Quit our jobs, sold our home, gone riding...

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by lightcycle, Aug 1, 2012.

  1. Jimmy the Heater

    Jimmy the Heater Dirt Farmer

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    I really had no desire to go to Berlin and had left it out of my European plans. No longer. It's now officially on the bucket list.

    Ride On!!
  2. Koinseb

    Koinseb Adventurer

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    Seems like this might be a good time for me to come out from my lurking hiding hole:

    Berlin is my hometown (born & raised in Berlin-West), and I was at the Berlin Wall (at the Brandenburg Gate) that night in 1989 when the wall came down. The ironic thing is that you don't always realize the depth of a historic moment at that moment. It took me a while to realize the importance of the events I lived through.

    I've been living abroad for the last 16 years (Africa & US), so thank you for the update on my old/new hometown :-)
    forgorin likes this.
  3. rlkefauver

    rlkefauver kefakruiser

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    Woo hoo! Possible Sheldon, Gene and Neda meet up! Better attach the disc lock to Neda, I understand Sheldon is a smooth operator...

    Sent from my SPH-L720T using Tapatalk
  4. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/233.html

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    We're heading south again, zig-zagging our way through Central Europe. The weather here is sunny, however it's still cold as the summer struggles to wrest control from a stubborn spring.

    New country today! This is the first time both of us have ever been in Poland. However, to avoid our last embarrassing moment with Portuguese, we research the language before crossing the border, keeping a cheat sheet of common phrases on our smartphone. Most important one: "Dziękuję" which means "Thank You" and is pronounced nothing like it looks. How do you get "Jen-koo-yeh" from "Dziękuję"? Polish is not phonetical at all.

    *ugh* This is going to cause us some problems...

    The scenery when crossing from Germany to Poland doesn't change at all since we are on the Autobahn - lots of trees. But you can tell that Poland is not as affluent as Germany, the roads are slightly worse for wear and the small towns that we pass through lack that very self-aware care-to-attention that the pristine German towns possess.

    Neda is still on a mission to spend as much time in nature, and she's got a place picked out in southern Poland. Looking on the GPS, our path takes us through a large urban centre called Wrocław. Not knowing how to pronounce this, we kept referring to it as "Rock-Claw" over the communicators. What a cool name for a city! Rock-Claw! Sounds like a super-villain.

    One thing we didn't research was the conversion rate for Euros -> Złoty. There are tons of exchange places close to the German/Polish border, some that look dodgier than others, and we don't know if we're getting ripped off when we stop at a diner to change money and grab some lunch. Neda ordered cabbage rolls and I ordered some Polish goulash. At least the food here is much cheaper than Germany! And delicious too!

    We're not going to be losing any weight here in Poland...

    As we sat in the diner listening to the other patrons and the Polish TV softly playing in the background, Neda turns to me wide-eyed and exclaims, "Hey! I understand some words!" Seems Polish is slightly similar to Croatian. Cool! Language duties have officially been handed over to her! :) As long as we don't have to read anything out loud, we should be fine.

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    Our hotel. Or close to it...

    Our hotel in Wrocław is in an industrial neighbourhood, it's not a bad hotel, but the parking lot is next to a building that's been abandoned for quite a while and made a cool looking picture. When we checked in, we asked the receptionist how to properly pronounce Rock-Claw. She told us: "Vrot-Suave". What? That's nothing like how it's written! So glad we didn't butcher the name of her city in front of her.

    I replied, "Jen-koo-yeh" and when she smiled back at us, I didn't feel like such a Tarzan after all. Although I probably said it wrong...

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    Big celebrations happening in town

    We're just passing through Rock-Claw (I like our version better), but we decided to check out the city centre before we left. To our surprise, it was quite busy. But it was apparent that there was some kind of huge celebration today. We parked (for free, I *LOVE* Europe!) and followed the crowds to the city square. Our first impressions of Poland across the German border were a bit misinformed, Rock-Claw was such a pretty place! Multi-coloured buildings formed a backdrop as processions of soldiers and marching bands paraded through the square. Almost everyone was waving a Polish flag as they gathered to watch the celebrations.

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    Polish flag convention

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    Marching band

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    Tuba Shakur

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    Different flag design

    It turns out that we were in town for Polish Flag Day, which is celebrated every May 2nd. There are two versions of the official flag, one with just the plain white and red stripes and another one which has the coat of arms in the field of white. Flag Day is quite important for Poles, they've lost and won their independence four times throughout the country's history.

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    Town Hall at Rynek (City Square)

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    Ever since entering Poland, I was looking forward to trying the pierogi! OMG SO GOOD!!!!

    You can stuff a pierogi with any kind of filling, typically it has cheese and mushrooms, and there are also dessert pierogi with fruit inside. Obviously I opt for the meat version. Fried, of course!

    Definitely not losing any weight in Poland...

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    Bearded men are a common subject of Polish folk art, both the Jewish version and the Lord of the Rings kind

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    Pretty colours!

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    Even the motorcycles here celebrate Flag Day

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    Polish hobbit

    After a nice morning in Rock-Claw, we head south to Neda's intended destination - the Tatra Mountains. She had read that there are some great hikes there. As we climb higher on our bikes, the weather gets colder and much wetter. The Polish roads are all lined with billboards and advertisements that make the natural landscape seem a bit gaudier.

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    Tatra Mountains ahead. I guess they pay for their roads through advertisements.

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    We arrive in Zakopane, a Polish alpine resort town

    Zakopane lies at the foot of Mount Giewont and is a popular place in the winter for alpine sports, and in the summer for hiking. We are kind of in-between seasons and Neda finds a fantastically luxurious hotel that just opened up and since it was low season, we got an amazing discount so we're going to stay here for a few days.

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    My man-cave for a few days

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    Neda goes hiking while I hibernate

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    Neda is loving the nature!

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    The Tatra Mountains form a natural border between Poland and Slovakia and offers hikers amazing scenery

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    I join Neda back in town for a walk around Zakopane

    While the big city of Wrocław offered up a modern-day version of Poland, Zakopane was filled with fantastic wooden buildings from the mid-1900s when the population here started to grow.

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    Polish guest-house

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    Walking around the suburbs of Zakopane

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    We totally got suckered into buying Oscypek from this little old Polish woman

    Oscypek is a smoked cheese made from salted goat cheese that's made exclusively in the Tatra mountains. From the small shack where she was selling the large bricks of Oscypek, we thought this little old Polish lady made these by hand back in her farm. Then we walked around town a bit more and noticed they were selling these same "Zakopane"-branded brickettes everywhere.

    We totally overpaid for the "cute old Polish woman" factor... :)

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    These were sooooo delicious

    Turns out Neda is not allergic to this kind of cheese. We bought a couple of bricks of Oscypek, one to eat and one to give to our friends that we are seeing later as house-warming gifts. But they were too good. We finished them both... :( No will-power.

    So not going to lose any weight in Poland...

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    The Ural Mountain range is not close to Poland at all...
    But here's a Ural motorcycle in the Zakopane market. Boxer engines rule!
    wilfred, Skjervagutt, Kona990 and 7 others like this.
  5. SmilinJoe

    SmilinJoe Been here awhile

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    So Gene are you guys at home or on the road again? Loving the report since the very beginning. You didn't mention the canals in Berlin. Did you guys get to experience them? Berlin is one of my favorite cities also. Travel safe my friend.
  6. polarice

    polarice Former Ice Pirate

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    Gene does it again.. cracking up over here.

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    Bearded men are a common subject of Polish folk art, both the Jewish version and the Lord of the Rings kind
    gfh likes this.
  7. CharlestonADV

    CharlestonADV I do my own stunts. Supporter

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    I've been traveling with you for THREE YEARS! Congratulations and happy anniversary!
  8. Baggi'tard

    Baggi'tard If I don't answer I'm ridin' or shootin' Supporter

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    I'd have sworn the Rock-Claw city centre was the old square in Praque (where the astronomical clock is).. Wow do they look same.
  9. Max Wedge

    Max Wedge ADVenture mowing

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    So how do you pronounce "Zakopane"? Throat-wobbler-mangrove?
    Thanks for the update, pics, and laughs....
    Jimmy the Heater likes this.
  10. 27Dgresridn

    27Dgresridn LowMi Lurker/HiPerf Sherpa

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    Jesteście najlepsze motocyklistów do oglądania w internecie !
  11. DrydenRider

    DrydenRider Sun Seeker

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    Tak, oni są! (thanks google translate)
  12. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Thanks for the comments and encouragement, guys!

    We didn't stay in Toronto very long, just a short visit. We've been back on the road for almost a month now.

    Thanks! Yes, this is the 3 year anniversary of the ADVRider thread. We actually left on June 14th, 2012 so we celebrated three years on the road a couple of months back.

    But as everyone knows our blog is a bit behind...
    wilfred likes this.
  13. Gas Hog

    Gas Hog Two Wheel Fanatic

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    Awesome as always!! :1drink
    Gary
  14. rideforsmiles

    rideforsmiles Sheldon

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    What a terrible thing to say as if I'd try the lines on another guys girl ahahahaha oh what the hell Neda is pretty hot better make it a disc lock and a big chain Gene :-) :-) :-)
  15. lightcycle

    lightcycle Nomad

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    Updated from http://www.RideDOT.com/rtw/234.html

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    In our rush to get to the good hiking in the Tatra Mountains, we noticed that we had bypassed Krakow and the area around it. So we're doubling back and staying in town for a few days to do some sightseeing. We're getting hip to the Polish alphabet and we're substituting our Ws for Vs now. Off to see Krakov! (although we're still not doing it entirely right. It sounds closer to Crack-Ooof)

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    Beautiful Wawel (Vavel) Cathedral, right on the banks of the Wisla (Vistula) River

    We're booked an AirBnB apartment right downtown and our host Paulina drives us around town and points out some highlights of things we should see. She also takes us out for lunch and shows us some yummy Polish food to try out.

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    Paulina has battered chicken filled with butter and cream, it's called kotlet de volaille or Chicken Kiev, or Chicken Cordon Bleu

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    Around the neighbourhood where we are staying

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    Jewish quarter in Krakow

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    Roaming Catholic Nun

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    Walking around the old city of Krakow

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    Taking a horseride through the cobblestone streets of old Krakow

    Krakow is nice, but we're using it mainly as a base as we take a day trip to Auschwitz. Our trip to Central Europe is becoming a WWII tour. Auschwitz is the German name for the Polish town of Oswiecim, about an hour west of the city. The former concentration camp is now a museum, and is surrounded by modern Poland. A huge supermarket sits 250m from the front gates.

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    The lies the Nazis told to the prisoners of Auschwitz. A sign atop the entrance of the death-camp reads: "Work will set you free"

    We opted to take the guided tour of Auschwitz and we were glad that we did. Although there are informational signs scattered throughout the grounds and there is quite a lot of history detailed inside the bunkhouses that are now converted to museums, the tour guide that we had gave a lot of chilling background information that made the horrors that much more vivid.

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    Electrically charged barbed wire all over the place was a grim reminder of how trapped people felt when they first arrived

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    Watchtower ominously lurks in the background, sirens and snipers on the lookout for escapees

    Jews from all over Europe were told that they were merely being deported. They did not know that a train to Auschwitz was a one-way trip. Very few prisoners escaped Auschwitz, the villagers who lived in Oswiecim were told that they would also be imprisoned for helping any escapees. But there were a few people who got away, and the stories they told which revealed the secret deathcamps in Auschwitz eventually led to some European countries like Hungary stopping the "deportation" of their Jewish population, saving hundreds of thousands of lives.

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    Inside the museum were items from "deportees" which were confiscated by the Nazis

    The prisoners being taken to Auschwitz were told to take all their belonging with them. This was a pretense to have them come willingly if they thought they were merely being deported, as opposed to being sent to their deaths. When they arrived, all their possessions were confiscated, the valuables stolen and the rest thrown into large piles. These piles of possessions gave an indication to just how many people were killed in Auschwitz. It is estimated that at least 2 million people died in Auschwitz with speculation that the number is closer to 4 million.

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    A large pile of discarded shoes, a lot of childrens' sizes.

    There was also a pile of human hair which were initially shorn off the prisoners to prevent the spread of lice, but also later to manufacture products made of human hair. Tests reveal that the hair had traces of hydrogen cyanide. They were cut off the prisoners after they had been gassed to death. We were asked not to take pictures of the hair out of respect for the dead.

    That was not something I wanted to take a picture of.

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    A bus took us on the second part of the tour, a secondary camp built a few kms away to house more prisoners than Auschwitz could handle. This was the site of many movies made about Auschwitz. The initial unloading of "deportees" were done here. Up to 75% of prisoners unboarding were deemed unfit to work at the camps and were put to death immediately. This made estimating the total number killed difficult because these people were never identified or recorded by the Nazis.

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    Infamous unloading point at Birkenau

    Birkenau was where the crematoriums were located. When the war was drawing to a close, the Nazis tried to destroy the gas chambers and crematoriums because they knew they would be judged by history. They knew what they were doing were wrong. So many people were complicit not just in running these death camps, but in the design and construction of such efficient killing apparatus. To move so many prisoners through a machine that could murder and dispose of them in such high numbers. And each cog in that machine, were they all monsters? Or did they go home every evening to sit at dinner with their wives, their sons and daughters, tell them stories before they were tucked into bed, stories that probably had very little to do with gassing millions of human beings and burning their bodies to hide the evidence.

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    I don't believe in spiritual resonance or psychic energy. I read about the people's accounts of how they felt negative energy walking around Auschwitz with skepticism. It was a beautiful summer's day in South Poland when we visited the death camp. There are flowers blooming in the fields where prisoners waited their turn to be put to death by poisonous gas. But exiting the museum into that incongruous sun-soaked daylight, not one person in our tour group could speak or smile for quite some time.
    wilfred, Skjervagutt, Kona990 and 8 others like this.
  16. DrydenRider

    DrydenRider Sun Seeker

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    Wow, that's all except thanks for that.
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  17. juno

    juno Long timer

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    Nice updates Gene! It looks like a great place to ride and visit!
  18. Turkeycreek

    Turkeycreek Gringo Viejo

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    Very moving report on Auschwitz/Birkenau. The pile of shoes is so affecting but your photo of the the insulator and the barbed wire is outstanding and poignant and distills it down. Thanks
    Pesqueeb likes this.
  19. mattsz

    mattsz moto-gurdyist

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    I had a similar feeling after my visit to the atomic bomb museum in Nagasaki. It's difficult, but we need to remember these events...
    Jimmy the Heater likes this.
  20. Pongo

    Pongo Been here awhile

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    Gene, you can download google translate dictionary to your phone by language.
    Will not help at all with town names, but helps with other translations.