Cruise Day 4 – Wismar, Germany

September 6, 2016 – The ms Koningsdam docked in the port of Warnemunde, Germany. This is the principal port on the Baltic Sea for access to Berlin via train, and many of the ship’s passengers chose to take the 2.5 hour train to see that city. Alice and I were not very interested in spending 5 hours on a train, so we chose an excursion to the nearby city of Wismar, a world UNESCO Heritage site.

We boarded a comfortable coach at the pier and met our guide for the day. He was a pleasant young man with some wonderful insights into the recent past, when Germany was divided into East and West.  He was seven years old when the reunification of the country started in 1990. We will delve into that recent history at the end of this post, as most of the information was offered on our ride back to the ship.

On the drive west from Warnemunde to Wismar, we experienced a beautiful rural farmland dotted with many modern windmills.

Upon arrival in Wismar, we were let off of the coach at the large Market Square. As the name suggests, the square was used for centuries by local merchants to market their produce and goods. The completely cobble stoned area was surrounded on all sides by buildings in many architectural styles. The image below is Northern German Gothic building housing a restaurant called Alter Schwede (or Old Swede).

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Right next to this is a building in the 19th century Romanesque Revival style:

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I love the way the fronts of the buildings are styled. The tops cover the much lower building roofs and make the buildings appear larger and more impressive that their actual size.

Right in front of these two structures is the famous town landmark waterworks (Wasserkunst) built in the early 15th century to insure a supply of fresh water to the town, even if it was under siege.

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From the square, we walked a short distance to the site of the mostly destroyed St. Mary’s cathedral. All that remains today is the 80m tall church tower and a reconstructed outline of the walls of the church with marked off pillar bases inside of the walls.

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The main part of the church suffered two devastating blows in the 20th century. The first was the heavy allied bombing of this town at the very end of WWII. The second wast the self inflicted destruction of the remainder of the church by the East German government. In the guise of demolition prior to restoration of the building, the government enlisted the aid of the townspeople in dismantling all of the old Gothic brick works. The bricks were then carted of for use on other construction projects and the town was left with just the clock tower. The East Germans could not destroy the tower because it was a major landmark used for shipping navigation in that part of the Baltic.

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There was a second large church nearby that was also heavily damaged in the bombing raid. This is the reconstructed St. Georgen Church.

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St. George’s church was saved and restored because an important member of the city government during that period was a member of that church and not St. Mary’s. You should notice that all of the windows are clear. There was never enough money to try and restore lost stained glass.

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Perhaps my German speaking followers can interpret this sign on the building:

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After our tour of the old town, we were given about an hour to walk through the more modern part of Wismar. Here are some street scenes that I hope you enjoy. I know that I love the wide open cobble stone streets.

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The tour group gathered once more to head to our last stop: one of the oldest continuously operating brew houses in the city. On the way, we crossed over one of the canals in the heart of the city.

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Walking along the street on the side of the canal, I snapped a few interesting pictures of an old firehouse (no longer in use or there wouldn’t be cars parked in front) and a few other buildings:

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We finally arrived at the brew house:

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This brew house was established in 1452, and today still brews several different types of beer for both local consumption and for export. We got to sample three different types of beer, and each was excellent. Since my wife does not like beer very much, I got a little extra.

From here, we boarded our coach back to the ship. During the trip back, the passengers asked many questions about what it was like living in East Germany as a child. Our guide told us that his mother was a doctor and her father had another important job, so he grew up not wanting for very much. He said that many of their family and friends fled East Germany just after the war and before the wall went up to stem the tide of millions of Germans fleeing the Communist regime.

He also remembers the propaganda being taught in the early grades of school about how much better off they were under the state controlled regime where everything was shared equally by the people and how corrupt the western governments were. He also described the slow progress of reunification and the eventual improvements in local conditions by the end of the 1990’s.

After we got back to the ship, we learned about the fate of all of the passengers that went to Berlin. They were caught in two downpours of rain while in the city. Then, at the end of their return train trip, they all had to walk through a major storm to get from the railway station to the port. The heavy rain and strong winds managed get everyone completely soaked. We were glad we chose the more local excursion.

 

Cruise Day 3 – Dragor, Denmark

On Day 3 of our Baltic cruise we woke up in Copenhagen. My wife and I had visited this beautiful city in 2010 on our Fjords and Highlands cruise, so we planned a different type of excursion. About 10 miles directly south of Copenhagen is the quaint and historical fishing village of Dragor. The old section of town surrounds the harbor with many historical buildings crouching over narrow cobblestone streets.

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Most of the houses are a yellow color and have thatched roofs that are 8-10 inches thick.

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Other buildings have traditional red clay tile roofs that have been weathering this seaside environment for centuries.

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Here is a picture of the watch tower in the harbor where I believe the the villagers watched for the return of the fishing fleet:

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We had a pleasant stop at the Dragor Strand Hotel for a wonderful mid-morning coffee and danish.

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Believe me when I tell you that the apple filled danish pastry was the best I have ever tasted.

This was followed by some free time for wandering the streets and doing a bit of shopping. Here are some photos of this beautiful village:

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Then we went back to the harbor where I wandered around snapping pictures:

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I also got a few pictures of the famous boat Elisabeth K571. This boat was part of the Dragor Museum. It was used to evacuate the Jews of Copenhagen during the Nazi occupation.

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Before boarding the bus back to the ship, I took one last picturesque photo of the Dragor Badehotel off to the side of the village.

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Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Fun

Behold, some creative fun from one of the bartenders on our Baltic cruise aboard ms Koningsdam. Every year, Bacardi holds the Bacardi Cruise Competition. You can follow this link to see a Holland America Lines Blog entry for their 5 bartenders that made it to the final group of 25 contestants.

I love this challenge, so I try to work with a bartender on each cruise to come up with a drink that they can enter into the competition. On this cruise, the bartender was Ronald Atkins. We worked out two different drink recipes for him to consider entering.

As a thank you, Ronald presented me with a very unusual gift: a motorcycle built from corks, bottle tops, and various other bar related paraphernalia. Here are two views of this fun filled gift:

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I am not giving away the two recipe’s in public, but you can email me at cwaugh212@icloud.com if you are interested.

Come join the fun at Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge by following the link.


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Planet Earth

Here is a poem inspired by one of the same name by Covert Novelist Phyllis L. Holt.

Picture credit: Getty Images.

A rich blue ball
Dancing with the Sun
You hold us all
Me, you, and everyone.

With open eyes
And camera lens
We capture skies
And lakes and fens.

We write a verse
We sing a song
We all rehearse
We all belong.

So live your life
With joy and verve
Resist the strife
Your smile preserve.

Baltic Cruise Begins – Amsterdam

Amsterdam, Netherlands – September 2, 2017.

It was day one in Europe (day two of the trip with the flight from Atlanta to Amsterdam consuming over 8 hours). We got into the airport just before 6:00 AM local time and we knew our ride was waiting as soon as we cleared immigration and customs. Soon, however, is an inappropriate word. The airline (Delta/KLM) lost one of our three bags so carefully packed for our 14 day Baltic cruise. The bag contained all of my wife’s evening gowns/dresses and all of her dress shoes. Needless to say, panic was definitely in earshot.

We spent over two hours waiting for the bag to magically appear. When magic failed, we worked with KLM filling out the lost baggage paperwork (twice, because the agent failed to save his ‘work-in-progress’ when he went to copy our cruise itinerary). So, two hours behind schedule, we exit into the terminal to find our ride. We found our cruise agent right away and they called their car service. The limo driver who was originally supposed to take us to our hotel was still at the airport waiting for his second pickup of the morning, so we took advantage and hopped into his beautiful blue Mercedes sedan for the ride to the Mövenpick hotel next to the cruise terminal.

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Since we were arriving very early in the morning, we had no expectation of getting a room right away. We intended to drop off our bags (one short) and then take a morning tour of the city. After offering us a chance to upgrade our room for a fee, the hotel finally relented and gave us a free upgrade and assigned us a room on the 14th floor.  Here are a couple of photos from our room window looking down on the cruise pier and the extensive railway yard.

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After we got settled into the room we went down to the lobby and let the Holland America Lines cruise desk and the concierge know about the missing bag the we hoped would show up from the airport at any minute. Then we were off on the 5-10 minute walk to downtown Amsterdam to find a nice cafe for breakfast.

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On the way, we came to understand why we were warned about the many bicyclists and to stay clear of the bicycle lanes. I swear, there are more bicycles in Amsterdam than there are people. Here is a small sample taken in front of the train station:

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There must have been thirty thousand bicycles parked in this immediate area. With map in hand, we were searching for the Dwaze Zaken art cafe in the area. It took a few minutes for these Amsterdam newbies to get our bearings, but we found the place with its name all but covered by awnings shading the glass front windows.

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We had a healthy and delicious breakfast inside with fresh coffee and fresh squeezed orange juice. The omelet I had was made with local ingredients and the bread was thick and substantial.

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From there we walked back past the train station to our hotel to take a nap and try to recover from the six hour time change. Here is a picture of the front of the central train station.

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After our nap, we attempted to see some more of this wonderful city. I don’t know about you, but the time change turned us into a couple of zombies, just trying to get through the day. We did see a few sites and I snapped a few pictures. We just lacked the excitement and energy needed to really enjoy our experience.

Here are a few pictures from the Dam Square in front of the Amsterdam Royal Palace:

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Notice the street performer painted in gold in the lower right corner of the last picture. Here is a closeup of him.

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From Dam square, we walked down the pedestrian only Kalverstraat, past the many retail stores and cafes, weaving in and out of the crowds. Eventually we cut through an alley size street to the SPUI (plaza book square) and sat on a park bench for a rest. I snapped a few pictures from the bench to capture the flavor of the area:

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Including a view of De Krijtberg Church across one of the many canals.

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From the square, we decided to have an early dinner at a restaurant recommended by two different friends who had previously visited Amsterdam, the Haesje Claes Restaurant on Spuistraat. The restaurant did not disappoint. Here are a couple of photos of the table:

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Here was my main course of Braised Beef: Slow cooked beef in grandma’s style with red cabbage , mashed potatoes and apple compote.

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Then it was back to the hotel to call KLM to see if they had located our lost bag. We were told to call back between 10PM and 10:30PM, just before their service desk closed. We called at the appointed time and were assisted by an actual caring person (a woman named Regina) who went downstairs to the baggage loading area and found the bag. She promised the airline would send it to our hotel when they reopened between 8:30 and 9:00 AM.

That meant we could get a good nights sleep.

The next morning we had a wonderful buffet style breakfast included with our hotel room. Then we went down to the lobby to await the arrival of our lost luggage, letting the concierge and the HAL Cruises service desk know that the bag should be on its way from the airport. Well, we waited and we waited. We were due to board the ship at 1:00 PM and there was no sign of the courier. Just as we were about to go next door to the cruise terminal to board, the bag arrived. The woman courier didn’t even get the bag to the sidewalk in front of the hotel before she got a big hug from my wife. The day had been saved. We could now dress up to eat in the main dining room of the ship instead of going to the Lido deck with our everyday jeans and tops.

So now the cruise begins on ms Koningsdam, the newest ship of the Holland America fleet:

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Photo compliments of HAL.

 

 

 

 

Goat from a Viking Village

Viking Center Fyrkat is located about one kilometer from the ring shaped Fyrkat Viking Fortress. The whole complex is located near the town of Dobro in Denmark. The Viking Center is laid out like a Viking farm with period dressed guides to help you understand what life was like around the year 1000 AD.

In the middle of the farm, a goat was tethered to a log. The picture just required a little patience to get framed properly, because the goat was always in motion.

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