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London, St. Petersburg and the Scandinavian Capitals

We began this sojourn with two days in England's vibrant capital of London. We joined the city tour which touched upon the major sites, including a stop at the Imperial War Museum. During our leisure time, we visited the Tower of London and other sites close to our hotel near the tower. On Wednesday, we took the tube to Leiscester Square where we saw the play "Art" after spending the afternoon visiting the newly renovated St. Catherine’s Dock. On Friday, we traveled on the Tube once again to see the play Les Miserable with our new friends Tom and Elaine (Glastonbury, CT). On Saturday we traveled south through the English countryside to the port of Dover to embark our cruise ship.

We sailed through the Kiel Canal, which separates the mainland portion of Denmark from Germany, and into the Baltic Sea. Then spend a day at the German beach resort of Warnemunde.

Next we experienced two full days in St. Petersburg, Russia's loveliest city, restored in many ways as it was during Peter the Great's reign (much work still needs to be done to clean up this city of dirty but beautiful buildings). Here, you can marvel at the treasures of the Hermitage, one of the world's greatest and most beautiful museums, and see the churches and palaces whose opulence will remind you of the reigns of the great czars. One thing that amazed me was seeing less than a thousand people on the streets in a city of five million people.

Our cruise ended with stops in the capitals of Scandinavia. Here we spent time in the pristine streets of Helsinki, and enjoy its innovative architecture. We explored Stockholm, sprawling across a Baltic archipelago whose islands are connected by lovely bridges and causeways. Delve into the lively Copenhagen Hard Rock Cafe, fanciful buildings, and spectacular Tivoli gardens of Copenhagen. Finally, we took a early morning two hour cruise up the Oslo Fjord into lovely Oslo, Norway's capital and center of the country's great seafaring tradition, before we ended our trip back in London. 

London, England

Book a Hotel in London

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The Tower Bridge & London's Fire Department                                The ship used during the filming of  Horatio Hornblower

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Inside the Tower of London with the Ravens

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This sketch drawn by my Great Great Grandfather
Sir William Oliver
seen inside of White Chapel
 

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To Tele or to Post - which should I do?

Leaving Dover, England

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On the ship in front of the White Cliffs of Dover ...

 

The Kiel Canal - East Germany

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East Germany

Meklenburg Countryside & Molli Train Ride   We began with a drive along the coast and through the typical rural landscape of historic Mecklenburg, a former duchy and province of the German Reich. Then we stopped for a visit at the monastery of Bad Doberan and had a chance to walk through the quaint park that surrounds the Minster. Next, on to the nearest Molli train station. The 30-minute ride on this narrow gauge railway, in existence since the early 1900s, was an interesting part of the tour. The train took us from the old part of Bad Doberan to Kuhlungsborn. Here we stopped for a refreshing piece of cake and enjoyed the beautiful view from a hotel situated directly on the windy beach. Finally we stopped at lovely Heiligendamm, a seaside resort with beautiful white buildings overlooking the water.

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A Bone House         -          A Baltic Resort Hotel          -          Flowers on the Baltic

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On the beach of the Baltic

 

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St. Petersburg, Russia

St. Petersburg - Nevsky Avenue WebCam

Going to the Russian Ballet in St. Petersburg

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Classical St. Petersburg As we left the pier, we passed Decembrists Square and the Bronze Horseman, a monument to the founder of the city, Peter the Great. A short drive brought us to one of the most renowned museums in the world - the Hermitage (one of my goals to see this amazing site was satisfied). What the Louvre is to Paris, the Hermitage is to St. Petersburg. Founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 as a private court museum, it now occupies the Winter Palace, which was the winter residence of the Russian czars, and four other buildings. We toured the State Rooms, with their impressive collection of Western European art featuring works by Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian and others, as well as an outstanding French Impressionists Collection. We saw the Palace Square, and had an opportunity to photograph the 15-foot-high Alexander Column honoring Alexander I. Traveling along the Neva River, we passed Rostral Columns and the Peter and Paul Fortress on our way to the Aurora, the battleship whose shot announced the beginning of a new era for the nation in October 1917. Making our way along Nevsky Prospect to St. Issac's Square, we passed St. Isaac's Cathedral, with its impressive gold dome, and Smolny Convent. It's about 17 miles along Moscow Prospect and the Kiev Highway to the Egyptian Gates and the entrance to Tsarskoye Selo (Pushkin). We thoroughly enjoyed a lunch of typical Russian fare here and musical entertainment while you dine. Then we entered Pushkin. Here, on 1,482 acres, stands Catherine's Palace, designed in the mid-I 8th century in honor of Peter the Great's wife. it was the summer residence of the imperial family from the reign of Peter the Great until the fall of the monarchy in 1917. Although the palace was almost totally destroyed during World War II, it has been magnificently restored and is renowned for its fairy tale interior. Its stunning aqua facade is nearly 1,000 feet long and adorned with gold and white ornaments. We viewed several of the rooms, including the Great Blue Room, Picture Gallery, Amber Room and the study of Alexander I.

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The Hermitage and treasures of the last Czar

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Getting ready for a Russian lunch

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The Summer Palace outside of St. Petersburg

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An office building in St. Petersburg

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Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki City Sights  was an orientation tour of Finland's sparkling capital, also called the "Daughter of the Baltic" and the "White City of the North." We passed the famous Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral with its brilliant gold onion domes en route to the Senate Square, site of several important buildings attributed to the neoclassic architect Carl Ludwig Engel. In the square's center stands a large statue of Alexander II, Czar of Russia and Grand Duke of Finland during much of the 19th century. On Mannerheim Street, Helsinki's main thoroughfare, we saw the Parliament House, the National Museum and Finlandia Hall, designed by the famous architect Alvar Aalto. We then continued through lovely residential districts to the Olympic Stadium, host to the 1952 Olympic Games and passed the opera house, completed in 1993. We stopped at the Temppeliaukio Rock Church, a unique house of worship blasted into solid rock and topped by a copper dome. Then it's on to Sibelius Park where I photographed a monument constructed of 527 steel pipes honoring the great Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius. Just past Embassy Park is the colorful open-air market that we bought some gloves made out of Elk skin and took pictures of the locals buying fish, fruit and other consumables.

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        We experienced a beautiful day in Helsinki while visiting the square in front of the cathedral, the olympic stadium and the market place on the way to the ship.

 

 

 

 

 

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm WebCam    Book a Hotel in Stockholm

Royal Palace & Old Town  One of the world's most elegant cities, Stockholm has been Sweden's capital for the past 600 years. Its beauty and history are best appreciated in the heart of the Gamla Stan (Old Town) just a short drive from the pier, where you can stroll through some of the medieval streets and see the Royal Palace. This is early Stockholm, although the present building dates only from the 18th century. A massive testament to the Baroque period, the Royal Palace boasts 608 rooms. We saw the State Apartments, with their opulent baroque and rococo interiors. We passed by houses dating from the 15th and 16th century, the Stock Exchange at Stortorget Square (now home of the Swedish Academy), the Parliament building, the Royal Opera and the King's Garden.

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New Town Shopping Center

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Stockholm, Sweden - Church near the Palace

 

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Stockholm, Sweden - Old Town

 

The Palace

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Copenhagen, Denmark

Tivolli Gardens

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Coppenhagen, Denmark

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The Castles of North Zealand - Denmark

After a brief orientation tour of Copenhagen, we headed out through the lush Danish countryside to Frederiksborg Castle in Hillerod. This magnificent Renaissance castle is now the National Museum of History. In the small chapel, we found the oldest organ in the world, still in use today. The next stop was the charming village of Fredensborg and Fredensborg Palace, summer residence of the Royal Family. Continuing north to the town of Elsinore, we enjoyed a buffet lunch, or smorgasbord of typical Danish delicacies. Then on to Helsinger, where we explored the courtyard and ramparts of Kronborg Castle, dating back to 1582. The castle is perhaps better known as Hamlet's Castle, immortalized when Shakespeare chose it as the setting for his famous play. Return to Copenhagen along the coastal road, renowned as the Danish Riviera.  On the way back to the ship we saw impressive views of manor houses alongside narrow ribbons of water.

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OSLO, NORWAY

Oslo WebCam

Oslo Countryside - Art & Culture Begin with a 11/2 hour drive through Oslo's suburbs and Norway's rich farm country and woodlands. Your first stop is BlaafarvevEket, once Norways largest industrial company, The Cobalt Works, and today a cultural museum. The annual art exhibitions here are among the most important in Scandinavia. In 1999, the exhibition is by Edvard Munch, a pioneer of expressionism, and his contemporary, Arne Kavli, a well-known Scandinavian artist. The Cobalt Works was founded in 1776 to extract cobalt from the Modum mines. The mineral was used to make dyes for the worldis glass and porcelain industries. Enjoy a guided tour of the Works. view the exhibition 'iFrom Cobalt Ore to Cobalt Blue, and visit the mill with its cobalt-colored displays, purchasing some of the attractive glassware if you wish. Next you will visit the art exhibition Sun, Summer and White Sails. Each painter will have about 50 works on display here. Enjoy a delicious lunch buffet of traditional homemade food then relax as you stroll around the beautiful park on the banks of the Simoa River. Before leaving BlaafarvevErket, you'll stop briefly to admire the Haugfossen waterfall and visit an old fashioned country store. Your last stop is Nyfossum, where you'll enjoy the popular exhibition, "A Treasure of Culture," featuring patchwork quilts in all shapes and sizes. This tremendously successful exhibition has also been shown at museums in Sweden and~ Paris. Then visit a beautifully restored house built in the 1820s, its herb garden and fish ponds.

More photos to come.....

 

COUNTRY DEMOGRAPHICS

Area: Russia, 6,593,391 sq. mi.; Finland, 130, 128 sq. mi.; Sweden, 173,665 sq. mi.; Denmark, 16,614 sq. mi.; Norway, 125,181 sq. ml
 
Capital: Russia, Moscow; Finland, Helsinki; Sweden, Stockholm; Denmark, Copenhagen; Norway, Oslo
 
Major languages: Russia, Russian; Finland, Finnish, Swedish; Sweden, Swedish; Denmark, Danish; Norway, Norwegian
 
Population (approximate): Russia, 147,500,000; Finland, 4,977,000; Sweden, 8,900,000; Denmark, 5,200,000; Norway, 4,325,000

 

MONEY MATTERS

CREDIT CARDS: In St. Petersburg credit cards are NOT usually accepted in stores, restaurants, or other establishments. However, major credit cards are widely accepted in stores and restaurants throughout Scandinavia. Because Scandinavian banks charge an uncommonly high fee to cash traveler's checks, you may prefer to use credit cards for any personal expenses.

 

CURRENCY: The monetary unit in Russia is the ruble. On price tags, ruble is abbreviated to p. Rubles may not be imported or exported. U.S. currency is the preferred method of payment in Russia; we suggest you bring some U.S. cash in small denominations if you plan to shop. Bring new bills; even slightly worn ones are sometimes rejected. Finland's monetary unit is the markka (fink), which divides into lOO penni. In Sweden, Denmark, and Norway, the unit of currency is the krone, which divides into 100 ore. Please note, however, that krone can only be used in the country of origin -- they are not interchangeable.

 

WEATHER TIPS

London: while London's weather can be unpredictable, legends about its incessant rain are exaggerated. Showers are typically light and brief. The British capital is in the temperate zone. Summers tend to be moderately warm, with few days reaching above 750F. Hotter weather, however, cannot be ruled out. The summer of 1997, for example, was unseasonably hot with several record-breaking days of heat.

Kiel Canal: The Kiel Canal enables ships to pass easily from the North Sea to the Baltic Sea. It is in Germany's most temperate weather zone, but is open to the changeable, stormy conditions from the Atlantic. Like much of northern Europe, its weather can be variable at any time of the year. Fall tends to be the wettest season.

St. Petersburg: The Gulf Stream keeps St. Petersburg's climate on the moderate side. Summer is often comfortably warm and bright, but hot spells also occur. You may see some showers, but most days are likely to be at least partly sunny.

Scandinavia: This region is at its best from mid-May to mid-September, when the Midnight Sun creates comfortably warm days and gloriously long hours of sun. Late spring and summer temperatures can be surprisingly high -- certainly comparable to those of Maine or Vermont, for example; and the sea is generally much warmer than you might expect, largely as a result of the Gulf Stream and the shallowness of the Baltic. The low humidity, too, makes it feel warmer than temperatures may indicate. Be prepared, however, for variable weather in which temperatures suddenly drop; rains are a possibility, too.

The following temperatures were published by the TIMES World Weather Guide.

Average highs (taken at 2pm) and lows (taken just before sunrise) in:

Jun Jul Aug Sep

London

High 62 69 71 71 54
Low 47 53 56 56 44

Kiel Canal

High 64 69 73 72 66
Low 45 51 55 54 49

St. Petersburg

High 59 68 70 69 60
Low 43 51 57 56 47

Helsinki

High 56 66 71 68 59
Low 40 49 55 53 46

Stockholm

High 58 67 71 68 60
Low 43 51 57 56 49

Copenhagen

High 61 66 72 70 64
Low 46 52 57 56 51

Oslo

High 61 68 72 70 60
Low 43 50 55 53 46

SPECIFICATIONS OF THE NORWEGIAN DREAM

Built:
1992

Refurbished:
1998

Tonnage:
46,000

Officers:
Norwegian

Crew:
International - 614 members

Passenger Capacity:
1750

Length:
758 feet

Beam Width:
94 feet

Elevators:
7

 

1994-2010 Bruce L Oliver, Enfield, CT

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