We arrived in Copenhagen in the late afternoon, secured our hotel room, and went for a walk.  We strolled over the grassy embankments of the port’s citadel.  It was a beautiful evening.  We found the famous Little Mermaid and headed back to the hotel.

  

The next morning, we left the hotel at 12:00 and were walking the deck of our cruise ship by 12:40. This was a record for us.  Our transatlantic cruise in Florida took much longer.  We think the difference was due to the size of the ship.  It is just 915 feet long and only holds 2,300 passengers.  This makes for a less frantic experience.  I’m guessing we added at least ½ a day of relaxation to our cruise by not getting lost every time we left our cabin.  We are now fans of smaller ships.

 

Riga, Latvia

Most of the signs throughout the city were in both Latvian and Russian.  So many of these smaller countries were occupied by other countries over the years.  Riga definitely has a strong Russian influence.  We particularly enjoyed checking out the Art Nouveau Neighborhood.  You’ll notice that I’ve included an image of ‘Sam’ the Space Monkey.  This was quite the surprise to see in the park.  The Russian artist created this in memory of all the animals that were sent into space by the Russians.  Even after learning this, it still was a little bit weird to see Sam amongst the park trees.  I wonder how many kids have freaked out.  “Momma!  Momma!  There’s a giant monkey in the park!”  “Nyet, silly child!”

  

  

 

Tallinn, Estonia

We enjoyed the vibe of Tallinn.  The city also has some great architecture to see.  It feels less Russian than Riga. The Nordic medieval city is very walkable and inviting.  The large sections of old wall that separated two cities still stands.  These were two cities next to each other that just didn’t like each other … so up goes a wall.  Who would ever do that?!

  

 

St. Petersburg, Russia

This was the only port where we paid for a shore excursion through the ship.  To walk off the ship and out through Russian passport control requires a visa or being part of a ship-sponsored tour.  We couldn’t secure a visa since we are traveling, so a 1½ day guided tour was our option.  For Marsha, the reason for our Baltic Cruise was going to St. Petersburg to see the Hermitage Museum.  The museum is the 3rd largest in the world.  As you can see, the interior is very impressive.  For me, the highlight was standing before Rembrandt’s ‘The Prodigal Son.’  This is one of my all-time favorite paintings and was exciting to see in person. Our tour took us to Peter and Paul’s fortress and church. All the czars are buried here.  They were scattered throughout the inside of the church with horizontal grave stones. Kind of like polished stone coffee tables … only different. Our next stop was very impressive, Church on Spilled Blood.  This is the classic-looking Russian structure that is the featured image for this post.  As impressive as the outside was, the mosaic interior was hard to take in.  It is a functioning church with regular services.  There are no pews or chairs.  The congregation stands … and it could be for hours.On our 2nd day, we drove by the only golf course in Russia on the way to the Peterhof Gardens.  It was not an impressive-looking course.  The Gardens were Peter the Great’s attempt to outdo the French gardens at Versailles.  We have now been to both and both are impressive in their own way.  We were there with thousands of others to see the main fountains turn on.  All the fountains in the Peterhof Gardens are natural; no mechanical device, all by water pressure.  God also turned on His fountains and we got drenched.  St. Petersburg’s weather is the most volatile we have ever experienced.

  

  

  

  

 

Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki was one of only two ports in which we were able to walk off the ship and enter town.  All the others required additional transportation … something not mentioned in the literature.In the very center of this modern town is a wooden structure that looks something like a handle-less tea cup.  It is the Kamppi Chapel of Silence.  There are no services held here.  It is open to all who want to get away from the rush and spend some time meditating.  The beautiful structure is run in tandem with Helsinki’s social services and the Lutheran church.  We spent a few minutes enjoying some quiet time.After running for shelter from several rain outbursts, we found Temppeliaukio Church, the ‘Church in the Rock.’ This is literally a church that was blasted out of the granite hillside in 1969.  This church in the round has wonderful wood accents and when you look to the ceiling, you see a circular, 13-mile long coil of copper ribbon.  It also has windows encircling the sanctuary to provide light.  A very nice experience.

 

Stockholm, Sweden

This was our favorite port of call.  Since we couldn’t walk into town, we decided to try another Hop on / Hop Off Bus.  These have been great in other cities and proved to be so here.  We also added the boat ride to get a water view of this great city.Now we have to admit, one of the factors for enjoying Stockholm so much may have been due to the beautiful day we had. It was nice not taking our jackets, umbrella, and hats with us.  As in the majority of the cities we have visited, there is at least one, and usually many more, ‘Dude on a Horse’ statues.  Here we have St George killing that pesky Dragon.  The city hall building is where they hand out the Nobel Prizes.  Now I know where I need to go when I get the call.  We stumbled into the changing of the horse guards for the palace.  We are not sure how they can ride a horse and play instruments at the same time. We left Stockholm rather early in the afternoon because it took 4+ hours to just navigate through all the islands to return to the Baltic Sea.

  

  

 

Gdansk, Poland

Nothing to report here because we decided to stay on board and relax … which we thoroughly enjoyed.  We had the hot tub all to ourselves.  It was going to take a shuttle bus, a train, plus some walking, just to get into town.  Travel time was going to be close to 1½ hours, one way.  So, the hot tub won out.

We returned to the Copenhagen port.  The last morning, we ate breakfast, returned to our cabins for our suitcases and backpacks, and walked right off the ship … another record time.  Small ships are great! We took a bus, metro, and then a train to Hamburg to start our German and Eastern Europe leg of the Great Adventure.  We are looking forward to internet again and doing some laundry.  Someone in the ship cabin was getting a little ripe.  The only problem with leaving the ship and being on our own … we don’t know who is going to feed us or make our beds.  Hopefully we will survive.

 

Until next time … Auf wiedersehen!

 

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Preston & Marsha

Don’t Retire: Reload – Groovin’ on the Flip Side