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Baltic Cruise 2019: Germany

Sunday, September 15, 2019

When we woke up, we could tell that it was going to be a cold day.  This was the first day I wore flannel lined jeans. Little did I know that it would get even colder and I would wear them every port day afterward.

We went to breakfast.  When we got back, we found that our automatic door had locked us out of the cabin.  Somehow the “do not disturb” button had been pushed and the door meant it.  No disruptions, even by us!  Luckily, the room steward let us in.

I have in my notes that we skipped lunch but I’m not sure why.

We got off the ship about 2pm German time. Surprisingly they don’t have T-shirts in the terminal as we left.

While we waited for the tour, we ran into Terry who Tom had met last night.  She’s a veterinarian from Vancouver.

I had initially signed up for a tour of Berlin but the thought of 6 hours on a bus or train was too much so we signed up for…

Rostock by Tram & River Cruise (comes with a snack!)


What the description said:

Journey back in time and discover the highlights of the Hanseatic city of Rostock on a guided walk and take a relaxing cruise along the Warnow River. After a short transfer to the station, board an exclusive tram, which is still Rostock’s main transportation system and ride into the heart of the city. Your guided walk will take you to one of the oldest universities in Europe – the University of Rostock, founded in 1419 and built in Italian Renaissance style. Continue on a leisurely stroll through and explore the quaint shopping streets, which have flourished since the reunification Germany in 1990.You’ll see the 15th century Town Hall with its 18th century Baroque front structure, and St. Mary’s church built around 1398. Enjoy a guided tour of this church before spending some time at your leisure – time permitting. After reuniting with your guide, walk down to the jetty for a relaxing cruise along the Warnow River, transferring you back to Warnemunde. During your approximate 50 minute cruise, you’ll be served some typical snacks and refreshing German beer.

What really happened:

On the bus, we met our guide a young tour director, Johanna, a med student at the University of Rostock.

The tour was pretty much as advertised except we didn’t get to “enjoy a guided tour of this church”

We took a private tram ride through the city to New Market.

At City Hall, we saw a statue of a serpent.  Our guide said there used to be 4.

From https://www.rostock.de/en/sight.html?the-city-hall-serpent

Because of the serpent’s relation to wisdom, it is said that this was traditionally the favourite legend of the Mayor of Rostock.

The bronze serpent by the northernmost double entrance pillars of the city hall front building, in the Neuer Markt, still maintains the secret to its origin. Right at the heart of the city, however, it ‘lives’ an inconspicuous life.

The way serpents shed their skins all year round is a symbol of immortality. This animal in Rostock has already been through several ‘skinnings’ and rejuvenation treatments, The Baroque-style front building of the town hall was built in 1727/29. However, the first oral tales of the serpent only date back to the beginning of the 19th century. It is safe to say that the reptile is over 130 years old, as local historian and city archivist, Ludwig Krause (1863-1924) drew it in 1882. At the time, the limestone serpent was coiled completely around one pillar.

In 1927, the town hall facade was painted and the serpent, very poorly preserved at the time, was laid between the two pillars in a tubular shape made of cement. It has retained its original length of 1.3 metres. It lived through bomb attacks on Rostock, as the town hall was largely undisturbed (maybe because of the serpent), with the exception of the late Gothic council chamber, while most of the surrounding buildings were reduced to soot and ashes.

By 1989, the appearance of the concrete animal had changed for the worse. As the reptile had also been referred to as an eel, people did not attach much importance to advertising this type of fish, which was rare at the time. Since December 1993, it was determined that it was a snake (maybe a viper?) – made for the first time from weather-resistant bronze, but it soon lost its split tongue again. In 1997, the serpent was torn from its base and forgotten about (but found years later). The ‘Rostocker Volks­ und Raiffeisenbank’ bank paid for a new one in 1998. The person behind the idea and the project manager was Dr Hartmut Schmied. Sculptor Erhard John created a novelty mythical creature: a serpent with the tail of an eel, thereby uniting the two legends. The tongue of the bronze animal is also in the shape of a number 5, in Roman numerals –

it is already the fifth-generation serpent (at least) to grace the town hall. The new serpent was formally given the name Johannes in 1998 on the birthday of the city, the 24th June (the feast day of St John, ‘Johannes’ in German). Stroking its head is supposed to bring good luck.

Eel or serpent? This is the debate that has raged over and over again, in light of the most desolate conditions it has been kept in. Legend has it was used as an eel measure for smoked eel merchants who had stands near the pillars in the Neuer Markt. Another explanation links this eel with a supposed flood in 1841. An eel was left hanging between the pillars once the waters receded. However, the marketplace is 16 metres above the normal level of the Warnow River, so there would have been written sources mentioning such a flood.

The cobblestone with the year 1841 engraved on it (new paving of the market) originally lay between the two southernmost pillars of the town hall’s front building and was the reason for another pleasant yet unproven theory. In this year, the old fountain display on the Neuer Markt was demolished and the cast iron fountain was installed. During this process, there could well have been a flooding; the eel merchants and their ‘protégés’ would have been driven into a frenzy and the eels would have swum up to the town hall. The stone from 1841 now lies at ground level directly underneath the serpent.

Much more interesting is the possibility that the ‘eel serpent’ could have been a landmark for travelling craftsmen. Those who really had passed through Rostock on their travels would certainly have seen this serpent and would have been able to describe it. The idea of a household spirit in the form of a snake, as in Mecklenburg legends, cannot be excluded, as the serpent has been attributed in verse to a lot of good, and the city was always in need of good luck. As the council’s wine vault is behind the pillars, the idea exists of a ‘snake in brandy’ being used as a superstitious remedy for drunkenness, but this can be excluded; it would have been nothing more than self-mockery.

Dr J. Becker favours the idea of the serpent as a symbol of wisdom. It is possible that Zacharias Voigt, the architect responsible for the Baroque front building of the town hall, placed it there after its construction. With this new construction, the old ‘Jesus as the Judge of the earth’ painting (from around 1300) was concealed by the new ‘Justitia’ picture (oil, around 1750) next to the entrance to the council’s cellar. Therefore, the councilmen had to hold their meetings between the watchful and wise serpent and the admonishing Justitia.

However, most architects were also clever people and they knew how long building material would last and where symbols were best placed. It is highly likely that the ‘limestone mass’, described for the first time in the 19th century, was mounted quickly and simply. It is presumable that

the animal never was in a condition that could be well preserved. It is possible that folklorists, art historians and historians have been following the wrong paths for decades. However, the challenge has been set to find the ‘culprit’ before the city’s 800th birthday in 2018.

A good viewing spot would be Rostock Town Hall at the Neuer Markt, the front building of the town hall, the middle entrance between the pillars underneath the gryphon, to the left of the northern double pillars, at their base.


A man fell on cobblestones but said he was ok.

Despite the weather forecast being overcast, there was light rain.

St. Mary’s Church was Roman Catholic but is now Protestant, built in typical Notre dame style.

St. Mary’s Church, Rostock, in German Marienkirche, is the biggest of three town churches found in the Hanseatic city of Rostock, in northern Germany. The other two are St. Peter’s (Petrikirche) and St. Nicholas (Nikolaikirche). A fourth, St. James’ (Jakobikirche), was heavily damaged during the Second World War and subsequently demolished. St. Mary’s was designated in 1265 as the main parish church. Since the Protestant Reformation in 1531, it houses a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran State Church of Mecklenburg.

During the heavy air raids by the Royal Air Force in 1942, which lasted three days, much of Rostock was destroyed. The sexton of St. Mary’s, Mr. Bombowski, saved the church by decisive action. Although three incendiary bombs smashed through the roof of the tower, he extinguished the fire with the help from his daughter and a German auxiliary airforce commando.  The daughter died soon after of smoke inhalation.

Then the rain got even heavier

The man in the video above at 1:22 was playing the hurdy-gurdy.  That’s a stringed instrument that produces sound by a hand crank-turned, rosined wheel rubbing against the strings. The wheel functions much like a violin bow, and single notes played on the instrument sound similar to those of a violin.

We walked around University Square which is a no-traffic area.

At 1:33 in the slideshow is the Brunnen der Lebensfreude, known locally as the “Porn Fountain”.

A woman and her husband tried to get support for leaving this tour and getting a taxi back since the bus couldn’t come in here. Um, NO

We had some free time. No shopping in Germany on Sundays so went to McDonald’s. The image at the top of the page would have shown the McDonald’s in the strip of buildings if it were just a little longer to the left.

I tried to get the mango/banana shake that was featured on a flag outside. The trainee didn’t understand since he was speaking German and I was muddling by with English. I ended up with vanilla shake with green apple sundae sauce. Not too bad, all things considered.

Our group assembled back on the square (including the people who wanted to leave) and we walked further along to the wall portion/gate.

Riding on the next bus we saw that bounce house in the slideshow (above), then got to the river cruise boat. We took the PTAH (PIano Teachers After Hours on Facebook) photo.

We went to sit upstairs but it was very wet from the rain.

The next bus (number 34) people came on and Terry sat with us.

We somehow told her about my experience with Cushing’s. She, a vet, didn’t know people got that, just dogs.  She wished that they could do surgery on the dogs instead of medications.

There was going to be a festival that night with fireworks.

They dropped us off a bit away from the ship. We walked back past pier 7 and a group of people who looked like they might be something like a Jules Verne society.

Something about him on a sand sculpture.

The Viking Sky arrived. Seemed late to be arriving in port but not my problem!

Back on board, dinner was German night. I was a bit disappointed. No spaetzle, sauerkraut or bratwurst. They did have sauerbraten (not as tender as mine but I didn’t have to take a couple days to make it)

Tom went to a meeting, I organized today’s photos.

He brought “snacks” back. Cookies, cake, pizza, strudel…

We bid fond good-bye to Germany.  Tomorrow is a Sea Day.

My review from cruiseline.com:

Rostock: This was our first port and we did the NCL tour of Rostock by Tram & River Cruise.  The tour was ok but not great.  The Tram portion was good with lots to see.  Then, the walking part started.  Our guide was very knowledgeable about the history of this area.  Unfortunately, being Sunday, all the stores were closed.  It rained and some people wanted to leave the tour by taxi. On the River Cruise portion, there was not much to see.  It was mostly to get us back near the ship.  I say near because we were left on our own to get a taxi or walk back – it wasn’t a long walk, but still…

Getting to Scotland


Thursday, August 6, 2015

As these things go, of course Tom’s computer stopped working. There was a deadline to be met before we left and the HP PC was finally dead.

Michael had given Tom his old Mac from 2010.  There was nothing wrong with it, other than being several versions old.  I wanted to be able to easily transfer files to the Mac, in case I ever got the PC working again.  (Insert evil laugh here!)

I started upgrading the OS which seemingly took forever but work needed to be done so my 2015 Mac was commandeered.

Thankfully, all the important files are in the Dropbox so work could continue.

Most of this day was hectic, getting Tom set up on his “new” computer.  He’d had it for a while but never really used it.  Now, it was essential.

I knew we were flying through Amsterdam and this video started appearing on my Facebook feed.  I’m never a good flyer and I don’t think I could have made it though this Amsterdam storm:

Friday, August 7, 2015

The new/old mac finally finished the OS upgraded. Because this computer hadn’t been used with Dropbox before, it was taking forever to index files. We packed it up anyway. Who knows what kind of internet we would have in Scotland anyway.

I got my Mac back.  Hooray!  There had been some discussion of Tom using my computer on the trip and I’d take my older Macbook Air but that changed just before we packed up.  Hooray, again!

Earlier in the month, I’d had some biopsies done.  The one in that post was the one I was “traveling with”.  If anyone looked in my carryon bag, they’d see mostly bandages, Neosporin, other medical stuff.

Luckily, I’d checked out the temperature in Scotland and found that the high was usually about 60° so I’d packed actual long jeans and shoes instead of my regular sandals.

We left for the Dulles airport about 3.

There was some ticket confusion.  Our ticket said it was Delta, so the taxi driver dropped us off at the Delta area.  They sent us off to KLM instead.   The kind ticket agent moved us around so we could sit together – and checked our bag all the way through to Edinburgh.  Hooray!

I had been a bit worried about picking up our suitcase in Amsterdam and taking it to the next gate but that was no problem now.  Major yay!  A note for the future – our new dermatologist, the one who is doing the biopsies, travels often to Scotland and leaves from Philadelphia – direct to Glasgow.  If/when we get to go back, I’ll look into that or going from New York.

I followed directions and got through security just fine with no one finding my secret medical stash.  Tom, OTOH, had stuff in his pockets…

We still got to the gate with plenty of time to spare since our flight was at 5:30 Eastern Time.  The times are going to get confused since Amsterdam is 6 hours ahead and Scotland is 5 hours ahead.

Our flight was fine – one of those planes with 8 rows of seats across.  2 by each of the windows, an aisle, then 4 in the middle.  The seats were quite comfortable, near the restrooms, had USB jacks.  We got dinner and breakfast as well as a snack.

We arrived at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol at 6:42 am on Saturday (their time, 12:42 am our time).  We wandered around the airport a bit and came across V!ZZ!T D-Pier (the D-Pier means D Concourse).  This store is sort of an airport Walmart.  They seemed to have a bit of everything, including a small grocery store.  I could have gotten wooden shoes but decided against them.

From the T-shirt selection at V!ZZ!T, I learned that marijuana is legal in Amsterdam.  The local maps also showed exactly where the red light districts were located.  When I got home, I mentioned this to my mom who said that they’d been on a tour of Amsterdam which included the red light district.

Amsterdam is a brave new world but we weren’t there long enough to leave the airport!

Our “Delta” flight, AKA KLM left for Scotland at 9:55 am (3:55 my time).  I wasn’t sitting with Tom this time.  When filling out Customs paperwork, I noticed the passports of the 2 women I was sitting with.  One was from China, the other from Brazil – all of us on our way to Scotland.  What a small world we’ve become.

We arrived at Edinburgh Turnhouse Airport at 10:25 Scotland time – 5:25 am, my time.  Customs and Immigration were a snap, as was getting our suitcase.

The rental car was an absolute fiasco.  I had reserved one online through a company William Shatner advertises.  I didn’t know the names of any rental car companies in Scotland and the price of this one looked good so…

We went outside the airport and walked what seemed forever to the Car Rental Centre.  We got there and it was buzzing with people – probably all off our plane.  The circular enclosure was filled with car companies like Avis, Alamo, National, Hertz, Budget, all names I knew.  The name on my reservation wasn’t there anywhere.  Tom went to one of the desks and they had no cars available.  All the others had long lines.

The phone numbers on my reservation paper didn’t work, possibly because I was using my cellphone and calling from the states.

I left Tom with the bags and set off looking for a pay phone.  Finally found one by the far exit.  We had no coins so we tried using a credit card.  There was no central information number that we could find.  Basically, we got nowhere with the pay phone.

Tom went back in the building and was gone so long I was considering what my options were.  He finally came back and said he’d rented a car from Europcar, as well as a GPS.  The price was considerably more than our nonexistent other car.

It took quite a while to find where the car was located in the huge lot but we finally found “our” silver KIA.  Being a newer car, the windshield was slanted so the GPS couldn’t be used.  It didn’t talk anyway, so I’d have to be looking at it all the time.

We turned on the car and it had a built in GPS already – which did talk.  I set it up for where we were going – Macdonald Craigellachie Chalets, Dalfaber Village, Aviemore, Inverness-Shire PH22 1ST Scotland.  Naturally, It couldn’t find that so I settled for Aviemore PH22 1ST just to get into the vicinity.


It seemed we drove forever and there was lots of traffic, which the GPS called “Attention. Traffic situation ahead.”  Ok, how do we get out of it?  There’s no way out. 🙁

We stopped for lunch (or dinner, or breakfast?) at a Dobbie’s Garden Center we’d seen off one of the exits after we drove past the Kingdom of Fife and the Firth of Forth.

Dobbies Garden World Kinross had a nice little restaurant/tearoom and we got to sit by the window.  I ordered coffee americano which is your basic coffee with a shot of espresso.  I don’t really remember what I had to eat but I think it was a sandwich of some sort.

Continuing on the M90 we saw a guy in a roadster with no roof stopped by the side of the road with a huge golf umbrella covering him and the inside of car.  We also saw a couple people camped just off the highway.  Apparently, they were living there for a while because I got a picture of them and their tents when we were heading home a week later.

We got off the M90 towards Aviemore and started looking for the Macdonald Craigellachie Chalets.  We went by the  Macdonald Aviemore Hotel which wasn’t it. Our GPS took us through town.  We missed the turn, crossed a railroad crossing  and made a U-Turn near some sort of golf course.  We went down the little road and ended up in an industrial complex.  I guess that’s where the Aviemore PH22 1ST was.

When making the U-turn, I’d seen a dark brown sign similar to the one on the  Macdonald Aviemore Hotel and thought they might be related so we went back there.

That place was  Macdonald Spey Valley Golf & Country Club.  We parked and went inside to see if they knew where the Macdonald Craigellachie Chalets were.  The desk person didn’t know but asked someone else who said we were in the right place. Go figure.

Apparently, they call where we stayed Luxury Woodland Lodges at Macdonald Aviemore Resort.

Their description:

You’ll find our 4-star Luxury Woodland Lodges nestled amongst Macdonald Aviemore Resort‘s ancient Caledonian pine forests. Our 18 deluxe Highland lodges combine luxury with outdoor living; after a day of adventuring in the surrounding mountains, store your bike or skis in the woodshed, order a pizza delivery from Giovanni’s – our onsite Italian restaurant, and settle into your woodland home-from-home in front of a cosy wood-burning stove.

Enjoy long summer evenings with a drink on your private deck, take a stroll to one of the resort restaurants nearby or for the more energetic take a walk to the Craigellachie Nature Reserve. Alternatively guests have use of Spey Valley Leisure’s 25m indoor pool, complete with wave machine and flume.

Each of our lodges sleeps up to 6 people in three en-suite bedrooms. Lodges include:

  • Living Room with flat screen TV, DVD player
  • Gallery Kitchen with a 4 ring hob, microwave, fridge, toaster, Nespresso coffee machine, tableware and cutlery
  • Breakfast Table with 6 chairs
  • “All-in-one” cupboard with iron & board, high chair/travel cot for the “wee ones” and vacuum cleaner

Ground Floor – 1 King with WC, Bath and separate shower & 1 Twin with WC & Shower

First Floor – 1 Double with WC & shower

  • Beautiful pine forest setting
  • Sleep up to 6 people
  • Storage for bikes, skis etc
  • Luxury bathrooms with separate showers
  • Access to 25-metre swimming pool
  • Free Wifi Powered by The Cloud


My description is somewhat different.  Part of it will show up later in my Trip Advisor review.

First off, there were spiderwebs. Place could use some work. No phone, key didn’t work, Internet didn’t work.

We had trouble with the keys opening the door.  There was no phone, so Tom went back to the main building to get a maintenance person to help us.  The Maintenance Guy showed us how to work the keys. I figured out wifi. Still no phone.  I took some pictures of the exterior and interior.

It was so cold out and in.  I went in the various rooms and turned the little heaters on.  Only in the bedroom could we control the temperature.  The other rooms were on and off.  The bathroom was heated only by a heated towel rack.  I was picturing myself getting out of the shower, losing my balance and grabbing for something, that towel rack and being fried.

I was exhausted and took a little nap. Tom watched the  tv and it blew a fuse. We didn’t realize that until next morning when fridge, microwave didn’t work.

We ventured into town to go to the Tesco grocery store.  One of the first items I came across was haggis pizza which we didn’t get on general principle.

I was too tired for dinner so I just  had Scottish breakfast bread, similar to Bajan salt bread. Tom had popcorn.

At bedtime, I was still cold so I took the comforter from “Michael’s room”.  We called it that, even though we knew he wouldn’t be there.  That room ended up being our walk-in closet since there wasn’t much space anywhere else.



All pictures from today