Showing posts with label Black Sea. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Black Sea. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Ukraine: When Travel brings Headlines Home

Travel not only makes the world feel smaller, it also brings the headlines home.  And with this week’s headlines, we are taking a brief break from our Hawaiian tales, to take you with us on a trip down our travel memory lane:

Back to Sevastopol, Ukraine.

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It has been three years since a Black Sea cruise introduced us to  Sevastopol, the city established in 1783 by Catherine II after Russia gained control of the region.

We spent but a few hours in this port city that figured prominently in the Crimean War (1854-55) and the Bolshvik Revolution.

Those few hours were far long enough, we had thought back then. 

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It was autumn. An incessant rain fell from a leaden sky. The sky and sea the same gun metal gray as the military ships docked not far from our pleasure craft.

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But have you ever found in your travels, there are a few places you visit - if even ever so briefly- that leave a  hauntingly vivid memory ~ the kind that keeps details alive in your brain and your soul? Sevastopol was such a stop for us.

As most of you know by now, we prefer to set off on our own to explore our cruise ports of call and this stop was no different.  We saw the usual ubiquitous influences of the Western World. . .

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They were ‘lovin’ it’ at McDonald’s and this hotel, (pictured below) the Best Western Hotel Sevastopol, was housed in a stunning building.

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We didn’t walk very far from the well-groomed flower beds of the park to find ourselves on  real neighborhood streets.

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It was the emptiness of the streets and the people,or the small numbers of them, we encountered that created the most vivid memories.  The rain perhaps kept people inside, but it was those few people we encountered that we we won’t forget.

PicMonkey Collage

As we approached one trio I commented to The Scout that they had been staring at us – the hard penetrating kind, not the curiosity gaze - from the moment we came into view.  As we neared them, I smiled and they raised their eyes, focusing on some far distant spot over our shoulders; as if we’d ceased to exist.

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Another trio stood talking on the sidewalk outside this church – until I paused to take photos of the fa├žade. They quickly disbanded. (I took this photo to capture the bullet holes that you see in the upper right hand corner.)

PicMonkey Collage

In watching the news this week, I think back to the somewhat Pollyanna-like observation I made to The Scout as we walked back to the ship, “Gee, these people aren’t very friendly. They don’t even make eye contact or smile at us.”

To which he replied, “Think of their past.” 

Today, I wonder if it perhaps it wasn’t the past, but their present and future that caused their behavior?

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The last photo I took of our stop in Sevastopol was of the submarine off our side as we set sail.

Have any of your travels brought headlines home? Or did some place send you home with hauntingly detailed memories of it?

We’ll be back soon with more tropical tales for you. We appreciate your time and interest and would love to hear from you. And please come back again soon! 

Linking up:
Travel Photo Thursday at Budget Travelers Sandbox

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Booking it with Argonauts and Turkish Tales

We still bring a paperback or two on trips and save room in the suitcases for any that we might purchase along the way. (Eat your heart out Kindle, you're not yet invited.)
Searching for books is a highlight of our travels, but one place we didn't expect to find a fun read was in Vikos Marine Supply store in Poros, Greece.  

Ferry arrival on the island of Spetses
Julian Blatchley's Adjacent to the Argonauts, a voyage of discovery in Greece (Matador, 2010) caught our attention because we'd learned about the Argonauts when our cruise ship had stopped  in Volos, Greece, the place from where Jason and his Argonauts are said to have set out from on their ancient world adventure to find the Golden Fleece. The modern town has built a replica of the mythical Argo ship. (Click the 'things to do' link on Volos for full story

And we'd also cruised the Bosphorus to and from the Black Sea, which is thought to have been Jason's routing. But the book sale was a done deal simply because the store owner said, 'It's a good book. Julian is a friend of mine."

Actually the book has nothing to do with Jason and his crew; it's a comic travel memoir about Julian's misadventures on a sailing holiday through Greece's Saronic and Argolic islands in the late 1980's with his friends Malcolm and Rex.

Blatchley's First Law of Nautical Recreation:  "The brilliance of the manoeuver is in inverse proportion to the number of people watching it."

It's an engaging, entertaining yarn that I still suspect prompted our visits to the islands of Spetses and Hydra, as neither were on the radar screen when we had headed to Poros. We also went to Perdika, a harbor town, the motley crew had sailed to on the island of Aegina. Amid the chuckles, the book provided great insights into sailing -- it isn't as easy as it looks.

A post script:  I scribbled, on the back of a business card, a note telling Julian (who doesn't live full time in Poros) how much we'd enjoyed the book and left it at the marine supply store.  Julian emailed this week - he'd received the note.

A harbor cafe in Perdika, Aegina Island
The book we'd brought along for cruise ship reading was Turkish Reflections, A Biography of a Place by Mary Lee Settle (Simon and Schuster, 1991).  Settle's detailed writing led us through Turkey, its customs and beauty of its cities and countryside (far more than we saw on the cruise) as she wove a tale of her past life in Turkey in the early 70's with her nostalgic return in 1989.  A sample of her observations:

"Turkey is more than ruins, or armies, or great-fawn-colored spaces of central Turkey, the mountains, the wild shades of green in the northeast.  It is a cared-for plant in a window, a geranium as tall as a small tree and covered with red bloom against a white wall, the controlled tumble of a grapevine, the economics of food and shade together on a trellis above a tabled in a hidden courtyard, a pot of basil in the captain's cabin on a fishing boat."
Another book we wish we'd read before the cruise, but learned of from fellow cruisers was, Black Sea - The Birthplace of Civilisation and Barbarism by Neal Ascherson (Vintage, 2007).  This this non-fiction paperback about the culture, history and politics of the Black Sea countries their people came highly recommended.

Note: These three books can be found on our carousel on the left-hand side of the blog home page.  They are also available from  Book DepositoryPhotos are the property of Jackie Smith and can't be used without permission.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Of Beys and Beyans

We had four stops in Turkey: Kusadesi, Istanbul, and then on the Black Sea coast we visited Trabzon and Sinop.  We thoroughly enjoyed the sights, sounds, smells that signaled we were visiting places far from home.  The call to prayer that echoed at regular intervals, the spices, the colors, the people. . .we agree that it would be fun to return to each of these places and spend more time (especially Istanbul) than a cruise stop permits.

We don't know Turkish though - unlike with Greek words, where we know enough to at least be polite in greeting - so in Turkey we were limited to polite smiles, head nodding, gestures and in some cases, total gaffes.  And I must admit, I was the worst offender:

When visiting mosques all must remove their shoes before entering, all are to be appropriately dressed (no bare arms, shorts or inappropriate clothing) and women must wear head scarves. 

While in Trabzon we decided to visit an impressive mosque in the heart of the bazaar area. 
We both removed our shoes. 
Joel entered the mosque while I stayed outside wrapping a scarf around my head.
An elderly Turkish man spoke to me and gestured upwards.  I followed the gesture and admired the ceiling.
He repeated the statement and gesture.
I looked again and turned to him, bowing slightly and said, "Beautiful, simply beautiful." (in English) and then followed Joel into the mosque.
We sat side by side and admired the interior.

As we walked out to my total mortification I realized what the elderly man had told me when I saw a woman heading upstairs to the women's section, clearly marked "Beyan" with an arrow pointing up the stairs.

We've learned two Turkish words this trip: bey (men) and beyan (women); and they won't soon be forgotten.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Bye to a Bleak and Blustery Black Sea

            Sea and sky were the same color
We sailed out of the Black Sea on Tuesday, arriving in Piraeus sometime in the early hours of the morning Oct. 13th, Greek time.  Our cruise went far more rapidly than the calendar indicates; it doesn't seem that 12 days have passed since we were beginning the adventure to new ports of the world.

Our cruise provided many adventures, wonderful discoveries and more history than one can absorb in a single trip: we visited the lands and sailed the same seas that centuries ago were home to Romans, the Ottomans, Jason and his Argonauts, just to name a few.

The bit of history we weren't prepared for was discovering a bit of my history as we made our way to Russia.

"Excuse me. . ." a lady called out while I studied the various food choices on the Lido deck one lunchtime.  As I turned, she continued, "but, are you from Washington?. . .You are Jackie aren't you!?"

She was a bit grayer in the hair and used a cane to steady herself (a bad knee), but I recognized her instantanously:  the mother of one of my best high school buddies!  It was at their Italian home in the central Washington town where I grew up, that I first ate real homemade spaghetti, it was with her daughter I celebrated my Sweet 16th. 

She and her husband were on the cruise celebrating their 58th anniversary and my good buddy - whom I hadn't seen in decades - was with them.  We renewed a friendship and shared history stories - ours - that kept us all amused and entertained during the dark and dreary days.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Gray Skies over the Black Sea

The Black Sea is living up to its name: it is a dark - and today - very dreary sea.  We've had heavy clouds and last night a heavy rain as we crossed this body of water en route to Sochi, Russia. I write this from the ship anchored just off the Russian coast.

We didn't clear the wait-list for the shore tour - in fact, it turns out we weren't on the wait list after all - so we will 'see' Russia from a distance.  The authorities are strict here: you are either on a tour or you hold a Russian Visa, we don't qualify on either account so will take photos (and add to the blog later) of the shore and the two ships that seem to be 'guarding' us as tour groups tender to the shore.

The cruise continues to provide some fascinating stops and tomorrow we will be back in the land of passports and shore passes.  Today will be spent watching the deep dark waters and sky that surround us.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Setting Sail

We are off to the Black Sea

We are off to the Black Sea.  The Westerdam is in port.  We will board in the early afternoon and set sail at 5 p.m.  We quite literally bumped into our Florida friends this morning on a Piraeus street corner. W.e met them on the Westerdam when we were assigned as table mates a few years ago; what a perfect way to renew a friendship aboard the same ship 
Contemplations are done - the cruise is about to begin.


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