Iceland extension and exploring the the Baltic starting in Bergen Norway ending in Stockholm Sweden on Viking Sun
  • Day20

    Home at last!

    June 9, 2019 in Canada ⋅ ⛅ 21 °C

    All good things must come to an end and alas our amazing adventure has come to a close and the stretchy pants required for the trip home are telling us enough of this excess. We are so thankful that every piece of the puzzle went as planned from flights to incredible weather amazing food and a diverse group of new friends.
    We soaked in one last morning of the picturesque Stockholm harbour from our balcony then started our 24 hour (by our body) trip home from Stockholm through Munich on to Toronto and the long drive back arriving to Windsor early Sunday morning.
    We said a heartfelt goodbye to our travel companions Jean et Lucie who made this trip so enjoyable to be able to chat through more information than we could ever absorb.
    On the way home Paul and I were talking about how this trip has helped us understand so many more pieces of history and culture in a way we never thought possible filling in many gaps in our knowledge bank.
    Thank you for following along with us. It has been interesting for us to use the blog for the first time. In a fairly simple format it has helped us keep the days and a few pics in sync rather than all jumbled together.
    Nice to see my garden in bloom and waiting for me this morning. So thankful.
    Read more

  • Explore, what other travelers do in:
  • Day18

    Stockholm Sweden

    June 7, 2019, North Sea ⋅ 🌫 13 °C

    Sailing into Stockholm on a crystal clear morning calm as glass. Breathtaking!
    The sun has not really set in is light all night as we are within a couple of weeks of the eqinox . It is amazing to see the sun set after 11pm. The temp today 30C..clear and hot.
    Paul and I enjoyed a leisurely walk around the old town this morning as our tour was not till the afternoon. Fun to see Swedish Fika everwhere..the tradition of coffee and a pastry I remember hearing from our students.
    It is evident Sweden is a very wealthy city with an abundance of talented professionals. Many doctors train here at the university of Stockholm and excellent facilities abound.
    We visited the city hall where the Noble prizes are awarded..quite awe inspiring. I took a pic of Paul in the couryard where so many great minds have stood...saying that is where he could be awarded the Nobel prize for Quality Lol!!
    There are 10 mill in Sweden..2.2 in Stockholm ..they are members of EU but not of Nato. We were told the citizens wish they were as their neighbour to the east is a concern for all.
    There are 14 islands 60 canals. 57 is hard to get around lots of traffic issues.
    It is a very old city dating back to 1252. It is home to many writers journalists and scientists.
    Stockholm..very expensive..dinner out 120E average meal
    Housing very expensive pepple spend 45 percent of their income on housing. They pay some of the highest tax in Europe.. .
    We loved the vibe and found it very picturesque. Wish we had more time here.
    Read more

  • Day17

    Helsinki Finland

    June 6, 2019 in Finland ⋅ 🌫 23 °C

    Helsinki is a very pretty city filled with well kept gardens and sculptures. It is park like with lots of trees and rock formations and feels a lot like Canada. It is an old city with Russian and Swedish roots.
    All school children speak Finnish and Swedish and start learning English at age 7.
    Saunas and spas can be found everywhere...a very Finnish thing to do.
    Beautiful water front with a huge vendor stall open air market selling food and all sorts of goods.
    Independence from Russia was first in 1917
    Inc tax 30pc incl health ins. There are many new hospitals and claim leading edge techniques..they train lots of doctors sought after world wide. The city is full of modern buildings and looks prosperous. We found it to be very expensive but full of gorgeous international shops. We viewed the large Lutheran cathedral St Nicholas in the centre of Helsinki. It was built in 1855... quite lovely.
    Finland has 5.5 million population. .600k in Helsinki
    We shopped around and had lunch..very nice
    Finnish sandwich and cappuccino on a patio. It was very hot about 85F but nice breeze from the harbour.
    On to Stockholm.
    Read more

  • Day17

    Viking Sun

    June 6, 2019 in Estonia ⋅ 🌫 27 °C

    A few pics of our tough life at sea..hard to know what to do first. Far too much eating that is for sure! Every meal is better than the last..afternoon tea fit for royalty...supper at any of five restaurants all wonderful...small vignette bars all over where you can get cappuccino or drinks and additional treats anytime.
    Our thoughts. Life is short.....if you have the opportunity...invest in yourselves...and just do it!!! An amazing adventure coming to a close after Stockholm.
    Thankful to have shared this amazing experience with Paul....we are soooo lucky...and with Jean et Lucie our travel companions... who share our interests in world travel. We have shared lots of laughs and a few beverages while debating the depth of history that surrounds us.
    Read more

  • Day15


    June 4, 2019 in Russia ⋅ 🌫 22 °C

    Happy to report we made it in and out of St Petersburg Russia without a visit with authorities. The cruise director kept warning everyone not to fool around with the customs requirements...saying "there is no rushing the Russians" it takes time to clear customs be patient. We were a little apprehensive as Paul was here in 1972 and had a minor traffic issue that involved Russian I was very thankful when he cleared the gate after I was already through.
    St Petersburg home of the is like a work of is mind blowing...5.8 million people ..only 63 sunny days a year and we were here for two of the most perfect. We toured this canal city by boat...68 islands and canals. The canal wall made of granite was built in 1733. It surrounds the city..unbelievable engineering. It is known as Venice of the north incredible building after another dating back to the 1700s. Katherine and Peter the Great built many castles. The amber room at the Katherine Palace is stunning. ..a whole room of amber walls and decor can't be described. The gold leaf in the palaces and churches throughout the city is hard to comprehend.. During the war years many of the art treasures from all over Europe were taken to Russia and is this vast collection of fine art that fills the Hermitage and other great palaces. Amazing to see.
    The Russian baroque style used by many architects and the ornate carvings covered in gold leaf readily available instead of marble like the rest of Europe. The churches are exceptional in design, size and decor and full of historic tombs.
    We saw the artillery museum...scary...they have so many munitions..and ships now anchored that were used in many pivotal war maneuvers.
    After the revolution everything was state owned and the country has a difficult transition moving to public ownership and commerce. The city has prospered with and IT development, logistics..and big port infrastructure.
    Following our 9hr tour day..we had another wonderful dinner and dancing under the stars on a beautiful evening. The Viking cruise is truly top notch, fun and we have met so many interesting people.
    What an experience to see all this history and the fine art of the Hermitage, knowing we haven't even scratched the surface.
    The weather has been incredible for our whole trip. Not one rainy day anywhere. It was cool but sunny in Scandinavia but this week has been 80F plus. Wonderful!

    Read more

  • Day14

    Tallinn Estonia

    June 3, 2019 in Estonia ⋅ 🌫 15 °C

    Tallinn Estonia feels like you have stepped back in time to one of Europe's oldest and best preserved medieval towns. It is the same land size as the Netherlands but population only 1.3 million.
    It is has storied past of many wars and conquests but it is a great example of preserving history while building a modern city. The economy of agriculture and forestry is now supplemented by IT research and development by such companies as Virgin mobile..Branson doing world class IT development using cheap labour. The university is famous for Medicine and IT grads sought after word wide.
    Independence in 1918 from Russia . It was just one of the Scandinavian and other european countries wanting to control Estonia a walled city 2.6 mi and 44 towers protecting the harbour on the Baltic.
    We toured the beautiful Russian orthodox church dating back to 1400s all real gold leaf heavily decorated ...people pews. A service was in progress and we were able to see Estonian women in ordinary prayer dress.
    Lutheran is the base religion but few citizens attend today.
    In WW2 Estonia was aligned with Russia and Germany until Germans invaded Russia and the subsequent end of the war. Estonia went back to communist denomination where the citizens lived under an oppressive regime in poverty and limited movement until 1989. We saw the KGB building where they intercepted citizens from churches.
    Most fun was touring the guilds of the ancient city. Guilds where crafters and vendors of every type. It was a lovely afternoon seeing felting, spinning, leather making, knitting,quilting,stitching, woodworking and so many other guilds dating back centuries. No wonder these counties have exceptional craftsmen, people are trained from cradle to technical school.
    As the war ended when Germany invaded Russia Estonia was under Russia..the people remained very poor..could not leave or travel until until 1989 with the uprising where citizens formed the Baltic chain joining hands and singing..... ultimately overthrowing the government resulting in their freedom in 1991 for the Baltic countries..
    Other notes:
    second highest consumption of beer per person in world after Czech Republic
    57 pc tax
    Low unemployment. 1pc
    Social benefits..are poor compared to other countries ...but.after the war there was no financial base..and mafia ruled...with help from Finland and Sweden..they now have a very low crime rate and hard working economy.
    Families subsidized to have children to increase population
    Earn 800 per mo after tax
    Rent apt 450 euro plus electric etc
    Olympics Moscow 1980...sailing was held in Estonia harbour...
    Read more

  • Day12

    Gdansk Poland

    June 1, 2019 in Poland ⋅ 🌫 18 °C

    Poland the land of perogies, honey meringue pastries and cheap beer has intrigued me since my friend Alicja introduced me to polish culture and food about 30 yrs ago. Our bus tour of Gdansk on a beautiful sunny day 70F gave us a taste of Poland and a feeling we would love to return.
    Their 1000 yr history particularly the golden era from the 15th to 17th century as grain farmers and merchants created much wealth known as the golden era. Seen as a safe place for Jews and mennonite farmers from the Netherlands the society developed quickly until Sweden raided all their riches and Poland collapsed in 1800s.
    June 1st the day we are here is a celebration of independence after WW1 and known as Children's day. It also celebrates the right to vote achieved following the Solidarity demonstrations of 1989. It was a wonderful vibe to meet local parents with their children enjoying the ancient centre. G. Farenheit was born raised in historic poland city centre founder of temperature measurement.
    WW2 tension started when Poland was attacked by the Germans which started the WW2 in 1939. The intense bombing and occupation from 1943 virtually destroyed Gdansk and many historical buildings. Poland lost over 6 million Jews and citizens during the occupation.
    We walked through the historic old town, the Green gate, the Golden gate and explored the ancient town area were buildings now restored, dried grains for world export. The location of the city 5mi back from the Baltic Sea made it a safe port and home to much wealth. There are many shops and restaurants featuring honey meringue pastries and all sorts of perogies.
    St Mary's Basilica..largest brick church in the world..housed many treasures of Poland. Many were saved from destruction being sent to private collections worldwide..a concerted effort to get them returned is in progress. While tourists meander around the ancient church, local weddings take place in the nave of the church such as the one we witnessed with many guests wearing national!
    In the past decade there has been tremendous growth..immigration from the Ukraine, Italy and Spain has brought labour required to re-build the city. Many international head offices exchange employees and families due to free education....and easy development opportunities in construction and business ventures. The complaint by citizens is the government has little experience with urban planning over time to make liveable cities with green spaces and acquiesce to developers money rather than lifestyle.
    It is very cheap to fly from Poland to other European centres so many citizens come to Gdansk for services such as mechanical car services, dental care or holiday wknds and for cheap alcohol.
    In 1979 strikes for food began as corruption by Russian government left people starving and being killed for revolting. In 1980 Lech Walesa led the first trade union of shipyard workers known as Solidarity to a massive nationwide revolt against food wars. The Solidarity revolt led Lec Walesa to become President of Poland leading to the beginning of democracy and to winning the Nobel Peace prize.
    We all loved Gdansk and would love to see lots more of Poland another time.
    Read more

  • Day11

    Berlin Germany

    May 31, 2019 in Germany ⋅ 🌫 20 °C

    We knew we had a full agenda when booking our Viking cruise and today's 13 hr tour starting at 6.15am was no exception. The ship docked at Warnemunde Germany where we joined our guide Lars for a 2.5 hr train ride to Berlin. En rte we met another couple Lori and Randy who joined us for the day. An included bus tour of Berlin provided highlights and orientation to the history and famous sites. Germany pop 89 mill. Berlin 6 mill on the Spree river. In 1933 Russia conquered the country. Hitler and the reich ruled during the war ending in 1945.
    Since the fall of the Berlin wall sweeping transformation of architectural and cultural modernization has emerged. The Berlin wall divided the city during the cold war from August 1961 to 1989 for 96 miles. The wall was guarded by 16000 snipers where many lost their lives trying to cross the 70 foot death zone to escape
    Our guide an east Berliner told us about life in east Berlin where for 50 yrs they were separated from the rest of the world by the Berlin Wall. They could see across to the freedom of the west, had to attend oppressive schools fed by the communist regime and listen to English music and tv while dreaming to live on the other side. He took us to the Brandenburg emotional site for Berliners. Growing up they knew if they could walk through the means freedom. The gate originally built in 1791 has been refurbished removing tons of is the site where Ronald Reagan said to Gorbachev if you want peace bring down the wall..within two yrs it was down... Peter Jennings Cdn led the commentary the night the wall came down.
    Breznev of Russia and Honniker Germany signed the treaty of German reunification the following yr.
    We saw Checkpoint Charlie, one of 6 points where people could go in and out of east and west side for specific reasons.
    The historic centre of Berlin has been rebuilt using vacant land where the wall and army were. Some of the new buildings include the State library, the Opera house the most modern in Europe, the Einstein centre and the State library replacing one where all books were burned by communists in 60s, the new glass parliament known as the Reichstag and we viewed the historic one where russian flag claimed victory in 1933 and where later Hitler and germans signed unconditional surrender in 1945 and his ultimate suicide.
    Visiting the holocast memorial was very sobering. Thousands of people viewing the wall and historical artifacts in silence. The horrors of the slaughter of so many is difficult to see.
    Read more

  • Day10

    Copenhagen Denmark

    May 30, 2019 in Denmark ⋅ 🌫 13 °C

    Copenhagen May 30
    Denmark is the smallest, flattest country in Scandinavia 5.8 million people and surrounded by water. It has 6000 windmills creating 25 pc energy..very environmentally responsible. Our guide showed us a huge new facility that turns garbage to energy for the whole area of Scandinavia. The building is multi the country is so flat. It was built on an angle so people can dive in the underground layer by the sea and ski down the angular roof or rock climb up the building.
    The country was occupied by the nazi's from 1939 to 45. Danes were known for saving 6,000 Jews during the war. They have a long history of very smart naval defense from historic times to the cold war. They say they have no resources to export so they gave free education creating a society of very bright leaders who have become leaders in corporations around the world. We visited the little mermaid at water's edge and the sites of Hans Christian Andersen. Paul remembered being there in 1972.
    Maersk the world's biggest transportation co..created a huge danish foundation that built the danish opera house designed by 5yrs.... 500 mill US dollars. Danish designs feature simplicity and functionality and harmony with nature. Most sustainable country..great architects..use sea water to cool and heat buildings.
    People swim at harbours...any sunny day...known as most swimmable country..
    600km bike lanes and trails...throughout Copenhagen..bikes and electric scooters everywhere.
    Following the tour we walked all over ending up at Tivoli Gardens. We all loved the historic city and vibe of Copenhagen.
    Read more

  • Day9

    Aalborg Denmark

    May 29, 2019 in Denmark ⋅ 🌫 11 °C

    May 29.. Aalborg Denmark is the oldest monarchy in the world. Crown prince and queen Marguerite are figureheads have no political power and live in the royal palace in Copenhagen. Their flag is a white cross on red background. It is known as a flag of celebration... people use the flag for decoration and clothing quite freely. Denmark is known as a welfare state where everyone is looked healthcare, free education, free senior and child care. People pay 40 pc tax. Including 1pc to church and state tax. They are known as the happiest people in the world
    Our first stop Aalborg 4th largest city pop 120,000 ...home of Knudsen ...architect of Sydney Opera House....the university has world renowned school if architecture. The city features many architectural beauties.
    Our walking tour (we walk/tour 15,000 to 20,000 steps most days) highlighted oldest church dating back to 1200s known for export of white cement worldwide.
    Following our tour we stopped for drinks at the John Bull Pub where we spent a delightful evening chatting with a couple of local young people about everything from beer to sports to life Denmark. They had both travelled extensively but decided to return to Denmark citing the quality of life. We all thoroughly enjoyed their company.
    Read more