Monday, April 11, 2011
R and R
Today was another of the increasingly rare sea days. There will a week’s worth in May, but right now they are precious. Siracusa yesterday, Kotor tomorrow, Venice right after that and so it goes. By the time we leave Israel in ten days we will be ready for the rubber room.
We took advantage of the day and did as little as possible. Trivia was another embarrassment [i.e., no cash prizes] so our record still stands at 3 wins, 12 places and too many “did not finish.”
-- In which European city has The Hermitage opened a branch?
-- How many is “four-score and seven” years?
-- Which two months were named after historical figures?
-- What role did Margaret Hamilton play in The Wizard of Oz?
-- What was the name of Moses’ wife? [Are you reading this, Roxanne?]
-- “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to” do what?
-- Which team won the first two Super Bowls and in which two years did they win them?
The after-dinner show was another over-produced presentation by the lead singers and the two dancers in the ship’s company. Too much amplification, too many hokey stagings, and rhythmic gymnastics to Beethoven’s Ode to Joy which was sung as a love song. Poor Ludwig is cringing in his crypt.
Tomorrow – Kotor, Montenegro
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
Cute as a Kotor
It was too dark to see the dramatic entrance to Kotor, Montenegro, this morning. That and the fact that we were asleep when it happened. The harbor is as cute as a button, as Mega might say some day. It is completely surrounded by cliffs which come almost to the shoreline. In between the cliffs and the water are both a new town and an old one.
New Kotor seems to be made up of two and three story multi-family dwellings with only the occasional single-family house apparent from the harbor. It was probably built pretty much after World War II. The housing stretches from the harbor almost to the Adriatic, the eastern branch of the Mediterranean.
We were interested in the old city, of course. Much like Tallinn, Estonia, it is completely behind thick walls and has only three portals in and out. The walls are more than fifty feet thick at the base. We were fascinated by the wall which went from the harbor-side fortress to near the top of the cliff behind it. At the top was another, smaller garrison flying the Montenegran flag. The wall made a rough circle up one side and down the other with the small fort at its apex. We were reminded of the Great Wall in China except this looked soooo much steeper. On the other hand, it wasn’t 3000 miles long.
The old town was a warren of short, crooked streets, a design done purposely here and in many of the older cities as a way to discourage invasion and looting. Should an invader get into the town, the opportunities for ambush were countless. Of course, the Invasion of the Tourists is a different matter; the ground-floor areas of the buildings have all given over to shops aimed at the visitors where once there many have been butchers and bakers and candlestick makers. Everywhere we looked we could see cafes filled primarily with locals enjoying a coffee and a conversation or a newspaper [or both].
We walked among the populace and soaked up the flavor of this toy village. Although we had taken a leisurely approach to our tour, we were ahead of most of the HAL people and saw very few until we were getting ready to leave. Even the Captain was out walking although he seemed to be accompanied by officials rather than Mrs. Captain. We looked in an old church [St. Nikola’s]; spent some euros in tchotchke shops; and inquired fruitlessly at about a local cookie.
The salesgirl at one shop told us about kotorska krempita [or krehpita] when we asked about cookies. We had passed a bake shop on the main square and eventually found our way back to ask. No, they did not sell the krempita but directed us to a café across the square. We told the waiter what we wanted and he gladly showed the krempitas in a showcase. They were not cookies at all; they were a local Napoleon, thin layers of flaky pastry and inches of wonderful cream filling.
We had wanted cookies to take to Trivia but the krempita would not have traveled well, so we were forced to sit down and eat one ourselves. One was more than enough for the two of us but D was man enough to be sure none of it was wasted. MA had a cappuccino that was a work of art and, even though it was most assuredly not decaf, the best she had ever had. D, of course, had a Coke.
For whatever reason, the left side of the old town was heavily populated by cats, especially outside one store near the city wall. When the owner or employee came to open the shop, the cats all strolled straight to it [cats don’t run]. We discovered, after taking several pictures for the Cat Ladies [Emily and Roxanne], that someone had placed food by the front door to the shop. Mystery solved. When we were on the other side of the square later, there were dogs all around. It was a clear division of the territory, but the dogs’ side smelled better.
The sail out of Kotor was spectacular. The bare steep mountains behind the city gave way to lots of greenery although the hills were just as steep. The trees looked like they had been stuck on by a model-railroad enthusiast, little puffs of green on the dark hills. The coastline was more like our image of fjords than the Sognefjord had been last summer. There were little pockets of housing [and probably stores] all along the shoreline and we were able to see traffic on a roadway so we know these were not isolated any more. Much of the construction appeared to be resort-style, not just housing. Once again, we saw little single-family housing.
In the middle of the highway, so to speak, we passed what we found to be a small church and a monastery [Our Lady of the Rock] just jutting out of the water. The local story is that these are on reclaimed land and that each July local citizens row [or motor] to the man-made islands and drop more rocks, continuing a 500-year old tradition.
Sailing down the inlets on the way to the Adriatic Sea was a beautiful way to end our day in Kotor.
Tomorrow – Split, Croatia
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Making port on the Adriatic can be problematic. We were worried yesterday [well, the captain was worried] that strong winds would rise suddenly [sooddenly] over the mountains and delay our entry into Kotor. These winds are unpredictable and strong but do not usually last very long. As it turned out, we had no problem with the winds and had a sunny, warm day in which to explore Kotor.
Before we left Kotor, he again warned us of possible weather-related difficulties. He was not sure what conditions would be in the morning and would wait until after conferring with the pilot before making a decision about stopping. If we did not go ashore in Split, he said, we would have a leisurely sail on to Venice [where we fear the weather gods may finally catch up with us].
Actually, the weather gods found us today. Force 8 winds gusting to Force 10 have force the Captain to bypass Split in the interests of safety. He and the pilot agree that there was no safe way to maneuver the Prinsendam into the Split harbor, so, at 8;00 this morning, he announced a surprise day of relaxation as we move at a leisurely pace onward to Venice.
It is just as well. While we have moved away from split, currently 45 minutes away in the rearview mirror, it is cold and rainy on the open Lido deck and wind warnings are posted on all of the exterior doors strongly advising passengers to stay inside. It is good advice.
Tomorrow -- Venice