Thursday, May 29, 2014

#636 No time for work

For the first time ever, I'm on board the MV Explorer and I'm not working.

See how eager I am to board?
My friend Theresa is teaching me the art of cruising.  There is so much to learn.  For example, I need to remember to take my sunglasses and a book to 5 aft for reading (or for not reading).  And I certainly must remember the cookie break at 1600.   Meeting up with friends for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while at sea and planning for upcoming ports are critical to the success of cruising, so I pay close attention to those events.

The lectures on this enrichment voyage are fabulous.  My favorites are those led by Larry Silver, Penn professor of Art History.  We first met Larry in Fall 2006 and have been his groupies ever since. 
And, of course, I'm actually working a little bit.  I've trained the EV library staff.  I've answered a few work e-mails.  Larry and I worked on the art and architecture collection of the shipboard library. And now I'm updating some library documentation.

Yours in wondering how I ever had time for full-time work,

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

#635 Saint Petersburg

Of course, there is much more to Saint Petersburg than the food!

For one thing, we have 18 hours of daylight today between sunrise at 0455 and sunset at 2258.

The city is beautiful.  Kelly and I went to the extra trouble and expense to get a Russian visa that allows for the most flexibility in our travel.  Nearly all (95%) enrichment voyage passengers did not get the visa.  Here are some of the 5%.
Also known as Venice of the North, Saint Petersburg is crossed with a web of beautiful canals.  There are 22 bridges that cross these canals and the Neva River that must be raised to let ships pass.
Subway travel on the Saint Petersburg Metro is another fun mode of transportation around the city.  It is one of the deepest, busiest, cleanest, and prettiest subway systems in the world. 

Two beautiful masterpieces that we saw on this visit include the stunning Church on the Spilled Blood:

 And the Summer Garden adjacent to the Summer Palace of Peter the Great.
Yours in counting ourselves lucky to find ourselves in this beautiful city again,

#634 Food in Saint Petersburg

The food exploration continues in Saint Petersburg!

A bustling farmer's market with honey, pastries, fruits, vegetables, meat, and so much more:

A donut shop to rival Spudnuts:

 A tea bar offering bubble tea with chewy tapioca balls:

 And a street vendor selling corn on the cob for the cornhusker in our group:
On board the MV Explorer, we are celebrating Russia in the dining room with borscht for dinner and in the Glazer lounge with White Russian cocktails.

Yours in gastronomical celebration,

Monday, May 26, 2014

#633 The Friendly Faces of Saint Petersburg

As we step off the MV Explorer in Saint Petersburg, we immediately encounter 3 friendly and familiar faces.

Just past the immigration officials, we spy our first familiar face: the violinist who plays for hours each day at the Lieutenant Schmidt embankment.  He and Kelly are good friends.  Smaller cruise ships can sail up the Neva River and dock here, much closer to the city.

Alisa, a Russian tour guide, remembers us from our last visit in August 2013.  She is leading trips for this enrichment voyage too, but since we have a Russian visa for this visit, we are exploring on our own and won't be hanging out with Alisa this time.   
Our third familiar face is Kira, a SAS F13 student who has now graduated and lives in Moscow.  And we F13 alums reap the benefit of her visit to Saint Petersburg.  
Yours in enjoying the friendly faces of Saint Petersburg,

#632 Tallinn

Tallinn is my favorite port so far.

I'm basing this on the 'boatload' of photos I've taken here in this beautiful city.  Lucky for us, it's a port where we stay docked for 2 days - instead of the usual 1 day.

Tallinn's Old Town, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, reminds us of Dubrovnik with its city walls and red-tiled roofs next to the water.  

With our friend Theresa as our guide, we explore every nook and cranny.   Sometimes, Theresa even holds a rolled map above her head like the paid tour guides!  Here we are entering the Great Coastal Gate, a 16th-century arch flanked by two towers.
The Alexander Nevsky cathedral, built when Estonia was part of the Russian empire, is magnificent.
 But the Holy Spirit Church, a medieval Lutheran church in the Old Town, is my favorite.
We do some shopping at the Little Red House in the Old Town - selling only what is made in Estonia.  Here Kelly is paying for my Estonian socks and Donna is purchasing a blacksmith-made shot glass.  
On our first day, the Town Hall Square is filled with an acrobatic troupe.
But, of course, one of our favorite sights is the MV Explorer docked in the distance in one of the prettiest views of the city.
Yours in loving Tallinn,

Sunday, May 25, 2014

#631 Food, Food, Food

We're eating our way across northern Europe.

HAMBURG: The Old Commercial Room for labskaus and more

GDANSK: Gingerbread at Gotyk House, the oldest producer of gingerbread in Poland
GDANSK: Pierogi Ruskie at Velevetka Restaurant

KLAIPEDA: Potato pancakes (Blynai) with Svytury's beer.
KLAIPEDA: Chilled beetroot soup, potatoes, Svytury's beer
 TALLINN: Goat cheese and potato casserole with Saku beer.
 TALLINN: Pork roast with sauerkraut, the traditional Christmas meal.
Yours in fine fare,

Friday, May 23, 2014

#630 Baltic Gold

I love the Baltic Gold!

Amber trees (conifers) disappeared about 40 million years ago, but before they became extinct, their resin produced the magnificent amber stones that we can still find today in Gdansk and Klaipeda.

Amber is most often used for jewelry, but my favorite amber in Gdansk was this beautiful lamp.
We docked in Klaipeda and traveled to the Palanga Amber Museum, housed in a palace at the seaside resort of Palanga.  Huge pieces of amber, many with inclusions of insects are on display.
My favorite amber at the museum shop was this necklace - though I didn't like it enough to pay the 220 euros to take it home with me. 
For some, Baltic Gold means something other than amber.  It means Svytury's beer. It's been around since the 18th century and goes well with the traditional Lithuanian fare of chilled beetroot soup and potatoes. 
Yours in appreciating all the Baltic Gold,

Thursday, May 22, 2014

#629 St. Mary's churches

You'll find a St. Mary's Church in Gdansk, Poland and a St. Mary's Church in Rostock, Germany.

These 2 churches are hard for me to tell apart.  They have the same name.  They are both large brick gothic buildings built in the 14th century.  They both house an astronomical clock

 St. Mary's Church in Rostock

 Rostock astronomical clock.

St. Mary's Church in Gdansk claims to be the largest brick church in the world.
 Gdansk astronomical clock

Yours in wondering just how many bricklayers and clockmakers there were in the 14th century,

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

#628 Rostock libraries

"Bibliotheken rechnen sich nicht, aber sie zahlen sich aus" translates roughly to "libraries do not pay for themselves, but they do pay off."

I learned this when I wandered into the beautiful Rostock stadtbibliothek, aka the Rostock city library.
The Rostock librarian and I bonded when she confided that she, too, visits libraries on her travels. 
In the city park, we came across another special library.  You can take a book.  You can give a book.  You can borrow a book.  

Yours in appreciating libraries at every turn,