Monday, July 11, 2011

Helsinki, Finland

The Stallion
The Mare and her three week old foal
When we left St. Petersburg, Russia, we traveled to Helsinki, Finland for our next to last country of this trip. This was one of my favorite places of the entire trip. It is absolutely beautiful. It reminded me of New Hampshire or southern Vermont. It was quite rural, with large forests of Birch trees. Those beautiful white trunks certainly brightened up the scenery.
One of the activities John and I had signed up for was a trip to a Finnish Horse farm. We were told that a number of years ago the Finnish government discovered that the farmers were producing more milk than was needed by the citizens of Finland. so the government offered some incentive programs to get some of the farms to stop producing milk. The farm we visited went from producing milk to raising horses instead. The farmer sold(traded) his cows to Russia and received Arabs and Anglo Arabs in place of his milking cows. The farmer wasn't thrilled about the horses he got for the cows. He liked larger horses, so he bought a few Hanoverian horses as well and they crossed them with the Arabs and came out with what they called Finnish warm bloods. These horses are trained in Dressage. We were told that their market area is most of northern Europe.
We were introduced to one of their Mares and her three week old filly and the proud Dad.

Monday, July 4, 2011

St. Petersburg,Russia

One of the gold rooms in Catherine the Great's palace. It is unbelievable to to think that people actually lived that way! There room after room of this sort of affluence. They also decorated the walls with paintings from the masters, and our guide told us that they thought nothing of cutting up a valuable painting to make it fit on the wall.
I will try to finish the rest of the trip at home, since we will be landing in Dover, England tomorrow morning and disembarking at 7 am for our trip home. I got laid up for a couple of days with a sinus infection, and sort of fell behind with my blogging.....Sorry.
The Hermitage
Monday, July 4, 2011

We have just finished two exhausting days in St. Petersburg. It is a very interesting place, full of some absolutely exquisite art work and architecture, but we definitely bit off a bit more than we could chew. Perhaps if we were in our 20's or 30's, but the pace that the tour guides set were impossible to keep up with. We had a 5 hour tour on Saturday afternoon in the Hermitage, which is one of the biggest museums in Russia. Our guide told us that in order to see everything, we would have to come every day and stay for 24 hours every day for 7 years to see everything, spending 1 second on each item! She took us through all of the buildings in a little over 4 hours! We were almost running to keep up. It was absolutely packed with tourists, and the fear was to get separated from your group. that could have been a disaster. there is some absolutely beautiful art in there, but there has to be a better way to see it.
We were supposed to go back in the evening for a three hour concert, but decided to cut our losses and try to recover enough to see Catherine the Great's palace today.
Once again, we had the tour guide from hell, but the palace was so crowded that she couldn't keep up the terrible pace because of traffic congestion(other groups ahead of us), so we got to regroup once in a while. This palace was absolutely beautiful. it is hard to conceive of one family living in such grandeur. I have never seen so much gold in my life! The only disappointment was that there were no Churchs on our tour. Our tour guide today announced after we got back on the bus that we had about an hour before we had to be back on the ship, and what would we like to do. I asked to see a church and she said absolutely NOT!! it was not in the excursion package! She really wanted to take us shopping and asked if we would like to go shopping and there was a loud resounding NO from everyone on the bus, so we got home(back to the ship) a little bit early....YAY!!!
It is currently 11:20 pm and broad daylight as I am sitting here in the room writing this. John has gone out for a walk. We do get an hour back tonight. currently, we are 8 hours ahead of you, soon to be 7. Tomorrow we are visiting Helsinki,, I hope a slower pace.
Happy 4th of July.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Alexander Nevsky Cathedral
Saturday, July 2, 2011........Haapsalu, Estonia

We docked early this morning. It is a beautiful day; actually very warm, probably the upper 80's. Our tour bus took us out into the country to the town of Haapshalu, to an old castle that was constructed back in the 13th century. According to our guide, part of this building was a Monastery for the Cisturtian monks. It is made of limestone which was brought in from the town of Ungru, which was not far from here. This castle has it's own very interesting tale to tell. According to legend, half of the residents were monks and half were lay people who worked and lived there. Supposedly one of the men who worked there, brought in a woman and had her disguised as a choir boy. The disguise worked for quite some time until the Bishop grew suspicious. Once he found out that she was in fact, a woman, he had her walled into the baptistery. Supposedly she still appears in the window during full moon nights in August.
When we left Haapsalu, we went to Talinn and went into the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. This Cathedral was consecrated in 1900. It is quite spectacular.
Tomorrow, we begin our two days in St. Petersburg.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Sign on the Brauhaus
Town Center
Thursday, June 30, 2011 Warnemunde, Germany

Well, today was not a beautiful "postcard weather" day. We woke to a damp drizzly day. But on a trip like this, you make the best of what you are given, and this was our day in Germany and we were determined to enjoy ourselves, and we did! We boarded our tour bus at 2:30 pm and went for about an hour long ride out into the country to the town of Wismar, a beautiful medieval town. This town had several ancient buildings which dated back to the thirteenth century. One of the buildings we visited was the Rathauskeller(cellar of the Town Hall). This cellar was all that remains of the second town hall in this town. It burned down in 1350, and since then, it has been used for many different things, including use as a wine cellar , a cloth hall by the guild of tailors who stored their materials in there and used it as a place to do their cutting and sell their wares. We discovered some fabulous ancient paintings on the walls and ceilings of this cellar.
When we were through touring the town, we were taken to a Brauhaus for beer and a pretzel. This pub(?) makes their own beer, and pretzels, of course.
We were told that this place has been brewing their own beer since way before Christopher Columbus discovered America. That is a long time to have remained in business! It is very interesting that they don't sell it any where else. They just make it to sell to their own customers. It was a fascinating day, in spite of the rain, which sort of faded away as the day moved along, so it wasn't really more than a bit of a nuisance. We had a lovely relaxing day at sea today, for some of the passengers to recover from their sight seeing. The family we are travelling with went to Berlin yesterday, and had to leave the ship at 7am yesterday and didn't return until 9:30pm last night. We had an easy day compared to them.