Sunday, July 16, 2017

Europe 2017 (July) Trip Notes # 8

Europe 2017 (July) Trip Notes # 8

Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, cont.

In some ways, comparing Lithuania to Latvia is difficult. We visited the third largest Lithuanian "city" (Klaipeda)  - actuality a small town which could be driven through in about five minutes. Riga (Latvia), on the other hand, is a large city.  Perhaps, there will be a future opportunity to visit Vilnius (Lithuania's capital city) to do a real comparison.

Entering Riga Harbor (7:00 AM - Very Little Night Sky)

Both countries have their folklore stories. Latvia artists used a more contemporary approach to the cultural characters. Figures are much larger and carved from stone rather than from wood.

Old folklore songs accompany the carvings. We were fortunate enough to have an guide that lived through the "soviet era" and was old enough to learn (as a child) these cultural songs. Lucky us! She sang to us many of these folklore songs and then explained the meanings - both historically and the hidden, anti-communist message.

There was one aspect of the cruise that stood out.

One of the ship's guest speakers spent a significant amount of time presenting a surprise chronological perspective of this geographical area. At one time (1200's-1300's), Lithuania was one of the largest and significant European countries. 

Overtime, (1700's - early 1900's) there was a huge Jewish population - perhaps 55% at one point.

Other than our Lithuanian tour guide referring (in passing) to the "14,000 people given thirty minutes to gather their belongings" or  the Latvian  tour guide mentioning (again in passing) that "Lawyers, doctors and other professionals  were sent to camps," there was no reference by our guides to the disappearance of the Jewish population,  anti-Semitism, the holocaust, etc. 

Most of our Latvia time was spent in the countryside.

Time for a stroll

We visited a castle

And, a Bishop's palace...

Lots of "old things" continually found - even a secret escape tunnel was recently discovered. 

Below is an old press that can make coins and jewelry.  

This area has a cave with so-called spiritual benefits. For years (beginning at least in the early 1800's), couples would carve "love messages" into the rock. 

Modern day warriors 

On our way back to the ship, we came across a store that sells cultural costumes. 

Riga's old town was amazing! 

The church's steeple seemed to touch the sky.

Friday night Shabbat services on board.

Still Warm From The Oven and - Delicious!


All three countries have their share of castles, museums, the old towns and a rich cultural heritage. These three countries had the same amount of grief, destruction and hopelessness.

However, from our perspective, Estonia was a "WOW!" We were totally surprised at how Estonia, with all of the historical issues, it was able to recover, show economic growth, uses high-tech techniques and has invented quite a lot: Skype,  the Minox (spy camera), a canon that predicted an aircraft position by noise, the Schmidt telescope, Anti-microbial / Probiotics or Lactobacillus, surgical treatment for neck fractures, etc.

Touring "old town" was a lot of fun! 

Great place to shoot a period movie!

During the tour, there was a real eye opener. For years, we have seen small, triangular alcoves at the base of castles and fortresses. We learned that this "fixture" is not for storage or a small doorway. It is a structural design used to add support for the wall. 

If there is a "negative," to these old towns, it is the cobble stone walkways. They are a real pain trying to walk on them. 

The Regent hosted a small concert where a few of us where able to hear a medieval concert in an old church. In addition to hearing ancient songs, a precursor to a bagpipe and a hurdy-gurdy type instrument accompanied the singing.

  On display are original Viking carvings. 

Regent recognizes our anniversary  

Creative and delicious desserts

 On to Finland!

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