#BreyersTakeTheBaltic - Warnemünde, Deutschland

Back to the Baltic Sea. Well in advance of our grand departure, we learned that the ship had a strict dress code. Jackets and ties were to be worn at night, hats and flip flops on the pool deck only and no casual attire past a certain hour. I am pretty sure that shorts were also frowned upon. Insert a chorus of groans here. This meant skirts for ladies when cruising around and trousers for the gents. In turn, we furiously ran around town stocking Matthew's wardrobe and supplementing mine. Thank my stars for the Nordstrom's men's department, Neiman's Last Call Sale and Amazon.com. It turns out that the dress code was far more flexible than originally thought and we did wear our flip flops whenever and wherever we pleased. Pool hair, don't care. After a bit of standard due diligence, we learned that weather could be very unpredictable across the Baltic. This made keeping our 50 pound weight limit in check a bit challenging. Touch wood, the weather was magnificent for our entire trip. In fact, we heard folks complaining about a heatwave. The sunshine and blue skies suited us just fine.

After a glorious long weekend in Copenhagen (which I again underscore must be on the top of your travel list), it was time to return to the ship that we would call home for the next twelve days. In the early evening, my sister Michelle, her husband Michael, Matthew and I met at what would become our spot and excitedly found our ways to the top deck. As Louis Armstrong's "What A Wonderful World" echoed across the waters, we shouted Farvel to our first stop. Together the four of us elevated libations to salute the upcoming countries on our grand adventure ahead. Our time on the ship was regimented yet relaxed. We enjoyed breakfast together every morning at 8.30. A pair of times, we divided and conquered. On days where we didn't have any specific day trips or excursions planned, it was free reign. Get off the ship and do your thing. Hit the gym for a spin class. Sit in the sauna. Walk the decks. Get a shave, haircut or massage. (Note, I will never have a Swedish massage ever again.) Try out your swing on the driving range. Grab a drink by the pool. People watch. Eat. Sleep. Repeat. We met for cocktails every evening at 7.00 followed by dinner at 8.30. We became famous on the ship for our appetites. The two remarkable men who took care of us nightly, Raja from northern India and Cornelius from South Africa, told us so. After our multi course meals, the ship's Head Chef took to sending out a generous array of specialty sweets. At some stage, he learned of my affinity for chocolate anything. It should be noted that these were on top of the desserts individually ordered and enjoyed. My stars above.

When traveling on open waters, the shops and more importantly, casino are open. At this time, all the little mice like to play. I don't part easily with my money and as such usually nursed a drink while I observed the delight of others. I did this for around twenty minutes before taking to the discotheque. This being our first night at sea, we explored our options gaining a lay of the land. A cool, Baroque type bar. A spot for those who want to enjoy cigars. A show in one room and live music in another. I didn't stay out too late as I aimed to arrive bright eyed in our first stop: Warnemünde, Germany. We arrived in the dock on Wednesday, July 30 at 7:00 am. Announcements were made over the loud speaker as soon as the ship was cleared by the local authority and we could disembark. When going ashore, we were reminded to pack our ID cards and passports, just in case. Into the X-Ray conveyor belt went our goodies for scanning as we flashed cards to the powers that be. A shuttle bus was not necessary on this stop as the port is a very comfortable ten minute walk from the pier. To give you an idea as to where we were exactly, Berlin is about 155 miles away. No, we did not go to Berlin because timing was tight. Instead, Matthew and I grabbed our umbrellas and rain coats (because when is it not raining in Germany) and made our ways to shore.

We were giddy with excitement about exploring this sleepy seaside resort. Warnemünde is a district in the city of Rostock (15 miles away) in Mecklenburg, Germany. Founded in 1200, for many centuries the city was a small fishing village with insignificant importance to both the economic as well as the cultural development of the region. It was not until the 19th century that the city began to develop as an important seaside resort. It's fame to claim was further reinforced thanks to the construction of a major cruise line center in 2005. Nowadays, this means that Warnemünde is the most important harbor for cruise ships passing through Germany. Case in point, why we were there. In terms of seeing and doing, we took a charming path down quiet streets past fishermen houses in the Old Town. We perused the fish market, tucked our toes in the sand on the 1.9 mile long German Baltic Sea coast, visited the lighthouse erected in 1897, watched animated children fly kites on the shore and visited a pair of establishments to pick up some odd ends including a stop in an art gallery where we purchased a beautiful painting by a local artist of a ship in the port. I took Matthew to an authentic döner kebab stand to show him how the meat is carved and slathered in garlicky yoghurt before being stuffed into a warm pita. Hey, when in Germany. I was most excited for Matthew to hear me speak Deutsch, drink cold Rostocker Pilsener beers in a classic pub and sample traditional dishes over lunch. 

Should you happen to find yourself in this part of the world, be sure to get a delicious lunch in a chic setting at Carls Warnemünde. Germans make the most spectacular salads that come to life with different colored vegetables. Almost always on top of a German number are ripe beefsteak tomatoes and bright green cucumbers. They are traditionally loaded with plump slabs of sheep's milk cheese, toasted seeds of differing shapes and variety. On the side is always a fat slice of some nutty bread hailing from a local baker. Matthew said he wanted a truly German meal and so we ordered him the daily special: Geschnetzletes mit Spätzle oder Reis. This is German for sliced chunks of meat (usually pork or veal) prepared in a mushroom and cream sauce. This stew is traditionally served over spätzle or egg noodle dumplings, boiled potatoes or rice. This is the quintessential comfort food dish and ideal for busy cooks running manic kitchens because it is a breeze to pull together. After our decadent lunch, we popped into a local spot for Bier. Again, should you find yourself here, I highly recommend Kettenkasten located directly on the Alten Strom. The people are animated, friendly, excited and most importantly, experts at filling cold glasses. After five superb hours in this lovely little German town, it was time to bid Deutschland Auf Wiedersehen. Together the two of us returned to the ship for a full afternoon livery and delight. Sometime later in the day, we brought out our travel guides and notes to prepare for our next stop: Helsinki, Finland.

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