Thursday, July 12, 2018

Watch Out for The Trams in Amsterdam!

My biggest adventure in Amsterdam was riding the tram, which is an electric train system.  You need to buy a pass card and put it past a scanner each time you get on and off.  Luckily we got day passes that could be used more than once, because…
When we got back to our B&B’s stop, riding the tram from downtown, Paul got off ahead of me, and then another person.  When I got to the door, it wouldn’t scan my card, and there I was, stuck behind a closed door.  Paul was in as much shock as I was (he told me later) as the train took me away. 
In a panic, I thought perhaps I could get off at the next stop, find the main street and work my way back.  I don’t know the address of our B&B, though.  Then a very nice young woman on the tram told me how to take a pedestrian overpass at the next stop so I could catch the next tram coming back.
Several others in the car were also helpful.  I have good impressions of the Dutch!  When the tram finally stopped, I scanned my pass and headed up the stairs they pointed out.  Just as I came to the stairs going down, the tram was pulling in, so I ran.  I didn’t want to miss this one.
When I got off at the correct stop—finally—Paul was there waiting for me.  The first thing I said was,
“This is the kind of thing we will laugh about later.”
It certainly was an adventure!  And I saved those tram passes as a souvenir.
In a strange sort of way, it made us look out for each other more on the rest of the trip.  And even though it may have seemed to be a bad start, it actually wasn’t.  I learned to appreciate and take everything in stride, more than I used to.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Reflections from Our Baltic Cruise 1

We are back from the cruise of a lifetime, from Amsterdam, around Denmark, and up the Baltic Sea to Estonia and St. Petersburg, Russia. 

Being in Estonia and Russia was an eye-opening lesson.  We are blessed here in the USA, but often take it for granted.  Seeing the "Breshnev Era" apartments in Russia--all gray and bleak, looking like the"projects" in Chicago...and hearing of the Soviet restrictions on housing--only one bedroom and bathroom allowed, small house, small yard (if any), no bright colors... I realized how bleak their lives were back then, before the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

No wonder the Estonians invite tourists to tour their new homes, gardens, and farms!  Things we take for granted are newly-found luxuries to them.

St. Petersburg, with all its beautiful gardens, churches, and palaces, is like a phoenix risen from the ashes of 2 World Wars and the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917.  The change from Leningrad back to its original glory as St. Petersburg, (Czar Peter the Great's city) is amazing.  More beautiful than Moscow, I hear.  It's amazing they've spent so much money on the restorations.  But I understand.  The Russians are an ancient people reconnecting with their heritage, which was almost lost.  It reminded me of what we saw in China, as it moved from the early 1980's to 2006, the two times we visited.  (As it recovered from its own Cultural Revolution).

Our guides told how churches and palaces had become storage barns and museums, during the Revolution.  In Estonia, our guide mentioned one church turned into a roller-skating rink.

Now, here we are 100 years after the 1917 Revolution, and churches are restored.  But I wonder if attendance is up at all, or low like it is in neighboring Scandinavia--state religions and crosses on their flags, but maybe not too many practicing Christians.  Our guide in Estonia even said that in her opinion, It does 't matter what you believe as long as you believe in something.

Sad.  Many in our Western World would agree, I'm afraid.  Still, people in the former Soviet Union have more freedom to choose.  I pray for them, like I do for my own people (especially my children) to make 'good choices.'  That's a phrase my daughter uses a lot with her kindergarten students.  It applies to all of us, though.