Paris to Normandy – 2017

Sunday, June 18, 2017 – Train from Amsterdam to Paris, France – Father’s Day

Goodbye to the Viking Baldur at 10:00! On to the next adventure beginning in Paris.

Paris to Normandy - 2017

Actually, the adventure began before that. Arrangements were already made for us to get to the train station by taxi, but finding out exactly where to go inside was a bit confusing for us. Glad we had plenty of time to find the 11:05 train!

A young lady on the train, from Belgium, helped us by Googling a bus route for us to take to the next ship – Viking Rolf, to the address they gave us on the ship. She said the train we had planned to take would be very difficult with our luggage! Unfortunately, the directions we got on the Baldur took us a LONG WAY from where the Viking Rolf was docked! Evidently, the port location had changed and we were sent to the old location. It was quite an ‘adventure’ trying to find our way to where we needed to be. Everyone we asked was very helpful, but we kept getting ‘different’ instructions. I have no idea how many times we drug our luggage up & down subway steps (lots) to get to different trains to get us to where we needed to be. Elevators & ramps were non-existent.  Fortunately, we weren’t under a time constraint to get there! Our last ‘little’ leg was to be on a city bus near the ship, so we were trying to figure out where to catch which bus we needed when an angel named Crystal appeared & asked if she could help! She knew where we needed to go and offered to ‘try’ to get us and all of our luggage in her little smart car parked across the street and take us to the ship. And she had her teenage daughter with her!! It took some arranging, but we did it & we finally got to the Viking Rolf just after 6:00 pm! She was indeed a bright spot at the end of this days adventure!!! I wish I’d taken a picture of Crystal. Terry tried to pay her, but she wouldn’t take any money. So, it took us as long to get to the ship after we arrived in Paris as it did to go from Amsterdam to Paris on the train! But we made it! A memory!   Planes, trains & automobiles…..minus the planes today!  ha

There are 7 couples from the Omaha area, and Ralph & Laura (our friends & travel agents), booked on this cruise, so a total of 16 of us. We ate at two tables of 8 for dinner and then went up to the Lounge for the “Spirit of France” opera entertainment. There were three young soloists and a pianist and they did a nice job! We were exhausted after our day’s adventure, so were ready for bed.

Terry has had a cold & terrible cough since the beginning of our other cruise, so we had Ralph & Laura bring us some NyQuill & DayQuill from Omaha, and that helped Terry get a good nights rest! (Me too!)

Monday, June 19, 2017 – Paris, France

We had a full day Paris city tour today, starting @ 9:30.  Paris, “City of Light”, is thought to be one of the most romantic destinations in the world, and it is a beautiful city, but it’s never been one of our favorites. The bus took us past many of the well known places, the Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Opera House and the Paris Town Hall.

We stopped at the magnificent Notre Dame Cathedral with it’s Gothic spires and striking facade.


I had a sleeveless top on, and had to cover my shoulders before entering, which thankfully, the tour guide had in her bag!   It was hot today (in the mid-90’s), so we stopped at a little cafe for a bowl of French Onion Soup until time to meet the tour guide and finish the city tour. The soup was FANTASTIC – go figure, French Onion Soup in Paris is great!

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When we got back to the Rolf @ 4:00, they had an afternoon buffet ready for us on the Aquavit Terrace. We haven’t had a chance to be hungry yet! Tonight was the Captain’s & Hotel Manager’s welcome, followed by the port talk for tomorrow, dinner, then a lesson on French in the lounge before bed.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017 – Vernon, France

First thing this morning was our excursion to Monet’s Gardens in Giverny. Rolf was ported in Vernon, across the Seine from Giverny, a charming little provincial town. This small town was home to artist Claude Monet, who lived here from 1883 until his death in 1926. He designed the flower-filled Clos Normand (the name of the gardens) himself so he could paint them! Anyone who loves flowers would be impressed with his gardens, the graceful Japanese bridge, water lilies, wisteria, azaleas, hollyhocks, poppies, roses – lots of roses – & nearly 100,00 annuals & even more perennials. It IS a place of wonder!!!!! My grandmothers, mother & daughter would have LOVED it here! It was very busy & crowded, so we were happy we got there early both for the crowd and the temps (hot!)! Supposedly, the hot temps are not normal for this early in the season. His home and gardens are now a museum dedicated to this great impressionistic painter.

We got back in time for a taste of Normandy in the restaurant, before taking a short (an hour) walking tour through Vernon. The French language is a hard one for us to figure out & understand, but one tip is that they typically do not pronounce the last letter in the word. Therefore, Vernon is pronounced Verno, and that makes sense why they call Paris Paree!

IMG_1272Yes, the walls were as crooked as they look! – Vernon

The Enrichment Lecture later in the afternoon was given by a local painter, who was way more interesting and funny than I thought would be the case! And the 9:00 feature was about, and a taste of, French Cheeses. It was a good day!

Wednesday, June 21, 2017 – Rouen, France

Cruising through the night and much of the morning on the Seine (pronounced Sen), we arrived in Rouen (pronouncing this one is interesting – the R is more guttural in the back of the throat and the en is not pronounced – funny!) just before lunch. We had an interesting presentation about Joan of Arc, who we’ve heard mentioned many times. She is a heroine to the French people and was only 19 years old when she was burned at the stake.

We explored the medieval quarter, the Notre Dame Cathedral (of Rouen), and loved the ornate gold face of the Renaissance-style Gros Horloge Astronomical Clock, ending up at the Place du Vieux Marche, where Joan of Arc was burned at the stake. There’s a statue of her there as well.

The Notre Dam Cathedral, Rouen, and the magnificent steeple was a favorite subject of Claude Monet to paint. It’s also the burial place of Richard the Lionheart, the English king and Norman duke.

After dinner, at 10:40 p.m. (yikes!), we joined a group to see and enjoy an incredible show of sound & light shown on the facade of the Rouen Notre Dame Cathedral. I wonder how many Notre Dame cathedrals there are? Anyway, it was an audio/visual animated show and was very impressive, even if we did have to stay up late to see it! We made it!

Thursday, June 22, 2017 – Normandy Beaches

The reason we scheduled this trip was for today.  Going to Omaha Beach in Normandy has been on our bucket list, so we decided to add this week’s cruise to our previous one, the Grand European Adventure.

We left at 8:00 a.m. for a bus ride of just over 2 hours to get to the historic beaches of Normandy, the site of the heroic Allied invasion in 1944. The Allied landings took place along a 50-mile stretch of the Normandy coast divided across 5 beaches, Omaha being one of them. Too much history to even begin to explain!!

Of course what you always see pictures of is the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial. It is an emotional experience to view 9,387 white marble headstones – 9,238 crosses, 149 stars of David. There were 1,557 missing in action, and 45 sets of brothers. The names of the missing in action were listed on engraved tablets in a beautiful rose garden. When we got off the bus (there were 4 buses of our Viking travelers), each of us was handed a rose to place in the ground at the base of a headstone. What a great thing to do. And Viking arranged for a special honorary ceremony while we were there, beginning with the National Anthem, and ending with taps. Doubt if there was a dry eye among us.

We got back to the Viking Rolf at 6:30, so it was a big day. We listened to our Program Director tell us about our day tomorrow, had dinner, and called it a day! We skipped the ‘Question of Music’ activity at 9:15!

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Towel Art for us tonight!  Not prevalent on river cruises!!

Terry started watching the movie, “The Longest Day”, filmed in 1963 about D-Day. It’s a 3 hour movie so he watched it in parts over 3 days.

Friday, June 23, 2017 – Les Andeleys, France

A morning of cruising was exactly what we needed after a long day yesterday! We arrived at Les Andeleys, after lunch at about 1:15.

Our excursion was a walking tour up the hill to the Chateau Gaillard, a fatally flawed masterpiece of Middle Ages architecture. This was once a virtually impenetrable fortress built by the infamous and seemingly invincible Richard the Lionheart (King Richard I) in the 12th century. His heart was the one buried in a tomb at the Rouen Cathedral we visited on Wednesday. The walk up was good exercise, and the weather was perfect & the views atop of the Seine River & the little town below was beautiful!

We walked around the little town for a short time, and had a beer & wine in a little cafe, then returned to the ship for the Captain’s Cocktail Party before an awesome farewell dinner!

Called it a day early again. We’ll have to pack tomorrow!

Saturday, June 24, 2017 – Mantes-la-Jolie, France – Happy Birthday, Cassie!

Many went to the Palace of Versailles today, but since we’ve been there twice, we opted not to go. Instead, we got our packing organized, walked into the town nearby through a HUGE farmer’s market type of area. It had most anything you’d want to buy, just like a department store outside under tents. We bought the little girls fidget spinners!

Then we went back to the ship, had lunch and just hung out until our Napoleon’s Chateau de Malmaison excursion in Mantes-la-Jolie @ 1:45. (I’m NEVER going to remember all these names & places, which is yet another reason I keep this journal!)

It was an easy, interesting tour visiting the historic chateau where Napoleon Bonaparte spent his final days in France. This chateau was not nearly as elaborate as many are, but still amazing how some people lived in those days, and that we are still able to peek into their lives hundreds of years later.

After visiting there, we were taken to Saint-Germain-des-Pres for some free time until the Viking Rolf arrived in Le Pecq, a short distance from there. It was an interesting ending excursion, as the place they let us off was the same place we FINALLY got off the subway a week earlier after we began our ‘adventure’ finding Viking Rolf from the train station in Paris from Amsterdam! We were much more rested and enjoyed the scenery way more than when we arrived a week ago!!! I even had an ice cream cone and took some pictures!

We also opted out of the Paris by Night excursion as we’d already seen the Eiffel Tower twinkle and we had to be ready for an early morning departure in the morning.

Final Viking Rolf Dinner with our new Omaha Friends!!

Sunday, June 25, 2017 – Headed home

Alarm at 5:20 to get our luggage in the hall by 5:30. We had to be out of the room at 6:30 ready to get on the bus for the airport. Four of the Omaha couples were all on the same flight back to Omaha. Viking arranged to get us to the airport, and help us get checked in at the right place. The Paris airport is absolutely HUGE! No way we’d be able to rent a car and drive to where we’d need to be then find our way inside to the right place. Thanks to Viking for arranging everything and helping us all along the way!

Flight went from Paris to Minneapolis (8 1/2 hours) with about a 3 hour layover there, which is about right to get through Customs, etc. Terry had a Burger King – I wasn’t at all hungry as Delta fed us well on the flight. I watched 3 movies – “Silence”, “A Dog’s Purpose”, and I can’t remember what the 3rd was!!!

Arrived in Omaha about 4:15 p.m., and Cassie picked us up at the airport. It was a great trip, but as always, we were very happy to be home!

Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow, and this trip was definitely one of them!!!

 

Grand European Adventure – Part 2

 

Tuesday, June 6, 2017 – Happy 10th Birthday, Skyler!!!

It was a ‘River Day’, heading to Vienna, Austria. We always like ‘Sea Days’ on ocean cruises, so we enjoyed a relaxing ‘River Day’ on the Viking Baldur. I wondered what the meaning of the word Baldur was and saw a plaque on board that said: “Baldur is the Norse god of light, joy, purity and innocence. Beautiful and just, he was loved by everyone.” Now we know!

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Breakfast was at 7:30, we had our safety instruction drill at 10:00, lunch at 12:30, a Wheelhouse Tour (photo above) at 3:00, a live demonstration on how to make traditional Austrian apple Strudel (which we got the recipe for and also got to sample), a lecture at 4:15 about Vienna coffeehouses, a port talk @ 5:30 about Vienna excursions and events, and dinner @ 5:45! A lot of passengers went to a concert tonight in Vienna, but we stayed on the boat. When they all arrived, ‘goulash soup’ was served at 10:00. Great bedtime snack, don’t you think? It was good!! We pretty much ate, ate, and then ate some more today!

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Apple Strudel – it was very, very good!

 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

We enjoyed a morning overview tour of Vienna, Austria’s elegant capital city. The tour focused on the impressive buildings on the remarkable Ringstrasse – the boulevard laid out on the site of the old city walls of the mid-19th century. Palaces, elegant public buildings and grand residences line this world-famous avenue, including the Hofburg Palace and the home of the Spanish Riding School with its incredible Lipizzaner horses. The tour ended at the great, Gothic, St. Stephan’s Cathedral, not the same St. Stephen that we saw in Budapest. We opted to stay in that amazing area to do a bit of shopping and find the well-known Cafe Sacher to try Sachertorte, and experience Vienna’s coffee houses that we learned about in a lecture on board yesterday! The Sachertorte lived up to it’s reputation!

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Before the six of us returned to the Viking Baldur, we had a bite to eat for lunch, and then rode the U-Bahn (Vienna subway) back to Pier 2. We attended the Port Talk for tomorrow before dinner, then at 9:00 we went to an enrichment lecture on Austrian history by historian, Alexander Kugler. He was NOT your typical historian! His lecture was both informational and humorous! After that, it was time for bed!

 

Thursday, June 8, 2017 – Melk, Germany

Today began (at 8:00) with 18 miles of scenic cruising through the Wachau (the W is pronounced like V) Valley, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The region is known for it’s prolific grapevines and quaint wine-producing villages that stretch as far back as Celtic & Roman times. That’s a LOT of wine! ha   I didn’t count how many different castle ruins there were, but I got pictures of several!

Castle & Baroque-style Church

The Viking Baldur arrived in Melk about 11:00 and we had lunch before leaving for the 900 year old Melk Benedictine Abbey. The Abbey is perched on a cliff high above the Danube and is still functioning today with 30 Monks residing there and with more than 700 students attending school here from ages 10-18. It is a baroque architectural wonder, with 365 windows (one for each day of the year) and the views from its balcony are stunning. The library houses over 80,000 leather-bound books – it was quite impressive and it didn’t even smell old & stinky like some old libraries do! My thought was, “How in the world do they dust them all?!” We’ve seen a lot of churches and cathedrals in our travels, but this one was one of the prettiest with all of the gold-leaf trim on nearly everything. We couldn’t take pictures anywhere inside of the abbey.

Melk Abbey

Melk Benedictine Abbey

We walked back down the hill from the abbey through the quaint little town of Melk to the Viking Baldur with one brief stop for an ice cream cone. The sun came out & the temps were warm enough to make that a delightful treat! Chocolate, of course.

Cast off from Melk was @ 4:00, with Austrian teatime as we left, heading for Passau. It was a busy time after that, as we had a Viking Explorer Society (VES – previous Viking travelers) cocktail party to meet other travelers and get to know the Viking staff. There were probably about 25 there as it seems there are LOTS of first time Viking travelers on this trip. The port talk for Passau was at 6:45, dinner at 7:00, and the evening entertainment was an Elvis Tribute theme with Oscar, one of the duo who sing in the Lounge each evening. He sounded more like Elvis than looked like Elvis, but it was an enjoyable evening, and when it was over, it was bedtime!

Friday, June 9, 2017 – Passau, Germany

Our day began with a walking tour of Passau. This is a beautiful little college town of about 50,000 people! Founded by the Celts more than 2,000 years ago, Passau is one of Bavaria’s oldest cities, and is where the German-Austrian border begins. It’s known as the “City of Three Rivers”, as it sits at the confluence of the Inn, Ilz and Danube Rivers. It has had major floods in it’s history, and we saw the water levels marked on some of the shops we walked by as recently as 2015! It was the medieval center for the salt trade, which they considered to be white gold!

Flood water marks - Passau

Our walking tour took us through the narrow little streets to yet another St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the patron saint of the cathedral. St. Stephen was the deacon of the early church in Jerusalem and the first Christian Martyr and I think this is the same St. Stephen as the cathedral with the same name in Vienna.

St. Stephen's Cathedral

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

We returned here a bit later to hear a 30 minute concert on the 2nd largest cathedral organ in the world, with 17,974 pipes. It was an acoustical delight in this lovely setting.

The Oberhaus Museum, originally a 12th century fortress, was atop a big hill across the Danube River from the 14th Century City Hall. The six of us decided we needed to go up there to have lunch and a beer at an open air patio garden that we could see – the Lowen-Brauhaus. We both had a Mediterranean Salad and a huge ice cream sundae, both of which were very good.  The views from up there were breathtaking!

What a view!

The Viking Baldur was to leave at 3:30 and to give those who wanted more time in Passau, (and to others who made the excursion to Salzburg) they had a bus pick us up at 5:30 in Passau to (supposedly) meet us in Regensburg. Little glitch in the locks waiting to get through, so the bus pulled over not far out of Passau and the ship picked us up there! It was sort of funny! We all lined up and stuck out our thumbs as to ‘hitch’ a ride on the ship!

Hitching a ride?

Another good day, but both of us were more than ready for bed after dinner and the delay in the Port Talk for Regensburg.

Saturday, June 10, 2017 – Regensburg, Germany

Our walking tour was from 9:30-11:30, with free time after that until 3:45 when we had to be back on board the ship. Regensburg is a medieval city that was untouched by WWII bombing so was rich in original gothic architecture in Bavaria, unlike many other places that had much rebuilding to do. It was a lovely city, and what made it quite nice was that it was just a short walk away from the ship. Our tour explored the Jewish history and heritage there, including a synagogue memorial and the Oskar Schindler house. We were told that he was the only Nazi buried in Jerusalem.

An amazing thing happened here! After our tour, I wanted to have a lunch at the world’s oldest, and possibly smallest, bratwurst grill, Historic Wurstkuche. Our guide had mentioned that they can serve a lot of people in a short time, so we were waiting in a line & I looked over at the people filling the outside tables and saw our neighbor, Jeanne! (See photos above!)   Even though we knew we were both going to be cruising in the same part of the world, she was on a different cruise line with a different itinerary! Small world, isn’t it? We couldn’t have planned that meeting even if we’d tried! God is good!! And by the way, the sausage with sauerkraut (all on a bun) was delicious!!!

After that, we walked back to the shopping area near St. Peter’s Cathedral. Spectacular!   They were having an electric car exhibition in front of the cathedral, which also included a Tesla! We took a picture of Terry in front of the car wearing his Tesla shirt! So seeing a Tesla in Regensburg also put a smile on our faces! I wanted something sweet after the sausage, so we went to the little outdoor Cafe Prinzess and had a tiramisu and latte and Terry had a beer, which he said was the best one he’s had this trip. As it turns out, this cafe has been famous for it’s delicious sweets and chocolates for hundreds of years! It was fun place to be as it was by a church and a wedding had just taken place! We could also hear the music by two xylophone players, Neo Percussion, nearby. We purchased a CD from them earlier.

Neo Percussion - Regensburg, Germany

After we got back on board, we went to a presentation on the history of canals and the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal. It was very interesting and amazing.

Sunday, June 11, 2017 – Nuremberg, Germany

On the way from Budapest to Amsterdam, the ship passes through 68 locks – we went through the 3 deepest locks between Regensburg and Nuremberg, about 80 feet tall/deep on the continental divide. They really are engineering marvels!

We had a relaxing morning, which was good as Terry coughed most of the night. We started our Nuremberg city tour at 1:30 and had about a 30 minute bus ride into the city before starting the walking tour through the Old Town. Our bus took us past a huge, beautifully curved building erected for Adolf Hitler The outside was very stately and ornate and the inside was never finished. All a facade. We also drove past the Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds where many political rallies were held during the Hitler regime.

In Nuremberg, the Nazis saw the ideal setting for their activities. It was here that the fanatical party rallies were held, the boycott of Jewish businesses began and the infamous Nuremberg Laws outlawing Jewish citizenship were enacted. Lots of history and many museums here for history buffs!

This medieval city is still surrounded by 13th-century walls, with many gates and watchtowers fully intact, although they did have to be rebuild after WWII. The painstaking reconstruction, using the original stone, returned the city to some of it’s former glory.

Fountain In Old Town NurembergWedding Cake Fountain – Nuremberg

Market Square was hopping, even though most everything else was closed (Sunday). Nuremberg is the capital of Lebkuchen, the beloved German Christmas cookie! Spiced and nutty, they are sort of like a soft gingerbread, so of course we had to purchase a few. It was a wonderfully, warm (80 degrees) day, so we enjoyed an adult beverage break before returning to the bus and back to the ship at 5:30.

We ended the day at 9:00 in the Aquavit Lounge to listen to three young musicians — masters of the violin, contrabass and guitar — for an hour of delightful Franconian music. They were EXCELLENT!

Monday, June 12, 2017 – Bamberg, Germany

Woke up to discover that Viking Baldur had been sitting for 3 hours waiting for repair of a lock. The internet seemed to be working here, so it was a great time to catch up with my journal, post some pictures on FaceBook, send some emails, and work on my blog.

At 10:45, our on board engineer told us that that the Viking Longships are made in Rostock, Germany, and that they are 445” long and 38” wide and weigh 2,650 tons. The diesel fuel tank holds 35,000 gallons. Lots of other facts, but these are the ones I could relate to!

After lunch, we headed to Bamberg, founded in 902, for a walking tour of the medieval-looking city, the home of rauchbier, meaning smoke-flavored beer. More about that later.

 

Bamberg is called the ‘B’ city – for Bamberg, Bishops, Baroque, Beer and Basketball! It also marks the northern terminus of the Main-Danube Canal.

In 1007, Emperor Heinrich II made Bamberg the center of the Holy Roman Empire and the capital of his reign. He wanted the city to become a second Rome, and like its Italian model, Bamberg was built seven hills, each with a church on top. There are several monuments and art treasures in this dark cathedral, the most famous is the Bamburg Horseman, an equestrian statue carved around 1230. My favorite one was a massive tomb of of Heinrich & his wife, with carved marble made in their images. Scenes from “The Three Musketeers” were filmed on the grounds just outside the cathedral.  Bamberg is also noted for it’s Old Town Hall, situated on a twin-arched bridge over the Regnitz River, in the medieval city center.

Directly beneath the mighty cathedral of Old Bamberg in the middle of Old Bamberg is the historical brewery Tavern Schlenkerla, the birthplace of the Original Schelenkerla Smokebeer. This tavern is the most productive, most visited and most traditional Smokebeer source in Bamberg. Smokebeer from Schelenkerla is a dark, aromatic, bottom fermented beer which has an alcohol content of 51%. Several have described what they think the smoked beer tastes like, so we wanted to try it. It didn’t taste as bad as we thought it might! They say that it brings together the local with the stranger, as it is common in Franconia to share your table with others, which we did! It was a fun experience!

Smoked Beer at Schelnkerla Tavern

Tasting smokebeer – I had wine!

Back on the Viking Baldur, we had dinner, then went to the 9:00 “Country Music” entertainment by Noemi & Oscar.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017 – Wurzburg, Germany

We were bused for about a half hour for a walking tour of Wurzburg. I find it interesting that our guides pronounce the ‘v’ as ‘w’, and the ‘w’ as ‘v’! So it was pronounced Vurzburg! Surrounded by beautiful vineyards, Wurzburg was heavily damaged during WWII, but has since been completely restored. This is a prestigious university city and is a jewel of baroque architecture.

Our first stop was to the Bishops’ Resident palace, a great example of pomp and glory. Of course, we couldn’t take pictures in here. It is is one of Germany’s largest & most ornate palaces. The rooms were incredible and Tiepolo’s giant 2,000-square-foot ceiling fresco is the largest in the world, even larger than the one in the Sistine Chapel in Rome! Fortunately, due to the construction and design of of the ceiling in that area of the palace, the ceiling fresco wasn’t demolished during the war. It was beautiful, as were the other rooms in the palace, and English-style the gardens lined with ornate statues outside the palace.

Wurzburg's Bishops' Residenz

A stone bridge, Germany’s first, built in 1120 once stood over the Main River. Twin rows of graceful statues of saints line the bridge. They were largely destroyed in 1945, but have been lovingly restored since then. It’s a lovely bridge in a lovely setting!

Old Stone Bridge, Wurzburg

We were encouraged to try the Franconian wines here, so made a stop on the stone bridge to do just that! It was a darling little shop and the wines were good! And yes, we bought a bottle!

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We could have stayed longer in Wurzburg as Viking Baldur was to arrive there at approximately 6:00 p.m., and even though Wurzburg was a great little city, we decided it would be too long to just shop and drink wine or beer, so we took the bus back to the ship at 12:30 to eat lunch, relax a bit, and work on the blog, pictures, etc. Good decision!

Tonight’s activity @ 9:00 was a glassblowing demonstration by Hans Ittig, the son of a traditional German glassmaking family. He was very funny & entertaining, and I’m looking forward to visiting their store in Wertheim tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 – Wertheim, Germany

Since there isn’t room service on the river cruise, Terry usually gets up and goes to the Aquavit Terrace and brings me back coffee, fruit, muselli and a pastry! Works great while I’m either getting ready or captioning photos or whatever! Room service by Terry! 🙂

We boarded a cute mini chu-chu-train for the short ride into Wertheim, situated at the confluence of the Main (pronounced like mine) and Tauber Rivers. It’s another simply charming little city!

Chu-chu-train in Wertheim

Our ride into Wertheim, Germany!

Because of the rivers, this little city has experienced many floods, as have so many of the other places we’ve stopped! The water levels have been documented on the sides of many houses and buildings. I can only imagine what a mess it must be to clean up after these floods!

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Watermarks on door frame from different floods.

At the end of the tour, we had to option to extend an additional half-hour to learn about the Jewish history in this area and see the Jewish Cemetery just outside of the city. Our guide was a German lady named Ursula and had been a tour guide for 10 years. They asked her to lead a Jewish informational tour, but because she had not even heard of the Holocaust at any time during her education, nor had her family talked about it, she didn’t think it would be right because she was uninformed and she was also German. They convinced her to study & learn so she agreed. She made the statement, “You don’t inherit guilt, you inherit responsibility.” I thought that was quite profound. She gave excellent information and told of her family’s background relating to all that has happened during this time. This was the second additional Jewish history tour we went on (the other Regensberg) and prior to my preparation & training leading up to my March Israel trip, we would probably not have even considered going on these two additional tours.

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Wertheim Jewish Cemetery – outside the city.

Our tour guide told our group NOT to leave Germany without having a piece of Black Forest Cake, so of course, I complied! We actually took it back to the ship to eat after lunch. It was very moist and yummy, but different than the Black Forest Cake at home in that the cake wasn’t chocolate. It looked sort of like a spice cake, but it didn’t taste like a spice cake. It was very good!

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Black Forest Cake – YUM!

After our tour, we visited the seven generation Ittig family glassblowing shop. Hans put on the demonstration @ 9:00 last night. His family luckily settled in Wertheim in 1950 after escaping from East to West Germany and became one of the official founders of the scientific glass industry here. Their specialized glassblowing techniques are taught at the Pilchuck Glass School, founded by Dale Chihuly! We did pick up a little glass window ornament there!

Wertheimer Glaskunst

Glass Shop!   Hand carry purchase home!

The dukes built Wertheim Castle in the 12th century at this strategic spot. It was captured and destroyed during the Thirty Years’ War, but after being partly renovated, it is still an impressive sight, peering down upon the medieval town center & half-timbered houses! Today it has a restaurant and an information center and free restrooms! Not sure how far it was up, but I got as far as the restaurant before time to turn back to catch the little train back to the Viking Baldur.

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The Wertheim Castle at top of picture.

The ship left at 1:00, so it was a brief but great time in Wertheim.

The afternoon was spent cruising on the Main River. one of Germany’s most important waterways. It is very easy to be impressed by Germany’s beauty & cleanliness! I remember feeling that same way the first time we came to Germany, probably more than 25 years ago!

Thursday, June 15, 2017 – Koblenz, Germany

Sometime in the night, we went from the Main River to the Rhine River, often called the Romantic Rhine. So this morning we have been passing beautiful landscapes and quaint villages seeing vineyard-blanketed hills, splendid castles and where the Rhine narrows, the Lorelei Rock (large bottom left photo of cliff). The legend of the Lorelei has been the source of many different songs and poems.  I took LOTS of pictures of castles, all of which will be called “castles on the Rhine”!

I’ve been wondering why some places end with ‘berg’, and other places end with ‘burg’, and this morning we were told that that ‘berg’ refers to a mountain, and that ‘burg’ refers to a castle, so the towns were named accordingly! Not sure what they call the town if a castle is on a mountain!

After lunch, we stopped at the base of Braubach to tour Marksburg Castle. It’s strong fortifications were built in the13th century and because of it’s strong fortifications, it was never besieged by enemies and destroyed. The view of the countryside from its 550 ft. perch was spectacular, and the weather made it even more so!

We saw some grisly instruments in the ancient torture chamber. Yikes! I would not have wanted to live during that time! It was a very interesting tour, and the castle was much nicer inside than I would have imagined, but not nice enough to change my mind about living in that time!

Dinner tonight was “German Night”, a hearty fare with performers serenading us with their accordions with medleys of music from this area. The tables were decorated with red & white checked napkins and the had cheeses, salami types of meats, and pretzels hanging from a rack on each table. It was a fun night and the food was especially hearty and tasted great!

After we ate, we got a chance to go inside the galley where all the food is prepared and meet the behind-the-scenes staff in the kitchen . It was a very small little area and was a treat to see how they get all the food ready for us each day!

During dinner, we were told about a statue very near to where Baldur was docked, so after the galley tour, we walked over to see the massive equestrian statue of Kaiser Wilhelm I, the first emperor of the newly united Germany. It was destroyed during WWII, but replaced in 1953. This pointed bit of land is the intersection of the Rhine & Mosel rivers and is called the German Corner. Pieces (3) of the Berlin Wall stand on the Mosel side, a memorial to those who died. There were several flags hanging here, including an American flag.

I’m in white in the center opening – Terry & the Berlin Wall

Sunset on the Rhine & Mosel –  Interesting Sculpture – Koblenz, Germany

Friday, June 16, 2017 – Cologne, Germany

The excursion today left at 9:30 for a walking tour of Cologne. First stop was The Dom (house of God) or Cologne Cathedral. The 14th-century Gothic cathedral towers over the Old City. Thank goodness, it was spared from the bombing in WWII. The twin spires make for a distinct sky line!

Cologne’s sights – Cathedral, Statues, Clock, Beer, Padlocks of love!

We walked back to the Baldur (2 miles) and had lunch, then took the shuttle back to the city center to wander around the HUGE shopping area. By this time, the crowds were huge! We did pick up a couple of little things, but didn’t make it back to the shuttle to the ship by 4:00, so rather than wait for the next one an hour later, we walked back to the ship again! So, we got our steps in today!

Tonight’s entertainment was a ‘Classical Music Journey’ by 3 young performers (cello, clarinet, and piano) from Cologne’s Academy Music and Dance. They were excellent!

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Cologne’s “Dom” by night – BEAUTIFUL!

As has been the case, we were ready for bed!

Saturday, June 17, 2017 – Kinderdijk, Netherlands

First scheduled activity today was the disembarkation program @ 10:30, followed by a presentation on the Dutch Golden Age. Always interesting to hear about the different people groups!

We arrived in Kinderedijk after lunch and left for our excursion to visit the area of the 19 splendid Kinderdijk Windmills, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. They were built around 1740 as a part of water management to prevent floods! The expression of the Dutch is, “To keep our feet dry” as no less than 26% of the Netherlands lie below sea level.

The ‘millers’ actually live in the windmills, and we toured one as it would have been in the early1900’s. They have actually been updated, but they’re very small! Probably about like living in a tiny house, except with 3 stories!! This trade has been passed down from generation to generation!

Tonight’s dinner was surf & turf, and it was delicious! Mary & Cary had unused ship credit, so we went up to the lounge to have an after dinner drink. One of the youngest passengers on the ship was a beautiful young (34) gal named Nicole, and she was quite noticeable on the trip. She was traveling with her mother, and she organized a game of bingo which we participated in before calling it a day. Joe actually won the game & got a bottle of local wine, which we all shared! It was an unexpected activity to end our trip!

Bingo winner - Joe!!

 

Sunday, June 18, 2017 – Train from Amsterdam to Paris, France – Father’s Day

Goodbye to the Viking Baldur at 10:00! On to the next adventure beginning in Paris.

Our Program Director on the Baldur was one of the best PDs we’ve had on our cruises. HIs name was Rob, and he was from South Africa. He explained at the beginning that his greeting for his presentations would be “Howzit”, and that should be our response back to him.   The saying originated in Hawaii, along with the hand sign (hang loose), and South Africa picked up on it and use it today!  It was a fun touch to use that greeting throughout the trip!

 

 

Grand European Adventure 2017

Our Itinerary for the Grand European Adventure

Saturday – June 3rd, 2017 – Left Omaha at 11:40 for Minneapolis. Met 5 other couples from the Omaha area at the airport. Had a 4 hour layover in Minneapolis before leaving @ 5:00 for Amsterdam, an 8 hour flight to Amsterdam, then on to Budapest.

 

Sunday, June 4th, 2017 – The Viking staff were at the airport in Budapest to pick up the MANY Viking travelers to take us all to our home, the Viking Baldur longboat, on the rivers of Europe for the next 14 days – ours Veranda Stateroom 207.

One of the first sights on a short welcome walk was St. Stephen’s Basilica, a chief landmark of Pest and the city’s largest church which holds 8,500 people!

St. Stephen’s Basilica

After a yummy dinner (we chose Hungarian Goulash), the perfect ending to the first day was a scenic sailing on the Danube to see the amazing night time views of Budapest. It had rained while we were eating dinner, but it stopped for our mini cruise to see Budapest from the Danube by night!

The Parliament building on the Danube

Monday, June 5, 2017

We woke up early so we had plenty of time before our Budapest city excursion (8:45-noon).   We went a short distance to walk over the Danube from Pest into Buda on the Chain Bridge, which we could see from the Baldur! Chain Bridge is the oldest of seven road bridges (built in 1849) that span the Danube in Budapest. Before it was built, the river could only be crossed by ferry or a pontoon bridge that had to be removed in the winter.

Chain Bridge

Chain Bridge

Our shore excursion of Budapest was from 8:45 until noon. We saw 19th-century & Art Nouveau architecture on the streets and boulevards, and lovely river vistas. Our first stop was at Hero Square, looking much like a smaller version of the Champs-Elysees in Paris. It was a wide-open plaza of monuments and statues of rulers important in Hungary’s history.

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Hero Square

Crossing the Danube from modern Pest to the more traditional side of Buda, we visited the Castle District, a World Heritage Site, with it’s massive hilltop castle and Matthias Church. From here, we could see the panoramic view of the Danube & Chain Bridge and Pest side of the city on the opposite side of the river.

Parliament Buiding

View from the Castle District

Our afternoon was free, so we walked to a shopping area nearby to buy some souvenirs and ride the Budapest Eye ferris wheel (213 ft. tall)! I like ferris wheels!

Budapest Eye View

View from the Budapest Eye

We also walked to ‘The Shoes on the Danube Bank’ monument very near our boat. There are 60 pair of period appropriate iron shoes honoring the 3,500 people, 800 of them Jews, who were lined up, ordered to take off their shoes, then shot by Arrow Cross militiamen (a fascist socialist group),  falling into the Danube River during World War II.  It was sobering to think of that event.

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‘The Shoes on the Danube Bank’ monument

We had to be back on board by 5:45 as cast off for Vienna was @ 6:00.  For dinner, we had an excellent Chateaubriand, recommended by the head chef during the “Toast to our Guests” reception by Captain Marcin. We ate with our neighbors, Mary & Cary, and other new Omaha friends.  Budapest is indeed a beautiful city!

Israel – March, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 – Lifegate Group headed to Israel from Omaha!

Thursday, March 16, 2017   –  Villa Nazareth

Arrived in Tel Aviv (population just over 400,000) about 6:30 pm.  I slept well (thanks to drugs!) on the plane for several hours.  I watched 2 movies and started to read ‘Once An Arafat Man, a book on our training reading list.   Movies:  The Girl on the Train, and Jackie.   Neither were quite what I expected.    30 minutes before landing, the pilot announced that the Israeli Government rules that ALL passengers have to be in their seats with their seat belts fastened while in Israeli airspace.  Landed @ 6:30 p.m.   Customs went smoothly!

Tel Aviv is the story of the modern economic miracle of Israel.  Although its streets and buildings have no ancient biblical connection, we see God’s faithfulness to His promise to bring His people back to this land and restore the nation of Israel.   Israel is the only nation in world history to transform itself from a Third World nation into a First World economic and military powerhouse in 50 short years.  That’s pretty amazing!

When we arrived, our driver, Albert, was waiting for us.   Pastor Connie specifically requested him as our driver as she has had other Global Journeys  here with him as the driver.  That’s one way to build relationships.  The van was for 16 people and it was perfect  for our team & even had Wifi, so I could let everyone know I arrived safe & sound.   We headed to Nazareth – about  a 1 1/2 hour drive.   Arrived at our hotel, Villa Nazareth, @ 9:00,  checked in, then had a wonderful Arabian meal there & went to bed about midnight.   Pat Luke was my roommate.  WIFI at the hotel!   Hurray!!

Villa Nazareth

Our room for 2 nights.  The hotel was quaint and nice – rooms simple, but perfectly fine!

Main course – WONDERFUL!

Appetizers – GREAT!

Dessert!   Yummy!

Friday, March 17, 2017 – St. Patrick’s Day – 

Did NOT sleep well!   Got up at 5:00 a.m. before the alarm went off at 5:45.

We had breakfast on the first floor.   It was a buffet style with meats, cheeses, veggies, and sweet breads.   This restaurant had a latte machine, which was nice!

Pastor Connie reminded us that WE are the temple where His Presence dwells!

First journey – the Sea of Galilee @ 10:00 a.m. and got on a worship boat named “Faith”.  A worships leader, Daniel Carmel , led us in song, (I bought one of his CDs), and another Pastor from TX gave a  short message and his praise team led some worship as well.  Our National Anthem was played first, and that was awesome, with the American flag & the Israeli flag hanging side by side, blowing in the breeze.

The Sea of Galilee, the only significant natural freshwater lake in Israel, is approximately 8 miles wide and 13 miles long.    This beautiful lake is nestled in the palm of a depression known as the Great Rift Valley, which begins slightly north in southern Lebanon, and stretches 3,700 miles down to East Africa.   I was so amazed at this, as when we were in Africa, we were in a large portion of the Great Rift Valley!   I had no idea they were connected!!!

The Sea of Galilee, as the lowest freshwater lake on earth, has a reputation for violent winds, which can occur abruptly.   At such times, the otherwise placid lake can become as dangerous as the ocean under a gale.   It was during such a storm that Jesus demonstrated His mastery over nature — the Great Creator was the Master of wind and wave.   It was so moving to be on the Sea of Galilee where Jesus walked on the water.  When we sang ’10,000 Reasons’, Holy Spirit moved on me in a mighty way!   What an awesome first experience in the Holy Land!

On the Sea of Galilee

Since I love rocks, I just couldn’t resist the one on the Sea of Galilee!

Girls just want to have fun on the rocks by the Sea of Galilee!   It was such a peaceful place!

Next destination – Mount of Beatitudes, which we could see while we were on the boat.  It’s across the way on the northern hills overlooking the Sea of Galilee.   This is where it is believed that Jesus proclaimed the Sermon on the Mount.   There is a chapel built in 1939 here & the grounds provide a beautiful view of the Sea!  This location formed a natural Y shaped auditorium where thousands of people could sit and hear a person speak.    Blessed are the……(Matthew 5:3-10).

Chapel on Mount of Beatitudes – beautiful view of the Sea of Galilee.

Blessed are the…. (Matthew 5:3-10)

Courtyard of the Church of the Loaves & Fishes.

Near there, we went to the Church of the Loaves & Fishes.   This church was constructed in the 1930’s on the site on top of the  ruins of a 4th Century & 5th Century church.    This site has long been associated with Jesus’ miracle of multiplying the five loaves of bread and two fishes to feed the 5,000.

On the north shore of the Sea of Galilee, Tabgha, we went to the Church of Primacy of St. Peter.  This is thought to be the location where Jesus asked Peter the question, “Do you love me?” (John 21)  After his response, Jesus gave Peter the command, “Feed My Sheep.”

It was here that our team took communion, and Chad & Kelly re-committed their wedding vows of 13 years!   Very sweet couple!

We had lunch at a restaurant in Tiberias.   We had St. Peter’s fish and it was good, even if we had to de-bone it!

Next, we went to the ruins of Capernaum.   Jesus considered this his home during his years of ministry  (Matt. 4:13).   At that time, it was a prosperous town, located on the main road from Damascus to the coast.   As such, it was a tax collection point for the Romans, home to one of their appointed tax collectors, who we know as Matthew!  Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law, the woman with an issue of blood, Jairus’ daughter, the Centurion’s servant and the paralytic who was lowered down through the roof.  Today it stands as only ruins, as Jesus rebuked the cities where most of his mighty works had been done because they did not repent!  (Matt. 11:23).

Ruins of Capernaum

Ruins of Capernaum.   This was way more impressive than photos indicate!

Afterwards, we went to a Christian Social Aid Ministry, founded and run by Arab Christians (we can’t publicize names & ministries), and good friends of Lifegate Church.   Their ministry includes many facets:  weekly bible study, prayer, worship; children & youth ministry;  home visits for one-on-one discipleship;  counseling sessions;  prison ministry for inmates and their families;  promoting unity between Arab & Jewish believers.  The base for their ministry is in their home & our team were their guests for a wonderful Arab dinner!  The Arab people are very friendly and hospitable!  The impact this couple has for the Christian community is far reaching in  Galilee!  Both have year round permission to visit prisoners with a Christian background in 21 different prisons all over Israel.  Their outreach activities challenge kids to grow up in Christ, as Arab & Jewish believers together!!!   They are an amazing couple and their adult children are also involved in this ministry!

Hebrew alphabet is the squarish style (on left side), Arab is curvy (right side).

Picture of reconciliation!   What we pray for!

When we got back to the Villa Nazareth, we heard Irish sounding music, and out our 2nd floor window we saw a bagpipe band rehearsing.  We were told it wasn’t St. Patrick’s Day related, it was for Easter!!!   To us, it was a fitting end for a busy, inspiring St. Patrick’s day!

Saturday, March 18, 2017 – BBC

Fortunately, I slept much better!!!   PTL!   Adjusting to crossing 8 time zones takes time!   Breakfast @ 7:30, then left @ 8:45 for church in Karmiel,  in a Hebrew speaking Messianic Jewish Congregation.    People from all over the Galilee attend.  The congregants include Israeli-born citizens, as well as new & older immigrants from all over the world (many from the former USSR).   Part of the vision is to help immigrants integrate into the culture and the Israeli society and learn the language and the culture so they will be able to serve and influence the society for Jesus.    The other part of the vision is partnership with the Arab brethren, developing fellowship & reconciliation.   Messianic congregations have to meet in industrial zoned locations, and have no signs indicating a congregation meeting there because they would be targeted not only by Palestinians, but also Jews.   It’s weird.

Their service was in a new location, and was ‘under construction’.   We used headsets to hear the interpreter translate the message into English.   The praise band was good, and so was the message!  The service started at 10:00, and ended about 1:00, then we headed to Bethlehem.  It’s Shabbat (Jewish sabbath), so nothing was open for lunch until we got to Jericho where we stopped @ a restaurant next to Seeds of Hope.   An amazing thing happened here.  We met Tass Saada author of the book, “Once An Arafat Man”, and owner of the restaurant and gift shop.   I had just started reading this book on this trip!   In the forward, a comment was made regarding Charlie & Laurie Sharpe being a spiritual mentor!   Like WOW!   He started the insurance company, Ozark National, the company that Terry worked for from 1987-1992.  We knew Charlie & Laurie quite well back in those days.   Tass told me that Charlie had died in February of this year.  God had to arrange many things to make this meeting happen!   I’m still amazed!

Tass Saada, author of the book I mentioned & was reading.   His wife is originally from Omaha!

We drove past many places of significance through the Jordan River Valley on the way to Bethlehem.   It was dark when we arrived and checked into the guest house at Bethlehem Bible Collage (BBC), our home for 4 nights.  Neil & Jan, were our host couple from New Zealand.

Our room at the Bethlehem Bible College.

Bethlehem today is NOTHING like the small, sleepy town that was home to King David and later, the birthplace of Jesus.   Living here is like being inside of a high security prison.   The Palestinian city in the West Bank is surrounded by the “separation” wall, a 30 ft. high concrete wall and includes guard towers and checkpoints manned by Israeli soldiers armed with automatic weapons.  Jerusalem is less than 10 miles away, but it might as well be 10,000 miles as far as anyone with a Palestinian passport is concerned.   Most of what we Americans hear from the area is how suicide bombers from Palestine cross over and attack Israeli citizens.  We don’t hear about the attacks on Palestinians within Palestine.  Being Palestinian living in the middle east is challenging at the very least!  “It’s complicated” is the phrase we heard over & over!

This is the place that Ruth pledged to a discouraged Naomi, “Your people shall be my people, and our God my God”  (Ruth 1:16).  And here, God’s love was expressed to us in an extraordinary way when He gave his Son (John 3:16).

Sunday, March 19, 2017 – BBC

We went to church here this morning.   We were a bit early (photo below).

Today’s service was themed around Mother’s Day, which is celebrated here on the first day of Spring!  The kids sang a few songs, then some of the children prayed for their mom’s.   It was cute.  The Pastor was full of joy, and this seemed like more of a ‘church’ than the Messianic Jewish Congregation we attended yesterday.  All the mother’s were given a flower at the end of the service.  The Arab people are much more social than the Jewish people.

We ate lunch at little cafe/coffee shop nearby.  We had a chicken sandwich that was probably one of the best I’ve ever eaten!   Also had French fries and a latte.   The owner is an Arab Christian.   He thanked us and told us our coming was very encouraging, as local Christians in Israel feel neglected, being only 2% of the population.   In 1989,  he started a travel agency  in  that Pastor Connie uses for her Holy Land travels, and he also arranges trips for locals.   He is a teacher at the Bethlehem Bible College and produces and distributes media,  providing relief, and elevating the status of women, who are looked down upon in the culture.  He told us that Bethlehem is the nice part of Palestine, so they also arrange for food packages to go to those in need.

After lunch, we went to the ancient Church of the Nativity, which is the traditional site, over the cave, that marks the birthplace of  baby Jesus.   If there were one thing on the trip that was a disappointment, this would be it.  It was under construction to refurbish it, and it was extremely busy, and the people directing the crowds were not kind!  Being shoved through the crowds didn’t give much time to reflect & absorb.

We went back to BBC before heading out to a very small food place and got a schwarma, an ethic type of sandwich.

Waiting for our schwarma sandwich!

After returning, we met in the meeting area to share our thoughts and feelings & discuss questions we all experienced the past few days.   Conversations in the van were sometimes guarded as our driver, Albert (Abu George) was an Arab Christian and we didn’t want him to feel any discomfort as we talked about politics and Jewish positions.  That didn’t stop us from having a great time with him, though!  He was wonderful!

Monday, March 20, 2017

The night’s sleep was short!  Woke to hear  barking dogs (again) and the very annoying call to prayer from a Muslim Minaret located nearby.  Minarets provide a visual focal point and are traditionally used for the Muslim call to prayer, located adjacent to mosques. They actually look very pretty as they are lit with green lights and tower above the buildings.  The call to prayer happens five times a day, with the first one being @ 4:00 a.m.    After two nights of being woke  up @ that time, I finally got smart enough to put in the ear plugs I brought in case my roommate snored!   She didn’t, but the ear plugs came in handy!    I brought two pair, so shared them with Pat and we were both thankful not to listen to the call to prayer OR the barking dogs!!!   We had breakfast in the student dining hall today as it was Neil’s & Jan’s day off.   They are originally from New Zealand, and are doing this type of thing as mission work and a way to see the world.

We spent the day in Jerusalem’s Old City.  What a blessing to see it after seeing only pictures before now!   Old Jerusalem is divided into four quarters, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, and Armenian, arranged in no rhyme or reason.  It has quite a history!   A good thing to Google!  Albert dropped us off outside the Old City walls and we walked down the hill past a Jewish cemetery.

Jewish Cemetery

Located on the Mount of Olives and next to the modern Church of All Nations, the Garden of Gethsemane remains a place of peace and rest.  The site has ancient olive trees, some of whose roots may date as far back as the time of Jesus.  Gethsemane in Hebrew means “olive press”.  This is the place that reminds us of that dark night when Jesus had Passover with His disciples,  prayed with anguish, was betrayed and arrested.  It was a beautiful, yet somber place.

Olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane

Garden of Gethsemane.

One of the first places we stopped, just inside of the Lion’s Gate, was the Pool of Bethesda.   It was a lovely, peaceful area!  Bethesda was a pool thought to have miraculous healing powers that were activated when an angel stirred the water.  It was here that Jesus healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years.  (John 5: 8-9).  Scripture comes to life inside these walls!


Pool of Bethesda.

Next, the Garden Tomb, which is located outside Damascus Gate.  This is a suggested site of Jesus’ crucifixion, burial and resurrection   The location contains a view of a rugged rock face suggested as Golgotha – “The Place of the Skull,” an ancient tomb.  A cistern and wine press are suggestive of it’s possible use as a garden.  Archaeologists debate whether this site or the Holy Sepulcher is most likely to have been the historical location of Jesus’ crucifixion.   It doesn’t really matter where Jesus’ tomb is, it matters that it is empty!

“He is not here, he has risen, just as he said.”   Matthew 28:6

Jews today consider the Western Wall to be the holiest site in the world.

The Wailing Wall, now known as the Western Wall

Tuesday, March 21, 2017 – Mother’s Day

Ah, Lord God…. earplugs made a huge difference!  PTL! Slept much better and didn’t hear the 4:00 howling of the call to prayer, OR the dogs, or the traffic!

Today is the first day of Spring, when Mother’s Day is celebrated here!

Heading to Jericho!

We turned off the highway to a winding, country road that took us through a beautiful desert area with deep valleys and magnificent views.   We stopped at the spectacle of the Monastery of St. George — a cliff-hanging complex carved into a sheer rock wall in the Judaean Desert.   The monastery’s picturesque setting is in a deep and narrow gorge called Wadi (dry river bed) Qelt, in a cliff face pocked with caves and recesses that have offered habitation to monks and hermits for many centuries.  The Wadi winds its deep and tortuous course for 35 kilometers between Jerusalem and Jericho.  This is the way that provided a route on the Roman road on which Jesus set the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37).  Some also envision it as the “valley of the shadow of death” in Psalm 23.

Jericho in the background! 

Monastery of St. George

After our stop, several of us got out of the van & walked down the hill just outside of Jericho.  We saw amazing aqueducts, and Bedouin (a nomadic Arab of the desert) homes along the way.   It was a great change of pace to be walking for a time rather than being in the van.

Bedouin Homes

We stopped in Jericho at a very nice area, Ahaha Temptation, for a bit of shopping before climbing a hill to see some ruins of the city that are still being excavated.   I bought a couple of boxes of dates and some sycamore nuts to take back to Terry!  Jericho is acknowledged as the oldest continually occupied city in the world, located just north of the Dead Sea and more than 820 ft. below sea level.  It is known as the “City of Palms” due to the area’s abundance of date palms.   We saw what looked like nurseries of palm trees along the roadsides in many, many areas.   This was the city where the young pagan woman named Rahab hid the spies (Joshua 2).

Onward to the Jordan River to a site that’s suggested to be the place where John baptized Jesus and also the location where Joshua and the Israelites crossed the Jordan River into the Promised Land.   Today, this part of the river is heavily polluted from agricultural by-products.  It was a muddy color, and I didn’t even want to stick my foot in it, but others were getting baptized (not our team)!  The nation of Jordan lies on the other side of the river!

Jordan River

We ate a buffet (most stops were) by the ruins of Qumran, near the shores of the Dead Sea.   This site is most famous for its proximity to the caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found, including an amazing, complete scroll of Isaiah, yielding a treasure trove for archaeologists and theologians.   The Qumran continues to yield surprises today, but the greatest contribution of the Scrolls to the Bible is that they have vindicated its authenticity!

Only a short distance away, we went to the Dead Sea, which as the raven (we saw lots of these) flies, is only about 14 miles from Jerusalem.     The weather was warm, so I rolled up my pant legs & waded along the edge.   No one brought their swim suits along today, but swimming in the Dead Sea was on Jake’s bucket list, so he bought a suit to take advantage of the moment!   He said it was impossible to sink or even sit up in the water!    The Dead Sea is 1300 feet below sea level, with the shore being the lowest place on the surface of the earth.   In places, the sea is as deep as 1000 feet.   With over 33% salinity, it has one of the highest levels of dissolved minerals in the world.  Although undrinkable, the water has health benefits for many skin diseases, as does the salt air which heavily screens the harmful effects of the sun!

Dead Sea

Mud Bath in Dead Sea

Back to BBC for a short time before going to “The Tent” for a wonderful dinner.   Another great day!

Wednesday, March 22, 2017 – Hotel Galil – Natanya

Meeting with the ‘Living Stones’  today.   Ministries, churches, congregations, much of what they do here is underground.  They are not safe if what they do is known!  Lifegate has earned a good reputation of trust here with many reconciliation ministries.

First stop, was to a ministry whose Exec. Director  has a PHD and is a Palestine Israeli Christian.

He told us that he presence of Christians in Israel is not welcome.  The “Christian idea” about Israel from a tourism perspective is NOT what it actually is!   People are not ignorant, but everyone has a narrative about what they think they know.    We watched a film with a message of reconciliation,  but reconciliation doesn’t always happen the first time it is presented.  His message – evil won’t win, but love will.

After lunch, we went to the Jerusalem House of Prayer for all Nations on the Mount of Olives where four gals on the prayer team from Lifegate have been since we arrived.   This was an anointed place and we could feel the Presence of God.   Left at 3:30 for Natanya & arrived @ 5:15.   We ate in the restaurant in the hotel @ 7:00 then had a brief meeting.

Our room @ the Hotel Galil in Natanya.

View from our room

Thursday, March 23, 2017

After devotions, we left for Tel Aviv to another ministry.    Messianic Jews, run this outreach for women who are in desperate situations – drugs, prostitutes, abortions, brothels, disease, etc.   We met them @ 11:00 and heard their hearts!   They minister in the worst part of today’s Israel in Tel Aviv.   They provide food, clothes, hair & body care for the women who are trapped in the drug/prostitution culture.   Pat and Raven from our team, helped out here with the gals who were there for assistance.  Pat washed 2 gal’s feet and gave back massages as she prayed & ministered to them.   Raven did nails & brushed a gal’s hair as she prayed and ministered.  It was a very small place, so only two extra gals could be downstairs in the area.   The rest of us walked around the area outside, praying down the strongholds in this area.    There were needles, rubbers/condoms and trash all around.   It’s like you’d see in a depressing movie, except it was real!   We left there shortly after 1:00.

Fortunately, after that, we went to a lovely restaurant, St. Andrew’s, for a late lunch in Joffa (Joppa).  We had great appetizers & tilapia & baklava & Turkish coffee.   Joffa is where Peter got the heavenly vision that God shows no partiality & welcomes both Jews & Gentiles into his Kingdom (Acts 9), and Joffa is also where Jonah ran away from when he tried to flee from God’s assignment.   Today, Tel Aviv & Jaffa are technically one city.   Jaffa is a lovely recreational port with restaurants and pleasant winding streets and is beautiful!   A stark contrast to where we had been only a short time before!

Outside the St. George Restaurant


After we got back to the hotel, we went to dinner in a little outdoor shopping area in Natanya, walking distance from the hotel.  Rebekah Miller, a young Lifegate gal going to college at Israel College of the Bible in Natanya,  joined us.   What a delightful young woman of God!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Connie asked Rebekah to lead the devotions this morning.   She had done a paper on John 4:1-26 about the Samaritan woman at the well, so shared about herself & her time in Israel and her paper!   Quite impressive!

After devotions, we headed to Caesarea.   Today, ruins of Herod’s amphitheater, hippodrome and palace provide an amazing glimpse into royal power and lifestyle in the first century.  The city became the seat of Roman government in the area.   Roman governors, including Pontius Pilate, spent most of their time here.  Located on the Mediterranean sea, what a lovely setting!
They recently discovered gold coins in the water there.   Coins are HUGE in archeology!

Ruins of Caesarea on the Mediterranean in the background.

The Aqueducts were very near to Caesarea .   These brought running water to the old city of Caesarea, along  raised aqueducts.   The source of the water was the springs of Shummi, about 6 miles away.   Herod built the 1st aqueduct,  and the Romans built additional ones in the following century.   They were located along a lovely beach area and the day was beautiful.

The Aqueducts

Saturday, March 25, 2017

We went to a Messianic Jewish Congregation.  Its founder (Lifegate friend) grew up in a secular Jewish home in New Zealand. He told us that when he gave himself to the Lord, his Jewishness came out!  He moved to Israel 30+ years ago and started this congregation.  Jewish congregations have their services in industrial areas, very discreet – underground.     I had my camera on my shoulder & when I was at the door, I was told “NO pictures.”   I wasn’t planning on it, but didn’t want to leave it in the van.

We ate at a Burger place for lunch, a little distance away.   Natanya is 95% Jewish, and Saturday is their Shabbat, so most places were closed.   The burger was good!  One of the drinks we often had was a lemonade with mint muddled in it.   It was a great, refreshing drink!   We had a few hours of free time after we got back to the hotel after lunch, so some of us walked to the shopping area (even though everything was closed) and along the beach.   It was a beautiful, sunny day.

We had a team meeting @ 4:30 in the open area at the hotel, which was quite noisy.   All of the other rooms we had been using were occupied by families for Shabbat worship & dinner.  This Shabbat thing was really ‘another world’ with the ‘no-work’ ethic still alive and well today.   I can now see why they were after Jesus for healing on the Sabbath!   The exposure to Jewish Congregation & Jewish culture were quite evident in and around the Hotel Galil.

Sunday, March 26, 2017 

The hotel was nice enough to let us stay until time to leave for the airport (5:45 pm) before checking  out!  That was a huge blessing!  We had our devotional and then had free time until lunch @ noon, in the shopping area near where we had dinner on Thursday evening.   We have had wonderful food!  Team meeting at 5:00 to go over leaving Israel & what to expect at the airport.   Since Pastor Connie was staying for the next Lifegate Team to arrive, Chad & Kelly were our leaders back.

The process of flying out of Israel was unlike anything I’d ever experienced.   When they say to arrive 3 hours before your flight, I can now see why!!  We had no issues, it just took time!  Our flight left at 11:00 p.m.

Our flight home was Tel Aviv to Newark, to Omaha.  Customs went smoothly, and we arrived at 9:30 a.m. in Omaha on Monday.   Cassie picked me up at the airport.   Pastor Connie told us that it usually takes a day to recover for every time zone we go through, which was 8!

This Global Journey to Israel/Palestine has changed the Bible from black and white to color for me.  What an awesome experience it was!!  I took over 1,000 photos, so this is just a small taste of what we saw and did.   I’m very thankful for everyone who not only prayed for our safety, but for the financial support as well.   It was an amazing  journey spiritually, emotionally, educationally and physically.   I thank God for every thought of you!

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, July 24, 2016 – Headed Home!

The view was the only good thing about getting up so early to leave!!!

The worst part of a cruise is the EARLY departure from the ship!   UGH!  We had to be in the departure lounge by 5:50 a.m.  Double UGH!  Our flight didn’t leave until 9:20 a.m., so our longest time at the airport was before we left.   The Viking Staff were amazing handling our luggage & getting us to the proper gates.   That was so helpful!

The first leg of our flight was from Bergen to Oslo, Norway’s capital.  That was only about a 40 minute flight.   Then we went from Oslo to Newark, Newark to Omaha, arriving @ 5:45 p.m. and very happy to be home!  One thing for certain, our airplane food was NOTHING like the awesome food we had on the Viking Star!   It was a very good trip, and we’re looking forward to our Grand European Adventure (a river cruise) with Viking next summer!

 

Bergen, Norway – July 23, 2016

This is our last port before heading home!  It’s been a wonderful trip!!!

I honestly don’t know what I expected of Bergen, but I was delightfully surprised!   It could possibly be my favorite port, although that could change as I view & review all my 1,225 pictures!   What we saw of Bergen was BEAUTIFUL!!

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Our first excursion was an ascent to the top of Mt. Ulriken, altitude 2,109 feet, the highest of Bergen’s famous seven mountains.  We took a bus through some of the city seeing some of the highlights of historic Bergen on the way to the gondola.   And what a view we had from the top!!   The weather, once again, was beautiful!  Since we were told that Bergen has rain over 270 days a year, the locals told us over & over how lucky we were to have such a gorgeous day!  Had we been there one day earlier, we wouldn’t have seen a thing because of the rain!  At the top of the mountain, we had tea & the famed Ulriken Bun, a cinnamon pastry that is well known in this region.  They resemble my moms cinnamon rolls, except not nearly as yummy!

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We got back to the Viking Star early enough to grab a quick bite for lunch, then walk to historic Bryggen wharf.   It is a row of mostly reconstructed, brightly painted 14th century wooden buildings that houses boutiques, restaurants and great shopping!!   We had a mission of finding some souvenirs there to take back home, and that was accomplished!   Maybe that’s one of the reasons I liked Bergen so well!

 

Near there was the busy Torget Fish Market, which is one of the most popular attractions!  We sampled a taste of whale, and actually bought a little package.   The taste reminds me of a smoked jerky, except it’s not hard & chewy!

 

The whale is the blackish one in the middle!   Want to try?

A local guide took us on a 2 1/2 hour walking tour right back to Bryggen, sharing some of this area’s intriguing history.   We also visited the Bryggen Museum and saw foundations of the original buildings, which were burned before being restored.  Fires destroyed many of the buildings at several of the ports we were at on this cruise.   Since most all of the buildings were built from wood and so close together, it’s easy to see why there were so many that were destroyed by fires!

 

We had our last dinner with our new friends & favorite waiter in the Restaurant, before finishing up our packing to head back home EARLY in the morning.  It’s been a great cruise.

Flam, Norway – July 22, 2016 – Happy Birthday, Terry!

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We woke up to find beautiful green hills along side of us as we peeked out the window!  No fog – no rain!  Thank you, Lord!    They served mimosas on Deck 7  as we sailed up the Aurlandsfjord to dock at Flam (pronounced like foam except adding an ‘L’).   Only 400 residents live here.   Terry went up to Deck 7 to take some photos, and he also brought back a mimosa & coffee for me while I got ready for the day.   We ate our room service breakfast on the veranda – a nice start to celebrating Terry’s birthday!  Flam means little field encircled by steep mountains.   That’s a big meaning for a 4-lettered word, isn’t it?  It describes the little town pretty well!

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The Flam Railway to Vatnahalsen station was calling our names, so we boarded it for the 12-mile journey on a route that has been hailed as one of the world’s greatest masterpieces of engineering  The train climbed nearly 3,000 feet, passing through 20 tunnels and over many bridges!  One of them below!

 

We stopped at Kjosfossen waterfall for a photo stop.  (Below)

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We had free time at a stop in Vatnahslsen where we went to a local hotel for waffles and a short stroll before the train ride back down the mountain!

 

After that, we took another excursion to the village of Aurland   I have no idea how many LONG tunnels we went through before reaching the Osterbo mountain farm to eat more waffles!   Norway is indeed lovely, but some areas (like the farm we visited) can be cut off from the world for up to eight months each year because of the long winters!  No thanks!

We had dinner in the restaurant with Mike & Elizabeth in the area where our favorite server from Serbia works.  He was a delight!  Wish we’d have found him sooner!   They brought a beautiful piece of birthday cake and sang happy birthday in Serbian, where our server was from!   It was a fun dinner, then we went to the final show on the ship by the singers on the ship.   They did songs by ABBA, so was a good ending to the day!

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