Tag Archives: Czech republic

Monday 29th March 2021 – THE FIRST DAY …

… back at work after my trips to Leuven is always difficult. And today was no exception.

people on beach place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallSo while you admire a few of the photos of my trip around the headland this afternoon, I’ll tell you all about it.

At least this morning I managed to rise almost immediately after the first alarm went off. First task was to set the oven off and while it was heating up, I had the medication. After the medication I put the sourdough fruit loaf dough into the oven and set the timer for 80 minutes.

Back in the office I made a start on the radio programme. And that kept me busy for most of the morning. Much more busy than it ought to have done because I was expecting this to be a quick one, seeing as I’d already chosen the tracks and paired them.

home made sourdough fruit loaf place d'armes Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAt first I was doing well and when I stopped for my breakfast of hot chocolate and nice warm sourdough fruit bread (which was absolutely delicious by the way) I was well ahead of where I usually am.

It all fell apart at the end because I miscalculated the final track. I ended up being a minute over which was a shame because the final track was absolutely perfect for what I wanted and fitted the programme perfectly.

But in the text that I write and record, there is quite a lot that is able to be edited out without spoiling the rhythm or the meaning, but a whole minute-worth is taking things to extremes. It took me quite a while to trim it down into the one-hour slot and I was really struggling but in the end it managed to fit.

The advantage of this is that I have a pile of stuff that I’ve cut out that I can save to use again and as a result, in theory it should take much less time to write out the stuff in the future.

boat english channel ile de chausey Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallWhen it was finally finished I had a listen to the programme and also the one that will be broadcast this coming weekend. And they both are pretty good, so I sent off this week’s programme.

The rest of the morning was spent dealing with the photos from July 2019. That’s another pile out of the way and I’m now down to a mere 8 remaining for the month.

Where I am now is at the site where Chief Big Foot (Spotted Elk) was captured by the American Cavalry on 28th December 1890. And the rest of the story is History. I visited the site of the Massacre at Wounded Knee that took place the day after Big Foot was captured and believe me, it’s a very sad place.

peche à pied grand maree baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallAfter lunch I made a start on the arrears from my trip around Central Europe in the summer of 2020.

That’s a job that seems to be rather like the cleaning of the Augean stables was supposed to be – a never-ending task, especially as there are no rivers Alpheus and Peneus close by to help me.

By the time that it came to knocking off I was in the town of Becov nad Teplou in the Czech Republic admiring an old Czech Tatra Lorry and I still have a long way to go to Karlovy Vary.

I’m hoping that with a bit of luck I might actually finish it this week if I put my foot down, and then I can press on and start to deal with the week when I was on board the Spirit of Conrad down the Brittany Coast. I might have had more luck had I not crashed out for half an hour on my chair.

There was the usual break of course to go out for my afternoon walk.

ile de chausey Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThe weather was absolutely beautiful as you can tell by the photos that you have seen so far.

As well as that the tide was quite far out and this is when the view of the Ile de Chausey is at its most beautiful. You can see the big beach out there that we walked on when we were there with Spirit of Conrad. At very low tide there is a kind of lagoon in between the islands over there and that was where we anchored to sleep for the night.

There are a great deal of sunken rocks around the islands with the pillars and warning lights upon them and today, with the tide being so low, they are all clearly visible today

Crowds of people out there this afternoon so I had to fight my way through the crowds down the path on top of the cliffs.

le loup bay de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallMy route took me down to the lawn by the lighthouse and the Semaphore post. From there, there was a beautiful view of Le Loup, the light that sits on top of the rock at the harbour entrance

The two trees here made such a beautiful frame to the image that it was crying out for a photograph. When you see it like this, it’s hard to believe that when the tide is right in at the highest tide the column un which the light sits is almost submerged by the water. As I’ve said before … “and you’ll say again” – ed … we have the highest tides in Europe just here.

And looking at the tree on the right just here, you can understand Bob Dylan’s “You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows”, do you?

object floating in the sea pointe du roc Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallFrom the lawn by the lighthouse I walked across the car park and went down to the end of the headland. And there I saw a strange object bobbing up and down in the water.

It was very difficult to say what it was from this point of view. I took a photo of it so that I could crop it and enlarge it when I returned home, but having done so, I’m still none the wiser. It could be a marker for a lobster pot, although I wouldn’t have expected one to be this close to land, or it might ne a 25-litre oil drum washed overboard from a passing boat, or almost anything.

Having taken my photograph I walked off along the path on top of the cliffs on the other side of the headland.

mechanical digger peche à pied grand maree baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallThis was something that took me completely by surprise.

With it being the lowest tide of the year today – the famous Grande Marée – and also a holiday and lockdown period that has brought the crowds of people down from Paris there were crowds of people out there today practising the peche à pied and scratching around amongst the rocks for shellfish.

But the surprising thing was the mechanical digger thing that was out there with them. Once they start using mechanical equipment for the peche à pied that will be the end of a tradition.

Actually, it’s me being facetious. I’m sure that he’s doing something totally unconnected with the peche à pied

mechanical digger laying pipes baie de mont st michel Granville Manche Normandy France Eric HallIt may well be that he’s doing something that’s connected to this little task out there.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that a couple of weeks ago we saw a pile of pipes on the quayside and I was wondering what they are for. No need to wonder any more because they are all out there, being laid by a group of men, taking advantage of the very low tide.

It beats me what they are doing with all of those though. I’ve no idea what they would be doing that would require a pipeline to be lad on the beach out there. It’s not likely to be a sewer outfall or anything like that because of Health and Safety or Environmental Issues. I shall have to enquire.

spirit of conrad hermes 1 lys noir aztec lady chantier navale port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallDown at the chantier navale there’s yet another change of occupier there.

That motor boat Freddy Land has now disappeared, presumably gone back in the water. We still have Spirit of Conrad, Aztec Lady, Hermes 1 and Lys Noi down there on the blocks. And it was certainly a hive of activity down there this afternoon with a few vans and a load of workmen buzzing around working away

Nothing at all going on over at the ferry port right now. All of the boats have moved, either into the inner harbour or else they are out running over to the Ile de Chausey.

digger laying mooring wires port de Granville harbour Manche Normandy France Eric HallBut here’s something else that’s interesting going on in the harbour this afternoon.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we’ve seen these diggers working away in the port a few weeks ago and I wondered what they were up to.

Now I know the answer to this question. There is €6,000,000 made available to a few of the ports around here to improve their facilities. Here in Granville, they have received some of the money to install three more mooring lines to make more anchoring facilities for smaller boats.

It’s just a shame that they hadn’t had the money to do this when they were working on the facilities two or so years ago.

Back here I had a coffee and worked on my arrears from Central Europe up until guitar time, something that was quite enjoyable.

And for tea it was a curry out of the freezer with veg and boiled potatoes. Followed by my delicious apple crumble.

Eventually I managed to listen to the dictaphone too to see where I’d been on my travels. I was driving one of G&B’s old Fords last night, taking the kids to college. One was sitting behind me chatting away saying that Brian didn’t like me and that I talked too much, loads of things like that. I said that I used to work for Europe’s largest coach company until it went bankrupt and I’d driven coaches as far east as Russia, places like that. I have loads of experience and I’m happy to share it with Brian but he doesn’t seem to want to learn or listen. The conversation continued. We weren’t going fast and 2 students alighted to walk in front of the coach. We came to a place where a tree was overhanging so I had to move out into the middle of the road so I had to ask these students to come back in. One of them was John Ashby so he came over to chat. He asked if I was still living on my farm. I told him of my health issues and that I was living in this apartment. He asked “do you have an owl?”. I replied “no”. He said “well you ought to have an owl. I’ll have a friend of mine make one”. We started to have a little chat but we didn’t get far as we came to the yard. The first thing that I noticed was that the drive had been moved. I was half-way up the old drive before I realised. I had to do a dramtic turn-round to get into the new drive. There was a kind of bracket-type of thing with 6 rather large upturned bolts welded to it lying on the path there . I said to the sentry who was busy looking at it “don’t worry. I’ll move it”. I got down, picked it up and threw it out of the way and drove the coach into the yard before he got off. By now it had become a motor bike. I noticed that the front tyre was low so John and I had a scavenge around the workshop to try to find a compressor that I knew was there. We found half of it – someone had dismantled it and left it in pieces. Some of the pieces were missing. We also talked about the cutlery and plates. One of the students had already asked me why things were a bit different on board the coach. I said that I hadn’t really noticed. John told me that all the crockery and cutlery had been changed and he asked me why. I said that I didn’t know. “All I know is that I have a key to the yard, a key to the office and a key to the coach. Brian just rings me up and asks me when he needs any work doing”.

But John Ashby – there’s a blast from the past. Someone who was struck off my friends list at school in 1971 when he stole my girlfriend at the time and about whom I haven’t thought for a single minute ever since. What’s he doing making a debut appearance and sticking his nose into my nocturnal ramblings?

Now though I’m off to bed, later than usual. I’m exhausted despite my sleep this afternoon. I can’t wait to get into bed.

Friday 28th August 2020 – THERE WEREN’T …

high tide plat gousset granville manche normandy france eric hall… too many people on the beach today when I went out for my afternoon walk.

And that’s hardly surprising – and for several reasons too.

Firstly, the tide was well in, as you can see. In fact it wasn’t far off being high tide – although I suspect that the tide was on its way out just now.

Secondly, the weather was pretty miserable too. There was a very high wind, it was cold and there were occasional rain showers. I actually had a jacket on when I went outside and I can’t say that it was unnecessary.

This morning though was another miserable morning. The alarms, although I heard them, didn’t raise me from my bed. It was about 07:15 when I finally arose.

Nothing on the dictaphone either, although I have a vague memory of being somewhere in Portugal with a dog during the night. And if that’s as ever likely.

This morning, with a great deal of effort, I managed to complete the radio programme that I had been preparing. And that was more difficult than it might seem as well because the timings were all miles out and I had to improvise.

Unbelievably, that took me up to lunchtime. And seeing as I had forgotten to bake any bread this morning I had to make do with taco rolls. It’s a good job that I have a stock of those.

This afternoon I’ve spent working on the photos from my trip around Europe. Not that I’ve gone very far with those because firstly I had my route into the Czech Republic all wrong and I had to spend an hour or two going over one of these satellite imaging sites to see if I could identify anything.

Once I’d done that, I managed to trace and old abandoned building that I had seen. Once I’d identified it I was able to do some research about it and in the end I managed to find (in Czech) some information about it.

Czech was not a language that I learnt – they didn’t join the EU until after I had left – so I ended up having to teach myself a little Czech vocabulary in order to work out what it was that I was reading.

Mind you, it took me long enough.

yachts english channel granville manche normandy france eric hallIn between all of this I braved the weather to go out for my afternoon walk.

There was plenty of wind, as I said earlier, but it’s an ill-wind that doesn’t blow anyone any good because there were certainly plenty of people taking advantage of it.

Not only did we have the yacht schools out there today, there was probably a dozen or so of them performing some kind of nautical danse macabre out at sea in the English Channel.

trees with blankets on trunks square maurice marland granville manche normandy france eric hallFrom the rue du Nord I carried on to the viewpoint overlooking the Plat Gousset to watch the high tide, and then I walked around to the Square Maurice Marland to see what was going on there.

Not a lot, as it happened, but it was amusing to see what was going on with some of the trees there.

There was no indication at all to suggest what was the purpose of these woollen wrappings around the trunks. It beats me – after all, it’s not as if it is winter yet – but there must be some kind of purpose to it all.

black mamba baie de mont st michel granville manche normandy france eric hallWe’ve seen plenty of yachts out in the English Channel, but there were also quite a few on the other side of the headland in the Baie de Mont St Michel.

Regular readers of this rubbish will have seen this one before. It’s Black Mamba and she put in an appearance a few weeks before I went off on my travels on Spirit of Conrad.

She’s been hanging around now ever since, and one of these days I shall have to go along and chat to the skipper to find out some more about the vessel.

old cars jaguar xj s granville manche normandy france eric hallHow long is it since we’ve had an old car on these pages?

Round by the Eglise Notre Dame I saw this vehicle parked up. Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that we have seen several old jaguars around the town, but we’ve not seen anything as rare as this old Jaguar XJ-S

It’s difficult to tell whether this is a Mark I or a Mark III. The side repeaters on the Mark III are different but on the Mark I it didn’t have them.

That makes me think that it’s a mark I with aftermarket repeaters, but that’s just a wild guess. Whatever it is, it’s certainly interesting.

Back here I carried on with my photos and then stopped for tea. There was some stuffing left from my pepper so I lengthened it with some kidney beans and had more taco rolls, followed by apple crumble

My evening walk was completely uneventful. There was no-one about in this wicked wind and there was nothing whatever going on. The only excitement was that there were still seven boats in the chantier navale.

Shopping tomorrow so i’m having an early night – I hope. And I need it too because I’m exhausted. Here’s hoping that tomorrow will be somewhat better.

Friday 7th August 2020 – STRAWBERRY MOOSE AND CALIBURN …

strawberry moose border crossing okres skalika river dubrava cezch republic slovakia eric hall… are breaking new ground today. And here is the obligatory photo of Strawberry Moose and Caliburn, to prove that they were here. We mustn’t go forgetting that.

As for me, it’s 28 years and more since I last set foot in Slovakia – one of the very last coach trips that I did for Shearings back in 1992 before I left and I’m glad to be back because I happen to like Slovakia very much, despite the reputation that it has in certain quarters.

This morning I was awake at something resembling a normal working day. I’d heard all of the alarms go off and I managed to haul myself out of bed by about 06:30 – the first time for ages.

There was plenty of work to be done, such as listening to where I’d been during the night. I was going somewhere, driving and I was in Caliburn, I think. I was being followed by an old Morgan 3-wheeler with a couple in it, driven by a guy with a red handlebar moustache. They were piled up with luggage and seemed to be following me throughout all of my route across Central Europe and it was very interesting although I didn’t exchange a single word with them or anything like that and it was very intriguing to try to work out exactly what they were doing

Not just that but everything else delayed me to such an extent that I was rather late going down to breakfast. But afterwards, I came back here to pack and headed down to pay for my stay. It’s refreshing, the politeness in Eastern Europe. The guy at reception called me “sir” even AFTER I’d paid the bill.

Back outside I headed off south-east. 414 kms in the sweltering heat, roadworks and diversions everywhere.

old cars skoda estelle coupe Nezvestice czech republic eric hallBut after I’d been driving for an hour or so I suddenly found my self tagged on behind an old Czech car, a Skoda Estelle coupé. The “Estelle” was the name given in the Uk to a whole range of Skoda rear-engined cars produced from the mid-60s up until about 1990

In Czechoslovakia, they were identified by their model names, starting with the Skoda 1000MB in 1964 and then passing through the Skoda 100 all the way up to the last 136. As far as I can tell from the rear lights, this one may well be a Skoda 110 from the early 1970s.

Seeing it on the road somehow restores my faith a little in Eastern Europe. One thing that I’ve noticed on my travels so far has been a total lack of Eastern Bloc vehicles and that has been causing me some not inconsiderable dismay.

zdakov bridge river vltava czech republic eric hallAfter seeing the Skoda there wasn’t very much of note or of interest until I saw this magnificent structure right in front of me. This has to be something worth a good look.

It’s called the Zdakov Bridge, built between 1957 and 1967 and has a claim to fame in that at the time of its completion the span of its arch at just marginally under 380 metres made it the longest single-arch span in the World. However it’s subsequently been surpassed by many other bridges, particularly in China

The total length of the bridge is an impressive 543 metres and it’s just under 50 metres above the water underneath it.

river vltava czech republic eric hallThe river over which it passes is the River Vltava, the longest river in the Czech Republic at 430 kilometres long.

This is a tributary of the Elbe and so the general flow of water is northwards-ish from its source near the southern border of the country. It’s navigable by ships of up to 1,000 tonnes as far as Prague and then by ships of 300 tonnes as far as Ceske Budejovice.

Further on, progress is impeded by the existence of various hydro-electric barrages and only very small boats can pass up and downriver beyond there.

river vltava czech republic eric hallIn fact, that’s one of the reasons for the bridge here because the river has been dammed here by the Orlik Dam to create the largest hydro-electric dam in the country, with power of about 360mW. You can see some of the power lines in this photo.

The bridge is named for the village of Zdakov which is somewhere underneath us, flooded by the lake that was created and which we can see just up there. The lake is the largest along the river by volume but not by surface area and contains 720 million cubic metres of water for a surface area of 26km².

Built between 1954 and 1961, the barrage is 91.5 metres high and 450 metres wide.

river vltava czech republic eric hallSeeing as I needed to make a call of nature I decided to go for a walk along the river to see what might be happening here , and to stretch my legs as well.

The scenery was quite stunning and I really envied the people down there on the river cruiser that runs some kind of shuttle service along a navigable section of the river.

However, much as I would like to, I can’t spend all day sunbathing and admiring the scenery. I am running to some kind of timetable, although you may not believe it, and I have a long way to go today. The Czech republic is bigger than you think and I need to be making tracks.

And so I climbed back into Caliburn and continued on my way south-eastwards for a couple of hours.

For lunch I simply pulled up at the side of the road in the shade, had a nibble on some stuff and a little snooze for half an hour. I’m not as young as I was

Nuclear power plant Dukovany czech republic eric hallOhhh loook what i’ve found now. Had I known that I was going to pass by here I’d have brought a potato with me and had fission chips for lunch.

This is the Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, which will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has ever played “Ton Clancy’s End War” (not that I ever have). The second Czechoslovak (and first Czech Republic) nuclear plant, built using Russian technology in the late 1970s and came on stream in the mid-80s.

There are four nuclear power units in here, all of which are in operation and three of them have been modernised in the first decade of this Century. It produces in total about 1.4TW of electricity, some of which is exported to Austria.

It’s due to be decommissioned in the mid-30s and approval in principle has been given for a replacement unit on the site

mikulov castle czech republic eric hallSo pushing on along my route, I eventually come to the town of Mikulov with its beautiful Romanesque Chateau.

Just a cock-stride away to my right is Austria but I’m not going that way. i’m going past one of the most important historical places in the whole of the Cezch Republic. The first written mention of the place was in 1149 and 100 years later it was in the possession of the Dukes of Liechtenstein, passing to the Hapsburg dynasty in 1560, by which time it was known as Nikolsburg.

There was a medieval stone castle situated here built before the Dukes of Liechtenstein arrived here, although the one here dates from 1719 and completed in 1730 following a fire that damaged the original. This one was burnt out by the Germans retreating from here at the end of World War II and rebuilt in the 1950s.

It’s now a museum an is said to contain one of the largest wine barrels in Europe – a mere 22,300 gallons.

Being so close to the Austrian border there was a very great Germanic influence here in the town but after the end of World War II the ethnic Germans, who made up the bulk of the population, were “removed”. The large Jewish community here had been “removed” during the War and very few survived.

st sebastian chapel holy hill mikulov czech republic eric hallBut despite being one of the major centres of Jewish life in Moravia there’s a significant Christian pilgrimage chapel here too, the Chapel of Saint Sebastian on Holy Hill at the back of town.

The hill itself at 1100 feet is quite significant and is a nature reserve with a load of Protected flora and fauna but the Chapel is the main attraction.

Following a plague here in 1622 the Bishop of Olomouc authorised the construction of a chapel here that would resemble St Peter’s Church in Rome. However it underwent several alterations over the years to obtain its present shape.

There were many rumours about miraculous healings associated with the site and it became a centre of pilgrimage, with accommodation being created in the town and the nearby monastery to cater for the number that arrived.

The Chapel was abandoned in 1786 under the Emperor Jospeh II’s attempts to bring the Hapsburg Empire into the modern World following the death of his traditionalist mother, but having fallen into decay, a restoration programme began in 1861.

Every year since then, except in World War II, there has been a procession of pilgrims on 8th September. They come to walk the famous “Way Of The Cross” and to see the copy of the “Black Madonna of Loreto” that is kept here.

strawberry moose border crossing okres skalika river dubrava cezch republic slovakia eric hallontinuing on my way, dodging more and more roadworks and diversions, I crossed over into Slovakia round about 18:00.

It’s the Euro in Slovakia, much to my surprise, and so with what remained of my Czech Kronor I fuelled up Caliburn at a local petrol station near the border. This brings back many memories of travelling around Europe back in the 1970s and 80s.

And then I went looking for a hotel.

hotel senica slovakia eric hallHere I am in the Hotel Senica, in the town of Senica in between the border and Bratislava.

It’s a modern hotel on the edge of the city, very clean and tidy and, like most places in the former Eastern Europe, very good value.

First task once I’d installed myself was to set tea on the go, and then clothes-washing and a shower. It was so hot in here that after tea I crashed out again, but having worked out how the air-conditioning works, it’s a much-more reasonable temperature now.

And so I’m hoping to have a good sleep tonight and hit the road tomorrow. I’m not going to be travelling very far but nevertheless there is plenty to do.

But something else will turn up to distract me – it usually does.

Thursday 6th August 2020 – I TOOK IT …

… easy today. I didn’t leave my room until midday, despite the chambermaid’s insistence.

Last night I was in bed fairly early but it was a restless night and I didn’t really have a deep sleep. And despite the three alarms going off on time, I didn’t leave my bed until about 08:00.

Plenty of stuff on the dictaphone too. For part of the night I was at work and just across from there was a school. It got to the type where I was well over 65 and thought that I was going to retire. After all, I should after all that time. I was really worried because Castor was there (I wondered when she would put in an appearance) and how was she going to cope without seeing me there but how was I going to cope without seeing her and I was trying to sleep for 10 minutes thinking about that.

Later on we were prisoners of war and were all in a hut. The drain had blocked and there was a really foul smell coming from the middle. We all had to go back in but somehow keep clear of this central drain that was overflowing and smelling. Someone else had taken hold of my seat and wouldn’t move. That became an extremely complicated situation. There was a situation in Ireland where they weren’t used to handling prisoners and there for example you couls see where the hut had actually been on the ground because the ground was marked. There was like a string vest type of thing – I’ve no idea what it was about – but it had a huge wine stain in it from where some wine had been spilt by the prisoners.

Even later I was a passenger in a bus last night and we were driving somewhere. It was from Bluestones traffic lights towards Nantwich down the old by-pass. From the traffic lights a boy of about 10 or 11 on a pushbike tried to race us away. We soon overtook hime but going over the canal bridge something happened and we had to stop. There were two or three lorries behind us. They had to swerve out into the middle of the road to try to pass us and almost collided with vehicles coming the other way. It was all very dangerous, that sort of thing as they were out there in the middle of the road trying to go past us just over this blind hill. Eventually we got under way again and set off. There was loads of traffic coming the other way and I’m not surprised with it being so busy that it had been so dangerous like that.

There was also something else that stuck in my mind – a breakdown of the lorry of one of the contractors at my father’s old factory – one of the old 8-wheeler S36 Fodens.

But there was a lot more too but seeing as you are probably eating your meal right now I’ll spare you the gory details.

Having finally awoken, I headed off unsteadily to breakfast. You’ve no idea just how much that walk yesterday took out of me. I wasn’t all that hungry so I didn’t have much and I was soon back in my room.

Much of the time was spent sorting out my things and tidying up my affairs, as well as having a little relax. The chambermaid was quite insistent so I let her in to empty the bins and do a few little things.

Round about midday I reckoned that despite everything I ought to make a move and head into town. And even though most of the way was downhill I still regretted having set out because I wasn’t feeling at all like it.

quotes plaques on wall Goethova stezka Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallWhen I arrived in town I took a different route into the centre – down the footpath, the Goethova Stezka, on the left-hand side of the river.

My Czech isn’t up to very much at all so i’m not able to tell you too much about what is happening down here but it seels that the walk is lined by plaques carrying quotes of various famous authors and philosophers and the like who may have visited the town.

The reference to the Arhimandrit Mitrofor may refer to a senior religious official of the Eastern Orthodox Church who has earned respect or performed service for which the Church is grateful. There is a Monastery in the town of Sinaia but it’s led by aHegumen, a Grade or two below that of Arhimandrit.

Jungmann could be anyone really, but is more than likely to refer to Josef Jungmann, the man considered to be responsible for the revival of the modern Czech language, although he was long-dead by 1895.

Kaiserbad Spa karlovy vary czech republic eric hallWhen I came into town yesterday I’d taken a photo of this building but it wasn’t much good so one of the reasons that I came down this way was to take a photo from a better perspective.

As I said yesterday, it’s the Kaiserbad Spa built in the late 19th Century on the site of a brewery to cater for the increasing flow of people who “came to take the waters”.

But its glorious heyday is long passed. Closed in 1994 it was allowed to become derelict but was ceded to the city in 2008 sice when it’s ben undergoing a programme of major restoration. And not before time, I have to say

river tepla Zahradní Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallHaving passed everywhere that I photographed yesterday, I headed straight for the more modern part of town.

This took me along the banks of the River Tepla and by the delightful Zahradni Terrace. This was really the elite end of town for most of the visitors who came here back at the end of the 19th Century and even today there are plenty of hotels and upmarket shops here.

As we’ve said quite often as we’ve admired buildings here, it goes to show just how glorious this city must have been at the end of the 19th Century

In the town centre my Czech pronunciation brought out a few smiles and laughs as I tried to order some chips for lunch. And I did have another Italian chat with the guy with the Italian food stall in the centre. But actually I didn’t do much. I just had a little walk around and then spent a lot of time sitting around in the sun.

It made me wish that I’d brought a book with me to pass the time, although at one stage I did manage to have a little doze.

Thermal Velky Sal conference centre thermal spa hotel Ivana Petrovice Pavlova Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallThis is one building that didn’t impress me very much. I mean – for a modern concrete Brutalist building I suppose that it’s quite attractive but it’s totally out of place here.

It’s the Thermal Velky Sal (“Great Hall”) Conference Centre and Spa Hotel, designed by architects Vera and Vladimír Machonin. Construction began in 1968 and took 9 years, basically because they had difficulty with the infiltration of groundwater into the foundations and basement area which led to the cash running out and a need to refinance the project.

The sad thing about this though is that in order to build the place, they had to demolish about 30 houses, mostly from the 19th Century, and so imagine how this place would have looked back then prior to the demolition

After my good rest I set off back for home. It took quite a while too a I didn’t push on too much. Just a little 30-minutes of walk followed by a 15-minute rest. And at one of my stops I actually found someone selling vegan strawberry sorbet. It wasn’t cheap but it really was delicious and I enjoyed it.

hoonigan microcar MC Brezová Czech republic eric hallThere’s a petrol station at the roadside halfway home from the town centre, and as I walked byn this little car pulled in to fuel up.

Not seeing a badge on it, I couldn’t see what kind of car it was and of course my Czech isn’t good enough to ask. But the “MC” that I noticed on the back might seem to suggest that it’s a Microcar MC from France, so it’s a long way from home over here.

Back here at my hotel I had a look at how far I’d gone today. And what a disappointment it was. I’ve only done a mere 169% of my daily activity today – almost 14kms.

Finally making it up to my room, I lay on the bed and crashed out until 19:00. Out like a light and that was no surprise. I had a shower but had a little “incident” with the washing. I took down the nice clean and dry undies that I’d washed yesterday – and washed them again. I’m not doing too well am I?

Too late to make any tea, I decided to pass on that and make up for it with a good breakfast in the morning. I’m hitting the road tomorrow so I need to be on form. That means a nice early night and hopefully a decent sleep.

But we’ll see all about that in the morning.

Wednesday 5th August 2020 – LATER THIS EVENING …

… I’ll regret having walked into town today.

According to the booking agency, the hotel is just 3700 feet (about 2/3 of a mile) from town. But that’s clearly in a straight line. When you are following a meandering river through the mountains, it’s nothing like a straight line at all.

And when the town is a long, narrow strip of buildings all the way along the valley, by the time that you have reached the end, had a really good look around and then walked all the way back, it’s no surprise to anyone that your fitbit shows 16.8 kilometres – 211% of my daily total.

Last night was rather strange. I went to bed early and crashed out again, waking up to hear the radio still playing at round about 01:00. And so I switched it off and went back to sleep.

All of the three alarms went off of course, but I wasn’t in any rush. 07:30 was when I finally arose.

Breakfast was interesting. Nothing like the one at Lech but that was really something special. This one here, although a long way short of it, was still more than satisfactory. I’m not too keen on powdered orange juice but then again, this is the east.

Sliced banana too, still in its skin. First time that I’ve seen that. But then, 30 years ago, there wouldn’t have been any bananas at all. People have very short memories yet I can tell you hordes of tales about travelling in Eastern Europe back in the 80s.

Last night I was with someone who might even have been a girl whom I used to know of all people. We were certainly on the verge of becoming a couple, holding hands, all that kind of thing, being extremely close to each other. A group of us had gone off somewhere and she was there as well so she came. I had extremely high hopes about this but the more into this trip we got and the more things started to become evident that the kind of life I was living at the time was not the kind of life that other people were living, that my family was living she became more and more distant. By the time I got somewhere to stop for a coffee she just disappeared. We’d seen some really interesting fountains and of course I didn’t have my camera with me so I went to get the one off the phone to take these photos but it turned out hat I had the dashcam. By the time that I’d put that away and got the phone out ready to work everyone was all coming back and we had to go back. She wasn’t there and I wondered where she had gone. I was with my family by this time and we ended up in a hospital. All my family was being treated for cancer and I had to go to have my treatment too. One of my sisters was there being treated and my grandmother was there being treated. My sister having a perfusion had lost an arm or a thumb along the way. They were all talking about they’ll be out by March and I thought “God! March – I’ll just be beginning”. I had to look for them and I ended up going to the wrong house or wrong hut where they were staying but someone put me right. I was talking about a message that we were all going to receive from the Government. Someone called me forward , it was one of these “pat on the back of the head” type of things and I couldn’t wait to read it and have a good laugh. I tracked my family down and they were living in some miserable hovel or wooden hut. As I said, my sister had lost an arm and was there with a perfusion and my grandmother was there with a perfusion and it was all one hell of an untidy mess. I was thinking that if the girl whom I mentioned shows up now if I made it up with her this is going to be the absolute end. She’ll never speak to me again, not that she was speaking to me at that particular moment. As usual it was my family of course who were causing all these problems with me as I tried to get on in life. All that time as this was going on I was singing that Brian Eno song “we are the 801” and that’s stuck in my head now.

There was a baseball match of some description. There was a little boy playing in it and he’d scored some kind of record number of runs in a match. he was very lucky because he’d nearly been out first ball, where the ball had actually hit an obstruction before it had been caught by a fielder. And somewhere in this was a girl to whom I used to be engaged when I was much younger. There was something going on with the coaches and I can’t remember now. She was there and I’d been with her and ended up talking to the woman who owned the coaches in the end. She was asking me about the girl and how well I’d known her. I replied that I’d known her since she was about 13 when she came from Arbroath and we’d gone out with each other at school, all that kind of thing. We’d separated and got back together again, and separated and got back together again. She was pointing out some kind of erratic behaviour of my girl and was under the impression that she was spying on the coach company for some reason or other, which I found very hard to believe. I thought that she was waiting for me while we were having this discussion. All kinds of weird little things like that and I can’t remember them now which is a shame. There was certainly something where I was with someone in a car and she was going to visit someone for work. We were having a quick kiss and cuddle in the car and all her clothes were creased and she had to walk to this house straightening all her clothes as she went. I’ve a vague feeling that TOTGA put in an appearance too at some time during the night although again I don’t remember anything about it particularly

I can’t remember who I was with now but we were driving around and came across what was Tatler’s Garage or what should have been Tatler’s garage. It had “Tatler’s Garage New For 94” and we were wondering what was new. We had a look but it was all deserted and derelict, the doors had been left open and the building was decaying and there were people down there. We were wondering whether we should go down there and have a look and find out what was going to be so new about 94 with the range of Peugeot vehicles that they were selling

old chimney Zahradnictví Mudroch garden centre Mariánsko-Lázenská silnice 897, 360 01 Brezová, Czech republic eric hallRound about 10:30 I set off on my marathon hike into town.

However I didn’t go very far before I was side-tracked. I ended up having a good walk around the little town where I was first – mainly because I noticed this old chimney.

By the looks of things, over there, there’s a huge greenhouse complex over there across the river and so what that chimney might be doing – pure speculation here – is that it might be for a furnace for heating the greenhouses in order to give everything a head start in spring.

Regular readers of this rubbish will recall that back in days gone by I used to cover my ground with thick black plastic for the same reason.

river tepla  360 01 Brezová, Czech republic eric hallDid someone say “river” just now?

Right across from the hotel behind a row of houses is the River Tepla. If I walk on about 200 yards there are no houses and so I can see the river quite clearly.

I’m told that its name, Tepla, means “warm” in old Slavonic which of course makes perfect sense because Karlovy Vary near to where we are is one of the most important Spa towns of Central Europe with warm springs just about everywhere.

headless statue of soldier 360 01 Brezová, Czech republic eric hallThis was something that I found quite interesting, and if only my Czech were good enough to ask someone about it.

It is of course a soldier and the clothing puts it at about the end of the 19th Century and maybe just about into World War I. But for what particular reason would anyone want to decapitate it?

It’s probably necessary to mention that here, we are in one of the most turbulent regions of Central Europe. This was a part of mainstream German-speaking Bohemia of the Austrian Empire that found itself against its own wishes transferred to an “enemy” country (the Czech Legion fought with the Russians in World War I and continued the fight against the Austrians after the October Revolution) in 1919.

After years of agitation it was absorbed by Germany in 1938 (the Sudeten Crisis) but in 1945 the Czechs recovered the area and all of the Germans were forcibly expelled.

And so this symbolic act of decapitation (if it really is a symbolic act and not something that has been done by accident) could refer to almost anything.

renault thalia 360 01 Brezová, Czech republic eric hallIt’s a very long walk into Karlovy Vary as I mentioned earlier. But there was plenty to see on the way.

Lioke this car, for example. A Renault of course, but not one that you would expect to see on the roads in France. And although it’s described as a Renault Thalia, regular readers of this rubbish will recall HAVING SEEN ONE BEFORE when it was called a Renault Symbol.

It’s basically a Renault Clio destined for markets where hatchbacks aren’t very popular, and they are made in Turkey.

hotel imperial karlovy vary czech republic eric hallIt’s quite a slog into town from Bresova where my hotel is, although it’s a beautiful walk, I have to say, and although it was sunny, it wasn’t too hot.

But sooner or later we eventually begin to see the signs of things to come, like this magnificent building that can only be a hotel situated on top of a ridge.

It is in fact the Hotel Imperial, dating from 1912 and I was proudly told that it was the first building in what is now the Czech Republic to have been built with poured concrete. There’s a road that goes up there of course, but there’s also a cable car, so I was informed.

Just about anyone who is anybody has stayed here in this hotel and I can well understand it because I have seen the prices.

park hotel richmond karlovy vary czech republic eric hallBut before I can reach where the Hotel Imperial might be situated, I start to encounter a few more hotels. I must be reaching the town now, or at least, something connected with it.

This is the Park Hotel Richmond. Although its history goes back to the middle of the 19th Century the present building dates from 1925. And there’s much more of it than you can see in this photo because altogether there are 5 floors and 117 guest rooms, as well as a whole host of other features.

It’s well hidden inside its own little park and you wouldn’t ever know that there’s so much of it here.

statue of beethoven karlovy vary czech republic eric hallOne thing about Karlovy vary with it being the haunt of the rich and famous, is that there have been all kids of people who have come here.

Amongst the visitors here was Ludwig Van Beethoven, who came here on two occasions in 1812.

And if you think that his monument is rather grand, it’s rather a cheat, because it’s not really “his” monument. There used to be a statue of the Emperor Franz Josef I of the Austrian Empire on this spot but once Czechoslovakia was created, then it was only natural that the Emperor received his marching orders.

Beethoven has in fact only been here since 1929

statue freidrich schiller karlovy vary czech republic eric hallSomeone else who had a famous stay in Karlovy Vary was the German playwright and poet Freidrich Schiller.

He came here in 1791 and during his stay he began to write his “Wallenstein Trilogy”, the story of the Bohemian General von Wallenstein who despite being born a Protestant, led Catholic forces against the Protestants in the 30 Years War, just one of the many, many reasons why he was such an unpopular character.

During a programme of Embellishment of the town during the early years of the 20th Century the committee in charge of the programme engaged architects Freidrich Ohmann and Max Hiller to design this memorial to celebrate the 150 years of Schiller’s birth in 1759.

And when I saw it, I couldn’t help but think of a couple of lines of the poem written by Conrad Meyer about the funeral of Schiller –

A waving pall. A vulgar coffin made of pine
With not a wreath, not e’en the poorest, and no train

I wonder what Meyer would have to say about this memorial.

river tepla Art Gallery Karlovy Vary czech republic eric hallIf anyone thinks that I’ve arrived at the town now, they would be mistaken. There’s still a long way to go yet before I reach the end.

Here, I find myself in another gorge and I need to push on from here. I’ll be following the River Tepla again, nicely canalised with proper stone.

On my left is the Art Gallery. I meant to take a photograph of it from a better angle on my way back and to my bitter regret I forgot. But it’s a beautiful building that also dates from the Embellishment programme of the early 20th Century. Prior to this, it is said that this was an important shopping area, although the clients must have had something of a walk to reach here.

strange bicycle karlovy vary czech republic eric hallBut I’m not going that way quite yet. I’ve been side-tracked by this strange machine.

It’s obviously a bicycle of some kind and this little boy is having a whale of a time riding up and down in front of the Art Gallery.

Had my Czech been up to anything I would have asked him about it and even maybe cadged a lift into town. But unfortunately the Czech Republic wasn’t a member of the EU when I working was there so I never had the opportunity to learn much of the language.

hot water manhole cover karlovy vary czech republicç  eric hallBut before I move away from here there is one thing that I ought to be photographing.

Karlovy Vary is, as I have said, famous for its hot springs and there is thus a considerable volume of hot water that is being discharged throughout the town. So even some of the manhole covers have a warning written on them to inform whoever might want to lift off the cover that there’s hot water flowing by underneath.

This kind of place looks like the kind of place where I would like to sit in the middle of a local Czech winter, and I bet that it’s popular with the local animals too.

Kaiserbad Spa karlovy vary czech republic eric hallThis is a rather depressing thing to see, especially for lovers of James Bond.

This is the famous Kaiserbad Spa, designed by Hermann Hellmer and Ferdinand Fellner and built on the sire of a former brewery. It was opened in 1895 and was full of the latest state-of-the-art equipment of its day, even down to the very first electric exercise machines designed by Gustav Zander who exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1870.

It was also the venue for a whole series of international chess championships in the early years of the 20th Century.

With the decline in visitors after World War II it lost a great deal of its splendour and in the 1980s became a casino and then a luxury hotel, both projects which failed spectacularly.

Most people will know it from the James Bond film CASINO ROYALE, filmed in Karlovy Vary, where its exterior was featured on several occasions during the various “entry into the Casino” scenes.

But having been left to ruin for the last 30 or so years it’s slowly being restored. And about time too because by all accounts it’s supposed to be magnificent inside with loads of frescoes and the like.

terrace of houses Marianskolazenska Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallJust opposite the Kaiserbad Spa are rows of magnificent terraced houses that must have been where the cream of society came to stay in the heyday of Karlovy Vary in the late 19th Century.

The name Karlovy Vary might not be very familiar to you but if I were to mention that until about 1945 the place was known as Karlsbad or Carlsbad, then a few bells might start ringing

It was a town considered by many important dignitaries to be the Jewel in the Crown of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, with its 13 major springs and, in total, well over 300 sources of water bubbling away out of the rocks all over the town. Anyone who was anybody wanted to come here to take the waters”.

horse drawn carriage terrace of houses Marianskolazenska Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallIt is said that the city was founded by, and it was certainly named for Charles IV, King of Bohemia after he had bathed in a hot spring that he had found in the forest here while hunting, although there were plenty of settlements here already.

A charter was granted to the town by the Emperor Charles in 1370 but it wasn’t until the arrival of the railway in 1870 that things began to take off. And the rise in visitors was spectacular. By the time of the outbreak of World War I there were well over 70,000 visitors coming each year.

With the incorporation of Bohemia into the Austrian Empire in 1526 a great number of ethnic Germans moved to settle in the area, and political turmoil and unrest amongst the mainly German population of the town after the region was incorporated into Czechoslovakia reduced the flow of visitors, and numbers fell again under Communist rule.

It’s only now that the tourists are returning to the area, now that the facilities are being restored.

grand hotel pupp river tepla karlovy vary karlovy vary czech republic eric hallWe talked about the Jales Bond film CASINO ROYALE just now. This is the Grand Hotel Pupp – one of the buildings that featured considerably in the film.

It’s not the only film to have been made here either. There have been about a dozen that I could trace, mainly Czech films, but the Jackie Chan film SHANGHAI KNIGHTS and the Gerald Dépardieu film LAST HOLIDAY are two others that many people might know.

The original building on this site was called “The Saxon Hall”, so-called because the construction in 1701 was partly financed by Friedrich August, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland, and the staff who manned the building came mainly from Leipzig

grand hotel pupp casino Mírove nam Karlovy Vary Czech republic club eric hallIn 1708 the mayor of Karlovy Vary built a competing Hall on an adjacent plot and this became known as the “Czech Hall”. And gradually over the next 70 years or so, various constructions and enlargements continued down the street.

In 1778 the Pupp family, confectioners, bought the Czech Hall and put a lot of effort transforming it into one of the most popular places in the town, which resulted in the owners of the Saxon Hall endeavouring to find ways to out-compete their neighbours and for 100 years a fierce rivalry ensued

This came to an end in 1890 when the Pupp family finally managed to acquire the Saxon Hall and in 1892 the whole site was cleared away and construction of the present building began.

grand hotel pupp river tepla karlovy vary czech republic eric hallSince then it’s been through several stages of reconstruction.

The facade was improved in 1907 thanks to a design by Hermann Hellmer and Ferdinand Fellner whom we met at the Kaiserbad Spa down the road, and in 1923 every room was converted with en-suite facilities. In 1934 the house next door was bought and the hotel expanded. It ended up with a total of 1080 beds at its maximum

Although World War II didn’t affect the town particularly, the hotel became a hospital for wounded German officers. The story goes that a hoard of supplies of coffee and other scarce goods was discovered and was expropriated by the Luftwaffe and the Submarine service.

grand hotel pupp fountain river tepla karlovy vary czech republic  eric hallAfter the War the hotel was nationalised as the Grand Hotel Moskva and became a reward centre for Communist Party officials and exemplary peasants and factory workers. However it was during this period that the hotel became quite run-down.

Several attempts were made to try to restore it but various political upheavals such as the 1968 invasion disrupted everything. The luxury clientele who had begun to be lured back melted away again in all of the turmoil and it wasn’t until after the end of Communism that things began to change for the better.

In 1992 it was privatised. Its original name was reinstated and the Pupp family returned to the helm, and in 1994 the International Film Festival which had taken place here intermittently in the past now became a regular feature, and led to its appearance in a whole variety of films.

river tepla quisisana palace hotel Marianskolazenska Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallAcross the road from the Grand Hotel Pupp is the Quisisana Palace Hotel, one of a chain of hotels apparently.

It’s a building that was constructed between 1887 and 1888 in a mixture of the neo-Renaissance, neo-Gothic and neo-Baroque styles.

It has 19 luxury rooms and suites and although I wasn’t able to stick my nose in to see what it was like, looking at the photos of the rooms tells me that I wouldn’t be able to afford anythng there. With its spa and massage parlours and all of that, it will be way out of my budget.

The bridge over the River Tepla is very interesting too with its lovely wrought-iron scrollwork.

fountains river tepla karlovy vary czech republic eric hallJust a little further on from the Grand Hotel Pupp is the corner where the River Tepla turns the corner and heads down into the town.

The fountains here are quite nice but they don’t spring up much higher than that.

There was some nice shade just there under the trees. I went along and sat there for a few minutes to take advantage of it. The heat was really oppressive right now.

And it wasn’t until I returned to my hotel and looked closely at the photograph that I saw the statue of Jesus up there on the rock behind the houses. I’ve no idea what it’s for but it’s something to do with the “Forest Devotion”, whatever that might be.

river tepla karlovy vary czech republic eric hallHaving restored myself in the shade for a few minutes I could wander off now towards the town centre.

Going around the bend … “quite” – ed … in the river I come out towards the most beautiful riverside promenade, as you can see. It follows the river all the way into the town centre.

And I really do mean “all the way to the town centre” because there was still a long way to go. The town of Karlovy Vary is nestled in a very steep valley so the town is very long and thin as it follows the river valley.

fountain river tepla sparkasse karlovy vary czech republic eric hallWe’ve already seen a couple of fountains bursting up out of the river, and here’s another one a little further along. It seems that fountains are the “in” thing around here.

More interesting that the fountains though is the yellowish building in the background. Looking closely at it I could see the word “Sparkasse” on the facade just above the clock.

Why that is interesting is because it’s “Savings bank” in German. As I have probably said before, until 1918 this was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where German was the main language, and this area was quite Germanic.

After the end of the Second World War the German-speaking population was expelled and the Czech population took over the town. Looking for signs of the pre-1945 Germanic population in these areas is something that I like to do, and here we are with quite a good example.

market colonnade karlovy vary czech republic eric hallFurther along there was a choice of following the river or taking a short cut to cut off a corner by following the Tržište.

This street took me past the Market Colonnade. This was built at the height of the period of glory of the town, between 1882 and 1883. It’s a wooden colonnade and is said to be “in the Swiss Style”. The architects were Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Hellmer.

The reason for its construction was to cover three natural springs, the Charles IV Spring, the Lower Castle Spring and the Market Spring. After 1945 it fell into decay like most things here but was restored during the early 1990s.

mill colonnade karlovy vary czech republic eric hallFurther along the street I rejoin the river and continue my trek along the promenade and end up at the Mill Colonnade.

This is another construction from the belle epoque of Karlovy Vary, designed in the Pseudo-Renaissance style by the Bohemian architect Josef Zítek and built during the period 1871-1881 and officially opened on 5th June 1881. Zitek by the way was Professor of Civil Engineering at Czech Institute of Technology in Prague.

It’s the largest of the colonnades in Karlovy Vary.

On top of the central part are twelve statues. These are allegorical in that they represent the months of the year, although the significance of the statues beats me.

charles 4 Mill Spring spa karlovy vary czech republic eric hallThere are five springs within the building, the Mill Spring, the Rusalka Spring, the Prince Wenceslas Spring, the Libuše Spring and the Rock Spring.

On the way out of time I called at the Mill Spring for a drink but it wasn’t exactly cooling. This one here is the Mill Spring and the water that comes out of it is at 57.8°C. That’s not exactly cooling in this weather.

It’s one of the oldest captured springs in the town, dating back to the 16th Century. Back in 1705 it was one of the first to be recommended for drinking and since then its water has been bottled and sold all around the world. I’m not sure why though because having had a mouthful of it I can say that it tastes disgusting. I wouldn’t want to try a bottle full.

river tepla Vrídelní Karlovy Vary, Czech republic eric hallWhere I was standing to take the photo of the colonnade was on some kind of plaza built right over the river.

Looking behind me, I can see all the way down the Vrídelní , the street on the right bank of the River Tepla. That’s quite a busy little street with lots of shops, restaurants and hotels all along it and looking at the roofs over there, there’s some kind of street market going on down there too.

On the other side of the river, we’re looking at the back of a block of flats. It’s quite splendid for flats, I have to say, and it’s easy to imagine the people who might have stayed there during the belle epoque at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th Century.

park colonnade windsor spa karlovy vary czech republic eric hallThis building here is the Park Colonnade.

It’s built of cast iron and is actually all that remains of a restaurant and concert hall that was called the Blanenský Pavilion. This was designed by the architects Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer who we met a little earlier when we were at the Market Colonnade.

This was built prior to the Market Colonnade – between 1880 and 1881 in fact – and assembled from parts that had been cast at the Blansko Iron Works and was opened on 5th June 1881.

After the end of the Belle Epoque the building suffered badly and by 1965 it was in such a poor condition that it was demolished. Just the colonnade remains today.

T. G. Masaryka Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallA brisk walk along the river from the Park Colonnade brought me into the modern centre of the town.

This is the T.G. Masaryka and it’s around here where you might find all of the modern shops. And if you are wondering to whom the T.G. Masaryka refers, It refers actually to Tomaš Garrigue Masaryk who was a Bohemian politician born in 1850.

Prior to World War I he was working hard to try to convince people to accept the transformation into a Federal State. At the start of World War I he fled into exile and organised the Czech Legion to fight on the side of the Allied Powers with the aim of liberating the Czechs and Slovaks from Austrian rule.

At the end of the war, with the Czechs and Slovaks freed from Austrian domination and was voted President of Czechoslovakia, a position he held until 1935. He was the father of Jan Masaryk, President of Czechslovakia from 1945 until his mysterious death in 1948 on the eve of the Communist takeover.

There was an interesting encounter in this street with regard to money.

The Czech Republic isn’t a member of the Eurozone and still uses Kronor the local currency. At the bank in the cash machine, I was offered 22:13 Kronor to the Euro.

But in one of these exchange booths scattered about the city I was offered 1290Kronor for 50 Euros, an exchange rate of 25.8 Kronor with no commission. And seeing as neither of us had any small change, I ended up with 1300 Kronor.

Someone asked me what I would do if I ended up with money left over after my travels here are over.

The answer is the same that we used to do back in the 70s and 80s when travelling by road in obscure regions of the world. You simply fuel up the vehicle with what local currency you have left.

But returning to the street in front of us, its pedestrianisation was awarded the title of Construction of the Year 2004.

samec kubicek obelisk fountain Alzbetiny Lazne Smetanovy sady Smetana orchards karlovy vary czech republic eric hallJust to my right in the previous photo is the obelisk that you can see in this photo, the Samec Kubicek Obelisk.

It’s a symbolic feature, so we are told, and it’s supposed to represent the boundary between “the peaceful spa area and the excited rhythm of the business zone”.

And if you think that this is pretentions prose, then how about “The pregnant stern silhouette of the obelisk was permeated and visually softened by the bluish light energy from the translucent glass fields with sandblasted drawing and the rounded lines of water splashes”? I don’t want anyone ever criticising any pretentious prose that I might have written when they have this kind of prose to contend with.

The obelisk is situated in the middle of a fountain, a fountain that I didn’t think was all that impressive.

market stall varsavska karlovy vary czech republic eric hallThrough the shopping area I went, and came out the other side into the Varsavska where there was a street market stall selling fruit.

The fruit looked quite delicious and I was tempted, until I saw the swarms of wasps around them. I didn’t want the wasps transferring their attention to me and so I declined the opportunity.

It was interesting to see the “Slovensko” on the edge of the awning over the fruit. That of course is “Slovakia” in the Czech and Slovak language.

The big building behind it with the nice cupola is the former Municipal Market Building. In a sign of the time these days, it’s a supermarket and pharmacy.

bus station varsavska karlovy vary czech republic eric hallIn front of the Municipal Market Building is the local bus station.

The bus service around the town was something that impressed me considerably. There were quite a few stands at the bus station with a regular stream of vehicles, and also a large crowd of passengers waiting to board them. It seems that public transport is quite a big thing around here.

It seemed to be quite a friendly town for pedestrians. Plenty of streets are closed to motor traffic as we have already seen. I headed off up one of them back towards the quieter part of the town where all of the tourists hang out.

Alzbetiny Lazne Smetanovy sady Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallOn the way back from the commercial end of town I passed by this rather gorgeous but very shabby building.

It’s actually a building called the Alžbetiny Lázne, otherwise known as the Elizabeth Spa. And just in case you are wondering who the Elizabeth might be, she was the Empress Elizabeth, more widely known by her nickname “Sissi”.

Born of the Wittelsbach family in Bavaria where we were the other day, she married the Emperor Franz Joseph, seven years her superior, when she was just 16 and was immediately thrown into the limelight to which she was totally unaccustomed. she struggled against her mother in law in an attempt to influence her husband but was particularly unsuccessful.

In the end she fell victim to the Anarchy movement, being assassinated by an Italian anarchist in 1898.

Alzbetiny Lazne Smetanovy sady Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallThe building and its Spa were designed in the pseudo-baroque style by the Municipal Architect Franz Drobny. It was built between 1905 and 1906 and formally opened on 18th June 1906.

After the creation of Czechoslovakia, the Spa was renamed as the much more banal “Spa Five”. It was renovated between 1969 and 1973 and again about 20 years ago. While the interior might be the State of the Art, I wish that they had spent some time on the outside because it’s not as good-looking close to as it does from a distance.

In front of it is a fountain featuring the statue of a nude girl, designed in 1963 by Bretislav Benda.

There’s also a very smart little park in front of the building that you might have seen earlier in the photo of the pyramid thing. It’s called the Smetana Park, named after the Bohemian composer Bedrich Smetana.

Having brought a book and a bottle of water with me, I sat down and rested for an hour or so. I can’t say that I didn’t need it.

Now that I was rested, I went off and found something to eat for lunch. There was an Italian guy selling pasta and pizza from a stall and we ended up having quite a little chat in Italian. And then I headed off in the general direction of home, on the other side of the river to which I came.

river tepla Hotel Pavlov Ivana Petrovice Pavlova Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallThis buiding over there in the Ivana Petrovice Pavlova is the Hotel Pavlov.

What’s exciting about this building as far as I am concerned is its shape. And when you look at it and compare it to the famous “flat iron” on the corner of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in New York, it just goes to show what you can do with a little imagination, something of which is desperately lacking in almost every single piece of architecture in the USA.

The building behind it to the right in the photograph is interesting too. It was probably an old hotel or something similar at one time but now it’s a kind of shopping centre now with quite a few little boutiques in there. I went in there for a good look around but there was nothing in there that was of any interest to me.

Vyhlídka nad Mlýnskou kolonádou Tawan Nikolina Thai Spa House Mlýnské nábr  Karlovy Vary, Czech republic eric hallComing out of the little shopping centre I had a look across the river to see what I could see.

Over there is some kind of obelisk over there reached by several flights of stairs. Where it’s situated is called the Vyhlídka nad Mlýnskou Kolonádou which, crudely translated by Yours Truly, means “The Viewpoint Above The Mill Colonnade”. I’ve no idea if the colonnade has any significance because I didn’t go up to look.

The building to the right is the Tawan Nikolina, the Villa Nikolina. That’s now a Thai spa and massage centre and right now I could do with paying it a little visit myself after all of my exertions just now.

By now it was time for me to make a start on my walk back home so I began to retrace my steps back to my hotel.

river tepla St Mary Magdalene's Church karlovy vary czech republic eric hallThis is the Church of St Mary Magdalene that I missed on my way into town.

Designed by the Bohemian architect Kilián Ignác Dientzenhofer, it was built in the High Baroque style between 1733 and 1736 to replace a previous church that dated back to the 14th Century but which was in poor condition following a couple of fires.

It’s actually built on top of the crypt of the previous church and you can go down there to have a look at the remains of several people who were interred there during the life of the previous church. Unfortunately it was closed when I went there so I missed out on that and also in seeing the magnificent altar.

Incidentally, in 2010 the church was added to the list of National Historical Monuments.

fountain Stara Louka Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallAfter the Church of St Mary Magdalene I found myself back at the Vrídlo – pramen c1, otherwise known as “Hot Spring Number One”.

Because of the pressure of the water in this spring and the amount of carbon dioxide in it, the jet can in some circumstances reach up to 12 metres in height and a temperature of 73°C. Whenever it reaches those extremes, you won’t find all these people loitering around in the vicinity.

On the hill in the background up on the hill is the Diana Observation Tower. That’s probably the place where the view of the town and the surrounding area is the most interesting. It’s been a favourite place with walkers.

They built a funicular lift up to the top of the hill in 1909 and in 1912, to accommodate the increase in visitors, local architect Anton Breinl designed the tower that is now up there. That was opened to the public on 27th May 1914, just in time for the conflict that folllowed.

river tepla Stara Louka Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallA few steps further on I can stand on a bridge overlooking the river and admire the fountains that I saw on the way in.

And the esplanade there on the right alongside the river is all terraced out with seats and tables from the cafés in the immediate vicinity. It’s an ideal place to relax even if the shade is rather limited – or, at least it would have been until I saw the prices that they were charging for a coffee. I only wanted a drink – I didn’t want to buy the table and chair.

Instead, I strode off on my way down the street looking for something at a more democratic price. The spring water was out of the question of course. It’s much too warm in this kind of weather, but I was confident that I would find something as I travelled along on my way back to my hotel.

Karlovy Vary City Theatre Divadelní nám Karlovy Vary Czech republis eric hallOne of the most exciting buildings in Karmlovy Vary is the City Theatre.

This was designed by the architechts Fellner and Helmer who designed several other buildings in the town, including the Market Colonnade and the Blanenský Pavilion, of which the Park Colonnade is all that remains. Building began in 1884 and it opened in 15th May 1886 with a performance of “The Marriage of Figaro”.

And that reminds me of the story of the time that someone asled me if I knew about “The Marriage of Figaro” and “Madame Butterfly”. I replied that I didn’t even know that they were engaged.

The interior is just as magnificent as the exterior, with chandeliers, paintings and sculptures designed by a whole host of local painters and sculptors and that’s another building that I would have loved to have visited had it been open to the public at the time when I went past.

river tepla Interhotel Central Divadelní nám Karlovy Vary Czech republic eric hallAcross the river from where I’m walking on my way home is the Interhotel Central, very proud of its “hundred-year history”, something that features prominently in everything that you ever read about the place, although they never seem to go into any details about it.

It’s actually a sanatorium and deals with gastric diseases, and is also a rehabilitiation centre for post-cancer issues. I made a note of the latter for my own purposes, as well as a note of the former if my cooking doesn’t improve.

And I wish that I’d found out more about the building that we can see in the rear to the left in the Lubusina. That’s probably one of the most exciting and interesting buildings that I’ve seen in the town and I could quite happily settle down in a place like that.

As I wandered along the side of the River Tepla on my way back, I came across an Ice-cream stall selling vegan ice cream. In the heat, and having been defied in my attempts to buy a coffee, I stopped and bought one of the aforementioned and took myself off to a quiet place in the shade to eat it.

fountain river tepla karlovy vary czech republic  eric hallSo while I sit here and eat it, I can reflect on my visit to Karlovy Vary before I leave the town.

It’s a beautiful town. Some of it is very much decayed but other parts are well maintained and there is quite a bit of renovation. Plenty of new build too, but unfortunately it doesn’t blend in with the late 19th Century splendour.

And splendour there is a-plenty. It looks really nice today – a fine example of a Bohemian city – but imagine what it must have looked like at the height of its fame in 1913 before World War I destroyed the Austro-Hungarian Empire and we had all of the Sudeten nonsense. It must have been magnificent.

Back home was uphill of course and that wasn’t as easy as going down to town. However using the old British Army marching order of 50 minutes march with 10 minutes rest for every hour I made it back home safe enough.

bridge support river tepla Brezová Czech republic eric hallNot before I’d had a good look at this though – something that caught my eye on my way back to my hotel.

The bridge over the River Tepla here is a reasonably new one but on the right here are some vestiges of a previous construction that might possibly have been of z girder bridge that might have been previously on the site.

It’s interesting, if not amusing, to think about the bridge that might previously have been here and to wonder about its fate. Was it blown up by the Czechs in 1938 during the German invasion? Or was it blown up by the Germans as they retreated north-westwards from the invading Americans?

Or was it simply dismantled when the new bridge was built here? Or is it nothing to do with the bridge at all?

Finally back in my hotel room I crashed out for a while . And waking up, I set tea on route while I had a good shower, shave and clothes wash. And I needed it all too.

Even though it’s early, I’m now off to bed. It’s been a long, tiring day and I’m going to be doing the same tomorrow too. It’s been years since I’ve being this way and I intend to make the most of it.

Tuesday 4th August 2020 – STRAWBERRY MOOSE …

strawberry moose caliburn kyjov 348 15 Zadní Chodov czech republic eric hall… has Czeched in to his latest accommodation.

It’s not the first tile that Strawberry Moose and Caliburn have visited the Czech Republic. We were here IN MAY 2015 when we took the short cut from East Germany and Colditz Castle to Munich.

This time, we’re going to spend a few days exploring the town of Karlovy Vary, or Carlsbad as it was called in its days as a city of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

We’re installed in our hotel already but we haven’t had a chance to visit the town yet because after the horrible night that I had had last night, I crashed out as soon as I sat down on my bed.

But returning to the beginning, having crashed out earlier yesterday evening, I awoke at about 23:00 and then I couldn’t go back to sleep again for hours. I remember seeing 02:30 come round, and probably a few other times as well.

Nevertheless, I was up at something reasonable, like 06:30, feeling like death again.

There was a pile of paperwork to do, such as transcribe the notes off the dictaphone

There was something going on like an exhibition or a fete or something. I was wandering around somewhere and i’d come across some old shoes of children and I’d stacked them somewhere to hide while I attended this fete. On the way back it was dark and I had awful difficulty finding them. In the end I found them and walked on home. It was a really steep slope and I walked up with someone else. A third person said something like “this is the right place to be to give yourself an alibi. They hadn’t known that I had only just got there. I said “no” and something about how I know people here so I could get down the front. I walked up this really steep slope with this woman. In the dark I had to grope around and eventually found the pile of shoes that I’d hidden. I walked on through this village and this guy accosted me and said “where are your shoes? Why haven’t you your shoes on?” I though to myself “God, is that the only thing he’s noticed?” I felt like giving him a right mouthful then I suddenly realised that I’d dropped some of this pile of shoes so I had to go back and get them. I walked back and retraced my steps and eventually found them. Then I put on some trousers and started to walk back thinking that I’d put on my trousers but I’m not putting on my shoes just for him. If he asks anything I’ll show him these shoes that I have in my hand that I’d now found all of. I also had a box and it was a matching mother and daughter swimsuit that I was going to give to someone. When I got to where I was supposed to be going with all these things they looked at this box and said “God I hope that they can get that in their luggage”. I was thinking that they could always undo the box and take the things out, can’t they?

Next task was to download the files off the dashcam. For some unknown reason the data cable wouldn’t work and I had to dismantle the machine to take out the SD card and insert it in the laptop. It took so long that I ended up with the hotel cleaner banging on the door.

Eventually I found myself back on the road again, heading north.

My first port of call was at Thomann’s at Burgebrach. As regular readers of this rubbish will recall, my acoustic guitar is a cheap and nasty £25:00 cheap thing and after trying to play it at home more regularly than ever I used to, I’ve decided that I want a new, decent one.

Thomann’s is usually said to be the place to go but actually it was something of a disappointment. They didn’t have available what I wanted and the labelling and pricing system of the guitars on display is such that you need to be a contortionist with a magnifying glass to read the prices.

Furthermore, the stock isn’t labelled to tell you what kind of guitar it is.

As for the staff, they seem to be another lot of minimum-wage shelf fillers rather than assistants and have no idea how to engage with the customers. No-one seemed to be interested in talking to me and when I finally grabbed hold of a sales person, he didn’t seem in the least bit interested in my story.

In the end, having driven all the way there, I drove away empty handed, full of disappointment.

At Burgebrach I’m only about 180 kms or so from the Czech border. At the moment the borders are still open but they won’t be for long, so Strawberry and I went for a drive. It’s been five years since we’ve been there.

And despite the short distance, it took an age to get there. The roads are narrow, steep and winding and full of lorries and tractors trying to negotiate them. At one stage we passed a speed indicator that showed that we were travelling at all of 12 kph.

When we arrived at the border we found it unmanned so we just drove straight through. Unfortunately there was nowhere to stop to take a photo of the border sign. We had to drive on to the first village before we could stop.

kyjov 348 15 Zadní Chodov, czech republic eric hallThe village where I stopped was called Kyjov.

It’s not to be confused with the town of the same name that’s to be found in the centre of the country. This is a small village about 6 or 7 kilometres from the frontier with Germany, not too far from Planá in the region that used to be the Sudetenland.

The contrast between the rich West and the poor East is very apparent as soon as we cross over. It brings back all kinds of memories of times past when I used to come over what was the Iron Curtain 30 and 40 years ago. The modernisation of Eastern Europe is a very slow process.

The fuel in Caliburn started to run low so I took a deviation into the town of Marienbad, nowadays called Mariánské Lázne, and fuelled up there, seeing as fuel was cheaper here than in the West.

tatra lorry Becov nad Teplou czech republic eric hallFrom Marienbad I pushed on to the north-east and ended up in the town of Becov nad Teplou.

This was a very interesting place to stop, and for several reasons too, one of which was this gorgeous Tatra lorry. Eastern European vehicles have always held a fascination for me but unfortunately these days it’s very rare to see one running around. Everyone seems to prefer Western vehicles.

Eastern vehicles were heavy, primitive and rather difficult to drive but they were built to last for ever and easy to maintain. There would still be swarms of them on the road today had they not become unfashionable after the fall of the Iron Curtain.

ruined abandoned house hotel central Becov nad Teplou czech republic eric hallit wasn’t just the Tatra lorry that caused me to stop here at Becov nad Teplou. This magnificent building is enough to stop anyone in their tracks.

This is the Hotel Central and looking at it, it’s very hard to believe that at one time it was a luxury hotel. It was built for someone called Georg Rohm in 1876 and sold to a Maria Schmidt in 1892. She sold it on to someone called Franz Bachmann in 1901.

At the end of World War II Bachmann and his family, being of German origin, were expelled from Czechoslovakia and it was used as barracks by Red Army soldiers. After they left it was used as a barracks for miners and they stayed here until the mid-50s.

After being empty for a while it was restored by volunteers and became a Post Office and cafe but the economic situation in the country after the end of Communism meant that there was no money to maintain the buiding and it deteriorated rapidly until it reached the state in which it currently is.

And that’s a tragedy because it’s a beautiful Art Nouveau building with some wonderful features.

Over the road from the hotel is the local railway station. It’s on the line between Karlovy Vary and Mariánské Lázne (the old Marienbad) and I was lucky to find a pile of railway equipment hanging around there.

CSD Class M 152.0 multiple unit train Becov nad Teplou czech republic eric hallOver on the far side of the station were these two diesel multiple units with notices that they will be travelling to Mariánské Lázne.

Not knowing all that much about Czech trains, I reckon that these are two CSD class M 152.0 units coupled together. And if so, although they don’t look like it, these are quite elderly, having been built between 1976 and 1982 by Vagonka Studénka, a company which these days is part of Skoda.

They have undergone two series of modernisations, the latest being 2018, so it looks as if Czech railways is planning to have another 15 years of use at least out of these.

CSD Class M 152.0 multiple unit train Becov nad Teplou czech republic eric hallAnd this is another one of the CSD Class M 152.0 multiple units, all on its own this time.

This one is in the livery of Czech Railways rather than in the livery of a private operator and carries the logo “Regio Mouse” which is a marketing name given to these little trains running on the small local lines of the Czech Republic.

It’s a shame that I wasn’t able to go over and look inside them to see the interior. However I have seen a photograph of the inside of an unmodernised unit and they are quite primitive and basic, very 1970s in fact. I wouldn’t fancy the idea of going on a long-distance journey on one of these. They remind me of Crosville buses from the 1960s.

It made me wonder what the interior of a modernised unit would be like.

siemens dueweg regio sprinter AŽD 654 multiple unit Becov nad Teplou czech republic eric hallThis multiple unit is a much more modern unit.

It’s a Siemens Dueweg Regio Sprinter of the type that was built in Germany between 1995 and 1998. They are quite lightweight and were designed to replace trams and city buses on longer tram routes, and are a great favourite in Europe to run on reopened railway lines.

And it’s for that reason that the Czech Railways have bought some, and called them the AŽD 654 . A large number of railway routes were closed to passengers due to the financial crisis of the early 1990s and a few of them have been subsequently reopened, some being worked by these train sets.

Back in Caliburn I set off from here into the mountains for my destination, Karlovy Vary. A town better known to travellers of 130 years ago as Carlsbad, it was the place to be back in those days, the principal spa town of the Austro-Hungarian Empire where all of the rich and famous “came to take the waters”.

My hotel is a few miles outside the town in the small town of Brezova.

And don’t be fooled that it’s only shown in the advertisements as a short distance away from Karlovy Vary. That distance is measured in a straight line. But in actual fact to reach Karlovy Vary from here you have to go in a tortuous winding direction following the path that the River Tepla has carved through the mountains.

hotel st michael Hamerská 27, 360 01 Brezová, Czech republic eric hallAnd here’s my hotel – the Hotel St Michael here in Brezova.

It’s quite a beautiful hotel but it’s seen better days, that’s for sure. It would have been splendid back in the days of glory of the Austro-Hungarian Empire but like everywhere else, it’s rather tired these days, just like me in fact.

After my rather busy day I’m quite exhausted and tired. I’ve smuggled my food and slow cooker into the hotel and made myself some tea, and then crashed out for a while. Now that I’m awake, I’m off to bed for a really good sleep, I hope. Tomorrow morning I shall go for an explore of Karlovy Vary.

Saturday 27th October 2018 – START AS YOU MEAN TO GO ON!

Absolutely, so it was rather later than maybe it ought to have been before I crawled out of bed this morning.

But it’s Saturday, and Saturday is shopping day, so I had my medication, had breakfast, and then had a shower.

Not that there was much breakfast to have because unfortunately we seem to have had an accident. During the night the muesli that I had made the other day somehow managed to fall off the shelf and scatter all over the floor. That was a waste.

on the way up to the shops I observed what might possibly be described as “an incident”. A crowd, including several ambulanciers together with their ambulance loitering on the edge of the quayside looking down towards the water.

I would have gone over to ask them what was happening, except for the fact that there was nowhere to park.

At LIDL there wasn’t much of any interest to tempt me – and even less than usual seeing as I’m not going to be here for a few days. But they did have a couple of things in the €1:00 bin – a wipe-off notice board, a set of A4 binders and a notepad with pen that will be much more use for taking notes around the house instead of on scraps of paper.

BUT was next on the agenda. About this broken shelf. But apparently shelves aren’t included in the guarantee, as, I suppose, so is nothing else that might break down.

But I’m rather disappointed that they had some really decent fridges and freezers on special offer at 30% off that would have been ideal for here. Much bigger and better value, but it’s too late now.

NOZ had the usual rubbish too. Wine at €1:79 a bottle so I bought a few. Not for me, but I never seem to have anything to hand when I’m invited round to people’s houses or I have people round, so it’s gone into store in the bathroom.

They also had a new delivery of maps too, including a new map of all of Europe. Much better quality, much larger scale, much more modern and much more handy to use than the one in Caliburn that dates from … errr … 1992.

I remember the issues that I had going around the Czech Republic in 2015 when I ended up navigating by the stars. High time that I updated everything.

LeClerc came up with the usual stuff, but no sprouts. Even the price tag has been taken off the freezer now. It looks as if the next time I have space in the freezer I’ll have to freeze a pile more.

But they did have frozen peas, and also frozen mushrooms, seeing as I somehow managed to leave the frozen mushrooms that I had bought the other day out on top of the freezer so they had all defrosted.

With no-one keen to commit suicide on the car park today, I made it home without incident, made my butties and then went out to sit on the wall.

But not for long. Even though it was a nice day, the savage wind was really too much for me. I came in and ate them in comfort.

This afternoon US Granville were playing at Avranches down the road in the Coupe de France. I had every intention of going, seeing as the kick-off was at 16:00, but at 15:00 when I should have set out for Avranches I was flat out on the bed, crashed out.

When I awoke, I cleared up the muesli and vacuumed the kitchen area. But that was all that I could manage today.

later on it was the birthday party of Nicole, the “mother” of Gribouille. I’d been invited and I’d bought a box of chocolates for her so I went round. It was raining outside by now. The weather had changed.

We all had a good chat and something to eat, even though there wasn’t much for me.

As is usual, I didn’t stay long. I can’t keep going like I used to do, so that was that. I managed a quick plate of pasta and veg tossed in olive oil.

And that was that. Off to bed and an early start in the morning. Despite it being Sunday, I have the alarm set. I’m off to Leuven tomorrow on the train.

Wednesday 21st September 2016 – I’M BACK ON THE ROAD AGAIN

After something of a disturbed night last night, I was up and about fairly early on. And after a light breakfast, I started cleaning the motel room and tidying up the place, as well as chatting to a couple of people on the internet. And by chucking-out time, 10:00, I was ready to go.

I dumped the rubbish and took back the keys, and then headed off into town and the Sobeys supermarket for some shopping for lunch. And as most North American motels these days have microwaves, I also bought a bag of spuds and some more beans. It’s as well to be prepared.

cap caissie arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016I headed off northwards along the Arcadia Trail, and the first place that I visited was Cap Caissie. This is a small fishing port at the mouth of Shediac Bay.

It looked as if the tide was going out here so we’d be having a beach here in a couple of hours. And if you look at the weather that we were having this morning it would have been nice to have hung around for a while and done some sunbathing. But I had other things to do.

harbour cap caissie arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016There’s a harbour here at Cap Caissie were no boats in there this morning, but there was a refrigerated lorry standing by.

Talking to the driver, it turns out that it’s lobster that is the catch here, and all 14 boats registered at the port are out at the catch. The driver was telling me that the catch hasn’t been so good this summer but over the last week or so things have been pretty good.

lighthouse cap caissie arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016From the port at Cap Caissie there’s a good view of a lighthouse half a mile or so away. And so when you see a street name – Chemin du Lighthouse or Lighthouse Lane, you have to go for a look (or, at least, one of us does).

And if you think that Lighthouse Lane is going to lead you to the lighthouse you are mistaken because nothing could be farther from the truth, as you can see in this photo.

cap cocagne arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016Further on round the trail is the mouth of the Cocagne river, and guarding the entrance at Cap Cocagne is another port.

This is another small commercial port and there is plenty of lobster fishing, judging by all of the lobster pots out there in the estuary, but there’s a considerable presence of pleasure boats here too.

cap cocagne arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016As an aside, the word Cocagne in France has several meanings, two of which are completely contradictory.

You have the Pays de Cocagne, which is the Land of Milk and Honey where there are abundant harvests, a warm climate and all that kind of thing, and then we have the Mât de Cocagne which is the greasy pole that you try to climb up but you always keep on sliding down to the bottom

One of the games that we play while we are out on our travels in North America is “100 uses for a redundant school bus”.

redundant school bus arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016School buses are only allowed by law to carry school kids for a certain number of years and then they have to be retired from school operation. There’s not much of a market for old school buses and so you find them littering the North American countryside not doing very much.

Here’s one from the 1950s or 1960s that’s been painted white and is being used as a summer house by the side of the sea. That’s certainly a novel way of making use of one.

After lunch by the river at Bouctouche I went for a drive around the Bay of Bouctouche. We’ve been here before a few years ago and so instead of the famous sand spit, I’ll show you something else.

woodchuck carving anchors bouctouche arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016This is actually a shop that’s been extended by the addition of a bow and a stern from some kind of wooden seafaring vessel and a couple of masts have been plated in it.

I was hoping to find out more information about it so I went to make enquiries, but despite all of the doors being open and the stock being lined up outside for inspection, there wasn’t a soul about. That made me think that maybe this was what became of the Mary Celeste.

old cars 1928 Dodge prevost motor coach bouctouche arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016That wasn’t all that there was to see around here either. Just across the road were a coupe of old motor vehicles. We’ve not had too many of them to date.

The coach is an old Prevost that looks as if it might have been built in the late 1940s or something like that, and the car is a Dodge that dates from 1928. It’s been painted in the colours of Arcadia, which was the name of the area around the New Brunswick – Nova Scotia border during the time of the French occupation.

wind farm turbines price edward island arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016Further on along the coast you can catch a glimpse of Prince Edward island away across the Northumberland Strait.

With a telephoto lens you can come up with some kind of shot of the coastline over there, and the Prince Edward Island wind farm. And note the wind turbines too because one thing that you will notice about New Brunswick is that there aren’t any, despite the magnificent weather.

New Brunswick is still tangled up in the mess of the Lepreau Nuclear Power Station and trying desperately to go to any lengths to justify the massive expenditure that has been poured into yet another one of the Province’s white elephants.

falling down derelict wooden bridge rexton arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016We saw this bridge near Rexton back in 2013 and so I won’t post it again, but I do remember making a remark about the state of the carpentry.

And so I can show you a photo of one part of the bridge as it is today, and you cans ee how much it has deteriorated. and I thought that it was bad three years ago. I wouldn’t like to be driving on this bridge in another three years time

ship skeleton rexton richibucto river arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016I stopped off on the edge of Rexton to fuel up – Strider still has his unhealthy fuel consumption – and this ship in the Richibucto River caught my attention. I went across to photograph it.

It’s not a real ship of course. it was constructed in 2003 as a symbol of Rexton’s ship-building industry. They reckon that in a period from 1819 to the turn of the 20th Century some 105 ships were built here, of which 94 were built in just one shipyard – that owned by the Jardine family.

arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016My road north took me to the town of St Louis de Kent, a town that has a claim to fame in that the world’s largest Acadian flag is flown in the town.

St Louis de Kent is quite a hotbed of Acadian nationalism, a movement that took hold at the end of the 19th Century, mainly due to the efforts of Marcel-François Richard, to resurrect the heritage of the Acadian settlers – the French settlers of the mid-18th Century who were abandoned by the French empire during the Seven Years War.

Whilst no-one will deny the events that occurred subsequent to the fall of Acadia, no-one should lose sight of the fact that we are discussing a period of history 250 years ago and it’s a mistake to judge historical events by today’s standards.

Many colonists of French origin were indeed expelled from Acadia, but only those (at first, anyway) who refused to take an oath of allegiance to the King of England. But there was nothing unusual in asking citizens of captured colonists to take such an oath and even more so when a war between the two colonial powers was still taking place.

Displacement of recalcitrant colonists was nothing but normal behaviour back in those days and if you remember being with me in the Czech Republic last May, we discussed the displacement of recalcitrant Germans of many generations of settlement from the Sudetenland as late as 1948 – 200 years after the displacement of the Acadians – and no-one thought that what took place in Eastern Europe after World War II and which affected 30 million people was a major issue.

That’s not to take issue, of course, with the cultural traditions of the descendants of the Acadian settlers – I’m all in favour of celebrating culture and tradition – but St Louis de Kent is another place where all of the information on the tourist information boards is written in nothing but French – and that’s in an officially bilingual province too.

marguerite bourgeoys arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016There’s a statue here to Marguerite Bourgeoys and we all know who she is. We visited the house of her birth in Troyes in 2014 and we’ve mentioned her many times on our journeys round Montreal.

She organised the women and girls of Montreal with their religious and educational needs during the crises of the early days of the colony there, and it was the organisation that she founded, the Convent of the Sisters of the Congregation of Our Lady, that was asked to open a convent here in the late 19th Century.

fundy line motel miramichi arcadia trail new brunswick canada september septembre 2016You’ve all seen this place before. It’s the Fundy Line Motel in Miramichi where I stayed in winter 2003 and this is where I ended up last night.

It’s quite basic and a little tired but then so are its prices, and it’s scrupulously clean. It scores very highly on my value-for-money index and I’m happy to stay here for the night.

It has a microwave, which is good news, for I have a bag of potatoes and a can of beans, as well as a vegan burgerleft over from when I was in Shediac.

That’s me organised for tonight anyway.

Monday 22nd February 2016 – I CRASHED OUT …

… for a couple of hours this afternoon. And I’ve absolutely no idea why. It’s not as if I’ve been up to very much, is it, just sitting here waiting for Godot or whatever.

Mind you, I have had a day that’s been hectic in certain respects. For a start, in this urge to clean out the dictaphone and bring this up to date, I’ve not only finished the notes for the voyage to Canada in 2015 (which I think that I might have finished off yesterday) I’ve also dealt with the trip to central France in August last year, the one to Germany and the Czech Republic in June, and I’ve cracked on pretty well with the trip to Canada in 2014, the notes of which were lost when the previous laptop crashed.

You can see that it’s been a pretty hectic day all in all, at least from that point of view.

Having a blood test thins morning didn’t help matters either. That takes it out of me too, in more ways than one. Quite frankly, I don’t see the point of them giving me all of this blood if they are simply going to take it out bit by bit.

But it was during the night that, as usual, everything happened. and I do have to say that it’s rather sad right now that I have to have any excitement in my life by vicarious means.

We started off last night on the most amazing nostalgia trip. Memory Land had nothing on this. It was back in my school days and I’d started to go to school in a really scruffy, oily pair of green shorts (I actually had a pair of these too) and and equally scruffy light grey tee-shirt. It all makes a change from the school uniform that we had to wear back in those days. After school, we set off home and it was raining. I had an old, short kind of raincoat thing that I was wearing to keep the rain off. A group of us decided for some reason or other to go home a different way and we ended up wherever we were intending to be a good five minutes before the others arrived. We didn’t know this at the time but it soon became clear. There was a rather large stationary Ford Pinto engine there that performed some task or other at the place where we were, and I was having a look at it. I noticed that some of the spark plug leads had been caught up underneath it and trapped. This told me that the other kids hadn’t arrived yet otherwise they would have noticed it and sorted out the leads. Another thing that I noticed was that the cam belt adjuster had become slackened off and the belt was twisted. Someone had evidently tried to turn over the motor and that had upset the valve timing as the belt was sliding around over the top pulley on the end of the camshaft on the cylinder head. I needed my tools to adjust it and set it correctly but before I could go to fetch them, the other kids turned up. I told them not to touch the engine under any circumstances until I’d adjusted it (ohh! The nostalgic delights of changing cam belts on Ford Pinto engines! If I ever had a quid for every one of those I’d done in the 70s and 80s I would be dictating this to a couple of floozies sitting on my knee in the Caribbean somewhere). While I was adjusting and setting the cam belt and the valve timing, a couple of girls from the “latecomers” came over for a chat. One of them was very, very young (not even in school uniform – she was blond-haired, wearing a blue and white checked summer dress with a very pale blue blouse) and I had a little chat with her. The other girl then came over to join in. She was probably in year 3 or 4 of the Grammar School where I went, and I would be in year 6 or 7 (7 was the final year at out school). She lived in Worleston, so she said, and had shoulder-length dark red (almost brown) hair and a lovely smile, and I’m sure that I know who she is but I just can’t think who. We had a chat that started off just being something general and then slowly developed into something more personal. She asked me what “A” levels I was doing and so I told her that I was studying Geography, History and English (I actually studied Geography, History and Economics, as well as both parts of the “General Paper” which was an option). She told me that she was very interested in journalism because that was what her father did. She collected photographs and autographs, and started going through her collection of photographs with me. There were many photographs of lifeguards at the beach and also older ones of old Victorian women, so we started to make a few jokes that today would be considered in rather poor taste (not that that ever would bother me of course – I can’t remember now who it was who said it but I’m a fervent subscriber to the comment that “nothing is ever in bad taste if it is funny”) such as “I bet that she’s felt the cold hand of death on her shoulder by now”. We ended up having quite a laugh about this.
The bizarre thing about this – or maybe it isn’t so bizarre – is that while I was on this little voyage, I was feeling quite warm and comfortable. Chatting to this girl was very pleasant and it made me realise that during my school days -and later on – what I had missed out on was a nice comfortable companion with whom I could relax like this. None of my girlfriends at school would ever have fitted into this little scenario, and much as I liked Nerina, it’s fair to say that we weren’t ever “accomplices” in this sense. I’ve been noticing that we do occasionally have little nostalgic nights like this and I was all for turning the clock back 45 years and going off to track down this girl with the dark red hair. It’s not as if Worleston is a big place, after all and with a farmer who is a journalist, they aren’t likely to be part of the dispersed farming community out there. The “Royal Oak” would be the place to start, or maybe the church, where the Reverend Lillicrap (and I am not making this up) used to hold sway.
After the usual semi-somnambulistic stroll down the corridor, I was back at school again. This time though, it wasn’t anything like as pleasant. I’d been charged with an offence that was rather disreputable and as a result I’d withdrawn from my usual social circle (not that I ever had much of one) and was living in my car on a cliff-top somewhere. I would merely change into my school uniform to go to school and then change back into civvies as soon as I could afterwards. I only kept in some kind of social contact with one friend (someone with whom I am still in touch these days), and that was because I could rely on him and he believed in my innocence. As a result, any indiscretion that I might (or might not) have committed had not reached the ears of anyone else and I was defending the court case entirely on my own. But this all was about to change when he told me that his wife (and he mentioned her name – and she is in fact his sister in real life) had somehow heard about the events, and forbidden him to keep in touch with me. I asked him if he intended to take any notice, to which he replied that he had to. He admitted that, although no-one else knew this, she controlled him quite closely, even weighing him every day to make sure that he wasn’t eating any sweets or anything else to which he wasn’t entitled. I found this all hard to believe and when I saw her bright yellow vehicle right across the headland, heading slowly towards where I was parked up, I waved at her and that caused a major eruption amongst all people concerned.

So after all of that, it was back into the land of the living. And I had to make my own bed and open my own curtains because we were having visitors today and Liz had a day of teaching. Perhaps it was that which wore me out so much.

But counting through the boxes of injections, there is about half of them left. I wish that they would hurry up and get it over with.

And I’d like to have my blood test results too. They STILL haven’t come. And I want to go off for an early night and a decent sleep. It’s a long way to Worleston in the dark.

Tuesday 12th May 2015 – I KNEW …

german writing on shop zatec czech republic may 2015… that if I looked hard enough, I would be able to find some evidence of the previous occupants that had not been ethnically cleansed from the city of Zatec.

There were in fact a couple, some easier to find and easier to see than others, and here’s the most obvious one

czech televisison filming in zatec czech republic may 2015I strongly suspect that the German writing on the walls over these shops may not be the original.

It seems that once again I’ve stumbled upon a film crew – this one from Czech Television and a corner of the town has been cordoned off while they film some kind of costule drama here. They’ve picked a nice part of the town to do it in because it is relatively unspoilt down at this end.

derelict part of zatec czech republic may 2015that’s more than can be said about this part of the city.

I mentioned yesterday that the Economic miracle hasn’t penetrated as far as here yet, and there are parts of Zatec that look very sad indeed. Several buildings at this end of the city look as if they were abandoned during the ethnic cleansing of the region and never taken over by new inhabitants

city gate walls zatec czech republic may 2015The city is quite historic however, dating back to at least 1004 when the first mention of it was made.

It sits on a hill, on a promontory overlooking the river valley, and was walled and fortified. There are some of the fortificiations still remaining, as well as a couple of the city gates.

There are also a great number of Comecon-styled blocks of flats, but we’ll gloss over those.

tesco zatec czech republic may 2015Here’s a surprise though. As well as the usual German discount supermarkets we have a British supermarket chain operating in the Czech Republic and with a branch at Zatec too.

I went in there to buy my bread and fruit for the day and ws surprised to be asked for my club card. I wonder what she would have said had I produced it.

church prestice czech republic may 2015The drive down south was beautiful through some lovely scenery and picturesque towns and villages.

This is the town church in the town of Prestice and it’s just one example of the hundreds of photos that I could have taken had I had the time.

liaz soviet era lorry czech republic may 2015I saw several Soviet-era lorries too. Most of them were on the road so I couldn’t photograph them.

This one, which I think is a LIAZ, was conveniently parked up in a field while I was stopped at some roadworks, of which there were plenty along my route.

No old Tatra cars though, and that was disappointing.

sudeten alps czech republic may 2015Here’s my lunch stop, at Jeseni in the Sudeten Alps. And you can see why the Sudeten Alps were vital to the defence of Czechoslovakia – it’s not possible to move a squadron of tanks, never mind a division, through here in any kind of order.

It’s no wonder that the Nazis stirred up the Sudeten Germans to such an extent, in order to have a fifth column making a “peaceful” takeover of the region, but it beats me why, knowing that their country was doomed from the start, why the Czechs didn’t make a fight of it.

A guarantee from France and Britain of the security of the rump of Czechoslovakia was totally worthless and I’m sure that the Czechs realised that.

city gate tittmoning germany may 2015Here I am in tonight’s stop – the town of Tittmoning in southern Bavaria.

In fact you can’t get much more south than this because if you turn left and go down to the bottom of the slope you arrive at the Salz River and across there on the other side is Austria, and I shall be wetting my feet in Austria later in the day tomorrow.

beautiful houses tittmoning germany may 2015Tittmoning is a beautiful little walled town with a huge and impressive central square, but it also has something or a sinister reputation.

There’s a castle here too just like at Colditz, and just as in Colditz, it was a prison camp in World War II. But not for the military (well, there were some soldiers here at very first) but for civilians – British civilians in fact because although not many people know this, part of the United Kingdom fell into German hands during World War II and many British civilians were mistreated during the war.

Tittmoning was the home for 5 years for British male civilians from the Channel Islands who were considered unsuitable to remain in their homes during the German occupation, and was in fact a halfway house to Buchenwald, where several did indeed end up as the war progressed.

Monday 11th May 2015 – LAST NIGHT WAS ANOTHER …

motorway rest area autobahn leipzig germany may 2015… one of those nights where a bomb could have gone off in the vicinity and I wouldn’t have paid it the slightest moment of attention.

Here on this rest area on the autobahn towards Leipzig, I slept the sleep of the dead until the alarm went off at 07:30 and it was a struggle to rise up and make breakfast.

Back on the road though, with a nice hot coffee, I carried on heading south. And it didn’t take too long to arrive at my destination.

schloss colditz castle germany may 2015Here I am at Colditz Castle, and this is another one of my lifetime ambitions fulfilled. Brought up on a diet of RAF stories and PoW escape books, I’ve been wanting to come here for years.

Visits to the castle under the Communist regime were strictly discouraged and in fact most of the prisoner artefacts that were still here in 1955 had long gone by the time the Communists left.

remains of french escape tunnel schloss colditz castle germany may 2015Nevertheless, there were still plenty of surprises to come.

A digger working up on one of the courtyards suddenly disappeared from view as the courtyard collapsed underneath it. Closer inspection revealed the remains of an escape tunnel (a French one, as it happens) that the Germans had failed to uncover. Its discovery certainly took everyone, especially the digger driver, quite by surprise.

secret hidden radio installation schloss colditz castle germany may 2015Another surprise was sprung on the roofers.

When they lifted off some of the tiles to replace the roof, they found a hidden alcove with a radio receiving set from World War II still in it. This was one of the four secret radio rooms operated by the prisoners, and the only one that remained undiscovered.

french clock tower escape tunnel schloss colditz castle germany may 2015Mind you, a great deal was already known about the history of the escape plans and it just remained to actually track them down.

Perhaps the most famous tunnel was the one that involved sliding down the weight chamber of the tower clock and digging out from the cellar. This had been filled in after the Germans had discovered it, but some of it has been unfilled as you can see.

Strawberry Moose is quite interested in giving them a hand, and maybe himself escaping from the castle.

The guided tour was quite expensive, but it was worth every penny and I really enjoyed my visit.

From here I headed south and crossed into the Czech Republic. Years since I’ve been here and Caliburn has never been here at all, and you may remember from last year that I’m trying to expand Caliburn’s sphere of operations.

hotel cerny orel zatec czech republic may 2015I’ve ended up in a town called Zatec, not too far from Plzen. I was doing a tour of the town when I came across a hotel right in the centre. I couldn’t say fairer than that.

I know that I’m supposed to be sleeping in Caliburn as much as possible, but east of where the Iron Curtain used to be, the police sometimes still have attitude issues and it’s not as if the cost of living is expensive here.

town square zatec czech republic may 2015The town itself is gorgeous, although there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the post-Communist economic miracle has not quite penetrated thoroughly into the region.

Mind you, this is the Sudetenland and the inhabitants, mostly of German origin, were ethnically cleansed out of the region in 1945-46. This might account for some of the issues here, although there’s nothing that I have seen that can detract from the beauty of the place.

There’s a fast food place across the road from the hotel so I resolved to call in on my way back from my walk so that I could pick up a plate of chips. But you can guess what has happened.

You would think that I would be used to this by now.

Saturday 16th June 2012 – I HAD A DAY OUT TODAY.

In fact I went to Montlucon.

And even though I had a late-ish start I was still out and round and back earlier than usual.

The impetus was that you my remember me receiving a text to say that my new front door needs picking up, and if I didn’t get a wiggle on I would lose it. So offI went to pick it up.

It’s not very substantial at all, being just a sheet of double-glazing with a wooden frame around it, and it’s not going to be used for ages yet. But the reason why I chose it when I did, for those of you with short memories, is that it’s the same style as the windows that I bought for the house and the range was discontinued at the end of March.

The fact that it was the cheapest double-glazed door has nothing whatever to do with the argument, of course.

My luck was in too. At the Amaranthe health food shop there was some soya cream that had gone past the sell-by date and so they were giving a carton away to each customer. That will do very nicely for a mushroom and onion fried rice later in the week.

At at the rubbish shop (NOZ, for the benefit of the foreigners) they were selling a load of flavoured rice milk at just €0:75 a litre. There’s a nice long sell-by date on those and so of course there are now none left in the shop.

Almond-flavoured rice milk on my breakfast muesli – that has to be the way to go.

dammi multi vitamin fruit drink noz montlucon allier franceAnd Dammi if I didn’t find some of this on sale at NOZ as well.

It’s a multi-vitamin, multi fruit drink. And I had a good look at the list of ingredients and, sure enough, it contains vitamin B12. being a vegan as you know,
I have lots of issues about my vitamin B12 intake so I’m always on the lookout for different food items that might contain it.

And with a name like this, it ought to be good too!

It was piping hot too – hottest day of the year for me and so I really fancied a swim, but I had left my swimming trunks back at home. Never mind – Auchan was having a sale and so for €5:00 I treated myself to a pair of new ones.

I took the plunge and went to the Centre Aqualudique at the back of Montlucon. I’d heard a couple of good reports about it.

And it was certainly a far cry from Neris-les-Bains – tidal pools, a fast-flowing current, bubble-massage seats in the pool. And many more people there than at Neris so there was much more to see.

Ohhhh yes – I still chase after the women. The problem is though that at my age I can’t remember why.

€5:00 admission though – and that’s quite a difference from €3:20, and nothing like as intimate. I’ll just have to save the Centre Aqualudique for special occasions such as midwinter when it’s far too cold to be at Neris-les-Bains.

At the Brico Depot I bought 4 demi-chevrons and 3 sacks of sand. And you might be wondering why. The demi chevrons because I want to put shelves up in this cupboard downstairs and I want to do it the next time the weather is bad, without having to wait for a trip to the sawmill for the wood.

And the bags of sand?

There’s some sealing joints that need to be made on the roof of the lean-to that I fitted earlier this year. I’ve no sand here and so I need to dig out the Sankey trailer, change the wheels, trundle down to the quarry, load the trailer, bring it back here and bag up the sand.

With having the sand here I can have the job finished before I’ve even changed the wheels on the Sankey.

But I hate the people at Brico Depot. I loaded up Caliburn and then went off to pay for it “you need to bring your vehicle here” said the girl in the office. Walking 20 metres was clearly too much for her.

And so I brought the vehicle to the door and she came out – and then started chatting to a fork-lift truck driver.
“When you can spare me the time, if it’s not too much trouble for you” I said, and so she shrugged her shoulders to the driver and slumped over to me to check my load.
Yes, the staff at Brico Depot needs a collective smack in the mouth. It’s just like being back in Belgium and how I hate that country.

Back here I sat down to watch a film and the next thing that I remember was that it was 20:00. A long time since I’ve crashed out like that too.

And for the football we watched a team of bouncing Czechs pole-axe their opposition to advance to the next stage of the UEFA Nations Cup.