Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A German surprise ~ Warnemunde…

Other than a stopover in Frankfurt's less than friendly airport, I had never visited Germany.
Knowing this cruise included a German port of call at a place I'd never heard of, I was not overly excited. Quite honestly, expectations were somewhat low. I was happily surprised when we sailed in, docked, were straight off the ship, and just a few minutes walk in brilliant sunshine brought us into a pretty town right on the edge of a busy beach.

Founded around 1200, Warnemunde at the mouth of the river Warnow, was for centuries a small fishing village of minor importance. In 1323 it lost its autonomous status when purchased by the nearby city of Rostock in order to safeguard the city's access to the Baltic Sea. In the 19th century Warnemunde began to develop into an important seaside resort and today has a population of approx. 15,000. Still a fishing port, it also has a shipyard. The construction of a modern cruise line center in 2005 has contributed to Warnemunde's establishment as the most important harbor for cruise ships in Germany, and is a jumping off-point for Berlin.

Warnemunde from our balcony - couldn't dock much closer than this!

Sauntering along the waterfront, colorful market stands where everything from local honey to fish, some still smoking, and many interesting seafood items, were for sale. Being a Sunday, families were obviously arriving from other nearby towns to shop, eat an ice cream or meal, and have a swim.

Rows of houses, hotels, shops lined the riverside………………

…and in the back streets the smaller house and shops were 
smothered in the most wonderful roses.

The beach is windswept with vast dunes and sweeping stretches of sand on each side of the river's mouth.  I loved the shoreline at the beach - no crowds early morning - if I'd come prepared I would have been dashing into that water in no time flat!

Next time, making use of the always great local transportation in most of Europe, we took a quick trolley ride and then a train into Rostock……a great town where families gathered for fun and a huge Sunday picnic. 
Even just one day in Germany was marvelous………join me in Rostock soon.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Beautiful Stockholm, Sweden……

Early on a cool June morning aboard Queen Victoria - embarkation of Swedish pilots - then careful 
negotiation of the narrow 57 mile passage towards Stockholm. Those of us who were early
 risers were treated to spectacular scenes of small villages, islands, lighthouses, inlets and lush forests.

Glimpses of the many Swedish islands on the way to Stockholm port.

Stockholm is the largest city and capital of Sweden, site of the Swedish government, parliament, 
and the official residence of the Swedish monarch.  Central part of the city consists of 14 islands 
and the geographical city center is virtually situated on the water. I loved the parts of the city we 
visited - comfortable temperatures and a partly sunny day made lots of walking enjoyable.

Royal palace mounted guards.

Along the cobbled streets the buildings surprised me……all those warm almost Italian feeling colors. 
I thought for sure Sweden would be all white and blue!

Lots of neat shops with great handcrafted items lined the streets.  Have to admit we found prices very high - we'd already been warned they would be in all the Scandinavian countries, so shopping was minimal………

………however I managed to purchase the one Swedish item I wanted for my home, an authentic white painted Dala Horse, the symbol of the Kingdom of Sweden.  Finding a non massed-produced horse was a little difficult, they were the only offerings in souvenir shops. Fortunately I found this made in Sweden beauty in a tiny home decor shop.  The earliest reference to wooden horses is from 1624 and the pattern used today is 150 years old.  The style of painting the pine horse is known as 'Kurbits' where two colors are used in the same brush, this is the traditional way, and these authentic horses are now only made in one Swedish village, Nusnas.

Stockholm was entrancing - more time in Sweden would have been better, to look up old friends,
see more of the countryside etc. - another time hopefully.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A good time to bake a French-style galette………

I'm up to my eyeballs working on the recent trip posts - they take a lot of time with so many photos 
to choose from and then edit. I love to share my travel experiences with you though - the blog posts
become my own personal 'journey journal' of a trip and, hopefully, bring little corners of the 
world you may not have visited closer.

Today though, I'm getting back to rustic desserts in the kitchen.
How about the French 'galette'.
A couple of days ago I discovered forgotten blackberries in the back of the 'frig 
fruit drawer.  Those good for us berries were calling out, "make us into something 
tasty before we end up in the compost bin" please.

Sweet or savory, a galette is less fussy and much quicker to prepare than fiddling about 
with a traditional tart or pie. It also offers more crispy crust to nibble, crunch on, and enjoy. 
Personally, I prefer the rustic look for many things I serve at table - they can't be
mistaken for something out of the grocery store when the juices bubble over the sides of 
the dish, or something sinks a bit in the middle……but still tastes delicious.  
It's the old-fashioned homemade look which hopefully means healthy, best ingredients, 
no additional preservatives, delicious, and time well spent in the kitchen to make something 
wholesome for family and friends.

My little blackberry galette turned out well. I admit I cheated and used a ready made 
pie crust this time as it was a last minute baking moment, usually I'd make my own. 
I sprinkled 1/4 cup of sliced almonds and a little demerara sugar in the center of the crust 
before adding the berries, which I'd tossed with a little flour to soak up extra juice which 
might make the crust soggy. I drizzled French Acacia honey over the berries and 
crust, plus a little more demerara sugar for sparkle - 25 minutes in a 425F oven and it was 
done to perfection.

We enjoyed it just plain for dessert in the gazebo that evening following orzo salad with 
grilled shrimps, and a nice glass of well-chilled New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.

I'm now gathering recipes for more galettes - peach and blueberry, apple, plum,
strawberry-rhubarb are on the list. 

Saturday, July 19, 2014

A country residence……

Tsarskoye Selo, The Tsar's Village, is the stunning country development on land given to 
Catherine the Great by her husband Peter the Great.

Luba, our fabulous Russian guide, on right above, managed to get us admission to 
Catherine Palace through a side entrance thereby skipping the huge crowds.

Detail of the ceiling paintings and ornate gilding of the Grand Hall. This enormous room with
an area of 846 square meters is permeated with a sense of majesty.

Paintings of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II and his wife Alexandra, the Romanovs, whom 
along with their four children, were executed in 1918.  This tragedy you will be familiar with if 
you've ever been interested in the stories (and the movie) of the daughter Anastasia, Rasputin, and 
the Russian Revolution.

Church of the Resurrection in the east wing of the palace.

Again, another remarkable St. Petersburg palace complex - these pics just showing a fraction 
of the opulence, and give one more to ponder on regarding the vast difference between the
rulers and the people of this country when under the Tsars.

Next port of call, lovely Stockholm, Sweden, the 750 year old capital built on 14 islands and 
connected by 57 bridges.

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