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memories of Iceland, Paris, Vienna, Prague, Germany and Estonia

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S: From Reykjavik to Roskilde (via Russia): European Mega-Wander 2012 vol. 1

BC: memories from: Iceland, paris, vienna, prague, germany and Estonia

FC: From Reykjavik to Roskilde (via Russia): European Mega-Wander 2012, vol. 1

1: July 8th, 2009

2: So it's April 21st and we're in Iceland! We're got the car, and the plan is to do the "Golden Circle," a series of three sites (Thingvellir, Geysir and Gullfoss) of immense importance for Iceland's cultural and natural history.. We're tired (after the all night flight), hungry (Icelandair doesn't feed you), and feeling the first signs of the vile contagion that will plague us throughout this holiday. However, look at the day God gave us! I'm reminded of the purity of air and light that I experienced in Orkney. Onward therefore to seize the day.

3: The Golden Circle | One of Icelandair's promos for "Unique Iceland" said: "The most amazing thing about Iceland is not its awe-inspiring glaciers, volcanoes, waterfalls and geothermal fields, but that there are over 13000 km of roads to take you deep into this uncharted wilderness.." Dad's comment when reflecting upon our first day was that "surely we had driven them all." Looking at the map above it should have been a straightforward thing to get from Reykjavik to Thingvellir, but look at the road map of the National Park that confronted us when it became necessary to leave the main road!

4: ...However, there was beauty along the way, and Thingvellir at the end of all the twists and turns and dirt roads. Thingvellir's importance to the natural history of Iceland is as the place where two oceanic plates meet. The visible rift is where the world is literally pulling apart. Here the rocks formed a natural backdrop as if on a stage, useful for amplifying the orators of Europe's first democratic parliament (11th century). ...hence the great cultural importance of this site as well. One of the early decisiions of that parliament was to adopt Christianity as Iceland's national religion, a position it still holds.

8: Great Geysir is the original geothermal blowhole that gave its name to geysers around the world. Geysers are caused when geothermally heated water gets trapped beneath cooler groundwater. Gradually the hot water builds enough pressure to erupt and so force its way out. Great Geysir used to spout up to 80m until some tourists in the 1950s , in an attempt to force an eruption, threw some rocks in it and interfered with the water's path to the surface. Now the star of the geothermal field is a geyser called Stokkur. It doesn't erupt to as great a height, but it is wonderfully faithful, rarely requiring its spectators to wait more than 6 minutes between eruptions.

10: Bubble, bubble, toil and trouble | Something's happening here...

11: There she blows! | Back down the plughole

13: Not the rainbows and blue skies of the laminated placemats for us today at Gullfoss, Iceland's most famous waterfall, but I'm not sure the grey mists aren't more enchanting.

16: The Edelstar Horse farm near Selfoss offers an alternative way to travel the Golden Circle. We stopped in to admire Iceland's native equine breed, but continued by car to the Golden Circle.

18: Icelandic horses and randomly billowing bits of land soon became familiar parts of the passing landscape. These, as well as the church opposite, are from near Selfoss.

21: Reykjavik

22: Our accommodation was in Reykjavik and Dad chose to explore the capital on foot during our second day, rather than be "cooped up in the car for another interminable day of driving." He was suitably impressed with the opera house and other buildings of unique Icelandic design. The main pedestrianised shopping street boasts a smart array of shops, galleries and nightclubs. The church pictured above is the principal landmark as its steeple can be seen for miles around.

23: April 22: No two ways about it...driving from Reykjavik to Jokulsarlon and back in one day is a dawn-til-dusk undertaking. Trouble is I had seen pictures of the unearthly scenery to be found amid the serious ice of Etnavarjokull (the world's largest glacier) and Jokulsarlon (the lagoon where chunks of the glacier calve off), and nothing was making me leave Iceland without a glimpse at these amazing phenomena. The drive passed through the small town of Vik, famous for its beach with three detatched bits of sea cliff snuggling into the cove like a three masted pirate ship. It also passed through the lava fields and ashen desert created by the 2010 eruption of Etnafellsjokul. The lichen has already given the lava a fuzzy coat and could make anyone see why half the population of Iceland hold a serious belief in elves. Was the long drive worth it? I think the pictures speak for themselves!

24: It sounds idyllic to live beneath a waterfall, but from the photo top left, it seems these folk live with the prospect of the mountain falling or eroding down on them (if not erupting!)

25: This little red roofed church with geese on the lawn caught my eye going and coming. I don't know where it is exactly -- seems like it should be in a William Carol William poem

26: My habit of taking pictures while driving tends to alarm passengers. On my own, I could snap away to my heart's content.

27: There's the glacier, Etnafellsjokull, coming into view, but everything in the foreground is a desert of volcanic ash. When the wind sweeps it across the highway it is as much a visibility hazard as blowing snow.

29: A landscape made for the little people, full of elven evidences.

30: ...Or just lichen covered lava for the unimaginative

31: Some more of those bonny Icelandic horses.

34: Vik

35: Principally I used Vik as a comfort stop and a place to get gas (diesel actually, and it amazed me I could travel this far and still have half a tank). A lot of coaches were stopped in Vik, apparently for the same reasons. | Vik's main claim to fame is its coastline with these distinctive rocks, and Vik Woolens, recently sold to another company, Icewear.

36: Svinafellsjokul Glacial Lake | Faerie castles herald another unearthly place. So still! This is where they filmed the opening scene of Batman Begins. The glacial lagoon at Jokulsarlon (following pages) is where they filmed the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Diies

38: Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon Eight amateur explorers and our intrepid zodiak pilot (bottom left) go in search of the "Ice" in "Iceland."

53: A tour by catamaran is also available, but somehow the zodiak felt more adventuresome. Top right are a nice Bulgarian couple who offered me a place to stay when I come to Budapest!

56: 11.23pm. It's why they call it the land of the midnight sun. | Dad is glad to see me back safe as I roll into the hotel in Reykjavik about midnight. We're flying out again at 7.30, so just a few winks!

57: and I flying to Paris, from whence I begin a week's perambulation across Europe, reunit-ing with Dad in Wismar on May 1. I am excited about seeing Paris, but long for a few more days in Iceland, at least enough time to visit the | April 23 | A last look at the lava fields and the clean lines of Icelandic architectural design on the way to Keplavik airport. Today Dad and I separate, he c catching a plane to Frankfurt, from whence he will travel by train to Wismar | Blue Lagoon. Next time!

58: P A R I S

59: Montmartre & Sacre Coeur | Montmartre is perhaps Paris' most iconic neighbourhood. Topographically it is one of the highest points in Paris, crowned by the white domed Sacre Coeur. Its vibe is bohemian, once home to Picasso's studio and the Moulin Rouge cabaret.

61: St Pierre de Montmartre is the small church right next to Sacre Coeur. It is built on the | site of the martyrdom of the first bishop of Paris, St. Denis, who was beheaded.

66: April 24: Versailles | A brief train ride from Paris lies the town of Versailles and the palace which is the size of a small town on its own. The estate includes not one but three palaces, extensive landscaped grounds and formal gardens, and a mock English country village for Marie Antoinette to indulge her rustic whims.

67: Versailles was the centre of political power in France from 1682 when LouisXIVth moved here from Paris until Louis XVIth, Marie Antoinette and their family were forced to leave during the French Revolution ( 1789).

69: The Hall of Mirrors (overleaf) is the jewel in the crown of VErsailles. It is where the Treaty of Versailles was signed bringing WWI to an end.

70: Hall of Mirrors

73: The boudoir of Louis Quatorze, "the sun king" The bust (top) is one by Bernini of the young king thought to be an excellent likeness. Below is the king in his riper years.

74: The Queen's apartments on the South side of the palace mirrored those of her husband on the North side. Left (top and bottom) is her bed chamber. Top right is the table setting which the royal family used for meals. The king and queen were not private people. Their going to bed and their rising, was announced to their subjects, their dining in view of a gallery of spectators. Every motion of the royals was thought to be the concern of all France.

75: Left: a room of paintings depicting every French military victory in history. Below: some of the other ornate rooms in the Royal Apartments

77: The Formal Gardens: Versailles | Three days a week, including the day of my visit, the formal gardens turn into Les Jardins Musicaux. Baroque music from speakers hid among the hedges is piped through the gardens. The effect is magical: exactly right for the setting.

80: Le Grand Trianon | There are two additional palaces on the Versailles estate, Le Grand Trianon and Le Petit Trianon

81: The decor in these summer palaces is said to reflect the personal taste of Marie Antionette.

82: The Hameau (Hamlet)

83: of Marie Antoinette

85: In addition to the palaces on the estate, there is this quaint village built for the amusement of Marie Antoinette. Rousseau's philosophy, which lauded the rustic life, was popular during the years of Louis XVI's reign. The village also obviated the need for the French Royal family to visit England.

86: La Tour Eiffel

89: Sunset on the Seine | The Batobbus is a hop-on-hop off boat service that stops at many of Paris' main attractions along the Seine. It was enjoyable just to get a look at the underside of the various bridges, each one different and full of character.

91: The small side streets of the Saint Michel area near Notre Dame are wall-wall brasseries, cafes and restaurants. A late and leisurely gourmet meal seems the right way to end a full and delightful day when in Paris. | Tonight's "menu" included a warm goat cheese salad, boeuf bourgninon and creme brulee.

92: Paris a nuit | The ghostly gothic profile above is Notre Dame. Opposite is the Champs Elysee, Paris' famous tree-lined shopping street, At one end is the obelisk de Concorde and at the other the Arc de Triomphe. Photography in the median is rather hair-raising!

96: April 25

97: Sainte Chapelle the lower chapel

98: April 25th and time to use that second day on my museum pass. Two days and admittance to an unlimited number of Paris' museums is a little like being at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Sainte Chapelle was my first stop. This chapel which was built between 1239 and 1248 was commissioned by Louis IX to house the crown of thorns. It is one of the most important collections of medieval glass in France.

99: Sainte Chapelle | The upper chapel

102: Sainte Chapelle

103: Notre Dame de Paris

114: The Cluny museum of the middle ages houses some of the world's most beautiful medieval tapestries, including the Lady and the Unicorn cycle which I have loved since first seeing them as an undergrad

116: Le Chien du Moyen Age The Greyhound of course!

117: Above: I know that posture!

118: The Wine Tapestry

120: The Hunt

124: La Dame et

125: l'Unicorn

126: St. Germnain de Pres is Paris' oldest church, while St. Pierre de Montmartre is the city's oldest worship site.

127: Saint Germain, one of Paris' most attractive neighbourhoods full of chic boutiques and designer shops. | As noted above, St. Germaine was also home to Sartre and de Beauvoir

128: Musee d'Orsay Paris' best known art museum is the Louvre, however it has no impressionist or modern art. That is housed at the Musee d'Orsay | The Louvre and the Musee d'Orsay are on opposite sides of the River Seine. The Musee d'Orsay occupies the former Paris Orleans railway station. Unlike the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay does not allow photos of its artwork (a rule I had to break in one case in order to photograph one of my favourite paintings of the resurrection), however the building itself with its multiple restaurants and perimeter concourse is a work of art. The bridge over the Seine between the Musee d"Orsay and the Louvre is lined with locks. When in Paris with your true love, you can buy a padlock, write your names on it, lock it to the bridge and throw the key in the river.

130: Across the bridge from the Musee d'Orsay is another art museum called l'Orangerie -- home to Monet's waterlilies. A large garden called la Tuilerie stretches from there to the Louvre.

131: Le Palais du Louvre At the end of les jardins Tuileries lies the gateway to the Louvre and its contemporary installation, the pyramid. Estimates for how long it would take to view the collection run up to 2 weeks.

133: The ultra-modern pyramid is actually an entrance to the Louvre. Tuesdays the museum is open till 9pm, so I left it till last, but at this point in the day my feet were not up to miles of walking and my patience for crowds was wearing thin. I went straight to the Mona Lisa promising myself another visit to see the rest.

134: These rooms hold the collection of Italian Masters including a certain portrait by DaVinci

139: And there she is:... the Mona Lisa, or La Jaconde en francais. The crowds and the glass do somewhat detract from the experience. In fact the highlight of the Italian Masters corridor for me was finding Guiseppe Arcimbaldo's Four Seasons, prints of which hang over my dining table.

141: April 26: Well, it's time to leave Paris. I don't know why I left it so many years to visit this incredible city. I will certainly be back. No wake up calls from my low-cost hotel reception, so I set two alarms to ensure I am at the airport to catch my 8.30am flight to Vienna.... | Au Revoir Paris

143: Vienna

144: Stephansdom

146: Stephansdom is the cathedral at the heart of Vienna's innenstadt.......

147: The church is a fine example of Gothic architecture and has a very famous carved pulpit. The Hapsburg emperors (or in some cases, just some of their internal organs, since they were divided among several Viennese churches) await the resurrection in its crypt. The church has a Mozart connection as well: several of his children were baptised here.

150: One of the imperial tombs. The stained glass windows shed a rainbow of coloured light throughout the nave. These angels were caught in the green rays.

151: The pulpit in the Stephansdom is incredible. For many years it was thought to be the work of the sculptor Pilgram, but that is disputed. Whoever the mason was, he has left a self portrait in the person of the "window gazer" at the pulpit's base. The four figures around its top are Saints Augustine, Ambrose, Gregory and Jerome, great orators and doctors of the church. The preaching is protected by a little dog who holds at bay the procession of toads which are swarming up the spiral stairs to pollute the purity of the Word.

152: The Pummerin (the small church bell) | There is an elevator up to the South steeple. The higher North steeple has none.

153: A roof in this unique pattern has topped the Stephans- dom since the 15th century. | The motif is from an oriental tribal carpet.

154: Ouch!

156: The Faikirs are an indispensable part of the Innenstadt's trademark charm. The horses wear diapers of course to prevent fouling the streets, but the earthy odour hangs about the Stephansplatz. Karlsplatz (see the tree wearing undies opposite) has a funkier vibe.

157: The billboard warning of fines for dog owners who fail to scoop the poop was one of a series that lined the Donau. My accommodation in Vienna was a private flat (homestay) just across the river from the Innenstadt.

158: Michaels-kirche

160: Peters- kirche

161: Karlskirche

164: Karlskirche is an ideal baroque church, inside and out. | It is used primarily as a house of worship and also as a venue for classical concerts.

165: Above: Gutenberg's statue. A great place to sit down with your Zanoni & Zanoni gelato. Top right is the Hapsburg Palace.

166: The Dorotheum is a Viennese institution. Whenever the upper class ran short of money and had to liquidate some heirloom art or furniture on | consignment they spoke of going to "Aunt Dorothy." | Aunt Dorothy has franchises now in other European capitals. | She holds auctions here throughout the day as well as auctions online.

167: Belvedere | It's a beautiful estate in its own right with a lovely formal garden. | The Belvedere houses modern artwork by many artists, but it is best known for the Klimts.

169: Klimt

170: An economical Air Berlin flight had brought me from Paris to Vienna. Now, two days later, (April 28th) it was time to catch my train from Vienna to Prague. The four hour journey was pleasantly passed in the company of a couple from Pickering Ontario. The cold virus which hung on throughout this holiday was possibly at its most ferocious in Vienna. I'm sure it made me an unwelcome guest in the shared accommodation I had arranged, and slowed me down to the extent that I might have enjoyed a longer stay in both Paris and Prague by cutting out the two days in Vienna altogether. However Vienna, though under-explored, did offer some memorable sights, and its schnitzel was a nice contrast to the culinary offerings of Paris.

171: Prague

173: Prague's famous astronomical clock

175: Prague's old town square is surrounded by historic houses like this one with the painting of St. Vaclav (Wenceslas). Legend has it that he will return on his white horse to rescue the Czech people in their time of greatest need. Vendors also prepare traditional Czech delicacies such as gypsy sausages and the cinnamon and sugar coils called "trudelnik"s

176: In the centre of the Old Town square stands the monument to martyred Protestant reformer, Jan Hus. The 27 crosses mark the spot where 27 protestant noblement were put to death by the Catholics (by defenestration) following the white mountain rebellion.

177: Following the Reformation in Europe, Bohemia (as the Czech Republic was then known) went back and forth between Catholic and Protestant control. Today it is a nominally Catholic country , though secularism is the main religion as in the rest of the Eastern bloc.

178: Within close proximitiy of the Old Town Square, there are many spires visible. The ones above are those of the Tyn church, which, together with St. Vitus' Cathedral in the castle precinct, is Prague's most recognisable Gothic church. | Within a few hundred metres of the Old Town square is the district known as Josephov (Prague's historic Jewish Ghetto). Once the "skid row" section of the city, this area has been gentrified, using

179: some urban planning tips borrowed from Paris (tree lined streets with smart shops at ground level and studio apartments above). Now it is one of the most sought-after areas to live in the modern city. | A public transit system consisting of metro and trams plies its route through all areas of the city. The stop for the Old Town square is called Staromestska.

180: Charles IV | The Blue Umbrella group offers a free 3 hour walking tour of Prague -- an excellent orientation to the city

181: Construction of the Charles Bridge began under Charles IV in 1537. There are 30 statues that adorn it, and tourists throng it from dawn till dusk.

182: Statue of St. John Nepomuk, confessor to the Queen. He was martyred and sainted for his refusal to divulge the Queen's confidences to the king.

183: Touching this relief is supposed to ensure a return visit to Prague. | And touching this one is supposed to ensure that you find true love.

184: Early morning on the Vltava

185: The Vltava river is spanned by 18 bridges. My goal in getting up at 5.30 was to avoid the crowds on Charles Bridge and to find some interesting light.

188: After running the gauntlet of tourists, pickpockets, crafts vendors and buskers on the Charles Bridge, the gateway to the Mala Strana (lesser town) appears. Lifting your eyes to the hill, the outline of St. Vitus' cathedral is visible and the white expanse of the Hrad (Europe's longest castle).

190: Vintage cars and segways (two-wheeled motorised person carriers where the driver stands upright) provide novel ways to explore Prague this side of the river.

192: Jan Neruda was a 19th century poet and nationalist who wrote in the Czech language.

193: The Hrad continues as the seat of Czech government today. The offices of the prime minister are within its walls, and hence it is guarded by real as well as ceremonial security.

195: The Golden Lane is a backstreet of the Hrad district lined with shops and dwellings from an earlier era. Throughout the day there is an admission charged to walk down this street, but after 6pm one can stroll it for free.

196: This home has been blessed during Epiphany in the name of Kaspar, Melchoir and Balthazar (the magi). Absinth is a liqueur which can be hallucinogenic if drunk in quantity.

197: Alphonse Mucha was Prague's contributor to the Art Nouveau movement. In the Old Town section there is a museum displaying his work.

198: Many of the buildings, in addition to having a numerical address, also have an older pictorial symbol above the door which once helped in distinguishing the buildings.

201: The Mala Strana | The pace of the Mala Strana is more relaxed than than that of the Old Town. River boats cruise by and a funicular takes Prague families to the largest green space in the city, Petrin.

202: American Wedding | Petrin is the park where students kick back with a peer, and parents take their children up the scale model of the Eiffel tower.

204: This wonderful view of the city and the Hrad is available along the path from Petrin. The bonfire, above centre, was one of many being lit on this night (April 30) across the Czech republic. Czechs pretend to burn witches. Instead they just burn their brooms.

206: The Gothic Cathedral of St. Vitus (14th century) stands on the site of an earlier Romanesque church which Wenceslas 1 (duke of Bohemia, 925) dedicated to St. Vitus, whose arm he had acquired as a relic. Besides the arm, which is still on display, there are many Bohemian kings and Holy Roman Emperors resting in St. Vitus'. St. Vitus may have been chosen as a patron because his name in Czech is like that of the Slavic solar deity, Svantevit. Certainly for many years pagan beliefs coexisted with Christian ones. Wenceslas is remembered for being a ruler of Christian conviction and beneficence as well as for being foully murdered by his brother. His cult waxed strong in England as examples were sought of monarchs who bore both the cross and the crown. The St. Stephen's day hymn "Good King Wenceslas is of 19th century provenance. | St. Vi tus

208: Marionette Theatre: A traditional Czech art | The evening of April 29th afforded the opportunity to see a marionette

209: Don Giovanni | performance of Mozart's Don Giovanni, an opera premiered in Prague | Don Giovanni

210: When Mozart premiered his opera, the Magic Flute, to a lukewarm reception in Salzburg, but found audiences raving about it in Prague, he resolved to premiere his next opera here. Don Giovanni received its first performance in this Prague opera house. Outside it stands a statue of Il Commendatore, a character in that opera.

211: There is a monument to Kafka, Prague's most famous literary figure outside the Spanish synagogue, and there is a museum to him in the Mala Strana.

212: The majority of one whole day in Prague was spent within the city's historic Jewish ghetto. There are five synagogues that can be visited for a single ticket. The New Old synagogue continues to function as a house of worship but some of the others are made over into museums or memorials. The Spanish synagogue above is said to be Europe's most beautiful synagogue. It is regularly used as a concert venue, and one of the statues of the city dedicated to Kafka, the ghetto's most famous native son, stands outside. Josephov was home to the Jewish community in Prague for 1000 years. Hitler destroyed most of the Jewish ghettos across Europe, but left the one in Prague in tact to serve as a "museum to the extinct race." Today there is a small but vibrant Jewish community living in Prague (though not necessarily in the ghetto), who administer the sites and welcome hundreds of thousands of tourists (Jewish and Gentile) each year who want to visit this unique survivor among Jewish heritage sites in Europe.

213: Josephov: The Jewish ghetto of Prague

214: Rabbi Loew was a much loved leader of the Prague Jews in the 16th century. He is associated with the folk-story of the Golem, a man formed of mud who came to life when a Torah scroll was placed inside him. Rabbi Loew was asked to deactivate the Golem when his actions became too unpredictable. His mud form is rumoured to be hidden somewhere in the Old New synagogue. The Nazis took the myth seriously enough to conduct a search, but they did not find him. On the opposite page is pictured the Pinkas synagogue, whose walls are covered with the names of the Czech Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

216: The Jewish Cemetery

217: The New Old Synagogue | The New Old Synagogue (17th century) is the oldest synagogue in Europe, still functioning as a house of worship. The cemetery is a poignant reminder of how overcrowded life was in the ghetto, even in death. The stone with the most little notes and stones on it is that of Rabbi Loew.

221: The interior of the Spanish synagogue is beautifully decorated with gold leaf and geometric designs. The arches and carving evoke dreams of the Alhambra.

223: At the end of my day in the ghetto I walked across to another part of the city to visit the Bethlehem chapel, the Reformation era church whose pulpit was occupied by Jan Hus and Thomas Munzer.

225: The Bethlehem chapel was built in 1391 to accommodate Reformed worship. Jan Hus preached here from 1402-1413. Later the radical reformer, Thomas Munzer, preached here. It is a large, plain preaching hall built to accommodate 3000.

226: The John Lennon Wall

227: The John Lennon wall is a wall in the Mala Strana which has collected layers of graffiti. It abuts the property of the Maltese knights of St. John, who would dearly love to clean the wall, but that is unlikely to happen now that it has become something of a counter-cultural icon of the 1960s and 70s. During the communist era people used to write coded messages to one another since other forms of correspondence were intercepted. Today most of the messages are hymns of praise to love and peace and dreams of a new world order.

233: Above is Wenceslas Square, the heart of the modern city of Prague. This is where the demonstrations were held that led to the end of communism in the Czech Republic's so-called "velvet revolution." Close to the Staromestska metro I found a super pub offering traditional Czech dishes and local beer on tap (self-serve from the tap at each table; a computerised screen keeps track of how much you have poured and how much you owe). The mountains around Prague are home to the Karlovy Vary spa and similar places where people go to "take the waters." The quality of the water in the Czech Republic is the secret of their great beer. Some of the best pilsners in the world (to my taste) are brewed in the Czech Republic, and they are sold inexpensively ($2 per pint), which may just be the most compelling reason to visit this country!

236: May 1st was a full day of travel, catching the train around noon and arriving in Bad Kleinen (near Wismar) at 8pm to meet up with Dad and the family. Whether due to the national holiday in Germany or the random circumstance of a lot of people traveling, the journey from Prague into Germany was uncomfortable in the extreme. There is an option to book a seat in a compartment for three euros extra, which would have been well worth it. As it was I was forced to stand or sit in the corridor crushed up against lots of loud and drunken Spaniards. This was my lot all the way to Berlin, after which I was able to get a seat. After the train-change at Ludwigslust, delays on the line meant that I was about an hour late in arriving. A welcome party of 10 people, Dad, Hanna, Erika and Hans, Dirk and Anne and assorted cousins were all there to meet me. We dined on a delicious meal at a Mecklenburg Inn and thus began my 2 days in Wismar, before Dad and I embarked on our Baltic cruise out of Copenhagen.

239: May is a lovely time to be in Wismar with the cherry trees on the Claus Jesup Strasse a riot of blossoms and white asparagus in season. Dad had had a week already visiting with the family, so two days was about right for me to put Hanna out catering to a second guest. I enjoyed walking around Wismar, which I am getting to know quite well through my several visits. I had never visited the Georgan kirche before or the Marien Kirch-Turm, which is a kind of museum to Medieval gothic construction methods. On May 3rd Klaus brought us to Lubeck by car, from whence there is an efficient 4 hour direct train connection to Copenhagen. This put us in our departure port for the cruise 24 hours ahead of time to avoid the unforeseen.

241: Georgan Kirche | The Georgan Kirche sustained heavy bombing during WWII and was left in ruins during the communist era. Restoration work has made considerable headway, but there is still much to do. The funds for the time being have dried up, so it remains a place where art exhibitions and classical concerts are held, but it is not a functioning church. There is a lovely play of light through the tall clear gothic windows upon the pillars and transept floors.

245: The Furstenhof is a civic building near to the Georgan Kirche. It has lovely medieval friezes showing the life of leisure and revelry. It was the place where the city fathers would entertain their important guests, a kind of city hall reception building.

250: Lovely White Asparagus! During this holiday I took a copy of Tante Hanna's Spargel Suppe recipe. I hope I can recreate this delicious soup, thought I hall have to make it with the green variety. The trip to Copenhagen was interesting. The train goes right on board a ferry for the crossing to Denmark. Danish customs officials came on board the train with sniffer dogs as we neared the border. Whereas crossing most borders in Europe is non-eventful, as we neared thDenmark still feels itself as a different entity than the EU. Immediately on board the ferry when prices changed from euros to Danish crowns they also increased by about 50%.

251: Our Baltic Cruise | May 4th | May 13th

252: Berlin | Warnemunde was our first port of call on the cruise, whence the bus tour left for Berlin. Dad's cold was too bad to go on this one.

253: Left: Unter den Linden and the Victory Column. Right: Humbolt University, Hitler's 1936 Olympic stadium and other civic buildings. | May 5th

255: The Kaiser Wilhelm memorial church, with its window glass a gift from Chartres, is an important symbol of Germany's reconciliation with the Allies.

256: This ceiling mosaic in the Kaiser Wilhelm church shows all the nobles and princes of Prussia paying homage to Christ, the king of kings.

258: Memorial Museum to those Germans who died resisting National Socialism

259: Our guide, Shawn, shown here on the right, had lived in Berlin for 12 years, having originally come here from Wales to study History at the University. He brought us to this museum primarily for the free use of its toilets, but it looked like an interesting one to return to when one had more leisure to visit the city properly. Dietrich Bonhoeffer's story is remembered here as is that of von Stauffenberg, Hitler's would-be assassin, who was executed on the spot where this museum is built.

261: Memorial Monument to the Murdered Jews of Europe

262: The Tiergarten (Berlin's Central Park) and the Brandenberg Gate. The four horses ,once stolen by Napoleon, have the goddess of Victory driving her quadriga (four-horse chariot).

264: Right: Berlin's Central Train station | Above: Europe's first traffic light. Originally the lights were changed manually. Right: One of Berlin's three opera houses. As a city divided, Berlin often had amenities in duplicate or triplicate.

265: Two of the more novel ways to tour the city are by beer bike -- the tour participatns can cozy up to a portable bar while a hopefully sober driver plies through the city streets with this monstrosity. Alternatively you might fancy a Trabant safari. Trabants were the only cars available in the former East Germany. While no one want to return to those days, there is a phenomenon called "Ostalgia" which has created quite a market for kitsch that was produced and familiar in the former East Germany.

266: Check Point Charlie | There is a museum here telling the history of the Berlin wall.

267: Throughout the city, where the Berlin wall stood, is marked by a double row of bricks. | After WWII Berlin was divided into 4 parts: East and West German, American and French. Checkpoint Charlie was the crossing point for American and Russian military personnel.

268: This is one of the two remaining pieces of the Berlin wall that was purposely left in tact. In this open air museum visitors can ponder the people who lost their lives trying to escape oppression in East Germany. The building visible opposite was the headquarters of the air force during WWII. Later they became Stasi offices. The foundations that remain are those of the Gestapo.

269: The Topography of Terror

270: Reichstag

273: Right: the synagogue, rebuilt after Allied bombs destroyed it

274: At Sea

277: At Sea

278: Arrival in Tallinn, Estonia | May 7th | This beautiful medieval walled city may have been my favourite port on the cruise. It would be nice to visit it again when cruise ships did not dump 6000 extra people within its old town walls.

282: Cats are a sort of town emblem in Tallinn. It is because in the middle ages they were thrown down this well to avert famines and plagues. The other city emblem is Toomas, the archer who sits atop the town hall as a weather vane,. He was a peasant who won the right to compete in archery competitions (a nobleman's sport) and became a people's hero. The oldest pharmacy in Europe is found in Tallinn's old town square.

283: The small window in the apartment below was supposed to once have been rented to the devil. The people of Estonia are a superstitious lot. On the other hand, they have a strong Lutheran heritage evinced by the town's historic churches. The Holy Ghost church over the page is a typical church for this region, similar to churches in other Baltic nations such as Denmark. Ancient family crests and shields hang in another church, the Domkirche, which is Tallinn's oldest. Our six hours in Tallinn consisted of a 3 hour guided walking tour and 3 hours on our own. The wifi opportunities were not plentiful and the food we found not spectacular, but we managed a computer break over lunch. Then Dad returned to the ship and I went shopping. The woolen wear was irresistible.

290: Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

294: The old town square. The tall towered building is the town hall. The long haired woman is our guide, Tina.

301: When our guide finished the walking tour she dropped us off at a gate further from the ship than the one where she had picked us up. She estimated 15 minutes to return. It was more like 45. And somehow I got into the terminal for local ferries rather than the cruise ship terminal. I was the last passenger to board the ship and we were 10 minutes before departure. The police had already been to see Dad in the room, which alarmed him as you can imagine. It was not a splendid memory to take away from Tallinn, but the rest of the time spent there was very good.

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  • By: Karla W.
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  • Title: memories of Iceland, Paris, Vienna, Prague, Germany and Estonia
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  • Published: almost 5 years ago