Monday, 21 November 2016

An evening in La Coruna

We spent our last night in the viccinity of Bilbao. As I have already written, the weather changed completely. It got dark, cloudy and ugly. We were soon on the road again.

Changing our plans a few times on the way, we ended up driving all the way up to the North-Western part of Spain. About 150km before the our next stop, the sky started to clear. When we finally got to La Coruna, ate dinner and decided to see the town, the sky was blue, the sun was shining, which made a perfect afternoon after such a long day.

La Coruna, a city a bit off the regular tourist routes in Spain, is famous for Torre de Hercules. Tower of Hercules, as named in English, is the oldest still functioning lighthouse in the world. Reconstructed a few times since Roman times, it still plays its initial role, that is guiding vessels along the Spanish coast.

As most of the things-to-see in La Coruna, it is situated on an island. That particular one (the only one we've seen) is full of narrow, one-way, crowded streets, so getting there was a bit of a pain. Plus, we had to spend some time waiting to be able to get into the tower. They only let in a limited number of people at once. So you can get inside only when somebody else has just left the building.

The lighthouse is in pretty good shape. Steps are in good condition, mostly regular in height. We've climbed much worse (oh, Florence!). Paulinka managed to get all the way up and then down all by herself. I know she has a lot of energy and is not that easily discouraged once she's set her eyes on something, but she is only three.

When you finally get inside, first you can get acquainted with the history of the tower. Every now and then, there are very informative illustrations of what the tower looks or used to look like. How it is constructed. How it used to or is working. Again, a lot of information given in three languages: Spanish, English and (I'm guessing here) Galician. Once you know all that, you can climb the stairs. 

The view from the tower was worth the wait. We got there close to sunset, so the yellowish colours added a bit to my perception of the place, for sure. But the area is simply beautiful. And when you stand right next to the tower, looking at the sea, the waves, you can almost forget that right behind you is the city.

Friday, 11 November 2016

Independence Day

Today's post is not going to be about travel. Though we were supposed to be on the road. Unfortunately, flu season got us. We stayed home.

We woke up today to see the world covered under a (light, but still) blanket of snow. And it was still snowing. It was so pretty. Yes, it's that part of the year.

But today is special not only because of (November) snow. Today Poland celebrates its Independence Day. On November 11, 1918, after 123 years, Poland regained independence.

Poland is an old country. Maybe not as old as some, but much older than others. We got baptised in 966, had our first king in 1025. We had our ups (like the 16th century) and downs (like the 18th century). The downs led to the partition of our country (or partitions, cause there were three that led to disappearance of our country from the maps of Europe: 1772, 1793 and 1795). Our Constitution of May 3rd, 1791 was the first in Europe (and second in the world, after the American one). Though it diminished many priviledges of the nobelty, it was already too late to save our independence.

Though we had the Duchy of Warsaw set up by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1807 and the Kingdom of Poland set up by the Congress of Vienna in 1815, no truly independent Polish state existed till the end of the WWI. We tried to regain freedom during the uprisings of 1830 and 1863, but they were both unsuccessfull. Polish identity never ceased to exist, though.

It was in the period between WWI and WWII when my hometown, Gdynia, was set up.

The young country couldn't protect itself from the nazi invasion of 1939. WWII started in Poland, in Westerplatte. And we lost independence again. First to nazis, then to soviets. It wasn't until 1989 that Poland was free again. Again trying to be part of Europe, part of the free world. We joined NATO in 1999 and the EU in 2004. We're still a young democracy, trying to learn. Many people, still affected by the old regime, believe that the country should guarantee them certain things (instead of doing something themselves to have them).

I don't want to get into current political situation and dispute, so I'll just end here.

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

An afternoon in Bilbao

Apart from San Juan de Gaztelugatxe with a bonus of Castillo de Butrón, there was one more thing that made us want to visit the area. Namely, Bilbao. Although that is not the whole truth. We were not lured by the Guggenheim Museum (we saw the building and... it stands out ;)) or by the Seven Streets (Siete Calles) or by the New Market (Plaza Nueva). We wanted to see the Vizcaya Bridge (Puente de Bizkaia).

But first things first. We drove into Bilbao and left the car at the only parking we could find (and that also took us a while) - an underground carpark by the river. The spot was perfect. A walking distance from the Seven Streets and the New Market. Plus, it was right by the beautiful promenade that led along the river. A great place for a walk. With benches every few metres, green corners and many playgrounds plus the view of the river running through the town, it makes a perfect place to spend the afternoon for the whole family.
We also went to the guidebook recommended Seven Streets and to the New Market, where we ate the most delicious ice cream ever. Or at least during that trip.

And that was basically it for Bilbao. It was time to hit the road and see the Vizcaya Bridge. And use it as well. We got there just in time to drive onto the bridge and get transported to the other bank. Cause you don't just drive through this bridge. You fly over the river ;) Though it might be nothing special to many, it was a great adventure for our constructor. He loved it. Though it probably looks much better from the distance than when you're actually on the bridge, but the experience is to remember. 

The next morning, we said goodbye to Bilbao. We woke up to see the clear and sunny grey and cloudy sky. We packed up quickly, to make it before it started raining. And we drove off. We wanted to stop in Oviedo or Gijon for the night. But it didn't want to stop raining all along the way. So we decided to change the plan a little. We decided to stop for lunch in Oviedo and then continue along the coast. But it was raining so heavily that we even dropped that thought. In the end, we bought some snacks and decided to keep driving. The fogs were so heavy that we could hardly see the road ahead of us. Not to mention the (what could have been) amazing views. There were times where we could see a little more. It wasn't an easy drive.

About 150 km before La Coruna, we finally saw bits and pieces of blue sky. So there was hope. Hope for no rain. Cause we had no hope for clear sky then. That's definitely not the kind of weather you want during your camping (or any, for that matter) holidays.