Mesdames Abroad Part Two: Cruising with Crime on My Mind

This month we present Mme. Catherine Astolfo in the second of our series of travel blogs. She describes the delights of her recent visit to the Baltic.

Cathy Astolfo

As a mystery/psychological suspense writer, I have the what-if-someone-did-this-and-why gene. Therefore I am compelled to think about crime, nefarious schemes or horrific evil even as I vacation.

In May, I went on the trip of a lifetime. If you ever get the chance to cruise, I highly recommend this one! We travelled along the Baltic Sea (Norwegian Cruise Lines) from Denmark, to Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and back to Denmark. It was spectacular and excellent fodder for my imagination.



Sinister rocking horse


In Copenhagen, Denmark, my companions and I toured the Tivoli Gardens, (the inspiration for Disneyland). But what do I photograph? A rocking horse, trapped in the tower of an ancient building. My criminal mind goes into overdrive. What’s the horse doing there? Why is it framed by darkness? What horror befell the child who used to ride it? (Because of course it has to be something evil.)

Spooky wind turbines




As we cruise the sea, I am haunted by the wind turbines. Somehow they are wrapped in mystery, not mere fog.





Our first stop is the coast of Germany, where we took a train to Oranienburg and Berlin. I have convinced my friends to visit a concentration camp with me. I want to pay tribute to the victims. I want to feel the horror. In Sachsenhausen, we tour the places of degradation and death with respect and disbelief. How can people be so evil? How does this happen? Why does the cruelty continue to occur? The roots of my writing – the desire to understand, the desire to have control over the outcome in fiction at least – are essentially explorations of the human condition.



Tallinn, Estonia, feeds my writing in a different way. My companions and I meet my online friend, favourite blogger, author-promoter, Inga Kupp-Silberg (, who lives in Estonia. She kindly tours us around the spectacular medieval town.





St. Petersburg, Russia, is breathtaking in every way. I am drawn into a history I have loved, it seems, forever. The fascinating life of Catherine the Great (obviously) and Nicholas and Alexandra, the latter an almost classic mystery.  At times I turn away from the opulence and wonder about the people who looked out these windows centuries ago.

Did they consider the poverty of their subjects? Did they know the foundations upon which they governed were essentially evil and greedy? Were they simply overwhelmed by the size of the crimes, unable to change a thing, or were they content and pampered and ill-advised? Is their state of mind accurately portrayed by the statue holding a severed head – a monument that they thought was appropriate for their garden?

Catherine the Great’s writing desk

Catherine the Great’s writing desk looks so much like mine that I shiver. I imagine her skeletal touch on my shoulder.

Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood








A mosaic face gazes down at us in the Church of the Saviour on the Spilt Blood. What does he see? Was he a saint or a sinner?

In Sweden, I look up at the clouds swirling around the clock tower crowning city hall, and I think of dark and stormy nights and the evil that lurks.

If you’d like to hear about the less criminal side of my trip, you can always tune into my blog: where the travel posts are still arriving.

And lest you think I am a sinister and serious gal, I did have to include a couple of pictures of me having fun, too. It’s the inner writer person who’s mysterious.









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2 Responses to Mesdames Abroad Part Two: Cruising with Crime on My Mind

  1. Intriguing travel blog Cathy Astolfo especially your thoughts on your namesake’s writing desk!

  2. Great blog. I loved it that you remained suspicious at all times!

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