Joined May 2018 Message
  • Day30

    The continuing saga of the mint jelly

    July 23 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 57 °F

    The mint jelly saga continues.

    So Chuck and I never check a bag and I forgot that the mint jelly weighed too much for a liquid. We go through security and they tell me I have to open my bag because I have a liquid in it and I couldn’t figure out what it was. We open up the bag and there’s the mint jelly . So I either have to give up the mint jelly, or go out of security, back to the line to check in, check my bag, and then come back through the whole security thing again. Yep, I went out , checked the bag and came back through security. I’ve been patted down twice, x-rayed twice and everything inspected twice but my mint jelly is on its way to Raleigh Durham.

    PS Chuck said to write this:

    And the entire hour that I was gone doing what I had to do to keep a 6 ounce jar of mint jelly , Chuck was patiently waiting outside of security. And when it was all over, and I came walking through security a second time, my dear sweet husband said “It’s all right, dear.” 😂😂😂😂
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    Traveler

    Can’t wait to see you!!!

    7/25/22Reply
     
  • Day29

    Time to say Goodbye

    July 22 in Sweden ⋅ 🌙 88 °F

    After 30 days, we have packed our bags and said goodbye to the crew members that we have come to love. The Viking Mars has had its A team on the field for this entire cruise. Not one detail was missed and they treated us like we were royalty. It is hard to say goodbye to such genuinely good people. We were blessed to have some of the crew members from our world cruise and that reunion has been very sweet. Captain Knutsen and Lara coming aboard in Bergen was just icing on the cake.Read more

  • Day29

    Picture Perfect

    July 22 in Sweden ⋅ ☁️ 73 °F

    We docked today exactly where our ship docked the last time we were here. It is next door to a large brick building whose east end announces in large letters that it is the home of J. Lindeberg Co. The west half of the building houses the Stockholm Photography Museum, or “Foto Muzeet,” as it is called in the wonderfully phonetic Swedish language.

    It had opened just before we arrived for our last visit. There had been some controversy surrounding its start. This site had originally been chosen for the new ABBA Museum, but at the last minute, the promoters of the museum for the quartet chose to put it in a building over near the amusement park. With little preparation the photography museum moved in here. Today I was glad to see that the museum is still open and is apparently doing very well.

    We saw four exhibits today. The first displayed the work of Andy Warhol. One show I found especially interesting was an exhibit of the work of Terry O’Neal. In one little area were two large, overstuffed chairs where we sat and listened to an interview of the drummer turned photographer. He revealed some poignant details about his short marriage to actress Faye Dunnaway. Being married to a superstar is not all it’s cracked up to be. There were other interesting exhibits about digital arts and another on the rise of African photography.

    I was encouraged by the display of the contact sheets showing the negatives of some of the award winning images. To get one shot of Audrey Hepburn swinging a cricket bat, the photographer had to shoot over a hundred frames. For most of the notable images, several hundred shots were required. The pros had many shots of famous people just doing ordinary things. I was inspired, so I took my new iPhone 13 proMax outside and just shot some images on the street. I doubt that any will win awards, but I’ll bet if the subjects were celebrities, they might. Anyhow, I had fun. And that’s what this trip is all about.
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  • Day29

    Eyes on the Prize

    July 22 in Sweden ⋅ ⛅ 75 °F

    On a previous trip to Stockholm our guide assembled us in the lovely park outside the Stockholm City Hall. The exterior of the building is beautiful enough, but we had never been allowed to go inside. Today is the day.

    The building looks ancient, with statues, shields and other artifacts from Swedish history and legend. However, the building will celebrate its centenary next year. It is made to look old, yet it is not really so old as to be decrepit. The result is dazzling. Though the brickwork is not ancient, the bricks were dug from the pit that provided bricks for a famous old Swedish castle. They are also the same size. Harald Bluetooth would feel at home here.

    The main reason I wanted to come here was because of our visit to the Nobel Prize Museum last week in Oslo. The Nobel Peace Prize is presented there. All the others (literature, medicine, chemistry, physics, economics) are presented in this building at a banquet in the so-called Blue Room. It isn’t blue at all. It is brick, but the architect originally planned to paint it blue. Once it was finished, however, he decided he liked it better unpainted. (I do too.) Still, he had previously hyped his plan in the press, saying it would be the Blue Hall, its color inspired by the color of the Swedish flag. So even though the architect changed his mind, the name “Blue Room” stuck.

    The Blue Room has become the customary location for the presentation of the annual Nobel Prizes because it is the only room large enough to feed the 1,300 guests who attend the Nobel ceremony. There is a far more beautiful room in the building, the Gold Room, but it is not quite large enough to hold all the guests and the tables from which they feed. The Nobel event uses the Gold Room as a ballroom for the dance following the dinner. Either of these rooms would be big enough for a decent game of soccer. I was a teeny bit disappointed today because the Blue Room is being refurbished, and the scaffolds and equipment detracted a bit from its glory. Nevertheless, I could see enough of the room to get an idea of its grandeur, and let me tell you, you would not be embarrassed to have your friends over for dinner in this room. The only hitch is that it cannot be rented by individuals. Only institutions and organizations can reserve any of the rooms in the Stockholm City Hall.

    There is one exception to this rule. There is one room with walls covered in beautiful tapestries. It is the Wedding Room. Each Saturday over seventy weddings take place in this room, and to reserve it, you have to call at least twelve months ahead.

    As magnificent as the Blue Room may be, the room that causes every tourist to gasp is the Gold Room. The entire room, floor to high ceiling, is plastered with tiny flecks of glass tiles, each containing a sliver of gold. There are about 16 million of them covering the walls. Each one catches the light, and the effect really is breathtaking. Stylized characters in the golden mosaics represent great Swedes of the past, authors, scientists, artists, statesmen. A mosaic frieze around the cornice tells the human story from birth to death. A frieze on the other side of the room gives a brief history of Sweden, beginning with its founding in the Stone Age, and ending with a depiction of “The World War.” (They only knew of one when the artwork was completed in 1920). At the head of the room a queenly figure representing Stockholm sits on stones representing the eighteen islands that make up this city. She welcomes visitors from all over the world as she holds the prominent buildings of the city (including the royal palace, the parliament, and even the City Hall) in her lap. On the viewer’s left are representations of the Western World, such as the Statue of Liberty, the skyscrapers of Manhattan (as they appeared in 1920) and the Eiffel Tower. On the right are representations of the Eastern World, such as elephants, mosques and desert palm trees.

    The Prince’s Room is somewhat more modest, but is nevertheless, a handsome example of modern architecture representing Sweden. On one side of the room windows look out onto the islands of the Stockholm Archipelago. On the other side of the room glows a wall mural giving an artist’s depiction of the same scene. Modern marble columns with faintly Egyptian capitals offer a space where a long table can run down the center of the room for the convenience of banqueters. This room also serves as the anteroom where Nobel recipients gather with VIP’s from around the world before they are presented to the multitude assembled in the Blue Room.

    In addition to representing the Swedish nation, the Stockholm City Hall is also the seat of the local government. The city council of 100 members assemble late on the afternoon of the third Monday of each month to deliberate on the affairs of the 1 million citizens of Stockholm. All but a few of the members are part time politicians who hold down their regular day jobs as well. Anyone, Swede or foreigner, can observe City Council meetings seated in the two galleries overhead. Meetings are now also live-streamed on the internet.

    I had long wanted to see the inside of this place, and today I was not disappointed in the least. This is probably one of the most magnificent non-ecclesiastical buildings I have ever seen. On your next trip to Stockholm, do try to make time to see it.
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  • Day29

    Mint jelly finale

    July 22 in Sweden ⋅ ☀️ 81 °F

    The quest for the mint jelly came to a conclusion last night when we returned from dinner. The Viking Mars crew had left a jar of mint jelly and a sweet note in our state room. Thank you Viking. You guys are always the best and that’s why we always sail with you.Read more

  • Day28

    Mariehamn—Queen of the Sea

    July 21 in Åland Islands ⋅ ⛅ 64 °F

    There are 6,000 islands in the Åland archipelago. (The A with an o over it is pronounced like a long O—-“Oh-land”). Many are smaller than a basketball court. Thirty of them are inhabited. We are on the largest, the port of Mariehamn.

    Åland is different. For a couple of centuries it was tossed back and forth among Sweden, Finland and Russia. Now it is its own independent, self-governing autonomous area. It has its own flag and its own parliament consisting of 30 members. Even so, the citizens pay taxes to Finland. Swedish is the official language, and one must prove that one can speak that tongue up to their standards before one can be given a certificate of residency. Such a certificate is not citizenship, however. The Åland Islands are members of the European Union and the United Nations. They have their own parliament that governs local matters, but their decisions can be overruled by the Parliament of Finland in Helsinki. The governor is nominated by the Åland Parliament here in Mariehamn, but he/she must be approved by the Finnish Parliament. The Åland Islands have been an international demilitarized zone since the close of World War I, so the autonomous region (it is not technically a state) can have no armed forces. The local parliament cannot levy taxes, but 0.45 percent of the total tax revenue of Finland is given to the Åland Islands to be used however their Parliament chooses. The area is granted one member in the Finnish Parliament in Helsinki (which has 200 members). It really gets complicated.

    Before I arrived here I was expecting the same sort of bucolic environment we found in Bornholm. That expectation changed quickly as we passed a brand new, fully equipped hospital, a small university, and what we would call a community college. There is a large shopping center with many upscale stores.

    Historically, Mariehamn derived its existence from the sea. Some of the earliest clipper ships were built here, major shipping companies were headquartered here, and a large portion of the European sailing fleet called this port home. The golden age of Mariehamn occurred in the last half of the nineteenth century when several Åland shipping companies regularly sent windjammers carrying goods all around the world. Some of these square rigged barks were in service up until the 1930’s. There is a maritime museum here that beats any other in the world with its static display of the ship Pommern. She was constructed as a cargo ship in Scotland in 1903 and carried timber from Scandinavia, saltpeter from Chile, and grain from Australia. She was bought by the Åland shipowner Gustaf Erikson in 1923 and made her last commercial voyage in 1939. Tourists wander around the ship admiring the complicated rigging, the harsh conditions and the incalculable risks of sailing in the days of the tall ships. Computerized headsets give explanations at the appropriate places onboard—the galley, the forecastle, the captain’s quarters and the crew’s mess, etc.

    The population in the islands is about 30,000 with 13,000 living in Mariehamn, but the size of this archipelago is larger than that of Greece. I think I saw at least 13,000 private boats in the two deep-water harbors here, and two-thirds of them were sailboats. From the looks of them, these boats were not cheap. Nor are the cars. In addition to the Toyotas and Saabs, there are quite a few Mercedes-Benz, Teslas, Jaguars, Audis, and BMW’s. There is an antique car club here that specializes in restoring American cars from the 1950’s. On our drive through the city today I saw a 1956 Buick and a 1958 Oldsmobile that looked as though they had just been driven off the showroom floor. Though there are no skyscrapers here, quite a few of the buildings are modern, recent and quite upscale. Mariehamn was definitely a surprise to us. This advanced, trendy urban area may be the biggest little city you never heard of. Her glory days may be past, but Mariehamn is still a very interesting place to visit.
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  • Day27

    Meet Magellan

    July 20, Baltic Sea ⋅ ☀️ 66 °F

    Yesterday in Gdańsk a pigeon landed on the line used to string flags and lights along the ship. Somehow, when the ship left the port, the pigeon didn’t get the memo that he/she needed to get off. So last night, out in the middle of the Baltic Sea, we see this pigeon clinging to the line with nowhere to go. Right now we are hundreds of miles from land, and the poor pigeon is still with us. He/she is not exactly a sea bird, so I hope he/she/it will stay put until we land at Mariehamn in the Åland Islands. Our ship is barely moving at ten knots, so the poor creature seems to be comfortable, but, goodness knows, how confused must the unfortunate pigeon be! I suspect the bird has traveled farther than most pigeons go, so Glenda and I have started calling the fowl “Magellan.” My hope is that when we get into port tomorrow, it will go to the nearest park, perch on the peak of the statue of the most important politician, relieve him/herself after a long journey, and then find a cute mate who will help broaden the gene pool among pigeons in Mariehamn.Read more

  • Day27

    Footprint in the Sea

    July 20, Baltic Sea ⋅ ⛅ 66 °F

    It is a sea day, and I’m not sure how one makes a footprint in the sea. However, as we sat in the Explorers’ Lounge at the front of the Viking Mars, we saw this windjammer off our port bow under full sail. My Vessel Tracker app tells me she is the Sea Cloud Spirit en route to Stockholm.Read more

  • Day26

    Gdansk Rediscovers Gdansk

    July 19 in Poland ⋅ ⛅ 72 °F

    Of all the cities of the world, perhaps none has been punched in the gut as many times as Gdansk. Its geographical location has been both a blessing and a curse. Since the time of the crusades, this city has been conquered, annexed, and “protected,” by more different duchies, kingdoms and fiefdoms than you care to read about. It’s location at the junction of the Vistula River, the Motlawa River, and the Baltic Sea is just about perfect. It’s geography guaranteed that it would be desired by many. Left alone, it repeatedly rose to become a commercial power, no matter who claimed it. And there were many who tried. Some succeeded, at least for a while.

    Gdansk (or Danzig, as she was called) became an important jewel in the crown of the medieval Hanseatic League, and the town became enormously wealthy in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. German merchants continued to play an important economic role here, so that by the nineteenth century Germans were predominant and Poles were actually a minority. By the end of World War I she existed as the Free City of Danzig.

    In his early attempts to expand his German empire, Adolf Hitler stationed his warships in Westerplatte on the spot the Viking Mars now occupies. The first shots of World War II were fired here by German naval vessels on September 1, 1939. Dive bombers and field artillery simultaneously joined the attack. Polish Major Henryk Sucharsky was informed that no help would be sent from the Polish armed forces. His men fought off repeated German infantry attacks as 180 Polish soldiers held out against 570 German infantrymen for seven days. Fifteen Polish soldiers were killed and twenty-six were wounded when Sucharsky decided that he must surrender to prevent further bloodshed. No one knew it then, but a conflict began that day that would become known as World War II. There is a monument here now, marking the place where the war began. The first shot was fired here. Here the first soldier died. The Polish government makes sure that there are always fresh flowers at its base.

    At the end of World War II Poland was bombed mercilessly by the Soviet Union under the pretext that Danzig was a German city. Soon the Russian Army moved in, against the wishes of the local population, and forced this nation to enjoy the blessings of socialism. Never happy to be under foreign rule, Poland was forbidden by Moscow to receive postwar funds from the West, such as the Marshall Plan, to help them rebuild.

    Fast forward to 1971. Here at the port city of Gdynia on the night of 10–11 November, the East German security police carried out mass arrests of over 1,500 Poles in the Obłuże district. Police later murdered 23 young men aged 16-20 charged with breaking windows at the headquarters of the German security police. Polish discontent with Russian rule exploded into militant resistance.

    Today we saw the gritty shipyard where in the 1980’s electrician Lech Walesa led fellow shipyard workers in a revolt against Soviet domination. At one protest parade forty shipyard workers were gunned down by the communist authorities. Resisters received moral support and encouragement from the first Polish Pope, John Paul II. Walesa’s group named itself “Solidarity” and finally succeeded in overthrowing Soviet oppression in 1989. Thousands of displaced Polish citizens returned to their homeland. All German and Russian buildings were demolished. Those structures and other bombed-out buildings were replaced with newly constructed replicas of the seventeenth and eighteenth-century buildings that stood in those locations in times long past. Walesa became President of a newly independent Poland in 1990 and won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts. A hundred-meter-high tripod topped with three anchors now stands at the shipyard in memory of the forty martyrs.

    Now the rebuilding and restoration are complete, and the city’s name has been changed back to its historic Polish form, Gdańsk (pronounced like “G’dainsk, with a long I). This newly restored city is breathtaking in its beauty. With so many “restored” and “rebuilt” buildings, one could argue that Gdansk is a bit like Colonial Williamsburg—two-hundred-year-old buildings that have been rebuilt six times. Okay. I get it. However, the feeling here is that these “new” old buildings are not just reconstructions. On the contrary they are the real Gdansk. There is a distinct kind of authenticity about them. The present historical fairyland is the way Gdansk WAS supposed to be before the Germans got hold of it. Some of the buildings here smell like Italian renaissance. Some hint of sixteenth-century Amsterdam. But the citizens here will not allow a German building, a German-sounding name, or a German institution. One street that had been known for centuries by the name of a famous German brewery is now called simply “Beer Street.” And if Gdansk is allergic to anything German, then they find anything Russian positively toxic. They have been Russian. Been there. Seen that. Got the T-shirt and they don’t want to go back. Poland is a member both of the European Union and NATO. Communism? No thanks.

    Now Poland and Gdansk are free again. Free to be themselves. Free to be what they were before being constrained to obey Germans and Russians. Free to be Polish. Residents are taking their new freedom and running with it. The economy here is humming. New investment is coming into Gdansk so that the entire north bank of the old harbor area is teeming with new apartments, new businesses, new restaurants, and upscale night clubs. Interestingly, all of these new facilities are being placed in historic buildings, renewed on the outside as little as possible. The old fabric of historical warehouses on the sites is retained as much as possible, with shiny glass and steel making up anything lacking. The effect is striking. With several lovely beaches near here, Gdansk is attracting young people—so many, in fact, that the city is now developing a reputation as something of a party town. New wealth is pouring into the city, just as it did in the renaissance.

    Gdansk remembers its past, but she looks to the future. We attended an organ recital in the Cistercian Church built in the ninth century in Oliwa (pronounced like Oliva, for the Mount of Olives) now a suburb of Gdansk. Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor rattled the stained-glass windows and brought tears to my eyes as an invisible keyboard artist made the monster growl. We passed the home of Lech Walesa, who still lives in comfortable retirement in a suburb. We saw young people thronging the streets under a sixteenth-century fountain of Neptune. Gdansk has recovered its past and is poised for an exciting future. Gdansk has rediscovered itself.
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  • Day25

    At the Captain’s Table

    July 18, Baltic Sea ⋅ ☁️ 64 °F

    We had the unusual privilege of attending a dinner tonight with several of our current shipmates who were with us on the Viking Inaugural World Cruise from December 2017 to May 2018. Lara Knutsen and her husband, our Captain Atle Knutsen, arranged the meal in the private dining room of Manfredi’s, the excellent Italian restaurant here onboard the Viking Mars. Captain Knutsen was our Skipper during that entire five-month cruise, and Lara served as the ship’s hostess. I will never forget her kindness to us Vietnam veterans as we approached Saigon back in 2018. That visit was the first time many of us had been back to Saigon since the war. Lara arranged for the vets to have coffee together a couple of times each week with Commander Porter Hallyburton and Admiral John Lippiett. Commander Hallyburton was one of the first U. S. prisoners of war shot down over Vietnam and was in a communist concentration camp for over seven years. Lara and Captain Knutsen are two very special people to us, and it was a joy to be back with some of our old friends who literally traveled the world with Viking.Read more

    Traveler

    How special!!!

    7/19/22Reply
     

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