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Tuesday, June 30, 2009


Day nine and one of us has her laundry strung through the cabin, using every surface in an effort to get her things dry before mildew sets in. This includes the chair back, the loveseat, the towel bars, the top of mini fridge and a clothesline across the tub. I, on the other hand, packed enough under wear to last till Thursday. I went to the crow’s nest late yesterday afternoon, leaving Linda to fill the tub with shampoo and her unmentionables. I have a vision of her taking off her shoes and stomping the laundry in a style reminiscent of Lucy Ricardo stomping grapes. But, I can’t make too much fun of her, as my turn for laundry will be next.

Sailing out of Stockholm was beautiful. We sailed an hour late because a busload of the Philippine staff had not returned to the ship. Had it been tourists they would have run the risk of ‘missing the boat’ but since it was staff, the ship waited. We set sail around 5:30 with the harbor pilot at the wheel. Linda and I sat on our veranda as we sailed through the archipelagos. At 9:45, we cleared the last island and the pilot boat pulled alongside the ship to retrieve the harbor pilot. Our cabin is on the starboard side of the ship so we could hang over the side as the tug pulled up and the pilot jumped from the ship to the waiting tug. Many other passengers were watching and as the pilot jumped, the passengers all cheered and clapped. The pilot turned and took a bow. All very civilized I think!

Today has been a much-needed day of nothing. We slept late, skipped breakfast and picked at the luncheon buffet. I spent the afternoon in the crow’s nest knitting while Linda remained below rearranging her damp laundry. I am sitting on the veranda as I type this and it is rather strange to see nothing but water and the slight slope of the horizon in every direction. I am superstitious enough not to write that our weather has been truly spectacular how spectacular. We had a bit of mist as we left St. PB, and totally flat seas and mostly sunshine the rest of the voyage. Yes, that means about twenty hours of sun a day.

Tomorrow we will be in Kiel. This is a seaport from which one can take the train to Hamburg. Our plan is to put our laptops in our backpacks and try to find an Internet café so we can get pictures posted and emails answered. As I have been reporting, the Internet it very frustrating. I had to go to the Russian computer guru this afternoon for help. So, I hope Rob Horgan is reading this…The Russian guru told me that Firefox was costing me $$$ out the wazoo because it was not an efficient way to access satellite connections to the internet. ROB! If anyone else is going on a Baltic cruise, don’t set Firefox as his or her default. Duh.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Sunburned in Stockholm

I have found the city where I must have lived in another life. Stockholm is magnificent. The Venice of the north, the city is spread across fourteen islands. But, I’m getting ahead of myself.

I awoke at around 5:30 this morning. It is hard to tell how much sleep you are getting because the time changes back and forth almost every night. But, I was wide-awake early and stepped out onto our veranda as we were winding our way through the hundreds of little islands in the archipelago on our way into Stockholm. Sometimes the ship was heading north, sometimes west. We were traveling very slowly as the channel is quite narrow. There were people standing on the shore or in kayaks, all waving to the ship. There were pairs of swans swimming along the shore. And the cottages and homes were pristine in the early light. I stood and photographed the shore for well over an hour. The strangest thing is I found that the shore line looked EXACTLY like the Thousand Island region in Ontario. Who knew? As we sailed into Stockholm, the ship did a complete 180-degree turn in the harbor so that as we docked we are now facing out of the city. FINALLY Linda awoke, and joined me just as the ship was finishing her spin.

We left the ship and decided on purchasing a water taxi ticket to get us around the city. The city is very manageable. We taxied to the first stop and found ourselves in the old part of the city. It is filled with 16th century houses, cobblestone streets and tiny alleys that are closed to traffic. We walked up one such alley and came face to face with a statue of St Goran slaying a dragon. Around the next corner and we were at the Royal Palace built between 1697 and 1754. We took a few photos of the changing of the guard and the exterior of the Palace.

Next we walked down a lovely tree lined boulevard and crossed to the island of Djurgarden to look for the Vasamuseet. This is a wonderful museum that is built around the salvaged ship Vasa. The royal warship Vasa was built in 1628. On her maiden voyage, she sailed 1600 feet before tipping over and sinking. Seems they miscalculated the amount of ballast needed to keep her afloat and had mounted the heaviest cannons on the upper deck, making her top-heavy. So, down she went where she remained for 300 years. Recovery efforts were begun in the 1960’s and she was finally raised in 1961. Because she sank in an upright position and the waters were only brackish, she remained almost totally intact. Once they raised her, they built the museum around her.

After leaving the Vasa, Linda waited while I trotted across the way to the children’s museum, Junibacken. One of their major exhibits is dedicated to Astrid Lindgren and Pippi Longstocking. I had to go to the gift shop to get a souvenir for Stephanie.

Next we hopped back on the water taxi and took it to Grona Lund, an amusement park and walking area. We walked about a bit trying to find Swedish pancakes with lingonberries for Linda. She has been so looking forward to them and can’t understand why they aren’t served everywhere as she somehow has convinced herself that they are the national dish of Sweden. She asked at the Vasa gift shop and the clerk seemed puzzled by an American who now speaks with a Russian accent asking for this famous Swedish national dish. Did I not mention that Linda now speaks with a very heavy Russian accent?

So, with swollen ankles and empty stomachs, we reboarded the water taxi for a short ride back to the ship. I adore Stockholm and look forward to returning someday with time to see much more. This is a city and a country that deserves much more than a few hours.

We retrace our route through the archipelago. I could live here.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


Sunday morning finds us in Helsinki. It is a gorgeous day and we enjoyed a very leisurely walk through the old section. We were both too overwhelmed with St PB to put much energy into a tour of Helsinki. We agreed to simply take a local bus into the center of town and just walk a bit. We found two huge churches to photograph. Between visiting these, we stopped in a converted small boat and sat on the upper deck and sipped an ice tea. This afforded us a nice view of other walkers and a small smattering of dogs. Then we walked to the next church and climbed a huge set of stairs, almost straight up to look into a beautiful Lutheran church with a massive pipe organ, which was being tuned. It sounded like ship horns because they were working on the lowest and deepest pipes. When we left this church we worked our way back to the main esplanade and sat outside a sidewalk café and enjoyed a beer. We did a tiny bit of shopping in a small shop and then returned to the bus stop for a quick ride back to the ship. Linda is sound asleep as I write this and I am in the Explorations Lounge getting caught up with my reporting. We are going to some fancy cocktail party tonight and then have dinner reservations. We will go to sleep as the ship heads to Stockholm.
Two Lifetimes in Russia

If I write for two days I can not begin to cover all the things we have seen in St Petersburg and Peterhof in two days. It has been staggering. I can’t help but feel that all the studying one does in school about Russia and the Russian way of life is a total waste of time. Unless you can see these things, you cannot ever understand them.

We had to meet all those going ashore at 8:00 AM and get in line for passing through immigration. We went through the line, one by one, and were eyeballed by VERY serious agents who stamped our passports, collected our daily pass and placed a card inside our passports to be turned back in when we were safely returned to our ship. Linda was gagging the entire time as she swears the terminal smelled of cat pee. I thought it smelled of Clorox. Once on the bus, our guide (named Natasha of course) started the tour through the city. She commented on the beautiful weather we were enjoying by saying that Russian’s have a phrase that their weather is nine months of winter and three months of disappointment.

St. PB is a city of five million. The city has been persevered and rebuilt as a protected historical district. If a building was yellow 300 years ago, it is yellow today. This is very beautiful as many buildings are bright blue, toothpaste green or a lovely salmon color. There is a lot of restoration going on but the facades of those buildings are covered with something that looks like scenery flat from the theater depicting…..a restored building façade. There are thousands of apartment buildings but they are all only about eight stories tall as no building can be taller than the palace. The windows are all covered with some sort of covering because Russian’s don’t like anyone looking into their private lives. We saw almost no dogs in the city. Children were on summer holiday although most children get sent to their grandparents for the three-month summer vacation. Ten years ago there were only 3000 children born in St Petersburg per year. Now there are 50,000 born a year and the government pays the parents $8000 for each birth. And, I’m not sure how they do it, but there is almost no graffiti and no litter anywhere.

As you drive through the city most of the major buildings are former palaces and are now being used as naval academies, universities, art centers and museums. This is because after the revolution these palaces became the property of all the people. Even the churches. Now there is almost no organized religion, so the cathedrals are being restored as museums. As you pass into and through the palaces and churches, you are VERY closely watched by babushka ladies who never take their eyes off of you. You are continually warned not to touch anything. If you even brush past a rope, an alarm might sound. But, these places are filled everyday with thousands of Russian tourist as well as tourists to Russia. My overwhelming sense was that the Russian people truly do own all the treasures and they come to visit them.

As we drove through the city, Natasha gave us more background on the city. The buildings have no basements as St PB is build on former marshes that were filled in a couple of hundred years ago. That means the subway is several hundred feet underground and under the Neva River. The stations can only be located inside old buildings as it is impossible to dig a hole anywhere without endangering a building. That is why there is tremendous restoration being done on the Church On The Spilled Blood. Some official gave permission for building to be done nearby and the church started to tilt. As this church is very important historically, there are extraordinary measures being taken to correct this. We had a stop at this church to take photos from the outside and returned the second day to go inside. Across the street there were black market street vendors where I was able to score a beautiful set of Ohio State nesting dolls. How very Russian.

On to the Hermitage. Many surprises. The Hermitage is actually right in town and it is the former winter palace and consists of five buildings. It sits on the banks of the Neva River and is very closely watched by the babushka ladies in every room. The lines are huge and 10,000 people a day go through the Hermitage. After all, the citizens own the museum. Our guide explained to us that after the Revolution the private art collectors in Russia “gave” their collections to the state, as private collections were outlawed. Now all the people of Russia own all the art. There are over three million artifacts in the Hermitage alone. If you spent one minute in front of each item, it would take you eleven years to see everything. In our three hour visit, we were moved through the lower public rooms where there is no furniture remaining. During the Revolution it was all destroyed. But, the gilt and gold has all been restored. It is breathtaking. The upper floors are all dedicated to the various art collections. We were shown the impressionists section and it is surprising how much we actually did see. I purchased a photo book on the way out and found that our group had seen many of the major pieces. Monet, DaVinci, Rubens, Rembrandt, Cezanne, Matisse, Gauguin. I was overwhelmed.

We left the Hermitage and continued our drive thorough the city. We made a stop at the Church On The Spilled Blood and walked all around it. It marks the spot where Alexander III was murdered. All Russians revere him and his son had the church built to commemorate his death. Outside the church was a black market of street vendors where I was able to bargain for a set of Russian nesting dolls depicting the Ohio State football team. A true Russian treasure.

We returned to our ship late in the afternoon and again had to face the most serious immigration officers. Not a smile, not a thank you anywhere. We dashed to our room to shower and change to formal attire for our evening at the Yusupov Palace. Then, back through immigration and onto another bus. Many of the men wore tuxedos and the women were dressed in their finest. We were given a tour of the palace, which held many of the original furnishings of the Yusupov family. They were the wealthiest Russian family who were not Romanoff. This is the house where Rasputin was murdered. In the basement is a recreation of Rasputin waiting while they tried to trick him into eating or drinking poison. He didn’t and they had to shoot him. When we went back upstairs we were seated in the main ballroom and served a small hors d’ouvre of caviar and a glass of Champaign. We enjoyed a costumed dance (minuet?) and performance by Russian folks musicians. Following this we were ushered into the Yusupov family theatre and listened to several classical arrangements by a small orchestra and eight solos by opera singers. Outstanding. Then, back on the bus, back to the ship, through immigration and the cat pee lady and an early night. We each fell into our bunk and I don’t even remember Linda turning out the light.
Our second day in St PB started with dour immigration lady, cat pee terminal and onto a tour bus! The drive out of the city was filled with more insight into everyday life. We drove along the shore of the Baltic Sea for about an hour. We passed a few small towns and lots of cottages. The cottages are the places where the residents of St. PB go for the summer weekends to get out of the city. Just like in the US. People enjoying good summer weather, just like in the US. They are mostly wood and in a typical old pointy roof style that one would think of for this area. Every so often there would be a huge estate, just like in the US. We were approaching the Summer Palace. You turn a corner, get out of the bus and there it is. You must walk along the park like drive (maybe ¼ mile) to reach the palace. Again, the lines are long. But, in walking through the palace, it is very ordered. Only one group of 20-24 people is allowed in a room at any time. Babushka ladies count and constantly scan each group to be sure nothing is touched. And, you must wear special “museum shoes”. These are paper surgical booties that you slip over your shoes. This polishes the floors as you shuffle through. The invading armies were billeted here during WW II and the palace was all but destroyed. It has been restored over the last few decades. Prior to the occupation, almost all of the treasures were removed and stored in St PB and then returned during the restoration.

As magnificent as the palace is, it is the gardens that are the real gem. The palace was built in this location to make use of the springs that flow from a lake down to the Baltic Sea. The grounds are covered with hundreds of fountains, each more elaborate and breathtaking than the last. At 11:00 AM, the fountains are all turned on. The water naturally flows through them without the use of any pumps or power. I suppose it is something like gravity. The Russian National Anthem is played and the fountains begin to flow. We spent about 15 minutes watching the Great Cascade just outside the Palace doors. then started walking through the grounds to the Orangery for lunch. There was another magnificent fountain every 100 yards. We walked through parks filled with gardens and MORE fountains.

After a lovely lunch we made our way back through the parks to the canal that runs from the Sea to the palace. We took a hydrofoil from the palace back into St PB where we boarded our bus for more stops in the city. Thankfully we had been to many of the stops the day before and were able to remain in the bus to rest our feet a bit. But, we did return to the Church On The Spilled Blood and this time we were allowed inside and could take photos. Every square inch is covered in mosaic tile. It is spectacular.

Back on the bus, more souvenir shopping and back to the ship. It was getting difficult to navigate the city because all the drawbridges were lifted at 5:00 to allow for a regatta of military ships and sailboats finishing the Volvo Race. Big crowds were gathering along both sides of the river even though the weather was turning rather grey and misty. But, that’s typical. Sunny one day can only mean rain the next. The bus delivered us to the ship, back through immigration and cat pee lady. Linda went to bed and I found the late buffet for some dinner. The best report is we managed to sleep a good seven hours last night.

Saturday, June 27, 2009


It’s Saturday evening and I am sitting on the veranda as we sail out of St. Petersburg. I have seen things today that have made my jaw drop and my heart race. I actually had to try not to cry in the Hermitage yesterday. There will never be words to report on the treasures I have seen or the feeling I have for the pride the Russian people have in their heritage, their history and their treasures. There is no litter. The museum babushka ladies tolerate no disrespect for the treasures that they each own. All Russians own the national treasures. Never mind how they got them. So, I promise to write a full report of the sights, but at the moment Internet connections are difficult and I am exhausted. I just wanted to mark the emotion of the moment.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Tallinn, Estonia, Thursday

What a lovely city. We were able to walk from the ship to the medieval walled city. It is hilly and winds through tiny alleyways. The streets are mostly cobblestone and I have sore knees to show for the day. We simply poked our way through the city, taking turns and circles to discover churches and towers everywhere. There were many tour groups with guides speaking Russian, English, German and more. One of the churches was filled with photos showing the bombed out shell in WWII and the damage from a major fire in the 80’s. Very interesting although you can not photograph inside. We were able to go into the onion topped Russian church and could have bought candles to light to offer prayers. We didn’t. We found the old city square and walked around reading the menus until we found one that served food we thought would be palatable. We ordered a light Estonian beer and it was quite different tasting, almost sweet. We decided on a pizza but not the one with wild boar or the one topped with French fries. At the table next to us were two late 30ish guys from Cleveland and Chicago. They had met at Miami of Ohio and one had a mother that lived in Marysville, next to Plain City, Ohio. He asked me if I knew the restaurant the Der Dutchman. I stuck my finger half way down my throat to show my distain. How odd to be sitting in Estonia discussing the Der Dutchman!

By mid afternoon we had seen all there was to see in the old city and did not want to take any tours to see the countryside or the modern city. We walked back toward the ship, looking at the venders along the way. I decided not to buy the Barack Obama nesting dolls in one shop window. As we neared the ship a woman asked me if the harbor was the Baltic Sea. I said it was. She said good and opened her purse to take out an envelope that looked like the sort you get in the bank from a teller. The envelope had a little packet inside. She said she was glad it was the Baltic Sea because she had been carrying her late husbands ashes with her to shake out into the Baltic. I told her I thought he would be pleased to have finally arrived.

A nice late afternoon nap suited both Linda and myself. Following dinner, we are now in our cabin and filling out our paperwork for our day trip into St. Petersburg in the morning. We will have another one-hour time change over night, putting us eight hours ahead of home. As the ship sails back toward our starting point in a few days, we will then start unwinding the time zones. It’s all rather confusing and I’m not even blond anymore.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wednesday, at sea. But then I’ve been out to sea for quite some time.

Lovely, relaxing day. We slept till the steward knocked at 8:30 to bring us our room service breakfast. Explored the ship a bit and watched in awe as the masses made their way through the never-ending buffet line. We really did nothing all day till time for our manicure/pedicures, compliments of Michael J Horgan. The spa is beautifully situated with floor to ceiling panoramic views of the Baltic Sea. It’s actually rather crowed out here! There is always lots traffic in the shipping lanes.

Dinner was formal this evening. We were seated at a large table with a woman from Phoenix and her two college age children. The daughter is a pre-med law student (yikes!) from Harvard and the son is some other sort of whiz from a college in Albany, New York. The other guests were two sisters from Dallas and their husbands. The one woman reported that she was on this cruise to visit the major Jewish sites in Berlin and had no intention of spending a penny in Tallinn as the Estonians ran the Jews out decades earlier. She took her heritage very seriously. Her husband spoke passionately about Border collie rescue programs in Dallas in which he is a mover and shaker. I liked him.

We are in our PJs, ready to hit the hay. Tomorrow is a full day in Tallinn. I am pretty excited as the travel log on the TV says there is a “wall of knitting” outside a medieval castle where women sit and knit the woolen goods that are sold in the city. I am thinking about emigrating.

If this is Tuesday, we must be in Berlin
This has been one long day, to say the least. Our instructions were to meet our tour at 6:15 AM before heading to the train that would take us on the three-hour ride into Berlin. That meant setting the alarm for 5:15 to allow two grown women to dress in rather tight quarters. But, it wasn’t really necessary as I slept about ten minutes all night. The time change is taking a bit of getting used to. It’s not that the actual time is six hours off, it’s that one loses all sense of daylight when the sun doesn’t even begin to set till well after 10:00 PM. And, it was almost totally light at 4:00 this morning. So, we were up and headed to the staging area with no coffee and puffy eyes.
We were all given a sticker with a number on it so we could find our group of travel companions. Linda and I were given a ten. I thought they were acknowledging our beauty by labeling us a ten, but it simply meant that we were to be grouped with other tens in line behind the guide toting the large number ten placard, riding rail car number ten and touring the city on bus number ten. We would sit at lunch at tables marked with a number ten. More about lunch to follow.
We found ourselves sitting in a compartment with a very nice older couple from Fort Worth. Their seventeen-year-old grandson accompanied them. So, the five of us spent the three hour train ride chatting and enjoying the scenery. The countryside was quite rural and pretty and looked a lot like Michigan. As the train passed through the countryside, one couldn’t help but look behind trees for bands of Jews hiding and trying to escape Nazi Germany. I guess I have watched too many movies. The closer the train got to Berlin, the more graffiti there was to be seen on every available flat surface. It was actually rather beautiful and didn’t appear to be the gang related painting one sees in the states, but more of an art form.
Upon arriving at an old, dark, dungy railway station in East Berlin we were moved into tour buses. The first hour was spent driving around the former East Berlin and viewing all the depressing architecture. My overall impression of the sector is that I would have made a run for the wall too had I lived there. It is nothing but concrete buildings with nothing of beauty anywhere. We drove past any number of government and ministry buildings, each one looking just like the one before. It was easy to see why so many spy movies are filmed in this area. It provides just the right feel of someone looking over your shoulder. Our guide spoke of the Stassi (secret police) and a culture that was filled with people spying on each other.
The next hour was filled with Check Point Charlie information and photo ops. That meant that for a few Euros you could have your picture taken while standing next to someone dressed as a Russian or American soldier. We also drove to what remained of the Berlin Wall. This section has been turned into a permanent art gallery with each section being painted by well-known artists and each painting depicting something symbolic of the history of the wall. It is quite impressive. The wall was over 100 miles long and actually circled all of West Berlin to keep the East Berliners from trying to get in. Now all that remains is a trial two cobblestones wide circling the former West Berlin to mark the path of the wall.
Finally, we left East Berlin and arrived at the much-touted “authentic” German restaurant for our lunch. I have never tried to hide that my hearing is less than 20/20. As we entered the restaurant, a very tall man who appeared to be our host was giving us directions on finding our tables. I THOUGHT he was telling us to go to our tables by going down the stairs and turning right at the bottom and then finding the table with a ten on it. I smiled and thanked him for the directions and said not to worry, I would simply follow my nose to the delicious smell. He looked at me in a rather strange way as Linda pushed me through the door as quickly as she could. When we arrived at our number ten table she informed me that he was giving us directions to the bathroom which I had said I would find by the smell. Now, about the lunch. Luke warm sausage, mushy red cabbage, stale pretzels and under cooked slices of some sort of pork that was 1/4” of meat and ¾” of fat. The mashed potatoes were good. The dessert was some sort of pudding made with double the water instead of milk. But, I was hungry.
We hoped we were finished with East Berlin and that West Berlin would be better. Not. There are lots of military statues and buildings, but still all the history is tied up in what an insane man Hitler was. There are not many churches but lots of government buildings. But, the most striking impression I got was of the total lack of beauty. The city is overrun with weeds that are well up over my waist. I did not see one single landscaped area. Cement and cobblestones surround all the major buildings. Yes, there are over four thousand Linden trees throughout the city, but each tree is chocking in lush weeds. There is not a single hanging basket. You do see the occasional flowerpot on a balcony of an apartment, but no gardens. The guide talked of all the parks and green areas that are Berlin. I saw only wildly untamed and chocking forests and tunnels of weeds.
Our guide did address the insanity of Hitler. We drove by his bunker where he committed suicide and it is now a parking lot. Tourists can be seen standing on the parking space that is over the actual location of his death and photographing the pavement. The explanation our guide gave us is that there are still neo Nazis and in an effort not to give them a platform on which to gather, Germany has chosen not to make a shrine of some things. From there we went to the holocaust memorial. It is such a simple installation, but filled with symbolism. I think the guide said it consisted of 2677 concrete blocks, all set in random order. When viewed as a whole you see the story it tells. The blocks are all the same but appear to be different. They are nameless. The ground is uneven so there is an undulation in their placement. They appear to be moving although they are not. The sun hitting them caused light and dark edges although they all the same grey concrete. It was very moving. As we got back on the bus, our guide directed us to look across the street and into a clearing in a small park. There was one more concrete block. That was a memorial to the homosexual victims of Hitler’s reign.
Back on the bus and we continued our circuitous route back and forth through Berlin, crisscrossing from East to West, always noting the cobblestone path to mark the former wall. One stop took us to a plaza with a hole in the ground. The hole contained a room full of empty white bookshelves to symbolize the Crystal Night when Hitler burned all the books. This hole was covered by a piece of scratched up Plexiglas. One stood over this Plexiglas and looked down into the hole containing the empty bookcases.
Finally the Brandenburg Gate. From the gate you can look up and down the avenue and get a sense of marching through the entire city. But, almost as famous as the gate, one can see the hotel where Michael Jackson dangled his child over the edge! Ah, history.
A few more stops to take photos, see more monuments and military buildings. Finally back on the bus to our train station and the three-hour ride back to Warnemunde to board the ship. We arrived back in our stateroom somewhere around 9:30. My overall impression of Berlin is that I hope to never return. It is not beautiful. But, it is filled with history and a warning to never make the same mistakes because they can never be undone.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Monday Monday. After a great night sleep of nine full hours we were ready to set out for the ship. But first we went to the hotel lobby for a wonderful continental breakfast, which did feature one of the items I had been hoping for….lots of smoked salmon. The one overall feeling that I got from the hotel was that I had gone to sleep and awaked in a gigantic IKEA showroom! EVERYTHING is Danish modern…go figure.
We managed to repack all our bags and caught a cab for the docks. Just our luck, we found ourselves in the capable hands of a true Viking cabbie who offered to 1) accompany us on our voyage as we were two unchaperoned beauties and 2) rape and pillage us in true Viking fashion. We declined on both accounts. He did take a few turns on our route but assured us he was still heading in the direction of our ship. He pointed out the Queens Palace, the stock exchange and the best cheap canal tour boat to take on our stop back into Copenhagen next week. He then deposited us on the wharf and slung our baggage up onto the waiting luggage trolley. I paid him the fare and offered him 50 Kroners as a tip and then asked him if that was enough. He said it was fine even though many people did tip more. I just smiled and pretended I didn’t quite understand his Viking accent.
The line was long to clear security but we entertained ourselves by making fun of other passengers and making up all sorts of stories about their probable lives. We finally boarded and made our way to our cabin. Twin beds, a desk, a small love seat and enough closet and drawer space for one self-respecting munchkin. However, it took us several hours to divide up the available space, hide our suitcases under the beds and hunt for Linda’s lost iPod.
Dinner was very nice. After dinner we decided to skip the Karaoke bar, pass on the Country/western piano bar and make an early evening of it as we have to be on deck at 6:15 in the morning for a three-hour train ride into Berlin. We were back in our cabin at 10:15, just in time to watch the sunset into the ocean.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Yes, the money one would spend for business class on a nine hour flight is worth it. We did not. But, we still managed to fly 4677 miles from Atlanta to Copenhagen without killing anyone. I say this because I came dangerously close to smacking the two women seated in the row behind us. I had just found the right combination of shoes off, feet propped onto carry on bag, ear phones on to block noise, u-shaped pillow behind head, a blanket over head and had just nodded off when these women began to cackle like a couple of old hens. This was punctuated with much kicking of the seat back which I found almost unbearable. But, the nine hours passed. I watched the movie screen which occasionally showed our flight pattern as we passed over Montreal, St. Johns, Iceland and Ireland. It never did get totally dark.

Upon arrival, we cleared customs and walked across the street to the airport Hilton. It was only 10:00 AM but we were still able to check in. We found our room and promptly took a four hour nap. Upon awaking, we changed and headed out to find downtown Copenhagen. We were armed with a tear out map from the back of a travel magazine found in the hotel lobby and proceeded to ask directions of anyone and everyone. The first ATM machine I found had directions in English but I had no idea how many Kroners to ask for. So, I punched a button marked 4.00 and received 4000 Kroners. After a moment of panic when we thought I had gotten $4000 American in kroners, we realized that it was only about $219.

We must have looked really dumbfounded trying to buy tickets on the metro, so a handsome young man helped us. Then a young woman adopted us and told us how to get where we were going and kept us advised on when our stop approached. She was interesting as she was returning to Copenhagen after a short jaunt to Turkey to have lasic eye surgery two days earlier.

We got off the Metro and found ourselves in a beautiful city square. Again, I had the little tear out map and we just started walking. In a block or two we came to the old canal area with lots little bars, shops and walkers. We strolled, took lots of photos and stopped for a beer. When the waiter brought the bill, I had to ask him to explain the charges and then could he please suggest a proper amount for a tip and could he please count it out for himelf? This got the attention of the people at the next table. It was a Mom, a Dad and their son and daughter. Turns out they are from Charleston, S.C. and are going on the same cruise as we are. They then offered suggestions on a route to walk to Tivoli Gardens and off we set. We must have looked pretty smart because a fat German lady started trying to get directions from me. I just smiled and nodded a lot.

Tivoli Gardens are superb. The plants and flowers are spectacular. We walked all the way through the park and then picked a restaurant where we could sit outside and dine. There were several bandshells and music was everywhere. We had hoped to see all the twinkling lights but since it does'nt get dark till past our bedtime, we left at 9:30 and dusk was only just beginning.

Taking the train was a bit more difficult. We found the station but couldn't figure where to buy a ticket. Once the machine was located, we were really confused. Again, a nice young man helped us. We opened our change purses so he could pick out the proper coins to feed the machine and hoped he would pick the right ticket to get us back to the hotel. He could see that we were still in a bit of a fog so he motioned for us to follow him as our train was pulling out in one minute. We flew down the steps, boarded the train and waved to our new friend. A few stops and we are now tucked in for the night.

Tomorrow we head to the ship and settle in. We sail tomorrow night and will awake to a full day of Berlin on Tuesday.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The countdown

Somehow, over the course of the last few weeks, I have remained rather calm in the face of the actual packing for Jody & Linda's Big Adventure. I have mentally chosen my wardrobe, made a few purchases and generally patted myself on the back over my zen like approach to our departure date. Imagine my smugness when reading Linda's frantic emails about her packing angst. And, I'm not even a blond anymore. Somebody smack me.

On Wednesday I began by propping up a full length mirror in the bedroom so as to view myself as I tried on each item that was on my short list of things that might make the trip. I have been diligently following the Nutrisystem plan for several months now and am pleased to have lost about 17 pounds. No. Not about 17 pounds. Seventeen pounds! And that is while still consuming alcohol. Imagine if I had been really disciplined. However, the full length mirror may have had a former life in the Cole Brothers Circus because I was less than thrilled over some of my wardrobe choices. But, I got through the afternoon and felt pleased with my final choices.

Thursday was spent fine tuning, steaming, washing, spritzing with wrinkle release and doing just about anything short of actually ironing anything. I brought out the suitcases and practiced hooking them together so I could glide through the airports like a well seasoned travel veteran, which I am most certainly not. There was more gloating as I eyeballed the suitcases (one big, one medium and a carry-on) and visualized everything fitting comfortably with room to spare for the Gorbachev Nesting Dolls I am hoping to purchase while in St. Petersburg. I slept well knowing that I had covered all my bases.

Friday I awoke and realized that I needed one more dressy outfit, new bras, a crossword book, a stylish scarf and gum. Mike and I headed out to round these items up before lunch. And speaking of Mike, what a smart man he is. Immediately following lunch he headed to the golf course saying he would leave me to my actual packing. Coward. OK. The first, big suitcase went rather well. The underwear, tee shirts, socks, new bras, long pants, sweaters and sweatshirt, rain gear, skirts, and bathing suit all fit beautifully. I even got out the bathroom scale to weight the packed suitcase to be sure it was under the fifty pound per bag max. No sweat, it weighted forty seven pounds. Now to the medium suitcase. Uh Oh. I still had not packed any shoes or the hanging clothes. No jackets or toiletries. And, what about my knitting? This was an unplanned turn of events. When faced with a dilemma, it is best to leave the room and pick up a bit of knitting to calm oneself down. Plan B. Off to the guest room closet to unpack the old big ass suitcase filled with the unused winter clothes that were hidden inside it's questionable zippered shabby self. After a bit of a flurry to unpack the beautiful new, but inadequate, medium bag and transfer it's contents to the veteran big bag, I am now packed. I have my overnight items packed into a carry on and the last thing to do is shut this machine down and pack my lap top into my backpack.

So, we will leave for the Orlando airport in seventeen hours. I must now go and practice wheeling two huge suitcases and one carry one while strapping on my backpack. This is not going to be pretty.
Next stop, Copenhagen.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Monday, Monday

Back in Florida! My quick trip to Toronto was filled with airport delays. Storms in Atlanta on Thursday put me into Toronto later than planned. Mike met me outside customs and we checked into the Old Mill around midnight. What a gorgeous view of the garbage collection area! All that time that we lived next door and enjoyed the views of the Humber River led us to expect that paying BIG dollars for a room would be sweet. Not so.
Friday Nan and I had a wonderful day of yarn at Koigu Farm. We laughed, we got caught up on our kids lives and we dished our former LYS. Only knitters will understand that last reference. We both smoked our checking accounts and left the farm with a trunk load of yarn. Meeting Maie was a real highlight for me.
Saturday morning Mike and I prowled Bloor West, just like in the old days. Breakfast with D and Lillie was yummy. Then, up to Warkworth to party hardy in celebration of Brian's 70th birthday. But first, we checked into the Lantern Inn and had a lovely lunch overlooking the Ganaraska River. We had a great time at the party and I loved getting caught up with Peter and Linda Z. Then, back to the Lantern and a beautiful room. On the way to Port Hope, the sun was setting and I got the second photo above. Sunday we had breakfast at the same table overlooking the river and talked about actually living in Port Hope! The photo on the top is our view from the table.
Following breakfast, we stopped in to see Mike's Mom, Marthe. We were both pleasantly surprised that she appeared much stronger than she had two nights earlier when it was questionable whether she would make it through the night. Marthe gave us her schedule for her passing, telling us she has decided to stop eating and would only drink a few sips of ginger ale so as not to prolong her life. She will go out her way and she is not afraid. I am so happy that I got to spend one last hour with her.
We then drove back into the city for a quick visit with Dan, Diana and Ben at their new house. Although they have only been living there a few months, the house already seems to have their stamp on it. It will be quite an adventure to see how the backyard develops over the next few years!
We turned in the rental car and checked into the airport Sheraton for an early to bed. The alarm went off at 4:00 and we headed across the walkway to the gate to find that our flight had been delayed. Yeah. More delays. But, we got it all sorted out and landed back in Daytona Beach three hours before my bag carrying all the gorgeous Koigu yarn arrived.
So, I have now tested myself to see if I can write a diary of my travels. I have added photos and I think I can manage to post during the BIG trip. If you are reading this, please post a comment so I know I did it right! :D

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tuesday and counting

Two more days ticked off the countdown. My stomach actually does a flip when I think about the adventures that lie ahead for Linda and me.
In the meantime, I have a short hop to Toronto this weekend to prepare for. The bedroom now has two corners set aside as packing centers. One is the tub that contains things like a teeny little travel umbrella, universal electrical plug, small bottle of Eucalan for washing out unmentionables on board ship and my zip up-inside out shopping bag. Boy, that last item is a MUST have. All those items will sit till I pack for the BIG trip. In another corner are the things for this weekend in, gift for Koiguboy, headphones and the all important sample of color P849 for matching while shoping at the Koigu farm. Stash enhancement is in my future.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Time to start THINKING about packing

Yikes. It's Saturday night and two weeks from right this minute Linda and I will be in the air on our way to Copenhagen for the start of our 2009 Excellent Adventure. I have decided that you can teach a Granny new tricks and I will fumble my way through the creation of a blog. This will force me to keep a diary of our trip and post photos for everyone back home to see. In my usual techno-babble way, I will simply push keys until I figure this blog stuff out. Bear with me, this could be messy.

I will now go and knit and sip tea for the rest of the evening.