By the time Grandpa was twelve, he was already quite the world traveler—visiting London, and Copenhagen, and Helsinki before finally reaching Russia. This is a condensation of what most of you know, but for my grandchildren and anyone who skipped over reading the details, here is what I learned.
His family left two weeks before Christmas in 1931, leaving out of New York City on a luxurious ocean liner—the Berengaria, which was built as the replacement to the Titanic. Seven of them were on this trip, traveling third class, which was surprisingly nice by that time. (Grandpa’s older sister, Anna, left six months earlier with his Uncle Mark.)
While they could not mingle with the first class passengers, they still had a nice selection of food for their meals, with linen and flowers on the table, and separate games and entertainment for them throughout the trip.
Three of the seven day voyage across the North Atlantic were rough, and Grandpa, his brother Pete, and mother all were quite sick on the third day at sea.
They docked in Cherbourg, France on December 18 and were able to see a French fort, some seaplanes, and several other ships which had left New York at the same time as them. They arrived at their London Hotel that evening after taking a train ride from Southampton, London.
When Dad and I were in London last year, we went to Southampton, which is the port city where the Titanic had left. It took us about ninety minutes to get there and was a nice ride through the countryside. Grandpa traveled at night, so he was unable to enjoy the scenery.
They stayed at a two hundred year old hotel called the Kingsway Hotel, which is in a very nice area of London. Dad and I went there and saw that although the building still exists, it is now used as an apartment building. We went to a nearby library and were shown a photo, which looks very similar to the building in existence today.
Grandpa’s family stayed in London until the morning of the 23rd, and while there, they played tourist. They saw all the typical sites such as Buckingham Palace, House of Parliament, the British Museum, and Hyde Park.
They took a train to Hull, England, which is a port city in northeast London on the North Sea, where they boarded a very small Finnish steamer for the trip to Helsinki, Finland. It was a very unpleasant voyage with heavy winds and rough seas. Christmas day was spent in Copenhagen, Denmark where they were permitted to leave the boat and walk around the city.
From Copenhagen, they sailed on the Baltic Sea, experiencing gale-force winds strong enough that the dishes rolled off the tables and everyone was seasick. On December 28, they spent the night in a hotel in Finland and walked around the snowy city where they purchased some souvenirs. After another train ride, they finally arrived in Leningrad on the eve of New Year’s Eve.
I think the cruise we took several years ago through the Caribbean was a lot more pleasant, so count your blessings, even when you think life stinks!