The Retirees Reluctantly end up in Bali – the Wedding

Early in 2019 we learned that Kerry’s cousin Ken was soon to wed and we would be receiving an invitation to the wedding. Later it was revealed that Kerry would play a part in the ceremony. The invitation arrived and to our surprise it would be conducted in Bali Indonesia. Bali was the place of choice for the wedding as the bride Yena lives there.

Bali has never been on our bucketlist as a place to visit for too many reasons to explain here. You may say “you never know until you have been there”. Well you could not be further from the truth. We knew exactly what to expect. But duty and family overrode our choices.

We subsequently learned that friends Frank and Rosie Walsh were travelling to Bali on the same dates for a break so we decided that we would not just go for the wedding but spend sometime on the island (we could not justify spending the airfare for a weekend). So we did some planning booked our accomodation through the Accor Vacations Club and forgot about it until September 2019 when we boarded our flight.

Now Bali is good for Ken who lives in Perth to shoot straight up there but from Brisee it is a trek so we felt washed out on arrival. Our journey to the hotel was draining but the hotel (which was actually a resort) proved to be a surprise. Bali lies quite close to the equator and the weather is hot and humid so windows are not opened and rooms become musty – that is the tropics. so the first thing we did was to open the place up and then took a walk whilst the tropical air waffted through. The resort is at Nusa Dua. The pictures below are the reception one of the many ponds throughout the resort and one of the walks through the resort.

The resort is in an enclave of western hotels with Hindu shrines and decorations spotted throughout  in a tropical bushland so as to make you feel like you are somewhere different but familiar at the same time. The familiarity is somewhat destroyed by each hotel having a guardhouse where each incoming vehicle is checked and examined for possible bomb threats. These guard houses became familiar and reassuring. Below is the shrine in the front yard of the resort and one of the sculptures to be found throughout the area.

There are a number of resorts in this enclave along with clusters of shops and each bit of a shop has an offering at the front door, a shrine inside the shop with a major shrine in the square in the centre of the shops. Some of the local rats and mice could be seen helping themselves to the food offerings to the Gods.

After visiting the shops we travelled what seemed forever across the causeway to the place where the wedding rehearsals were being held to meet the bride Yena and the groom Ken plus Uncle Barry. Kerry also had to be briefed on her role in the Buddhist ceremony. After a quick rehearsal we returned to the resort as the wedding was planned for the following day.

Bright and early next morning we prepared for the ceremony which was late afternoon – one has to prepare fully for such a ceremony including loolling about in the swimming pool for hours to soften and cleanse the skin. After repeating the trip on the causeway and through the rabbit warren of tiny streets we arrived. The wedding was to be held in the court yard of a hotel and we were one the first to arrive with the setting still being prepared. When Ken and Yena arrived a very happy Yena greeted us. Uncle Barry was his usual laid back individual and Kerry was quick to cuddle up to him. The altar made up of a table with flowers candles and incense was a simple affair with a glorious ring of flowers behind it. the ceremony started when Ken and Yena made their way to the altar where they were met by the Buddhist priest who performed the ceremony. Kerry’s role involved lighting the candle of wisdom, one of 5 candles on the altar. Yena’s parents sat in the front row with us and they also lit a candle which represented love.

As soon as the ceremony was completed the festivities began and went well into the night. A banquet of Balinese dishes was offered but the heat and sweat made it hard to feel like eating. And it was still hot and sweaty by the close around 10.00pm.

The next day commenced with a swim in the pool the weather remain hot and steamy. We had planned that we would catch up with Frank and Rosie but the pool was essential start to the day.


The Retirees visit Normanville and Victor Harbour

We arrived at the resort and settled in. Now I have to confess that we stuffed up. We arranged a boat trip on the Torrens River in Adelaide after we had moved on to Normanville. Its just a short drive away we said. Well we did not know about the road works that would confuse us and lead to us missing the sailing of the boat and having to rendevouz at the second stop for the boat trip. The boat travelled up and down a stretch of the river either side of its base in a former boat shed.

The Torrens is called a river but it is no comparison with even the Yarra. Nevertheless the boat was full with people and it appears the promise of a gin tasting was the draw card. A local distillery manufactured and sells a product called”Prohibition Gin”. As we arrived late we we behind in the tasting and had to catch up. Now I am not an affectionardo of gin and the samples tasted we okay. Kerry was more impressed and found out where we could go to stock up. I was glad that we were staying at Normanville as this reduced the risk of having to attend and spend. Little did I know that 6 months into the future we would attend a gin tasting at Tattersalls Club in Brisbane hosted by Prohibition Gin and not only did I enjoy the neat gin nips but was relaxed sufficently that the purse strings loosened and we bought 2 bottles and won the door prize of a 3rd bottle of gin.

We returned to the resort for a nights rest and a relaxed few days. It started with a walk around the golf course. Although I did not play the course it was pleasantly laid out with plenty of sand traps and water but very few trees. At the end of the course is St Peters Catholic Church, a church of simple style seen through out Australia very different to the stone Cathedrals that litter Europe.

After the walk we drove to the beach and at the Normanville Surf Life Saving club we found a cosy cafe obviously enjoyed by locals. Our plan after a hot breakfast and coffee, we drove to Victor Harbour an hour and a bit away. Normanville is 77 km south of Adelaide, and it is the largest regional centre on the western side of the Fleurieu Peninsula. It is situated next to the mouth of the Bungala River. Robert Norman, in 1849 built first, followed by the general store, and the hotel. This was quickly followed by the local Government House, which housed the Police Officer, court house, and jail cells. Norman opened the Normanville Hotel in 1851 and a church soon after.

Victor Harbor is located on the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula, about 82 kilometres south of Adelaide. The town is a highly popular tourist destination. The town of Port Victor was laid out on the shores of Victor Harbor in 1863 when the horse-drawn tramway from Goolwa was extended to the harbour. After finding a place to park we walked past the old Customs House, the first public toilet in the town (the featured image at the commencement of this blog) around to the remenants of that horse drawn tramway across to Granite Island. Granite Island, also known by the Ramindjeri people as Nulcoowarra, is a small island next to Victor Harbor. In 1830s there was a shore-based bay whaling station operating at Granite Island. It is now a popular tourist attraction, particularly for people wishing to see little penguins which live there. The island is accessible across the causeway from the mainland, either on foot or the horse-drawn tram. From here you can also see the sea cages where blue fin tuna are farmed. Plenty of gulls as well.

The island appears wild with clear evidence of wind and water erosion. But amongst the natural are many man made things like sea groins, timber stair cases and some electic street art.

We walked around the island in about an hour and waited for our tram at the island cafe. The day was quite warm and a cool drink was very pleasant but those who chose to dine in the open dining area soon were battling crafty gulls intent on stealing your chips. The tram arrived and we boarded the tram for a very casual return trip. Next stop is the mouth of the Murray River.


The Retirees Babysitting in Adelaide

One of our daughters has recently returned from the USA with her husband and family to Adelaide. It is not as far to travel for baby sitting duties but not your average come over for a couple of hours while I….. So September 2019 we flew to Adelaide to babysit our grandsons.

They had moved into a comfortable home near the boys school so we were able to walk them to school and whilst at school see the sights of Adelaide. First was a visit to Rundle Mall and the city CBD via bus transport. Seniors ride free of paying a fare during certain hours which suited us nicely. We rode the buses passed City Hall to the end of the Mall where we decided to walk around and get a feel for the city. I have uploaded the various city sights. The city is surrounded by park which is lovely but makes the trip to the CBD longer than you would expect.


Amongst the collection of stone buildings we found the Art Gallery of South Australia. It was a bit eclectic. for example below is the stone ediface suggesting old traditional and conservative and inside is a spiders web of the things you would expect to be captured in the web;

We found the markets and I was particularly taken by this coffee shop (see below) which used a jumble of windows and doors to enclose the cafe space and then dotted tables chairs bars and stools around it to give it an el fresco atmosphere. The markets reminded me of the victoria markets in Melbourne with plenty of choice for fresh everything and an assortment of everything else. From the markets we made our way back toward the river and the casino passing the Parliament House a plaque commemorating the first federal convention where State leaders attempted to agree the constitution of a Commonwealth of Australia and the rampant Lion of Rex Britannica. We were making towards the road to cross the Torrens to North Adelaide and the Adelaide Oval. Set in a parkland surrounding the Oval is protected from view by a modern stadium building overshadowing everything around.


We picniced in the park under the shadow of the Oval building. It was a hot Adelaide day and sitting in the shade by the river was as pleasanrt as it was going to get. After lunch we strolled through the park and crossed a footbridge back into the CBD

We picked up a hire car  just across the road from the footbridge as we planned an excursion into the country after our babysitting was over. We booked accomodation at the Normanville Resort and Golf Club to the south of Adelaide – no point in flying to Adelaide and not using our time to look around.

We drove south to Myponga where we stopped for a coffee. The coffee was accompanied by a piece of fresh country baked cake and a couple of pies which would serve as lunch. We drove south through green pastures and herds of sheep grazing on the hills with the sea following us down the coast until finally finding the resort outside Normanville. You will notice in the photos below the traffic signs on the beach – clearly you can drive on the beach. Normanville is not a large centre but it has a lovely beach which we visited to eat our pies and then to the resort. The resort did seem a remote place for a resort but it was quite large and surrounded by a golf course and housing estate.

More on this adventure in my next blog.

The Retirees at Sea – Influenza

After a lovely day in Warnemunde and a session of cards and board games we went to dinner. I had been feeling light headed during the afternoon and had no apetite for dinner nor any wish for the after dinner show. We returned to our cabin. There was a full moon as we sailed from Warnemunde (I think it was Warnemunde) and I took my last photos for a couple of days. It was cloudy grey and despite the full moon darkening – just how I felt.

At sometime during the night I started vomiting and had tremendous stomach pain felt hot and the room was swimming. This went on till morning and throughout the next day. The ship was sailing for Oslo in Norway and I had no ability to do anything other than lie in bed. I was now hallucinating, feverish, vomiting and had diarrhea. Kerry nursed me as best she could with a damp washer to bring down my fever. For three days I hallucinated, ate chicken soup, drank water and fitfully slept while Kerry did what she could for me whilst staying sane with short trips from our cabin.

We had plans for Oslo, Copenhagen and Stockholm all of which were forsaken by Kerry to remain caring for me. After the 3rd day I was able to rise and visit the Infirmary where the doctor confirmed I had influenza and prescribed Tamiflu medication and a half dose for Kerry just to ensure she did not succomb. When in public (travelling to the infirmary each day for tests as to my fitness for my ongoing journey) I had to wear a mask, but otherwise I was confined to my cabin – in isolation. A biohazzard team would visit each day to disinfect the cabin.

So there I remained. Gradually the vomiting and diarrhea ceased but the hallucinations continued until my fever broke. I tried to rise for Copenhagen but there was no chance and Stockholm was the same although I did try and sat outside the cabin on our deck for a short time. Strangely they had an unusual wharf system (at least I think it was Stockholm) and I used my camera for the first time in 3 days.

Kerry was now becoming worried what might happen should my fever not break before Helsinki and our return flight home. She researched hotels in Helsinki and found one within the airport terminal. I was still unable to eat solid food or leave the cabin except for my morning and evening trip to the infirmary. As we sailed into the harbour I was feeling as though something had changed. The hallucinations had stopped and I had a reasonable night sleeping. So I opened the cabin door on our balcony to breath in some of the cool artic air and took these photos of the islands sheltering Helsinki, the multi coloured dressing cabins on one of the outer islands and at last the harbour.

On the morning we docked at Helsinki my fever broke and this was confirmed by the doctor who declared I was no longer infectious and free to go. We were last to leave the ship and Kerry and I travelled directly to the airport to locate the hotel, book a day bed and allow me to rest until our flight very late that night. My fever may have broken but I was weakened by the illness so much so that I slept from Helsinki to Singapore, and again from Singapore to Melbourne and finally home to Brisbane.

So despite the sour end we had a great time and the moral of the story is always have travel insurance!

The Retirees visit Warnemunde Germany

As we left a thick sea mist settled upon the water. Grey surrounded us and moisture hung in the air. the mist followed us for the two days sailing to Warnemunde and the joyous tune of the “Love Boat” blared into the fog. We killed time with cards and board games, feasting on the smorgasbord and other things which I have now forgotten. Little did I know that a sinsiter shadow was following me all that time.

Resting in our cabin I noticed we had a visitor in the form of a small land bird seeking refuge and probably lost in the fog.

The fog disappeared suddenly as we docked at Warnemunde. This is the port for Berlin 3 hours south. as we had spent 5 fantastic days in Berlin we were not considering sitting in a bus or train for 6 hours going to and from Berlin so we tumbled ashore to see what it had to offer. quite frankly I was pleasantly surprised.

From our cabin we could see a warm day rising. However I was now aware that I had a shadow. Warnemunde is a busy port as you might expect. Warnemünde  literally Mouth of the Warnow is a seaside resort and a district of the city of Rostock in Mecklenburg, Germany. It is one of the world’s busiest cruise ports. Founded in about 1200, Warnemünde was for centuries a small fishing village with minor importance for the economic and cultural development of the region. In 1323 Warnemünde lost its autonomous status as it was purchased by the city of Rostock in order to safeguard the city’s access to the Baltic Sea. It was not until the 19th century that Warnemünde began to develop into an important seaside resort.

We walked along the peir towards the railway station and the crossing into the township passing two other cruise ships of similar size to our SS Regal Princess before we encounter our first opportunity to purchase souvenirs. Out front of this establishment was a sand sculpture – why I don’t know exactly but it was very impressive in its artistry and detail.

A lefthand turn through a tunnel and we were out into the township with the rail station behind us. As we walked we encountered various buskers but this one caught my eye as very clever singing “Sitting on the dock of the bay”. the town’s fishing heritage can be seen with the fishing boats lining the canal whilst the new monarch of the seas stand large in the background.

The towns economy depended on fishing for centuries so you would expect some history around that. I found a well preserved fishermans house which had been enlarged with a modern extension to house a museum. The front entrance takes you back in time to when the last of the fishing families lived there. It is very much like someones home at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. as you walk through the home you are lead to the extension and the history of the community. I was impressed with the charm and the stories told by this museum. Like the story of Stephan Jantzen who went to sea at the age of 14. In 1856, he was granted a patent for skipper on a long journey. In the same year, he became captain of the 38-meter Bark “Johannes Keppler”; Jantzen personally commissioned this ship and had shares in this ship, with which he circumnavigated the earth twice in the period from December 1856 to 1866, mostly accompanied by his wife and his firstborn son Magnus. The second son Varelius was born on one of the trips aboard. Both sons of Jantzen later became sailors as well.Jantzen sold his vessel in 1863 and became commander of the local sea rescue stations of the German Society for the Rescue of Shipwrecked Persons and received numerous awards from Germany, Sweden and Portugal for his bravery and daring in rescuing shipwrecked persons.

I was the only one interested in the fisherman’s house so when I emerged I was all alone. I headed toward the town square and found my co-explorers who were oogling the markets in the square. As is the case in small towns and villages of Europe there was a collection of vendors selling everything from suasages to sauerkraut. We gathered a few items for a platter whilst playing cards on the ship. One item that abound in Germany is white asparagus and they are popular. What was unusal was a pub off the square called the “Captain Bligh” from mutiny on the Bounty fame (a bit of the south pacific in Wandemunde).

The town is on the Baltic Sea coast and has large sandy beaches and a unique beach chair. There is not a lot of wave action but the Germans are at the beach in great numbers. Nearby is the mouth of the river and great lines of ships can be seen sailing into the wharves in the river. We walked down the beach and over to an odd shaped building house an inviting cafe serving odd german beers – a Rostocker for Rod and a Duckstein for me. Having quenched our thirst and sampled the odd beach chairs we moved into the fishing wharves area and the major tourist strip. Still our ship was the largest thing in sight.

We returned to the ship ready to rest play cards and nibble on our market snacks. Relaxing in our cabin I realised how industrial the area around thei town has become. Later that afternoon just as we were readying to sail I saw a naval ship sail past. It was only then that I noticed the naval base behind the undergrowth on the island beyound our ship.


The Retirees visit Tallinn Estonia

We have sailed from St Petersburg to Tallinn and in doing so we have picked up another “n” for Tallinn.

Tallinn is the capital, and the most populous city of Estonia. Located in the northern part of the country, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea, it has a population of 434,562. It is a major financial, industrial, cultural, educational and research centre of Estonia. Tallinn is located 80 kilometres (50 mi) south of Helsinki, Finland, 320 kilometres (200 mi) west of Saint Petersburg, Russia, and 380 kilometres (240 mi) east of Stockholm, Sweden. It has close historical ties with these three cities. From the 13th century until the first half of the 20th century Tallinn was known in most of the world by its historical German name Reval.

The earliest human settlements date back 5,000 years with the  first recorded claim over the land laid by Denmark in 1219, followed by a period of alternating Scandinavian and Teutonic rulers. Due to its strategic location, the city became a major trade hub, especially from the 14th to the 16th century, when it grew in importance as part of the Hanseatic League. Tallinn’s Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval cities in Europe and is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

So when we anchored we (this occassion Rod and Kerry Hayes joined us) headed for the old city. We caught the bus but the trip was so short that our return was on foot. The bus driver gave us a helpful tip to get to the old city “straight ahead and turn right”. It was that easy so we were glad we had not forked out for an excursion from the ship.

Not long after leaving the helpful bus driver we did exactly as instructed and encounter an Adventist Church with a cobbled road leading us right into the old city. We passed an exotic backpackers hotel with the hire scooter chained to the fence, a witches den then the city gates. We wandered through the back streets imagining we were visiting a different time period. Our trip through the residences ended at the grand Hotel Barons and the city square opening before us. We passed a building with the most interesting door carved with wood reliefs and just beyound was the Polish Embassy with its Teutonic metal door.

Arriving at the town square we were surprised at how few people were there forgetting that the typical tourist does finish breakfast at the buffet until 10.00am. The Town Hall dominated the square.It has interesting rain water heads and the shackles for public floggings remain in place.


We had read that there was a castle on the hill above the old city the Parliament House and a grand cathedral so we made our way to the hill of Toompea. Through the city walls and up the hill to The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Estonian: Aleksander Nevski katedraal). It was built  in a typical Russian Revival style between 1894 and 1900, during the period when the country was part of the Russian Empire. The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is Tallinn’s largest and grandest orthodox cupola cathedral. The Cathedral crowns the hill of Toompea. As the USSR was officially non-religious, many churches including this cathedral were left to decline. The church has been meticulously restored since Estonia regained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

We tried to visit the Parliament but it was not open except for school trips. We also saw the remains of the castle (one tower) and some of its walls.

We walked on past the Parliament shop (yes a souvenir shop for Parliament), and found a pretty little park jammed in between the historical buildings atop Toomea Hill. The historical buildings have some interesting features the most surprising being a sculptural relief on the street frontage of the building commenorating an important person of history.

Leaving Toomea Hill we walked down to the town square once more looking for lunch. We found the Raeapteek.

The Raeapteek is opposite the Town Hall, at house number 11. It is one of the oldest continuously running pharmacies in Europe, having always been in business in the same house since the early 15th century. It is also the oldest commercial enterprise and the oldest medical establishment in Tallinn.

The first known image of the Town-Hall Pharmacy is an oil painting by Oldekop, showing Tallinn’s Town Hall Square in 1800. The first photos of the building date from 1889. Of course we had to have a look. It is a combination of pharmacy and museum.

Looking through the window of the Raeapteek we could see the crowds swelling with lunchtime tourists, so we sought a quite little cavern of a place for a bite to eat. It was dark and the floor made of rough stone with only one lavatory services a multitude. It turned out that this was the back of a restaurant facing onto the square and hungary tourists were flooding in from there. Nevertheless we enjoyed lunch followed by a visit to another town square eatery for a cold beer and the use of their bathrooms.

We then ventured down a lane and into an artisans lane one side of which held the head stones removed from an old cemetery.

We had passed some of the city walls with ticket offices charging for entry into the tower rooms and the city walk atop the walls. I could not resist. We entered and climbed through rooms to the walk and traversed the walls as far as they remained in tact. If you look closely at photo 5 you may mistake the well for a lavatory.

After walking the walls we decided to call it a day and walk back to the ship seeing more of modern Tallinn. A very relaxed walk backpast the exterior of the city walls and onto the ships. Each of these ships carries about 3500 passengers and this day there were 3 ships regurgitating tourists int the old town. Thats a bit of commerce right there. Soon after returning we set sail for Warnemunde Germany gaining some great views of the harbour and its visitors.






The Retirees sailing for Tallin – Farewell St Petersburg

After our canal cruise and the evening with the folk dancers of St Petersburg we spent some lesuirely time aboard our ship before sailing to our next destination – Tallin Estonia.

Whilst we waited for the ship to sail out of the harbour there was plenty to do on board the ship but it was just too cold for us subtropicals to think about a dip in the pool or the hottub. So we strolled around deck and noticed we had been joined in port by an MSC Line ship. Our ship has this curious gangway which took you out over the ocean with a glass floor so you could see what sixteen stories looked like. Or we could laze in the weak northern sun and watch TV. Or take in the views such as the new bridge or the tourist boat racing to Peterhoff. when we finally did saiwe were surprised how big the harbour is. We passed a navy base which has become more a museum than active. And like all good sailors you must have a church to protect you whilst at sea. Only this one is part gold.

And we sailed on. This old harbour remains in use as shown by the new Patrol boat moored amongst the exhibits of the museum. There also appeared a vest of the earliest use of the harbour – a fortress with gun ports pocked across it.  As we passed the last gates (the storm surge gates to protect against tidal surges) we knew we were leaving St Petersburg – sailing into a glorious sunset.

The Retirees aboard the “Love Boat” – SS Regent Princess – St Petersberg

St Petersburg is just around the corner from Helsinki at the head of the Gulf of Finland. Russia’s second-largest city after Moscow, with 5 million inhabitants in 2012, is an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea. It is situated on the Neva River, and was founded by Tsar Peter the Great in 1703. Saint Petersburg has been the capital of Imperial Russia until 1918, when the central government bodies moved to Moscow.

It is often considered Russia’s cultural capital. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Petersburg is home to the Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. Many foreign consulates, international corporations, banks and businesses have offices in Saint Petersburg so it is an interesting place to visit.

We had been here in 2007 to undertake a canal tour to Moscow through Lake Ladoga and down the Volga. So we had done the Winter Palace, the Hermitage, Peterhoff and a few other things and wanted to do something a little more Russian rather than tourist.

We had previously arrived by plane but this time our arrival by cruise ship surprised us with the size of the new cruise terminal, the reclaimed land yet to be built on and the new monumental buildings on the skyline. Whilst we were taking in the vista we noticed a freighter along side and I guessed this was refuelling as it hung around all day. We also found these strange balls on tees on the highest deck on the ship. Remember I mentioned the medallions issued to us at boarding; well these are the tracking devices monitoring every medallion on ship and recording everything the medallion wearer does as well as identifying the medallion wearer to open his cabin charge his account etc.

We had selected a canal cruise for todays excursion. Peter the Great had lived in the Netherlands doing an apprenticeship in  ship building which gave him the knowledge when later as Tzar he built the port of St Petersburg. Hence he had copied the Dutch and their use of canals. We left the ship but found that the customs officers were on a break so we were unable to leave the ship and were left to wander aimlessly looking for a route to access our bus. When the officer returned he was somwaht indignant that we were concerned about missing our bus. As it turned out we had ample time to kick around in the Russian gift shops on the wharf – none today thanks!

Waiting for us outside were the tour buses looking like suckling pigs nussling the sow – that is a pretty big sow! All aboard the bus and off we go to find our canal boat. Round and round until we came to the Church of the Saviour of the Spilled Blood. One of the main sights of Saint Petersburg, it is erected on the site where political nihilists fatally wounded Emperor Alexander II in March 1881, the church was constructed between 1883 and 1907, funded by the imperial family. In the aftermath of the Russian Revolution, the church was ransacked and looted, badly damaging its interior. The Soviet government closed the church in 1932. During the Second World War when many people were starving due to the Siege of Leningrad, the church was used as a temporary morgue for those who died in combat and from starvation and illness. The church suffered significant damage. After the war, it was used as a warehouse for vegetables. In July 1970, management of the church passed to Saint Isaac’s Cathedral and it was used as a museum. The proceeds from the Cathedral funded the restoration of the church. It was reopened in August 1997, after 27 years of restoration, but has not been reconsecrated and does not function as a full-time place of worship. We stopped for 15minutes to get a picture of the “church” and 10 of those minutes were spent by the guide tracking down lost passengers.

Following our stop at the Church we took a much more direct route to the canal and boarded our boat. The canal boat was not  flash but basic and rudimentary in many ways.  We cruised out into the Neva to see St Petersburg from the water. The city has many historic buildings, universities, archane lighthouses ( for the traffic on the river), residences and decaying decadence. Not the best tour but looking back we were sheltered from the rain and able to sit down and take in the view. I took the following photos;

Our canal tour ended and we boarded our bus for the reutrn to the ship – oh no not before we visit the souvenir shop. Not just any shop but St Petersburg’s biggest! Our tour guide is paranoid about losing tourists so I check out with her about looking around outside rather than looking at the mind numbing tourist trinkets. She agreed and we bolt for the outdoors and find ourselves in the suburbs with a mall stretching away from us. At the commencement of the mall is a pink and grey cathedral with a maroon church beside it. These are the places of worship for the citizens of the suburbs and whilst plain when measured against the tourist sites, interesting in their own right.

After viewing the cathedral and the church we walked down the mall just looking at everyday people going about everyday business. Our tour guide had asked us to be back in 30 mins so we turned around and returned to the souvenir shop to board the bus with the rest of our group who were loaded up with crap from the shop. Back to the ship and rest up for the night activities. I noticed the daily paper for the ship announced a folk group was the special entertainment in the auditorium. Hey we going off ship to see the same thing – how does that happen? Free on the ship or pay for an excursion – not happy Jan!


The Retirees in Helsinki – Preparing to move on – Princess Cruise around the Baltic

The excitement of Porvoo behind us we decided we would determine the best means and route to our cruise ship – another excuse to use our pass for free rides on the trams. We walked away from the bus station and caught a tram which we had determined would take us to our cruise ship terminal. Well we took the wrong tram in the wrong direction. It took some time for us to wake up and but for a monumental church which we had not seen before we would not have worked it out. So we got off the tram and investigated the church and the surrounding apartments in their art deco style.

Kallio Church is a Lutheran church in the Kallio district of Helsinki. It was designed by Lars Sonck and represents National Romanticism with Art Nouveau influences. The National Romantic style manifests itself in the use of traditional Finnish materials and in the massive body of the church, as well as in nature-inspired colours and decorative motifs. The grey granite church, completed in 1912, is one of Helsinki’s most readily identifiable landmarks. The church has a height of 65 metres, and its cross is 94 metres above sea level. The Estonian coastline can be seen from the tower. The church is on a hill, and it forms the northern end point of a 2.5 km long street axis made up of three streets.
Kallio church is a hall church with a transept. The load-bearing walls are built of red bricks and clad in Finnish granite. There is seating for 1,100 worshippers. To stand below it looks more like a skyscraper than a church. We circumnavigated it and then entered. It is plain interior when compared to Italian churches. The church is decorated with Christian symbols such as roses, lilies, palm branches, laurel crowns and pearls to pass on the message of the Gospels.
Across the road is a block of apartments continuing the art nouveau theme. That is as far as we got when our return ride arrived. This time we did make it to the cruise ship terminal, but it was the wrong one. Helsinki has two major terminals and below are pictures of the wrong one so far as we were concerned. It appeared there is no tram goes to the new terminal.


Not only was this the cruise ship terminal it was the tram terminal. We alighted our tram unsure about how this was going to work. The tram moved off and stopped at the next stop 100m away. So, we walked up and reboarded the tram and after an appropriate waiting time (no ships no people) the tram returned to our stop – again we were surprised how close we were. If Kerry had not recognised the tunnel to the bus station, we would still be on that tram. We walked to the apartment put our feet up and had a drink – less to carry on the ship. We cleaned out the fridge for dinner then packed for the cruise ship tomorrow.

As usual we had to vacate by 10.00am. We decided to catch an Uber to the cruise ship given we had all this luggage and there is no tram will take us there. Fun and games ensued. Once we walked out of the apartment we had no internet and therefore no contact with the Uber driver but somehow we found each other. A friendly chatty Muslim from the middle east or Africa originally, we could not understand him nor could he understand us so he took us to the cruise ship terminal we visited yesterday. Fortunately, our ship was docked and in view so we frantically pointed out the ship and he obligingly searched out the terminal delivering us safely to the SS Regal Princess. We made our way to the check in tent where we were issued with an electronic tag. this was to prove an interesting experiment in big brother.

The Regal Princess is a mighty big ship. Here are the stats;
Class and type: Royal-class cruise ship
Tonnage: 142,714 GT
Length: 330 m (1,083 ft)
Beam: 38.27 m (126 ft)
Height: 66 m (217 ft)
Draft: 8.57 m (28 ft)
Decks: 19
Capacity: 3,560 passengers
Crew: 1,346

After finding our cabin down the back of the boat (in proper naval parlance – the stern of the ship), we took a walk around and I took some initial photos of the distance from our cabin to the lifts to take us to the brasserie on floor 16. We also went to the centre of the ship (midships) and the marble stair cases, the casino and the gift shop.

We decided there was plenty of time to explore the ship, so we found a good possie on the stern deck near the bar and watched as the ship cast off and set sail. Nearby was the SS Sapphire Princess and the musical exchange on the ships horns as we left was interesting as the Regal Princess’s horn plays the tune to “Love Boat”. This gave us a chance to see the islands sheltering the harbour of Helsinki and some of the other vessels plying the water ways.

So life aboard the ship began and I am confident there were 3,500 plus passengers on board. Our first port would be St Petersburg where we would anchor for two days. But before then we had our first experience of dining on board and taking in the show. At dinner we purchased a bottle of wine for consumption over the next few nights and there is a story about this bottle of wine. However the show was superb. A Beatles cover band, they dressed the part, played the music and sang the songs just like the Beatles. It was not long before we were on our feet singing and dancing along.


And so ended our embarkation day from Helsinki. St Petersburg tomorrow.

The Retirees in Helsinki – Passing time in Porvoo

Today we are off again on the local bus this time towards the east and Russia to a town called Porvoo. Porvoo is situated on the southern coast of Finland approximately 50 kilometres (30 miles) east of Helsinki. It is one of the six medieval towns in Finland, first mentioned as a city in texts from the 14th century. Porvoo is the seat of the Swedish-speaking Diocese of Borgå of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland.

The Porvoo Old Town is a popular tourist destination, known for its well-preserved 18th and 19th century buildings and 15th century cathedral, the Porvoo Cathedral. The Old Town is recognized as historically and culturally significant as one of the National landscapes of Finland.

Once again we walked over to the bus station. Now familiar with how it operated we waited at gate 1 first in line to board the first bus to Porvoo. As our bus left the bus station, I noticed that two giraffe were keeping an eye on us so I took a precautionary photo to identify them should there be trouble with giraffes later on. We travelled for an hour to the east of Helsinki and arrived at the bus station of Porvoo. Very ordinary. An open square pocked with bus stop signs from and to various places and a municipal building that looked like a public toilet block – which it was and it was locked of course.

We were seeking the old town and there was plenty of signage but we had arrived on Mothers’ Day and before 10.00am so nothing was open. Or so we thought. We walked into the old town finding old style Finnish homes with narrow cobbled streets becoming more and more prevalent. Without knowing where we were going Kerry smelled out an open shop – a mixed tourist shop/fabric shop. I had been looking for a new shaving brush and lo and behold what should I find in the most unexpected place.

But that was the highlight until the Fins started to move about. We made it up to the church square to view the 15th century cathedral the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Finland. From there we wound our way through the old town with its well-preserved 18th and 19th century buildings. Whilst strolling through these back streets a local hare hopped into view. We accidentally encountered this hare as we moved around the village – he must have thought we were hunting him. Once we reached the highest point in the village we discovered a set of natural stone steps which have some folklore around them – apparently a witches path where many people suffered damaging falls. Long dark winter nights, a vodka shout and voila those steps become a bitch.

At the end of the natural stairs we found the Manse – so out of keeping compared to the size and style of the village you had to guess it belonged to the church. As commented earlier it is Mothers’ day and the church is open with early morning services. Inside is an austere dome and walls unadorned with any artwork. On the one hand this is suggesting the church utilises its funds for the community but on the other it is suggesting the congregation doesn’t care for their church. Outside the church gate we encounter a bust of Albert Edelfelt and an example of the his art making Finnish culture visible.

Edelfelt was born in Porvoo. He began his formal studies of art in 1869 at the Drawing School of the Finnish Art Society. He married Baroness (friherinnan) Ellan de la Chapelle in 1888, and they had one child. He also had romantic relationships with many other women. He lived in the Grand Duchy of Finland and made Finnish culture visible abroad, before Finland gained full independence.

We made our way down into the commercial section of the village where things were becoming more alive. Kerry was taken with the animal pelts on sale at a shop. However, what did surprise us was the old river warehouses where traders would land goods and collect products for sale in Helsinki. Speaking of trader/travellers I thought we had found where Robert of Umbria had left his Fiat but he flatly denied it.

Remember I said this was Mothers’ Day. Well we chose a hotel for lunch, but it was a special menu for Mothers’ Day and we had a window before the dining room would be full of local families celebrating the day. Well we had a 3 course lunch finishing inside our window of opportunity. Nothing remarkable about lunch but we were stuffed and needed to walk it off. We crossed the river giving us a bigger view of the wharf area and the size of ship visiting Porvoo wharves. This side of the river has undergone redevelopment but in a style sympathetic to the old village. In a park surrounded by the modern Finnish style we encountered a monument to the three distinct cultural influences on Finland – Russia, Sweden and since the beginning of the 20th century Finland.

At the end of the park is a footbridge connecting the new with the earlier and old. We crossed and were stunned to be confronted with a jumble of rusted bikes looking as though they had been dredged from the river and carelessly cast on the bank. Tangled into the knot of bicycles were a few chairs. No indication as to whether this was recovered litter or a symbolic piece of street art. However, a few hundred yards along the bank another pile and this time a shopping trolley included. We encountered 2 further piles of junk which answered the question of the reason and origin.

Parvoo is very pleasant with parks scattered throughout and a strong historical connection with Finland. We were making our way back to the bus station and in a small park running down to the river we came across a monument to J L Runeberg (featured image) . Johan Ludvig Runeberg was a Finland-Swedish lyric and epic poet. He is the national poet of Finland and the author of the lyrics to Vårt land (Our Land, Maamme in Finnish) that became the Finnish National Anthem.

Our trip to Parvoo was coming to an end. Sitting on a bollard each we waited patiently for the bus back to Helsinki which eventually arrived almost like an afterthought. The journey back to the city allowed us to rest our weary feet and relax before our walk back to the apartment.