Friday, July 2, 2010

Off the coast of Finland

Just left Estonia a few hours ago. Had a great time there, visiting a ruined castle, a city fortress, and driving through some countryside that looks very much like Minnesota--pine and birch forests with farms growing barley and rye. Not much Soviet architecture in Minnesota, though!

Updating the blog because the Net connection is so flaky I have to grab time when I can.

Day before yesterday was a full--and I do mean full--day in St Petersburg. We spent about three hours in the Hermitage, saw only a fifth of what's there, and still only scratched the surface of that. One entire room of Rembrandt. Multiple rooms of Picasso (some of it on loan). More than I can even begin to describe. We left that city wondering if we had the gumption for Tallinn but today was more relaxed.

Tomorrow is Stockholm, then two days at sea. The weather is still unusually calm and downright hot. With the white nights it means that we have about sixteen or eighteen hours of light. The sunset lasts for hours. I think I'm starting to get used to looking out a window and seeing movement. On the main decks they have large portholes, like round floor-ceiling windows, that give a great view of the water sliding and sliding past.

Supper in a few minutes so I'm signing off. Shout out from the high seas to Kate and her LWD (little white dog).

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Am Ostsee

Today we are sailing across the Baltic Sea (called the East Sea, in German), so I have time to update the blog today. We have visited Oslo, Copenhagen, and Rostock. I'll try to give a brief idea of each.

The first thing to say, though, is how incredibly fortunate we've been in our weather. We've had nothing but calm seas and clear weather with temperatures in the 70s. The crew keeps talking about how nasty the weather was on the previous voyage, so we know we're lucky here.

We wandered this city on our own. It's a pleasant town, not at all crowded and not very large. There are few old buildings and many modern ones. We where here on a Saturday and most of Oslo was closed until around 11am. We got to see some Viking stuff in the historical museum, then we went to the city hall. This is sort of the pride of the town, built some time in the 1950s. It consists of two large towers with shorter arms sticking out back to form a plaza between them. There are some big bas-relief illustrations from Nordic mythology on the way in. The real treat, though, is inside. There is a central hall with a ceiling that's about three stories high. Marble floors, and murals on the walls, one wall of which illustrates scenes from the Nazi occupation and the Norwegian resistance. Upstairs most of the rooms are ceremonial, but one is the actual city council room. Oslo has no mayor; instead, it's run by a sort of city parliament at which any citizen may come forward to speak. I think they call it democracy or something.
The meals on board have been excellent, as you might have guessed. We've been eating all sorts of dishes, with multiple courses. One of many nice things is that the portions are reasonable, so that it's possible to have an appetizer and a main course and still honestly have room for dessert.


Upon leaving Copenhagen we reversed course and went back north again; not sure why. Anyway we went around the northern tip of Zealand and sailed south again between there and Jutland. At the tip of the island is Elsinore, the castle that was the scene for Shakespeare's Hamlet. Got some good pictures of that.

In the middle of the night we passed underneath a bridge. I didn't get up but Deb said it was really dramatic to be on a ship going under such a structure. Earlier we saw the full moon. This was dramatic enough -- with the utterly smooth water it was like a giant lighthouse shining its light across the sea -- but what made it really memorable was that you could turn 180 degrees and see the light of the sunset. Deb got some good video on her Flip. All taken from our balcony of course, la-de-da.

Today was the only disappointment of the trip so far. Had a lousy tour guide. I mean really poor. I didn't mind too much because I already know Rostock's history and anyway it was only a half day so not much was lost. Felt sorry for other folks on the bus.

Afternoon was spent in Warnemunde, a seaside resort town. 'Sfunny but it was very much like going to Seaside or any other resort town, with the paved walk and the innumerable shops all selling the same things. Same, just a hundred or two years older.

And so to today. Utterly relaxing. Read a book, watched TV, wandered the decks, slept in, and updated this blog. Exhausting *pant*. Tomorrow is St Petersburg. We are all very much looking forward to that.

We're all thinking of you. Today's post includes a shout-out to Karla and all her homies at WW. Yo! Not to mention yo ho ho.

Okay, I'm clicking Post before this miserable IE crashes on me again. Will post at least once more from shipboard but probably not until after Russia.