They think it’s all over….

Posted by on 17, Oct 2012 in 2012 - The Last Dictator Tour (Belarus & Russia), Benelux, Germany

They think it’s all over….

I always feel a bit of anti climax when we return to the EU, whereas Linda feels relief but I have to say I wasn’t sorry to see the back of Kaliningrad. After a smooth border crossing we headed to Malbork in Poland, another UNESCO World heritage site and allegedly the largest castle in the world. It’s remarkable and the camp site was on the river bank opposite – perfect for a couple of days R&R.

We seemed to have caught the culture bug so headed to Torun next, the birth place of Nicholas Copernicus – or Knickerless CopperKnickers as my dad calls him.

You can’t come to Poland without seeing bunkers being advertised all over the place. This year’s bunker was part of the Ostwall built by Hitler to protect Germany from the Poles. It’s a maze of underground tunnels connecting over 100km of bunkers with railway lines, stations, barracks etc. It was abandoned before the war then hastily refitted towards the end but the damage to the surface turrets came from the Soviets using it after the war as target practice not from any fighting as the Russians went through it unopposed. It’s in immaculate condition now and houses one of the largest bat reserves in Europe.

We’ve always wanted to go to Potsdam and this year we managed to and loved it. The town is a heaving mass of tourists even at the end of the season but we found a lovely vege cafe for lunch in the dutch quarter which literally looked like an old dutch town. The palaces were magnificent but having been pallaced out in Russia we thought we’d save the insides until our next visit.

Heading south we bumped into some fabulous late warm air and sunny days in the Spreewald and spent a great week cycling each day through this beautiful area. The Spreewald is another Unesco site and is also National park. It is a maze of narrow water ways that were used instead of roads and today are full of tourist punts (like Cambridge) winding their way through the tiny hamlets and past the fairy tale cottages. There are plenty if cycle paths through the woods and we were fortunate enough to time our visit with a carnival in the centre of the park at Lehde. We took sandwiches, a picnic blanket and a drink and sat on the banks of the waterways for the carnival procession watching all the floats punt past!

The weather kindly held until we had seen everything in the area and with the rain coming we headed to the indoor water world of ‘Tropical Islands’. A water ark built in a massive o,d airship hanger. It was so big you could take balloon flights inside! Sadly though idyllic for familys it wasn’t really our cup of tea so we swapped it for one of the top 15 thermes in the world at Cologne which was absolutely breathtaking. A sauna with a pool inside with fountains in the middle and an open fire – wow! We’ll definitely be returning there soon, we still have a couple if the 14 saunas to try yet!

So that’s about it, linda decided as we were under budget for the holiday we should go shopping for a couple if days and sort that oversight out! And we feasted at our favourite steak house (odd that for veggies!) in Gouda after.

Now all that’s left is to get Taffy ready or the next trip and argue about where that will be! I’m still pushing for ‘the stans’, China and Japan and Linda is rooting for Portugal and Morocco. My cunning plan is to knock them off this winter and leave the coast clear for a summer assault towards Asia!

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