Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Estonia, Eesti in Estonian, has a long history of domination by the Russian state. From 1710-1918 it was the proud possession of Czarist Russia before gaining its independence after World War I. Independence only lasted until the end of World War II in 1945 when Soviet Russia retook Estonia for the next 56 years until the breakup of the USSR in 1991.
So it was with great wonder that we landed Monday in Estonia's capital city of Tallinn.
The old walled City of Tallinn
This is the main tourist area of the city and we headed straight for it after disembarking.
Undaunted in her failure to purchase any of Sweden's Crown Jewels on Sunday, she was quickly trying to corner Tallinn's lucrative textile market.
The old walled city is actually made up of two towns, the upper town of Toompea which was the seat of the government ruling Estonia, and the lower town that was an autonomous Hanseatic trading center filled with German, Danish and Swedish merchants who hired Estonians to do menial labor.
While only one steers, all do pedal.
Ancient buildings require constant maintenance. How safe is this?
This very un-PC tower guarded the entry gate of the town in medieval days.
It was a merchant's home, warehouse and office from the 15th century Hanseatic Golden Age. We bought a minature replica of these three buildings to remind us of the beautiful architecture of Tallinn's old city.
From here after some intense interrogationing, many an Estonian started a long road of suffering as Estonian dissidents were sent to Siberian gulags.
Got a crack in one of your walls? NO PROBLEM!
You had to be there.
I suddenly felt better.
Until Hitler called all Germans home, this building served as the German merchant's club. That is St. Mauritius above the door hence the name of the society.
It sports a very cool clock from 1633! Hey, its 12:30, time to eat.
The best café in town during the Soviet days, it was worth a try.
That's the old Town Hall Square which has several nice places to eat.
Today it is Estonia's Parliament Building.
Nevsky was a legendary Estonian hero who is buried in this Russian Orthodox Cathedral.
The tallest tower of the castle wall is a powerful symbol. In 1987 while the USSR was falling apart, Estonians replaced the Soviet flag with the Estonian colors.
Yes we did!
Two very interesting dinner table mates as I said in the previous post. Mike and I already have a bet going on the September 11th Syracuse at Washington football game. The winner gets the other team's T-shirt.
Just a great, All-American family! In his role as Athletic Director of the Gettysburg College Bullets, great nickname by the way, Dave warned Mike and I of the very serious implications and dangers of betting on college sports.
WWRND? . . . What Would Rick Neuheisel Do?
Take the points.
Vision of the Seas
June 27-July 1, 2010
Aquarius Dining Room - Deck 5
We think everyone had a great time sharing lots of laughs and great stories!!!
Sunday, June 27, 2010
First, we have been out of internet contact for a few days, mostly because I am too cheap to pay Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines $0.65 per minute to use their internet connection, so we have a lot of catching up to do.
On Sunday we were up early again to see more of Stockholm's highlights before we set sail for Tallinn, Estonia and St. Petersburg, Russia.
I love the Guards at the Royal Palace
This one is guarding the entrance to the Skattkammaren, Sweden's Royal Treasury. Here Laurie found the Swedish Crown Jewels. She tried to talk them into selling a couple of pieces that she really liked.
It was open today so we had to go inside to see the place where the recent wedding of Swedish Crown Princess Victoria had taken place.
We think this is the same route that the Royal couple used to exit the Cathedral after their wedding.
I love this country!!!
Our timing was off, they didn't open for another hour, so we will visit this highly recommended museum on Thursday when we return to Stockholm.
Only from high in the air, six feet, could one recognize these as being train tracks. How could they possibly be here? Where do they lead? The only possible explanation was that aliens from outer space had laid these tracks thousands of years ago.
I could be mistaken.
That has been my mantra for many years now.
The Nordic Museum houses exhibits on 500 years of traditional Swedish lifestyles.
This massive statue of the Father of Modern Sweden greets you in the Nordic Museum's main gallery.
We'll be on board this ship next Thursday night.
While Stockholm is made up of 14 islands, this archipelago is made up of 24,000 incredibly beautiful islands that lead from Stockholm to the Baltic Sea. It took us over three hours to navigate our way through them!
It was now getting close to time for our 8:45 sitting for dinner and I was a little apprehensive. This is our sixth cruise (two Mexican Rivieras, two Caribbeans and one Mediterranean) and we had always cruised with at least one other couple, Brian and Koreen FitzGerald, and usually with a third or fourth couple/family. This was our first solo cruise and we were well aware that the dinner table with the same people can make or break a cruise.
We hit the jackpot!
We were first to sit at the table and were soon joined by a family of five from Pennsylvania, the Wrights, Dave, his wife Cindy and their three daughters Shaina, Kylie and Samantha. Cindy is a Health Sciences teacher at Gettysburg College and Dave is the Athletic Director at Gettysburg. The Bullets are a Wing-T school and I have heard their coach, Barry Streeter, speak at clinics on a few occasion. INSTANT BONDING!
Our final two tablemates arrived, Mike and Ruth Weiss. Mike is a Syracuse University graduate, a sports nut, an assistant prosecutor for Middlesex County in New Jersey and really funny. No, he has never heard of Jay Shelton. Ruth has worked in military intelligence and now works for the Federal Government in HUD in their anti-fraud division. A very fascinating couple. They were taking a four day, last second cruise to break away from their recent frustrations trying to adopt a son in Kiev, Ukraine. Another great pair, WE BOND YET AGAIN!
As beautiful as Tallinn and St. Petersburg proved to be, the four nights sharing dinner and stories with these seven new friends might be my best memory of the cruise. All four nights our table was probably the last one to leave the dining room. We'll have photos of the nine of us up on an upcoming blog.
GOOD TIMES INDEED!!!