2013 APHC At Sea Barcelona - Venice

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Cruise Journal

August 21st | August 22nd | August 23rd | August 24th | August 25th and 26th | August 27th
August 28th | August 29th | August 30th


Day 1 — August 21st, Barcelona and the Mediterranean Sea

Photos from August 21st
(Click one of the photos to see the full gallery)


Day 2 — August 22nd, Marseille

Photos from August 22nd
(Click one of the photos to see the full gallery)

Video highlights from August 21st and 22nd


Barcelona and Marseille

After waving goodbye to the red cliffs of Barcelona, we rallied our spirits for the journey ahead, loudly singing American show tunes and hymns from atop the aft deck as the Ryndam set off into calm seas, headed for the south of France. Just as day broke we awoke in Marseilles, a wonderfully diverse port city well over 2500 years old. The Marina was ripe with the smell of the sea after the early morning open air fish market had just wrapped up, the stones hosed clean for walking right where Louis XIV once moored his military fleet.

On the walk along the Quai du Port we passed a huge Dali sculpture — like a divided Venus de Milo, but crawling with ants and a melting clock where the head should be. Art isn't just in the galleries in Marseille — it's public. There was everything from live "statues" dressed in white, to street musicians and painters at their canvases. French couples strolled along the waterfront alongside families of Spaniards on holiday and young women from nearby Algeria walked in quiet conversation with one another. Old women wearing baseball hats and house dresses, a dozen teeth between the two of them, sell dried lavender and small seashells.

On the steep bus ride to Notre Dame de la Garde, adventurous sunbathers strayed from the small protected beaches to sunbathe on the blackened rocks of the jetties. Atop the basilica, the protective gaze of La Bonne Mere greets pilgrims and tourists alike. Inside, some light candles while others view the city below. A sign reads SILENCE, but there's a gentle hum of hushed whispers that echo through the large room. Some visitors speak in regular voices, mostly the Italians. The bell chimes and it's soon time to head back to ship. France in a day — it's bittersweet — and soon we're off to Monte Carlo.

Overheard on the Ryndam

In a hallway, from a 4-year old boy: "Mom — have I been behaving so far this trip?"

"Which way to the Wasabi Theatre?"

Passenger 1: "This is my trip of a lifetime!"
Passenger 2: "...Didn't I see you last year?"
Passenger 1: "Okay, this is my 2nd trip of a lifetime!"

An Expat's Return — An Expat is Back by John Thavis

Stepping onto the Ryndam Wednesday morning, I couldn't help but recall my first foray into Europe in 1973, when I spent 10 months sampling life in London, southern France, the Spanish Pyrenees and northern Italy.

It was a different experience back then, a time when vagabonding and shoestring budgets were in style. I saw Europe through the prism of poverty, sleeping in cheap hostels and yearning for — yet resisting — that second cup of café au lait in the morning, because it cost 40 centimes.

I lived awhile in the Spanish city of Pamplona, a gray place that seemed even bleaker in the twilight years of Generalissimo Franco's regime. When the uniformed Guardia Civil patrols walked down the sidewalks, people grew quiet. Quite a contrast with the chic, swinging Spanish culture I witnessed on the streets of Barcelona this week.

In the late 1970s I returned to Europe, this time with a game plan. I needed an economic toehold and found it in Rome, a city I had fallen in love with and where I landed a job as a journalist covering the Vatican. After working there more than 30 years, I felt like I belonged. But in 2012, when the adventure had turned routine, we decided to leave Rome and come back to Minnesota.

This summer's Prairie Home Companion Cruise is my third experience in Europe. Already I've sipped Bandol rosé at a boat harbor, viewed a Provençal castle and caught the end of a French wedding where a bridesmaid wore a souffl—ed miniskirt, proof that despite a new slate of problems, this continent still holds onto its charms.

Recipes from John Thavis — Bellini cocktail

The Bellini originated in Venice, invented about 75 years ago by Giuseppe Cipriani, the founder of Harry's Bar. He named it after the famed Venetian painter Giovanni Bellini, supposedly because the peachy tint matched the color of a saint's robes in one of Bellini's frescoes.

The drink's genius is its simplicity: white peach purée + Italian prosecco, a dry sparkling wine. Just stick a ripe white peach or two in the blender, then pour the purée into a tall fluted glass, filling to a little more than the one-third mark. Top up with chilled prosecco and stir.

Some people like to add a dollop of raspberry purée for a pinker color, and a peach slice for a garnish.

Discovering Art: Monaco by Myriam Springuel

Charles Garnier is the architect of the Casino of Monte Carlo. His Paris Opera completed in the 1870s influenced theater and opera houses around the world until World War One. His influence reached as far as the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library of Congress in Washington DC and the Municipal Theater in Rio de Janeiro. If you don't have time to check out the fish, shark and octopus inside the Oceanographic Museum (first opened in 1910), check out the jelly fish, calamari eggs and scorpion fish decorating the front façade.

As you wilt in the heat, look at how it affects color. Van Gogh came from cold, damp and grey Holland to paint the brilliant skies and shimmeringly hot summer days of Provence. The exuberant bright light of August summer days reinforced Matisse's love of nature and joyous subjects.

The Nouveau Musée National de Monaco is housed in two buildings. Villa Sauber, a stately 19th century Belle Epoque villa is near the sea, while Villa Paloma, a patrician residence believed to have been built by an American, is high above the city. The current exhibition Monacopolis traces the history of Monaco's leisure architecture. Costumes, props, and decorations from various operas including the Ballets Russes of Monte Carlo under Diaghilev bring historic Monte Carlo to life.

Conversations about Art: See an interesting building in Monte Carlo? What does it tell you about history and lifestyle in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries?

Naturalist Notebook: The Fish Market in Marseille's Old Port by Natalie Springuel

Dorade, dorade fraiche, qui veut la belle dorade fraiche?" (Sea bream, sea bream, who wants the lovely gilt-head sea bream?) This was one of the many calls my daughter Anouk and I heard this morning as we strolled along the Quai des Belges, in the old port of Marseille. We arrived around 10 a.m. when the Marché aux Poissons de la Criée was in full swing. The best translation I can come up with for the name of this daily event is the fish market where the merchants call out the name of that morning's fresh catch.

It is a sea of sounds, colors, and smells. Blue parasols cover a few dozen fish displays set up alongside the water's edge where the fishing boats dock and unload their catch. No doubt, these very boats were some of the ones we saw from the bow of the Ryndam this morning during Naturalist on Deck!

Several species of sea bream, some with narrow yellow stripes, shimmered in their shallow blue display wells, along side scorpionfish (that Marseillais will tell you is imperative for an authentic bouillabaisse), octopus, mackerel, even a Conger eel! Anouk stood captivated by a flat, circular, orange shell, no bigger than a Euro coin. "Un Oeil de Sainte Lucie porte-bonheure!" A good luck charm named after Saint Lucie, said the old woman behind the booth, her rheumy weathered eyes matching the color of the mollusk. I imagined the woman coming from a long line of fishermen's wives who have called out the days catch forever along this Quai.

View from the Bow by Richard MacDonald

Since boarding the Ryndam, we have been in constant sight of gulls. These are not mere "seagulls," but birds with established pedigrees. Steaming into Marseille, we observed several species. So what were they, you may ask, and how do we tell them apart?

The most abundant, by far, is the eponymously named Yellow-legged Gull. Don't let the name fool you, there are other gulls with yellow legs, too, just not many. This gull looks like your stereotypical, large gull.

The Mediterranean Gull is the smallest and the least common. Look for a gull noticeably smaller than the Yellow-legs with a black head and blood red bill.

Audouin's Gull is large, almost as large as the Yellow-leg, but relatively uncommon. Unlike the other gulls we may encounter, Audouin's is not a scavenger. Instead, it feeds in off-shore waters or wave-washed coastal regions, feeding primarily on fish.

These are descriptions for gulls with adult, breeding plumage, the plumage we see in our minds eye when thinking on birds. Younger gulls have a wide variety of plumages.

Bella Figura

Chris Herb and Sydney Prochazka from Cincinnati, OH. This is the first cruise for the newly married couple, both 28.

Post from the Host: Thursday Choir Practice

It simply was magical. At 6:55 a.m. about seven of us stood around on the aft Lido deck looking up at a full moon waning in the morning light and then a stream of singers and at 7 a.m. there were more than 50 of us holding blue songbooks and red hymnals, standing under the overhang, singing in 4-part harmony "Blest Be The Tie That Binds" and onward we went, through "Aura Lee" and "Blue Moon" and "Just As I Am" and a couple dozen more, directed by tireless Vern Sutton. There isn't a better way to start the day than to stand with your fellow basses or altos or tenors or sopranos and find your part and hear the chords as the ship glides along the coast of France. It was the best choir of all the PHC cruises and after 45 minutes we finished with "It Is Well With My Soul" and sang the Doxology and shook hands and went off to our individual days. It's a beautiful time of day and we felt that our singing improved it and who knows? — for some French deckhand on a little coastal barge chugging along, the sound of a choir singing "Morning Has Broken" may have turned him toward a better way of life. And maybe it turned us, too.

— GK

On the Road to Mandalay
Thurs., Aug. 22nd

From the hills of Minnesota
To a land across the sea
I sailed the MS Ryndam
And I'm glad you came with me

For the wind is in the palm trees
And the temple bells they say
Come you back you British soldier
Come you back to old Marseilles, come you back to Old Marseilles

Come you back to old Marseilles
Where they serve us crème brulee
Can't you hear the glasses clinking
As they pour the Cabernet
Cote du Rhone and Chardonnay
With some Brie, what do you say
Won't you cut the cheese with me someday
Back in Old Marseilles

I have outgrown Minnesota
And they do not get me there
So it's goodbye Minneapolis
And it's Bon Jour Mon Cher

For La Belle France is calling
To a Tres Bien Soiree
And a Bon Temps, mon ami
Respondez s'il vous plait


Day 3 — August 23rd, Monte Carlo

Photos from August 23rd
(Click one of the photos to see the full gallery)

Video highlights from August 23rd

"Softly and Tenderly"

As we found ourselves walking amongst Monaco's Yacht Club on our way to the picturesque Palais Princier, the larger-than-life Monte Carlo Casino, or — (if we were lucky) — Cartier, Hermes and Louis Vuitton, we realized that the boat we saw as we stepped off the Ryndam may have had it right; life here in Monaco did seem a bit like a "Cakewalk"!

Monte Carlo is an entire city built into the mountains, with one structure on top of the other in a style like children's block toys. Wrought-iron gates and garage doors opened like secret caves, and we tried not to get overrun by the small Ferraris or Bentleys driving out of one of the many Mansions on the Hill. With stunning ocean views everywhere we turned, and streets and walls so clean we were almost tempted to eat off of them, Monte Carlo was like walking in a dream — a tax-free, designer dream in which stepping on the grass is extremely discouraged, but a dream nonetheless.

With an ornate Cathédrale to your left, the stunning Musée Océanographique to your right, the changing of the guards at the Palace going on behind us and the bright blue ocean right at the end of the port, luring us to let go of our Lutheran inhibitions and just jump in, it was great to have a long day this beautiful city. Choices were of the past. This was Monte Carlo. Everything was, indeed, a Cakewalk.

An Expat's Return by John Thavis

The restaurant and bar menus in Monte Carlo make for fascinating reading. A bottle of Krug Grand Cuvée in the casino runs 750 euros (presumably you've won big), and one local eatery offered a 49-euro bowl of fish soup. This is a place that celebrates wealth in all its expressions. I walked past a bronze statue of a Formula One racecar, and noticed more than one would-be Schumacher driving their Ferrari up the Grand Prix route.

I'm predicting that Livorno, our next city on the sea, will be quite the contrast. Through the centuries, Livorno has been one of Italy's poorest cities. Founded by a mix of seafaring peoples 1,000 years ago, it was once an important port of the Mediterranean, but it's been through periods of deep economic distress.

During the worst times, when there was no money even for fish, the people of Livorno came up with a unique recipe called brodo di sassi, literally "rock broth." You take a few algae-covered sea rocks, boil in sea water and add a few herbs. Sounds tasty, right?

You probably won't find brodo di sassi on Livorno menus today, but you surely will find their local fish soup, called cacciucco. It means big mix, and that's exactly what you get — a tomato-based stew with numerous varieties of local shellfish.

The tomatoes were introduced to Livorno cooking by the city's ancient Jewish community, which still survives. There's a strong foodie movement in modern Livorno that has rediscovered local ethnic dishes and given them a new twist, like triglia alla mosaica (red mullet in tomato sauce) or roschette, ring-shaped savory bread snacks.

Look for the best fish in restaurants near the city's old port, where the day's catch is delivered.

Recipes from John Thavis — Bruschetta

There are two important things about bruschetta. First, it's pronounced broo-SKET-tah and not that other way. (In Italian "ch" before a vowel is a hard "ch"').

Second, the bread has to be a dense bread, not the airy, chewy kind. Stale bread works fine, because it holds up better. A no-salt Tuscan loaf is perfect.

Bruschetta is best grilled over coals, but you can use a stovetop grill. A toaster is acceptable as a last resort.

Slice the bread at least ½ inch thick. Grill both sides and remove from heat. Rub one side with the cut side of a garlic clove, sprinkle with salt and drizzle olive oil generously.

Some people add fresh cut or sliced tomatoes. In fact, a variety of toppings are possible, including olive paste, mushrooms or roasted peppers, but the classic bruschetta wears nothing but extra virgin olive oil

Overheard on the Ryndam

In the Explorer's Lounge: "Is it true that all Minnesotans are descended from Norwegian bachelor farmers?"

On the Lido Deck: "These taste just like hot cross buns — only without the cross."

On the Navigation Deck: "Don't have to worry about icebergs here!"

In the Ocean Bar: "We look forward to the sound check every year."

From GK's Duets Show in the Showroom

"And when it's time for leaving Monaco,
To say goodbye to the Casino
A land where there is never ice or snow
And you see why it's somewhere people go
Lovely people who have lots of dough
Upon the beach of sunny Monaco."

Discovering Art in Livorno by Myriam Springuel

The Renaissance — meaning rebirth — with its scientific rational thought that shapes the world we know today, began in the 1400s in Florence. In fifteenth century Italy, Florence dominated as an intellectual and artistic capitol.

Artists, architects, writers, and scholars such as Dante, Petrarch, Machiavelli, Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Donatello contributed to making it one of the world's greatest artistic centers.

Florence's wealth came from the wool and textile trade. The guilds commissioned works of art, as did the Medici, whose banks reached throughout Europe. Double entry bookkeeping was invented in Renaissance Florence to track international trade, and vast wealth was conspicuously spent on art.

The Medici opened the first public library since the great library of Alexandria in ancient Egypt. They encouraged the study of ancient Roman texts and collected ancient art found throughout Italy. They also commissioned contemporary artists and architects to create paintings, sculpture, churches and palaces.

Some interesting facts about two of the world's most famous Italian artists: Brunelleschi formalized three-point perspective — the projection of three-dimensional shapes on flat surfaces — which laid the groundwork for technical skills needed for scale drawings such as maps, charts, graphs, and diagrams *— all foundational for science. And ever wonder where the concept of the artist as a creative genius originated? It started with Michelangelo: He "invented" the notion of the artist as an intellectual — a man on par with the greatest minds of his time. Before that, artists were considered craftsmen, imitating the work of their predecessors.

Conversations about Art
Here's what your fellow passengers are talking about:
How does an architect capture light? "On the sly: Kidnapping of course — with a net."
Should buildings be about shadows or solids? "Both. They should grace the land, not disgrace the land."
Sagrada Familia in Barcelona looks like: "Spires reaching to heaven, making light visible." "Dribble castles."

Naturalist Notebook: Cape Ferrat by Lytton Musselman

Belgian royalty owned the small peninsula of Cape Ferrat about 20 minutes west of Monaco for many years, and now it is the habitation of the noveau riche with their mansions and carefully tended estates. A well-maintained footpath encircles the cape with paths perched on cliffs above the azure water. Some cliffs are sheer drops to the languid water below infested tanned swimmers and divers. Other paths go along the beaches, intermittent strands interrupted by boulders. We walked the entire path in about four hours.

Much of the original Mediterranean Maritime woodland flora persists. Calabrian pines are the dominant trees readily distinguished by their persistent, closed cones and overall scraggly appearance. Some sea pines were also present with their distinct whitish, bark smoother than the Calabrian pine. Myrtle, a fragrant evergreen shrub mentioned in the Bible was abundant. We also found rue, another Bible plant, its grey-green leaves clearly distinguishable from surrounding vegetation.

The tip of the cape is occupied by a French military installation that has provided additional protection of the fragile ecology by strictly controlling access.

Cape Ferrat provides sensational views of the surrounding headlands and despite the heavy development of the highest parts of the cape and limited invasion of non-native plants, it still retains much of its original plant life. It is a gem in a jewel bedecked coast.

View from the Bow — You Are Here: The Pelagos Sanctuary by Natalie Springuel

As our ship sailed from Marseille to Monaco last night, we crossed into the Pelagos Cetacean Sanctuary. This sanctuary was signed into existence by France, Monaco, and Italy in 1999, for research, monitoring, and outreach about one of the Mediterranean Sea's most important whale habitats.

The sea that you have been looking at from all vantage points today is in the Sanctuary! It is about 96,000 kilometers, shaped like a triangle between Toulon (France), the northern reaches of the Island of Sardinia, and Fosso Chiarone in Tuscany (Italy). It is home to sperm and fin whales, two of the world's largest mammals. The Sanctuary even gets visited, though rarely, by the Cuvier's Beaked Whale, and quite commonly by at least three species of dolphins.

Did you see helicopters today? Whale watch researchers and tour companies out of Ville Franche (a village near Monaco in France) often conduct whale reconnaissance in the sanctuary, and July and August is prime season! If you hope to see whales, now is the time to join us on the bow deck and scan the horizon; we'll be in sanctuary waters for the next couple of morning!

Bella Figura

Tom and Mary Margaret Beckman from Apple Valley, MN are enjoying their first ever cruise. The most surprising aspect of the cruise is how accessible everything is. Mary Margaret says seeing all their favorite performers, "It's like heaven!"

It is So Beautiful
Fri., Aug. 23rd

It is so beautiful, so beautiful, on a day that is hot
Walking around a port with not just a few but a whole lot
Of yachts, great private ships with hot tubs on their private shaded decks
Where you imagine rich naked people have fabulous....experiences
Looking up at an entire city built into a mountainside, extraordinary,
That is sort of like Paris and not at all like the prairie.
Houses as big as hotels,
In many different pastels.
Where the average person is a millionaire and drives a Porsche
And hires someone else to do his warsh.
Vespas, Maseratis, Bentleys, and every hundred feet a young man tearing around in a Ferrari.
Being rich means never having to say you're sorry.
It means that you walk into Cartier
Like it was the YMCA.
You can be completely blasé.
Young women wear tight skirts and see-through dresses, and on the beach they are topless.
And you can tell who are the local men because their eyes pop less.
A steep hillside city that looks like it was built from a Lego set
And if you are on foot, you work up a sweat
As you walk higher and higher.
But rich people do not perspire
Even though it is very warm.
It is considered rather poor form.
Cobblestone streets with little shops, no big box.
Men are in designer slacks and shoes and no sox.
Everyone is tan and has perfect hair
And speaks lovely French, mon cher,
And such elegant manners they were taught.
The streets are so clean you could eat off them but you do not.
Here you are, an American, sweaty, in T-shirt and jeans,
Monolingual, innocent, whatever that means,
Pale, and you have no yacht with whistles and bells,
But as your mother said, You're as good as anyone else,
So don't stand there, averting your gaze, twisting your right shoe.
You have a right to be here too.
Your manners are nice and you speak English rather prettily.
So let's go to Italy.


Day 4 — August 24th, Livorno

Photos from August 24th
(Click one of the photos to see the full gallery)

Video highlights from August 24th

Monte Carlo and Livorno

"Old Shep"

Docking earlier than usual, we headed off the ship in search of the infamous leaning tower. A quick bus ride followed by a 15-minute jaunt on a train brought us to Pisa. The hayfields have been cut; large, round bales of hay wait to be brought back to the farm. The corn looks just about ready, maybe another couple of weeks and without the villas every quarter mile or so, it could almost pass for the Midwest.

We made our way out of the train station and it wasn't hard to get our bearings. A large map made it clear: to get to the tower, exit out the front of the train station, down Corso Italia and hang a left before you get to the city wall.

It's hard to miss. The walk is pleasant, and bike bells are heard just as often as car horns, letting pedestrians know they should move. The grassy area next to the tower is filled with tourists taking photos of "holding up" the tower. Some get creative with their feet or other poses that we couldn't quite understand — like standing on each other's shoulders. But no one minded the creativity.

Pisa is filled with tourists and residents that happily co-mingle. We stop for a mid-morning cappuccino at a café filled with old Italian men arguing about sports and realize maybe this is la dolce vita, or for the Italians, just everyday life.

An Expat's Return by John Thavis

As a public service, I'm devoting this space today to those of you who may be freelancing in Rome this weekend and need some suggestions. Here are seven or eight things to do without having to fight huge crowds and long lines:

Pay a visit to the Church of San Clemente, two blocks from the Colosseum. You can visit three levels of Rome: a beautiful 12th-century basilica, an excavated 4th-century church below with frescoed illustrations of the life of Saint Clement and, even deeper, an early Roman mithraeum and house. The excavations are open 12-6 on Sunday and 9-12:30 and 3-6 on Monday. Bonus: it's cool down there.

Stroll through the old Jewish ghetto, an area that surrounds the synagogue near the Tiber River (Via del Portico d'Ottavia is the main street), then cross ancient Roman bridges to Tiber Island and Trastevere. This side of Trastevere is quieter and you can walk through remnants of medieval neighborhoods.

Many museums are closed Monday, but one place that's open is the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, Via del Corso 305 (close to Piazza Venezia), where paintings and antiquities are displayed in the galleries and apartments of one of Rome's most important families. It's open daily from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

Rome is full of good restaurants, but be forewarned: many are closed during August, despite what their web sites may say. For a typically Roman lunch or dinner, try Ristorante Polese at Via Sforza Cesarini 40, about halfway between Piazza Venezia and the Vatican.

Go ahead, have some ice cream. True gelato cognoscenti make pilgrimage to Fatamorgana for favors like wild fennel or chocolate with rosemary. Fatamorgana now has several branches: Via G. Bettolo 7 (Prati), Via Laurina 10 (Piazza di Spagna), Piazza degli Zingari 5 (Monti), and Via Roma Libera 11 (Trastevere).

Recipes from John Thavis — Grain and bean soup (Tuscany)

Tuscany is known for its hearty soups, and this one uses farro (spelt), an uncommon grain that is now stocked by good food stores in the United States. I prefer to use the cut spelt, but some prefer the whole grain — just leave a lot more time for cooking so it will soften. Likewise, some folks prefer to use the whole kidney beans instead of puréed.

150 g raw spelt (preboiled for at least an hour if whole)
250 g dried kidney beans (or 500 g canned beans)
1 small onion thinly sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
1 stick celery, diced with leaves
1 clove garlic, crushed
100 g prosciutto or fatty ham (pancetta can also be used, or this can be omitted)
300 g peeled Italian tomatoes
2 cups vegetable broth
4 sage leaves
1 tsp marjoram
½ tsp nutmeg

Boil the beans if dried, and purée in ½ cup of water; set aside. Heat the oil in a deep saucepan and add the onion, celery, garlic, sage, marjoram and nutmeg. Sauté gently and when the onion begins to brown add tomatoes, salt and pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes. Add the puréed beans and vegetable broth, and mix well. Add the spelt and cook for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally so the beans and spelt don't stick to the bottom of the pan. Serve with olive oil.

Discovering Art by Myriam Springuel — Renaissance & Baroque Rome

The ancient bronze statue of Emperor Marcus Aurelius (2nd century A.D.) is one of the only equestrian statues to have survived from the ancient world, and one of the few bronzes. Medieval Christians probably thought it was a statue of Constantine, the first pro-Christian Emperor and so spared it. Michelangelo placed it at the center of the Capitoline Hill with sweeping vistas overlooking Rome.

Emperors commemorated their military victories and expansion of the Roman Empire in huge monuments now scattered throughout Rome. Trajan's Column, from 113 A.D. is 98 feet tall and was at the center of a new forum. A continuous spiral of 150 scenes with thousands of figures details the Emperor Trajan's expansion beyond the Danube. Napoleon was inspired by this column and had his military achievements memorialized on a column in Place Vendome in Paris.

St. Peter's Basilica replaces a Church built by the Emperor Constantine in the 4th century. Major construction spanned the 15th to 17th centuries. Bramante is responsible for the overall plan, Michelangelo for the dome, Bernini for the plaza out front that gathers the faithful and for the Baldacchino on its twisted columns that draws our eyes to the dome above and memorializes St. Peter, believed to be buried in the crypt below.

Conversations about Art

"The Catalan Art Museum had a fantastic religious art collection in a magnificent building."
Seen on the waterfront: "A Neptune figure devouring a mermaid, her head in his mouth."
"A giraffe, a lion, a dolphin and a rhino, all celebrating Marseilles international port."
"A camel wearing a camelback."
"The Monte Carlo Cathedral had a beautiful tapestry from the 1500-1600s with lovely shading and glowing faces!"

Naturalist Notebook: Plant Expatriates by Lytton Musselman

Riviera city streets are lined with neatly trimmed palm trees whose solitary trunks and massive crown of leaves are assumed part of the native ecology. But they are not. Palms are vegetative equivalents of ex-pats in a coastal region where mansions are as conspicuous and numerous as the palm trees. Most of the planted palms are date palms, native to the eastern Mediterranean and widely distributed thousands of years ago by the Sea People who became known as the Phoenicians. Beautiful palm trees are also bountiful producers of dates.

Each date palm is unisexual, either male of female, so for fruit production the choice of sex is obvious with the lone male in a stand relegated to a service function. In nature, palm fruits are distributed by birds and bats. There is growing concern over the fate of these animals and its effect on wild palms.

Plant sensitive cruisers have repeatedly asked if the large and attractive cacti they see are native. They are not — all true cacti are native to the New World. Two are frequently seen, a species of saguaro cactus with strikingly large white flowers opening at night for moth pollination, and a prickly pear cactus, known in English as fig of India, obvious with its large, flat pad-like stems that replace leaves as organs of photosynthesis. Flowers are large and bright yellow yielding a fig-shaped purple fruit often harvested and, for reasons inexplicable to me, relished as a summer treat despite the work required to remove the tiny painful barbs in the skin and the gravel-like seeds. Fig of India has become a noxious weed in much of the region.

The Mediterranean Basin is the third richest hotspot on the globe in terms of plant biodiversity so ideally indigenous species should be planted. On the other hand, the long history of exploration and colonization has made alien, albeit interesting, plants now an accepted part of the landscape.

View from the Bow by Richard MacDonald

Lake Massaciuccoli, once the site of Puccini's holiday home and in the shadows of the sub-Alpennine musings of Shelley and Byron, this shallow lake is an ecological gem. The lake's perimeter, as well as much of its body, is filled with floating mats of Cladium mariscus, both tall, reedy plants, creating spongy islands. Touring this site of significance (as listed by the Ramsar Convention) by boat is the only way to go! And we were capably led by Gabrielle, nature guide for l'Oasi LIPU Massaciuccoli, who helped identify the local flora and fauna.

In terms of birds, migration does not kick in until the end of September, so everything we saw were breeding birds. While every bird is a good bird, highlights included brief looks at a technicolored Bee-eater, a secretive Little Grebe in one of the reed-lined channels, and a blue — and green-backed, russet-bellied Kingfisher.

A few Great Reed Warblers offered fleeting glimpses as they darted in and out of the reeds with food as they fed young.

Grebes, highly specialized and accomplished divers, counterparts to loons, were both abundant and diverse. Slavonian, Black-necked, and Red-necked Grebes, all northern breeders, were already here on their wintering grounds. The aforementioned Little Grebe briefly darted out of the Phragmites, saw us, and wasted no time returning to the reedy security. Two pair Great Crested Grebe, Europe's largest, were out in the open water of the lake.

By the end of our tour of the lake, we had tallied 24 species of birds, a variety of aquatic plants, a unique wetland ecosystem, and one rat. This is a site I hope to return to again one day.

Overheard on the Ryndam

In the Showroom: "We think the fans of APHC should be called 'Gary-a-trics!'"
In the Casino: "Gamblers and farmers are similar...there's always next year."
In Pisa: "Does the tower always lean the same way?"
On the Lido Deck: "Is it my imagination, or does ice melt faster here?"
On the Lido Deck: "I've seen all these choir practices in the daily schedule. When is the performance?"
On the Upper Promenade: "Do these stairs go both ways?"

Bella Figura

Bernie & Bob Garino, of Branford, CT, are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. This is their first cruise and they particularly enjoy the Crow's Nest performances. "There's a band, you can get up and dance", Bernie says. Another highlight was tea with GK where they scored an autograph from the man himself.

Grizzly Bear
Sat., Aug. 24th — CRUISE

We were on a cruise to Italy
My beautiful wife Louisa and me
And we get along, I'd say, pretty well,
But it's day to day and who can tell,
When the ship pulled in this morning
She was gone — solid gone
When I woke up this morning
She was gone — solid gone

I was looking for WiFi to watch some porno
And found she had gotten off the ship in Livorno
When I woke up this morning She was gone — solid gone

I kept calling her name, Louisa,
They said she had taken the train to Pisa.
So I rode the train through fields of corn
Looked like Iowa where I was born.

There were backpackers travelling in groups
Kids in dreadlocks with hula hoops.
The conductor said, Stazione central,
And I got off and walked down a tiled hall

And out into the metropolis
And there was the tower, it was hard to miss.
A great big tower with a definite lean
I'd seen it in National Geographic magazine.

I stood there in the midst of lotsa
Tourists with cameras in the piazza.

A nun in a habit wearing black sandals
And underneath her habit I could see love handles
And I said, Louisa, what have you done?
You're my wife, not a Catholic nun.

She gave me a beatific smile
She said, I like black and I like the style,
And believe me I haven't had a conversion,
I'm just on a afternoon excursion.

You get a habit and you are sent
For three hours in the convent.
It's fabulous, I'd do it again,
A whole afternoon without men.

I'm a nun until we disembark
And I'll see you later tonight in the dark.

And though we're shy and from the Midwest
We'll take part in the dance contest,
We'll dance the Grizzly Bear and the Turkey Trot
We'll be cool and the music is hot
When I woke up this morning she was gone
Solid gone
She was gone — solid gone
She was gone — solid gone


Day 5 and 6 — August 25th and 26th, Civitavecchia

Photos from August 25th and 26th
(Click one of the photos to see the full gallery)

Rome by John Thavis

Entering Rome is a little like eating an artichoke. You peel back the layers and the best part is at the center. On this Sunday in August, the streets were nearly deserted as our bus zoomed past EUR, a modern complex on the outskirts built by Mussolini for a 1942 world's fair (thanks to World War II, the fair never took place). Near the Basilica of Saint Paul's Outside the Walls, which stands in a newer neighborhood, a lone jogger ran along a rain-dampened sidewalk.

Graffiti in Rome seems to cover every possible surface, and it jumped out at the eye as the bus passed through the Aurelian walls, the 12-mile long defensive perimeter of the ancient city. Modern apartment buildings gave way to older palazzi.

The Baths of Caracalla loomed into view, massive brick remnants of a complex that once served 1,600 bathers at a time. And then the Circus Maximus, where chariot races and other games entertained emperors and the entire city. Now we were in the heart of old Rome, at the foot of the Capitoline Hill, where a bronze Marcus Aurelius sits on horseback (this one was a copy, the real statue is inside, protected from pollution).

Around the corner from Piazza Venezia, one could almost picture life in the ancient city — walking in the shadow of Trajan's carved marble column, past the brick market stalls and the open forums. Because it was Sunday, this archeological area was closed to traffic, something Rome's new mayor wants to do permanently. His plan has prompted an outcry from shopkeepers and residents, but it would be great for tourists in search of an island of quiet in what is normally a very noisy city.

An Expat's Return by John Thavis

I was back at the Vatican, but not in my usual role. Instead of a journalist's press pass, I was wearing a Prairie Home cruise ID and a number 11 sticker. And I was seeing things from a very different angle.

I led a group of APHC cruisers into Saint Peter's Square, where it was wall-to-wall pilgrims. Pope Francis should have been vacationing at his summer villa outside Rome, but instead he surprised everyone by appearing at the window of the papal apartments (the apartments he has ditched in favor of humbler digs inside the Vatican).

True to form, his little sermon struck some fresh notes: Salvation is open to everyone, and sinners are more than welcome. The gate may be narrow, he said, but it's not supposed to be a "torture chamber." Essentially, his message was: don't beat up on yourselves.

I steered our group quickly toward the metal detectors, where we spent 15 penitential minutes in a crowded line. This gate truly was narrow, and I was tempted to flash my press badge and skip the sweaty bottleneck. But soon we were in Saint Peter's, vast and spacious and glorious. Near the door I pointed out the baptismal font (a recycled porphyry marble sarcophagus of the Emperor Otto) where our daughter Hilary was baptized.

Walking back to the bus, I greeted an old friend in the square, one of the religious souvenir vendors. Few pilgrims realize that the handful of vendors allowed to work inside the square are members of Roman Jewish families who have sold their wares for centuries on Vatican territory by special papal favor. I asked him how he liked the new pope and he waved his arm at the vast crowd. "What's not to like?" he said.

Recipes from John Thavis — Arugula pesto with linguine (Liguria)

Pesto is the classic Ligurian pasta sauce, and this variation uses arugula instead of basil. I personally prefer the arugula pesto, and in the United States it's much easier to find 2 cups of arugula than 2 cups of basil. The Genoese use a small amount of sliced green beans and potatoes in their pesto sauce, and that works fine with arugula, too. Keep in mind that you need both parmigiano and pecorino romano cheeses for this dish. Good U.S. cheesemakers produce both, but please, buy grated NOT shredded cheese (or better, grate your own). Shredded cheese produces a sticky melt and that's not what you want here.

2 cups tightly packed arugula
½ cup olive oil
½ cup grated parmesan cheese
2 tbsp grated romano cheese
3 tbsp pine nuts (walnuts can be substituted)
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
3 tbsp softened butter
1 and ½ lbs linguine

Pat the arugula dry and put the arugula, olive oil, pine nuts, chopped garlic and some salt in food processor. Process to a creamy consistency.

Transfer to a bowl and mix in the two cheeses by hand. Add the softened butter and mix to uniform consistency.

Cook the linguine al dente. Some people throw in a few green beans and a small potato in the boiling pasta water, and slice them for the sauce when the pasta is done. Before draining the pasta, set aside ½ cup of the hot pasta water. Mix the pasta and the pesto sauce, adding the hot water as needed to make the sauce less dry.

Discovering Art in Naples by Myriam Springuel

Naples was founded by the ancient Greeks, embellished and enlarged during the Roman Empire, later invaded and beautified by many others over time. Layers of evidence from different cultures are everywhere. The Naples Cathedral, or Duomo, was built in the late 13th and early 14th century; it sits on a site the Greeks considered sacred to Apollo. San Lorenzo Maggiore, built in the 14th century, is typically Gothic; remains of an older Roman basilica have been found under the church.

The Alexander mosaic in the Naples Museo Archeologico Nazionale is among the most detailed mosaics ever made. It was found in Pompeii, in one of the most luxurious houses of ancient times where it decorated the floor. It depicts Alexander the Great's victory over the Persian Emperor Darius III in 333 B.C.

When Mount Vesuvius buried Pompeii in AD 79, much of the city was still recovering from the AD 62 eruption with homes and temples still under construction.

Pompeii and Herculaneum were buried in deep ash and provide a complete record of life on the day of the eruption. When excavations began in 1748, objects were carted off to embellish the collections of various nobles. Today, archeologists record and document even the smallest shards to help understand Roman life and art.

Conversations about Art

"Ships hanging in Notre Dame in Marseilles are intended to bless living sailors and pilots; they thus participate in the mass."
Is it acceptable to "improve" another artist's work of art?
"When you own it."
"I disagree! Masterpieces belong to all of us."

Residents of the Ryndam

Ever wonder where your fellow cruisers hail from? Check out these numbers — some may surprise you!

England 10
Germany 9
Thailand 2

Alaska 12
Alabama 4
Arkansas 2
Arizona 19
California 105
Colorado 39
Connecticut 18
Washington, DC 7
Delaware 1
Florida 28
Georgia 25
Hawaii 4
Iowa 14
Illinois 34
Indiana 16
Kansas 11
Kentucky 8
Louisiana 7
Massachusetts 30
Maryland 41
Maine 2
Michigan 42
Minnesota 105
Missouri 15
Montana 6
North Carolina 28
Nebraska 4
New Hampshire 7
New Jersey 25
New Mexico 6
Nevada 2
New York 44
Ohio 18
Oklahoma 2
Oregon 19
Pennsylvania 34
Rhode Island 4
South Carolina 13
South Dakota 4
Tennessee 22
Texas 39
Utah 11
Virginia 30
Vermont 4
Washington 48
Wisconsin 38

View from the Bow by Richard MacDonald

In the pre-dawn hour, coming into the port at Civitavecchia, I was once again reminded of the importance of "getting out there" in order to see the wonders of the natural world. Those that turned out for Naturalist on Deck were treated to a spectacular light show, better than any display of fireworks.

Bolts of pure 100,000-volt energy were being thrown from the heavens to the hilltops with strikes off the port bow, off the starboard bow, dead ahead. The upper reaches of the billowing cumulonimbus, towering to 60,000 feet and beyond, were illuminated from within by internal explosions of kinetic energy.

One of these flashes brought to evidence a downward development, spiraling from the cloud base to the sea surface: a waterspout. My first ever!

Waterspouts are tornadoes that develop over water. While they can certainly pack a wallop, as any mariner can tell you, they are rarely lethal. The humid weight of all the water in the vortex makes them sluggish, at least in comparison to their land-based brethren; they also tend to be shorter-lived.

Whatever the physiology of a waterspout, it was breathtaking to behold. The moral to the story: Join us every morning at 6:00 for Naturalists on Deck!

Bella Figura

This is the first Prairie Home cruise for Jim and Linda Hunt of Spokane, WA. This couple, both authors and retired professors, are long time listeners of NPR and A Prairie Home Companion. They've been impressed with the talent and have enjoyed meeting the other guests on the cruise.

Overheard on the Ryndam

Overheard before cast-off day in the library: "I'm so excited I can't sit still!"
During a geography show from a six-year-old: "Who drives the ship when the captain is on stage?"
In an elevator: "It's so strange hearing most people speak English."
Overheard in St. Peter's Basilica: "Looks like a church built by Texans."
On the Lido Deck: "Does Garrison ever sleep?"

Read Russ Ringsak's account of his trip to Monte Cassino during our stop in Civitavecchia »


Day 7 — August 27th, Naples

Photos from August 27th
(Click one of the photos to see the full gallery)

Video highlights from August 25th, 26th and 27th

Civitavecchia and Naples

Naples was once called Neapolis, meaning new city, and was a major center of Greek commerce. Today the harbor remains one of the most important ports in Southern Italy, and its close proximity to many interesting historical and artistic sites draws explorers from all over the world. But it's Naples' people — the close interactions and buildings and wonderful winding streets — along with surrounding areas like Capri, the Amalfi Coast and Sorrento that give this large multicultural city its larger than life feel.

Even with the hustle and bustle, there are pockets of quiet to be found, like in the excavated ruins of two ancient cities lost for centuries under mud and lava ash from Mount Vesuvius. Our adventure yesterday took us to the ruins of Herculaneum.

The ruins were impressive and uncrowded. The only living residents of Herculaneum were the little geckos, scurrying in and out of little nooks and crannies. We found ourselves alone often throughout our wandering, but the solitude felt peaceful and appropriate given that the ancient city is now essentially a burial site of hundreds of people. Despite the marketing of the site to tourists, the tone was respectful and solemn. There are no tchotchkes to take home; just a moment of reflection and appreciation for this amazing opportunity.

By 1 o'clock, the sweat was dripping down our backs and the heat was stifling. Drained, we headed to the train station. The walk up the long, eight block hill was a challenge, but we knew that once we were back in the wonderful whirl of Napoli, there would be abundant pizzerias — the vibrant aroma and flavor of fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil baking in a wood-oven nearly within reach.

But take some advice paisano learn-a how to mambo,
If you're gonna be a square you ain't-a gonna go anywhere...

An Expat's Return by John Thavis

Naples has a daily rhythm that begins with morning street vendors hawking their wares beneath crowded apartment blocks, and making sales via baskets dropped down from balconies. By the time our tour bus headed downtown at 2:15 p.m., many Neapolitans were tucking in after the midday pranzo. The siesta is disappearing across Italy, but it seems to be surviving in Naples.

I've always wondered how soundly people sleep at the foot of an active volcano — and not just any volcano, but one whose destructive power is on display in the nearby excavated cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, buried in the eruption of 79 AD. That one began just after lunchtime, by the way.

Neapolitans don't seem bothered by this at all. In fact, people here have rushed to build houses and farms on the fertile slopes of Vesuvius, despite government warnings. More recently, local officials have offered financial incentives to those who move away from Vesuvius, but few are interested.

Experts say Vesuvius is overdue for a big one. The most recent lava flow was in 1944, but the last big eruption came about 500 years ago, and the contents are under pressure. If it blows today, some 3 million people are at risk. Are Neapolitans worried? Not much, to judge by conversations in the San Giuseppe quarter Tuesday afternoon. Some believe their local saints will protect them. Others say there's no point trying to calculate the risk, it's a matter of destiny — and they buy good luck charms for insurance.

One young Neapolitan told me it's all relative. "We feel more threatened by the government than by Vesuvius."

Discovering Art by Myriam Springuel

Ancient Greeks were settling and colonizing the Italian peninsula and influencing Etruscan art in the Archaic period from 700 BC to 480 BC. Scholars are learning more about the rich cultural and artistic exchanges as they uncover the past at archaeological sites. Etruscan art tends to be more light-hearted and spontaneous than Greek art.

The Classical Greek Period from 480 BC to 323 BC — what we typically think of as Ancient Greece, with the Acropolis and its great monuments, and the birth of democracy. Characteristics: classical, stately, rational, intellectual.

Hellenistic Period from 323 BC to 30 AD — Greek ideas and art styles spread and Greek and Roman cultures borrowed extensively from each other. Characteristics: realism, representation of strong emotions, large building projects.

27 AD — Augustus is proclaimed Emperor; art proclaims the importance of the state, glorifies the Emperor and his conquests, and building projects are increasingly grandiose.

395 AD — Roman Empire is split into two — Constantinople and Rome are the two capital cities. Constantine recognizes Christianity as the religion of the Empire.

400 to 500 AD — Fall of the Roman Empire — the barbarians invade Italy and Constantinople gains in power. The art is referred to as early Christian or Byzantine. Art sees a gradual transition from realistic to abstract as artists seek to represent the spiritual rather than the material world.

Conversations about Art

Here is what fellow passengers are saying:
When is it acceptable to change the meaning of a work of art? "When no one can remember the original meaning."
"After seeing the Vatican Museum, I now know where all the ancient treasure went."
"Cool, huge statue at Civitavecchia of the famous photo of a sailor kissing a woman in Times Square at the end of World War II!"

Lecturer's Notebook by Jack Bryce

Sailing this morning into the bay of Naples, we passed the high peninsula of Misenum sheltering the cove in which the western Roman fleet was based; in a few days we will tie up at Ravenna, base of the eastern fleet which patrolled the Adriatic and the coast of the Levant. Pozzuoli, Roman Puteoli, came next into view, and then the high promontory of Posilippo. Up there, parallel grand avenues, one named for the later Roman emperor Diocletian (ruled 284-305), the other for the late President JFK, head towards Naples proper; Diocletian's divides into Augustus Street and Julius Caesar Street. In the morning mist off to starboard we could see the Amalfi peninsula and the island of Capri, vacation home of the emperor Tiberius (ruled 14-37) until he got so sick of Roman politics that he stayed permanently. His Senatorial-class enemies have handed down a bitter history of Tiberius the monster; but the real monster was Nero, who like many VIP Romans had several villas in the bay of Naples. So did his meddlesome mother the empress Agrippina. After a grand midnight supper he graciously sent her back home in a ship specially built for the occasion. Unlike the Ryndam it had a collapsing deck roof, but she escaped that by crouching under the protecting arms of her couch. Then as a backup plan the boat tilted to one side and slid her into the sea along with her noble attendants. They cried out for help and were quickly dispatched by seamen with their oars. The Empress kept quiet, and swam away until she was picked up by a passing fisherman, on his way out in the early morning hours. She hunkered down at her villa but within a few hours Nero's goons came to get her. One bared his sword; she bared her womb. "Strike here," she cried, "for this bore Nero." Or so the historians have written.

View from the Bow by Natalie Springuel

This morning on the bow, as we sailed along the Tyrrhenian Sea, the body of water that runs along the western edge of the Italian coast, some intrepid passengers caught sight of a few dolphins. At 5:45 AM, it was still a bit too dark to make out their color markings but they were likely one of three species.

Bottlenose dolphin (AKA "Flipper") is the largest of the three dolphins that are common to the Mediterranean Sea. Bottlenose dolphins are mostly uniform grey with a characteristic stubby beak. They are strong swimmers often seen bow or wake riding, and they tend to travel in small groups, sometimes mixed with other species.

Short-beaked common dolphin and striped dolphin are both much smaller than bottlenose. The short-beaked common dolphin has a horizontally oriented, hourglass-shaped pattern on each flank, with the front blotch bright yellow. The striped dolphin has a telltale stripe that swishes from the eye area towards the dorsal fin, and no yellow. Both species are gregarious, fast swimmers and are often seen together in large groups, and some leaping out of the water occurs.

Keep looking! All three of these species can be spotted all the way through the Adriatic Sea to the end of our cruise. Remember to spend time on deck when we are at sea, as dolphins often avoid the coastal boating traffic further inshore.

Bella Figura

Steve and Kari Manganello of Upland, IN, are enjoying their first APHC cruise. They are joined by their longtime friends and both couples are celebrating their 40th wedding anniversaries! Steve has been enjoying the variety of entertainment onboard and GK's snippets on life while Kari has been fond of the musical talents of Dan Chouinard. They had a memorable time biking on an excursion out of Livorno.

Overheard on the Ryndam

On the gangway: "Even the most important and celebrated personalities get pooped on by pigeons."
On the Lido Deck: "They used to say 'See Naples and Die.' But after a week of Holland America's fine food, it's now see Naples and diet!"


Day 8 — August 28th, At Sea —Strait of Messina

Photos from August 28th
(Click one of the photos to see the full gallery)

Marseille. Monte Carlo. Livorno. Civitavecchia. Naples. Eight days into our ten-day adventure and today we spent the day exploring the community of the m/s Ryndam. Our floating village has something for everyone—music and acting by talented performers, lectures by people that know things, bountiful fare, lounging on the Lido, you name it—in fact, it is just like our ports o' call, albeit with a tinge of Minnesota.

Our first excursion departed at 5:30 in the morning for the bow Navigation Deck with pyrotechnics Italian style in the form of the Stromboli Volcano. This excursion was rated three pastries for the coffee, tea, and croissants offered to all early risers. Next up, a full slate of lectures began at 8:30 a.m., complete with popcorn service and healthy portions of intriguing ecology, great art, a crash course in vino veritas, and a bit of Huguenot subjugation.

Slightly more adventurous among the offerings: dance contest rehearsals, knitting group, and a whisky tutorial, all with ratings ranging from two-beaujeaulais for the wine tasting to four-highsteps for the country dancing. The tour in local lingua a la Fred Newman was a crowd-pleaser. Every corner offered audio delights, from the dulcet duet of Linda and Robin to the Garrison Gang in the Showroom. Of course, the day (and our figures) were nicely rounded out by the doting and indulgent meal service at every culinary venue.

Since we are in the Mediterranean Basin, no tour would be complete without opportunities to explore ancient cultures. Prominently displayed in the corridors of the Promenade Deck: nautical delights such as the 17th-century lap desk, pre-digital navigational aids, model ships, and historic Oriental ornamentation. Afterwards, you were afforded opportunity to spend your cashless money in the assorted gift shops, taking home memorable trinkets and resin replicas of the m/s Ryndam.

WOW! Who needs to go ashore? Next cruise, maybe we should anchor just over the horizon and make every day an at sea day.

An Expat's Return by John Thavis

As we cruised through the Straits of Messina, I noticed close to shore a couple of passarelle, the distinctive tall-towered boats used to hunt swordfish in this area. This year's hunt was probably over by now. The fish come to the shallow waters of the straits in early summer and stay until August, sleeping during the day near the surface, where they are easy prey for harpooners. The towers on the boats are used for spotting, and the harpoons are launched from a very long bowsprit that extends out over the water.

This kind of hunting goes back thousands of years, and even Homer spoke of it in the Odyssey (Odysseus passed through the Straits of Messina and managed to escape the sea monster Charybdis here). It's a place where the Tyrrhenian and Ionian seas meet, and the currents are said to be treacherous for smaller craft.

Of course, you don't need a boat to fish in Southern Italy. A friend of mine, an American woman who married a Neapolitan, describes how her husband's uncle Toto — who had lost one arm in a fireworks accident — would slip into the Bay of Naples carrying only a small spear. He'd hide behind a rock and launch his spear into the underwater caves where octopus hang out, and if one emerged he'd swim quickly and seize it with his right hand, twist its head, stick two fingers into its brain and then haul it ashore before it could slip away from his grasp. As my friend says, eight arms against one, and uncle Toto always won.

When I first came to Italy, I ran into a couple of other fishermen who used a more efficient method. They'd go out in a boat with commercial dynamite, drop a few charges and gather in their stunned catch from the surface. Since that time, Italy's coast guard has cracked down on this very eco-unfriendly style of fishing. Homer certainly never sang its praises.

Meet a Native Montenegran

Verica Bricic is the spa manager for the Ryndam, and she happens to be from Kotor, Montenegro — our next port. We took a few minutes to speak with her about her home country.

As a native Montenegran, what highlights of your city would you recommend to visitors?

"The whole town! It's an amazing port; truly one of the most beautiful. You can literally breathe the same air from the 15th century here. You must see the cathedrals — Sveti Tripun and Sveti Luka. There are both Roman Catholic and Orthodox populations here and we have two altars on opposite sides of the street. It is a tradition to make an offering of silver in the shape of hands to the church as a blessing to keep loved ones safe on the dangerous seas.

You must also visit Gospa od Skrpjela (Our Lady of the Rocks), one of two islands. There are many legends here, and this legend says that the island was made by sailors who found an icon of Mary on a rock in the ocean. When they returned from their voyage, they put the rock in the bay. It eventually came up from the sea and made this island. Now every summer at sunset on July 22nd, there is a tradition called ašinada in which we throw rocks into the sea to make the island larger.

The other island, Sveti Djordie (St. George), has a very romantic story. Two lovers from Perast named Frane and Katica loved each other, but their families were from different social classes and they couldn't be together. They committed suicide, and their graves can be seen at the island of Sv. Djordje."

Can you recommend a local dish?

"Seafood, of course! We have so many delicious foods. We are known for our smoked ham and smoked cheese. I would recommend that."

Discovering Art by Myriam Springuel

Be prepared to enter the middle ages. The small town of Kotor — at the foot of sheer rock outcroppings falling straight into the Adriatic Sea — was developed in the 12th century to 14th centuries. It has changed little since then.

Kotor has the best preserved medieval urban entity in the Mediterranean, and is listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. These sites, including both cultural and natural resources, are considered of value to all peoples of the world. With designation comes attention, and therefore a commitment to preservation. A large number of buildings in Kotor were seriously damaged in a 1979 earthquake and restored, largely with UNESCO's help.

Scholars and archeologists are still learning about the history of Kotor. The oldest building seems to date from the 6th century AD and was found under the early Christian basilica of St. Marija Koledjate. As you walk around the city, look for an 8th century watch tower, the 12th century Cathedral of St. Tripun, and several other churches from the 12th and 13th centuries. The Maritime Museum is housed in a 17th century palace. Look for the 5 kilometers of historic town walls, with some sections dating to the 9th century, and the fortress of San Djovani, a steep climb above the city — with what are reported to be breathtaking views for those with the stamina for a climb.

Kotor was founded by the Romans (and perhaps earlier). In the Middle Ages, it developed into an important commercial and artistic center known for its goldsmiths. Like other coastal towns on the Adriatic, many fought for and controlled the city, including Byzantium, Serbian, Hungarian, and Bosnian kings, and the republic of Venice.

Conversations about Art

Here's what fellow passengers are saying:
"I am painting a series of Barcelona balconies."
"Etruscan stones in Roman arches over recycle bins."
"Bernini's statue's in Galleria Borghese stunned me, awed me, and deeply moved me."

Dan Chouinard bikes the Italian Coast by Iselin Donaldson

We've come to know Dan Chouinard as an exquisite accompanist, a stellar accordionist and a master of the Italian and French languages, but there is more to this man than what initially meets the eye. Whether it's the high road or the low, Chouinard will elect to travel both. What's more, he'll do it on his bicycle with a Weltmeister accordion strapped to his handlebars.

Born into a musical family of French Canadian descent, Chouinard picked up the accordion in high school. The mother of the lead singer in Chouinard's teenage rock and roll band suggested the group would get more gigs if they started playing the traditional polkas and waltzes that were so popular in Chouinard's Swedish hometown of Lindstrom, Minnesota.

Chouinard's gift of bringing people together through music did not end at the Lindstrom county line. "Whenever I travel, I look for ways to connect with people," says Chouinard. "Music bypasses language and cultural gaps, allowing me to do just that."

Last summer, Chouinard and his accordion biked from Naples, Italy to Normandy in France collecting stories of Minnesota soldiers who fought in WWII from 1943-45. Throughout his tour, Chouinard visited battlefields of the 34th "Red Bull" Division, a National Guard unit from Minnesota, making specific stops in Salerno, Monte Cassino and Anzio.

Chouinard's time spent accompanying theater productions in Minneapolis paired with his adventures abroad allowed him to discover a unique relationship between music and stories. "I began to think of music in terms of narrative," says Chouinard. "My trip to Italy provided me with the material I needed to make that happen."

With the help of a few Twin Cities musicians, Chouinard conveyed his journey through a musical program performed at the Fitzgerald Theater this past January. Titled "Café Europa," the program explored the narrative of Chouinard's Italian travels in a language understood by all — the language of music.

View from the Bow by Rich MacDonald

Tuesday, I was asked if we could move the sunrise "Naturalists on Deck" program a half hour earlier to 5:30 (that's when we would pass the Stromboli Volcano). Sure, no problem!

Apart from our day in Glacier Bay, Alaska, I have never seen so many people up so early on any of the cruises of A Prairie Home Companion. By one count, 127 people were on the bow; easily that many scattered around the Lower Promenade; rumor has it another 100 gathered on Navigation aft. All these early risers were well rewarded.

With a subtle red glow reflecting off the bottom of the orographic cloud hovering above the volcanic peak, Stromboli performed. Spumes of lava bubbled up to a chorus of oohs and ahhs, reaching a crescendo of activity, spilling a river of molten rock over the crater rim. In the predawn blackness, liquid rock oozed down the slope, a red cascade stretching for the sea. I could almost hear the hiss of super-heated ejecta vaporizing salt-water at the end of its journey, adding to the island's topography.

All-too-soon, the island and its 600 inhabitants were left behind as we continued toward the Strait of Messina.

Bella Figura

This is the fifth cruise for Joyce and Lloyd Anderson of Canterbury, CT. He's a semi-retired country lawyer and she's a geriatric nurse. They've enjoyed many of the performers and have been surprised by others. "I've never liked opera but I've really enjoyed Maria," Joyce says. Lloyd has enjoyed this trip to the Mediterranean — his first two trips were aboard a missile submarine during his time in the Navy.


Day 9 — August 29th, Kotor

Photos from August 29th
(Click one of the photos to see the full gallery)

Following our relaxing and full day at sea yesterday, pulling into Kotor at the early hour of 7:00 a.m. proved to be a breeze. We set off for the beautiful town on the horizon, which sat quietly at the foot of the tree-dotted Montenegrin fjords awaiting our exploration. After playing bumper boats with the tenders and straightening out our sea legs once again, we were off — no pretenses, no expectations — just pure curiosity guiding us toward our next venture.

Palms lined the walkways by the water and tufts of orange, furry vegetation burst from their branches like pom-poms. Two young men played accordions on the street, while a girl in a summer dress played fiddle, leading a Slovak version of "Hit the Road, Jack." Kotor's many churches and cathedrals provided interesting sights to take in as well — there were no fancy stained glass windows or adorned ceilings here; the bare minimum of stone and silver was decoration enough. The faint smell of incense wafted through the air.

For lunch, we indulged in Kotor's smoked cured meats, homemade cheese, olives in oil and fresh herbs, and even some fresh baby squid and smoked turkey breast with creamy gorgonzola sauce. Despite the crowds of seafaring tourists and not knowing how to pronounce a single word, life here seemed quieter. Calmer. Happy. It was not humid, nor hot — the cool breeze was, indeed, just right.

As the afternoon wore on, church bells chimed simultaneously in a cacophony of music and tradition, and we could easily see ourselves staying in this wonderful place longer than our 2:30 boarding call allowed. But another tender ride later, we found ourselves back on the Ryndam, the city we quickly became so fond of still standing in front of us — and our last day together in Ravenna beginning to come into view.

An Expat's Return by John Thavis

While living in Italy, I visited the former Yugoslavia several times as a reporter to cover papal trips, a war and even Marian apparitions. But until Thursday I had never set foot in Montenegro, where our APHC group was led through the streets of old Kotor by a guide named Vuk.

Vuk was a walking promo for his city and his young country. His patriotic pride in Montenegro's centuries-long holdout against the Ottoman Empire was equaled by his praise of the local language as the most "elegant" of ex-Yugoslavian tongues. He also insisted that Montenegro makes the best beer in the Balkans (it's the spring water, he said). Vuk claimed to be 6 feet 6 inches tall, and when the subject of basketball was raised, he rattled off a list of NBA players from ex-Yugoslavian republics. He said he and his friends grew up watching ESPN on satellite and dreaming of being the next Michael Jordan.

All along this year's cruise route, I've been impressed with the personalities of the guides on our excursions. Most of them have been generous in sharing their insights and opinions on everything from local wine-growing techniques to economic prospects in the region.

In Naples, we had Alex, who seemed to be channeling Roberto Benigni as he led us through the narrow underground aqueducts of the ancient city, pirouetting and joking and breaking into song on his dimly lit tufa stage. He had local stories you could never get out of a guide book.

The expressiveness of these folks — the enthusiasm, the gestures, the genuine desire to show visitors why their place is so cool — has been the key ingredient on many of this year's land excursions.

Discovering Art by Myriam Springuel

Ravenna's 5th and 6th century churches contain mosaics that reflect the flat, and decorative "Byzantine" style favored by early Christian artists. They were no longer interested in representing the material world, but rather in presenting symbols to help viewers "see" the spiritual.

Ravenna's churches are plain on the outside. The inside is covered with mosaics, some covered in gold leaf. These mosaics reflect light, creating awe-inspiring, shimmering surfaces.

San Vitale consists of two concentric octagons; the interior octagon is taller, allowing the windows to flood the church with light. The mosaic decorations symbolically tell the viewer about faith, as well as religious and political authority.

The Emperor Justinian and his wife Theodora carry gifts to the altar. Above, a figure of Christ is seated on a globe of the world. He is flanked by two angels as well as San Vitale and Bishop Ecclesius who carries a model of the church. In these highly complex images, a sophisticated contemporary viewer would have understood that the Christian emperor is both high priest and political ruler.

Justinian and Theodora never went to Ravenna, but they are symbolically present, even today. Contemporary written descriptions confirm these are portraits of the Emperor and Empress and of their attendants. These sophisticated, yet abstracted images, are among the masterpieces of world art.

Conversations about Art
"In Rome, I saw a splashing fountain with chariots and horses and was delighted."
"On entering Sagrada Familia, I was reminded of the glory of God."
"Clouds in Rome are like Renaissance Art."

A Chat with Lucretia DiGiallonardo by Dan Rowles

Lucretia (Pellegrini) DiGiallonardo, was born in Bisceglie, Italy, on the Adriatic Sea.

"We lived upstairs and I remember my mother lowering a basket from the window for the vendors to fill with fruit, milk and eggs, and they'd send it up with her change. There were always lots of kids around and we played in the streets with no fears and no cars."

Her parents were especially fond of music and dancing. "My father loved opera and classical music. When our town celebrated the Festival of the Saints in the Piazza, we'd sit and listen to the orchestra play the arias from all the famous operas."

When Lucretia was 5, a woman who left the convent to get married moved in to the building. "They had no children of their own and she took a liking to me. She loved singing and poetry, and for my uncle's wedding she wrote a song for me to sing. I remember standing on the stage at the reception and singing, and going on and on — I don't know how I did it."

She's lived in Brooklyn since the late 1950s and English became her second language with help from the public library. "I'd check out the operas and librettos and figure out the translation. That was my ESL program — back then it was sink or swim."

Lucretia says that one of the thrills of returning to Italy is speaking the language. "Whether it's buying tickets for the train or bus, or ordering food at a restaurant, it all comes back." And as for the Italian food on this trip she says, "I wouldn't say the food is better than what I cook at home, but it is nice to have someone else prepare and serve it."

Lucretia's talented daughters, the DiGiallonardo Sisters, will next appear on A Prairie Home Companion at Town Hall in New York this December.

View from the Bow by Natalie Springuel

What were those large black circles floating near the shore in the narrow passage into Kotor this morning? A fish farm! The growing of fish has been practiced in the Mediterranean Sea for more than two thousand years and the industry today is expanding all over the world.

The Romans captured various fish species — red mullet, eels, sea bream, and sea bass among others — and reared them in fishponds. These were enclosures constructed along the shore with openings that allowed seawater to flush though. Some fish were grown for food, but the practice was also something of a hobby and status symbol for the Roman Empire's wealthy elite. They liked to pet their fish and, in the case of the red mullet, watch it dramatically and quickly change colors as it died.

Modern fish farms, such as the one in the Kotor channel, are composed of a series of circular enclosures held in place with anchors and buoys. Each of the floating net pens hold a certain age class, so that the exact amount of feed for that pen can be meticulously calculated to avoid excess waste and sedimentation below the operation. A top net covers the pens with the smallest fish, to help protect them from avian predators.

Chances are good these particular pens were filled with sea bass or perhaps gilt-headed sea bream. In the 1980's, Mediterranean aquaculturists figured out how to successfully rear these species in captivity (thereby eliminated the need to catch small fish from the wild first) and then move them to sea cages for grow out. Sea bass and sea bream do particularly well in the fish farms, to the point now that the growth of sea bream in farms has fully surpassed the wild harvesting or fishing of this species.

Bella Figura

Ben and Diana Friedell of Oneonta, NH have been listening to the Show since 1980. Ben, a physician and community theatre actor, enjoyed the opera aspects. "This is the cruise that I really discovered Dan Chouinard and Maria Jette", he said. Diana, a theater director, is impressed with the accessibility. "You get to rub shoulders with the entertainers and cast." These Unitarians are enjoying their fifth APHC cruise.

Overheard on the Ryndam

In the Ocean Bar: "Rich is the Garrison of the music world!"
In the Mix: "Garrison is the bread and butter. Fred is the jam."


Day 10 — August 30th, Ravenna

Photos from August 30th
(Click one of the photos to see the full gallery)

Video highlights from August 30th
Strait of Messina, Kotor, Ravenna and Venice

"Santa Lucia"

Ravenna once was the capital of the Byzantine Empire in Italy, and it still has amazing mosaics recalling that heritage. Make sure you visit Dante's tomb, as well as the little pile of rubble where local residents hid his urn during WWII to prevent it from being damaged.

An early naval port of the Romans, Ravenna is mainly celebrated today for the wealth of art and architecture that sprang up during its 200 year reign as the capital of the Western Empire in the latter half of the 6th century. Beginning with the commissions of Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Ravenna became an exciting island of culture while much of Europe muddled through the Dark Ages. Today, after a quick walk along Viale Farini, we were in the Piazza del Popolo, a 500 year old square in the center of town that's as much a hub of local life today as it ever was.

After the bustle and traffic of Naples, Ravenna's pedestrian-friendly streets were a nice change, with bicycles replacing Vespas, and the wonderful covered market, Mercato Coperto, just a brief walk from the city center — and along the way to the Basilica di San Vitale. Over 1400 years old, the Basilica is full of incredible mosaics of early Christianity such as a bare faced Christ alongside a blue Earth. The nearby, but more dimly lit Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, housed even more early Christian symbolism, including "John's Eagle," and "Luke's Ox." Unlike the mosaics in the Vatican which were reproductions of famous paintings built with maintenance in mind, Ravenna's intricate mosaics are original works of art themselves.

After his exile from Florence for being on the losing side of a power struggle, Dante eventually settled in Ravenna, beginning his most productive period until his death. It was here that he wrote The Divine Comedy, and where he died in 1321. Considered Italy's greatest writer, he is buried alongside the church of San Francesco in the heart of town.

A Message from GK

There is a warm glow about the Italian voyage as it wends toward Venice. Even we dark stoics who expect the ship to founder on a reef feel that somehow it was a good thing. Great enthusiasm around the naturalists on watch at the bow — people staring into the distance to pick out the pygmy cormorant and the elusive dolphin — and the lecturers were fascinating, Jackson Bryce and his youthful passion for the classics and the ancients, the reformed expat John Thavis, the country doctor, the plant man Dr. Musselman. The opera quartet from Texas was a big hit and perhaps seeing singers up close has convinced some of us to catch an opera now and then. There was music all around the Ryndam and when you headed up to Deck 8 it was like the State Fair Midway of acoustic folk and jazz and blues. And amidst all of this frenetic activity and the shore excursions and the feeding and watering, there were plenty of guests who chose to retire to a quiet corner, read a book, work a puzzle, play cards, or lie in the shade and snooze. Vive la difference.

I remember the days of the European bus tour, when our aunts and uncles boarded a charter in France or Germany and went careening off on a ten-day steeplechase, a different city every day, a new hotel, trudging exhausted from site to site, and the cruise is so much more humane, with each guest free to make his or her vacation while enjoying the company of an interesting assemblage. A ten-day moveable sleep-over and class trip.

My vacation aboard the Ryndam was very peaceful, especially the days that began with the 7 a.m. choir practice. Standing on the after deck singing in sections, whipping through the blue songbook and red hymnal, bang, bang, bang — was all I needed and everything else, the Showroom, the conversations in the Lido, the hikes around the Promenade deck, was extra. I planted myself next to an excellent bass from Iowa and other basses crowded in around us and we put our backs to the hymns like a rowing team and after an hour I felt transported. This is something I never get to do in real life.

I wish you all safe journey home and a blessed and productive fall and winter.

And thank you for singing.

An Expat's Return by John Thavis

When I lived in Italy, I can't tell you how many times visitors would tell me they planned to skip Venice because there were "too many people." It always caused me to gasp a little, because I consider Venice one of the most beautiful places on earth, with neighborhoods that can evoke a wide range of emotions.

The problem is that you have to see Saint Mark's Square, and once there it really is easy to get caught up in a touristic tide and never escape. So with that in mind, here are some less frequented stops in Venice that will make the visit a little more magical.

To see a lovely Renaissance palace/museum with great paintings and other works of art, visit the Fondazione Querini Stampalia (near Campo Santa Maria Formosa in the Castello sestiere of Venice, open 10-6 daily and closed Mondays).

Other similar homes are the home of Venetian playwright and librettist Carlo Goldoni house (in the San Polo sestiere, open 10-5 daily and closed Wednesdays) and the 16th-century Palazzo Grimani (also near Campo Santa Maria Formosa, open 8:15-7:15 daily, 8:15-2 on Mondays).

Walking in Venice is pure pleasure if you get off the beaten tourist track. Try a stroll through the San Polo sestiere (water bus stops San Silvestro or San Tomà), or walk from Saint Mark's toward the Fondamenta Nuove, past the church of SS. Giovanni e Paolo. If you head west along the interior fondamenta (longer streets next to canals), you reach the neighborhood of Venice's old Jewish ghetto (the synagogue there offers walking tours).

Eating in Venice can be fabulous, but have the hotel make a reservation EARLY, because the best places fill up quickly. My favorites are Anice Stellato, Fondamenta de la Sensa (041-720.744 — closed Sundays); Da Rioba, Fondamenta de la Misericordia (041-524.4379 — closed Mondays); La Zucca, a quasi-vegetarian place that has two seatings every evening, Sestiere Santa Croce 1762 (041-524.1570 — closed Sundays); and Antiche Carampane, San Polo 1911/Rio Tera della Carampane (041-524.0165 — closed Sundays).

Discovering Art in Venice by Myriam Springuel

There is a special quality to the light in Venice reflected in 15th and 16th century paintings, which have a soft, almost smoky quality. The Galleria dell' Accademia contains masterpieces of Venetian art, as do the many churches.

Giovanni Bellini created what is known as the Venetian style. His altarpiece in the San Zaccaria Church depicts a Madonna and Child on a throne with a delightful angel musician playing at their feet. An atmospheric haze envelops the figures, giving them a characteristically Venetian serenity.

In Venice, religious events are often painted as if they are happening that day. Titian's great Madonna of the Pesaro Family in Santa Maria dei Frari is a dazzling display of color. As if at court, the Madonna receives the commander of the papal fleet after a successful expedition against the Turks. Don't miss Titian's glowing Assumption of the Virgin while you are in that church.

Veronese's monumental Christ in the House of Levi in the Accademia depicts a New Testament feast as if it were a sumptuous banquet, complete with a host of guests and servers in contemporary Venetian court dress.

Tintoretto's painting, The Miracle of the Slave, also hanging in the Accademia, recounts a miraculous moment in the saint's life — all the protagonists in fancy costumes of rich golds, reds, and greens.

Along with Veronese, Tintoretto was employed by the Republic of Venice to decorate the Doge's Palace. Huge paintings celebrate the republic, including on ceilings where visitors have to crane their neck to see the paintings — adding to the sense of awe and admiration for both the paintings and the Venetian Republic.

And if you are a fan of contemporary art, visit the many sites hosting this year's Venice Biennial — an exhibition of work by artists from almost every country. Curators and collectors descend on Venice every two years to see this exhibition, which represents a high point in the careers of artists whose work is included in their country's pavilion — many hosted in historic buildings, museums, and palaces.

Lecturer's Notes: Mediterannean Ecology by Lytton Musselman

The Mediterranean Basin is home to one of the richest floras in the world with about 33,000 species of which about 10% are endemic meaning they grow nowhere else in the world. Total number of species is not remarkable considering the extent of the area but the level of endemism is. For example, Virginia has about 3 000 species with only perhaps five endemic species. Why the level of Mediterranean endemism? Many factors are involved including geologic history, latitude, varying elevation, soil differences, and competition. Competition among species is one of the driving forces of evolution and in many parts of the Mediterranean Forest Ecosystem fire, usually from lightning, plays an essential role.

This is especially true in pine-dominated forests at lower elevations. Calabrian pine is a good example. These pines do not exhibit self-pruning meaning that many lower branches remain on the tree, even older trees. Such branches allow flames into the crown of the tree causing cones to open, releasing their winged seeds to land on the freshly burned soil now free of plants that would compete with the seedling for light and resources. The familiar columnar Funeral cypress, so called because of frequent planting near burial sites, provides another example. Round, hard cones remain closed until heated by flames that melt the resin holding cone scales together, allowing the seeds to escape. Pines at higher elevation are adapted to a lower fire frequency.

Zones of vegetation were clearly evident in Montenegro where lower elevations could have olives, almonds, walnuts, and peaches. If not disturbed the dominant pine at ~2000 ft would be black pine. It was very encouraging to see vast tracks of relatively undisturbed pine forests in the rugged mountains of central Montenegro. Mixed with these pines were relatives of trees familiar to anyone knowing trees of Eastern North America including ash, oaks, hawthorns, ironwood, and beech. An interesting use of beech—new to me—was its utility for smoking the famous Montenegrin ham. This small country has areas internationally recognized for their plant diversity—and where there is a diversity of plants, there is a diversity of animals.

The Folks Behind the Scenes

APHC Staff
Tony Axtell, Sound Engineer
Debra Beck, Logistics Manager
Joy Biles, Producer - The Writer's Almanac
Tom Campbell, Production Manager - The Fitzgerald Theater
Kay Gornick, Legal-Permissions and Contracts
Kate Gustafson, Managing Director
Sam Hudson, Producer/Tech Director
Mark Humphrey, Piano Technician
Amanda Jakl, Photography/Research
Janis Kaiser, Lighting Designer
Jon McTaggart, President, American Public Media
Kim Meyer, Production Assistant
Ben Miller, Web and Video Producer
David O'Neill, Marketing Director
Russ Ringsak, Truck Driver
Dan Rowles, Director
Thomas Scheuzger, Transmission and Broadcast Engineer
Noah Smith, Sound Engineer
Kate Swee, Music Librarian/Research
Albert Webster, Stage Manager / Touring Manager
Dan Zimmermann, Sound Engineer

Volunteers (those we can't do without)
Jack Campbell, host
Natalie Carnes, office and host
Kim Christensen, knitting and host
Iselin Donaldson, office/music
Aaron Jakl, office/research
Matt Keillor, host
Todd Meyer, host
Sam Miller, office
Kate Moe, host
Tom and Char Nash, host and desk
Kevan Olesen, office manager
Denise Remick, host
Janet Rowles, host
Brian Sanderson, teleprompter
John Saucke, bagpipe, whiskey tasting, host
Andrea Scheuzger, host
Jeff Smith, host
Peter van der Giezen, BanoPro
Carolyn Acevedo
Dianne Austin-Young
Jean Churchill
John-David Hatch
Caroline Hontz
Dina Rego

Overheard on the Ryndam

In the Lido: "Does it take forever to make toast?"

Fri., August 30th, 2013

It is so beautiful, riding into Ravenna
In a taxi that considers a pedestrian a
Bowling pin, passing other cars on left or right,
Ignoring the occasional red light,
And us not knowing the Italian for "Please slow down"
Were gratified to arrive alive in town.
Where, after the taxi-driver's fury,
We found bicyclists everywhere, nobody in a hurry.
People on bikes standing, stopping to pause, a
Woman gliding slowly through the plaza,
Enjoying a cigarette, exhaling leisurely,
Which is more like what we imagined Italy to be.
Noon, siesta time, and the town is quiet.
We don't usually nap but we'd be willing to try it.
Cobblestone streets, very clean. The smell of bread.
A light breeze, a blue sky overhead.
And then we enter into the mystery
Of the Ariani Baptistry and its colossal
Mosaic of Jesus and his apostles,
And the courtyard as solemn as Sunday
And there the tomb of Alighieri Dante,
The author of Inferno and Paradiso,
May he rest in peace, O
Lux aeterna cum sanctis tuis in aeternum pacem.
And those creeps who persecuted him, Lord, watch 'em
And condemn them to that circle of purgatory
Where they listen for a thousand years to a man telling a story
Nice and slow
About the two penguins on an ice floe.

The Parting Glass
Fri., August 30th, 2013

Of all the money e'er I had, I spent it in good company
And all the harm that e'er I've done, alas it fell on none but me.
And all I've done for lack of wit, to memory I can't recall
So fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

Here's to our friends, who took this cruise, as we head back to the U.S.A.
The truest treasure is our friends, we say a prayer for them today.
And may we meet again, someday, you and I, and one and all,
So fill to me the parting glass, goodnight and joy be with you all.

If I had one more life to spend, I would spend it in this company
Singing, dancing, watching dolphins, as we float across the sea
Here's to our next voyage when again we hear the ocean's call
So fill to me the parting glass, good night and joy be with you all.

Cruise Bulletin

Visit our journal of daily updates to see the highlights from this year's cruise — including videos, photos, and all our Cruise News notes — or relive your time aboard the ms Ryndam »

A Prairie Home Companion Cruise is produced by Prairie Home Productions and presented by American Public Media. Ship's registry: The Netherlands.
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