Saturday, 30 April 2011


Easter basket from my neighbours.
Well, I sit here preparing to drive off into the distance, back to ol' Blighty and a summer of beer gardens, wasps and salt 'n' vinegar crisps. Really looking forward to it, but sad to be leaving. My neighbours have been wonderful and I've had such a happy time here in Sophie's house.

On  Thursday we drove to Pücklerpark bad Muskau where my friend Lisa's dad works. He's a coachman taking horse and carriage rides around the grounds - and I got a free ride!  

Ellie (left) and Hans (right).

Our carriage awaits.

Home James!

So, the day before the royal wedding I got to practice my royal wave from a horse-drawn carriage of my own.

Pücklerpark house, completely rebuilt after 1945.

Oak Lake waterfall.

For every tree that dies, another is
planted on the same spot.

Fierce lions guard the gates.

Garden themes: the blue bridge in the Blue Garden.

Above the door of this house are the three symbols of Muskau: a woman on the left symbolising the flora and growth, man in the centre with a stag horn over his shoulder symbolising strength and the wilderman ('wild man'), woman on the right symbolising healing and health.

Pücklerpark, so named because it belonged to Pückler, is vast and beautiful. Today it sits half inside and half outside Poland, though in Pückler's day - until it was bombed in 1945 - it was all Germany.

The bridge in the middle. Facing Poland (left) and Germany (right).

There is also a rare and unusual chestnut grove. This is apparently all one plant, joined at the root, but looks like many small trees. Apparently when the leaves are fully out it's very dark in the middle.

Chestnut Grove: click to enlarge.

Rounded up with a yummy ice-cream :)

A thoroughly lovely day with my thoroughly lovely neighbours. What a way to end my time here. Lovely memories.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Painted Eggs

Happy Ostara!
Happy Ostara/Ostern/Easter! :)

Had a lovely couple of days. On Friday my neighbours invited me over to learn how to paint eggs, German-style:

Hard-boil your eggs.

Prop bent spoons in jam jar of sand. Fill with bee's
wax and light a candle underneath to melt it.

Once the wax is fully melted, dab onto the egg
using sticks with pins driven into them.

Pots of egg dye, heated and cooled. Start with the lighter
colours and work towards the darker colours.

Add more wax decorations in between.

My attempts. Polished to shine with bacon rind.

Lots of pretty eggs :)

Before and after.

Best of the batch - by Lisa.

Don't recommend quail's eggs as they are a bit too delicate and break when you scrape or melt off the wax afterwards.

Wonderful way to pass the afternoon. Then hide them in the garden for an Easter egg hunt :)

If you're very careful you can blow the chicken eggs out by making a pin-prick in the top and the bottom and pressing your lips with gusto against one end. If you widen one of the holes and rinse it through with water, you can then fill the egg with melted chocolate and pop it in the fridge to solidify.

My neighbours are great. They own the horses outside my window. They also incubate geese each year. This year only one of the entire batch hatched! They've named him Timmie, and he's adorable.


Their eldest daughter's boyfriend also has a very cool classic Beetle :) Want.

Went over today for goose lunch. Not one of Timmie's relatives, I hasten to add! All in all, an excellent Easter. Loved learning how to do the eggs. Mum used to bring me to Germany for Easter when I was a kid because she has friends here - the chocolate and the atmosphere are always fantastic. Big in a way that it isn't back home.

Also took turns playing the piano, and my neighbours sang grace before supper - really beautiful harmony even though I didn't fully understand what was being said. We finished by all holding hands and saying 'bon appetit'. It was lovely. They've invited me to a large country home on Wednesday where Lisa's dad works as a coachman, taking horse and trap rides around the grounds. I'm really excited :)

Thursday, 21 April 2011


Polish pierogi 'dumplings', nom nom nom...

Well, I've posted a lot about Auschwitz, but there were some really lovely parts to Kraków, too. Pronounced Krak-ov, rather than the Americanised Krak-aw, apparently.

I stayed at the 70s Hostel just out of sheer curiosity. It was more of a 'room' than a hostel. Very small, but friendly. The kind of place you stay when you don't have much money and plan to be out 90% of the time. More than four people and finding sitting space becomes tricky. But it is situated in the old Jewish quarter of Kazimierz, which has a lot of character and is an easy walk from the old part of town.

I decided to upgrade to one of their apartments, which was more spacious:

Apartment room.

Funky light bulb.

Kitchen, through a suitably 70s string curtain.

Horses - of which there are many in Kraków.

Tower in the central square from whence
a trumpet sounds on the hour.

St. Mary's - large church in the centre.

Typical Polish church style.

Nice statues.

Krakóv castle.

Tributes one year after Poland's Prime Minister died
in a plane crash.

Percy Bunny chillaxing.
It's a nice town, but I think as far as pretty buildings go, and general atmosphere, I preferred Wrocław. There was a bit of a protest going on as it was the one year anniversary of the death of Leck Kaczynski, the Polish PM, in a plane crash. By all accounts he was a bit of a controversial character and there were protesters both in support of his regime, and against.

Still, nice to say I've been, and had a lovely meal in the square with two Swedish friends I made en route to Auschwitz: Annelie and her daughter Rebecka. We really needed that time afterwards to talk through what we'd seen. Visiting any genocide memorial is an extremely affecting experience - it's good to be able to discuss it, rather than bottle it up.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Auschwitz II

From Auschwitz we travelled up the road to Birkenau, which was the larger satilite death camp, where Jewish people were unloaded onto the platform then either sent to the left or the right. Left was the gas chamber, for mothers, children, the elderly and infirm. Right was the labour camp where many people lasted three or four months before starvation and sickness overcame them.

Entrance to Birkenau, the largest Auschwitz satellite camp.

Entrance from inside the camp.

Carriage used to transport prisoners to Birkenau. Donated by the son of a man beaten to death on the platform for returning to the carriage to collect his belongings.

When the Nazis ran out of bricks, they started constructing bunkers from wood.


Beds, six or more to a bunk.

Guard tower. My Swedish friend explained that it reminded her of the structures that people use in her homeland when hunting elk.

Model of the gas chambers. Crematorium above ground, gas chamber below.

Undressing room, now razed.

Memorial with triangle at the top symbolising the badges prisoners were forced to wear: green for German criminals, red for political prisoners, lilac for Jehovah's Witnesses; Gypsies, vagabonds and prostitutes wore black and homosexuals, pink.

The toilet drainage was insufficient to carry away all of the waste produced, and one surviving member of scheißekommando, the forced labour group in charge of scraping the excess waste into buckets, said that it saved her life. SS officers would leave her alone because of the smell - nobody wanted to come close - so she wasn't beaten as often, and it meant that she could use the toilet whenever she wanted. Many prisoners were executed for leaving their posts to relieve themselves.

See Also:

Auschwitz I