Saturday, June 18, 2011

Helsinki, Finland, June 18

Sweden, in the 1700s, was the dominant power in Scandinavia, and
controlled most of the land in Scandinavia. In 1809 Russia took
Finland from Sweden, and in 1917 Finland gained its independence from
Russia. Today we walked around the central part of Helsinki, Finland.
It's clean and prosperous. Public transportation is sleek trains,
trams, and buses. I saw only a few bicycles; very different from
Copenhagen and Stockholm.

We saw the market square (flea market), very nice City Hall, the huge
Lutheran Cathedral, the ornate Russian Orthodox Uspenski Cathedral,
the Central Railway Station, and the Esplanade (Helsinki's top
shopping boulevard). We saw a statue and fountain that caused a bit of
an uproar when it was unveiled in about 1930. It is a nude 19-year-old
woman (not the sculpture's wife) surrounded by several sea lions with
their tongues hanging out. Art is in the eyes of the beholder. We also
saw several "green" displays each showing an old car partially covered
with grass, and with small, old, household appliances around it.

Last night we set our clocks one hour ahead, so we are now in the same
time zone as Cairo and Istanbul (I didn't think we were that far
east). Tonight we set our clocks ahead again, so tomorrow, in St
Petersburg, Russia, we will be in the same time zone as Baghdad,
Kuwait, and Iran.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Stockholm, Sweden June 17

Friday, June 17. Sunrise was at 3:30am. Our ship took aboard a local pilot to guide us (4 hours) to Stockholm, Sweden, through the numerous thousands of islands that make up the Stockholm Archipelago. Some of the islands are very small and uninhabitable, but most have trees and many are inhabited.

Stockholm is built on 14 islands. After the ship docked, and Swedish authorities gave the ship's passengers clearance to enter Sweden, we took a Hop On - Hop Off boat a short distance to another island where we went through the Vasa Museum. The Vasa was a 17-century Swedish warship that was built against ship-builder's knowledge and plans, at the direction of the Swedish King Gustavas Adolphus. The kind demanded that the ship have a second gun deck that put the center of gravity too high. Twenty minutes into the maiden voyage the sails were raised and the wind rolled the ship over, sinking the ship. The ship remained on the bottom of the sea until 1961. The ship was cleaned and restored and is now displayed in its own museum.

We then took another Hop On - Hop Off boat a short distance to Gamla Stan, or Stockholm's Old Town (on the same island as our ship is docked). Until the 1600s, all of Stockholm fit onto Gamla Stan. The cobblestone streets are very narrow. We saw old buildings and churches. The town square has the (large) water fountain that all distances to Stockholm are measured from. Also in that square is the Nobel Museum, where all but one of the Nobel prizes are awarded.

We then walked back to our ship. It rained lightly all day but that didn't stop us from sightseeing and walking.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Copenhagen, Denmark, day 3

June 15. The train station is a beautiful, clean, and wonderful old structure. It is a hub of activity, with numerous trains coming and going. The interior has a beautiful structure of wooden beams and arches. Beneath some of the arches is part of the modern station; a glass structure with an arch top, that has an appearance somewhat similar to a train car. This glass structure contains shops.

On our third and last day in Copenhagen, we walked on Hans Christian Andersens Boulevard across a bridge to another island (there are hundreds of islands in Denmark, and many in Copenhagen). We saw Our Savior's Church; a beautiful and a popular sight for tourists. The church has a spiral spire (with 400 steps; we didn't climb them). There is also a very ornate alter and large pipe organ.

Copenhagen has many small elephant statues that are painted in different schemes; very colorful.

We then walked through part of Christiana, a hippie counterculture squatter's colony. Lots of graffiti color and drug use, and large signs proclaiming no cameras or pictures. We sat at a picnic table and had a lunch of sandwiches we made from the breakfast rolls, ham, and cheese.

The weather is really wonderful; sunny and about 66F.

On June 16, at sea, on the way to Stockholm, Sweden, we attended port talks describing the history and sights of Stockholm and of St Petersburg, Russia. The current temperature is 59F.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Copenhagen, Denmark, day 2

Day 2 in Copenhagen, Denmark, Our missing luggage arrived yesterday, so we could be tourists instead of shoppers (for replacement clothing). Our hotel is located near the center of Copenhagen, so it is easy to walk to many sights, especially in this beautiful weather. Photos 0055 and 0098 are the Nyhavn canal area. Very old and picturesque. We passed an archaeological dig, in the middle of a busy street, where people with museum T-shirts were carefully scraping what appeared to be an old city wall. Notice the two hollow-tree pipes in photo 0121. The Lego store has a huge display that attracted many people. There are large figures, a dragon, and a large wall, all constructed of Legos. The train's Central Station has a large number of parked bicycles all around the station. Many people in dress clothing are riding bicycles.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Copenhagen, Denmark

Photo 0848 shows the beautiful train station, A clean and wonderful old structure.

Photo 9983 shows the town square so typical in Europe; lots of space, beautiful stonework, a fountain, and people enjoying the day.

We will be here tomorrow, also, before we board the ship.

We have often remarked that a person needs to be flexible if they are going to travel

This is how our cruise vacation started yesterday.

1. We took a cab to the airport. When going around the curve to enter the interstate highway to the airport, the vehicle in front of us was stopped in the merge lane, so the cab driver stopped. A few seconds later we were rear-ended by a young man in a car.The cab and car were both drivable, but had significant damage, and apparently no one was injured.

2. The plane to take us to the Washington Dulles airport, was extremely late, so we were going to miss our Scandinavian Airlines flight to Copenhagen. The gate agent put us on an US Air flight to Frankfurt, Germany, then a Lufthansa flight to Copenhagen, Neither of our checked bags made it to Copenhagen, so we are hoping they will show-up tomorrow. Yea! They did show up!

3. When we were at the gate in Philadelphia, we met a woman who also was traveling to the Emerald Princess cruise ship. While the three of us were walking to the gate for the flight to Frankfurt, the woman (walking behind me), fainted  and fell backwards, hitting her head on the marble floor. The airport police came and took her to a medical room. We continued to the plane and haven't seen the woman since that fall.