Showing posts with label HAL Westerdam. Show all posts
Showing posts with label HAL Westerdam. Show all posts

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sevastopol: We're not in Kansas,Toto!

In  Sevastopol, Ukraine, I knew how Dorothy felt after she and her dog, Toto, arrived in the Land of Oz

We generally consider cruise ports of call to be 'appetizers', giving us enough taste of a place to prompt a return someday. But, this stop -- of less than three hours, in our case -- took Sevastopol off our 'future's' list.

Admittedly, we had but a snapshot of a city on a  rainy, gray day; a setting that gave a spy-movie feel to the place, but that wasn't the only thing. . .  

First, on the positive side -- unlike the guarded welcome at Sochi, Russia --we were allowed off the ship here to wander the streets on our own. So we had a chance to explore the town - unlike fellow cruisers who saw  Romanov's Summer Palaces and the Best of the Crimean Riviera on ship-organized tours. 

                        Strolling through the park
Tourism websites describe a Sevastopol that is vastly different from our 'snapshots' which include:
* Sodden streets, empty, but for an occasional pedestrian or two.
* Empty parks - music playing from high mounted speakers in one gave a haunting feel to the empty surroundings.
* Closed stores.
* A handful of elderly women standing on a street corner near the padlocked sprawling market area selling produce from small plastic bags.

Weather conditions and timing of a visit can affect first impressions, but it is the interaction -- or lack of -- with people, that leave lasting impressions  Here, I wondered, were people's souls as empty as the streets? 
Although there were people, we had no verbal or non-verbal contact with them. It was if we were invisible. Or maybe they wanted to be invisible?

Our travel fall-back greeting, 'smile-and-nod-if-you-can't-speak-the-language' didn't work.  You have to have eye contact for that. There was no eye contact. There were no smiles.

I tested my invisible theory on those we did encounter:  a family at an espresso machine in the park, a few lone pedestrians, a trio outside a church, a clerk in a deli. . .each time their gaze -- (and in each case they had watched us approach) was quickly averted to someplace off in the horizon just beyond our shoulders. 

An elaborate fence reminds one of Sevastopol's history
A War Torn History
When one considers the history here, these folks, and generations before them, really haven't had much to smile about. The Crimean War and its Siege of Sevastopol in the mid-1800's and World War II are local history.  With all the memorials and monuments they've erected, those battles won't soon be forgotten. We saw war memorials (guns are prominent in the designs), statues of war hero's and Lenin, elaborate ironwork fences with designs incorporating the dates: 1941 - 1944. Even the facade of the stately Vladimirsky Cathedral was pockmarked with what appeared to be bullet holes.

 Gun Metal Gray
Even today there is a strong military presence. Our ship anchored in such a manner that our balcony was a viewing stand from which we could watch a passing gunmetal gray military ships . . .we weren't sure if they were Ukrainian or Russian ships.

With the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, both Russia and the Ukraine claimed the Black Sea fleet stationed there. By 1995 they had agreed to divide the fleet between the two countries.  The ownership of Sevastopol continued to be a point of contention and in 1997 Russia dropped any claim to Sevastopol but got 80% of the fleet.

A cruise stop is but a snap-shot of a place - the one we put in our memory book of Sevastopol is gray-toned, well, in fairness with just a splash of color:

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Having one HAL of a cruise!

We write from İstanbul.  Sitting in an İnternet cafe usiıng a Turkish keyboard. Cruise has been great so far. We have zig-zagged across the Aegean with stops ın Kusadesi, gateway to the land of St. Paul and then back to Volos, Greece where Jason rounded up his Argonauts and set out to find the Golden Fleece.  From there to Thessoloniki. Greece where the father of Alexander the Great is burıed.  We have had a great look at history. 

Will add photos and more detail when we are back to the land of the wireless computer.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Life's a Trip

Our life these days is one long -- full of new sights and sounds, places and people -- trip.  And we really do keep our bags in a semi-state of being ready for whatever comes along.

Our upcoming month-long trip has posed some new challenges to our carefree approach to travel. Half of our time will be on a cruise ship and half will be spent vagabonding. We are heading to new parts of the world - unknown fashion, unknown weather so I have been focused more on on suitcases and weather reports ( is a favorite new site) than I normally would of late. 

HAL's Westerdam will take us to these places
I've just read that a portion of our cruise will be to an area of the world (Black Sea coast of Turkey) that seems to be known for gray skies and rain  (what WERE we thinking??!!) 

Our two carry-on sized roller bags are filled with clothes ranging from Joel's suit and a basic black dress for me which should carry us through cruise-ship 'formal' nights to our more usual travel wardrobe of  shorts and sandals. Warm weather, wet weather - got it covered.

We are on countdown to departure:  the part where packing is being done, travel documents being gathered, (checked and re-checked), yard care being arranged, home security is in place, and last minute projects being completed.  My least favorite part of travel are the days immediately before departure.

Joel continues to research possible destinations and routing's for our last two weeks (it was great calling the bank's fraud division to register our plastic and trying to tell them where we would be traveling when we don't know yet).

Greek fishing boat
Unless the Athens strikes cause some major upheaval to our travel plans we will head first to the island of Poros, about an hour's ferry ride from Piraeus, the port where we board our cruise ship.  We've booked ourselves at Manessis Hotel.

And so the adventure begins. . .


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