Friday, 31 July 2009

Hundreds of Masts

Where are you going to be this weekend? If not in Klaipeda (Lithuania) you will miss the hundreds of masts that reached our harbour yesterday evening…

So far I’ve seen just a few, but they all make me want to explore the far away seas – the Mediterranean and the Aegean… (I prefer hot countries and light blue waters that you can see in the fancy post cards!). I’m so jealous… but only for a few minutes, as looking at the rocking boats I remember that I’m very good at feeling dizzy whenever I’m not on stable ground... Still, I hope I can overcome this one day!

The Tall Ships’ Races 2009 is the greatest event of the Millennium anniversary of Lithuania in the West of the country! (Oh, yes, it certainly is!)

Some info from the official website: „for the first time in the millennium history of our country so many sailing ships with foreign flags are going to visit Klaipeda Seaport simultaneously. This supreme event will serve as a good occasion to our country’s citizens understanding that Lithuania is not only the Maritime State engaged in cargo handling, but the port’s activities are also related to sailing ships.”

To my mind sailing is getting more and more popular (the theory classes I attended last spring were full), but no doubt it’s a sport for the rich. It’s not enough just to buy a yacht – you must think of how much it will cost to keep it. I guess it’s the old story about any expensive thing – even if you can buy it, but you can’t afford to run it or keep it - it’s not for you.

Anyway, it’s free just to have a look at them, so at the moment I’m using this opportunity and keep my fingers crossed that one day someone else will be looking at my vessel!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Holidays (Part 3) – The Way Back Home

On the way to Kiel, from where we had to sail, we chose to have a look at some small towns on the coast of the Baltic Sea. We avoided motorways and kept going along narrow country roads: looking at cabbage or corn fields, admiring German gardens and occasionally smelling fresh cow sh…

The first place we stopped at was a car park in the middle of nowhere – according to the map we had to be very close to the sea, so we jumped out and hurried down a paved path. What a shame! It ended with a sign that said we weren’t allowed to carry on. We could see some buildings and satellite dishes and it turned out there was some military base.

Back at the car we spotted some people walking the other direction, crossing a field of rye and disappearing in some woodland. We had a theory they were going to the beach and we were right!

That’s how I imagine the book cover for the book ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ by J.D.Salinger (although it’s definitely not a book on agriculture!) – an enormous field of rye just ended and we came up to a huge creek.

The water was very warm, but the beach was full of stones, so it was a bit hard to walk on it and to get into the water. Well, it was the same Baltic Sea, that we are used to, but it looked so different! Even the sea weeds (fucus vesiculosus), that we also find on our coast, looked somehow bigger…

Just before reaching Kiel we stopped in a town called Strand (the name means ‘beach’) and we could straight away see that this was a place for the wealthy ones. Situated next to the Kiel Yacht Club it had cosy hotels, busy cafes and a lovely sand beach, once again filled with those German baskets (Germans must be allergic to laying on the sand!).

During our holidays we stayed close to the coast and it was so rewarding! The Germans must be so lucky to have the two seas next to each other and of course a much longer coast line than we have here in Lithuania (only 99km).

So I left the country thinking that it would be very nice to own a yacht and to come back one day to these parts at least for a long weekend…

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Holidays (Part 2) – More on German Style

The first night we arrived we were invited to a Yugoslavian restaurant by our friendly German hosts. To tell the truth, by the time we got to Meldorf we were quite tired, but it seemed rude to refuse, so we joined in… And I must admit we had a lovely evening!

Well, I certainly did as I ordered a plate of prawns with salad and they came in a huge bowl, laid out in a circle somehow pointing their heads up like small cobras. It was impressive, but I didn’t have my camera with me. And thinking about it, even if I had it, I’m not sure if I would have taken a photo… Germans have lots of rules, some things are ‘Verboten’ (forbidden) and for some things you just need to have an ‘Ausweiss’ (license). I have noticed that several years ago and while visiting Germany I tend to be very cautious.

On the day we went to Busum (a small, but busy German North sea resort) and didn’t have our hosts with us, I sneakily took a photo of my plate – so you can see that their cooks are good at creating wonders! And if you ever end up in Busum you must have fish or sea food – lovely smell from some restaurant just won’t let you go by.

Talking about small towns, which are worth a look if you happen to travel round those parts – make sure you spend a few hours in Friedrichstadt. It’s a town situated on river Eide and its history goes back to 1621, when it was founded by Dutch settlers! Duke Friedrich III of Holstein-Gottorp pursued them to invest capital and knowledge in this region in turn for freedom of their Mennonite and Remonstrant religion and opportunities to reclaim fen and marsh land in the vicinity of the town. At the time Dutch became an official language, but by 1630, many citizens had already returned to the Netherlands as the city did not become as successful as anticipated. Nowadays it’s a cute little town with very ornate architecture, long canals and in the summer – lots of colourful roses.

I think that people in this German region lead very good lives – the food is tasty and they can spoil themselves enjoying sea food, small towns are close to each other and are easily reached by not busy country roads, the nature is nice and provides all sorts of ways to spend your free time… Have a guess what Germans like the most? Of course cycling! If you ask me they are ‘enbischen verruckt’ (a little bit crazy) with their bikes, but on the other hand it must be healthy and eco friendly.

Yes, Germans have a lot to teach... ‘Ordnung muss zein’ (there has to be order) is obviously working – my boyfriend kept wondering: ‘the country is bigger than England, but trains are always on time!’. (Well, nearly always…) Just before going home we had a chance to visit Hamburg and we went there by train. To get to this city we had to change 2 times, so we ended up traveling on 4 German trains - all were clean and comfortable and only the last one was 5 minutes late, but we were going into the second biggest city in Germany (6th biggest in the EU), so you can always expect such delays.

I must admit the Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg is nice, but a bit too big for my liking. There’s much to see and the cultural life must be amazing, but I had to do a lot of walking, so my feet were hurting and I was turning into a grumpy tourist, who didn’t manage to take lots of photos… Just a few – a busy café near one of the canals (these are always packed with tired grumpy foreigners) and of the town hall, which is really huge!

To be continued...

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Holidays (Part 1) – A Study on the North Sea

Right… where do I begin? Hmm… probably that we travelled on a ferry that sails between Lithuania and Germany three times a week. It’s a huge white boat that can carry more than 500 passengers and God knows how many cars and trucks… better not to think about it, as my limited knowledge of physics always makes my brain spin – how did we manage to float???

It’s supposedly the biggest ship in the Lithuanian fleet and therefore it’s named Maxima, although my dad says that the previous ferry he used to work on – Gloria – is 40 centimetres longer. Well, maybe it is, but I don’t think that this matters, when you stand on the six’s floor and look down into the water…

Most of the journey we didn’t see anything, but the Baltic Sea. Occasionally we’d spot a boat, so far away that it would look just like a dot on the horizon, but it got more and more interesting when we entered the outskirts of Kiel.

We were greeted by several lighthouses and lots of yachts and we could immediately tell that it must be one of the main maritime centres of Germany. (Later on I found out that the Olympic sailing competitions of the 1936 and the 1972 Summer Olympics were held in Kiel.) Having learnt about navigation I could only sympathise with the captain, as the traffic there was really heavy…

In Germany we stayed in between Kiel and Hamburg, in a little town called Meldorf. Well, it’s actually a village with a population of about 7000, non the less it’s cute and every Friday has a big market where you can buy delicacies from the North Sea (didn’t go there this year as we had some arrangements in Hamburg).

The North Sea is a lot different to the Baltic and always attracts my attention. First of all they have floods! I can’t even imagine turning up on the beach and finding out the there’s no water…

Another minus - in the region where we stayed, there are no dunes! You climb over a hill covered in grass and find more grass… Well, this can be explained – these are flood banks that clever Germans started building in the 11th century (back then they were only 40 centimetres high, now they reach 8 meters!).

The other clever thing they do is let their sheep on these hills so that they would trample the grass down and make the whole construction stable. I love sheep, so I have to say there’s something positive about the North Sea.

The green grass might look good in photos, but I prefer lying on hot sand and not sitting in a basket, oh, and I also prefer to wear my bikini! They say do in Rome as the Romans do, but I don’t think I would ever dare to demonstrate my naked body the way Germans do – they have no changing cabins, so just take everything off and go for a shower to wash the sea water off! (No photos to illustrate that, I’m afraid… just the crazy basket.)

I might be moaning a lot, but I can think of one more positive thing - they have lots of crabs and shrimps in the North Sea! Several years ago in Wales, amazed to how easy it is to catch crabs (and then informed that I shouldn’t say anything like that as somebody might have other ideas) I never loose the opportunity. This time just on a string with a bolt to weigh it down and some German cheese to lure the strange creatures, I managed to catch two at once! (No worries, both went back into the sea.)

It might seem that the holidays in the small town on the coast went pretty slowly. Yes, we did watch the sunset and yachts returning to the harbour before the gates were shut, we walked on the beach and observed some wild life - but just one night. In reality we managed to pack a lot into our five days!

To be continued...

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

De Cuba Garden

To my mind this is the best outdoor restaurant in Lithuania. I love their colourful garden! The plants look really happy here and I think that if I ever get to the stage, where I can finally build and plant on my piece of land (mad Lithuanian regulations...) I will strive to make my garden similar to this.

By the way, the designer, who made it happen, is British!

Monday, 6 July 2009

Jonathan Livingston Seagull

I can finally say that I’ve been to the beach this summer! And I can tell you that it was quite rewarding… Well, I have to use the word ‘quite’ because not everything was perfect – the sun was shining, there were no clouds, the sand was warm, even the sandwiches, that we’d brought, tasted nice (I guess food always tastes nice outdoors), but… the water of the Baltic was still too cold…

I had my camera and was looking for some models. Suddenly some seagulls caught my eye.

Most of them were flying round the dunes – spreading their wings widely and then diving down. I was too far away in order to see what was happening, so I decided to move closer…

It turned out that a real life drama, probably worth to be shown on Natural Geographic, was taking place right next to the bent grass. Loads of bugs were happily enjoying themselves in the greenery and didn’t even anticipate that someone might be after them.

At first the seagulls thought I looked suspicious, but later on they had no problems flying around me and doing their dirty deeds.

Some of the photos that I took will be used to make a present for my friend, who’s getting married in August. She used to live on the coast, but now moved 300km away from it, so hopefully they will remind her how great our beach is! She’s also been fascinated by the book by Richard Bach ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’, so I’m sure it will be something personal and very special.

Jonathan is that brilliant little fire that burns within us all, that lives only for those moments when we reach perfection. Richard Bach