A Baltic Journey: Estonia (part 2)

Tallinn, Upper Town – from the Kohtuotsa viewing Platform

Tallinn’s Upper Town, on Toompea Hill, is as charming as the Lower Town. We explored it on a guided tour. Our tour guide was excellent and she enriched our knowledge not only of Tallinn, but of Estonia in general.

Unlike the morning’s visit to the Lower Town, the afternoon was full of people walking at a leisurely pace which was surprisingly pleasant even though the streets and lookouts were busy. There was a calmness about Tallinn and people seemed to be enjoying themselves as much as we were. Sometimes, being with a crowd can be just as rewarding as being by one’s self.

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Tower of Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin (Dome Church-Toomkirik)

Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin

Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin

Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin

Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin

Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin

Cathedral of Saint Mary the Virgin

Another view from the Kohtuotsa viewing Platform

Bronze statue of Gustav Ernesaks, Estonian composer and ‘father of song’

Estonia and music have a powerful relationship. We were fortunate enough to also visit Estonia’s famous Tallinna lauluväljak (Song Festival Grounds).

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A Baltic Journey: Estonia (part 1)

Tallinn Old Town, Lower Town

 Tallinn is a beautiful city full of exquisite architecture, both new and old. Although we didn’t have time to visit modern Tallinn, we meandered through the medieval Old Town on a quiet Saturday morning by ourselves, before other tourists filled the cobblestone streets, restaurant patios and cafés of the Lower Town.

St. Nicholas’ Russian Orthodox church

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A Baltic Journey: Russia (part 2)

The State Hermitage Museum seen from Palace Square (Dvortsovaya Ploshad)

The day we visited the Hermitage, it was packed with tour groups given in many languages. Our large Cunard group was masterfully guided by a Russian tour guide – a tall young man who was also an English teacher. He skillfully herded us as we pressed against other groups making their way from gallery to gallery; his calm clear voice resonating in the earbuds of the portable audio guide we all had to wear.

It was a challenge to get close to most of the art with such a throng around us but I still managed to find moments to enjoy looking at a few favourite paintings. However, it was impossible to get close to Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son, one of my favourites. After waiting patiently to get close, unsuccessfully and with the voice of our guide fading away, I knew I had to move on.

I feared getting lost from the group and having to make it back to the ship on my own. But I suppose people get lost from time to time. The tour company anticipates such a possibility because each of us was given a card written in Russian informing whoever reads it that you are from a cruise ship and could someone please contact the tour company!

As I quickly moved through the crowd, I was relieved when our guide’s voice became louder in my ears again. Luckily, we came to the end of our visit without incident.

Crowd waiting to see Rembrandt’s The Return of the Prodigal Son

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A Baltic Journey: Russia (part 1)

St. Petersburg

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A Baltic Journey: Finland

A rainy day in Helsinki

Havis Amanda Fountain and Sculpture  by Ville Vallgren

Bicycles at the edge of Esplanadi Park

Esplanadi (Espa) Park

Helsinki Central Station

Helsinki Central Station

Helsinki Central Station

Senate Square and the Lutheran Cathedral of St. Nicholas

Oodi Helsinki Central Library

Oodi Helsinki Central Library

Kansalaistori Square and Sanomatalo Building

Finlandia Hall

Sanomatalo building (headquarters for  daily newspaper, Helsingin Sanomat)

Opera House

Temppeliaukion Rock Church

Temppeliaukion Rock Church Dome

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A Baltic Journey: Germany

The Queen Elizabeth docked in Warnemünde

Whenever I tell anyone that I am going on a trip, the predictable question asked of me is, “Where are you going to in Portugal?” But as much as I enjoy visits to the mainland and the Azores, I also like to explore other parts of the world.

This autumn, my partner and I embarked on Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth at Southampton, England for a 14-day Baltic Highlights Voyage.

Our first port of call was the seaside resort town of Warnemünde, at the mouth of the River Warnow, in Germany (formerly the German Democratic Republic – East Germany). In the nearby town of Rostock we explored the Neuer Markt, surrounded by beautiful houses, the Town Hall (The Rathaus), and Marienkirche (St. Mary’s Church, begun in the 13th century).

The highlight for us, however, was talking to our tour guide, a young man in his thirties, who shared with us his life story of growing up in a post-Berlin-Wall Germany.

Our time there ended too quickly and soon we were back on the ship sailing onwards north across the Baltic Sea to our next stop: Helsinki, Finland.

Universität Rostock

The Rathaus (Town Hall) with countdown to the 600th anniversary of the University

houses along Neuer Markt, Rostock

houses along Universitätsplatz, Rostock

St. Marien Kirche (St. Mary’s Church), Rostock

Neuer Markt, Rostock

The Fountain of the Joy of Life, Rostock

Warnemünder’s oldest Kirche

Bookstore in Warnemünde 

Warnemünde Lighthouse

Baltic Sea 

Warnemünde Beach

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I EMBARKED on a very long journey of self-discovery in July of 2000. It was meant to be only a holiday in Ponta Delgada, with perhaps a hint of nostalgia for the city where I had been born, and where I had taken my partner to visit the beautiful island of my past.

It was my first time back on the island since my other visit there in 1984, which in turn was the first time I visited since immigrating to Canada in 1968. But in 1984 I was in love with someone back in Toronto, and as much as I enjoyed the visit, I was counting the days to return home to be with him.

There had been no anguish of soul then over doubts of identity and belonging, language and culture; no angst about “Portugueseness” or “Açorianidade,” a concept and word unknown to me at that time.

However, in 2000, it was a different story. Upon arrival on the island, the contact was like a knife ripping me open and it left this gaping wound that I have spent almost twenty years trying to heal. It was a visceral emotional experience that started this inner journey of trying to make sense of myself as a born Portuguese/Azorean living in Canada for most of my life.

The journey has taken me to emotional places I had never thought I’d visit, as I tried desperately to connect and claim my full identity as a person in the world living in two languages and cultures.

I started this blog four years ago as a way to help me articulate my discoveries, my questions and doubts, my acceptance of some things and the rejection of others. It’s been a long interior journey of constant self-awareness and the process of trying to translate myself from the Portuguese side of me to the English world has been exhausting, yet fruitful.

But I feel that I have now reached the end of this journey and I am ready to put down my mind’s travelling suitcase full of all that I’ve gathered along the way: the ideas, the people I’ve met, the mementos I’ve guarded jealously, all that I have clung to in order to feel secure in who I am.

The ever present awareness or consciousness of myself as a cultural hybrid is now settling in my mind into a state of comfortable acceptance of who I am.

I am no longer in translation nor do I care to translate myself any further for the benefit of making myself known or understood.

I am simply content to be, to exist in the world as I am, without having to process, explain or justify who I am as Portuguese/Canadian.

This new awareness allows me to experience my life without further dissection, analysis, justifications, interpretations/translations, and social labels.

This means that I can pick up a book by a writer like Agustina Bessa-Luís, (whose books are not yet translated into English) and read her without having to think about how she would sound like to an English reader. It’s enough for me that I can read her and feel her words in the language that I learned when I came into the world. For myself, I don’t need her in English and I leave it up to others to carry on the task of translating her if there’s a desire for it. I am simply grateful that I can meet her in the language in which she wrote.

Perhaps my recent journey to countries where I did not know the languages awoke something new in me: the realization that I’m fine not knowing everything or having to dissect everything about me in order to appreciate who I am.

I am letting go of all those burdensome tools of translation I have used during my journey. I lay it all down and walk away, wordlessly, no longer in translation.

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