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Review of Noble Caledonia Baltic Odyssey cruise on Hebridean Sky July–August 2022


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01 Introduction

 

This is a review of the Jazzbeaux Baltic Odyssey cruise on Noble Caledonia’s Hebridean Sky from Copenhagen to Stockholm, July 30 to August 11, 2022.

 

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We flew from EWR to CPH on SAS, spent three nights in Copenhagen, then cruised through Denmark, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Finland and Sweden, and ended with two nights in Stockholm before flying back ARN to EWR on SAS.

 

During the trip, Jazzbelle kept detailed notes and I [Jazzbeau] took lots of pictures.  After returning home, I revised the notes to remove names [to protect the guilty, as they say…] and put it in my voice to avoid confusion.  Jazzbelle became ‘DW’ in internet parlance [‘Dear Wife’].

 

Planning for this trip was both easy and complicated.  Easy because Noble Caledonia includes extensive shore excursions in every port.  Complicated because the cruise originally included three overnights docked in Saint Petersburg – which of course was cancelled after the invasion of Ukraine, and Noble substituted some unusual ports to fill that gap.

 

The combination of so many countries and some very small ports required an unusually large number of travel books even for background planning.  

 

I used Rick Steves Copenhagen (2021) for Copenhagen; Lonely Planet Denmark (2018) for Bornholm Island; Rick Steves Scandinavian & Northern European Cruise Ports (2018) for Gdansk and Riga; Lonely Planet Estonia, Latvia & Lithuania (2022) for Klaipėda, Pärnu, Saaremaa; Rick Steves Scandinavia (2021) for Tallinn and Helsinki; Lonely Planet Finland (2018) for Mariehamn; and Rick Steves Stockholm (2021) for Stockholm; as well as Trip Advisor[www.tripadvisor.com] and, of course, Cruise Critic [www.cruisecritic.com].

 

What follows is a day-by-day account of the trip, with a selection of pictures, followed by a Conclusion with our review of Hebridean Sky and Noble Caledonia.

 

Enjoy!

 

And if you found this blog directly, here’s a link to all our other travel blogs: jazzbeauxblogs.wordpress.com

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02 Tuesday July 26, 2022 – On the Road Again

 

The events leading up to this trip were unusually disruptive; luckily we have developed a good tolerance for disruption and change in our travels!  First, there was the itinerary change to eliminate Saint Petersburg [the highlight of the original itinerary for me but not for DW; so she was happy with the change and I was happy to support the Baltic and Scandinavian countries who feel so threatened by this development in world affairs.  Slava Ukraini!

 

Then came reports of airport meltdowns all over Europe, with cancelled flights and delayed baggage in huge piles.  Thankfully Copenhagen (CPH) and Stockholm (ARN) weren’t mentioned, and we were scheduled to fly SAS non-stop so we wouldn’t be subject to Heathrow or Amsterdam.

 

Then SAS went on strike!  [Are we having fun yet?]  Luckily I was following the contract negotiations, and then it looked like the strike might impact our flights I was able to snag the last two seats in Premium Economy on Delta’s non-stops.  The cost was enormous! – so I paid even more to get fully refundable tickets in the hope that our original SAS flights would operate.

 

And in the event?  SAS settled the strike with a week to spare, our non-stops were among the first flights to resume, and Delta quickly refunded my purchase.

 

One last complication:  when SAS said online check-in was open, I immediately tried but after putting in all the required information I was told that we couldn’t do online check-in and would have to do it at the airport.  Was this ominous?  or because I had put in a (low) bid for an upgrade to Business Class?  Bingo!–a follow-up email announced our new Business Class upgrade and suddenly on-line check-in worked.

 

That brings us up to July 26 and the beginning of our next adventure:

 

The limo arrived at 1:30 pm to take us to Newark Airport (not the closest, but SAS is part of the Star Alliance group with United so EWR is their NYC hub).  We left at 1:45 and despite heavy traffic, arrived at the SAS terminal at 2:45.  Having gotten our boarding passes online, we checked our large suitcases and proceeded to security.  Ugh!  Off with our shoes, jackets…  DW got her shoulders patted down and let go.

 

We found the crowded SAS lounge and managed to grab two seats.  Comfort food was on tap.  Mac & cheese, chicken soup.

 

We got to our gate on time but the flight was not yet boarding.  Thanks to the  Business Class upgrade we boarded in the first group.  There was lots of overhead storage – a good thing because to protect against lost luggage we had brought two carry-on bags each.  [And our checked bags arrived on-time and intact.]

 

The flight attendants were extremely attentive and drink carts and beverages were brought around several times.  The food was excellent [the best airline food I have ever had – wonderful taste even at 30,000 feet!].  We started with garden salads, lobster salad with spicy corn salsa, rolls/butter, and proceeded to sea bass with a fennel and tomato ragout accompanied by sautéed spinach.  I took the cheese/crackers dessert and DW the Häagen-Dazs chocolate ice cream.

 

Most passengers (me included) tried to get some sleep and took the option of the lie flat bed with mattress pad, comforter and pillow.  DW watched a foreign movie – she finds it easier to avoid using earphones and just reads the subtitles.  At some point she pushed pause and got as comfortable as possible and caught an hour’s sleep.  Before long, breakfast was served.  Greek strawberry yogurt, muesli, ham and cheese and roll, juices and hot beverages.

 

Top marks to SAS, and especially to their newest flagship A350-900 planes.  I hope this new contract allows them to secure their future, even if they don’t fly many places we expect to travel in the future.

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03 Wednesday July 27, 2022 – Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Despite a late takeoff, we landed ahead of time.  We all had a substantial wait at baggage claim but I got a couple of carts and we wheeled our bags out to the curb and a starter hailed a cab/van for us into Copenhagen.  It took around 20 minutes and cost $50.  We arrived at the Radisson Collection Royal Hotel around 8:30 and checked in.

 

I had reserved the room for the night before so that no matter when we arrived, we would have access to it and the bed.  ZZZ.  We had a corner room on the 10th floor.  Unfortunately it didn’t have the great view we had hoped for and it was over the railroad tracks coming out of the main station a block away.  [The rumble of the trains starting up in the morning was disturbing from 5 am to 5:45 am every day – or so DW tells me…]

 

[A brief aside with thanks to DW’s friend who had advised me to get the Chase Sapphire Reserve card that was offering a huge sign-on bonus and only charges $95 annual fee.  That bonus paid for all four nights in this big room at the Radisson.  And when they charged me the $95 on the renewal date, it was easy to downgrade the card to the free version and get that second fee removed.  So we got four nights in a top hotel for a total cost of $95.  Can’t beat that!]

 

We crawled into bed and slept soundly for a couple of hours.  Then we got up and headed across the street to the TI to buy 3-day Copenhagen Cards giving us free rides on any bus, subway, commuter rail and admission to a host of attractions.

 

The plan was to visit Roskilde to see the Viking Ship Museum and Roskilde Cathedral.  Rick Steves had detailed a simple itinerary starting with a direct train from Copenhagen to Roskilde – but that line is disrupted by a long-delayed track project.  The helpful TI clerk had warned us of this and written out the detour route.

 

We headed immediately to the central terminal and just caught the S-bahn [commuter railroad] train to Høje-Taastrup [last stop].  We then transferred to a regional train to Roskilde [probably the one we expected to take direct from Copenhagen].  We waited about a half hour till it took off.  We disembarked at Roskilde [first stop] and just missed a bus to the Viking ship museum so we walked in the mist [low 60s and windy] to the Cathedral, which houses all the dead monarchs’ tombs.  Roskilde Cathedral/Domkirke is a cathedral of the Lutheran Church of Denmark. It is the most important church in Denmark, the official royal burial church of the Danish monarchs, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

 

From there we walked downhill to the sea to the Viking Ship Museum (Vikingeskibs Museet).  The permanent exhibitions are focused on the five 1000-year-old original Skuldelev Ships that were preserved in the mud of the harbor.  The goal of these exhibits is to tell the story of these ships and of the many Nordic maritime adventures during the Viking Age.

 

The five original Viking ships stand majestically with the Roskilde Fjord as a living backdrop.  With this view, it becomes easy to imagine how the merchant set off for distant shores with his goods, the warriors waved goodbye to their families before the voyage and the fisherman embarked on the fjord with the hope of returning with a good catch.

 

The Viking Ship Museum also has a fleet of reconstructed version of these ships.  Several of these reconstructions and other Nordic boats are also available to sail in.  You can also meet the craftsmen who keep up the traditions of the old maritime trades, and you can try your hand with axes, ropes and many other activities.

 

After leaving the museum we poked around the exhibits and watched others try their hands and arms at rowing these Viking Ship replicas.  We then walked all the way back to the train station and waited in one of the passenger shelters for the next one back to HT and eventually home to Central Station.

 

We regrouped and then walked over past the terminal to Poonchai Thai restaurant where we ate red curry with chicken (D) and duck (G).  Generous, tasty, and cheap.

 

My knee started giving me trouble today.  Despite that, we put in over 13,000 steps.  On the good side, two women came to our aid giving directions about the train connections…  Back in the hotel DW got some ice for my knee.

 

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Roskilde Cathedral

 

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Roskilde Cathedral

 

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Roskilde Cathedral

 

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Roskilde Cathedral

 

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Roskilde Cathedral

 

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Roskilde Cathedral

 

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Roskilde Cathedral

 

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Roskilde Cathedral

 

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Roskilde Viking Ship Museum

 

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Roskilde Viking Ship Museum

 

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Roskilde Viking Ship Museum

 

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Roskilde Viking Ship Museum

 

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Roskilde Viking Ship Museum

 

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04 Thursday July 28, 2022 – Copenhagen

 

Better weather today.  Sunny and mid to upper 60s.

 

We ate breakfast in the hotel [@ $36 each!–we won’t make that mistake again…]

 

We then walked over to the TI and met our tour guide Richard aka Hans Christian Andersen, replete in top hat and purple tails.  Although he expected more customers, no one else showed so we had a private tour.  It lasted 2 hours instead of the advertised 90 minutes as he has consolidated 3 of his tours into one.  [News to us–we had expected to do a castle tour this afternoon plus 2 more tours on the next two days!  Thankfully Richard told us that he happened to be doing the castle tour this afternoon with a Rick Steves tour group and we were welcome to join them.]

 

We first stopped at City Hall Square where Richard posed with HCA’s statue.  He pointed out statues, etc. on the façade and roof of City Hall and then took us inside for a tour of the main floor showing us sculptures by the Danish artist Thorvaldsen.  Outside City Hall, HCA led us to the Lur Blowers sculpture at top of which were two Vikings playing lurs (curled horns).  We walked by the famous shopping street Stroget [which isn’t pronounced anything like it looks – our first introduction to the impossibility of learning Danish!] and then past an old jail and the court house.

 

While standing on Nytorv plaza in front of the latter, a Danish man approached with a tray with three glasses containing Jägermeister.  He was a friend of our guide (named Dennis) who owned the restaurant on the corner called Restaurant and Café Nytorv.  He chatted with us awhile and then we continued on to Gammeltorv plaza with the Caritas fountain until we reached the Reformation Memorial/obelisk across from the Cathedral of our Lady (another Lutheran cathedral).  We had time to go inside.  The churches in Denmark tend to be cold, uninviting.  This had what looked like Greek statues bordering the pews but they were actually supposed to be the 12 Apostles.  Around the corner was Copenhagen University, the Great Synagogue, and the Library.  We did not go inside.  Our last stop with HCA was the Round Tower attached to Trinity Church.

 

He suggested we hang out on that street for a few minutes to see the small parade of the Palace Guard similar in attire to Buckingham Palace guards but with bright blue pants.

 

We continued on to a glass enclosed food hall and market where I sampled a roast beef smorrebrod at Hallernes Smorg.

 

We took the 5C bus back to the Radisson to get cash for the afternoon tour at Rosenborg Castle also to be led by HCA but including a Rick Steves group of about 10 others.  We had a variety of timed entrance tickets so our going in together was a bit of a challenge.  He did a good job leading us through the two floors of the castle and then over into the Treasury.

 

We did not explore the acres of gardens at that point but took the 5C back to the hotel.  I iced my knee and we both took naps before walking to Restaurant & Cafe Nytorv [source of the complimentary Jägermeister shots].  It was disappointing.  DW started with a green salad with beets and cheese and we both had the lamb shank/gravy with sautéed spinach, parsnip puree and fries.  I had wine and DW had a tall glass of water for which they charged us the same price as the wine.  No tip!

 

We meandered back to the Radisson via a side street over to Stroget and then poked along there crossing Radhusplasden on our way home to the Radisson.

 

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Copenhagen 'Hans Christian Andersen'

 

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Copenhagen City Hall

 

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Copenhagen City Hall

 

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Copenhagen Lur Blowers sculpture

 

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Copenhagen Caritas fountain

 

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Copenhagen Reformation Memorial

 

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Copenhagen Cathedral of Our Lady

 

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Copenhagen Guards

 

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Copenhagen Round Tower

 

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Copenhagen Rosenborg Castle

 

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Copenhagen Rosenborg Castle

 

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Copenhagen Rosenborg Castle

 

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Copenhagen Rosenborg Castle

 

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Copenhagen Rosenborg Castle

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05 Friday July 29, 2022 – Copenhagen

 

We did not go down to breakfast [fool me once…] but ate yogurt and cereal in our room.

 

We walked to City Hall Square and took the M3 train one stop to Gammel Strand and began the Rick Steves Copenhagen City Walk.  First up was the statue of Bishop Absalon in military attire seated on a horse.  Then we went into the Christiansborg Palace Chapel [Rick said it wouldn’t be open, but we saw the open door and walked right in] and passed the Frederik VII statue.  We walked in front of Parliament and saw the Børsen (stock exchange).

 

Crossing the road we walked the Havengade Promenade watching all the small motor boats, kayakers, paddle boarders on the canal.  We went up onto the Inderhavnsbroen Sliding Bridge and then along another canal stopping for lunch at one of the Nyhavn outdoor eateries, Ved Kajen.  DW had mussels and I had steak.  We chatted a bit with a Swedish couple who took a train to Copenhagen.  Half hour ride!  We continued past the other restaurants to a big plaza Kongens Nytorv dotted with food trucks, people relaxing on benches, pigeons underfoot…

 

We headed to the Amalienborg Palace where the queen’s residence is and went through the museum which highlighted her jewelry possessions.  She loves her jewels and has great sentimental attachment to many of them—gifts from her parents, husband, etc.  Margrethe is the tallest and richest monarch in the world.  She is 82 years old and a defiant smoker.  DW took a video of the one of the guards marching at his post.

 

Off we went to visit several churches—the Marble Church (Lutheran), Aleksandr Nevskij (Russian), and Sankt Ansgar (RC).

 

We then walked to Osterport Station to get the M3 back to Radhusplasden.  Along the way to our hotel is the Peter Beier Chocolate and gelato shop.  So we stopped in but they were out of coffee [DW’s favorite] so I got a cup of pistachio and we shared it.

 

Back in our room, I iced my knee again.  Short naps before dinner.  We wound up at Ristorante L’Appetito in Hotel Imperial around the bend from us.  I had calamari/shrimp basket [the calamari was a little chewy, but redeemed by very flavorful shrimp] and DW a big mixed salad.  For mains, I had linguini carbonara and DW eggplant Parm.  Nice meal, pleasant atmosphere, attentive wait staff.

 

Back to the hotel to do our Covid testing for Hebridean Sky.  Both negative but another complication when I had trouble getting my result read – finally got through and all was well.

 

Weather today was lovely.  Sunny with high of 72.

 

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Copenhagen Bishop Absalon

 

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Copenhagen Christiansborg Palace Chapel

 

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Copenhagen Christiansborg Palace

 

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Copenhagen Frederik VII

 

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Copenhagen Børsen

 

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Copenhagen Børsen

 

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Copenhagen Church of Our Savior [you could climb that; we didn't...]

 

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Copenhagen Opera House

 

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Copenhagen Nyhavn

 

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Copenhagen Kongens Nytorv

 

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Copenhagen Amalienborg Palace

 

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Copenhagen Amalienborg Palace Guard

 

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Copenhagen Marble Church

 

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Copenhagen Marble Church

 

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Copenhagen Aleksandr Nevskij Church

 

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Copenhagen Sankt Ansgar RC Cathedral

 

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Copenhagen Sankt Ansgar RC Cathedral

 

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Copenhagen Sankt Ansgar RC Cathedral

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06 Saturday July 30, 2022 – Copenhagen and ‘All Aboard’ Hebridean Sky

 

More nice weather like yesterday.  We packed up our belongings and checked out at noon and asked reception to keep our bags till we returned to transfer to the ship.

 

We walked a NYC block to Tivoli Gardens and walked right in after having our Copenhagen Card scanned.  It is more than gardens though there are plenty of places to sit and rest.  Copenhagen’s grand amusement park—opened in 1843—is 20 acres, 110,000 lanterns, a wonderland of rides, restaurants and food stands, games, marching bands, roulette wheels, shooting galleries and funny mirrors.  It was enjoyable to watch young and old enjoying themselves.  We’d stop and watch rides for wee ones who might be flying an airplane and courageous ones on loop de loop steel roller coasters from start to finish and we were relieved to be only observers.  The park offers entertainment as well—some for a fee and others are pop-up performances, e.g., puppet shows for anyone who wants to watch.

 

We walked through the entire park and returned to the Radisson after 3 hours.  The young woman at Reception called us a minivan-size taxi and she and a young male coworker helped get our luggage to the curb.  Our cab driver was top notch—good at the wheel, accommodating, and eager to help as much as possible.  He really earned his tip.  We reached Noble Caledonia’s Hebridean Sky in about 15 minutes but it took some maneuvering to figure out where he could let us off.  Two crew members approached and relieved us of our bags and took them right to our suite.

 

We were greeted warmly by Brenda, our cruise director for our first Heb Sky cruise last September, and other crew members who recalled us from our three Heb Sky cruises last fall.  [It really feels like home, and we and the crew have a mutual admirable society going!]

 

The lounge was open and inviting with champagne, juice, coffee or tea and tea sandwiches and small gateaux.  We popped in and out quickly as I wanted to take a couple of photographs of the nearby Anglican Flint Church [an unusual building material] and the Gefion Fountain (Gefion had turned her four sons into oxen) nearby before we went to Sankt Ansgar Katedralen for 5:00 pm Mass in Danish.  It was fairly well attended.  We followed along with our English readings.  Mass concluded in about 35 minutes giving us ample time to take more photos and return to ship by 6:00 for the mandatory muster drill.

 

[Not all the passengers had our good luck with the air connection.  Noble Caledonia includes air transfers from London in all their offerings (with credits if you don’t take them).  Last fall because of Covid they had chartered British Air planes, which made us feel very secure but also ensured that everyone and their luggage arrived together.  This time they were putting passengers on three different BA regular flights, and the final flight had major baggage problems – at least one couple never did receive their bags!]

 

We then had some time to unpack before dinner.  Renato, the maître d’, seated us at a table for 4 and we were joined by Lyndsey and Chris from Norfolk (UK).  I had Hebridean Sky English Breakfast Tea Smoked Duck Breast with Pickled Cucumber Ribbons, Mixed Leaves, Raspberry Dressing as my appetizer, and DW had Mille Feuille of Marinated Grilled Vegetables, Glazed Goats Cheese, Frisée Lettuce, Honey Dressing, and Toasted Walnuts.  We both had Roasted Rack of Lamb with a Rosemary and Herb crust, Parmesan Mash, Ratatouille Vegetables, Port Wine Jus (2 rib portion).  I had Danish Spiced Apple Cake with Lemon and Thyme Syrup and Crème Anglaise plus vanilla ice cream [very granular tonight – thankfully a one-off fail] and DW had Sticky Chocolate Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream and Fresh Strawberries.  A yummy meal with pleasant dinner companions.  We were the last diners leaving the Dining Room [as usual].

 

We left port after 9:30 but didn’t go far and seemed to anchor out in the harbor.  Waiting for the Pilot?  [We had missed our slot as we waited for lost luggage.]  Luckily we didn’t have far to go, so we stayed on schedule.

 

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Copenhagen Tivoli

 

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Copenhagen Tivoli

 

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Copenhagen Tivoli

 

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Copenhagen Tivoli

 

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Copenhagen Tivoli [yes, they're upside down]

 

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Copenhagen Tivoli [them too]

 

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Copenhagen Tivoli

 

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Copenhagen Tivoli

 

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Copenhagen Tivoli

 

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Copenhagen Tivoli

 

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Copenhagen Flint Church

 

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Copenhagen Flint Church

 

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Copenhagen Gefion Fountain

 

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Copenhagen Gefion Fountain

 

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Hebridean Sky in Copenhagen

 

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Hebridean Sky 604

 

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Hebridean Sky 604

 

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Hebridean Sky 604

 

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Hebridean Sky 604

 

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07 Sunday July 31, 2022 – Bornholm Island, Denmark

 

We arrived at our berth in Rønne, Bornholm Island (Denmark) by 8:00 am.  We headed out on coaches at 9:00 for a four hour tour.  We drove through picturesque farmlands and coastlines of this tiny Baltic island.  This island, the ‘Pearl of the Baltic’, has the largest windmill in Denmark and boasts the most sunshine in the Baltic.

 

Our first stop was the famous Østerlars Round Church, typical only to this island and to parts of southern Sweden.  They are completely circular structures and were a popular type of construction in the 11th and 12th centuries when churches not only served as places of worship, but as defensive structures in uncertain times.  Because of its age and instability, a roof and buttresses have been added for strengthening.  Unfortunately we could not go inside to see the frescoes, etc. as Sunday service was in session and when it finished, the Lutheran minister would not allow us in until the congregation had all left.  [The good news, from a believer’s perspective, is that they lingered a long time – showing a vibrant parish community – and we had to leave.]  We strolled around the property admiring the gardens and some unusual cemetery headstones.

 

Next stop was a seaside town, Gudhjem, where we walked around with Kristina and then had a little time to explore the handmade glass shop.  This tiny town boasts of large fig trees and 10’ tall hollyhocks.  And it is home to a number of fish smokehouses.

 

We moved on to Hammershus Castle ruin—one of the largest in northern Europe.  It was an excellent defense installation and a prominent trading post.  Built in the early 1200s, it served for almost 500 years as a fortress, prison, storage and administrative seat before being abandoned in the early 1700s.  It was a bone of contention between the Church and government.  The visitor center is set up to allow great views and photo ops without needing to make the long climb up to the castle [which was great, as my knee was still somewhat wonky].

 

The bus took us to Allinge rǿgeri for a smoked herring tasting—a Bornholm delicacy [but the fish is imported from Sweden now, as the Baltic water is brakish from all the fresh water input].

 

Back at the ship by 1:00 for lunch, DW had Spiced Chickpea Greek Salad (Traditional Greek Salad, Aromatic Spiced Chickpeas, Tomato Dressing), Cauliflower, Spinach and Potato Curry (Made by our onboard Indian Chef: Basmati Rice, Chapatti, Mango Chutney and Riata) and fresh fruit.  I had eaten all of my herring [an entire fish, and larger than ‘herring’ makes me expect], so I only wanted dessert [our notes don’t say which I ordered, but for reference the choices were:  Chocolate Sponge Pudding with Hazelnut and Caramel Custard; Pineapple Upside-down Cake; and Blueberry Syllabub – as well as the always available Fresh Fruit plate and the Cheese plate]

 

D walked following the yellow dots into Rønne and meandered through some local streets and past the Lutheran and Methodist churches and lighthouse.

 

In our cabin was an invitation to join the ship’s guest lecturer Martin Sixsmith and his wife Mary for dinner at his table with four other passengers  (Elaine, Sally, Gillian and Tony).  We both had Black Pudding and Grilled Green Asparagus, Sauce Mousseline, and Baby Watercress to start, and Pan Seared Loin of Venison, Fondant Potato, Carrot Purée, Green Beans, and Red Wine Jus for our entrée.  DW opted for the Pistachio and White Rum Soufflé with Chocolate Crème Anglaise, and I had Classic Lemon Tart with Berry Compote.

 

Great weather again today!

 

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Østerlars Round Church

 

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Østerlars Round Church

 

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Gudhjem

 

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Gudhjem

 

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Hammershus Castle

 

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Allinge rǿgeri

 

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Rønne  Skt. Nicolai Kirke

 

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Rønne Lighthouse

 

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Rønne doorways

 

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Rønne doorways

 

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Rønne  Methodist Church

 

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08 Monday August 1, 2022 – Gdansk, Poland

 

My 75th birthday!  And the sun shone in my honor.

 

We got up later as we were still sailing and DW almost missed breakfast but beat it out to the Lido deck where her favorite waiter, Orlando, was now in charge.  The maître d’, Renato, got the basics she needed and she sat with a friendly woman.  I went down to the Club with the great espresso/latte machine, but the pastries were gone.

 

At 10:00, we went down to the lounge to hear Martin Sixsmith’s lecture “A War of Nerves—the Cold War all over Again?”  Excellent!

 

Shortly after, we docked in Gdansk, Poland.

 

Lunch was served early (at noon) so we could get out for the four-hour afternoon tour.  D had Roasted Garlic and White Bean Soup with Herb Croutons, and Grilled Fillet of Zander (a white fish) with Herb New Potatoes, Market Vegetables, Caper and Lemon Butter Sauce.  I had Kotlet Schabowy (Polish Breaded Veal Cutlet [close to Wiener Schnitzel], Roast Potatoes, Sauerkraut Salad with Apple and Carrots), and Warm Lemon Drizzle Sponge Cake with Limoncello Custard.

 

[BTW the food was as good as these descriptions make it seem.  Good quality ingredients, nicely spiced, and with professional (but not pretentious) presentation.  When a dish was served with a sauce – like the limoncello custard – I would usually ask them to leave the gravy boat on the table so I could add as much as I like.  They were always happy to accommodate, and I was always happy to spoon on more! And a note of thanks to Hotel Manager Dragan for giving me a thumb drive with all the menus and daily programs – our memories aren’t that good!]

 

Off to the coaches to visit Gdansk.  Gdansk is a major area for Amber, and to commemorate it they designed the soccer stadium to look like the world's largest piece of amber.

 

Sebastian led us slowly through the crowded streets of the Old Town.  [The St. Dominick’s Fair was taking place including food stalls, crafts, workshops, fair rides and entertainment.]  We passed the Green Gate and walked along the canal, lined with striking buildings decorated with elaborate facades crowned by myriad ornate gables (in the Dutch style).  In the water was a swing bridge.  We walked through an archway leading us to an area bombed in the ‘40s but now beautifully rebuilt.

 

Our first major stop was St. Mary’s Basilica.  The world’s largest brick church, it is Gothic in design and accommodates 25,000(? – it’s big, but this seemed over-generous) worshippers.  Situated in the old town, this medieval church took over 150 years to build.  A deceptively plain exterior belies a bright [painted white], spacious interior with large windows [only two are stained glass and they are modern.  One is behind the sanctuary and is stunning in its mostly vivid blue tones.  A splendid backdrop for the elaborate gold reredos behind the main altar.]  There are 30 decorated side chapels and the floor is covered with ancient tombstones.  In the northern transept is a 15th century astronomical clock complete with zodiac cycle and a calendar of saints.

 

We then passed the Town Hall with its decorated tower and carillon, the Long Market, and headed to the beautiful 15th century merchants’ palace of Artus Court.  It has served many functions including being the seat of municipal fraternities, a city reception hall, a courthouse, the Corn Exchange…  And it has free public toilets!  Outside was a landmark—the Neptune Fountain [best appreciated after using the toilets…]

 

We then had free time so we stayed with most of the group for a free amber demo and continued on our own to see the Golden Gate, a grand ornamental arch that once allowed access through the medieval city’s defensive walls.  We regrouped and returned to the bus.

 

Gdansk was known for being a trade center, a seaport, shipbuilding, granaries.  Now tourism is a major industry.  It has a population of 470,000.  It boasts a striking soccer arena in amber color (Amber is a major commodity).  It is the site of the Solidarity movement which freed the country from the grip of Communism in 1980.  To mark this, there is a monument of three huge crosses on Solidarity Square.

 

Trivia:  lody is Polish for ice cream.  [But don’t ask me how to pronounce it!]

 

Back onboard, DW took some laps around Deck 4 before early dinner at 6:30.  We both had Crab and Prawn Spring Roll with Crispy Carrot and Spring Onion Salad and Sweet Chili Dressing.  The notes go vague on the entree, but neither the Rainbow Trout, Pork Belly nor vegetarian Risotto appealed so we probably tried the always-available Ribeye Steak.

 

Service was slower than usual and there was no time for dessert even though waiter Jhon whispered in DW’s ear that he had a special stash of coffee ice cream made special for her.  She thanked him profusely and promised to eat some tomorrow.

 

At 8:00 pm, we were on Coach 1 with an annoying tour guide heading for the Filharmonia for a special concert just for our passengers.  Performing were Rafael Lewandowski on piano (and his 17 year old son) and violinist Natalia Walewsak.  The spotlight was on Polish composers like Chopin.  They provided 60 minutes of quality entertainment.

 

Upon returning to Heb Sky, we were offered glasses of hot chocolate (with Bailey’s) and we invited the last of our guests to our private party tomorrow night to celebrate my 75th birthday.  Then we retired to our suite where I had some Traditional Polish Cake originating from Warsaw with Raspberry Sauce and Whipped Cream that Jhon had plated to go.  Yum!

 

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Gdansk Stadium

 

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Gdansk Green Gate

 

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Gdansk Old Town

 

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Gdansk The Crane

 

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Gdansk Swing Bridge

 

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Gdansk Swing Bridge

 

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Gdansk 'Prussian Hags'

 

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Gdansk Mariacka Street

 

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Gdansk St. Mary's Basilica

 

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Gdansk St. Mary's Basilica

 

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Gdansk St. Mary's Basilica

 

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Gdansk St. Mary's Basilica

 

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Gdansk St. Mary's Basilica

 

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Gdansk Artus Court

 

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Gdansk Artus Court

 

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Gdansk Artus Court

 

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Gdansk Artus Court

 

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Gdansk Artus Court

 

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Gdansk Artus Court

 

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Gdansk Neptune Fountain

 

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Gdansk Long Market Square

 

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Gdansk Golden Gate

 

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Gdansk St. Dominick’s Procession

 

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 Gdansk Solidarity Shipyard

 

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09 Tuesday August 2, 2022 – Malbork Castle, Poland

 

Gone for most of the day.  On the coaches at 8:45 with almost 90 minute drive to Malbork Castle, the most complete and elaborate example of a Gothic brick castle complex in the characteristic and unique style of the Teutonic Order.  A UNESCO World Heritage Site (1997), it now serves as a museum with grand exhibition halls displaying collections of armory, ceramics, sculptures and spectacular Baltic amber.  We had a wonderful guide whose nickname was Blueberry.  She was a high school teacher.

 

Afterwards we boarded the bus for the trip to the Malbork Hotel for lunch.  We had sliced pork tenderloin, green beans and potato dumplings followed by crumb topped cheesecake and coffee/tea.

 

On the bus again to reach the Elblag-Ostroda Canal cruise.  We arrived but the ship was not on schedule and docked over an hour and a quarter later.  [We had to cut short its cruise so we could get back to our ship which needed to sail, but our creative bus driver suggested a different pick-up point that saved some time and allowed us to get a full experience.]

 

The canal was built in the 19th century, creating a waterway between the Masurian Lakes and Vistula Lagoon.  It is 115.6 km long.  The purpose of the canal, designed by Georg Jacob Steenke, was to create a dependable trade route between East Prussia and the Baltic Sea.  It took almost 40 years to build as it is not just any water canal with water flowing peacefully to the sea.  There is an elevation difference of 100m between the start and end points.  Most impressively, rather than build expensive locks, a unique system of rails and slides was fashioned, effectively carrying ships in a sort of cradle where the inclines were too steep to allow safe passage in regular conditions.

 

After two overland hauls, we disembarked where our bus was able to meet us after we walked a short distance from the dock to its parking spot.  95 minutes later we were back at Heb Sky.  [These long bus rides were conducive for taking naps.]

 

Every time we got back from an excursion, we were welcomed back home on Heb Sky with cold towels and a glass of some refreshing beverage.  Usually a cold drink like iced tea or fruit juice, but on a cool day it might be hot chocolate.  Today it was a local non-alcoholic malt beverage called Kvass.

 

[Because we were running late, the Heb Sky rep on our bus phoned ahead and had my birthday celebration postponed to tomorrow night.  I’m beginning to feel like Queen Elizabeth – inconvenient to celebrate on the actual day? No problem, just move it to a better time!]

 

For dinner we sat with a couple of British ex-pats now from New Hampshire (Iain and Caroline – the only time on our four Noble Caledonia cruises that there has been anyone else from the US – and Elaine and Sally).  DW had Locally Sourced Avocado, Pink Grapefruit and Orange Salad [I think] and I had Crispy Battered Calamari with Herb Salad, Saffron Aioli and Mint Dressing.  Then either Oven Baked Fillet of Basa, Chive and Lemon Mash, Market Vegetables, Caviar Butter Sauce or Duo of Barbary Duck (Pan Seared Breast, Duck Leg Confit, Market Vegetables, Orange and Thyme Jus) – our notes missed this one out.  I do know that I had Bakewell Tart with Marmalade Ice Cream for dessert, and DW enjoyed her special coffee ice cream.

 

We had to set the clocks ahead one hour tonight, as we sail East toward Lithuania.

 

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Malbork Castle

 

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Malbork Castle

 

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Malbork Castle

 

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Malbork Castle

 

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Malbork Castle – Medieval Fast Days

 

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Malbork Castle

 

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Malbork Castle

 

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Malbork Castle – Privy with Cabbage Leaf Toilet Paper

 

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Malbork Castle

 

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Malbork Castle

 

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Malbork Castle

 

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Malbork Castle

 

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Elblag-Ostroda Canal

 

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Elblag-Ostroda Canal

 

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Elblag-Ostroda Canal

 

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Elblag-Ostroda Canal

 

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Elblag-Ostroda Canal

 

1834034828_78Elblag-OstrodaCanal.thumb.jpeg.7cb5e70072b728f50c6a77f7c496cfdf.jpeg

Elblag-Ostroda Canal

 

809451931_85Elblag-OstrodaCanal.thumb.jpeg.a36194531edf975f11bdcfca82b91ea7.jpeg

Elblag-Ostroda Canal – Boat Cradle

 

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Elblag-Ostroda Canal

 

1188125424_89Kvass.thumb.jpeg.ff9e1a9057bf8c53558ecb76ef7ea9d7.jpeg

Kvass

 

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10 Wednesday August 3, 2022 – Klaipėda, Lithuania

 

More good weather!  Heb Sky arrived at her berth in Klaipėda, Lithuania.  Renato II sang Paul Anka’s Diana at breakfast.

 

Opting for the shorter tour (minus the amber museum), the coach left at 9:00 and spent an hour winding through the streets for an hour giving a panoramic look at Klaipėda and finally leaving everyone off at Theatre Square where the guide began a walking tour of the Old Town.

 

Lithuania was under German control during WWII from 1939 to 1945 when the Russians took over and forced Communism on them.  They were not free of Russia until 1991 when they finally became independent.  Klaipėda today has major shipbuilding and repair yards specializing in trawlers and floating docks.  It is the seat of a large deep-sea fishing fleet and has a fish cannery.  Other industries include cotton textiles, pulp and papermaking, timber working and the production of radio and TV parts and amber.  It has also become an increasingly popular tourist destination by virtue of its proximity to the white sand beaches of the Baltic coast.

 

It was a pleasant enough walk but we really didn’t get to see any great landmarks.

 

We did see a sculpture of Annchen from Tharau—a symbol of romance in Theatre Square.  We saw the statue of a chimney sweep high above a canal front building and below a wall full of buttons pasted on by locals so you could rub one for good luck, good health…  We saw the sites of where the church used to be and the castle, too.

 

Then we went to a local pub to sample Lithuanian beer [very good!] or have a coffee.  The bus was back at the ship by noon.  Heb Sky was sailing at 12:30 for Latvia.

 

For lunch DW had a Buddha Bowl Salad (Nourishing Salad of Wild Rice, Marinated Red Cabbage, Tahini Sweet Potato, Spring Onions and Crispy Tofu), Eggplant Parmesan (Crispy Panko Breaded Eggplant, Marinara Sauce, Fresh Mozzarella and Basil, Green Salad Garnish), and fresh fruit.  I also had the eggplant followed by Tinginys (Traditional Lithuanian Chocolate Dessert with Vanilla Ice Cream).

 

The afternoon was free for napping, reading…  D went to the 5:00 lecture by Martin Sixsmith entitled “Standing Up to Putin—the Man Who Did So and Paid the Price.”  Brenda then gave her briefing re the Riga tour tomorrow.

 

Third time’s a charm!  My birthday celebration is definitely on for today!  We tidied up the cabin in preparation for the gathering of 6 passengers to celebrate my 75th birthday 2 days late.  Hotel Manager Dragan, Maître d’ Renato, Romeo the waiter, and Alex our cabin attendant arrived at 6:30 to set up chilled bubbly and a platter of 28 canapés (4 different kinds:  shrimp with salmon roe, salmon with black caviar, stilton with fruit curry, roast beef sandwich with pickle and horseradish).

 

Our guests (Lyndsey and Chris, Hazel and Don, Hilary and Anne) arrived at 7:00 and it was enough time to enjoy the hors d’ and one another’s company before heading to the dining room at 7:30 where the captain’s table (minus the captain) had been reserved for us.  We all ordered from the regular menu.  I had Caprese Style Arancini Balls (Tomato and Mozzarella Arancini, Parmesan Sauce, Fresh Basil) and DW had Waldorf Salad (Crisp Green Apple, Celery, Flame Grapes bounded in Lemon Mayonnaise, Chopped Toasted Walnuts) before we both ordered the Juniper, Orange and Thyme Marinated Wild Boar Tenderloin with Apple and Sultana Compote, Braised Red Cabbage, Potato Rosti, Cherry Liqueur Jus.

 

When everyone had finished their entrees, Renato led the dining room staff through the DR chanting, “I don’t know but I’ve been told someone here is getting old.”  Upon arriving at the table they all sang Happy Birthday twice and presented me with a special cake with candle which they then took to the kitchen to cut up and be plated.  [Living dangerously, everyone accepted a piece of cake even though I had blown on it!]  Guests were also free to order additional desserts from the menu and coffee – I ordered a Scottish Tipsy Laird Drambuie, Raspberry and Orange Trifle.

 

After all the guests had departed, Brenda joined us for a short time to chat.  It was a fun evening celebrating my milestone birthday.

 

Back in our room, we found that Alex had done a towel sculpture of two large kissing swans whose tails were covered in rose petals.  [I keep pinching myself how quickly Noble Caledonia made us feel like family.  The welcome atmosphere onboard elevates every aspect of the cruise!]

 

2110729795_01Klaipeda.thumb.jpeg.3f8d1772b6b868584e7d08de7c4d9425.jpeg

Klaipėda Theatre Square

 

1103755248_02Klaipeda.thumb.jpeg.7964d08fe880cf672dd98ae0ca2ce0ad.jpeg

Klaipėda Annchen from Tharau

 

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Klaipėda

 

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Klaipėda

 

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Klaipėda

 

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Klaipėda

 

2055209390_19Klaipeda.thumb.jpeg.2b758b1b95c2589df0796bcb42d12915.jpeg

Klaipėda Chimney Sweep [need good luck?  rub his button]

 

1379200851_20Klaipeda.thumb.jpeg.e7ae3ab6c4e950cc5b8871573f6e368a.jpeg

Klaipėda Chimney Sweep Buttons [what kind of luck do you need?  choose one!]

 

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Klaipėda – you don't need luck if you have good beer!

 

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Klaipėda – or bubbly!

 

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Klaipėda – or friends in high places!

 

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11 Thursday August 4, 2022 – Riga, Latvia

 

A warmer day today reaching 82.  Later start on the coaches at 9:30.  The Heb Sky is now in Riga, Latvia which is the capital city.  It has a population of 700,000 in a country with only 2 million.  Latvia was occupied by the Russians from 1940 to 1991.  It is now a member of NATO.

 

Although we were docked close by the old town, we rode on the bus for a comprehensive tour through Riga with its lovely boulevards, parks and attractive buildings.  First stop was a walking tour of the Art Nouveau district.  Riga’s more than 800 exuberantly decorated facades from the late 19th and early 20th centuries make it Europe’s single best city for the distinctive, eye-pleasing style of Art Nouveau.  These are not the flowing, organic curves of Barcelona’s Modernista style, but geometrically precise patterns adorned with fanciful details, including an army of highly expressive, gargoyle-like heads.  Pastel colors and white trim abound.  The concentration of these buildings can be found on Alberta, Elizabets, Strelnieku and Kaplaka Bulvaris Streets.

 

We returned to the coach to drive through the modern part of Riga, then got off and walked through the Old Town.  We passed the House of the Blackheads, the Guild houses, continued to Dome Square passing the Swedish Gates, the renovated Stock Exchange, the Three Brothers (a row of buildings with distinct architectural styles).  We spotted the Black Cat, the boy reading a book, the mayor, the dog—sculptures all atop buildings.  We saw Town Hall Square, the Dome Cathedral, St. Peter’s Church with its observation deck, the Museum of the Occupation, the Monument to the Latvian Riflemen, Riga Castle, the Freedom Monument… but did not go inside any of them.  We had some free time so the two of us walked to the local park to enjoy the gardens and see the canal boats.

 

We returned to the bus for the short ride back to the cruise terminal and could see an unusual triangular building across the river.  It was the National Library.

 

We had lunch on board.  There were only two others in the dining room [most people prefer to dine al fresco, but I enjoy my food better in the quieter and more elegant dining room setting].  I had Tuscan Bread Salad (Tomatoes, Onions, Olives, Mozzarella Cheese) Tossed in Garlic, Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinaigrette and gave the cukes to DW [but there was no bread among the greens].  I then had a very good Salmon and Prawn Linguini with Parmesan Cheese and Lemon Sauce, Cherry Tomatoes, Fresh Basil.  DW had Chicken Roulade (Chicken Breast filled with Swiss Cheese and Smoked Ham), Rissole Potatoes, Roquefort Cheese Sauce, and a small mango/papaya salad [the accompaniment to another dish] and the fruit plate for dessert.  I went for the Steamed Ginger and Rhubarb Sponge Pudding with Cinnamon Custard.

 

We then walked through the park to the Riga Art Nouveau Museum which shows what life was like behind those slinky facades back in the early 20th century.  Stroll through a finely decorated apartment with furniture, clothes, decorative items, rugs and lots of other details dating from around 1903.  This was the personal apartment of architect Konstantins Peksens.  We returned to the ship and by that point had walked 6 miles for the day.  Short naps were in order!

 

Dinner brought us to a table with two couples new to us (Judy and David from Edinburgh and Susan and Brian).  DW ordered the Haricot Vert Crunch Salad (Quinoa, Crunchy Vegetables, Toasted Peanuts, Spicy Peanut Dressing), Slow Braised Shank of Lamb with Roasted Garlic Mash, Baby Ratatouille, Rosemary and Redcurrant Gravy, and Baked Mango Cheesecake with Mango Sorbet and Fresh Berries.  I got Twice Baked Cheddar Cheese Soufflé with Gruyere Cheese Sauce and Toasted Walnuts [another rare fail – maybe Once Baked was enough], Grilled Fillets of Red Mulletwith Oven Dried Tomatoes, Green Beans, Saffron Chateau Potato, Fresh Basil Pesto, and White Chocolate and Raspberry Tart with Orange Crème Anglaise.

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Art Nouveau

 

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Riga Anti-Putin Protest

 

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Riga Anti-Putin Protest

 

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Riga House of the Blackheads

 

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Riga The Town Musicians of Bremen

 

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Riga

 

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Riga

 

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Riga

 

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Riga

 

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Riga - 'Miss Riga of 19xx'

 

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Riga 'The Three Brothers'

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Riga Museum of the Occupation of Latvia

 

620137972_121Riga.thumb.jpeg.573ecf1530b02f7ec8334ed0a53e51e7.jpegRiga National Library

 

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12 Friday August 5, 2022 – Pärnu, Estonia

 

The good weather continues.  Today it hit 80.  

 

Heb Sky docked this morning in Pärnu, Estonia and the buses were set to leave at 9:00 am.  As we walked down the gangway we were greeted by about 15 locals in a band playing music for us.  A red carpet lined the way for disembarking passengers out into the parking lot.  [Pȧrnu was one of the added stops on the revised itinerary.  It gets very few cruise ships so they went all out to welcome Heb Sky on this and her prior visit the week before.]

 

Opting for the longer [7.5 hour] tour, first on the agenda was a leisurely panoramic tour through Pärnu before a long haul (75 minutes) out to the countryside to Kurgia Farm Museum.  We were guided through the rooms of the museum and then through two of the outbuildings—the original four room house (including the mandatory sauna) of Jacobson and his family and the mill where grain for the family and meal for the cattle were processed and stored for the family and to sell.  We walked slowly to another structure passing orchards dotted with beehives and gardens with lovely dahlias…  and spotted young storks up in a tree nest and their parents down on the field as it was being mowed.  The Baltic also seems to be home to flocks of swallows.

 

At 11:30 we had lunch produced on the farm.  A broth with veggies and some sausage along with a dense sorghum (?) bread and a thin sliced dark rye.  But no butter!  Dessert was a square of a crumb cheese Danish.  Coffee and cold water were the beverages.

  

There was no time to explore the grounds except to catch a glimpse of a picnic area/playground on one side and three horses on the other. 

 

Off to the next destination by driving on a main road through Soomaa National Park to Viljandi (an hour away) for a 40 minute walk through some of the town past the outdoor theatre and concert hall to the 13th century castle/fortress ruins and back past St. John’s Lutheran Church.  Having been in quite a few Lutheran churches in the Baltic, this one was a bit of a surprise.  The children’s area inside was a low wall-less enclosure complete with cushions, toys and an aquarium.  Paper flowers probably made by the youngsters decorated the pews.  A large mobile of paper birds in shades of blue was suspended to the left of the pulpit.  The big shockers were the large Franciscan cross in the sanctuary and the crucifix on the altar.  There was also a statue (of Hope) next to the altar.  Outside the sanctuary is a tapestry of Jacob’s Ladder and just inside a Cross carpet.  There was also colorful stained glass at the top of the long windows.  Very unusual for a Lutheran church to have such decorations.

 

The coach driver Georg then drove 75 minutes back to Pärnu for a walk through one of the main streets filled with booths for vendors of woolen and linen garments, handicrafts.  A two day street fair!  We also got to see the Red tower (a former prison and defense tower) which is painted white but does have a red roof, the old City Hall, churches of St. Elizabeth and St. Catherine.  Malle our guide had us back to the pier at 4:30.  The red carpet was still there.

 

DW headed to deck 4 to walk but didn’t get far before encountering a passenger she hadn’t met before.  After a long chat, D moved along but that was interrupted by an encounter with a known passenger.

 

Across the river DW could see young boys on razor scooters in a specially designed park for them.  Like a skateboard park, it had a series of ramps for them to zip up and down and do their tricks.

 

At cruise director Brenda’s request, we dined with a couple of chaps from Brighton (Phil and Alan).  We both had Warm Asparagus and Cheddar Cheese Tartlet with Red Pepper Coulis and Mixed Leaves, Steamed Fillet of Lemon SoleFilled with a Scallop and Dill Farce, Herb Mash Potato, Buttered Leeks, Yellow Courgettes, Champagne Beurre Blanc with Salmon Keta, and the special coffee ice cream (made for DW, but she shares!).  I also tried the Lemon Treacle Tartwith Hazelnut Ice Cream but was not impressed.

 

We headed upstairs to the lounge to watch Death on the Nile.  I left partway through as I couldn’t understand the dialog.  DW and a handful of others stuck it out, but she noticed that with every death the audience thinned out too.  Hammy!

 

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Hebridean Sky in Pärnu

 

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Pärnu Rolls Out the Red Carpet

 

 Pärnu Band

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Kurgia Farm Museum

 

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Viljandi Castle Park

 

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Viljandi Castle Park

 

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Viljandi Suspension Bridge

 

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Viljandi Suspension Bridge

 

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Viljandi Castle Park

 

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Viljandi Church

 

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Viljandi Church

 

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Viljandi Church

 

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Viljandi Church

 

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Pärnu Red Tower

 

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Pärnu Street Fair

 

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Pärnu Street Fair

 

1853034694_94ParnuPhilosophy.thumb.jpeg.509c78009850d585287b367ad3e1a82f.jpeg

Pärnu Philosophy

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13 Saturday August 6, 2022 – Saaremaa, Estonia

 

Our morning sail encountered rough seas as we transitioned from the protected Gulf of Riga into the Baltic to reach the northern side of Saaremaa Island around 1:00 PM.  Saaremaa is Estonia’s largest island, and offers a glimpse of a bygone age.  Untouched by industry, it is a green and very pleasant land dotted with attractive villages in a rolling forested landscape.

 

Before exploring it, DW went to Martin’s talk “Communism, My Part in its Downfall—Reporting Europe, East and West” and Brenda’s port talk for the next morning for Tallinn.  I wanted to extend my lie-in, so I watched on our cabin TV.

 

Then it was early lunch.  I had Estonian Potato Salad – Eesti Kartulisalat (Estonian Smoked Sausage, Boiled Potatoes, Carrots, Peas, Cucumber, Green Apple, Boiled Egg, Sour Cream and Mayonnaise Dressing) and Tuna Niçoise Salad Wrap with French Fries, Salad Garnish.  DW had Sweet and Sour Chicken (Crispy Strips of Chicken Breast, Wok Fried Vegetables, Egg Fried Rice, Sweet and Sour Sauce) with a side of steamed broccoli and carrots.

 

At 1:30 the coaches drove us away.  Our guide Elle pointed out all the stone walls separating properties.  The island is known for its dolomite and stone.  We also saw small windmills and strange, large wooden statues. She told us how Saaremaa had been overrun with wild boar but the population was finally under control.

 

The first sight we visited was just inside the forest.  It was a natural cold spring which developed from a nearby lake.  As it had rained in the morning, we did not take the usual stroll deeper into the woods.

 

Our guide Elle gathered us back onboard the smaller bus and we drove off to Kihelkonna village where we visited a 13th century church.  Founded as a Cistercian church, it was now Lutheran.  It just so happened that a Dominican monk in civilian garb was visiting  and wanted to test out the acoustics so we all quieted down and he sang Gregorian chant to us in Latin.  Despite its now having a tall steeple and (electronic) carillon, there was a much older short bell tower out in the field [not built atop the church for structural reasons].

 

Next stop was the Mihkli Farm Museum where we were fed homemade goodies (tasty hors d’ flavored with onion, a dense bread with tiny chunks of ham, and a yummy blueberry crumb topped cheesecake along with coffee, tea or rhubarb or mint flavored water) while watching four older couples in authentic Estonia attire dance to their traditional music played by a woman on the accordion.  (She also sang songs with a second woman.)  They performed for quite a while which left only 10 minutes to explore all the outbuildings and see the antique farm implements or use the outhouse.

 

Back on the minibus for a half hour into the lovely capital, Kuressaare, on the southern end of the island for a drive tour to see the House of Knighthood, Town Hall, Weigh House, St. Nicholas Church and the 13th century Bishop’s Castle.  We then had free time to explore on our own.

 

We opted to head over to the castle and walk the outer embankments for views of the castle and of the market fair taking place beyond.  We made our way over there and poked around the stalls some of which were closing down for the day.  Entertainment featuring young Estonian dancers was just wrapping up – it was good to see that the younger generation is preserving the same costumes and dances we had seen in the morning.  

 

We strolled back in plenty of time for our bus and DW wandered through some local streets in search of roof ladders on some of the houses.  Elle played recorded music for us on the half hour ride back to the ship which we didn’t reach until 6:45.

 

The captain pulled away from the pier just about the time we began dinner and the rough seas were ours once more.  For dinner, we both started with Garden Salad (Loaded With Crisp Leafy Greens, Fresh Garden Veggies, and Crunchy Croutons, Served With a Ranch Dressing), then I had  Beef Stroganoff with Steamed Rice (Thin strips of Beef Cooked with Onions, Mushrooms, Seasonings, Sour cream, Gherkins, Beetroot) and DW had the always-available Ribeye Steakwith a side of steamed broccoli and carrots.  As the meal progressed we lost our tablemates (Chris and Jan, Ray, and Sally), but seasoned sailors that we are, we stuck it out through our very own special coffee ice cream.

 

We then made our way topside stopping at reception for Phenergan pills and ginger candy.  Back in our cabin, we performed minimal ablutions so that we could get in bed quickly.  Sucking on a ginger candy helped DW and she was asleep by 11.  I was fine.  Not all passengers were so fortunate.

 

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Saaremaa Island Folk Sculptures

 

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Saaremaa Island Folk Sculptures

 

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Kihelkonna Church

 

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Kihelkonna Church

 

1839820873_11KihelkonnaChurch.thumb.jpeg.1c6e986a854cd824417bd220fcbde75f.jpeg

 

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Kihelkonna Church

 

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Kihelkonna Church

 

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Kihelkonna Church

 

 

 Kihelkonna Church (Dominican monk singing Gregorian chant)

 

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Kihelkonna Church Bell Tower

 

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Mihkli Farm Museum

 

 

 Mihkli Farm Museum Dancers

 

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Mihkli Farm Museum

 

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Mihkli Farm Museum

 

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Mihkli Farm Museum

 

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Mihkli Farm Museum

 

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Kuressaare Bishop's Castle

 

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Kuressaare Bishop's Castle

 

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Kuressaare Fair

 

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Kuressaare Fair

 

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Kuressaare Fair

 

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14 Sunday August 7, 2022 – Tallinn, Estonia

 

Today was a mix of sun and clouds with a high in the upper 60s.  We docked early in the morning in Tallinn, Estonia.  A U.S. Navy ship was berthed across from us, but shortly after our arrival, a big German cruise ship pulled in between us and blocked our view.  This was from the Tui line–Mein Schiff 6.  It had the capacity for 2500 passengers [compared to our 114!]

 

We met our tour guide Gregor at 9:00 for our walk through Toompea, the Old Town.  The Upper Town, built on a cliff top and home of the aristocrats, offers a superb vantage point from which to view the red-gabled roofs and spires of the Lower Town where the merchant class lived.  They eventually controlled the comings and goings of the those from the Upper Town.  We visited the Russian Orthodox Church (Alexander Nevsky Cathedral) during their Sunday service and the 13th century St. Mary’s Gothic Dome Cathedral (Lutheran) the walls of which were covered with huge, dark family crests.  We passed Estonia’s seat of Parliament in Toompea Castle before descending to the Lower Town.  We walked to Town Hall Square and saw the Old Apothecary (Europe’s oldest pharmacy), the Great Guild House and Holy Spirit Church.

 

We saw the Russian Embassy with temporary barricades covered with pro Ukrainian and anti-Russian, anti-Putin posters  [Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, all formerly under Soviet domination for 40-50 years, are now welcoming Ukrainian refugees.  These three countries, along with Poland, are fearful of Putin.]

 

Gregor soon set us free to explore on our own and explained where our buses would meet us (in front of the Opera House).  We popped into the gelato shop to buy a dish of pistachio gelato and to use their WC.

 

Then we walked down the street to St. Peter and Paul’s Cathedral (RC) for 11:30 Mass, which turned out to be a High Mass with organ and choir and the young bishop presiding over the liturgy with the assistance of four red-caped altar boys.  It was in Estonian but certain parts were sung in Greek (Kyrie) and Latin (Gloria, Sanctus, Lord’s Prayer, Agnus Dei).  Lots of incense!  Longer than we expected [especially after the half-hour Mass in Copenhagen’s Cathedral] but luckily we weren’t under any time pressure.

 

The two of us walked back up to Pikk Street to find Hell Hunt Pub which was recommended by Rick Steves.  I had fish and chips and DW had a ham/cheese/mushroom sandwich on black bread.  [It turned out there were also tomatoes, pickles, onions and mayo on it, not mentioned on the menu – it’s so hard to avoid onions!]

 

Off we went to explore the rest of Pikk Street down to a gate in the city wall with a coat of arms on one side and the corpus of the crucified Christ on the other.  We passed through to get a look  at Fat Margaret Tower and then retraced our steps on Pikk Street.  We saw the Three Sisters hotel, St. Olav’s church and took photos of the former KGB prison, guild halls and an apothecary with fancy decorations.  We found our way (crossing the Iron Man (and Woman) competition) to the Opera House where we caught the 2:30 shuttle back to Heb Sky by the skin of our teeth.

 

Walking along the quay toward our ship, a gull suddenly dropped the small fish it had caught and it fell at DW’s feet.  She picked it up and threw it back into the water.  The gull dove again but didn’t get it [at least not while we watched].

 

At 4:30 we were back on buses taking us to the Church of the Holy Spirit for a 30 minute Medieval music concertpresented by Rondellus, a three-piece group formed in 1993 to promote medieval and renaissance music. 

 

We returned to the ship by 6:15 and Brenda gave her Helsinki briefing an hour later.

 

For dinner, I had Hebridean Sky Cured Beetroot, Gin and Dill Gravlax with Whole Grain Rye Bread, Dressed Leaves, Honey and Mustard Dressing, then Seared Tuna Loin Steak with Wok Fried Noodles, Asian Vegetables, Sesame Oriental Sauce and Lime [the first try was well-done tuna, but when I explained that I wanted it just seared the second try was perfect] and Chocolate and Orange Roulade with Fresh Cream and Fruit Sauce.  DW had Warm Tian of Grilled Mixed Peppers with Glazed Feta, Balsamic Glaze, Fresh Basil, Toasted Pecans, then Panache of Seafood (Salmon, Prawn and Seared Scallops on Parmesan Risotto, with Steamed Vegetables, Dill Butter Sauce), and finally Estonian Baked Apple – Küpsetatud Õunad (Cored and Hollowed Apple filled with Butter, Cinnamon and Raisins) with her special coffee ice cream.  We sat with Margaret and Richard, Sue and Chris.

 

We sailed at midnight with the promise of calmer seas.

 

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Tallinn NATO Ship

 

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 Hebridean Sky & Mein Schiff 6 (guess which is which...)

 

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Tallinn Russian Orthodox Church

 

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Tallinn St. Mary’s Gothic Dome Cathedral

 

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Tallinn St. Mary’s Gothic Dome Cathedral

 

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Tallinn St. Mary’s Gothic Dome Cathedral

 

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Tallinn Toompea Castle

 

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Tallinn Long Leg Gate

 

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Tallinn Maiasmokk Pastry Shop

 

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Tallinn Maiasmokk Pastry Shop (marzipan)

 

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Tallinn Holy Spirit Church

 

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Tallinn Holy Spirit Church

 

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Tallinn Great Guild Hall

 

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Tallinn Russian Embassy protest

 

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Tallinn Russian Embassy protest

 

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Tallinn Russian Embassy protest

 

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Tallinn Town Hall Square

 

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Tallinn Old Apothecary

 

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Tallinn Peeter-Paul Katedraal (RC)

 

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Tallinn Peeter-Paul Katedraal (RC)

 

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Tallinn Peeter-Paul Katedraal (RC)

 

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Tallinn Brotherhood of the Black Heads

 

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Tallinn Hell Hunt Pub

 

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Tallinn Great Coastal Gate (outer entrance)

 

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Tallinn Fat Margaret Tower

 

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Tallinn Three Sisters

 

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Tallinn KGB Prison Cells

 

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Tallinn KGB Prison Cells

 

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Tallinn 18 Pikk Street (Art Nouveau)

 

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Tallinn Iron Man Competition

 

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Tallinn Chocolate Cafe

 

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Tallinn Opera House

 

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Tallinn Concert at Holy Spirit Church

 

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Tallinn Concert at Holy Spirit Church

 

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Tallinn Concert at Holy Spirit Church (Royal Navy Ensign)

 

Tallinn Concert at Holy Spirit Church

 

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15 Monday August 8, 2022 – Helsinki, Finland

 

The first day with some light rain for a very short spell.  Then it was great!

 

We docked in Helsinki, Finland around 8 am.

 

Delightful surprise on breakfast buffet: perfectly ripe mango.  Delicious!

 

Across the water from our berth was a Ferris wheel.  Large but no London Eye.

 

At 9:00 we took off on a bus with our guide, Lesa.  She should have been a stand-up comic.  Witty, but also full of information about the city.  We drove around for about 45 minutes and learned that Finland has been independent since 1917.  That the country is 70% Lutheran.  Next religion is Orthodox [but not Russian Orthodox – the Finnish Orthodox Church is directly under the Patriarch of Constantinople].

 

Our panoramic tour passed the President’s House, the colorful outdoor Market Square and the indoor Market place, Stockmann’s Department Store, the statue of Three Blacksmiths, Parliament House, the Helsinki Library (an unusual piece of architecture resembling a UFO made of wood and glass), the Music Hall, the National Museum with a statue of a bear (the national animal) outside, the Opera House (Lesa: “constructed in toilet tile architecture” and the season begins the end of August but the opera festival is held in July), the Olympic Stadium which was built in the 1930s, Ronald McDonald House, the National Theatre, the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral.  [The bus moved as fast as she talked, so no pictures...]

 

We stopped and got out at the park to see the Sibelius Monument which looks like a large assortment of connected embellished stainless steel tubes.  Nearby is a sculpture of Jean Sibelius’ face.

 

Next stop was the famous Rock Church designed in the 1960s by two brothers on Temple Square (Temppeliaukio).  It is built directly into solid granite rock from the site.  The skylight in the ceiling which is held up by a copper lined dome is an additional source of natural light along with the 50 windows around the church.  The copper and the rock make for ideal acoustics and this Lutheran church is the site of many a concert including Heavy Metal Mass concerts.  It holds 750 people.  [DW loved it.  It was so natural with the rock and light and not cluttered with decorations.  Peaceful!]

 

Although most people do not practice their Lutheranism, 90% of the youngsters attend Confirmation camp.

 

We also visited the Lutheran Cathedral (built in 1852) in the heart of Helsinki.  Beautiful white exterior with columns and green/gold domes but inside was cold giving the impression of a temple rather than a church.  We actually had a brief rain shower at this time.

 

A few facts about Finland:  75% of the country is covered with forests, there are

188,000 lakes, the swan is the national bird, it has the cleanest air and water in the world (says the UN), there is free public health care and inexpensive private care (e. g., to stay in the hospital when giving birth costs only $40-$60/day and you get a baby box filled with items for the first year of the child’s life).

 

Taxes are progressive but average around 30%.

 

We returned to the ship for lunch.  D had Mixed Leaf Salad (Red Radish, Tomato, Cucumber, Celery and Grapes with Choice of Dressings), Chicken Burger plus Cabbage Roll filled with Ratatouille Vegetables and Feta Cheese, Tomato and Basil Sauce (ugh), and coffee ice cream [always saves the day!].  I had Shepherd’s Pie with Market Vegetables and Rich Lamb Gravy, and Queen of Puddings with Warm Crème Anglaise [‘Leave the boat, please.’  ‘Of course, Sir.’]

 

[We had lots of fun cross-checking the different names for foods and dishes on the two sides of the Pond.  My conclusion is that sometime after 1776 the English adopted a lot of French idioms that we rude colonial folk ignored…]

 

Back on the bus at 2:00 for a Sibelius afternoon.  First we went to the Sibelius Academy for a 40 minute private concertperformed by two talented, award winning young women who were students there—a pianist and a violinist.  At the end the school master presented everyone with a free Sibelius CD [but when I looked at mine on the bus, it was an empty case.  Our cruise tour agent gave me his copy.]

 

Then we drove 5 minutes to Ainola, the Sibelius home and studio for a guided tour of the custom built house (1904), the sauna (60% of Finns have saunas) and the lovely natural gardens.  Most of the fireplaces are in the standard Finnish green color, but one is a special shade that Sibelius said sounded to him like the key of F major.

 

Back to the ship.  I took a nap.  DW walked on deck.

 

Brenda gave her talk re our next stop and we went to dinner with Mary and Martin Sixsmith [just the four of us this time].  We both started with Oven Baked Escargot with Garlic and Herb Butter and Black Olive Baguette.. Then DW had a salad (Assorted Leaf Lettuce, Tomato, Red Radish, Bacon Bits and Hearts of Palm, Choice of Dressing).  For the entrée we both had Oven Baked Guinea Fowl Breast with Crushed New Potatoes, Sautéed Greens, Lemon Jus.  For dessert, I had Lemon Tart with Raspberry Compote and Crème Anglaise, and DW her special coffee ice cream.

 

A full day!

 

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Sibelius Monument, Helsinki

 

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Sibelius Monument, Helsinki

 

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Sibelius Monument, Helsinki

 

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Temppeliaukio (Rock) Church, Helsinki

 

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Temppeliaukio (Rock) Church, Helsinki

 

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Temppeliaukio (Rock) Church, Helsinki (ceiling – copper wires)

 

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Temppeliaukio (Rock) Church, Helsinki

 

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Temppeliaukio (Rock) Church, Helsinki

 

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Lutheran Cathedral, Helsinki

 

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Concert at Sibelius Academy

 

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Ainola (Sibelius' home)

 

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Ainola (Sibelius' home)

 

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Ainola (Sibelius' home)

 

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Ainola (Sibelius' home)

 

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Ainola (fireplace in F major)

 

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Ainola (Sibelius' home)

 

1891014819_82Ainola.thumb.jpeg.6a9a05e3a801b325dc1b44f5a3c5a0e9.jpegSibelius' grave at Ainola

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16 Tuesday August 9, 2022 – Mariehamn, Finland

 

Finland geologically is DW’s kind of place.  Rock formations everywhere!  It was delightful sailing through some of 6700 islands of the Åland archipelago on our way into Mariehamn.  It is the only town within the Åland region.  Founded in 1861 when Finland was part of Russia, it has a population under 12,000.  Although Åland is part of Finland, it lies closer to Sweden so most of the people speak Swedish.

 

We had a late start this morning.  10:00.  We had a well-spoken, pleasant guide named Sigbritt.  The coach took us out into the country and back for about 40 minutes and we wound up right next to Heb Sky at the Åland Maritime Museum.  We first visited the exhibits in the museum building and then Sigbritt took us over to the Pommern.  Built in Scotland in 1903, it is the only four-masted merchant sailing ship in the world still preserved in its original state.  Almost 300’ long with masts almost 150’ high, she was built to transport cargo with as few as 26 crew members.  She shipped timber from Scandinavia, saltpeter from Chile and grain from Australia.

 

We then headed out into the countryside for another 30 minute ride to visit the open-air Jan Karlsgården Museum to learn about the country’s farming traditions, work, and see different kinds of buildings.  There are about 20 of them brought from different areas in Åland.  They illustrate the culture of Åland and show the environment in which the residents once lived and worked.

 

On the grounds was a midsummer pole with streamers and sailboats and small spruce trees.

 

Back on the bus to our final sight, Badhusberget, at the top of the hill on which there is a big yellow, concrete water tower and from which you get beautiful views of the harbor and the town.

 

[It really seemed like they were trying to make a full day out of a half-day's sites, but it was very scenic.]

 

Finally back at our ship, we were well past the start of lunch.  I got a well done hamburger (my fault: I neglected to say that I wanted it medium rare) and DW had a salad (Mixed Lettuce, Potato, Green Beans, Black Olives, Tomato Wedges, Soft Boiled Egg, Choice of Dressing), and Turkey Saltimbocca (Grilled Turkey Breast Steak wrapped in Parma Ham and Sage with Herb Buttered Potatoes, Steamed Vegetables, Lingonberry Jus).  We both finished with Peach Crumble with Warm Sauce Anglaise.

 

DW walked back up to the water tower and then bushwhacked back down to a side street and explored that area before visiting St. Goran/George (Lutheran) Church where a young woman was practicing violin in front of the sanctuary.  She continued walking toward the town center for a short way and then turned around to face the harbor and walked the esplanade lined with linden trees.

 

Back to the ship in time for Martin’s final presentation—a Q & A session with questions submitted the last two days. The well-educated Noble Caledonia passengers had submitted an interesting range of thought-provoking questions, and Martin answered them and elaborated on the topics.  A great finale to a very satisfying lecturer!

 

At 7:00 was the Captain’s farewell cocktail party/reception followed by Brenda’s talk about tomorrow’s tour.

 

Dinner was only served in the Dining Room so it was unusually full with all the al fresco people added to us regulars.  (We dined with Lyndsey and Chris, Elaine, and Anne).  I had Aberdeen Angus Fillet of Beef Wellington (medium-rare) with Parsnip Puree, Chateau Potato, White Asparagus, Madeira Port Wine Jus, and Grand Marnier Soufflé with Crème Anglaise.  DW had Oven Baked Green Asparagus wrapped in Black Forest Ham with Olive Oil, Parmesan, Fresh Lemon, then Lobster Tail Thermidor with Crab and Herb Risotto, Pea Puree, Roasted Celeriac, Tempura Cauliflower Florets, Hollandaise Sauce, and finished with Kladdkaka - Swedish Sticky Chocolate Cake with Caramel Sauce, and her special coffee ice cream.  [The Kladdkaka was almost as good as what she makes at home!]

 

We set the clocks back tonight to get on Stockholm time.

 

Beautiful weather again today.

 

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Sail-in to Mariehamn

 

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Sail-in to Mariehamn

 

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Sail-in to Mariehamn

 

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Sail-in to Mariehamn

 

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Sail-in to Mariehamn

 

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Södragatan Street, Mariehamn

 

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Södragatan Street, Mariehamn

 

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Södragatan Street, Mariehamn

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Herzogin Cecilie

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Herzogin Cecilie

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Herzogin Cecilie

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Herzogin Cecilie

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Herzogin Cecilie

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Pommern

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Pommern

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Pommern

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Pommern

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Pommern

 

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Åland Maritime Museum – Pommern

 

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Jan Karlsgården Museum

 

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Jan Karlsgården Museum

 

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Jan Karlsgården Museum

 

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Jan Karlsgården Museum

 

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Jan Karlsgården Museum

 

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Jan Karlsgården Museum

 

153163149_71JanKarlsgardenMuseum.thumb.jpeg.538b7969e22749f4e4ecb3cc865f22b5.jpeg

Jan Karlsgården Museum

 

565429892_72JanKarlsgardenMuseum.thumb.jpeg.f86c505d8396f6907f65fd078455b183.jpeg

Jan Karlsgården Museum (folding stool/table)

 

356156451_73JanKarlsgardenMuseum.thumb.jpeg.8e1cc3067a224e067fb7377f43e011b7.jpeg

Jan Karlsgården Museum (folding stool/table)

 

2039135004_77JanKarlsgardenMuseum.thumb.jpeg.784ef58e039f142995d1886370dd24ad.jpeg

Jan Karlsgården Museum

 

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Jan Karlsgården Museum

 

1360539738_88JanKarlsgardenMuseum.thumb.jpeg.72b0ca6a1b5ca1c20c78c27c6b3e177a.jpeg

Jan Karlsgården Museum

 

1368617065_96Badhusberget.thumb.jpeg.b052ec2fdaaa068fce676bbb79511352.jpeg

Badhusberget viewpoint

 

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Badhusberget viewpoint

 

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Badhusberget viewpoint

 

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St. Goran-George Church, Mariehamn

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17 Wednesday August 10, 2022 – Stockholm, Sweden

 

Beautiful day.  Sunny and high 70s.

 

We sailed through the many islands of the Swedish archipelago into Stockholm arriving there just before 10 am.  This is a great sailing area and the islands are peppered with attractive summer homes.  We had the morning to ourselves to relax onboard or to begin to explore Stockholm on our own.

 

Stockholm has 14 islands and 2 million inhabitants but only 1 million live in the central part of the city.  Sweden has a population of 11.5 million.  Right now they have many hours of sunlight but in the winter they only have daylight from 9 am to 3 pm.

 

We had an early lunch as our tour was to begin at 1:00 pm.  We both had the Poached Supreme of Salmon with Parsley Boiled Potatoes, Sautéed Vegetables, Chive Butter Sauce.  I had Creamy Rice Pudding with Strawberry and Ginger Compote for dessert and DW her coffee ice cream.

 

We were on the bus for about a half hour as our driver took us on a panoramic tour passing the National Museum, the New Palace from the 18th century with 608 rooms, the Church of St. Jacob, the Royal Opera House, the Grand Hotel, the Royal Dramatic Theater with gilt statues out front, the Nordic Museum, Blue Gate, the Animals Garden, the Viking Museum, the island of museums, the Art Museum, ABBA Museum (with a long line outside), Tivoli Gröna Lund, the Old Circus (now a concert hall), Skansen open air museum, Italian embassy, Biology Museum, the Strandvagen, Embassy Row, the English Church, Berwaldhallen concert hall, Hamngatan (= Main St.), the Obelisk (center of Stockholm), the Foreign Ministry, Parliament and House of the Nobility.

 

The bus then dropped us back on Museum Island, where we spent an hour in the Vasa Museum which is built around the 17th century warship which sank in Stockholm’s inner harbor on her maiden voyage in 1628.  Its discovery in 1956 and subsequent salvage in 1961 is one of the most important events in maritime archaeology.  In addition to the well-preserved, elaborately decorated hull, thousands of items from the ship including hundreds of sculptures have been recovered.  [The brackish water of the harbor doesn’t support the marine worms that destroy wooden wrecks in the ocean, so the Vasa is amazingly well preserved.]

 

Then our guide took us on a walking tour of Gamla Stan (the Old Town).  We walked uphill to the site of the Stockholm Cathedral and toward the Palace (but we never got to see those places with the guide, because he was very bad at time management).  We then all went to the main square (Stortoget) where some people waited for our guide to return with the rest of the group.  He finally led us into a back alley where we saw the tiny statue of the Iron Boy, and to the viewpoint with the replica of the statue of St. George slaying the dragon and rescued princess looking on [the original is in the Cathedral]

 

We parted company with the guide and walked on to the German Church which was just over-the-top in decorations.  We walked down toward the esplanade, spotting two older bright yellow muscle cars – a Mustang and a Corvette.  We continued down to the harbor and boarded the Heb Sky.

 

After a short break we went back out and followed Rick Steves for an hour and a half.  We retraced our steps up and past the Obelisk and into the Cathedral (admission was 6 euros each for seniors).  We saw the real sculpture of St. George and the silver/ebony altar, the royal pews used only by members of the royal family.  Upon leaving there, we saw the palace guards at their posts and took a video of one marching back and forth.  We walked down a narrow street (Priests’ street) and saw the coal doors, the iron building supports, the phoenix emblems, and a Viking rune stone.

 

We got back to the ship in time to hear Brenda’s summary talk and look at some photos of places we’d visited during the cruise, and the wedding of Executive Chef Adam and Elmie from Reception on  the previous cruise.  [No wonder the food was so good!]

 

Our final dinner onboard.  (We dined with Susan and Brian, Judy and David).  Both of us ordered a Courgette (zucchini), Oven Dried Tomato and Chive Tartlet with Apple and Walnut Salad, Tomato and Basil Vinaigrette to start and then Tamarind Prawn Curry with Basmati Rice, Chapatti, Fresh Lime Yoghurt.  We accepted the zingy chutney for dipping.  We finished with the local specialty Änglamat (Apple Compote, layered with Whipped Cream, Toasted Breadcrumbs, Cinnamon and Flaked Almonds) with our last servings of coffee ice cream.

 

As usual we stayed and chatted with our tablemates and then headed upstairs to pack.

 

One problem:  we couldn’t empty the safe as we couldn’t unlock it.  [Our cabin attendant, Alex, to the rescue.]

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum (gun port)

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum (if the gun doesn't frighten you, the lion will!)

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum (why did it sink? too many guns, not enough ballast)

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum (carvings were originally polychromed like this)

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum (model)

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum (model)

 

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Stockholm Vasa Museum (lion figurehead)

 

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Stockholm Stortoget Square

 

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Stockholm Noble Prize Museum

 

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Stockholm Iron Boy statue

 

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Stockholm St. George Statute

 

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Stockholm St. George Statute (maiden)

 

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Stockholm German Church (St. Gertrude)

 

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Stockholm German Church (St. Gertrude)

 

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Stockholm Slottsbacken Square

 

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Stockholm Obelisk

 

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Stockholm Cathedral

 

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Stockholm Cathedral

 

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Stockholm Cathedral (the original St. George Statue)

 

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Stockholm Cathedral – Stockholm in early 1500s

 

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Stockholm Royal Palace

 

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Stockholm Royal Palace

 

 Stockholm Royal Palace

 

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Gamla Stan Prästagatan

 

536735437_109GamlaStanPrastagatan(boltsandcoalhatches).thumb.jpeg.3404b6d58603d1162d259fcada08bb96.jpeg

Gamla Stan Prästagatan (bolts and coal hatches)

 

1902216383_111GamlaStanPrastagatan(phoenixsign).thumb.jpeg.8fade96d13c3b11b2396bdbc81e9942a.jpeg

Gamla Stan Prästagatan (phoenix sign = I paid for fire protection)

 

1577320973_112GamlaStanPrastagatan(Vikingrunestone).thumb.jpeg.220a4b25f9a3bfea5881682a83fe8578.jpeg

Gamla Stan Prästagatan (Viking rune stone)

 

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18 Thursday August 11, 2022 – Stockholm

 

Bags out to the corridor before 7 am [still better than the night before, as on big ships!]  Early breakfast before final gathering of things before disembarkation.  Down to reception to find our cab awaiting us at the pier.  Farewells to all and Heb Sky!  15 minutes later we were checking in at the nearby Hilton Stockholm Slussen.  As expected, our room was not ready so they took our bags and watched them while we left to go sightseeing.

 

We walked back almost as far as Heb Sky to the ferry terminal where we boarded a crowded boat which had us to Allmänna Gränd (the large island) in 10 minutes.  The ferry emptied out with many passengers heading to the Tivoli Amusement Park and a bunch of us going farther afield to Skansen, the open air folk museum.  Founded in 1891, it became the first in what became a Europe wide movement to preserve traditional architecture in open air museums.  It’s a huge park gathering 150 historic buildings (homes, churches, schools, shops) from all over Sweden.  Visitors can see crafts in action and wonderfully furnished old interiors.  We spent hours there watching glass blowers create mini moose’s [meese?], touring an aristocrat’s upscale manor house, searching for wolverines, lynxes, arctic foxes who were hiding out in their natural environment.  I finally saw the wolverine and DW the fox, but they were not visible like the moose, four brown bears, sea lions, pigs and bison.  We saw an owl and a peacock in captivity but its mate, the pea hen was up in a tree in the public area.  We never did see the otters.

 

We visited the old Lutheran church moved from another Swedish town complete with its original painted (figures and designs) wooden ceiling and walls. We chatted with the male guide who was outfitted in period costume.  The other major building we saw was the Skogaholm Manor, with an extensive guided tour of the fanciest residence in the park.

 

Growing fatigued and hungry we opted to sit down and enjoy lunch downstairs at the Solliden restaurant.  We both ordered Swedish meatballs which came with lots of mashed potatoes, lingonberries and pickled cucumbers.

 

Rejuvenated, we continued walking (we did 18,000 steps for the day) and passed old fashioned windmills, popped into the goldsmith’s workshop, strolled through the rose garden, saw the funicular in action and finally headed back to the escalator which took us down to the exit.

 

We waited in the long line but were able to catch the second ferry back.  As on the one coming, it was packed and we stood outside for the ride across the water.  As it was a hot, sunny day (around 84) we thought we’d wilt on our walk back uphill to the Hilton, where we retrieved our bags and got into our room at last.  They had accepted our upgrade bid, which put us in a separate building that’s only attached via the lower-level lobby and involves taking two elevators and walking under the street from one to the other.  It was a very quiet suite, but it lacked a port to charge cell phones.

 

We rested up before walking some more—back to Gamla Stan to dine at the recommended Kryp In.  We shared a lovely salad of greens, lingonberries, asparagus, cheese.  And we both ordered the casserole/stew of fish and seafood.  Their bread was homemade and the brown was especially delicious.

 

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Stockholm Skansen

 

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Stockholm Skansen Glassworks

 

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Stockholm Skansen Glassworks

 

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Stockholm Skansen Glassworks

 

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Stockholm Skansen Jakobsberg Summer Residence

 

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Stockholm Skansen Rune Stone

 

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Stockholm Skansen Rune Stone

 

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Stockholm Skansen Seglora Church

 

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Stockholm Skansen Seglora Church

 

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Stockholm Skansen Seglora Church

 

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Stockholm Skansen Seglora Church

 

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Stockholm Skansen Seglora Church Ceiling

 

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Stockholm Skansen Seglora Church

 

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Stockholm Skansen Seglora Church

 

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Stockholm Skansen Young Bears Play-Fighting

 

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Stockholm Skansen Moose

 

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Stockholm Skansen Skogaholm Manor

 

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Stockholm Skansen Skogaholm Manor

 

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Stockholm Skansen Skogaholm Manor

 

782988394_121StockholmSkansenSkogaholmManor.thumb.jpeg.abcb60b37bc34cd7fae2803a06146a55.jpeg

Stockholm Skansen Skogaholm Manor

 

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Stockholm Skansen Skogaholm Manor

 

1785564641_137StockholmSkansenSkogaholmManor.thumb.jpeg.364e8b69fc643f0f645ca9dd2acf8d62.jpeg

Stockholm Skansen Skogaholm Manor

 

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Stockholm Skansen Rose Garden

 

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Stockholm Skansen Dala Horse in Playground

 

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Stockholm Dala Horses in Gift Shop

 

027 Stockholm Skansen Rune Stone.jpeg

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19 Friday August 12, 2022 – Stockholm

 

Up early, we were down at breakfast by 7:30.  I made waffles and enjoyed the pastries.  DW opted for cereal/raisins, ham and cheese omelet and some fresh honeydew.  We checked out, left our bags for most of the day and walked to the Old City Hall to catch a ferry to Drottningholm (means Queen’s Island).  [It has been called Sweden’s Versailles but that is a stretch.]

 

The ferry was filled to capacity but we found seats on wooden benches for the 45 minute crossing.  We walked through the formal garden which was short on flowers and returned to Drottningholm Palace for our reserved 11:30 tour in English.  An hour later we were touring the historic Drottningholm Court Theater.  The 18th century theater has miraculously survived the ages—complete with its instruments, Baroque stage sets and hand operated sound effects machines for wind, thunder…

 

We strolled down to the ferry dock and found seats on benches in the shade (another hot day) where we waited over a half hour till the next boat pulled in.  It left late and made an unexpected stop but had us back to Stockholm in 35 minutes just in time for the 3:00 English tour of the City Hall (Stadshuset).  What a beautiful building!  It is an impressive mix of 80 million red bricks, 19 million chips of gilt mosaic and lots of Stockholm pride.  It is an active city hall and the site of the annual Nobel Prize banquet.

 

Leaving there, we headed for Riddarholmen Church.  Established as a 13th century Franciscan church, it has been the burial place of nearly every Swedish Royal since the 1600s.  [We were tired, and a peak in the door suggested it wasn’t worth paying to get in.]

 

Baack to the Hilton where we collected our luggage and they called us a cab to take us out to the Radisson Blu Airport Terminal Hotel.  Our room had no functioning AC so we were moved to the only remaining available one two floors up.  [They claimed it was an upgrade, but it didn’t seem any bigger and had less storage space and minimal lighting – but its AC did work so we’re good.]

 

We enjoyed dinner in the hotel’s restaurant Horizon. We both had Steak Frites.  Then we walked all over Terminal 5 to familiarize ourselves with the layout for the early morning when we would be dragging our bags.

 

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Drottningholm Palace

 

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Drottningholm Palace Park

 

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Drottningholm Palace Park

 

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Drottningholm Palace Park

 

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Drottningholm Palace

 

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Drottningholm Palace Guardroom

 

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Drottningholm Palace Green Drawing Room

 

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Drottningholm Palace Ehrenstrahl Drawing Room

 

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Ehrenstrahl Drawing Room Hedwig Eleonora's State Bedchamber

 

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Drottningholm Palace Green Cabinet

 

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Drottningholm Palace Library

 

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Drottningholm Palace

 

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Drottningholm Palace

 

2109293877_045DrottningholmPalace.thumb.jpeg.a23a30f340362c3cdef4bd2602d2e55d.jpeg

Drottningholm Palace Blue Drawing Room

 

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Drottningholm Palace Portable Bed

 

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Drottningholm Palace Hall of Generals

 

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Drottningholm Palace Karl XI's Gallery

 

889573277_062DrottningholmCourtTheater.thumb.jpeg.37bd83c09fddd60e079279954c308351.jpegDrottningholm Court Theater

 

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Drottningholm Court Theater

 

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Drottningholm Court Theater (wallpaper – pinned on)

 

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Drottningholm Court Theater

 

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Drottningholm Court Theater

 

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Drottningholm Court Theater (costumes – painted details)

 

1019155871_091StockholmCityHall.thumb.jpeg.cd1db1daccaaa851dc0d085d0f32d1dd.jpegStockholm City Hall

 

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Stockholm City Hall

 

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Stockholm City Hall

 

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Stockholm City Hall

 

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Stockholm City Hall

 

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Stockholm City Hall

 

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Stockholm City Hall

 

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Stockholm City Hall

 

844675369_123StockholmCityHall.thumb.jpeg.ae26889ccf0bb009e5dfa4a83660ed06.jpeg

Stockholm City Hall

 

545303576_127StockholmCityHall.thumb.jpeg.9c4883eed5c4ceebae0f218bf1e96e00.jpeg

Stockholm City Hall

 

1974654620_128StockholmCityHall.thumb.jpeg.1a0862eb35acddc9b24cb10776b81ba3.jpeg

Stockholm City Hall

 

1765742901_125StockholmCityHall.thumb.jpeg.0953e8e38671a9e645a9b8a981c1416f.jpeg

Stockholm City Hall

 

1933163336_133StockholmRiddarholmen.thumb.jpeg.f35ff79b0c172203e4945fed1f314e86.jpeg

Stockholm Riddarholmen

 

1455902774_134StockholmRiddarholmen.thumb.jpeg.fea920583c60ebf25db60068724845b8.jpeg

Stockholm Riddarholmen

 

321068045_141StockholmRiddarholmen.thumb.jpeg.82f1295872c7298a7c66b2416a5920a6.jpeg

Stockholm Riddarholmen Church

 

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