Greetings from WIDAGO and her crew!
We just returned to Hohe Duene after a fantastic week visiting the German Countryside, Amsterdam, and back to Hamburg. Luckily the boat was still floating, in exactly the same place we left her. Whew…..The last couple days, I noticed our sweet Ahab showing signs of WIDAGO withdrawal….headaches, stomaches, irritability, crabby-pant-itis…worried about the big girl as she was left to fend for herself while we were getting our “touristic” land-based adventure fix. Rest assured all was as we had left it, minus one wild ferret or weasel/mink like creature that had begun to visit our boat.
We had a very successful trip to Hamburg, securing our Russian Visa for the rally into St. Petersburg Russia at the end of the month. Again, so many thank yous to the Martine at WCC and the Wendt family for their time and chocolate, enabling our successful acquisition of the visas.
Visas: So the way this whole process works….you have to fill out 8,000 pages of online applications, gather proper medical insurance documentation (including how you pay for the transport of any and all “mortal remains”?????), letter of invitation from a reputable Russian Tourist agency, and remember every country you and your crew has traveled to for the past ten years including entry dates (I swear I didn’t make this up…OK maybe just short of 8,000 pages). Then if you are lucky, you have someone like Martine promise their first born child in exchange for five sequential appointments at the visa application office. Then, if you are really lucky, you befriend a local Hamburgian (I’m sure I botched that one) who meets you, sight unseen, at the visa application office to act as a translator since you speak neither German nor Russian. After surrendering your passport, photos (cut to very specific sizes and glue sticked on to the application), and an extra big wad of euros (Americans get charged more), you get to wait five business days…wait…in a foreign country without your passport….hoping they approve you….
So what do you when you are waiting in a foreign country without your passport? Obviously, you rent a small SUV, load up the kids, and drive to another country. Of course…..
WIDAGO went all in. We hit Hansa Park with kids to ride the rollercoasters, bumper cars, and apply hand sanitizer. That night we stayed in Lubeck – perhaps my favorite place so far. An absolute gem. Medieval village turned small city, boasting narrow cobblestone streets, turreted city gates, and a naturally occurring moat. Do make the effort to stop in for a night or two – well worth your time. The next day had us hauling the mail on the autobahn at warp speed through the countryside towards Amsterdam. Mile after mile we were treated to rolling farmlands, just beautiful. In our Ford diesel SUV, we attempted to decipher the highway signs, unsure of how this whole autobahn thing really worked. It basically boils down to this: Drive as fast as you possibly can, or move over as far as you can to the right. Use your blinker. Be sure to check the rearview mirror. At one point, we thought we were really moving along. Then you could hear the growl, feel the vibration, as the Benz streaked by us. We were doing 160 km/h….it felt like we were parked, as the driver flew by doing God knows how fast. Lucky for us, we continue to be on a very relaxed schedule, for the time being, and a casual drive the country was just fine.
In Amsterdam we met up with our extended family, the Maryland Moseleys. Add two more adults and three more boys (all the same ages as our crew), and the results were great. Walking through the sights and museums in Amsterdam with six boys ages 8-12 during a record setting heat wave, was much better than one would expect. After taking in the Anne Frank House (from the outside) and Van Gough Museum, the fellas were subdued by street vendor fare and ice cream cones. We managed not to get run run over by any bicyclists or trolleys. Only three out the six boys lost their trolley/bus passes. Most importantly, the children’s hands-on science museum, the NEMO, sells decent beer in their cafeteria. It was a win-win situation for all.
After getting our fill in A’dam, we navigated our way back into Germany for a few nights in Hamburg. Ahab lived up to his promise of putting us up in style, with two suites at Sofitel. I think if it had a kitchen, I would move in permanently. The only way to describe it is that when you collapsed into the bed, it was like sleeping in cotton candy. Upon waking that next morning, I finally felt less than exhausted for the first time since we arrived across the Atlantic. That sailing nonsense wears a gal out! With Moseley cousins in full force, we spent the day boosting Hamburg’s tourist economy. Since we were party of 10, I was able to book the “Moseley Boat School” for a group tour of the Hamburg Dungeon. To be honest, I thought it would be a historical tour, but it turned out to be more of a tourist attraction – still perfectly suited for our crew. This was followed by three hours at Minitaur Wunderland. Again, if you are a boy ages 8-12, it is perfect: Three stories of tiny models of everything from the Swiss Alps, Key West, and the Hamburg Airport (including scuba diving cows, Bonaroo Music Festival, and autobahn traffic jams).
We are really excited to get back to sailing next week. The welcome dinner has already introduced us to new friendly faces. Even though we did not get a chance to celebrate our independence in traditional American style, we were treated to brief slice of Americana as the Race Week here in Rostock shot off their fireworks, signaling the end of the race week.