Monthly Archives: June 2018

Baltic Cruise – Day 4 – Tallinn

Our first port is Tallinn, the capital of Estonia. Estonia is the smallest of the 3 Baltic States. With a population of only 1.5 million, it is a land of plains, marshes and forests. They speak a Finnish type language and gained their independence from Russia in 1991. Tallinn with a population of 400,000 is the capital and thought to be one of the prettiest cities in the Baltic. It once was one of the largest towns in Europe known as Revel.

We walk into the old town. It’s only 10 minutes away. We enter a maze of cobble stone streets through a massive 14th century stone gate. We find St Olav Lutheran Church. Very sparse inside with upright wooden pews with doors for entry. There is a tower you can climb but we have no Euros so we pass on this.

The town square is a delightful‎, filled with vendors stalls and restaurants and ringed with 3 story colourful buildings and lots of flowers in planters. We wander around and into the shops. Finding a WC is always a challenge. We can’t seem to find any public ones and are refused entry to a restaurant WC because they demand a 1 Euro fee! Finally we stop to have tea at another place and everything works out with a credit card.

We head back to the ship doing a little shopping on the way. Our friends Judy and Bruce have had some sad news. Their nephew was killed in a car accident in Vancouver a few days ago. It’s very tragic. They decide after much thought that they must leave the cruise early in a few days to return for his funeral to be held in St. John’s, Nfld. We really feel their pain and understand their decision. We would do the same thing. So sad, so sudden.

At the captain’s party, we meet the Italian captain and senior officers. After a fun time there, we eat some great sea food in the dining room and call it a night.‎ Tomorrow in St Petersburg will be a big day.

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Baltic Cruise Day 3

We say goodbye to Stockholm today but not before we find the liquor store! It was about a 10 min walk from our hotel. We stock up on some wine for the cruise. This was after a breakfast of mackerel, carrot juice, whole grain bread and some cheese and nuts – the so called Nordic diet.

We left the hotel at 12h00 and were lunching on mahi mahi‎ at 13h00 on the Marina. One of the smoothest checkins yet! Oceania let’s you bring on as much wine as you want, so we take advantage of that!

Met an American from Virginia on board who said Trump is pummeling Ameri‎cas’ allies such as Canada with the hope Trudeau will cave in!!! It’s all a negotiation and nobody knows what will happen. The art of the negotiation, hmh.

We cruise out through the beautiful Stockholm Archipelago – thousands of rocky treed islands dotted with cabins and houses. It takes us over 3 hours to reach the Baltic. We wonder how sailors ever found their way to and from Stockholm in ancient times.

We enjoy a surf and turf dinner with our friends followed by a little dancing. My pulled hamstring (from too much golf) is slowly healing. We notice the sunset glow is still on the horizon at midnight, Back to our cabin late we drop off after another great day. We give thanks to God that everything is going so smoothly. Ciau!

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Baltic Cruise – Days 1 – 2 – Stockholm

We made it to Stockholm safely. It was a long day yesterday flying via Montreal and Munich. Everything went very well. Managed to stay up until 9 PM last night after a great feed of muscles and beer with our friends Judy and Bruce from Barrie, ON. Then we crashed!!

Today we spent exploring ‎the old town on Gama Stan Island. We spent hours touring the Royal Palace including the Royal Apartments, The Treasury, the Tre Konor and the Antiquities Museums. I really liked the Louis XVI tapestries, the military orders jewellry and the Roman and Greek busts and statues.

Saw the changing of the guard and enjoyed a fine marching band concert. After a little shopping we wandered over to the City Hall with spectacular views of the water.‎ On to the church where Sweden’s monarchs are buried.

After a short rest we headed out for a superb meal of Swedish meat balls and ‎arctic char with some great craft beer. Completely exhausted we went home very satisfied.

Stockholm is a very beautiful city spread out on dozens of islands. No wine though! We walked and walked and asked and asked and no one could tell us where the liquor store was. Seems they drink only beer here and quite a lot!

Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone on the Bell network.

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Peter the Great

Peter the GreatI purchased this book in 1981 and finally got around to reading it.  Marie read it first and that motivated me. It is a great story of an amazing man and ruler.

Peter the Great was born in Moscow in 1672 and died in St. Petersburg in 1725.  He was almost 7 feet tall and had the life long curiosity of a young boy about all things, particularly boats and the sea.  He reigned for 42 years, first as Tsar and then as Emperor of All Russia.  Brutal in repressing dissent and with a temper, he was respected by his enemies and much-loved by his subjects.  He is seen today as being an enlightened despot – a precursor of rulers who came later such as Napoleon Bonaparte, Frederick the Great of Prussia and his own descendant, Catherine the Great.

Known as the Great Reformer, he modernized Russian society where all the land had been owned by the nobility and worked by serfs (unfree peasants) for centuries.  He did this by studying first hand (often incognito) in Holland, Germany and France, the technologies and techniques used to advance these nations e.g., boat design and building.  Then he would personally introduce these new ideas into Russia.  For example he:

  • adopted western dress in court society and required long beards to be shaven
  • modernized the army into a well-trained, lead and equipped fighting machine initially with imported foreign commanders
  • initiated Russian boat building, established the Russian Navy and opened up the Baltic and Black seas to maritime trade
  • defeating the mighty Sweden at Poltava in the Ukraine and delicately held the Ottoman empire at bay
  • built the magnificent city of Saint Petersburg – the Venice of the North on what had been vacant swamp land
  • modernized banking, currency, the justice system, foreign affairs, education and church administration
Peter rallying

Peter rallying Russia to victory over Sweden at the Battle of Poltava, 1709

This book reads like a novel and is a real page burner.  I particularly like how Robert Massie writes with complete command of the subject matter – his research is amazing.  He often branches down interesting side paths into the character and life of other key figures such as Charles XII of Sweden and George I of England.  There are a lot of details about the Great Northern War against Sweden but also much interesting  information about Peter’s relationship with his wife Catherine, his personality and the type of food and drink he liked (he was a prodigious drinker and eater).  The book is long at 850 pages and well illustrated with images and maps.

Russia Petertime

Russia in Peter’s Time

Prior to Peter’s time Russia was seen as a landlocked backwater and military laughing-stock of no import.  Thanks to Peter, Russia became a great power indeed as it is today.  However then as now, not many in the West fully understand Russia perhaps partially because of its geographic immenseness and location. Whenever Russia makes a move to protect her own interests, it is seen by many in the West as sinister and threatening to world peace.  I have more sympathy and respect for Russia and their history as a result of reading this fantastic biography.  I give it a 5 out of 5 rating.  It was a great way to prepare for an upcoming Baltic cruise!  Your comments are always welcome.

Peter 2



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Food for my Journey – St. Eugene de Mazenod

eugene 5

I am a lay Associate of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI), Lacombe Province Canada.  I was called to this through Marie’s contact with the Galilee Centre in Arnprior where I met my first Oblate priests – Fr. Jack Lau and Fr. Roy Boucher, some 8 years ago.

I recently took a course about the life of St. Eugene de Mazenod, the founder of the Oblates.  I wish to discuss a few ideas here so that I don’t forget what I learned!

Eugene de Mazenod was born into a noble family in Aix-en-Provence, France in 1782.  His family had to flee to Italy during the French Revolution, 1789 to 1799.  Returning home, he had a conversion experience in church on Good Friday in 1807.  It led him to become a priest, found the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and become Bishop of Marseilles.  He died in 1861 with his last words practice charity, charity, charity. He was canonized in 1995 by Pope John Paul II.  You can read his full biography here.

The charism of the Oblates is a love of Church and desire to evangelize the poor about the immense love Jesus Christ has for each and everyone of us.  In the process we are evangelized ourselves: Evangelizare pauperibus misit me

St. Eugene taught us “We must strive first of all to lead people to act like human beings, and then like Christians, and finally, we must help them to become saints.”  Oblates live in community where they strengthen each other in faith, in charity, enriching each other from discovery of God and of Christ who lives and works in us and in the world.  As a lay associate I get to know many Oblates, learn from them and strive to live my life in a way that is in harmony with this charism.

It is indeed a privilege, honour and blessing.  What attracted me to the Oblates is their accessibility – as missionaries, they are among the people.  In an Oblate gathering you would not automatically know who are the priests and who are not!  Secondly, they are Christ focused.  My personal relationship with Jesus Christ is extremely important to me.  Thirdly, there is an emphasis on life long formation (learning) and conversion (perfecting my relationship with God and Jesus Christ).

Mary Immaculate is our patron saint and model.  Lastly there is hospitality, something magical that happens at every Oblate gathering. I wish to borrow a few words from Fr. James Behrens a Trappist monk as they gave me insight to write this posting about the Oblates.  He says:

“God reveals himself through the communal ritual of eating and drinking. Through the Eucharist, we believe God remembers himself for us.  He is brought to our midst and once again nourishes us with his very flesh and blood. We consume his life and he becomes, very intimately, a living part of us. When we leave the sacred table and reimmerse ourselves in the mundane routines of life, we bear God within us.  The body and blood of Jesus is indeed food for our journey through life.” (Living Faith, June 3, 2018)

Thank you St. Eugene for your apostolic zeal and the gift of the Oblate charism – love, patience, acceptance of differences and a focus on the poor which the world needs now more than ever.  And, most importantly, being nourished ourselves on the journey to sainthood.

st eugene 2









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