Dancing wavesBy LOTTIE BOGGAN,
“The noise of your passing
Is a song from old times
And with the brightest sounds
Your song leads you ever on”
Bound for Serbia, the Viking Jarl let go of her lines and our ship set sail from Vidin, Bulgaria. We would have a full cruising day and the group of Jackson ladies I was traveling with, Margaret Vise, Carol Kirkland, Ann Barksdale, and my cruisemate Edrie Royals and I could mix and mingle with one another and other passengers while we took in some outstanding scenery. It would be a day of relaxing and settling in on our ship.
I’m no expert on cruise ships (or much of anything for that matter) but the Viking Jarl is an excellent river cruise boat. “The boat is a rather handsome sight too, she is long and sharp and trim and pretty,” Mark Twain said of another river vessel years ago.
So far, the ship, crew, food, and excursions were even better than we expected. The food on board was very good and the kitchen served up a wide variety of dishes. The staff were friendly and attentive, treatment by the Captain and crew was exceptional, they made each and everyone of us feel very special.
The rooms are smaller than ocean liners, but it was perfectly laid out and easy to move around in.
There are nooks where you can get water, sparkling water, coffee, tea, hot chocolate, pastries, and cookies any time of day. I’m a cookie-holic, so I was delighted. We could visit the Observation Deck or Lounge, with floor to ceiling glass windows and doors, walk around the upper outside deck, or enjoy one of the small seating areas that are found around the ship.
The third floor featured a library and a couple of computers
It was a beautiful, relaxing day. The passage through the Iron gates of the Danube is supposed to be one of the highlights of a river cruise to Eastern Europe. The views along the Iron Gates were spectacular with mountains on both sides exhibiting geologic formations. The towering cliffs make this section of the Danube River one of the most dramatic natural wonders of Europe.
“Old castles looking down from high
Greet you smiling from their steep
And craggy hilltops,
And the mountains vistas
Mirror in your dancing waves.”
After we passed the Iron gates I felt a need to check on family and dogs back home so I went up to the third floor and sat down in front of one of the computers. No matter what keys I hit, all that came up was a blank screen. I quickly realized I needed help and there was no grandchild around. I went downstairs, put on my sad, mournful little old lady look and asked a friendly gentleman, Stojan from Serbia who worked behind the front desk what I could do.
“I can take my break now,” he said. “I’ll help you.”
The computer ran slow and while we waited, Stojan and I visited with each other. Stojan said he was thirty but he looked much younger. He wanted to be an architect and while we waited on the computer showed me artistic sketches of buildings he had drawn. But he had to forego his dream. The young man told me that he had only a Polytechnical High School Education.
“My father died when I was 19.” He shook his head from side to side. “My mother had no job. I had to go to work and take care of my mom.
“She is the most important person in my life.” He shifted forward in his chair. “I’m not a big party person. When I’m not working, I play football or basketball for fun.
“I have a dog named Teo.” He reached into his coat pocket and proudly showed me a picture of him and his dog. “Teo’s a westie. I love Teo.”
“Since you can’t be an architect, what do you want to do?”
“My last trip on Viking, I was cleaning cabinets.” Stojan gave me a wide grin.” Now I work behind the desk.
“And someday,” he said. “My desire is to go to Chicago and work.”
The computer screen finally came to life. All my emails were in front of me.
“A lot of people from Serbia live in Chicago.”
Stojan slipped Teo’s picture back into his coat pocket. “You can be rude to me is my philosophy.” He swung around in his swivel chair. “I try to be polite.”
“Your mom raised a good kid,” I said.
My e-mails checked, I returned to our room.
The day had moved on. I felt a need for a little solitude, stepped out onto our small balcony, leaned over and looked at the river. The blue sky was fading, like an old person’s eyes, a pale sun gently stroked the gray brown water.
On a voyage like this, it’s not just the scenery and it’s not just passengers you’ll remember. My heart had tuned in to this young man. So many of ours have so much. They have it so easy, yet they can make it hard on themselves and those who love them.
Over two months after our cruise, I received a surprise email. A picture from Stojan. Of him and Teo.
I would like to think that someday Stojan’s dream would come true. That he would make it to Chicago.
“Here pours a full chest
And the charms of happy wishes.”