thereadrovers

Our retirement adventures

Baltic Cruise

on August 7, 2013

2 July

A Baltic cruise is next in our travels, thought about on the last cruise and booked in January.  A dismal day and a rough exit on ferry from Douglas.  Overnight at HIE Walsall after an attempt at a meal at IKEA thwarted by a fire alarm, so everyone waiting outside. Pizza Hut as a substitute wasn’t bad though.

3 July

Used postcode to try to get to de Longhi to get the coffee maker back for investigation.  Problem was there was a railway line in the way and no crossingso found factory by using road name, investigation will be up to 8 weeks so little chance of us collecting it on way back.  Drive to cruise terminal, check in and board within 15 minutes, much faster than last year’s cruise; very efficient.

Adonia is a much smaller and a more personal vessel with wooden panelling in abundance in the communal areas.  Get shown around gym and spa area but services there are no cheaper than at home.

Sail away at 4:15 prompt and a gentle float down the Solent  in ever bettering weather.  Dinner on first sitting on Table 38 with David and Joan, Geoff and Jean, Mick and Brenda. This is a music orientated cruise so after dinner, an explanation given on what is on by way of entertainment.

4 July

A day at sea and the sun is out.

Adonia pool

Adonia pool

Laze by the pool after a km walk around the jogging track (9 laps).  Talk on the construction of the Panama Canal was interesting and was followed by a talk on the places we are going to visit.

5 July

Now 36 hours without Internet access.  How on earth did we manage before the Internet?  Another sunny morning spent by the pool and another good talk this afternoon,  this time on the Denmark /Sweden road/rail bridge/tunnel where a man made island was created with spoil from the tunnel and is now a new wildlife haven.

Dressing up time for dinner and some songs from some earlier 20thC musicals for after dinner entertainment.

6 July

Manage to send text to Mel re Clearwell ( visitors wanted to stay another day ) and bus ride into Copenhagen.

Cloudless sky. Take canal cruise for an hour after looking round Royal Church. Cafe with Internet was welcome although food not great.

Cayman registered  MV in Copenhagen

Cayman registered MV in Copenhagen

Nyhaven

Nyhaven

IMG_1184

Walked down Nyhaven past the Royal Palace area, crowded little mermaid and a very grand MV from Grand Cayman before returning to ship by 4:15.

7 July

A day at sea, very hot and another talk on the Panama Canal, this time on the widening. Andy Murray does GB proud and wins Wimbledon.  A “we were on Adonia mid Baltic when he won” moment.

Another dressing up evening and some good music, dancing from the five actors, actresses on board.

8 July

Another sunny day for our visit to Kuressaare on Saaremaa island.  Why they built the cruise terminal 20 km from the main town is not clear.  Absolutely nothing at the cruise terminal but we have paid the £25 each for a trip into town.  Loads of wooded area and a good view on ride into town at front seat.  Good smooth roads and little traffic which is probably not surprising as the population is only 35k.  Not sure what their main industry is though, not that many tourists around other than the cruise passengers as they have to cross another island to get there from mainland Estonia.

Tower repairs

Tower repairs

IMG_1194Coffee at KuKuu restaurant and guesthouse overlooking castle, bought some goodies from supermarket that seemed to be cheaper than the UK and lunch at Chamelon for €12.00 including wi-fi was good value.

Some very dodgy Health & Safety issues in evidence on a tower refurbishment.

Sal bought from Shu some Flyfoot shoes for €23.20 which was a good bargain.

Breezy by time we got back to ship and difficulty getting off mooring.  Bigger swell en route to Tallinn as cold front crossed Estonia.

9 July

Tallinn.  Another bright warm, no hot, day.  Shuttle bus into town early as we are scheduled to leave mid-afternoon.

Tallin

Tallin

This was a good choice and we are in Tallinn well before 9am before the crowds.  Although the shuttle bus runs out of maps, we manage to find quite easily the route to the hill and the wonderful architecture of the old town.

Gradually, more tourists arrive and by the time we get half way down just in front of the parliament building, the square is thronged with tour groups.  Find a gift shop just opening so made the shop owner’s day by spending €51 on gifts and €7 on a picture. No Internet connection found so it will be Saturday before we get another chance.

Tallinn

Tallinn

Everywhere very clean and tidy although it is a shame the parliament building was undergoing renovation as were many buildings.  Lots of historic buildings the history of which is often well tabulated in local language and English on plaques outside.

One or two more sinister looking ex Soviet buildings.

Soviet style building in Tallinn

Soviet style building in Tallinn

More Frost Pocket NZ white wine which is an excellent choice.

A wonderful rendition of Bridge over Troubled Water in SATB by the Adonia Theatre Company tonight.

10 July

We have arrive in Russia and are moored within walking distance of the first bridge over the river and has wonderful views over the city.

St Petersburg mooring

St Petersburg mooring

We are only allowed off on organised tours and we have opted for the underground and market tour this afternoon so spend morning by pool in soaring temperatures.

Quickly through immigration and onto the coach.  leave early so time for an additional stop, this time at St Nicholas church all in blue outside.  Church large but inside appears not large at all.  Very ornate with lots of gold evident. A couple of christenings are in progress which adds to the atmosphere. Drive to what appears to be centre of town past somewhat scruffy buildings and along the side of a canal / river where a few tourist boats ply up and down, not exactly full.

St Petersburg Blue Church

St Petersburg Blue Church

We have been given wireless type devices and earphones which helps in keeping in touch with guides.  Cross busy roads to cathedral and inside for another experience of gold , ancient pictures. Are told that during Communist regime, religion not exactly tolerated but not actively encouraged.  Nowadays, people have “found” religion, including Vladimir Putin and, not unsurprisingly, shortly afterwards, his “entourage”.

A visit to the market was next on the list and after markets in St Helier, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos this was not as impressive, being a utilitarian building but nevertheless interesting.  Food not exactly very cheap but certainly cheaper than the UK.  We “bought” 500 Rubles from David & Joan and spent some on some chocolate.

Market @ St Petersburg

Market @ St Petersburg

Now off to the Metro, tokens provided which are the equivalent of 50p flat fare.  Many homeless stay on all day, especially in winter.

Very decorative marble and granite with some Communist regalia evident as the Metro originally built in 1930s for the workers.  Very long escalators down to the deepest metro tunnel in the world underneath the marshy ground that St Petersburg is built on.

St Petersburg Metro

St Petersburg Metro

A brief walk to a cafe, not the British cafe we saw earlier, thankfully, and we have pancakes with cream and jam along with tea from a Russian “urn” in a cafe also frequented by locals.  Off now back to Adonia for an overnight stay.  We overnight on board at St Petersburg and are somewhat surprised to see a Sainsbury’s truck pass by.

St Petersburg at dusk

St Petersburg at dusk

Sainsbury's in St Petersburg?

Sainsbury’s in St Petersburg?

Some lovely changing colours on the buildings and a Vodka cocktail, well whilst in Russia…….

Difficulty sleeping as room D31 is over the area where re-fuelling and rubbish removal takes place.  Trouble is they continued slamming the crew door opposite our room and moving equipment until 2 am so sleep only after 3 am possible.

11 July

Another morning on boat followed by a trip to the Hermitage.  All people on tour early and we again get the front seats.  Mick and Jean on tour with us and we stop early to view the square in front of the Hermitage before walking around to the front of the building.

outside the Hermitage

outside the Hermitage

We are continually told there may be pick pockets and crowds and whilst we thankfully do not encounter the former, there were masses of crowds.  It is estimated that if you spend 1 minute looking at every item on display, you would be ere for 8.5 years, so 2 hours is obviously not going to do it justice.

There are so many valuable artefacts from so many artists, to mention just a few would be not doing justice to any of the others. Thank goodness for the wireless machines as keeping up with Olga the tour guide was difficult on occasions.

Hermitage

Hermitage

A very hot set of rooms not helped by the crowds and Sal thankful of finding some of the few public seats although often only just in time for the group to move off.  Spend 250 Rubles on St Petersberg book which could well be useful for a return visit to see some of the other sites and also a return to the Hermitage, a fantastic site and only really described in pictures.IMG_1292

Wedgwood at the Hermitage

Wedgwood at the Hermitage

The flooring in most rooms is ornate polished wood which takes a battering with the 200,000 daily foot flow.

Hermitage

Hermitage

The bird clock, the Wedgwood, the gold rooms and the Rennaisance pictures were perhaps the highlights.

Back to Adonia and departure for Stockholm.

How did England manage to let the Aussies go from 117-9 to 280 all out!!

12 July

A sea day, too hot to stay out too long so only about 90 minutes in the sun but plenty to occupy us although on this occasion, perhaps a balcony would have been useful.

13 July

Stockholm.  Should have got up at 4am for the ride through the archipelago of 20,000 islands outside Stockholm but do dock fairly near centre of city which is good.

Stockholm waterfront

Stockholm waterfront

One passenger we met took a wonderful picture of mist around one of the many summer houses which won the ship’s photographic competition.

As we are entering the EEC from Russia we now have to go through a personal appearance before Swedish immigration, somewhat of a formality and we hardly stop walking to and out of the Curzon now armed with an immigration card.

Off Adonia early and into town by 9:15.  Fellow person on bus shuttle complained that the road names and guide was in Swedish; classic comment.

Personalised number plate

Personalised number plate?

Nothing open until about 10 but manage to find a Mall where Internet was free.  First contact with outside world for 5 days but nothing interesting except a couple of low value lottery wins – will pay for a coffee or two.

Walked up and down a shopping street, not as expensive as we thought it would be, polo shirt for £5 and a handbag for £12 and some cheap coffee (c£2 for 500g) let us hope it tastes OK.  Visited Adolf Frederik Church with a lovely painted ceiling.

Adolf Fredrik Church, Stockholm

Adolf Fredrik Church, Stockholm

IMG_1387Small courtyard also picturesque but by now, city much more crowded, especially in the Old Town area.

Evening sailaway

Evening sailaway

Lovely sail away through the islands in the evening in the Crow’s nest.  So many islands (24000 of them) a lot of them with Stockholm’s summer houses.

Stockholm islands on departure

Stockholm islands on departure

14 July

A tender departure to Visby on Gotland and a walk up to the top of town but most shops not open until 11am.  Walk around lovely old town, some houses still lived in made of wood but most very well kept. Roses and ruins is the nickname for this town and it certainly lived up to its name although both past their best.

Visby cottages

Visby cottages

Visby cottages

Visby cottages

Many church ruins, we went in three, some dating from 15th C.  you have to admire the design and workmanship even though in many cases only walls standing.

Visby Medieval church roof

Visby Medieval church roof

Not as sunny as earlier in the cruise but still shorts and T shirt weather.  Another cruise ship in port, Birka cruises from Stockholm, hence many Swedes in the town.

Again, not expensive as we had thought it would be but 42k for a small cappuccino was expensive.  Back on board for lunch and a rest!  A lovely town and wouldn’t mind coming back at some stage.

England win 1st Ashes Test at Trent Bridge by 14 runs, Phewwwwww that was close!!

David and Joan’s 40th Wedding Anniversary so a few celebratory drinks on our table tonight but understand the classical sail away not well attended, I for one was asleep, but the music later on in the Crow’s nest was good with many popular renditions of classical pieces including Emerson Lake and Palmer’s Fanfare for a Common Man.  So many popular songs influenced by classical music.

15 July

Back to bright sunlight as we moor outside Kalmar on the Swedish mainland.

Kalmar

Kalmar

Oland is just across the bay, linked by a bridge and is another Swedish island.  Lovely castle in view this morning which we may be able to get to. Another tender arrival, this time the journey taking about 10 minutes. Walk towards town but go into centre rather than castle.  Find final present, tour the shops and squares, not as quaint as Visby yesterday but nonetheless, some good sights although we should have gone inside some of them, given time as they were said to be good, we found out later.  Coffee in Wayne’s coffee shop with an hour’s free Internet access.

Visby only gets about 5 cruise ships a year as the larger cruise ships have to moor further out than us so the tender ride is longer and more prone to rough seas.

Kalmar castle

Kalmar castle

Walk towards the castle but only view it from the outside , crossing back on tender a little choppy and arrive back in time for lunch.

Sail away tonight with more people but by the time the entertainment party have finished the sing song, we have not moved and there weren’t many people entering into the spirit of things anyway

The lethargy persists after dinner in the Crow’s nest with our party of 6 outnumbering the waiters and other passengers combined.

16 July

My fist step on German soil since 1965.  The island of Rugen is one that I must admit I did not know too much about before the cruise.

Racing Roland engine

Racing Roland engine

We had chosen a steam railway trip on a narrow gauge railway and all went well with us leaving early at Sassnitz Port, a working port with ferry routes to Sweden, Lithuania and surprisingly, St Petersburg amongst others.

The port was built in the early 80s so that trade between the former E Germany and Russia could bypass Poland  which by then was beginning the breakaway from Communism.

With the fall of Communism, the port focused on trade and passenger ferries with the West. Our guide, a local who spoke English very fluently explains many a fascinating fact about the transition the locals have been through from Communist E Germany, through reunification and the steps they have taken now to improve the buildings, infrastructure and living conduits. We pass allottments and through the town of Putbus before stopping at

Sellin from Pier

Sellin from Pier

the seaside town of Sellin where a very steep set of steps down to the pier is matched by a free cliff rail – lift on the way back.

Despite clear instructions on departure from coach, at least four fellow travellers are 10 minutes late meaning we are in danger of missing the train. On arrival at the station, the train is just arriving but is absolutely packed. No chance of getting a seat, especially as there were two coach loads trying to get on an already packed train.

We stand for two stations until a family get off although other families allowed young children to occupy seats in preference to older passengers.

At Binz we all get off and realise that some of the party never even made it onto the train – absolute chaos. Fortunately, Maureen, the excursion co-ordination is travelling with us and has a cunning plan.

After a few phone calls we are told that we will view the town of Binz and then get on a different train at Putbus, returning to our original starting station and our coach return to the ship 80 minutes later than planned after being plied with copious amounts of free champagne and chocolates. It appears that the reserved coaches booked on the original train never actually materialised due to lack of communication on the railway’s part.

Brief walk along the coast at Binz, an ice cream for lunch for one Euro, revealed some fabulous properties.

Binz hotel

Binz hotel

Modern Binz bech house

Modern Binz bech house

The resort was used by E Germans for holidays and are now being restored with a new one on the beach being talked about.

On way back we pass nearby the 4km long building built by the Nazis as a holiday camp but are unable to see it.  Some of the blocks have now been sold off but not all and Mick later tells us that it was very crowded when their tour went there.

A 60s and 70s night in the Crow’s nest and a full contingent of Table 38 all of whom graced (or disgraced) the dance floor.

17 July

Another highlight of the cruise, there have been many, is the Kiel Canal.  We are awake before 7 in the (captain’s) expectations of an early passage to the first lock.  However, it is well past 9 that we finally get into the lock and at least 45 minutes before we are one our way after a laser height check to ensure we are small enough for the bridges we go under.

4 crew are cycling for (the Macmillan Cancer) charity the length of the Kiel canal and we all wave them off just before we leave the lock.

Keil canal house

Keil canal house

Some fantastic houses border the canal and as so few cruise ships can pass through the canal, we are clearly the centre of attention with many people on the bank waving.

Car transporter over Keil canal at Rensburg

Car transporter over Keil canal at Rendsburg

The area is known for migrating Storks and some houses even have special poles erected for the nests of the migrating birds.  The traffic we pass are mostly freighters or container ships with pleasure craft (they are charged €35 for a passage) making up the rest but no other cruise ships.

Passing places every so often with many vessels waiting passage through the narrower parts including a Kess vessel from Limassol.  Ferry crossings are quite frequent which seem well used.  No stopping on our way in any of the passing places until 48.5 km from the North Sea but then only briefly for some oncoming ships.

Some 3 hours into the passage we pass under the Rendsburg transporter bridge but sadly it is presently closed for maintenance so no viewing of it working.

Arrive at N Sea lock at about half five but have to wait until after 7 to progress slowly into lock.

Table 38 (penultimate evening) on Kiel canal

Table 38 (penultimate evening) on Kiel canal

Out quickly, with cyclists who raised over £3700 for their 80k cycle, out into the River Elbe towards another glorious sunset viewed from the Crow’s nest.

18 July

Our last day on the cruise! 😦

A bit over cast to start with giving an opportunity for Sal to finish her 6th book from the excellent on board library and for me to finish my one book, co- incidentally ending with the death of the villain in Kalmar, where we were two days previous.

Final talk by excellent speaker, this time on the Kennet & Avon and the Wilts & Berks canals, followed by packing and an evening meal by which time the sun had come out and we were near the UK coast.

Bags outside door by 11pm for collection and off loading promptly tomorrow – they really can’t wait to get rid of us.

19 July

09:50 disembarkation so a lot of hanging around.  Breakfast is a mobbed affair and most people seem to wait as near to the exit as possible, so the Crow’s nest where Mick, Brenda, Geoff, Jean and us sit and await the call to get off.

Car very dusty with cobwebs inside, no windows open though and hot drive up country lanes, avoiding motorways until M4 near Newbury.  Call in at Flic’s and off to hotel to meet up with John & Dierdre for dinner.

The Carmen production that Flic was in was excellent and far better to follow than the professional one we saw at Manchester in April.  Long show though.

20 July

Cloudy but warm.  Meet with Flic & Gary at Woodley for coffee before John & Dierdre depart and we go off for a walk along the Thames at Henley and a drive through Wallingford.

Lots of activities and atmosphere at Henley including a vintage boat regatta, lots of picnickers and some bird fights.  A couple of vessels for sale, electric canoe for c£5k and a sort of passenger vessel for over £30k.  Called in an antique book shop but without my very old book to show them, they couldn’t say anything but at least I know e shop exists even if they didn’t have Anything remotely like mine.

21 July

Tried to have a lunch at Bicester on way home, but even the Brewer’s Fayre on the outside was sub standard.  Bicester town centre did not really have anything to say come back again, unlike Henley which was full of character.   Do find a Pavers shoe shop in nearby garden centre which had a good pair of shoes I had been looking for.

Flic had a bad week, having her Debit card cloned and her garden furniture at Wycombe stolen.  It was Sal’s parents garden furniture which made it even more annoying!

Back home with the sun setting as we enter port on another holiday to wonderful ports of call, with some good companions and being blessed with exceptionally good weather for the Baltic.


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