Wednesday, July 24, 2013

July 10,2013 Verdun WW1 Battle fields

Verdun's battlefields are littered with monuments and ruined forts.Here you will find a tribute to the 800,000 lives that were lost here during the war of 1914-1918.You can see some of the lunar landscape still here today.A battle insued between the Germans and French and lasted for over 300 days.Several villages were destroyed and here (13 in all)and were never resurrected.Where one village use to be they have a small church and memorial to those that lived here.
There is a museum that is very well done and show's the destruction of what a war can do.
Fort De Douaumont was the most important stronghold that was built to protect Verdun.It was strong and built into the hillside but still the shelling from the Germans rocked the structure leaving it useless.Inside there are 2 miles of cold and damp hallways underground.Think of the soliders who lived here like moles.Outside you can see the round iron gun emplacements that would revolve and could go up and down.

When I was a teenager and went to get my drivers license(back in 61) I remember the instructor telling me that more people were killed on the highway than in the World Wars.For some reason that information has always stuck in my mind and I can relate to that by coming to see these battlefields.We spent the night at a place that makes almonds.

July 8,2013 Luxembourg City

We crossed over to Luxembourg and immediately filled the RV up with diesel.This is the cheapest fuel in all of Europe.We paid 1.20 liter.It still isn't cheap considering that it takes 3.75 liters for one US gallon.Most of the time it has run us around 1.40 liter.We stopped at Camp Kockelscheaur and found this close to the city.The bus is just out the gate and drops you off right in the center of city.This campsite is very nice for the price and grassy and clean.All for 15 Euros a night,what a deal.We took the bus into town and did our own walking tour.Luxembourg is the 1st city to be named the city of culture.There is also a Unesco World Heritage site here.We visited the church of Notre Dame now called Church of our lady,built in 1613.
Next we come to the Palace of the Dukes dating back to 1572.And we think some of our history and places are old.
The Unesco site is the Casements Du Bock.This is a rocky cliff with natural fortifications and 23km of underground casements.During WW2 this could be used as a bomb shelter for over 35,000 people.The view is very nice from here and you can see the old Viaduc and the town of Grund.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

July 7 2013 Trier

Our next stop was in Trier Germany.It is the oldest medieval town in Germany and was once the ancient Roman capital.It was founded by Augustus in the 16 B.C.We took a 3 hr. walking tour of the city and found out a lot of history here.It originally had 4 gates and now only one remains,Porta Nigra.It was built without mortar and only iron pegs held these giant blocks of sandstone together.
They were having a street fair this particular day and so the town was packed.Our guide took us to the largest baths we have ever seen that were built during the days of the romans.
Notice where the door is placed in this house. It was called a floating door because the staircase would come up and they could fight off their enemies.
More photos of Trier.This was one of my favorite towns.

July 3 2013 Burg Eltz

After leaving Berlin we went down the Mosel and stopped at Burg Eltz.We drove up to the parking area and then walked to the castle.They have a shuttle that will take you up to the castle but we decided to walk and ride it back.You can also hike in from a town about 1 and a half hours through the forest if you choose.The castle has been in the same family for over 850 years.The setting here is surrounded by trees and all by itself.

Along the Mosel there are lots of vineyards and campgrounds surrounded by small villages.This is a very nice area to just relax and enjoy the surroundings.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

June 30-July2 2013 Berlin

There are many parts to Berlin and it was somewhat confusing for us.The first day I told Sam let's go to the Reichstag which is the Parliament first and then we can see the other sights in the area.The parliament has a glass dome on top that rises 155 ft above the ground and you can go in and walk inside and get the best views of the city.We got in a line to go in and were told we needed to get authorization and and a time to enter.We went across the street and got in line where we stood in line for 2 hours to get our paper work. Since it was late we decided to go the next day and got a time for 1030.We walked over to the Brandenburg Gate.The gate was the grandest and is the last remaining in the city.Back in the day it was a symbol of a divided Berlin.In the square is also the U.S.Embassy.
We didn't know exactly where we were going so we  went to see Checkpoint Charlie.Here you can see the border crossing that was the west and the east Berlin.Like everything this is also commercialized.
We walked a long way and decided we would see what we could see tomorrow.There's a lot of construction going on so some of the trains have been interrupted making it hard to find our way.This is the next day and we found out to work the train system and went right to the Parliament bldg. for our entry time.We walked around and around to reach the top of the cupola.What a view.Inside the dome there are 360 mirrors reflecting light into the legistlative.When we finished we decided not to keep fighting to get somewhere so we went to the Zoo and had a great time.

Berlin is a large city and everything is spread out.For us it wasn't one of our favorite basically because of the size.

June 28,2013 Krakow

We are in Krakow and the weather isn't cooperating.Overcast and ended with a torrential rain storm.We still ventured out to the city and came across the the Barbican Gate and city walls.The original rampart had 47 watchtowers and 8 gates.After you pass through the Barbican Gate you come to the walls and the Florian gate.
We continued our walk down the Royal Way and came to Main Market Square where we went to St.Mary's Church.St. Mary's Church has stood on this spot for over 8oo years.It was destroyed in 1241 by the Tartar invasion but has been rebuilt.The question is does the church have one or two towers.Actually it only has one,the second is a watchtower.Every hour a bugler plays a tune, signifying the enemy is approaching.This was done in hundreds of years ago.Today there are 12 buglers,all firemen and buglers.Each one works a 24 hour shift playing the bugle every hour.Back to St. Mary's.The alter piece is a woodcarving in 3 pieces which took 12 years to carve and was completed in 1489.The ceiling is painted in a blue starry scene and is beautiful.Above the choir are great scenes and are very nice.
In market square they have people selling flowers,outdoor cafes,etc.There is a large hall that use to be used for cloth sellers now it is still a hall for vendors selling there wares.Here you'll find beautiful pieces of Amber jewelry.I saw a piece I liked but of course it had to one of the most expensive pieces so I moved on.We went into St. Francis's Basilica were Pope John Paul 2 considered his church when he was Archbishop of Krakow.There is a plaque where he sat all the time in this church.After this somewhere along the way I lost Sam and I continued on hoping I would see him at the Wawel Castle.Needless to say he was at a different entrance and I didn't see him again until I made my way back to the bus several hours later.I made my way up to Wawel Cathedral and castle and just looked around.I ended up not going in and just walked around on the outside.Then the storm hit.Everything is quite close and you don't need to hope any buses etc. A nice walking town.

Friday, July 5, 2013

June 26 2013 Bone Church and Salt Mine

After Auschwitz we went to a church called Bone Church.We had heard of this church and I was interested in seeing it.Inside they have over 40,000 bones of people that had died.The monks placed these bones over 400 years ago to remember them as both living and dead.There is a chandelier that has every bone in the body used.I'll try and post some photos.

Our next stop was Wieliczka Salt Mine.It has been producing salt since at least the 11th century.Miners would go to work in the dark and come home in the dark.To pass the time the miners started carving figures,chandeliers,and a elaborate chapel from the salt.It is a long ways down and  has you go down lots and lots of stairs.There is the Chapel of St. King's carved over 3 decades.You can see lots of scenes that were carved by the miners.Quite interesting.

Next stop Krakow.

June 24,2013 Auschwitz

We left the Czech Republic and moved into Poland.First stop was Auschwitz.This is the site of one of humanities most unspeakable horifying tragedies,the murder of 1.1 million innocent people.From 1941 to 1945 Auschitz was biggest and most notorious concentration camp in the Nazi system.Before WW2this was a base for the Polish army.When Hitler came he took it over and turned into a Concentration camp for his Polish political enemies.Of the 1.1 million murdered here approximately 960,000 were Jews.There were 2 camps here,one Auschwitz 1 and Auschwitz(Birkenau)2.In the summer you must go on a tour as so many people are visiting and it makes it mucher easier. The tour lasts about 3 and half hours.It can very emotional.As you go through the gate to the camp there is a sign that says Work will be Freedom.What lies.In the barracks there were blocks for all nationalities.The Gypsies,Czechs,Hungarians,Jews etc. All undesireables so they said.People were transported from all over Europe.You'll see everything that was taken from them such as eyeglasses,shoes,canes and other aids,suitcases and all other of anything they had. Their hair was used for textiles.All this was piled high in different areas.Just unbelievable that this could happen to someone.Sanitary conditions were extreme.Use of the toliet if you could call it that,was once in morning and once at night for only 10 seconds.These were the people that could work and afterwards if they couldn't off to the gas chamber.At Birkenau there were train tracks that led into the camp.This lead to the dividing platform where someone pointed left or right.Poland had Europe's largest concentration of Jews 3,500,000.The Nazis murdered 4,500,000 Jews in Poland that they brought from elsewhere in Europe.This a profoudly life altering experience and it will forever affect the way I will think of the Holocaust.Hitler was a monster and a madman and you wonder how people could follow this monster.Here's some photos.Enough of this sad time in history.