Tag Archives: Carcassonne

Our visit to Germany and Poland

17 Nov
The remnants of the Berlin Wall

Our four days in Berlin

What a city! Our first time in Berlin and a whole new experience. As we had been born in 1949, we’d been on the sidelines of the aftermath of the second world war. Anything we knew about Berlin had come from the media and from reading Le Carré spy stories. To help us with our visit we had purchased a book in English which described the conditions whilst Berlin was divided between the allies and the German Democratic Republic (former East Germany).

The public transport system is superb. And cheap! You can purchase an all day ticket for €7 which you can use on any buses, trams, underground or Berlin overground train. Perfect for exploring. And when we were too tired to travel by public transport we used Uber to get us around.

We stayed in a small apartment to the north of the city (in the former East German sector). We found this through AirBnB and paid €65 a night. Warm and comfortable and very close to the bus, tram and train lines.

Like in any big city there was a profusion of restaurants catering for any taste. We discovered a small chain of restaurants offering Thai soups and noodles. Excellent for lunchtime, as the weather wasn’t that good – mainly cloudy, rainy and quite cold at times.

We spent a morning at the famous Berlin Zoo – we visited the Panda enclosure but were not able to see the newly-born Pandas. The zoo is impressive and well managed. There were a large number of employees looking after the animals and the grounds. Sadly most of the eating places were closed and only opened at weekends. So we left at lunchtime to keep body and soul together.

In the afternoon we visited the Berlin Technical Museum and had a good mooch round the old trains on display. We didn’t have time to do much else but the museum is well worth a longer visit.

Our first visit to East Germany

Görlitz is as close to Poland as you can get! In fact the town is separated from its Polish counterpart by a river (the Lusatian Neisse). Crossing the border is a matter of walking over a bridge – as simple as that!

The town of Görlitz is superb. It’s known for its well-preserved old town, where buildings of different eras show off a wealth of architectural styles. St. Peter’s is a late-Gothic church, with 2 steeples and the early-18th-century Sun Organ. The early-Renaissance Schönhof and adjacent buildings are home to the Silesian Museum, displaying German, Polish and Czech art and history. Görlitz is one of the few German cities that were spared from destructive allied bombing raids during World War 2. As a result it is much in demand as a film location.

We were amongst a party of 12 people from the Saint Louis choir of Carcassonne. We’d been invited by our counterparts (The Bach Choir of Görlitz) to sing Brahms’s German Requiem at their local church (Kreuzkirche). Both choirs had been rehearsing in their respective towns and the first time we’d sung this piece together was the Friday before the concert on the Saturday.

Our first visit to Poland

En route from Görlitz to Wroclaw

The combined choirs of Görlitz and Choeur Saint Louis Carcassonne traveled by two coaches to Wroclaw (about 165 kms from Zgorzelec (which is the name of the Polish part of Görlitz).

We then performed Brahms’ German Requiem at St Maximilian Kolbe in front of a huge audience (for a church) who seemed very appreciative. The priest gave a long speech in Polish but no one understood what he said! After we were given supper – Polish sausage and sauerkraut plus cakes!

Getting to know the locals better

28 Oct

We have lived in Montolieu 33 months now and we have made some connections with local people. Of course the shopkeepers know us quite well now – Adrian in the wine shop, Nellie at the grocer, Saskia at the baker, Terry and Bernard at the restaurant; and the pharmacist sees Richard quite frequently! We love talking to Monsieur Escarré, who is in his 80s and walks down our track most days with the aid of his walking sticks. Talking to him is a bit of a challenge as he has a strong local accent, giggles a lot and his teeth seem to be quite mobile!

We have joined the retired peoples’ club where we have made some more friends. This month we went to the club lunch where 64 of us enjoyed a four course meal with wine and coffee (great value at €15 a head).

M Borillo, aged 92

M Borillo, aged 92

We sat next to Monsieur Borillo, aged 92, and his wife who together with their daughter had worked at the tannery where we now live. He told us a little about his working life. Before he went to the tannery he had worked on the land at Saissac, an outdoor man. Before he retired (30 years ago!) he had worked on the first floor of the tannery (where we now live), operating a machine that cleaned the skins before they were processed into leather.

When he worked here, there were about 50 people employed. The owner and the manager lived in the Old House. The buyer and transport manager lived in what is now the Little House.

The tannery business was contracting fast and just before its demise, it employed just five people. Looking at some of the old records, it seemed that the French state tried to support it, by paying the salaries of the employees for the last two years, but to no avail.

By chance I met a friend of a friend on one of our sailing trips who ran a leather trading business. He used to make visits around the world buying leather and he had purchased from the Tannery de la Dure many times! What a coincidence!

Anyway, back to the lunch. After consuming a tart and salad for starter, followed by coq-au-vin with dauphenoise potatoes, then cheese and finally a desert followed by coffee and all sustained by copious bottles of white, rosé and red wine, we got discussing our life and background with Daniele, the president of the Club de Retraite. She explained that on Tuesdays they had a course learning English. About seven people turned up but the tutor had returned to England for several weeks and they wanted to continue practising. So Trish agreed to go along! I will let her tell you the story but I am pleased to report that she has made at least three new friends and is talking about inviting some of the group to come and eat a meal with us or perhaps have a drink with us!

Meanwhile I flew off to England for five days for business meetings. Thanks to Graham and Sue Whibley for putting me up yet again!

Interesting sky at Carcassonne

Interesting sky at Carcassonne

I flew from Carcassonne and this time bought a Business Plus ticket – more expensive than cattle class but you get 20kgs into the hold, a reserved seat, priority boarding and most importantly for me, as I have problems standing in queues, fast tracking through security at Stansted.

Anyway, that’s all for now. Got to hit the sack ready for a Skype call tomorrow with my French friend, Jean-Pierre, who lives in Beavais.