Thursday, 3 January 2019

2019 - Looking ahead

Well after last year’s dramatic turn of events at the beginning of January, I learnt my lesson about not making too many plans, either in advance or ideas that are so rigid that they appear set in stone. When you’re not sure quite what life may have next in store for you, it does pay to be a little flexible, so this year I’ve left things a lot more flexible. So even though nothing has been confirmed yet, I’ve still been looking ahead through 2019 and sketching out a few ideas, which I thought I might share with you.

Looking at a map of Europe, I realised there are more than a few countries I’ve yet to set foot in. Most of these are in eastern Europe, where I’ve only scratched the surface, but there are still two significant Scandinavian countries (Norway & Sweden) which I haven’t visited.

Mrs PBT’s has been talking about a mini-cruise; one which acts as an introduction to cruising - a “taster cruise” if you like. My wife’s sister and her husband are experienced and avid cruisers, but as neither of us are sure whether this will be our thing, a mini-cruise would be the ideal way to find out.

We were originally looking at Hamburg as our cruising destination, but a short voyage across the North Sea to Norway, with the option of flying back, sounds better to me. This would afford the opportunity of ticking off another European country, whilst experiencing life afloat at the same time. I would certainly like to see the fjords at close hand and enjoy a bit of Norwegian culture..

Poland is another European country which has long been on my list of places to visit, and whilst Krakow, Warsaw or Gdansk might seem the obvious cities to travel to, the south-western city of Wroclaw is the one which is commanding my attention at present.

Wroclaw hosts a beer festival with a growing in reputation, called the  Festival of Good Beer. I’ve known about this event for a number of years, but back in August, whilst I was at the Beer Bloggers & Writers’ Conference in Virginia, I met up with Polish Beer Blogger, Tomasz Kopyra.

Tomasz and I were the only European representatives at the Virginia event, and I got talking to him whilst we were at the end of conference party at Lost Rhino Brewing. I had met Tomasz before, albeit briefly, at the 2015 European Beer Blogger’s Conference in Brussels, but the whilst tasting our way through a myriad of different beers at Lost Rhino, I asked him about the Wroclaw Festival of Good Beer.

Tomasz of course, strongly recommended a visit and, bearing in mind we had both consumed a fair amount of beer that evening, offered to point me in the right direction with regards to finding a hotel etc. The beer festival is the biggest such event in Poland and takes place in June, and getting there should not pose too much of a problem.

Both Ryanair and Wizz-Air operate direct flights to Wroclaw from the UK; either from Stansted or Luton, but given Ryanair’s problems last year I’d prefer to give Wizz a go, especially as several of my east-European colleagues have first hand experience of this Hungarian airline and given it good reviews. I’m trying to persuade son Matthew to accompany me, as I’m sure he’ll enjoy a visit to somewhere a bit different,  so once dates are confirmed I will look at booking flights.

On his Zythophile website, Beer Writer, Martyn Cornell produced a lengthy write-up of his 2015 visit to the festival, which he attended as the guest of Tomasz Kopyra. Reading through Martyn’s article again, has certainly whetted my appetite, not just for the beer, but for the food as well.

There is also the historical and cultural aspect, as Wroclaw has had a turbulent past, despite being one of the most culturally and architecturally diverse cities in Central Europe. Wroclaw was known as Breslau until 1945 when, at the end of the Second World War, the city, and most of Silesia were transferred to Poland. Breslau/Wroclaw had been reduced to rubble at the end of the conflict, but since then the city has been painstakingly rebuilt.

Moving on, I’ve got quite a stash of Nectar Points that I’ve built up, so I’m thinking of putting them towards a Eurostar trip. Belgium, rather than France, is the obvious country, particularly for anyone interested in beer, and if Mrs PBT’s feels sufficiently up to the rigours of continental train travel to accompany me, Ghent or even Antwerp would be my preferred destinations. Also, seeing as Belgium is not a large country, it would be easy to nip across into Luxembourg, if only for the day, thereby knocking off yet another country.

Later in the year, Mrs PBT’s wants me to drive us up to Scotland, stopping off at a few places on the way up and the way back. Nothing more definite than that has been decided at the moment, although we will probably stop off  in Yorkshire for a few days, to visit her relatives.

Matthew has been badgering me, for some time, about a return visit to the Czech Republic, so that is another location we will have to try and fit in. Could another cross-border trip be arranged? This time to neighbouring Slovakia.

As I hinted at earlier, it’s early days yet and much depends on what happens both here in the UK and abroad. I won’t mention the “B” word, but we’re now less than 90 days away from the government’s self-imposed departure date from the world’s largest trading block. If the Pound decreases any further in value, then Eastern Europe is certainly looking a lot more financially attractive for holidays, than countries in the Euro-zone, so it could be Poland and Czechia, rather than Belgium and Norway!


Martin Taylor said...

All good options, Paul. A mini cruise around Norway would save you the prohibitive hotel costs and while Norwegian beer isn't cheap it's probably only London craft keg prices these days !

Etu said...

It's not the "B" word, Paul.

It's the "b" word ;-)



Paul Bailey said...

I was thinking along similar lines with regard to Norway, Martin.

The reason I mentioned Hamburg is that several cruise operators offer a one way cruise to the city, and then a return flight home. However, having spoken with a colleague who's taken one of the Norwegian cruises, sailing there and back seems a far better option.

Mrs PBT's needs a bit of pampering after her experience, last year, and the fact that the cruise line even carry your luggage on board ship for you, and take it to your cabin, does away with all that hassle at the airport.

Etu, definitely a "b" word, and one which needs consigning to the dustbin of history!

Etu said...

There's an implied optimism in your post, that travel arrangements post March 29th will be manageable, Paul. We'll just have to see won't we? As for exchange rates, well, let's hope that the markets have already discounted for the worst.

Incidentally, there seems to be a CVW (Collective Victimhood Wallow) going on in "another place" just now, about PHE's attempts - admittedly silly - to extend the life-expectancy of the masses. It's worth a look if you fancy a chuckle.



Paul Bailey said...

Etu, I am sure there will still be ways to travel, even without blue passports!

As for exchange rates, well Norway is known to be expensive, so we will have to budget for that anyway, but the Czech Republic and Poland are cheap, compared to western Europe. I might also be visiting Germany, but that will be a business trip and the company will be paying.

If the "other place" is the site I think you are referring to, I've already had a look. "Collective Victimhood Wallow" - I like that phrase.