2024 Traveler’s Journal: A glimpse of Poland and Slovakia

by 24britishtvMarch 27, 2024, 9 a.m. 31
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I have been wanting to do this presentation for a few years now. Covid ate up two years of the series and I was fortunate to have a full slate of presenters in 2022 and 2023. I kept this presentation as a backup just in case someone could not do a presentation.

So here is our 2018 trip to parts of Poland and Slovakia. Growing up in Germany, my wife Christiane always heard that Poland was nothing special, particularly from Germans from the East when the wall was up. Since Poland was one of the handful of countries that East Germans could travel to prior to 1989, I guess if for decades if you wanted to vacation and only had a few choices, over time you might not have the best experience. Also, when under the rule of the Soviet Union the eastern bloc countries were less desirable than today.

Still, it took a lot of years traveling to many different countries and back to Germany many times before we decided to take a look at Poland.

We started our trip by car from Berlin heading to the North Sea area and Slowinski National Park, which is considered the most amazing belt of moving sand dunes in Europe. A beautiful stretch and sandy beaches and dunes but not a place for swimming in the cold Baltic Sea, even in July.

One of the oldest cities in Poland, Gdansk, which used to be known as Danzig was our next stop. Gdansk is a beautiful setting with many areas to explore and visit. The city suffered large scale destruction during World War II and was rebuilt in the 1950s and 1960s, the Poles did a great job in rebuilding this hidden gem.

We were pleasantly surprised that Baltic Sail Gdansk was going during our stay. Tall ships from many countries were docked along the main canal and allowed visitors to go aboard and explore.

Not too far from Gdansk is a true marvel, Malbork Castle, a 13th century Teutonic Knight castle. A great day exploring the largest brick castle in the world and amazed by the craftsmanship of something built more than 700 years ago.

Torun is known for being the home to Coprenicus and gingerbread making, and referred to as little Krakow. Wandering the streets is like stepping back in time. We even tried our hand at making gingerbread while there.

The Wieliczka Salt Mines, one of the world’s oldest, is amazing. Not too far from Krakow, it is a must see, built in the 13th century and producing salt until 2007 — more than 700 years of operations. It has over 178 miles of tunnels; do not worry, as you do not walk all of it.

The beautiful city of Krakow, Poland’s capital until 1956, has Europe’s largest medieval plaza. It is also known as one of Europe’s most beautiful cities. I cannot disagree; having been to many cities throughout Europe, it is near the top. There are many sights to explore throughout Krakow such as St. Mary’s Basilica, Cloth Hall, Jagiellonian University, Jewish Quarter and Wawel Castle, to name a few … the city will not leave you disappointed.

You probably cannot think of Krakow without thinking of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the tragic scene of German concentration camps. Very emotional and somber, it is somewhere you should visit if ever in the area. Hopefully we all can learn from history.

After the cities, towns and crowds we thought we would escape to the Tartas, a mountain region near the border of Slovakia. Zakopane was the area we chose, and so much for escaping the crowds and doing some peaceful hiking. It was more like a carnival, on top of the mountain. We spent the day amongst the crowds and try to picture how scenic it was despite the chaos. The town of Zakopane itself is really beautiful and we enjoyed walking around there.

On to Slovakia and the amazing cave network. It features more than 2,400 caves, and only 400 have been explored thus far. Slovakia’s caves and the scenic beauty of Narodny Park are not to be missed.

So if you are ever looking somewhere new to explore, give Poland and Slovakia some serious thought. They are full of wonders.

Arvo and Christiane Johnson moved to Sequim in 2009, before that they lived in Southern California. They met while traveling independently in Chile, with Arvo from California and Christiane from Germany. They have been inseparable since then.

They love to explore and travel; they have been to more than 60 countries and continue their sense of adventure while introducing their two daughters, ages 10 and 14, to a life of exploring and adventure.

They hope that traveling will instill a sense of appreciation for their life, the culture, history and nature of this great planet. Along with a thirst for adventure that they will have throughout their life. They love the outdoors and many of the activities that go along with it.

Traveler’s Journal, a presentation of the Peninsula Trails Coalition, raises funds to buy project supplies and food for volunteers working on Olympic Discovery Trail projects. Shows start at 7 p.m. at the Dungeness River Nature Center, 1943 W. Hendrickson Road.

Admission is a suggested donation is $5 for adults. Attendees are encouraged, but not required, to wear mask.

For more information, email Arvo Johnson at [email protected].

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