Trust you are all well... it seems the web site crashed last week so we hope you can all see this and that you got the bundle of photos that we added to the last entry from Krakow. Today we are in Brasov Romania and don't have the capacity to add pictures but will do again next time there is the chance.
So - since last we updated you all we had a few lovely days in Krakow ... one of our favourite spots so far (cities that is). We then took a bus to Zakopane in the mountains on the border to Slovakia for a day en route to the High Tatras in Slovakia. Very touristy little town without much character but in a beautiful setting in a valley. Then on to the High Tatras. After the heavily wooded Polish side of the range we were dismayed to find all the trees were felled and the landscape bare and scarred. We thought it had been clearfelled by foresters and were very disappointed. We found out later that day that there had been a terrible storm a few years ago - winds to 230km/hr which had uprooted all the trees and done a huge amount of damage, killing two people. Sadly it will take decades to recover. None the less, much of the higher slopes were unaffected and had a couple of enjoyable days hiking the trails and taking in the scenery which was a pleasant break from the cities. Took the cable car to the highest accessible peak (2600m) for spectacular views of the rugged, jagged peaks and little patches of remaining snow. No bears or mountain goats - much to Brian's dissappointment! From there we had a day in another little Slovakian town near a huge mountain fort dating form the 13 th century which we hiked up to. In all we found Slovakia a beautify, scenic place with countryside much like lower Austria.
We moved on to Budapest - capital of Hungry and the only city we visited in the country. The landscape is very flat and open and much like Australia in parts. They have had a bad drought for the past few months and so everything was very dry with crops failing in many places. The trees too in many places turing already due to the extreme heatwaves (45oC) and dry weather. Budapest was and interesting, big, dynamic city with plenty of interesting sights and streets. We went to old city which is a palace complex on top of a hill overlooking the Danube, had an afternoon at a Turkish bath - which was perhaps the highlight - not much more to say there...
Back across the flat plains to Romania which like Slovakis sits along the spine of the Capathian Mountains and so is hilly with mountinous areas and pretty countryisde / villages. Much poorer though with the buildings in a sad state of disrepair and the streets dug up in many places and not repaired. The people are pleasant and helpful although loud at times. We encounter more organised begging mostly from the gypsies, on the train we had a long chat to Romainian couple on their way to be married who explained what to expect and how the country is dealing with the outfall from Communism.
We are in Brasov now at the foot of the mountains and it is a beutiful old 12 - 13th century medieval town with some lovely churches and a town square complete with town hall in the centre and 17th centry buildings around. Not as restored or clean as the other towns we have been to but still quite beautiful and full of potential. We had a funny experience today - decided to go up the chairlift at the back of the town (300m up to about 950m above sea level). Obviously beautuful views but - the restraunt is no longer open, there were no places to see the view from the top and the only spot to see the town below was at the end of a rough, unmarked 10 minute walk through the forest to the back of a large billboard which says BRASOV... typical Romania!
So we will head south to a couple of little towns in the mountains proper in the next day and from there to Bucharest and on to Bulgaria. A few days there (avoiding the capital which it seems has nothing to offer) and then to Istanbul....
Cheers for now
Jacqui and Brian x
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