Baltic Cruise

                                                            July 19, 2005

 
Mel and I arrived in London after the first bombing and left the day before the second attempt.  Needless to 
say we did not ride the busses or take the Tube while we were there.

We arrived in London on July 18th.  On the 19th we left early for a tour to Salisbury, Stonehenge and Bath.  
Salisbury
is a wonderful walled city with probably the finest medieval Cathedral in Britain.  After a tour of the
church we drove to
Stonehenge and walked around the monument.  It is fascinating.  It is a mystery how these
ancient stones ever made it to the Salisbury Plains.  What beautiful country.

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Leaving Stonehenge we drove to the city of Bath.  This is a wonderful, elegant city and one we would love to go
back to and stay a night or two.  We toured the Roman Baths Museum and wandered around this beautiful city.

On July 20th we were driven to
Dover where we boarded the ship just in time for lunch. The white cliffs of  
Dover
are incredible. Some of the cliff rises to 300 feet. They are made up of shells of sea creatures that were compressed millions of years ago.

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Our ship is a 600 or 650 passenger ship.  This is a smaller ship then we usually cruise on. With the layout of the 
ship we were able to book a room in the front of the vessel.  We usually book somewhere in the middle of a ship. 
We sat on our deck and enjoyed a bottle of
Champagne while we cruised out of the harbor to cross the  
English Channel
.  It was a beautiful clear, sunny day.  We were off to the port of Zeebrugge, Belgium, which 
lies along the
North Sea.  The next morning we visited the city of Brugge.  It is a stunning representation of 
Gothic and Roman architecture. We walked through narrow, twisting cobblestone streets, tree-lined canals and gabled  facades.  The highlight was a canal boat ride.   It is a beautiful city.

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July 22nd
Our next stop was
Amsterdam.  We did not take a tour into Amsterdam; instead we went to two Dutch villages. 
We visited Marken and Volendam.  Marken is a quaint fishing hamlet on the shores of former
Zuider Zee . The  
Zuider Zee
was a large lake, now it joins the North Sea.  Marken dates back to the 13th century.  Many local 
residents still wear colorful ancestral costumes.  Next we drove to Volendam where a guided tour introduced us 
to this 14th century village. There were narrow canals and quaint drawbridges in this charming little fishing 
village.  After Volendam we visited a local dairy farm where cheeses were produced.  From there we returned 
to our ship.

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July 23rd
We were at sea.  Now I must say that we loved where our stateroom was located except while we were in the
 
North Sea
.  The night of the 22nd I woke up around 2 am and thought we should get dressed and sleep in our 
life jackets.  The ship was really rocking up and down.  Mel kept thinking of the movie ďThe Perfect StormĒ.  
It wasnít that bad but for two nights we really rocked and rolled.

We entered the Kiel Canal on our way to Warnemuende, Germany.  The Kiel Canal is an artificial waterway 
in north-western
Germany.  It links the North Sea and the Baltic Sea.  It was constructed between 1887 and 
1895.  The
Baltic Sea is a large fresh water Sea.  It is land locked and was calm sailing.
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The city of Warnemunde is in walking distance to the port.  We just went into the town and wondered around 
for a few hours. It is a popular seaside resort town on the
Baltic Sea.  It has cozy pubs and attractive shops.  We 
did have beer and bratwurst for lunch, of course.  

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July 25
We have arrived in
Copenhagen, Denmark. The city is one of Europeís oldest and most wonderful capitals. The Danish monarchy is the oldest in the world and the queen resides in the center of the city.  It is a beautiful and 
culturally rich city.  Our tour took us to the famous bronze figure of the Little Mermaid.  We stopped by the
Amalienborg Palace, a winter residence of the Royal Family.   On our way back to the ship we passed the famous Tivoli Gardens .

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July 26th
We arrived at
Gdansk, Poland.   We began with a drive to the town of Oliwa where we visited the Oliwa 
Cathedral.  It dates back to the 13th century and is a mix of Romanesque, Gothic and Rococo styles.  It has an impressive complex of three organs consisting of 7,876 tin and wood pipes.   We were treated to a brief  
performance.  After Oliwa we went to the historic heart of
Gdansk.  It is a wonderful medieval city.  It is filled 
with art galleries, cafes, pubs and jewelry houses.
Gdansk is also where World War II started.  The old town
has been restored but across the canal you can still see bombed out buildings.

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Baltic Amber is 40-60 millions old.  Amber begins as a resin exuded from trees.   It has the unique ability to 
encompass and preserve organic materials it encounters. 
Gdansk is a great place to shop for Amber.  

 

July 27 
We were at sea.

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July 28
We arrived in
Helsinki , Finland.   It is the chief seaport of Finland.  We drove past the open-air market,  the 
Uspenski Orthodoxy Cathedral and the Presidential Palace to
Senate Square.  We had a brief stop at the 
Finlandia Lutheran Cathedral.  Our tour then took us past the Opera House, Museums and Parliament buildings. 
We continued to the little wonderful town of
Porvoo . It is Finlandís second oldest town.  It received its charter 
in 1346.  Our tour took us to the unique medieval Cathedral, Kirkkotori.   The church was founded in 1346. 
We strolled through the picturesque cobblestone streets and brightly painted wooden buildings.

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July 29th
We arrived in
St Petersburg, Russia.  The port is oppressive looking.  Large cranes everywhere.  Not at all 
pretty. There are old rusty train cars sitting on the tracks that run along the port.  You would think it was still 
1945.  The majority of the town is dark, dull and dirty looking. The people live in HUGE apartment type buildings. There arenít parks or places for kids to play.  Very different from what I had expected. It hasnít quite stepped 
into the 21st century. 
The churches, palaces and museum have been restored and are marvelous. The city is rich 
in history.
St. Petersburg is wrapped in legends and stories.  Peter the Great was a very forward thinking Czar. 
The city was built on a marsh that was drained and the hills around it leveled.  It was founded in 1703. The city 
went through a building boom under Czarinas Elizabeth and Catherine and Czar Alexander I.
 

We did five tours in three days.  Our first tour was Highlights of St. Petersburg. We drove to the center of the 
city.  We passed by St. Nicholas Church and the ballet house.  We then stopped at St. Isaacís Cathedral.  Its 
dome is covered in 200 pounds of gold.  We drove through
Palace Square. We visited Peter and Paul Cathedral, 
which is where the Royal families are buried.  We then visited the extraordinary Church of the Savior, or Church 
of the Spilled Blood.  This is the structure you always see when they show
St. Petersburg.  This marvelous Russian-style church was built on the spot where Emperor Alexander II was assassinated in March 1881.  We 
then visited two more Cathedrals on the way back to the ship.

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That night we had a tour called Grand Imperial Evening of the Tsars.  We were to relive the splendor of the 
18th century Imperial Russian court.  When we arrived Royal Guards and musicians greeted us.  We toured 
the opulent
Catherine Palace.  One room was decorated floor to ceiling with Amber.  We drank champagne 
and were treated to a live performance of dancing in period costumes.  After leaving the palace we had an 
authentic and gourmet Russian dinner.  It was a wonderful evening.

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July 30th
Our morning tour took us to Peterhof, Peter the Greatís
Grand Palace.  It overlooks the Gulf of Finland . When
it was completed, Peterhof included seven parks and more than 21 smaller palaces and pavilions. The main palace 
has a magnificent gala staircase, richly adorned with gold. There are many lavish rooms and galleries. After our
guide through the
Grand Palace, we toured the gardens. Words cannot begin to describe the beauty of this place.

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In the afternoon we toured the inside of St. Isaac's, Kazan and The Spilled Blood Cathedrals.  They were all 
beautiful and different.  The interior of the Spilled Bllod is stunning for its profusion of Italian marble and 
rich assortment of Russian semiprecious stones as well as mosaics.

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July 31
The Hermitage Museum.  This Museum is filled with small and large Throne Rooms a Malachite Room and a 
display of 15th and 16th century French art as well as other works.  It is a huge place and one you should not 
miss if you visit
Russia. That afternoon we sailed out of Russia. It is a fascinating city with lots to see and do. 
I am thrilled we had the opportunity to visit this historic city.

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Aug 1st
We have arrived in
Tallinn, Estonia. What a beautiful little city.  I think this was my favorite port. The steeple 
of the medieval Town Hall dominates the old town center. (14-15 centuries) It is the oldest in northern
Europe. 
Old
Tallinn has gabled roofs, towers and spires.  It is situated on a cliff and is a walled city.  We visited yet 
another church, The Nevsky Cathedral.  After touring the
Old City
we were treated to a performance by a 
lady who played an unusual musical instrument.  The
Gothic Town Hall has been well preserved. The interior 
and exterior are impressive.  We had a nice lunch on the square and enjoyed watching all the people. We had 
a horse drawn carriage return us to our ship.

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Aug 2nd
Our last port is
Stockholm. This is truly a beautiful city and one I would like to return to and spend a few days. 
It is the Royal Capital of Sweden.  It is a mix of old and new. There is greenery, water, bridges, and picturesque narrow streets.  It is very clean.
Stockholm is an awesome city. We visited The Vasa Museum. The museum 
opened in 1990.  It is one of the newest maritime museums in the world,  housing one of the oldest vessels in the 
world.  The story of the Vasa Battleship is fascinating. In the 1600ís, King Vasa commissioned a ship to help in 
the battles with
Poland. The King took an interest in the design.  He asked the shipbuilders for two gun decks, 
as opposed to the standard one.  When the ship was finished it pulled out into the bay and blew over in a breeze 
and sank to the bottom.  It was found again in the 1960ís and raised to the surface, preserved and restored. You 
could spend hours going through this museum. We also drove through the
Old Town, passing the Royal Palace  
and the overlook of the inner harbor.

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This was a fabulous trip and one we will not forget for a long time.

Salute,

Shirley and Mel