Friday, 24 June 2016

2016 Trip to Europe - Day 15 - Helsinki, Finland



We awoke in the harbour of Helsinki. I must admit I
Helsinki Harbour
know next to nothing about these next three countries we will visit.

We took a “hop-on-hop-off” bus to get a general overview of Helsinki. It was a good choice. We were taken along the sea and through neighborhoods that had a quite affluent look. There were many apartment buildings, but no high-rises. Few buildings exceeded four stories. The architecture reminds me of parts of nineteenth century Budapest and Vienna, the yellow houses with white decorative trim.

Our guide told us that Finland, in addition to having a national health plan that covers all that country’s people for everything, birth to grave, also has a national education plan under which all education is free through university and post high school technical schools. No student ever has to pay a cent to attend school at any level. What a model to aspire to!

Sibelius Monument
We saw the highlights of the city, Sibelius Park, with a monument to that great Finnish composer. The monument, executed by a contemporary Finnish sculptor, looks like nothing so much as a collection of organ pipes standing helter-skelter next to each other in a large bunch. It seems the people of Helsinki were no more impressed than I, because they made him go back and insert a bust of Sibelius in among the pipes.

There is quite a lot of super-modern architecture
Finlandia Hall
tucked in here and there, particularly in public buildings. Finlandia Hall is one example, lots of glass and odd shapes.

It is always interesting to hear viewpoints on “the war” meaning WW2. These were voiced, unsolicited both in St. Petersburg and here. Finland managed somehow to remain neutral all through the war, so, according to our guide, was a hot bed for spying, as well as a refuge for those escaping from German held territories. Both the Russians and the Americans had Embassies here, in the same block for the duration of the war.

Lutheran Cathedral
The Lutheran Cathedral, visible from the harbour, is an imposing all white structure with columns and a dome, in the Senate Square.

They told us the other important church, the all brick Uspenski Cathedral near the harbour, is the largest Orthodox Church (I suppose meaning Russian Orthodox) church in
Uspenski Cathedral
Western Europe. The inside is ablaze with chandeliers and gilt and florid decoration.

After our sight-seeing we wandered through the market and bought a box of strawberries. These are small ones, a bit like the wild ones. They are sweet beyond belief!

****



Where Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowell
Blair McDowell's latest tale of Suspense  takes the reader to Italy's  beautiful Amalfi Coast.


"Adamo and Eve are two people who have both been through their own versions of hell. They are both certain that they are not ready to enter into a relationship, but love finds them anyway. Then it takes them on the non-stop thrill ride of their lives."
-   Marlene Harris, readingitall.com




 
When Eve Anderson meets Adamo de Leone on a ship bound for Europe, she has no idea of the dark secret that will endanger both their lives. She accompanies him to his home on Italy’s Amalfi Coast to open an inn left to him by his grandfather. But then she learns he spent 5 years in prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Could the man she loves be responsible for embezzling eighty million dollars from the investment firm he once owned?

Adamo wants to hold Eve at arm’s length until he can clear his proud family name. But when there is an attempt on his life and Eve is terrorized by a gun-bearing thug, he realizes how much he wants her, and he must accept whatever help he can get to uncover the well-hidden trail of a six-year-old crime.


Books of Blair McDowell
To review and purchase any of Blair McDowell's books, Click Here.
    

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

2016 Trip to Europe - Day 12 - Tallin, Estonia



Into every life a little rain must fall. And it did today. Cold, wind-driven rain that felt like icy needles as it blew into our faces and dripped down our hair into our clothing. Yes, we brought rain gear, and I have no idea why we didn’t have it ashore with us,  except the sun was shining when we started out. So my view of Tallinn may be a little skewed.


Overview of Tallin's Walled City
We took a taxi. We asked the driver to take us to a particular point in the old town, but he assured us we should start at the top of the high hill on which the old walled town is set and walk down. I’ve been in many walled towns, but Pompeii was the only one I’ve ever found as difficult for walking as Tallinn. To say the street and sidewalk surfaces were uneven would be a massive understatement. It was like trying to balance yourself on large marbles – large WET marbles.  

Old Town, Tallin
The point at which our driver put us down was a magnificent square with two churches, one of which was very much what I would consider to be in the Russian style, with large colorful onion domes, the other, with a more traditional steeple. Both quite beautiful. After visiting them (the insides were not as ornate as the outsides, but were interesting), we started our treacherous path downward as the rain began to come in earnest. By the time we reached the market square in the middle of the old town we were seeking shelter of any kind. We found it in an outdoor café with heaters, under large umbrellas between which the proprietor had strung large plastic sheets. Odd, but effective. There we downed good hearty hot soup and waited in vain for the rain to lessen. It only got worse. Finally we set out on foot again. We came through an area of interesting artisan shops and then to our great joy found a taxi.


He took us as far as the entrance to the terminal. He wasn’t able to take us into it or anywhere near our ship. We were told later only specified cab companies have that privilege. So we had about a four block walk facing into the increasingly cold bitter wind and rain, before we arrived at our dock.  A hot shower and a nap later we were restored to some sort of comfort level. 

I think Tallinn is a beautiful little town and I wish we had been there on a sunny warm day. But we HAVE seen it more or less. We have some sense of its charm. I would recommend a visit to it to anyone who can make the journey.

****

Where Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowell
Blair McDowell's latest tale of Suspense  takes the reader to Italy's  beautiful Amalfi Coast.


"Adamo and Eve are two people who have both been through their own versions of hell. They are both certain that they are not ready to enter into a relationship, but love finds them anyway. Then it takes them on the non-stop thrill ride of their lives."
-   Marlene Harris, readingitall.com




 
When Eve Anderson meets Adamo de Leone on a ship bound for Europe, she has no idea of the dark secret that will endanger both their lives. She accompanies him to his home on Italy’s Amalfi Coast to open an inn left to him by his grandfather. But then she learns he spent 5 years in prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Could the man she loves be responsible for embezzling eighty million dollars from the investment firm he once owned?

Adamo wants to hold Eve at arm’s length until he can clear his proud family name. But when there is an attempt on his life and Eve is terrorized by a gun-bearing thug, he realizes how much he wants her, and he must accept whatever help he can get to uncover the well-hidden trail of a six-year-old crime.


Books of Blair McDowell
To review and purchase any of Blair McDowell's books, Click Here.
    



Monday, 20 June 2016

2016 Trip to Europe - Day 11 - At Sea in the Baltic

Day 11 - At Sea

Map of Baltic Sea
We have a day at sea. We’re in the Baltic, a sea the Captain informed us is lined by nine countries. Germany, Poland, Lithuania and Latvia are to the south of us, Sweden, Finland and Russia are to the north. The other two? Denmark, of course, and Estonia. The Baltic, like our own Strait of Georgia, is modified salt water. Fresh-water rivers from the surrounding countries keep it that way.

I love sea days. I’m never quite as happy as when I can’t see land in any direction. 

Prinsendam Crow's Nest
I haven’t said much about the ship we’re on, the Prinsendam, the smallest of the Holland America Line. It carries something between six and seven hundred passengers. While I’m not a fan of cruise ships this one doesn’t seem too crowded or too big. It’s an older ship with numerous quiet corners and comfortable chairs facing the sea, both inside and on its decks. My favorite spot is the Crow’s Nest, a wide-windowed bar at the very back of the ship, with deep leather chairs facing the sea and a charming young woman who brings me a double Calvados before dinner each evening at sunset.

Tomorrow we arrive in St. Petersburg.

****


Where Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowell
Blair McDowell's latest tale of Suspense  takes the reader to Italy's  beautiful Amalfi Coast.


"Adamo and Eve are two people who have both been through their own versions of hell. They are both certain that they are not ready to enter into a relationship, but love finds them anyway. Then it takes them on the non-stop thrill ride of their lives."
-   Marlene Harris, readingitall.com




 
When Eve Anderson meets Adamo de Leone on a ship bound for Europe, she has no idea of the dark secret that will endanger both their lives. She accompanies him to his home on Italy’s Amalfi Coast to open an inn left to him by his grandfather. But then she learns he spent 5 years in prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Could the man she loves be responsible for embezzling eighty million dollars from the investment firm he once owned?

Adamo wants to hold Eve at arm’s length until he can clear his proud family name. But when there is an attempt on his life and Eve is terrorized by a gun-bearing thug, he realizes how much he wants her, and he must accept whatever help he can get to uncover the well-hidden trail of a six-year-old crime.


Books of Blair McDowell
To review and purchase any of Blair McDowell's books, Click Here.

    



Friday, 17 June 2016

2016 Trip to Europe - Day 10 - Travemunde and Lubeck



Day 10 - Travemünde and Lübeck 

Travemunde Port
Our boat docked at Travemünde, a charming small waterfront town with beautiful wide golden sand beaches.  In the warm sun -- it was well above 26 C -- people were both sunbathing and swimming. Swimming in the Baltic Sea? I suppose it was no colder than Lake Huron. 

They had warned us on the ship that there would be no taxis available at Travemünde.  While I hate being part of any tour group, for Lübeck, a forty minute drive from where the ship docked, it appeared to be necessary.  We opted for a ship-arranged tour of Lübeck, a three hour guided walking tour followed by a one hour canal boat ride. It proved to be a good choice. 

Why should we even want to see Lübeck? Because we are musicians and were both reared on the story of how Johann Sebastian Bach, as a young man, walked 400 kilometres to Lübeck, to hear the great organist and composer, Buxtehude, who was organist and choir directed at the Marienkirke , St. Mary’s Cathedral.

Marienkirke, Lubeck
For us it was a sentimental voyage only. The church and the Buxtehude organ were quite needlessly destroyed in a bombing raid in the final days of WW II. The Germans had bombed the magnificent Coventry Cathedral in England, a wanton act of destruction of a site with no strategic importance. The Allies retaliated by reducing to rubble the medieval walled town of Lubeck, complete with its original Buxtehude church and organ. Another wanton act of destruction. Tit for tat. The “he hit me first” mentality one finds among first graders on any playground. What were they thinking? 

There were a few buildings and parts of buildings left, a part of the Marienkirke, but not the great organ. The church was rebuilt in the original design, entirely of brick, even to the vaulted ceilings, and a new organ was installed. There is a plaque on the wall commemorating the historic meeting between Buxtehude and Bach. The beautiful twin steeples of the Marienkirke can be seen from miles away.

After the war the town was repaired and rebuilt. Some of the old buildings remained and were restored, some were rebuilt in the style of the old ones, and some were built in a modern, box and glass style. The result is rather disconcerting. One architectural type of structure unique to Lübeck is the, for want of a better word, the “back alley” house. In the middle ages people rented out their
Lubeck Back Yard Houses
small back yard spaces to other, poorer people, who put wooden shacks up on them. Over the centuries these tiny houses became first brick and then two story – one small room on each floor. Today these miniature houses in the middle of the old city sell for about a hundred fifty thousand euros. They can be reached only though narrow arched walkways between houses. We were told that getting even small simple furniture into them is a challenge. In the fourteen hundreds when these houses were turned from wood to brick, every brick was handmade and laid out in the sun to dry. Animals, cats, dogs, probably rats, walked across them leaving their footprints to be seen in the bricks for the next millennia.   

Lubeck has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Lubeck Canal
We ended the tour with a pleasant boat ride on the wide canal that encircles the town. And we bought a basket of dark, ripe strawberries in the market square. Not a total loss.


****


Where Lemons Bloom by Blair McDowell
Blair McDowell's latest tale of Suspense  takes the reader to Italy's  beautiful Amalfi Coast.


"Adamo and Eve are two people who have both been through their own versions of hell. They are both certain that they are not ready to enter into a relationship, but love finds them anyway. Then it takes them on the non-stop thrill ride of their lives."
-   Marlene Harris, readingitall.com




 
When Eve Anderson meets Adamo de Leone on a ship bound for Europe, she has no idea of the dark secret that will endanger both their lives. She accompanies him to his home on Italy’s Amalfi Coast to open an inn left to him by his grandfather. But then she learns he spent 5 years in prison for a crime he claims he didn’t commit. Could the man she loves be responsible for embezzling eighty million dollars from the investment firm he once owned?

Adamo wants to hold Eve at arm’s length until he can clear his proud family name. But when there is an attempt on his life and Eve is terrorized by a gun-bearing thug, he realizes how much he wants her, and he must accept whatever help he can get to uncover the well-hidden trail of a six-year-old crime.


Books of Blair McDowell
To review and purchase any of Blair McDowell's books, Click Here.