 and spoke English with almost a perfect American accent to both parents. The son seemed to speak to his Dad in Dutch and his mother in English. Grandma was along for the trip and only spoke Polish, but was having a great time looking at the houses as it reminded her of her childhood.

One of the houses on the tour.

The tour gave us access to the interior of three homes that were very beautifully painted. They also gave us an idea of a typical country home from the early 1900’s in Poland.

An older home in the village that was not part of the tour.

We visited the cultural center for the town. They are trying very hard to preserve the tradition in the village. A lot of the women who were doing the painting have passed away over the last 20 years. They are trying to develop a new generation of people to continue painting the homes.

One of the homes with a straw roof.

Our last stop for the day was the local church. It was also well decorated with a flower theme.

A chapel in the local church decorated by the local artists of Zalipie.

We probably would not have found this village if we had not been forced to slow down in Krakow. So today we were glad we had to slow up.

An arrangement of flowers in the cultural center.

April 29, 2024 Wielczka PL

The most important tourist attraction near Krakow is Auschwitz. Ton and I discussed whether to visit the camp prior to coming to Krakow. Initially we had decided to pass on it as we were not that keen on seeing a monument to mans cruelty. But when we extended our time here we decided we should go. All tours to Auschwitz must be guided, and unfortunately there is not one tour in English available this week. We suspect that all of the tour operations in Krakow buy up the English spots in advance, so the only way you can go is by joining one of their tours from Krakow. So despite our new intentions we are going to miss Auschwitz.

The Wieliczka Salt Mine.

The other important historical attraction near Krakow is the Wieliczka Salt Mine. Salt has been produced in the area since paleolithic times. The springs around Wieliczka have always been salty, and salt was produced by diverting ground water into pits, letting the water evaporate, and harvesting the salt that remained.

In its day this stuff was as valuable as gold.

In the 1300’s a Hungarian princess named Princess Kinga was promised in marriage to a local Polish prince. When she was asked what she wanted for her wedding present she asked for the salt mining rights around Wieliczka. She hired 13 miners, and told them to start digging and one of the largest salt deposits in Europe was discovered.

Salt mining has taken place here since the 1300’s.

The mine was in continuous operation from the 1300’s until 1996. At that time there was severe flooding in the working mine, and the cost to rebuild was not justified by the going rate for salt.

The salt in the mine took many forms, but most of it was black and used for meat curing, and industrial purposes.

The mine is immense. The mine goes down 1073 feet and has over 187 miles of vertical and horizontal passages.

Part of the 187 miles of shafts in the mine.

The mines have been a tourist attraction for centuries. Noted dignitaries have been brought to see the mine back to the 1700’s. It has been run as a commercial tourism site back to the late 1800’s. One of the stories on the tour talked about a canal boat tour that took place in one of the brine tunnels in the early 1900’s. It was canceled after one of the boats full of German soldiers in WWI capsized with many of the “tourists” drowning.

One of the several lakes on the tour.

Waliczka was one of the sites on the very first list of UNESCO world heritage sites in 1978. The list of UNESCO sites has grown quite a bit since then, so they are proud to be among the first.

This chandelier is made of salt crystals. The crystals are 99% pure salt.

The tour is really extensive, taking over 3 hours, including an optional museum tour (we somehow ended up in a Polish museum tour, but enjoyed ourselves none the less) . We went over 400 feet under ground climbing down over 800 stairs, and walking 1.5 miles. Fortunately, you get to take an elevator up at the end.

Part of the church on the tour.

In the late 1800’s 2 miners and a local artist asked to convert one of the large rooms into a Catholic Church. They worked on this project on their own time without compensation for 20 years. The church is very impressive with a life of Jesus carved in salt around the exterior walls of the church.

A carved salt reproduction of Michelangelo’s last supper.

There is also a huge hall that can be rented for weddings or corporate events. These days tourism is what is keeping the mine alive and they are very creative about embracing tourists.

The church as you enter it from a grand staircase.

While the experience was very structured, we enjoyed how they presented the history of the mine. They did a good job of mixing descriptions of very practical things, like how do you get the salt to the surface, and how that changed over the centuries. They also focused on the importance of the mine in the history of Poland, and used it to tell the story of Poland nationalism. Almost all of the national heroes of Poland are given a mention during the tour even if they only visited it once.

John Paul II visited the mine three times, twice as a school kid (he grew up nearby) and once as the Cardinal of Krakow before he was elected Pope.

Wieliczka is another beautiful world heritage site worth visiting.

One way to transport salt. Once the horses were lowered into the mine they never left.

April 28, 2024 Zakopane PL

Today we headed up into the Tatra Mountains near Krakow. The Tatras are part of the larger Carpathian Mountains and are located in Slovakia, and Poland. They are the tallest mountains in the Carpathians with two peaks over 8000 feet.

Every day leaving the campground we have gone past this canola field, Ton loves Canola fields and asked me to stop so she could get a good picture of this one.

The drive up to Zakopane was mostly on a brand new freeway that starts in the suburbs of Krakow, and ends about 40 kilometers from Zakopane. From there the rest of the trip is on a good two lane road, but Zakopane is one of the most popular tourist attractions for Poles in Poland. As a result the traffic was bumper to bumper for the last 40 kilometers.

A pretty mountain village on the road up to the Tatras.

Zakopane was fairly bustling when we parked up. It is centered on two things, a large pedestrian walkway thru the center of town which is lined with restaurants and tourist shops, and ski resorts on the surrounding hills. The Tatras were still snow covered, but the ski resorts were bare of snow, so everyone was focused on the promenade thru town. We joined them for a stroll.

Oscypek Cheese.

One of the first shops we saw had an interesting cheese on display. Oscypek Cheese is only made in the Tatra Mountains in Poland. It is an old cheese first produced in the 1300’s, and had almost faded into obscurity for being old fashioned. But lately it has come back in style. The cheese is made primarily of sheep milk, that only can be collected between April and October when the sheep are eating mountain meadow grass. The sheep milk is turned into cottage cheese, that is then boiled and compressed into blocks of cheese that are molded in decorative shapes. The cheese is then placed in brine one of two days, before being smoked for 14 days. We are told it is best eaten fried with jam. We will be testing our cheese and will give you a report later.

Our lunch for two. We are not having dinner tonight.

As we were strolling up the promenade Ton was having a great time going from one traditional Polish restaurant to another, and investigating the menu, and gauging the price/value ratio. After checking out several restaurants and debating their merits (mostly with herself as they all looked good to me) we settled on one that specialized in grilled meats Tatra style. The meal for two was huge, but we managed to almost finish it.

The grill at our restaurant. The potatoes wrapped in foil were delicious.

Prior to its current incarnation as a posh resort town Zakopane had a much more rough reputation. The locals were called Highlanders and like many mountain people they were known for being difficult to govern and distrustful of outsiders. They made their living raising sheep, lumber jacking, and occasionally smuggling people or things over the border to Slovakia.

One of the few old buildings from the non-posh days of Zakopane.

After our meal we needed another promenade thru town to walk off some of the meat we had consumed. We were tempted to visit a couple of breweries we passed, but were too full to enjoy the beer. We did stumble into the town market which was full of local goods, and non-local goods that the locals thought they could sell to the tourists. Ton enjoyed looking thru many of the stalls, and finally settled on a couple of book bags to take home with us.

Part of the market area. Zakopane is a tourist area, but the tourists are mostly Poles, it is not on the foreign tourist route yet. That means the prices were pretty good.

The drive back down the mountain was busy. So far the area around Krakow has impressed me with the volume of traffic. Even on Sunday as soon as we hit the suburbs of Krakow we were in stop and go traffic for about 10 kilometers.

The wooden door on the church. The church is new, but the door reflects the heritage of the region.

April 27, 2024 Gacki PL

Our primary plan for the day was to go shopping. So we were off to Lidl first, but Tomak the manager of the campground told us there was a brewery on the way to Lidl, so we stopped off there first.

It was a very nice and large facility with a small hop yard in front. We were excited but when we went in we discovered their tasting room was closed permanently. They were selling beer in plastic bottles, so we bought three to bring back to François.

Our next stop was Lidl. We had forgotten it was Saturday, and the Lidl was crazy. It was our first shopping for food in Poland so Ton enjoyed exploring the local food options.

When we returned to the campground we decided to go to downtown Krakow and do some more exploring and find a place for lunch. But just as we were about to leave it started raining. It ended up raining for the next two hours, so we put our trip to Krakow on hold. Ton cooked us a nice meal instead.

The beers from the brewery came in 1 liter plastic bottles. Our French neighbor and me found them to be quite satisfactory.

Our neighbors in the campground are French and we struck up a conversation with them when the rain let up. It was a bit difficult as their English was limited and our French is less than limited. But google translate allowed us to cut thru the lack of a common language. We ended up spending a very nice afternoon sitting around chatting and sharing beer, vodka, and snacks with them. These kind of encounters are part of the fun of traveling in a RV. Despite not having a common language we had a great time getting to know a couple from Dunkirk in France, hopefully they also enjoyed meeting us.

April 26, 2024 Czestochowa PL

When we decided to extend our time around Krakow, it allowed us to look at places we would not have been able to see on our original itinerary. One of those was Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa.

The side entrance to Jasna Gora lined with flags from around the world.

Jasna Gora is a monastery dedicated to Mary. It is most famous for a painting of Mary holding Jesus that is called the Black Madonna. This painting is supposed to cure people of illnesses and it has become a pilgrimage site for believers.

The Black Madonna is considered one of Polands national treasures.

It was about 150 kilometers one way to Czestochowa, so we were on our way around 10 am. Our Corolla feels like a luxury car after our previous rentals of a Fiat Panda, and a Lancia Ypsilon we had in Italy. It also makes a difference cruising at 120 kph (I couldn’t quite bring myself to go the 140 kph speed limit which is 87 mph) vs 95kph we usually drive François.

The monastery and the basilica are quite extensive, and the walls surrounding it are quite thick as it also served as a fortification.

We were not quite sure what to expect, so we were both quite surprised at the size of the place when we drove up. The tower of the basilica is one of the tallest in Poland, and the entire complex is surrounded by thick walls as it also served as a fort. The fort was strong enough to withstand a siege by the Swedes in the 1640’s.

The alter with the Black Madonna is in a side chapel off the main basilic.

The chapel with the Black Madonna is not in the main basilica but in its own church attached to the basilica. The walls around the chapel are covered with religious icons and plaques in honor of Polish military units including many from WWII. One wall is covered in crutches and other medical devices that people left after being cured by the Madonna.

This wall was covered with discarded crutches after a visit to the Madonna.

One of the plaques was dedicated to Solidarity which was the organization of workers starting in Gdansk which helped to bring down the Polish Communist Government in the 1980’s. The leader of Solidarity Lech Walesa received the Nobel Peace Prize for his actions in freeing the Polish People. He was an avid Catholic and the Peace Prize is on display at Jasna Gora.

The memorial to Solidarity in the chapel.

Jasna Gora is a pilgrimage site with people walking to the monastery from all over Poland. The last 1.5 kilometers thru town have a dedicated perfectly straight path that allows the pilgrims to view the monastery as they complete their pilgrimage. It is quite impressive.

The final part of the pilgrimage is done on this beautiful tree lined walk thru the center of Czestochowa.

This is the third pilgrimage site we have visited, and while we knew less about it than the others it made quite an impression. The other two sites (Fatima in Portugal, and Santiago de Compostela in Spain) where surrounded by more commercialism, while there were some restaurants and a couple of souvenir stores the over feel was not focused on tourism, but religion . Jasna Gora felt a little more spiritual than those sites did.

Tons favorite station of the cross.

On these trips I learn little things about Ton that I didn’t know even after 43 years. I always knew that Ton was fascinated with the stations of the cross in catholic churches. While she never converted, she did attend a catholic boarding school for many years and went to mass every week. Jasna Gora had the stations of the cross in large statues that you took in by walking the walls of the fort. Today I learned that she really likes the 6th station, which is known as Veronica wiping the face of Jesus.

This stain glassed window is dedicated to Pope John Paul II, the Polish Pope.

We really enjoyed Jasna Gora. It was beautiful and powerful, yet simple.

The interior of the main basillica.

April 25, 2024 Krakow PL

We spent most of last night debating what to do for the next 8 days. It turns out most of Poland has next week off, and all of the places we were planning to stay next week are booked. After a lot of discussion we came up with three options. 1. Stay around here and explore Krakow and the Malopolska region in depth. 2. Drop down towards Vienna, where the Austrians only have Wednesday off, so things are a little less hectic. 3. Spend three days exploring Krakow, and then drive straight thru to the Baltic States, where they also only have Wednesday off. Explore the Baltic states and then return and finish Poland.

The Market Hall and Clock Tower on the main square in Krakow.

Ton got out a piece of paper in the end and wrote down the day by day plan for each option, and we decided to stay in the area. It turns out rental cars are ridiculously cheap this week, we can rent a nice car for about $13/day so moving around will be easy. We love the campground we are in, the facilities are first rate, and the owners are bending over backwards to help us, and the price is very good. Also, there is quite a bit to see in this region, and Krakow is reported to be a city that merits multiple days to see.

The horses and the carriages are really beautiful here.

With our plans decided we started our day by heading over to the airport to get our cheap rental car. The first place we went tried to rip us off by demanding we buy full insurance coverage from them because we could not produce an international drivers license. The insurance they insisted on was 3 times the cost of the car rental. They really had this act down, first refusing to rent the car, then as I was about to walk out, the guy said let me see what I can do to help you. That’s when he hit me with the I can rent you the car if you buy our outrageous insurance. We walked out, went down to another rental agency and 20 minutes later we were on the road in a nice Corolla. It ended up costing us $20 dollars more for 8 days than the original place. The international drivers license never came up.

Ton liked the artwork on this street car.

We decided to head into Krakow and run a little reconnaissance on the old town. Krakow is the second largest city in Poland, and the most visited by tourists so the downtown was pretty busy. Its near the end of the school year so there were lots of students on field trips in the old town.

Part of the old city walls. Only fragments remain of the walls.

Our quick pass thru town showed why it is a big tourist attraction. Unlike most cities in Poland Krakow was not fought over in WWII, or subjected to any bombing, so the medieval and 18th century buildings have survived intact. It was the ancient capital of Poland before Warsaw, so it has always been an important city, resulting in a lot of interesting buildings. Also, it has one of the few intact Jewish quarters in Central Europe.

Part of the old Jewish quarter.

After walking quite a bit we were a bit hungry so we headed down to a smaller market where there were a bunch of small food stalls. There were several kebab stands, and a couple of small pastry stands, but we were there for a Polish specialty called Zapiekanki. This is a recent food development going back to the 1970’s. At that time the communist government decided to allow a limited number of private food stands to operate, from this loosening of control came the Zapiekanki. It is a half of a baguette covered in cheese, ketchup, and other toppings. During the communist era the toppings were basic, today they can be quite exotic. The one we choose was called the Diablo, and included hot sauce, jalapenos, mushrooms, and Arab sauce. It was delicious and pretty spicy.

Holding the Diablo Zapiekanki that Ton and I split.

By now it was pushing 4 o’clock so we launched ourselves into stop and go rush hour traffic. Greta Garmin led us down a major road heading north out of town. The traffic was moving at a crawl but we were going with the flow. Then Greta told us to turn left onto a road that looks like it will be completed in about 2027. I had bad words for Greta, but she insisted that the construction site was the way and would not pick another route. We finally had to put her in timeout and break out google maps to get to the campground.

The inside of the Market Hall in the main square.

After having the campground to ourselves for two nights we now have neighbors from France. When, the wife saw our plates she was very happy and hit me with a blast of French only to be disappointed when I told her in very bad French I was American and couldn’t speak French.

The blue sign is advertising a milk bar. This is another legacy that has survived from the communist era. Despite the name it does not serve milk, but a kind of buffet serving hearty traditional foods at a good price.

April 24, 2024 Gacki PL

The weather forecast called for rain all day, so we had intentionally decided that we would hang out in François with no plans except for a late lunch at the small cafe attached to the campground. We had arranged for a typical Polish meal with the mother of the owner of the campground.

The cafe at the campsite. Today we were the only customers, but were served a delicious meal.

We enjoyed a nice relaxing day waiting for the rain that was forecast to last all day to begin. While it was still pretty cold, the rain didn’t actually begin until 5 pm after our dinner. The place is very quiet and the only noise beside the occasional car are the birds chirping and the stream babbling away.

Part of the grounds of the agritourist site.

At 3 we went to the cafe for a 5 course traditional Polish meal. The cook/mother explained each dish to us. Ton really loved the soup and the carrot salad. We also tried some local wines which were better than we expected as we are pretty far north and Poland is not known for its wine.

The view from the restaurant. It is like a movie set.

When we were paying the mom told us that she has been working hard on her English, but she really had a hard time understanding the English of people from India. We thought that was a strange comment as this part of Poland does not look like a hot bed for Indian tourism. She than told us that two years ago a Bollywood film was partly filmed here, and that they had up to 150 people on site during the filming. Because of that Bollywood connection they are getting quite a few Indian guests. We were not surprised that someone picked this place to make a movie as it is that beautiful, we were just surprised that the film was an Indian one.

What a nice place to spend a rainy day.

We also learned that the logistics of our trip are going to get a little bit complicated at the beginning of May. It turns out than in addition to May 1, which is labor day, that May 3 is Constitution day in Poland. Because they fall on Wednesday and Friday this year we were warned at dinner that a lot of people are using vacation days to take a 9 day holiday. We are probably going to have to plan on booking our places in campgrounds during that period, instead of just showing up like normal.

April 23, 2024 Gacki PL

Tonight we are in a beautiful Agritourist site near Krakow. The site is in the very small village of Gacki. Gacki is full of very wealthy looking homes in a valley surrounded by granite cliffs. We choose Gacki because we knew there would not be much sight seeing today as we had a four hour drive to Krakow. Tomorrow it is supposed to continue with the cold and rain all day, so we decided we would wait out the weather. The weather is supposed to improve Thursday with sun and highs near 70! So we decided to find somewhere we could relax the next two days rather than fight mother nature.

The babbling brook 20 yards from the door of François.

We arrived about 2pm. The owner of the campground invited us to arrange a meal with his mother at the cafe so we walked up there. She showed us around the cafe and told us the story of her great grandfather who left his wife and 5 children in a small village in Poland to go to the United States for a few years to earn some money. He returned one time with a bunch of gifts and then headed back to the US never to return again. It is rumored that he had another family in the US. She ended the story by saying I assume he is buried somewhere in America, but we don’t know where. We arranged for lunch tomorrow and she promised to make us some famous Polish dishes.

Part of the grounds of the agritourist site which includes a small campground, and some rooms to rent.

Now we are happily settled in, listening to the birds sing, the wind blow in the trees, and the brook babbling by. Life is good and on top of the beautiful nature we have strong WiFi which means tonight will be movie night.

April 24, 2024 Wroclaw PL

Wroclaw is another city with a very complicated history. It sits at the intersection of three different powers, and has been ruled by all of them multiple times in its history. It was originally part of the Czech speaking Kingdom of Bohemia, then part of Poland, then the Hapsburgs, then Germany, and now Poland again. It is actually much more complicated than that. As an example of how things have changed, in 1900 when it was part of Germany and known as Breslau the population of the city was 98% German speaking and 2% Polish. Today it is 98% Polish and 2% German.

The architecture in the Market Square shows the German influence in the area.

It is a very beautiful city, but we didn’t enjoy it as much as we would like as it was extremely cold today. On a trip that has been cold and damp from the beginning, today was by far the coldest day. When we got to the center the temperature was still in the 30’s and it was windy. We spent the first hour shopping for warm clothes. Ton bought another sweatshirt to augment her vest and coat, and I ended up paying too much for a stocking cap to cover my head, because I cannot divide by 4. (4 Zlotys=1dollar)

The side walk cafes were empty today as it was far too cold to sit outside.

We enjoyed walking around the market square, it is very large and surrounded by nice looking buildings from the 1800’s. The square was mostly empty as everyone was walking briskly to where ever they were going, as it was not a day to linger outside.

I’m doing a cold weather jig on one of the over 100 bridges in Wroclaw.

We spent about an hour exploring the square. But some of this time was spent in the McDonalds getting a coffee warm up. The coffee in Europe is really excellent, but sometimes you just want a cup of good old watery Amercan coffee, and you can always find it at McDonalds.

There are three hundred of these small bronze Gnomes throughout Wroclaw. We found about 10 of them, but we were not looking too hard.

We finally decided to head to the old covered Market as we figured it would be interesting and heated. Usually we would walk, but since like Prague as seniors we had free access to the transit system we jumped on a tram for two stops.

The interior of the market. Lots of interesting things for Ton to window shop thru.

The market was nice, and pretty good sized. But what caught our eye when we first walked in was a small cafeteria style restaurant with a long line of customers. We knew we had found our place for lunch. We joined the line and when it was our turn we ordered our food by pointing at what looked interesting, with the ladies behind the counter than pointing at what side dishes they recommended we get with our main course. It was fun and we ended up with a tremendous amount of food for what amounted to $10. When we sat down, the couple at the adjoining table starting chatting. They were a mixed Dutch/Polish couple about our age. The Polish half explained that this cafeteria was typical of the restaurants during the communist era, but was still an institute in the town. The food was hearty, plain and simple. It was really a good meal and an exceptional value.

Our $10 “Communist” lunch. It helped to off set my $20 stocking cap that I needed to survive the cold weather.

After about 4 hours and another visit to a coffee shop to warm up we decided to pack it in and head back to François. The weather is supposed to be just as cold for the next couple of days, but it is supposed to warm up closer to the weekend. Tomorrow we are going to shift to Krakow, but we may just hunker down for a couple of days and wait for it to warm up so we can enjoy the city.

The old city hall on Market Square.

April 21, 2024 Wroclaw PL

Today we entered our 18th European country,(19th if you count the Vatican, we are debating the technicality since François the motorhome did not enter the Vatican). The distance today was 290 kilometers, so I expected it to be less than 4 hours. We have been traveling almost completely on freeways this trip so I expected the trip to be a little over three hours. For the first 150 kilometers we were cruising along on nice empty freeways. It was stress free and I could drink my coffee while François moved along on cruise control. But then I noticed that the next turn on Greta the Garmin was a left turn, and you obviously don’t do that from a freeway.

It turns out that the new stretch of freeway in Northern Czechia, and Southern Poland is not complete. So we had about 120 kilometers of 2 lane roads thru the Sudetes Mountains on the Czech/Poland border. The drive was pretty but instead of averaging 90 kph, our average speed with villages and mountain roads was around 60 kph.

Yesterday we had a view of the river with a Gothic church on the hill on the other side. Today we have a yard full of construction cranes. But the family running the campground are very nice, and the showers are warm and the water is hot so we are happy.

It is also very cold. The low overnight in Prague was 31 degrees, and the high today in Wroclaw was 40 degrees. So when we arrived at our campground in Wroclaw, and joined the only other camper a nice couple from Finland, we decided today was a laundry day. Tomorrow we will bundle up and head into town to check out Wroclaw.

April 20, 2024 Prague CZ

Despite the terrible weather we are enjoying Prague. It rained almost all night last night. When we woke up in the morning it was both cold and wet so we were in no hurry to get going. Finally about 9:30 we decided to head out, and just as we were about to leave François another downpour came. So we settled back down and finished our morning coffee. About 11 the rain let up, so we hustled down to the dock to take our pedestrian ferry to the right bank of the river.

Our river ferry that started all of our trips. We are camping on an island in the middle of the river.

The river bank had been converted into a weekend market, and despite the weather there were quite a few people there. Today because of the weather the big sellers seemed to be anything that was served hot, including sausage sandwiches and mulled wine. There was a microbrewery selling beer, and we were impressed that they were offering it in proper glass. No plastic cups in Czechia. You took the glass full of beer and consumed it while shopping in the market and when you were done, you returned the glass to the brewery tent, all very civilized.

Walking thru the Saturday Market along the river bank from the ferry landing.

Our primary destination for today was the Mucha Museum. Alphonse Mucha is a famous Czech artist, and one of Ton’s favorites. The last time she visited Prague she was unable to visit the museum, so she had set aside one day for the museum in our three day itinerary.

Mucha is most known for his advertising posters from Paris in the 1890’s.

Mucha was born in Czechia in 1860. He studied art and architecture and in the 1890’s a rich patron payed for him to study in Munich and Paris. In Paris he began to make a name for himself as an Art Nouveau artist.

Mucha was a leading Art Nouveau artist. The model for this poster was his daughter.

He became famous when he was commissioned at the last minute to provide a poster for a new play by the most famous actress in France, Sandra Bernhardt. His poster when displayed caused a sensation and she signed him to a contract to produce posters for her for six years.

Mucha during his time in Paris.

He parlayed this fame into a great deal of advertising work. He also designed furniture, jewelry, and even cookie tins during this time. He made a lot of money, and eventually he decided to return to Czechia as he was very patriotic.

My favorite poster, done for the Moravian (his home province in Czechia) lottery to fund literacy in schools. I love the fierceness of the little girl.

During the early 1900’s he visited the US for a couple of years to lobby for Czech interests, and for commercial reasons. His work was very popular in the US in the early 1900’s.

He was not just a graphic artist, he also worked in paint. This painting is called Winter Night and is based on his time in Russia. In this painting his wife is the model.

After the founding of the Czechoslovak Republic in 1918. Mucha designed the currency, stamps, and the medals for the army as his contribution to the independence of the Czech and Slovak people from the Hapsburg Empire.

One of the banknotes he designed for the Czechoslovak Republic.

After independence he dedicated himself to art. He began working on his grand masterpiece called the Slav Epic, which is a series of over 20 very large paintings showing the history of the Slavic peoples. He worked on it until his death. Yesterday one of the stained glass windows at the cathedral really caught our attention. We really liked it, and thought it was one fo the most interesting stained glass windows we had seen. It turns out it was designed by Mucha.

Drawing for the design of the stained glass window in the Cathedral in Prague.

When the Germans invaded Czechoslovakia in 1939 Mucha was arrested. He was only held for a few days, but the arrest broke him, and he died a few days later at age 78.

A poster for the Paris Worlds Fair in 1900.

We really enjoyed the Mucha museum. It is not a large museum, but we spent a great deal of time there. Ton then asked me to check on a restaurant she had read about to see if it was close. It turns out it was just down the street. The restaurant is a modern take on local food. They serve Czech food in Tapas sized portions. This allowed us to sample a bunch of different Czech dishes. It was quite delicious.

Some of the small dishes we enjoyed today.

To keep up with the culinary tour, Ton had picked out a coffee shop in the Municipal Symphony House. It was built in the early 1900’s, and Mucha contributed much of the art in the building. When we got there it was packed, but we got the only empty table. The room was beautiful, and the desserts were superb.

The coffee shop in the Municipal House. A great place for coffee and dessert on a cold wet day.

Prague has been a great experience. I see why it is one of the must see places in Europe. Normally after three days in one place we are ready to move on. In the case of Prague I think there may be more to see, and while we are moving on, I am not in a hurry to do so.

Ton loves the logo of Gambrinus beer.

April 19, 2024 Prague CZ

Yesterday we spent most of our day in the old town of Prague which is located on the east bank of the Vitava River, today we spent the day in the interestingly named Lesser Town on the west bank of the river.

Crossing the Charles Bridge to the Lesser Town.

Despite having the diminutive name of Lesser Town the west bank of the river has the Palace and main Cathedral for the city. They are located on a major hill that looks down on the river and the rest of the city.

Looking down on Prague from the grounds of Prague Castle.

The climb up the hill is very steep. As we were beginning the climb an Irish Pub (Ton and I believe that it is a EU law that every city must have at least one Irish Pub.) had a great sign, “Look at how steep that hill is, you are going to need a Guinness to make it up there.” Despite the warning we took on the hill without a Guinness.

St. Vitus Cathedral at the top of the hill.

The Cathedral and the Prague Castle are part of the same grounds, with the Castle and Government buildings surrounding the Cathedral on all sides. There was very little historical commercial activity in the vicinity of the Cathedral which is unique to what we have seen in most cities. In this case the Cathedral was integrated with the center of government, not commerce.

The rear of the cathedral. All of the buildings surrounding it appeared to be religious or governmental.

The Cathedral is considered Gothic, and there has been a church on site here since the region was converted to Christianity around 1000 AD, construction of the current Cathedral was begun in 1340, but building ebbed and flowed over the next 500 years and the building was not completed until the 1870’s. For this reason it has elements of Renaissance and Baroque architecture also.

The Interior of St. Vitus Cathedral.

When we got to the entrance there was quite a line to get in, but we decided to buy a ticket because it looked interesting, and also because we were cold, and it looked warmer than outside. It was quite crowded inside, but the building is immense and could handle the crowd.

We liked this statue built onto one of the columns. We are not sure what it is depicting, and it is much more modern than most of the other art work in the Cathedral.

We both really enjoyed the stained glass windows. They also seemed to be from many different eras which was interesting to compare.

This window had a style of art and coloring that we have never seen in any other Cathedral we visited. We both really liked it.
Another window that felt more “modern” to us than the windows we normally see in Cathedrals.

The Cathedral was undergoing repair in the center, so parts of it was roped off. Most of these giant buildings require constant maintenance, so it is rare to visit one that does not have part of the building closed off or covered in scaffolding.

This is the last of the original gargoyles removed from the Cathedral a few years ago. The original Gargoyles were made of sandstone and as they aged they began to break off. Now all of the original ones have been replaced with concrete replicas.

After the Cathedral we moved to Prague Castle. Prague Castle was begun in 970 AD and is the largest castle in the world at 750,000 square feet. Part of it is the official home of the President of the Czech Republic. It was originally built as the home of the King of Bohemia, and has also served as the residence of the Holy Roman Emperors.

The coronation room in the castle is immense.

Only a small part of it is open to the public, but the scale of the rooms, especially the coronation room is very impressive. The public areas are sparsely furnished, but given the crowds that makes sense.

Adam and Eve on the outside of the Cathedral.

There is a small street next to the palace that is supposed to represent typical merchant shops from the middle ages. Mostly it looked like an excuse to capture some money from the tourists visiting the Castle. But one of the buildings had a collection of armor from the era which was interesting.

The suit of armor designed to look like a chicken was our favorite. Someone really admired chickens and spent a lot of money to have this constructed.

The walk back down the hill was much easier than the walk up the hill, so we decided to reward yourselves with a Pilsner (after all we are in Czechia, not Ireland), and some Goulash. We picked a restaurant at random, and had a nice warm meal. When we ordered our beers the waitress asked a large for the gentleman and a medium for the lady? We said sure, my large beer turned out to be a full liter, which was twice as much as I expected, but I managed to finish it.

Our meals included 3 different types of dumplings.

After lunch we decided to head back as the forecast called for heavy rain in the late afternoon. It was a good call as a few minutes after reaching François and firing up his heater the rain hit. We spent the rest of the afternoon staying cozy and dry.

More art from the cathedral.

April 18, 2024 Prague CZ

We made a short shift up the freeway to Prague. Before we left Pilsen we went into a Lidl near the campground to stock up on some food, and stopped for some fuel. Parking at the Lidl was tricky as the lot was very small and parking was awkward. But in the end we have a full refrigerator and some interesting Czech foods to try. The drive over to Prague was busy, and near Prague the right lane came to a complete halt with trucks backed up for several miles. We never figured out what caused the back up.

The Charles Bridge, one of the highlights of Prague.

I had picked out a campground on an island near the center of the city. After having a campground to ourselves for the last two days, I did not think to call ahead. When we arrived at the campground, the lady at the reception said they could not accommodate us for the three days we plan to stay in Prague. Fortunately there is another campground on the same island, and they had no problem accommodating us, and the manager had lived in the US and visited Oregon so we felt at home. After we settled in we headed over to the water taxi to get us across the Vitava River to the tram stop to get us down to old town. We are really enjoying Prague already because if you are over 65 all public transport is free.

The tower that leads to the Charles Bridge.

Our first stop was the Charles Bridge that is a medieval bridge that is now used for pedestrian traffic, and is one of the main tourist stops in town. Despite it being April, and the temperatures in the low 40’s, the bridge was buzzing both with foreign tourists, and Czechs out for the day. Despite the crowds we enjoyed our walk across the bridge.

The crowds were still pretty thick. You can tell how cold it is, by how everyone is bundled up.

After the bridge we headed to the main square to check out the astronomical clock which is one of the other main tourist attractions in Prague. When we got to the clock I overheard an English speaking guide saying that the clock here is considered the second most disappointing tourist attraction in Europe. (The first is the Mona Lisa in the Louvre.)

The astronomical clock, the second most disappointing tourist attraction in Europe.

We hung around with a bunch of tour groups until the top of the hour to watch the parade of faces that are part of the hourly chime of the clock. Since I did not have high expectations I was not disappointed.

The meridian line in the market square. On sunny days the spire from the monument in the center of the square casts its shadow here at exactly noon.

We based a lot of our agenda for today on a blog from a local guide. We enjoyed her takes on places to go, and also places to avoid. We got a kick out of her description of a popular treat that is sold near the bridge, and around the market. It is called Trdelnik, and consists of sweet dough with cinnamon on a stick with a bunch of cream. She said in her blog that it is not a traditional Czech desert, that in fact no Czechs eat it, but use it as a sure fire way to spot tourists. Whoever invented it for the tourist trade had a sense of humor as Trdelnik in Czech means “dullard”.

The not so traditional treat sold to tourists around Prague.

But we did take her advice on a good local beer place to go to try out Czech beers. Pult was located near the old town hall, and had a small but well chosen menu of Pilsners from all over the Czech Republic. The service was excellent and the guy behind the bar did a great job of matching up our taste with the appropriate beer. We really enjoyed ourselves.

The Powder tower near our beer hall for the day. The car in the foreground is another tourist trap according to the locals, with no connection to Czech history or culture.

After a few hours downtown we decided to head back before it got too cold. Despite it being closer to the end of April than the beginning the overnight temperatures are still in the mid-30’s with a frost warning for Saturday. We are going thru a lot of propane keeping François warm.

Part of the market square in Prague.

April 17, 2024 Pilsen CZ

The most common type of beer in the world is Pilsner, and today we visited the brewery that originated the beer. Pilsner Urquell Brewery has been brewing beer in Pilsen since 1842 when all of the people with brewing licenses in town decided to consolidate beer brewing in one location. They hired a German brewer from Munich to start up the new brewery and cold brewed Pilsner style beer was founded here.

The expansive grounds of Pilsner Urquell Brewery.

Today the brewery is a major industrial site capable of producing 880,000 bottles of beer per day. We have toured breweries before, but they were microbreweries. This is the first time we had visited a modern macro brewery.

Part of the old brewery which was used until the early 2000’s. It is now part of the tour, but not used for producing beer.

We had signed up for a tour at 12:30 and decided to drive over. The weather is still unstable, and it rained overnight, and once in the morning. Today was a little better than yesterday, as there was more periods of sun than rain and the high was around 45 degrees.

Part of the bottling line at the plant. There were three others of this size.

The tour was led by a local medical student who does these tours to work his way thru college. He was very knowledgeable and had a good sense of humor. Besides providing us with the history of the brewery, he was full of facts about the capacities of the brewery, and their worldwide distribution.

This is another Czech beer produced on site here, at a smaller brewery. Ton really liked the logo with the beer drinking king.

They have 9 kilometers of tunnels under the brewery which in the past were used for production of the beer, as pilsner requires periods of cold storage as part of the process. Some of the tunnels were used for the cold production, and some was used for storage. Today the cold production is done using modern refrigerated equipment to control the temperature exactly, so the caves are empty.

Part of the caves under the brewery that were used in the past. The large keg was built in the cave as it is larger than the door. The large barrels were used for cold processing of the beer.

It was an extensive and interesting tour and we enjoyed ourselves. It ended as all good brewery tours do with a sample of unfiltered, and unpasteurized beer. The beer was quite good. While all of the beer sold as Pilsner Urquell in the world is produced here, the company is now owned by Asahi Brewery in Japan, so they do bottle other products at the plant.

Sampling the product in the cellar under the brewery.

After we finished the tour we headed to the town center for a visit. Our target was the synagogue which is the third largest in Europe. We have seen other synagogues in Europe and they are usually understated because of the complicated history of Christian/Jewish relationships. This synagogue is one of the most prominent buildings in Pilsen.

The synagogue in Pilsen is very prominent and an architecturally striking building.

The synagogue in Pilsen was built in the 1890’s. It is a beautiful building inside and out. We were the only visitors while we were inside so we were able to enjoy the interior and look at architectural details.

Looking the length of the synagogue from the women’s gallery.

Unfortunately, Czechoslovakia was the first country conquered by the Nazi’s in WWII so the Jewish population of Pilsen was decimated. Less than 100 Jews from Pilsen returned to the city after WWII so the synagogue fell into disrepair during the communist era.

The synagogue was beautifully restored in the late 1990’s by the Czech government, and the local Jewish community.

In the late 1990’s funds were provided to restore the synagogue to its past glory. The restoration was beautifully done and the interior of the synagogue is striking. Unfortunately the Jewish community in Pilsen is still quite small so services are held in a smaller building. Today the main synagogue is also used to host concerts as well as being preserved as a memorial to the past.

The main square of Pilsen with a mix of architecture from different eras.

While we were touring the synagogue it had rained pretty hard, but the rain let up just as we left. We decided it was time to head back, we wanted to stop at a Lidl near the campground, but when we got there we could not find a place to park François, so we decided to try again tomorrow.

The water tower at the brewery, based on a Dutch lighthouse.

April 16, 2024 Pilsen CZ

We were up early so that we could join Dang and Jeap for breakfast. They skipped the tour groups morning walk thru town so that they could join us for coffee and another long conversation. Ton speaks to them frequently on the phone, but nothing beats a face to face conversation. Finally they had to depart at 9am for Frankfurt and then Thailand.

We had decided yesterday afternoon to head over to the Czech Republic for a few days. We selected Pilsen as our first stop as it is the originator of Pilsner Beer. Tomorrow we will head into town to check out a brewery and take a look at the town.

We are the only inhabitants of a newish campground near Pilsen.

On our drive over the weather continued to be unsettled. On the drive we saw hail, rain, and at one point I saw snow mixed in with the rain, though Ton refuses to confirm my observation. The temperature on the drive was around 40 degrees the whole wayand at one point dropped down to 36 degrees. Not the spring weather we were hoping for. Despite the weather we made good time and pulled into Pilsen around 2pm. We found the campground without any issue, but when we pulled up the gate was closed and no one was inside. There was a note to go to the restaurant down the road 50 meters, and since this is the only campground in Pilsen I was hoping for the best. It all worked out and we are now the only guest at a large lake side campground, hunkered down in the rain with the heater going in François as the over night low is supposed to be around freezing.

April 15, 2024 Würzburg GE

Today we doubled back to a nice town in the Franconian wine country called Würzburg. We had visited here during our first trip to Germany and had fond memories of the town. While we had fond memories of Würzburg we probably would not have gone out of our way to visit if two of our best friends did not happen to be visiting today.

Looking at Würzburg from our spot in the stellplatz.

Dang and Jeap have known Ton since elementary school in Thailand. They have both visited us several times in the US, and every time we visit Thailand we spend time with them. They are like family to Ton, and to me now.

Flowers on the walk on river walk to town.

They are on a tour from Thailand and happened to be visiting Würzburg today so we told them we would meet them at their hotel and join them for dinner. We were off early from Bamberg, and rolled into the stellplatz in Würzburg around noon. We had originally planned on doing some shopping on our way into town, but the Lidl we planned to stop in was too urban and could not accommodate François’ bulk. So shopping is in the plans for tomorrow now.

We liked this building.

We took a quick scouting trip to see the hotel we would meet Dang and Jeap at, and found the restaurant they were scheduled to eat at. The recon work done we kind of meandered thru the shopping area. We have seen this kebab chain called Berliner Donner in a couple of towns and it has always been mobbed. Ton was peering in the window looking at the preparation of the kebabs, when one of the guys looked up and showed her the meat he was preparing and waved for her to come in. So we ended up splitting a Doner Kebab which was delicious.

Part of the main shopping street in Würzburg.

Dang had told us they were due to arrive at the hotel about 5:30, and as luck would have it we walked up to the front of the hotel just as their bus arrived. We helped them with their bags to the room and Ton, Dang, and Jeap spent the next hour catching up. Than we walked to the town center where we did the traditional glass of wine on the pedestrian bridge over the river.

Jeap, Ton, and Dang enjoying wine on the bridge over the Main River.

Dinner was a continuation of catching up on events and life. When dinner was over we were the last from the group to leave as no one wanted to end the evening. When we went outside it was pelting rain, and the wind was howling. We hadn’t gone 50 feet when a gust of wind swept Dangs hat off her head and down the street. A gallant young German gentleman took off after it and after about 50 yards ran it down, and returned it to Dang with a smile, and the congratulations of his 3 mates. We survived the walk back to the hotel bent over against the wind and the rain, though the conversation between the three of them never stopped.

The vineyards on the hills above the Main River that produce the wine Würzburg is famous for.

It was a great evening, and hopefully we will be able to hook up with them for coffee in the morning before they head back to Thailand.

April 14, 2024 Bamberg GE

Today we did a short pub crawl in Bamberg. We headed into town about 11am and our first stop was the visitors center. Last time we were here we purchased a self-guided brewery tour that included a free beer in up to 4 breweries. We enjoyed it last time so we decided to do the same thing again. Ton called today Good Beer Hunting.

Bamberg is famous for a smoked beer called Rauschbier. This brewery is one of the two original producers of Rauschbier going back to 1642.

Bamberg is famous for Rauschbier which is a beer with a strong smoky flavor produced when the malt is dried using a wood fire. Apparently almost all beers were produced this way until the middle of the 1800’s. In the mid-1800’s breweries were able to eliminate the wood smoke from the taste of beer by using other methods to dry the malt. This non-smoky beer gained popularity and wood smoke flavors in beer fell out of favor. Two breweries in Bamberg continued on with using wood smoke and they are now considered to be the two original breweries to produce Rauschbier. Today we visited them both, as well as two other breweries that produce modern versions of Rauschbier.

The brewery on the right is the other original Rauschbier producer. It is called Schlenkeria. We also had a nice hearty Franconian Pork meal there.

Ton loves Rauschbier so she was in heaven. I like it, but by the end of the day I was beginning to go towards more traditional German beers. We enjoy the German tradition of having communal tables to eat and drink at. Today we were paired with a German couple in one brewery, and a German/Macedonian couple at another. We enjoyed chatting with them and were able to overcome language barriers to have a good time.

It was a lot of work but we managed to finish off most of our large pork portions.

Bamberg is a nice sized town that is easy to walk in, and has an interesting river front. The town hall (Rathouse in German), is built in the river, because the merchants of the town would not donate land for it. The mayor not to be denied a prominent spot in the center of the town, built it in the river.

A view of the Rathouse for Bamberg.

Well, we enjoyed our pub crawl, but we are not as young as we used to be, we visited 4 breweries, but could not make it to a fifth despite our original intentions. We just don’t have the stamina that we used to have.

Looking down on Bamberg from our first stop for the day.

If we could do it again we would by one free brewery tour and only one entree at the restaurant. 2 beers and one giant piece of pork is more than enough for the two of us these days.

This is the part of town the tour groups visit. The rest of the town was pretty quiet.

April 13, 2024 Bamberg GE

We are parked up at a beautiful campground next to a small river near one of our favorite towns in Germany. We are going to meet two of Tons best friends from Thailand on Tuesday in a town near here. When I told Ton that the town was near Bamberg she said that it was one of her favorite towns and we should go back there. Bamberg has over 200 breweries near it, and also good food. Bamberg also has the campground that has the best showers we have found in Europe. So our plans for the next couple of days are settled, some beer, some good German food, and long showers.

I said yesterday that our plan for today was to visit a military commissary in Weisbaden to stock up on some American goodies. After going to one military base near our campground and only finding a small 7-11 type store, we discovered that the main shopping was on another base about 20 minutes away. As a retiree from the military we have commissary and exchange privileges as part of the retirement package. But, some countries have put restrictions on access to these facilities as part of the basing agreement, on the theory that people using them should use local groceries. We ran into that in Spain as they have restricted usage to them to active duty military. We expected no problem today because we have shopped in the commissary in Germany twice before, and the exchange several times. So we had filled a small shopping cart with American goodies, when we went to pay at the self-checkout aisle, I showed the clerk my military ID and was getting ready to scan our first item when he asked “where is your pink card”. I told him I didn’t have a pink card and didn’t know what it was. He said that without a pink card we were forbidden to use the base facilities and we could not purchase anything or the German customs would fine the Army. This was news to us as we had freely used both the commissary and exchanges several times when passing thru Germany. I didn’t doubt him, but I did not like his officiousness, he seemed to enjoy blocking us from using the facility a little too much for my liking. It turns out there is a provision in the basing agreement with the Germans that prohibits people who are not based in Germany or permanent residents of Germany from using military stores. However, the pink card is very rarely checked as so few of the customers are like us, that’s why we have never been checked before. Unfortunately, this time we ran into a guy who enjoyed being a pink card cop.

After our shopping disappointment we got onto the road to Bamberg and arrived mid-afternoon. We decided on a day of rest before heading into one of our favorite towns tomorrow.

April 12, 2024 Mainz GE

Today we entered our 4th country of the trip on our way to Poland. We took our time getting going this morning, but were still off to a pretty early start. We picked Mainz as it was a nice distance in the right direction, and it looked like it would be a fun place to spend an afternoon in. Also, there is a US Army garrison near by so tomorrow we can do some shopping at the US base before heading out of town.

Mainz is the birthplace of Guttenberg who developed the movable type in the west. This is the museum in downtown Mainz devoted to him.

The drive over was uneventful, and while it looked like the French Customs Bureau was setting up to do a spot check with about 50 customs officers standing by the side of the road near the German border, we were not stopped. After checking in we thought about skipping Mainz, but I managed to encourage Ton to do the walk, and we headed over the Rhine River to downtown Mainz.

Mainz is famous for its red sandstone Cathedral.

We enjoyed a short walk thru the center of Mainz. It was a nice spring day so downtown was hopping with locals enjoying the beginning of their weekend. It was a nice city but our hearts were not really into walking thru another nice city, so after about an hour we cut it short and headed back to the campground.

A nice row of buildings on the market square.

Sometimes its the small things, often in France, and now it seems the Netherlands, when you use the showers in the campgrounds, they have them on a pressure switch so you have to push a button every 30 seconds or so to restart the water. Tonight’s campground had free flowing water in the shower which we both appreciated.

We haven’t been in a church yet on this trip, so this is the inside of a Catholic Church in Mainz.

April 11, 2024 Nancy FR

After I published the blog last night we did something we rarely do, which is go out at night. But the Port Captain strongly recommended that we head back to Stanislas Square after the sun goes down. We were both glad we listened to him.

Looking thru the Arch on Stanislas Square back towards the Dukes Palace.

It is a relative short walk to the square, but we noticed that the character of the town had changed. The day town crowd was business people and tourists, but the night time crowd was much younger. Later we learned that 25% of the population of Nancy are students, and they had filled up the coffee shops and brasseries around the square and were thoroughly enjoying a comfortably cool evening.

The square itself was probably one of the quietest parts of the center of town, which gave Ton plenty of room to work on her photos.

We walked around for two hours, which had us out to the ungodly hour (for us) of 10pm. We really enjoyed ourselves and the energy of Nancy at night.

One of the bustling cafes at the entrance to the square.

It was cold overnight so we slept in. After a nice Tortilla Breakfast from Costco we were on our way to see the Corbin Museum. It was a pretty good walk thru town to the museum almost all of it uphill. Lorraine is a hilly region in France, so once we left the river it was all up hill to the museum.

Arriving at the Corbin House in Nancy.

The Corbin House is now called the Musee de L’Ecole de Nancy. It houses a collection of glass ware and furniture from the Art Nouveau movement in Nancy. Nancy along with Paris were centers for the movement which was in vogue for about twenty years in the late 1800’s and very early 1900’s. It was eventually surpassed by the Art Deco movement which Americans are more familiar with.

These two glass lamps are examples of the Art Nouveau style, which tries to blend natural elements into household items.

Eugene Corbin was the richest guy in Nancy during the time of the movement and a big supporter and collector of Art Nouveau. He had originally lent his collection to the Nancy Art Museum, but a few years before he died, the Art Museum had put the collection in storage, unhappy, he had his collection returned to him, and converted his family home to the museum we visited today.

The dining room of the home with furniture, glass ware, and the ceiling all done in Art Nouveau style.

We took our time going thru the museum and enjoyed the extensive collection. We finished our visit by walking through the gardens of the home.

A painting in the Art Nouveau style.

Having had a long uphill walk, we decided we had earned a sit down lunch, so we headed back towards the center of town to look for a restaurant. After looking at many restaurants we settled on one that appeared to specialize in local foods called La Portager. We settled into our table and began the process of trying to decide what to order. Often at lunch time the options are written on chalk boards, and can be a little confusing to understand, also the waiter didn’t speak English. We were trying to figure out what we wanted and how to order it, when the two couples on either side of us began to sense our uncertainty. One of them finally told us in English that if we had any questions he would be glad to help us. His partner pointed at him proudly and said that he speaks English because he lived in New Zealand. With his help, and recommendation we ordered a platter of local foods for two. It was absolutely delicious.

Our mixed platter of local cheeses, sausages, and a couple of slices of Quiche Lorraine to die for.

We chatted with them for a while. They were tourists like us, but from Paris. As they left we thanked them for their help. Then the couple on the other side of us took over our guide of food from Lorraine. They were a couple from Brittany who had an American son in law. We enjoyed talking to them and they convinced us to try a selection of regional desserts.

A selection of local desserts including a creme brulle with Bergamot, and a Mirabelle Plum with cream. These are both local specialties and are quite delicious. The clear liquor is made from Mirabelle Plums. Bergamot is a citrus from southern France and North Africa, and is a very popular ingredient in Lorraine. It is also a key ingredient in Earl Grey Tea. The Mirabelle Plum is from this region and is grown in small quantities so very few of them leave France.

We really enjoyed our lunch because it combined good food, excellent company, and we experienced new tastes. Thanks to our helpers from Paris and Brittany, and the good humor of our waiter who put up with us stumbling around in a language we did not understand.

Mason des Souers, producing Macarons since 1793.

In 1792 during the French Revolution the Benedictine Nuns in Nancy were driven from their convent. Not having any practical skills to survive on they began producing Macarons that they cooked when they lived in the convent. It turned into a very lucrative business, and the same recipe is still used today to produce them. A Macaron is a cookie and everyone we have met in Nancy told us we had to buy some. After leaving the restaurant we headed over and picked up a box, but we were too full to try them. We will give you a review in the future.

This is an example of an Art Nouveau Building. We thought about eating in the restaurant, but the Excelsior was much too posh for our budget.