October is Plan A Cruise Month, and each week focuses on a different aspect of cruising. Last week was all about family-friendly cruises, and there certainly are plenty of those to go around! Next week is "Fun in the Sun" and following that "Exploring Nature". This week is all about "Cultural Exploration", and like family friendly cruises, there are plenty of cruises that offer the opportunity to immerse oneself in local culture.
I've spoken often about river cruising and how they get us into the heart of a country,
into big cities and small. So much rich history to get exposed to. Check out the rivers you can cruise these days.
Many ocean cruises do the same. One of my fondest memories from a Greek Isle cruise I took was walking through the ancient ruins of Ephesus (picture above). Much of what remains dates as far back as 600 AD! Absolutely amazing. A more "modern" wonder, the Panama Canal, is on my must see list. I've been through small locks on rivers, but I imagine going through these big locks will be absolutely fascinating.
My transatlantic cruise last month had several stops in Iceland, and to learn their history and folklore directly from the locals was such a pleasure. It was particularly fascinating to listen to the stories about elves and trolls. They certainly seem to have a big impact on how things are done. For example, when you see the pipes that carry the heat from the geothermal centers, one can't but wonder why they zigzag versus go in a straight line. Well, the landscape has a number of rocky formations, and this is where the elves live. So instead of disturbing the elves (and consequently making them angry), the pipes go around them - thus the zigzag nature. Truth? Well, this is what is so much fun about learning local culture - the folklore is fantastic!
One of the most interesting stories I heard is centered around Christmas and the 13 santas, also described as Christmas trolls or Yule Lads. The story goes that these 13 boys live with their mother Gryla, an ogress, in the mountains of Iceland. That's her above, with her third husband ( I never did learn what happened to the other two....) Every December, starting 13 days before Christmas, she and the boys come out of the mountains in search of naughty children that she can take back to her home and boil (and eat) in her cauldron (Hence the name Gryla, the Child Eater. Yikes! ) In the meantime, the lads are visiting children, leaving behind either candies and sweets or rotten potatoes, depending on whether they have "naughty or nice", all while causing a bit of trouble themselves. One of the boys is a "sausage stealer" - he hides in the rafters and snatches sausages while they are being smoked. "Door-slammer" likes to slam doors, especially at night, and "pot-scraper" likes to steal leftovers from pots.
My goal is to inspire you to travel. These experiences are fun, aren't they? There is so much to learn from travel. No limits. Go on - Go explore!
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder