Europe Journals

Cruise to the Baltic States and St. Petersburg

A May 2009 trip to Europe by NiceGinna

Band welcoming us and seeing us off at the dock Photo, St. Petersburg, Russia More Photos
Quote: Our major focus of this cruise was to see St. Petersburg, but the other ports were of interest too. We left from Dover, England, and stopped at Copenhagen (Denmark), Northern Germany, Tallinn (Estonia), St. Petersburg, Helsinki (Finland), Stockholm (Sweden) and back to Dover.

More on Cruising: Is It for Us?

Best Of IgoUgo

Story/Tip

The pool area Photo,
Quote:
This was our third cruise and, again, there are certain aspects we love but a lot that we don't. The obvious plus is getting to various locations without having to pack and unpack. How can you beat that? We also like that you can be fairly flexible: if you want to sleep in and just go in to town in the afternoon, you can. If you are an earlybird, you can skip the evening entertainments (which we don't find all that terrific) and get an early night and be off the ship as soon as it docks. Tours are a bit less flexible. Of course, being on your own is the most flexible.The downside:We definitely didn't care for NCL. This was our second cruise with them and we almost defin...Read More

Tate Britain

Restaurant | "Don't Miss the Art in the Tate Britain Restaurant!"

Tate Britain Photo, London, England
Quote:
When planning a visit to the Tate Britain, why not plan to have lunch there also? You'll find excellent service, nice linens, and delicious food. But the main attraction is the mural on the walls. It is one continuous scene, around the world in a very romantic style, with castles, hunts, and mills. There are repeating themes, such as the bike rider who apparently represents the artist. And who was this artist? It was Rex Whistler, a 22 year old artist, who painted it in the 1920's. Sadly, he joined the army at age 35 to serve in WWII and was killed in Normandy in 1944.We did enjoy the lunch too. David had grilled kidneys followed by sea bream (sole) while I had poached salmon with ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 20, 2009

Tate Britain
Millbank
London, England SW1P 4RG
+44 20 7887 8000

Beautiful windmills in the harbor Photo,
Quote:
We had spent 2 weeks in Copenhagen several years ago on a home exchange, so we didn't feel a big need to run around and see everything. The ship docked within an easy and pleasant walk of the city, so there was no need to use a Hop on Hop off bus.Denmark is a Constitutional Monarchy; it is both a Capitalist State and a Welfare State. The country includes Greenland and the Faroe Islands and is part of the Nordic States which also includes Sweden, Finland, and Norway. Denmark has more than 1400 islands, making for very expensive infrastructure. Germany is to the South; all other borders are water. During WWII, Denmark tried to protect its Jews, sending many to Sweden. They surrendered i...Read More

Havfruen

Restaurant | "A Meal Along Nyhavn Canal Is a Must"

Havfruen Photo, Copenhagen, Denmark
Quote:
I'm not necessarily recommending this particular restaurant although it was fine. But you must have a meal somewhere along the Canal, especially if you have a warm and sunny day.We each had a plate of smoked salmon with a nice Pinot Blanc from the Alsace region of France. For dessert, we opted for something we remembered something we had tried the last time we were here: Old Danish Cheese (served with minced red onions and radishes, Hansen’s golden rum, Maille mustard, on dark bread) and a glass of brown aquavit. Fun. But it's the casual and relaxed feeling along the Canal that's the real draw. There are fishing boats docked all along the Canal and there's great people wat...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 20, 2009

Havfruen
Nyhavn 39
Copenhagen K, Denmark 1051
+45 33 11 11 38

Rosenborg Castle and Rosenborg Castle Garden

Attraction | "Rosenborg Castle and King's Gardens Are Relaxing"

Rosenborg Castle and Rosenborg Castle Garden Photo, Copenhagen, Denmark
Quote:
Since it was such a beautiful day, we decided to walk through the King's Gardens (we thought to go to the Kunst Museum, but were too tired once we got there, but it's definitely worth a visit if you haven't been). These gardens are from the early 17th century and on this day there were many people walking babies, having picnics or sunning themselves, or just enjoying the walk. The castle itself is a beautiful building with soaring towers built in the Dutch Renaissance style; it was built in the first years of the 17th century as a summer residence to be surrounded by the beautiful park. Later it was enlarged and the Great Tower was added. It has been made into a museum which holds the Crown Jewels a...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 20, 2009

Rosenborg Castle and Rosenborg Castle Garden
Center Of Copenhagen, Oster Voldgade 4a
Copenhagen, Denmark 1350
45 33 15 32 86

National Art Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst)

Attraction | "The Statens Museum for Kunst Is Excellent"

National Art Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst) Photo, Copenhagen, Denmark
Quote:
Our favorite museum is the Statens Museum for Kunst (Danish National Gallery), one of the best museums we've ever visited. The art is wonderful, with interesting juxtapositions of older and newer works with commentaries by the newer artists relating the pictures to each other. The modern addition (1998) is joined to the original building (1889-1896) by a lovely glass-covered sculpture street, a most successful addition.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 20, 2009

National Art Gallery (Statens Museum for Kunst)
Solvgard 48-50
Copenhagen, Denmark DK-1307
45 3374 8494

Rapeseed along Rte 20 en route to Schwerin Photo,
Quote:
Our ship docked in Warnemunde, a town in Mecklenberg, part of what was East Germany not so many years ago. It's not an industrial area except for ship building; agriculture is the focus here with rapeseed (for cooking oil and now being converted to fuel for trucks), wheat, corn and so on. Mecklenberg is now one of the Federal States, associated with the Pomeranian area which is nearer to Poland. There are over 2000 lakes in the area, connected by rivers and canals, so of course tourism is a major growth area, not just with cruise ships but for Europeans looking for second homes in a lake district.The Hanseatic League was founded in 1329 in Lubeck, just to the west of where we were. It...Read More

Schloss Schwerin

Best Of IgoUgo

Attraction | "Schwerin Castle Takes Your Breath Away"

Schloss Schwerin Photo, Schwerin, Germany
Quote:
Our tour bus left us at Schwerin Lake where we boarded a small boat that would take us for a pleasant cruise on this sunny day across to the island where Schwerin Castle sits. The approach to the town is lovely, as we reached the inlet where the castle is situated. Schwerin has a good strategic position; it is surrounded by seven major lakes. The Castle is on an island next to Fortress Lake. In the area there is much boating and sailing, biking, and swimming. Tourism is a major industry.There were Germanic tribes in this area 4000 years ago. Then the Slavic tribes arrived and ruled until the 12th century. There are still many towns with names ending in "-ow" or "-in", which are Slav...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 20, 2009

Schloss Schwerin
Lennéstr.1
Schwerin, Germany 19053
+39 (385) 5252920

Warnemunde

Attraction | "Warnemunde Is Becoming a Major Cruise Ship Stop"

Warnemunde Photo, Warnemunde, Germany
Quote:
The cruise ship docked at Warnemunde and offered trips to Berlin 2 1/2 hours away by train. Five hours of travel in a day - and May Day crowds in Berlin - did not interest us so we opted for an excursion to Schwerin Castle. In the afternoon I visited, on my own, the town of Warnemunde itself. There's not really all that much to see, although their May Day celebrations made it a lively place to see on this day.I walked along the waterfront where there were booths for the May Day celebration and there were bands playing and singers entertaining the crowds. I walked to the beach where there were sand dunes and lots of families flying kites. In town, there's an old light house and a sweet...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on May 20, 2009

Our first view of Tallinn as we enter the harbor Photo,
Quote:
The Hop on Hop off bus worked particularly well in Tallinn. It picked us up right at the dock and took us to all the places we wanted to see. In Tallinn, they are quite spread out. We first stopped at Kadriorg Park and Palace, then remounted the bus for a ride through the further areas of interest such as the ruins of St. Bridget's Priory. We just did a "drive-by" for those areas, and then arrived back in the Old Town where we had lunch and explored the Lower Town and the Upper Town. We had from 9 AM until 5:30 PM which was plenty of time for visiting all these places.As we arrived in Tallinn a band, dressed in blue uniforms, greeted us, making us feel so welcome. We were the first cr...Read More

Kadriorg (Park)

Attraction | "Kadriorg Park and Palace"

Kadriorg (Park) Photo, Tallinn, Estonia
Quote:
There was a Hop on Hop off bus right at the dock area for about $17 each. This proved to be a very handy way to get a view of the city. We first took the bus out to Kariorg Park to visit the Palace, built as a summer residence by the Russian Emperor Peter the Great in 1718 and named for Catherine I, his wife. We passed the very pleasant Park and Swan Pond with its picturesque gazebo in the middle and walked up to the Palace, which is now a fine arts museum, although there is not a lot of art to see. It was mostly the building itself that we were interested in.The main hall, with a painted ceiling and beautiful ornamentation, is an exquisite example of Baroque architecture. There are di...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 20, 2009

Kadriorg (Park)
East from city centre
Tallinn, Estonia

Olde Hansa Restaurant

Restaurant | "Don't Go to Olde Hansa If You're in a Hurry!"

Olde Hansa Restaurant Photo, Tallinn, Estonia
Quote:
We took the recommendations of other igougo members and had lunch outside at Olde Hansa. The service was incredibly slow, with us waiting an hour before our order was taken! But we were lucky to have a gorgeous day for sitting outside and interesting people to talk to at the next table.The food, when it finally arrived, was wonderful. We started with a shared bowl of the highly recommended mushroom soup, which lived up to its reputation. Then I had a plate of elk/boar/bear sausages that were outstanding and they were accompanied by interesting and delicious side dishes: a sort of cranberry sauce, an almost sweet sauerkraut, and onion "jam", all of which went so well with the sausages....Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 20, 2009

Olde Hansa Restaurant
Vana Turg 1
Tallinn, Estonia 10140
372 627 9020

Band welcoming us and seeing us off at the dock Photo, St. Petersburg, Russia
Quote:
We were on a cruise to the Baltic States and were to spend two days in St. Petersburg, the primary focus of our trip. The cruise line, of course, offered several "excursions" but as always these tours were extremely expensive and even somewhat confusing when trying to choose which of the many trips to take while not duplicating sites.A friend of a friend recommended AlloTours, a Russian company, who offered a complete, coordinated 2-day tour. They worked with us regarding the time of our ship's arrival in St. Pete. It turned out that 12 other people on the same ship had opted for this tour group (although there were several other tour groups, we found).AlloTours deals with y...Read More

Catherine Palace

Attraction | "Catherine Palace Is One of the Highlights of Our Visit"

Catherine  Palace Photo, St. Petersburg, Russia
Quote:
Catherine Palace, designed by Bartolomeo Rastralli, is one of the several summer residences of the tsars. It is located in the town of Pushkin, the most beloved writer of the Russian population. The palace, with its gilded wrought-iron gates, is stunning with its unusal blue with white and gold exterior. We toured the rooms, which are dazzling with the golden ornamentation, reflected even further in the many mirrors and shining chandeliers. The rooms have beautiful blue Delft tile stoves. There were game rooms decorated in silk, one in red and one in blue. When invitations went out, it was specified which room they would be gaming in. If it was the red room, people brought rubies to gamble with; ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 17, 2009

Catherine Palace
Pushkin
St. Petersburg, Russia

Peterhof Palace and Gardens

Attraction | "The Park Surrounding Peterhof Palace Was Our Next Stop"

Peterhof Palace and Gardens Photo, St. Petersburg, Russia
Quote:
Peterhof Palace, built in the early 1700’s and one of the oldest palaces in the area, is surrounded by a 2,500 acre Park. The Palace was, again, designed by Rastrelli. Sadly, we were too early for the many fountains to be working but we could see how stunning they would be. There are golden statues leading down a waterfall, called the Great Cascade, to a canal that runs out to the Gulf of Finland. Samson, the symbol of Peterhof, is the main statue in the fountain. We passed by the Orangerie and another fountain, this time of Triton. We walked to the small favorite palace of Peter the Great, Mon Plaisir, flanked by Catherine’s yellow palace and the boathouse.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 17, 2009

Peterhof Palace and Gardens
Petrodvorets
St. Petersburg, Russia

Peter and Paul Fortress/Peter and Paul Cathedral

Attraction | "The Final Resting Place of the Tsars"

Peter and Paul Fortress/Peter and Paul Cathedral Photo, St. Petersburg, Russia
Quote:
Our first stop on our organized tour was Peter and Paul Fortress and Peter and Paul Church, with its 400 foot spire, where so many of the Tsars/Emperors are buried. Here we saw the place where the remains of the last Tsar, Nicolas II and his wife Alexandra and their children (the son, Alexei, and the 4th daughter whose remains have recently been discovered are soon to be interred here) are buried. The bright green interior is startling and is highlighted by the sumptuous gold of the altars.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 17, 2009

Peter and Paul Fortress/Peter and Paul Cathedral
Zayachil Ostrov (hare Island)
St. Petersburg, Russia

Winter Palace/State Hermitage Museum

Attraction | "The Number One Draw of St. Petersburg"

Winter Palace/State Hermitage Museum Photo, St. Petersburg, Russia
Quote:
The Winter Palace was the Tsar’s official residence fro 1720 to 1727. AlloTour has arranged early admittance, so it wasn’t very crowded while we were there. Julia, our guide, gave us a good tour of the highlights of this huge place with 3 million pieces. She tells us if we spent one minute at each piece we would still be there in 11 years. We saw works by Da Vinci, Tiziano, a famous statue by Canova that was owned by the rich family of the Yusupovs, Raphael, Michangelo, Sisley, Cezanne, Matisse, Gaugin, Monet, Picasso, and more. The rooms themselves are stunning. I bought the option of taking pictures – the only one in the group – and I can’t imagine not doing that. Some day, I’m sure, no one ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 17, 2009

Winter Palace/State Hermitage Museum
Palace Embankment, On The Neva River
St. Petersburg, Russia

Winter Palace/State Hermitage Museum

Attraction | "The Hermitage: The Art"

Winter Palace/State Hermitage Museum Photo, St. Petersburg, Russia
Quote:
I was amazed that I was the only person in our tour group who opted for the right to take pictures in this amazing museum. Not just the rooms, but the art itself. No flash, of course, but even so. I took over 100 pictures and thought that it was well worth it, to be able to remember some of these gorgeous works. Here are a few.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 17, 2009

Winter Palace/State Hermitage Museum
Palace Embankment, On The Neva River
St. Petersburg, Russia

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood

Attraction | "The Mosaics Are the Big Draw"

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood Photo, St. Petersburg, Russia
Quote:
The Church of the Spilled Blood is a magnificent example of a Russian Orthodox Church as we expect to see it with its colorful onion domes. And the mosaics covering every square inch of the interior are also exceptional. The name of the church comes from the fact that Alexander II was killed on this spot and his son had this church built to honor him.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 18, 2009

Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood
Ploshchad Iskusstv
St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Isaac's Cathedral

Attraction | "St. Isaac's Is the Largest Russian Orthodox Church in World"

St. Isaac's Cathedral Photo, St. Petersburg, Russia
Quote:
St. Isaac's is also the third largest church in the world, after St. Peter's in Rome and St. Paul's in London. The gilded dome is a landmark that can be seen all over the city. The outside is quite sober looking, with dark columns on each side. The bronze doors reminded me of the doors at the Duomo in Florence. Inside there are paintings and mosaics everywhere.

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on May 18, 2009

St. Isaac's Cathedral
Isaakievskaya Ploshchad 1
St. Petersburg, Russia

Quote:
Arriving in Helsinki, we again boarded a Hop on Hop off bus, right at the port. However, we discovered that this was not really the best way to see Helsinki and the tickets were pretty expensive (20 euros each, I think). It would have been better to take a cab to the first place we wanted to see - Temppeliaukio Church or the Church in the Rock - and then walk back to town to visit the Esplanade, the churches, and so forth (see Experience of "Walk around Helsinki"). Then, when you are tired you can take a cab back to the ship. I'm pretty sure this would be less expensive and a lot more convenient than the HOHO bus.During the Viking times, the Finns were not Vikings, but were disorganize...Read More

Temppeliaukio Church

Attraction | "A Really Beautiful Modern Church"

Temppeliaukio Church Photo, Helsinki, Finland
Quote:
Our first destination was Temppeliaukio Church, designed by Timo and Tuomo Suomalainen in 1969. It’s a low church, surrounded by beautiful boulders of brown, red, pink, and gray muted colors. The entrance door is bronze (I think) and you come into a round space, with a 24 meter-diameter copper strip roof. The struts are spaced apart, letting the sun shine in and there is plenty of rock exposed. We’re not usually interested in modern churches, but this one is a major exception.

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 26, 2009

Temppeliaukio Church
Lutherinkatu 3
Helsinki, Finland 00100
+358 9 494 698

Kaupptori Market Square Photo,
Quote:
Our first stop was the Temppeliaukio Church, built into the rock of the city. See my (and many other's) review on that. Then we walked to the Central Railway Station, designed by famous Finnish architect Eliel Saarinen in the Finnish National Romantic style (Art Nouveau) in 1917. The Station has become a well-known landmark in the city.Next back to the Esplanade, a lovely street of beautiful buildings - hotels and shops and restaurants - divided by an elegant grassy walkway in the middle with a couple of restaurants at either end. After a stop for a snack, we continued on to Senaatintori (Senate Square). There’s a statue of Tsar Alexander II; the Finns and Russians had close ties in t...Read More

Kappeli

Restaurant | "Kappeli Is an Inviting Place"

Kappeli Photo, Helsinki, Finland
Quote:
As we walked along the lovely Esplanade in the middle of Helsinki, we couldn't help but notice a very attractive building that lured us in. It wasn't time for lunch or dinner, but we thought we would have a glass of wine. There is a cafeteria-style line and I was very tempted by a cake displayed there: we were told it was Daim (pronounced "dime") Cake, chocolate and nuts and someone said corn, but that may have been a translation problem. Anyway, with two glasses of wine and a piece of cake, we found a pleasant place to sit in one of the glassed-in corners of the restaurant and enjoyed our snack. The cake was delicious! I always like to try a really local treat and this was a great one....Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on May 26, 2009

Kappeli
Eteläesplanadi 1
Helsinki, Finland 00130
+358 9 681 2440