We're a month late. It was a year ago, in August, when we signed up for our European cruise. We missed this year's "early deadline," which was August 31, which would give us a special $600/couple discount for being returning passengers on Viking. I was wondering if Char had changed her mind about the Ukraine trip that we'd talked about.
But no. Yesterday the message came.
Still thinking about Footsteps of the Cossacks. Possible dates are April 21
or May 2. Of course those are approximate because I would like to do the
extensions before and after - 2 days in Kiev and 3 days in Istanbul. I was
hoping to call them today and see what is available for those dates. Are you
in. I don't want to go without my favorite traveling companions.
Of course Walt gave her the go-ahead to investigate and by the end of the day, we were checking options to sell our first born (sorry, Jeri) to pay for the trip, which will now begin not in April, but on August 31.
Kiev! Istsanbul! How more exotic can we get. This trip starts in Kiev (they tell us it may take 24 hours to get there, given plane changes), where we have taken the option of spending 3 days there before boarding the ship. We are pretty much on our own with suggestions like "perhaps you'd like to try some typical Ukranian cuisine." But there is the option of visiting Babi Yar, the site of the worst slaughter of carried out by the Nazis during their campaign against the Soviet Union. In September of 1941, 33,771 Jews were killed in a single operation and it is considered to be the largest single massacre in the history of the Holocaust. Not exactly a happy way to start our trip, but I would like to visit the memorial there.
We then have two days in Kiev on the ship, exploring things like the UNESCO site, St. Sophia Cathedral and something called the "Monestary of Caves," which is an extensive complex of churches and museums founded by monks in 1051. (Our Ukranian friend Andrij tells me that there is a "reconstructed Golden Gate Bridge" in Kiev.)
This trip sounds more like our previous Russia cruise, where there is lots of cruising and less stopping, which both Char and I are looking forward to. The Danube-Rhine trip was fun, but it was exhausting to tour a new town every single day. On this cruise, for example, our second day is just all cruising on the Dnieper River, arriving in Zaporozhye, the ancestral home of the Cossacks. Here we have a Cossack horsemanship show, which I am very excited about. We had signed up for an optional tour to see Czech cowboys in Budapest, but there weren't enough people who wanted to go, so they cancelled the excursion. But this Cossack show is a regular excursion, so everybody goes.
On the ship we have a Ukranian language lesson, then stop and tour a town founded by Catherine the Great. When we arrive in Sevastopol (a 2-day stop) we will get the chance to see a Black Sea Concert choir (I always love stuff like that), as well as take a side trip to the ancient Greek city of Chersonese, founded in the 6th century B.C. and considered on of the Seven Wonders of Ukraine.
We visit Yalta for two days and see where that infamous conference of Roosevelt, Stalin and Churchill took place and we also visit either the "Nikita Gardens," or the home of Anton Chekov. We can also choose a wine-tasting excursion, which I can't imagine wine connoisseurs Char, Mike and Walt passing up!
We end the cruise in Odessa for two days, where we see, among other things, the "Potemkin Steps." (From the look of them, I suspect it will take me most of the day to climb to the top!)
Char has already said that she wants to bring a baby carriage (I wonder how many people going to Odessa have made that decision...if you have not seen the movie Potemkin, the story of the 1905 mutiny when the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin rebelled against their officers of the Tsarist regime, you might not have seen that classic scene of the baby carriage careening down the steps).
But things don't end with the cruise. When most of the other passengers will leave Odesssa to fly home, we will fly, instead, to Istsanbul. Ordinarily I would not be enthusiastic about extending what is already a 2+ week trip by three more days, but I'm really jazzed about going to Istanbul. I have heard such wonderful things about Turkey and when will I ever have another chance to see it?
We stay at a fancy hotel for 3 nights and see such things as the Blue Mosque and Hagia Sophia and see how much money we can spend at the Grand Bazaar.
We also get to go to the Topkapi Palace, where I want to search for the dagger that was stolen in the movie Topkapi one of the few movies that caused me to jump and audibly gasp during one scene.
So there you have it. August 2013 we are off across the world again. George, from Viking, called today and Walt made the deposit, with the balance due at the end of the month.