Saturday, May 31, 2014
Friday, May 30, 2014
Thursday, May 29, 2014
Today is our last port for this cruise Aarthus in Denmark. This port of call is only for a few hours as we arrived at 8 am and departed at 2pm. Aarthus is Denmark’s second largest city and today is a public holiday so there was not much open today. We decided to visit Den Gamel By, an old town like Skansen in Stockholm, where they have brought together old houses and businesses dating from the 17th century to the 20th century. These came from all around Denmark and were relocated in an open air museum. Most of the houses were open and displayed what they were used for. Occasionally you would see someone dressed in period costume walk past. We spent a couple of hours just walking around taking in the sights, heading back to the ship and to the last sail away for this cruise.
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
Today we planned to go to Skansen on the island of Djurgarden. By the looks of it, this is where to go in Stockholm for a day out.... All within walking distance of each other you will find the Tivoli Grono Lund (amusement park), the Vasa Museum and the Nordic Museum. If you are in Stockholm for the day it would be easy to fill in your day there....
When we got up the weather looked ominous... no rain just grey and cold.... well, the grey went away but the cold didn’t . We readied ourselves for the chill and did the 30min walk back into town.
Just in front of the old town, in an area known as Slussen, there is a ferry Terminal clearly marked “Djurgarden Farjan”. You buy a ticket for 45kr, or 30kr if you show them your pension card... this is only one way. This will get you on the ferry marked Djurgarden that comes every 15 minutes. You can also do this on the No 44 bus or the No 7 Tram which are cheaper options.
One thing that we have noticed is that here in these Nordic and Scandinavian countries are the amount of children that seem to be out on excursions; and I am not just talking about School age but a lot of preschoolers. They travel in small groups hanging onto a rope and dressed in their yellow vests.
It doesn’t take much time at all to get around to Djurgarden, and once there you just head off in the direction you want. Skansen is the world’s first open-air museum. This is where they have brought old dwellings from all around Sweden to create this park. They have set it up to look like little villages. In the Town Quarter you will find the glass blower, potter, baker and many other trades you would find in this era. People are dressed up and talk and behave as they would if they were living in that time. In one particular section we came across a couple of women cooking some of their traditional flat bread... We watched her roll it and roll it until it was thin enough to throw into the very hot wood fired oven. She then turned it and turned it until it cooked. She pulled it out and then let us try some. Yum especially when you added the butter.
They also have a zoo there where you can see elk, brown bears, bison and wild boars.
We were starting to tire by now and we started to make out way back down the hill, back onto the ferry again, and that long walk back to the ship...
By this time the wind had picked up and so did the wind chill factor making this one of the coldest days we have been out in. If only the kitchens would realise that all we want when we get back on the ship after a long day is a nice hot bowl of soup.
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Saturday, May 24, 2014
Friday, May 23, 2014
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
We docked in Rostock at 6 am this morning..... and no we didn’t get up for sail in this time. When we did go out we found ourselves very much in the middle of an industrial / cargo area.
Today was going to be a long full day as the drive alone to Berlin was three hours. We booked a package with TJ Travel of Russia which gave us 6 tours in 5 of the ports we were visiting (two in St Petersburg). You book with them and they make up a group from other passengers that book as well. Today we had 16 people joining this tour.
The Mercedes bus looked nice and new and probably seated around 22 people... That is of course if they were all the same size and height as me. For someone like Garry long legs were a problem. The aisle down the middle was very narrow and the overhead lockers were very low so you had a real sense of being in a confined space.
There was a young girl that took a roll call and made sure we were all on the bus, then left us under the care of the Bus Drivers who knew enough English to say “toilet, back here 10 minutes”.
The drive into Berlin was long but easy as it was all Autobahn. The countryside was very much like ours with timber plantations and crops of what I think is canola (you know the yellow flowers)... It was very lush and green all the way. Now the man who invented those wind turbines must be a very rich man, as every port that we have been to seems to have them..... you will even find a plantation of them growing out of the ocean at some places. Here it seemed like every farmer has them with their crops growing right up to the base of the turbines.
About halfway into our trip our drivers got to practice their English with a toilet stop, which everyone was ready for. At least there were not shops so everyone was back on the bus on time.
As you drove into the outskirts of Berlin you could not help but notice how leafy the city was. Our first stop was at Charlottenburg Castle. This is a palace dating back to 1695 by the king, and built for his wife who he named it after. Here we met our guide Polly, who was very knowledgeable and gave us a great history on how Germany and Berlin were divided, and what happened after reunification. This is where we thought that it is a shame that a guide was not provided right from the start as this information could have been given to us during the 3 hours drive into Berlin, and not have 45 minutes spent in one spot with so many things to cover in Berlin.
This is when we realised that the bus was really too small and inappropriate for the type of tour we were doing. Berlin’s highlights are large and spread out over a great area. You cannot stop so a lot of the sights were just drive by’s... now that is ok if it was on your side of the bus. If the highlight was on the other side, the windows were so low and seats so high there was no way you could see around the other passengers to get any view out their window. She would say “look at the lovely church” on your left and all you could see was the foot path... no use looking out the back windows as those seats covered them, and the funniest part was “look out the front” - if you tried to look out the front window all you could see was the backs of the front seats.
So we have some lovely pictures of all the sights that are on the righ hand side of the bus....
Most of the touring was in the Eastern part of Berlin which was under control by the Russians. This is where the old town was. Finally we have a stop and luckily it has a few sites that are all walkable. First we saw the Reichstag, the German Parliament and then over to the Brandenburg Gate. You can tell where the wall used to be as two rows of the coble stone foundation have been left along the roads. In this square we also saw the Hotel Adlon, made famous by the late Michael Jackson when he decided to dangle young Prince over the balcony when he was just a baby.
It was amazing to hear how East and West was always separate but you could still freely move from one side to the other... Problem was the repressed young and educated easterners wanted more,so they would cross to the west where the Americans offered them a new life if they agreed they did not believe in Communism. The Russians didn’t like this so they decided to place a barbwire fence on the boundary to prevent people fleeing . Now Berlin is in the middle of the east but within Berlin it is still divided into its own east and west... so people would just cross over and the Americans would fly them out.... Then literally overnight a new barrier was placed in Berlin blocking all access and eventually the wall was built.... the rest is history...
Across the road from here there is a Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.... now this memorial has not avoided controversy... firstly some Jews were uncomfortable that there were many atrocities and that many others should also be acknowledged. Then there is the design itself which actually looks like a grave yard with the blocks of many sizes arranged symmetrically within the square. Then there is the controversy over the coating on these blocks... Being prone to graffiti they decided to protect them by coating them with a substance that prevents the paint from sticking to the surface. The company that was to supply the paint turned out to be the same company many, many years earlier that manufactured the gas that was used in the chambers. Well you can imagine the uproar. This company said hey that was a long time ago and under a different management, and probably at a time that there was no choice. They compared other companies that also had involvement such as Siemens for building the Gas Chambers, Adidas who made the boots or IBM who created the system that catalogued the names of the Jews sent to concentration camps... the list was endless.... In the end the paint was still used, and as restitution, the company supplied it free of charge.
We passed many points of interest, some we saw, some we didn’t, but regardless we found Berlin to be a very interesting place once its history was put into perspective.
For lunch we stopped at a Bier Haus for a typical lunch which included schnitzel, and beer of course.
One of the final stops was checkpoint Charlie, the point where you crossed from Russia to the US controlled section of the city. Here they have recreated what the checkpoint would have looked like, complete with US soldiers and all.... well not real ones and rather camera shy until they saw the colour of your money. The next stop was in an area where a section of the wall was rebuilt as a reminder of what it was actually like.
Here we bid farewell to our guide and we were back on the road to Rostock. Today’s tour ended with mixed emotions we enjoyed what we saw and disappointed on what we missed... If there is a next time maybe getting to Berlin and driving around in a more custom built bus like the Ho Ho would be better. Docking at 6 am and leaving at 10 pm makes the option of training it in more appealing.
We arrived back at the ship for an Oktoberfest. The Lido Deck was decorated with bunting, balloons and long tables set up. There was a German Brass Band and more sausages and pretzels than you could poke a stick at... There was suckling pig, salads and sauerkraut and the German beer flowed, at a price of course!!!...
Finally at around 10pm the ship slowly started to glide away from the pier passing our partner in crime, the Norwegian Star, who was parked in our original spot in Warnemunde. Now we have another day at sea to regroup and ready ourselves for Tallinn Estonia.
Tuesday, May 20, 2014
Monday, May 19, 2014
Sunday, May 18, 2014