S: The Baltics and St Petersburg 2012
BC: DEPARTED | St Petersburg | 25 July 2012
FC: The Baltics & St Petersburg 2012 Lithuania Latvia Estonia Russia
1: The Baltics and St Petersburg | Lithuania | ARRIVED 11 July 2012 | Touring along the Baltic Sea to take in the turbulent Baltic history, culture, natural beauty, and treasures of the Baltic States with the final stop in Mother Russia. | July 9-26, 2012 | July 9 Drove to Kansas City for the night July 10 Left early for Chicago flying to Frankfurt July 11 Arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania July 12 Vilnius, Lithuania July 13 Vilnius, Lithuania July 14 Drove to Klaipeda, Lithuania July 15 Toured the Nida Peninsula July 16 Departed for Riga, Latvia July 17 Toured Riga Old Town | July 18 Riga, Latvia July 19 Departed for Tallinn, Estonia July 20 Tallinn, Estonia July 21 Tallinn, Estonia July 22 Departed Tallinn, Estonia July 23 St Petersburg, Russia July 24 St Petersburg, Russia July 25 Departed for US July 26 Drove home from Kansas City | Vesma Marhijevica tour guide
2: Pre -Trip Prep for Adventure On July 9, we drove Kansas City in a blinding rain storm and stayed at the Comfort Inn in Platte City, Missouri.in preparation for our early overseas flight to Vilnius. | July 10 United Airlines #3747 to Chicago Lufthansa #9153 to Frankfurt July 11 Lufthansa #886 to Vilnius
3: The Baltic States are the countries bordering on the eastern coast of the Baltic Sea in North-central Europe and bordering Russia. | Lithuania Latvia Estonia Russia
4: We: July 11 arrived in Vilnius, Lithuania, had a orientation walk and dinner in old town. July 12 took a walking city tour, home hosted lunch with Daiva Kaslauskoi and enjoyed free time exploring old town. July 13 toured Trakai Castle, learned and made a Karai lunch, rode a local train back to Vilnius, visited the KGB Museum and had a discussion with a local journalist. July 14 departed for Klaipeda, Lithuania, stopping by the Rumsiskes Open Air Museum, lunched in Kaunas, and explored Klaipeda's folk music festival and craft fair. July 15 traveled by ferry to the Nida Peninsula, hunted for amber on the Baltic shore, hiked the Hill of Witches, had a fish lunch at a tavern, and made necklaces at an amber workshop July 16 while driving to Riga, Latvia, we stopped and visited the Salantai Day Care Center and Hill of Crosses before crossing into Latvia | July 11- 16 July 11- July 16
5: I can't believe it!! I am finally going to a place I have dreamed of ever since I was a child...a place where kangaroos roam, where I will get to hold the cutest sleepy bears in the world and a place where the ocean is full of amazing world renowned reefs and sea life. Australia Here I Come!
6: Vilnius, Lithuania Vilnius is the capital "Grand Duchy of Lithuania" and largest city of Lithuania with a population 554,060. It was founded in 1323. The old town has baroque buildings and medieval charm that earned it a UNESCO World Heritage status. A star in the pavement outside bell tower of the Cathedral of Vilnius marks the Lithuania's struggle for independence from Soviet occupation. in March 1990. They received their independence in August 1991..
8: Vilnius University The Vilnius University was founded in 1579 and is one of the oldest universities in Eastern Europe. The construction of the University buildings was carried on over centuries under the changing influences of Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque and Classical styles. Surrounded by four streets, the campus is made up of 12 buildings, some of them having multiple structures, the Church of St. John, and a belfry. The buildings are set around 12 courtyards of different shapes and sizes. Strolling the linked courtyards one observes sculptures and paintings of past professors on the walls and original published documents documenting the academic contributions.
10: The Presidential Palace | The official office and residence of the President of the Republic of Lithuania that dates back to the 14th century. A flag displaying the coat of arms of the President is hoisted when the President is present in the Palace or the city. The president Dalia Grybauskaite is a tough minded woman leading her country in independence.
11: Jewish Ghetto | Napoleon named Vilnius "the Jerusalem of the North" as he was passing through in 1812. Only a small ghetto remains today after Nazi occupation and the Jewish genocide that killed more than 70,000 Jewish people.
12: Church of Saints Peter & Paul | The pearl of Lithuanian Baroque, this is the most splendid example of this style with more than 2000 religious frescoes and sculptures. It was built during 1668-1674, and the interior took another 30 years. The church is located in the Antakalnis neighborhood in Vilnius, Lithuanian.
14: Valkininkai Village Library In the countryside village of Valkininkai, boys stand outside the rural library waiting impatiently for it to open. The librarian Darguziu Biblioteka, arrived to provide them access to primitive computers to play games and explore the world on the Internet. There are few books or resources available to the community as it rebuilds following Soviet occupation.
17: Daiva Kaslauskoi invited us into her home for lunch. She served us: Beet Root Soup Cucumber Fingerlings Potatoes with Dill Cabbage Rolls Dark Rye Bread Berry Delight Local Utenos Beer | The Lithuanian home hosted lunch was located about 34 miles southeast of Vilnius on an old communist work farm by Valkininkai. After Soviet occupation this land was returned to families to farm as they have for hundreds of years
18: Imperial College of London Orchestra and Choir preformed at the Saint Kasimir Jesuit Church music from the 18th -20th centuries with organ accompaniment
19: Forto Dvaras a Lithuanian culinary experience | Dined at
20: Lover Locks on Bridge | Vilnius
21: Church of Saint Francis of Assisi | Vilnius
22: Trakai Trakai is a historic city and lake resort in Lithuania that lies about 20 miles west of Vilnius. First settlements date back to the first millennium A.D. Trakai is a town built on lakes with a castle that was demolished by Russians in 1655. Reconstruction of the castle and a high tower was started in 1951 and completed in 1961. The Trakai Historical National Park was established 1991, which is the only National Historic Park in Europe.
25: Trakai Castle | We took a short boat ride to visit Trakai Castle. It was originally built on an island in lake Gaive in the 15th Century by Grand Duke Kestutis and became the first Grand Duchy in the area. It housed the treasury so it was besieged and destroyed many times during the medieval period. The castle was reconstructed from 1951 -1961. It now houses Lithuania's most interesting archaeological artifacts, religious objects, coins. and finds preserved from excavation of the castle grounds.
28: In 1392 the Grand Duke of Trakai Castle relocated Crimean Karaite Jews to Lithuania to work for him as bodyguards in the castle. Only about 300 Karaites remain still in the Trakai area today. Some families have opened Karaim Restaurants that prepare the old traditonal recipes like kyby, kibinai, and chebureki (savory meat pastries) to be enjoyed in the cozy halls with traditional Karaim ornamentation. | Karaite Culture
29: KYBYNLAR Restaurant After a tour of Trakai Castle we visited the KYBYNLAR Restaurant for a unique dining experience which included how to prepare kibinai, a traditional meat pie. We were all given hair nets, rollings pins, a ball of dough, and a ball of seasoned chopped lamb. We were taught the correct way of rolling the dough, adding the meat and folding the kibinai for baking in the oven. We all enjoyed a glass of Krupnik., a local liquor, while waiting for our lunch to bake. We listened to the owner tell stories of her interesting culture and family history.
32: Local Train Ride | The journey from the Trakai train depot to Vilnius by train takes about 45 minutes. Trains in Lithuania are not fast but fairly comfortable and not expensive. The windows of the trains were large to allow great viewing of the county side while traveling to Vilnius. Many passengers setting in the sun enjoyed a nap while traveling.
35: Museum of Genocide of Victims
36: Rumsiskes Open Air Museum Rumsiskes is a unique and one of the largest open-air ethnographic museums in Europe. It has 183 buildings and over 86,000 mobile exhibits. The museum presents the mode of life, works, and traditions of peasants and townspeople of all Lithuanian ethnographic areas: Dzukija, Aukstaitija, Suvalkija, Zemaitija and Lithuania Minor. It was established in 1966, in Rumsiskes on a picturesque Kaunas Lagoon.
40: Irena was a Lithuanian survivor who was deported to a Siberian work camp by the Russian Communist. when she was only 13. She is showing where her family was sent. on the map. Irena is standing in front of a replica of the type of earth house that 60 woman and children lived in.
41: Irena shares her life story about how she was taken by Soviet officers from her home one night in 1941 with only the clothes on her back. They were placed into a crowded and filthy train box car with no food or water and deported from her native Lithuania with her mother and younger brother. Irena shared about the 6,500 mile journey they took across the Arctic Circle to a work-camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia and how they were forced under Stalin's orders to fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions. It was retold in a replica of the mud hut they had to build to endure the winter and years in captivity. Irena's incredible survival story was written into a novel by Ruta Sepetys "Between Shades of Gray."
42: Kaunas Kaunas was established by Romans in ancient times and in 1413 was the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Now the second largest city in Lithuania and center of industry. After lunch we had a walking tour of Old Town to see the sculptures and historical Baroque, Gothic, and Renaissance buildings. Saturday was the day of weddings and we observed many in progress.
44: Kaunas Church Story During Russian occupation Kaunas became the major center of resistance letting the world know of the violation of human rights and freedoms against Lithuanians. Many citizens were exiled to Siberia and churches were devastated. Churches were turned into warehouses and grain storage facilities in an effort to squelch the resistance efforts by Lithuania's Catholic Church.
46: Klaipeda Traditional Folklore Festival "Parbeglaivelis" The City of Klaipeda sponsors the International Folklore Festival "Parbeglaivelis" every other year and is one of the largest celebrations of ethnic culture in Lithuania. The International Folklore Festival "Parbeglaivelis" gives special attention to authenticity. We watched the different groups preform sing and dance. There was even a group from Memphis, Tennessee representing the Appalachian music from the USA.
48: Klaipeda | Klaipeda is the oldest city in Lithuania, situated at the mouth of the Dan River forming an ice-free port on the Baltic Sea. After a walking tour of Old Town we enjoyed the music of the folk festival, shopping craft tents and ate brats, sauerkraut, and beer from local vendors.
50: The day begins with a ferry ride to the Nida Peninsula, a fragile sand dune spit shared by Russia and Lithuania that is exposed to the harsh Baltic Sea. On the Curonian Spit we walked along the Baltic Sea shore hunting for amber...known as Baltic Gold that washes up on the beach during storms. | Searching for Amber on the Curonian Spit
52: Raganu Kalnas Hill of Witches | Located in Juodkrante on the Nida Peninsula was the "Hill of Witches." We hiked a forested path through the sand dunes filled with more than 80 unique wooden sculptures depicting witches, demons and other mythical creatures crafted from Lithuanian folklore. Half of the fun was listening to the Lithuanian folk legends from our local guide and Vesmia toasting the day with local a local brandy, Starka.
54: Kursmariu Villa and Bar The Kursmariu Villa and Bar is located in the town of Neringa on the Curonian Spit and looks over the lagoon. The owner welcomed guests for a delightful lunch of soup and fish, while sharing a song in Lithuanian and story about her life. After lunch we explored the fish drying hut, and grounds enjoying the sun off the beach and lagoon.
57: We toured the amber museum to learn the history of amber and how to polish amber for jewelry. We received a certificate for our training and now we are amber experts. We were also given the chance to make an amber necklace.
58: The Parnidzio Dune is located in the corner of Nida. If you haven‘t take 148 steps to the dune top, it means you have never been on the Curonian Spit. At the top of the sand dune is a panoramic view of the Curonian Lagoon, the Baltic Sea, and in the middle of the high sand dunes there are woods, and then....there is Russia. Russia claimed the land on the end of the Spit for the rich amber deposits. Between dunes there is a desert feeling when you look at the vastness around you and as the wind blows sand in your face. In 1995 the Nida Sundial was constructed, one of the largest stele-type sundials, on the top of the Parnidzio Dune. It is a key monument of the Curonian Spit in Lithuania. The Dune is an ideal place for this kind of sundial as an absolute mathematical horizon opens up from this place. It is possible to observe the Sun rising from the Lagoon and setting into the Baltic Sea. | Parnidzio Dune
61: Salantai Day Care Center for Adults Salantai is an day care center for adults with mental and physical disabilities and is supported by Grand Circle Foundations in the Kretinga district of Lithuania. After a tour we were invited to learn the art of making clay objects with residents of the day care center. The girl that was helping us was very precise in what she wanted us to do.
62: Musy Verbena | We lunched at the Musy Verbena Restaurant which is famous for serving authentic Lithuanian dishes and enjoyed a variety of herbal delights. The dining room had many antiques with mismatched old tables and chairs. We enjoyed exploring the herbal garden after dining before boarding the bus.
64: Hill of Crosses | Lithuania's legendary Hill of Crosses, (Kryziy Kalnas), near the city of Siauliai sets on a grassy double hillock blanketed by several thousand crosses. Some say the tradition of planting crosses here began in the 14th century, and the area has long served as a place of peaceful resistance for Lithuanian Catholics, who used the site as a memorial to their fallen freedom fighters during the long Soviet occupation. Despite several Soviet attempts to bulldoze the hill, determined locals would quickly rebuild the cherished place of pilgrimage. Now standing upon this small hill are many thousands of crosses that represent devotion and a memorial to Lithuanian national identity.
66: We... July 16 drove into Latvia and visited Rundale Palace on the way to Riga, and arrived at the Europa Royale for dinner July 17 walked through Riga Old Town, lunched at a local restaurant, visited and shopped at the Riga Central Market, and discussed Latvia's past & present with a local Estonian July 18 toured the Salaspils Concentration Camp, walked around Riga exploring the architecture, visited the Art Nouveau Museum, returned to the Riga Central Market, and explored the Vermanes Darza Park July 19 explored the Cesis Castle by candle light, bowled medieval style, lunched at Braslas Krogs while traveling to Estonia. | July 16-19
67: Latvia is one of the least densely populated countries of the European Union. The capital of Latvia is Riga. The official language is Latvian and the currency is called Lats (Ls). Latvia is a unitary parliamentary republic. The Republic of Latvia was founded on November 18, 1918 and was occupied by Nazi Germany between 1941-1945 and Communist Russia from 1945-1991. Latvia declared the restoration of its de facto independence on August 21, 1991. A typical Latvian landscape is a mosaic of vast forests alternating with fields, farmsteads, and pastures; amid arable land are birch groves and wooded clusters, which afford a habitat for numerous plants and animals. Latvia has hundreds of miles of undeveloped seashore lined by pine forests, dunes, and continuous white sand beaches. About 20% of Latvia's land is in nationally protected areas. | Latvia
68: Rundale Palace | Rundale Palace is one of the two major baroque palaces built for the Dukes of Courland in Latvia. The palace was built in two periods, from 1736 until 1740 and from 1764 until 1768. It is situated at Pilsrundale, 12 km west of Bauska. After Courland was absorbed by the Russian Empire in 1795, Catherine the Great presented the palace to her lover, Prince Zubov, who spent his declining years there. His young widow, Thekla Walentinowicz, a local landowner's daughter, remarried Count Shuvalov, thus bringing the palace to the Shuvalov family, with whom it remained until the Russian Revolution of 1917. The palace suffered serious damage in 1919 during the Latvian War of Independence. In 1920, part of the premises were occupied by the local school. It was dealt a serious blow after World War II, when the grain storehouse was set up in the premises and later, the former duke's dining room was transformed into the school's gymnasium. Only in 1972 was a permanent Rundale Palace Museum established. The palace and the surrounding gardens are now a beautiful museum and tourist destination to see how the aristocrats lived in the 18th century.
74: Riga is the capital and largest city of Latvia. With 699,203 inhabitants. In fact Riga is the largest city in the Baltic countries and is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial, cultural and financial centre of the Baltic Sea region. The city lies on the Gulf of Riga, at the mouth of the river Daugava. Riga was founded in 1201. Riga's historical Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its Art Nouveau architecture and 19th century wooden architecture. Riga is a diverse thriving city with a prominent upper class and has been claimed by Russia, Sweden, Lithuania and Germany. It history of occupation has created a unique issues for governance. Latvians make up 46% of the population of Riga, with the percentage of ethnic Russians at 40%, who moved there during Soviet occupation. | Riga, Latvia
76: The four star Europa Royale Riga is a luxury boutique hotel that was converted from a palace and is located at the very center of the Latvian capital - Riga. In 1876 the Benjamins' House was built for a wealthy merchant family called the Pfabs. Emilija and Antons Benjamins bought the house in 1928 and they were editors of daily newspaper and Atupta, a family magazine. Through wealth and prestige Mrs. Benjamins became the "First Lady of Latvia" and the house was filled with magnificent treasures: the largest Venetian chandeliers, silk wallpaper, tapestries, crystal, silver, etc...everything was the finest. In 1939 she became the richest woman in Europe. At a lavish party Emilija asked a fortune teller, Eugene Finks, to foretell her future. The fortune teller shared "you will die of starvation, lying on bare wooden boards". Emilija dismissed the man for his bad joke, but years later when the Soviets took control of Latvia they sent the police to the palace and took her to a Soviet work camp. On September 23, 1941 Emilija died of starvation, lying on a bed of bare wooden boards. Emilija's fabulous home was reopened in 2006 as the Europa Royal Riga Hotel. Even with modernization and conversion to a 60 room hotel the historical heredity of the magnificent mansion goes on. Seven of the rooms have been declared cultural monuments and the external appearance was retained without change. | Europa Royale Riga
79: For an added treat, in the evening, we went to the Riga Dome for an organ concert, and stopped at a tavern for supper
80: Salaspils Concentration Camp Salaspils Concentration Camp was established at the end of 1941 at a point 15 miles southeast of Riga Latvia. The Nazi bureaucracy officially called Salaspils a "Police Prison and Work Education Camp." In the middle of January 1942 at least 1,000 Jews from the Riga Ghetto, for a total of 1800 prisoners, were forced to work building the camp. In total about 12,000 prisoners were processed through Salaspils during its existence and many thousand died here due to illness, heavy labor, inhuman treatment, and epidemics. | "Behind this gate, the earth moans"
82: The ground is groaning
83: at least 632 children bodies were located
84: Art Nouveau | The Art Nouveau movement reached its peak in the early 20th century, which is when the majority of Riga’s Art Nouveau houses were built, beginning in 1899. Forty per cent of the centre of Riga building design are of this type, which is more than in any other European city. Walking the streets of Riga one is able to enjoy the finest collection of this type of architecture in Europe. Art Nouveau takes its design from nature, delighting in bunches of flowers, ornamentation, sinuous and undulating lines, relishing in antique beauty, fantasizing about dragons, sphinxes, gryphons and Cerberuses.
86: Riga Art Nouveau Museum Riga Art Nouveau Museum was opened on April 23rd, 2009. It is located in the apartment where the outstanding Latvian architect/engineer Konstantns Peksens lived until 1907. The current display of the museum shows the characteristic furnishings of an apartment of a Riga with an authentic interior of 1903. We dawned hats of the period and toured this amazing museum with guides to understand what life was like for the Latvian architect and family at the turn of the 20th century.
88: Riga Central Market Europe's largest market and bazaar is in Riga, Latvia. The Riga Central Market is one of the most notable structures in Riga. The main buildings are made up of five pavilions constructed by reusing old German Zeppelin hangars built from 1924 to 1930. The market is 778,000 sq feet with more than 3,000 trade stands. Shop until you drop takes on a whole new meaning in this place. To experience the market we were divided into groups and given a shopping list to buy food to make a surprise snack later in the evening. We were given the task to find Kefirs????
90: Vesma's recipe for Cold Beet Root Soup Beet root (pickled or boiled) grated- 0,5 l Kefir- 1 liters Hard boiled eggs- 6 Cucumbers - 0,5 kg Dill, spring onions, salt. Mix together and serve..... | The Latvia presenter was the adviser to the President of the Republic of Latvia and was very knowledgeable about the history of Latvia. He had been active in the rebuilding of his country. He had recently met with Hillary Clinton and shared stories and insights regarding the future of Latvia. Following his presentation, Vesma made us her sons favorite cold beet root soup. While enjoying her soup, local cheeses and produce her son gave us a young adults insights of living in Riga while pouring Riga Black Balsams Liquor to sample. | Riga Culture and History
92: Vermanes Darza Vermanes Darza is the second oldest park in Riga and was created in 1812. This beautiful park was just across the street from the Europa Royale Hotel and we spent much leisure time enjoying the gardens, paths and public areas. In the park men and boys played chess, children drove rented electric cars, vendors sold food and beverages, children played on playgrounds and inflatable slides, lovers strolled the walkways, families played on recreational creations to promote natural physical health and wooden cows were displayed as art forms throughout the gardens. It was an amazing park to relax and enjoy the beauty of nature and people of Riga
94: Cesis Castle in Cesis, Latvia The Cesis Castle is a medieval castle which was one of first stone fortifications built in ancient Latvia by German crusaders known as the Lavonian Brothers - Knights of the Sword in 1209.
95: Much of the 13th Century Castle is in ruin and is explored by candle light from a lantern to illuminate the dark inside passages and stair wells.
96: In the castle courtyard we enjoyed the opportunity to bowl as they did in the medieval times.
98: Cesis, Latvia Cesis is home to the Cesis Castle and is located in the northern part of the Central Vidzeme Upland. Cesis is on the Gauja River Valley, and is built on a series of ridges above the river overlooking the woods below
99: BRASLAS KROGS A cozy roadside saloon in the Straupe Parish of the Prgauja, alongside the Riga-Valmiera highway. Famous for their traditional “Latvian Table” with various tasty Latvian foods. It is a part of the Nature2000 sites in the Baltics to protect and showcase the areas environmental beauty and life in the countryside of Latvia.
100: Estonia Estonia with a population of 1.29 million is one of the least populated members of the European Union. The Estonians are a Finnic people, and the official language, Estonian, is a Finno-Ugric language closely related to Finnish and distantly to Hungarian. Estonian's trace a common history back to the Vikings and they consider their heritage as Nordic. The currency is the Euro and Estonia is the most economically developed of the Baltic countries, having received much assistance from Finland and Sweden after Soviet occupation. | July 19-22 We...... July 19 stopped at a seaside resort in Parnu, arrived in Tallinn, dined at Scotland Yard Restaurant, and walked to the Bay of Finland to watch the sunset. July 20 walked in the early morning by the Bay, visited the Estonia's "Singing Revolutions" amphitheater, explored Tallinn Old Town, and listened to a speaker on Estonian Independence July 21 boarded a tram to Kadriorg Park and toured Kadriorg Palace gardens, saw the Presidents Palace, toured the KUMU, lunched at Kohvik, toured the Seaplane Harbor Museum, and walked by the Patarei Prison and the Rotermann quarter, and dined at a medieval restaurant in Old Town July 22 boarded a mini-coach to transfer to Russia, enjoyed the morning drive across Estonia to Narva, and had a medieval lunch at Herman Castle on the Russian Boarder. | Estonia
102: 19 July 2012 | RannaHotell | Parnu, Estonia
103: Parnu, Estonia Parnu is the most popular health resort destination in Estonia and the seaside resort is situated on the Baltic. We enjoyed a brief stop to stretch our legs, by walking on the beach and wading in the Baltic Sea. We heard English, Russian, Finnish, German, and Estonian spoken here. Parnu is also known as Estonia's Summer Capital.
104: Tallinn, Estonia Tallinn is the largest city (population 418,582) and capital of Estonia. Tallinn sits on the Bay of Finland, directly across from Helsinki. Founded in 1154 the origin of the name Tallinn in Danish means "Castle/town." The first human settlement found in Tallinn's city center by archaeologists date back over 5,000 years making it one of the oldest inhabited cities and the oldest capital city in Northern Europe. Even though Tallinn has been attacked, sacked, razed, and pillaged on numerous occasions much of the medieval Old Town still remains and retains its 13th century charm. Today Tallinn continues as a seaport and trade center that is known worldwide for its technology and is nick named the "Silicon Valley on the Baltic." Skype software was created by Estonians' for face to face on-line communication on computers.
106: Domina Inn Ilmarine Hotel | Fully renovated and converted into a 4 star hotel in 1999, the Domina Inn Ilmarine Hotel occupies the former Friedrich Wiegand's Machine Works factory building, which dates back to 1881 and was renowned throughout the Russian Empire. Located within walking distance to the Tallinn's Medieval Old Town this was a wonderful Estonian treat. It was a perfect place to have a impromptu wine and cheese party to finish the day.
108: Tallinn Song Festival In 1869 Johann Voldemar Jannsen established the Estonian Song Festival while the nation was still a province of the Russian Empire. The Tallinn Song Festival grounds is a huge outside amphitheater were many singing protests have taken place. This festival was considered responsible for fostering an Estonian national awakening and "Singing Revolution" against Russian occupation during the 1980's. After the Singing Revolution in which thousands gathered and sang for Estonian independence, the new tradition was born and the Song Festivals are now held every five years. Today the Song Festival Grounds is used for modern concerts by popular performing groups like Madonna, Metallica, Elton John, etc.
109: wall around the Tallinn's Medieval Old Town
110: Tallinn's Medieval Old Town Tallinn has managed to preserve the completeness and structure of its medieval and Hanseatic origin. Most of the cobblestone streets and properties, important state and church buildings, citizens’ and merchant's residences, barns and warehouses dating back as far as to 11th century, are preserved in much of their original form. While walking up the hill to Toompea (Tallinn Upper Town) we explored St Olaf's Church, in the 15th century the tallest building in the world, St Nicholas Church and the Aleksand Nevsky Cathedral with its golden onion roof tops. The old town has a true medieval feel with street vendors and performers in period clothing and the view over the medieval red rooftops across the city center is spectacular at the Toompea viewing platforms of Patkuli and Kohuotsa. Tallinn Old Town is one of the best preserved medieval town of Europe with active open-air markets near the Town Hall Square and 26 towers along the town walls. Our favorite tower/gate by the hotel was the Fat Margaret Tower.
112: Tallinn Old Town | 20 July 2012
113: Tallinn Old Medieval Town
114: with aTram ride To better experience how the local people live we took a tram ride from our hotel out to Kadriorg Park
116: Kadriorg Park Kadriorg means "Catherine's Valley" in Estonian, and is a beautiful park with a Baroque palace for Catherine I of Russia, commissioned by Czar Peter the Great. In addition to the Kadriorg Palace are Peter the Great's cottage, the KUMU Art Museum, and Estonia's Presidential Palace.
117: Estonian Presidential Palace
118: Kadriorg Palace We viewed the resplendent Baroque palace residence built in 1718 by Russian Tsar Peter the Great for his Empress Catherine I. We explored the lovely manicured grounds. The Baroque palace was designed as a summer seaside property but after the emperor's death in 1725 the palace was no longer used by the Russian royal family.
119: Cottage of Peter the Great
120: We visited the KimstiMuseum or KUMU modern Art Museum located on the edge of the Kadriorg Park. KUMU features the leading Estonian Art and sculptures from the 18th century to present day. The collection also includes impressive Soviet-era works and the building is an art form in itself. | KUMU Art Museum
122: Seaplane Harbour Museum | Seaplane Harbour became a home port of museum ships. The museum is located in former seaplane hangars constructed in 1916 in Tallinn. This new museum opened its doors in May 2012 and is a wonderful exhibit of Sea Planes that flew over the water; ships, sailing vessels, boats and buoys that floated on the water, and submarines that were submerged under the water. Exhibitions provide a chance to participate in all forms of sea going matters and appreciate the sea.
126: Patarei Prison | KGB started the prison in 1920 and used until 2004
127: Exploring the Tallinn Neighborhoods During our free-time we walked to the Baltic Sea and enjoyed exploring the neighborhoods to see how everyday people lived. Since the fall of Communism (1991) it has been a slow process for the neighborhoods to regain their property and start to rebuild. Many homes were unpainted and few yards were cared for as Estonians move into capitalism and regain their wealth.
128: Gourmet Coffee Shop a fun place to eat. They served chili on a plate to eat with a fork.
129: We went to the Estonia Dining Room in Old Town to try Estonian Cuisine
130: Transfer to St. Petersburg, Russia Early in the morning a special small transport coach was boarded to drive through the country-side, passing by many coastal wind farms, in route to Russia.
131: Arriving in Narva, Estonia early morning, on the Russian border, we disembarked to enjoy lunch before the long wait to clear customs. We ate a medieval lunch at the Herman Castle, a stone fortress built by the Danes in 1256 on the Narva River that serves as and Estonian fortress on the Russian border. | Transfer to | St Petersburg
132: Estonian -Russian Border Crossing It only took four hours and having everything taken off the bus, answering many questions, passport review, and extensive visa's review before we were admitted to cross the Narva River and see the Ivangorod Fortress as we entered Russia. Russian cargo trucks were lined up for many miles waiting for days to cross over the border into Europe from Russia.
134: We... July 22 cleared Russian boarder customs at Narva, rode by mini-coach to St. Petersburg, dined out at a local restaurant, and enjoyed a sunset canal tour of St. Petersburg July 23 toured St. Petersburg by bus, visited Peter and Paul Fortress, lunched at Russian cafeteria, toured Catherine's Palace, and enjoyed a Russian Ballet performance July 24 toured St. Petersburg by bus, visited St. Nicholas Naval Cathedral, Grand Choral Synagogue, St. Isaac's Cathedral, Church of our Savior on the Spilled Blood, lunched in Russian café , toured the Hermitage Museum, and enjoyed the farewell dinner July 25 rose early to clear passport/visa check at airport, flew to Frankfurt, Chicago, and on to Kansas City. July 26 up early once again and drove to home from Kansas City, Missouri. | July 22-25
135: Russia officially known as the Russian Federation (1991) is the largest country in the world, about one-eighth of the Earth's inhabited land area with the largest population of any nation, approximately 143 million people. Russia has the world's largest reserves of mineral and energy resources and is the largest producer of oil and natural gas globally. Russia has the world's largest forest reserves and its lakes contain approximately one-quarter of the world's fresh water. It is no wonder that the people of Russia feel that the world revolves around them and Russian archeologist's believe that all Indo-European peoples descend from early nomadic tribes from Russian Steppes. Russian is the official language and the currency is the Ruble.
136: Russian Countryside
137: As soon as we crossed the Russian border the road back to Estonia was lined with miles and miles of cargo trucks waiting to leave Russia. Our bus driver shared that many of the trucks would wait in line for many days to cross the border. Along the poorly maintained road were many small primitive farms with gardens. Russian peasants were alongside the road selling produce. The hotels were said to have micro-concrete (90% concrete and 10% microphones) so that Russian authorities could listen to conversations of visitors during the cold-war era. As we got closer to St. Petersburg the typical gray concrete or white brick Soviet housing were the noted residence of the people. | Russian Border to St Petersburg
138: St. Petersburg, Russia Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on May 27, 1703. From 1713 to 1728 and from 1732 to 1918, Saint Petersburg was the Imperial Capital of Russia. In 1918 the central government bodies moved from Saint Petersburg (then named Petrograd) to Moscow. It is Russia's second largest city, after Moscow, with 5 million inhabitants. In 1991 it was renamed Saint Petersburg and it continues as a major European cultural center, and important Russian port on the Baltic Sea. Saint Petersburg is often described as the "Window to the West" and home of "The Hermitage," the largest Art Museum in the world.
140: Canal Tour St Petersburg is called the "Venice of the North" and we explored the canals joining into the Neva River to see picturesque islands, canals, bridges, including the golden spires of the Peter and Paul fortress, stunning gilded St. Isaac's Cathedral, the Hermitage, and many tsars palaces. Before the Russian revolution the tsars and tsarinas of the Russian empire lived extravagant lives and created a beautiful city. The evening canal tour was a highlight of St Petersburg, with clear skies and a beautiful sunset, because the rest of the Russian visit was overcast and raining.
146: The Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of St. Petersburg, Russia, founded by Peter the Great in 1703. The fortress contains several notable buildings clustered around the Peter and Paul Cathedral (1712–1733), which has a 404 ft bell-tower and a gilded angel-topped cupola. The cathedral is the burial place of all Russian tsars from Peter I to Alexander III, with the exception of Peter II and Ivan VI. The remains of Nicholas II and his family, who were massacred, were also interred there in the side St. Catherine's Chapel, on the 80th anniversary of their deaths, July 17, 1998. Towards the end of 2006, the remains of Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna were brought from Roskilde Cathedral outside Copenhagen to finally rest next to her husband, Alexander III. Today the Peter and Paul Fortress is the State Museum of Saint Petersburg History. | Peter and Paul Fortress
148: Peter the Great | Catherine I | Empress Maria | Alexander II
149: Chapel of St. Catherine the Martyr The final resting place of Czar Nicholas II his wife,family and servants who were buried on July 17th 1998 the 80th anniversary of their murder.
150: The Church of Our Savior on the Spilled Blood
152: Catherine 's Summer Palace - Pushkin, Russia Catherine's Summer Palace is a blue stucco facade Rococo palace, built in 1717, and located in the town of Pushkin, 20 miles southeast of St. Petersburg, Russia. It was the opulent summer residence of the Russian czars and used for formal entertaining. The interior rooms have unique inlaid wooden floors, with spectacular painted mural ceilings, silk wallpaper, marble fire places, gilded carvings and ornamentation to dazzle any visitor. What is amazing is that during World War II the Germans burned the Palace to the ground and it has been rebuilt by the Russians with attention to detail to restore Catherine's Palace to its original grandeur.
158: Russian Ballet at the Alexandrinsky Theater The first Russian Ballet company was the Imperial School of Ballet in St. Petersburg in the 1740s and Swan Lake was first performed in St Petersburg, Russia in 1877, to become the world's most famous, and indeed loved, classical ballet. We enjoyed the Swan Lake performance at the Alexandrinsky Theater and were amazed by the love story between Prince Siegfried and Odette, a girl who was transformed by the evil magician Rothbart into the Swan Queen.
160: St Nicholas' Naval Cathedral The marine regimental church was built on the bank of the Kryukov Canal in 1753–1762. The main church is dedicated to Saint Nicholas (a patron saint of seamen). Numerous memorial plaques for the crews lost in sunken Soviet submarines are commemorated there.
161: Grand Choral Synagogue The Grand Choral Synagogue of St. Petersburg, sometimes called the St. Petersburg Synagogue, is the second largest synagogue in Europe. It was built between 1880 and 1888 and has gone through many changes during the revolution, wars, and communist times. During the wars the Synagogue has served as a hospital.
162: Restoran Cabaret Nel Russian Cuisine
163: St Petersburg Walking Tour
164: Saint Isaac's Cathedral | Saint Isaac's Cathedral or Isaakievskiy Sobor is the largest Russian Orthodox Cathedral in the city. It is dedicated to Saint Isaac of Dalmatia, a patron saint of Peter the Great and was built from 1818 to 1858. During the revolution it was turned into the Anti-religious Museum and today it serves as the Museum of the History of Religion. The enormous building rests on 10,000 tree trunks and has amazing grandiose sculptures, reliefs, mosaics, and statues.
165: Saint Peter | Saint Isaac
166: Hermitage Museum The Hermitage Museum is Russia's best gallery of world art, one of the most prominent art museums in the world. The museum was founded in 1764 when Catherine the Great purchased a collection of 255 paintings from the German city of Berlin. The Hermitage Museum was the Winter Palace of the Tsars. Magnificently located on the bank of the Neva River, this green-and-white three-story palace is a marvel of Baroque architecture and boasts 1,786 doors, 1,945 windows and 1,057 elegantly and lavishly decorated halls and rooms. Today, the Hermitage boasts over 2.7 million exhibits and displays a diverse range of art and artifacts from all over the world and from throughout history (from Ancient Egypt to the early 20th century Europe). The Hermitage's collections include works by Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael and Titian. Also a unique collection by Rembrandt and Ruben with many French Impressionist works by Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, Monet, and Pissarro. We also saw many other works by Van Gogh, Matisse, Gauguin and several sculptures by Rodin.
167: The Crouching Boy Michelangelo | Madonna and Child Leonardo da Vinci | Portrait of the Actress Antonia Zarate Franciso de Goya
168: Throne Room in St George Hall
169: Young Woman With Earrings Rembrandt | In the Garden Renoir | Flora Rembrandt | Holy Family Rembrandt
170: Happy Birthday Mae The Ambassador Hotel provided a bottle of champagne as a gift for Mae to enjoy her birthday, after touring Catherine's Summer Palace and preparing for our farewell dinner.
171: Farewell Dinner The last night in Russia and the end of our Baltic trip we were taken by bus to a local restaurant and enjoyed a delicious dinner, fine wine, and talked with our new friends about our adventures as we bid Vesma goodbye and toasted to someday returning to the Baltic's States.
172: Up Early to Travel Home The last day started at 3:30 in the morning. At 4:00 AM we enjoyed box-breakfasts on the bus as we traveled to the airport to clear Russian Customs, so that we could start the journey from St. Petersburg, Russia to Frankfurt, Germany, and then an overseas flight to Chicago with a final destination of Kansas City.
173: The flights on June 25 were long with long layovers in Frankfurt and Chicago. The total trip took well over 23 hours and we were tired and suffering from jet lag when we arrived in Kansas City. Since we had parked our car at the Comfort Inn (Park and Ride) in Platte City, Missouri we enjoyed a Thai dinner and turned in early to rest. We drove back to Wichita on June 26, 2012 and arrived home mid-day... What a Trip!
174: By the end of our adventures we experienced... 6 plane rides 1 train ride 1 tram ride 16 bus rides 2 boat rides 7 hotel check-ins 1 ferry ride | Top 10 cultural experiences.... Valkininkai Village Library Lunch with Daiva Kaslauskoi Karaite Culture and prepared kibinai for lunch Irena story as an Lithuanian Siberia survivor Searching for Baltic Amber on the Curonian Spit Kursmariu Tavern owner's story and serenade Making clay objects at the Salantai Adult Day Care Center Shopped Riga Central Market Border Crossing into Russia Russian Ballet
175: Top 25 sights visited Lithuania Cathedral of Vilnius Vilnius University Church of Saints Peter & Paul Trakai Castle KGB Genocide Victims Museum Old Town Vilnius Rumsiske Open Air Museum Hill of Witches Parnidzio Dune and sundial Hill of Crosses Latvia Rundale Palace Old Town Riga Salaspils Concentration Camp Riga Art Nouveau Museum Cesis Castle | Estonia Old Medieval Tallinn Kadriorg Palace & KUMU Art Museum Seaplane Harbour Museum Russia Sundown St Petersburg Canal Tour Peter and Paul Fortress Catherine 's Summer Palace St Nicholas' Naval Cathedral Grand Choral Synagogue Saint Isaac's Cathedral Hermitage Museum