Worrall Travel R's

Worrall Travel R's
Roz and Russ

Worrall Travel R's - Kicking the Bucket List

My photo

We are the Worrall Travel R's Roz and Russ Worrall. Our goal before we "kick the bucket" is to see as much of the world as we are able, learn about world cultures, experience making friends around the world, and share goodwill and what we learn with others. WE HOPE YOU JOIN US VIA THE BLOG ON OUR TRAVELS.

We started our world travels in 1969 in VW camper van in the USA, Canada, and Europe, but didn't actively blog about our travels until 2009 aboard our sailing vessel SV Worrall Wind, a 44 ft Nauticat Ketch.  On September 5, 2009 we left San Francisco and took a left at the Golden Gate to Explore the World.

From to Sea to Land
After almost 4 years of cruising Mexico and the South Pacific, we sold our beloved boat in Australia, 2013. The Worrall Travel R's are continuing our travels around by many other means of conveyance -boats,trains, planes, sometimes camels, elephants, rickshaws, and hot air balloons.. 

Russ is a retired engineer, optometrist, professor from U.C. Berkeley. Roz is a retired computer programmer/analyst, educator, (teacher, administrator, professional developer). 

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

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Days 48-50, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland

Day 48, July 29, 2014 (Vilnius, Lithuania)

Serendipity Strikes!

See the complete Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Photo Album HERE

We made arrangements yesterday, for an early 9:00 am  tour of the Universities library.  Once a religious monastery, later turned secular, it is home to an old ceiling fresco and early 16th century books and manuscripts.  When we arrived, there was some confusion as there were no tours that day, certainly none in English. Russ expressed our disappointment to the lady at the desk who was finally able to round up an English speaking woman who offered to open up the doors of the main library for us to take a look.  Once Russ told here he was a retired professor from University of California, Berkeley, she decided to take us on a personal tour. So the three of us walked through the empty halls and galleries. It was lovely, without an over abundance of scripted history and overwhelming information.

Our guide took us to the top floors where the first observatory in Lithuania was built.  It was a leather incased telescope that had been built by the same optics company that made Sir Issac Newton's telescope.

We walked backed to our little attic apartment which had been a wonderfully located AirBnB complete with fresh vegetables from the backyard garden, expressed our appreciation and thanks to our kind host, Nina, and were on the road to Latvia by 11:00 a.m. and across thae border into Latvia.

On our way we stopped at another lovely castle Rundale built by a Russian duke married to a Latvian duchess.   It was designed by the same architect Dark clouds were forming and by the time we had our little walk about, raindrops were falling.  It continued to rain throughout the afternoon.  We took the scenic route along the Baltic beaches of Jurmala to Riga, but because of the thunder, lightning, poring rain, we didn,t see much and had no desire to walk in the rain with the lightening strikes and flooding streets.

We are staying in a flat above the trolly line that runs directly to old town Riga.  Our host Laura welcomes us at 7:30 pm.  We have a nice chat with Laura and her boyfriend over our dinner before they retire for the evening.  When we inquired, Laura showed us where we could go for haircuts in Riga.  After two months, we are looking shaggy.  As both of them  work, this turns out to be our only contact with them during our stay.

Day 49, July 30, 2014

After breakfast, Russ and I take the trolley into Riga where once again we suck up the old town atmosphere.  I think one of things I love about all these old cities is how they build the outside walls of their homes right up to the sidewalks or streets and along the perimeters of their property, with only heavy gates on the street.  When the gates are left open,, one can peer inside to lovely open courtyards that are private and once very protected from medieval invaders.

As other cities, there are an abundance of churches, cobbled streets, remnants of city walls, and open squares where outdoor entertainment is predominant. We enjoy lunch in a street cafe, Pelligrino with lemon later in the day, along with some Latvian ice cream, and take a canal ride on an old Art Deco boat that ABBA had once ridden in.  Their music played as we wound our way through the canal and surrounding river.  Between our late afternoon cruise and haircuts, we layed on the shady slope of the river bank and took a delightful little nap.  

We went to a nearby MacDonalds for a wrap and ice tea for dinner.  As I was ascending the stairs to the water closet, a MacDonalds employee climbing the steps behind me brushed against my back.  I felt the brush, but didn't pay much attention, until it happened a second time and I turned around and looked at her questioningly.  She smiled and showed me the remnants of my park nap (grass on my back) that she couldn't resist brushing off for me. Haha!

We had made appointments at 7:00 pm for haircuts, and after a relaxing clip, we head back to our flat.

Day 50, July 31, 2014 Thursday


Our plane for Warsaw does not leave until 2:50, so we spend a leisurely morning repacking liquids for flight, eating breakfast, blogging, etc.  We will leave here shortly for the airport.

All is well with the Worrall Travel R's

Monday, July 28, 2014

Day 47 - Vilnius, Lithuania

Enjoyed the many churches in Vilnius.  This one, Church of Saint Theresa was built in baroque style in 1250.  Vilnius is capital city of Lithuania.  There is the modern business part of the city and the old town which we spent our time.  In the old section of course there is an old castle, university, many churches, presidential palace, embassies, winding streets, outdoor cafes, and lots of flowers.  

Met some traveling Aussies, about our vintage.  They are in last three weeks of a six month odyssey.  Lots of kindred spirits wandering around the world.  Tomorrow before we head to Riga, we will be touring the University Library and hope to find a geocache or two.

All is well with the Worrall Travel R's in Lithuania.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Day 46 - July 27, Castle in Trakai, Lithuania

We enjoyed a relaxed morning on the back deck overlooking the lake and a delicious breakfast at Tomas's Lakeside home.

See the complete Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Photo Album HERE

 Tomas prepared omelettes with a fresh tomato and cucumber salad, finished off with yogurt and fresh berries. We got a kick out of his stories about elderly folks taking balloon rides and how difficult it is to get them in and out of the basket. The folks that can't climb a ladder or hop in, crawl inside the basket before the balloon is inflated. Once the balloon is filled with hot air, the basket rights itself and the old folks are inside. I wonder how they position themselves so they don't wind up in a heap on the basket floor and standup! I think we better take a balloon ride sooner than later so that we can climb in.

Once we said our thank you and goodbye to Tomas and his wonderful hospitality, we headed to the Castle Trakai. Destroyed many times by invaders, crusaders, and wars this Castle has been restored, and while it may closely resemble the floor plan of the original, the new red brick (not distressed) modernizes it's appearance. Located on an island in Lake Trakai, the setting is fairy tale beautiful. There were lots of locals enjoying sailing, boating, and swimming here today. We toured the castle and had a nice lunch along the lake trying the local meat pies, beer and wine.

The drive to Vilinius from Trakai, with a quick stop at a market, took us under an hour before we reached Nina's quaint home with lovely garden. Not quite sure and checking the address, we pulled up across from a cute little house we thought might be the correct one. Before we could check the address a woman came out of the house and waved at us and opened the driveway gate.

Our host, Nina had been watching for us. We will be spending two nights here in her upstairs attic apartment. The rooms remind me of the little apartment we rented out in our first home on Lawton Avenue in Oakland. We have a kitchen, bath living room, and dining area with sofa beds in the living and dining areas. Nina had a large' fresh tomato and cucumbers from her garden on the dining table to add to our supper.

Tomorrow we will explore old town Vilnius.

All is well with the Worrall Travel R's inVilnius, Lithuania

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Day 45, July 26 - into Lithuania

Saturday, July 26 - Paddling in Latvia - Borscht in Lithuania
See the complete Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Photo Album HERE

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 Vievis north of Lake Trakai and meet our host Tomas at his lakefront 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 and his club are 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 Vievis in Lithuania

Days 44, A night at "Canyon Ranch" in Latvia

Log Housekeeping Cabins - Canyon Ranch in Latvia

For all the photos Click HERE.

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

For Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania Photo Ablum, Click HERE

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 - Tallin, Estonia
We arrived in Estonia, rented our car and headed to Tallin 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 has 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!

Wednesday, July 23 - Off to Tartu

We are just about ready 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

Les, Susanne, AnnBritt Top L-R, Kalen, Gabrielle, Freja, Bottom L-R

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

Friday, July 18, 2014

Day 37-38, July 17-18 Finland to Sweden

Country Guest Houseo

We spent our last day in Finland traveling from Turku to Porvoo with a nice stop in Hvittrask.
Hvittrask is the home and studio of world famous Finnish architect, Eliel Sarrinen This architect designed the Gateway Arch in Saint Louise and many other projects around the world. We enjoyed visiting the compound that he and his architect buddies built for themselves on 16 acres in the Art Nouveau period in the early 1900's. Quite lovely. The setting reminds of us Lake Tahoe....granite, cedars, pines, and blue water.

We arrived in Sipoo outside of Porvoo in the early afternoon. We checked into our quaint country AirBNB, then drove a few miles more to the old town of Porvoo, where we spent the afternoon enjoying the sunshine, 16th century architecture, and a good wine over a salmon dinner.

Day 38 - Flight to Stockholm

We left Finland this morning at 11:00 a.m. on SAS and arrived in Sweden at 11:01. No, it didn't take us one minute. There was a one hour time change. We rented a car and learned it was not available so we were upgraded to a nice diesel Citroen. After packing in our luggage which was quite easy given the room we headed for Stockholm. We arrived in the old part of the town where our AirBNB was located about 3:00 p.m., found a parking space that we had to pay for until 5;00 and then it was free until Monday morning when we leave.

Our accommodations are in a lovely old building dating back to the 1700's that has a refurbished apartment, a nice young couple as hosts, and three curious cats. We took an afternoon walk into the old section of the city, had an ice cream followed by dinner in a nearby pub. As we write this blog it is about 7:30, we are waiting for our bill, and then we will walk a block down the hill to our apartment.

Tomorrow, we will be be visiting the Abba Museum. Mama Mia! On Sunday, we will be spending the day with our Swedish foreign exchange student of 1994, Susanne, her husband, mother and three daughters. Looking forward to the visit.

All is well with the Worrall Travel R's

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Day 36, July 16 -Turku

Russ and Kaveli

Turku has long been on our bucket list as a destination because it is the "birthplace" of our Pacific Crossing Nauticat 44 Pilothouse sailboat.  Seems we are salmon returning to the place of origin, although we no longer have this boat.  When we arrived in this port city, the rain had just stopped, but it was still cool and breezy.

Our accommodation for the night is fittingly on a boat, an old steam boat Bore converted to a Hostel International on the river.

After lunch and a very interesting tour of the Medieval castle Turku built in 1320 and with a long history of upward and inward expansion and intriguing stories of the inhabitants.

We walked back to the boat to check-in and we passed by an older couple (probably in their 80's) on the castle lawn flipping a half inflated ball from behind them over their heads to one another playing catch.  Two bicycles were parked close by.  We smiled and said "Hello" to the couple.  They said something in Finnish as we walked by, but did not pay much attention as it did not sound like it was directed at us.

We walked about 50 feet around a corner of the castle gardens and the couple on their bicylces were chasing after us!

 We stopped when they caught up and in their best English asked where we were from and were we enjoying Turku.  The man introduced himself as Kalevi and his wife Gerda Vallas. Kaveli may have been able to understand our English if he were not so hard of hearing, but he was struggling so Gerda would ask us questions and translate loudly in Finnish for him.  Somewhere in our conversation, Kaveli wanted to know if we had been to Finland and Europe before and when he learned we had lived in Germany, he started to speak to us much more comfortably in German.

Our German is a bit rusty, but with our three languages we were able to have an enjoyable conversation.  Kaveli is a Rotarian and was pleased to learn that Russ is a Lion, and asked if we would take their picture which we happily obliged and promised to send them a copy of photo by email.

We gave them our email address.  They do not have a computer, but they would tell their son our email address and he would send us an email so that we could reply with the photo.  This was all a bit complicated in three languages, but if all was properly understood, we look forward to hearing from the Vallas's son.

Later in the evening, we walked up river looking for Nauticats and absorbing the river culture and old town Turku. Hundreds of people were out walking and enjoying a sunny Finnish afternoon.  A huge motorcycle rally had finnised its day in Turku.  There were rows of Harleys, BMWs, Kawakis, Suzukis, and one lonely Vespa.  All the cycles had Finnish license plates.  The riders in their leathers and helmets were admiring each other's cycles and animatedly discussing in Finnish topics undoubtedly related to their day and hobby.

We ate in an excellent Mexican restaurant, sharing a chicken ceasar salad and beef fajitas.  By the time we walked back to our accommodation at 9:30, the sun was still in the sky, but the bikers had all rumbled away.

We were in Turku and saw a lot, but never saw a Nauticat, Nevertheless, our visit was quite pleasant and will be remembered because our conversation with the Finnish couple on bicycles on the sunny side of Turku Castle.

All is Well wih the Worrall Travel Rs In the Birthplace of Worrall Wind

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Days 34-35 - Helsinki, AirBNB and SERVAS visit

Our home stay with SERVAS Host Hanna and her two curious black cats.

We arrived at the train station in Helsinki on the 33rd day of our trip, and had arrangements through AirBNB to stay in a studio apartment for our first night. Te owner of the apartment was out of town, but we knew where t find the key. A taxi took us directly to the address within a few minutes for 12 Euros. We let ourselves into this cute little fourth floor apartment (hank goodness it had a lift for us and our bags.)

We got ourselves situated and went for a walk to a local supermarket where we picked up some pizza bread and cherry tomatoes for dinner and some yogurt, fruit and orange juice for breakfast. We had access to Wifi at the apartment, so we spent a lazy afternoon and evening catching up on making arrangements, answering emails, browsing the web and reading. The sky finally darkened around midnight and we realized that we needed to close our eyes and go to sleep.

Day 34 - July 14
After our breakfast, Russ and I walked about 35 minutes to the car rental agency and picked up a little Skoda, brought it back to the apartment, loaded our bags, Having had enough mosques and churches for awhile we chose to go to an outdoor museum Seurasurri (sp). It is a small island connected by a wooden bridge to the mainland. Historic windmills, chruches, farms, storage sheds, and manors have been relocated to this place. Docents are appointed to open and guide visitors to designated buildings.

We spent an interesting day here absorbing old Finnish architecture, artifacts, gardens, and wildlife. At the conclusion of our day we headed to our first SERVAS visit. We would be spening the evening with a woman named Hanna. Before arriving, we stopped to buy some flowers, some cheeses, fruits, and pastries and some cans of apple and cranberry hard cider. We weren't completely sure whether we should be expecting dinner when we arrived so we came prepared to supplement our cup of soups or to add to dinner.

Our host Hanna has a two bedroom apartment that she shares with her two curious cats full time and with her teenage sons part time when the boys are not living with their father. While we enjoyed the sights of Helsinki, our time with Hanna is by far the Highlight of Helsinki. Her home was comfortabe]le, quiet,and friendly. Hanna, herself was warm, helpful, and welcoming. Through our many conversations, we identified many similar points of view and enjoyed each other's company. We could become close friends if our proximity from each other were not on the opposite side of the planet. Making friends through peace is the goal of SERVAS home visits, and our first experience was a shining example of how one to one relationships fosters understanding about culture and differences.

Day 35 - Juky 15

After a leisurely breakfast with Hanna, Russ and I left our rental car safely parked in front of Hanna's apartment house and took the trolly to the downtown area where we first explored the open market

filled with fruits, vegetables, cheeses, wine, and merchaandise with appeal to both locals and tourists. We visited a deli type stall where we bought sandwiches, salads, soft drinks,and dessert, then found a place on the pier to have a picnic.

 Seagulls around the world we have found are all the same. After tiring of begging, one of them flew from behind me swooping down and grabbing a hunk of my dessert right out of my hand!

A visit to the furniture and decor sections of a large store is always a good way for us to experience modern day culture of the country. Similar to Scandinavia, the designs lines are sophisticated clean simplicity. We visited a rock church designed from an old quarry and was currently in use as a performing venue for a performing girls' choir from Canada. The acoustics were amazing.

We found a geocache on our way to the National Museum of Finland where we spent a couple of hours exploring Finland's prehistory and history.

Natural Cultural Outdoor Museum

 Between the museum and our conversations with Hanna, we have learned much about this independent country, that was once a part of Russia and fought against Russia with the Germans in WWII. There are about 5,000,000 Fins whose language is completely separate from any other language. Hanna works for a publishing company where she secures Finnish authors international rights for their intellectual property outside of Finland. Part of her work involves arrangements for translation of Finnish into other languages.

We ended our day with a lovely meal that Hanna prepared for us including a huge bowl of vanilla ice cream and fresh Finnish grown strawberries and raspberries. All to soon our visit was coming to an end, and we would be leaving the following morning for Turku, birthplace of our beloved Sitala, Nauticat 44 ketch.

Day 36 - July 16 - Heading to Turku in the poring rain.

I will write about Turku when we get there. Currently we are driving in the rain westward after a farewell breakfast with Hanna and two black cats Licorice and Luigi. Thank you Hanna.

All is well with the Worrall Travel Rs in Finland