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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

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SEVEN DEAD PUPPIES

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Monday, October 16
Eileen Johnson Lubbock Dig
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Wednesday, October 18
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Various Texas Sounds
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In Print: On News Stands Now

CRUISING THE BALTIC

by Tumbleweed Smith

In an effort to stretch out summer as long as we can, we usually plan a trip in late August. This time we went to Russia.

The flight from Dallas to Amsterdam was about nine hours. There we boarded Holland America’s Prinsendam and left for a two week voyage to the Baltic. We cruised along the Kiel Canal, one of the most fascinating bodies of water I’ve ever seen. It is the world’s busiest artificial waterway, linking the North Sea with the Baltic.

The Kiel is barely wide enough for the Prinsendam, one of the few ships small enough to navigate the unique waterway. It must be a real treat for the people living along the 60-mile body of water to see a cruise ship in their little canal. All along the route, crowds of people were waving at us. A trumpet player in a small sailboat serenaded us. It was a festive event, with spectators in tents and umbrellas, lined up on top of hills.

We visited Rostock, Germany, a large, busy, picturesque city, with architecture very reminiscent of Amsterdam. Most of Rostock’s downtown is pedestrian only, no cars. The town square was busy with booths selling all kinds of merchandise. We climbed a tall lighthouse in nearby Warnmunde, a resort city. I saw a teenager with bright green spiked hair. His legs were tattooed in a leopard pattern.

The real purpose of the trip was to visit Riga, Latvia. My wife’s grandmother came from there. Riga is a beautiful city with ancient buildings, some of which are in need of repair. The city, like so many cities in Eastern Europe, is still recovering from World War Two. But rebuilding is occurring. We saw lots of construction cranes.

The port at St Petersburg, Russia (where my father-in-law sailed out of Russia in 1912) is not too pretty. Tons of ship-loading equipment and thousands of containers are on wharves that go on forever. The city has lots of canals and is known as the Venice of the North. We visited the Hermitage, which has the second largest art collection in the world. The feeling of oppression we had in Russia left when we reached Helsinki. It is a lively, modern city with little war damage. It has a wonderful free-spirit feeling.

Changing of the guard in Stockholm is an hour and a half spectacle featuring a band on horseback, jumping soldiers and a parade of blue-uniformed men and women wearing polished silver helmets.

The most charming place we visited was Visby, a walled Swedish town on a small island called Gotland (good land). Narrow cobblestone streets meander between colorful houses with flower boxes. We arrived there early when it was quiet, serene and peaceful. The water was calm. Concrete statues of rams are throughout the city.

We met friends in Copenhagen and had our pictures made by the statue of the Little Mermaid in the harbor. We sailed on a fiord in Norway and saw ski-jump high on a mountain. What a way to say goodbye to summer.

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