31 August ’04, Tuesday. Sometimes it is difficult to leave the campground, and other times, you just leave when you’ve finished seeing what you’ve come for. Today, was one of those day’s when you leave, you leave friends behind as well. We were only in Kiel for 3 nights, but in that time we were made friends with our neighbors because of them. They made us feel welcome from the first minute, when I found I had an electrical cord problem. That was only the beginning. We were made to feel welcome as long lost neighbors would be. This isn’t the first time, but I just wanted you to know, that there are good people in this world and these are a part of that growing group. Louise and I look forward to keeping in touch and meeting more in our travels just like them. This afternoon, we arrived in the “Hanseatic” City of Lûbeck. Lûbeck, the gateway to the Baltic. They take that phrase literally here in Lûbeck. The city has and will continue, to bring the Baltic Countries together for better understanding, commerce and industry. It is also a very beautiful city (you probably have hear me say that before). Without a doubt, it strikes immediately with the welcome of The “Hofstentor Gates”….the beautiful gardens, twin towers, held together with the entry gate, and the wonderful façade above. Quite impressive if I must say so myself…. But today wasn’t about touring all the sites, it was to find a convenient campground, and the internet café. The café, so that we could bring our site up to date and catch up on the email. All accomplished….
30 August ’04, Monday. What do you know about the German U-boat’s? I knew that they were submarines and a constant scare to the Allied war ships of WWII, but that was about it for me. Today we visited a German U-boat. We had an opportunity to go into it and explore all the nook and crannies. Touch the torpedo’s and all the controls, and even the periscope. It was a deadly weapon. Not only to the “Allies” but to the German crewmen as well. We attended the memorial to those lost in battles and accidents from WWI and WWII. A staggering number lost….dad’s, brother’s, uncles, husbands….30 thousand men in all, dead. Their names, birth dates, and date lost, are now located on brass tablets at the memorial. We saw were each boat was to have sunk…..it is pretty sobering. Yesterday I missed the pictures, today I got them. On a lighter side, we did go grocery shopping and spent our budget. It really is a reality check, when you get back from the more “inexpensive countries” like Hungry, Poland, and the others we visited after those. After our grocery shopping, we went to the U-boat and then headed back to the campground. I hate to admit it, but we got lost. I think we made at least 3, but it was must likely more, U-Turns before we found our road to the campground. It is dangerous for us to be out here with out some serious maps to help us find our way home. Tomorrow…..moving south to Lubec Germany
29 August ’04, Sunday. Sometimes someone just has to come up and hit me over the head….AGAIN, I left the van thinking that I probably wont have a reason to take the camera with me…..WRONG !!! I Promise I Will Not Leave My Camera Behind Again !!! I made up for one of the two mistakes, but the other was a once in my life time occurrence (unless I wait around for another week that is..). Imagine if you will…. Young boy’s and girl’s competing against each other, evenly in this sporting event. At the conclusion of the challenge, they all head back to the home base at one time…say 30-40 kid’s from 7 – 15 years of age. All are excited and moving about with a lot of energy and excitement. All have a parent or two, and group of friends waiting and ready to help with the final chore’s. The problem is everyone can’t fit into the small area that everyone has to get out from….it’s a “wait until your turn comes up” and who can wait when you’ve got some stories to tell all… Summer is ending, the weather couldn’t be better, and you’ve just had the day of your young life. All the fantastic colors abound, making the event even more exciting. A couple of the classes that they compete in are “Shark”, “Starfish” and “Sea Gull”….I’m talking boating, more precisely sailing in a small dingy and, they are having a great time. As they approached the sloped boat launch area they are met with everyone ready to load their “yacht” aboard a small trailer. Once the dingy is loaded, it is pulled by hand up the hill and laid aside to rest until the next outing. It was a photographer’s paradise and I without my camera (and who say’s I’m a “Photographer” anyway?) One of the other “Photo Opts” missed, was the beach and the beach crowd. This is a great summer destination especially if you are looking for a wonderful beach. White sand, warm water for this far North, great little beach cabana’s, an incredible boardwalk with dozen’s of marvelous boutique restaurant and coffee houses. We stopped at one for lunch (I’ll bet this is no surprise to anyone) and had a great salad. Tomorrow….I promise to do better
28 August ’04, Saturday. The drum of the huge diesel engines on the ferry were all it took for us to drop right off to sleep…. Unfortunately, neither one of us got a good nights sleep. Hard bed, “totally dark” stateroom, a lot of noise from the wake hitting the ship and shaking all the bulkheads, loose nuts and bolts, and somewhat worried about how “Bumble Bee” was doing down in the far parking lot in the hole of the ship. As morning approached (and how were we to know, with this room of ours so pitch dark ?) we began to hear the ship stirring. Time to roll out and hit the shower. I must tell you, the shower was so small that there was no way you could turn around or pick up your soap if you were to have dropped it. As it was, we did get our showers and make it down to breakfast. The rest of the day was spend going from the top deck (outside) and then back to the lounge to watch a little of the Olympics on TV. That leads me to ask…what the hell happened to the USA Basketball Team ?….Argentina???? Well, we were to arrive in Kiel, Germany at 5pm local time and we were right on time. Our arrival into the bay was wonderful. We had a sunny, cool, and a little windy day to come into port. The water was full of sailboat’s enjoying one regatta or another and the beach was crowed with sailboards with para-sails to pull them along at high speed. Each para-sail was a different color and together they were beautiful. As our ship carried us through the channel and into the bay of Kiel, Louise and I noticed a campground right on the water. Making a mental note of were it was, we made a point of finding it. Success…. Tonight we are right on the bank of the bay and looking forward to seeing the ferry we arrived on carry on across the water with it’s new passengers. This passage is one very busy passage for the large ships. It has been quite a wonderful sight since we arrived. One after another has passed in front of us, including some of the largest cruise ships. We also arrived this evening with a bad electrical cord that attaches us to the main electrical outlet here at the campground. Without it we don’t have electric for all of our needs….refrigerator, lights, and MY COMPUTER…. Our new, and I do mean new neighbors Egon & Rosi, and Dieter & Tanja (we had only been here for 10-15 minutes) jumped right in, cut one of their cords, supplied this new cut off end to me AND, attached it for me, AND made sure that we had all that we needed before getting back to his dinner. What can you say…Great People !!! Thank You !!!
Tomorrow…. Do some research
27 August ’04, Friday. Today was another day for the road. We got our usual 11am start out of the campgrounds and hit the road. Our destination was to be Klaipeda with a stop in Pajauga. As I’ve mentioned in earlier journals, “Bumble Bee” has been acting up a little. We have pretty much given the blame to water in the gas tank, but we can’t seem to alleviate the problem at all. We have tried just about everything but taking the gas tank off and scrubbing it clean. Well, today just about brought us to that…. It wasn’t a fun day after the first 2 plus hours on the road. Prior to that, she ran beautifully. Unfortunately, something like this can work different things with your minds….today as an example, we were getting closer to the Latvia / Lithuania border, when we came upon a large truck right in the middle of the road….blinkers going and a large arrow pointing to the right side as we approached it. Louise mentioned that this really was a different border crossing. She started digging out the passports and the papers for the van….well, a different border crossing it wasn’t….it was a painting machine that the truck had on the back and they were painting the lines on the road. Now this may sound really nut-cake, but you would have to understand the circumstances. The van’s acting up, we have been in three very different countries, the road repair crews do their work completely different than we are used too, and we did make that very different crossing on that single lane dirt road….hell, anything sounds like it could be a possibility to us. We did have a good laugh over it. As it was, we needed that laugh as things with “Bumble Bee” seemed to get even worse. On top of that, we couldn’t find a campground in Lithuania…. This is the 2nd time we couldn’t find a campground in this country and it’s only our 2nd time here. Now I must admit, we did find a couple, but I wouldn’t have stayed in them for love nor money. As we were running out of daylight, we made a decision….grab the ferry if we can, and get to Germany as soon as we can. I don’t know if you can hear the sound of the huge engines of this “ferry”, but they sound good to me…. Tonight Louise and I are spending the night in a stateroom and sleeping in a strange bed. We’re going to miss our own bed, but this is one of those sacrifices that has to be made. We left the dock at 9pm tonight and will arrive in Keil, Germany at 6pm tomorrow night, so…., Tomorrow….Keil
26 August ’04, Thursday. This morning we decided rain or shine, we were going to walk across the big suspension bridge and enjoy Riga’s Old City as much as time would allow. Our walk into town was about 30 minutes and it did rain a heavy mist all the way. You might say that were are used to this weather, coming from the Seattle area, but you never get used to getting even a little wet. As it was, we really enjoyed the old architecture of Riva. As most of the countries close to Germany, the Old German influence is evident. Riga also boast’s a lot of very modern buildings and other structures. One of these, was an semi-underground parking lot…the only thing showing was a long grass mound that had vent windows on top. We also saw The Latvian Riflemen Monument, that depicts the Soviet occupation so vividly. You can almost hear the Red Army marching through the streets. The changes for Latvia, Estonia, and Lithuania are happening very fast, and in the next ten years or so, you will not recognize them as they are today. Good or bad, they are moving forward into the westernized world. In the major cities, it is not inexpensive. Yes, there are “bargains”, but you will have to dig for them. Food in the restaurants is still rather a good value, but it surprises us as to how the local people can afford the clothing and other items you look at when you go to town shopping. Around Riga, there are a large number of lakes that are tied together with a river system. All of this is now being sub-divided and new homes are everywhere. Some are large primary homes and still others are for vacation homes. They would all make us a very happy person to own one. The rest of the country is primarily green hills dominated by tall birch and pine trees, dairy pastures and quiet little town and villages. Well, fortunately for us, the rain gave up completely, and we were able to enjoy the sites with the warmth of the sun for the rest of the day. Tomorrow….moving south
25 August, ’04, Wednesday. Parnu was, Riga is…. That is, we have moved on down south and are now in Riga, Latvia. Our trip started out cloudy and ended up here in Riga, raining. That’s ok, it gives up a chance to see a movie…here in the van, that is. We saw “Hanging Up”. I liked it, although it was just a little bit sad. “Bumble Bee” ran beautifully just about all the way down here, but just before Riga, she began acting up again. We will have to find out just what this problem is. I think that it is a little water in the gas tank, and as it approaches the filter, it starves the engine for gas, looses power and acts like it wants to go, but won’t. Beyond that, our trip was non-eventful. We followed the coast highway, which ran beside the Baltic Sea. In Estonia, we didn’t see the water at all. After we crossed the border into Latvia, we saw the sandy beach and the Baltic as flat as flat can be. It seemed that there wasn’t any surf, as the sand and the water from the sea met as one. The sand beaches are off white in color, and as I’ve mentioned before, very fine sand. We hope to have a chance to visit Parnu a little bit, but a lot depends on the weather and how long we can afford to stay here. Parnu is a large city, of about 7-900,000 people. The “Old City” does look very interesting, so I hope that we get the chance to really enjoy it. We had lunch just after arriving, at TGI Fridays. It reminded me of something that I’ve been going to write about. Napkins, Servita, or any other name that you may put to it….Since we arrived in Poland, and all the way up to Tallinn, Estonia, the napkins have been but a 2 ½” sq piece of paper, kind of the same texture of wrapping paper. All one solid color and with half moon cuttings around the edges. That is what is on the table in small quantities. We also receive the eating utensils wrapped in “one” additional napkin….that is one napkin for the 2 of us. We’ve heard about the difference of toilet paper, but this is more of a difference to what we are used too. Speaking of the toilet paper, when it is supplied, it is a little bit rough, but we have always had our own if we really thought we needed it. Today, we went into a grocery market to pick up some items that we needed. Two those items were bottled water and the other….beer. Guess which one is twice as much as the other…..Water. No wonder I’ve got a refrigerator filled with the stuff made from barley….just kidding. Tomorrow….Parnu
23 August '04. Monday. The past few days in Tallinn has really gone by fast. First Tallinn has a wonderful "Old Town" that any visitor would really enjoy, and we sure did ourselves. Second, we found a department store in the central district, that offered free internet service if you have your own computer....and we did. I was able to catch up with a lot of unfinished business. Estonia is to us, a country that was in name only. Yes, we have all heard of the "country" of Estonia, but that was about all that we really knew. Now, we have found a country that has some very warm and friendly people, a tough long history, and now, just celebrated their 35th year of Independence. Estonia sits just 80km off of the coast of Finland and for that reason their language has a lot of simular sounds and meanings. Tallinn's medieval "Old Town" has been protected now under the Unesco World Heritage List, and it is really no wonder....it is beautiful. The Old City Wall that encloses the Old City of Tallinn is mostly intact, complete with 9 watch towers. The castle of Tallinn is pretty much lost, but the surounding city and the remaining walls make up for the loss. The castle was set up in 1219 by the Danes, but was soon lost to German raiders. Title to Tallinn has gone back and forth to many countries and land lords over the centuries. Well, all good things have to end, so goodbye to Tallinn and headed South. We are currently in Parnu about 140 from Tallinn. The weather is really starting to change and right now we are sitting in a very cool (cold) van. We took a walk into town and then out to the beach. The sand is white and very fine. The water comes up a very slight grade, which makes it very shallow for a long way out. Today with the wind blowing at gale force and it wasn't a very fun place to be. Tomorrow....not too sure yet
20 August ’04, Friday. 44 years ago I married my high school sweetheart…..
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY HONEY,
I Love You
Making this journey with you, is by far better than our 1st Honeymoon and at that time too, you were my navigator as well by navigating us from Seattle to Pensacola. You have had a tougher time on this trip and a driver that isn’t so understanding when he goes right instead of left or misses his turn 15 miles back…..isn’t life great. I wouldn’t have missed this opportunity to travel the world with you for anything.
We checked out of the campground (and I use that word campground loosely), and headed out to find a new home. Louise had done her homework in finding a new place, so it wasn’t too long and we were checked in and on the bus to Tallinn to see the sites.
Tallinn is the capital city of Estonia and is located just about at the furthest northern tip of the country. We are on the same latitude as Sitka, Alaska. Just about 80km away from Finland by ferry across the Baltic Sea. It has had a stormy history that dates back before 900. The first writings of the castle here were in 1200. Estonia has been under one siege after another from the earliest days. They received (or took back) their independence from Russia on August 20th of 1991. That was one of the reasons we were so intent to get here to Tallinn, so that we could celebrate their anniversary with ours. We spent the first afternoon just exploring and enjoying the “Old City” and the surrounding walls. We also enjoyed a wonderful desert (it took the place of our dinner) at a medieval style restaurant and decided right then that we would return for a real dinner soon. With this being “Our Day” we headed back to “Bumble Bee” to un-cork a bottle of the bubbly.
Tomorrow…..more of Tallinn
19 August ’04, Thursday. I don’t want to say “Page Two”, so I’ll just say it’s Estonia’s time…. First off, I also wanted to bring you up to date on the weather….just when you don’t expect it, the sun comes out…..just when you don’t want it….IT RAIN’S and I mean rain. Thunder and Lightning type….Blowing side way’s type….. It just so happened that on our trip through Lithonia and into Latvia, it was just that for our first night….. Now on with the Estonia border crossing…. (now remember, we had an early start….) When we pulled up that 30’ to the crossing arm, a young man (not so good looking, and his suit looked baggy…) came out to meet us. We gave him the big smile and “Hello” and passed on our Passports. He then wanted the papers to “Bumble Bee” as well. This is only the 2nd time we have been asked for those papers, but we had them close at hand….no problem….Well, I don’t know what he was doing in that office of his, but he was there forever with us sitting out front. WE WERE THE ONLY PEOPLE THERE (and most likely the only one’s there for the whole day !!!)…. Well, there was 1 truck that stopped and went, and 4 young boys on bicycles that stopped and were let through. Finally another young man came out with all the papers in hand and smiled, walked toward the gate and lifted it with a wave…. Across…. 20’ feet a round the corner and onto DIRT ????…stopping, I wanted to see that map….it show’s a “paved” road…what the hell is this DIRT???? Well, it can’t last forever can it? It did for another 25-30km and I must say my attitude was in the toilet !!!! Finally, after ¾ of the morning on lousy roads we were back on blacktop. The rest of the afternoons ride up to Tallinn still had a few minor glitches, like all of a sudden, “Bumble Bee” started missing, lost power, and a couple of back-fires. I hope the problem is “water in the gas”, but I’m still working on this…. Arriving in Tallinn our first, and most important, goal is finding a campsite. Let’s get back to the map….the map’s we buy have listed on them the camping locations…..Wrong….this one show’s them listed, but were the hell are they….we drove to hell and back and couldn’t find ONE !!! Now we didn’t get into Tallinn as early as we had originally planned, but we definitely weren’t late. As it was, with a lot of traveling here and there, we finally found “The Worst” campsite we have ever seen, but we had to call it home….at least for that one night. Tomorrow….A NEW CAMPSITE or Bust !!!