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We are home...at least i am. Betty Lou will return to Summerland tomorrow.


The last leg of our journey took us back to where we began: Amsterdam. We didn't do much with the evening (dinner & bed), but had a lovely day today (at least i think it was today...it feels like yesterday).


We visited the Anne Frank house/museum, which was very moving and certainly worth a visit. After that we walked along the canal to the flower market, had a bit of lunch and returned to the airport.

The flight (10 hours, i think) went by remarkably quickly, considering that neither of us slept. And now we are back. I'm not sure how i feel about that, but then again, i am so tired i cannot really evaluate my feelings about anything. It was an excellent trip and neither of us could have asked for anything better. Thank you again for taking the time to read about our adventures. Dale & Betty Lou North

lähtö (departure)

We are at the lentoasima (airport) in Helsinki awaiting our flight to Amsterdam. We did not make it to the cinema last night. We were exhausted and crashed in our room. This has been the first room that we have stayed in that had a television, so we watched the only English channel, which was showing "A League of Their Own", which i had never seen.
This morning there was breakfast and a bit of strolling through the market. We get into Amsterdam at 5:30pm (local time), so we will probably just have dinner, smoke a cigar and go to bed. Tomorrow morning we thought we might visit the Anne Frank house, which i have never been to. We'll see what we feel like doing. On Monday the 21st, we leave Amsterdam at 3:30pm and arrive in Vancouver at 4:15pm that same day (local times)...if only it really were only a 45minute flight! It is so hard to believe that we have only one more "sleep" in Europe and that the night after next i will be sleeping in my own bed. Crazy. I can't…

Helsinki: Day Two

Our first full day in Helsinki was a busy one.
We visited the Helsinki Cathedral (the big white one that overlooks Senate Square) and the Uspenski Cathedral - you would think we would be burned out from visiting so many churches at this point, but we're not. We went to the market which occurs every morning down by the water. It is sort of like a temporary Granville Island - people selling produce and fish and handmade items, souvenirs, etc. There was live music (which included one man using a moped as a percussion instrument) and the weather was most agreeable. We had coffee on the Esplanad, which is basically a pedestrian street/park which is lined with cafes, shops and public art installations. For those of you who know South Beach, it is sort of like Lincoln Road. We had coffee and watched a marching band parade around the area. We don't know what the marching was all about, but it felt festive.
We checked out some of the shops in the Design District before hopping on the numb…

Wandering (Farther) North

Good morning from beautiful Helsinki. We arrived at the ferry terminal in Tallinn one hour before our supposed departure only to find...our ship had sailed. I pride myself on being a bright girl- i'm in law school for crying out loud - and yet, i cannot tell time. I've never been particularly good at reading clocks, but i get by. One thing i have never been able to sort out is the bloody 24 hour clock. I had our confirmation which said we were leaving at 13:30, but somehow it had registered in my brain as being 3:30, not 1:30. I am retarded. Fortunately there was another ship leaving at 4:15 (sadly though this one did not have a cigar lounge). The ship was large and well-appointed and quite comfortable. The ride took 2.5 hours.
We arrived and a taxi driver with a penchant for "Cosby Show" analogies whisked us to our new abode: Gasthaus Omapoja, which is terribly charming and as our taxi driver noted, when i asked if it was a good location, "It is in the heart of t…

Countdown to Helsinki

We have been wandering around in the Old Town this morning. Had coffee and a cigar in the warm sun in the town square. Betty Lou bought a lovely painting from an artist set up in one of the alleys. I bought some (more) liquor and chocolates. I now have vodka from Russia and some Estonian liquor (which i'm sure will be disgusting, but it is the national drink or something), and a bottle of absinthe, which may get taken from me by Canadian customs, but it was so inexpensive i couldn't help myself.



The opera last night was wonderful. Exquisite sets and costumes and, of course, beautiful singing. It hadn't occurred to me beforehand, but the surtitles were in Estonia, so we had to make up our own dialogue, but with opera it isn't too difficult. We will catch a taxi to the ferry terminal in about an hour and a half and then it's up to Finland. The trip takes about three hours and it is a beautiful day. We will probably post tonight. Happy Thursday! d & b

Afternoon in the Town & A Night at the Opera

Another day in Tallinn.  Walked around the town some more. We went to the St. Nicholas Church - a medieval structure that has been repeatedly rebuilt following fires and bombing by the Nazis. It was quite lovely; very simple.



We also went to an old monastery - the oldest structure in the city supposedly. It was beautiful. We had more coffees and snacks and then walked atop the remaining portion of the city wall, which afforded us beautiful views of the town and its red rooftops. The wall walk also allowed access to four towers, which one reached by climbing perilous, spiral stone staircases, which were dark and guarded by territorial pigeons.
We had lunch in the town square. It is beautiful and sunny today, but the odd gust of cold wind reminded us that we are in fact quite far north.  After lunch/dinner Betty Lou joined me in a visit to the cigar lounge i found on our first day here. It was wonderfully relaxing.


Strolling along we stumbled upon a row of artisans selling their wares - mos…

Teisipaev (tuesday)

Our first full day in Tallinn has been a thoroughly relaxing day.


We explored the Toompea region - the "Upper Town" part of the Old Town". We visited the Alexander Nevsky cathedral, wandering by the Toompea castle (now government buildings) and went inside the Kiek-in-de-Kok tower - one of the medieval fortress towers that form the remaining wall around the Old Town. The tower was super cool; four levels with a narrow and winding staircase going up to the top. It was filled with some Estonian historical objects, but mostly it was the structure that was interesting.
We did a lot of wandering through the town, went to the Holy Spirit Church and back to the Town Square. I must explain that Tallinn is itself only a city of about 400,000 people and that the Old Town is its historical and medieval center. It is very small and everything we could possibly want to see is clustered within this area. Mainly it is the town itself, its cafes and shops that are the attraction. It is q…

Entering Estonia

A new day and a new country.
We caught our train early this morning. It lacking the romance of the Red Arrow, but was certainly adequate. We had our own little room with folding bunks and pillows and blankets, a little table and a window where we could watch the countryside pass by.


I am pleased to report that the ride was basically uneventful. It was relaxing. I had been nervous about going through Russian customs & immigration, but it was fine. We spent a half an hour at the Russian border and then about an hour at the Estonia border. We showed our passport several times and they searched the train, including under the seats and inside the ceiling.
We arrived in Estonia at 1:00. Note that we are now only 10 hours ahead of B.C. time, not 11 as we were in Russia. We caught a taxi to our new temporary abode, the City Guesthouse. It is just outside the walls of the Old Town and is in a newish building. Our room and its amenities are the most modern that we have yet enjoyed (i.e. normal…

Leaving Leningrad

We have had a fantastic last day in Russia. The sun has been shining all day. Our first stop was the Aleksander Nevsky Monstery. It was Sunday morning so the church was full of worshippers. We joined in...for about 10 minutes. That was enough to enjoy the voices raised in song - as it is an orthodox service, there is no sitting, which is why we didn't stay longer, plus, we had to go in search of a certain gentleman we had been eager to find.  That's right...Dostoevsky.


From there we hopped on the metro to visit the Chesma Cathedral, where Rasputin laid in state after his murder. A stranger church i have never seen. It is pretty and pink, like a cupcake.
We then zipped back downtown to take in the Russian Museum, which had an exhaustive collection of Russian Art, the early 20th century works being my favorites (i.e. Kandinsky). The museum is housed in the former Mikhailovsky palace and is quite impressive.

To close the day we went to the Grand Hotel Europe - bar none the most elega…

From Russia with Love

Today we did indeed make it to Peterhof, the palace of Peter the Great. The main palace is exquisite - each room decorated in its own unique style. The grounds are enormous. There is an upper garden, designed in the French style and a sprawling lower garden, more in the English tradition. The Palace is surrounded by fountains i can only compare to those at Versailles. The grounds are filled with fountains, and smaller "sub palaces", surrounded by moats and gardens. One end of the property touches the Gulf of Finland, where Peter the Great would arrive on ship.



We spent most of the day wandering around in the sunshine and taking in the beauty of our surroundings. We returned to Saint Petersburg (a journey that involved bus & metro), had a sushi dinner on a patio in the sunshine and soon will be back in our room. Tomorrow will be our final day in Russia and we shall see how much we can fit in. Good night. d & b

Tombs, Tsars, & Pickled Babies

Friday.
At breakfast in the hostel, we met some new guests: a mother and her four daughters visiting from the Yukon (one of whom is here studying), and a retired fellow from Seattle who is traveling around Eastern Europe. They were very friendly. After breakfast we found a ticket office and booked our train tickets to Tallinn, Estonia (first class, of course). The woman at the counter did not speak any English so i had to rely on my rudimentary Russian (so at least i HOPE i purchased tickets for Estonia). The trains had only recently started running to Estonia again, but will stop later this month due to certain political tensions between the two countries. We leave at 7am on Monday and arrive around 2pm. We then walked across one of the many bridges spanning the Neva River (i am pleased to report that the weather today has been outstanding) and visited the Kunstkammer - Saint Petersburg's first museum, established by Peter the Great to display his collection of objects from cultures…

Tackling the Hermitage

We awoke to more miserable weather today which persisted until only a few hours ago. Now it is gorgeous - patio weather. I do not recall if i have mentioned it previously, but the daylight part of the day is so long here. I don't know what time the sun rises, as we have yet to see this occur (which as many of you will know, is rare for us), but it is up very early and the sky is still light at 10pm. As summer approaches, the days will get even longer, until there is only a few hours of darkness each day. Ok, enough of those trite observations and on to others.



Today we tackled the Hermitage. It is one of the largest museums in the world and is housed in former palaces of Peter & Catherine (the Great[s]). The building is spectacular - one glittering ballroom and throne room after another and each room hung with art from around the globe: everything from classical portraits & religious art to Picasso and Matisse. After awhile it is overwhelming to be in the presence of so much…

St Petersburg, Day 2

Ok, i bought some additional time on the computer. Where was i? Ah yes, we were tired and cranky. I am pleased to say that a good night's sleep had restored us to our good humors and me to my agonizingly verbose self. This morning we slept in until 9 and then had breakfast at the hostel. Today is 9 May, which is "Victory Day" in Russia (the day they celebrate their victory over the Nazis and all soldiers lost in war). It is kind of like their fourth of July. There was a huge parade today, which somehow we missed, but the streets are thick with Russians waving flags and sporting ribbons and drinking in celebration. Due to the holiday, all of the museums and attractions are closed. Churches, shops and restaurants are open. I had planned that we would spend the day walking and exploring parks and the river. We gave it a shot, but it was bitterly cold, raining and windy. After about an hour or so, we were frozen, so we holed up at a little cafe and sat there for a couple hours, e…

The Red Arrow To St. Petersburg

I'm back. While Betty Lou's post was a bit terse, it was due largely to hunger and fatigue. Had i written it would have been even shorter and possibly filled with expletives. First of all: the train. Wow. We arrived at the train station on a dark and rainy night and found the Red Arrow waiting for us in all of its crimson splendor (yeah, Alan, i do go on, but as i recall you pay me to write for your newspaper, so it can't be THAT bad). The train was beautiful and our car was spectacular. It was very Orient Express, with lovely curtains and crisp linens, etc. We had a table and two bench seats which folded into beds. The table was set with our breakfast which included bread, meat, cheese, yogurt, juice, water, tea, chocolate and caviar. We also were offered a complimentary cocktail (we opted for juice). There was also two complimentary toiletry kits with slippers, eyemasks and the like. The ride was smooth, but just "clickety clack" enough to be soothing and remind …

Hello

We made it to St. Petersburg in style.  The Red Arrow was fantastic. It was very luxurious and we felt like royalty.  This is me, BLou, posting so the entry will be short and to the point.
We have done a self-guided (Dale guided) walking tour today which took in various palaces and cathedrals.  We are hungry and going to eat.  More later.