Leizpig, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary
Planning and overall impression
This was again
a trip during the Covid-19 pandemic, done by car mainly because we
thought that travelling by plane was a bit too risky (what if we are in
a far away country and can' fly back because somebody got Covid or
entry/exit regulations changed). Besides, most countries in Asia
restricted tourism in summer 2021: either you were not allowed in, or
there were lengthy quarantine periods.
In any case, the idea was to travel to Poland initially and have a look
a places where we had not been yet (mainly the north and the east) and
travel to Ukraine because we had never been there before and I was
curious about the country. Ukraine is not exactly a tourist hotspot and
I thought the place probably was interesting.
For the last part of the trip I was thinking to drive back towards
Munich via Slovakia. Had to change that as I realised that because of
the vaccination status of the kids we could not enter the country.
Poland made a good impression. The country is by now quite developed,
not much difference anymore between Poland and Germany for what
concerns that development level. In fact the kids fell in love with
Gdansk, because it had everything they liked: a nice, modern mall with
a great food court and a pretty historic centre with an open air market.
Pricewise Poland is by now practically as expensive (even more
expensive in some places) as Germany. But I hear that Polish salaries
are still not on German levels.
The eight days spent in Ukraine were interesting. Had I known before
the trip that it takes hours at the border to get in and outside the
country, for sure I wouldn't have travelled by car there. 15 hours to
cross a border are simply crazy.
Ukraine has some tourist potential, although the interesting places are
quite spread across the country and not as close to each other as in
western Europe. Uzhhorod is cute and has a number of touristic
highlights. If they cleaned up the place a bit, repaired the
infrastructure and made it painless to cross the border, it probably
would receive a lot of tourists.
Hungary has a number of cute historic cities and some nice natural areas.
This trip was not cheap, even if it was
substantially less expensive than the trip to Norway of summer 2020.
The priciest part probably were the days spent in Poland, as many
places we visited were tourist hotspots with tourist prices. Least
expensive were the eight days spent in Ukraine, where the general price
level is low, if compared to western Europe.
It was never a problem to find food / restaurants. In a number of
places we relied on food courts of shopping malls, because we are used
to it and there is a good choice of (ready made) meals to select. We
appreciate the convenience of sitting at a table and choosing from a
variety of open restaurants - each person can in principle eat
something from a different restaurant.
We didn't try much local food, but what we ate was quite good, which is a hint that the local cuisine probably is not bad.
Being a family of four (two
adults, two kids) most of the time we stayed in apartments. These were
convenient, because we could all stay in one place (as opposed to have
two separate, possibly not connecting, rooms in a hotel). In addition,
many apartments had a washing machine, so we could easily wash dirty
clothes. We booked most places with booking.com (we also have an Airbnb
account, but practically didn't use it). These cost in the range of 40
Euro to 110-120 Euro per night. We found the least expensive apartments
surpisingly in Hungary.
Money / Exchange rate (August 2021)
1 Euro = 4.54 PLN
1 Euro = 31.5 UAH
1 Euro = 350 HUF
Mobile phones and prepaid cards
In Poland and
Hungary we relied on EU roaming. In Ukraine we bought SIM cards of
Vodafone Ukraine for 100 UAH with 6GB of data. There was no need to
any identification document and the procedure was very fast.
At the Polish border to Belarus, in the Bialowieza national
park, my phone connected automatically with the Belarusian mobile
network without my knowledge. This resulted in the use of some mobile
data, and because my German provider charges 12 Euro/MB (= 12000 Euro
per GB) for non-EU mobile data, I quickly hit the daily limit of 60
Euro for roaming charges. That's outrageous, but I guess that is how my
low cost German provider makes money (by relying on these "roaming
All places were we stayed
offered free WLAN, sometimes fast, sometimes not so fast and sometimes really poor.
Outdoors we used the smartphone to access the Internet.
Most of the time the weather was good - mostly sunny, occasionally some
rain. The temperatures were also ok. Around 20°C-25°C, higher in
Ukraine where the maximum temperatures reached and exceeded 30°C, then
lower again in Hungary.
Health / Vaccinations
For the border crossings we prepared all required papers and
documentation. This meant that we had to do corona tests for the kids,
because they were not fully vaccinated yet. These papers were thorughly
checked at the Ukrainian border when entering Ukraine, but not at the
border from Germany to Poland and if I remember correctly not at the
border from Ukraine to Hungary.
Then, in Poland, Ukraine and Hungary nobody was wearing masks, because during summer 2021 the number of cases was very low.
VISA / Entry requirements
No VISA needed for
us (only Shirley needed a visa for Ukraine, because of her Malaysian
passport). International travellers may need a Schengen or
Crazy long waiting times to get into Ukraine (2-3 hours) and out of Ukraine (15 hours).
No problems in the countries we
visited. I don't know what crime levels in these countries are, but we
didn't notice anything unusual ot strange while there. We felt safe at
any time of the day or night.
We did this trip completely by car, leaving from Munich and getting
back to Munich. This had the advantage that we didn't have to rely on
public transportation (less risk of getting infected) and we could
choose apartments in any location (for instance less expensive ones out
The status of the roads was mixed - reasonably good in Poland and Hungary, from acceptable to very bad in Ukraine.
30.7: Munich -> Leipzig
Hotel Novum Aviva, Leipzig. 35 Euro for a double
room. WLAN doesn't work. Lots of mosquitoes at night. Good shower,
clean toilet. No A/C. Room has cupboard, LCD TV, table+chair. No
electricity in the sockets after you leave the room.
Weather: sunny, hot, with some clouds. Top
temperatures around 28°C.
We leave Munich at 3:06pm and after a long drive with several traffic
jams reach the centre of Leipzig at 8:40pm. Then we walk into town and
look for a restaurant.
The centre of Leipzig is very nice. Everything has been renovated and
is spotlessly clean and neat. Few people wearing masks on the streets.
Even in indoor areas many people do not wear masks.
Lots of mosquitoes (many more than in Munich, where there are almost
Hotel Novum Aviva, Leipzig.
Weather: sunny, with many clouds, lots of wind.
No rain, relatively fresh (top temperature around 24°C).
We leave the hotel after 10:30am, then drive to the train station for
the Corona test we need to travel to Poland. After a heavy traffic jam
we just park the car along the road and walk to the train station,
arriving on time at 11:20am. It then takes until after 12pm to collect
all test results (all negative).
There is a huge mall with several restaurants in the train station. We
spend some time in the train station, eating there and buying
something. Then we walk into the historic centre, which is towards the
What we see is a very pretty city which however has been heavily
restaurated and modernised. You can see the results of
post-reunification investment. The centre of Munich by far is not as
nice and neat as this historic centre.
Lots and lots of restaurants and eateries. Many shops as well. This
historic centre is very well suited for Asian tourist groups and
anybody who likes to eat and shop.
Around 3:40pm we drive to the monument of the battle of nations,
arriving there shortly before 4pm. This is quite an impressive
monument, way more impressive than when I first visited it ages ago. It
turns out that it has been massively renovated and modernised. Now the
internal structure is accessible and you can walk in a staircase until
the top. 10 Euro ticket (20 Euro for a family).
We spend almost one and a half hours in this place, then get into the
car and drive to the central train station. There, in the mall we have
a dinner and later drive back to the hotel.
In the evening after 9pm I get back into town for some blue hour
1.8: Leipzig -> Meißen
Blooms Inn & Apartments, Poznan. 250 zloty for
an apartment with two bedrooms, a kitchen, bathroom and a living room.
On the fourth floor of a building without an elevator (very tiring to
carry all luggage there). Again problems with the WLAN (have to use
again the mobile phone as a hotspot). The shower has not much water,
i.e. taking a shower takes more time.
Weather: overcast in Leipzig, then it starts
raining after 11am. 15°C temperature. After we leave the Meißen
porcelain centre at 2:10pm it has already stopped raining. Later in
Poland the weather improves and the sun comes out. In the evening in
Poznan it's a blue sky with clouds (and temperatures around 19-20°C).
We leave Leipzig at 11am and drive to Meißen. It's a smooth drive until
the last 20km, where we get into a traffic jam on the motorway (caused
by roadworks). We reach the porcelain manufacturing centre in Meißen at
12:15pm and park the car in the parking (2.50€). Then we walk to the
centre and register for the 1pm visit. The Meißen centre was initially
set up in 1710 as is the first porcelain manufacturing site in Europe.
Until 1pm we have a look at the showroom. Some pretty impressive pieces
of porcelain (some selling for 70000€).
Then at 1pm the guided tour starts. This will take 45 minutes and shows
the various stages of porcelain manufacturing (we see a total of four
workstations and an introductory video). After the tour we visit the
museum and finally leave the centre at 2:10pm.
Since it's already late we just drive to a McDonalds restaurant and eat
At 3pm we start driving to Poland. Again, smooth drive with no traffic
jams. Not much traffic on the Polish motorway either (41 zloty toll).
At the border there are no controls at all. I had prepared everything,
the negative corona tests for Shirley and the kids and my vaccination
certificate, but no, nobody stops us and we just drive through.
We reach the hotel at 7:15pm. A bit complicated with the car, because
strictly speaking you are not allowed to drive the car to the hotel
(pedestrian area). Then there is the mess with the apartment on the
fourth floor and no elevator. In the end I park the car in a parking
near the hotel (which on Sundays is free).
After 8pm we have a dinner in the restaurant below the hotel. The pizza
they serve is not bad (and they use good ingredients). Not like the
pizzas with Gouda or Cheddar cheese they serve in some places.
At 9pm I walk to the central square (Stary Rynek) for some blue hour
photography. The square is kind of cute, but you can see that the
buildings have been reconstructed in some inexpensive way (stones have
been painted on the walls instead of using real stones for the façades). But
overall the square is kind of cute.
Then, surprise surprise, a friendly young girl talks to me in Polish.
When I tell her that I don't understand, she says "strip". Incredible.
If you walk alone at night in the streets of Munich, this doesn't
happen. But here is does. And later another two guys talk to me in
Polish (I can only guess that it must be for something sex related).
Either here there is a big market for this kind of services or the
girls are poor and need the money.
Then, when walking back to the hotel, I check if I can find some ATM. I
find two, but in both there is a fee for cash withdrawal (17 zloty).
Will look tomorrow for an ATM without fees.
2.8: Poznan -> Torun
Metropolis apartment, Torun. 252 zloty for a small
apartment with a bedroom, toilet with shower, livingroom with sleeping
sofa, cupboard, kitchen area (fully furnished kitchen with fridge,
nicely made), LCD TV. WLAN is slow. Good location in walking distance
of the old town.
Weather: a mix of sunny and overcast skies,
alternating over the day. Top temperatures of 22°C, no rain.
In the morning I get some cash from an ATM, pay the parking fee (5
zloty/hour) and retrieve the car, then check out of the hotel at
11:10am. We then drive to another parking, this time very close to the
old town square and leave the car there. Then we walk to the old town
The weather by now is good again (sun is shining) and the square is
full of people. Turns out that it is almost 12pm and these people are
waiting for some show. This show is two ibexes coming out of a window
on top of the building and charging each other several times. Actually
this is nothing so special, but this nonsense manages to attract lots
We don't spend too much time on this square and at 12:30pm we are back
at the car. We then drive to the Posnania mall, a bit outside the core
of Poznan. The idea would be to get a glimpse of how average Poles live
(the historic old town is mainly for tourists).
The Posnania mall is really impressive. Modern, neat and nice, with
lots of shops at all price levels, a food court and other food outlets.
We have some food in the food court, then shop around a bit. We'll end
up spending three hours in this mall - the girls get in shopping mode
and don't want to leave.
Around 4pm we start driving towards Torun. The road is partly a land
road and partly motorway. In theory the motorways should cost some
toll, but there are no toll collect stations. We reach the hotel in
Torun at 6:10pm.
Then it takes some time to figure out how to get into the apartment,
because we got instructions, but it's not so clear how to do things.
Around 7pm we walk into the old town. This is quite nice, full of
historic buildings. Very touristy with lots of shops, restaurants etc.
Lots of people, few wearing masks. It's surprising that Poland has so
few corona cases. We have a dinner in an Asian restaurant, then walk
around a bit and are back at 8:45pm in the hotel. At 9pm I get out
again for some blue hour photography.
3.8: Torun -> Gdansk
Apartment of Amber Center Apartments Mariacka,
Gdansk. 407 zloty for a
beautiful apartment, completely renovated, in a building in the old
town of Gdansk. Complete with everything, including a fully furnished
kitchen with dishwasher, toilet with washing machine and clothes dryer,
stylish and elegant. Finally a good WLAN. 3rd floor of a building with
no elevator. They let us use a parking at no additional cost.
The only problem is that the check-in procedure is messy: you first
have to drive to the office for checking in and picking up the key,
then you can drive to the apartment. In practice the entire procedure
is going to take over an hour, because first we drive to the location
of the apartment (which by the way is incorrect) and driving to the
location is messy because lots of streets are closed due to a festival.
Once there we are told to go to the office in another location. We
drive there to check-in and pick up the key, then finally we can get to
the apartment (driving across pedestrian areas full of people). In
short, this apartment is great, but getting there and getting the key
is a mess.
Weather: a mix of everything, sunny blue
skies, overcast skies, heavy rain on the motorway. But most of the time
it's a sky with rapidly moving clouds. Nice blue sky in the evening in
Gdansk. Top temperatures around 22°C.
We check out at 11am, then drive the car to a parking and leave it
there. From there we walk to the old town. Until almost 4pm we explore
the city (beautiful old town with plenty of interesting buildings),
have a lunch in a Thai restaurant and visit the Copernicus house and
museum. This museum contains some exhibits about Copernicus and the
life in the late middle ages. The ladies also do some shopping.
Then, around 4pm we get back into the car. We first drive to the
viewpoint on the opposite side of the river for a skyline shot of
Torun. Then we refuel the car and drive to Gdansk.
We manage to arrive to the old town at 6:20pm and then the mess
with the apartment starts (see above). By the time we are settled and have
unloaded the luggage it's 8pm. We walk out into the old town for the
usual round of exploration, shopping, dining etc. The ladies are back
in the apartment at 9pm, I'll be back after 10pm after the blue hour
Apartment of Amber Center Apartments Mariacka,
Gdansk. Good shower with plenty of water.
Weather: in the morning again a mix of clouds and
sunny blue sky. Later in the afternoon the weather improves and there
is a mainly blue sky with only few clouds. Relatively fresh, top
temperatures not higher than 23-24°C. Little wind. No rain the whole
Day spent exploring Gdansk. We leave home quite late, almost at 12pm.
So late because I spend some time booking the hotels in the next places
in Poland and because we are not in a hurry to start the sightseeing.
The first thing we do is to walk to a different street, which leads us
to discover the town hall square. Quite impressive square with lots of
pretty buildings. Attached long pedestrian street with restaurants on
both sides. Tourist ghetto area, restaurants with tourist prices.
Everything very scenic, but also very touristy.
We get out of the old town area. I find a bank with an ATM which
doesn't charge fees (most ATMs in the tourist area are from Euronet or
Planet and either offer a bad exchange rate of fixed fee of 15.90 zloty
When I'm done getting the cash, Shirley tells me she is in a mall.
Turns out she found the Forum Gdansk, a large shopping mall immediately
outside the old town. It's actually a nice, clean and modern mall, with
lots of shops, a supermarket and a food court area. Even nicer than the
malls there are in Munich.
It seems that the standard of living in Gdansk is on the same level as
the one in Munich, which is quite a thing, because 10-15 years ago
Poland was considered a low cost location where to relocate jobs
from expensive Germany. Now I wonder if the standard of living in
Poland has reached the level of Germany.
Anyway in this mall we have some lunch in the food court, then we
split. Shirley and the girls will do some shopping in this giant mall,
while I'll spend my time having a look and taking some pictures.
Within 20-30 minutes I'm done with the mall and walk back into the old
town. This is really pretty and full of interesting and stylish
buildings. I'm back in the apartment around 5pm. Shirley will arrive a
bit later with the girls.
In the evening I get out again at 7:40pm. After a dinner in the mall
and some shopping for food in the supermarket, I'm back in the old town
by 9pm for some blue hour photography.
5.8: Gdansk -> Malbork castle ->
Apartment of Amber Center Apartments Mariacka,
Weather: sunny the whole day, with a very thin
high altitude clouds layer and clouds occasionally passing by. A bit
windy, quite fresh (top temperatures of 22-24°C). No rain.
In the morning I call the testing centre in Lublin and postpone the
Corona test for the kids by one day to August 13th. We leave home quite
late and take the car to the Forum Gdansk mall, arriving there around
12pm. Getting out of the old town area with the car is easier than I
In the mall we have a lunch in the food court, then we get into the car
and drive to Malbork, arriving there shortly after 2pm. We park the car
(25 zloty, a bit pricey) and walk into the compound. Huge photogenic
castle, surrounded by wall and a waterway on one side. By the time we
discover the ticketing centre it's around 2:20pm. Then it turns out
that the next possible time to visit the castle is 4pm. Family ticket
of 180 zloty, which includes the audio guides.
It may sound like a lot of time to kill, but one hour and a half is a
good time to explore the castle from the outside, walking around it and
taking some pictures.
Shortly before 4pm we get into the castle. Then, with the audio guides
the visit easily takes a couple of hours, if you listen to the sound
and follow everything as explained. I must say that the castle interior
is very interesting, because to a large extent it is original from the
Middle Ages (and not fake like the castles of King Ludwig in Bavaria)
and the architecture is quite special. I can't remember having seen
anything similar elsewhere (like those rooms with the central pillars
sustaining a vault).
Still, by 5:05pm we've had enough and get out of the castle. By 5:25pm
we are back in the car and this time drive to the Baltic Sea coast in
Stegna, arriving there at 6:15pm. Strange parking prices (10 zloty for
one hour, 20 zloty for two and 30 zloty for the whole day).
This beach place, well, is a real beach place with all the beach
nonsense you find in beach places (restaurants, cafes, souvenir and
other shops, sort of a mini fun fair). The beach even has beautiful
soft white sand. It's just that it's windy, cold and you wouldn't want
to swim in the sea with such low temperatures. So we don't spend too
much time here and in fact leave shortly after 7pm.
We then drive again to the Forum Gdansk mall, where we have some
dinner. After dinner we drive back to the apartment. By now there are
no police checks anymore.
Apartment of Amber Center Apartments Mariacka,
Weather: overcast the whole day, windy, fresh
(probably top temperatures below 20°C). Some light rain in the
Actually for today I was planning to do a trip to the Hel peninsula,
that narrow and sandy piece of land facing the Baltic sea. But with a
weather as bad as this, it's pointless to go there today. No point
walking on sand dunes in the cold, with strong winds and rain.
So essentially we spend the whole day in Gdansk. After a lunch in the
food court of the Forum mall we slowly walk to the Amber museum. This
is kind of interesting, with several exhibits of pieces of amber and
things made out of amber. The ticket for the four of us costs 45 zloty.
After the museum we slowly walk back to the apartment, buying some
groceries along the way. In the evening we'll go out again for dinner,
again to the Forum mall.
7.8: Gdansk -> Lidzbark Warmiński’s castle
-> Święta Lipka
-> Wolf lair
Bezdroża Mazurskie apartment in Mragowo. 368 zloty
for a small apartment in the half of a house, consisting of a living
room with a kitchen area (fridge, but no stove, only a microwave,
kitchen utensils) and a sleeping room area on the upper level. Attached
toilet with shower (water boiler system with small water boiler). The
apartment is in an isolated place a few km out of Mragowo. The WLAN is
unusable (you can connect, but then you can't transfer any data). Lots
of mosquitoes in the flat - they could have sprayed some mosquito
poison before our arrival).
Weather: sunny with clouds the whole day. Top
temperatures in the 22°C range. No rain, little wind.
We leave the apartment in Gdansk and return the keys in the office.
Then, a bit after 11am, we drive to the Forum mall, because the girls
want to eat there one last time before we leave. So it's an early lunch
By 11:40am we are back in the car and drive towards the castle in
Lidzbark Warmiński. The drive is relatively smooth with no traffic
jams. The last 40-50km are on very bad land roads, narrow and with a
poor surface in many sections. Lines of trees on both sides (who needs
trees on both sides of the road?).
We reach Lidzbark Warmiński at 1:42pm and park the car. Then we walk to
the castle. We make a full round around it because we miss the correct
entrance. The castle has walls of brick stones. I'm guessing that in
this area there are not many caves where you can extract stones with
which to build castles, but there is plenty of mud with which you can
The castle is much smaller than the Malbork one. The ticket for the four
of us costs 50 zloty. In the castle you can walk into the basement
(some dungeons) and get to all floors (total of four floors). In the
top floor there is a modern art exhibition.
By 3pm we are done with the castle and walk back to the car. Then we
drive to the basilica in Święta Lipka. With a stop along the way in a
supermarket to buy some food and drinks, we reach the basilica at
4:10pm. There a lady immediately collects a 4 zloty parking fee from us.
The basilica is really cute and nicely made. Seems to be built in
baroque style. The entrance is free. The interior of the basilica is
also heavily decorated.
At 4:45pm we drive to the last place, the Wolf's lair, the secret World
War II headquarter of Adolf Hitler in the Masurian lakes area. We are
there around 5:15pm. Ticket of 80 zloty for the four of us. We leave
the car in the parking and start our tour of the place. Alissia gets an
audio guide for 8 zloty (audio guides available only in Polish and
The Wolf's lair is kind of interesting, with a number of destroyed
bunkers covered with vegetation and spread around in the forest. We
take the shorter loop, with which we complete the visit in about an
hour. The longer loop probably would have extended the visit by another
half an hour. Inside the compound there are 2-3 buildings with exhibits
about World War II in Poland.
Finally, at 6:30pm we drive to the apartment near Mragowo. There we
check in, unload our bags and then drive into town where we have a
dinner and the buy some groceries in a Kaufland supermarket.
8.8: Mragowo -> Mikolajki
lake -> Mragowo
Bezdroża Mazurskie apartment in Mragowo. This place
actually sucks: in the (queen size) bed where my wife and I are
sleeping there is just one blanket, and it's too small for two people.
And the shower has barely enough hot water for one person. But in the
evening three people need to take a shower, which means long waiting
times between showers. In addition, the check out time is 10am and the
owner only accepts cash
Weather: in the morning ir rains, even heavily.
After 11-12am it stops raining and after 3pm the sky gradually opens up
and turns blue with the sun shining. In the evening around 8pm there
are 21°C (up from 16°C at noon).
In the morning we stay in the apartment because outside it is raining
heavily. Finally, after 12:40pm we get out and take the car to
Mikolajki. The weather is still not great, but we can't spend the whole
day in this ugly apartment.
At 1:20pm we are in Mikolajki. This is a big tourist centre in the
Masurian lakes area. There is a waterfront with an attached marina with
yachts and boats. Boat services across the lake (plenty of 1-2 hours
boat tours; not sure if there are ferry services).
We have lunch in an Italian restaurant (and at 80 zloty the cheapest
lunch so far in Poland), then spend the next two hours having a look at
Mikolajki. It's sort of a beach resort atmosphere, sort of a
replacement for those who don't want or can't travel to the sea. The
only thing which is missing is a sandy beach. But otherwise the place
is full or people and life, especially on a sunny day like this.
After 5pm we drive to the Śniardwy lake (45 minutes drive). This is
just a big lake, not particularly impressive. We drive there just to
get an idea of this region. It's a drive across nice forests, on narrow
roads, often tree lined. I guess you can trek here, although there is
not much elevation and mosquitoes most likely are a problem. Moving
around by bicycle could be an idea, but it looks like there are no
bicycle roads/trails and riding one on the road is dangerous.
Around 6:40pm we drive back to Mragowo, where we have some dinner.
9.8: Mragowo -> Branicki palace in
Apartment (actually half of house) Apartamenty
Białowieża in Bialowieza. 575 zloty per night for a luxury apartment,
newly built, immaculately clean with two bathrooms with shower (ground
floor + first floor), fully equipped kitchen, big living room with two
sofas, big dining table with eight chairs. Three huge LCD TVs (living
room + one per bedroom). The only thing that sucks is the WLAN which is
Weather: mostly sunny with some clouds, little
wind. Top temperatures of 25°C, no rain.
In the morning at 10:20am the owners informs us that the check out time
is 10am and that we have to pay cash. So we rush finishing to pack our
stuff. By 10:50am we have put everything into the car. I drive into
town, withdraw cash from an ATM, then drive back and pay the apartment.
Then we start driving towards the Branicki palace in Bialystok.
The trip by car takes about three hours. It's a lot of driving on
narrow roads with variable tarmac (some very bad, some less of a
problem) and smooth roads, but no motorways.
At 2:40pm we drive into the parking of the Alfa Centrum mall. In the
mall we use have a lunch, then drive to the nearby Branicki palace.
This is really nice, kind of similar to the Nymphenburg palace in
Munich, with a frontal inner court and a big garden behind the main
At 4:40pm we are back in the car and drive to Bialowieza. With a short
stop along the way we reach the bison centre a few km out of town
shortly after 6:10pm. It's already closed, but it's good to have a
first look and get a feeling about the place. We'll visit the place
Finally we drive into Bialowieza, until the entrance to the national
park. This is already closed for the cars, but you can go in. Because
there are many mosquitoes, the girls refuse to go in (they got bitten
at the bison centre; I had applied mosquito repellent in the morning
and do not have this problem).
So I briefly walk in. What I see is more like a city park, not
exactly a wild forest. Hopefully the strictly preserved section we'll
visit tomorrow is more interesting.
By the way, Bialowieza is a big tourist centre, with quite a few
restaurants and many tourists.
Around 8pm we have a dinner in an Italian restaurant (pizzeria
siciliana). We don't try the pizzas because it's too heavy stuff to eat
so late in the evening, but they should be quite good.
10.8: Bialowieza national park
Apartamenty Białowieża in Bialowieza
Weather: sunny, hot (26°C top temperature), no
wind. A few clouds in the sky, after 7pm more clouds. Some rain in the
evening between 9pm and 10pm and then at midnight when it rains again.
Looks like we have been very lucky with the weather today (would have
been no fun, had it rained while we were in the forest).
We only manage to leave the apartment around 12pm. First we drive to
the Bison wildlife centre a few km west of Bialowieza, so that we can
see some bisons (I'm skeptical we'll see any in the forest). The
tickets cost 16 zloty for adults and 10 zloty for children.
The centre has horses, bisons, wolves, deer, moose and other animals.
It's relatively small (compared to other wildlife centres I have seen
before), and in fact we'll spend only 40 minutes there. Still, I get
some good images of the European bison.
Around 1:30pm we are back in town and start looking for a restaurant.
But we find no place in which we all agree to eat, so in the end we
just get a waffle (each with a different flavour) in a food stall. Then
we busy some groceries in a food shop.
At 2:40pm I drop off Shirley and the kids at the apartment, then drive
back to the national park. I'll spend the next 45 minutes walking
around the park. This is nicely set up with meadows, big majestic trees
and a pond/lake. Inside there is also some museum.
At 3:40pm I pick up Shirley and the kids at the apartment and we drive
to the place where we will meet our guide for the walk in the protected
area of the Bialowieza national park at 4pm.
I have been in touch with this guy since yesterday by phone and SMS.
Two days ago I had emailed 12 guides/travel agencies, of which four
sent offers and two would have been available. This one guy called me
on the phone yesterday while I was driving to Bialowieza and we finally
agreed to the walk at 4pm. Guides are mandatory for the protected area
of the national park (they won't let you in without one). The cost is
300 zloty and in addition there you pay 24 zloty to get into the park
(some kind of ticket).
Shortly before 4pm we meet the guy. Because we have no tickets he buys
some for us using his smartphone (this takes almost 10 minutes, because
he must wait for a confirmation by SMS). Then we drive to the parking
near the entrance to the protected area (about 1km from here).
It's then a short walk through the fields, until we reach the park
entrance. There a guard checks the guide and the tickets and we are
allowed in. All the time the guide explains things about everything
surrounding the park.
The forest is, well, underwhelming. It's a UNESCO world heritage site,
so should be special, but the reality is that most forest around Munich
look like this one. I don't see otherworldly scenery with huge trees
with crazy shapes and Pandora-like mystical forests. It's a quite
simple forest where most trees we see are less than 100 years old. The
guide explains that trees here do not get so old. By the way, we meet a
number of groups walking across the forest.
In any case, shortly after 7pm we are back at the car. We pay the guide
and drive into town where we have a dinner at the Italian restaurant.
11.8: Bialowieza -> Lublin
Plac Litewaki apartment, Lublin. 382 zloty for an
apartment, a bit smallish, with a living room with fully furnished
kitchen (but no microwave) and dining areas, a bedroom and a bathroom
with shower and washing machine. A bit cramped for four people. There
is also a balcony. WLAN is reasonably fast and everything is quite
modern and new. Car parking in the garage below the building (level
-1). There is an elevator. The apartment is in walking distance of the
old town (5-10 minutes). Quiet at night. The check-in procedure is
smooth (we receive instructions for how to self check-in).
Weather: overcast in the morning in Bialowieza.
By the time we arrive in Lublin at 2:50pm the sky has opened up and the
sun shines. Only a few clouds left in the sky, which become less
towards the evening.
We check out at 11am and start driving towards Lublin. Brief stop at a
petrol station to refuel the car (and Natasha buys some breakfast).
Then we continue driving. The road is initially not so good (narrow
land road with not so good tarmac), later it becomes a good long
distance road and the last 20km are a piece of motorway.
We arrive at the Vivo! mall in Lublin at 2:50pm and park the car in the
parking of the mall (parking is free). The mall is ok, quite big, but
not more impressive than other malls we have seen in Poland. It's quite
modern and new, but the architecture is a bit less flashy than for
instance the Forum Gdansk mall. There is a food court, but there is
less food choice.
We have a meal around 3 something pm in the mall. Then at 4:15pm I walk
with Shirley into the old town (the kids prefer to stay in the mall).
The old town is actually nicer and more interesting than I had
expected. There are not so many heavily decorated buildings with
special architecture, but the setup is excellent, i.e. the historic
core is really nice. And attached to it there is a long pedestrian area
with restaurants and other features (a small park, fountains etc.).
Other malls / shopping centres in the area.
At 6pm we're back in the mall. We buy some groceries in a supermarket
and take the car to the apartment.
In the evening at 8:15pm I get out again for some blue hour
photography. At this time of the day the city really shines: colourful
light fountain show, lots of life in the pedestrian area and old town,
lots of people.
12.8: Lublin -> Kazimierz Dolny
Sandomierz -> Lublin
Plac Litewaki apartment, Lublin. Apparently the
company behind this apartment is "A+B Apartments Lublin".
Weather: almost perfect weather today. Sunny,
blue sky, top temperature of 24°C (evening 20°C), very little wind, no
rain. Only a few clouds every now and then.
We leave the flat in the morning around 11am and drive to Kazimierz
Dolny. At 11:55am we park the car in a parking near the old town, then
walk to the central square.
Kazimierz Dolny is a cute, touristy small town. Everything is clean,
properly set up or restored. Heavy tourist orientation: shops, cafes
and restaurants everywhere. The traditional roofs of the buildings are
properly repaired - not a tile is missing. A bit disneylandish, but all
here is original (or at least I assume so). Even the castle ruin (10
zloty entrance) on a hill overlooking the city or completely restored
(metal bars in place to stabilise the walls; modern art exposition
We have a lunch in the a restaurant on the main square, then have a
look at the city.
Around 1:40pm we take the car to the next place, Sandomierz. The trip
will now take a bit longer (Google Maps shows 1:35 hours).
At 3:30pm we park the car in a parking right behind the historic core
of Sandomierz (3 zloty/hour). Then we walk into the old town. This is
also nice and touristy, but is bigger than Kazimierz Dolny. Very
photogenic, but a bit less cute than Kazimierz Dolny.
All in all we'll end up spending a bit over two hours in Sandomierz.
There is more stuff to keep you busy. For instance we get stuck in a
small market area behind the main square, where the kids order some
food and the ladies shop around.
Finally, around 5:40pm we start driving back to Lublin. It should be
1:40 hours according to Google Maps, but in the middle of the trip we
run into a huge traffic jam, which makes us lose about 15-20 minutes.
This is caused by roadworks, where on a busy road one lane is
alternatively used by cars from each direction. This is not a proper
way of handling such a situation in my opinion. In addition, Google
Maps does not warn us of this traffic jam.
At 8:10pm I drop off the ladies at the Vivo! mall in Lublin, then drive
back to the apartment. From there I walk to the mall and pick up the
ladies at 9pm. Together we slowly walk towards the apartment. With lots
of stops along the way (the girls like the colourful water fountain and
the round video screen display) we are back around 10pm.
13.8: Lublin -> Zamosc -> Lublin
Plac Litewaki apartment, Lublin. This morning (and
again in the evening) suddenly while taking a shower, there is not
enough water. You are full of soap and have to wait for several minutes
until the water comes back.
Weather: sunny, warm (probably more than
yesterday, strong sun), fewer clouds, no rain, no wind.
We drive to the Corona testing centre in Lublin and have the kids
tested (fast antigen test) around 12pm. Both are negative. At 12:30pm
we start driving towards Zamosc, arriving there shortly after 2pm. We
park the car and start exploring the city.
We quickly spot a Vietnamese restaurant, where we have a late lunch.
Then we walk to the great market square. This is really nice and
impressive, especially with that majestic town hall building
overlooking the square. But besides that there is not that much to see
in Zamosc. This place turns out to be a bit of a disappointment. The
old town is ok, but there is much less life compared to the cities we
have visited yesterday.
Around 5pm we drive back to Lublin. There I drop off Shirley and
Natasha in the old town and drive back to the apartment with Alissia,
who has some headache. Once there, Alissia will take a rest, while
after 7pm I walk to the Vivo! mall where I meet Shirley and Natasha for
some dinner around 8pm. A bit later Alissia joins us. Together at 9pm
we walk across the old town towards the apartment.
In the colourful fountains area there is an audio and video show with
the fountain. Really well choreographed and planned. After the show the
kids spend some time with the magic lens. It seems that this video
screen is connected to Vilnius in Lithuania.
At 10pm we walk back to the apartment.
14.8: Lublin -> Lwiw
BV Apartments Exquisite, Lwiw. 2700 UAH for a huge
100m² flat. Two toilets with shower, two big bedrooms, one big
livingroom, one kitchen with utensils (gas stove!). The apartment is
old, but functional. Has also A/C, but in the end we don't need it,
despite the daytime high of 30°C (somehow this flat is relatively
fresh). Fast WLAN. Good central location, 700m from the main historic
square. Parking included in the price. Friendly host (who however wants
to be paid in cash).
Weather: for the first time really hot. Top
temperatures of 30°C. Sunny, no rain, very thin clouds layer here and
there. No wind.
We start driving around 10:30am towards Ukraine. Around noon we stop in
a KFC restaurant along the way, which turns out to be a good idea
because the trip to Lwiw turns out to last longer than expected (in
other words we can't delay the lunch until the arrival).
Everything proceeds smoothly until we reach the border to Ukraine, and
there begins the mess. I don't count the time exactly, but we spend a
bit over two hours at the border, going through an ordeal of multiple
queues for multiple checks. Later an Ukrainian friend of mine tells me
that the two hours are good; actually crossing the border usually takes
much longer than that.
It starts that we drive past an endless queue of trucks until we reach
the first checkpoint. Initially I think it's the Ukrainian one, but
most likely it's the Polish exit border. There they check everything
except the Covid documentation. By the way, there are two queues for
the cars, the EU one and the all passports one. We pick the EU one,
which is much shorter than the all passports one. This first queue
takes about 40 minutes.
Then there are 2-3 more queues (where they check all documentation we
are carrying with us). The problem is also the heat, because you can't
keep the engine of the car running all the time (more than one hour) so
that there is A/C in the car.
In any case, after countless checks we are finally allowed to proceed
into Ukraine. The road initially passes through empty land. There is no
motorway, but the road surface is reasonably good. For quite some time
there is very little traffic.
In the urban areas (those between the beginning of city and end of city
street signs) there should be a speed limit of 50 km/h, but in practice
lots of people do not follow it.
Around 6pm local time we reach the Forum Lviv mall in Lwiw. This is a
nice modern mall with lots of shops and a food court.
We first buy some SIM cards. 400 UAH for four Vodafone Ukraine SIM
cards with 6GB of data each, unbelievably cheap. We do not need to show
any identification document and the procedure is very fast.
Then we go to the food court and have some dinner. We still have no
Ukrainian cash (except for the 200 UAH I got by changing the remaining
zloty at the border), but can pay by credit card everywhere.
Finally we go to the supermarket and buy some food and drinks. Lots of
delicious food in this supermarket (and at very competitive prices,
compared to Germany).
A bit after 8pm we drive to the apartment and check in. Later in the
evening I walk into the old town for some blue hour photography.
BV Apartments Exquisite, Lwiw.
Weather: sunny, hot, top temperatures probably
around 30°C. Sunny, blue sky with a few clouds, no rain, no wind.
Day spent exploring Lwiw. The city doesn't look so special, but when I
go through the photos in the evening I notice that lots are quite nice,
so this place is more photogenic than it would seem to be at first
It has somehow the baroque and neoclassical architecture of Vienna,
also a bit the look of it with those tramways, but things are not as
immaculate and perfect as in Vienna. Lots of broken buildings and dusty
roads (probably the funds for cleaning up/fixing everything are
missing), although there are also lots of roadworks everywhere, so that
in a few years this place should look much more neat.
In the old town area of the city there are countless cafes, restaurants
and tourist shops, so I guess this place must be receiving its fair
share of tourists, although perhaps not so many foreign ones. Few
people speak English.
We start our day at 12:30pm, because everybody is still on Polish time
and got up late this morning. Then we walk to the Rynok square and have
a look. We briefly break up, me going around to take some pictures, the
ladies looking for shops and cafes.
I'll rejoin the ladies after 5pm in the apartment, then go out again
after 6:20pm. Around 7pm the ladies join me and together we walk to the
Forum mall where we have some dinner and buy some groceries.
At 9:15pm we are at the opera house and watch the water fountain show.
16.8: Lwiw -> Kiev
Apartment of Be My Guest - Apartments in Kiew. 2427
UAH for an apartment with two bedrooms, one toilet+shower and an
additional small toilet, living room with kitchen corner with washing
machine. One (weak) A/C unti in the living room and a broken one in one
of the bedrooms. The apartment is in a poor state (many things are
broken), i.e. needs repairs. Fast WLAN connection. The apartment is
very centrally located in Kiew, 100m from the Majdan square. But in the
booking.com description it says that a parking is included. In reality
there is no parking, and this causes some headaches for us. Essentially
the entire evening is messed up with the search for a parking.
Weather: overcast and rainy in the morning in
Lwiw (21°C). More rain on the road to Kiew. But in Kiew it's sunny and
hot (32°C) with a thin clouds layer (milky blue sky).
We start driving at 10:35am. After a few minutes we refuel the car in a
petrol station (28.64 UAH for one litre of diesel; later I find petrol
station selling diesel for 26 UAH/litre.
The trip proceeds more or less smoothly with only a few short traffic
jams here and there. There is some confusion about which speed limits
apply, because for instance the city limits sign starts somewhere in
the fields, in the middle of nowhere, with no building in sight. Very
hard to understand why there should be a speed limit of 50 km/h when
there is not a house in sight.
Then there are the Ukrainian motorways. These seem to start and end
without a clear street sign or indication that you are on a motorway.
You only realise that you are on a motorway when you see two well built
lanes + a service lane per direction, separated by guard rails in the
But then on these Ukrainian motorways there are zebra crossings every
now and then. Just imagine people crossing a motorway, where cars are
driving at high speed. They should build pedestrian bridges over the
There are even U-turn lanes on the left side. Suddenly cars on the left
lane (the fast one for overtaking) slow down to 80 km/h and then go on
the other side. A couple of times we have to use the brakes, because
suddenly a bus or large truck from the other side makes a U-turn to our
side of the motorway.
This seems all quite dangerous and I wonder if there are accidents or
even deaths because of this.
In addition these motorways often cross cities, and you are supposed to
slow down to 50 km/h.
To top it all, on these motorways there are even traffic lights.
When you approach Kiew, the motorway enters Kiew, but there is no street
signage indicating that the motorway is ending, so you are left
wondering if you are still on a motorway or not and what the speed
At 12:30pm we have a meal in a restaurant in a petrol station. The
meals here are about twice as expensive as in a restaurant in the city.
Finally, shortly after 6pm we arrive in Kostolna street, where the
apartment is. We (temporarily) park the car at the roadside and put all
luggage into the apartment. While the ladies are taking a rest, I walk
out and check the area. The entire Kostolna street is a clearway (tow
away zone). Even the street after Kostolna street is a clearway. There
seems to be no place where to leave the car.
I get back to the apartment. Some discussion about the parking problem,
i.e. what to do. Look for a parking first or have a dinner first. In
the end we decide to drive to a parking we found with Google Maps (the
Tsum parking). Once there we are informed that parking is ridicolously
expensive, so we just drive to the Gulliver mall. But we find no way
to drive into the parking of this mall (not clear if there is one). So
we park the car in a parking along the street.
This parking is not free, but paying for the parking is too complicated
(you have to open with the smartphone a page in Ukrainian without an
English version). After some discussion, because it is late and the
kids need to eat something and we are so tired of looking for a
parking, we just leave the car there, even if there is a fine of 600
UAH if you get caught.
We get into the Gulliver mall (mall in a skyscraper, on many floors, a
bit old; food court on the fifth floor) and have a dinner. Then we walk
to the supermarket in the basement and buy some groceries.
Once back in the car we check again in Google Maps for a parking. This
time we choose a parking near Majdan square. We drive there and are
lucky, because this is the parking of a hotel and you can park the car
here for 200 UAH/days, which seems quite reasonable. Then we walk back
to the apartment.
Apartment of Be My Guest - Apartments in Kiew. The
shower is broken as well (shower pipe is too short).
Weather: hot and sunny (top temperatures above
30°C I guess), a few clouds every now and then. No rain, some light
Day spent visiting Kiew. Shortly before 12pm, as it becomes clear that
the kids will need even longer to get ready, I walk out on my own and
head to the St Andrew church complex. Beautiful immaculate Christian
orthodox church with richly decorated interior. No entry fee. After
that I walk to the St Sophia church complex. There you have to buy a
ticket to get in (25 UAH only for the compound, 60 UAH if you want to
climb up the tower, 300 UAH if you want to see everything.
The St Sophia complex is supposed to be older and more interesting.
Personally I don't find it terribly interesting and don't spend much
After St Sophia I walk south to the golden gate of Kiew, which is a
1980 reconstruction of an 11th century gate of Kiew.
Shortly before 2pm I walk into the Globus mall (the one below the
Majdan square) where I join Shirley and the kids for some food.
It seems there is no compact historic core in Kiew. Later I hear that
this was destroyed during World War II and not reconstructed in Soviet
times. But like this, Kiew is a city of huge buildings and huge streets,
not exactly a place with many peaceful corners where you can rest.
Also, I can't find an area of cafes and restaurant. Everything seems to
be spread over a large area.
After 3pm we take the metro to the Kyevo Pecherska Lavra complex,
another orthodox church complex. This turns out to be not a terribly
good idea, because using the metro is not easy if you are a tourist who
doesn't speak Ukrainian. We get out at the wrong station (Dnipro), and
have to take a train back to Arsenalna station (BTW, very deep metro
station). From there we take a bus (Nr 38), but have to get out soon
again, because they don't sell tickets on board. So we walk the last
The Kyevo Pecherska Lavra complex (ticket 130 UAH for adults) is really
nice. Also here there is a bell tower from which you have a nice view
of the compound. Inside it there are several church buildings and other
religious buildings. For some reason we can't visit the caves today
(seems that they are closed).
After 5:30pm we take a Uber taxi to the Mariinskyi Palace. This place
is closed, so we walk slowly to a bakery where we have some food. Then
we walk back to the Majdan square.
Between 8:30pm and 9pm I take some blue hour photos, then join the
ladies for a dinner.
Apartment of Be My Guest - Apartments in Kiew.
Weather: overcast and rainy in the morning
(temperatures below 20°C). It stops raining by 12pm, but stays
overcast. After 4pm the sky opens up, but there are still lots of
clouds in the sky.
Because of the weather we stay long in the apartment. At 1:05pm we take
an Uber car to the River mall, arriving there at 1:25pm. The River mall
is a large, modern and fashionable mall, which lies on the other side
of the river. It's really big inside and contains mostly upmarket shops
(although not luxury). There is a food court on the third floor and a
supermarket in the -1 floor.
We head to the food court and have some lunch. Then the ladies do some
shopping and I have a look at the place. With good weather this is a
nice place to be, because from the terrace you have a nice view of the
After 4pm we take another Uber car, this time to the St Andrew church.
We arrive there at 4:40pm (that is, we tell the driver to drop us off
around 400m from this church, to avoid a series of traffic jams which
would have cost us 33 minutes). This church is on top of a hill, in
sort of an artist area with cobblestone streets and old houses. Quite
I have a look at the church. Inside it's nothing so special, but the
platform of the church offers great views of the city and the river.
Around 5:30pm we continue walking and reach the St Michael church. Then
it's a short walk to the Globus mall, where Shirley and the kids will
have some dinner.
While the ladies are in the mall, I take some pictures of the Majdan
square. It's 6pm and there is a huge military parade, with countless
soldiers marching on the street. Police everywhere, the street where
the soldiers march is cordoned off.
After taking some photos of this parade, at 6:30pm I join the ladies in
the mall and have some dinner. In the evening after 8:15pm I'm out
again for some blue hour photography.
19.8: Kiev -> Kamjanez-Podilskyj
Апартаменты на Старобульварной apartment in
Kamjanez-Podilskyj. 1980 UAH for a big, luxury apartment in the centre
of Kamjanez-Podilskyj. Parking included. Big kitchen with table,
chairs, fully equipped (even a washing machine). Big bedroom, big
livingroom, one bathroom with bathtub only (no shower cabin/corner).
Good WLAN, but no A/C.
Weather: overcast in the morning in Kiew, later
the sky opens up and becomes sunny. Top temperatures of 23°C, no rain,
We leave Kiew around 10:40am and start driving towards
Kamjanez-Podilskyj. I refuel the car in a petrol station at the
outskirts of Kiew. Once we leave the Kiew area (and BTW, Kiew is really
a huge big city), the traffic level drops a lot. Initially we drive on
the motorway, then after about an hour we exit the motorway and
continue on long distance roads. These range from good in some sections
(two lanes per direction, smooth surface) to bad in other sections (one
lane per direction, narrow, surface with bumps and holes).
Shortly after 2pm we briefly stop in a petrol station where we buy some
sandwiches for lunch. We reach Kamjanez-Podilskyj at 5:25pm and park
the car in the main square.
Kamjanez-Podilskyj turns out to be a bit less than what I was expecting.
There is one highlight (the castle), but the old town is not terribly
impressive. That means that there are not that many old, interesting
buildings. But around the city there are some walls, which probably are
old and the panoramic view from the bridge to the castle is good.
We walk to the castle (60 UAH ticket/adult) and have a look. Then we
walk back to the town and have dinner in an Italian restaurant.
After 8pm we meet the host of the apartment and check in.
(Chernivtsi) -> Ivano-Frankiwsk
Fontush Boutique Hotel, Iwano-Frankiwsk. 990 UAH
for a big double room with attached bathroom with shower, lots of
furniture, A/C, WLAN (a bit slow), LCD TV, no fridge. 1.3km from the
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some clouds. Top
temperatures of 25°C, no rain, no wind.
In the morning we leave the apartment after 11am and drive into town.
The idea is to buy some food/drinks in a supermarket, but we spot a
small Asian restaurant and have some lunch there first. After we buy
the groceries in the supermarket.
I have a quick look at the (non historic) part of the city. It's quite
nice and relaxed, the streets are clean and the city is photogenic as
Then we head back to the car and drive to Czernowitz (Chernivtsi). The
road is so-so - sometimes good, sometimes not so good. We reach the
university in Czernowitz at 2:15pm.
The university is incredible - extremely cute, with very special
architecture, like the school of Harry Potter. Must have been designed
by an artist. In principle a university is just a place where students
study, but this one is extremely decorated.
We spend 20 minutes in this place, then start walking towards the
centre of Czernowitz. We need about 10 minutes to reach the town hall
square. Lots of cute buildings, many in neoclassical style. Lots of
pretty pictures. We stop in a cafe, then have a look around.
At 4:10pm we start driving to Iwano-Frankiwsk. With a stop along the
way and some traffic jam we reach Iwano-Frankiwsk before 7pm.
Iwano-Frankiwsk doesn't have lots of old architecture or a medieval
core, but it's still a pleasant, relaxed city. It's not a terribly
touristy place, but it's a comfortable place where to rest for some
We have a dinner in a restaurant on the town hall square and the bill
totals only 800 UAH - for four people including the meals, drinks,
dessert, salad etc. Very good value.
After dinner we walk back to the car and drive to the hotel. In the
evening I'm back in town for some blue hour photography.
Argo hotel, Uzzhorod. About 800 UAH for a small
double room with attached bathroom with shower, A/C, LCD TV, fridge,
cupboard for the clothes, no table. The A/C is broken, meaning that it
generates cold air but water drops on the bed from the A/C unit. The
hotel is about 1.5km from the centre of Uzhhorod. Good breakfast
included in the price; good value restaurant.
Weather: overcast in the morning in
Iwano-Frankiwsk. While crossing the Carpathian mountain range it is
still mostly cloudy and also briefly rains. In the late afternoon it's
sunny with a blue sky in Uzhhorod.
In the morning around 11am we do antigen Covid tests for the kids
because they are not fully vaccinated and the next day we are
travelling to Slovakia (later I realise that the tests are actually not
needed). We do them in a lab 100m from the hotel (990 UAH for two
tests; results available after 1pm.
After 11:30am we start driving towards Uzhhorod. We cross the
Carpathian mountain range. The road for a small section of the trip
(about 30-40km) is quite bad, but roadworks are ongoing so in the
future also this road section should be good. After this bad road the
road is good, except for the last 50km where the road again is not so
The Carpathian mountains are unimpressive. They are indeed less
developed than mountains in other countries, but they lack dramatic
scenery, e.g. steep cliffs, tall peaks. Or perhaps the part we cross is
not so spectacular.
At 1:30pm and 2:30pm we stop briefly for short rests. We reach
Uzhhorod at 4:35pm and park the car in the old town. Uzhhorod is sort
of ok - there is a castle and an open air museum with traditional
houses of the Carpathian mountain range. And some churches. Then there
is a pedestrian area with some shops, hotels and restaurants/cafes.
Renovation works are ongoing, i.e. in a few years this city should be
While I check out the castle and open air village, the ladies look for
a restaurant and get some food. We then get together again and drive to
the hotel. In the evening I'm out again for some blue hour photography.
At night while trying to register the kids for the entry into Slovakia
with the ehranica portal, I run into the problem that I can't complete
the registration. So we'll have to discuss the matter tomorrow with the
Slovakian border authorities. In the worst case we won't be able to
visit Slovakia and will have to continue the trip in Hungary or Romania.
22.8: Uzhhorod -> Debrecen
Toscana 4 Debrecen apartment in Debrecen. About 71
Euro for rooftop apartment with one big sleeping room with two double
beds, A/C, toilet with shower, small toilet with WC, washing machine,
fully equipped kitchen. No WLAN. About 1km from the city centre.
Weather: sunny, thin clouds layer and other
clouds. Strong sun, no rain. Top temperatures of 24°C.
In the morning we have a breakfast at 10am in the hotel and then check
out at 11am. We first drive to a supermarket where we buy some
groceries, then to a first petrol station where we get rid of the
remaining UAH buying diesel and a second one where we fill the tank.
Then we drive to the border.
Can't remember exactly, but it must have been around 12:30pm when re
reach the queue of the Ukrainian border. Then we have to wait an
eternity in this queue. After 10pm (i.e. after almost 10 hours of
waiting) we are allowed to proceed to the Ukrainian border check. There
it takes another 40 minutes until they chop our passports. Especially
the visa of Shirley makes them lose a lot of time (25 minutes until the
border official comes back).
Then we drive through and reach the queue of the Hungarian border. It's
now 11pm and we start to wonder what time we will make it to Debrecen
(which is 1:30 hours from the border). Check-in time was 6pm, but I
have explained to the host that we will be late.
The queue at the Hungarian border takes over two hours. Around 1:20am
Hungarian time (2:20am Ukrainian time) it's finally our turn. The
border officials are rude. When they see us, they first call us
"russky" even if the car has a German licence plate. We hand them over
our passports and explain that we are Germans and my wife is Malaysian.
Then they say that their system is not used or not capable of handling
German passports, so we will have to wait 40 minutes.
Finally, at 2:08am local time we finally are in Hungary. Seems this
border crossing ordeal has lasted almost 15 hours (from 12:30pm to
3:08am Ukrainian time).
Then it's a speedy drive to Debrecen and we arrive at the apartment at
3:32am. We send a message to the host and after about 10 minutes they
arrive and we can finally get in. We sleep after 4am.
Toscana 4 Debrecen apartment in Debrecen. Today we
extend the stay by one night.
Weather: sunny, hot (over 30°C), some thin clouds
layer, overcast in the evening. No wind. In the evening it gets windy,
the sky closes and after 11-12pm it rains.
Day spent exploring Debrecen. We leave the apartment very late and
drive to the Forum Debrecen mall. This is a big and nice mall, with a
good food court. We have lunch there and then the ladies spend the
afternoon in the mall, shopping around (because outside it is so hot).
I also shop a bit, then walk out and have a look at Debrecen. There is
an interesting area around the central square (the one with the
church), but not much besides that. So I head to the tourist office on
this main square (Tourinform) and get some information about the
Hortobagy national park.
This is quite close to Debrecen and covers an area of 820 km², mainly
consisting of puszta. There are a number of activities possible there,
including horse riding.
I collect some information material and walk back to the mall, where I
meet again the ladies. We then buy some groceries in the supermarket in
the mall and head back to the apartment. Around 8pm I'm back in town for
some blue hour photography.
24.8: Debrecen -> Hortobágy national park
Toscana 4 Debrecen apartment in Debrecen.
Weather: overcast in the morning, after 12pm the
sky opens up and turns blue. Later it is full of clouds again and it
rains for a few minutes. Quite windy in the evening. Top temperatures
of 24°C (strong sun in the afternoon).
In the morning I call the Hortogbágy national park (the contact numbers
I got from the tourist office yesterday) and discuss the visit to the
Hortobágy national park. We settle for a horse riding session at 2pm
and the horse carriage trip at 4pm.
After 12pm we take the car to the Forum mall and have a lunch there.
Then, at 12:50pm we drive to the Hortobágy national park. It takes
around 40 minutes to get there, then a few more minutes to find the
exact place where to register for the activities.
There is no park headquarter where you have to register and also no
controls on who goes in and out (and no entrance fees or tickets). This
organisation which arranges the activities in the park seems to be a
private company or some non-profit organisation. Somehow I hear that
they also raise cattle in the national park (cows, buffaloes).
Anyway, between 2pm and 3pm my two girls have each a 30 minutes horse
riding lesson (first time they ride a real horse). They don't do much,
except for sitting on a horse and moving in a circle (with the horse
Then it's some waiting time until the horse carriage trip at 4pm. We
kill the time in the main building, where there is also a cafeteria.
Shortly before 4pm we get on the carriages. These are quite big and
seat about a dozen people each. We'll spend a bit over an hour doing a
loop in the puszta, with some shows of Hungarian horsemen and a few
stops at farms and cattle herds.
The park essentially consists of an endless prairie. Trekking in it
doesn't make too much sense, because there is no specific
point/landmark you could reach. But I guess you could rent a horse and
have a ride through the grasslands.
Shortly after 5pm we are back at the park headquarters and around 5:15pm we drive in the car
back towards Debrecen. On the way we make a stop at an Auchan
hypermarket which Shirley had spotted. There we buy some groceries. At
6:50pm we get back to the car and then drive to the Forum mall in
Debrecen for dinner. We are back in the apartment around 8:30pm.
25.8: Debrecen -> Eger -> Kecskemet
Ecomfort Apartment in Kecskemet. The equivalent of
54 Euro for an apartment in the centre of Kecskemet. One bedroom,
livingroom, fully equipped kitchen, bathroom with bathtub (no shower
cabin) and washing machine for clothes. Fast WLAN, parking for the cars
in the court, A/C. Separate small toilet with W/C only.
Weather: sunny, with a variable cloud cover
(sometimes overcast, sometimes blue sky). More fresh than yesterday
(top temperature of 22°C). No rain.
At 11am we leave the apartment in Debrecen and get into the car. We
stop at a petrol station where we buy a vignette (3600 HUF, 10 days)
for the Hungarian motorways. Basically you register the licence plate
in the Hungarian system and when the car is scanned on the motorways,
it recognises the licence plate and you don't get a fine. No need to
fix a sticker on the windshield.
We also wash the car in this petrol station. Then we continue driving
(mostly on motorways) and at 1pm are in Eger. There we park the car in
the parking of the Agria Park shopping mall.
After a quick lunch in the food court of the mall, the ladies do some
shopping in the mall while I walk into the city. Eger is kind of cute,
even if the historic centre is a mix of old and new buildings.
Everything is quite neat, as if it recently had been renovated. There
is a nice castle (2000 HUF ticket) overlooking the old town, but the
only old structures of the castle seem to be the walls. Everything else
is much newer.
There is a tourist street with restaurants and souvenir shops, but it
is quite short. The entire historic centre can actually be done in less
than two hours (if museums are skipped).
After a visit to the castle I rejoin the ladies at the giant panoramic
Around 5pm we are back in the car and drive to Kecskemet. It's almost
all motorway, so by 6:45pm we are in Kecskemet. There we split again
for the moment (ladies going to the Malom Központ mall) and I have a
look at the historic centre. This one looks interesting, with quite a
few buildings with interesting and cute looks. There is some event
ongoing, with a band playing songs and lots of stalls.
By 7:30pm I meet the ladies in the food court of the mall and have some
dinner. After that we drive to the apartment.
26.8: Kecskemet -> Szeged
Exclusive Szálláshely Szeged apartment in Szeged.
The equivalent of 70 Euro for a tiny little apartment of 24m² with two
double beds (one in its own corner), a small kitchen corner with
washing machine for clothes (a small one), fridge, microwave, stove,
one cupbiard for clothes, a table + three chairs, toilet with shower.
Reasonably fast Internet (WLAN). Centrally located in Szeged, not far
from the city hall. In principle the apartment is ok, but it is
definitely too small for four people. I only booked this place because
there was no other choice.
Weather: sunny, blue sky with some clouds, top
temperature of 25°C, no rain. Some wind on the motorway between
Kecskemet and Szeged.
In the morning we check out at 11am and park the car in the Malom
Központ mall (just because it's conveniently located next to the
historic centre). I walk into the centre of Kecskemet and take a few
more pictures of the area. There are some beautiful buildings, although
it's difficult to guess the architectural style (some seem to be Art
Nouveau). But I can't find a tourist street full of restaurants and
cafes, so I get back to the Malom Központ mall and have some lunch
there with the ladies.
Kecskemet has an interesting centre, but seems to lack a medieval
Around 1pm we are back in the car and drive to Szeged. The road is
mostly motorway. We arrive in Szeged around 2:20pm and park the car
next to the cathedral. Then we start exploring the city.
Szeged, or let's say the centre of the city, is mostly built in
Neoclassical style. Perhaps some church is older than 200 years. But
also here a medieval historical core is missing. Either it has never
existed or was destroyed to make place for new buildings.
We quickly reach the Karasz pedestrian area and walk along the street.
We reach some kind of park on Szechenyi square and rest under the
trees. Then we slowly walk back, stopping here and there. It's a very
neat, clean and nice pedestrian area with plenty of shops and
restaurants. But everything seems to be from the 19th or early 20th
At 5pm we pick the car and drive to the apartment. There we meet the
host and move in.
We get out again at 6:20pm for dinner, this time walking to the Arkad
mall, another modern mall near the city centre. After the dinner I'm
back in the city centre for some blue hour photography.
27.8: Szeged -> Pecs -> Szalatnak
Ecomfort apartment, Szalatnak. This is a complete
house with garden,
very big (120m²). Two big bedrooms, two livingrooms, one kitchen, WC
toilet, one toilet with shower. WLAN, no A/C, heating is available but
we can't figure out how to switch it on (the place is quite cold). This
house lies in Szalatnak, a small village in the middle of nowhere in
the hills, 40 minutes by car from Pecs. The night here is very dark,
because there is little light pollution (few settlements, few people in
When we arrive we call the number we received from booking.com and get
an old lady on the phone who only speaks Hungarian and doesn't know we
have booked the place. Seems the place is rented out by a guy (who
lives in Belgium?). Luckily the old lady calls some other woman who
lives in Austria on the phone and we can explain to her that we booked
this place and finally move in at 9pm.
Weather: rain in the morning and until about 2pm.
After that it's
overcast, but after 4pm the sky gradually opens up. In the evening the
sky is blue and the sun is shining. Top temperatures of 18°C (14°C when
We check out at 10:30am, then drive by car to the Arkad mall. There we
have some breakfast, then around 11:40am drive to Pecs. The road
initially is a simple long distance road. Only the last 60-70km are
motorway. Along the road we are stopped by the Hungarian police who
asks us to open the boots. Seems they are looking for refugees.
We reach Pecs at 2:15pm and park the car next to the cathedral. We have
a look at the cathedral, then walk to the Szechenyi square, which is
the main square of the historic centre of Pecs. Several interesting
buildings are on this square, many of them in neoclassical style.
Pecs has a beautiful historical core with several significant
buildings. It's not very touristy however, because there are not so
many tourist-centered activities/businesses. It's not a tourist trap.
On the other hands, restaurants seems to be a bit pricey (for instance
an Italian restaurant charging the equivalent of 12 Euro for a dish of
The ladies spot a Konzum department store/supermarket and spend some
time there. I continue having a look at the city. Then, together we
visit the Csontvary museum. Inside there are paintings of this artist,
some quite nice.
After the museum I drive the ladies to the Arkad mall. While they are
there doing their shopping, I continue having a look at Pecs. It's now
5pm and the suns is finally coming out and the sky is getting blue.
At 6:20pm I'm back in the Arkad mall and will spend the next hour and a
half there, having a dinner in an Italian restaurant and buying some
food in a supermarket.
At 7:50pm we get back into the car and drive to Szalatnak, where we'll
spend the night.
28.8: Szalatnak -> Fonyód
Étterem és Panzió, Őriszentpéter. The equivalent of 42 Euro for a room
with two beds, cupboard for clothes, two big upholstered chairs, small
TV, no table, toilet with shower, no A/C. Breakfast included. All the
stuff in the room is quite old, but the price includes breakfast and
this pension has an own restaurant. WLAN is available, but quite slow
from what I'm being told. Broken ventilator fan in the toilet (doesn't
suck out the smelly air).
overcast in the morning. Over the course of the day the sky will
alternate between partly sunny/blue and overcast. Some rain while
driving on the motorway. Top temperatures of 21°C.
We check out at 11am and return the keys to the old lady. Then we drive
to Fonyód on the Balaton lake, where I'm planning to stop for lunch. We
arrive there shortly after 1pm.
Fonyód is sort of a touristy beach resort. The only problem is that the
sky is overcast and the sea water looks greenish/milky/grayish, not
exactly pretty. And I cannot see a beach here. So it's kind of a beach
resort city without a beach, or perhaps there is a beach but not near
the centre of Fonyód.
After lunch in one of the restaurants near the pier, we shop for food
in a supermarket and continue driving to Őriszentpéter around 3:30pm.
We reach Őriszentpéter at 5pm and check in the pension. Then I have a
look at the place. Supposedly we are in the middle of the Örseg
national park, but this national park is a bit strange. It seems to
consist of a rural area with villages, fields and patches of forest. I
don't see dramatic scenery, wilderness, a park headquarter, marked
trails into the forest.
Perhaps this national park is not about wilderness, but about the
combination of these villages and the surrounding nature.
After 5:30pm I do a short walk around the area. It's kind of a peaceful
and not so developed place.
In the evening we have a dinner in the pension.
29.8: Őriszentpéter ->
Leoben -> Munich
Home, sweet home
overcast in the morning in Őriszentpéter (but no rain). Over the course
of the day the sun comes out, some patches of blue appear in the sky,
then it rains for some time, stops to rain, restarts etc. Top
temperatures of 14°C-15°C.
Day essentially spent driving back to Munich. Google Maps gives a total
travel time of six hours for the 553km trip
Őriszentpéter-Leoben-Munich. In practice, with the stop in Leoben and
some time lost in traffic jams we reach Munich a bit over eight hours
after we have left Őriszentpéter. This actually is quite good,
considering that we have to cross two borders in a Corona pandemic
situation and there is heavy holiday return traffic.
In fact, except for a short traffic jam on the motorway in Bavaria
(caused by an accident) which makes us lose about 10 minutes, the roads
and motorways are very fluid. Initially (in Hungary and part of
Austria) there is little traffic. Traffic increases as we approach
Germany and is highest in Germany. It seems that we chose the right
route and border crossings, because on the radio I hear of waiting
times up to two hours at other border crossings.
Regarding the border crossings: from Hungary to Austria there is just
an Austrian soldier who asks us if we are transiting across Austria, on
the way to Germany. At the border between Austria and Germany near
Salzburg (and here for once Google Maps does the right thing and routes
us to a secondary border crossing with no waiting time) the German
border police officer just waves us through. We almost can't believe
things went so smoothly, after the 15 hours spent crossing the
We stop in Leoben between 1:30pm and 2:30pm. The city is cute and
immaculately clean, but the only interesting part is the main square
with the plague column.
Now the problem is that due to the pandemic situation if you want to
eat in a restaurant, you either have to be fully vaccinated against
Covid-19, have gained immunity by recovering from a Covid-19 illness or
you must have a negative test result max 2-3 days old. Both Shirley and
I are fully vaccinated, but the kids have only received the first dose
and we do not have a fresh negative test result.
So, basically we can't have lunch in a restaurant (like we did in the
other countries). We are forced to go to a McDonalds restaurant, and
order some take away food which we then consume in the car (because we
are not allowed to eat it on the terrace of the McDonalds restaurant).
There is nothing wrong with these pandemic prevention regulations. But
the fact is that until July it was very difficult to get a Covid-19
vaccination (we registered with the portal in February, but only got
the vaccinations in June-July). Shirley and I managed by luck to get
both shots before leaving for the trip, but the kids only got the first
shot in the week before the trip. That is also the reason why we
couldn't travel to Slovakia.
Anyway, at 7:15pm we reach home. We have completed a trip of 6300 km
across Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Hungary and Austria smoothly and
without major problems.
Copyright 2022 Alfred Molon