Switching Goddesses

Dearest Rachel –

You’re familiar with the fact that various cruise lines have a certain theme when it comes to the names of the ships in their fleet. Royal Caribbean, for instance, will eventually go through pretty much every single noun in the dictionary, and as long as they stick ‘of the Seas’ at the end, they can call it a name. Holland America, as another example, are known for their ‘dam ships’: Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Westerdam, Koningsdam, Idungivvadam, and so forth.

It would seem that, for Viking River Cruises, their fleet are generally named after deities and demigods in the Norse pantheon. There had been four different ships – four different cruises – that Michelle and Kerry had recommended for me to select from as an impulsive, post-Thanksgiving trip. Considering the news that Austria has apparently locked itself down (although maybe that’s just for the unvaccinated) due to a spike in cases, I think I can consider myself glad for not having selected one of the Danube-based tours. But traveling on the Rhine, I’d been assigned to a ship named in honor of the goddess Hlin.

Quite honestly, when I first saw the name on my documentation, I didn’t even recognize it as a name; I thought it was some alphanumeric designation, similar to those used to identify airline routes, like the KLM612 that got me from ORD to AMS. After all, when does the letter ‘L’ follow an ‘H’ in an actual word?

Apparently, it does in Old Norse.

So who is she? It so happens that she is one of the handmaidens of Frigga – the goddess of fertility, love, beauty, magic, war and death – along with Lofn and Gná. The name Hlín (pronounced ‘H-leen’; which suggests it might be a variant on the name ‘Helen,’ if it weren’t for the fact that the latter predates the Norse goddess by over a millennium) translates to ‘protector,’ and in that role, she is said to protect and comfort mortals in Frigga’s name. In particular, her task is to bring relief to those who mourn, pouring soothing comfort into their hearts to ease their grief and loss.

Well.

That sounded like the most appropriate name for me to be taking a voyage with at this point in time. Sure, it’s a complete myth, but the idea of riding with a deity whose main purpose is comfort those who have lost someone to death, so soon after your departure seems almost like a sign

Except… no.

You can probably tell from the swerve in narrative that I’ve been pre-writing some of these entries. Frankly, while I’ve tried to add a few touches (like the occasional reference to ‘tomorrow’s tour and the like) to keep it in line with the actual timeline, I know just how tricky it might be to compose a thorough letter – or research on each port of call – while traveling; it’s just easier to do that kind of work back at the ‘office.’ And the same goes for the name of the vessel I’m boarding today (see, I’m still doing this).

You see, it turns out that the Rhine isn’t as deep as it ought to be, and the Hlin’s draft wouldn’t be able to manage at some of the ports. So, Viking is using their sister ship, Kara.

So, then, who is Kara? When I mentioned the name to Daniel, he thought it sounded like the antagonist from the Undertale games (although that’s Chara, not Kara. Same pronunciation, but different spelling). Of course, I had to do my own research, and it turns out that she is one of the Valkyries, the selectors of the slain, who pick up the spirits of fallen warriors, and carry them off to Valhalla.

She was, or so the legends say, excellent at her job, and quite enthusiastic. In fact, perhaps too enthusiastic. As the story goes, she flew too close to the battlefield, and was impaled on a sword wielded by a warrior. Her husband, no less.

I can’t imagine being that man, and having killed his wife by accident, especially given the fact that she was supposedly a divine being, and therefore theoretically immortal. For all that happened to you, at least I know that I’m not to blame for what happened. It was a freak occurrence, and there’s nothing to be done for it.

I’ll be honest, I’m glad I checked back at the concierge for directions to the quay. The gentleman who was there this morning tried to be helpful, but if I had followed his directions, I would never have found the ship. The girl I spoke to after breakfast even went so far as to print out a map of the quay as well as how to get there from the tram station (which was the very one that I thought it was yesterday – I simply had to walk a few blocks to the west after getting off, and I would have been there)

So I find myself waiting for the #8 tram for a while. A couple of them went by going the opposite way while I waited; it may well be that I picked up the first of them as it returned back to the station.

I can’t speak for all of Europe, but some of the cities are certainly designed for folks to have – and need – less. The trams are apparently free, although the girl at the concierge printed a card for me to show to anyone that asked me to confirm that I was allowed to ride. But nobody ever did. There are a lot of cyclists, and a lot of bike lanes, so Erin would feel right at home here.

The trams are also dog friendly, as is most of the city, so you would’ve liked it here. You’d only have a problem in trying to ask everybody if you could pet their dog, as you’d never know what language they speak until they do. Is it going to be French? or German? At least most everyone has some rudimentary English, should push come to shove.

But there are certain parts that are, let’s put it charitably, unprepossessing. The Viking dock is nowhere near as impressive as the ones for the Royal Caribbean ships are.

This is my first glimpse of the long ship; I don’t know that I would’ve found it without the map the girl gave me at the concierge.
The entryway even has graffiti on it. And while I know that’s a common occurrence in the city, I don’t see much of that in the ’burbs, so it still seems… inappropriate for such a luxury brand

All in all, it’s really a beautiful city to visit, and I probably could’ve taken a lot longer here – especially were I in better health. And I have a feeling that’s going to pose a problem now that I’m aboard. More on that in my next letter.

Until then, honey, wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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