Floating school – HMTS Dunera

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M/S Dunera in Malta

After a four month voyage in MV Chilka to East Africa, I was allowed ten days leave before the telegram arrived that I as to join MS Dunera in Venice.

Alitalia

Three days later I flew with Alitalia from London to Venice, via Milan.

Fortunately, ALITALIA didn’t live up to her acronym Always Late In Transit and Late In Arriving – we arrived on time, and I was met by the Company’s agent and taken to Dunera – she was moored alongside St Mark’s Square.

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Large passenger vessels are no longer allowed to berth alongside St Mark’s Square.

The above shows MSC Fantasia, at 137,936 gt, with 3,300 passengers –
MS Dunera was 12,620 gt with 834 students, in dormitories, and 194 first class cabins.
Is it any wonder the authorities put a stop to large cruise ships berthing alongside St Mark’s Square.
I think that berthing at St Mark’s Square was stopped in 2014, when the new cruise terminal opened. Now they are talking of banning large vessels in the Venice lagoon altogether, because of the vessel’s wash, even when moving very slowly, is causing damage to the buildings.

MS Dunera was a troop ship for the British Government, having been launched in 1937. She trooped to the Middle East, South Africa, Singapore and Australia between 1939 and 1941. In 1942 she took part in the Madagascar landings during Operation Ironbark, which has a link to me. During this operation my father was involved in the landings as a sailor aboard another Company troop ship named Karanja. It was only many years later that I found out about this long link of six degrees of separation.
MS Dunera was also the headquarter vessel for the US 7th Army during the invasion of Southern France in April 1944.

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HMT Dunera, as a troop ship.

In 1961/2 the British Government decided to suspend all sea going trooping and only to use air, which left several troop ships unemployed.

B.I.S.N.C had experienced operating school ships in the 1930’s, so they thought that they would reintroduce the concept in the early 60’s, and convert their troop ships to becoming ‘school ships’ – ships that specialised in taking school children on educational cruises.
In its first year as a school ship, Dunera carried over 10,000 school children around Europe to famous historical sites.

Once I’d stowed my gear in a cabin that I shared with three other cadets, I spent some time familiarising myself with the ship.

We sailed the following evening with a full compliment of British school children who had been flown out by chartered aircraft from the UK.

Our first day at sea was instructing the students about lifeboat drill, and how to put on a life jacket, which were different, but similar to today’s jackets. The main purpose in the ’60’s was to force ones head above water,. The current jackets do the same thing, but in a more ‘friendly’ fashion.

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1965

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2018

Just a  little bit of trivia – the first life jacket was created in 1854 by Captain Ward who was  a British Royal National Life Boat inspector. He created it so that his lifeboat crews would have a better chance of surviving, considering that most of the time they only put to sea in bad weather, to rescue crews of stranded vessels.

The next job for the cadets was not as pleasant as chatting to the passengers and showing  them how to wear a life jacket – it was to chlorinate the swimming pool, before it could be used.

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Picture thanks to John Coulthard, who also sailed in MS Dunera as Staff Second Officer in 1965. He joined MS Dunera the day I left.
As you see the pool was nothing like the fancy pools on offer by today’s cruise ships. I never heard of any complaints though, particularly when it was hot.

Our first port of call was Corfu – the photograph below was taken in 1965.

Corfu

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MS Dunera anchored off Corfu, or Keykyra in Greek.

The island didn’t have the facilities even for such a small (in comparison to today), cruise ships, so we anchored off and the motorised lifeboats were lowered, and it was the cadets job of coxing a lifeboat each full of passengers, and take them ashore. There was a small pier that we used to discharge the passengers safely. The ferrying began at 9.30 am and it wasn’t long before all of the passengers were ashore.

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Once again I am indebted to John Coulthard for the above two photographs.

As you see the ‘tender’ boat, (lifeboat) taking passengers ashore was nothing like the tender boat (lifeboat) of today, see below during our cruise earlier this year.

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A Diamond Princess tender ferrying passengers ashore in Nha Trang,  Vietnam.

At each port that we visited coaches were waiting for the students, with an English speaking guide, and the students were shown around the main sites, and had talks on the history and culture of each place visited.
The students knew that they had to pay attention, because they had essays to write, either during ‘lesson’ time on-board, or when they returned to their schools.
The big plus for the cadets was that we could board one of the coaches and visit the location for free. I took advantage of this facility in each port, because I knew I wouldn’t pay to return.
I was wrong, because fifty years later in 2015, I did return to some of the places that I’d visited while in Dunera.

When ever we took advantage of the free tour we had to make sure we were back in time to man the lifeboats for the return trip to the ship. The return trips in Corfu began at 3.30 pm the last boat from the shore was 5.45 pm and we sailed at 6.00 pm, for Itea.

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Itea and once again the passengers were ferried ashore.
Today they have a jetty that can take larger cruise ships.

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Both of the above were found on the internet – royalty free.

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Life on board to follow . . .

Road to Zanzibar

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It’s Always You
Bing Crosby sang it to Dorothy Lamour, in Zanzibar of course . . .

Christmas Day 1964 – we arrived off Mombasa and berthed alongside the Chakla, another Company ship. Also, in port was a BI passenger ship named ‘Karanja’ and this name had a family link for me. My father was on the first ‘Karanja’, when she was discharging troops in Operation Torch off North Africa during WW2.
She was bombed and sunk. Fortunately, Dad survived, but I wanted to see the replacement so as to tell Dad.

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Karanja that Dad sailed in during the war.
During peace time she operated on the India – East Africa Service.

hms-cropHMS Karanja in 1942 – after she’d been bombed, and is now on fire, and I can only assume that Dad was helping to fight the fires – she sank later.

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Karanja, that I saw in Mombasa.

The evenings over Christmas were spent along Kilindini Road, mainly at the Casablanca Bar and The Nelson Bar, very popular places that Christmas.

kilindini-tusksAt the top of Kilindini Road were the famous ‘tusks’.

During the Christmas period HMS Eagle and her support ships arrived in port. She was a Royal Navy aircraft carrier with a compliment of over 2500.

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                                The above shows HMS Eagle leaving Mombasa harbour.
Among the various Royal Navy crews were several bands, and these bands obtained permission to play in the nightclubs and bars of Mombasa.
To say that Mombasa, during the Christmas period of 1964, was a ‘jumping’ town is an understatement.

1965 – New Years Day and onward

I met a young lady who had a car – very unusual at that time, and she asked me to join her at a beach outside Mombasa called Nyali Beach, and she arranged to pick me up from the ship.

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Of course this sounded a great idea, so I agreed, and she did pick me up in a small VW car, known as a Beetle. It was battered and dented, but it moved. The picture is the closest I could find to illustrate the car (I think the young lady had a blue car).

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A girl , a car & a beach . . . what more could a twenty year old want?

Little did I know that it wasn’t for my charming self that I was invited, but my ability to pick the car up a little by rocking it or to push it – a lot! The car did not have a reverse (it was broken, and she couldn’t afford to have it fixed), so every time we had to reverse I had to get out and push it backwards. I have been very wary of invitations to go for a drive with a female ever since. The beach was nice, and the sun helped me recuperate after all the exercise of pushing a VW part of the way to Nyali beach.

Mombasa is an island, so we had to cross to the mainland to visit the beech. Fortunately the car didn’t breakdown on the bridge.

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We were in Mombasa for a fortnight during which time we change our Indian crew to a full African crew. We now had to learn Swahili instead of Hindi.
The Chilka was the first British ship to carry a full compliment of African crew. We managed to make the newspapers and the Mombasa Times ran a major story with photographs, unfortunately I can not find any pictures.

The one problem with the African crew was that most of them did not have any concept of a European winter. They had sailed ‘deep sea’ from Mombasa, but mainly to neighbouring countries or to India or the Persian Gulf. So, when we mentioned to some of them that they should consider something better than open toed sandals for a UK winter, they grinned with their large sparkling white teeth, as if they knew best.

Our new African steward was aware of the winter cold, and he had planned for such, but he told us that the deck crew would have to find out for themselves, because they will not listen to either him or us.

When they did arrive in London the deck crew had a grey pallor due to the cold, and they had so many layers of clothing on that they could hardly move. During their free time they spent most of it in the cinema, because it was cheap, and they could at least keep warm.

After leaving Mombasa our next stop was Dar es Salaam in Tanganyika, which had become independent in 1961. It was a very short trip, a matter of hours.

Tanganyika Territory or German East Africa before WW1, was transferred to Britain under a League of Nations mandate in 1922, later confirmed by the UN, which changed it to a Trust territory after WW2.
In 1961 the trust territory was transformed in to a sovereign state, and eventually became a republic within the Commonwealth.
In April 1964 Tanganyika joined with the Peoples Republic of Zanzibar and Pemba, to create the United Peoples Republic of Tanganyika and Zanzibar, which became the United Peoples Republic of Tanzania a few months later.

The city of Dar es Salaam still had that British feel, but I never felt as comfortable as I did in Mombasa.

Tanganyika might have changed its name to Tanzania, but at that time people still referred to it as Tanganyika. The economy of the place was not as strong as Kenya, and it showed.

Our time in Dar es Salaam was about three days. Not long enough to see much, because we had to work each day, but the town was a lot quieter than Mombasa.

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From Dar es Salaam we sailed for Tanga, which is a seaport on the northern tip of Tanzania, very close to the border with Kenya. Tanga, famous for its sisal, means ‘farm or cultivated land’ and gave its name to Tanganyika, which means ‘Sisal farm’.

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Sisal plant – the leaves are removed and dried to make the sisal that we know at home.

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Sisal leaves drying in the sun.

Tanga was the first German East African establishment, having been bought from the Sultan of Zanzibar in 1891.

Of course, we loaded sisal, after discharging, stone, heavy machinery and frozen food, including more ice cream. Two days was enough for Tanga, after which we sailed for Zanzibar, a favourite place for the slavers of old, and of course Bob Hope, Bing Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.

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Picture from the internet – it was taken in 1964

The Anglican Christ Church cathedral in Stone Town, Zanzibar stands on the old slave-trading market site.
In 1822 the British signed a treaty with the Sultan of Zanzibar to end slavery, but it took until 1876 before this trade came to and end. Of course, the trade carried on to a lessor degree by kidnapping children and selling them to ‘customers’ in the Persian Gulf. Slaves escaped to freedom as late as 1931.

David Livingstone (pictured below) estimated in 1857, that 80,000 thousand slaves died on the way to the Zanzibar slave market, and of those that lived 50,000 were sold to Sheikhs and rich traders in the Persian Gulf.
This slave market had nothing to do with the West African slave trade to America, which was outlawed by the UK in 1807.

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David Livingston

The altar, in the cathedral is supposed to be at the exact spot of the whipping post.

We loaded bag of cloves from dhows and barges using our own gear and the local labour for stowing the bags.

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Mtwara, in Tanzania was our next port of call. The town was a created town in the 1940’s for the export of groundnuts (peanuts), but the enterprise failed, and it was abandoned in 1951.
The town had been created to house 200,000 people, but when I visited Mtwara it had a feeling of being abandoned, with few people walking the dark sandy streets.

On leaving Mtwara it was back to Dar es Salaam, followed by Tanga, where I had an inoculation top up for cholera (another blunt needle). Not sure if it was the injection or the local beers, but I was not a happy chappy for a few days.

Our final East African visit was back to Mombasa where we anchored in the Mombasa Creek. The constant sound of insects and birds as we lay at anchored reminded me of the Edgar Wallace books and films that I’d seen and read.

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The Canoe song.
If you like Paul Robeson, click on the above link to hear him sing from the film.

 After a day and a half at anchor we moved alongside at the main port area, to load tea and coffee for the Sudan, and a present of flour from America for Aden.

Two days later our East African adventure was over, and we sailed for Europe via the Red Sea.

We arrived at Aden five days later around mid-night; anchored, and immediately gangs of labour came aboard to unload the Aden cargo. They worked through the night and we sailed at lunchtime.

It was two days to Port Sudan to discharge the Mombasa tea and coffee along with empty soft drink crates – no idea why they wanted empty crates. Strange how odd things like empty drink crates, stick in one’s mind from so long ago.

The export cargo from Sudan was Arabic gum (in bags, with plenty of tiny insects), ivory (it wasn’t illegal at that time), and groundnuts.

It was February, and as we got closer and closer to the Suez Canal the temperature became noticeably cooler. A very pleasant temperature for the Europeans, who were still in tropical whites, but for our African crew they began to complain of being cold. The Company had arranged for a supply of warm weather clothing for the crew and this was handed out.

The problem was that the clothing was of mixed sizes so some of the crew complained that they couldn’t move because their shirt was too tight, and others complained that their legs were cold because their trouser were too short. It became the cadets’ job to reclaim all the clothing and to make sure each crew member was kitted out with clothes that fitted, as best we could. This put a stop to a break out of fights over pieces of clothing.

Once in the Mediterranean all the crew appeared to put on weight – in fact they refused to take off any of their clothing because they were so cold, and they began to look like a gang of Michelin men.

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It took us a week from Port Sudan to Gibraltar, during which time the temperature had dropped from around 27 c (80F) to a cool 12 c (53F) and the crew were suffering.

Our next  port was Hull in the UK, and we had to transit the Bay of Biscay in winter – not a pleasant experience with heavy Atlantic swell causing us to pitch, roll and corkscrewing in a force eight.

The temperature kept dropping and by the time we reached the English Channel it was down to 6 c (42 F), the officers were now in ‘blues’ far too cold for shorts.

I paid off Chilka on a Sunday, while still at sea, with the grand sum of £20 in my pocket. I’d been away for about four months, so I didn’t expect a long leave. We docked in Hull on Monday morning, and by the afternoon I was back home in Birkenhead, which is across the river from Liverpool.

Yesterday and today –

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Chilka at 7,132 gt, a happy ship to see the world and experience different cultures.

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Credit for the photograph by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

A container ship alongside in Zanzibar in 2011, where is the ‘romance’ of going to sea if you are only in port for a few hours.

Ice Cold in Aden.

 

chilka2M/V Chilka

The Bay of Biscay and Gibraltar behind us and Chilka heads for Almeria on the southern coats of Spain.Almaria

From memory it was a small town with few attractions for the cadets, but we loaded over 2000 barrels of grapes in to our freezer chambers destined for Mombasa, in Kenya.
Chilka was not a freezer ship, but a dry cargo vessel, with some freezer / chiller cargo space.

At the same time, we were unloading bags of cement. Each day during the passage from London we tested the bilges for water, and at each test we found that we were dry, which was unusual, because we always had some water in the bilges. On arrival in Almeria we began to discharge the bags and found that the cement had been contaminated with water and had set hard. The noise of jackhammers was soon heard as we completed the discharge of cement.

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Our next port was Malta where we berthed near the BISNC company school ship Devonia. This vessel had been a troop ship and had been converted to carry school children around Europe on educational cruises.
The Devonia cadets where known to all of us cadets in the Chilka, so that evening it was an ‘educational’ down the Gut as it is locally known, or as its correct name Strait Street (Strada Stretta, in Maltese) – which was a famous bar area of Malta in the 1950’s & the early 60’s. We were only in Malta for the one night and sailed the next day for Port Said to join the southbound convoy through the canal.
The British had helped Malta to be free of the French in 1800, and Malta had asked to be a sovereign nation within the British Empire – this was granted at the end of the Napoleonic war in 1815.
Malta was given complete self rule after WW2, in 1947, and she was considering the idea of being part of the UK, or have dominion status in the same way as Australia, Canada & New Zealand, but later decided on becoming an independent country, which took place in September 1964, and at the same time she joined the Commonwealth.

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Found this on the internet which gives a good idea as to how narrow Strait Street (the GUT) is . . . .GUT

It was a popular place with the Royal Navy, and as we were dressed in ‘civvies’ we stood out some what.

Two days after clearing Port Tewfik, which is at the southern end of the Suez Canal, we were off Port Sudan, and within a short time alongside the wharf.

Port Sudan was a dusty town to say the least, but they did have a picture house, which I visited on my first evening ashore, to see ‘The Great Escape’, because it was the only English-speaking film available.

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I’d seen it in the UK, but viewing it in Sudan was a completely different. I had the choice of ‘Stalls’ or ‘Circle’, so for the price I chose the ‘Circle’, which was just as well. Between the Stalls and the Circle area there were rolls of barbed wire to keep ‘Stalls’ patrons from cheating the system and sitting in the Circle, and I thought the barbed wire was to enhance the realty of the film. . . I should get out more.

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From the internet, he was not watching the film with me.

Next day I was invited by the second officer to try out his aqualung off the reef that shielded the port. We borrowed a small boat to get to the reef.
I didn’t have any idea as to how to use an aqualung underwater, so the whole exercise was quite exciting. He explained what I had to do, and how to breathe normally under water, and the experience, for me, was out of this world to be a part of the under-sea creature environment.

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I’d been down about ten minutes when the sun over my right shoulder ‘went out’ as if a cloud had passed in front of the sun. The problem was that I’d not seen a cloud in the last two days, so looked up to check what had caused the ‘cloud’. It was a large shark. I didn’t have any idea what type of shark it was; all I knew was that I was in his area and he was bigger and stronger than me. Fortunately, I was able to swim ‘backwards’, while watching the shark, and as soon as I touched the coral reef I felt safer. I don’t know if it is true that a shark would not get too close to a reef in case it damaged itself on the reef, but at the time I trusted this thought, and eventually made my way in to the coral reef’s shallow area, where I was picked up in the borrowed boat. After this episode I only went snorkeling near a reef.

Aden, one of my least ‘favoured’ ports of call was our next stop. We worked cargo at night because of the heat and the nature of the cargo – ice cream and cheese. I’d never seen a cargo unloaded so fast as this cargo during the night. The labour must have been on contract that any loss of ice cream would have been a penalty or perhaps they had been promised an ice cream on completion.

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At the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, Aden became an important coaling station on the route to India and also as a base against pirates. It seems that not much has changed in the area with regard to pirates since 1869.

Abdel Nasser of Egypt, in late 1963 called for a Pan Arabist cause, which partly ignited the Aden Emergency with the throwing of a grenade in late 1963 at British officials at Aden airport. The grenade killed a woman and injured fifty others. An anti-British campaign had begun using mainly grenades. The two main anti- British groups were the NLF (National Liberation Front) and FLOSY (Front for the Liberation of Occupied South Yemen).
The requirement to keep law and order brought in more and more troops, which is why we had so much ice cream to unload that night.

ICE CREAM - Lyons Ice Cream Poster

My British readers will remember this advert from the mid 60’s.

The British withdrew from Aden at the end on November 1967, the Suez Canal had been closed by Nasser on the eve of the Six Day War, (5th to 10th June 1967), and then it became the demarcation line between the Egyptians and the Israelis forces. This contributed to years of disruption to the Yemeni economy and Aden in particular.

It appears they are still fighting among themselves over fifty years later.

From Aden we set course for Mombasa, in Kenya. Unlike today we did not have to worry about pirates as we sailed down the Somalian coast.

For the movie buffs, I borrowed the title of a film for this blog, with a slight, alteration,

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A classic British film from 1958.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Icons and colour

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Church on the Spilled Blood . . .

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Tsar Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881 by a bomb., which was thrown at his carriage. Since becoming the Tsar he’d been progressively changing Russia by freeing the serfs, who were virtual slaves of the land owners. He updated the military and the judiciary and made other reforms, but not everybody agreed with him.
There were various attempts on his life, which included an explosion in the Winter Palace and the derailment of a train. In the end it was a bomb thrown at his carriage that was successful.
In memory of the Tsar they built a church over the exact spot of his death. It is called The Church on the Spilled blood and inside the church there is a canopy that marks the place of his assassination.

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It seemed to me that every part of the church had some form of religious painting on the walls, pillars, ceiling and floors.

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Not being a great fan of elaborately painted churches, I never had a feeling of peace.
From what I’ve since read, it is only used as a church for commemorative services, but is mainly a museum, and a ‘must’ for the tourist trail, which I suppose, is the reason for my feeling of lack of peace.

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Part of the ceiling.

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The alter area? – I’m not sure.

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A model of the church.

The cost of construction was met mainly by the Royal Family, and was built between 1883 to 1907.

After the revolution of 1917 the church was looted, and badly damaged. It was closed in 1932, and during WW2, due to the 900 day siege, it was used as a morgue.
After the war, it was used as a vegetable warehouse, and became known locally as the  Saviour on Potatoes.

Some years later the authorities decided to restore the whole church, and it was covered in scaffolding. This went on for years, and people used to say that by the time the restoration is finished the Soviet Union would have collapsed. In 1991 the restoration was finished and the church reopened – on Christmas Day in 1991 the Soviet Union collapsed, and on the 26th December made way for the Russian Federation – coincidence?

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  Soviet flag

Russia

Russian Federation flag

Our next church was St Isaac’s Cathedral, which is the fourth consecutive church to be built on the same spot.

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There were models showing the growth of the church from its early beginnings to today’s cathedral shown below

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Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, died 383 AD. He was the patron saint of Peter the Great, who had been born on the feast day of St Isaac.

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The cathedral took forty years to build, from 1818 to 1858 under the direction of Frenchman Auguste de Montferrand.

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The dome rises 101.5 mtrs (333 ft) and is plated with gold, and is supported by twelve statues who are angels.

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I found the artwork more impressive here than in the previous church.

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Ceiling and side areas.

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In 1931 the cathedral became a museum of the History of Religion and Atheism.

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In the centre of the above picture you can just see a white bird, (representing the Holy Spirit), which is a dove. The dove was removed in 1931 and the first public demonstration of the Foucault pendulum took place to show the evidence of the Earth’s rotation.

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Garden of Eden around the wall.

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Originally the pictures were paintings hanging from the walls, until they realised that the weather was causing them to deteriorate,  Auguste de Montferrand ordered the painting to be copied as mosaics.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union the cathedral returned to being a place of worship and in January of 2017 it was transferred to the Russian Orthodox church.

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One of the side chapels, sorry about the slight tilt.

After our group of twelve had gathered outside, the guide said that we would visit another church . . . there was a low moan indicating that some had had their fill of churches. As we were in the new democratic Russia we took a vote, and nine voted to return to the ship and three for carrying on. We knew that we would not be back on board until just after 4.00 pm and we had experienced two very long days, and today had started at 7.00 am at passport control, and boarding the bus at 7.30 am.
The guide was quite surprised that most of us wanted to return to the ship, and forfeit visiting the next ‘iconic’ church.

We were back on board about 4.15 pm just in time for a shower before dinner and to focus on a spot of R & R.

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I’d been looking forward to renewing my friendship with Mr Smith for an an hour or so before dinner . . .

Goodbye St Petersburg, thanks for the experience and memories., which were very different to those of 1965.

 

 

 

Hermitage

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Being part of a group tour we didn’t have to queue to get in through the main door. I took the above after we came out, and the crowds were now inside.

The museum began in 1764 when Catherine the Great bought two hundred and twenty five paintings from a Berlin merchant. Among the paintings were  thirteen Rembrandt paintings and eleven of Ruben’s. Over her life she bought more and more artwork, and when she died in 1796 she had collected thousands of items, not just paintings, but books, drawings, jewelry, sculptures, coins and frescoes from the Vatican.

There are now three million items that can be seen, so if you spent one minute at each item it would take over five and a half years (without rest) to view them all. I was happy with two hours or so, and we only scratched the surface, figuratively speaking – we were not allowed to touch anything!

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        The Kolyvan Vase, but more like a bowl.

2.5 mtrs (8 feet) high, 5 mts (16 ft) long, and 3 mtrs (10 ft) wide and weighs in at 19,000 kilos (19 tonne). We were told that they built the room around the vase. It is made from Altai jasper, and it took two years to be carved and polished.

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Ancient artifacts – Greek , Egyptian etc

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Gold doors- there seemed to be gold everywhere.

I took well over a hundred photographs, so I am just posting a few as an example of what you will see if you ever visit, but I suggest that you have a guide – the collection is vast.

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The Italian skylight room- concentrates on Italian art.

DSC03382rMalachite urn, and the table is also malachite.

There is a Malachi vase in Windsor Castle . It was presented to Queen Victoria in 1839 by Tsar Nicholas I. It used to be in the Hermitage.
There is a story that during the 1992 Windsor castle fire there was a green urn that weighed over two tonnes, and in addition was filled with water due to the firemen trying too put out the fire. It could not be moved and the firemen saved those items that they could.
The water protected the vase and when the fire caused the water to turn to steam the outer Malachi covering fell off. After the fire had been extinguished they were able to use the pieces to reconstruct the vase to its original condition. This reconstruction was one of the longest reconstruction works after the fire.

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So much to see . . .

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So many paintings, and the more famous artists had many admirers, so much so, it was difficult to take a photograph.

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Kiosque (Kiosk) or pergola –
the poles are malachite. The original deposit of malachite was found in the Urals.

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Jordan Staircase in the Winter Palace (which is now part of the Hermitage Museum).

The name of the staircase refers to the River Jordan, and the Epiphany. The Tsar would descend these stairs for the ‘blessing of the waters‘ of the River Neva, which was a commemorative celebration of the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan.
In all, there are one hundred staircases in the Winter Palace alone, fortunately we only had to contend with about four.

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The Small Thrown Room –
diplomats would gather here on New Year’s Day to wish the Emperor well for the New Year.

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The Great Church of the Winter Palace.

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The Military Gallery in the Winter Palace.

There are 322 portraits of generals who took part in the Great patriotic War of 1812 against Napoleon.

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Of course I had to find my old mate Kutuzov (Battle of Borodino).

Our guide did make one concession by pointing out a portrait of the Duke of Wellington, that he ‘contributed’ to the fall of Napoleon. . . .
I bit my tongue . . . . .

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St George’s Hall, AKA The Great Thrown Room, – which was where the opening of the First State Duma (representatives of the people) took place by Tsar Nicholas II in 1906.

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The Peacock Clock, which has three life sized mechanical birds, built by James Cox of London in the 1770’s. Today it only plays on a Wednesday.
Prince Grigory Potemkin bought it as a gift for the Empress Catherine II in 1781,

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Peacock Clock click on the link for a more detailed explanation and see what happens at the ‘right time’ – the film is only three minutes long.

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Thanks to friends of ours who live in the North East of England, I became aware of another James Cox’s mechanical item, which is much closer to ‘home’, if you live or are visiting the UK.

May I suggest that you pay a visit to The Bowes Museum at  Barnard Castle, Co Durham where you will find the Silver Swan, which dates from 1773.

The swan is life-size and is controlled by three separate clockwork mechanisms. The Silver Swan rests on a stream made of twisted glass rods interspersed with silver fish. When the mechanism is wound up, the glass rods rotate, the music begins, and the Swan twists its head to the left and right and appears to preen its back. It then appears to sight a fish in the water below and bends down to catch it, which it then swallows as the music stops and it resumes its upright position.

Usually you can see the Swan in action every afternoon at 2.00. This performance lasts approximately 40 seconds.
The above explanation has been copied from the museum’s web page.

After checking the details it appears that the original swan was 3 feet in diameter and 18 feet tall. It is thought that originally there was a waterfall behind the swan, which was stolen while the swan was on tour.

The swan was displayed at the Paris World’s Fair in 1867 where Mark Twain saw it and commented on it in his book,  Innocents Abroad.

Silver Swan  a short piece of film to show the swan moving, it lasts for forty seconds.

James Cox worked closely with John Joseph Merlin who was Cox’s chief mechanician – the name they gave such a person in those days. Merlin was good at promoting himself at balls, arriving in outlandish costumes etc- The Morning Post and Daily Advertiser of 4th March, 1778 described him as “Mr. Merlin, the mechanic”.
At one ball he arrived wearing roller skates, which he had just invented, and skated around the ballroom while playing the violin. The problem was that he had not yet worked out how to stop, and so crashed in to a mirror, worth £500, and destroyed it, and his violin.

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Back to the Hermitage – the above is the symbol on the top of Alexander’s Column, which is an angel holding a cross.

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The column was erected in the Palace Square in front of the Winter Palace, now the Hermitage Museum – to celebrate  the Russian victory over Napoleon.
Built between 1830 – 1834 and designed by a Frenchman,  Auguste de Montferrand. . . . . who had served in Napoleon’s army, and had been awarded the Légion d’honneur.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rostock, Germany

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The old part of Rostock (rebuilt after WW2) – the white piano was being played while we walked around and it was very pleasant to hear it in the background.

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The day was warm and the children seemed to be having great fun dodging the intermittent water fountains.

Rostock was to be our last port of call for this Baltic cruise, before we headed back to Southampton. This year is the 800th anniversary of the town.

Our guide was a twenty eight year old university student, who was very good and offered his services as a tour guide in his spare time. His English was excellent.

Our coach transported us from the port to the old part of the town, which was about a twenty minute ride.

During WW2, Rostock was targeted by the RAF because of two aircraft factories in the vicinity. Bombing the factories also meant that the town received a lot of hits.

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     Both above & below from the internet – note the church which is still standing today.

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The market square and the building in front of which the cars are parked, is the town hall.

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The same square today, with a small market in operation, and the pink building is the town hall.

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The guide told us there aren’t any photographs of the destroyed city on display, and the only public acknowledgment is a painting inside St Mary’s,which was the only church that survived.

Rostock has become one the most popular ports for cruise ships in Europe, and tourism is now one of their biggest industries.

We started are walking tour near the modern shopping are.

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Kröpelin Gate – first mentioned in 1280,

Rostock used to be a walled defensive city and you entered via one the many gates, this gate is 54 mtrs (177 ft) high. It is now a free museum.

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Part of the old wall.

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They’ve reconstructed the support system for the defenders to fire over the wall.

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I think this columned building part of Rostock University.

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The university –

The yellow columned building is to my left, and the children playing in the fountains are just behind me.

The university was founded in 1419, which was seventy three years before Columbus discovered America.  Today they have 14,000 students and 2933 staff.

On the 500th anniversary of Rostock University Albert Einstein received an honorary doctorate in 1919, which made the university the first place of higher learning in the world to honour Einstein in such away. Unlike many other academics, Einstein’s doctorate was not revoked during the Nazi period.

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No 14 was our guide – the statues I think depict various virtues, justice, modesty, diligence etc.

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The coat of arms of the Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, which existed from 1815 to 1918, is displayed at the very top top of the university entrance ‘tower’.

In the park in front of the university there is a statue –

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depicting another solider of the Napoleonic wars, and I was very surprised to see him because I didn’t realise that he came from Rostock.

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Gebhard Leberecht von Blüche

The one consuming passion of Field Marshal (and later Prince) Blüche, was to beat the French under Napoleon. Blüche had been a solider most of his life, mainly fighting the French. His life story reads like a boys own adventure story.

During Napoleon’s ‘one hundred days’, after he had escaped from the Mediterranean island of Elba in 1815, the British (with contingents of Dutch & present day Belgium troops), and the Prussians under Blüche’s command, marched to combine their forces so as to face the French.
Napoleon’s tactic was to aim his army at the allied weak spot, which was the join of the two main armies, and force them apart, so that he could deal with each army individually.
This is what happened at Charleroi, and according to Wellington, who was surprised at the speed of Napoleon’s advance, commented that he (Wellington) had been ‘humbugged’. He also said about Napoleon, ”By God, that man does war honour’.

Once the allies had been split Napoleon attacked the Prussians at Ligny, and won the battle, but he was unable to destroy the Prussian army.
The failure to destroy the Prussians, was the decider two days later during the Battle of Waterloo. Wellington decided to hold his ground because he had been promised by  Blüche that he would rejoin Wellington as soon as he could.

During the battle of Ligny,  Blüche was severely injured after being trapped under his dead horse. He bathed his wound in liniment of rhubarb and garlic and after a good dose of schnapps he rejoined the army. Not bad for a seventy four year old.

As he climbed on his horse he said – “I have given my promise to Wellington, and you surely don’t want me to break it? Push yourselves, my children, and we’ll have victory!

After Waterloo Blüche was invited to London to be formally thanked for his help. This was his second visit having visited after the fall of Napoleon in 1814.

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British cartoonists had a field day of Blüche tanning the behind of the Corsican.
Picture from the internet.

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Ratschow Haus – the Ratschow family lived here in the early 20th century the dark brick appearance is north German brick Gothic, and the front that can be seen is the only piece left after the bombing – the remainder of the house behind is a 1950’s construction, and was opened in 1961 as the municipal library, which is why you can see  it referred to as  Stadtbibliothek, which means library.

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St Mary’s Church – (St Marien), 770 years old and still going strong, for the history of the church click this link St Mary’s church.

During the bombing all the area was on fire and it looked like,the church had caught fire. Click on this link about Friedrich Bombowski  to read how he saved the church.

The church is Evangelical Lutheran (Protestant) denomination and still has regular Sunday services and daily prayer time.

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North German Gothic brick – they made the bricks because of the lack of stone & rock to use as building material. The baked red-ish coloured bricks arrived in the area around the 12th century.

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The church is famouse for housing an astronomical clock, which was built in 1472 and still going.

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At the top of the clock, on each hour, the Apostle go around, and cross before Jesus before entering Paradise – Judas is not allowed in . . .

The clock  shows the daily time, moon phases, month and the zodiac sign.
The calendar is valid until 2150, having been reconfigured in 2018, which replaced the previous re-configuring in 1885 to 2017. The clock is the only one of its kind to still operate with its original clockworks.

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Close up of part of the face . . not sure how to interpret the information. The pointer on the left is pointing at the 18th of the month – we were there on the 18th July.

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The huge organ with-in the church.
Installed in 1770, and it has 5,700 pipes and requires 83 stops.

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The pulpit, note the size compared to the man in red viewing the pulpit.

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Perhaps the sermon went on a little longer than planned.

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Baptismal font – still in use.

Made in bronze, and began its life at Easter in 1290. It is decorated with scenes from Jesus’ life, and supported by four kneeling men representing Earth, Fire, Water, Air. The font was hidden during WW2 so that it couldn’t be melted down for munitions. The bird on the top is an eagle.

About a ten minute walk from the church towards the river, and we were close to snack time.

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A small craft brewery near the river.

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Of course I was forced to drink Maureen’s, as well as my own, because of her celiac condition. Everyone in the group was presented with a glass to take home as a memento.

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The bagel soaked up the beer, for a pleasant ride back to the ship.

 

 

 

Are You Free, Captain Peacock??

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Elisseeff Emporium on Nevsky Prospekt.

Elisseeff Emporium reminded me of a visit to Fortnum & Mason’s in London. Elisseeff Emporium food hall was part of retail and entertainment complex, which was built in 1902/03.

Before this new building was constructed in 1881, there used to be a restaurant on the corner, which anti-tsarists used to dig a tunnel from the restaurant under the side road that can be seen from Nevisky Prospekt, in an effort to plant a bomb to kill Czar Alexander II. Everything was ready, but the Czar didn’t pass that way on that date. The Czar was assassinated later.

After the new building was completed it was under the control of the Elisseeff Brothers who were merchants.

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The shop in 1904 – found the picture on the internet.

After the revolution in 1917 the shop was operated by a State company and called Gastronom No. 1, and so called until the 1990’s, when it was operated as “Eliseevsky shop” (a public listed company) in 1995, but the enterprise never really got off the ground, and there were various attempts to open businesses including opening as a perfume shop.

After a long period of restoration the shop eventually opened in 2012. The operator retained the old feel and the food hall now offers the traditional seven different food areas.DSC03454c

I took this as we entered, and later had to crop out certain 21st century signage – they just didn’t fit.

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It is a popular tourist spot – in the centre under the large pineapple, people were enjoying cups of coffee or tea.

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Piano music – classical tea time music that one would expect, was played by the invisible man. The keys were computer controlled, as you can see two keys have been played – it was quite relaxing.
The Australian readers would liken it to the live pianist in the David Jones Department store in Sydney.

DSC03457c The price of the middle white item is 120r, I think this means grams, so on the right it states 240 PY6 / RUB, so I assume it is 240 rubbles.
As far as I can make out 240 rub = USD $3.50 (approx) for 120 grams (just over 4 oz) of the cake.
The PY6 is a symbol for the Kopeks & it seems the Rubble, and there are one hundred kopeks in the rubble.

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They had individual stands dotted around, as well as traditional counters. The lady in red on the right is sitting for tea & cakes and just above her you can see a waitress.

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Fish counter all well presented.

DSC03459r Lightly salted salmon & trout & the eel was smoked cured.
Trout is 100 grams for 320 PY6 about USD $4.70
Eel 100 grams = 800 rubles about USD $11.75 (About USD $53.30 / Ib)

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Turkish delight and other sweet dishes.

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Hampers & dry displays – had a feeling of Christmas – but it was July . . .

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Decadent cakes for the proletariat.

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My favourite counter – glorious cheeses –
Swiss Briee – 100 gram (3.5 oz) 690 PY6 about USD$10.13

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Hard cheeses – young goat milk cheese – 800 (USD$11.75) for 100 grams.

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Special occasion cakes

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All items are made with chocolate – except for the tea set . . .
Chocolate shoe 240 grams = USD $22.00 (1500 rubles)

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They also sold foreign delicacies -couldn’t make out the price in the photograph for the British item.

They also sold wine and Champagne. Quite an interesting thirty minutes.