Out of the armchair traveling

Given the couple diversions into the political and the newsy lately, it’s time to return the blog to its regular (albeit perhaps boring and mundane) programming. There’s even a book review coming next week after a long absence from writing them.

In going back to the routine on the blog, I’ll start with something out of the routine. My recent whining about age and my interest in foreign literature contributed to scheduling a new adventure next year.

Monday my wife and I put down our deposit on a Northern Europe cruise next summer, grabbing the last available cabin on the ship. Here’s the current itinerary, including the extra day you’re given in Stockholm before actually leaving port:

  1. Stockholm, Sweden
  2. Stockholm, Sweden
  3. Tallinn, Estonia
  4. St. Petersburg, Russia
  5. St. Petersburg, Russia
  6. St. Petersburg, Russia
  7. Helsinki, Finland
  8. Cruising the Baltic Sea
  9. Gdansk, Poland
  10. Copenhagen, Denmark
  11. Berlin (Warnemunde), Germany
  12. Kiel Canal Transit
  13. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  14. Bruges (Zeebrugge), Belgium
  15. London (Dover), United Kingdom

Now that might not sound too romantic or “cruise-like” to some. But for me that’s part of the point. Not that I’m getting decrepit, but I never saw Europe until last year and find this a good way to get a taste of various countries. We can always return to various countries in the future on a more focused and less hectic schedule. In fact, our tentative plan is a foreign trip at least every two years now that we have the freedom to do so.

On this trip, we’re viewing the ship as the equivalent of a bus on a land tour but where you get to plan your own itinerary at each stop. Some may think Russia and Estonia are a natural draw for a left winger like me. The fact is two of my grandparents were born in Russia and a third in Germany. Throw in my wife’s Finnish heritage and this trip looks wonderful. Besides, it’s hard to find cruises that allow you three days in St. Petersburg.

Now it’s a matter of saving up for the trip (something most people would begin to do beforehand) and counting the days.

Often I feel I go to some distant region of the world to be reminded of who I really am. There is no mystery about why this should be so. Stripped of your ordinary surroundings, your friends, your daily routines, your refrigerator full of your food, your closet full of your clothes — with all this taken away, you are forced into direct experience.

Michael Crichton, Travels

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