It's a rare place where you can find brutal power of nature on an unforgiving rampage, where the colors are vivid and alive with a deep blue sky meeting the foaming ocean, and a rocky coastline ranging from obsidian black rocks to sprinkles of turquoise. The sea seems to be held at bay with the thinnest of clean, undisturbed sand beaches before swallowing up the majestic rocks of the rugged coastline. On even the calmest of days, the Pacific Ocean seems to be straining the sand beaches, waiting for a chance to unleash her awful power on the land, and that very land standing solid and fixed against the attack. And yet, in the midst of this activity, you can find peace and solitude. It will bring order to your thinking if you let it. (read more...)
It’s really unfair to judge a place by one day’s worth of sightseeing, especially from a controlled tour bus from a cruise ship. But Stockholm and its surrounding areas left us with the impression that we weren’t finished visiting this place. Not being particularly keen on hanging out in big cities, we were impressed with how clean and safe this city seemed to be. There were many places that appeared to be favorite hangouts of the locals and tourists alike, and the people, like most folks we met in and around the Baltic Sea, seemed to be generally friendly. (read more...)
Those of you who know us might know that we're not city folk in general. We'll go to a city and spend time occasionally, but we wouldn't pick a city as vacation destination. Having said that, it isn't a surprise that, while we were impressed with Helsinki, it wouldn't necessarily be a destination for a vacation to Finland. Rather, we would probably fly in and spend an afternoon seeing the sights; maybe have coffee and a pastry in a coffee shop somewhere and then make our way north to Lapland to see some reindeer. (read more...)
When cruising, there are places you visit that you're glad you're on a cruise and only have to spend one day seeing. It's either because it simply doesn't interest you or some other underlying reason. For us, we thought Estonia was going to be that kind of place. It was, in our view, something to do while we marked time waiting for the ship to get to a better port. As it turns out, Tallinn was one of the highlights of our cruise, so far. We thought Germany was the highlight, and to be truthful it was big on our list to come back and see more, but much to our surprise, Tallinn, Estonia was up there too. What we saw in our one day visiting the city left us craving more.
As you may know, Estonia was occupied and controlled by the Soviet Union until the USSR fell apart back in 1990-1991. Estonia declared its independence from the Soviets in 91 and started moving towards the west in terms of their economy and political alignment, today, they're part of NATO and the European Union. They're moving forward at full speed to develop their economy and secure their spot in the world. They're most popular industry is in IT (Information Technology). They are the birthplace of Skype, the well known VOIP (Voice Over IP) company. In fact, Skype more or less made the concept of VOIP popular and mainstream. (read more...)
Germany is probably going to be the high point of our trip, at least the high point of our cruise. We arrived in Warnemuende along the Baltic Sea on Tuesday, May 20th. The day was about as perfect as you could imagine for a warm spring day.
We traveled by bus for about 1 ½ hours from Warnemuende to a little town called Schwerin for the purpose of viewing the Schwerin Castle, which has been in existence in one form or another since at least 973 AD when it was controlled by The Polabian Slav Tribe. It was primarily a fort at that time rather than a “castle”. Around 1160, it was targeted by Germanic Nobelmen under the leadership of Henry the Lion. From then on, the Schwerin Castle has had a rich history, serving as a castle and home for many nobles, a military barracks, and even a nursing college during the time of the German Democratic Republic after WWII. Presently, Schwerin Castle serves as a museum and the seat of the local state parliament. (read more...)
Today was a lazy day in Copenhagen, Denmark. We left the ship at around 9:00 AM and were guided by a tour guide to all the various sites of the city, including the palaces of the royals of Denmark, the Parliament building, the Old Stock Exchange, and even passed an amusement park.
It's said that the Danes are the happiest people on earth according to various surveys. It's also known that Denmark has the highest taxes of any nation on earth. We're not sure what conclusions we can draw from that, if any, but we can say that Copenhagen was a beautiful city. It was too much to take in for one day.
Here are a few images of what we saw in the city today. It was almost too much for one day, but left us with the impression that if we find ourselves in this part of the world again, we'll definitely have to spend some more time here to enjoy the sights.