Krakow

U is for Ursula, Ursulines and “urodziny”

Poland-eagle-150squareEven though I’m a day late, I’m determined to post this today!  I already missed S and T, in spite of having slub. szczesliwy and Sukiennice at the ready, and Theresa, of course!  I can’t be everywhere! (a hard realisation for a lady like me to make)

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St. Ursula, from Wikipedia

In Poland many girls names trace back to a saint, and Ursula is no exception. The photo shown above is actually of an Italian Catholic saint, who was instrumental in the setting up of the Ursulines.  This is a religious order, founded in Brescia in 1535, and now a world wide organisation.

Ursula Maria Ledóchowska was a Polish religious sister who founded the Congregation of the Ursulines of the Agonising Heart of Jesus.  Doesn’t sound much fun, does it?  Born Julia Maria Ledóchowska on 17.4.65, she entered the novitiate of the Ursulines in Kraków.  She received the name of Ursula at the end of her training, and went on to become Mother Superior.  In Kraków she set up a home for female university students, then travelled abroad with the blessing of the Pope, fighting religious oppression.  She was active in St. Petersburg, Russia, in Finland, Stockholm and in Denmark.  In May 1939 she died in Rome, and was canonised by Pope John Paul II in May 2003.

Her feast day is May 29th, which may well be why my neice, Ula (short for Ursula), born May 28th, takes her name.  You’ve seen Ula before.  She’s the “lady of the cakes” who’s helping to run her Dad’s pieczywo de smakoszy (tasty cake shop) in Kraków.

Sampling the wares?

Here she is with her lovely Mum, Marta, my Dad and more cake (of course!)

Sampling the wares!

Sampling the wares!

There was another Ursula in the family, Dad’s older sister, whom I never met. Over the years I have seen an assortment of photos, but know little of her history, other than that she died early.  Here she is, on her wedding day.

Ursula, with her husband, Ignacy

Ursula, with her husband, Ignacy

And that just leaves us with urodziny- birthdays!  You can imagine how many cards I send to Poland every year, can’t you?

I’m sure Frizz won’t mind that I’m slightly out of sync on his series of A-Z’s. He’s a very forgiving chap, and the letter V which is next up doesn’t exist in Polish. (W is pronounced “v”)  There is no timescale for Julie Dawn Fox’s Personal A-Z Challenge, which I’m sure you’ll agree is just as well.  I’d be very happy if you could check out both, and maybe even join in?

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R is for “rodzina”

Poland-eagle-150squareRodzina is the Polish word for family, and what an important word it is.

For many years “Polish family”, to me, meant just Dad.  My English mother, Nancy, has been dead for 23 years, and, having no brothers and sisters, ours was a small family unit.  Then came the fateful phone call.  I’ve told the story countless times, but it still fills me with wonder.

Dad (centre) reunited with his brothers and sisters after 64 years

Dad (centre) reunited with his brothers and sisters after 64 years

Unknown to him, in Poland, awaited an enormous family.  Following the phone call, arrangements were made for us to visit.

From his second marriage, to Laura, Dad already had inherited quite a large English family.  Laura was a lovely lady, but she died on Dad’s 70th birthday, leaving him saddened and lonely.  My presence and that of my stepbrother, Tony, and his family, was not enough to fill the gap.  My stepsister, Lynne, though always in touch, was far distant in Canada.  That phone call changed Dad’s life.  It also made quite a difference in mine.

Arriving at the farm with cousin, Adam

Arriving at the farm with cousin, Adam

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My cousin Marysia, and neice, Kasia

Ewa in the forefront, Marysia and Jadzia on the right

Cousins, Ewa, forefront, Marysia and Jadzia on the right- Dad, centrestage!

If you’ve followed any of my Polish A-Z you’ll know that I have 26 cousins (one for each letter of the alphabet?) so it’s impossible to show them all here.  Off we went to Poland, with camera crew in tow.  Dad was featured on North East Tonight on 15th March 2007.  Watching the webcam still has me sniffling.

After a day or so in beautiful Kraków, with my cousin Adam, we drove north to meet the family.  The cacophony of tooting horns and voices as we drove in through the farmyard gates will stay with me for a very long time.  Then, in good old Polish fashion, jemy i pijemy- we ate and we drank! A drive through the woods helped Dad to familiarise himself with the place he had left behind so long ago.

Lighting candles

Lighting candles

As all Polish visits seem to do, we ended up at the cemetery.  They may celebrate life in fine style, but they never forget to honour loved ones.  And the bigger the family, the more the farewells.  Already I have said goodbyes to my much-loved Aunt Anna, and to uncle Włodek’s wife, Janina.  Cousins Gosia and Dominik were both much too young to die.  But life is seldom gloomy around my Polish family.

Life is full of smiles (here with neice, Ula)

Life is full of smiles (here with neice, Ula)

Nephew Lukasz with his sister Weronika, soon to be wedded to Wojtek (front)

Her brother, Łukasz, and sister Weronika, soon to be wedded to Wojtek

Beautiful scenery

Beautiful scenery, like Wawel Cathedral

Like these fountains in Krakow

These fountains at Pałac Sztuki in Kraków

And a chess piece or two.

A chess piece or two

And cake!

And cake!

Dad has always been kind, caring and the very definition of a gentleman, whatever life has brought his way.  You can read more of his story here.  I hope you’ve enjoyed sharing tales of my rodzina Polska.  Many thanks to Julie Dawn Fox, who started me off on this Personal A-Z series, and to my good friend at Frizztext for welcoming me to his A-Z.  Please click on the links or the logos to see more.

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P is for Pope, Piotrek and Przemek!

Poland-eagle-150square Poland is, by and large, a Catholic country, and one of the images that stays in my head from my very first visit is that of Pope John Paul II (or Jan Pawel, as he’s known in Poland).  I already had enormous respect for this very human and vital man, but I hadn’t fully realised the reverence for him in his homeland.  When I began to look into the story of his life, I understood why.

Pope John Paul II in 1993- courtesy of Wikipedia

Pope John Paul II in 1993- courtesy of Wikipedia

Karol Józef Wojtyła was the head of the Catholic Church from 16th October 1978 till his death on April 2nd, 2005.  Born at Wadowice in Southern Poland on 18th May, 1920, he was to become the first non-Italian pope since 1523.

He was the youngest of three children born to his parents, though his sister Olga had died before he was born.  In reality he should not have been born himself because his mother, Emilia, had been told that she had no chance of giving birth to a live child.  A devout Catholic, she refused an abortion, and the child did indeed live, though Emilia herself died in childbirth when Karol was just 8 years old.  An athletic boy, he loved football and sports.

In 1938 he and his Dad moved to Kraków, where he enrolled at the Jagellonian University.  He took philosophy, and developed a talent for languages (he learned 12, which puts me to shame!).  He had to take part in compulsory military training, but refused to fire a weapon.  In 1939, the German occupying force closed the university and he had to find work to avoid deportation.  His Dad died of a heart attack in 1941, so that, by the age of 20, he had “already lost all the people I loved”.  It was then that he began to think seriously about the priesthood.

Statue of John Paul II in the grounds of na Skalce

Statue of John Paul II in the grounds of na Skalce church, in Kraków

In 1942 he knocked on the door of the Archbishop of Kraków and asked to be admitted to the clandestine undergound seminary.  He had some narrow escapes, but survived the war years to spend a year as a village parish priest, before being transferred to Kraków.  He taught ethics at the Jagellonian University and gathered a little group around him that became known as “Rodzinka”-  his “little family”.  As well as prayer and charitable works the group went kayaking and skiing with him.

You have to remember that these were now Communist times in Poland.  The Faculty of Theology was disbanded at the university and priests were forbidden to travel with students.  Father Wojtyła asked his students to call him “Wujek”- the Polish word for uncle (which I love very much), so that it would not be obvious he was a priest.  The name stuck, and to Poles he would always be their beloved Wujek.

The museum dedicated to Pope John Paul. a beloved local

The museum dedicated to Pope John Paul. a beloved local

At just 38, Wojtyła was appointed Bishop of Kraków, and from there it was a steady rise to the papacy.  His mission was “to place his Church at the heart of a new religious alliance that would bring together Jews, Muslims and Christians in a great [religious] armada”.  He was to travel the world like no Pope before (129 countries in total!) in an effort to do so.

In June 1979 he made his first trip back to Poland as Pope.  His country was still completely under the Soviet thumb but he encouraged them to adhere to their faith and affirm solidarity with one another.  The Communists were not to relinquish power for another decade, but it was with the Pope’s encouragement and “soft power” that Solidarnosc was born as a movement.   In 2004 he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his lifelong opposition to Communist oppression and for trying to reshape the world. The full story is in the Wikipedia link at the top of this post.

Beside Wawel Castle in Kraków

Beside Wawel Castle, in Kraków

I was in Kraków in 2007 on the 2nd anniversary of his death, and the crowds and emotion were overwhelming even then.  Candles flickered as his voice was broadcast into the night.  Since then I have always been aware of his presence whenever I am in the city.

P is for Piotrek and Przemek

Piotrek is the English equivalent of Peter, and a popular name in Poland, so of course, I have a cousin of that name!  He’s the carpenter son of Lodzia and Zygmunt, and a lovely man with whom I have danced at a wedding or two.

Within the family we also have a diminutive Piotrek (Piotrus) who is a proper scene stealer, as small boys are.  He is the son of Krzystof and Ilona, whose wedding I went to in April 2008.

That just leaves Przemek!  He is the son of my cousin Adam’s sister, Basia (also my cousin- no wonder I’m confused!).  His English is impeccable.  He and fiance Marta were house-hunting when I was last there, so who knows if there’ll be yet another wedding in the not too distant future.

Przemek and Marta

Przemek and Marta

Well, I’ve bent your ears enough for one post so it’s time to say thank you to Julie Dawn Fox for hosting the Personal A-Z Challenge, and to lovely Frizz for also letting me tag along on his A-Z.  As always the links and logos will take you there.

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M is for Mariacki and Marysia

Poland-eagle-150squareOne of my very first sights when I visited Poland for the first time was the Mariacki Church.  The splendour of the Rynek Główny in Kraków, Europe’s largest market square, is crowned by this church.  Later, on a guided tour given by my neice Weronika, we crept respectfully around the aisles and I looked up in awe.

Veit Stoss Altar, Mariacki Church

The blue ceiling covered in stars was so joyous.  I almost said heavenly but that sounds too corny, however true.  I’d never before seen anything like it.

The showpiece of the church is the Veit Stoss Altar, depicted on these postcards. With great ceremony the altar is opened at noon each day to reveal the exquisite carvings beneath.

Gilded wood panels of the Altar in close up

Gilded wood panels of the Altar in close up

St. Mary’s Church, or Kościół Mariacki, dates from the 14th century and stands 262 feet tall (80m).  Today it draws the crowds largely for the appearance of the trumpeter, who performs hourly at the top of the taller of the two towers.  The sad little notes die away abruptly.  According to legend this commemorates the trumpeter who was pierced through the throat while sounding the alarm for an impending Mongol attack on the city.  These days it’s a happy occasion and he waves to the cheering crowd below before disappearing.

I don’t often use video clips in my posts but I accidentally came across this one and loved it.  The commentary is in Polish, but you get to see the trumpeter in close up.

The noon-time trumpet call, known as the Hejnał mariacki, is broadcast across the nation by Polish Radio 1.  More details are on this Wikipedia link.

Marysia is one of my Polish cousins.  In the very early days of our reunion with the Polish family I received a lovely email from her, introducing herself and family to me. She is married to Pawel, a musician with a wicked sense of humour. They have a daughter, Kasia, and son, Michał (do you remember that the last letter is pronounced “w”?)

Marysia is another of Zygmunt and Lodzia’s daughters. (I posted about them in L is for Lusia, Lodzia and Lodz)  She lives in the village of Zawady, near to Dad’s original old farmstead, but Marysia and Pawel have a beautiful modern home. Within the family there are many skills, and when it comes to home-making, these are readily shared.  Piotrek, Marysia’s brother, is a fine carpenter and the polished wood floors and banisters are all his work.

Kasia was only 20 when we first met, and had spent the Summer working in Nottingham, to help pay for her university studies.  This was an enormous coincidence as my daughter lives in Nottingham.  You can imagine her astonishment when I produced a Polish cousin living virtually on her doorstep!  A meetup was arranged, of course.

Lisa, Kasia, friend Paulina, me and Leo, in Nottingham

Lisa, Kasia, friend Paulina, me and Leo, in Nottingham

Kasia has now completed her education and, at the time of writing, is working in Germany.  Her younger brother is still studying.  Marysia herself runs a lovely little boutique in Bełchatów.  Confused yet?  I often am, too!

It just remains for me to thank Julie Dawn Fox, who began the Personal A-Z Challenge, and Frizz, who has welcomed me into his A-Z Challenge too.  This week it’s “mmm”!  Follow the links to find out more, and maybe join in?

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Capture the Colour 2013

My lovely friend Suzanne, The Travelbunny, has tagged me to take part in this year’s Travelsupermarket competition, Capture the Colour 2013.  When you’re at my level it’s just a bit of fun, but the prizes are brilliant, and some of the entries I’ve seen so far are pure inspiration.  Nothing to lose, right?

The door is just about to open.

A string of white rosary beads on the Carmo Church, Tavira.

The above shot is my entry for White.  I used it in a Six word Saturday post when I’d just returned home from the beautiful Eastern Algarve. I was trying to get the images out of my head and back to my “real world” in England.

Romantic Summer evenings weren’t so easy to forget.  Blue was the mood, and leads to my second entry from Tavira, pictured  below.

A moonlight wander.

A moonlit blue for an evening stroll.

But eventually you settle back in and start to plan for the next excitement.  A wedding anniversary certainly helped.  The trompe l’oeuil effect in my favourite Italian restaurant in Durham provided me with an interesting Green entry, and a good post for the Lingering look at Windows series.

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Atmospheric green and trompe l’oeuil in La Spaghettata.

I looked through a lot of Polish windows earlier this year too, none more lovely then my Yellow entry.  The Ratusz stands prominently in the market square, Rynek Główny, in Kraków.  I had often looked at it in admiration but it wasn’t till I climbed the tower that I found these gems.

Through the windows of the bell tower of the Ratusz or Town Hall in Krakow

Yellow stained glass windows in the bell tower of the Ratusz (Town Hall)

I thought long and hard about my last colour, Red.  I know that this isn’t a prize winning shot but to me it’s very special.  It captures all the warmth and vibrance of the amazing occasion which was my daughter’s Steampunk wedding this year.  My red-haired lady and her beloved cut a dashing pair.  Lisa made her gown and Leo’s red frock coat.  I think she deserves a place in this post.

Lisa and Leo leaving the church

Lisa and Leo leaving the church

I hope you enjoyed my selections as much as I enjoyed the chance to look back.  Time to look forward and nominate 5 people to take part in the challenge.

Cathy of Catbird in Europe (just to confuse you, she’s now Nomad, Interrupted)

Lynn at Blue Brightly

Seonaid at Breathe of Green Air

James and Terri at Gallivance  (an unfair advantage here, methinks!)

Guntha at Movin’ On

I know that in making these selections I’ve kissed goodbye to my chances, but it’s all about the taking part, isn’t it? (boo! hoo!)  You have until 9th October to get your entries in folks, and you don’t even have to wait to be nominated.  All the details regarding entry are at Travelsupermarket.com.  Just follow the link.  Good luck!

Lingering look at Windows- week 20

Who doesn’t love windows?  Looking out on a bright Summer’s day.  Looking in, when the lights are on, all cosy on an Autumn evening.  I’m always drawn by the lamplight.  Or by sunshine, of course.

But if you’re going to linger over them, the windows have to be a bit special, don’t they?  I think I can offer a few from my recent trip to Poland.

I climbed the narrow circular steps of the Ratusz with my cousin, Adam, and neice, Ula.  The views through the art nouveau windows were definitely special, even on a murky day.  Ula confessed to me that they’d never climbed the tower before, even though they live in Kraków.  I should show you how it looks from the outside.

You don't even know how beautiful the windows are from down below

You really can’t tell how beautiful the windows are from down below

I’ve enjoyed my first attempt at a lingering look at windows.  Thanks, Dawn, for a really nice idea, and sorry it’s taken me so long to join in.  I’m already thinking which windows I can use for next week’s challenge.   Off  I go to look through a few more.

Sunday Post : Perspective

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Perspective is used by artists to give an illusion of space and distance.  I remember struggling mightily with it at school.  My brain understood the concept but my fingers didn’t.  I don’t know of a better graphic artist than Jakesprinter.  He never would have had my problems.  This week he’s sent us a message in a bottle, and I’m reminded that I haven’t sang to you for a while.  Perhaps you could be distracted that way, or should I just show you a couple of photos that, I think, represent the concept of perspective?  If they don’t, hopefully you’ll enjoy them anyway.

After all, I’m only trying to gain a little perspective on one of my favourite subjects- the lovely city of Krakow.

Perhaps you should look at some other entries to get a little better perspective.  But don’t forget to visit Jake.

http://travelwithintent.com/2013/05/27/tarragonan-trompe-loeil/

http://max510.com/2013/05/27/sunday-post-perspective/

https://campanulladellaanna.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/sunday-post-perspective/

http://ohmsweetohmdotme.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/perspective/

http://mytropicalhome.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/the-sunday-post-perspective/

http://bopaula.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/sunday-post-perspective/

http://lynneayersbeyondthebrush.wordpress.com/2013/05/26/ship-passing-under-bridge/

O is for “okropny” and the Ojców Valley

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The cosmopolitan city of Kraków is a million miles away from the river gorge of the Ojców Valley in time, but just 25km in distance.

I arrived in Kraków expecting the beautiful Spring weather I had experienced in previous years, but it was not to be.  Okropny- the Polish word for “terrible”- described it very well.  Mizzle accompanied grey skies, followed by crashing thunderstorms and heavy rain.  Still, nic nie szkodzi, as they say in Poland.  It “doesn’t really matter”, when you’re with family and friends.  Polish hospitality is, quite rightly, legendary.

Along with all the eating and drinking a little fresh air was called for, so out came the umbrellas.  A short drive north west of the city brought us to the village of Ojców and a different world.

The castle ruins at Ojców

The castle ruins at Ojców

Looming over the village, the castle ruins keep a beady eye on the end of the Eagles Nest Trail, a line of defence once stretching north to Częstochowa.  Today most of the action in the valley comes from walkers.  Armed with our umbrellas, we ventured along the woodland trail.

Limestone cliffs line the narrow banks of the River Prądnik, with greenery clinging tenaciously to every crevice.

Limestone cliffs line the valley

Limestone cliffs line the valley

Ojców straggles through the valley.  Signs for noclegi, a room for the night, or longer, adorn many of the wooden houses.

A typical village house

A typical village house

The cliffs tower protectively behind the homes

The cliffs tower protectively behind the homes

Even in the swirling mists there’s a grandeur to the scenery.  We walk as far as Brama, named for the imposing rock structure which forms a “gate” through the valley.

Brama- the gate

Brama- the gate

The gorge is home to bats and caves, the best known of which is Łokieta, and is open for guided visits in Summer.  The valley is rich in flora and fauna.

Just a few of the species found in the valley

Just a few of the species found in the valley

I, meantime, am being eyed wickedly by a horse whose temperament seems to suit the weather.  Horse and traps cover the short distance from Ojców to the beginning of the trail, for those who don’t like to walk, or just enjoy a ride.  To be fair, it can’t have been much fun being a horse that day.

A "not so friendly" horse

A “not so friendly” horse

We retrace our steps beside the gurgling river to Kaplicza na Wodzie, a small wooden chapel.  It straddles the river on a platform, nicely side-stepping a 19th century Tsarist edict forbidding religious structures to be built “on solid ground”.  In Poland, the Catholic Church was never easy to subdue.

The river passing through Ojców

The river passing through Ojców

Kapliczka na Wodzie

Kapliczka na Wodzie

The chapel history

The chapel history

On a better day you can walk the 9km from Ojców to Pieskowa Skała, but a heavy shower had us dashing for the car.  Perched on a wonderful vantage point, the castle at Pieskowa Skała dates from the 14th century, but was rebuilt in the 1580s as an elegant Renaissance residence.  It has a delicately arcaded courtyard, as does Wawel Castle in Kraków, and pretty gardens.  There’s a history museum and the  restaurant is set into the castle walls.  A climb up the circular steps to the roof terrace of the restaurant will give you fine views.

The castle at Pieskowa Skała

The castle at Pieskowa Skała

Italianate gardens

Italianate gardens

Weronika and her fiance, who were kind enough to take me.

Weronika and her fiance, who were kind enough to take me.

Olsztyn Castle is nearer to Częstochowa, at the other end of the Eagles Nest Trail, but that’s an “O” to save for another day!  I owe thanks to Julie Dawn Fox for the idea that inspired My Personal A-Z of Poland.  The subjects have become very diverse so do go and have a look around.

I’m going to do something now that I wouldn’t normally do.  Anyone who reads me regularly will know that a few weeks ago, I included an enquiry about Jake of Jakesprinter in a blog post.  I’m delighted to find tonight that he’s back with a stunning new Sunday Post on the subject of Attractions.  This post links perfectly to that and I am very pressed for time, so I’m linking the two.  Welcome back, Jake!  :)

Meantime I have 101 jobs to do since my return.  I apologise for the quality of the photos, but you’ll be glad to know that after 3 days of okropny weather, we found some sunshine.

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Six word Saturday

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Nine days in Poland with Dad

 

It almost didn’t happen because when I started to check us in online, I realised that Dad’s passport runs out on 30th April, 2013- the precise date we travel to Poland.  Thank goodness for the days of online check-in.  Otherwise, we might have been at the airport!  A swift dash to the Passport Office in Durham has rectified all, and we are good to go.

Here was Krakow

Here was Krakow

Veit Stoss Altar, Mariacki Church

Veit Stoss Altar, Mariacki Church

Gilded wood panels of the Altar in close up

Gilded wood panels of the Altar in close up

Courtyard of the Jagellonian University

Courtyard of the Jagellonian University

Professor's room in Collegium Maius

Professor’s room in Collegium Maius

And in complete contrast, a postcard that is very special to me, and seems appropriate for this time of year.  It was given to me by my Aunt Anna, who is no longer with us.

Good health from the mountains

Good health from the mountains

I won’t be about next week as I’m a very low tech traveller.  In any case I will be working hard at my abysmal Polish.  Wish me luck!

Don’t forget to visit Cate at Show My Face at check out this week’s Six word Saturdays.  Just click on the link or the header.

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Jakesprinter’s Sunday Post : Sentimental Value

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Jake gave us a beautiful post this week for his theme, Sentimental Value, and I almost decided not to take part.  I have so many silly, sentimental things that I’ve hoarded down the years, and some of them are deeply personal.  But this is a travel blog, isn’t it, so in the interests of “the show must go on”, I’ve found some things that I can share with you.

Ticket montage

Ticket montage

Over the years I don’t know how many ticket stubs I must’ve pushed into a handbag pocket as a souvenir of whichever boat ride or ancient monument.  Some of them, I forget are there till months later.  But recently I had a great idea.  I’m going to compile some of the more colourful ones (as above) and decoupage them onto a coffee table top.  Well, if I’m truthful, I hoped that my daughter might do this for me, as she’s so much better at crafty things.  Still, I think I might manage.  What do you reckon?  It would make a great conversation piece, wouldn’t it?

I’ve kept old Snoopy watches that no longer work, cards that I have to cull every year otherwise they’d flow down the stairs, and, of course, postcards.  I used to buy them in quantity, in case the holiday photos weren’t a success.  In these digital days that’s not such a problem, but I still struggle to pass a postcard stand without a surreptitious glance.  I also used them as a holiday diary.  Nowadays I’ve progressed to a notebook.

Let’s share a couple of favourites.  Why would I want to part with them?  The memories are invaluable.

The Dalyan peninsula, Turkey

The Dalyan peninsula, Turkey

Salzburg in Austria

Salzburg in Austria

Kas, also in Turkey

Kas, also in Turkey

Sukiennice, Krakow

Sukiennice, Krakow

And, of course, Tavira

And, of course, Tavira

I’m feeling thoroughly sentimental now.  Thanks, Jake.  I’ll be over to check out the other entries later.  Click on the lucky snake logo or the links to go with me.