We had a leisurely morning on the ship in Hamburg before boarding our bus for a tour of Lubeck approx. 90 minutes away. 

Our route took us past a few local sites

then it was onto the autobahn for the drive north.

Lubeck's old town has been declared a UNESCO world heritage site. In the Middle Ages, it was the most powerful Hanseatic town, the Queen of the Baltic. The town suffered massive damage in WWII; the Gothic town hall survived but most other buildings were rebuilt in their original style after the war. 

Our first stop was Holstentor - Holsten Gate - built between 1466-78 and once the only entrance into the city. The symbol of the town has a slight problem though . . . 

the ground settled after the gate was built and now it has a very definite tilt. Leaning tower of Lubeck, anyone? 

  A statue of the composer, Brahms. 

Lubeck is known for it's 7 church spires. 

  Double spires St Mary's on the left

We strolled across a bridge that gave a beautiful view of the spires, 

  Double spires of the Cathedral in center

including St Mary's church, the tallest double spire 

and our landmark for finding our way back to the bus if we got lost. 

My favorite part of the tour was the archway entrances 

to narrow tunnels leading to a 'Hofe' - hidden courtyard with tiny houses that were originally, in medieval times, home to the poor. 

The passageways come in all widths and heights, 

but the rule was 

they had to be at least wide enough 

that a coffin could pass through. 

Very practical (and depressing). 

The merchant class had bigger homes

situated on wider streets. 

This yellow building - and 11 buildings around it - are home to the university's music department. 

  A model of Lubeck showing the 7 spires.
Unfortunately, we were only able to see the outside of most of the buildings. 

 St Mary's Church sits behind the town hall and still has the shattered fragments of church bells embedded in the tower floor, where they fell during a bombing in 1942. 
And the devil sits on her doorstep, 

disappointed that a church rather than a bar was being built.

Hospice (Hospital) of the Holy Ghost is the best preserved medieval building of its type in Europe and was in use as a hospice up to 1970. 

St Jacob's church, 15th century, suffered only minor damage during WWII. 

St Peter's church, built in first half of 14th century

Back of the town hall on the right; Guild Hall, now a restaurant, on the left.

Front of Guild Hall undergoing restoration. 

Front of town hall, dating from 1226, 

which just happened to be directly across the street from my second favorite place in Lubeck - 

Cafe Niedergger, home of marzipan. Yummmmm.

Marzipan - almond paste, sugar and oil - is first mentioned in Lubeck in 1535. The Cafe's recipe was perfected in 1806 and the cafe still operates in the same location. 

At Sea

Saturday we boarded the Queen Elizabeth in Southampton. We anticipated a 2-3 hour wait during check-in - like last year when we boarded Queen Mary 2 - but the new streamlined procedures had us checked in, on board and eating lunch in just over 30 minutes. Awesome!

Today was an 'at sea' rest day. We listened to a talk by Nick Owens, a British journalist who covered the 'royals beat' for many years; attended a travelogue on Copenhagen; and had our first formal dinner. 

Tomorrow we dock in Hamburg Germany where we're scheduled to take a 6-hour trip to Lubeck. Can't wait!


Day 2 - Hampton Court Palace

Before we left home, we had tentatively decided to sightsee around Southampton on the two days before our cruise left port, 

  Hampton in the background, across the Thames River.

but Hampton Court Palace was still on my list from our last visit to the UK . . . and I wasn't all that interested in seeing another catherdral . . . 

  Entry gate

so we traveled halfway across the country, taking 3 trains each way, so I could get my palace fix.

And it was so worth it! This place is amazing - and huge!

  The Base Court was being setup for a concert tonight. Didn't really fit with the whole 'medieval' vibe . . .

We concentrated on seeing the interior,

  Fountain Court, enclosed on all sides by palace buildings. 

leaving the extensive gardens for another time. 

We started our tour with Henry VIII's kitchens, including a rare surviving chocolate kitchen.

 Can I just say how disappointed I was to find they weren't still serving chocolate there?

  Click the picture to enlarge.

And I wasn't the only one - we overheard several visitors expressing the same sentiment. Love of chocolate is universal!

  Kings Stairs

Next up were the rooms used by William III and Mary in the 1680's (I remember him as 'William of Orange'), designed to impress with their grandeur and size.

We went up the King's Stairs and into the Guards Room, decorated with intricate displays of (then) functioning weapons. Just pull the 'art' off the walls if you were attacked - very efficient. 

  The wall tapestries were amaaaaaaaaaazing!
Then on to the first throne room

and the more elaborate throne room - rock crystal chandelier, silk canopy, ostrich feather accents - 

which overlooked the formal garden that was used only by the royal family.

One of my favorite items was the hand-carved frame decorations on several portraits. Beautiful, intricate work that would probably be impossible to duplicate today.

Tapestries covered almost every wall in stunningly well-preserved colors.

And who could pass up the chance for a pic of HRH's other throne room? Love the velvet seat cushion. 

  Henry VIII's court is the main attraction at the Palace.
The Great Hall was magnificent, with its carved wooden ceiling,

 rare wall tapestries and incredible stained glass windows. 


This gilt ceiling, from Henry's private apartment, is another of my favorites.

Can you imagine the skill and workmanship it took to create this in the 1500's?!?!

  The ceiling above the Queen's Staircase.

The ceilings throughout the Palace were works of art in their own right - incredibly intricate, vivid and well-preserved.

  Ceiling in the Queen's Prayer Room

The Palace is open for tourists but it's also a home - 

 we found numerous doors marked 'private' with the name and apartment number of the tenant on a small plaque. 

How incredible to be able to live with all this beauty -

  The Clock Court.

and the occasional whimsy,

like these garden markers

we discovered in the

Tudor Rose Garden.  

Tomorrow we board Cunard's Queen Elizabeth and start our tour of the Baltic Sea. Can't wait!