Thursday, October 17, 2013

Summer Holiday-Part 3

 The next stop of the Baltic Sea Cruise found us in Klaipeda, Lithuania.  The third largest city and the northernmost port on the Baltic whose waters do not freeze during the winter.  A small city with not much to see, we did check out the old Castle, the neo-gothic Post Office and the former town hall.  The historic part of town has an open market where local merchants were selling their goods.  In the center of the square were folk singers and dancers who were putting on a fun show, the kids sure did like it.  The Baltic Sea is known for it's amber, the picture on the right is of one table with different jewelry.  One of the vendors was making woven bags, the kids got to sit down and use the loom and bought some cute purses.  This is also the stop where our camera broke.  :(

 The next port was Gdynia, Poland, the port just up the way from Gdansk.  We took a nice walk into the city center and out to the water to see some of their tall ships.  We had a fun time sampling some of the local food and drinks, pierogi and beer.  One of the common themes of the trip was have a local beer in each port.  Well, the hubby would have one, I would have a sip and the kids would scrunch up their noses and say " Beer, again!"  We could have taken a trip on one of the pirate ships along the dock, was ran out of time and I don't think I could have handled more time on a boat.  Gdynia was a fun little city, as we got to the end of the cruise we all were starting to feel that 10 days was a little too long and everyone was ready for a break.  So we returned to the ship early, kids went to the Kid's Club and the parents went for a nap by the pool.  It was a nice was to spend a sunny afternoon in Poland.

The final port of the cruise was Ronne on the island of Bornholm in the country of Denmark.  A quaint little town with the nickname of 'The Sunshine Island of the Baltic Sea'.  The ship dropped anchor just short of the harbor and we took small tender boats to reach land.  It was quite interesting since the seas were a little rough, the girls decided not to go ashore, so it was me and all my Boys.  The island which located close to the Swedish and Polish coastlines is becoming a high-quality resort from it's fishing village past.  Legend tells that the Viking God Thor created Bornholm for the 'left-overs' of other territories and the Baltic coast.  During World War II the island was thought to have German U-boats, the Russians repeatedly bombed the island.   As a result, some 80 percent of the island's buildings were destroyed or severely damaged.  During the late 1940s all were restored or rebuilt.  This is a picture of the Church of St. Nicolai, the patron saint of sailors and fisherman.  The city square, once a fish market and venue for military parades, is not a popular meeting point and said to be the widest square in the Danish province.  Such a cool little town to end the cruise, wish we had longer to just relax here.

As we boarded the ship on last time, we were a little sad that our amazing Summer Holiday was coming to an end.  The kids from the ship performed a play put together by the staff, it was so fun to see them singing and dancing.  The final dinner had some entertainment as well.  Everyone was sad to leave, but ready to get home.  The next day it was off the ship, on 2 trains back to Berlin.  We arrived early enough to do some tourist things in the city, so off to the Brandenburg Gate.  This was the boundary between East and West Germany, now a symbol of reunification.  We enjoy going to the Pariser Platz, where the US embassy is and always great when the kids point out the US flag.  The rest of the evening was spent playing in the Tiergarten.  One of the things we love most about Germany are all the parks and playgrounds they have around.  There is something that we find so comforting about being in Germany, maybe because we lived there or maybe it's the efficiency of the country.  This was a nice way to wrap up our holiday before heading south to Italy and the hot weather.

There you have it... Our summer holiday.  Sorry it has taken me so long to post, life keeps moving and I find myself more and more tired these days.  The days are getting shorter and the night longer, soon we will be bundled up in the house, sitting around the fire dreaming of summer.  Who knows what adventure we will be on next summer.  Stay tuned, we have more trips and adventures coming our way.  For now, it's down to the basement to get my crafty on, Halloween will be here before I know it and then Christmas.  Ugh, someone make the time slow down!  Happy Crafting!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Summer Holiday-Part 2

One of the major reasons that we chose to do a Baltic Sea cruise for our Summer holiday was to stop in St Petersburg, Russia.  I have always wanted to go to Russia and was so looking forward to this stop.  We arrived early in the morning and were one of the first people off the ship.  We met our tour guide and were off to a driving tour of the city.  I was expecting such a different looking city, I was raised in the 80s and had these pictures of Russia as a cold, dark, depressing place.  St Petersburg was very Western European.  We learned that the founder Tsar Peter the Great (yes I named my boy after a good one) was a great leader, founded the city in the 18th century and was the capital of Imperial Russia.   We drove past Peter and Paul Fortress, where the city was founded on the inland in the Neva River delta.  We stopped at The Church on the Spilled Blood, where Emperor Alexander II was killed.  This church with it's mosaic covered walls was amazing.  Interesting to learn that during World War II the theater companies were hired to make 'sets' to disguise specific buildings from air raids.

The picture above is of Sticky Boys at Peterhof, the summer palace of the Russian Tsar modeled after Versailles in Paris.  Quite spectacular, the grounds has many fountains all run by a gravity-fed water system.  It was quite impressive to see and play in some of these fountains.  This being the favorite home of Peter the Great, you could see the gardens and fountains all around you and feel warmth even in the cold Russian winters.  We also stopped at Tsarskoye Selo or Tsar's Village, at Cather's Palace to see the beautiful Amber Room.  Then it was quickly by to the ship, through customs and set sail for our next port.  Looking back, we wished we had more time in St Petersburg.  Guess we'll have to try to get back in the next few years.

 Next stop on the cruise was Tallinn, Estonia.  The capital city is made up of a medieval section and the more modern, hillside district.  We were only here for a few hours and we definitely wanted more time.  We walked around the medieval section, with all its churches and old buildings we felt like we were in another time.  St Mary's Cathedral, the Niguliste Church, the Town Hall, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, were all highlights.  Being there in the morning, while most of the city slept and shops were not open yet gave us a feeling of being alone despite all the tours from our ship taking place around us.  It was amazing to see the city come to life as the day went on.  Such a bummer that we had to get on the ship and sail to the next port just when things were happening.  Even though we saw most of what the city has to offer, we might be planning a trip back to see and experience more of the life in Tallinn.

Our next stop was Riga, Latvia.  The capital city is located at the mouth of the river Daugava, on the Gulf of Riga is a major seaport and cultural and industrial center.  Having a history of being ruled by other countries, Latvia found independence after World War I.  During WWII Latvia was annexed by the USSR and was occupied by the Germans before going back under Soviet rule, later regaining their independence in 1991.  Several old neighborhoods have preserved numerous medieval buildings dating back to the 13th century.  The Castle of Riga, dating back to 1330, was built as the seat of the Livonian Order and is not the residence of the President of Latvia.  We took a small elevator up to the top of St Peter's Church to get an amazing 360* view of the city.  (As you can see our ship is in the distance.)  We took a Hop On-Hop Off bus tour that took us around the city to see more of the sights.  One such sight was the Liberty Monument that symbolized the liberation of the Latvian people from foreign powers.  At top is Liberty holding three start over her head, symbolizing the unity of the regions of Latvia.

Check back next week, to see the final stops on our Summer Holiday.  Until then... Happy Crafting!