A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: mslaurajade


Stunning yet painful...

View World trip 2019 on mslaurajade's travel map.

The train from Berlin was just over 5 hours, giving me time to study the town, where I’m staying in relation to where I wasn’t to visit, etc.
In Poland, I'm making 2 stops, first Wroclaw then on to Kraków.

Wroclaw (actually pronounced Vrohts-wahf) is in the southwest corner of Poland towards the Czech border.
I’ve chosen to stay in the old town, a stunning area of Wroclaw.
You know the drill! I drop off my bags and walk down to the square, it’s early evening so many people are out looking for restaurants and shopping. The old town is really well known for Market Square where the town hall buildings are located. Trading began here as early as the 13th century, the buildings are a mix of gothic (from the original build) and then as further expanded and repaired after WWII in more baroque style.
Today it's a pedestrian restaurant and shopping area and simply stunning! Here's what it looked like this afternoon!

The statue in the video is Aleksander Fredro: poet, playwright, and author, commemorated in 1897.
The coloured buildings look like dollhouses or a false a movie set because their facades are so beautiful I wondered if there really was anything behind them!
This is the old town hall building.
Several smaller streets leading odd the market are also gorgeous and there's a flower market in the smaller square behind. Sunflowers are everywhere here!

I continued to see groups of tourists (presumably) hunched over taking photos of the corners of buildings where they meet the footpath. At first, I thought I was crazy, then thought they were crazy so naturally, I waited in line with them to see what on earth they were all doing! Turns out there is a little gnome, so cute! I continued to see this happen every few blocks and finally found out these little guys are all over the city! Here are a few I saw over my visit!
There's actually over 350 of them and you can get a special map to find them all! A good way to explore and entertain the kids I guess!
That's enough for me though! Time to get some rest, so much more to explore tomorrow!

Today's adventures start at the University of Wroclaw, not only stunning buildings backing onto the Oder River but academically this University has produced 9 Nobel Prize Winners! Must be something in the water... But when you can study in these surroundings, why not be inspired?!
Next, I'm off to the market hall, built in the early 1900s. On the lower level, there's fresh food and flowers and above there are lots of lacework and souvenirs traders. It's busy as but I still manage to get a look through! Some of the most gorgeous flower wreaths and bouquets I've ever seen.
The next visit is to the Wroclaw Catherdral, it's seriously tall! The full name is The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Wrocław, a religious site since 1272, being rebuilt several times due to significant fires in 1540 and again in 1759. Finally restored in 1951 post-WWII due to bombing damage by the Soviet Union Red Army. Approximately 70% was destroyed, but what stands today is stunning, definitely one of the tallest spires I've seen at 98 meters high, these were fully restored and completed in 1991.
The cathedral is located on a little island with a series of connecting bridges, one is called Tumski Bridge, famous for the love locks placed on by couples. Most cities I've been have had one of these bridges filled with locks.
During my wanders around the streets I arrived at the intersection of Pilsudskiego and Swidnicka streets, Polish artist Jerzy Kalina installed a total of 14 life-like statues of seven people descending into the ground on one end of the junction and seven people emerging from the ground on the adjacent corner. I'm not sure if the corner I was on if they were ascending or descending but very cool wither way. I just assumed they were related to WWII but actually, they represent the changes in the rise and fall of military laws referring to the period of time from 13 December 1981 to 22 July 1983, when the authoritarian communist government of the Polish People's Republic drastically restricted normal life by introducing martial law in an attempt to crush political opposition. Thousands of opposition activists were jailed without charge and as many as 91 killed. Although when martial law was lifted in 1983, many of the political prisoners were not released until a general amnesty in 1986.

What a wonderful few days here in this beautiful city, now off again on the train to Kraków.
It was just over 3 hours on the train, again using this time to plan and explore my time here. I do have a tour booked of Auschwitz I and II which I'm still in two minds about blogging it but more on that in the next few days I guess...

I'm staying in an Airbnb with an expat pom Richard who is lovely and nice to swap a few stories with someone over a beer.
I'm keen to explore both sides of Kraków (figuratively speaking) obviously known as the capital of the German General Government during WWII and locations for many concentration camps but I'm sure there's more to this place and that's what I want to see!
Kraków dates back to the mid 7th century and was the capital of Poland until 1596 when it changed to, and remains Warsaw. In the mid 900's it was known as a central European trade hub and was a thriving city during these early centuries. The next big thing here was the emergence of the second polish republic in the early 20th century between WWI and WWII when several universities and cultural venues were established and are now world players in the academic and art circles. The other thing the people here are proud of and is that in 1978, Karol Wojtyła, archbishop of Kraków, was elevated to the papacy as Pope John Paul II, the first Slavic pope, and the first non-Italian pope in 455 years.

I head off for the Market Square, much like in Wroclaw, once a trading hub now converted to restaurants and shops.
Before I even get to the square I'm awed by the beauty of the buildings and parklands. This is the Juliusz Slowacki Theatre, opening in 1893 and is still used as an opera and theatre venue today.
I pass through Planty Park, which surrounds the old town and there's a band playing which has drawn a large crowd!

The park is also filled with sculptures and monuments, this window frame one was my favourite!
Also on the edge of the park is the Barbican, a fortified outpost built in 1498, once connecting the city walls which surrounded the royal city. It is circular in structure and the brick walls are 3 meters thick!! Today it's used at a historic timeline of Krakow.
This picture on display from the 1930s shows St Florian's Gate (tower) which leads into the old city and here's one I took today, it's not a great photo but it still shows people leaving the Barbican and passing under the gate to the old town.
Here are some of the details on the tower as you pass underneath.
Ok, I eventually made it into the market square and it's massive!! Also, known as Main Square or Rynek Główny, dating back to the 13th century and at a whopping 9.4 acres of prime real estate! In the very center is a building known as Cloth Hall, used today similar to its original purpose of several single-stall traders selling their wares, nowadays it's souvenirs mostly amber jewelry.
On the first floor, there's a museum and underneath the hall, there's a tour of the underground. I didn't have time for these on this visit but would love to if I ever return! Also, a major landmark and focal point in the square is St Mary's Basilica, stunning gothic architecture from the late 13th century. It really is stunning which 80m towers!
I finally choose a restaurant after walking the entire square checking out the menus and enjoy a glass of vine admiring the horses in there traditional dress! A lovely first day here, can't want to see what tomorrow brings!

This morning I set off for Wawel Hill, which is 228m above sea level and is the site of the Wawel Castle and Cathedral. Both these and the surrounding buildings are an interesting mix of styles that look a bit miss match but at the same time fit together. Previously the home of the Kings of Poland today it's an art gallery and museum. The Wawel Cathedral or The Royal Archcathedral Basilica of Saints Stanislaus and Wenceslaus on the Wawel Hill (long-winded official title) has been on this site since the 11th century however the current build is the 3rd structure completed in the 14th century.
Both the castle and the cathedral are not like any I've seen on this trip, it really does capture that mishmash style I've been trying to explain.
I spent the afternoon wandering my way back towards the old town and found a little market not only selling fresh food but cooking it for you! Reminded me of the Vic Market at home when they do the summer night market with all the food stalls!

Here are some more pics from my afternoon walk through the neighbourhood!

I'm off home to get a good night's sleep because tomorrow I'm off to Auschwitz, still unsure how I feel about it. I've wanted to visit the camps for so long and now it's finally here! I feel like it's my final piece of this WWII theme I've been following through this trip. I have been debating whether to blog the visit or not as my opinion is it's not a tourist attraction. However, I have blogged the rest of my trip including other various historic sites and events such as 9/11 and the Berlin Wall. I'm not here to give you a history lesson and I'm sure Google can tell you the facts better than I can but I will give you my thoughts, experience, and share stories from my tour on the day, here goes...

When I booked the tour about a month prior to arriving in Poland, I wasn't given a time for the tour but I received an email a few days before explaining that my tour pick up time was 5 am. Of course, my initial reaction was one of self-indulgence that I would have to get up early and find the meeting point on my own at an ungodly hour. As quickly as I thought those things I shut them down with "really, this isn't about you, do you know what these people endured?" I changed my perspective and decided it was an honour to get up and pay respects to these people.
The tour combined visits to Auschwitz I and Auschwitz II Birkenau. After a few more hotel pick ups we set off with a full minivan of about 14 people. It took about 1 hour 20 mins to arrive at Auschwitz I where we met our tour guide Lena, we each had those little earpieces which were great as we could look around and hear her perfectly. Lena took us to the infamous sign at the entrance to the camp "Arbeit Macht Frei" translating to "work sets you free". About 7 years ago the original sign was stolen, later recovered and now in a museum, this one is a replica.
She provided a brief overview of Nazi ideology which was basically the belief they were of superior race status, had a hatred of Jews, democracy and, communism. The invasion of Poland on September 1st, 1939 was the event leading to the beginning of WWII and divided Poland in half between the Germans and Soviets (invading Poland 2 weeks later). The Nazi invasion was to gain more territory for German settlement also later invading Denmark and Norway in Aril/May of 1940, Moving through, gaining strongholds in Belgium, Luxemburg, Holland and the following year Greece and Yugoslavia. Most of eastern Europe was now under German hold. The Nazis began displacing the Jews from their homes and communities and moved them to "ghettos" which were cities with good rail access. The Jews were told they were being moved on to a better life and they brought their belongings and possessions with them. Time in the ghetto was also subject to starvation and mass executions. Auschwitz I was originally a Polish army barrack which was intended to hold political prisoners or war (POWs). The first prisoners were brought here in June 1940, eventually extending to include Jehovah's Witnesses, homosexual men, Slavs, gypsies, criminals, and non-Jewish pols.
We left the gate and moved into the grounds of the 20 odd buildings, very uniformed in rows.
Once you enter the first building (block 4), boards of information hit you with some pretty hard stats. There were several concentration camps used during these years but unfortunately, it's the following numbers why Auschwitz is infamous.
Next to these statistics is an urn which contains human ashes collected from the crematorium at Auschwitz II- Birkenau where most were killed in the gas chambers.
Continuing upstairs in Block 4 several areas are filled with confiscated belongings, glasses, shoes, suitcases and perhaps most shocking of all over 2 tonnes of human hair. Men, women and children's hair was sold off to make felt and textiles. Seeing that large amount behind the glass was only probably a few hundred kilo's I can't even fathom 2 tonnes worth. You're not allowed to take photos of the hair but it's definitely these more personal things that are the real stand out and make you sickened of what these humans endured.

Moving through the other rooms in this block you get an insight into daily life in the camp with food (approx 900 cals per day rationed), clothing and uniforms.
Moving through the corridors there are photos on the walls, similar to police mug shots. Both photography and tattoos were used to identify all of the prisoners, many of these records were deliberately destroyed before Auschwitz was liberated by the red army in January 1945.
Of course, I could go on forever covering the rest of the blocks are rooms but it really is something to hear and experience for yourselves, I really do encourage all to visit. Before leaving we are taken into one of the gas chambers, a chilling experience I'll never forget...
5-6kgs of Zyklon B was used to kill 1500 people in 30 mins, there are just no words for these crimes.

We head back on the bus over to Auschwitz II Birkenau, this are was chosen for its flat land, rail access and proximity to town. Construction started in 1941 and when completed the area covered 435 acres and housed 120,000 prisoners at any one time. These rows of what look like houses could hold up to 775 people each.

People were transported here in these small wooden wagons, each one full with no windows.

Most of the tour here is outdoors and stories of families and life here before ultimately taken to the 2 largest gas chambers and killed. Also, the memorial is et between these 2 chambers, it's in 23 languages to represent all that was killed here. The German Nazis through dynamite sticks down into the chambers to destroy them and these are what remains today.
After completing the tour, I just felt heavy and sad for what had taken place here. But I'm glad I saw it and we continue to honour these lives.

A sad end to a wonderful time here in Poland but I will be back to visit again one day! I have to say it's probably the most underrated country I've been so far and it really is stunning and friendly.
Off now on the train again to Prague!
Much love,
L xx

Posted by mslaurajade 22:08 Archived in Poland Tagged bridges buildings trains history travel cathedral heritage gothic tour tourist jewish adventures war wwii loss pows auschwiz Comments (1)


The new London

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I had mixed feelings about going to Berlin, nothing bad just mixed expectations. People had said it was amazing so I thought if I expected too much I might have been disappointed but I certainly wasn't!! I arrived around dinner time so once again dumped the bags and headed out to explore whatever I could before nightfall. I'm staying close to the Berlin Wall Memorial so that made it an easy decision to head there. Walking there I was desperately trying to think back to school or anything really that I knew about the wall. It was a struggle and when I finished at the memorial boy was I educated big time! At the end of WWII the allied forces, Brittan, American, French and known then as the Soviet Union, divided the region of Berlin into 4 sectors with joint administration. West Berlin was divided into 3 (FR/UK/USA) and the Soviet Union had East Berlin.

For a good 10 years, post-WWII tensions were high in the 4 quadrants of the divided region. People were fleeing west (not only to West Germany but further to Western Europe) and the communist party wanted it to stop. In 1961 the GDR (German Democratic Republic) commenced construction of the wall. The reasons behind it were to keep the west in, believing the 3 allied areas had anti-fascist capitalist ideas, but also to stop East Berlin/Germany from migrating. West Berlin was receiving help and aid from its 3 allies and the east was being regressed by the Soviet Union and communism.
The memorial not only shows the strip of wall preserved and its guard tower but the stories of those living in these times of separated families and remembering those who lost their lives trying to cross over.
155kms of wall surrounded West Berlin and there were 3 main checkpoints, most famously "Checkpoint Charlie", more on that when I visit in the coming days.

171 people died attempting to cross the wall, east german police and guards had shoot to kill orders. This is the memorial to them.

The wall finally fell in November 1989 due to mounting pressure from eastern countries, Poland, and Hungary in particular but also others in the larger political and celebrity arenas. Most famously Ronald Reagan's speech in 1987, challenging Gorbachev to tear it down. David Bowie, Bruce Springsteen, and David Hasselhoff all played concerts and publicly supported the removal of the wall. Mass riots and demonstrations followed and the fall of the Wall marked the first critical step towards German reunification, which formally concluded on 3 October 1990 with the dissolution of East Germany and the official reunification of the German state.
I'm sure there will be a commemoration this November to mark 30 years.
The Wall was completely dismantled in 1992 with some of it relocated around the globe, auctioned off, broken up and sold as souvenirs.
After learning so much about these people whose lives were lost and affected, I too now have my very own small piece of the Berlin Wall.
What a few hours already! I can't wait to see what else this amazing city has to offer in the next few days here!

Today it's overcast and showers threatening but I'm on the clock so to speak so I'm off early to fit in as much as I can!
The first stop is the Brandenberg Gate, and it's magnificent! Completed in 1791, taking only 3 years to build! It has been through so much history and if this gate could talk... well you know what I mean! Napolean leads the first victory procession through the gate in 1806 after the Prussian defeat at the Battle of Jena-Auerstedt. The quadriga (4 horse chariot on top) facing east and features Victoria (goddess of victory) holding a Prussian eagle and Iron Cross on her lance with a wreath of oak leaves. Once only royalty could pass through the middle gate underneath the sculpture but that was abolished after WWI. Like most of this area, called Pariser Platz lots of damage was sustained from WWII bombings.

The gate was closed (not literally) but it was closed off as a checkpoint during the years of the Berlin Wall. The gate is also a focal point for celebrations such as the Germany World Cup Win in 2014, it's also a brilliant finish to the Berlin Marathon.
And has the busiest Starbucks ever! Or at least it felt like it when I grabbed a coffee before moving on to the next attraction!

Slightly raining now but I head over to the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, also known as the Holocaust Memorial. It has 2 parts an underground information center where you can hear stories from Holocaust survivors and read letters from those who were in concentration camps. One of the stats was to hear every name from those killed, it would take 6 years, 7 months and 27 days. Unimaginable...
The aboveground section was really confronting in a way I wasn't expecting. It's concrete rows of concrete basically. My initial thoughts were it was awful, disrespectful to a point. Opening in 2005 for the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII, I thought surely they could have used the huge space to build a nicer memorial. It's 2,711 rectangle concrete blocks that are laid in rows, taking up a large city block. Walking through the rows I was still thinking about how awful and faceless it all was. And then in one of the rows I stopped and I think I finally understood the concept of it, or at least my interpretation anyways. Standing there it felt dark, cold, lonely, confusing, separated from the world, and soulless. Perhaps its meant to replicate the feelings described by those who lived it. Orderely faceless rows of concrete like a graveyard or rows of coffins.
It certainly reaffirms how grateful I am with the life and oppurtunities I have.

Staying in the theme of WWII memorials I headed over to the Soviet War Memorial located in Tiergarten Park. In April and May of 1945, the Battle of Berlin lost 80,000 Soviet soldiers and this memorial is built on the grave site of 2,000 of those lost. It has tanks and the entrance and lovely red flower beds leading up to the half-moon shaped structure. Interestingly it was built in the British quadrant post-war.

Also located near Tiergarten Park in the stunning Bellevue Palace, the official residence of the President. The spectacular front lawn was tempting to have a lie-down but although I didn't see any guards or security I'm sure they would have been watching!

My final stop for today was to see the Victory Column, standing 67 meters tall. The column commemorates the Prussian victory in the Danish-Prussian War in 1864. It also features Victoria like the Brandenberg Gate.

That's enough for today, lots to take in but educational for sure

Another day and the weather is a little better! Starting today on a much lighter note, I'm heading off to Museum Island. There's a complex of 6 museums, located on Spree River in the old town of Cölln. There are a few lovely bars along the waterfront with cute deck chairs to sit and have a beer.
Another stunning building down this area is the Berlin Cathedral, as it currently stands the building isn't as old as I was expecting, opening in 1905. But it has been the site of a collegial church since 1454 with 3 different rebuilds in that time. Yet another area to sustain heavy bomb damage in WWII, managing to keep standing.

I head off to Gendarmenmarkt (Grandmarket Square), a marketplace dating back to 1688. Now it is a beautiful open area surrounded by the Berlin Concert Hall, French and German churches. In front of the concert hall, there is a monument to Friedrich Schiller, a German poet, philosopher, physician, historian, and playwright.

My final Berlin stop is to visit Checkpoint Charlie, the most famous checkpoint located between the USA and Soviet border areas of Berlin. Checkpoint Charlie became the face of the Cold War between the US and Soviet Union (post-WWII from 1947-1991), also a checkpoint for the Berlin Wall in later years (1961 onwards). I highly recommend going through the museum located at the checkpoint, it gives great insight to not only life and times during the Berlin Wall but more notably that infamous standoff that almost started WWIII. In Brief, a US Chief was crossing the border from West to East Berlin to see the opera (allied forces did have passing rights at the time, with proper identification) when asked to show identification by German border guards which he refused and he was turned away, unable to pass through the checkpoint. US General Clay ordered armored guards and tanks at the US side of the border as a show of strength. Of course, so did the Soviet Union. A 16-hour standoff with fully armed tanks stood only 75 meters from each other just waiting for the order to fire. President Kennedy opened a line of communication with Moscow that prompted a withdrawal of the tanks and order was restored amongst the allied forces crossing the borders until the fall of the Wall in 1989. It could have been on and then I hate to think the number of more lives lost in wars.

That's a wrap Berlin, a beautiful city with lots of greenspace and multiculturalism.
I would love to return one day but for now, it's off to Poland!
Much love,
L xx

Posted by mslaurajade 04:28 Archived in Germany Tagged history travel germany berlin tour tourist jewish wall adventures war wwii loss Comments (0)

Cologne, North Rhine-Westphalia

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Well, it's goodbye to the UK! And hello to activating my Eurail pass for the next 2 months of travel.
The first leg is London to Brussels on the Eurostar, which is pretty fancy... I even got breakfast in first class.
A quick change in Brussels and onto Cologne! I'm staying about 30mins from the center of the city, more like in a little village on the Rhine, called Zündorf. My Airbnb is once again super cute and an authentic homestay experience with a lovely mother and daughter. Lousia (the daughter) traveled the east coast of Australia for a year in 2017 so we had some places to chat about. This is the inner courtyard of the apartments I'm staying in, sort of a communal gathering/playing area for the residents.

I happen to arrive on PRIDE weekend here in Cologne and they are celebrating the 50th anniversary so it's a bigger one than usual. Lousia is heading in with some friends so she invited me to tag along which was kind. Very similar to our Mardis Gras with floats and a parade, it was absolutely packed!
It was a lot of fun and is well celebrated by all, not just the LGBTQI community which was nice to see inclusivity and diversity regardless of orientation.
We head into town on the tram and this video is going over a bridge past some of the floats and parade. It's named Christoper Street Day in honour of the Stonewall Riots in 1969 which took place on Christopher Street, New York.
Language warning in the video.

A great day, now off to bed a big day of sightseeing tomorrow!

I head back into the city on the tram, the clean up from the festivities is well underway. I head back to the magnificent Cologne Cathedral. It's actually in the background of the parade video, the blackened gothic-looking building. Arriving at it gives me the same feels as the York Minster which I love and I walk around it in awe. Originally construction started in 1248 but was stopped in 1473 and was dormant until the 1840s with final completion in 1880. It's still the largest gothic church in northern Europe today, covering almost 8,000 square meters.
Due to its obvious size and easy to spot landmark from the air it was a huge target during air raids in WWII, surviving 14 strikes. Damage was sustained but it remained standing in otherwise a destroyed city. Amazing really!
It's one of Germanys most recognisable landmarks and attracts on average 20,000 visitors per day and today I'm one of them.

I went because I knew it would be spectacular and surely you know by now I love this style of architecture and history. What I didn't know was the treasures inside! The Shrine of the Three Kings is here and attracts a lot of visitors. The shrine is believed to contain the remains of the Three Wise Men who brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh to baby Jesus. It's gold plated and just magnificent.

Another striking large stained glass window is at the east end, the pictures aren't the best as the sun was behind them but you get the idea.

After dragging myself out of the Cathedral I head over to the Hohenzollern Bridge, completed in 1911 after the collapse of the previous Catherdral Bridge was demolished. It's now only for rail and pedestrian crossings. Four equestrian statues flank each ramp onto the bridge.
I walked across and on the railings, there are thousands of locks with names and dates.

A wonderful day's adventures! I returned to the Airbnb via the tram and head to the local pub for a delicious mix grill!

This morning I stay local and wander down to the Rhine River, its about a 20 min walk from the house through parklands.
Turning back towards the main town, I stumble upon a little pub and a few shops super cute and very German! A good spot for a beer I reckon!

Only a brief few days here but it is a lovely city, the adventures continue on the train again in the morning!
Berlin awaits! I'm really looking forward to this... Rumour has it it's the new London...
Much love,
L xx

Posted by mslaurajade 11:09 Archived in Germany Tagged bridges churches buildings trains history travel germany cathedral heritage gothic tourist holidays adventures cologne wwii blog Comments (0)

London Town PART 2

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I'm back baby!! Again taking the bus back down to London gave me more time to plan the few short days here as I'm off to Germany at the end of the week! I'm staying in Streatham this time (a similar area to previously staying Tooting), it's a super busy time as Wimbledon starts today! Tried to get tickets but crazy expensive and they have a ballot system for tickets, you can line up on the day but no guarantees. Will be cheering on our girl Ash Barty for sure! The nice weather has followed me from Bath, yay!

A casual first day today exploring the local area and taking a nice long walk through the large park nearby into Tooting Common. Good for the soul with beautiful sunshine! Lovely hydrangeas are out in bloom, reminds me of my Poppa who tended to them in his garden covering them with the shade cloth so they didn't burn.

Tonight I'm off to dinner with Tess (fellow Aussie who I met in Cuba) and her roomie Danielle. We met at Harrods Dining Hall, not long opened. Great venue and company but unfortunately we had a terrible experience which we waited for ages for our food and then had to send it back. 3 other tables around us also complained and sent food back that wasn't cooked to order or even wasn't what they ordered at all. For a place, so prestigious and touristy it wasn't good and way overpriced. I gave them a serve on Yelp afterwards. We did get some items removed from the bill after complaining twice to the manager. We still managed to have a laugh and it was nice to catch up again.

It's my last full day today so I head back on the train to the city hub, heading to Trafalgar Square which is finally open! I'm so glad I came back and it's a beautiful day! The UK finally turns summer on for my final week here!
Opening in 1844 to commemorate the Battle of Trafalgar during the Napoleonic war in 1805. The surrounding builds are the National Gallery, St Martins in the Field Church, South Africa House and Canada House (both high commissions of their countries). Inside the square is the Nelson Column with a statue of Horatio Nelson who was the British Naval Commander in the Battle of Trafalgar. At the base of the column four bronzed lion lie guard.
Two fountains are also inside the square but I'm unsure if they hold any significance to the battle, but they are a tourist attraction.
I spent some time at the top stairs of the National Gallery people watching and taking it in.

I head over to Piccadilly Circus which oddly reminded me of Times Square, same large electronic advertisements and people dressed are characters taking photos with tourists. Put simply it's a large traffic and street junction linking the Westend of London. I take a few snaps and head off.

I swing by Buckingham Palace for a final wave to our Queen Lizzy, a lot different from my first lot of pics from my part 1 blog!
Plus a visit to the gift shop of course, how cute are these!

I return on the train from Waterloo Station which still remains as the busiest in the UK with close to 95 million entries/exists each year. Surprises me considering they moved the Eurostar to Kings Cross/St Pancras in 2007. It's also the largest by size and number of platforms, 24.
I took this photo outside whilst singing the Abba song in my head.
Such a tourist!

Back to Streatham and a final dinner and drinks at the local pub with Ali my Airbnb host! A lovely finish to a whole month here in the UK, it's flown by!

I'm now finishing up packing my case for the early train to Brussels then on to Cologne, Germany.
I can feel myself becoming more anxious about leaving, I've got comfortable here. I've been lucky to have friendships here and had proper conversations deeper than the same questions about my trip over and over when constantly meeting people for the first time. Going back to more counties where I don't know anyone or speak the language has me doubting the next 4 months of solo travel because it will be hard. But we don't grow staying within our comfort zone, and I know it will be amazing so I must feel the fear and do it anyway, here goes...

Thankyou UK it's been brill.
Much love,
L xx

Posted by mslaurajade 05:33 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged buildings trains london england history travel friends heritage tourist holidays adventures uk blog commonwealth Comments (0)

Beautiful Bath

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Back on the bus from London to meet Tanita in Birmingham and we are road tripping it to Bath for a much needed long weekend! I know I'm on holiday, sounds rediculous saying I need a long weekend but I don't really need an excuse do I?? We set off for Bath Friday morning, takes about 2 hours, we arrive about lunchtime and finally, it's a cracking day (literally 1st "summer" day since I've been in the UK). We head straight for the Thermae Bath Spa for a relaxing 2-hour sesh!! They have a stunning rooftop thermae spa so we can relax and soak up the sunshine! You can't take phones in the pool area but here's us afterward looking pretty chilled!
Of to collapse and have a bubbles at our Airbnb! Also, I cooked pasta for dinner, I think this is the first time on this whole trip I've cooked!! Actually missed it a bit so it was good to have a hearty home-cooked meal.
The next morning we head out for brunch (buttys of course) at a gorgeous little cafe on our walk into town.
We head to the bath abbey and do a guided tour which takes you up onto the rooftop, stunning views over the town and a good view of our thermae rooftop pool from yesterday.
Back down inside the cathedral some of it is closed off for restoration, I mean is it me?! It seems to be everywhere I go! But what is open to wander is stunning. It has been rebuilt over the years but the land as a place of worship dates back to 675, what we see today is mostly from the late 16th century.
There's a beautiful stained glass window piece at the east end.
What makes it so spectacular is the gothic style fan-vaulting roof which is aesthetic but also structurally supporting the cathedral. The fans distribute the weight of the roof down through the columns and push the walls out, sounds crazy but clearly has worked for the last 500 years!
The tour takes us up into the bell chambers and behind the clock face. The ring of 10 bells are housed up here with the largest weighing over 1.6 tonnes and was replaced in the early 1700s.
After climbing up and down the narrow spiral staircases we are definitely ready for a drink!!! We head off down the main drag to find one!
A refreshing raspberry mojito does the trick at Sub 13! Great little bar and garden area out the back.
Next a very late lunch at Bistrot Pierre and of course a Pimms jug! Such a cute restaurant with beautiful decor!
The final sightseeing stop of the day is The Circus (not an animal circus), a large circular-shaped area of townhouses built in 1768 in the Georgian architecture style. It also has a large grassed area in the center.
We found a lovely rooftop bar to have yet another Pimms at Hall & Woodhouse before the walk home.
A perfect day in Bath! Can't wait to see what we find tomorrow!

This morning we check out and catch up with our other Cuban BFF Ryan, who is freezing back home in Melbourne! In fact, most family and friends are saying its a cold one for us back home this year, but honestly, winter in Australia is summer compared to over here in the UK and Europe.
Brunch first of course and a rest from the buttys today (actually we didn't realise it was a vegetarian cafe) delicious anyway!
We head to Alexandra Park which has stunning views on the hill across the town of Bath.

We decide to head back to Birmingham, trying to time the traffic with a World Cup Cricket match at Edgebaston today. We stop in at The Farm Shop, like a roadhouse on the highway to have a late lunch. One thing on my foodie bucket list was to have a traditional English Sunday roast, well I got it here! Pork with crackling, veggies, gravy and Yorkshire pudding (which I gave to Tanita, I'm not a fan). Divine, completes a countryside weekend away!!

Well, weekend over and my time in the UK is almost up! I'm heading to Germany on Friday morning. A whole month here has flown by!
For now, it's goodbye to Tanita until October anyway, before my final stop Asia then finally home. Once again so thankful we met in Cuba and to be able to have more laughs (and drinks) together here in the UK.

Get the kettle on Lizzy, I'm heading back to London!
Much love,
L xx

Posted by mslaurajade 05:49 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged landscapes buildings england nature park history travel driving cuba friends heritage tourist abbey bath holidays adventures drinks blog birmingham pimms Comments (1)

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