A Travellerspoint blog

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We Arrive in Copenhagen

So far, so good.

Our trip began with an indelible memory—the taxi ride to the airport. Our driver was 30 minutes late—a bit unnerving—and once he arrived, he didn't know how to get from our of our neighborhood to the airport. We were happy to give him directions... While Patsy Cline blared from the speakers behind us ("I love Patsy Cline; is it loud enough for you?" "What?" "IS IT LOUD ENOUGH FOR YOU!?" "YES !!"), our driver Bruce tailgated other drivers, nearly missed the stop lights, and coughed and spit his path to the airport. Upon arriving, he ripped the handle off of John's carry -on bag. Did he get a tip? Yes, because we're Minnesota nice.

The first leg our flight to Iceland was uneventful; Susie and Elaine watched a movie and rested while John slept. The two hour layover was quiet and everything was fine. The second leg of the flight to Copenhagen was shorter. Everyone was able to get at least an hour of sleep, which helped.

Arriving in Copenhagen, a taxi got us all to the Hotel Copenhagen 27. We checked in...and checked out. First things first, and after a long flight and 7 hour time change, the first thing we needed was a nap. Susie and John got up about 4:30 and showered and dressed. Since we had agreed to meet Elaine at 5:30, there was time for a short walk around the hotel and the neighborhood, including a quick step into an Australian pub two doors down.

Dinner was interesting. Part of our hotel charge, a light buffet had breads, cheese, pasta salads, fruits, soups, and desserts. After eating, a walk was in order.

We strolled a few blocks over to the City Hall square and across the street to Tivoli Gardens. Tivoli is a huge amusement park and gardens; we didn't go in but we walked beside the fence and viewed inside. It looked to be a mix of old and new.

By the time we got back to the hotel, we were nearly ready to turn in. But first we visited the ICE BAR across our courtyard. It is a bar that is constructed of ice: the bar, the seats, the decorations...even the glasses in which your drinks are served. The frigid nightcaps were enough to scoot us off to our nice warm beds.
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Tomorrow we tour the city and then get on board the Vision of the Seas to begin the cruise.

Posted by jeburns55 13:54 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

TOURING COPENHAGEN

and boarding our ship

We woke up fairly well rested and had the complimentary breakfast in the hotel. Along with scrambled eggs, fruits, cereal, yogurt, juice and coffee, it seems that standard breakfast fare includes sliced meats, various cheeses, and lots of different breads and rolls. Oh, and caviar in a large toothpaste tube.

By 9 a.m., being full and refreshed, we headed over to the Town Hall square to catch the first "hop on hop off" bus tour of Copenhagen. (The HOHO bus tours are a bargain in the many cities we've visited.)

We disembarked at Stop #4, the Rosenborg Castle. Since we arrived half an hour before the castle opened, the Copenhagen Botanical Gardens across the street seemed the perfect place to stroll for 30 minutes. Inside we found well maintained walking paths through varied gardens, tree plantings, trellises and ponds. A very relaxing way to start our day.
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At 10 a.m. the castle was open and we began our self-tour. The castle was built in the 1600s for King Frederick the Fourth. Danish soldiers still stand guard outside the main entrance. Each room inside is well preserved for that period with many displays of authentic furniture, paintings, tapestries, dishware, jewelry, arms and the Crown jewels. At the top of the building on the third floor is the throne room that extends the length of the building; in the cellar, we walked through the vault that has on display the jewel encrusted crowns for the king and queen.
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After a brief altercation between Susie and the next bus driver (Susie won....), the three of us reboarded a HOHO bus and completed the tour. One stop was at the harbor to see the famous statue of the Little Mermaid, the main character of Hans Christian Anderson's story of the same name, but alas—the mermaid is on vacation! She's on an art tour, so we missed seeing that landmark. Oh, well.
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The bus ride continued through the busy, winding streets and canals of the city, returning us to our hotel. From there we caught a taxi to the pier and boarded the Vision of the Seas. Once we were registered and signed in, it was lunch time (my goodness, but they do have a lot of food on these ships!). Then a short presentation about going ashore as St. Petersburg, Russia; a short nap; and it was dinner time.

We ended the evening with a live show in the auditorium and then beddy-bye for all!

Posted by jeburns55 13:55 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

FIRST FULL DAY AT SEA

This was a day of travel as the ship sailed up the center of the center of the Baltic Sea and into the Gulf of Finland toward Tallinn, Estonia.

No need to wake up really early, but we had set the alarms for 8 a.m. so we could get a decent start on the day. Breakfast was served in the formal dining area astern, but we opted for the Windjammer Café near the front of the ship. There was a fine selection of breakfast items (and the meat/cheese/breads described yesterday). And like yesterday, once we sat down with food from the buffet line, we learned that here was a pastry bar, a freshly squeezed orange juice stand, and a separate hot table with French toast and blueberry pancakes. We have GOT to learn to make a lap or two around the dining room before we begin to gather our meal. Anyway, what we had was very good.

Elaine and Susie went to a jewelry making class together for the rest of the morning; John toured the ship and then rested in a lounge high above the main decks to watch the other ships go by...and to finish our little story from yesterday on the laptop.

Lunch was at 12:30 (there we go ...eating again). We ate in the main dining room, but at a different table than our dinner seats. Sitting with us were some folks from a Scandinavian country and a couple from Seattle. Well, actually as the wife explained, they really aren't from Seattle anymore because seven years ago they sold their house and all of their possessions and started a full time vacation. They've been spending the past 7 years rotating through 11 different time shares and various cruise ships. An interesting life style— if you don't need too much "stuff". All they own is in their suitcases.

Considering there was very little to do (except play bingo), the three of us watched "Shrek 3" in the big theater. Then it was nap time followed by... you guessed it... dinner.

The after dinner show was "Beatles Celebration". This was a quartet of young men who dressed and sounded very much like the original Beatles. They were good enough that we applauded them back for an encore.

By the time that was over it was past 10 p.m. Still adjusting to the time changes (we'll lose another hour tomorrow night!) and to the sea sickness patches behind our ears, we were ready to hit the hay.

Tomorrow we make our first landing; and it's John and Susie's 7th wedding anniversary. It should be fun!

Posted by jeburns55 13:58 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

A DAY IN TALLINN, ESTONIA

We were up and at breakfast before the ship docked. From our window seat in the dining room, we could watch the entire docking procedure. Landing instructions were given to our group in a lounge before 10 a.m. Then we followed our guide down to the pier and out to the bus.
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Tallinn is a beautiful, well-preserved city from the Middle Ages. The upper Old Town is still encircled by high limestone walls, with several gateways flanked by round towers at various parts of the city. Our first stop was at the Russian Orthodox church. It was filled with many religious icons (pictures of Jesus, Mary and many saints) covered with silver and gold foil. The second stop was at the grand Lutheran cathedral. (The vast majority of Estonians are Lutheran.) Our final stop was near the top of the Old Town where we could look down below on the Lower Town. Yes, we also had the opportunity to shop. And shop.
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Back aboard the bus, we were taken to Kadriorg Palace, a former summer palace of Peter the Great (a Russian tsar). The palace now serves a museum and is surrounded by beautiful gardens. After that tour, we boarded the bus once again to go back to the ship.
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As it turned out, we didn't go back to the ship just then, however. Someone clued us into a restaurant in Old Town called Olde Hansa. This is an incredible 500 year old café that still uses candle light instead of electric lights, and the menu is out of the 1400s. Elaine had chicken in fig sauce and vegetables; Susie ordered the pork with turnips, cabbage, and barley with pine nuts; and John ate the bear/elk/wild boar sausages with lingon berry sauce and turnips. And for refreshments the ladies had spiced wine and John had dark beer with herbs. All very unique.
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With lunch finished, a taxi returned us to the pier. We shopped around at the local dockside merchants for a bit and got back on our ship. We had just enough time for a short nap — I could get used to that — before dinner. John and Susie ate in the dining room as a celebratory anniversary dinner, while Elaine rested up a bit more and ate lighter fare on her own.

We all met up later to go to the ship's musical/dancing show based on Broadway tunes. That was over at 10 p.m., but tonight we lose one more hour, so 10 became 11 in an instant...So that means it's time to hit the hay. Our St. Petersburg tour starts early tomorrow.

Posted by jeburns55 14:01 Archived in Estonia Comments (0)

IF IT'S TUESDAY, IT MUST BE RUSSIA

Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and able to get into St. Petersburg earlier than some of the other 2000 passengers on the Vision of the Seas. So we were up by six a.m. and breakfasting by seven.

Getting into Russia is a bit of a trial. We had to go off the ship in groups and wait in long lines while we went through Russian Customs. After what seemed like an hour (because is nearly was....) we were on bus #28 and heading into St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg is a city that was designed and initially built by Russian Tsar Peter the Great in the early 1700s. He wanted a port city built that would rival other European cities, a "Northern Rome." He had the city laid out with purpose and building began, but it was blighted by fire twice before Peter's death. It was up to his daughter Elizabeth and her successor Catherine the Great to make it the grand city that we toured today.
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However, our first sighting of the city from the ship was not so grand. The water front is crowded with concrete high-rise apartment buildings from the more recent past of the Communist era. It is not inspiring. But once the tour bus got us into the old town, we were quite impressed. The Niva River flows through the city and on its shores stand the stately palaces of many Russian nobles—and, of course, of the Russian royalty.
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The grandest of them all is the Hermitage, the Winter Palace of Catherine the Great. To say it is huge is an understatement. The original palace itself and several newer buildings including (The New Heritage erected by Tsar Nicholas I are a sprawling complex that makes up the largest art gallery in the world. Beside housing paintings from every imaginable master, there is furniture, Egyptian sculptures, Greek and Roman artifacts, and more. We spent three hours walking through hallways and galleries and only touched the surface.

After that tour, the bus drove us around more of the city until we reached our lunch spot—in the last grand palace to be built. There was champagne and vodka for all, which made up for the "chicken stroganoff."
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After lunch we walked to the Cathedral of the Resurrection with its very Russian Orthodox towers. There was time for some souvenir shopping, and a bus ride to St. Isaac's Cathedral, the fourth largest church in the world.
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By the time we arrived "home", our feet were sore and we were tuckered out. A light dinner was followed by a Russian folk song-and-dance session in the main theater.

Then time to sleep. We gain an hour tonight on our trip west to Helsinki. Bedtime, here we come!

Posted by jeburns55 14:06 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

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