Opatovec, Prague & Karlovy Vary, The Czech Republic

Our journey so far has taken us to a LOT of campsites, we’ve been on the road for over three months already so other than a handful of nights we’ve always stayed on proper campsites. On the road to Prague (in a town called Opatovec) we found a fabulous family run site with a bar and restaurant right on the banks of a lake. Possibly our favourite place to stay so far. It was a long drive from Oświęcim in Poland.

Road closures in The Czech Republic seem very common, in our first hour of driving we experienced our first closure, there wasn’t any forewarning at all, it was all hands on deck to remove the mini in the middle of a busy dual carriageway in order to make a u-turn in the RV, it was an intense 20 minutes. We made it to the campsite late in the evening and it was totally worth the journey – it was one of those stop and stare moments.

The sunset was fabulous and so peaceful. We had such a good sleep and were greeted by a beautiful blue sky in the morning.

The boys went to meet the 12 year old son of the farm owners. He was called Milan and exactly the company the boys were craving.

The whole day was spent in the river, swinging on ropes and teaching Lester to swim 😆

It was such a chilled out place, we hadn’t realised just how much we needed a couple of days to unwind and relax.

Our final night our host put on some fireworks for us

The perfect end to a perfect couple of days. We were genuinely quite sad to be leaving this gorgeous family.

It was time to get on the road and head to Prague.

Prague is a beautiful city. Jon and I last visited in wintertime about 15 years ago.

It’s great coming back with the boys.

.……….the beer, so good

Hearty Czech food, bread dumplings with meat in rich gravy and smoked meat filled bread dumplings.

It was brief stop in the city. After Prague we headed to Pilsen to visit the birthplace of lager, the Pilsner Urquell brewery.

Joe was looking forward to the tour as he has acquired quite a taste for lager these past few months !

Sampling the unfiltered, unpasteurised lager that is only available at the brewery

The original barrels, in the cellars it was super cold

A fab tour, I would highly recommend it.

Next on our list was the city of Karlovy Vary, famous for its thermal hot springs, not for bathing in but for drinking.

The next leg of our journey takes us back to Germany, this time to Bavaria. I love Munich and have such happy memories of my last trip with Jon 4 years ago. Joe and Mikey are so excited to eat giant pretzels 🥨

Warsaw & Kraków, Poland

Poland, where to start ? So many fabulous places and things to do.

Our first stop was Warsaw, we stayed on a fabulous family run farm (we have the best times on campsites like these) about 40 mins drive from the city centre.

We were treated to freshly baked cakes, homemade bread and strawberries straight from the farm. We were so lucky to find such a fabulous place to stay.

Our first day in Warsaw was a trip to the Zabinski Villa at Warsaw Zoo…we had been inspired by the movie ‘The Zoo Keepers Wife” and wanted to see where such an amazing act of kindness had taken place.

The original piano that Antonina Zabinski played to warn the Jewish refugees in her basement that the Nazis were conducting an inspection. The Jews would then escape, taking all their belongings through a narrow tunnel and await the signal to return to the basement.

The ‘escape’ tunnel

The villa is set in the grounds to the zoo, you need to book in advance to visit the house where Jan & Antonina Zabinski saved so many Jews during the German occupation in the Second World War.

Next stop was the Old Town where we had lunch in a restaurant right next to the castle on the famous Podwale Street.

An altogether more modest sized schnitzel for Mikey.

Joe enjoying a pork schnitzel

After saying goodbye to Warsaw we headed for Kraków……

St.Marys church in the central square, by day

The central market place, beneath this magnificent market lies the remnants of a 14th century town. The underground museum reveals many relics including cobbled streets and burial grounds.

One of Joe’s ‘must do attractions’ was the Schindler factory, a well constructed museum but we were quite disappointed as there was very little about Schindler and more about what happened in WW2.

It was quite cramped in the museum and there were many school tours. The exhibits were very well done, however unfortunately all the text was so small it was really difficult to read and take in. The factory doesn’t even exist anymore.

The enamel pots and pans made at Schindler’s factory

The outside wall of the museum

Next stop……… The Jewish Quarter

A trip to Poland would not be complete without a visit to a milk bar. These canteens are a hangover from the communist times. Cheap, filling and tasty, these were lunch venues for the Polish workers during the communist era. The workers would eat lunch in these establishments as part of their pay.

I researched the Polish menu in great detail as there is no English menu, we managed to order some hearty and authentic Polish cuisine for under €10. The reason for calling them milk bars is that back in the day they served mostly dairy based foods.

The cafés are really simply decorated, they are quiet and calm and many Polish sit alone eating silently. It’s like going back in time and walking into someone’s living room, it feels very homely.

Pierogi, meat filled dumplings, pork schnitzel and boiled potatoes, vegetable soup and our favourite, apple and peach filled pancakes

Truly delicious and unpretentious food

On our final day in Kraków we took a visit to the salt mines, originally formed in the 1400’s, a ‘must see’ whilst in Poland, we had a few ‘Wow’ moments.

The first part of the tour takes you down 64 flights of 7 stairs to a chamber over 100 metres deep. We descended the final part using the long corridors and staircases. There are huge sculptures carved from salt. Even hanging chandeliers. The ornate churches are all cut into the rock and salt.

Inside the stairwell, looking down…….it makes you feel a bit dizzy

The Last Supper carved into the wall, one of the many carvings

The final part of our journey through Poland was to Auschwitz. This part of the trip had us feeling quite torn, on one hand Joe and Mikey have learnt about what happened during The Holocaust and wanted to go to Auschwitz in order to learn more, however, we felt it might be too hard for them to deal with. We had contemplated not visiting and had talked to the boys extensively about what to expect and whether or not they were prepared for it. Let me tell you, nothing really prepares you for a visit to Auschwitz.

We got up early and arrived at Auschwitz at 7.30 am and people were already queuing to get in. You can pre-book tours beforehand which I would recommend doing although we wanted to go in independently as we wanted time to talk to the boys along the way.

It is free to enter both sites, although Auschwitz requires you to have a ticket, there is also a free shuttle bus to take you to Auschwitz Birkenau II, we didn’t use this service as we drove the car. You can go early in the morning or later in the afternoon if you want to go without a tour, if you want a tour guide with you then you must book online in advance and I think you have to pay for this. The English speaking tours get booked up so well in advance.

The area has been really well maintained and many parts have been reconstructed. The areas displaying all the belongings found have been respectfully preserved and exhibited.

There were parts that Mikey did not want to see and by the time we arrived at Auschwitz Birkenau II where the mass killings took place, Mikey and I sat in the car, we had seen enough.

I hadn’t wanted to write about our trip to Auschwitz as it seemed wrong somehow to post pictures of such an awful place, but it was part of our journey and a really important part of our trip.

We were so shocked to see some tourists taking selfies and posing for really inappropriate pictures, some even climbing on parts of buildings it was so sad to see such disrespectful behaviour.

Auschwitz II-BIRKENAU

As awful and horrendous as Auschwitz is I’m really glad I had the opportunity to visit such a significant and historic site. I’m glad we were able to give Joe and Mikey the opportunity and to educate them. No matter how bad a place is we are far richer for being more educated.

Poland was wonderful and emotional in equal measures. We were lucky to experience the lighter side of Poland and also be educated on the horrors that Poland endured during darker times, I came away from Poland feeling much more knowledgable.

Kibicuje Poland I do widzenia 🇵🇱 🍻

Norway, Preikestolen

A 40 minute ferry from Stavanger takes you to Tau, then a 20 minute drive later you arrive at the start of the hike.

We came prepared with studded shoe grips but were advised that we should wear chains due to the ice and snow on the trail. These can be hired from the visitor centre.

Many people arrived in trainers and still made it up, although the studs made a big difference and I’m glad we had them. There were parts where neither studs or chains helped when we were coming down and we opted to just come down on our backsides because it was so steep and slippery.

It is approximately 2 – 3 hours and 3.8km each way. We had been watching the weather forecasts and knew we were going to be in for clear sky.

We got to Preikestolen National Park by 10.30 and started up the trail. The first part was quite flat and not too steep although there was a lot of ice as it’s quite shaded. We took it steady and enjoyed the scenery on the way. Lester did a great job, he powered on and didn’t seem to get tired the whole way up.

The sky stayed beautifully clear the whole way and we were excited to reach the ledge.

The view over Lysefjord is spectacular. When we settled at the top we had some lunch and took some photos (not from the very edge as it is crazy scary) then we started the tricky hike down. It was much harder coming down because of all the ice and we had to let Lester go on a few occasions as he was in danger of pulling Jon down.

A once in a lifetime experience and we have been lucky enough to visit Preikestolen twice and this time the weather was amazing.

Norway, Oslo 🇳🇴

We had contemplated staying in Gothenburg another day due to the snowfall but in the end we decided to crack on. It took the whole day to drive to Oslo and we were really excited to finally be arriving in Norway.

We arrived in Oslo the Thursday before last to heaps of snow which was thick and piled up along the roads. The snow was covered in grit and looked grey and miserable.

We found a great campsite, high above Oslo in Bogstad. It is huge with room for about 800 caravans and motorhomes and cabins. We took it steady with the RV as there was so much ice.

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Surrounding the campsite were ski trails and the boys were in their element.

Friday we decided to see a bit of Oslo and headed straight to the Viking museum. It’s a beautiful building housing a couple of Viking boats that had been found buried and then beautifully restored.

After the museum we headed to the palace to see the changing of the guard. We were freezing and we kept thinking how cold the soldiers must be, they didn’t seem to have very warm clothing on.

The boys managed to get a photo with the obliging young guard.

We rounded off the day by testing out our new sledge at the campsite. The following day we ploughed on to Kristiansand, the campsite we had researched turned out to be closed for winter but the owner kindly let us stay overnight.

Finally the last leg of our journey to see our friends, the drive from Kristiansand to Stavanger was absolutely breathtaking and one I would recommend to anyone visiting Norway, it took around 5 hours. It made a really welcome change to drive on roads other than the highways which have become quite boring now. There was snow covering the fields and mountains and some of the fjords were thick with ice.

We spent a lot of time in tunnels too, we were getting used to the Norwegian road system

We made it to Sola by dinner time, Nina, Hein, Andrine, Kristiane and Aleksander were waiting for us and they had figured out the perfect parking for the RV! – right outside their neighbours house

So happy to have finally arrived ❤️

Sweden, Gothenburg 🇸🇪 Time for Fika ❤️

Fika, a concept in Swedish culture with the basic meaning ‘to have coffee’ usually accompanied with cake, cookies, pie or sandwiches and shared with friends or family. Yesterday was a day of Fika.

Whilst we were visiting Gothenburg my cousin recommended Brogyllen a gorgeous coffee shop to try out their cakes. Such a great place to sit back and relax and watch the world go by.

The cakes were truly delicious, the Semla buns were so light yet full of almond paste that wasn’t completely smooth and had bits of almonds and topped with fresh whipped cream, the dough was soft with small pieces of cardamom running through it.

The boys are huge lovers of Kanelbullar, Swedish cinnamon buns. They prefer these to the American style ones as they are less sweet and they like the mix of cinnamon and cardamom and the crunchy pearl sugar on top.

After our coffee break we decided to download the city walking tour app and walked off the sweet treats.

We had a a lovely stroll, I love the fact that although the streets are cobbled the Swedes have also laid larger paving slabs alongside the cobbles to walk on so you don’t lose your heels. Thank goodness! – my boots survived.

Fiskekyrkan – Fish church. The fish market

Last night was the favourite part of my day, we had been invited over for dinner by my cousin Nick. He had prepared a Smörgåsbord for us. It was so lovely to chat over wine and talk about life and our family history.

More cake………

What a day !

Tonight, as we watched another fresh blanket of snow falling………

I really enjoyed our time in Gothenburg but I don’t feel like I’m done with Sweden yet, hopefully we will have more time on the way back to visit Stockholm.

I feel like I got my hygge-on in Gothenburg, the fika and spending time with family was totally hyggelig 💖

Tack så mycket Gothenburg and hope to see you again soon Sweden.

Sweden, “Super Trouper……….”

We got up on Monday morning full of gusto and ready to take on Sweden. After days of procrastinating we finally had a plan and were ready to get on with it. So after the usual mammoth pack up we said goodbye to Jes and his wife and we hit the road.

We made it to Øresund Bridge, the bridge that connected us to Malmö – possibly the most expensive toll bridge in Europe. We had a bit of banter with the Swedish toll operator about the size and weight of the RV but the outcome was simply pay up and get on your way. It was a sobering experience handing over the plastic for the exorbitant €200 crossing.

On entering Sweden we saw our first Ikea in about 5 minutes and ABBA was blasting out of the radio, how very Swedish! Jon and I did have a giggle.

It had been a long drive and we were ready to get parked up for the night. We had chosen a marina in a town called Landskrona. We enjoyed our dinner whilst watching the sunset.

This morning when we woke up there was even a fresh blanket of snow, welcome to Sweden.

We have made it to our sixth country.

Denmark, Copenhagen, København 🇩🇰

A city that feels like a town. A lot like Amsterdam only much cleaner and more beautiful, almost like a fairytale. Very much like Hans Christian Andersen would have created in one of his stories.

The little mermaid perched on her rock, looking for Prince Eric….. with a gazillion tourists crowding her, I can hear Indonesian and American tourists, French and Germans all snapping away. It is stupidly cold, there are gusts of snow and we are all hustling to get a photo next to the delicate little statue. We get caught up in the frenzy and finally rush back to the warmth of the car.

Next on our list are the military ‘Nyboder’ houses, I remember these from the movie, The Danish Girl. The striking yellow paint contrasts the steely grey sky. The houses are stuck in time and the paint is peeling from the bricks.

We’re cooking now and we head to the next must do site on our list, Nyhavn, the iconic Danish houses lining the canal. They look resplendent, the sun is shining and we are ready for a coffee. Probably the most expensive place to get a coffee but the view is simply priceless so we suck it up

A canal boat trip to visit the sights, the opera house, the queen’s residence, it’s all very blah blah blah…..don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining about Copenhagen being blah blah blah, it’s more about us and our ‘adventure’. We want this year to be unforgettable and unique so as much as we love the tourist attractions we also want to go off the beaten track and see MORE. Really see what makes Denmark, Denmark.

A trip to a major city wouldn’t be complete without a tour of the food market (you know me and food) so we swing by Torvehallerne for some dinner….

Smörgåsbord = yum !

Ahhh Summerbird……….your beautiful cakes

So I’ll post this and I’ll add a little PS, I promise to give you more and not just the predictable.

Before I go, I recommend this book:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Little-Book-Hygge-Danish-Penguin/dp/0241283914