TATRA AREA RESEARCH GROUP
© TARG All rights reserved.
Newsletter for "April" 2003
Greetings to all TARG members! And, yes, I know your calendar probably says May on it by now, but I just have to get out the April issue of the TARG Newsletter before the May issue comes out! I did try to get this out by the end of April, but a nasty bout with the flu and some computer problems dashed those plans. Back in the saddle now, and ready to go, I'll cover the ground we should have earlier.
While we're on the subject of computer problems, I would like to know how widely spread the problem of lost and returned TARG e-mails is. Have any of you tried to contact me via e-mail only to have your e-mail either left unanswered or "bounced" back to you in the last six weeks? If you have, would you please contact me on one of my other e-mail addresses and let me know? My three e-mail addresses are: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
My ISP has reportedly been implementing some new measures to control the increasing amount of e-mail "spam". I know they did this same sort of thing at the office where I work around the beginning of the year. Maybe your ISP has done the same thing recently. Our tech guys upstairs soon got a real ear-full regarding their new blocking measures. Seems they had the controls set up so high that even 90% of the legitimate e-mail communications were being blocked. They've since ratcheted things down and most things are smooth again.
So far as my own ISP is concerned, I'm not sure that we're not just seeing the same problem with TARG communications. I have tried sending myself e-mails back and forth between my own addresses and have had some problems. So please report to me if this is happening to you with TARG e-mails, too. Thanks!
We've got your wonderful letters, a big list of great new websites (many to go with a frank discussion about travel overseas) and much more. So let's get to it!
-- Paul K. Bingham
TARG MEMBER'S LETTERS_________
~~~Dear Paul: Thank you for that great Atlas! I received it on Saturday, March 29.
Yes, I saw my Father's village, just a little northwest of Vranov. Trying to find the church records for that village from the Latter-Day Saints. No luck, yet. Thank you, again. - Eleanor Kehoe
***Hi Eleanor, You're very welcome. That Podrobny Atlas is the best one made for Slovakia. I hope to bring more back in August. - Paul
~~~Dear Paul, Well, it sounds as though "Dad" was in pig heaven, too, in Niedzica castle! What a wonderful trip. These are what make memories! - Thom Kolton
***Hi Thom, Oh, you better believe it! Several locals asked me afterwards if we had seen "The White Lady", a local legend about a ghost around the old castle. Nope, was our reply. We slept like babies so warm and cozy. Even forgot it was snowy outside. Maybe the homemade kielbasa our taxi driver gave us kept the spirits at bay. - Paul
~~~Hello Paul, Just finished reading your letter about your trip and looking at the photos you took on the website! I hope you will post lots more! How exciting! I loved hearing about the castle you stayed in, it must have been so magical! Did you happen to find any maps of Namestovo while you were on your trip? Please keep this in mind when you return in August as I would love some information on my ancestor's village. What a wonderful find you got in that beautiful chess set! It must be so nicely made! Thank you for sharing with all the members! - Mrs. Brendalynn Eustice (Lapikas/Lapekes)
***Hi Brendalynn, it was fun. We did not go to Namestovo in March, but will in August as it is part of Helene's tour. I have family from there, too, so am looking forward to it. The little Slanica book (sold out now) would be of interest to you, and I will bring back more hopefully in August. The best maps of the area are hiking maps which the CGSI sells, but a Namestovo city map would only be local item. I'll put it on my list of things to keep an eye out for! - Paul
~~~Paul; Thanks for the travelogue on your wonderful trip to the Tatras! I am
forwarding this to my children and cousins. If you have a chance, could you tell us how you made your airline and train reservations, and trip planning in general? - Florian
***Hi Florian, I know you are signed up to go on Helene's tour. I look forward to seeing you and Nancy again over there! As to your question about good transportation sites, see the websites and travel discussion below! I must also add that spending a couple of nights in each hotel is preferable to "hotel-hopping" every night. Helene has us two or three nights in each place, and this is a good strategy. I also strongly disagree with Rick Steve's notion to skip a hotel or pension and take a night train to get some mileage behind you while you sleep. It was late at night and we hadn't been gone very long from the Vienna station when the Austrian INS woke us up to check our passports. Then when we crossed the Czech border, other officials woke us up again to check our passports. Then half way across the Czech Republic, so many folks had gotten on and off the train that the officers lost track and woke us to check our documents again. At the Czech/Polish border we had the same thing twice more, only this time they were looking for someone and there were more Czech officers on the train than I had ever seen before in one place! The delay made us miss our connection in Katowice and then we had to scramble. Luckily one of the conductor's had a schedule book, spoke German and I was able to get us on the right train on the right track to Krakow. Oh, one more thing: None of the conductors checking tickets travels with the immigration officers. Ten minutes after dozing off for a passport check, you are awakened for a ticket check! If all of that were not enough, we really did not like arriving the next morning in Krakow without a shower and clean clothes, and no possibility to get such until that afternoon. Our advice: skip the night train! I for one look forward to enjoying Edo's driving in August and that nice comfy bus! - Paul
~~~Hi Paul, Thank you for sharing a wonderful trip with all of us, wish we were there! - Ann Mohr Osisek
~~~Hi Paul!! Just received your latest newsletter. I just love getting them -- keep up the good work. Have people been going to the 1869 Hungarian census at the family history library? There is some good info there about TARG villages. Haven't heard anyone writing about that. I will have to get to the web site and view the photos from your trip. Thanks, Fred Hyzny
***Hi Fred, Thank you! And you're right, there is great info in the 1969 census. Check back issues of the TARG Newsletter on our website, because we have talked about it before. But we should cover it again. All of our TARG areas have been microfilmed and these are available for rental (cheap, too!) at any of nearly 4,000 LDS Family History libraries worldwide.
~~~Hello, my name is Samantha Szlembarski. I am 20 years old and for the past five years I have been trying to find my family roots in Poland! But I'm having no luck! - Samantha
***Hello Samantha, Szlembark is a small village on the north side of the Dunajec river in southern Poland just east of Nowy Targ. You should be able to find it on one of our TARG website map grids. I have not personally been to the village, but have been by it several times. It is in a beautiful area of Poland with outstanding views of the magnificent Tatra mountains to the south. I can't remember if we have another member of TARG with ties there or not. You may be the first! Congratulations on finding us! - Paul
~~~Hi Paul, I really enjoyed your last TARG Newsletter, especially where you described the joy that your two sons had on the trip. I know how beautiful the area is in summer, but it's probably just as or more beautiful in winter. My son Bob and I also stayed at the castle for three nights last summer when we went on Helene's tour. Instead of going on to the Ukraine with the other travelers, we spent our time in the area of the castle because my grandfather's village was Dursztyn which is quite close to the castle and the Dunajec River. Vlado escorted us and discovered much information from the director of the castle about life in the 1800's in that area. I had never realized that the government surrounding the castle was a feudal society, the castle owning all the land surrounding it, including the villages. Your family had come from Jurgow and I know how wonderful it must have been to visit it. Have you ever been to Dursztyn? It is a very small village surrounded by what looks to me to be very fertile fields. I can now visualize my grandfather as a child who loved farm animals and farming itself, but knowing the land could not belong to him or the parents of his friends. I believe that is why he left for America and as soon as he was able, he bought a "perfect" farm in New Jersey. And it was my trip to the area of his birth that gave me the answer to why he left. I also discovered, through Vlado, that my great grandfather had come from Kroscienko which is near the castle also. I am trying to find information on records from that village. Thank you for your wonderful trip report and any help you can give me. - Sylvia Cooke
***Hi Sylvia, Thanks for sharing your experiences, too! I have been to tiny Dursztyn and love it! The view from the road outside the village is to die for! I have also been to Kroscienko and bought a book of old (captioned) photographs while I was there in 2001. What are your family names from Kroscienko? - Paul
***Ooops! No room for all your great letters this issue. But the May issue will have more of them for you. They're my favorite part -- maybe yours, too!
THIS MONTH'S WEBSITES__________
1. The URL of our TARG website is: http://www.mytarg.net or http://mytarg.net.
Visit any time! Check out the springtime Tatra photos (taken with our TARG digital camera) by Lucjan Soltys of Spisz.
2. To see pictures of all of the Shepherd's Cabin at Podokólne Clearing in Jurgów go to: http://klub.chip.pl/jurgow/szopki.htm (Thanks to Lucjan for this URL, too.)
3. The online Polish phonebook discussed in our January 2003 issue has moved to a new URL at: http://www.ditel.com.pl/asp/szukaj_a.asp.
4. One of the best airfare and travel bargain sites on the internet: http://www.travelzoo.com. It's updated fully at noon Wednesday, but some changes are made to the listings daily.
5. One of the best "consolidator" airline ticket websites is waiting for you at: http://www.cheapseats.com.
6. This discount consolidator site will let you put in different arrival and departure cities, in case you want to, say, land in Prague, travel through Slovakia and Poland and fly out from Krakow. Its at: http://www.economytravel.com.
7. This website ranks airlines world-wide on a 1 to 5 star system: http://www.airlinequality.com/main/contents.htm
8. Two of the best hotel/pension/bed-and-breakfast sites are: http://www.hotelsslovakia.com and http://www.hotelspoland.com, part of the http://www.hotelscentral.com network.
9. The PBS Travel Guy's website is a good one: http://www.ricksteves.com.
10. Without a doubt, the best European train schedule website covering everywhere from Lisbon to Moscow and Gdansk to Rome is the Polish one -- and it's in English! Thanks to Lucjan for finding this one! http://www.rozklad.pkp.pl/cgi-bin/new/query.exe/en.
11. Did you know Niedzica Castle was on a Polish stamp in the 1950's? here's a picture of it on this stamp auction site: http://www.znaczki-pl.com/thumb/6030.jpg.
I've had some e-mails regarding fears over traveling and so on. There are certainly lots of disturbing things in the world we can focus on right now. Bombings, a war just ended in one place and saber-rattling in others. Then there's the economy, the plunge of the dollar overseas and the opinion of Americans in foreign lands, not to mention the worries over SARS. It's all certainly enough to cause traveler jitters. The latest poll says over 70 percent of Americans who will travel this summer are not going overseas, but staying here in the States.
This is exactly why my sons and I went to our TARG region in March and why we're returning this August. With far less travelers, airline fares are at all-time lows, hotels have abundant cheap rooms and there are none of the usual crowds. Staff everywhere are bending over backwards to please their guests. And as I said last time, security everywhere is super tight. We've never felt safer. And the trends seem to indicate that the majority of bombers have run home to the Middle-East and Indonesia and are causing trouble there now.
The SARS scare is mostly limited to the Far-East. But the cases reported in Toronto made normal $1200 round trip tickets on our long four-star Air Canada flights from San Diego to London drop to just $649: an unbelievable fare in peak season! With the huge money that can be saved on airline flights, the smaller drop in the dollar's strength against European currency disappears entirely. (And East European currency rates have been relatively unchanged -- great news for TARG travelers!)
To the matter of bad opinions of Americans in Europe, we saw no evidence of it. Neither has Rick Steves, the PBS travel guy, who says after being over there for a couple of months he has to bring up the touchy subjects to even get locals to talk about them. I think most of that was media overblowing stories to sell headlines. We know that we were treated kindly everywhere that we went this year: London, Germany, Austria, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, and we look forward to going back.
I remember my first trip to the Tatras was with Helene Cincebeaux in August 1999. The trip at first was not planned as a Goral Homecoming, but when the war in Bosnia broke out, some tour-goers canceled. Soon some new TARG members signed on, the schedule was changed, and we had our first Tatra-Goral trip! And we heard nothing more about Bosnia until we got home and watched the evening news!
If you are interested in seeing your ancestral homeland, now may be the best time ever to do it. If you've never been over before, a trip like Helene has offered (her third Goral Homecoming trip) is near perfect. Lots of stops in quaint villages, a real emersion in the culture and chances to take off with an English guide to spend a private day discovering your own village roots. All of the transportation, restaurant and hotel arrangements are done for you. Edo even takes your bags up to your room and puts them back in the bus when its time to leave. At $2299, which includes airfare to and from JFK, it's a bargain. If you want to do like we're doing and provide your own flight arrangements, the cost is just $1699.
Having been there three times now, I'm more adventuresome and want to join up with the tour, then stay on afterwards for a week or so. If you want to find good airfares on the net, try consolidator sites. Popular sites like Expedia, Travelocity and Orbitz are all good, and have good sales, but other consolidators can beat them most of the time. These sell leftover tickets they've purchased from airlines at a big discount. That's how my sons and I found our unbelievable $460 round-trip tickets on British Airways from San Diego to Vienna in February.
These sites are not the same as Priceline, Hotwire and others where you bid for tickets. I don't like those sites because you have no control over what time you will leave, how many stops you will make, how long the layovers are and what airline(s) you will fly. It's hardly a bargain if you save $50 in an international flight, but spend an extra sleepless night going and another returning, staying in places you didn't intend to stay in all without the benefit of a bath or a decent meal.
The sites I like most for airfare are CheapTickets and SideStep. EconomyTravel is also a good one. The first two give you lots of information quickly and don't play games with you. The prices quoted include all of the State and Fed taxes, the 911 security fees, and the landing fees and taxes in Europe which can easily add $125 to $150 to each ticket. Our great $460 tickets in February were actually $330 for the airfare, and $130 in fees and taxes. And for keeping your finger on the "hot fare and hotel pulse", TravelZoo is hard to beat. They have a "Top 20" you can get every Wednesday by e-mail that lists some incredible deals. The latest sweet deal was five days over Thanksgiving in Prague, airfare from NYC and a 4-star Hotel every night included for just $399.
HotelsPoland was how we booked the unforgettable night in Niedzica castle and a great room at the Batory hotel in Krakow. Google will bring up lots of mom-and-pop pensions for you, too, if you want to find a really great place with local flavor and an even smaller bill. Rick Steve's website now has lots of suggestions for Eastern Europe, including a page called the "Graffiti Wall" where travelers post their experiences -- good and bad -- in lots of places in Slovakia and Poland.
If you have any specific questions, feel free to write to me about them. I'm not in the travel business, nor on Helene Cincebeaux (or any other tour guide's) payroll. But I do dearly love the people and the region and the life-changing experiences in discovering my own roots there. I want to see TARG members enjoy the same, so will give my advice, whenever I can. Helene Cincebeaux, Thom Kolton and others have and will arrange more tours to the area you should consider. I hope more of you will make the decision not to let gloom-and-doomers keep you from the reality of a lifetime of memories!
SPECIAL TARG TRIP IN 2003____________
Folks, wouldn't you love to join us on our big August trip? They group going stands at about twenty now, the majority being TARG members. Helene has room for 40 or more total on the tour bus, so it will be a nice intimate group. As is the usual case, everyone on the tour winds up as friends and each finds out by the time we're done that half the folks on the bus are actually cousins! It's not too late to join us for this Goral Homecoming Trip to Slovakia & Poland guided by Helene B. Cincebeaux and her staff this Aug. 5 thru Aug. 15, 2003! We will be in ALL of the old Slovak counties of Spis, Liptov and Orava and in Poland's Spisz, Podhale Orawa and Krakow regions, too. We will have side trips available to archives and other destinations of interest. For a full itinerary and other information see our "Trips Page" on the TARG website at: www.mytarg.net/Trips.html or http://mytarg.net/Trips.html!
BOOKS AND MAPS_____________
There are still some titles left from the ones we brought back from our trip in March. Here is a short list of available titles. When they're gone, they're gone. Order now! (You can click on "Available books, maps, etc." on the TARG website at http:/www.mytarg.net (or http://mytarg.net) for photos and more detailed descriptions of these, too.)
1) Exciting Slovak WWII documentary SIGNED BY AUTHOR...$19 + $4 ship.
2) Colorful 136-page Liptov Guide in English...$15 + $4 shipping (1 left!)
3) 960-page Collins Eng-Pol, Pol-Eng dictionary...$16 + $4, $7 shipping
4) 1232-page Delta Eng-Pol, Pol-Eng dictionary...$19 + $4, $10 ship. (1 left!)
5) 1354-page Oxford Eng-Pol, Pol-Eng dictionary...$23 + $4, $11 ship. (1 left!)
6) 328-page Eng-Czech, Czech-Eng dictionary...$5 + $3, $5 shipping (1 left!)
1) 1:75000 excellent Tatra & Podhale map...$6 ea + $2 shipping
2) 1:50000 Pieniny park and Spisz map...$6 ea...+ $2 shipping (1 left!)
3) 1:200000 Atlas of the Czech & Slovak Republics...$12 + $4, $7 ship. (1 left!)
4) 1:10000 excellent Krakow city map & sights guide...$4 + $2 shipping
5) 2003 Stunning Tatra calendar w/ days, months in English...$5 + $3 ship.
Note: Items with two shipping amounts list a book rate first, Priority (2-3 day) postage second. When ordering multiple items, add the highest shipping amount and then just $1 per item thereafter. For example, if ordering Books 1) and 5) and map 4) you would add $19+$23+$4 for the items, then $4+$1+$1 for book rate, giving an order total of $52. If you wanted them all sent Priority, then you would add $11+$1+$1 to the items for an order total of $59. Please make checks out to "Paul Bingham" as TARG does not yet have its own bank account. Mail your order to TARG, P.O. Box 3533, Escondido, CA 92033. Thank you!
To contact TARG the e-mail address is: TARG_NET@hotmail.com. Our mailing
address is: TARG, P.O. Box 3533, Escondido, CA 92033. Our new website is at:
www.mytarg.net or also http://mytarg.net.
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