S: Jewels of the Baltic June 7 - June 20, 2012
FC: Jewels of the Baltic June 7 - June 20, 2012 | Oceania Nautica
1: June 8 Arrived in Copenhagen mid-morning. Then to Admiral Hotel, which was a nice hotel converted from non-military barracks right on the water and near many historic sites. We walked a few blocks from the hotel. Then Janice and I took a taxi to Tivoli Gardens where we enjoyed a nice evening and dinner. June 9 Bus tour of Copenhagen with our guide, BJ. We walked to the Amalienborg Palace, the winter home of the Danish Royal family. We saw the Marble Church with the largest dome in Scandinavia and visited Nyhavn, the 17th century waterfront where we viewed “The Little Mermaid.” We also drove over the water to a nice resort island which reminded us a bit of Martha’s Vineyard with its small old cottages, close together, and each with beautiful flowers. Last, we visited an “ice bar” where everything was made of ice, including the floor, walls, bars, counters, stools, and even the glasses. We were served a nice Absolute Strawberry Vodka drink which warmed the insides. On our tour, we learned that 38 percent of the Danish ride bicycles daily, and there are parking lots just for bicycles. No fat locals! Everything was extremely clean. We boarded our ship about 4 p.m. Janice and I were treated to an upgrade to a penthouse suite which included not only maid service but a butler.
4: June 10 Warnemunde Germany was our first port. After a late breakfast on the ship, Janice and I walked into the seaside town. There were lovely eateries serving fresh fish, fruits, and vegetables. We shopped a bit when the stores opened at 1:00 p.m. and found very nice and reasonably priced scarves. We met our tour bus at 1:45 p.m. for a tour of the Mecklenburg countryside. We also had a short ride on a narrow gauge steam train—“The Molli.” Warnemunde is a section of Rostock in eastern Germany. He was heavily bombed during WWII because of the factories and shipyards that supported the Nazis. We visited a 700 year old red brick cathedral in Bad Doberan. Then we visited Heiligendamm, Germany’s oldest seaside resort, which was founded in 1793. George Bush had attended an important meeting here during his presidency. We next stopped at a nice hotel in Kuhlungsborn for a delicious homemade apple crumb cake. It was a lovely day. Durten, age 34, who was born in Rostock, was our guide. When she was 17, she had worked as a Nanny to 4 children in New York City.
7: June 11 Docked in Ronne (Bornholm), Denmark at 9 a.m. This is the oldest part of Denmark. Janice and I did “The Best of Bornholm” tour with our guide Sofie, who dearly loved her island. We drove along the cost to Gudhjen and visited a very old church and cemetery here, which provided nice views of the Baltic and the town. We visited a smokehouse and glassblowing factory. The economy is supported by 1/3 agriculture, 1/3 tourism, and 1/3 small business. The island is 40KM X 20 KM. We drove a scenic route through the Almindingen Forest to the Hammershus Fortress and a Round Church. The fortress ruins were surrounded by milkweed and bridal wreath spirea. All the fish for McDonald’s fish sandwiches worldwide are processed on the island. The fish are caught north of Denmark and Russia. The Round Church is thought to have been built by the Knights Templar. Grains including rape are produced here. There are over 20,000 deer on the island. There were lots of bicycles here as well. At different times the island has been occupied by the Swedes, Germans, and Russians, but is now Danish again. Dinner tonight in the Toscano Italian Restaurant, followed by “American Pie” show by the ships 4 singers and dancers.
11: June 12 Arrived Gdansk Poland. Together with Sopot and Gdynia, Gdansk forms the Tri-City, along the south and west coast of the Gulf of Gdansk. We met early with our guide, a nice lady, but hard to understand. We were in a new Mercedes bus. We passed the House of the Pelplin Abbots, dating from 1612; gardens and the Oliva Cathedral. We saw the Gdansk shipyards where the Solidarity Movement began and the Monument Square to honor it. Then we toured the Old Town Gdansk with its replica building fronts. All the originals were destroyed in WWII. We saw where Lech Walesa now offices. We saw the Upland Gate entrance, the Great Armory, and St. Mary’s Church. We also saw lots of amber jewelry. Janice and I bought really cute hats made by the owner of one of the very small shops. Dinner in the Main Dining Room and an early “lights out.”
17: June 13 Docked in Visby, Sweden on the island of Gotland at 8 a.m. The Old Town of Visby is encircled by a stone wall with over 50 towers. Janice and I walked the narrow cobbled streets with tiny houses and gardens, a very well preserved medieval city. We tendered over and toured another beautiful church with unusual stained glass windows. We saw the ruins of two huge old cathedrals that had been bombed during the war and the remains of the stone walls that enclosed the very hilly city. We liked shopping here. I bought some handmade jewelry and little soaps here. Janice and I had interesting Swedish crepes for a snack. We sat on a deck and enjoyed watching the other people. Dinner in the ship’s main dining room and another early evening.
20: June 14 10 a.m. arrival in Riga, Latvia. Janice and I had an early lunch on the ship as we slept in a bit. We met our exclusive Oceania tour group at 12:45 (only 8 of us) for a tour of Riga. Riga is known for its art nouveau architecture, especially that by Michael Isaacstein. Riga was controlled by Russia from 1945 – 1991. Much has improved in the last 20 years. Riga is the third largest city in the Baltic with a population of more than 700,000. The old city is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Our guide was Tonya, and she spoke excellent English. St. John’s Church is being renovated, and it is the largest in the Baltic. We also saw the St. George’s and St. Peter’s churches. We saw the medieval dwelling houses known as the “Three Brothers,” the House of Blackheads, and the Large and Small Guild buildings. We went to the center of Old Town, the Dome Square , and saw the magnificent Dome Cathedral. We saw interesting “Cat’s House,” with the cat sculpture perched on the pointed dome and the sculpture of the Town Musicians of Bremen, inspired by the Grimms Brothers’ fable. We saw the Freedom Monument, which was erected in 1935. The beautiful architecture, the natural setting on the Baltic with the Daugava River running through the city, and the lovely weather made this day a favorite. Janice and I had dinner in the Polo Grill with friends, and I watched the sun drop into the ocean at 11:30 p.m. June 15 Tallinn Estonia. We ported at Noon and enjoyed a city excursion provided by Landmark. We toured both upper and lower Tallinn by foot, climbing the cobblestone streets and learning about the architecture, the guild houses, the churches, and the oldest Apothecary Shop still in use. It was lovely to see, but we had too little time for shopping and exploring on our own. It is another wonderful medieval city.
25: June 16 and 17 St. Petersburg Russia! We had two full days of touring with Irina, who was great and easy to understand. Of course, the highlights were Catherine’s Palace and The Hermitage, a portion of which was home to the Russian Tzars. Irina took us through all 4 sections, pointing out the most important features and the most noted works of art. The Museum was founded in 1764 by Catherine the Great, and today houses about 2.7 million exhibits. We had lunch each day in local restaurants—Deji Vu first with Chicken Kiev, and the second one was beautiful—a real treat. Here we were served beef stroganoff with rice and ice cream sundaes for dessert. Our bus tour guide pointed out the significant sites of the city: Rostral Column, The Academy of Fine Arts with the 13th Century Sphinx on the pier; Monument to Peter the Great; St. Isaac’s Square and Cathedral; the angels decorating the colonnade of St. Isaac’s dome; and we were especially delighted to tour The Church on the Spilled Blood. Alexander III built it on the spot where his father, Alexander II was martyred. In driving through the shopping part of town, we saw the Singer Sewing Machine Company building, which was lovely. We had 2-3 souvenir stops for shopping during our two days here. Dinner in the Polo Grill.
36: June 18 Docked in Helsinki, Finland at 8 a.m. Helsinki has quaint street markets, historic buildings and castles with neo-classical, baroque, and ultra-modern architecture. Hitler’s forces were tricked into bombing outside the city, and the city center was largely spared. It has the best economy of the Scandinavian countries. The average wage is $3,000 per month with a 25% tax rate. Social medicine and a college education are available to all. Janice and I did the Vintage Tram tour from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. We toured the districts of Kaivopuisto , Eira, and Ullanlinna, the most prestigious residential areas in Helsinki. We saw the Contemporary Art Museum Kiasma, Parliament House, the National Museum, Finlandia Hall, and the Opera House. We had a brief time in the Market Area for a little shopping. In concluding, we saw the Swedish Theater, the Old Church, the oldest remaining church in Helsinki, designed by Carl Ludvig Engel. Helsinki is a country of dual languages—Swedish and Finnish. It was under Swedish rule for so many years, all books, newspapers, and educational materials are printed in both languages. Janice and I had tea at 4 p.m. and watched the ship sail away from Helsinki. Then we attended a cocktail party hosted by Vickie. We attended the Spanish guitarist program before dinner in the Main Dining Room.
38: June 19 We docked in Stockholm, Sweden at 8 a.m. Janice and I had an early breakfast in the dining room. We were picked up for our city tour at 9:30 a.m. We drove past the homes of ambassadors and saw the embassies of many countries with their prime locations overlooking the water. The VASA Museum was the highlight of our tour. The VASA ship sunk in the 1600’s and was underwater for 333 years before it was brought up in 1961. It is on full display as the museum was built around the ship and was completed in 1991. We were able to view the ship on all sides from 4 levels and see many of the items that were found on the ship. We then toured the Royal Palace—whose claim to fame is having one more room than the Buckingham Palace in London. There were some very pretty rooms and staircases. Then we went to the square in Old Town where the Nobel Museum is located. Then we were taken to the Sheraton Hotel in Stockholm for the evening. Janice and I walked back to Old Town and went inside the beautiful Nobel Museum building but did not have time to tour. We had dinner at a sidewalk café in the Old Town and did more people-watching. Quite a nice day. Then to Hotel to do final packing for trip home.