Saturday, May 01, 2010

Sochi, Russia

What a difference a day makes. This morning I looked out the window (no, not a porthole) and the scene was very different. Sochi is a pretty city set at the base of the Caucus mountains. The blossoms are still on some trees and the flowering shrubs are in bloom. Being in an attractive port building the tough Russian Immigration folk did not seem so frightening as they did in the old Soviet days. As a ship passenger we can visit Sochi on a transit visa. If we wanted to be indepedent travelers a visa is required (not available at the point of entry) and this is quite expensive for a two days visit.

Today's excursion took us to a Russian Tea Tasting at a plantation about 15 kms from Sochi. Driving there we could see the reconstruction of two Russian Orthodox churches and the construction of many new apartment buildings. Sochi is a resort and spa city on the Black Sea and there are five sanitariums where folks can recuperate from many illnesses. At the tea plantation we were treated to a folkloric performance where the accordionist played accordions of varying sizes from the longest accordion in Russia to the smallest which was about the size of an iPhone.

Indded this is a very pretty city and such a pleasant sight after Trabzon, Turkey yesterday.

....and now to fill you in.

Trabzon, Turkey

We were docked when we woke and our unspectacular view of Trabzon's port was obscured by a crane. On a full day tour we were off ship by 08:15 and the exciting journey took us to a mosque that had been a church that had been a mosque and is now a museum, you get it. Then to another mosque where I decided it was not worth the effort to take off my boots to go in as it did not look impressive at all. Lunch by the Black Sea was an interesting mix of Turkish food that Dawn would have loved.

Afterwards we went to the mountain summer retreat of Atatürk Koşku where the gardens are spectacular. The Wiseria was almost finished blooming but it still looked great.

In the late afternoon we sat at a mountain lookout area and sipped tea, so the English passengers were able to have their afternoon tea (no scones though). It was a nice rest after a busy first day touring. Garry lost his camera at or after this spot.

Trabzon is in an active earthquake region and I kept looking at the buildings thinking that I would not want to be shopping in a mall, working in a tall building or living in a multi-storied apartment complex when an earthquake happens in Trabzon. The building code seems to be non-existant and our friend Peter, an Earthquake Engineer would have a field day .... he has probably been here. So that said, I am happy to be sleeping on a ship while in this region.

The highlight of the day was watching our bus maneuver through the narrow streets of Trabzon where cars illegally park directly under a Tow-Away sign and within view of the Police Station. Seems nobody is worried about being towed.

Istanbul, Turkey

Our flights with KLM were very good and we arrived early which is far better than delayed. Once again I could not sleep on a plane but I did get through the book "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo". The first day was spent at sea so we adjusted to European time and caught up on sleep.

M/V Discovery at port in Istanbul

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