Burton Dane Travels

We're traveling through Europe and parts nearby for a year. We'll be posting our pix and adventures here.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Central European Water

The last few weeks have had a definite water theme. We started with a water park in Krakow. This indoor pool had seven serious slides, four of them started on the third floor, went outside then came back in. They included a black tube with worm-hole style lighting and two pitch black “racers”. Lots of active fun.

The next time we “swam” was in an outdoor bath in Budapest. We took the waters with hundreds of others. This mostly involves standing amongst people who should wear bigger bathing suits. The building was huge, old and beautiful. Inside were steam rooms and smaller mineral pools. We didn’t take pictures of either of these.
We next hit Rab Island on the northern Croatian coast. The pictures show the roofs of the medieval town center and of course Ben in the sand. It looks like we caught up with summer again.

After the beach, we went inland to the Plitvicka Lakes. This place is good enough to plan a trip around (though I’d throw in Krakow and a few others). A dozen or so lakes cascade down through a gorge. They are damed by travertine covered in plants and moss. The water comes over the dams in curtains, drizzles, stair-step cascades, inside tubes, chutes and pulsing squirts.

The Croatians have built raised wooden pathways that follow the contours without disturbing them. There are no developments on the lake shore. It’s all nicely done.
The pictures include one of our submissions for the Oregonian’s Travel section. We have a few others in case this one doesn’t make it.

Saturday, April 28, 2007


Ben and I spent 6 days in Budapest (Jules was in Romania for most of the time), eating goulash and ice cream, drinking good beer and learning more about humanity’s finest moments.

The aptly named Terror Museum shows the brief reign of the German and Hungarian Nazi parties and the 40 year reign of Communism. The Nazis killed Jews and other unwanteds through disastrous labor and extermination camps. The communists turned he people on themselves. In the name of self-preservation, they turned in their friends, neighbors and family members. One “hero” was a little boy who turned in his father. Others were told to emulate him.

Communism is referred to as a “coup” that was defeated by a revolution in ‘89. The Russians used tanks to quell revolutions in the 50’s. They removed benevolent leaders and installed ruthless ones to keep control.

Once they left, their statues were removed. Many are in a statue park that makes them look silly. Their remaining war memorials have been modified to remove the names of their dead. I can see they are getting mad about this now in Estonia.

Current day Hungary is pretty, friendly and vibrant. We had a fine time.....

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Transylvania, bwooa-ha-ha-ha

Dracula’s Dream is a multi layered concoction served in Vlad Tepe’s boyhood home in Sighisoara, Romania--I swear it sort of throbs, like a heart.

Drac Gula (son of Drac, the Dragon), prince of nearby Wallachia, famous for impaling Turks to repel the Ottoman Empire, and is, inexplicably, the poster-boy for Bram Stoker’s vampire character. Sadistic qualities aside, he is not remembered for bloodsucking. In Transylvania and most of Romania and Hungary, he is considered a national hero for his leadership qualities.

Those of you who know me also know that I had to see this for myself, so a ten-hour train ride later, I found myself wandering the cobblestones of this UNESCO World Heritage site. The fortified citadel contains wonders like a 16th century walkway and a 14th century church with a 12th century crypt, not to mention the totally creepy graveyard next door. The clocktower is dated 1099 and it has a real torture chamber in the dungeon and a display of medieval dentistry instruments in its remarkably well-kept museum. Horses still pull wooden wagons full of people along the roads in Sighisoara next to more modern vehicles, and you can still sample palinche (fortified brandy) from plastic soda bottles while you watch owls and bats wheel through the sky.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Caves, Mines, Lairs and Liars

We’ve recently taken a lot of underground pictures. Not sure why. The weather and architecture have been great. But these are what wind up in the camera.

Unlike our April Fool’s posting, these are all true. Really. From here on out all blogs will be true. No more stolen vans or turning off gravity. All images will come directly from the camera (with just a brief pause in PhotoShop).

If there are any postings that aren’t true, they will be labeled. Or obviously untrue. Like singing statues. Or ancient civilizations with advanced knowledge of mathematics.

Whew... I feel better.

The first image is of stalagmites in a cave in the Eastern Czech Republic. We got there by typing the name into the GPS unit and following the directions. It’s a real test of faith in technology because the road signs don’t mention the caves till you’re right there. We couldn’t even pronounce the name of it if we had been asked. There aren’t enough vowels.

We just went driving along between fields, down unpaved roads and through the centers of small villages till we got there. Inside, we walked through rooms and passage ways accompanied by a guide speaking non-stop Czech. Every now and then she’d turn on some music or turn off the lights.

She took us to dock where a long electric boat carried us the rest of the way. Our first navigable underground river. Really. She said we couldn’t take pictures cause of safety reasons.

The next two images are in an abandoned salt mine in Krakow, Poland. Almost everything in the place was carved out of salt. Even the chandelier crystals, statues and floor tiling. Ben licked the walls and confirmed they were salty. We were assured it was a bacteria free environment. Talk about a hoax!

The last image is of a dragon, a symbol of Krakow. We walked through it’s underground “lair” below the Wawhel castle. It was a believable lair.

Before Krakow, we visited Auschwitz. We were stunned by the mounds of human hair, suitcases, shoes and brushes. This is were the SS carried out the processes they developed in Dachau. In Auschwitz and down the street in Birkenau, they murdered 3 million people. We left much of it unseen. It was too much sadness, pain and confusion. Humanity at it’s worst. But not out of character.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Clocks and Whips

We’re seeing a lot of public clocks of unusual design. The Hebrew one runs counterclockwise, presumably since Hebrew is read right to left. The other is an astronomical clock showing planet positions, a sky map and death (skeleton) with its non-stop hour glass. There's also an astronomical clock made during communist times. It features industrial workers and farmers as the characters.

Here in Olomouc in Eastern Czech Republic we are having a few recuperating days over the Easter holiday. The Czech’s are celebrating with what must be a pagan rite. The males look for females to slap on the behinds with their decorated willow sticks. The women are then supposed to give them an egg (or perhaps the egg forestalls the beating). In any case, there were many more males visible than females. We only saw one “attack”.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Czech Republic

We flew from Turkey to Zurich so we could drive to Eastern Europe. Not the most direct route but one that allowed us to fly into a non-EU country and still pick up a long term rental car. Our plans matched those of Catherine and Jessie so we got to spend some time together traveling across Germany to Plzen in the Czech Republic.

When we arrived in Plzen it was dark and deserted. We rented a flat that must have been outfitted for party bosses. It had huge rooms, high ceilings and little furniture. Surreal and disquieting. It felt like they still had the eavesdropping tape recorders hooked up.

The morning brought sunshine, and showed Plzen to be a vibrant city. We toured the town and later the Pilsen Urquell brewery. They still brew a few batches according to their original 150 year old process. The brew-master uses this beer to ensure the taste from the high-volume process is correct. We tasted this special brew, drawn unfiltered from the old time barrels. Ben looks happy with the taste, but in fact thought it was too bitter and cloudy.

The following three days we ran around Prague with Jenny and Debbie. It’s a beautiful city. Well preserved and seemingly comfortable hosting a lot of tourists. Among the castles and synagogues we also visited the Museum of Kommunism. It showed the repression and paranoia that the people endured from WWII until 1989. Another dismal period in humanity’s past.

Communism came on the heals of Nazi repression, round ups and exterminations. Hitler left several Prague synagogues and Jewish landmarks intact with the intention of displaying them as the remnants of an extinct people. The Pinkas synagogue’s walls had the names of those exterminated from this region. It was relentless. We plan to visit Auschwitz in Poland and I expect it to be horrific.


Sunday, April 01, 2007


We can only show you fuzzy pictures of this place since they were taken with a Soviet era camera.

We visited the site where the USSR used to train their cosmonauts for the weightlessness of space. In addition to a huge water pool, there’s a tunnel down deep in a huge iron ore deposit.

The ore is heavily magnetized and the tunnel is bored horizontally through its center. When they close massive iron doors, it almost perfectly counteracts the forces of gravity!

We stored all of our metal objects at the entrance above ground, then took an elevator down 2 kms to the tunnel. There we put on heavily padded clothes, gloves, boots and helmets till weightlessness was the last thing from our minds.

As soon as they closed the doors, we started floating! The slightest push and you went from one side to another. It was outrageous! It reminded me of scuba diving except you could breathe (and there weren’t any fish). We flew around for about 15 minutes before they opened the doors and gravity returned. This was by far our most unbelievable experience of the trip.

If you ever have a chance to visit Izntrh, don’t be foolish enough to miss it.