Our first Viking Ocean Cruise started in Spain and went through Scandinavia to Russia. So we're calling it Spandinavia. Join us for the adventure.
  • Day29

    Stockholm

    May 13, 2017 in Sweden ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    In the morning we took the bus tour of Stockholm. We came back to the ship for lunch then set out again to find the Vassa Museum. I misread an abbreviation in Swedish on our map, so we walked around the perimeter of Zoo Island only to find ourselves right back where we started from. We relented and bought a ticket for the hop on hop off boat that took us to the museum. By that time we were both tired, and I felt myself getting a slight sore throats. We went back t the ship, happy and tired, ate supper in the World Cafe, and started to pack for the trip home. Although we got everything onboard within Lufthansa weight limit, we could not get our two big suitcases under fifty pounds. Our room steward Jakka had to come four times with the scales before we thought we were close enough to the airline weight requirement.Read more

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  • Day28

    Porvoo and Helsinki

    May 12, 2017 in Finland ⋅ ⛅ 6 °C

    First we took a bus to the town of Porvoo. It's a pretty little town with an interesting little medieval area. We saw the Lutheran Church than bought a cup of coffee and a piece of cranberry cake at a local coffee shop with the creative name Post3 (from the Spanish “postres,” or dessert. I had a conversation with the young lady serving as the waitress about Finland and its customs. We returned to Helsinki for the general bus tour.Read more

  • Day27

    St. Petersburg Second Day

    May 11, 2017 in Russia ⋅ ⛅ 4 °C

    Here are some notes concerning the pictures that we took on May 10. At 8:30:20 AM I took a picture of the Winter Palace from the main plaza of the city. This was the place square 1000 peasants were killed when they petitioned Czar at the Winter Palace in 1905. The photograph taken at 8:30:41 AM shows the row of palaces along the waterfront of the Neva River. Hermitage Museum, Church of Our Savior on Spilled Blood, lunch, St. Isaac's Church, shopping. Back to the ship.Read more

  • Day26

    St. Petersburg

    May 10, 2017 in Russia ⋅ ⛅ 3 °C

    We met our guide Svetlana at 7:15 am as soon as we could get off the ship. Even so, we were the last of six participants in our independent excursion to St. Petersburg. We thought passport control would be a nightmare, but we got through quickly and easily. We began with a general bus tour of the central city, then rode an escalator half a mile under the Neva river to see the Admiralty Station of the beautiful subway under St. Petersburg. Next we headed south for the little town of Pushkin. There we saw the summer palace built by Princess Elizabeth and named for her mother Catherine I. It is without any doubt the most beautiful human creation I have ever seen. The rooms covered in gold, the perfection in the gardens, and the sheer opulence of the palace defy description. Then we had lunch at a quaint restaurant that served us borscht, beef stroganoff, and ice cream with a cookie. After lunch we toured the Peterhof Gardens then rode in a hydrofoil boat back to the center of town. We toured the fortress built by Peter the Great, and were amazed again by the dazzling cathedral holding the remains of all of the Imperial rulers of Russia. Surprisingly, we had the church to ourselves. Perhaps it was the cold weather today that kept the crowds away. We came back to our ship tired, happy and ready for tomorrow's adventure.Read more

  • Day25

    Delightful Tallinn

    May 9, 2017 in Estonia ⋅ ⛅ 3 °C

    We are in Tallinn, Estonia. I got up early to take photographs from the top deck. We met our guide Alice at the end of the pier, and she immediately took us to the Alexander Nevski cathedral. There was a worship service in progress. The church was absolutely beautiful and the music was heavenly. Across the street stands the parliament building. Alice explained to us how Estonia gained its independence in 1991. A big boulder beside the parking lot of the pink parliament building represents those used in a barricade during the demonstrations that came as part of the revolution against the Soviet occupation. I photographed one of the old watch towers, called Tall Herman, that was part of the city wall, as well as the steeple of St. Mary's Cathedral. One building had a plaque on the side with the founder stretching out a three-dimensional hand over the sidewalk. He was the founder of the dramatics school. Across the street was the school of ballet. The green building that I photographed used to be the central building of the old German guild, the survival of the Hanseatic league. To be a member one had to be married, had to own a house, a ship. I photographed a yellow building with an elaborate wrought-iron fence. This is the residence of the prime minister. At least took us to a higher overlook where we photographed the city. We went through a narrow street and I was able to peek into the lobby of a normal Estonian apartment house. A second overlook gave us a beautiful view of the city from which I took a number of photographs. Next we passed a couple of buildings that were part of the University including a brownstone building that houses the department of science and technology. In front of the residence of the German ambassador, I photographed two beautiful towers that are part of the ancient city inner defenses. The major street down the hill is called long leg Street, into Mark this name there is a house with the drain spout in the shape of a long leg boot. Another street downhill took us passed St. Mary's Church and let us to the Kalev Maiasmokk (Sweet Tooth) Restaurant, noted for its fine chocolate. St. Mary's Church has a clock with a wooden face carved in medieval times. It's inner workings, however, are of more recent design. I photographed the great guild house, which formally house and the Hanseatic League. We went through an alley which has the Balthazar restaurant. This eatery specializes in foods and beers flavored with garlic. Reaching the main square of the city we saw the old City Hall, which resembles the church. Now it is used for concerts and other public assemblies The old town Square has not been used as the side of a permanent market since the late 19th century. We passed the old Hansa restaurant. This restored medieval building specializes in medieval foods, including bear meat and boar meat, served with appropriate drinks from the middle ages. One restaurant is now called the pepper sack. This is the name that was given to a wealthy merchant in medieval days, since a sack of pepper was very costly. We walked down the alley of the master craftsmen. One of the shops, which we enjoyed later, serves the most delicious hot chocolate drinks, and makes over 1000 chocolate truffles per day. The old telegraph office has now been converted into a hotel, called the Telegraph Hotel. We visited the site of an old convent. That building is no longer used for a convent, some of the structure remains, and many of the slabs from the floor are still on display in the alleyway. There are also a number of terra-cotta buttresses going across that alleyway. I was able to photograph them. Next we traveled along side the old city wall. Many shops line the base of this wall even today. When some permanent structures were removed by the Soviets, the wall began to collapse. To strengthen the wall, the Soviets installed concrete buttresses which are still visible today. When our tour was over we still had some free time left. We retraced our steps, went back to the coffee shop and enjoyed a hot drink and some delicious truffles. And try to retake some of the photographs we had taken earlier. We took the shuttle bus back to the ship, and I had a Reuben sandwich and a beer for lunch. It was very cold outside this morning. In fact, there were snow flurries just before we got off the ship. So we came inside, warmed ourselves up, had a good lunch, and got ready to set sail at 3 PM. It is easy to confuse the churches of Tallinn with one another. The church of Saint Nicholas is now a museum. It has two cages under an onion dome topped by a steeple. The church of St. Mary has one cage topped by an onion dome and the steeple. The tallest spire in the city belongs to Saint Olaf's church. The church with multiple onion domes is the cathedral of Alexander Nevski. At Chef's Table tonight we met Alejandro and Diana from Houston, TXRead more

  • Day24

    Sea Day Heading to Estonia

    May 8, 2017, Baltic Sea ⋅ ⛅ 5 °C

    Today is a Sea day. We had a late, lazy breakfast in the World Cafe, went to a lecture on imperial Russia, a port talk on Tallinn, a reception for repeating Viking customers, a long conversation with John & Ann from Kentucky, brief dinner in World Cafe, and listened to Olga in the Atrium. We laid out layers of clothing for the freezing temperatures in Tallinn tomorrow.Read more

  • Day23

    Gdansk

    May 7, 2017 in Poland ⋅ ⛅ 7 °C

    Since we dock at around 11 am in Gdansk we have the morning free. Glenda is doing laundry and I'm catching up on this travel journal. Our walking tour of Gdansk was wonderful. Our guide, a Mr. Skibenski, was a worker in one of the shipyards where Solidarity was formed. His parents were killed at Auschwitz, and a brother was killed by the Soviet Russians. We saw the huge crane that used a human treadmill and gears to install masts onto ships. We saw the church of St Mary, the largest brick Gothic church in the world. Most of the city was destroyed in World War II. Much of it has been rebuilt from the original bricks. There is a large Fahrenheit thermometer near the place where Fahrenheit was born. His parents committed suicide by drinking poison, so the young scientist was raised by his uncles. The European Union was holding a festival representing all of its member nations. St. Mary's Church is now Catholic again since World War II, though for 400 years it was Protestant. Its buttresses are not flying buttresses, but rather internal buttresses. The large stained glass window overlooking the altar is of modern design. The renaissance building used as the arsenal is characterized by the representation of exploding grenades on the facade. Next door is a modern building of Soviet design. Though it does not compare in its elaboration, it is also on the register of historical buildings simply because it is a representation of that period in architectural history. We saw a building that was a prison in Napoleon's time. The Catholics were having an evangelical rally on one of the main streets. We passed a replica of a renaissance ship that now carries tourists for a short excursion on the way to the large crane used in renaissance times to install masts on ships. When we returned to the ship our guide pointed out where the first shots of the Second World War were fired. A Marine barracks right where our ship was docked was destroyed by naval shelling, and then further destruction took place during aerial bombardment on the second day. The ruined barracks is now a national monument. After the excursion I walked over to photograph the park in which these ruins are preserved. We had the marinated steak at Manfredi's, then went to hear a concert of the music of the Beatles.Read more

  • Day22

    Warnemunde and Rostock

    May 6, 2017 in Germany ⋅ ⛅ 10 °C

    After a waffle breakfast at Mamsen's we took a bus into Rostock with our guide Durten. One couple was late so we had to wait for them once we exited the bus. However, as soon as they arrived, they left our group and went out on their own. We began with the university, continued with the town and finally the church of St. Mary. There is a lovely fountain in the plaza in front of the university that shows a family with children. It symbolizes that the family is the foundation of the culture of the city. I was especially impressed that we a now in the province of Mecklenburg, for which my home county is named. We returned to the ship for lunch and then went out to walk in Wernamunde. There was a street fair along the river selling all kinds of fish. We walked out to the end of the wharf and saw many sailboats coming in. We returned to the ship and took a nap before going down to the atrium to hear Olga play. We dined with Don and his partner John from Oregon. Mostly we discussed cooking and wine. We came to bed happy and looking forward to tomorrow in Gdansk, Poland.Read more

  • Day21

    Wonderful Copenhagen

    May 5, 2017 in Denmark ⋅ ⛅ 12 °C

    This morning we took a bus tour as an introduction to Copenhagen. The street beside the ship was very busy and narrow so we had to be careful in crossing. We saw the waterfront, with its fort and opera house, and then went to the Amalienborg Palace, the home of the Danish royal family. We had a quick lunch at the pool bar, put on another layer of clothing to protect against the cold rain, then hit the streets again. We went to the Rosenberg Palace, home of King Christian IV. While not as elaborate as some of the other palaces we have seen, it had some remarkable features. For example, one reception room had grates in the floor so that the king's guests could magically hear music from the ensemble playing in the room below them. We also saw the bloody clothing retained after the king was wounded at sea. He was asked not to take part in the action but insisted on going onboard a warship. When a grenade exploded the king lost an eye. Forever after he made a point of telling his people that the had shed his blood for them. We saw the Danish Crown Jewels, and then went to Tivoli Gardens. We stopped at a little cake store called Cakenhagen and had coffee and pastry. Glenda had an almond cake and I had chocolate. We came back to the ship and enjoyed a steak dinner at the World Cafe. Music from Olga Astashenok followed, and we went to bed early to prepare for our visit to Germany tomorrow. I told Olga I will send photos of her playing when we return home.Read more

  • Day20

    Aalborg, Denmark

    May 4, 2017 in Denmark ⋅ ☀️ 11 °C

    We are entering the port of Aalborg, Denmark this morning. Our excursions were delayed because high winds prevented our mooring on time. When we got off the ship there were 50 mph gusts. The town of Aalborg was nice, but our guide was an older woman named Else who could not keep up with our group. So Glenda and I left the group and went on our own. We photographed the church of Our Lady and that of St. Botolph, Jen Bang's house and the old castle. Several chemical plants upwind gave the town an unpleasant odor. Unfortunately, most of the old buildings were demolished in the 1960's in a move toward modernization. Our ship docked right beside the University of Aalbord, which has some lovely modern Danish architecture. At 9 pm we are exiting Denmark and passing a beautiful little town called Storvord.Read more