Thursday, 23 May 2019

THURSDAY 23RD MAY - HAPPY BIRTHDAY DEB



Today we celebrated Deb's birthday in Kiel, another German port. Because it was an important port during the second world war, it was comprehensively bombed so the “old town” no longer exists. All of the buildings in what was the old town originally established in 1230, were rebuilt in the 1950'sincluding the very impressive church of St. Nikolai.

It is the access point for Hamburg, several hours away so like Berlin, we didn't go. Hamburg needs much more than several hours.

 
There seems to be a Kyle connection in the city in that there is a Tom Kyle brauhaus (beer house) right in the centre and


the name of the city in old German is Kyl.



We had our usual beer of the country before returning to the ship, this time a Flensburger.

We also got to sit in one of those ridiculous beach chairs we saw so many of on the beach at Warnemunde.

Why would they describe their German Naval Yards in English? 

 
 Tomorrow we will be in Denmark at Arrhus.

Wednesday, 22 May 2019

TUESDAY 21ST - STOCKHOLM




What a fascinating place. To get there, we had to sail through the Stockholm Archipelago “with more than 30,000 islands, ancient fishing villages and centuries old towns, inviting coves, cliffs and soft sand beaches”. It took four hours for the ship to get from the port of Stockholm to the open sea.


There were numerous waterfront properties in idyllic settings. Obviously a boat is an essential means of transport.

Water is a constantly recurring theme in the cities we are visiting. Finland claims to have the most fresh water in the world.


 
Stockholm is constructed on a series of islands. The island on which the old town is located is described as a cork restricting the flow of water from the vast lakes to its west to the Baltic Sea to its east. Even restricted, the flow is significant. Where else can you fish for salmon in the middle of a city?



Because the port is some distance from the city, we once again used the Hop On Hop Off bus to get around. When its communication system is working, it is a valuable source of information and is an easy way of working out what is worth seeing in a strange city. It is also considerably cheaper than the ship's excursions.


We happened to be in the right place, the Palace, at the right time for the changing of the guard.


Unlike other cities we have visited, Stockholm's islands are quite hilly giving an opportunity for some great views of the city and waterways.

 

As you would expect, tours by boat are readily available. Unfortunately we didn't have time for one but still got an understanding of the waterways.

 
Stockholm definitely deserves a longer return visit.

Once again, the weather was extremely kind to us – 21 degrees and sunny.

Tomorrow we are at sea. Friday, we are back in Germany at Keil, followed by Arhus in Denmark on Saturday We then return to Amsterdam before heading north for the Norwegian segment of the cruise.

 
As usual, we had to have our obligatory beer. One in every country.

Monday, 20 May 2019

MONDAY 20TH - HELSINKI


This morning, as we ate breakfast, we docked at Helsinki. The town is some distance from the cruise port so we resorted to the Hop On Hop Off bus to get an understanding of Helsinki. Once again, the weather was fabulous, sunny and 21 degrees. We have been really lucky with the weather.

Our first stop was the Rock Church, so called because it is cut into a rocky hillside with the cut away rock constituting the walls of the church. While it is described as the most popular tourist attraction in Helsinki, it functions as a Lutheran parish church.

 
From there, we went to the Sibelius Monument. Sibelius was a famous Finnish composer. I am not sure what the attraction is but there were plenty of tour buses there.

 
Next stop was the city, the Cathedral in Senate Square.

 
Then the Flying Cinema, a three dimensional movie with special effects showing the sights of Finland followed by the Skywheel.


Then the Uspenski Cathedral, closed on Mondays as we eventually worked out.


Followed by the mandatory local beer at the Cafe Carousel on the waterfront on the way back to the ship.
 
Tomorrow, we wake up in Stockholm.

Sunday, 19 May 2019

SUNDAY 19TH - ST PETERSBURG AGAIN



For the second morning in a row, we had to get up at 5:00am for a 6:15 departure but we made it. We get to sleep in tomorrow in Helsinki where we plan a much more leisurely day.


We started the day with a canal and river cruise getting the opportunity to see the numerous grand and historic buildings from the water.



From there we headed out of the city to the Grand Peterhof Palace and Peterhof Gardens at Peterhof, a grand spectacle in both the palace and the gardens originally built in the reign of Peter, allowed to deteriorate during the revolution as so many palaces and grand buildings were but subsequently renovated.


 
The fountains rely entirely on a gravity fed water supply for their water pressure. No pumps are used.

 


After a Russian style lunch complete with vodka, we headed back to the city to the palace where Rasputin was assasinated. ABP – another bloody palace.


Our final destination was St Isaac's Cathedral, no longer used as a church, now a very popular tourist destination but spectacular in its construction and decoration. Once again, it was allowed to deteriorate during the revolution but since renovated.

St Petersburg – a great place to visit but we wouldn't want to live there.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

SATURDAY 18TH - ST PETERSBURG


Congratulations Australia. Great election result. Our input tax credits remain intact.

Some trivia. Our tour guide told us today that St. Petersburg gets 30 fine sunny days per year and we have scored two of them. The temperature today got to 21 degrees and the forecast for tomorrow is the same.


As you might expect, St Petersburg is a city of contrasts, really depressing old blocks of residential units in a poor state of repair and spectacular museums and churches.


This morning was spent at The Hermitage, not quite The Louvre but very close with our very competent guide explaining the enormous number of artworks and other exhibits on display. . We were warned to expect delays getting off the ship because of Russian immigration requirements and long queues at the attractions we visited but neither proved to be a problem.


After a Russian lunch complete with musical accompaniment, we visited the Church of the Spilled Blood


and the Church of St. Peter and Paul – both very spectacular and more recognised as tourism attractions rather than places of worship.

 
They both have very complex histories having regard to the changes which have occurred to the Russian political landscape over recent centuries.






Anyone want a ride on a Russian helicopter. We declined.

Tomorrow we have part two of our city exploration. Unless you have a visa, the only way one can go ashore here is as part of an organised excursion.

Friday, 17 May 2019

FRIDAY 17TH - TALLIN ESTONIA


Yesterday we spent at sea getting from Warnemunde to Tallin, the capital of Estonia so a very quiet day on the ship but today was really interesting. Tallin is a very modern busy city surrounding a very well preserved old city – a city of contrasts.

 
Once again, the cruise terminal was within easy walking distance of the old town so we spent the day walking – very virtuous and necessary after all the food and drink on the ship.


Tallin is a city of walls towers and churches as so many old cities are.



As you would expect, we sampled the local brew. Again the weather was very kind to us.


Tomorrow and Sunday, we are touring St. Petersburg. It looks really interesting and we are spending two full days on organized tours so should see plenty. I don't know what internet access if any I will have (other than ship internet access which I refuse to pay for) so watch this space.

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

WEDNESDAY 15TH - WARNEMUNDE AND ROSTOCK


Warnemunde is on the German coast. Germany doesn't have much coastline but this is the port which gives access to Berlin, a two and a half hour train trip away. There are multiple excursions available to visit Berlin but, given that the city obviously warrants a visit of more than a few hours, we passed on those. Trish has already visited the city and we will get there for a more comprehensive visit one day.

 

Warnemunde is quite small but a very popular summer resort with an endless number of beach chairs, none of which were occupied on this 17 degree day. It's attractions include an historic lighthouse and a building called the teepot, allegedly because it resembles a teapot – bit obscure for us.

 
Like Amsterdam and Copenhagen, it has a canal system but on a much smaller scale. It is however a very substantial port with a lot of river traffic.

 
As suggested by the tour director, we tried out the local public transport system. After completing our walk around Warnemunde, we paid a total of 16 euros for the four of us to travel by train and tram to Rostock. It was almost completely destroyed in World War II but the old town was faithfully rebuilt after the war in substantially the same form We were glad we took the trouble to go there.

 
On the way back to the ship, we had our customary beer, this time a Krombacher.

 
Last night's sunset at about 10:00pm was pretty impressive.