After a morning of cruising calm seas and a presentation on the amazing geologic history of the Baltic, we entered the Åland Archipelago just before lunch. We made our way to our berth in the center of the lovely small city of Mariahamn. The world-famous Pommern was tied up to the same wharf immediately ahead of our ship. This four-masted, barquentine windjammer was exquisitely gorgeous. The beautifully restored ship is now the centerpiece of an excellent maritime museum, which was our destination for the afternoon. After touring the museum with a docent and wandering the decks of the Pommern to our heart’s content, we returned to the ship for a hosted tasting of four fine beers from the local Stallhagen Brewery.
National Geographic Explorer
This was the first time National Geographic Explorer has visited Ahus, a small city of 11,000 people in southern Sweden. It certainly won’t be the last. This charming community is the world headquarters of Absolut, the iconic vodka brand. After a lovely Zodiac ride through the morning mist, we divided into two groups, one that toured the factory (and got a lesson in how to make a Cosmopolitan cocktail) and the other that strolled to a nearby beach where they learned about the town’s historic eel fishing tradition. After a delicious lunch together at the Absolute Home, an ornate building that was once the office of Absolut’s founder in the late 1800s, the groups switched places. It was a lovely visit to a picturesque community that we will “absolutely” add to our regular list of destinations. This was the last day of our expedition across the Baltic Sea, and we ended the day with the Captain’s Farewell in the lounge. I was moved to recite this fitting poem by Swedish songwriter and bon vivant, Evert Taube. I think it speaks to all travelers – those who literally take to sea and those whose journey is the voyage of life: While still the boat sails along While still the heartbeat is strong While still the sun’s rays on waves are a glittering throng Though you should suffer, perform each endeavor There will be rest soon for ever and ever! But that’s no reason at all To not be glad and stand tall It’s time to strike up a quite irresistible waltz! It’s such a great stroke of luck you’re alive now, my friend And can waltz through the day around Havana! And when your last money’s gone, go to sea once again With the trade wind your sailor’s bandanna Do your duty aright Go on land that’s in sight Take a kiss maybe two in the dance’s swift flight! While still the boat sails along While still the heartbeat is strong While still the sun’s rays on waves are a glittering throng