5th in the Parador Series

There have been a number of people who have requested more information about the Paradors in Spain. And, which was my favorite. (This one, the history is fascinating.)

It was diffichanging-housesult to find pictures of the Hanging Houses in Cuenca, Spain. I had to use Bing for the excellent pictures because we had not been there and wanted information.

The 1992 book, “Discovering, Spain, an uncommon guide” by Penelope Casas  gave us vital history of the area.

Cuenca  hangs at the edge of a rocky spur, ringed by gently rounded cliffs and flanked by surrounding rivers the, Jucar and the Hucar.

Cuenca is an impenetrable fortress, approachable only by way of a narrow bridge crossing  a shallow moat. That strip of land was the only point that the city needed man-made protection.

cuenca-spain

Lower left is the Parador while the Hanging Houses are across the river and around the cliffs. Notice that the bridge crossing the river runs up to the highway and up and through the houses. This was the only place where Cuenca needed man made protection and was defended by thick fortified walls.

parador-edit-cuenca

This was a 6th C. convent abandoned and later converted to a parador. It is directly opposite of the hanging houses and has a wonderful view.

parador_de_cuenca_14-courtyard

This is a grand place to go for an afternoon break and a drink after walking miles and miles of the town.

piscina-at-cuenca

With energy left one could avail themselves of the swimming pool.

The Hanging Houses of Cuenca, backed by the cliffs, rise more than a dozen stories over the rivers, but from the medieval streets that wind and twist up and down from the central Plaza Mayor, the houses are just three and four floors high. The best way to see them is from a distance.

parador-edit-cuenca-2

We haven’t been here yet, but from all this information and the pictures, there is no way we’re going to miss this site and the Hanging Houses, and maybe over imbibing after entering one of the structures!

1/16/2017

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Parador de Baiona: Part 2 of Series

parador-de-baiona

A fantastic location over looking the Atlantic, with rolling Pine Hills off to the left! On the right and straight  ahead, the small orange roofed  building is the Bar and Grill  with an outside patio right on the water.  In the evening it is lit with fairy lights that extend over the white path that outlines the Atlantic. Notice the circular front entrance on the road to the left.

parador-de-baiona-entrance

And this Regal  Entrance  leads us to the Parador…guarded by ancient walls on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on  the  other….also well protected by the animals within, and currents.

Having the opportunity to walk, we took the path on the right and headed uphill into town. Small city (at that time) but packed with fetching shops and a beautiful  Church.

baiona-water-view

Coming back from the upper town, we were amazed with this wonderful distant view of “our” island! Limping down to the Bar and Grill, we chilled out with a local wine.

Still tired from the long walk, we naturally headed for the heated swimming pool with the soft Atlantic breeze as a bonus.  We decided to eat in one of Baiona’s restaurants  that eve.

baiona-bedroom

Not our bedroom…although ours was lovely…and less expense.  I figured in another 5 years, and with  the Senior Savings, the 40% reduction would certainly be a benefit.

We could see why Christopher Columbus wanted to retire here.

parador-de-baiona_from-the-sea

That evening we walked over to the Bar & Grill, sat under the fairy-lights and toasted  the fantastic view. And this was a “keeper”!

November, 20, 2016

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Journey to Cyprus: Part 1

We flew into Cyprus, grabbed our rental car and drove to our hotel in New Helvetia in Platres—a small beautiful mountain town.

Although this picture does not show the hairpin drive up to the entrance- one can feel it!

The hotel is about 100 years old- but excellent and a bargain!

One side of the room is down stairs and it contains the bathrooms and the bed,

and the stairs going up contain the television and reading couches. The porch has chairs and are semi-enclosed and separated from your neighbor with a view of the hill side.

I took this picture from the balcony looking down to see how many were still eating. And as you probably noticed my camera is having troubles and there were no postcards to be had I found out later.

After settling in we decided to see our small town.

The first stop was Choirokoitia, an ancient site existing from around 4,000 B.C.

Lying at the crossroads of  Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, Turkey, and among others who were interested in their rich copper deposits. Their name Cyprus came from Kypors which meant copper.

The trasnition between the Stone and Bronze age was called the Chalolithe- and was the site we were heading for. The Troodos moutains had a large deposit of copper.

A Neolithic village, in the 2nd half of the 7th millennium B.C. Choirokotia was inscribed on the UNSEC world heritage list.

The “house” consisted of a group of these structures around an open space where all were installed for growing and storing corn. Light came through the openings in the walls for visibility. Their custom was to bury the deceased inside the bottom of the pit so that the families could remain together.

We were tired and hungry when returning from this excursion so I leaned out over the balcony to see how crowded the dinning area was. It showed very few people.

So we ended up having lunch in the bar and discovered the huge tree trunk growing there. It was planted by our hostess grandfather. He was revered by both his family and the town. And by the picture of his last car embedded in the outside patio wall.

Mike thinks it’s a Morris Miner car of the 50’s.

I included this picture because I thought it revealed the attitudes and ambiance of both the lovely hotel blending with the early Fall season at the outside dining area.

We will get to the wine areas next time!

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After Prague: the hinterlands of the Czech Republic

800px-Vltava_in_Prague

After discovering the strength and bravery of the Czech people in Prague, we wanted to see more of the Czech countryside. It was a dreary morning, made more so by the mammoth SUV the rental company foisted on us.  “…but we got no other car…maybe tomorrow?”  (Mike had reserved and paid for a sedan 3 months earlier.)

I was driving with the parking lights on when a policeman motions us over. “No lights!” he said.

I got out and reached up my hand to reflect the parking light. He mumbles and walks around the car. “So K” he says “but need brighter”.  I flicked on the brights. “So K, so K” he says and smacks the trunk. We learned afterwards that the police are poorly paid and compensate for it. Hence I carried money in my pocket and only had to use it once.

c-cesky-sternberk-castle-1

About an hour later we reached the Sternberg Castle loftily capping the hill and guarding the Sazava River valley. Perfect for coffee and a leg stretch. This 13th century  Gothic castle was captured in 1467 and at the end of 15th century the original family regained and restored it. We got coffee from the heavily wooded bar and walked the windy river battlements and found a network of iron cages containing owls and eagles. The trainer was speaking to several kids and removed an owl from its cage and freed him. It flew up in growing circles until the trainer whistled him back to his arm. We were all enthralled.

On to Tabor.

Tabor,Czech_RepublicIt was beautiful and uncrowded. The Luznice river can be seen behind the rooftops. The village grew from a military camp of Hussite refugees escaping Prague in 1420. The maze of streets and narrow alleyways were beautifully built!  This group were avid supporters of Jan Hus, one of the most important religious thinkers of the 1400’s. He fought against the Catholic Church’s  corrupt practices and opulent life styles. The Papacy excommunicated Jan and then burned him at the stake. (Not much negotiating in the 14th century!)

On to Jindrichuv Hradec  (even a linguist would have difficulty with this name).

+Trout ponds

Although this looks more like a “trout stream”, there were many round ones. Fresh fried trout decided our staying several days and exploring nearby sites.

Jindrichuv Hradec

The castle, towering over a trout farm, was built in the 13th century and Italian architects expanded it into  a Renaissance  palace in the 16th century. There were no English tours so we linked to a Norwegian group who graciously helped us understand the tour guide. Five floors but no Elevators. After several hours of climbing and descending, we cut to the castle wine bar.

Not often can one visit a Gothic Castle converted to a Renaissance Palace!

We had a wonderful trout dinner that evening and decided to see Ceske Krumlov tomorrow.

krumlov

It was just an hour’s drive, the beautiful medieval Ceske Krumlov was across the river from Austria. (Saving that for another trip.) This village belonged to the Rozmberk dynasty from 1302 to 1611. In 1992, Unesco added it to its World Cultural Heritage Site. Just looking at the picture…..one can understand why! Additionally, the town center is closed to cars. Beyond that, Ceske Krumlov is noted for its Baroque Theater that is one of a kind. It offers a fascinating glimpse of 18th century theatrical life …including costumes, sets and stage machinery.

Back to Jindrichuv Hradec just in time to see a weather change.

Cloudy evening in Hradec

Nothing like a pub and fireplace when the weather chills. The next day on to Znojmo and a few days at the Prestige Hotel’s outdoor patio where one can read and rest their feet.

Prestige Hotel patio

The next day on to Znojmo and a few days at the Prestige Hotel’s outdoor patio where one can read and rest your feet.Znojmo

Znojmo is one of Moravia’s oldest towns with a warren of narrow streets and surrounding river.

After a final cup of coffee on our hotel’s sunny patio, we are off on a side trip to Brno. Mike had arranged  to meet with structural engineering Professor Strasky for an overview of his bridges.

Pedestrian Suspension Bridge

I thought this was outstanding and wanted to run across…but then I’d have to come back.

Professor Strasky then took us to lunch. He and Mike had much in common and talked for hours about architecture and engineering.

We also stopped at Brno’s “Hall of Prayers”, the site of 9,000 Jewish tombstones.

Prag Jewish Cemetery2

The Jewish community raised the funds to put headstones on the unmarked sites. Meanwhile, the Church of the Holy Cross has mummified  monks (dressed) in the crypt. These towns certainly preserve and honor their past….remarkable!

The next stop: Mikulov.

MilkulovIt offers a palette of wineries, naturally, a castle, and an intriguing cemetery. The town is beautiful especially with the ancient “foundations” protecting from the highest point. (The 13th century castle was destroyed by the Germans at the end of WW II.) But, you can see and smell the vaults where the remnants of the 2 centuries storage of locally-made wine still flowed.

The Jewish cemetery began in the 16th century.

Jewish_cemetery_in_Mikulov

That this was the seat of Moravia’s chief rabbi, 16th century, was not coincidental. Many of the headstones date back to 1618. In “Prague” (see blog on same), the Jewish ghetto ironically survived the destruction because although the Nazis’ destroyed ghettos elsewhere, Hitler wanted to preserve the “Prague collection” as a museum of the “Extinct Jewish race in Europe” after the Final Solution was achieved!  Ha.

Continuing on, we drove into Trencin , Slovakia and were enthralled by the huge castle above and the modernity  of the streets below.

Trencin Castle

The large building below is the Hotel Tatra and staying there was lovely and easy: out the door and you are in the central square.

The next day we drove toward Olomouc and Mike sighed when the first vineyard appeared.

vineyards-2

Lush, green and magnetic. If there only was a tasteing-room…..

Olomouc-Czech-Republic-3828Driving into the city was a joy, the streets wide and parking easy. The Holy Trinity Column dominated the area, crowned by figures representing the Holy Trinity and surrounded by people sitting on the steps enjoying the weather and the view of this 7th century village.

Brateslava, Slovakia was our last site. It was difficult getting into this city of 600,000 people. What few street signs there were, we couldn’t read. After checking some hotels that were full we headed for the central plaza. The Carlton (Radisson) Hotel, with a parking lot beneath that turned the trick. We got a splendid room (123) on the first level with a big balcony over looking the pedestrian area.

Bratislava, The CarltonThe railing blocks a view of our room, but we had a splendid room and view. I asked the clerk how much for one night, for two nights, three nights… and bingo! Got down to 40% reduction for three nights. (Which we planned to do anyway)

We set off with our prearranged guide “Roman” at 2, going to taste wine at the castle cave. It was very good. That evening we had dinner at out hotel bar which was more lively and fun than the formal dinning room.

 Brateslava Castle

At 10 AM we met with our other guide, Susan, for a tour of the castle and part of the town. Perched on a hill above the Danube, the castle was first mentioned in 907. A strategic spot covering the trade routes and the old Amber route, it went through the usual transitions, rebuilt in 1950. The original huge castle cellar had been used for copper storage but evolved to wine storage, it certainly smelled better!

The next day I took time off from wine touring to explore the central square and narrow alley ways.

Brateslava Square

And what a joy it was! People everywhere small shops and vendor wagons crowded for space, and lots of smiles. I bypassed the wineries the second day and explored more. Found a church and started to enter late for the noon mass- a guard blocked the door “No tourist wondering through the church.” Remembering picture taking and talking tourists in European chruchs … I left.

We returned to Prague the next day for our departure the following morning. Only one area I wanted to revisit- the Jewish ghetto and burial site.

Prague Jewish Cemetary

I gave my thanks to the unbelievable culture and courage of the Czech people.

1/17/2016

 

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The Serendipity (choices) of Senior Malfunctions

View when entering RovinjAfter leaving Venice and Slovenia, ultimately heading for Split, Croatia, we were sidelined by Rovinj, Croatia. And this picture is what lured us. On the left, by the sea, there was a narrow road that dead- ended in multiple parking lots wedged between the buildings. So we did too.

Rovinj, Croatia (port)


Out with the umbrellas and start walking. We circled the buildings and arrived at “Port Side” just as the sun and people came out! Confused by our location and the whereabouts of our car, we stopped for a map. ,Rovinj like a jig-saw And the uncertainty vanished. This is an Overall view of Rovinj and our car was hiding on the left side, near the water, while we had zig-zagged between the houses to the Portside path. The first hotel I looked at was for “Sailors” only. (I wonder what they would have said if Mike had gone in?)

The final one was on the other end of the Port Side and perfect. Small, maybe 10 rooms, and the owner gave us a 2nd floor room with this view. Rovinj, Croatia (view from hotel) The Old Town and Church are straight ahead…a bit on the right. The hotel’s restaurant was just below us. The owner gave us directions for car retrieval (using back streets only) and a parking spot next to the hotel….and we extended our stay to two nights. But first, I love Old Towns and wanted to see this one. Inside old Town This one was very different. It was and is a fishing port….so the major entrance is the door opening to the sea while the alley ways we saw were secondary entrances…narrow, dark and functional. But well maintained. This picture with the pumpkin in it allows us to see the shrouded passage way behind it. Then it began to drizzle again and we found the perfect place to eat. Rovinj...dinner Choosing a small table adjacent to the restaurant, we applauded our waiter raising an umbrella.  We had a narrow view of the Adriatic Sea and the fishing boats returning. The thrumming of their motors and their twinkling lights were a wonderful show. (Too dark for a photo.)

The next morning we noticed a large green area on the far left of our balcony.

Rovinj, Croatia

Our hotel owner said it was open to all.  And it was exquisite….some very old stone walls, an occasional “rusting” statue and views over the sea. Of course we did a wine tasting and tour that afternoon. Mike rated the wines very highly….as the driver, I only had 2 sips. Dinner in our own restaurant that eve.  The seafood and the local music were exceptional.  This city was a wonderful choice….but we didn’t realize it until we arrived.

Now that’s “Serendipity”!

4/15/2015555

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A Short Trip- But fruitful until the end, Disaster.

 

Our plans were on visiting our kids in Sacramento—an early Thanksgiving. We realized that the small town of San Juan Batista California would be more interesting. Small old town. This is an overview of the town and I have to admit it is a very beautiful one. What a surprise as we drove down the lovely valley and the hills. This city is basically a farming community.

In 1779 Saint John the Baptist established the Franciscan order and began the Indian conversion to Christianity and used their labor to farm the land for the Order.

Pasada Hotel: We had reserved a week earlier and loved its antiquity- and the inside was splendid.

We had to drag our luggage up to our second floor room but the hallways were wide and have live growing trees and the grand doorway entrances showed the buildings age, character and luxury…We even had an outdoor patio that was private and looked across the street at the Christmas decorations on a huge house nearby. Charming.

Still enough daylight to walk to the mission and see the statues in the gardens. It was a surprise to walk on wooden planked sidewalks in the streets throughout almost the entire town.

The mission was closed but soft singing came from behind the doors. There were two wonderful statues, one for Saint John the Baptist and one for an Indian.



Suddenly the large plaza came to life with the golden lights- apparently as a prelude to the coming Christmas season.

Back to town where we found a wonderful Basque restaurant. After we entered the chef waved to us to specify any table we wanted- and we sat by the door. Apparently that was good for business because shortly thereafter several small groups arrived and the chef smiled broadly.

Next morning we left for Sacramento and the early Thanksgiving family get- together. We had a wonderful reunion and after dinner at our favorite restaurant we left. All of us complained of the heavy fog. We didn’t find out until the next day the awful campfire had decimated that small town.

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Tivoli in Copenhagen, Denmark

Freefall at the Tivoli in Copenhagen, Denmark

Tivoli Freefall

We took a cab from the airport to our Copenhagen Plaza Hotel and checked in. Stepping out on our 4th floor balcony I was delighted to see the main train station on our right and directly across the street was the Tivioli, one of the most beautiful amusement parks in Europe. Timing was everything! Suddenly, what looked to be a giant umbrella arose from behind the park wall and opening gracefully began to climb. It slowly spiraled around swirling out the tethered chairs attached beneath. The sounds of scared laughter rose with it until the flying seats were parallel to the park ground 5 floors below. I was reentering our room when the shouting lessened and the  umbrella began to close, descending to earth.Copehagen train station

A train came noisily into the station and distracted me from this wild ride that both fascinated and terrified me.

The weather was bits and pieces of chill with a few drops of rain but we needed exercise after a very long flight from San Francisco. We headed out on the pedestrian zone to do a walkabout. Because the cobbled-stone streets can be slippery when wet, we crowded in with the others sharing the narrow sidewalks. We spotted a “Plank Steak House” serving spare ribs and caught a couple of seats next to the fireplace. Excellent meal. Back to the hotel and the balcony to watch the fascinating Freefall again.  The umbrella was rising and the vocal whoopla was beginning……but this time there was one voice that screamed in panic. As it crescendoed into piercing shrieks, the Freefall’s ascent  slowed and then stopped. Then it began to lower. When it reached the ground, it was quiet.

A few minutes later it rose again trailed by the normal yells of delight and fear.

Now I felt really comfortable with this wild and scary ride.

Tivoli Gardens

The next day we walked through the park entrance….and the area was so large that without the map we would have been lost. Rides, restaurants, gardens, shops, ponds…it was wonderful, and vital. We spent hours. This is a city and country that we plan to revisit.

Copehgane River

4/13/2013

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Tomar, Portugal : A magnificent Old Town

When we arrived in Lisbon, Portugal, we had to walk the airport to unkink our legs. We have now accumulated enough Delta Miles to fly first–class, half money and half earned miles (But not in time for this trip). Reason: for 11 hours of flying, the couple ahead of us put their seats ALL the way back! (Except when the trays were put down for meals.) I didn’t want to do the bathroom shuffle so I said I wasn’t feeling well and if they moved their seats a bit forward, we wouldn’t disturb them. And they did.

Unkinked and rental ready, we drove the hour to Tomar just as the sun came out.

Town view of castle You can just see the top of the Knights Templar Castle over the bridge, above the buildings and guarding the village.

Knight Templar 1160 - Copy - CopyThis ancient structure was a combination of Gothic, Manueline and Renaissance architecture integral to Portuguese history. “Convento de Cristo”  was founded In 1160 by Gualdim Pais, Grand Master of the Templars. They defended Portugal from invaders. In the 14th century the order was banned in Europe…but they were supported by the Portuguese Royals and re-established as the new “Order of Christ” and continued as such.

 

Hotel Dos Templarios, Tomar

One of those rare but wonderful accidents….the hotel was hosting a conference and only a suite was left…which we got at the double rate. Unbelievable. Upstairs and down stairs, one bed room, bath and patio on each…and complimentary bottle of Port. Life is good!

After bathing and checking out the Port wine, we headed downtown for dinner.

corredoura-in-tomar-portugal

A well kept pedestrian  street with the Castle hovering above.  We found a restaurantwith a riverside patio where we enjoyed watching the pedestrians crossing the bridge. The next morning we were switched to an even better room  on an upper floor, with our patio facing the Castle…. lit up at night!

 

The next morning off to see Portugal-Castle-de-Almoural.

Portugal-Castelo-de-AlmourolYou had to take a ferry to visit the ruins on a tiny island in the Tagus River. The Grand Master Gualdim Pais also built this Templar Castle in 1171…over a Roman fortress…and it was never taken by invading forces.  45 minutes  climbing  to see the fantastic view (and catching your breath) but only 15 back to the ferry.

 

Returning to town, we wanted to checkout some of the 15th century additions to the 1160 Castle.

Tomar_Portugal_6

 

Wonderful entrance through the old Castle walls.One of the Cloisters

Inside we visited one of the Cloisters. This is the area where the monks, and in this case, the Templars would come for prayer and worship.

Begun in the 15th century, this “Cloister” reflects the Italian art of the time. There were concealed spiral stairways in the corners leading to the, “Terrace of Wax”. But- they were sealed off.

We were tempted to climb up the outside walls and find out what the “Terrace of Wax” was.

 

 

Synogue de Tomar

This synogue was built in 1430 and is one of the oldest synagogues in Portugal. It was last used as a place of worship in 1497, after Emanuel I closed it to all Jews who didn’t convert to Christianity, and consequently it was used as a prison, a hayloft and a warehouse. Today it holds a small Jewish museum. You can see the original columns and a vaulted ceiling in the back of the picture.

As we left Tomar we stopped just over the bridge to view the top of the Templar castle as we saw it in the beginning.

Town view of castle

1/24/2016

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A Sad Tale of Two Persons Traveling

(I’ll get to the picture of the enormous airplane in a bit.)

It began when Mike called our hotel clerk to find out which terminal we should go to for our, “Delta connection” And she said, “Go to the regular Delta domestic connection.”

A bad start for a Holiday; when we arrived at Delta we needed the International Terminal! So dragging our luggage, up the escalator, down the walkways, on to a tram- and finally to check-in.

After a single glass of good wine we dragged our luggage through the passport control.

Now, look at the plane picture in the beginning. Mike had reserved us window an isle seats- but we were given a three-seater row instead. And I have a window obsession. He ended up in the middle seat and had paid more for the extra leg room-?? There were two-seaters across the aisle from our seats. It turned out they were backed up to a wall with no windows because they were up against a kitchen, so now opportunity to switch seats. A lovely stewardess, because of a take-off delay, gave me a tour and told me this was the end of the 767-7000 plane because the smaller planes are more spacious, comfortable, and economical to maintain.

 

Looking at the picture above we were in the row of the three brown seats in the front of the plane. And the two-seaters on the sides of us had no windows because the kitchen walls impeded their views. So it wouldn’t help switching.

The stewardess also showed me the first class… and I was not impressed. (Giant sea shells like pods) But maybe the food was good!

I was thankful for the many bathrooms she showed me around. The only exercise I had for this thirteen hour flight was using it frequently, sometimes with a book.

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Baltic States IV

Pure joy for Mike today!   We’re off to meet with 2 of the winemakers he had emailed long before our trip began. Both their vineyards  were near Kandava, Latvia.

Kaspars Sunins 16+ year old  vineyard (his wife the wine maker) were not producing this year but we got a vineyard tour.

Photo201

Their winery.

The second winery, Abaxas Vineyards, owned by Martins and  Liene Barkans, was open and the tasting plus discussion about  good and bad problems from the winemakers was excellent.

While they talked about viticulture and aging,  I went to the car and read my book….it’s not fun to be the designated driver…but I’ll make it up tonight at dinner!

Then off to Cesis, Latvia  for a wonderful 13th century castle.

Cesis Center

 

With no GPS, the smaller towns are easier: find the Old Town Center and follow the people.

It was certainly smaller than Riga’s (Baltic State III) and far less crowded .When we ate dinner here later, a gentleman was playing the guitar and different women came to sing with him.

Our drive through town ended with the Hotel Cesis…and there we stayed.

-hotel-cesis

This building maintained its 100+ old dignity both inside and out although  it did update the amenities. The dining room was regal with many windows overlooking the park beyond.  After lunch we explored the park and were delighted to find remains of the “old” 13th century castle.

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Walking further, we saw reconstructed 13th and 14th  buildings. The following picture gives a better overhead view of what we found.

Cesis Castle, Latvia

Our hotel, upper left, orange roof, was very convenient to everything.  Also, free parking. We continued to  explore the site.

In 1236, the Pope, after the battle of Saule, incorporated the survivors into the “Livonian province of the Teutonic Order” in the 13th century. It became the strongest military organization in present day Latvia and Estonia. (These may have been descendants of the Knights’ Templar.?) From the 13th to the 16th century the Teutonic Knights reconstructed this Castle. But a shadow fell in 1558….Tsar Ivan the Terrible declared war on them and the subsequent history is both bloody and brave…..

Cesis Castle, #2

This recent picture of the castle shows the continuing restoration.  The newer walking bridge is just above the original (rocks and boulders) and hovers over the original moat. (left side, big rocks) with a newer walking bridge above.

Now, on to Tartu, Estonia,  the university town. There was a big fire here in 1755 so most of the city is “new”.

Barkley Hotel, Tartu

 

 

 

We drove to the Barclay  Hotel, stopped and stayed. We got a balcony room which over looked one of the many parks and was ideally located for walking. We loved the hotel, except for the shower- the water was not “contained” and we walked on wet towels! (Who designed this atrocity?!)

The hotel was built in 1912, forfeited to Soviet headquarters in 1944 and became this hotel in- 1995.

Tartu kissing coupleThis statue of a “Kissing Couple” was our favorite in the town square- a definite sign of the university city!

Later we walked through the university campus and found the Tartu Cathedral ruins adjoined to the back of the university library.

Tartu Cathedral ruins

Astounding that the university kept and maintained what had gone of long before. This 370 year old university is the undisputed intellectual center of the country, and 370 year most prestigious seat of learning in the Baltics.

The next day we took a ferry over to Peke’s winery, restaurant and hotel on Muhu island for dinner and overnight.

Dinner was lamb, roasted underground all day- with a multitude of excellent wines.

Photo209Mike is sitting and wine maker Peke is standing. (Aspirin needed before bed)

The next day we were driving to catch the ferry back to Tallinn when whoops—

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Although we had a rental with Lativa plates our being American upped the ante from 20 Euros to 160 Euros!

Finally arrived at Tallinn. Mike, still   driving, goes through the old town to our hotel the wrong way through the pedestrian streets, (Sunday crowded- hazardous to everyone’s life and limb- he pulled into a “no parking” spot and says, “We’re here!”) And we were in front of our hotel, the Merchant’s House.

 

Merchants house hotelAnd then we started touring. Our concierge told us that since it was Sunday afternoon, most of the crowds would return to their ships very soon.

Alexander-Nevsky-Cathedral-Tallinn-Estonia-2-UL3

Tsar Alexander III ordered this Cathedral  named after the Duke Alexander Nevsky (1219-1263) who had defeated the Livonian Knights in 1242. Many Estonians disliked it as a symbol of the “Russification” policies. As a tourist and unaware of their political viewpoints, I saw this massive building looking down on the crowded square and very narrow streets below, and also looking out beyond to its livelihood :the shipping trade and visiting ocean linerson the Baltic Sea. A conundrum. But it is colorful.

 

Our hotel had a lovely private courtyard  and we had our lunch delivered there.

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Reenergized, we walked the many pedestrian streets particularly noting the restructuring and widening of some. Around 7pm we entered the major square and found a restaurant.

Town Hall Square in Old Medieval Hansa Tallinn, Estonia

Much less crowded now- but most of the restaurants  were busy. Our roasted lamb was  delicious.

Excellent breakfast in our hotels basement “Cave”. Two hundred years, old-heavy stone walls and floor but wonderful atmosphere!

Our concierge arranged our ferry tickets to Helsinki for tomorrow and our car rental return today. Wonderful assistance!

Walking through the city, we came to Toompea castle at the very top.

toompea

Although now home to Estonia’s Parliament, for over 700 years it belonged to various occupying foreign powers. Except for the towers, the most interesting site (for me) were the original defense walls down below. You can see through one straight ahead between two of the towers.

That afternoon we toured the vineyard of winemaker Jaak Eensolu who produced some excellent wines. My tour was short lived- driven back to the car by various bugs!

Our 4 hour ferry to Helsinki was beautiful….after we found our way up the 10  floors to Deck 10…the open area on the stern and the beautiful Baltic Sea!

Arrived at our reserved lovely Hotel Rivoli Jardine shortly and the assistance of very professional Concierges. Our last meal in Helsinki was near their beautiful port….and this is what we saw…..

07/24/2016

Helsinki Port

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