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BALTIC CRUISE 2018

Day 1:
We arrived in Stockholm on Friday morning, July6 and after recovering in our hotel, went over the bridge into the old town and had some drinks.

Kathy on the Bridge

Our ship is Silver Spirit, a Silverseas ship that was chopped in half, then lengthened. I guess the naval architects and engineers were pretty good, because it was seamless and very smooth. Silver Spirit holds about 600 passengers.
The most interesting about the picture below is the sign above Mike's head.

Day2:
Saturday we had the morning and early afternoon to explore Stockholm before boarding our ship.

Ship in Stockholm

Kathy settled right in on our balcony overlooking the dock.

Kathy on Balcony

Bizarrely, under our balcony was a collection of vintage American cars, 5 shown here.

American Cars

Day3:
Sunday was a day at sea en route to St. Petersburg, Russia. Here's the whole gang at sea. Melinda, Kathy, Mike and Bryn.

4someOnShip

Kathy and Mike dressed up to kill. First dinner on board.

Mike and Kathy dressed up

What can we say. Kathy likes to take pictures of food. Here are some of them, including the highly dangerous Cook Your Own Steak Platter.

food1 food2 food3 food4 food5 food6

Geekwad Mike brought his navigation software to "make sure they were going the right direction." Here we are in the middle of the Gulf of Finland en route to St. Petersburg, going a pretty slow 12.7 knots.

Navigation

Days 3,4:
St. Petersburg, Russia. The beautiful city built by Peter the Great to look westward, back when Russia was interested in doing that. It definitely looks European, rather than Russian, but extraordinarily ornate.

Our first excursion was to Peterhof Castle, the quaint little castle built by Peter the Great.

peterhof

You definitely get the sense that Russians like gold. On everything.

peterhofInterior

We visited St. Isaacs cathedral, a little chapel for the serfs to worship the baby Jesus. It was designed by a Frenchman, and construction took so long that it became an idiom in the Finnish language: rakentaa kuin Iisakinkirkkoa (To build like the church of Isaac). There is a cool Foucault Pendulum in the church.

St Isaacs 3 St Isaacs 3

The highlight of St. Petersburg (Mike insisted on calling it St. Pete) was the Hermitage. Beautiful building. Masterpieces of every genre. Very easy to get masterpiece overload in the relatively quick tour.

hermitage

Didn't take many pictures of the artwork, since there are billions of images of each work. Mike did like Leonardo's "Madonna and Child." He said that guy Leonardo must have been some kind of a genius or something.

madonna

We saw some eggs.

egg

The final night in St. Petersburg was spent at the ballet. Mike has been to 3 professional ballets in his life, all 3 of them "Swan Lake." This was a good one, the only downside being the audience. Tourists of a certain demographic group were incredibly rude, holding their iphones and ipads up above their heads to record the performance, some of them only a few feet from the musicians in the pit. Unbelievable.

ballet

Day 5
We sailed out after the ballet and headed west out of the Gulf of Finland, next stop Tallinn, Estonia. One of our nannies, Mari was from Tallinn and returned there after her time with us. She is married with her own child and lives on an island. Tallinn is very beautiful; we started in the old walled town which dated back forever. Here is the entrance.

tallinnEntrance

We walked around the old town and drank coffee in cafes. It was lovely. Below is the oldest pharmacy in the world, being in continual operation since at least 1422.

tallinnEntrance

Here is our lovely hostess and her daughter at a park in Tallinn

mariAndDaughter

Another nice dinner out.

Dinner for 4

Day 6
Our next destination - Visby, on Gotland Island, property of Sweden. It is arguably the best preserved medieval town in Scandinavia and was a merchant harbor for the Hanseatic League which dominated Baltic Commerce in medieval times.

We went on a very informative bicycle tour and got some badly needed exercise.

Windmill mikeOnBike

We were feeling pretty good about our big cruise ship.

Until the Queen Victoria pulled in. Serious ship envy.

Ship envy Visby Music Scene

Not sure I'd recommend Visby for its super rocking music scene.

Later that night we reported to the dance floor, although it was almost empty when we finally took a picture.

Ship envy

Day 7
Continuing our tour of former Soviet Socialist Republics, we entered the country of Latvia and its capital, Riga. We sort of toured the city, the highlight being the location of the former Latvian office of the KGB. Latvia is very poor and could not make it without huge subsidies from the EU.

We went to a cool castle in the country.

Mike at Riga

Kathy got into some trouble with the authorities.

Kathy in Stocks

Day 8
Next stop, Klaipeda, Lithuania. Mike actually quite liked this town. There is a 100km island that runs roughly parallel to the mainland that forms a spectacular, enormous natural harbor, which has been in use since the Viking days. We opted for another bike trip, this one a little more grueling.

Klaipeda Bikes

Part of the bike trip involved a ferry ride across the harbor to the barrier island.

Klaipeda Ferry

The canals were very quaint; here is how we crossed one of them.

Day 9
Our penultimate stop, Gdansk. Very pretty city and the birthplace of Lech Walesa's Solidarity Movement, which went from a small shipyard trade union to the force that brought down Communism in Poland.

Gdansk Waterfront Gdansk Car Boat

Getting around Gdansk Harbor in style.

July 14 is our 28th wedding anniversary and this is what greeted us when we returned hot, tired and sweaty from Gdansk.

Anniversary 1 Anniversary Table

Nicely done, Silver Seas.

Anniversary Cake

Day 10
Our final port of call, Copenhagen.

mermaid

We took a bus tour guided by an English expat. He told us that the biggest letdown of our whole trip would be the mermaid in the Harbor. It was not exactly the Colossus of Rhodes. It was kinda cute though.

Copenhagen Square

Our guide took us to the boring main square in town where the Royal Family lives with basically no security. No mass shootings anticipated here. We have since learned from a professional photographer that when you are shooting portraits in bright sunlight, USE THE FLASH. It removes shadows.

A very cool canal boat tour of the canals. These boats are designed to make it under the very low bridges with about a hundred passengers. There was literally inches of clearance side-to-side and top-to-bottom under some of the bridges. Tons of people live on these canals on boats that will never move again. For those familiar with Westport, it was like a Black Duck every 100 feet.

Copenhagen Canal Boat

Our last day was spent on our own in Copenhagen, doing some shopping and hanging out on Nyhavn (New Harbour), the main canal through Copenhagen. Here is Kathy contemplating her options.

Kathy in Copenhagen

One of Kathy's purchases.

Royal Crown

Actually the royal family Crown. Not for sale.

We spent our last evening at Tivoli Garden, a fabulous amusement part dating to 1843. It inspired Walt Disney to create Disneyland, and is quite beautiful. We ate dinner at a biergarten. Some idiot's hand is in the picture, seeming to point at the main subject. Oh wait, that's Mike's hand.

Tivoli Bier Garden

The grounds were stunning.

Tivoli Garden Mike Archer

Here is Mike desperately, pathetically trying to impress Kathy. This illustrates a wonderful thing about traveling to countries that aren't insane. The arrows, pointed in the opposite direction, could actually kill people, but this hasn't happened in the 176 years since Tivoli opened.

Well, this concludes our Baltic trip. We were on a plane the next morning to Paris, where we picked up a car and drove to Normandy for our friends, the Moseleys' 30th wedding anniversary.