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July 31st 2007
Published: August 5th 2007
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Hi there happy bloggers!

Well last we updated we were in Cesis in Latvia. Beautiful little town where we stayed three nights. From there we went by train to Villnus (the capital of Lithuania) where we stayed in the old town in a room with a balcony overlooking a little courtyard. It was actually the living room of an apartment and the "bed" was a fold-out sofa... a bit hard and not so comfortable! The city is quite nice with a large cathedral and square in the centre backing onto a hill with a medieval castle atop. Certainly an improvement from Riga! We had a couple of days there organising the next leg of the trip and taking in the sights of the old city (17th century buildings and cobblestone streets) and university. Again this city is on the economic up and up after communisim, with many of the old buildings being renovated and given a facelift! The country side too looks more proseperous than what we had seen before, with less abandoned land and more crops. We wondered in Russia and the other Baltic countries why there was so much forest and abandoned land and then when travelling to Riga we were chatting to a local university student who explained that during the last war and the fight for liberation from Russia, over a quarter of the population (some 2 million people) were exterminated.. A sobering thought. Certianly there a lot of young people around now and the mood is vibrant and light.

From Villnus we had planned to go to a national park and then after deciding not to found out it was the sight of a very dodgy nuclear reactor of the Chernobyl era and one the EU has already spent billions on to try and improve the safety... rather glad we didn't go!

So from there we took a long train ride instead (10 hours) to Warsaw - capital of Poland. We were both very impressed with the city. During the second world war the Nazis in retaliation for a Polish uprising there destroyed 80% of all the buildings and burned the remainder (and killed millions of Jews and others across Poland). Since then the country has rebuilt the entire city from the ashes and now it is a beautiful space of wide tree-lined streets, numerous parks, fountains, 17th century buildings and a completely restored old town and Palace complex both of which we spent time in... tasting the local ales.

The food along the way has been somewhat similar from country to country. Lots of pork (bacon, pigs ears, pigs necks, pork loin, sausages), some chicken and fish and bread or potatoes. Very few vegetables or fresh fruit. Berry season is on though so we have been able to get some strawberries, blueberries (some of which we picked ourselves on a walk in the woods!) and blackberries. As we move further away from Russia and closer to Turkey it seems we get less dill (herb) and more paprika! About the only difference... needless to say we are getting a bit tired of stodgy food.

We are now in Krackow. Again another green city with a relaxed feel - although not as lovely as Warsaw. We have taken in the old town and visited a 1000 year old salt mine just out of the city. Very interesting with all it's carved chambers up to 100 feet high in places. When visiting Wazel Palace (agian 1000 years old), bolshoi Brian was so impressed by the ballroom he grabbed me around the waist and we waltzed to the delight of those around us... So all in all we feel relaxed and in the groove of backpacking. We have mastered the art of organising tickets in another laungage, booking our accommodation on the net before getting to the next destination (it is so busy we need to do this), we are getting fit (walking about 6-10 hours per day) and we have even been "moved on" by police when we lay down for a snooze in a park one afternoon! Regular bums :-)

Hope you are all well. We love getting your updates on the emails. Just click on the button "Contact Brian and Jacqui" and we will get it! We have added a few extra photos to the gallery (let us know if you can see them ok).. we will try adding some more when we get time.

Lots of love
Jacqui and Brian.

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