Champagne Bucket trips, Finland, Latvia

Twenty-two things I learned on our epic Scandinavia/Baltic/cruise trip…

Hi ho, folks. I usually do a “ten things I learned” post after our trips. Since this was a comparatively massive trip that was divided into a few segments, I’ve decided to compose slightly more than double the usual list. I’ve found that the “things I learned” posts tend to get read more than the “blow by blow” posts. So, in the interest of engaging people, here’s my latest list of things I learned while traveling. Some of these things I mention will seem silly or irrelevant. Nevertheless, they are still things I learned on our trip. I hope some of you enjoy it!

Here goes…

22. In Northern Europe, you are encouraged or even obliged to forgo housekeeping for charitable purposes.

We stayed in four hotels. In three of them, there were signs encouraging or even requiring guests to skip having their rooms cleaned. In Oslo, it was a choice, which we did opt for, since we only stayed two nights. In Bergen, it was automatically skipped unless we requested it by 10 PM the night before. And in Copenhagen, it was encouraged. All three hotels claimed that they donated money saved by not cleaning rooms to environmental or women’s causes. I was actually surprised by how environmentally aware the hotels were. In Copenhagen, they even had a daily 6 AM jog sponsored by the hotel where people could jog together and pick up trash.

21. When you check into a hotel in Northern Europe, don’t be shocked if you’re asked to pay when you get your key, if you haven’t already prepaid.

We had to pay upfront for both Norway hotels and our hotel in Denmark. It didn’t really matter, in the grand scheme of things, but it was kind of surprising at the time.

20. At the moment,it’s hard to plan a land based trip up north. But that’s changing.

I had originally wanted this to be a land based trip because I like to stay at least a night or two in places I visit, especially when they are in countries I’ve never visited in the past. We ended up cruising on this trip, because it was simply more practical. I have a feeling that even though we were on a luxury cruise, it might have also been somewhat cheaper. The Rail Baltica project is making a land based trip to Baltic countries more feasible. I hope we’re still living here when it’s completed, or will be able to visit.

19. Sometimes, Norwegians are indistinguishable from Americans.

Or maybe we were just in places where Norwegians don’t have thick accents. I was often shocked by how much Norwegians reminded me of my countrymen! The one difference was that they tended to be taller, blonder, and a lot more beautiful. Especially the women.

18. Helsinki, Finland has an Armenian restaurant!

I noticed it on the bus ride from the port to the city center. No, we didn’t have a chance to visit it, but I did look it up. Apparently, it’s currently temporarily closed, as they are moving from their old location to a new one. I took a look at the menu and it appeared to be a great place to dine Armenian style. Maybe, if we go back to Helsinki, we can give it a try. As some of you know, Armenia is important to me, because I lived there for two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

17. Most Finnish people have saunas, second homes, and boats… some women even give birth in saunas!

The ladies who did our harbor cruise tour told us that many Finnish people have their very own private saunas at home. They are considered very clean, so some women even have babies in their home saunas. That doesn’t seem appealing to me, but what do I know? The ladies also said that many people have their own boats and second homes, and that it doesn’t require a lot of money to have either. That’s just part of their culture. I clearly need to explore Finland more!

16. Estonia had a comparatively easy time during the pandemic, because people there naturally “social distance”.

Our tour guide, the hilarious Raul (Robin Williams come to visit in another life form), told us that most Estonians don’t have big families (same as in Finland). And when COVID-19 was especially terrible, it wasn’t so hard for the Estonians, because people up there are kind of solitary. He said the government would like to see more babies being made and is trying to encourage it, but Estonians aren’t so into the idea.

15. There’s an old AIDA cruise ship stuck at Tallinn’s harbor…

As we were entering and leaving Tallinn, Estonia, I couldn’t help but notice the loudly painted AIDAvita, docked at the pier. It looked a little rusty, but I paid it no mind until I got back on our ship and did some Googling. The AIDAvita was sold and is now known as Avitak. But it still looks like an AIDA ship, even though it flies the Liberian flag and has been stuck in Tallinn since November 2021.

14. Everybody up north celebrates Midsommar… It’s a big deal!

I didn’t know about this holiday, which is celebrated in Sweden, Estonia, Latvia, and other northerly countries. This year, it took place on Saturday, June 24th, and I noticed lots of women wearing flower crowns on their heads. Raul, our guide in Estonia, said that starting on Midsommar Eve (this year, the 23rd of June– the shortest night of the year) people party all night and spend the next day recovering. When we visited Tallinn, it was Sunday, June 25th, and Raul said we probably wouldn’t see too many locals, since people still needed to recuperate from the festivities. Summer doesn’t officially begin until June 21st… but, of course, they’re going by the Summer Solstice. Midsommar represents the time between planting crops and harvesting them.

13. People in Estonia and Latvia are GLAD to be running their own countries now.

I’m not totally surprised about this one, of course. It makes perfect sense that people would take pride in their cultures and want to run their countries the way they see fit. Still, as an American who grew up in the 1980s, it was very interesting to hear about the Soviet times from the locals and how, on the whole, they were very happy not to be part of the Soviet Union anymore. When I lived in Armenia, I think the sentiment was probably similar, although I was there in the mid 90s, when times were more difficult. I did hear some people say they missed the Soviet Union, but probably only because they were tearing pages from books to wipe their asses when they went to the toilet. I’m sure they no longer long for those days.

12. Riga, Latvia has many beautiful art deco buildings!

I hadn’t known much about Latvia before this trip, other than what Bill told me about visiting there. I didn’t know there were so many beautiful buildings in Riga that managed to survive the Soviet era. I do remember some nice buildings in Armenia, too, no doubt built before the Soviet Union existed and imported a lot of industrial tackiness and weird architecture. Still, it was a pleasant surprise to see that there are still many gorgeous old buildings there.

11. Visby, Sweden is a beautiful place, but I think I’d hate to own a home in the old town!

As we walked through Visby’s historic old town within its medieval walls, I couldn’t help but think I’d probably dislike living there. The local government is very strict about how locals can decorate or improve their properties, and as I saw and experienced firsthand, there are MANY tour groups coming through there. But I’m still really glad we visited. And luckily, we probably could never afford to live there, anyway. 😉

10. Liepaja and Karosta, Latvia, are still big military areas. But Liepaja has potential!

I had heard of Karosta before our visit there, to see the big naval military prison. I had not heard of Liepaja, which is one of Latvia’s biggest cities. I was surprised by how nice the town is. There are many trees there; music is a focus of the city; and the beach is surprisingly inviting. I hope we can visit again sometime.

9. I learned the tragic story of the Rose of Turaida…

And you can learn it too, by clicking here and reading up about it.

8. Religious people in northern Europe are typically Lutherans…

In 2023, I don’t expect *that* many people in Europe to be especially religious. Those who do practice religion tend to be Lutherans, although there are also Catholics. We visited several Russian Orthodox churches, too. There are still some Russians living in the Baltic areas.

7. Latvians love their “biggest” cave, which isn’t very big at all, and is more like a grotto.

Our guide explained that Latvians love the largest cave in Latvia, which is not a big cave at all. Gutmana Cave is not very deep and lacks the typical exciting formations one tends to see in caves. What it does have is very pure water, which locals claim bestow eternal youth and good health. Also, on the sandstone walls, there are many carvings and inscriptions dating back hundreds of years.

6. Norway has many, many electric vehicles…

I was very surprised by the sheer volume of electric vehicles in Norway. The cabs we rode in were all electric. We actually rode in our very first Tesla there. The train from Oslo to Bergen is electric. The gas stations have places for people to recharge their vehicles. Gas is expensive, and Norway has many rules regarding emissions and pollution. I read that as of 2026, a lot of cruise ships won’t be able to explore the fjords anymore.

5. If you visit Sigulda in Latvia, you might want to buy a walking stick… or jewelry.

I was surprised by the excellent handcrafts in Sigulda, especially given how reasonably priced they were. One of the items people typically buy there are ornate and colorfully painted walking sticks. We bought a small one for Bill’s granddaughter. I got myself some beautiful silver earrings. That reminds me… I need to look up the boutique online and see if I can order more. 😀

4. There is no more fishing in Bornholm, Denmark…

Bornholm is an island south of the Swedish coast. It belongs to Denmark. You’d think there would be many fish there, but the area has been overfished by humans, and lots of seals call the island home. So now, although there once were fish factories in Bornholm, they are now closed. The locals get their fish from other places. This trip really made me more aware of the environment and how our choices affect everything.

3. Only one restaurant on Bornholm still smokes fish the old fashioned way.

We visited Hasle Smokehouse, a “museum restaurant” in Bornholm, where the proprietor still smokes fish over an outdoor open fire. His establishment is the only one that still operates that way. It’s allowed because the place is also considered a museum, but he told us that the government sends him warning letters every year about public health/foodborne illness dangers. I can attest that the smoked herring is delicious, health risks notwithstanding!

2. Copenhagen, Denmark is fabulous…

I already had an idea that it was fabulous, as this was our third time in the city. But, we clearly need to go there and spend a few days. A couple of nights at the end of a long trip, a night on the way to Rostock, and a few hours as part of a cruise is not sufficient to really appreciate how cool that city is. We need to do a long weekend there. We also need more time in Stockholm and Helsinki… Hell, all of the places we went to were great! I wouldn’t change any aspect of our trip.

And finally, 1. It wasn’t a bad idea in 2023 to go to Northern Europe instead of Italy, France, England, or any of the biggest European hot spots.

Granted, it seemed like everyone was on vacation when we were, but I don’t think as many people came to Northern Europe as some of the most touristy European cities. I’ve been reading a lot about how many people have descended upon Europe this summer. It didn’t seem so bad where we were, with the exception of Bergen. But even Bergen wasn’t that bad… A bonus was that the weather, by and large, wasn’t that hot. However, we did encounter hot weather and a couple of chilly days. I read that the weather last week wasn’t so great, either. So, you take a risk… Still, we were very lucky on our trip, and got to see most everything we planned to see. I still want to see more of the fjords. Hopefully, we’ll get the chance.

Anyway… I could probably add even more to this list. You learn a lot when you go on two week trips to half a dozen countries! But I’ve got some other stuff to do. Noyzi needs a walk; I need to practice guitar; and I have at least one more blog post to write. So I’ll wrap up this post now… I’m glad our big trip worked out the way it did, hectic as it was. We had a good time.

Champagne Bucket trips, Regent Seven Seas Cruise Lines

July 2… time to go HOME.

On the morning of July 2, it was time to start the process of ending our big trip of 2023. Again, I can’t say that I was sad about it. I love going on vacations. I enjoy traveling– seeing new things, buying new stuff, meeting people, eating different foods, and drinking different beverages… especially the adult varieties. But it all has to end eventually.

I missed Noyzi. I craved having access to my washing machine. I worried about the pile up of mail. I even had fond memories of my bed, which really needs a new mattress. And, even though not that many people want to read my blog posts about our travels, I was really itching to write and upload all of the photos I took over the two weeks we were gone. I prefer to write on my desktop computer, which is at home. So, home was where we needed to go.

Bill checked out of the hotel, while I went to the handy self check-in kiosk in the hotel lobby. I printed our luggage tags and boarding passes, and we made our way to the luggage drop off point, which was actually a pretty stout walk within the airport from the hotel. It was especially rigorous, since we had heavy bags. I was thanking God that I booked business class on the plane, because it got us into the short security line, and we were able to get through and into the SAS Lounge (which also serves Lufthansa passengers) in no time.

The Copenhagen Airport has a pretty decent lounge, although I didn’t make full use of it. I just sat in a nice chair and drank sparkling water while we waited until it was time to make our way to our gate. Once we got there, we found it backed up with a lot of passengers and not enough seating. Typical! 😉

I was a little worried that maybe our plane would be like the one we flew out of Bergen on… two by two seating in a very narrow aircraft. But it was a nice spacious plane, with three seats per row. Since we were in business class, we had an empty middle seat, and we even got served “breakfast”… which was mostly stuff I don’t eat. But they did have warm croissants and orange juice, which was fine for me. I also appreciated the chocolate they gave us afterwards!

The flight was perfectly lovely, and we landed on time in Frankfurt. It took forever to get our bags, and I think we might have even been the only ones who checked baggage. We were the only ones we noticed from our flight waiting for bags, which took over a half hour to get to us. While we were waiting, we encountered more Americans. One was a woman who looked a little annoyed when I sat down in a chair near her luggage. She changed her tune when she started wondering aloud about transportation and Bill helpfully piped up with local insider info. She asked us where we were from, and we answered America… but now we live here in Germany, and boy has it changed us in profound ways.

I don’t know what the woman and her husband were here for. The way she was dressed and the amount of luggage she had suggested that maybe she was going to go on a Rhein cruise or something. But those usually start in Basel, Switzerland or Amsterdam, Netherlands. They do pass through the Rheingau, though, and I often watch them and think… maybe I’d book one of those if I didn’t live so close to so many of the stops!

We found the Volvo and drove home, quickly unpacked, and I started doing laundry. I turned on the robot mower to deal with the very high grass. I checked out our rain barrel, which was full of nasty critters I’ve been killing all week. And I’ve been writing on this blog for a solid eight days. I’ve still got some more to write about, but the actual blog series on our big Nordic trip is over now. I hope some of you enjoyed it.

For those who are curious… This trip ran us approximately $22,000. We don’t usually come close to spending that much on a vacation, and we spent more than we had to. This was not an economy trip, by any means. We were also gone for two weeks, traveling in style in a very expensive area of the world. So…

*Cruise was about $12,000 or so… Concierge E on Regent Seven Seas Splendor, which is a luxury class, all inclusive cruise ship.

*Business class plane tickets from Frankfurt to Oslo, Bergen to Stockholm, and Copenhagen to Frankfurt, probably about $2,000 or so.

*A compartment on the train to Bergen from Oslo, about $500

*Hotels for eight nights, about $2,000 or so. Those, we paid at the hotel, rather than ahead of time.

*Trip insurance for a year about $1,000 (covers all trips all year)

*Food, booze, shopping, transportation, tickets to activities etc. about $4,500

I also haven’t factored in how much Noyzi’s boarding was. We had to prepay that in cash before we left.

If we’d wanted to, we could have pared down costs considerably. This summer, we really just wanted to enjoy ourselves. We definitely aren’t alone. Europe is teeming with people this year, and prices are pretty high. I’m happy to report that most of these costs were paid off before our trip started. We just need to work on paying off the stuff I didn’t pre-pay or pre-book.

It was a special pleasure to visit Finland and Latvia, two places I had never been to before, and learn about other places I’d never heard of, like Visby and Bornholm. It really was a good time, albeit very different from our usual road trips south!

So, that about does it for this series. I have to close now, as workmen have just shown up to replace the windows in my house. Hope to see some comments at some point!

Champagne Bucket trips, Regent Seven Seas Cruise Lines

Getting off the Regent Splendor and into Copenhagen…

The morning of Friday, June 23, would be a “changing day” for us, as Dr. Phil would say. That was the day we were to disembark from Regent Splendor and go back to a land based lifestyle.

To be honest, I wasn’t that sad about getting off the ship. We had a good time, and Regent Splendor is, for sure, a gorgeous, comfortable, well-staffed vessel. But I looked forward to a still floor at night, a day without tour buses, and not having to dress up for dinner. Also, I was legitimately tired. I know it sounds crazy to need a vacation after a vacation, but in my daily life, I don’t spend time with many people. I was also still dealing with the remnants of the cold I caught in Norway, and trying to unpack the many new things I saw, heard, and did over the course of our long vacation. So, I wasn’t too depressed about disembarkation day. For me, it was time.

The last Regent Splendor breakfast…

The night prior, we packed our bags, tagged them with group Yellow One stickers, and went to bed. We had our last breakfast in the stateroom, did one last thorough check to make sure everything got packed, and then made our way to Deck 5, which was the lowest the stairs and elevator closest to us would go. I think our original plan was to go to Deck 4, which was where the exit was, but we ran into Gail and Ger at the Coffee Connection area– where people could get coffee drinks and desserts at any time. We only used it once, on the last full day, when I stopped there for a double shot of espresso to get me through the last bus tour.

We had a nice final chat with Gail and Ger as we waited for our group to be called… and it never actually was! We were among the last people off the ship! I didn’t mind, because we were headed to the Clarion Hotel Copenhagen Airport, which has a check in time of 3:00 PM. Since it was still about 9:30 AM when we disembarked, we had plenty of time to kill. And kill time we would, because there was a HUGE line for taxis. I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say it took about an hour before we scored a cab of our own. I managed to get a shot of a customs dog inspecting cargo while we waited.

A very friendly Pakistani man– one of several on our trip– invited us into his cab for the roughly forty minute trip to the hotel. The guy told us that he was born in Pakistan to a wealthy family. His siblings were all people with prestigious jobs. His children moved to the United States, where they enjoyed high level work with handsome paychecks. But he was happy as a Copenhagen cabbie, where he provided an honest and necessary service to people like Bill and me. As he talked, I could tell that he was more interested in interacting with Bill. He said a few things that were blatantly sexist, mostly about the female leaders in Denmark.

I had agonized a bit over where we would stay for our two nights in Copenhagen. At first, I wanted to stay downtown. But then, when I realized we would be leaving the city on Sunday morning, I figured it would be best to stay near the airport. Clarion Hotel Copenhagen Airport is the closest we could get. It turned out to be an excellent choice.

When we arrived at about 10:00 AM, a bunch of people were checking out. We had originally planned to drop our bags and go into the city, but it turned out they had a room ready for early check in. Bill paid an extra $70 or so, and we were able to go straight to room 1140.

Room 1140 was very spacious and offered a nice view of the area. It had a large bathroom with a bathtub and a shower, and his and hers sinks. There was a desk with an uncomfortable chair that faced the mirror. However, I was able to move the chair to the other side, so that was a plus. I don’t like looking at myself when I’m writing! The room also had a minibar, but it was the kind where if you move anything, they automatically charge you. That wasn’t so good, since we couldn’t use the fridge to cool anything personal.

When we got into the room, I realized that I really just wanted to rest. The weather was kind of crappy, anyway. The sun was coming in and out, but there was also lots of wind and some rain, which was much needed, from what I understand. So I got into my nightie and laid down on the bed. Soon, I was fast asleep… for three hours!

I think Bill took a nap, too, but he slept for a much shorter time. He’s such a good egg. He let me take my very long nap without interruption. Obviously, I needed the rest.

When I woke up later, it was mid afternoon. The hotel has a restaurant that stays open all day, so we decided to go get something to eat and try some Danish beers (although my first one was French– Kronenbourg 1664). So that’s what we did… and I was delighted when the blond waiter, an obvious local, immediately spoke Danish to us! I guess we look the part.

The food in the restaurant was good, although the portions were small. I didn’t mind the smaller portions, actually. I wasn’t super hungry, and it was just enough to take care of me for the rest of the day. I guess the hotel restaurant is popular with locals, too, because I noticed there were several reservations. It was empty when we came in, but it was pretty much packed when we left! Maybe it’s just the only “local” restaurant in the Kastrup area, although the hotel is connected to both the airport AND a metro station. And the train will get you downtown in about 13 minutes!

After we visited the restaurant, we went back to the room and ended up watching a 70s era movie with Burt Reynolds and Jerry Reed. No, it wasn’t Smokey and the Bandit. It was called Gator, and it was a drama. I confess that I wasn’t paying close attention to it, even though it was in English. However, I enjoyed it enough that I downloaded a greatest hits album by Mr. Reed. When we got home on Sunday, I played it. I had forgotten how entertaining and genuinely talented Jerry Reed was. It made me glad I was born in the early 70s.

The next morning was Saturday, and we had the day to venture into Copenhagen. The weather was actually somewhat worse on Saturday, but I was feeling more energetic after my day of rest. Over breakfast, we thought about what we might like to do. Copenhagen’s aquarium is located very close to the hotel and we thought maybe we might like to go there. But then I read the reviews, which indicated that weekends there are crowded. I wasn’t in the mood for crowds.

Copenhagen’s awesome metro!

So, we decided that we’d just take the metro downtown and wander around, like we usually do. Maybe we’d stumble across a museum or something, or find something cute to buy for Bill’s grandchildren. I’ve been on a lot of metros in my time. Copenhagen’s metro is very easy to use and reasonably priced. It was easy to find our way to the center, which was still vaguely familiar to us after fourteen years away. Our visit to Copenhagen in 2019 did not include a stop downtown.

We walked around a bit, and I got lots of photos… I was a little tempted by shopping, but then I remembered that we were flying, rather than driving. My bags were stretched to the limits as it was.

Eventually, it was time for lunch. We went searching for a place, and then it appeared, just like a beacon… An Italian restaurant called Accanto. We were warmly welcomed to sit down and enjoy a lovely lunch, accented by expensive, but tasty, wines by the glass. What I especially loved about this place, besides it’s “cozy hygge” vibe, was that we were not rushed at all. The waiters were very friendly; the food was good; and they even threw in some limoncello.

After our long lunch, we decided to stop by a very cool food market, where we picked up some wine for the evening. We took the metro back to the hotel. On the way there, I got a rather obvious sign that my cold was finally finished (glad I had tissues). And we spent the evening enjoying wine and watching more Danish TV. I know that’s kind of boring, but we were a bit vacationed out. I was glad to have the chance to relax a bit before our journey back to Germany. The hotel, by the way, also has a spa with a salt water pool. But I didn’t make use of it during our stay.

Below are some photos from downtown Copenhagen…

And some more before I close this post…

Champagne Bucket trips, Regent Seven Seas Cruise Lines, tours

Many critters were born free in Bornholm, Denmark…

Our final day of the cruise was in Rønne, a town in Bornholm, Denmark. We had a late excursion, which took place at 4:00 PM. To be honest, I was kind of tempted to skip the last bus tour, as I was a bit “toured out” by Thursday, June 29th. But that would have been a big mistake, because I ended up liking Bornholm the most of all the tours during our week on Regent Splendor.

I mentioned that we stopped in Rønne, but actually, our bus tour (The Best of Bornholm) didn’t really go through the town that appeared closest to the pier. Instead, we basically had a tour of the Danish island of Bornholm, which is off the southern coast of Sweden. Once again, this was a place I knew absolutely nothing about before we went on this cruise. I ended up finding it a very charming place. Several British passengers on the tour with us mentioned that it reminded them very much of Cornwall.

There were other tours offered besides the one we went on, but they were mostly fully booked by the time we signed up for the cruise, back in late April. So “The Best of Bornholm” it was, and it was a good time, even though I was tired, and even though our guide didn’t have the best “stage presence”.

I was charmed by the rustic beauty of the island, even spotting a large wild hare and several deer cavorting in nature as our guide droned on, rather haltingly. At first, I was a little annoyed by the guide, but as I listened more closely, I realized that he really did know a lot about the island. I suspect that if he was giving us the tour in Danish, he’d be a lot more engaging to listen to, because I noticed that when he spoke Danish, he sounded a lot more animated. I have empathy for that issue, since I know firsthand that it isn’t easy to speak a language that isn’t your mother tongue, especially if you aren’t practiced. I don’t know how often our guide gives tours in English, though.

The first thing the guide pointed out were the huge parts of windmills that were being built. They are destined to be installed in the Baltic Sea, where they can generated power for people on dry land. I have seen the windmills all over Europe, but was never close enough to one to appreciate their massive size. Those things are HUGE!

Part of a windmill.

We visited a really cool looking round church called Osterlars, which, besides looking really handsome in the Danish countryside, also had the added benefit of a clean public toilet. 😉 The guide pointed out the metal rings installed in the wall around the church. The rings were where the locals parked their horses and buggies on Sundays. Each family had its own “parking spot”.

Next, we stopped in an adorable town called Gudhjem, which was right next to a beach. The guide said that there used to be a lot of fishing there, but the fishing had stopped, mostly because the waters were depleted by overfishing and the many seals who had descended upon the place. There weren’t any seals visible when we visited, but the guide said it was a very normal thing to see them hanging around the beaches.

We stopped at Hammershus Fortress, vast medieval castle ruins that were partially demolished around 1750 and partially restored sometime around 1900. Our visit didn’t include actually going to the ruins, which were a stout walk from the parking area, but visiting a wooden overlook that gave us good views of the ruins, as well as a flock of sheep grazing nearby. It might have been fun to go to the ruins, but that would have taken a lot of time that we didn’t have. But… I did mention to Bill that I liked Bornholm enough that I wouldn’t mind coming back for a land based visit. If we ever do that, maybe we can visit the ruins properly.

As we continued on our journey, the guide explained some interesting history about Bornholm’s role in World War II and how it was not liberated at the same time the rest of Europe was. Even though Bornholm was part of Denmark, some people did not consider it a part of NATO, because former Soviet leaders determined that there would be no foreign military activity on the island. They decreed that any NATO military troops on Bornholm would be considered an act of aggression against the Soviet Union, and that Denmark should keep troops there to prevent any NATO military action from occurring. The Soviets were especially against any US troops having a presence there. Of course, now, no one doubts that as part of Denmark, Bornholm is also part of NATO.

At around this point in the tour, it was time for us to taste smoked fish. There are many fish smoking facilities on Bornholm, but only one place still uses an open fire to smoke fish, rather than more modern facilities. So, we stopped at that smokehouse, which was also deemed a “museum”, which made it possible for them to smoke fish the old fashioned way, and we tasted their product, washed down with cold, Danish, draft beer (or soda). This was included in the tour. The young, affable guy who spoke to us about the smoked fish said that he had to get the fish from other places, as there aren’t enough fish around Bornholm anymore.

After we tasted the fish (which I found delicious, though I know not everyone likes fish), we headed back toward the ship, the guide talking the entire time about other unusual and interesting towns in Bornholm. It really does look like a nice place to spend a week or so. I’m sure they get their share of tourists, but it wasn’t nearly as busy as Visby was.

Incidentally, I read today that the current Splendor cruise, which has been doing a ten day Baltic itinerary, had to skip Visby. They had 40 MPH winds that prevented them from docking!

Now, a word about the last day of food…

For lunch, we stopped by Prime 7, which was serving lunch that day. The speciality restaurants mostly serve dinner, but sometimes, they have a short lunch service. Thursday was the day for Prime 7, and that was the only day we visited a specialty restaurant for lunch.

Our waiter was a nice fellow, who was a little more familiar with us than I’m used to on cruises. He came up to us with a big smile (good thing) and immediately addressed as a William and Jennifer. I stifled a laugh and said, “No one ever calls us that. I ended up telling him that we go by Jenny and Bill.” He hit upon one of my many personal pet peeves.

It’s not that I need to be called Mrs. I just think being called Mr. and Mrs. is polite and businesslike. I dislike the American fake familiarity trend that has everyone assuming we should all go by our first names. In our case, no one who actually knows us, ever calls us by our first names. I personally hate being called “Jennifer”, because it reminds me of being yelled at by my mother. Also, it just doesn’t suit me. If he had called me Mrs. as a matter of course, it would have given me the chance to tell him which name I preferred. Besides, it’s just more professional.

So, after we told the waiter the preferred versions of our first names, and kind of cringed at the faux pas, he brought us our lunches. Bill had pork barbecue sliders. I had a burger. It wasn’t the way I would have fixed it for myself, but it was tasty enough. Afterwards, we had dessert. The waiter brought out a carousel of mini versions of Prime 7’s desserts for us. We each ate one, but I think the idea was to try them all. As if I need more encouragement to expand my backside. 😉

After our excursion on Bornholm, we had our last dinner in the Compass Rose restaurant. I didn’t see any specials that interested me, so I wound up having a steak for dinner. No wonder my heart rate has been elevated lately. We ran into the same waiter we had at lunch, who, to his credit, remembered our names. But then he called Bill “Mr. Bill”. I asked him if he knew about the old Saturday Night Live character, “Mr. Bill”. Naturally, he didn’t. So I had to explain… People have been calling Bill “Mr. Bill” forever, not just because his name is Bill, but also because he had a “Mr. Bill” moment when he was in high school. One of his buddies literally backed over him with a Subaru Brat (car)! Oh noooooo!

Poor Mr. Bill! Always having accidents.

Anyway, here are photos of the last supper on Splendor… We were allowed to dress casually for it, because everyone was packing their luggage for disembarkation day. I had a baked potato with my steak. It tasted like it was pre-baked and chilled, then heated up. I guess I can’t blame them for that, but it kind of spoiled the magic a little.

Although I thought we might visit the Meridian Lounge one more time, it wasn’t to be. We decided to go back to the room and rest up for the next day… when it would be time to leave behind Regent Splendor for more plain lodging.

More on that in the next post.


Welcome to Copenhagen…

Bill and I were among the last group to disembark from Regent Seven Seas Splendor. We were later in getting off, because we had hotel reservations at the Clarion Airport Hotel, which attaches directly to the airport. We arrived here after a lengthy cab ride– maybe 40 minutes or so– and were greeted by a huge, modern hotel. It’s definitely not like the Clarion hotel we stayed in when we visited Bergen a couple of weeks ago.

Fortunately, the hotel is not fully booked, so we were allowed to check in early with a 500 Danish Crown upcharge (about $70). That was fine with us, because Bill and I are pretty tired and in need of some relaxation. Isn’t it crazy to have to need to relax after a vacation? We have a room on the 11th floor, which offers a view of Copenhagen. This hotel also has a spa and a restaurant, so we’ll be okay today. Maybe tomorrow, if the weather is good and we’re up to it, we’ll venture into the city and see what’s going on there. We might go out today, too, if the mood strikes.

Our Regent cruise was pretty busy, as we had excursions every day that took up several hours. Most of them involved a lot of walking, which was good for me. But when you aren’t used to being around a lot of people on a daily basis, it can get kind of tiring. Also, I’m still doing some hacking and wheezing from my recent cold.

We managed to say goodbye to our friends, Ger and Gail, whom we met on SeaDream in 2011. We also said goodbye to a nice Scottish couple from Dundee we met on our Tallinn tour. Unfortunately, the husband had a health issue that required him to use Regent’s medical facility. He said it cost about $6000! I didn’t ask what the issue was, as it was none of my business. He did look relatively well as he was walking off the ship. I had heard about insane prices for cruise ship medical care, and Regent is an American line. Still, what a shock! He says his insurance will pay when he makes a claim. I sure hope so!

The other couples we met were also from Europe– two from Germany and one from Belgium. We spent no time talking with our countrymen. I will delve more into that when I begin writing my series for this trip.

We almost skipped yesterday’s excursion to Bornholm, which would have been a mistake. I think it might have been my favorite of all the places we went. I could see myself coming back there for a vacation and exploring the island. But I was tired yesterday, and the excursion didn’t start until 4PM. I’m glad I stuck it out and went on the tour, even if the guide wasn’t the best speaker I’ve ever heard.

I may start writing my series today or tomorrow, if the mood strikes. But for now, I think I’m going to take a nap. 😉

The featured photo is our view from the west wing of the Clarion Airport Hotel in Copenhagen, Denmark. It’s a nice view, isn’t it?


The cruise portion of our vacation is now winding down…

We will be disembarking from Regent Seven Seas Splendor tomorrow morning, and heading to an airport hotel in Copenhagen. Originally, I had planned to book a stay in town, but decided it would be easier to base us near our airport and take Copenhagen’s handy public transport into town. I think I was having trouble deciding which hotel would be best for us and finally just said “fuck it”.

Overall, we’ve had a really great trip! There have been a few minor annoyances, but in the grand scheme of things, this has been a wonderful Scandinavian holiday. I just wish I hadn’t gotten sick. I’m mostly better now, but I’ve had a cough and congestion all week, and there’s a scab under my nose from all the nose blowing. I’m certainly not the only one who got sick, though. I’ve been hearing people hack and wheeze all week.

Now that I’ve tried Regent, which is regarded as a true “luxury” cruise line, I’m ready to do a comparison of our cruise experiences so far. In some ways, this cruise was very luxe. In other ways, it wasn’t so much. No matter what, we’ve done a lot of eating, enjoying of adult beverages, discovering new places that need further exploration, and crossing off bucket list items. I feel relaxed, and ready to get back to everyday life. I especially look forward to seeing Noyzi.

Today, we’re on an island off of Denmark called Ronne. Our excursion starts at 4PM and runs until about 8. I kind of want to skip it, because I’m a little toured out, but that would probably be a mistake. So we’ll check out Ronne, then come back and finish packing up so we can move on to the next hotel. In retrospect, maybe it would have been better to go home tomorrow, since it’s not so far. But, I hate to pass up the chance to see Copenhagen. I don’t know how enthused we’ll be about it, but maybe I’ll get some pictures.

As they say in Britain, “ta ta for now”…

Finland, Latvia, Regent Seven Seas Cruise Lines

The big decision has now been made… (cross-posted)

Again, cross-posted on the main blog… The featured photo was taken on the car ferry from Denmark to Germany, back in 2019.

Yesterday, I wrote about my apprehension about booking a cruise. I termed it a “true first world problem.” Aye– as my Scottish ancestors would say– that it is. Twenty-four hours ago, as I was pondering whether or not I wanted to spend big bucks on a luxury cruise in the Baltic region, I started looking for alternatives.

A friend of mine had suggested touring the Norwegian fjords on Hurtigruten, which is, of course, a perfectly good suggestion. However, if I had decided to go for the fjords, that would have completely negated using the champagne bucket to choose where to go. The Norwegian fjords are a place I’d love to see the right way, and a cruise is probably the right way to go. But it wasn’t one of the choices for this particular trip. Moreover, I never asked for alternative suggestions.

I still decided to look into the Norwegian fjords experience and found that besides Hurtigruten, there’s another line that does cruises along the fjords. Maybe at some point we’ll pull the trigger on that. I did look into short cruises in Norway for the days we’ll be there, but they aren’t very convenient to our plans.

After a short while, I stopped researching travel possibilities, and turned my attention to my guitar, which badly needed new strings. I don’t play it so often that I routinely change the strings. But, it had gotten to the point at which I had forgotten when I had last changed them. The old ones were starting to get discolored, and weren’t staying tuned well. So, as much as I hate changing the strings, but love the results of changing them, once they stretch, I knew it was a job that urgently needed doing. I had just put one string on when my phone rang.

It was someone from Regent Seven Seas Cruises calling. I felt confident in answering, since I knew Bill was already agreeable to my booking the cruise, once we confirmed the correct price. The cruise specialist, whose name is Andrea, is from Germany. She thought I was German too, and was speaking German to me, even though I had made contact in English. I didn’t realize it, but the voicemail on my phone is in German… No one ever calls me, so I didn’t know. I thought the call was coming from Germany, but actually, it was a U.S. based call that somehow looked like it came from Germany.

Andrea and I got to talking, and it turns out she lives in Florida, which is where Regent is based. She’s been there since 1991. I always find myself bonding with Germans in the U.S., since I’m an American in Germany. As we discussed the cruise, we talked about how we ended up in each other’s countries. In many ways, Germany is kind of like the U.S., but I find that the U.K. feels more like home to me than Germany does, even though people drive on the other side of the road and kids wear uniforms to school.

Andrea said that my request went to her, because I am in Germany. She handles all clients from Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, even though she’s based in Florida. It was still very early in the morning where she lives when we were talking– maybe 5:30AM! Nevertheless, she was wide awake and friendly. I guess she’s a morning person like Bill is. All of our documents are in German. Andrea says there’s nothing she can do about that, since I’m in Germany. Google Chrome will save us, I’m sure…

It didn’t take long for Andrea to sell me on Regent. I put down a deposit on the cruise. I would have just paid for the whole thing, since the cruise is coming up in June, but I used my credit card with a lower limit, and the whole cruise costs more than the limit is. I used that card rather than the other one, because I knew it was less likely to get declined for “suspicious activity”. Both of my cards usually have zero balances. I rarely use them because it took me forever to pay them off when we were less affluent. The deposit didn’t raise any red flags, which made me feel confident about using my card (mistake).

Bill got home later and I proposed booking the flights. I was thinking of flying into Stavanger or Bergen, since we had never been to either of those beautiful towns, and we have been to Oslo. But it turned out there weren’t any flights that worked with boarding Noyzi and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. Like… there was an attractive flight that would have worked, except it left at 10:30AM, and that wasn’t enough time to get Noyzi to the Hundepension and get ourselves checked in at the airport. So, Oslo it is…

I had no idea that Norway’s cities were so far apart. Stavanger looks like it’s not that far from Oslo, but it’s a seven or eight hour car ride or train trip. Bergen, likewise, is hours away by car or train. There are cheap flights available, and we may decide to avail ourselves of one, just so we can get a feel for a city other than Oslo. But, we did also enjoy visiting Oslo when we were there in 2009, and that was at a time when we had a lot less money.

Oslo is also closer to Stockholm, which is where we will be meeting the ship. We haven’t seen anything in Stockholm except the cruise port, which is where our first Baltic cruise in 2009 ended. It was a four night “short break” on Royal Caribbean, and we started in Oslo and stopped in Tallin and Copenhagen, then ended in Stockholm. We couldn’t enjoy the city, because Bill had a conference in Garmisch-Partenkirchen the next day. So, we hopped a plane to Munich. I spent the next week taking tours out of the Edelweiss MWR Lodge while Bill tended to his Army duties. We had flown to Oslo from Munich, and when we got back to the parking garage, the car battery was dead, necessitating a call to ADAC. Plus, our bags didn’t make the flight, and had to be brought to us in Garmisch.

This time, we will end in Copenhagen, a city we’ve been to twice, but haven’t had much of a chance to really enjoy. The first time, it was on that short cruise, that only allowed a few hours in town. The second time was in 2019, when we were passing through on our way home with our new car and stopped for a night of rest as we continued onward to Rostock, Germany. This trip will at least give us a full day to enjoy Denmark. We’ll spend a couple of nights there before coming home on July 2.

So, off I went to Lufthansa to book our flights, after confirming with Bill which ones we wanted. I input all of the information, then tried to use my trusty credit card to pay. Sure enough, it was declined. I called up PenFed and explained that I was trying to book my vacation. I should have probably asked them to raise the limit on that card, too. Maybe next time I call…

The tickets are now booked. All I have to do now is decide on hotels in Norway and Denmark and maybe book transportation to Stockholm. A flight from Oslo takes an hour, but a train is much more scenic and is about five hours of fun. 😉 Oh… and I also need to choose excursions and restaurant reservations for the cruise, since they are included in the fare.

It’s hard to believe, just a few days ago, I was agonizing over all of this. It’s all coming together now, like magic. I wasn’t planning to do a cruise, but this may turn out to be a bit of a Godsend. If it turns out we really love any of the places we see, we can come back and do a land based tour, as I originally planned. They are now building a railway in the Baltics that will make it a lot easier to travel there. And I do want to go and spend more than a few hours. We already know we like Tallinn from our 2009 trip, and Bill enjoyed Riga when he went.

I know… first world problem, and maybe I should be ashamed of myself for writing about it. But, at least this isn’t a cranky complaint post about politics or similarly unpleasant topics.

For those who are curious, here’s a video highlighting the ship we’re going to be on. Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s not like you don’t get a lot for the money. This is also not our usual style. We normally prefer much smaller ships, and that generally means the ships we’re on are usually much older. Splendor was built in 2020. Hebridean Princess, by contrast, was built in 1964 as a car ferry and later became a cruise ship in 1989. SeaDream I was built in 1984. I think Vision of the Seas is 1998 vintage, and I’m not even sure if it’s still in service.

A new experience for us… revisiting the region where we had our very first cruise. This time, we’re taking more time and spending way more money!
We booked a Concierge Suite.

Again, I chose this entirely for the itinerary, and the fact that it’s an all inclusive cruise. I’m not a Regent cheerleader, and I’m not sure we’ll give up small ships for this. But then again, maybe we will. We won’t know until we actually have the experience. At least now, I’ll have something new to write about on the travel blog!

By the way… I was very impressed by Andrea. I hope she’s a representative of most of the people who work for Regent. She seems pretty awesome… but then, maybe it’s because Germans demand it. 😀

trip planning

Dreaming about Danish delights in Denmark…

Well friends, it’s been another boring winter week in the land of COVID-19 restrictions and crappy weather. Bill was TDY during the work week, so I spent my days alone, doing a lot of reading and thinking. The news came out that Denmark was going to be the first European to end COVID restrictions. Given that we haven’t spent a lot of time in Denmark, and both of us are sick to death of the endless and ridiculous rules in Germany, I proposed to Bill that maybe a trip to Denmark may be in order.

Of course, since I am not interested in taking public transportation, a trip to Denmark would be a haul. But it is doable, as we drove through Denmark in 2019 when we picked up our new Volvo in Sweden. I thought it was a pretty country, and I would like to spend more time there. The only other time we’ve been was when we took a Baltic cruise in 2009 and Copenhagen was one of our stops. Last time we were there, we just spent an overnight. I am itching to travel, and ready to ditch face masks… especially the fucking FFP2s. So we’ll see. I’ll do some research to see where we might like to go. Either way, we’ll probably have to break up the trip with a stop in Germany. I think it would take us at least 8 or 9 hours to get there from where we live. Maybe we’ll turn it into a grand trip, since Norway and Sweden are reportedly also going to do away with mandates.

Aside from dreaming about Denmark, I also bought Bill a couple of funny aprons. I decided to replace his old one, because one of the ties broke off during a wash. Bill had said he would get one for himself, but acquiesced when I asked him if he had an issue with my choices. He laughed and said “no”, then added that if he bought himself an apron, it would probably be black with knives on it, or something. So I went looking, and sure enough, I found the apron pictured below within five minutes…

Yes, he’s holding a knife. I bought that for him some time ago. The comment on the apron translates to “Leave the recipe behind, I am a cook, not a chemist.”

Just as I was about to click away from the page, I noticed another apron that I knew Bill needed…

Bill is a Star Wars fan… I am not a Star Wars fan, but I knew he’d love this apron.

Yesterday, Bill raised the idea of maybe going into town and trying out the new BrewDog restaurant in Wiesbaden. But the weather today is positively terrible. It’s cold, windy, and rainy. And Germany, unlike its northern neighbors, continues to persist with oppressive COVID-19 rules which require even vaccinated people to be boosted and/or tested. I am triple vaccinated, but it’s just too much of a hassle to deal with the restrictions, just so we can drink beer downtown. So we stayed home, and Bill went out and got doughnuts, because I told him I wanted some yesterday. He was going to go to the train station to get them from Dunkin’ Donuts, but I told him to just go to the neighborhood bakery…

Not bad at all! I love doughnuts, especially on a Sunday morning. As you can see, we have Berliners, and choco-Brotchens, as well as regular chocolate covered doughnuts.

We’ll get to BrewDog eventually. Even Germans are getting fed up with the COVID rules that never seem to end. Eventually, the government will want people to spend money.

Arran is fine with us staying at home with him, though…

He sure was glad when Bill got home. So was I.

We were supposed to be going to Switzerland in the middle of the month, as Bill has a few classes planned at the Jung Institute that he was going to do in person. But because of Omicron, he decided to do the courses virtually. We were also going to see James Taylor next weekend, but that show was postponed until November. Hopefully, it will go on. I’m still waiting on a Keb’ Mo’ show that was supposed to happen in November 2020 and has been postponed three times. At this writing, it’s supposed to go on in May 2022. I look forward to it… if it happens.

Noyzi is still his adorable self, too… Every day, he becomes more attached. It does my heart good to see how much he’s changed. And now, when he needs something, he doesn’t hesitate to bark at us to wake us up. But he’s usually polite enough to wait until about 6:00am, if we haven’t already gotten up to tend to him.

Good thing he’s so cute.

Well, that about does it for this week. I hope that very soon, I can get back to sharing some really fun stuff. But for now, it’s gloomy. Even if COVID weren’t an issue, I wouldn’t want to go out in the yucky weather. The featured photo today is one I took in Copenhagen, back in June 2009. Those were the good old days. Maybe we can revisit them soon. We really need a change of scenery. We want our lives back, too.


Ten things I learned on our trip to Sweden, Denmark, and East Germany…

Well, it’s time once again to write one of my “ten things I learned” posts.  I always like to wrap up a long trip with a summary post.  It’s mainly for those who don’t want to wade through all my crap, but are interested in where I went and what I did.  I find it’s also useful for me to digest our travel experiences.  I keep reminding myself that I probably won’t always have these amazing opportunities to see the world.  So here goes…

10.  Volvo is now owned by a Chinese company.

I knew that Volvo was once owned by the American company, Ford, but I didn’t know that it was bought by Geely, which was founded in 1986 and is based in China.  I also didn’t know that Geely means “lucky” or “auspicious” in Chinese.

9.  Hygge is a special thing in Denmark.

Actually, it’s a special thing in Norway, too.  The word denotes a certain kind of coziness and comfort, particularly when it includes togetherness with other people.  I didn’t experience much Hygge during our one night in Copenhagen, but I can see how I might if I stayed there longer… or if we’d ventured into Denmark’s cool tree walk.

8.  Always follow up if you don’t get firm instructions regarding a meeting.

My husband, Bill, was kicking himself because he took our Volvo salesperson’s word for it when he was told they’d come get us at around 9:00am.  He never heard from anyone at Volvo itself.  Consequently, we were surprised when they sent a cab for us at 7:40am.  Fortunately, we were able to go to the factory later and get our new car.

7.  The Volvo Factory Experience is cool…

It was interesting to see how robots created the luxury wheels we’re driving now.  Volvo also doesn’t look like a bad place to work, if you can stand factory work, that is.  The factory was clean and surprisingly quiet.

6.  The Stasi Prison Museum in Rostock is closed for renovations.

I was bummed that we weren’t able to see the museum.  It was the one reason we decided to stay in Rostock for two nights instead of Copenhagen.  Oh well.  Rostock is a pretty interesting city anyway. I wouldn’t mind going back.  If we do go back, maybe we can see the museum then.  Or maybe we should just go to Berlin again and see the one there.

5.  East Germany is still pretty unspoiled and vacant compared to the west…

It was a pleasure to drive on the mostly open Autobahns, although I kept wondering what it must have been like there before and immediately after the Berlin Wall fell.  I think the former East Germany is fascinating.  I’d love to spend more time there.  And yes, I know East Germany doesn’t exist anymore.  I’m a child of the 80s.  Humor me.

4.  Leipzig is a very musical city.

I am ashamed to admit that I didn’t know Bach, Wagner, and Mendelssohn had connections there.  I will admit, though, that they aren’t composers I’ve studied much about.  Aside from the heavy hitting classical composers, Leipzig is home to a number of talented buskers and hosts its share of rock stars.  We got to see one up close in the hotel bar where we were staying.

3.  Bedbugs may or may not have bitten my leg…

And if a bedbug did bite me, it proves that bedbugs aren’t necessarily attracted to filth.  Even really nice hotels can have issues with them.

2.  German Apothekes are very helpful if you have a minor illness or health mishap.

I’m sure I knew this, of course.  I just don’t make it a habit of visiting them because as an American with on post shopping privileges, I can get my hands on a lot of over the counter drugs without having to talk to a pharmacist.  But if you’re on a trip in Germany and something bites you or you have minor aches and pains, a German Apotheke may be very helpful and worth a stop.

1.  Autobahns in East Germany have emojis to indicate the length of building projects.

Maybe they have them in the west, too, but I have never seen them.  They’re pretty cute!

This is pretty much how I feel when I encounter a Stau… especially if it’s caused by one of the neverending building projects over here.


Volvo, Mark Knopfler, and East German adventures… part five

Tuesday was to be our shortest day driving.  We planned to drive to Gedser, Denmark, where we would pick up our second ferry.  Unlike the first ferry ride, which only lasted about twenty minutes, this one would be almost two hours.  It would also cost about three times as much.  We left the city bright and early, at about 8:30am.  I got some pictures of Copenhagen’s rush hour, which seemed to include as many bikes as cars.  I thought the Dutch were bike happy.  They’ve got nothing on the Danes!

I wish we’d had a day to explore Copenhagen.  Maybe we’ll have another chance to do a proper visit.  Last time we were in Copenhagen, it was during a cruise.  I got some good photos, but no real feel for the culture.

The drive from Copenhagen to Gedser was very pretty.  I was thinking I’d like to explore Denmark’s countryside more.  I even noticed what appeared to be a “treewalk” in the distance as we drove on the highway.  These “tree walks” are opening up all over the place and they’re really fun and cool.  I see the one in Denmark doesn’t have a slide, like the one near Stuttgart has.  Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to stop for a visit, since we needed to catch the 11:00am ferry.  It was delayed, and the next ferry, at 3:00pm, was cancelled.

Pretty Danish countryside…

Danish “tree walk”.

Pretty impressive Danish engineering.

Once you drive your car onto the ferry, you have to go to the upper decks for safety reasons.  There, you can eat, surf the Internet, or hang out on the sundeck, where the wind will try to blow you off the boat.  I got a few photos from the trip.

Driving up to the toll plaza.


Into the ass of the boat…

When you buy your tickets, they give you vouchers to buy duty free tobacco.  Apparently, you’re supposed to smoke it all on the ferry…  Good thing I don’t smoke.

We saw one guy breaking the rules, hanging out with the vehicles.

A Lamborghini was next to us.

It was hard to stay topside, due to the high winds.

But you could have a buffet lunch, schnitzel, fish & chips, or sandwiches.


I had a schnitzel, which was surprisingly good, even if it was served with cocktail sauce instead of ketchup.

We landed in Rostock in the mid afternoon.  It’s a very pleasant East German city with kind of a dark past.


Part of the reason I wanted to go to Rostock is because there’s a very cool museum there.  Rostock is where many East Germans who were arrested for political crimes awaited trial.  There’s a prison there that was used until 1989.  I read about it in a book last year and somehow learned about the prison museum in Rostock.  There is also one in Berlin.  I was really hoping to visit it during this trip, but they are currently doing renovations and the museum is closed until next year.  Maybe we’ll get back there.  I did get some pictures of the outside of the prison, which I’ll share in the next post.

“Lovely” East German architecture.  It looked like it might have been refurbished.

Aside from East German horrors, Rostock is also a very charming port city with beautiful architecture, decent restaurants, and plenty of talented buskers on the streets, which are crammed with good shopping.  We chose to stay at the Radisson Blu.  Given another opportunity to visit Rostock, I don’t think I’d stay there again.  Right from the beginning, things got off on a perilous foot when Bill missed the turn for the parking garage.  He wound up driving into a “walking area”, earning a lot of dirty looks from locals, as well as the shame of embarrassment.

The hotel was undergoing some renovations during our visit, which I hope will include an updating of the rooms.  Our room was very large and had a nice view, but the decor was truly nightmarish.  It looked like the set designers of The Lion King threw up all over the interior, with loud colors, safari-ish accents, and stuff that was cool in the early 1990s.  Service was decent at this hotel, but our room had at least one dead outlet and the bed was extremely firm and uncomfortable.  Also, I’m not absolutely certain, but it’s possible that we might have picked up bedbugs there.  If we didn’t get them there, there’s a chance we got them in the next hotel, which is where we actually found a bug, as well as bites on one of my legs.  More on that in a future post.

Here are some pictures of the room.

Bill was excited about the trouser press in the closet.

That print on the wall gave me nightmares.

I didn’t think to take a picture of it, but our room had both a shower/tub and a stand up shower.

After we checked in, and Bill mentally recovered from the error he made in driving through the walkplatz, we took a walk around town.  I got more pictures.

Cool fountain near Rostock’s University, 600 years old this year.

A university building.

This busker was playing a song for the little kid, bravely approaching him.  It was super cute!  The weather was cool, so people were bundled up.  I wished I’d brought a jacket.

The Rathaus…

I didn’t get pictures of inside of the Marienkirche, because it appeared that they weren’t allowed.  However, it really is a beautiful church and is well worth a visit.  It even has an astrological clock.

The tower at the Marienkirche.


We were looking for dinner, but most places either didn’t have what we wanted or were heavily populated.  So we ate dinner at the hotel’s restaurant, L’Osteria.  It wasn’t bad, mainly because we were the only ones there until we were almost finished eating.

Bill had beef strips and shrimp with tagliatelle and spicy sauce.


I had salmon with creamy mashed potatoes and a cucumber salad with dill and a bit of vinegar.  It was surprisingly good, although the salmon was just a little overcooked.

For dessert, I had an apricot tart with salted butterscotch ice cream.

Bill had affogato– espresso with vanilla ice cream.

Probably my favorite part of the meal, though, was the focaccia bread, which was served warm with olive oil and some kind of black currant vinegar.  It was delicious!  They only had wines by the glass.  I think it was because of the renovations.  The bar area was totally dismantled, so it appeared that they had diminished ability to serve drinks.

“La Fontana” is one of the restaurants we encountered before we decided to eat at the hotel.  I didn’t want to go in there because the signs had typos.  Here’s a PSA for all of you readers.  There is no reason to use an apostrophe for simple plural words.  Apostrophes are mainly used to show possession.  I know it makes me sound like a freak, but I had a visceral reaction to this sign.  It also sparked a very interesting Facebook thread.

Sunset… I think it was at about 10:00pm.