We won’t be seeing great-uncle Yaroslav but we’re still on the move

So, Lviv and Ukraine is a bust. The usual culprits, time and money, have conspired against us. It’s disappointing, but we are already planning a Black Sea tour. The mantra is, of course, “Someday… someday…”

Before I leave the topic of Ukraine, I have to talk about a reaction I’ve heard from some Poles at the mention of our plans to visit their eastern neighbour. Some people have said in disbelief, “Why would you want to go to the Ukraine?! That place is practically Russia. It’s run by the mafia and they specialise in stealing our cars.” Ironically enough, I’ve heard Germans say the same thing about Poland.

We have been trying to make the most of our last weeks in Central Europe. Two weekends ago we headed across the border to see Kavita and Mark in Český Krumlov. As at Christmas, they hosted us warmly. This particular weekend hit a nine on the Bender Scale for a few reasons. To Martha’s and my surprise, Bep was in Krumlov to round out the Toronto Massive. Also, the town was celebrating Slavností pĕtilisté růže, the Festival of the Five-petalled Rose. It’s a big medieval-fest complete with costumes, jousting and lots and lots of weak, but very tasty, Czech beer. After Krumlov, we crashed at Kate and Christopher’s very boho pad in Prague, and I mean Bohemian in every sense of the word.

Back to Cieszyn for a bit and then off to the west of Poland. We spent a few days exploring Poznań, which is so German it’s not funny. The German influence goes way back to the days of Prussian occupation and today the Germans seem to fuel most of the foreign tourism to this city. But it wasn’t history or economy that struck us at first; it was the benches at the train station. They are built with a sensible rack on each side for resting your luggage. There’s no need to have your bags lie on the dirty platform. This is so German. Also, (most) people tended to wait at pedestrian crossings for the little man to change colour. There was extensive wheelchair access and bike paths. Hello! Berlin? I think I’ve been living in the country too long. To use Christopher’s phrase, I’m turning into a “village box.”

Next it was off to the Sudeten mountains. Here, we met up with Dorota. The theme for this region was scary, narrow, dark places. In Kłodzko, we explored the tunnels of the old fortress, some of which were only 90 cm high. The next day it was off to the ominous Kaplica Czaszek, a chapel whose interior is completely lined with skulls and bones. Then, we spent the day hiking in the Table Mountains with their bizarre labyrinthine rock formations.

Now we’re back in Cieszyn. We have one more jaunt planned: a day in Kraków. But sadly, our travels are coming to the end. That long plane-ride to Toronto doesn’t really count.

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