OT:True confessions-A cruise to nowhere-20

Note: The sections on the cities visited are frequently cumulative (updated) descriptions written during multiple trips. In some cases, we have arrived or left by different methods during different trips (ship, plane, train, car or whatever), so each of the options has been left in order to assist regardless of how we/others show up the next time. Similarly, some of the descriptions include sightseeing which clearly would take more than a day. The easy explanation is that we have, over time, spent a number of days (or even weeks) in some cities.


It is hard to reconcile that, as we move further north, and the days get longer, the weather has grown colder as well. We’ve another few days in the Baltic and the rest of our time will be spent in the North Sea, followed by the Atlantic, so it will likely stay “brisk”.

Fast forward to our last moments in the Baltic as we while away the hours in the only slightly interesting city of Kiel while the ship awaits its midnight crossing of the Kiel Canal and we spend the following day cruising towards Rotterdam.

The long-term passengers have been cycling into isolation on the two-week COVID testing cycle like those disappearing in “The Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and out of confinement, like the Pod People on a five and ten day cycle.

There some who seem to have gamed the system with predictable results. For example, every “regular” duplicate bridge player has recently been confined because of COVID except one couple (who always played masked), myself (who always played masked) and my usual partner who didn’t generally have her mask all the way up, but I was told that during a few day hiatus in the games was coughing a lot. She refused to get tested, but interestingly every other woman who regularly ate dinner with her (at the singles table) came down with COVID. I never played another game with her. By the time the test cycle came up, she tested negative and is currently walking around double-masked (so I guess she finally figured out that she “might” have been the cause of a whole lot of issues – and better late than never).

One statistic which has been anecdotally made clear is the number of false negatives given by the “quick” antigen tests. There have been quite a few passengers who report that when they showed up at the medical office with COVID symptoms, the antigen test they were given showed negative, but the PCR test they were then given was positive. This is significant because only a negative indication from a quick test is required for a new passenger to board and subsequent testing (other than to confirm illness) is only given around every two weeks (at the end of a segment).

Interestingly, while most of those who have caught COVID generally walked around the ship unmasked before they tested out, many of them are now wearing masks after their confinement. We now have a scenario where the new passengers are crowding, unmasked, into elevators and resenting when they are asked to limit the number to four. They say things like “we heard you had a COVID problem aboard” without acknowledging that it is in the present tense. Many of them will be staying aboard only two weeks and will not be tested for infection until their final day aboard. What happens to them afterwards is not a concern of mine. What is a concern is that, should they end up infecting us, we could spend a large part of the end of the cruise locked up in our cabin – a point which is very clear to the large portion of the passenger population that has had that experience. That the world is populated with a large proportion of idiots has always been clear to me and it is now more important than ever to steer clear of them.

We have swapped some passengers while the ship overnighted in Stockholm with a net gain of about 34 passengers. Virtually none of them wear masks and most of the long-timers are staying socially isolated from them. We have been told (true or not) that we will be sailing full between Lisbon and NYC – shifting from about 270 passengers to about 600. That ought to be interesting.

Germany has a special deal going on that offers rides on their train system to any German destination for 5 Euros. While I think it not worth the time to make a one day circle to Berlin, many passengers have paid big bucks to go on a bus excursion from the cruise ship. (I’ve always maintained that Berlin is a great place to visit for a week, but there are few cities in the world worth spending a day traveling to for a few hours of minimal gratification).

We have entered the Kiel Canal about three hours late and I am hoping that the time can be made up during our “day at sea” as we cruise past the coast of Germany towards our stop at Rotterdam in the Netherlands. We have an appointment for lunch at a nice restaurant there and I would hate to be late.

Stockholm, Sweden

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” – Jawaharal Nehru

Sweden is one of the Nordic country’s cashless societies. I did not see anything but credit/debit cards and phone apps used for payment. You can even use your credit card to ride on the local transit system or use a taxi. As a tourist, I did not see any reason to acquire or use local currency. Physical money does exist, but it’s not used very much.

Stockholm joins Copenhagen as one of the earth’s most picturesque of the seaside capitols. The sea surrounds you everywhere and the city has retained its medieval appearance. It comes complete with swans in its harbor.

If this is just another stop on a Baltic cruise, fine, but if getting off the ship at the end of a cruise here, expect mass chaos to rule. Uber is available and somewhat less expensive than taxis, but their prices increase during rush hour, whereas taxis do not. Taxis will tend to cost less just outside the port gate. The Swedish Krona (SEK) is currently (2022) is about 10 to the US dollar.

About an hour away from Stockholm, the ship passed through a narrow slit in a fiord, passing forts on both sides which protect the entry to the city. The forts, originally built in the 16th century, now sport modern armaments and underwater torpedo tubes. After the hours long ride up the relatively narrow fiord at the end of which lies Stockholm (we are docking at the Viking Ferry pier at Stadtgarten), we met with our friend, Odella. She moved to Sweden from the US 19 years ago, immersed herself in a language program at the university and 9 months later passed her written and oral exams and added Swedish citizenship to her collection. (She says Swedes can understand Norwegian, but while Danes can understand Swedes, the reverse is generally not the case).

This is a pleasant (if generally cold) city and Sweden is one of those northern European countries which takes care of their population by providing free health care, free education and a social safety net in exchange for much higher taxes than we pay in the US. It is an interesting trade-off, but the middle class in Sweden ends up with a living wage and a wonderful quality of life.

Cabs are very expensive here. There are Metro, bus and ferry routes which would can us back to our ship’s location. A single ticket is valid for 75 minutes, costs 38 SEK, and can be purchased at SL’s ticket machines, through their app, or directly at the turnstiles using a credit card. It’s also possible to buy 24 hours, 72 hours, and 30-day tickets. A parent with a stroller gets to ride for free on any of Stockholm’s busses. It’s not possible to pay cash for tickets on buses in Stockholm. Failure to show on-demand a valid ticket during a control will result in a penalty fee of 1200 SEK.

We passed on picking up Stockholm Cards (available at Arlanda Visitors Center situated in Terminal 5) which would have allowed us to use the transit system all day and offer some museum discounts and did things a la carte instead. Odella had said not to eat breakfast as she had a surprise in store for us and we started off with a walk to the Fotografiska Museum (the Photography Museum). Breakfast in the museum restaurant started with open faced sandwiches (Odella’s was shrimp/Raksmorgas, my wife had salmon/Laxmacka and mine was unsalted anchovy – think herring – with chopped egg and sliced potato on thick “pumpernickel” bread/Ansjovismacka). These were a bit expensive by US standards (I picked up the tab) and ran about $60US including coffees. (When tipping remember that restaurants and taxis already have a 13% gratuity figured into the bill; if you want to add 5% more for exceptional service, it is appreciated, but not necessary). The museum’s exhibit included a large one of Olympics photos and was a worthwhile stop.

Stockholm is built on a number of islands. We continued across the bridge into Gamla Stan (Old Town), the medieval portion of the city and happened to arrive at the palace in time to see the changing of the guards, complete with marching band and a troop of saber toting soldiers with spike topped chromed helmets. With more than 600 rooms, it’s one of the biggest palaces in Europe. (Admission costs 160 kronor for adults).

We have been to Stockholm before, so we decided to forgo some of the important sights. To truly see this city, a tourist should budget at least a week. Most shops in Stockholm are open 10am to 6pm from Monday to Friday, and from 10am until lunch on Saturday. The VAT charged on all products can be refunded on purchases exceeding €78 with the presentation of a tax-free check from the store. *Note: do not unwrap the goods before leaving Sweden – I do not think we can get the money back because we are on a ship, rather than an airplane).

From Old Town, we took a ferry (about $5US) to Djurgarden, the former royal hunting grounds that became the world’s first city national park. This place has its own Tivoli Gardens, complete with multiple roller coasters, etc., but not the sort of thing I was looking forward to after a fish sandwich for breakfast.

The city was mobbed today with truckloads of drunken graduating high school students screaming their heads off (according to Odella, a yearly ritual).

Stockholm has more than 70 museums, but the crown jewel is the Vasa. It is almost impossible to prepare yourself for what you will see inside the museum: a warship — yes, the actual ship, not a reproduction or model — that capsized after being launched on its maiden journey in 1628. The Vasa was brought up from its watery grave in 1961. Many artifacts were found in the deep freeze of the harbor, including butter whose expiration date had long passed. There are free English speaking tour guides here.

The easiest way to get to the Vasa from the center of the city is to take the #7 tram at the Central Station for five stops to “Djurgardsbron. Do not leave Stockholm without seeing this exhibition, or you’ll experience a sinking feeling when you return home, kicking yourself for having missed the city’s most popular museum. That said, make it snappy. You could spend half a day marveling at the Vasa, but we are on a tight schedule as we have to catch our own ship soon. One hour is all we have.

The other “must-see” museum is the National Museum. I was going to leave this until the end, but I figure, why not blurt out the spoiler – other than temporary exhibits, the entire museum is free admission, but closed on Mondays. When we visited during 2022, they had two temporary exhibits. The first, “Swedish Grace”, was a vast review of the finest in Swedish graphics, painting, furniture design and glassmaking from the 1920’s – and every single piece stood out as a gem worth consideration. The other was entitled “Great to be a Sculptor” and featured the methods and techniques used by Nordic sculptresses. Those were the appetizers, but the feast filled the rest of the palatial building, completed in 1866, on Blasieholmen.

The National Museum is Sweden’s art and design museum and its collections consist of approximately 700,000 paintings, sculptures, drawings and graphics from around 1500 to 1900. The collections of arts and crafts and design stretch from the late Middle Ages to the present. While people crowd to set “the Rembrandt” at other museums, this one has at least half a dozen just hanging on the wall with the rest of the masterpieces. It is segmented by chronological order (“The Timeline” as well as subject matter. The “Treasury” on the middle floor houses 1,170 small artifacts of major importance: miniature portraits, jewelry, boxes, pocket watches and the like. It also has a sculpture courtyard full of incredible examples as well as a children’s section. You can easily spend a day here.
Walking westward from the National museum for a few minutes will bring you to the Opera House. While it is general shut during the day, there is an open doorway on the side facing the Royal Palace which leads up to a bar on the fourth floor. When I climbed the stairs, there was no one to be seen at the top and, while I didn’t enter the theatre itself because the cast was rehearsing, I was able to get a good look at the ornate interior and lobby of the building.
Continuing straight ahead, passing the modernistic façade of the Stockholm Central train station, we crossed the bridge at Stadshusbron to the Stadshuset (Town Hall). The manicured garden has a great view and is free and, while tours of the building cost money ($15 for adults, $11 for seniors), they are a highlight of the city. English language tours are run once an hour and full up quickly. The large room in which the Nobel award banquets are held are fabulous, but the “Gold Room” is a one of a kind. The ornate golden mosaics covering the massive room tell a series of stories about the city but each is a worthy work of art in its own right.

We headed back to the main street (Djurgardsvagen) and, without crossing and followed the sidewalk until we reached the Bla Porten Cafe for a Swedish fika. To the casual observer, a fika appears to be nothing more than a snack, but to the Swedes, a fika is when you take time over coffee and ice cream (though I had a half liter of very good local beer) to chat with friends and just relax. (Payment by credit card for this stuff came to about $22 for the three of us). To understand fika is to begin to comprehend, at least in part, the complex Sweden soul as fika is an important social institution.

Continuing on across Djurgardsvagen, we spent about an hour walking through several centuries of Swedish history at Skansen. The world’s first outdoor museum serves up “Old Sweden” or “Sweden in Miniature,” with farms and villages reconstructed from more than 150, 18th, 19th and 20th century buildings that have been brought here from throughout Sweden. Costumed guides and performers add to Skansen’s authenticity. We skipped the zoo (featuring primarily Nordic animals such as bear, lynxes, wolves and wolverines) as our time for the day had about run out.

In the morning, upon disembarking, we met up with our friend Odella again and had a quick breakfast of open-faced sandwiches, pastries and great coffee. After satisfying our creature comforts we walked to Södermalm Island’s hip shopping district of SOFO that is full of popular fashion stores to explore, as well as jewelry, craft and fine art galleries. (It can also be easily reached by taking the Tunnelbana Metro Green Line (#17 in the direction of Skarpnack or the #18 in the direction of Farsta Strand) from the Central Station to Medborgarplatsen station). Shopping in Stockholm can be an expensive affair but consumers know the classic adage of “you get what you pay for”. Popular items to look for in Stockholm include Swedish glass products, innovative kitchen gadgets, linen clothes and, of course, wooden and ceramic Swedish clogs. My wife ended up with a pair of fashionable glasses and I ended up with some powerful magnets (go figure – might help my personality?). There seem to be many more Rom beggars on street corners than the last time we were here (in 2012).

Stockholm is built on a number of islands. We continued across the bridge into Old Town, the medieval portion of the city and went to the Nobel Museum. This place was fascinating as the exhibits and tour focused on the best of human achievement over the past century or so. The museum, while only covering one floor, packs a multimedia punch and is worth seeing. One tidbit not pointed out when you enter, is that each of the chairs used in its cafeteria has a number of laureate’s’ signatures scrawled on the bottom of its seat.

Many of the museums are closed on Mondays, but here is a list of some which are open on the first day of the week:

Stadhuset – Stockholm City’s iconic waterfront municipal building; home of the Gold Hall.
The Royal Palace (Kungliga Slottet)- open daily. Entrance fee.
Artipelag- venue for art, food, events and activities –on Varmdo open daily. Entrance fee.
Nordiska Museet – discover how the people of the north lived from the 16th Century onwards.
Tekniska Museet – the museum of science and technology in Sweden.
Skansen – the world’s oldest open-air museum, showcasing the whole of Sweden on one island.
Fotografiska – the international photography center for Sweden; eat, drink and visit.
Liljevalchs – the art and sculpture gallery on Djurgården.
Fjärilhuset – the butterfly and insect garden, plus aquarium, in Hagaparken.
Vikingaliv – the Viking experience science center on Djurgården.
Vasamuseet – Stockholm’s most popular museum and home of the grand Vasa Ship.
Junibacken – the play center and home of Astrid Lindgren’s storybook world.
Abba Museum – the interactive and music marathon museum in homage to Sweden’s most famous exports – ABBA.
Medelhavsmuseet - Ancient Greek & Roman antiquities, plus Egyptian mummies & Islamic artworks in a high-tech museum.

We took the “Hop-on Hop-off” ferry for a one-stop ride back to the ferry port and the ship and we bid adieu to Odella and headed to one of the upper decks to watch the sail-away out of the fiord.

Incidentally, on a personal note, Odella was preparing to go to Kenya about two months ago for six months of volunteer work at an orphanage. She had to take the expected battery of shots and one apparently seemed to have affected her badly as she still felt ill about a month later. Further tests (long story) indicated that the real problem was an enlarged cancerous spleen (turned out to be 2kg!) which was removed a few days later in one of Sweden’s (and Europe’s) top hospitals followed by an inpatient rehabilitation. Total cost to Odella under Sweden’s national health program was $140 (soup to nuts – and much of that was for the taxi from the hospital to the rehab facility). She said that if the operation had taken place in Kenya, she would have been dead and if it had taken place in the US, she would have been bankrupt.

We were discussing income taxes and the complexities of the US tax laws. I mentioned my views of simplifying the US tax system down to a single page (sort of a modified flat tax, but that’s not the point) and the easy ways that fraud could be committed and the common sense way that Canada protects against this (the government sends a code in a sealed envelope by post to each tax payer that is placed next to their equivalent of a social security number on the tax form). She said that in Sweden, it was even easier. The government gathers everyone’s income data (our equivalents of W-2’s, 1099’s, etc.), fills out the tax form and mails it to you for your confirming with a signature. She said that, since the government had all the data anyway, the forms were almost always correct, but you could always object and come down to the tax office and point out where they were wrong (sort of a self-inflicted tax audit). These ideas make too much sense for us in the US to adopt?.

If leaving Stockholm by ship, you will be treated to a couple of hours of scenic cruising past forested islands – some with quaint homes. It’s sort of the anti-fjord exit which makes it noticeably different from cruising out of a Norwegian port, but no less beautiful.

If you get off a ship in Stockholm, but have a late flight, you can take Uber to the main train/bus station (type in Arlanda Airport Express for the right location, or else “Cityterminalen”). The fare should be about 230 SEK, but we got charged 350 because of Uber’s capacity pricing. Anyway, you can rent storage lockers for 80 SEK (for 4 hours, 90 SEK for 24 hours) which are large enough for either a full-sized luggage piece or a couple of carry-ons. Another option is: at the nearby Åhléns City shopping mall there are lockers available in two different sizes found on the 2nd level very near to the tourist information center. They are somewhat less expensive, but the mall is not open 24 hours a day (Mon-Fri 10 am – 9 pm; Sat 10 am – 7 pm; Sun 11 am – 7 pm).

This gives you the ability to wander the city without dragging a pile of luggage (or worse, spending eight hours at the airport). There are storage lockers on every floor, as well as a “manual” storage facility, one floor down, for odd-sized or over-long items, which costs somewhat more than the lockers.

Taxis and Ubers are pretty expensive here, so from the main station, either buses or commuter trains cost about 120 SEK and take 45 minutes to get to the airport. An alternative is to take the Arlanda Express train which takes 20 minutes, leaves every ten minutes and costs 210 SOK for a single person, but 350 SOK for two people (on a sliding “group rate” scale) – which seemed like a pretty good deal to us.

The security at Arlanda Airport was more intense than we have received anywhere outside of Israel (they told me they only do this intensive checking for flights to the US and Israel), so allow a bit of extra time.

We are flying Norwegian Airlines for the first time. This is a discount airline which sold us the tickets cheaply, with additional services like luggage and seat selection at additional charge. Then they held an auction for their “premium” (business class) seats and I offered – and they accepted – which meant we flew the equivalent of business class for less than most airlines would have cost in coach. So how did they (we) do? The plane was a modern 787-8. The seats were basic “business class”, but certainly superior to the crammed coach seats. The food was about average what I would have expected in coach and the service was fair (when I asked for a cup of water I was told to wait until the beverage service started in another 5-10 minutes). It is claimed they have free Wi-Fi on international flights, but I could not find it. Overall, not a great experience, but it did provide a comfortable seat at a bargain price. Probably would not seek them out in the future, but they do offer an awful lot of low-cost routes, so I never say “never”.

Tonight we polished off a bottle of Kremer’s Winzerhof – Großheubacher Bischofsberg Baccus – Kabinett halbtrocken. It was also marked Deutscher Prädikatswein Erzeugerabfüllung (not sure that is the name of the wine) which we picked up during our Miltenberg vineyard visit along the Rhine River. It comes in an ovoid bottle (something like Portugal’s Mateus wine does) that is supposed to indicate that it is a premium wine (and originally represented the goat’s scrotum that that type of wine was traditionally kept in). It was great.

Visby, Sweden

"Fear is proof of a degenerate mind. - Virgil or Publius Vergilius Maro (70 BC – 19 BC)

Visby, on the Swedish island of Gotland, was its medieval capital and home of the ancient Goths. Visby is encircled by outstanding medieval fortifications dating back to the time of the powerful Hanseatic League (a 3.4 km/2.1 mi long stone wall called Ringmuren or “the Ring Wall”), and the city has been a UNESCO World Heritage City since 1995.

We have tendered to the town of Visby on one occasion and docked on another (we only have a few hours here as the last boat back to the ship is 12:30) to explore the place on foot. Both we at the base of the town near the tourist office. On our third visit, in 2022, we docked a few miles away and were bused to the “Osterport” gate on the opposite side from the previous times. This had the advantage of giving a view of the wall system and starting out at the “top” of the town (but one has to remember that when you go downhill, you have to return uphill. The sign on the building at our port read “GODSTERMINAL” and I will leave the jokes to others to make.

The streets are cobbled, the homes quaint, the churches ancient and the gardens full of flowers.

The tourist bureau is a short walk from the ferry pier and we picked up a map there to explore the city on our own. There is a daily “tips only” walking tour from the tourist office at 11AM each day, but we do not have enough time to take it. There is free Wi-Fi in the tourist office (also available in the library – as in all Scandinavian cities, and in the coffee shop of the Häst Gatan 10 housewares store).

We walked through the botanical gardens and then went a little further west to the western wall. The Visby Ring Wall was constructed in the 13th century and has numerous gates and towers surrounded by moats. Now a World Heritage site, it is the best-preserved city wall in Northern Europe and surrounds a number of ancient stone churches and houses. Visby is famous for its 16 ancient churches, but all are in ruins (due to the destruction of the Roman Catholic orders during the reformation) except for the Cathedral of Sankt Mary’s (Visby Domkyrka), which has been restored as a Lutheran church.

The Gotlands Museum (Strandgatan 14) adds context to the occupation of the town from the pre-Christian Viking era to the Crusader era (when the town was a focus point for knights from Latvia and Lithuania) to the Hanseatic League era (when the town was Gotland’s trading nexus) to the present.

We walked past the real Villa Villekulla, Pippi Longstocking’s colorful house. After a bit of confused searching, we finally found, by taking a taxi, the subterranean tunnels of Lummelundagrottorna, Northern Europe’s longest caves with their impressive stalagmites, stalactites and fossils.

There is a shoe store named Skoboden (Strandgatan 44, salesman’s name is Tommy) which my wife has patronized twice over the years to by very comfortable German Rieker shoes.

The handcrafts are expensive here and the shops are not as varied or original as in Stockholm. They seem to show many hand-made wool items.

Time flies and we have to return to the ship.

Rønne (Bornholm Island), Denmark
Rønne is a charming, from a big city standpoint, nearly empty town about a 20 minute walk from where our ship was docked (though a shuttle was provided). Its historic Gamle Stan (Old Town), with its cobblestoned streets flanked by yellow and orange cross-timbered houses, sports a large Lutheran Church and a smaller Methodist one (both of which were locked on the day we visited).

Our ship’s shuttle dropped us outside of the Old Town on Munch Petersens Vej “below” Kirkepladsen (the plaza outside of St. Nicholai, the main Lutheran church). There is both a ramp and a staircase up to the town at this spot.

Because of Soviet aerial attacks in 1945, much of Rønne was left in rubble, so what you see today is essentially a modern town with a scattering of half-timbered ancient buildings. The town has a population of some 15,000 people. The town was rebuilt in the postwar years, opting for an old-fashioned architectural look, which makes most of the houses look older than they actually are.

We took a good walking route to see the most picturesque parts of the town:

Walk up Storegade on the left side of the church until Laksegad and turn right onto that street.
Turn onto the second street to the right (Store Torvegade Gagaden) at Lakse Torvet.
This will take you into Store Torv, the Main Square and shopping area.
After passing the parking lot at the far end of Store Torv, make a left turn onto Torvegade
Follow the road to the right into Lille Torv and take the second right Ostergade back to the church.

We had a delicious (but Scandinavianly expensive) lunch at the locally popular Café-Munter (Store Torv 2). Another good option would be Café Gustov (Sore Trov 8). For those in a hurry (or on a tighter budget), there is a take-out sandwich shop (with a few tables) serving open faced local sandwiches on Snellemark to the right of Store Torv (on the right side, across the street from the tall red building)

The tourist office in Rønne gave us maps and advice. They handed out a large folded map as well as a book-sized “brochure” which outlines all sorts of activities including a map outlining the best of the trails that cut through Bornholm’s largest forest, Almindingen (a few kilometers out of town).

Most of the island’s shops line the streets funneling into the Lille Torv and the Store Torv. There is a large centrally located grocery store named Meny (Store Torv 11)

I got an expert haircut at Salon Style (Store Torvegade 33) (150DK, 130DK for “pensioners”). The barber, like another I tried, demanded Danish currency rather than credit card but, when I explained I wasn’t about to leave the country with any excess from an ATM withdrawal, he relented and took my credit card. I don’t know if this is customery with barbers just in this town, but it’s the first time in Scandinavia that someone didn’t automatically take a credit card. Chatting with him, it turns out he’s one of 250 Syrian immigrants in the town and had lived there for seven years. He also, after clipping my hair asked if I wanted “barbering” and I realized, considering Barba Rosa (Red Beard, the pirate), that the word means to shave.

The area has, since medieval times, been known for the high quality of its clays and still produces all manner of pottery and art items. Two well-known places to see these:

Hjorth’s Ceramics (Krystalgade 5), a firm with four generations of family ownership has rebranded itself as the Ceramics Museum and offers interesting factory tours (Shop: free, Admission $10)
Michael Andersen Ceramics, Lille Torv 7 (tel. 56-95-00-01).

The Borgårdsten lies 9km (5 2/3 miles) north of Rønne along the road to the hamlet of Hasle. This is the most significant runic stone on the island. First found in 1868, it dates from the beginning of the 12th century. Some long-ago Viking inscribed SVENGER HAD THIS STONE PLACED HERE FOR HIS FATHER TOSTE AND FOR HIS BROTHER ALVLAK AND FOR HIS MOTHER AND SISTERS.

Kiel, Germany
I suspect our lengthy stop in the city of Kiel is a strategy to take advantage of lower toll prices by heading through the Kiel Canal at night.

Kiel is the capital and most populous city in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein, with a population of 250,000. Kiel lies approximately 90 kilometers (56 mi) north of Hamburg.

Kieler Förde is an approximately 17 km long inlet of the Baltic Sea on the eastern side of Schleswig-Holstein, Germany. It originates at the Hörn in center-city Kiel and merges into the Bay of Kiel. The eastern terminus of the Kiel Canal is located along Kiel Förde leading into the Port of Kiel. At its narrowest point, the “Friedrichsorter Enge”, the fjord is only one kilometer wide.

The Olympic sailing competitions of the 1936 and the 1972 Summer Olympics were held in the Bay of Kiel. The city is a hub for international sailing events, including the renowned Kiel Week, held every June since 1882.

Originally a Viking settlement, Kiel is a port city on Germany’s Baltic Sea coast. During the eighth century, Kiel was a Danish village. The capital of the county (later duchy) of Holstein, Kiel was a member of the Hanseatic League from 1284 until it was expelled in 1518 for harboring pirates. As a part of Holstein, Kiel technically belonged to the Holy Roman Empire, but as it was situated only a few kilometers south of the Danish border, until 1864 it was administered by Denmark. In 1866 the city was annexed by Prussia, becoming the headquarter of their fleet, and in 1871 it became part of Germany.

In June 1887 construction work on the canal started at Holtenau, near Kiel. The canal took over 9,000 workers eight years to build. On June 20, 1895 it was officially opened by Kaiser Wilhelm II. Not only was the canal important enough to become the most utilized man-made channel in the world, but was invaluable to the German navy during both World Wars as the used it to move their vessels from the Baltic to the North Sea without having to pass through the Oresund/Kattegat Sweden/Denmark choke point which was patrolled by the British navy.

Kiel is also known for the Kiel Mutiny, when sailors refused to board their vessels in protest against Germany’s further participation in World War I, resulting in the abdication of the Kaiser and the formation of the Weimar Republic.

During the Second World War, Kiel suffered through more than 90 air raids which left over 80% of the city in ruins. Like other heavily bombed German cities, the city was hurriedly rebuilt after the war in a haphazard, underwhelming, way. In 1946, Kiel was named the seat of government for Schleswig-Holstein, and it officially became the state’s capital in 1952.

The Kiel harbor has a couple of huge shed-covered dry docks and, when we visited during 2022, had at least seven warships scattered around at various piers. Cruise ships dock at the Ostseekai Terminal in Germania Harbor.

In the old town, the rebuilt, medieval St. Nikolai Church hosts classical concerts. . The interior is a mixture of stark Lutheran walls, ornate details salvaged from when it was a Roman Catholic church, a huge hanging crucifix and a set of impressive modernistic stained glass windows. It is worth seeing, but probably not traveling to the city to see.

A basic difference between the typical Scandinavian open-face sandwich and a German sandwich is that the Scandinavian one consists od a pie of ornate food on a rather plain coarse-gran slab of bread, while the German sandwich is made with a fancy, often seed covered, roll wedged open with a much smaller filling.

Holstenstrasse and Dänische Strasse are streets lined with shops and the city has helpfully painted a blue line on the pavement leading from the port to the pedestrian shopping streets.

Along the Kiel Fjord, the Maritime Museum displays model ships and nautical instruments in a former fish auction hall.

The Kunsthalle zu Kiel is an art museum in the German city of Kiel. With 2.000 m² of display space, it is the largest museum in the city. It is north of the city center on Düsternbrooker Weg. It has a lecture hall, a small cafe and a sculpture garden.

Kiel Canal, Germany

“The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes “sight-seeing.” – Daniel J. Boorstin

Denmark’s Jutland sticks up, not only dividing the Baltic Sea from the North Sea, but also eastern Germany from western Germany. Before the Kiel Canal was built in the 19th century, Jutland’s location not only forced German ships to sail an extra 275km, but also run the Danish/Swedish gauntlet of forts lining the connecting strait. This constraint was well understood by the Hansiatic League who first invited the Danes to join (to avoid paying them taxes) and then burning the Danish fleet and attacking Copenhagen.

The eastern terminus of the Kiel Canal is located along Kiel Förde leading into the Port of Kiel. The 60 mile long Kiel Canal is 338 feet wide and 37 foot deep and seven high bridges span the busy channel.

Ours is one of the few cruise ships today that is small enough fit in the canal (though its narrow enough that it feels like we can reach out and touch passersby from our veranda and we had to lower the ship’s mast to fit under the bridges – by 50cm). The shore was lined with people at a number of points (especially where the locks were located) taking pictures of our ship and waving. Originally built for military purposes, the canal was enlarged prior to World War I to accommodate larger modern ships. Connecting Kiel (we enter the canal by passing through the Kiel-Holtenau Locks), gateway to the Baltic Sea and Brunsbuttel on the Elbe River (we leave the canal by going through the Brunsbuttel Locks and into the North Sea), it transverses fairly flat farmland.