On Copenhagen

A new day and the final new port of our Baltic Sea cruise – Copenhagen, Denmark.

This day gave us the most beautiful weather day since our pre-cruise days in Amsterdam – and we awakened to this view from our room of Trekroner Søfort (Three Crowns Sea Fortress) that guarded Copenhagen’s harbor for 200 years.

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Our special treat was spending the day with a delightful young man from our church, who happens to be on an experience of a lifetime. He graduated from college last spring and received a funded, personal-growth journey in Europe for one year. Oddly enough, our one day in Copenhagen coincided with his 3 days. Thanks Aaron for the company!

Because we had a good experience with the free walking tour organization in Amsterdam, we decided to try it in Copenhagen. Unfortunately, the meeting place was quite the hike from the ship’s dock, but we like to walk, so we saw extra sights.

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Copenhagen provided quite the variety of steeples and spires

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Frederik’s Church (Marble Church) from the square at Amalienborg Palace
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Christiansborg Palace is now home to the Danish Parliament
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Nyhavn (New Harbor) is a trendy rejuvenated, sailor’s district with a WW II memorial anchor
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The most photographed person in Copenhagen is the Little Mermaid
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… but look who found the nearby Big Mermaid
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Here are few more tours for you of this beautiful city. Take your pick of any or all – like this 3+ minute guided tour

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.. or this 2-minute slideshow

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… or a 2-minute tour from the water to a beautiful waltz

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We took this cruise to celebrate our 35th Anniversary (actually April). Our 15-day trip is just a blip in our life journey, and I’ve had a wonderful and loving travel partner. Meanwhile, the Celebrity Constellation and its wonderful crew returned us where we boarded – Amsterdam. So others can enjoy our trip, all the posts are linked, so start here.

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On Stockholm

After a day in Helsinki, we were anxious to visit Stockholm, especially because my wife’s paternal ancestry is Swedish.

The night before, the cruise director encouraged passengers to see Stockholm’s 24,000-island archipelago, which we would be entering around 4 AM. We didn’t set the alarm clock, but as my eyes opened early, a quick glance revealed island – so I quickly dressed, and to one of the upper decks I went.

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Given the 4-hour trip through the islands each way, our time in port was short. Frequent drizzle and occasional hard rain was the order of the day, but it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm for being there. Stockholm is home to 2 million people, and located on a series of islands connect by bridges and water taxis. Stockholm’s architecture intrigued us.

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Vasa was a grand warship that sank about 30 minutes into its maiden voyage. For over 300 years, it remained submerged on the bottom of Stockholm’s harbor – yet, a salvage operation discovered much remained intact. After a length restoration, it is now in a worthwhile museum.

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With it shops, churches, the Royal Palace, and old buildings flanking the narrow, stone streets, Gramla Stan (Old Town) is picturesque and charming.

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At the end of the day, we went to a specialty restaurant on the ship’s upper deck as that was our night to celebrate our 35th anniversary (which was actually 5 months earlier). Given the view of the islands from our window table, it was a fabulous way to end the day – the day that our oldest nephew was getting married back in Ohio.

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Of all the ports on our trip, Stockholm remains the city that beckons our return, so enjoy the videos below of this beautiful city.

This 2+-minute aerial tour of Stockholm is outstanding, so hop aboard!

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For narration, The Expeditioner guides your 4+ minute video tour

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Viveka, a Swedish visitor here, provides this post about her recent visit to Stockholm. In her honor, as well as my wife’s family, enjoy this 2-minute video of Sweden to Du gamla, Du fria – the Swedish national anthem with beautiful images.


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After a 5-day whirlwind touring cities and with four time changes, we were ready for a full day cruising on the Celebrity Constellation … but Copenhagen yet to come … just click here to join the tour.

On Helsinki

Note: Whether you watch this video or not, at least have the beautiful strains of “Finlandia” playing in the background as you are going through the post.

From St. Petersburg, Russia the day after, the next day gave us Helsinki, Finland. Because Helsinki is a relatively new city compared to other cities in the region (founded in 1550), I wasn’t sure what to expect. After all, I picture Europe as old, but Helsinki has no medieval past.

Our port was in the city’s west docks, which is a long (but walkable) journey to the city center. If you ever get there, remember that a city bus route is available at this point.

Helsinki is a modern, vibrant city with a variety of architecture – but its layout turned out to be quite a challenge. Nonetheless, the weather was great, so enjoy your tour.

Not far from port, we discover some Finns enjoying a morning dip in the Baltic

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The Esplanade, the main shopping street with a park down the middle
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The Lutheran Cathedral, a beacon in the sky atop Senate Square – the inside may be sparse, but the pipe organ is grand


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Uspenski Cathedral of the Finnish Orthodox and its interior is not sparse

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The very modern Church in the Rock

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The monument to Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, the creator of Finlandia

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A classic car for car enthusiasts to admire

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It’s all-aboard the Celebrity Constellation as we are bound for Stockholm. Good news is that another time change works in our favor – and we’ll need it because the ship enters the Stockholm archipelago around 4 am. Meanwhile, four time changes in five days have been interesting. (Click here to join us in Stockholm)

As we depart Helsinki, enjoy these two short videos about Finland’s main city.

On St. Petersburg: The City

As part of the whirlwind portion of our eastern Baltic cruise, the Celebrity Constellation arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia. As one raised during the Cold War, visiting the Giant Bear of the North was something we never imagined.

Russia requires visitors to have a visa. However, cruise passengers need not apply for one as long as they are participating in a government-approved tour agency. Therefore, we booked the two-day St. Petersburg Royal Tour with Denrus, who provided a great two days with a delightful tour guide and driver.

Because both days were fascinating, I will give St. Petersburg two posts, with today’s post focusing on some of the non-royal aspects. Enjoy!

St. Petersburg Factoids

  • Peter the Great founded the city in 1703
  • Located on 14 islands with rivers and canals
  • Peter the Great was fond of his time in Amsterdam
  • Population: about 4.8 million
  • Also called, Petrograd and Leningrad
  • Getting a border agent to smile is not easy
  • The non-smiling faces of the older residents is a stark reminder of the past

The old, walled fortress city (Russian royals buried at the tall church)

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Old Navy ship for military enthusiasts to research
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Many Khrushchev-style apartments are in the city (Interestingly, we didn’t see many homes within the city)

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Across the river to St. Isaac’s Cathedral

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St. Isaac’s Cathedral’s huge doors
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St. Isaac’s interior

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Sts. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral in Peterhof (outside St. Petersburg)
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Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood
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Besides the longest escalator I’ve ever been on, the subway stations are like museum (To see more, checkout this 3-minute video)
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The nesting Matryoshka dolls for the American tourists
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We’ll return to St. Petersburg after tomorrow’s mid-week satire post. (Click here to join us in St. Petersburg.)

On Tallinn

We started in Amsterdam, and after a stop in Warnemunde, Germany along with an hour time change ahead, we arrived in Tallinn, Estonia.

Tallinn, Estonia was one of the ports we were very anxious to visit. My wife had an uncle who fled Estonia with his family, and never returned. Just 59 miles across the water from Helsinki, Finland, travel guru Rick Steves called Tallinn with its intact medieval sector, “The most interesting city in that corner of Europe.”

From the port (our ship is on the right), it was an easy 10-minute walk to the Old City.

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Enter the Gates at the Fat Margaret Tower

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To stroll their the medieval streets and the bountiful offering of shops

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To discover some of the inner passages

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Along the inner walls where we would find unexpected visitors, possibly from the other cruise ship

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Finding signs along the way for guidance

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To a town square with outdoor cafes

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To the splendor of the Russian Orthodox Cathedral

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To the sparse, but beautiful St.Olaf’s (now a Baptist church)

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To outside the walls into the modern city searching for the one location where we would exchange old Estonian money for Euros

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So why not lunch at an outdoor café

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With an Estonian beer

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The intriguing Freedom Square on our return walk to the Old City.

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Who would have imagined a Marzipan Museum

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As we sail away from this Baltic gem with its medieval structures, we were given a sight similar to that my wife’s uncle painted of his final image. We smiled … and then wondered about the next two days in St. Petersburg, Russia – and another jump-ahead time change. (Direct link to St. Petersburg post)

Meanwhile, below the last picture is a delightful 2-minute video tour of Tallinn.

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On Baltic Germany

Although it seems so long ago, our cruise ship left Amsterdam and headed north. After a full day at sea, our first stop was Warnemunde – a quaint, beach resort town on Germany’s northern coast.

We were in port for more than 14 hours. Whereas many passengers went to Berlin, we didn’t want to spend half the day on the train to and from that famous city. Therefore, I did my research to determine what we could do with less travel. Given Germany’s rail system, we were able to get a one-day regional pass for about $10 each – a great deal! On this day, we boarded a train from Warnemunde for a trip to the town of Schwerin.

Given this region was part of Soviet-dominated East Germany, English (as a whole) was not spoken well.

In Schwerin, we walked from the train station toward town central – and we discovered that not many towns have a quaint lake within its core

Schwerin’s lovely town square

We exited the square, turned the corner, and then a wow moment – the prime reason for our journey.

We toured the wonderful  Schwerin Castle that housed the rulers of Mecklenberg

The castle grounds provide an excellent park-like setting.

On our walk back to the train station, we got a pleasant surprise – a boat racing festival – so we enjoyed watching several heats of 20-person dragon boats competing in sprint races.

Because we experienced some rain, we returned to Warnemunde, thus passing on our planned walk in Rostock (a city for which Warnemunde is a suburb). After dinner on the ship, it walked the resort community with an eventual stop for some German beer.

The day was a good one for us. The next day was a cruise day as we were bound for Tallinn, Estonia. Click here to join us in Tallinn.

On Amsterdam

Figure it’s about time to share some of our recent vacation trip, which started with spending 2+ days in one of the world’s great cities – Amsterdam.

We saw a lot during our short stay – and wish we took a pedometer to determine the number of miles we walked. In other words, for those who enjoy walking, go for it because Amsterdam is very walkable.

Our 9-room hotel, a canal house build in 1652, was a great find – but meals in the city are more expensive than my normal life.

Through our strolls, we visited the Anne Frank museum (fabulous), took daytime and nighttime canal cruises (the later with wine, cheese, and nuts), visited the vibrant Red Light District and the Jordain neighborhood, toured a diamond cutting facility, took a wonderful walking tour of the city, and generally took in the ambiance of this great city.

I really enjoyed the architecture. The different tops of the buildings with their hooks for hoisting furnishings continually captured my attention – and, of course, some buildings leaning to the left or to the right.

Whether the ladies in the windows or the scent of burning marijuana, tolerance is an important word for observing Amsterdam – but we were not offended. Interestingly, the Dutch seem to be drifting to the right, so I wonder how much will change in the next 10 years.

We didn’t visit any of the great art museums because our time was short and the weather was fabulous!

There were some surprises.

  • The number of bicycles! It’s a common mode of transportation for many, so the need for a large, bicycle-only parking garage at the train station. In other words, walkers beware!
  • The beauty of many of the ladies in the windows; thus not the skanky stereotype some may expect.
  • The amount of litter, especially on Dam Square: but city workers seem to keep up with the cleaning operation.
  • The number of wind turbines located in the industrial area.

The walking tour is free – well, the guides operate on tips-only. It’s a great tour, so here’s the link. Meanwhile, enjoy a few pictures.

Hotel Brouwer

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From a Bridge of Sengal Canal near the hotel

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Street along Canal Sengal near the hotel

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Buildings along a canal

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One of the first sites that caught our attention

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A leaner

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At night, a close look will show other bridges in the distance

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The packed, multi-level bicycle garage at the main train station

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A sculpture on the street in the Red Light District

Time to get on the ship. After a day at sea, see you in Warnemunde, Germany (click to visit)