It is cold outside. The sky dark and it rains abundantly.
In a way the ideal circumstances for our destination today.
We get in the car and about 90’ later I’m guided to a parking spot.
We are at Auschwitz (Oświęcim).
You can do one of three things.
Visit the site Auschwitz on your own. It is free of charge but you need a ticket. This kind of visited is only possible after 16:00.
Make reservations for a visit. Half of the available tickets for a given day are sold that way. The other half are made available in site.
The office were you can get your tickets is situated in a white small cabin on the main parking.
You’ll find screens telling you at what time visits in a certain language are scheduled. Next to them a number in blue telling you how many spots are still available for that tour.
When we arrived the English tour was a 2-hour wait but we could get tickets for the French tour that started 15’ later. I speak fluently French and Sweetheart too understands French so we got two tickets. They are cheap because you only pay for the guide.
The entrance building leads you to the camp itself and is much like airport border control complete with body scan. Your handbag or small photo bag goes through a scanner as well.
The French speaking Polish guide did a good job and gave us an interesting and complete overview. The whole tour, including the free shuttle to Birkenau, 3 kilometers farther, took about 3,5 hours.
My Mom and her father, my grandfather, were both incarcerated in the Belgian Dossin prison. My mother’s stories of her 3 weeks there still linger in my mind.
They were arrested because they did underground work. They were not shipped to the camps.
My uncle, my mother’s brother, a White Brigade Member, never came back though. He was send to the hell of Bergen-Belsen.
My mother always said “once a German, always a German.” She hated them. As a kind I saw documentaries on TV. Grainy black and white images of soldiers falling on their knees when they liberated the camps. Crying in disbelief. The cruelty. The sheer horror.
My mother telling about the screams she heard. The fear she felt.
So I was not particularly fond of visiting the place. Sweetheart wanted though, so we went.
What stuck me the most during our visit was the methodology and the lies the Nazi’s used to deceive and decimate. Evil power at its best.
I don’t hate. It is a waste of energy. Besides, one cannot hold responsible the son for the acts of his father. That was something my mother never understood. Hate makes no sense. Hate puts you in the same ballgame.
Let’s look at he bright side of today’s Polish history,
Tuesday, September 19. It is gray, cold (12°C) and overcast. We leave for Ojców National Park.
It is a national park in Kraków County, Lesser Poland Voivodeship in southern Poland, established in 1956. It takes its name from the village of Ojców, where it also has its headquarters. Chopin visited Ojców in 1829.
It is Poland’s smallest national park, with an original area of 14.40 square kilometers (5.56 sq mi), since expanded to 21.46 km2 (8.29 sq mi). Of this area, 15.28 km2 (5.90 sq mi) is forested and 2.51 km2 (0.97 sq mi) is strictly protected. The park is approximately 16 kilometers (10 mi) north of Kraków, in the Jurassic Kraków-Częstochowa Upland. (Wikipedia)
We enjoy our walk through rough nature, crystal clear rivers, and a few sources.
I’m filming with my Gopro Hero 4 Black and the gimbal. The gimbal is an electronic stabilizer taking away shaking caused by my steps.
I did not use the gimbal much because of the rain. Sure enough halfway our walk it starts to rain again. It would do so for the remainder of the day.
We don’t mind though. Sweetheart and I are dressed accordingly and we enjoy our quality time way too much to be depressed by the bad weather.
Later that afternoon, almost at our apartment, Sweetheart and I have the same idea. We smile, laugh and joke about it.
Ten minutes later I park the car near a McDonalds.
We are covered with mud and tired and look like hobos. Fortunately the girls behind the counter understand English.
The burgers are yummy.
Then home, shower, movie, bed.
Wednesday, September 20.
Gray, cold, rainy.
Sweetheart and I enjoy breakfast. It is a symbolic day. We end our 6th year and start our 7th. With Sweetheart I am so very happy, so much in love. She is a dream come true. Funny, intelligent, loving, caring, and sexy as hell.
Today we are going to visit the Wieliczka Salt Mine. It is a 30 minute drive from our apartment.
We visit magnificent chambers chiselled out in rock salt. Amazing underground saline lakes, majestic timber constructions and unique statues sculpted in salt. Almost 3 kilometres of meandering corridors, 800 steps to climb of which 350 have to be descended to reach the depth of 135 meters underground.
The English-speaking guide is great and funny and we enjoy our visit. I regret I did not take the gimbal with me, it would have improved greatly my footage.
In the late afternoon we drive to the Jewish district in Kraków called Kazimierz.
Trendy, creative Kazimierz is Krakow’s historic Jewish quarter, now a jumble of indie galleries, quirky shops, vintage clothing stores and bars that range from hip cocktail dens to shabby-chic spaces. Szeroka Street’s many synagogues include the 16th-century Old Synagogue, while the nearby Remuh Cemetery has a wall of tombstones smashed by Nazis. The Galicia Jewish Museum celebrates local Jewish culture and history. (Wikipedia)
Nowadays there are not many Jews in Kraków anymore.
We discover a zillion little streets and dine in open air near a fireplace.
Six years already, Sweetheart and I. Hell, I never have been happier. My life is complete. Sweetheart is the One I want to grow old with.
Back at the apartment we shower, watch a movie and go to bed.
Saturday, September 16. Late afternoon.
I’m packing my suitcase and camera bag.
The phone rings. It is Little A. wishing Sweetheart and me a great trip. On the background I hear Ex speaking to our daughter.
Then Little A. repeats what her mother said.
Then my iPhone pings. A message from Big A. telling me to check my mail as she does not want to get up early and drive us to the airport for nothing.
What the fuck is all this about?
I check the newspaper.
One of the headlines reads “Ryanair to tell 400,000 passengers of cancelled flights after roster ‘mess-up’”
Ryanair promises their customer it will cancel 40 to 50 flights to and/or fro every day until October 31.
Luckily Sweetheart and I are not concerned.
Sunday, September 17. 02:00
Big A. picks us up and we arrive at Charleroi Airport (the so called Brussels-South) around 03:45. To early but hey, better be one hour to early than 5 minutes to late.
At 06:30 the plane takes off and 2 hours later we arrive at Kraków Airport. Not even 30 minutes later I enter the address of the apartment in Here Maps. Traffic is moderate and I steer the rented Toyota Yaris over the Polish roads.
It takes us 20’ to arrive and about 40’ to find the place because the roads ends and continues further in a sort of dead-end group of small roads.
We are way too early to check in the apartment so I drive to the old center of Kraków where I find a parking spot.
There is a small market going on. Mostly elderly people selling old or cheap stuff. I have the impression they are mostly underprivileged people. The road is broken, there is mud and rubbish. There is no happiness, everybody looks sad or indifferent. Like if it is still cold-war Poland. You know, the USSR and stuff.
We head to the old center. Some building are dilapidated, some brand new. It is a mix of a new and an old era. Don’t forget, the Wall fell in Berlin fell only 27 years ago and it took quite some time before the former USSR countries found their new ways.
We had lunch, delicious Polish food and it was very cheap. It was good outside with a discrete sun.
Then we walked further, discovering more of Kraków. Then the first raindrops fell. Shortly after it rained and it did so for the remainder of the late afternoon.
By the time we got back at our car I was soaked to the bone and my clothes, shoes and vest as wet as if I had fallen in water. Sweetheart was wearing a waterproof vest but her shoes and jeans were soaked too.
Back at the apartment we took a shower and I checked the opening hours of Decathlon. They were open so we drove over to the shop. Sweetheart got rubber boots. I a pair of waterproof and very comfortable hiking boots from hunting department. Two pair of waterproof trousers to pull over jeans or whatever and a weatherproof vest completed our purchases.
The apartment itself was simply great and well equipped. We could not have found a better place to say. Modern, cozy, and cheap.
Monday, September 18. The weather app tells us it is going to be a warm and sunny day.
We enjoy our breakfast and then we are on our way.
It takes about 2:30 hours to arrive at Zakopane near the Slovakian border.
Zakopane is a resort town in southern Poland, at the base of the Tatras Mountains. It’s a popular departure point for winter sports and summertime mountain climbing and hiking. Kasprowy Wierch and Gubałówka, reachable by cable car and funicular, are nearby ski destinations offering sweeping mountain views. The town is also known for its turn-of-the-20th-century wooden chalets, symbols of Zakopane-style architecture. (Wikipedia)
We find a sort of restaurant, well, more of a canteen and have lunch there. The food is delicious and ridiculously cheap.
Don’t count on your English though. They had their menu translated so it was about pointing at the right items and then she showed me the bill and I wrote down what I was going to pay with the tip added to the amount.
At the Tatra National Park we join a queue and after 45 minutes we get in a cable car. Ten minutes later we get out. We are at 2000 meters. The view is breathtaking. Sweetheart and I enjoy a walk, we climb even higher. I film, take pictures, we laugh and kiss and are so happy.
It is a popular place to have your wedding photos taken as we spot several newlyweds and professional photographers and stylists.
Later we dined at the same canteen and for the four meals + drinks I paid not even 30 Euro.
After the +2 hour drive back we were exhausted. After showering I downloaded my work of the day on the Western Digital Wireless Passport Pro and copied a movie on an USB-stick so we could watch it on the huge flat screen TV.
PS I haven’t worked much on my photos and videos yet so I have little to show.
On Sunday, September 17 my eldest daughter. will drop us at Charleroi Airport. Some like to call it Brussels South.
I don’t. Brussels is over 72 klicks away so this can’t count as an extension of our capital. For some of the many stupid and retarded politicians in our country a “Huge” Brussels might be a wet dream.
Gate will close at 06:00 and 30 minutes later Sweetheart and I will be in the air.
Poland here we come.
We’ll arrive at Kraków airport at 08:30. Time to pick up our car and drive to the our quite luxurious apartment we rented trough Airbnb. Check it OUT.
We’ll be visiting the city and the famous salt mines. Auschwitz maybe.
Sweetheart and I like to mix city and outdoors so we’ll visit the Ojców National Park a few times.
Hope to do some paddling too.
Maybe we’ll make a little trip to the Czech Republic. We’ll see. Time will, as always, fly by without us having even grasped a second of it.
I’ll be taking my Gopro Hero 4 Silver and Black with me and the Ricoh GR II but mainly I’ll concentrate on video for this trip.
I bought a Western Digital Passport Pro Wireless 1 Terabyte portable disk. Basically you use it on the road, it reads SD-card and USB devices so I can download my video on the disk. After all 64 GB of SD card gives me about 2 hours of video. The disk is cheaper than buying a zillion SD-cards.
I am not sure the Western Digital Passport Pro is a good product though or a good choice. It has been sitting on my desk for about a month and a half since it arrived. I tested it twice. When I fired it up a few days ago it didn’t work. Unable to connect via WiFi, unable to download files. Almost an DOA. I checked the WD support pages and was able to fix the problem. Hell, used it twice and it already got screwed up… Not sure I’m trusting this device.
I’ll be shooting in 4K with the intention to downsize it to 1080p thus gaining image quality and detail. Maybe I’ll shoot also in 1080p at 120 fps if a subject lends to some slo-mo.
For those not interested in tech stuff and computers just jump to Denmark
I’m writing this while sitting in a corner of my living room. In front of me an old Samsung Syncmaster P2370 monitor in high-definition. A very old Dell keyboard, very noisy. And a mouse.
On my right side, on my desk, my iMac 27” with all the whistles and bells needed to write and work on my photographs.
I’m listening to my favourite CD, “Push The Sky Away” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. It is playing on the same computer I’m writing on and I’m using VLC to play the music. Video is something else though. Haven’t gotten more than a black screen. Sound is okay though.
A cheap 20$ single speaker gives an acceptable quality but pushing the sound through my very old amplifier and equalizer would give a better sound. But these analogue devices are hooked up to my iMac.
No fancy Microsoft Word but LibreOffice Writer. I’m not even sure if there is a spellchecker available.
In fact, I am writing this on a 35 $ computer (screen, display, SD-card and mouse not included). I wanted to reconnect with Linux and decided to get a Raspberry Pi 3b. Although it cannot be compared to the sheer power of my iMac for normal work this configuration has not let me down yet. I am pleasantly surprised but on the other hand Linux does not have a huge footprint either.
So the Raspberry Pi is just a side project but also a plan B whenever my main system should die. Maybe, during the winter, I’ll be passing time with some electronics experiments.
Sweetheart and I enjoyed our holiday very much. It was Sweetheart’s first flight. All went well except that her luggage ended up in Portugal. An error at the luggage check-in. She got her suitcase the next day. Sweetheart loved seeing the sun coming up above the clouds. It was magical.
We had great weather. Sunny and not to warm. The rental Renault Clio okay. The hotel cosy and well situated at walking distance of the station of Helsingør, the ferries to Sweden and the centre of the town.
Food was delicious but very expensive. People friendly. Culture and art seem to be very important as there are museums and cultural centres everywhere. Higher incomes are taxed up to 65% but wealth is redistributed. School system is different, there is more space for personal development. Alcohol is extremely expensive and there is a rightful zero tolerance for drivers.
We arrived at 08:20 at Copenhagen airport on Saturday, September 17. When it became obvious Sweetheart’s suitcase was not travelling with us we picked up the car and on our way to the hotel, 47 kilometres from Copenhagen, we shopped for some basic stuff for Sweetheart. I had chosen for the coastal road.
After checking in we visited Helsingør and its castle used in Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
On Sunday we drove along the coast and on Monday we took the boat to Helsinborg, Sweden. A whole different city when we looked at the buildings and the general architecture. Specialized shops selling only wine, beer and liquor. A stand on the street was an alcohol bar.
Unfortunately, Stella, Sweetheart’s eldest daughter, was not feeling well, texting Sweetheart with a zillion messages. Shortly after I held a crying Sweetheart in my arms. It was only the 2nd to 3th time in our 5 years I saw her crying.
In the afternoon the lower grades did not have school but the parks were filled with their laughter.
We enjoyed a delicious lunch. On a huge public square with flowers and pergola’s the underprivileged were drinking and shooting drugs. Sweetheart gave me some space so I could do some street photography. I was spotted quickly though and was confronted with an aggressive drunk so I backed off.
Between Helsingør (Denmark) and Helsinborg (Sweden) lies 7 km of water. Somewhere in between the border. So while the ferry is in Danish waters you can buy as much booze in the tax-free shop as you can carry. When the boat crosses the border you are not allowed to buy any alcohol any more but you can spend all your dough on tax-free tobacco.
On September 20, our 5th anniversary and the start of our 6th year we took the train to Copenhagen. It was very cheap because the ticket was 24 hours valid and gave access to bus, tram and metro.
Copenhagen is cold but beautiful. Gorgeous architecture like the Opera or the Black Diamond (Royal library). A zillion bicycles who won’t stop even if you want to try to get off a bus.
We walked for a while and then Sweetheart suggested taking a hop on/hop off bus. So we visited the Danish capital by bus and then by boat (included in the price).
Later that evening we had dinner, found our way to the station and took the train back to Helsingør. I guess we had another 2 stops before arriving when the train stopped. Something was said through the intercom but we do not understand Danish. Everybody got off. Then an official saw us sitting there, puzzled. He made us clear we had to leave the train.
While we walked to the other side of the station a voice said “the train to Helsingør is going nowhere”. There we stood, waiting in the dark. It was cold and it was raining. About 20′ later a train arrived and another 30′ we were at out hotel.
The next day we drove to the other side of the Danish Sealand Isle. The beach there was desolated. We enjoyed the sun lying on huge rocks and then we had even some more fun while the sun warmed our bodies and a gentle breeze caressed our skin. It was a magnificent moment.
Then our holiday was over. We drove back to Copenhagen and I found an expensive parking space in the center. We walked to Christianshavn and straight to Freetown Christiania, an 84 acres city within a city. Hippies, own flag and currency and an anarchist community. The smell of hash and weed was omnipresent and we regretted not having visited it earlier but we did not want to get on a plane stoned.
I loved Christiania and its apparent freedom.
Later on I gave the car back and then it was really over. Sweetheart and I enjoyed the night and the world and its small lights.
We landed at 22:50 in Charleroi and Sweetheart phoned The Boy to find out where he was. We walked to the underground parking but we did not find The Boy.
He was waiting for us in Zaventem, Brussels Airport. It was a miscommunication with Sweetheart. So we waited 45′ minutes before he finally showed up.
Much later we were finally back home. We slept well and the next morning, when I dropped her off at her place I knew our holiday was really over.
We had a blast. I loved being with Sweetheart. We had an incredible holiday.