Monthly Archives: June 2012

The Malcolm and Jean Europe Tour 2012, sadly, has come to an end. We are at Dresden Airport, awaiting a flight to Heathrow. We arrive in Australia on Saturday, and return to work next week. It’s been an amazing experience with so many highlights. We’ve reunited with old friends, including Sandra, whom I worked with at the BBC and hadn’t seen in 23 years. There was Alison, who accidentally ordered a plate with two full chickens in Llanilar. We’ve caught up with family, and met new family in Germany. We had a fantastic canal ride in Llangollen, partied in Queen’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations in London, and stayed at the Baileys Hotel after an absence of 30 years. Northern Ireland was a highlight, and we love Dresden. And of course there was finding my castle, elusive for so many years, a highlight not only of this holiday, but of my life.

As the viewer will know, in the last six weeks, we went as far west as Enniskillen in Northern Ireland, and as far east as Jelenia Gora in Poland. Regarding viewing, our blog has, at the time of writing, been viewed 996 times. Busiest day was 12 June with 74 views. We’ve had followers in the USA, Canada, the UK, Germany, South Korea, Brazil, and Australia, with comments from random visitors. It’s been great fun blogging, and I recommend it. In future, though, I may pay a little money to upgrade to a better blog facility. This time round, I’ve failed to grasp why my tagging has worked only a minority of times. And I’ve not come to grips with uploading pictures, a desirable addition.

We hope you’ve enjoyed the Malcolm and Jean Europe Tour 2012. Hopefully, there will be a Malcolm and Jean Europe Tour 2013. Till next time.


In Australia, there are only so many places that people would dream of taking their dogs, and you wouldn’t think of seeing dogs in certain situations. Not so in Europe. People have an uxorious love of their canine Kinder to the point where I’m inspired to write a blog post about it. We’ve seen one little ratty mutt in jeans, a polo shirt and braces. Another day, we saw an elderly couple pushing a stroller along, and we assumed it was a baby. Think again. We’ve seen great Danes with their owners in shopping malls, and little darlings tucked under arms in butcher shops.

During the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in London, when people in their millions were pouring into the area around Westminster, and we could hardly move forward at all because of the teeming numbers of people, suddenly a poodle emerged in front of us, yanked along by a wiry young woman. Jean said: “What idiot would bring their dog out to an event like this?”. An older woman closer to us replied: “That’s our dog! I’ll thank you to keep your opinions to yourself!”. I thought it was quite funny.

After finding the castle in the bushes, Jean and I chatted with the elderly lady whose name was Erena. She showed us old pictures of Schosdorf in German times. She had lived in the village since 1953. She said her son had written a book about the village but the publishers rejected the manuscript. Erena said many old Germans who had worked in the castle occasionally visited. She also said, to my surprise, that it was not destroyed in the war, but afterwards. She said a conflict emerged involving the Russians, but I don’t know anything about this. Erena showed us an old cupboard inside her house. She said it had come from inside the castle post-Second World War. I was intrigued by all of this. I’d been aware that a piggery had existed in Schosdorf during the war. Erena revealed her house had been a piggery in the war! (with 30 pigs).

We swapped addresses, and I now have Erena’s son’s address. I’ll contact him to learn more. I’d not thought to ask Erena whether the castle played any role during the war, something I’d like to know. I asked Erena to organise copies of all the photos for me, and I gave her 20 Zlotys as payment. She said it was too much money, and I said it didn’t matter. I then gave her 20 more Zlotys as a present because I thought she deserved it. She said at 80 years old, it’s no life being on your own.

Later, I waded through the bush to the castle for one last look. It is disappointing that some locals have dumped lots of rubbish on the floor of the tower. I couldn’t enter. And the rubbish actually sounded a little like it was alive. And empty beer bottles here and there. I’d thought I’d left a map on the castle’s front step…but no.

18 June – I’ll never forget 18 June 2012. I got what I came for on this trip to Europe, and in coming to Poland. With a new clue as to the whereabouts of the castle that I’d wanted to see since I was a young kid, we set out. We crept along in our hire car in the area we thought it would be. I asked an old lady in her garden for help. Fortunately, she spoke rusty German. She showed me exactly where to go, pointing into dense bushland, covered by a canopy of tall trees that created darkness within. I moved inwards into very thick scrub, wrestling with thin tree branches and vines by the thousand. The ground under me was undulated and invisible, covered in fallen branches and undergrowth. I didn’t know where I was treading, but I kept moving anyway. With each step, I slid, cracked twigs, brushed against bushes, got scratched, and was stung by the odd stingy nettle, but I didn’t care. (I wore shorts and thongs, utterly the wrong footwear, but I had decided that if I’d worn sensible clothing, I’d have found nothing.) Jean didn’t follow, and I wasn’t surprised. Then, ahead of me, behind a curtain of natural greenery, I detected the outline of something large and man-made. “There’s something here!”, I called to Jean, who still didn’t follow. As I moved closer, it was like one’s first sighting of Titanic, an outline appearing of something lost and buried, now found.

The castle, what’s left of it, has been completely re-claimed by nature. It’s obscured by bush in most of the 60 photos I took. The back entrance is obvious, as is the tower which once supported a flag pole. You can also make out what were the rooms to the right of the front entrance. As I suspected, there was a cellar here, and an entrance to it in the back stair-well. The castle is on a hill, possibly the uppermost part of Ubocze (formerly Schosdorf), the front facing south-west. I did my best to pace out its length and breadth while negotiating undulations, vines and bushes.

It’s a pity this ruin is buried in the bush, reclaimed by nature, and almost forgotten. For now, I’m very glad to have seen it finally after all these years.

17 June – Frustrated with the disappointments of yesterday, we decided to visit the Czech Republic, especially since it’s so close. First, we headed south-east to Jelenia Gora. When we got there, we couldn’t find the centre of town, so we pressed on. As we neared the border, the soft, green undulations of south-west Poland gave way to a more mountainous landscape, carpeted by 30 metre high fir trees, packed tightly together, with long, thin trunks that followed the motorist along the windy roads. It was like driving through a beautiful, green tunnel of a thousand giant Christmas trees without the decorations. Here, we stopped at Szklarska Poreba, a lovely spot which reminded us of Betws-y-Coed in Wales. One shit coffee and tasteless tea later, we soon passed an abandoned border post, and found ourselves in the Czech Republic, country number 41 for me.

Further on, the Czech police flagged us down. Uh oh, we thought. But all they wanted was that we turn our headlights on. In broad daylight? OK.

We stopped in one town, but it looked like a real dive. We pressed on along Road 14 through Tanvald, Jablonic, around Liberec, and made our way to Frydlant, which sounded nice and looked good on the map. But it was another dive. We headed west into Poland again, turned right at Bogatynia, and drove north-east to Luban, and south-east back to our hotel. A round trip of a couple of hundred k’s at most. Arguably quite pointless, really.

17 June – I studied my 1952 US Army map of this immediate area of Lower Silesia again this afternoon. I spotted something which has given me a new clue as to the location of my elusive ruined castle. Tomorrow, we’ll try again.