Are you anything like me? I love photography, but I have no idea how to use my camera. I mean, point and shoot is pretty easy, but my camera has all these settings that obviously help you to make your pictures better. The problem is that I lack the confidence (and ability) to play around and work out what all of them really mean.
It’s physically unsettling, living life on a visa.
– John Oliver
Fair warning, this is a rather word heavy blog entry!
When you travel there are certain things that are necessary before even thinking of leaving home. One of these is looking into visa requirements.
When we returned from our camper van trip we knew that we had to apply for 4 visas before heading out again. All four of these required their own trip to London in order to apply, their own paperwork, turn-around time and would cost a small fortune.
British passport holders are (currently) very lucky – there are over 170 countries that British passport holders can visa free for a specific period of time ranging from 14 days to indefinite stay, and many more where you can obtain a visa on arrival. That being said, there are some places where it is beneficial to gain a visa in your home country, for example, it is possible to get a 2, 5 or even 10 year visa for China from the embassy in London, but only a one month visa from embassies outside of the UK. Naturally, longer visas cost more, but they also offer more opportunities.
Resolutions are popular because everyone feels they could use a little improvement.
– Marilu Henner
This year I won’t make a resolution to change. Yes, I want to be thinner and fitter. Yes, I should probably give up at least some of the insane amount of chocolate that I eat. Yes, I could vow to become more organised or to save money. But is any of it actually going to happen?
I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.
– Oscar Wilde
As I sit here, approximately 39 hours into a 54 hour train ride, I reflect upon the people that surround me. All that we read beforehand said that 3rd class on the Trans-Siberian is rough. But when we booked, we reasoned that the bunk arrangements are no different to overnight trains we have traveled on in India and Thailand, and ultimately, the price difference between 3rd and 2nd class made the decision for us. After all, we have given up our jobs to travel, it is not a holiday: this is life for us now. Third class is not rough. The toilets are a little to be desired, but 2nd and even 1st class have the exact same facilities, they are just shared between fewer people. So what actually makes these long train rides rough? What makes them difficult? What makes or breaks your journey?
The people that surround you.
Wedged neatly between Germany, Austria, France, and Italy, Switzerland melds the best of all worlds – and adds a healthy dose of chocolate, cowbells, and cable cars.
– Rick Steves
I’m not going to lie, Switzerland is expensive. Not quite as expensive as Norway, but still more expensive than the rest of Europe. But it is also beautiful, full of incredible scenery, people and food!
People don’t take trips, trips take people.
– John Steinbeck
In case you aren’t following on Facebook (find me here or click the link in the side bar) we have now set off on our next trip – we are travelling through to New Zealand, mainly by train. We left on the 6th December, and have had a flying visit to Berlin and we were able to catch up with my friend Preslava and her husband Georgi (I haven’t seen Preslava since I left Turkey in 2009, so it was a long overdue catch up!) and I’m now sat in a rather lovely hostel in Warsaw.
But I haven’t yet completed the blog entries for our camper van trip!
Still to come: Austria, back to Germany, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, back to Germany again, Luxembourg, Belgium and France. Oh, and all our time in the UK.
The sun loves to peer into the home where love lives.
– Slovakian Proverb
We travelled south out of Poland through the Tatra Mountains. We even saw our first snow! Sadly, there was a lot of cloud cover, so we missed a lot of the views. There are a surprising amount of ski resorts in this area; I have to admit that I have never even considered Poland as a skiing destination. But it looks like it would be pretty good come winter. Up and over the mountains we drove, round about a thousand hairpin bends (I think we hit the supersonic speeds of 7 miles per hour on one of them) and into Slovakia.
I see the world being slowly transformed into a wilderness,
I hear the approaching thunder that, one day, will destroy us, too,
I feel the suffering of millions.
– Anne Frank, 15 July 1944
Yesterday I wrote about our time in Poland, but there was one part missing: our visit to Auschwitz. I thought that a place such as this deserved its own post, although now I am writing it I realise that any words that I write will never do justice to the men, women and children that suffered and died here. My pictures won’t do justice either.
You are in a country that comes and goes, where the people have been mistreated but rarely oppose. Borders have changed by rulers from afar, although sometimes closer than neighbourhoods are. Their religion is sacred and the heavens smile down, but the history they keep will lead you to frown…
– Sean F. Hogan, Painting Angels
Due to lack of decent internet connections on our tour, it has once again taken far longer to upload photos than I had hoped. As a (sort of) plus, we are now back in the UK for a few weeks, so our internet connection will be far more consistent and I will finally be able to catch up with our travels.
Poland was a refreshing surprise, quite a bit cheaper than expected, crazy drivers and insane amounts of road works!
Lithuania, our dear homeland,
Land of worthy heroes!
May your sons draw strength and vigor
From your past experience.
May your children always proudly
Choose the paths of virtue,
May they work towards your gain,
And that of all mankind.
May the sun of this land
Scatter all the gloom and dark,
With Truth and Light,
Guiding our steps forever.
May our love for Lithuania
Keep burning on in our hearts,
In Lithuania’s dear name,
We shall stand together!
– Lithuanian National Anthem, Official English Translation
Lithuania: possibly one of my favourite countries I’ve visited so far. From the welcoming people to the rebellious history, this country is one incredible experience after another.
Lithuania contains the official geographical centre of Europe – although Belarus disputes this, because apparently Belarusian scientists have established it is in (you’ve guessed it) Belarus. But the rest of the world says it’s in Lithuania. So now we have travelled to the north of Europe and the centre. Sadly on this trip I don’t think we will make it to the southern tip!