We have to return to Slovakia

Yes we have to!

Because the last time we were there – it was only a drive through and we had stopped at Banska Bystrica for lunch. Now back in the day (late 90s) there was little in terms of knowledge of the attractions in most of the former Eastern Europe bloc of countries that had been under former communist regimes. If any literature available it was not accessible from way out here in Asia. Well at least not as far as we tried… perhaps we did not try hard enough.

Anyway.

The pit stop included a short photo opportunity of a castle, literally from the side of the road. Yep the coach just stopped. Tourists got off, took a few snaps and up they went and continued their way. That was us included. Sigh.

We’ll share what we’ve managed to see here anyway, however short and little it is. Have you been to Slovakia? What would your recommend us to see and do?

Did you know Poland was once all powerful?

Yes it may sound puzzling to imagine. But students of medieval European history will be able to articulate how Poland was once a mighty nation, holding dominion over a large swathe of eastern Europe. In fact, it took a Polish King to lead his forces and beat the Ottomans back from the gates of Vienna…

Anyway.

Today we want to reminisce about our journey to this wonderful country. The last 300 years had not been kind to Poland. As its institutions weakened due to internal strife, strong neighbours took advantage of the situation to slice the country apart. And for almost 200 years Poland did not exist as an independent country.

But today that has all changed. Since embracing the fall of communism in 1989, the country has steadily developed. And we were there in 2001 to see some of the early fruits of the change during a sojourn that took us from Poznan through to Warsaw and finally Krakow.

In Poznan and Warsaw we saw how the city has rebuilt, recreating brick for brick what existed prior to the devastation of WWII. While in Krakow we explored a city with preserved classical medieval structures that were unscathed by the conflict.

We know that there are many other places in Poland to touch and this was an excellent introductory journey. Have you been to Poland? What do you think are the recommended sights? Tell us what you think after reading our essay here.

Thundering into Hungary

The reason we used the world ‘thundering’ is because the country’s name would suggest a connection to the Huns. Now you might not be a fan of history, but let us tell you that these folks (the Huns) were known as ferocious horse pack warriors that literally struck deep into Europe during the end of the Roman era in the 5th century.

Their arrival signed the collapse of the Roman empire in western Europe and heralded in an age of “darkness” (hence the dark ages) when there was little or no political stability let alone social and personal safety.

But today the lands that are called Hungary is inhabited by the descendent of the Magyar tribes. Some try to link them to the Finns and Estonians, but apparently the languages are not mutually intelligible. And it became part of one of the largest European empire : Austro-Hungarian empire of the Habsburgs.

We “thundered” into Budapest in a quieter fashion, making a cue for the medieval constructs in Buda before taking a cruise on the Danube and settling in Pest. For the river divides both sides of the city today, when just about 140 years ago they were two. Enjoy the café culture of the city, and let the cool vibe of the city sink in. That’s what we did. Read all about it here. So much has changed since the time we were there.

Did you enjoy your time in Budapest? And if you had still been, would you be tempted to do so?

A bohemian experience

Heheh… what would be a bohemian experience? To be a bohemian means to be living an unconventional lifestyle. Usually this is associated with the arts (literary or not) or spiritual. So are we referring to this today?

Well no.

Simply because that would be a topic too complex for us un-bohemian folks. For we do not subscribe to a lifestyle that defies standard definitions. Oh boring us… heheh. For this describes our journey to the Czech republic, specifically to the historical Bohemia part of it that Prague is located. It is such a beautiful city and we can only exhort you to take a look at the grainy pictures we have in this little essay here.

Did you read the article?

Well to pique your interest further, let us tell you that part of the story of Bohemia is intertwined with the story of another family aside from the Habsburgs. Did you read our piece on micro states of Europe? One of them mentioned Liechtenstein. And in Bohemia will one find connections that link the modern day princely family back to medieval times.

Have you been to the Czech republic or Prague? We did not rub the statue of St John on Charles bridge. Ironically, it could be what we did not do that takes us back to the city! Have you rubbed the statue? Do you think it will ensure you return to the city?

Trondheim wasn’t THAT quiet

We only said that the city was quiet because most of the time the streets seemed deserted or desolate most of the time when we were there. Except one night, when it seemed the whole of Norway was in town. That, was because it was the last day of school and plenty of kids were “thrown” out into the streets from school… heheh.

Why did we came here in the end of winter?

For one thing, we had expiring airmiles with KLM that had be redeemed soon. We had already been to Strasbourg previously, so with the available mileage this was it. You might know that Norway as a country is relatively sparsely populated. And when the days are colder folks tend to stay indoors though it may be the weekend? In any case, we were one of the few souls on the road, the tram or taking a ferry (to Brekstad). It made us feel initially that we had made a bad choice.

But then we realize that the lack of folks also meant we had less competition at the sights of interest. Which was all wonderful as we made the most of it. So what’s there to do in Trondheim in the quiet months? Find out here and let us know if you’ve been there before at other times!

Capital of Vikings?

Well not exactly. Since the origins of these warrior sailors cannot to attributed to a specific modern day country or region. But today, Norway can be counted to be a Viking country in some way. Because it is now wealthy (from mineral oil) with the world’s largest sovereign fund and venturing out like the warriors of yore. Except in suits and not horned helmets…

Heheh.

You might also know that of all the Nobel prizes given out, only the peace prize is awarded by Norway. But did you know that Alfred Nobel was once called the merchant of death? You see, he made his initial fortune from the development of dynamite. While it could have been used peacefully, it got higher prices as part of ammunitions and weapons.

It was thus speculated that as remission he donated away most of his fortunes and set up the prizes. And in particular the peace prize was in recognition to those who made the most contribution towards reducing conflicts. What do you think?

We had a beautiful day in Oslo. The photos look grainy now, but you have to believe us that it was glistening in the city except for one afternoon. Look up our essay here on what we did in Oslo. Have you been to the city? Tell what you like about it!