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Back from Cruise- Final Part of Log

Bonnie and I just returned from a 14 day cruise of the Baltic Sea from Amsterdam to Amsterdam on Holland America Lines - Zuiderdam. Great time - Great Cities - Learned a Lot of History.

Visby on the island of Gotland (Sweden) is one of two very strategic islands that we visited. Approaching, the island you become aware of Swedish Naval presence with several warships based here and which patrol the waters between Gotland and Latvia. Supposedly there are hundreds of pirate bulk petroleum ships anchored east of Gotland. These are ships of dubious quality and registration which are used to move embargoed Russian petroleum to mostly third world parts. Many are leaking. They are outside of Swedish territorial waters but within the Swedish economic exclusion zone. Under international law Sweden can only monitor them. These ships are too dangerous to be allowed to sink in the confinded waters of the Baltic.

Visby is a cute small town with a very old and robust city wall, some church ruins, and a very nice botanical garden. This was a major trade center for the Hanseatic League during the middle ages. This must have been a center of religious tolerance and diversity during the Hanseatic years. Besides the main St Mary's Cathedral (Church of Sweden) there are the ruins of at least seven other churches in the old city. This is a place that is worth an additional visit.

Next on the itinerary was Ronne (Island of Bornholm) Denmark. This is another very strategic island. It can control passage of ships from the Baltic Sea (think Russsia) toward any exits into the Atlantic Ocean. Although it is part of Denmark, it is closer to Sweden, Germany and Poland. It is so strategic to Russia that in April 1945 it was bombed for two days by the Red Air Force and then on the third day two Red Army airborne divisions parachuted onto the Island to capture it from the Germans. This was just before the end of the War. Russia claimed it as Soviet territory. At the Potsdam Conference after Germany surrendered the western allies (US, UK and France) said no. This was soverign Danish territory. The Potsdam agreement gave the island back to Denmark. Denmark became an original member of NATO and the Soviet Union was allowed to incorporate Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.

One of the main industries in Ronne is the building of wind generating towers that are placed all over western Baltic. I called this a Wind Farm Nursery. There were many under construction next to where the cruise ship was moored.

After Ronne we returned to Germany to visit Kiel. This has been a major shipping and naval center. Many of the German U-Boats were built here during the second world war and the German Naval Shipyard is located here. Because of its huge naval presence and its closeness to England the city was heavily bombed during World War II. Most of the buildings in the "old city" are new since 1945. Like Helsinki it is a reasonably charmless large, modern European city. Nearby is the Kiel Canal which is a shortcut for ships from the Baltic to North Seas. This is the busiest (in terms of tonnage of shipping) man-made waterway in the world. It was built in the 1880s.

Our last Baltic port of call on the cruise was of course Copenhagen... the beautiful queen of the sea and the home to Tivoli, Hamlet and Lego. It is indeed a beautiful city with lots of historic interest. We visited the Little Mermaid, I had my picture taken with Hans Christian Anderson, we photographed the oft-photographed painted buildings in the Nyhaven neighborhood, and took a canal boat tour of the many waterways. Very interesting place.

From Copenhagen the ship returned to Amsterdam and we flew back to Seattle.