Malbork Castle #1
Panorama of the castle
After a slow start to the year travel wise, I kicked off the travel for 2011 with 4 new countries in 11 days. Using the Easter long weekend and the Royal wedding/May bank holiday weekend as a great excuse, I fled the UK for 11 days, missing only 3 working days. Despite the lack of travel in 2011, I have managed to keep myself busy with Muay Thai, medieval sword fighting classes and of course, trying to get to as many Leeds games as I can. I was especially looking forward to this trip as my friend from New Zealand, Clay, had announced he was moving back to the UK and was arriving just in time to join Hannah and I on this jaunt across Eastern Europe.
The trip started as I met up with Clay and Hannah at Luton airport (completing the set of London airports for me), where I saw Clay for the first time in the UK since he had touched down 12 hours previously. We caught up and grabbed some food before our flight to Gdansk (the G is silent, though after this, everything became G-something, ie GVilnius, GMinsk and GChernobyl). We landed in the northern
Malbork Castle #2
The ruins as we walked up
Polish city and headed into the city where we had a very scenic walk along the river to our hostel. We stopped for photos and headed to the hostel and it wasn’t until we were in our room that Clay realised he didn’t have his one and only bag with him. He had left it in the middle of the street as we took photos and just walked off! Thankfully it was late and quiet so it was still there when he went back. If it was London, the Bomb Disposal Squad would have already destroyed it!
In the morning, we headed to the train station and out to Malbork to see Malbork Castle. It has been on my list of things to see for years now for a couple of reasons. Firstly, I have a fascination with castles and this is one of the best in Europe that is left fully intact (despite some reconstructions as part of it). Secondly coupled with that I have a fascination with the medieval era and this castle was formerly home of the Teutonic Knights (amongst other names), the sister order to the Knights Templar, famed for their exploits during the Crusades,
Malbork Castle #3
From the outside over the ditch and the walls
and of course the rumours and legends afterwards.
We spent the majority of the day there, wandering around the castles’ rooms, getting lost and eventually finding the area to head up the tower where we had some amazing views over the region, as like the majority of the trip, we were very lucky with fantastic weather. We also had lunch in the restaurant there and between us had a variety of meals including beer batter pancakes, pierogi(Polish dumplings) and ‘black’ chicken. We also were given cardboard crowns which we wore proudly around the castle despite many odd looks.
In the evening, we headed back to Gdansk and headed out to dinner with an Aussie guy we met the previous evening. Despite him being one of the most annoying people I have met in a long time, he did introduce us to a couple of people who we went out for a few drinks with and were great fun. Clay especially thought so. At 3am, I called it a night and left Hannah and Clay to it as they were having their fun with the locals.
The next morning as Clay and Hannah nursed sore heads in bed,
Malbork Castle #4
Us in the courtyard of the castle
I trekked out to the bus station to find that due to Easter, out planned night bus for the evening was cancelled and the next one was not until 2 days time. Neat. So after a bit of ‘lost in translation’ interaction with the locals, I managed to book us night trains that would get us to Vilnius, Lithuania. Unfortunately, they only went on a roundabout route via Warsaw and we had 16 hours of travelling ahead of us! I arrived back to the hostel as drunkards were stirring and broke the news. As long as I didn’t shout it too loudly, they didn’t seem to complain too much. After seeing off Ula and Jelle, we had a great greasy breakfast before exploring Gdansk for the day. It is a beautiful old town with a lot of churches, including what is thought to be the biggest brick church in the world and we all got loads of photos in before the start of our train journeys in the evening.
Luckily we had a carriage to ourselves and after our big night the night before, we pretty much crashed straight away. We were woken up as we arrived into Warsaw
From centuries ago
and we transferred to another train to head into Vilnius. After a lot of card games, reading and writing, we got into Vilnius at about 5pm. We dumped our stuff at the hostel and headed out for some dinner and to wander the town. Again it had a great old town feel to it and the walk from the Gates of Dawn down to the area around the main square is pretty amazing at night.
The next day was our last in Vilnius and after organising train and bus trips, we headed to Gediminas Hill, the focal point of Vilnius. We got some great photos around there and the cathedral before we left in the afternoon. Here Hannah and I waved goodbye to Clay as he headed to Riga while we headed south to Minsk. Here I’ll leave the first part as Hannah and I try to get across the border into Belarus…..
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