Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


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Wednesday, July 24 2019

location: Room 5115, cruise ship Vasco da Gama in the port of Gdynia, Poland

Our ship was docked at the port of Gdynia, Poland, about 12 miles north of the famous city of Gdansk (which is also the site of the old Prussian city of Danzig). Gretchen's parents had arranged for us to all take a tour bus down to Gdansk and then walk around the old part of that city and do the tourist thing that I'm not really into. On the way, we had perhaps the worst tour guide ever. The guy meant well, but the things he was constantly speaking through the bus's PA system were of little interest. Clearly, he felt the need to "do" something for the entire trip both to and from Gdansk, but it would've been nice had he left us alone with our thoughts every now and then. He kept pointing out things that had no interest to us (or most other people), things such as special-purpose oversized commemorative crosses or the coats of arms that our brains automatically elide from the videofeeds coming from our eyes. It would've been much more interesting to hear about what atrocities the Nazis committed and what life was like under Russian occupation, or perhaps a little more background on the rise of Solidarnosc and Lech Walesa. (Though Lech Walesa shamed himself late in life with anti-gay and other retrograde sentiments, he was something of a hero in my household back in the early 1980s. My father even had a screwdriver he called his "Lech Walesa screwdriver." It was large and flat, the sort of thing a Polish shipyard worker would know how to use.) Our guide also led us to believe that the city we were driving to wouldn't be particularly historic or beautiful, as it had been largely leveled in World War II.
But no, Gdansk was a beautiful city, with gorgeous Dutch-style buildings on along cobblestone streets. Many of the buildings dated to the 1700s. Sure, they'd been knocked down by bombing, but then the pieces had been found, reassembled, and resurrected, mostly back in Soviet times. Supposedly many of the buildings only look like many small ones with shared walls; behind their reassembled fronts are larger buildings made with modern steel technology.
Our guide led us to an open-air pedestrian mall on a street called Dlugi Targ and set us loose to explore Gdansk on our own. Gretchen and I went off on our own, mostly seeing things that we passed on the side streets. There was an open-air market where a vendor was selling wild bolete mushrooms. I'd eaten plenty of boletes but never seen them for sale. We also sat for awhile near a fountain (54.351454N, 18.653484E), taking advantage of Gdansk's public WiFi. Eventually we returned to Dlugi Targ and had coffee at a café (Long Street 52?) featuring a good view of some facades painted in colors that Gretchen liked. Gretchen had developed a bit of a cold and was finding the Gdansk a bit brisk, but the outdoor part of an air conditioning unit was producing a respectable amount of heat from a grate beneath us.
Our guide more-or-less provided the same naration on the bus ride back to Gdynia, though of course it was in reverse. At one point he casually mentioned a concentration camp, but then kept on going without elaboration, providing a note of absurdist comedy.

Gdansk's Stara Motlawa. Click to enlarge.

Painted rooster sculptures were common in Gdansk. Click to enlarge.

Bolete mushrooms for sale.

At lunch today in Club Bistro, I had a better meal than I'd been having there, mostly due to the presence of some sort of black-eye-pea-based glurp. With its need to feed 1000 people, the sheer diversity of the Club Bistro buffet assures a well-targeted meal to anyone who full investigates their options before preceding. On this vegan cruise, there's even a place where one can get food containing no salt or oil. (People learned quickly not to make that mistake!). I had as beer with my lunch today. It was some sort of middlebrow German lager and tasted watered-down to my sensibilities. But it contained more alcohol than I tasted in it.
This afternoon, I drank kratom tea and continued my remote "work," though it was hard to proceed given my constraints, especially when paired with the distractions. I thought about maybe trying out the hot tub, but then I saw someone with their baby in there and I was like, that's okay, I'm good. A baby in a hot tub is a bad indication for two reasons: 1: a baby doesn't really have reliable control of his or her bowels (and a diaper can only do so much). And, 2: nobody is going to put a baby in a hot tub that is actually running at hot tub temperatures. That hot tub must not've been very hot.
Unlike on the river cruises, there is food available almost constantly on the mighty Vasco da Gama, and there were definitely a number of morbidly obese people who didn't wander far from the reliable food supply. Maybe they were vegans, but it was more likely that they'd chosen a vegan cruise as a way to be able to eat in their normal way without guilt. But let me tell you, vegan food is not necessarily health food, and obesity is easily maintained on an all-vegan diet. For my part, at some point I went to the small grill in the starboard-bow corner of the Lido Deck and ordered up a veggie burger. It was pretty good, and came with lettuce, red onions, and tomato.
At some point I looked up from my work and realized there was no land visible in any direction. We were out in the Baltic northeast of Poland, beyond the sight of land (even from the 12th deck). I had never been so far out at sea before and not been over 30,000 feet above the ground in an airplane.
For dinner, Gretchen and I had dinner with her parents at the smallish Asian restaurant, which was very popular on this evening. The food protocol there was different from the ship's other restaurants in that everything printed on the menu (and there were many dishes from many Asian traditions) would be brought to our table over the course of the meal. The meal started strong, with bold flavors and amazing diversity. But it ended weak, with several lackluster rice and noodle dishes. Fortunately, I'd gone to fetch my smuggled-in hot peppers. Unlike the others at my table, I also ordered a glass of wine. It was my second this evening, having had one earlier while "working" out at the starboard-stern corner of the Lido Deck.

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