S: From Reykjavik to Roskilde (via Russia): European Mega-Wander 2012 vol. 2
BC: Memories from Russia finland sweden and denmark
FC: From Reykjavik to Roskilde (via Russia): European Mega-Wander 2012 vol. 2
1: Arrival in St. Petersburg, Russia | Our guide, Katherine and driver, Igor. What a competent pair! | The Venice of the North | May 8th
2: Russia had been for many years on that list of places I want to visit before I die, so among all the delights this trip afforded, St. Petersburg somehow stood apart. Our itinerary allotted two days for this majestic city, so it seemed NCL was also distinguishing St. Petersburg as the choicest of jewels in its Baltic crown. Our first day in Russia covered the main cultural highlights on the central islands: the Hermitage Museum, the St. Peter and Paul Fortress, St. Isaac's Cathedral, the church of our Saviour of Spilled Blood, and the Yusupov Palace. The second of our two days coincided with a civic holiday, May 9th, the day Russia celebrates the Allies' Victory in Europe (WWII). While it was a treat to see Trinity Bridge decked out in Russian flags, the rarely lit harbour mouth lighthouses ablaze and people everywhere wearing the distinctive orange and black ribbons of the order of St. George, it was also a day when the central museums would be closed and the region congested -- a perfect opportunity then to visit two of the outlying imperial Palaces: the Tsarskoe Selo (Summer Palace of Catherine the Great) and Peterhof. Somehow St. Petersburg was not what I had expected. I had underestimated its Maritime flavour and found it to consist more of canals and bridges than city squares and onion topped churches. Its baroque architecture looked familiarly European, rather than exotically Russian. The stylistic indebtedness of the Imperial estates to Versailles, so recently toured earlier in this expedition, recalled for me the surprise with which I encountered French phrases in the novels of Dostoyevky. Then I learned that St. Petersburg, while being the "old capital" of Russia, was actually founded only in 1703. and it started to make sense.... Peter the Great, its founding father, had ambitions for developing this inauspicious piece of marshland where the River Neva flowed out to the Gulf of Finland, into the base of the Russian Admiralty. He toured the shipyards of Western Europe to ensure its state-of-the-art naval technology and so defeated the rival naval power: Sweden. Catherine the Great (Catherine II) came along at the end of the 18th century, the German bride of Peter's grandson, and among other things, a reader of the French enlightenment philosophers. By the early 19th century Napolean had come as far as Russia and had been repulsed, and in the 20th century St. Petersburg withstood Hitler's 900 day siege. Thus it seems that St. Petersburg always engaged, culturally and militarily, with powers to the West. It also liked to think of itself as a "modern" city, experimenting with French Enlightenment thought in the 18th century and incubating Bolshevism in the early 20th century, while medieval Moscow was struggling to defend a distinctively Slavic identity against Mongol invasion from the East, hundreds of years earlier. Today St. Petersburg with 5 million people is Russia's second most populous city after Moscow. Urbane and self-assured it has been able to morph easily from Petrograd to Leningrad to St. Petersburg and from capital of imperial decadence to cradle of the communist utopia. I had understood St. Petersburg as Russia's cultural gem whereas Moscow was just the garrison which housed all its machinery for the cold war. I think now that this is a misunderstanding perhaps promoted by the side of the cold war I grew up on. I think I may have to penetrate to Moscow, and slough off the protective custody of the guided tour to find the exotic, authentic Russia that I seek. While SPB tours provided excellent service, allowing us to see the cultural highlights more efficiently and accessibly than any other means we could have chosen, I found my independent spirit chafing somewhat against the highly programmed itinerary and the way it insulated us against any real engagement with the local culture. Partly this was because Russia is a country which requires a visa for entry except in the case of those in the custody of a local tour company. In this case you can satisfy the very stern customs officials with the much cheaper "tour ticket," the catch being that your tour company will not and may not permit you "off-leash."
3: First stop the Hermitage museum. The Hermitage is part art museum, but also incorporates the Winter Palace of the Czars.
5: The Ambassador's Staircase | Gateway to the Winter Palace
7: The Armorial Hall (empty, owing to early entry: awesome!)
8: 1812 War Gallery
9: The Saint George Hall
10: Lapis and Malachite vases grace several of the rooms
11: The Tapestry Room
12: The Pavillion This room has a stunning mosaic floor, a peacock clock and a musical fountain
14: The Small Hermitage
17: Left: a unique ceiling made of inlaid wax. Below, the Raphael loggia, copied from the Vatican museum
18: Da Vinci: Litta Madonna | Michelangelo: Crounching Boy | Raphael: Madonna Conestabile
19: Da Vinci: Madonna with a flower | Raphael: The Holy Family/ Madonna with a beardless Joseph | Italian Masters
20: El Greco | Valazquez | Bruegel
21: The Malachite Room
22: Rembrandt | Deposition from the cross The Prodigal Son An old Jew
23: The Binding of Isaac Flora (Portrait of Rembrandt's wife) The Holy Family
24: It is difficult to understand why someone wishing to express himself antisocially would choose a Rembrandt painting as the focus of his rage, but this painting to the left had sulfuric acid thrown at it by one such vandal, and only now after 15 years of painstaking restoration is on view again to the public. Needless to say the Hermitage now exercises tight security. It is easy to believe, looking at the legion of fierce, sausage fingered women that patrol the exhibits that some kind of reemployment scheme is in place for officers rendered redundant by the KGB.
25: Renoir | Renoir | Van Gogh | Van Gogh
26: Matisse Gaugin Rousseau
27: The St. Peter and Paul Fortress
28: The SS. Peter and Paul fortress, est. 1703 on Petrogradskaya, one of the 40 islands included in the city of St. Petersburg, was the first building in Peter the Great's new city. The chapel, the creation of architect Domenico Trezzini, was completed 15 years later and shows how the Czar spurned traditional Russian orthodox architecture in his churches. The chapel is a mausoleum to the Romanov Czars. The recovered remains of the last Czars were moved here in 1998.
30: While the Czars rest in peace inside the chapel, the fortress itself rests on the bones of many forced labourers (captured Swedes) who died while building it, and its bastions were used to guard and torture many political prisoners.
31: Bottom right: There's Dad sporting the latest innovation of tour guide companies: earphones which pipe the guide's commentary directly into the ears of the guided flock. Gone are the days of ten tour guides each trying to outshout the other as they point out the features of the same sacred space.
33: Borscht, sweet and savory pies and Fanta. This was our first and best of two "authentic Russian lunches" provided with our tour. Tomorrow's would be at a place near Catherine's Summer palace providing ungenerous portions of something that resembled unsauced meat tortellini.
35: Church of our Saviour of Spilled Blood
38: This church, official called the Church of our Saviour of the Resurrection, is best known as the Church on Spilled Blood, since it was built on the site where Czar Alexander II was assassinated in 1881. His successor Alexander III paid for this magnificent example of the Russian Revivalist style to be built as a permanent memorial. During the Soviet era it was used to store potatoes and took 20 years of restoration work to return it to its former glory.
50: Yusupov Palace The scene of Rasputin's murder
51: Rasputin, a peasant and mystic, became close to the imperial family through his ability to heal the young hemopheliac heir (Alexi) in his bouts of bleeding. Many considered Rasputin's influence nefarious and he fell victim to a murderous plot in 1916. His death is still steeped in mystery He appears to have survived poisoning, shooting, and battery, all on the same night, only to succumb to drowning.
59: St. Isaac's Catherdral
65: The 20th century was a very grim chapter for Russia. It was clear that revolution was brewing already in the 1880s with the assassination of Alexander II, and despite the repressive measures taken by Alexander III and Nicholas II, imperial government was forced by armed rebellion to give way to a parliament in 1905 and in 1918 the parliament was overthrown and the last traces of imperial rule kicked over with the Bolshevist revolution and assassination of the whole Romonov family. Stalin succeeded as head of the communist state upon Lenin's death in 1924, and proceeded over the next few years to purge the Red Army of any who were deemed to not be on board with his communist vision. 15 million across Russia were arrested, many sent to the Gulag and over a million executed. This left Stalin's army in a weakened state at the start of WWII and when Hitler's ambition reached to Russia in 1941 the German army was besieged Leningrad (as St. Petersburg was then called) in a matter of 3 months. the city remained under siege for 900 days, during which time more than 2 million were killed, half of them civilians. When the siege ended on May 9th the citizens felt a sense of liberation that they continue to mark each year on that date. Instead of wearing a poppy, Russians show that they remember their experience in war by wearing orange and black ribbons, the colours of the order of St. George.
67: The Neva River and its tributaries are spanned by many bridges, all of which are drawn up at night. Our second day of touring began with a canal cruise which is the best way to appreciate the distinctive architecture of these functional monuments. The painting on the bridges was done by the city's illiterate. This accounts for no two of the bridges being the same colour. The foreman could simply then say to his men, "show up at the blue bridge"
70: This statue of Peter the Great called "the bronze horseman" was immortalised by Pushkin in a poem of the same name. The snake crushed beneath the horse's hoof is the pictorial way the sculptor depicted Peter the Great's defeat of Sweden.
72: St. Petersburg's metro, second only in depth among metros worldwide to the one in Kiev, was a bit of Stalinist infrastructure. Determined to give the lie to the claim that communist architecture was uniformly utilitarian rather than beautiful Stalin put art-for-the-proletariat in all his metro stations -- at this stop a sculpture of the poet Pushkin and art deco lamps.
73: As the cold war began to thaw, there was a limited exchange of cultural icons between East and West. From Russia to North America came the Lada (remember that?) and from America to Russia came McDonalds. When the first franchise opened in Moscow there were reports of working folk spending a whole month's salary to buy a Big Mac.
74: It's not heaven. It's Catherine the Great's Summer Palace
77: The painting below is how the palace looked following the war. | The bottom photo is the same facade following restoration. Still the gold paint would once have been gold leaf. The restoration work is costly and advances as the money becomes available. The amber room's restoration alone cost 3 million euros.
78: Gold much?
81: Looking at the paintings on the wall of the Palace's "portrait room" provides a glimpse into the lives of the Romanovs. Coronations and royal weddings are depicted and these rooms are shown in full use by the family. The monogram of Catherine the Great is visible on the ceiling cornices and paintings. Great tile stoves would have heated the rooms as well as providing decoration.
82: The Romanovs | The central portrait is of the last Romanov Czar Nicholas II and his bride, Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Alexandra. Their marriage was unpopular with Nicholas' mother, princess Dagmar (top left), since it was known she would carry hemophilia into the Russian royal family. Alexi (on his Dad's shoulder) suffered from the disease. 19 members of the Romanov family had been executed by 1918. Princess Dagmar alone remained and lived out her days in her native Denmark.
83: The Amber Room | The famed panels of the amber room were a gift from Prussian king Frederick I to Peter the Great in 1717. When the palace was occupied by the Nazis during WWII the panels were shipped to Germany. Subsequently they disappeared. Some believe they remain hidden somewhere to this day in Germany. Others think they were destroyed in Allied bombing of their last German home, or that the Nazis shipped them somewhere and the ship sank. Many who have investigated the disappearance have died tragically giving rise to talk of an "Amber room curse."
85: This magnificent reconstruction was opened to the republic in 2003. Russian craftsman recreated the mosaics using Baltic Amber and backing the panels with gold leaf, over a period of 25 years. It is forbidden to photograph the room, so these are stock photos available on the internet.
86: Finally an opportunity to spend some of my rubles! The laneway between the Summer Palace and our lunch stop was lined with souvenir stalls.
87: The souvenirs I couldn't afford
90: While the interior of St. Catherine's Summer Palace is the attraction there, the Peterhof is most famed for its gravity fed fountains and landscaped acreage. The grounds were very reminiscent of Versailles and indeed included a "sun fountain" in tribute to France's Sun King. There are also several sculptures and fountains to honour Peter the Great including the Neptune fountain where his victory over Sweden is allegorically depicted as Neptune fighting with a sea-monster. Peter the Great was a man of whimsy, and there are many trick fountains which continue to delight children on a day out with their families.
93: By this point in the tour, Dad particularly had seen his fill of gracious rooms and appreciated the chance to walk in the outdoors. After two days of non-stop commentary piped into our ears from our knowledgeable guide we also were past caring whether a building had been designed by the architect Trezzini or the architect Rastralli. We did not tour the interior at Peterhof, but enjoyed the water features which have earned this site its Unesco World Heritage status.
96: Peter the Great is represented on his estate in bronze sculpture and in gold fountain. Unfortunately he did not provide a public toilet on the grounds, and with all the running water, that was an uncomfortable oversight for his guests!
98: Above: the "sun fountain" in honour of France's Louis XVI, the Sun King
99: Back to the cruise ship by hydrofoil | Igor, our coach driver had left us, and a hydrofoil granted high speed passage back to the cruise ship. The city limits of modern St. Petersburg reach almost out to these suburban palaces, but they are quite a ways out of the centre. The Russian customs officials were, like the museum attendants, a rather fierce and humourless lot, and wear enormously brimmed hats which add to their self-importance. Perhaps this is another work-field which provides employment to erstwhile KGB agents.
100: Helsinki, Finland | May 10th
103: Parliamentary Square and the Lutheran Cathedral
104: The plain interior of the Lutheran Cathedral is a big change after the ornate interiors of Russia
105: The national parliament, one of the first in Europe elect female representatives
108: Olympic Stadium
109: Sibelius Monument
112: The Church in the Rock
120: Modern Finnish history can be broken into three periods: for c. 200 years before 1809 Finland was under Swedish rule. From 1809-1917 Finland existed as an autonomous Duchy of Russia, and following the Revolution it became independent. All three periods have left their mark on Finish culture. Today Helsinki is a vibrant if expensive city celebrating its latest accolade as Europe's "design capital."
122: Here is some of the gypsy music I had expected to find in Russia. The waterfront market was a pleasant place to spend some time and euros after our 3 hour bus tour of the city highlights ended. Lapland is a remote but apparently important part of Finland for much of the fish in the market, to say nothing of the reindeer meatballs!, hailed from there.
123: Unfortunately our brief visit to Helsinki did not allow time to visit one of Finland's famous saunas. My abiding impression of the city will be as a place where people enjoy the proximity of nature and the health and fitness opportunities it affords. Also memorable was that surprising dash of something Russian, which I was not expecting.
124: Stockholm, Sweden | May 11th
127: The Vasa Museum | In Stockholm we had no organised shore excursion, but a hop-on-hop off boat ticket made it very easy to sightsee in all the important stops on this city of islands. We made first for the old town with its narrow medieval streets and royal residence, then for the new town with its parks, and theatres, and posh hotels. The Vasa museum, which we did not visit, exhibits an intact Swedish warship which sunk in 1628 in Stockholm's harbour 20 minutes into its maiden voyage.
129: The 13th century streets of Stockholm's Gamla Stan (Old Town)
130: The Royal Residence
136: Kungstradgarden and the New Town
144: One island in Stockholm's city centre is completely devoted to an amusement park
145: The harbour floor, especially around this citadel, is littered with shipwrecks.
146: The sail away through the Swedish archaepelago | Back aboard the Sun
151: At Sea | May 12
153: Washy, Washy
155: Jaime, events co-ordeinator
157: I swam once in the ship's pool. The water was a warm 84 degrees, but the on-deck breezes were brisk.
158: May 13th, Copenhagen, Denmark
162: Nyhavn, Copenhagen
166: It is possible to do a self-guided walking tour of all the major sights in central Copenhagen by following the well marked trail on the map from the tourist office, but Copenhagen is really a city scaled for cyclists. The walking tour takes about 3 hours. I did part of it past the old sailor's district, the old stock exchange,Holman's church, the equestrian statue of Christian IV, and St. Nicholas church.
168: Pedestrians should keep to the places marked by the cute "ampleman" with his jaunty hat, since the cyclists clearly rule in this city and go at a terrific clip. The canal which lies at the centre of the city whisks tourist laden canal boats past the building facades that mark this a Baltic capital. Right is the city theatre.
170: Radhus (City Hall)
171: Tivoli Gardens The amusement park which was the inspiration for Disneyland
173: Helsignor setting for Shakespeare's Hamlet
178: Castle courtyard & Royal Chapel
184: Helsignor Castle exhibits an austere decor suited to the windswept coastline where it sits and to the Lutheran monarchs who inhabited it. Yet it was considered luxurious in its day. One of its suites was used for the honeymoon of James I of England and Anne of Denmark.
187: The canopy to the left, featuring the three lion emblem of Denmark was made for King Frederick. | Shakespeare's Hamlet is set at "Elsinor" castle, which seems a thinly veiled reference to the real-life castle at Helsignor. It is unclear whether Shakespeare ever visited the castle himself. The castle continues to host performances of Shakespeare's Hamlet here in the summer.
188: Holger Dansk | Helsignor Castle was not only built to house fine apartments for the Danish royal family. It was a military outpost designed to exact a toll from ships as they passed through Danish waters. The beach below the castle is lined with canons and there would have been a garrison of soldiers stationed here. Below the castle are a warren of passageways and cells known as the casements. They alternatively served as place where soldiers could hide in time of siege and as a prison. There is also a legend that Holger Dansk, a Danish national hero whose life became the stuff of myth in the middle ages, lies asleep in the castle casements. When Denmark faces its hour of greatest peril he will waken and come to its defense. This 20th century sculpture of the sleeping giant does rest in the casements. The way it is lit with floodlights that dim and brighten play upon the eyes of the sculpture and make it appear that the figure is opening his eyes. There is a similar myth about St. Wenceslas in the Czech Republic -- that he will awaken and come on his white horse to the aid of the Czech people in their hour of greatest need.
190: The town of Helsignor, about an hour's train ride from Copenhagen, is charming in itself. This medieval church and cloister occupies a large piece of the town's real estate. Royal relatives from across Europe are still apparently hosted at the castle when they visit Denmark. There was a picture of Charles and Camilla in one of the town's ice-cream shops.
195: Across the Stoerbelt | May 14th | Mary 14th and Dad and I pack up before the automatic noon lock-out from our self-service hotel and take the train to the airport. The car which we shall have for the next 5 days will come from there so it can be returned to there. Copenhagen is on an Easterly island within Denmark. We head across the Stoerbelt bridge to the Western Islands, and tonight will sleep about 3.5 hours' drive away near Aarhus.
197: Kronjhorten is an exclusive suburb of Aarhus, Denmark's 3rd most populous city. Birgit and Hans are living their dream of fixing up this 147 year old farm cottage and running it as a B&B. Eating out in Denmark is terrificly expensive, so we made use of the self-catering facilities in our cottage. Birgit supplied our first Danish breakfast, after which we became wise to the fact that Danes serve a boiled egg almost raw. Subsequently we would take eggs from the breakfast buffet and reboil them till they were cooked!
199: From the B&B we enjoyed taking a walk through the beautiful 100 year old beech forest. There was also access from this area to the coast, so all in all it felt like a country retreat after the noise and bustle of Copenhagen. Even these woods, however were well frequented by people taking exercise by jogging or biking. Compared to a walk in the woods in Canada, these woods appear very clean, no fallen branches, no debris on the ground beneath the trees. It must be owing to milder winters, though from this day until the end of our time here the weather turned cold and one could believe a very windswept Jutland in winter.
200: Denmark seems built to encourage physical fitness. Many of its roads are tri-track: one road for pedestrians, another for cyclists, and one for the cars. Public parks have exercise machines and as with this descent to the Coast, long runs of stairs are ubiquitous.
203: 15th | May
205: Beyond the somewhat smart shopping street and the canal side cafes that were too cold to eat at, Aarhus' new town didn't have much to hold our interest. Then Dad spotted this unusual rainbow ring above one of the buildings with people walking around in it. It turned out to be an installation at Aros, the city's modern art museum. We went to see and spent and enjoyable couple of hours in the museum, even walking the panorama and be- coming part of the art.
212: Sometimes the best way to glimpse the heart of a country is to see it through the eyes of its realist painters. These scenes of rustic life from the 19th and 20th centuries reminded me a lot of Babette's feast.
213: The rainbow panorama occupied the top floor of the Aros museum. There wree about 6 more floors getting more and more modern the deeper you descended. There was also a special exhibit by an outstanding Finnish artist. None of the art was pre-1800. Denmark mirrored many of the art movements in wider Europe with an impressionist period and a cubist period, but these realistic canvases, among the older ones in the museum's collection charmed me most.
216: Den Gamle By was what had interested me most among the attractions to see in Aarhus. A sort of pioneer village it showed life as it would have been lived in Denmark a century or two ago. However we didn't get here until about 4pm which left only 1 hour before closing time to explore this extensive attraction. It wasn't all bad, however, as the pricey entrance fee was reduced and the attraction was almost empty of other tourists. At 5pm we set off to find our bed for the night which we had booked in a place, about 90 minutes' drive from Aarhus called Vejen. The highways are not at all congested in Denmark, and though we got lost often, there was usually someone who could help us in English.
221: May 16th: Danhostel Vejen Sport Vejen is a town about 90 minutes South West of Aarhus. We enjoyed the pool facilities of this 4 star hostel
222: The Sports Centre to which the hostel in Vejen was attached was a going concern: fitness classes of all types and several gymnasia. The breakfast was served in the sports cafe overlooking the pool. The town of Vejen itself has little to offer, but is fairly handy to Legoland (which we didn't visit) and 30 minutes from Ribe (which we did visit).
223: Ribe Ribe is a Denmark's oldest town. It is on the West Coast of Jutland. I had wanted to visit Jutland since seeing the movie, Babette's Feast, and this day was every bit as bleak and frigid as the scenes in that film.
224: The town of Ribe had buildings very similar to those I had seen in Den Gamle By in Aarhus, only they were real. Most were from the 17th century according to the painted door beams.
225: The house of Hans Tausen, the Danish Lutheran reformer, was just next to the Domkirche. The exterior of the Domkirche looked like it was 17th century or earlier, but the interior was decorated with modern ecclesiastical art.
226: The churches of Denmark, even when their interior is modern like this one, have a unified and distinctive aesthetic about them. Compare for instance this one and the Domkirche at Roskilde. The established church in Denmark is the Lutheran church. Our visit to the Vehen/Ribe area coincided with Ascenseion day which is a public holiday and also the day when young people across Denmark are confirmed.
231: This church blended the newer carving on the pews with some old pieces of old carved woodwork on the choir stalls and pulpit. St. George slaying the dragon is a modern iron sculpture which graces the back wall of the church.
233: St. Catherine's, the other historic church in Ribe, | much darker and plainer than the Domkirche.
234: Saint Catherine's Square, Ribe
235: Ribe | Along the river there was an open air antique stall where I bought a candle stick made of carved antler. It looked like it came from Finland.
236: May 17th
237: More photography while driving. Dad was not a happy passenger! | Back across the Stoerbelt. Paintings, left, are from the Aros museum in Aarhus.
238: Roskilde, Viking boat museum
239: Roskilde used to be the capital of Denmark and was an important port for the Viking kingdom. In the 11th century the Vikings defended the port by sinking five of their ships to form an undersea barrier. The recovery of the these ships has given the museum its chief exhibits, much knowledge about nautical life in the Viking era, and also the inspiration to build replicas, which are fully sail-able.
240: The Sea Stallion of Glendalough
241: The Sea Stallion is a replica Viking ship built at the museum that made the voyage last summer to Glendalough in Ireland. The photos, apart from the central one, are photos of that voyage which were posted on billboards around the museum. The Stallion was at the dock, but not with its sails up. Viking sails were woven from wool.
246: The museum exhibits the five Viking ships painstakingly salvaged from the ocean floor. When the ships were taken up, the fear was that the wood would dry out and crumble into dust. To prevent this the wood was "embalmed" by replacing the water in the cell structure with polypropyleneglycol. The museum also offers a film on the voyage of the Sea Stallion and exhibits on the contribution of the Viking era to wider European culture.
248: Roskilde Domkirche | May 18th: | on our way to the airport
250: As the former capital of Denmark, Roskilde is the burial place of the Danish Royal Family. On either side of the gothic brick-and-plaster nave there are burial chapels. The altar tryptich is spectacularly carved as are the other detailed pieces in the chancel and on the pulpit.
257: The Villages Thirty minutes from Roskilde is the village of Skibby where we had our last night's accommodation. Village life in Denmark appears very quaint, and the churches have an entirely different look than those in the towns.
258: Our last supper in Denmark was in this charming village inn between Skibby and Frederickssund.
260: Skibby | Bed and Birds B&B
261: This was our pleasant B&B accommodation on Lake Selso, a bird sanctuary. Pia, our hostess at Bed & Birds, it turned out, had lived for a while in Saskatoon, so she was happy to have some Canadian guests. In fact, owing to the relatively high cost of traveling in Denmark and the fact that the non-euro currency makes traveling there something of a pain, Denmark was not crowded with tourists, and people everywhere were happy to welcome us. The drive from Skibby to Copenhagen airport took about 1 hour. What an incredible European odyssey this trip has been. We returned to Canada grateful for all we had seen and done and almost recovered from our cold!