All our moaning about the weather came back and bit us on the bum – Monday was pretty much rain all day. The first couple of hours were bright enough so we walked into the village to see what was there. Whilst Bolkow will probably never win any beautiful town awards it has the look of being well lived in, yet well cared for. Around the town square on three sides were old buildings, once painted in bright pastels, which although they looked like they needed a new coat of paint when the sun came out they looked well enough. The majority of the shops were open, selling the usual stuff we all don’t need with the addition of many, many arrangements of silk flowers.
Bolkow town square
We had a perusal through the town shops, still marveling that everything is a bargain based on price – whether we need it or not. I couldn’t resist a new oil-cloth for the picnic table at £2! Got it back to camp, put in out, sat and admired it under the awning along with our friendly wasp brigade. Twenty minutes later we noticed a hole burnt into the cloth, that would be the insect repellent bottle that we had left on there. If it does that to the tablecloth Lord alone knows what its doing to our skin so we have binned that one and will be embracing the wasps more often.
Back onto town and the main attraction of the village is the castle, as all good castles should be high on a hill above the town. Built in the 13th century and devastated in the Thirty Years War in the 17th century, restoration work didn’t start until 1905. The restoration is ongoing, not all sympathetically as lots of very new looking brick work appears around door frames. The central courtyard houses a bar and cafe and an annual Gothic rock festival takes place inside the castle walls – it seems more restoration is to stop it collapsing than to bring it back to its former glory.
Our route towards the Czech Republic took us over the Giant Mountains, not actually that giant as they are relatively low but despite that they have a climate similar to the Alps with low winter temperatures and a long period of snow cover.
We stopped off at Szklarska Poreba, a popular ski town just before the border. Plenty of new building work taking place with wooden hotels and chalets sprouting in every corner. The ski area covers a massive area for both alpine and Nordic skiers, this along with the low costs here compared to the Alps has seen the whole area growing in popularity with those fans of hurling themselves along in the snow.
Even in summer its busy, a few outdoor shops, lots of restaurants and bars and more ticky-tacky stalls than we have seen since Dracula’s castle. We walked up to the chair lifts to consider a lift up and a walk back down – deemed pointless though as low cloud meant there weren’t any views that could be seen (phew).
Instead we made do with an evening in the centre of town at a small campsite come hippy haven. An eclectic mix of people who took too much of one thing or another in the 1960’s along with a few motorhomes – everyone rubbed along together rather well.
On our way out of Poland we found a garage selling vignettes, £5 for 10 days, and exchanged our Zloty into Koruna – for the first time in nine months (except the Euro zone) we have arrived in a country with the correct currency and road tax, we seem to be getting the hang of it at long last :).
We only travelled a few miles over the border before stopping off at Tanvald. Not the biggest or most exciting looking of towns, now mainly a winter ski resort but not so long ago the centre of glass making in Bohemia, the evidence of which can still be seem with several gargantuan abandoned factories along the valley.
We cycled to the nearest factory as we had seen a sign for a museum there. Slightly disappointing to find it was a wooden toy factory not a glass works, but still worth visiting and spend a few koruna at the factory shop where Detoa wooden toys are still produced over 100 years after the company started here. Each factory has a small supermarket area, a sports bar (aka the pub) and two or three blocks of apartments for the workers. Whilst some of the housing appears a bit Eastern Bloc many of the factories were here long before any thoughts of dividing up Europe ever too place, it seems they just replaced the factory worker houses with blocks of flats.
One of the many Tanvald factories
At 4 pm we were somewhat disconcerted to hear the air raid sirens start, first in this village, then in the next, then the next etc. We had seen the loudspeakers on lamp posts through the villages and lanes and assumed it was for some type of fete. Ostensibly the air raid sirens are still tested once a month through out the country, just to be sure they are working in case they are needed – makes you feel safe here the then!