Monthly Archives: May 2014

The Treasures of St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

St. Petersburg

When you choose to sail with Glatt Kosher Cruises to the Balkans you may pick a tour with either one or two days spent in St. Petersburg.
  Either way, a shore excursion is an absolute must, because, regardless of how tight your time a is, anyone who declines the opportunity, deprives themselves of a slice of history. 
The city is unique in being the only one unharmed during the Stalin era, and has been completely restored to its former glory from any damage done during WW II.  
St. Petersburg, despite having gone thru the Bolshevik rule and for a while renamed Leningrad, is a living monument to a bygone era, great culture, and magnificent, unique beauty.

St. Petersburg has a magnificently haunting air. The second largest city in Russia, the Imperial Capital and the seat of all royalty, is a city of such magnificence, that missing out on experiencing it, even if just on guided tour bus, will wet the appetite of any traveler with its graceful grandeur which will remain unforgettable.
  I’m amazed to have been fortunate enough to visit this majestic city several times, and two of those were shore excursions on a tour of the Baltic.

I think my very first time setting eyes on St. Petersburg, deserves a mention too.  I arrived by boat, having just come from Scandinavia with its massively practical and minimalistic interiors, as simple and unadorned modern as can be.  With the exception of Tallinn, which was a marriage of Medieval buildings with a strong presence of the 21st century in places, and the Royal Palaces in Copenhagen, even the buildings in most places were a charming, yet simple background to the magnificent Nature untouched by human hand. The words practical, modern simplicity would describe best, both the art and architecture in Scandinavia.

Then directly from the crystalline coasts of Finland, our boat made a single day stop in St Petersburg.  Since we had very limited time in Russia, I made sure to buy tickets weeks ahead online at the Kirov Ballet site. I planned it all very tightly; off the boat after an early lunch, then a cab to the 11:30 am performance of the Kirov Ballet’s ‘ the Miriinsky Theatre.  The performance was beyond wondrous, I still remember the moves, the perfection and passion of the dancers.  It was an incredible experience to be had!

Nijinsky, Nureyev, Barishnikov and Pavlova are just a few of my heroes who originated from this company. And my choreographer idol, George Balanchine, began his career in the Kirov, before creating a new standard of perfection at the New York City ballet. The level of artistry I witnessed is beyond anything that can be seen in other countries, at least with such consistency.

Still in a daze and the music playing in my head, I hurried directly after the performance to the pre-booked tour bus (with an English speaking, knowledgeable guide) and went about to having a quick taste of the city’s highlights.  We drove around town, looking at fantastic buildings, a treasure trove of architectural gems, palaces and administrative buildings, some painted a pastel green or pink, spanning three centuries and a variety of trends and styles. I thought for a moment of the McMansions one sees in the USA, especially when the guide pointed out private mansions of great beauty. We saw exquisite monuments and the stories about them, wow, so much history!

Then, from a distance I saw the magnificent river bound Winter Palace. It stretched beside the water, glistening and regal, and very, very long.  I was transported to an era of Imperial splendor, built for the Romanoff’s, and before I even set foot in my beloved Winter Palace, I noted that this was one of the worlds most beautiful and most interesting cities.  The moment we entered the Palace at the western entrance, we came upon the famous motorized bird clock, gigantic and magical, at the chandelier room.  Despite the fact that  and every moment was pre-planned, adhering to a short time schedule, I found time to see some pieces of art I’ve been longing to see in real life, walked around with tears of joy, and felt grateful to be alive.

I was transported to an era which exists no longer, but somehow, feels very familiar and almost like home.  The tour was very concise, with the short intervals of free times for wandering around the Winter Palace, or shopping for Russian Babushkas (painted wooden dolls of many sizes, starting with a miniscule one which fits perfectly into a slightly larger one, etc. loads of fun, even just to play with them.  It goes up to a very large doll, containing over 20 smaller ones, if you wish to spend the money at the museums store. I also bought a copy of a Faberge egg, stunningly replicated, and the secret latch on it opens to show the Tsar Nikolai, Alexandra and the children, which was bought from the amazing jeweler as a gift for Alexandra’s birthday by her very loving husband, The same bejeweled egg could be gotten for less at the open market at, but somehow I felt mine was more authentic, with it’s brilliantly elegant wrapping and golden box, and the insert elaborated on the whole story.

I’ve been back twice since and I keep discovering more each time, including a visit to the opera (those Russian voices can do things to your soul), and since I have 2 sisters who are friends I was invited to show my artwork there because the older sister is the program director of one of the 90 museums in the city.

The only thing that stopped me to jump on the opportunity is that I have to pay to transport the works, but since lodging and food are provided, I might just take my pieces off their canvases, roll them up and sail back to St. Petersburg.

– Sarity –

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska

Juneau, Alaska

Yesterday, at Whole Foods, I started talking to a very nice woman, a visitor from Alaska’s State Capital. She commented on the variety of produce and the difference in prices for certain items, between New York and Juneau.  Soon her husband joined us with a cart full of fresh veggies and fruits and they told me, that they are both doctors who were invited from Eastern USA to work in downtown Juneau, fell in love with the place and now are returning to the big apple to visit their parents and siblings.

We got to talking about what it felt like to go from here to Alaska, and both said the place has a magic all it’s own, with highly active lifestyle and natural beauty in abundance.  The woman told me that when arrived in Juneau by boat (they were moving cross country, furniture and all), they were told the only way to Juneau is by boat, airplane or birth canal. This expression is an ongoing jocular statement which actually reflects reality. They were in amazing shape, a fact they attributed to the outdoorsy lifestyle they are living. Every free moment is taken up hiking, mountain climbing and eating fresh fish caught by them, on their salmon and halibut fishing expeditions.

There are no roads going in or out of Juneau, making it the only state capital inaccessible by cars.  All around the town is surrounded by nature, sitting snugly between Mount Juneau mount Roberts and the Gastineau Channel.  I thought about the blisteringly hot and humid New York July I left behind and flew to Seattle to begin my first Alaskan cruise. As soon as I stepped off the plane, I was enveloped in fresh clean air, which got cooler and more pristinely refreshing as we headed deeper into the state and it’s capital, named after prospector Joe Juneau in 1880.

When we woke up the second morning, there were dozens of mountains, and from the far distance, glistening glaciers, which grew absolutely enormous as our boat edged its way closer to the harbor.  My companions and I were booked on an excursion by a float trip on the spectacular glacier studded Mendenhall lake, passed the 2 1/2 mile long Mendenhall glacier, sighted some humpback whales and a number of Kodiak bear almost close enough to touch.  The city itself is fascinating, built by the gold rush, with lovely old buildings from that era. There is so much to see, just walking around on foot or taking a helicopter ride to experience the stunning beauty of the town and the surrounding jewels of nature.

The Juneau Douglass museum is a cornucopia of exhibits, relating to local history, the Indian heritage with totem poles, and a chronicle of the gold rush prospectors.

Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others.



The Beauty of Bryggen, Norway

Bryggen, Norway

Bryggen, Norway

Bergen or Bryggen (the local pronunciation) happens to be the only town in Norway that I know well enough to actually say with confidence, it’s far more to me than a tourist resort or a Kosher vacation. I spent a whole month there, staying with my close friend Gina Overland, a young doctor and an incredible person.  As a result, I got to meet many Norwegians on a personal level.  Since she and her boyfriend are vegans I could eat healthy gorgeous meals without being concerned about Kashrut and participate in the healthiest lifestyle I have experienced anywhere.

The city is beautiful, I couldn’t help clicking away on my camera, taking pictures, and have created some of the most beautiful paintings I have ever painted.  When I got there by train from Oslo, I was almost in tears from all the natural beauty around, feeling a highly spiritual gratitude to Hashem for his Creation of such magnificent majesty. I had a stop in Geiranger, about which I wrote in my previous blog, and spent half a day kayaking and soaring high in spirit.

When I took the train to continue to Byrggen, all I thought about was the excitement of seeing my girlfriend and for a change.  I did very little research about the town I was going to spend time in. Nevertheless, the amazing views of the rail line, crossing the mountains, endless villages, and sparkling blue fjords kept me in a state of bliss.

Arriving at the lovely train station, there was Gina with a giant bouquet of flowers, and tears of joy. We haven’t seen one another for two years, yet I was too excited to go home and catch up. There would be plenty of time for that… Instead, we took my luggage and the flowers to her house and went straight to the famous UNESCO Bryggen Wharf, which is very close to the train station. We made our way through the colorful wooden wharf houses, perfectly intact from the Hanseatic era. We visited the fish market and the adjoining open-air market.

The town is beautifully situated by the famous Bergen fjord, which is surrounded by seven mountains and is considered the gateway to the Norwegian Fjords. It’s amazing how the fjords carve their way from the coast into the countryside, thus infiltrating the town and adjacent mountains with the bluest, cleanest water, creating so much beauty. I was told from time to time that I had not stopped smiling the whole time I was there.

For some reason the waterways of Venice, Italy popped into my consciousness, as I’m sitting here writing this account of Bryggen. Venice an exquisite town built on a body of water, and not unlike Bergen, has an endless amount of canals and water wherever you are. Yet there is a huge difference between the two cities: as opposed to the gorgeously decadent palaces atop the water, the quality of the canal waters in Venice, which are greenish blue with a distinct smell of age and and ancient history.  The waterways of the fjords in Bergen are fresh, young, invigorating and come naturally without human interference. Whereas as the Venice canals lull one to to a dreamy state of laziness, a ride or even a look at the fjord waters awaken the athlete in us, almost commanding you to exercise and eat healthy foods. It could just be my very own perception, but looking at the slender and fit Norwegians, my theory seems to work.

Another must see on a day trip, is the funicular, which can take to mount Floyen.
Breathtaking beauty and an adventure even the tiniest kids and the frailest of adults would enjoy.  There is a cable car to the top of mount Ulriken, the highest mountain surrounding Bergen with an altitude of 700 meters above sea level.  The view from the top takes your breath away, and a scheduled bus service takes you to the city center, and from there to the cable car or car station. My hosts and I took our time before we explored the different and wonderful museums, but if time is limited, it can be done satisfactorily, during a single day shore excursion.

Bergen is home and birthplace of composer Edvard Grieg, whose home, a tiny wooden villa with a gorgeous garden by the Nordas lake is a must see for classical music lovers.  By the way, Bergen has a symphony orchestra which is so brilliant, that if you find that your boat docks there on a day which offers a matinee, try to make it. The same can be said of the local Ballet Company, which offers world-class performances. Kode the art museum houses work by Edvard Munch, the expressionist painter of ‘The Scream’, Picasso, Klee and 68 others.  The aquarium at the Nordness peninsula can be reached in a few minutes by taking the tiniest of ferries, departing from the fish market. On the way back I suggest strolling through the picturesque Nordness, reveling in the beauty of the narrow streets and small, painted wooden houses.

Although I found enough to fill a month of staying in Bergen, most of the highlights can be crammed into a delightfully enjoyable one day, if you come by boat to Byrggen.  The beauty you’ll encounter will make your heart soar.

Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others.


A Spectacle of Nature, The Gerainger Fjord of Norway

Geiranger Fjord

Geiranger Fjord

This blog will deal with one of my peak travel experiences with Kosher Cruises, which for a change has little to do with anthropology, history or culture.

As a result, I put away my feverish digging for the roots of our Jewish heritage and instead, will try to put into words my awe at the exquisite beauty of nature, far surpassing any man made creation. I truly believe that such sublime manifestation of Natural Creation is bound to remind one of the Divine Being. With all the G-d given talents and abilities we may possess as humans, we could not come close to parallel such magnificent and majestic wonder that invoked feelings of spiritual gratitude to the. For a non-believer, I would not hesitate to claim that such awe inspiring natural creations, are bound to make one think there must be MORE.

The moment I first cast my eyes on the Incredible Geirengerfjord, I was having breakfast in the dining room of the Costa Fortuna, cruising the Balkans. It was early in the morning, the dining room almost empty and I remember thinking about my plan for the day. After 8:30 I was going to take a tour of the small village of Gereninger, take a look at the fjords and return to the ship at 1:00 p.m. I filled the afternoon chock full of planned activities like a spa massage, a facial and blowout, then at 4:00? a lecture by one of my favorite Rabbi’s a humanist of great intellect and humor, the famous and charismatic Rabbi Riskin, an innovator in Orthodox Judaism with his highly sensitive approach to universal human concerns, a creator of a women’s yeshiva for advanced Torah Studies, and a school for women advocates. It was something I’ve been looking forward to very much.

In the late afternoon, I was going to meditate and read on the upper deck, watching the sunset, before getting ready for the evening and generally use the time to relax. Some of my friends had booked us seats for the nights musical show, right after dinner. I smiled thinking; ‘sounds like very hard work, but somebody has to do it’?

So back to breakfast… reflecting on the pleasures of the coming day, as I munched on my freshly baked whole grain bread (smothered w butter) I made a mental note of how perfect the omelet was, how perfect everything was! Sipping my excellent cup of coffee, I looked out to the ocean from the picture windows of the dining room and saw something that took my breath away and made me run closer to window.

Close enough to the ship to make out the topography of the land was a vision that made me stop in mid chew. I ran closer to the window and saw the huge (9 mile long) Geirangerfjord, which as I learnt later, was undoubtably the most beautiful fjord in Norway. The bluest blue, sparkly water surrounded towering, steep rocks, massive mountainsides, with waterfalls enveloped in different shades of green, reaching thousands of feet into the sky. From my vantage point I saw another group of dramatic mountains, separated by separated by rivulets of water, narrow and aquamarine blue, the cliffs jutting out in places as enormous towers. I realized we were in Fjord country, but never saw any as magically magnificent.

I was stunned since my expectation was exceeded by far, and then thought this must be the unforgettably spectacular Geirangerfjord, a UNESCO World Heritage site, known as “the world’s most beautiful fjord”. I could easily see why.

I knew it was probably too late to sign up for any of the more tours. I was more than fine with canceling my spa appointments, even if I had to pay the late cancellation charge and the lecture was at 4:00 pm.  Then and there a decision was made: I’ll take whatever is available and just go with it. Downstairs, minutes later, the excursion manager said I was in luck because someone cancelled and I was early enough to take their place. The kayak adventure was it.

Shortly after going to the pier, we were escorted on a short walk to a nearby kayak camp, and given a safety briefing. By the way, previous kayaking experience is not needed and anyone with a life jacket (supplied by the guides) and a sense of adventure can participate.
We were paired two to a kayak and began the 1.5 hr glide along the steep mountain walls, paddling away on the mirror smooth water (the rocky ledges keep the hairpin bends of water virtually wind free, the sunshine highlights the incomparable beauty of the scenery. We passed by the ‘Seven Sisters’ and the ‘Bridal Veil’, that are thundering waterfalls, little farms perched on the rocky ledges and listened to stories about children and animals that had to be tethered so they won’t fall over the steep cliffs.

The kayaking adventure is by far the best way to experience this area, with its hairpin basin curves, and unspeakable beauty. At all times of the year the basin is free from wind between the enormous mountain peaks, and any stress you might have brought with you, dissolves, replaced by peace and a sense of gratitude for Hashemite.

The tour ends at Geiranger, giving you a chance to visit the small town

and you make your way back to the ship. I kept looking back, not having had my foil, looking at the snow peaked mountains, lush vegetation and some of the most spectacular scenery in the world.

In the words of the “Terminator “, I’ll be back.

Naples, Italy In One Day



On a cruise, the stop in Naples is around 12 hrs long….use it for exploring the one city that will give you the truest taste of Europe, with a port that’s one of the most important in the continent, culture, the originating of Pizza, and credited with the invention of of the romantic guitar and mandolin.

It also sports the metro stop “Toledo”, considered the most beautiful in Europe and the winner of the Leaf Award 2013, as Public Building of the year.

I visited Naples, for the third time and found that the city still brings up the same emotions it did, when I was there as a tiny, skinny girl walking hand in hand with my beautiful mother. The people were warm, talkative and made a big deal about my mom. She ignored the attention, but I remember being fascinated and a little scared of several Neapolitans who paid her much attention.

I remember seeing the a combination of an ancient city with the most wonderful feeling of young, contemporary culture, and when my dad joined us he brought a record of of Italian rock and roll, fun and sedate enough even for my music loving grandpa. It was called “tu vo fa Americano” and was played when we got back to Israel, almost daily.

When people mention Napoli, they often mention corruption, sanitation problems and Mafia connections, but truth is, the vibrant city is so much more than just another metropolis with problems and crime.

Let’s start with the landscape, getting off the boat has changed and became more sedate last April. A new mayor banned the crazy traffic from the waterfront, turning it into a lovely seaside promenade. Now, as in the past, you get a view of mount Vesuvius, the island
of Capri in the distance, but now there is I no need to watch out for the cars buzzing by (Italian style) and the walk talks you straight to Villa Communale park, and the wonderful art gallery Studio Trisoro. The gallery is perfect for contemporary art lovers and holds a revolving slate of of exhibitions. The Teatro do San Carlo is among the oldest and most beautiful opera houses in Europe, where I attended La Traviata and fell in love with opera.

Later that week the We had seats at the regal theatre, Via San Carlo, to attend Swan Lake. My mom says I kept nagging to go on stage, certain I could fit into the ensemble (I was 4). For tickets speak to your cruise director.

The city was a major cultural center, and by the 17 th century became Europe largest city, second only to Paris. Caravaggio, Bernini, Salvatore Rosa, and writers and philosophers of world class influence sprang from there. Naples has changed hands thru history, being a centre of Renaissance,having been part of the Spanish empire, and conquered by the Hungarian King Louis the and was unified with Sicilily several times.

The Napolenic conquest installed Bonaparte rulers, conquered by the Hapsburg empire. In 1839, Naples became the first city in Italy to have a railway and for a while became the combined kingdom of The Two Sicilies, thriving and wealthy. Hatter the the major cholera epidemic of 1887, the two Sicilies collapsed and an unprecedented wave of immigration abandon Naples, with around 4 million people leaving it. Then, as of late , sanitation and waste management plagued the city with unemployment issues to this day.

The old city is listed as UNESCO World Heritage site with the most prominent forms of architecture sites, in the Baroque, medieval and renaissance style. The third largest city in Italy and the oldest continuously inhabited one in the entire world (2.800 yr old history) reminds me (don’t ask me why) of New York, the throbbing energy of the city milling with people and traffic and of course, excitement, which supersedes most any other city in Europe.

The wealth of historical buildings and monuments from time immemorial combines with the latest in technology such as the 6 th Urban forum and 63 international astronautical congress.
It houses the Naples International Archeological Museum with the most extensive antique artifacts of the Roman Empire in the world, including antiqued unearthed a Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The climate is mild with wet winters and warm dry summers. The perfect climate of the jewel on the Mediterranean made it famous during Roman times, when emperors such as Claudius and Tiberius used it to holiday in.

Love is the most powerful way to create profoundly tangible transformation in everyone who crosses our path. Yet we must be mindful to endow the self with pure, unconditional love and acceptance, which will result in an infinite fountain of empathy and joy, readily available to give others.


See some great options for Mediterranean Kosher Cruises

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