A Baltic Adventure

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Our ship the “Windsurf”

Alice and I managed to get away for a couple weeks’ Windstar cruise from Copenhagen through the Baltics, St Petersburg and back to Stockholm.  We had a fantastic time and spent a couple of days in Copenhagen before embarking and an extra day in Stockholm before heading home.

Copenhagen is a wonderful city. I had been there a number of times for business end enjoyed the experience so it was great to introduce Alice to this great city.

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Visiting the little mermaid
Visiting the little mermaid

We had a blast touring the city including a canal cruise which provides a different perspective of the city and we were pleased to see some houseboats on the canals. We would certainly consider living in Copenhagen for a few years.


Houseboat on canal
Houseboat on canal
We had some rain for our canal tour
We had some rain for our canal tour
We climbed this church spire – great view from top


View from church spire – our ship in the distance







Interesting spire on old Stock Exchange
Interesting spire on old Stock Exchange
Changing of the guard at the palace
Changing of the guard at the palace







Our first stop on the cruise was Bornholm in Denmark which is actually an island at the bottom of Sweden with an interesting history of how ownership moved from Sweden to Denmark.

Traditional herring dish. You have to debone and remove the skin – we passed!

WP_20160803_11_36_27_Rich (2)We visited an old round church, a glass-blowing workshop, a fortress and sampled some local beer but gave the smoked herrings a miss.

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Alice touching the rat for luck


Then it was on to Gdansk, Poland where we visited the medieval part of the city including the very large St Mary’s gothic cathedral, and once again sampled the local beer (yes, there is a theme).

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St Mary’s Cathedral – largest brick church in Europe




Old town Gdansk – totally rebuilt after WWII








Next up was Klaipeda in Lithuania.  Here we visited the “Hill of Witches” so that Alice felt in her element.


There were certainly some interesting creatures in the woods.

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A “selfie” from upper old town Tallinn

After that it was on to Tallinn, Estonia where we had a truly fantastic day, exploring the old town, hearing of the history and folklore, listening to local music and sampling some local food and schnapps.

WP_20160807_08_37_47_RichAlong with beautiful old churches and buildings and a rich history, Estonia has been very progressive in developing their economy following the Soviet breakup and is now a strong technology center (Skype was invented and developed here) and we really appreciated the fast, free Wi-Fi throughout the town.

Helsinki’s Senate Square
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Inside the Rock church

After Tallinn, we visited Helsinki, Finland.  We did a walking tour which was very interesting and educational and decided this was a city where we should revisit and spend more time.

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Leaving Helsinki through a narrow channel guarded by a fortress

Then it was on to a highlight of the trip – St Petersburg, Russia.  This is truly a magical city with a rich history.

WP_20160809_11_14_59_Pro (2)The first day we visited the Grand Palace in Peterhof, which was the summer home of Peter the Great and then expanded by his children.  It is a very impressive building and grounds all glitter and built on a very large scale.

Waiting for the ballet to start
Waiting for the ballet to start


That evening we went for a private ballet event of Swan Lake which was very memorable.


The next day I hired a private guide and driver which turned out to be a great idea.  We were able to get into the Hermitage (a very large museum second in scope only to the Louvre in Paris) before the crowds arrived and could enjoy room after room, basically by ourselves.  WP_20160810_09_35_32_Rich

Lots of glitter
Detailed art on ceilings was amazing

We also visited many other palaces and historical locations throughout the city in a very packed day.  One of the highlights was having lunch in a local establishment with our guide.

She also told me during lunch that I looked very much like a Russian pop star and so had to have my photo so she could tell her friends – very funny!

Our Hotel Reisen from across the river
Our Hotel Reisen from across the river

After two fabulous days in St Petersburg it was a day at sea before arriving in Stockholm – another magical city.  The entrance to Stockholm by boat is through a beautiful waterway filled with islands – it reminded us of the San Juan Islands, only more of them and closer together.

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The Royal Palace

While I had been here previously on business, I really hadn’t had the opportunity to look around.  So Alice and I did lots of walking as we explored the old town and surrounding area.


WP_20160812_10_55_32_RichAlice lit a candle in the cathedral for Luke’s safety in Afghanistan.  Of course she also made the last forays into souvenir shops for chotskys.

We were lucky that the hotel staff booked us into dinner at Fem Sma Hus a traditional Swedish restaurant that had been operating since 1700.  This was a great dinner and tremendous way to celebrate a wonderful vacation.

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Our final night on the Baltic vacation