Worrall Travel R's - Kicking the Bucket List

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Following our Dreams and Kicking the Bucket List.  Started on a yacht, now it's planes, trains, Trailblazer 5th wheel, camels, rickshaws.  Exploring our wonderful world.

Our Mantra:
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”
~ Mark Twain

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 46, July 26 - into Lithuania

Saturday, July 26 - Paddling in Latvia - Borscht in Lithuania

After a very relaxing afternoon and evening canoeing and enjoying some wine at the "ranch" in Latvia, we continue to skip through the countryside to a small lake TrakaiVilnius, Lithuania.. We will circle back to Latvia at the end of our Baltic exploration when we return the rental car to Riga, Latvia and our flight to Warsaw. Soon we will be crossing another border into Lithuania. We have found a radio station this morning that seems to have choral folk songs. Our road trip across Latvia is enhanced by the music, even though we have no idea what the words are or the language it is. I guess that is the beauty of music, melody, and harmony. It has it's own global language.

The border into Lithuania is so nondescript, we don't even realize that we have crossed over until we check our gps location on our offline map. Thank goodness for our geocache mapping program. The maps are not as specific as Internet maps, but good enough. We do not have internet while we travel and are dependent on Cafe or accommodation wifi.

The first little town, Varasai, is situated on a bluff above a pretty blue lake. A circular lakeview walk way spirals down to lake level. It's a good time to stretch our legs. Our trip today is slow and dusty because of summer roadwork.

We find our AirBnB on Lake Trakai and meet our host Tomas at his lakefron home.. We are his first ever guests. It is warm today and he is making us a cold borscht soup for dinner before leaving for a hot air balloon excursion that he is leading for tourists. We are loving meeting all of these interesting people.

The borscht is delicious (pickled beets, smalled diced cucumber, onion, hardboiled egg, dill, milk, and keifer).  When Tomas leaves, we clean up and take an evening swim in the lake.  It is cooler and clearer than last night's lake.

All is well with the Worrall Travel Rs on Lake Trakai in Lithuania

Days 45, A night at "Canyon Ranch" in Latvia

Log Housekeeping Cabins - Canyon Ranch in Latvia

Friday Morning, July 25

Signe prepared crepes with cream cheese, fruits and jellies for breakfast before we took our leave around 10:00 am. We headed south from Tartu towards Latvia,, leaving the predominantly blond headed people and flat lands behind. The countryside south of Tartu developed some rolling hills and by the time we crossed the border into Latvia, the road undulated through small hills and valleys. While many people ae fair haired, we see many more people with darker heads of hair and many red heads. Not sure if the reds are natural or not as most of them are women. The building structures look much as they did in Estonia. Newer buildings are bricked. Older buildings are often plaster or unpainted wooden buildings. Churches vary more from the single tall steeple to two symmetrical steeples on eithe side of the enty door. Latvians have their own language, but unlike the Estonians who have reclaimed their native language as primary, the Latvians seem to speak primarily Russian.

Crossing the border was a non-event. We took a photo of what was once a stately border crossing building. Now it sits empty, with no sign of human life around as we whizzed across the border. It is quite nice not having to go through immigrations and customs in each country that has signed onto the Schengen agreement. It is disappointing though not to collect stamps for these countries into our passports. At one point just prior to crossing the border into Latvia, we could have turned left and crossed into Russia, but make sure we turn right!

Our Airbnb stop tonight is going to be a lakeside resort with log housekeeping cabins, so we stop in a town with a market to buy some dinner and breakfast provisions. The only other stops were to take photos of things we thought were quaint and to find a geocache in the old White Castle in a rural countryside that is in a terrible state of disrepair.

After seeing the end products of reconstruction on several Russian palaces nearly demolished in WWII, we know it can be done, but it sure looks hopeless. Thank goodness there are people who can envision it back to grandeur and are willing and capable of doing so. This castle however, perhaps due to its location in the middle of nowhere or perhaps the lesser nobility of the aristocrats, it dosen't look like reconstruction is fully funded or eminent. If it hadn't been for the geocache, we would not have even found the place.

Late in the afternoon, we arrived at Latvia's "Canyon Ranch" in Berzgale. We got a little choked up as memories of Mom and Dad and their place in Sierraville bubbled to the surface. There are four new red roofed log cabins situated in a meadow by a large pond with a fishing deck. On the opposite side of the road from the pond, the owners have a farmhouse and professional kennel built on a knoll overlooking a beautiful lake. Storks are plentiful here, and there is a nest in fron of the farm house with five large birds, the parents who fly off, and three large juveniles who flap their wings, but do not fly from the nest. Irena tells us they migrate to Africa in the winter.

The owners Irena and Anatole raise Malmutes for dog sledding. They have nine for their own team and breed them to sell puppies. There are no puppies here today, but the Malmutes sing to us in howl harmony when we walk close to the farmhouse. The kennels are clean and the dogs well kept. The cabins are winterized and we can just imagine this area in the snow, frozen lakes, and guests with visiting dog sled teams (kennels by each cabin) dashing through the meadows and forested roads in the winter.

Once we are settled in our cozy little cabin, we changed into our swim suits and walk across the road to the lake. After a brief swim to cool off (temp in high 80's) we use the little red guest canoe to paddle around the lake, take a small walk with our neighbors from Saint Petersburg who speak very little English, but enough to invite us to see an old peasant house. We enjoy their company, but cut our hike short when the biting flies and mosquitoes begin to attack us at the peasant house. We scurry back to our cabins. After showering and applying cortisone to our bug bites and some repellant, we sit by our cabin with a glass of shiraz and watch the sunset, before we eat dinner and snuggle up in our beds.

All is Well with Worrall Travel Rs

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Days 42-43, Estonia - Tartu, KGB, Peipsi

No Horizon line on Lake Peipsi - Marina looks suspended in space.

I am writing this blog as we sail on the Peipsi Barge at sunset up river and downriver from Tartu on the Emajogi (Mother) River. Summer swimmers are still in the water as the sun sinks behind the lat horizon at 10 pm. It is our last night in Tartu and in Estonia. Tomorrow, we head into Latvia.

Day 42 - July 23, From Tallin to Tartu

We spend most of the day traveling through gently undulating farm lands of greens and gold, oats and wheat, and deep green forests along the fringes. Estonia is quite flat with beautiful fields but a fairly short growing season. One of our along-the-way leg stretches is a short walk to Jargala water falls. It is Estonia's biggest and best in the winter when frozen. Today it it's width is greatly reduced with the summer water flow, and it's height is about 2 stories high, very little drop in elevation as it lazily meanders to the sea.

About 3:30 we arrive in Tartu and make our way to our AirBNB which is in tattered 1930's era building that belies the inside loveliness of a spacious apartment with beautiful pine wood flooring. Our host is Signe who is home while her husband and 4 daughters are off camping at their rustic summer cottage.

Signe takes us for a walk to old town Tartu, only five minutes away, and orients us in the city and helps us to pick out a cafe for dinner. We settle in an outdoor. eating area in the plaza in front of town hall at Pierres and order a salad and main dish. We are ovrewhelmed with huge portions. We could have shared and still had plenty. The food was excellent. We both ordered pasta bakes. Russ had smoked chicken and broccoli. I had shrimp, salmon, and spinach. Both were in a creamy white sauce-penne pasta base with broiler browned melted cheddar. Yumyum. Good thing we are doing a lot of walking.

Day 43 - July 24 Tartu, KGB Museum, Lake Peipsi, and Historic barge sail.

Signe prepared a wonderful breakfast for us of , rich brown breads with buter and cream cheese, water melon, scrambled eggs, fruit smoothies and coffee. After our hardy breakfast we went for a long walk in and around Tartu which is home of a large and prestigious University. The school is quiet during the summer and we are delighted with the wide open, lightly used parks, streets, and walkways....definitely not touristy like Tallin. Love it.

Our first stop is the KGB Cells, dungeon. The dark grey building we walk to used to be the home of KGB in Estonia. The museum is downstairs in the dungeon where anti-soviet thinkers were tortured and sent to Siberia. Estonia, under threat of war and hostile invasion by Russia, naively signed an agreement of non-aggression with the Russians in 1938, that presumably gave Russia permission to build military basis in Estonia in exchange for not being invaded by the Russians. Well, once the bases were being built, the Russians rolled in and took over anyway. Estonia, thought their best alternative to expel the Russians was to align with Germany during WWII. Much of Estonia suffered severe damage during the war, and afterwards, was given back to Russia in 1944, to suffer even more.

Of course, the country was reeling from the war and devastating loss of independence. Anti-soviet dissent was on the rise and the dissenters were interrogated, tortured, and sent to gulags in Siberia. The museum is a grim but necessary reminder of Soviet oppression and KGB ruthless assault on humanity. Keep in mind that Vladimir Putin was a KGB Lieutenant Colonel for 16 years before going into politics 1991 when the USSR collapsed. Are we seeing history repeat itself as Putin longs for the "good old days" ? The people of Estonia go about their daily business, but there is concern and tension. Signe reported one sighting of Russian fighter plans over Tartu a while back.

We spent the remainder of the early afternoon wandering old town Tartu. One of the old buildings leans more than the tower of Pisa and is supported by a neighboring building with 2 iron cross beams. There are beautiful green parkways along the river where pre-WWI buildings stood before being bombed.

In the late afternoon we drive forty minutes out of town to visit Lake Peipsi. Similar to Lake Tahoe, there is a border running somewhere through the Lake separating Estonia from Russia. Russian patrol boats chase out those who stray in to perceived Russian territory. Getting a view of the lake by driving along the frontage road is difficult as there are tall marsh reeds growing around the perimeter. We drive through a winding string of homes for mikes until we reach a marina where we finally get a view of the lake. There is a haze that obliterates the horizon and the sky. The marina looks as if it were floating in mid air. We wade in to the warm shallow water before returning to Tartu.

Once we return and eat dinner at MacDonalds, our hamburger fix, we board the Peipsi Historic Barge at 8:00 pm for a sunset cruise.. It's been another lovely day.

All is well with the Worrall Travel Rs

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Days 40-42, July 21-23, Tallin Estonia

Monday, July 21

We arrived in Estonia, rented our car and headed toTallin city mid afternoon. There is a different feeling here. The area is not as economically ahead as Finland and Sweden, and seemingly a bit more disorganized at least in terms of car rental experience even though it is with the same company we have been using.

When we arrive in Tallin, the streets are quite confusing, particularly at the intersections and could use some roundabout updating where four or more streets intersect. We know where we want to go, but every street leading to the guesthouse has no entry posted. We finally ignore the one no entry sign, weave past street construction to arrive at a very stern looking building. Not sure this looks appealing, but it is very centrally located, and after check-in which was also a bit disorganized seems fine. We are given a double room and share a wc and separate shower with four other rooms. Not great, but for $50.00 a night it's clean, well located, provides breakfast and hs a locked courtyard for the car.

We hole up in our room the rest of the day taking care of electonic business.

Tuesday, July 22 - Tallin

We spend the day enjoying the old medieval city of Tallin, surrounded in part by still and existing wall and towers. The only drawback are the cruise ships disembarking 4-6000 people a day into the area. Throngs of people clog the narrow streets. Nevertheless we wove around and through them all through the city visitings points of interest. Prices here are notably less than sweden, Finland and Russis. Beautiful bouquets of flowers and shopping bag of pasteries and fruits can be purchased for 5-8 Euros.

This past weekend, there was an international choir competition in the Baltics. Our highlight today was the opportunity to hear the Russian choir in one of the churches at noon. The singing and acoustics were wonderful.

Anout 2:00 pm we found ourselves a quiet garden restaurant at the Merchant House Hotel, where we spent nearly three hours, drinking wine, eating, and using a fairly fast wifi. When we left the restaurant the hoards had subsided towards the signalling ships, and we were able to walk comfortably through the streets retracing some of our original steps where we were in throngs earlier in the day.

Another great day!

Wenesday, July 23 - Off to Tartu

We are just about redy to leave for the day and heading for Tartu. More later.

All is Well with the Worrall Travel Rs in Estonia

Monday, July 21, 2014

Days 39-40! July 20-21, Swedish Archipelago

Sunday July 20 was about as perfect as a day can be. At 8:15 am, we reunited with our Lions
Club Exchange student of 1994. Twenty years later, Susanne is married to Leslie, a Canadian now living in Sweden, and mother of 3 beautiful children Gabrielle 10, Kalen 8, and Freja 3. Still beautiful and looking no older than the day we last saw her on our last visit in 1997, Susanne and her family met us in front of the Grand Hotel in Stockholm. After many hugs, handshakes, and introductions to her family, we gleefully boarded a ferry to Blido Island.3 hours north of the city.

Susanne, had planned a day on the Swedish Archipelago, where we sailed up to Blido, and were treated to a splendid steak bar-b-que by Susanne's Mom AnnBritt who was renting a summer cottage on Blido. On our way up to Blido, we presented some little gifts for the children, 2 sets of Russian nesting dolls for the girls, and a deck of St. Petersburg playing cards for Kalen. Little did we know, Kalen and his big sister Gabrielle were card sharks. In no time they beat me in crazy eights and whist. I taught them how to play hearts, and during her third hand, Gabrielle successfully Shot For The Moon.

Susanne and her family are sailors and had just spent two weeks sailing the archipelago in her father' 34 foot sailboat. The kids had rally honed their swimming, sailing, and card playing skills. Glad we weren't playing strip poker! The girls loved their little dolls too. By the time we arrived at Blido we were fast friends.

The children went swimming, we had a wonderful visit, and delicious lunch. All too soon it was time to catch the steamboat at the dock just below the cottage and return to Stockholm Susanne and Les left the children to spend the night with MorMor and they returned to Stockholm with us. They would return to their home about an hour's drive out of Stockholm, spend the night, and return the following morning with tent and luggage to spend a week with MorMor and kids.

As we sailed back through the pine studded granite islands in the late afternoon sun, we enjoyed beautiful scenery, good wine, and great conversation and catching up. When we arrived in Stockholm, we drove to the area within two blocks of where Russ and I were staying for dinner at an Italian restaurant. Here we had made arrangements to meet up with another friend from America.

Meredith is a friend of our daughter-in-law and son, and we had first met Meredith in Italy at our Garyn and Jess's Tuscany wedding. Meredith had the opportunity to relocate to Sweden with her job so she took it, and has been in Stockholm for about 4 months. We were happy to see her and introduce her to Susanne and Les. The five of us had a nice dinner, and before we knew it, even though it was not yet dark, it was 10:00 pm, and the long mellow day came to an end.
Thank you Susanne and Les for the perfect day! We look forward to a return visit in California.

Day 40, July 21, 2014 - On to Estonia!

Today is a travel day for us. We left Stockholm about 7:30 and drove to the airport, returned our car, boarded Baltic Air to Riga, Latvia, and transferred to another Baltic Air for the last 35 minute leg to Tallin. I am finishing this blog in the air and will post when we reach our guesthouse. I expect that we will spend the rest of our day which will be late afternoon by the time we are settled, catcing up on mail, laundry, and some planning.

In the meantime, all is well with the Worrall Travel R's

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day 38, July 19, ABBA, NOBEL, and MEATBALLS

Today was all Sweden day with a wonderful visit to the ABBA Museum, Nobel Museum, topped off by a great meal of Swedish meatballs in the Old Town of Stockholm.

All is very well with the Worrall Travel Rs in Stockholm