Friday, 20 April 2018

CCC Visit to the School for Blind Children - Towarzystwo Opieki nad Ociemniałymi in Laski just outside Warsaw, Poland, 24th March 2018

Once again, we had a very emotional day with the blind children at the Laski school. In spite of the fresh weather, a very nice cross-section of CCC cars made it out to Laski for a “touch-smell-hear” Concours d’Elegance. We had representation from Mercedes,  Renault, Jaguar, Aston Martin, Bentley, Porsche, MG, Austin Healey, ranging from 1936 to 2017. As the CCC participants met the children, a fair number of tears were shed. 

After getting to know the cars, the children took turns in test-driving the cars on and around the school grounds, with some of the cars promising “Bardzo szybki” tours. Amongst other options, the children had the courage to get on board the Renault Turbo — driven by an ex-rally driver — for a properly fast tour, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

To conclude the car events, there was a competition of identifying the cars by their engine sound. In a feat normally only achieved in “wetten das”, the group of children achieved a near perfect score in matching the sound of the starting engine with the car brand 95% correct. And that after only knowing the cars for half a day.

Finally, we had lunch together with the Laski management and personnel, demonstrating once again that simple food can have amazing taste. We need to convince the cook of Laski to make his ziemniaki and klopsik available commercially.

All in all, it was an amazing day. Emotions ran high, from happy children to sad CCC members. Some tears were shed but - or maybe because of this - the day was wonderful.

                                                                                                                          Paul van Arkel

                                                                               Photographs by Richard Kaluzynski

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Winter Drive to Mazury (formerly known as 'Dancing on the Ice') 27th to 28th January 2018

Winter Drive to Mazury by Paul van Arkel

On January 27, climatic disaster struck. The unseasonably warm weather meant that there was in fact not enough ice-thickness on the Masuria lakes, and hence our grand plan of “Dancing on Ice with Cars” had no chance. We will have to accept this as cosmic justice, a sort of Wiedergutmachung for the fumes our classic cars produce I guess

So instead, the most committed CCC members decided to venture into Masuria by normal road. A nice mix of modern cars (Jaguar, BMW, Aston, the fabulous Viper of Paul Blackman) undertook a 12-hour journey over two days.

Coffee prior to Departure....

Visiting the former FSO factory...
Jaguar X-Type 3 litre, Aston Rapide, Dodge Viper at the off

Amazing sight of thousands of Veturilo City Bikes stored for winter

The journey kicked off in the old FSO factory in Targowek, with a tour of the building that included a Bitcoin Farm (less spectacular than you might think), the Autlet car dealership (with a very nice Mercedes youngtimer for sale) and the new loft-sized workshop of the van Arkels (promptly baptized the CCC Clubhouse)

Land Rover restoration work-space promptly renamed the CCC Clubhouse

But of course we were here for the driving. So, we took a straight shot towards Bialystok for a smooth, fast drive on a perfect highway. It was glamorous until it wasn’t. There are of course those pesky roadworks. So we turned off onto country roads into Masuria for an adventurous journey of an hour’s worth of slippery white country roads. They were challenging for all of us, but especially impressive for the Viper with its summer tires, mighty V10, and complete lack of traction control or other electronics. 

After a lunch-stop in Galkowo, the Potocki country house that nowadays hosts the Polo tournament and a lovely restaurant (where one of the waitresses delighted us with her fluent use of at least 8 languages - Dutch/Flemish included!), we went on to a tour of 3 Palac’s that could not be more different in renovation approach.


A friendly Dog at Potocki Galkowo

Colourful Winter in  Galkowo

Henryk, Blazej, Tola, Paul and Maja at Potocki Galkowo

The owners of Palac Nakomiady, Joanna and Piotr Ciszek, clearly focused on retaining originality. Each room has the original 6-meter ceilings, and bedrooms are huge. As a result, there are only 9 guest rooms in the Palac, which led to a fair amount of debate on the financial viability of this particular bed & breakfast. Similarly, the ceramic manufaktura produces a batch only every few days, and hand-paints maybe 20 mini-stoves designed to host tea light candles per day. We concluded it must be more of a hobby than a business. However, for charm, originality, and passion, this Palac and its owners are unbeatable. 

Nakomiady Palace

Ceramic Factory Nakomiady
Zamek St Bruno - the hotel where we spent the night - was the opposite end of the spectrum. Although the historic walls of this old Teutonic Knights stronghold are still standing, the interior has been completely renewed. Rooms are “modern” in size, style and comforts. The hotel has a spa (the smell of chlorine dominates it's halls and corridors, unfortunately), bowling alley, discotheque, and other too-modern comforts. That said, the quality of the dinner was excellent, and the guys concluded that bowling in a Bar/Disco is fun. 

Frozen Lake Gizycko

The former Teutonic Knight's Castle at Gizycko now the St. Bruno Hotel

Paul Blackman's Darth Vader Dodge Viper appropriately parked at the St. Bruno Hotel, a former Teutonic Knights Castle

Dinner at the St. Bruno Hotel

Bowling after dinner
Palac Pacoltowo - in fact more of an equestrian Centre with attached Palac - was yet again different. The Palac itself is quite small, a lovely size for a country house. It has been renovated to a very high quality. Great materials used, no expenses spared, nice large rooms ... but historically largely incorrect. Personally, I found the end result very successful, but any student of architectural history will point out that the decors are from the wrong era etc. Worth another good debate. And what’s with the badly copied Rembrandt’s that adorn it’s walls… travesty!

The extensive grounds of Pacoltowo Palace

Entrance Drive to Palac Pacoltowo

Grand Piano in the Salon at Pacoltowo- there was a Chopin recital that evening

Billiards in the Palace

Tola enjoying an Orange in the Pacoltowo Drawing Room
On the Sunday, after a long night, that included a venture into town, a narrow escape from a bar brawl, and some other episodes unfit for printing, we made our way past the XXX hospital of the Maltese Knights and the lovely city center of Olsztyn, before heading home. No substitute for Ice Driving, but still a fun weekend!

                                                                                                                          Paul van Arkel

Maltese Knights' Hospital in Barczwewo

Around Olsztyn....