Wednesday, June 30, 2010

EASTERN BLOC ROCKS!!! - Tallinn, Estonia

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.

Laurie was at it again

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 City Gate

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.

A Unique Seven Passenger Bicycle

While only one steers, all do pedal.


Ancient buildings require constant maintenance. How safe is this?

Fat Margaret Tower

This very un-PC tower guarded the entry gate of the town in medieval days.

Just an interesting roof line

The Three Sisters

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.

Until 1991, Tallinn's KGB Headquarters

From here after some intense interrogationing, many an Estonian started a long road of suffering as Estonian dissidents were sent to Siberian gulags.

Sutures, STAT!!!

Got a crack in one of your walls? NO PROBLEM!

Naked Women on Wolfback

You had to be there.

The Swedish Embassy in Tallinn

I suddenly felt better.

The Black Heads Society

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.

Pühavaimu Kirik
Holy Ghost Church

It sports a very cool clock from 1633! Hey, its 12:30, time to eat.

Maiasmokk (Sweet Tooth) Café

The best café in town during the Soviet days, it was worth a try.

The Maiasmokk's very intersting interior

Maiasmokk's WAS sweet indeed!

Soviet proganda posters were
for sale in this shop

Great gargoyle on Tallinn's Raekoja Plats

That's the old Town Hall Square which has several nice places to eat.

This one's for Ian Murphy

Time for an Estonian beer

Nice Beer Hall Flag

We only had one

Pig planters are always nice

The old town's "Hi-Tech"
water fetching wheel

St. Nicholas Church, 13th century

Toompea Castle

Today it is Estonia's Parliament Building.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Nevsky was a legendary Estonian hero who is buried in this Russian Orthodox Cathedral.

Tall Herman Tower

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.

A great view of old town Tallinn

Laurie by the Toompea Castle Wall

Cuban Cigar Bar, I LOVE THIS TOWN!

Just another cool set of buildings

An Estonian lass selling traditional foods

The Kissing Hill

Yes we did!

Ruth and Mike Weiss

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.

Dave, Cindy, Kylie, Samantha
and Shaina Wright

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.

The Sun sets behind us at
10:30 p.m. Tallinn time

Royal Caribbean International
Vision of the Seas
June 27-July 1, 2010
Aquarius Dining Room - Deck 5
8:45 Seating
Table 119

We think everyone had a great time sharing lots of laughs and great stories!!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Stockholm Day II and Setting Sail to Estonia and Russia

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.

No deal.

Storkyrkan Cathedral

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.

It had a beautiful altar

The Cathedral offered a
HUGE St. George statue

Now that's a fierce looking dragon!!!

Laurie exiting the Cathedral

We think this is the same route that the Royal couple used to exit the Cathedral after their wedding.

Thor's Hammer!!!

Guard Duty with a Drawn Sword

I love this country!!!

The Royal Armory

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.

Alien Conspiracy Theory?

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.

Chicks dig fat guys!!!

That has been my mantra for many years now.

Stockholm's splendid waterfront

More of the Stockholm Waterfront

The Nordiska Museet

The Nordic Museum houses exhibits on 500 years of traditional Swedish lifestyles.

King Gustav Vasa

This massive statue of the Father of Modern Sweden greets you in the Nordic Museum's main gallery.

Swedish Bridal Chests

Coffee and cookies time at a canal side café

Yes Bill, Rotary is everywhere!

Boarding "The Vision of the Seas"

Sun with Acne

The overnight ferry to Helsinki

We'll be on board this ship next Thursday night.

The Skärgården Archipelago

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!

Many of the islands are inhabited

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.