Bev Brooks

Joined November 2017
  • Day28

    Auschwitz

    Yesterday in Poland

    The weather is certainly appropriate , 12degrees wet and cold, for the sobering day I have ahead.

    I cannot ever remember a time feeling the way I do today after visiting Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. To explain my feelings there is not one feeling. I am sad, ashamed, cannot believe “humans” could do this, scared we will repeat again ( and do in fact continually). But also recognise the human strength it must have taken to survive these atrocities.

    I learnt so much today, too much to really take in. I stood in silence, pondering people’s lives, many times I could not even imagine what happened here. I’ve learnt of these atrocities during my school years, but nothing prepared me for this. To systematically kill over 1million people, primarily Jews, but also Poles, gypsies, scholars it is beyond reason or logic.

    The museum at Auschwitz breaks your heart. There are graphic reminders, 2 tonnes of hair piled high ready to be shipped off to be made in to socks - can you imagine that. Piles of shoes, suit cases, glasses, wooden legs etc. Human life being left as a loads of there items to be shipped off for others to use. To see the wall where those who were sick or punished were shot with a gun directly to the head is sobering.

    At Birkenau (Auschwitz II) we walked from the train station, like many condemned Jews and anyone else who stood up against the Nazis, down the same road directly to the gas chambers. They had the audacity to tell them to take there clothes off, remember where they are so you can get them after your showers. The complicity’s were enormous. They were shoved into gas chambers before dying in so much pain. Then the poor prisoners who were not gassed were made to cut the hair off the dead corpses, remove dentures and any other valuables. I’m not sure who had the better ending, dying in the gas chambers or dying of starvation and degradation.

    Much of Birkenau is in ruin, including the gas chambers, but it is still evident how large a camp this was. The 3 layers of bunks would often have 7 or more people to a bunk. The living conditions were atrocious, little food, little warm, some without roofs. People who were not killed died from disease, frost bite and starvation. Those who survived when they were liberated by the Soviets had to live with the horrors for the rest of their days.

    If you get the chance please go visit this memorial. These things must stop, genocide, ethnic cleansing whatever name you wish to put on it must stop. I’m sure it’s happening right now, but our western news doesn’t allow us to here the truth.

    I’m struggling to look at the photos. I’ll add some tomorrow I hope.
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  • Day27

    Krakow wandering

    June 22 in Poland

    Another free walking tour. This one started at 1015 so I had a few hours to kill before hand. Wandering up into the central square ( largest in Eastern Europe 200sq meters) I was amazed by the number of food trucks. They were going in every direction, preparing all the local restaurants ready for the days trade ahead. I guess they need to get in early before all the foot traffic arrives.

    After wandering around the back streets I find a cafe where I enjoy a wonderful baked cheesecake and freshly squeezed juice. Yum, the food in this town is amazing.

    The free walking tour starts under the cathedral, I’m to look for a green umbrella. Lucky I knew it was green as there are about 5 different people offering free walking tours, each with different coloured umbrella’s. Eugene is our guide, there are about 25 people, he is extremely knowledgeable half polish and half Ukraine. He is passionate about Poland, as we wander around the old city, he explains the history of Poland. All my history lessons so many years ago come flooding back - Prussia, Kengis Khan, Germany invasions, the soviet occupation. Poland has had it all. Then Eugene speaks so highly of John Paul II, he was a saviour for this country, giving them the guidance to stand up to communism. It was a very enlightening tour.
    Then he spoke about Maximilian Maria Kolbe who traded his life for another in Auschwitz. This country has such an incredible history, and today it is a thriving cosmopolitan city.

    We started at the cathedral, visit the opera house, wander through the main entry gate to the city and followed the path the the kings and queens for time gone by made their way to Wawel Castle.

    After the tour I headed to the Jewish area for lunch. Another amazing meal, cottage cheese, potato, salami, egg, zucchini and cheese. That certainly filled me up. I catch the tram home for a nana nap before heading out again in the evening.

    My air bnb is about 7 minutes walk from the old town, so I’m certainly getting my steps up today. I wander back into town for dinner, there are buskers everywhere, it is like a carnival atmosphere. I’m just happy to have a light dinner and few reds and people watch for a few hours.

    I can hear a trumpet and violin playing “hallelujah”. Once they finish another group of a trumpet, trombone and drums starts another tune. What a chilled night.
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  • Day26

    Today Suzie heads back home while I head to Poland. When I left Australia I had no intention of heading to Poland, but our air bnb host in Zagreb convinced me to go.

    First step of the journey was to get the car back to the airport in one piece. Goggle once again did a fine job until we got close to the airport. Silly us, we didn’t believe google and started to follow the signs. The airport signs took us in a huge circle, we actually thought we were heading back to Zagreb at one stage. We should know by now google is pretty good and trust her. She only let us down a few times and I’m not surprised considering the roads we were travelling on.

    My flight to Kraków was via Warsaw. We arrived in Warsaw on time, but unfortunately someone forgot to tell the driver of the stairs. We waited 10minutes for the stairs to arrive, then there was no bus, so another 10minutes waiting for the bus. Finally inside the terminal, I headed to the transit area as instructed. The bag search was very officious. Bags had to be laid on the trays in a particular way, only one bag at a time. The women waving through the scanner was very particular, there were pat downs, take all jumpers jackets off etc. A very slow process, lucky not many people were heading this way. Finally through I looked for my next gate only to be told, I had to go back to where I had just come. I had to go though immigration and move to a different set of gates. So the bag screening started all over again with a different set of people. Finally I reach the gate only to find out it is delayed about 10minutes.

    Once again a bus takes us out to the plane, to my surprise it is exactly the same plane I fly to Rocky on. It spins my brain out. We all board but once again another delay of 30 minutes while we wait for a connecting flight, should have just left us in the terminal. I finally arrive in Kraków about an hour late.

    Next step is to catch the 208 bus, luckily this is just outside the terminal. Getting a ticket is pretty easy, the bus arrives in about 20minutes. The bus is packed, with people and luggage. Ok so now I need to work out how to find out where my stop is. As we get close to the centre I ask a local who explains it is 3 more stops.

    My air bnb is a 5 minutes walk away, the room is huge, the unit is lovely and clean. Another win.

    I head into the old city for dinner, I’m completely blown away by the central square it is just beautiful. I think I’ve fallen in love with Kraków already and i has only been a few hours.
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  • Day25

    Last days in Zagreb

    June 20 in Croatia

    We start the drive from Sarejavo back to Zagreb. It is raining, there is lots of traffic and the first 2 hours of driving are on single lane windy roads.
    After Suzie’s mishap with the speed camera a couple of days ago she is taking it very quietly. It is now we notice how badly the speed signs are. They go down to 50 going through a town but don’t tell us when we can speed back up. I guess we need to just guess when this is to occur. We reach the border, on the Bosnian side the security police didn’t even look at our passports, just showed us away. Never have a crossed a border like this.

    Entering Croatia was a lot more formal, a bit of a queue. We reach Zagreb around 330pm without any mishaps, or speeding tickets.

    Today is the last day Suzie will be with me on my travels. We have a lazy day planned and I am hoping to get my nails redone.

    As usual I find some nail salons using google, we set out to find them. This is never as easy as it should be, we find a couple of nail salons but they only do nail polish, no Infils and no gel. It is nothing like home, no large nail salons, just little 1 lady salons. Well that’s a fail.

    We wander around the town finding some interesting art works and also start drinking a little earlier than normal. A few more stops for 🍷 and 🍻, it alone becomes a necessity to have lunch. We have one of the best meals of the whole trip, mozzarella wrapped in bacon, yum yum. Time for a nanna nap before heading out in the evening.

    Dinner is a lovely salad with fish. A quiet day overall. It’s been great travelling with Suzie, we certainly have had some laughs along the way.
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  • Day24

    Srebrenica Bosnia

    June 19 in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Our second organised tour started in the heart of Sarajevo. Aden our driver took us to the town of Srebrenica. Along the way he exclaimed how the political system works here. There are 3 presidents each representing a section of the Bosnian community. Bosnian Serbs, Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croates. It seems so odd to me to align your self by religion, if you call yourself a Bosnian here you are in the minority, other others make up about 95% of the population. As you can imagine with 3 presidents it is extremely difficult to make decisions and move the country forward. This arrangement was put in place as part of the peace accord to end the war in 1995, it was only meant to last for 15 years so that the country to sort out how to run the country efficiently.

    The war from 1992 to 1994 can be seen throughout the country where we have travelled. There are still many building and homes in ruins, shrapnel marks clear for all To see as a reminder. More than 100000 were killed and approx 2 million displaced during this ware.

    Srebrenica was a town where over 8000 were killed - an act of genocide. Many have been found guilty in the International Criminal Tribunal. There is a memorial to those that were killed. Apart of this is a very cut to the bone movie. A women, who was 13 when the war broke out, also told us of her life during this time where she lost both parents a brother and sister. It was touching to listen to her, you can tell it still hurts today to explain this.

    Every time I visit a place where genocide has taken place I’m astounded how the world can continue to let this occur. We are so lucky in Australia and New Zealand.
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  • Day21

    Mostar

    June 16 in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    Today was spent wandering around Mostar. Suzie went for a mountain bike ride so I was on my own. First up it was time to find some breakfast. That may sound easy but believe me it is not. Most cafes here only serve drinks and no food. Places that do serve food don’t do anything remotely that looks or feels like breakfast. I wander for about 30minutes looking at menus until I finally find a place that does omelette. As a bonus it also has a terrace overlooking the Stari Most (old bridge).

    I had organised a free walking tour which starts at 10am. There were 9 people, 2 Aussies, 2 Poms, 3 Turkish and 2 Italians. Ivan our tour guide was born during the war. His mum fled to Split for him to be born, this was the norm then as it was to dangerous to be in Mostar.

    He started the tour at the Spanish Garden then headed into the old city. He had many photos of buildings prior to the war. It’s amazing to see the amount of destruction this tiny city endured during the war from 1992 - 1995. Many of the buildings have been left just as they were at the end of the war. The government has decreed if you are restoring a building it must be returned to the same architecture it once was. The Russian architecture is very boring and easy to recreate but the Ottoman and Austrian style building cost a lot to be returned to their former glory.

    We wander around the old city stopping to chat about buildings and culture. The tour ends after approx 1.5hours. Emma, the other Aussie, and I decide to head under the bridge to watch if anyone is going to jump today. The boys pass around a hat to collect tips to jump from the bridge (23 meters above the river). It takes about €25 in summer and €50 in winter to entice a jumper. They tease on top of the bridge until the tips reach the desired amount before jumping into the river below. The jumpers must be registered as competent to jump before doing this act. It looks bloody scary to me. We watch a couple of jumpers before it is time for a drink.

    Suzie has finished her ride so we now all hook up for a few drinks, some souvenir shopping before retiring for the night.
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  • Day20

    Bosnia here we come

    June 15 in Bosnia and Herzegovina

    We leave Primosten around 93” heading towards Mostar. The plan is to stop at Kravice Waterfall and a walled , heritage city, on the way. It approximately 2.5 hours to Kravice in Bosnia according to google.

    We head out , it’s all good until we get close to Bosnia we are traversing a mountain range , high up above the valley. Google said hard left in 250 meters, oh f@#k not sure where we are going. There was a road at exact spot so off we go, Down down we go, goggle says go left, go right seems lost. We end in a small village, it is eerie there are no people, small windy roads no idea where we are going. We turn around and head back up the to the main road, giggles galore. Top of the hill, we are going around in circles what road to take there are 5 choices. Eventually we chat to a local man. He has no English and no teeth, but waves us in the direction of the border. He seems chuffed that he could actually help 2 stupid tourists.

    The border is only a few k away, Croatia gives us a stamp,the Bosnian seems unimpressed that we have passports, or stamps here , sigh.

    We head to Kravice, lots of sign posts, very easy to find. The entry guys tells us it’s €4 to enter, screw that we go to the WC and just keep walking. Quite a few tourists, but lovely water falls and great view from restaurant for lunch.

    Heading onto Mostar we pass the walled city of Pocitelj. Google struggled to get us to our accomodation, telling us to go left when we could not find a street ( actually we think they we there, we just didn’t think it was a street). After taking a couple of detours we find our air bnb and our lovely host Nina shows us to the apartment, the apartment overlooks the city, it’s about 5 minutes from the old town.

    The afternoon is spent wandering the streets of the old town enjoying a red or 2. The river through Mostar is beautiful a deep emerald green. There are any restaurants along the river to enjoy the view.

    Another great day.
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  • Day18

    Plitvicka National Park

    June 13 in Croatia

    It was. 2.5 hour drive to the park from Primosten but Suzie enjoyed the 130k speed limit. On arrival we entered via the Entrance 2. The car park was so full It was surprising to see so many visitors, it took us quite some time to find a park. I was very worried about congestion on the tracks.

    These worries were soon put to rest, the paths from this entry point are very wide and there are many options so the tourists are moved into multiple directions. We have chosen route H, this starts with a bus ride to the beginning of the 5k trail back down. As soon as we jump off the bus the thunderstorm rolls in, the noise is very loud but only a few drops of rain so we plough on down the track. The thunder continues for about 30minutes, and the temperature has also dropped by about 10c so it’s a little chilly. The paths are relatively flat, with only a few stairs, the canopy dense so we don’t get too wet. There are many small waterfalls along the way, quite beautiful , picturesque, certainly worth a pic or 2. The track is not crowded, we can walk at our own pace and take picture whenever we choose.

    We finish the first trail, the next leg is to jump on a boat across the river to the next walking track. Once off the boat we follow the path to the “big waterfall”, what can this be compared to so many other “waterfalls” I’ve seen ( Niagara, Victoria). In fact it is a series of small waterfalls along the river culminating in a couple long drop waterfalls. Very beautiful mix of colours.

    The walk from the boat stop to the bus stop was very congested, the path was narrow, people not wanting to get their feet feet. So different from entrance 2. There were so many people coming from the opposite direction, I would hate to be here is high season. I am sure people would be pushed in to the water on the narrow wooden walkways. We struggle past the many walkers, everyone wanting to stop for photos regardless of where they are. We eventually move away from the crowds heading up to the bus. The views from above are spectacular . This place is certainly worth a visit, I expect after rain would be amazing. Start from entrance 2 and enjoy the space at least for a short time.

    The drive home is also with the normal dramas, car travelling in excess 150k, passing when they should know better. It is certainly time for a beer or calming wine once we make it home.
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  • Day17

    Road trip to Primiston

    June 12 in Croatia

    Early start, well for us at least, we manage to leave the apartment by 9am. I’ve sorted out the alley ways so we do not need to take the bags too far on the Roman built cobble stones. Suzie gets the car from the church parking spot and we are off. The plan is pretty simple, travel down the coast road to Primosten, this will take about 5 hours. Google maps does the job, we stop at a small town for morning tea. It amazes me that the parking spots charge you to park, yet cars park wherever they like in the Main Street.

    Onwards towards Primosten, the road hugs the coast line its quite a slow trip , but a stunning coast line. We arrive without incident at around 5pm, our host Jure helps us to our next Air bnb. We are right on the coast listening to the waves and the wind. This town is much smaller that Rovinj and Is a mixture of old and new. I will enjoy the differences.

    Dinner is at the steak house, a great meal, but unfortunate that the assume the change is a tip.
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