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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Grand Adventure

A few weeks ago we set off on our grand adventure touring the Baltic Sea with our friends Dave and Linda Larson.  We used a variety of reasons, our 20th wedding anniversary, me turning 40, but it came down to us wanting to go on an amazing trip with some friends who are willing to get up early rain or shine and explore by foot, bus, ferry and tram as much of each place as we could.  It was a wonderful trip.  We were gone twelve days.  We flew into Copenhagen on Saturday early afternoon after leaving SLC Friday morning.  We dropped our bags at the hotel and took buses and walks around town trying to see everything and to stay awake.  It is the home of the Little Mermaid and Hans Christian Anderson, Rosenberg castle, everyone riding bicycles (180% tax on cars), people not eating in restaurants but getting beer to drink of the sides of the canals (50% income tax BUT college is free).  We ate polse on the side of the Nyhaven canal - the Danish hotdog which is a red sausage with fried onions and pickles on top.  We spent the trip evaluating the cost of living by checking out the hot dog stand prices.

The Pantemime at Tivoli gardens was the tipping point - it was time to call it a night - none of us could keep our eyes open.  The whole trip you would forget how late it was because the sun came up before 4 am and didn't go down until 11.  I did think it was very cool though to see an actual pantemime with Harlequin and all the other characters.

Sunday morning I fell in love with European bakeries for breakfast.  I seriously hope I can discover something like these around here.  Who knew a roll with butter and cheese would be so delicious!?  Jeremy was tickled to be eating Danishes in Denmark  We went to visit the Copenhagen temple and attend sacrament meeting at the ward there.  The missionaries provided head sets for us and translated the meeting into our ears.  They talked of how blessed they were to have such a large ward - we counted 80 people, half of them visitors and most were women.  Then we went to the Cathedral of our Lady to see the original Christus that you see in all the LDS visitor's centers.  Thorvaldsen the sculptor had also done statues of each of the apostles that were awesome to see.  They had opened the tour for the day so we got to climb to the very top of the bell tower and look around.  We wondered the old town streets, ate smorebrod (open faced sandwiches) and took a train to our ship.

Our guide book said that it was an easy ten minute walk from the train station to our port.  It needs to be updated.  After a mile or two, we hailed down a taxi to take us the rest of the way - to the new port.

First stop was Berlin.  It is a three hour drive from the port to Berlin so we arranged a tour with our friends.  Lynda's sister's husband's family had come so we were all in a tour together along with a family from back east.  We got on a bus for the long drive and then switched to a big van for the 7 hour Berlin tour.  Add up all those hours - it was a long and super fun day.

I was in Berlin 25 years ago 6 months after the wall came down.  It was amazing to me to see everything again and to see what has changed.  The power of freedom is amazing.  This is the Brandenburg Gate.  When I was last there it was empty of all buildings and just stood by itself at the end of a long road.  Pink Floyd was setting up for his concert 'The Wall'.  And now...

When I was there most of the wall was still standing.  I even spraypainted all over it and hammered some big chunks out to take home.  Now it is all gone except for a small section that is a museum.

Most of the historic buildings had been destroyed in World War 2 and had had to be restored.  Some were 100% replications.  The center of the city was a bit of a madhouse as they were busy setting up for the World Cup that night and thousands of people were pouring in to watch the game on outside TVs.

Something I learned about the Olympics.  The Nazi's started the tradition of carrying the torch to the games here.

The memorial to the murdered Jews was a very abstract, thought provoking and very cool place to wonder through.  No matter which way you turned you had to walk up to get out.

Tallinn, Estonia was next.  It has a well-reserved medieval town from the 15th and 16th centuries.  Its actually two feuding medieval towns that are separated by a fairy tale style wall.  Cobblestoned streets, gabled houses, turrets on the walls and old churches.  It felt like you were stepping back into time.  On this trip I was surprised by how much Martin Luther changed the world.  The power of one man and his beliefs blew me away.  Lutheran churches were all over competing with the Russian Orthodox church.

We walked through the regular town of Tallinn to a student hang-out to try non-touristy dumplings.

And we took a tram our to Kadriorg Park where despite the drizzle we explored a palace built by Peter the Great.  The scope of Peter's power was amazing as we saw how broad his empire and building activities were on this trip.

And then thanks to very patient companions, several maps, asking many confused Estonians and walking all over a city block we found my favorite store - Estonia's chocolate manufacturer.

Next was St. Petersburg, Russia.  Here they are very strict on tourists so we went through a tour company for two days that drove us around everywhere.  The amount we saw was almost overwhelming.  I can totally understand the Bolshevik Revolution better now when you saw the luxury the ruling class lived in.  The first day we took a boat out to Peterhof with its amazing gardens (its called the Russian Versailles) and later we toured Catherine's Palace.

The Soviet era apartments were easily identified:

Our guide gave us all headsets so we could hear her easily as we walked around and she described things.

The next day we took a boat ride through the main canal, toured the Hermitage and saw St. Isaac's Cathedral, Church on Spilled blood, Fortress of St. Peter and Paul and lots of other things.  At the Hermitage which is a castle built by Peter the Great's daughter Elizabeth and filled with Catherine the Great's art collection, Jeremy was impressed as was I by the Rembrandt's.  Jeremy uses Rembrandt lighting in photography and he enjoyed seeing the paintings showing that style of lighting.

The Church on Spilled Blood is mosaics from top to bottom and just takes your breath away.

On this trip although it was June every city but Berlin required bundling up and often walking through rain and once hail.  They have a different definition of summer.  In Helsinki we were the early birds off the ship and felt like we had the town to ourselves.  We walked all over the town and main square.  We took a ferry out to Suomenlinna Fortress a harbor island where we just walked around enjoying the old fortress and the beautiful island.

We explored the Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral and ate reindeer meatballs during a hailstorm.  They had the most aggressive sea gulls I have ever seen - stealing food out of your hand and off your plate and even bombing Jeremy.

We took a train out to see the Temppeliaukio church a modern church blasted out of granite and the Sibelius monument, a sculpture tribute to a composer.

Stockholm was our last stop.  We sat by windows as we sailed in and out as we went through Sweden's archipelago - beautiful views of islands passed us by.  We took ferries and walked a bunch around the Old Town and out to the Vasa museum.  Vasa was a 17th century warship that sank within swimming distance of the port after being launched.  It was dredged up from the ocean floor in the 60s and restored.  It was a really cool thing to explore and learn about.

We walked through Old Town and enjoyed Filka the Swedish coffee break with kanelbulle, a swedish cinnamon bun made with cardamom and hot chocolate - did I mention it was cold and rainy a lot!

We explored the Royal Palace and watched the changing of the guard which was an awesome ceremony that they have been doing the same since the 1800s.

And Midsummers Eve and Midsummers Day is a real holiday here.  Stores closed, parties going on and people dancing.

I even found a chocolate shop...

And then it was time to come home...


kmmclain said...

What an awesome trip! So glad you all had a great time. Love the pictures.