I only had 8 hours to explore Tallinn. When my love of the city started to grow, time’s up. I should head to the next destination as scheduled. Reluctantly, I became a sheep, following the rest of the packs (read: passengers) obediently to walk back to the Princess ship docking at Saaremaa Harbour, the Port of Tallinn. While the rest turned right, I walked straight instead to the source of the rhythm of a brass instrument that reminded me of a Scottish pipe. I wasn’t familiar with the song being played, but for sure it wasn’t an American pop music. May be a folk song, or a local pop music. That’s why it triggered me to approach the sound of music.
Shortly after, I was face to face with an adolescent playing a bagpipe. Right in front of her feet, a tote bag was left open, functioning as a “piggy bank” for keeping tips from tourists.
The port has been the main location for cruise ships to anchor, carrying thousands of international tourists worldwide, who spend a day or even some hours (yep, they don’t have much time in the world) in Estonia during their trip to European countries situated around Baltic Sea. No wonder that the blond teenager in front of me tried to get a stroke of luck from the situation.
With her bagpipe, she could use the opportunity to be anyone she wants to be. A cultural ambassador, a professional musician or just a street artist collecting small changes, it’s her call. She managed to keep the strain smooth and uninterrupted at the beginning. All the notes, the melodies came out flawlessly by heart. Though I couldn’t tell the quality of her performance since I know nothing about the instrument.
I took my camera out of my pocket to immortalize the moment before it was over. A moment later, something happened. When I pressed the shutter button, I heard a pitch. More than once. It seemed that the melody was getting out of the line. It just didn’t sound right. What was going on?
I believe the mind controls one’s gesture, physical movement. Anxiety, distraction struck her. Her eyes didn’t look down any longer to her busy fingers opening and closing the pipe holes. Those eyes were staring at the lens instead, posing like a model, leaving the core mission of her presence: to perform beautifully and bring some money home.
I bet she loves camera and selfie too, like many other teens in today’s generation and that’s all right. As long as she kept concentrating to her music. But she failed to do so. She lost her focus from the moment my lens was on her. I stepped aside, hoping that she was back in track. Anyways, I had to make myself back to the “pack”.
Coincidentally, I looked back for no particular reason. I saw another man behind me doing the same thing like I did. And guess what happened next. The pitch was worse than ever; that no one was able to distinguish the piece she was playing. It was on and on and on, lasted longer than I expected.
What if she was performing on a live concert, or a competition, where thousands of spectators are on her? Where those camera flashes blink repeatedly, ceaselessly, blinding her eyesight. Something she still needs to deal with it, overcoming her nervousness, anxiety during performance.
I think to myself: she could have fainted on Eurovision!
Street performance is one of the best ways to practice and I was glad she had guts to that despite the weaknesses. Best of luck for this young and pretty blond girl. She still has a long way to go to reach her dreams.
Aarhus, the second largest city in Denmark, was the next destination of Princess Cruise excursion after Oslo. Aarhus is as compact as Copenhagen where you can reach anywhere on foot. Even so, you need to know that another implicit meaning of traveling by cruise ship is you can’t have it all. What do you expect to know everything about a place in less than 24 hours? You might need to choose between visiting a royal palace, a viking museum, or just skimming all landmarks without reaching particular places.
We only had 7 hours to explore the city. We didn’t lock specific “targets” as long as we managed to see Aarhus Cathedral and Den Gamle By. Hey, did I say we didn’t lock our “targets”? Whatever. The Aarhus Cathedral is just 5 minutes walking distance from the harbour. So yeah, there was no need to chase it at all.
The church looks plain at a glance with less sculptures and much more painted white walls than frescoes. Taking a better look at the frescoes, I said to myself, “Man, this cathedral must be really old.” The colours are not as bright and contrast as those in St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican.
Aarhus Cathedral was built after year 1190 and finished in 1350, dedicated to St. Clements, the patron saint of sailors. It is one of the few preserved Romanesque churches in history and the longest church in Denmark with 93 meters length. The frescoes, created between 1470 and 1520, once covered most parts of the wall. Nonetheless, they are only a few remains nowadays. I can imagine how beautiful the interior supposed to be, and it still is despite the fading colours of the frescoes. I guess the sculptures are just complementary of the design, otherwise it looks too chaotic.
Besides, it also stores a model war ship, hanged on the ceiling and failed to ship to Peter the Great in Russia because of the shipwreck in Skagen. Local fishermen bought the model and donated to the church. Don’t forget to listen the beautiful sound of religious music from the largest organ pipe in the country inside the cathedral!
On the way to Den Gamle By, the famous old town of Aarhus, we walked through the main shopping street, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum until an empty gloomy shop window and a tacky Vietnamese wedding gown shop. So where was it?
“Just walk straight there, we’re on the right direction.” said my cousin, our co-pilot of the day. He tried to convince everyone after one of us popped up a question, “Are we there yet?” . “Don’t say that it’s under construction when we arrive!” We laughed out loud.
From the other side of the street, we saw some groups of people heading to the left side. Also the back row of old houses with workers hammering nails and drilling bricks. The whole area was surrounded by wall to seclude itself from the rest of the city. We believed that was our Den Gamle By and we hoped it wasn’t under construction! Surprisingly, it requires an entrance fee to go inside. To be honest, we haven’t visited any old town with a fee. Moreover, the queue to the ticket counters was freaking long, implying that it was still open for public. Finally my parents, aunt and uncle didn’t feel like going in.
Den Gamle By is a man-made open air museum, founded in 1909, to exhibit the lifestyle of the old Danish settlement, from traditional houses coming from all cities in Denmark, museums, shops, streets and yards. No wonder why we need a ticket!
Since there was no ticket controller right in front the old town entrance, some other tourists, including some Chinese couples, managed to sneak in without being noticed. An inspiring act, haha! My cousin and I decided to do the same!
We didn’t know how things work there and we could get caught anytime. I took pictures quickly and my cousin the co-pilot struck a pose in front of the camera just before we escaped. We succeed fulfilling our curiosity without spending a dime in less than 5 minutes and didn’t get caught!
Our 2 favourite Danish words: tilbud and hip hip hurra. Everytime we saw the word tilbud, items sold in stores are on sale. And Hip Hip Hurra is what? The Dutch calls it Hip Hip Hoera, with exactly the same pronunciation as the Danish one, the English calls it Hooray (do I still need to translate this?). Eventually my family and my cousin’s bought same items: discounted placemats, as the only souvenir we think is useful, cheap and light to bring.
While heading back to the harbour, we passed by an old house with an additional glass attic on its modified rooftop. I could see chairs and a table inside from the distance, assuming that it’s an extended meeting room. I found it a breaking through design, sort of like IM Pei‘s glass pyramid in the middle of the iconic Louvre courtyard. Nonetheless, my mom called it destruction of an antique design.
Aarhus embraces a slow pace of life and happy-go-lucky kind of atmosphere, one of the perfect places to visit where you don’t need to think too much about almost everything without being isolated from a modern city life. Sometimes, chasing tourist attractions doesn’t mean much compared to spending quality time with your family. Just go with the flow and it will be very relaxing. Aren’t they the reasons why you need a holiday(s)?
EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, that’s what it’s made for!
For many, a cruise ship is a luxury vehicle sailing to reach any desired destination. But for many others, it is actually the destination – far more important than where it docks. So let’s skip the disaster part, and let me tell you the meaning of Escape Completely, as mentioned on Princess Cruise’s tagline.
NEW IN TOWN
Once being on board, you’re registered in the town hall of Emerald Princess, the name of the ship taking you to Baltic Sea. Your cruise card is the second most important thing you need to carry at all times after your passport to enter your stateroom, make purchases and re-board the ship.
Bring the map to find where you can find the ship’s luxurious facilities, from fitness, library, casino, discotheque to photo studio, so you don’t need to sacrifice your needs, hobbies and habits completely. Only machine rooms, crew’s cabins and the least wanted places to go – jail and mortuary – are not on your map. Without it, some passengers cannot find their own stateroom on the first and second day! Getting to know other passengers travelling with you could make you feel like home, too.
NEVER ENDING FOOD SUPPLY
Variety of food is two thumbs up! So yeah, you’ll always wonder what they have for buffet, tea time and fine dining. Later on, you’ll get some clue about food availability.
I got it starting from the 4th day on. My favourite fennel salad with shrimps is available 24 hours only at International Café on deck 5. I could get double chocolate chip cookies at Horizon Court and Café Caribe on deck 15 during lunch and dinner, except breakfast. Pizza and ice cream parlour opens on deck 15 from 11 am to 11 pm. I could customize my orders at the five-star quality fine dining as long as it is on the menu. For instance, replacing shrimp cocktail with spaghetti Alfredo or skipping the fatty dessert to keep up a strict diet program.
ENTERTAINMENT ON BOARD
“Life shows are like a box of chocolate. You never know what you gonna get.”
Princess Theater saved the best for last. I didn’t really fancy the first week shows, until I missed one of the best music performers on the last day! However, I managed to watch “International Crew Talent Show”, where the crews demonstrated their hidden talents, from traditional Balinese dance, belly dance, singing, drama until piano performances. To be honest, some crews sang as good as the professionals the company hired, even better!
For passengers who love singing, they can join Princess Pop Star competition. It’s like American Idol with more diverse nationalities. And my uncle made it to the grand final! Yeaayy! Or join Texas Hold’em Tournament for gamblers!
As a classical music lover, I found The Alegria String Quartet rocked The Piazza on deck 5. From Strauss, Mozart, Vivaldi until The Beatles, the 4 pretty ladies were violin and cello killers. On their peak performance, the Quartet’s leading lady asked a passenger’s participation to hold her violin’s bow. Then, she drew the strings across the bow the passenger held instead of drawing the bow across the strings. The audience was stunned and finally gave the longest applause in the end of the show.
Liam Steward, the singer and pianist entertaining at Crooners Bar every evening, could kill any song with that blew the audience away. The fact that he’s a hunk is an advantage!
Knowing that you paid everything in advance, you might immediately believe that all kinds of facility, food and beverage are included in the price. My best advice is: do not hesitate to ask, especially with names or words that sound specific and rosy.
There are extra charges applied for alcoholic drinks, yoga, massage, particular activity like “creating your own matryoshka“, and specialised restaurants like Sabatini’s and Crown Grill have $25 cover charge. Internet connection costs $.79 per minute. Since it is only possible to use satellite to get the network at sea, the connection is slower than that at home and office. My cousin knows it best. He spent $11 for sending 2 short emails!
Holiday in a luxurious cruise ship is not a budget trip. It is meant for those who indulge, reward themselves with achievements in life: marriage, birthday, wedding anniversary, career promotion, successful business or just a family gathering. Certain retired couples with decent amount of retirement funds spend the rest of their life in the ship. Youngsters need to have more savings to pay the trip. FYI, the price for “non-free” food and drinks on board are fair, not too overwhelming. Nonetheless, there is no harm to think wisely before you spend.
Departing, arriving or on the way to destined cities, the best place to witness breathtaking views are the outdoor section of deck 15 and 16. Oslo and Warnemünde are the prettiest cities seen from the top deck, as well as Stockholm while heading to and leaving the harbour (not when it docked). Moreover, clean breeze, sunshine and 20 degree temperature made the place heaven on earth that did not happen everyday.
Watching seagulls flying high so close to me, on the same level as I stood was another unforgettable experience. While a passenger was feeding seagulls with an ice cream cone, everybody laughed and took pictures of aggressive birds pecking the cone edges with hints of vanilla ice cream left inside.
$11 per day gratuity for the crews is part of the company’s house rules. However, making friends with them is what money can’t buy. It broadens your horizon about life behind all the luxurious service and facilities, from long working hours until their tradition, i.e. how Indonesian crews celebrate Indonesian independence day at sea. Since they come from various countries, who knows they have the same nationality as yours!
Besides, far far away from traffic jam and air pollution, picturesque sea view (especially for a city girl like me), friendship with other passengers are also priceless. For everything else, there is MasterCard Princess Cruise Card.
Give me more time to put my journey in words for all cities I visited. This I promise you in my next post.
EUROMAP illustrates my trip to European cities from August to September 2012 through a custom map I created with Google Map. I only include this chapter in the end of the post related to the Eurotrip I did in that month. Please feel free to enlarge and click the blue arrows to view further comments about places I visited. Have fun with it, it’s made to do so!