This is David’s Hat’s first tour!
There’s a rough itinerary but as people know I change my mind like my socks and I could be 1,000 miles from where I said I was going. I’m a Libran so I can’t make my mind up. Here we are at Dover, and as everyone knows the excitement starts right here.
I was actually at the port for 2 days as I had other business in Folkestone and Dover, so sleeping each night at this spot with the view in the photo was exciting. I was literally counting the hours down.
Bray-Dunes in Dunkirk, northern France. This is David’s hat’s first trip and stop off point.
David’s hat looks out over the beach of Bray-Dunes, where for over a week starting on 26th May 1940, British, French and Belgian soldiers were rescued from the beaches by one of the most amazing collections of craft ever seen. Even small, private fishing boats crossed the channel to help rescue the stranded soldiers. 198,000 British, 123,000 French and 16,000 Belgians escaped by sea while a small number of soldiers sacrificed their lives trying to halt the German advance and protect the rescue.
The beach is enormous and you can feel the sense of history as you walk along and spot the wrecks still lying on the shore, mostly visible only at low tide. This photo shows the Devonia, a paddle steamer which was deliberately beached after taking heavy damage and used as a boarding stage for soldiers onto other vessels. In the background you can see the yellow buoys which mark the spot where the Crested Eagle, also a paddle steamer was sunk by German air-planes with the loss of 300 lives.
David’s hat had to be fixed to a memorial plaque as it was quite windy, but I think this is the best shot I got. You can’t tell but it was really windy that day so I had to fasten it to the notice board using the dogs lead lol I think I’ll fix some velcro straps on the inside for the future to make securing it more easy.
Onwards to beautiful Amsterdam. My first trip here. There are so many beautiful views to see in Amsterdam but this was one of my favourites. Luckily there was no wind so the hat remained secure while I moved away to take the photo.
The next shot might be familiar to some people. In 2014 there was a film called The Fault in our Stars which follows a couple named Hazel and Gus through their illness and Gus’s eventual death. An iconic scene from the film was when the couple went to visit an author in Amsterdam and Gus gave Hazel some bad news while sitting on a bench by the canal.
This scene has become iconic especially for lovers and those touched by tragedy, the scene can be found here. There are many padlocks, flowers etc by the bench now, some with moving tributes written to lost loves.
I thought it fitting that I visited the spot but after 3 attempts it was difficult to show the hat on the bench. A young man kindly agreed to hold the hat for me as I crossed the canal to get the shot I wanted.
I explained who Dave was and what I was doing for Jan and one of the young ladies checked this page on her phone and was visibly touched by the mission. Give my love to Jan she said, and the other two echoed her comments.
‘In the countryside’ in Germany
We’re not anywhere in particular at the moment. We’ve been staying out of the way in forests and fields enjoying exploring and walking for miles. Jack’s totally in his element and to add to his list of ‘catches’ he got a bird’s nest this morning. Yeah…I was baffled too. He want into this bush on his hind legs and pulled the branches and when they came down he sort of leant on them to bring them lower. Then he came out with a bird’s nest in his teeth! I was so surprised.
Luckily, but sadly, it had already been found by either a rat or a snake or something as the eggs had been eaten and there was just bits of shell left. As usual he went in the huff for a while when I took it off him because of course it was his catch not mine lol but we soon found a rabbit warren and he cheered up as I let him dig for a half hour. He’s a fearsome digger and he was right in to his bum by the time I stopped him.
We set off again on our way east but after a few hours we stopped in a rest area to have a cuppa and enjoy the sunshine. Can you guess where we are…
Auschwitz and Birkenau death camps in Poland
Since Leipzig we’ve toured the Polish countryside extensively, they have the most massive forests! We set off along a firebreak in one of them, and a few hours later I turned to go back and realised we could not see a human structure of any sort at all for as far as we could see: which was a long way!
Jack was of course loving it apart from when I had to get a thorn out of his foot. Luckily it hadn’t hurt him so once it was out he carried on as before.
We arrived in Oswiecim which is the village where Auschwitz museum is about 2am Saturday morning. I found a car park but it was slightly confusing about the prices but eventually I sussed that the museum itself opens at 4am so I could park in there. It was €5 less than the tourist office car park too so as I was not staying for the evening it was better value to park at Auschwitz.
By the time me and the dog had stretched our legs a bit it was open so we had a chat with a really friendly security guard and parked up, then went for a wander in the grounds. The sun was coming up nicely but it was about 8am before I finally got in.
There’s a deep sense of foreboding that even the bright, warm sun could not dissipate. You can barely take in the inhuman suffering that went on here: man against man for no better reason than how they lived their lives.
Block 11 is just indescribably sad. I do hope that by having this museum it helps to prevent anything similar from ever happening again.
The site at Birkenau was opened when they found they could not cope at Auschwitz, so we got the free bus over there and spent an hour and a half at that camp.
Most of Birkenau is in ruins but you can still feel the misery of the place.
David would have enjoyed the visit. I think he like me would consider it a fitting tribute to the dead and a living reminder that we must not allow ourselves to be like this again.
Oh…and he would be happy that it is a myth that birds do not fly over Auschwitz. I’m happy to say they are everywhere and were singing their hearts out in the sunshine.
To be completed
I’ve left Poland now and moved into Slovakia. After having visited the Czech republic some time ago I was keen to see how Slovakia had managed the split. The first stop across the border was Breza, a tiny village with a post office, a supermarket, a coffee bar and a pub. Oh and a church of course. 62% of Slovakians belong to the Roman Catholic Church. So it’s a common sight to see shrines by the roadsides and beautiful, elaborate churches in tiny villages.
Spot the hat here…
As you cross the border from Poland you enter the High Tatras mountains. The scenery is stunning no matter where you go and there are forests, lakes and rivers galore.
I’d only been on a short walk when I spotted this view.
I’ll be moving on tomorrow.
Nova Bystrica, Slovakia
To be completed
Brno, Czech Republic
To be completed
To be completed
Linz is the 3rd largest city in Austria and the capital of Upper Bavaria. Like many major European cities the Danube runs through it.
Adolf Hitler spent most of his youth here, as did Adolf Eichmann and after the war the city spend decades shedding it’s links to these people.
Most of the touristy bit of Linz is on the south side of the Danube and consists of ancient areas including old Roman ruins, old squares and buildings dating back centuries, and modern buildings with glass and steel. Enormous pleasure boats dock here and testify to the amount of tourists who flock to the city. I actually prefer it to Vienna for several reasons: it’s smaller so easier to get around, it’s less expensive, it’s a more down to earth city where real people live.
Predominantly Roman Catholic there are numerous churches and a cathedral, and religious iconography everywhere.
There’s art installations and centres around the city, technological centres, museums and some beautifully kept parks. I’m staying here for a little while. Like Rouen and Amiens, it’s just one of those places that you want to stop and relax for a while.