Sunday, December 6, 2015

Baltic Cruise and Extension: Russia, Germany, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Estonia and Norway

In June 2011 we did a Fun For Less tour of the Baltics by cruise ship with an add-on extension at the beginning in Moscow. 

On Wednesday evening at 9:05 p.m. we left LAX for Moscow, Russia. We arrived in Munich at 5:35 p.m. on Thursday and had a layover of almost six hours. Fortunately, the airport in Munich has some nice stores, including a grocery store, and we were able to eat well.
     Grana Padano Cheese  (Bob)
     Octopus - Munich Airport  (Bob)

We left Munich late Thursday night at 11:20 p.m. and arrived in Moscow early Friday morning at 4:10 a.m. We were to meet the rest of our tour about 10:00 or 11:00 a.m. (we booked our own flight), so we settled down on benches in the airport and tried to get some sleep. We met Michael Wilcox, our guest educator early. He'd spent the night as a guest of the Russians in a secure area because he arrived a day before his visa allowed him to (this was the same area where Edward Snowden stayed two years later while waiting to learn his fate after fleeing the U.S.). After meeting with our group, we set off in a bus for downtown Moscow. Along the way we stopped at the Russian equivalent of a Costco where we saw long rows of Russian sausages and bought some, as well as some Russian cheese.  We visited the Novodevichy Cemetery and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior and checked into the Moscow Royal Aurora Marriott near Red Square where we stayed the rest of our time in Moscow. After checking in, we walked to Red Square and walked around the beautiful St. Basil Cathedral. 
     Tilsiter Cheese  (Bob)
     Russian Sausage  (Bob)

Saturday we had a wonderful breakfast buffet in the Marriott. I noted eating salted herring, salted halibut, eel and sausages. Our first destination was Lenin's Tomb, by far the most security conscious area we visited. This was followed by a tour of the spectacular onion-domed St. Basil's Cathedral and then some free time in the GUM Store. Then we entered the Kremlin and visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, saw the palace where Medvedev worked (and previously Stalin and Lenin), a series of beautiful churches all next to each other in a massive square (Church of the Deposition of the Robe, Ivan the Great Bell Tower, etc.), then a tour of the Armory. Finally, after leaving the Kremlin, we went to an area of statues based on Pushkin figures and Michael Wilcox talked about Pushkin. For dinner we ate and fell in love with blinis (cherry; chocolate and banana; pork, cheese and mushroom; and goose liver and pickles), all fantastic. 
     Moscow, Part 3: Food  (Judy)   
     Moscow, Part 5: Red Square  (Judy)
     Moscow, Part 4: The Kremlin  (Judy)
     Russian Blini  (Bob)

Sunday morning we took a tour of the Moscrow Metro, taking the subway to six or seven stops and admiring the wonderful decoration and architecture. We had an opportunity to do some shopping. Then in the afternoon we visited the circus. Late afternoon we held a worship service in the Mariott Lobby with Michael Wilcox leading it. Afterwards we went out for more blinis (sweet and condensed milk; salmon; and pork, cheese and mushroom). 
     Moscow, Part 7: Metro  (Judy)

Monday we drove by St. Basil's for pictures, then to the huge Peter the Great statue and for pictures of the Kremlin from across the Moskva River. We stopped at an art market, then at grocery store, then on to the airport for a flight to Berlin, Germany. Late that afternoon we arrived in Berlin and checked in to the Crown Plaza Hotel City Center, then with our free time, we went with one other couple on a bus to Berlin Cathedral. We took a boat trip down the Spree River, purchased some currywurst and weisswurst for dinner, then walked to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag. We got back to the hotel around midnight. We were really glad we took this extra time on our own. We came back to Berlin later in the trip with our group, but we saw much more of it than others on our tour.
     Russia: It's a Small World After All  (Judy)
     Moscow, Part 10: Wrap Up  (Judy)
     Berlin, Part 1: Museum Island  (Judy)
     Berlin, Part 2: Brandenburg Gate  (Judy)
     Berlin, Part 2: Addendum  (Judy)

Tuesday we took a bus 145 miles north to Lubeck, Germany and checked into the Radisson Blu Senator Hotel. It took about 3 hours, 20 minutes. We had free time in the afternoon, so we visited Lubeck Cathedral (Lutheran), Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church (the only Catholic church in Lubeck), St. Mary's Church (Lutheran), St. Jacob's Church (Lutheran) and ate lunch at Schiffergesellschaft, in the house of the Seaman's Guildhall.
     Lubeck, Germany: Part 1  (Judy)
     Lubeck Cathedral  (Bob)
     Lubeck, Part 2: The Rest of It  (Judy)
     Schiffergesellschaft - Lubeck, Germany  (Bob)

Wednesday morning I took an early morning jog/walk for an hour. I went completely around old town on the edge of the canal and then through Lubeck. Mid-morning, we took a bus to Rostock where we took a ferry to Denmark. Then we took another bus about 80 miles to Copenhagen where we checked in at the Emerald Princess cruise ship and met the rest of our Fun For Less Tour group (this was the end of our extension and the beginning of the main trip). We then took a brief tour of Copenhagen by bus, visiting the Church of Our Lady, or Copenhagen Cathedral, and the Little Mermaid statue.
     Denmark: Copenhagen, Day 1  (Judy)
     Church of Our Lady - Copenhagen's Cathedral  (Bob)

Thursday we were at sea on the Baltic, sailing from Copenhagen toward Stockholm, Sweden. Michael Wilcox, the guest lecturer, gave lectures at 10:30 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. We had developed some friendships with several couples and spent time playing board games.

Friday morning we had a lecture by Michael Wilcox at 8:30 a.m. We arrived in Stockholm around 10:00 a.m. and it was cold and rainy. We took a bus tour to the Vasa Museum and viewed the oldest preserved ship in the world, which sunk in 1628. We toured City Hall, the site of the Nobel Prize banquet, and had a guided tour of Old Town. The ship left Stockholm around 5:00 p.m. I didn't feel like we really got a good feel for Stockholm or Sweden, probably more so here than anywhere else.
     Sweden: Stockholm  (Judy)

Saturday morning we had a lecture from Michael Wilcox at 8:30 a.m. The ship docked in Helsinki, Finland around 10:00 a.m. Upon arrival, we took a bus to the old village of Porvoo where we had a tour and then some free time. We visited Provoo Cathedral and ate at Timbaali Restaurant, a wonderful buffet full of various kinds of herring and other fish. In the afternoon we returned to Helsinki and had free time. We visited Helsinki Cathedral (Lutheran), the outside of Uspensky Cathedral (Russian Orthodox) and the Temppeliaukio "Rock" Church. The ship left Helsinki at 6:00 p.m.
     Finland, Part 1  (Judy)
     Porvoo Cathedral  (Bob)
     Timbaali Restaurant - Porvoo, Finland  (Bob)
     Finland, Part 2  (Judy)
     Helsinki Cathedral  (Bob)

Sunday morning the ship docked in St. Petersburg, Russia, our second visit to Russia on this trip. We started out with a cruise down the Fontaka, Moyka and Neva Rivers/Canals in an open air boat. Then we spent quite a bit of time at the amazing Hermitage Museum, full of paintings by the masters. This was followed by a tour of the Yusupov (or Moika) Palace, where Rasputin was murdered in 1916. We had a "traditional Russian lunch" in a large hall that was very mediocre, but we did try a little bit of salmon roe. We had a church service in the ship bar late afternoon with the LDS Stake President from Bakersfield, California presiding. Judy spoke, as did Michael Wilcox. The ship spent the night in port.
     St. Petersburg, Russia  (Judy)

Monday morning we took a bus about one hour to the Peterhof Palace which overlooks the Gulf of Finland. I left there and walked several blocks to the Peter and Paul Church (Russian Orthodox) where I saw a service going on. We drove back to St. Petersburg where we visited the massive St. Isaac's Cathedral. Then on to the Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood where Tsar Alexander II was assassinated. We ended the day with a tour of the Peter and Paul Fortress. The ship left St. Petersburg about 6:00 p.m.
     St. Petersburg: Peterhof Palace  (Judy)
     Hooded Crow  (Bob)
     St. Petersburg: St. Isaac's Cathedral  (Judy)
     Saint Isaac's Cathedral - St. Petersburg, Russia  (Bob)
     St. Petersburg: The Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood  (Judy)
     Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood - St. Petersburg  (Bob)
     St. Petersburg, Russia: Peter and Paul Fortress  (Judy)

Tuesday we arrived in Talinn, Estonia about 8:00 a.m. We had an 8:30 a.m. lecture with Michael Wilcox, then avoided any cruise excursions and just went out on our own. We took a city tour bus (hop on and hop off), then got off to visit the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral (Russian Orthodox), the Cathedral of St. Mary the Virgin, and St. Nicholas Church. We ate lunch at Wine and Fish, then visited the Holy Spirit Church and St. Olaf's Church and Tower. The ship left Talinn about 5:00 p.m.
     Tallinn, Estonia  (Judy)
     Fish & Wine - Tallinn, Estonia  (Bob)
     Camembert Cheese  (Bob)
     St. Mary's Cathedral - Tallinn, Estonia  (Bob)

Wednesday we were at sea the entire day. We had two lectures with Michael Wilcox, one at 10:00 a.m. and one at 3:00 p.m. We played games with several couples and we shared a dinner table with three other couples that we had dinner with every night while we were on the ship.

Thursday morning we arrived in Rostok, Germany for the second time (we'd been here on our pre-cruise extension). We took a three hour bus ride to Berlin, again for the second time. We visited the outside of the Reichstag, the Brandenburg Gate, Checkpoint Charlie, stopped at a section of the Berlin Wall and drove through the city before driving back to Rostok to board the ship again. The ship left Rostok about 9:00 p.m. We were so happy we'd gone into Berlin the first time around and spent time on our own. I felt much better about our time in Berlin than if we'd just been limited to the little time we had on our regular tour.
     Berlin, Part 3: Remnants of the Wall  (Judy)
     Berlin, Part 4: Odds 'N' Ends  (Judy)
We arrived in Aarhus, Denmark Friday morning about 8:00 a.m. We took a bus out of town to Rosenholm and visited Rosenkrantz Castle. Them back to Aarhus where we visited Den Gamle By, a recreated historic village, and Aarhus Cathedral (Lutheran), the largest church in Scandinavia. The ship left at 2:00 p.m. and we had a lecture with Michael Wilcox at 2:30 p.m. We both loved Denmark, perhaps our favorite place of the trip.
     Denmark: Aarhus  (Judy)
     Aarhus Cathedral  - Denmark  (Bob)

Saturday morning we arrived in Oslo, Norway. The Emerald Princess was continuing on, I believe back to Copenhagen, but our Fun For Less Tour stayed in Norway longer. I believe this may have been an optional add-on, a "Norway in a Nut Shell" package. We took a bus through Oslo, then out of town to visit the Olympic area of the Oslo Olympics, and particularly the ski jump hill. We visited Vigeland Sculpture Park and an open air Folk Museum. Judy and I had lunch on our own at DS Louise Restaurant, right on the wharf, and had sticker shock at the Norwegian prices (our lunch was over $100). Then we visited the Viking Ship Museum with three Viking ships, the Oseberg, Gokstad and Tune. That night we stayed at the Hotel Bristol in Oslo. Late afternoon we ventured out and walked around the city.
     Norway: Vigeland Sculpture Park in Oslo  (Judy)
     Norway: Norsk Folkemuseum  (Judy)
     DS Louise Restaurant - Oslo, Norway  (Bob)

Sunday we took the Bergen Railway from Oslo to Myrdal. Then we took the Flam Railway from Myrdal down to Flam. From there we took a ship through the Aurlandsfjord and into the Naeroyfjord, then moored in Gudvangen. Then we took a bus to Voss, where we took a train to Bergen, then from Bergen back to Oslo by train where we stayed again in the Hotel Bristol.
     Norway: Flam Railway  (Judy)
     Norway: Aurlandfjord  (Judy)

Monday morning we particularly enjoyed the buffet breakfast at the Hotel Bristol. Knowing how expensive food was, we really enjoyed and appreciated the value of the food we were eating. We had a tour of Oslo Cathedral (Lutheran), took a ferry to and visited the Kon Tiki Museum and visited City Hall where the Nobel Peace Price is given.
     Scandinavian Hotel Food  (Bob)
     Oslo, Norway  (Judy)
     Oslo Cathedral  (Bob)
     Barnacle Goose  (Bob)

Tuesday we flew from Oslo to Copenhagen, then took a bus tour of Copenhagen. As we drove along the Danish Riviera, we could see Sweden across the water. We visited Fredricksburg Castle and the chapel inside full of Carl Bloch paintings. One of the most amazing castles I've visited. We also stopped in front of the Mormon temple and took some pictures. We took a walk that night with another couple and had dinner at a little cafe along the river. We spent the night at the Radisson Blue Hotel.
     Denmark: Fredricksborg Castle and the LDS Temple  (Judy)
     Fredriksborg Castle Chapel and Religious Art  (Bob)
     Greylag Goose  (Bob)
     Lumpfish Roe  (Bob)

Wednesday we flew out of Copenhagen for LAX at 12:25 p.m., with a two hour layover in Newark. We arrived in Los Angeles at about 7:40 p.m. 

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