As I am not quite as active on my iPad as some people are, I was too busy having fun to write my blog. Finally catching on to my “trick”, Mum frog marched me to my iPad and told me to get cracking. So here goes.
Day one, Berlin: we were completely stunned by both the beautiful German scenery, and the amount of election campaign posters everywhere. We where told the latter was the result of a strictly enforced six-week campaign rule which we had arrived in time for. We saw many beautiful statues, the Brandenburg gate, the Berlin Stadium, the state water clock, the Luftwaffe headquarters, and the amazingly fake checkpoint Charlie. What a day! We barely made it back awake.
Day two, sea day: today was a do EVERYTHING day. We went on some enormous water slides (where the G’s were so huge that you couldn’t lift your face), the ropes course (where it was too windy to walk out of the ship, called the plank), the pool (where Marco Polo and ‘duck, boat, sub’ was enjoyed), and the climbing wall (where I could not do the hardest wall just yet.) we went to a nice restaurant for dinner as per usual, and in this case some people DIDN’T make it back awake.
Day three, Tallin: a little town on the coast of Estonia was visited after a luxurious breakfast. (By the way, it’s high time I told you about the amazing food on this boat.) crispy bacon, hash browns, salad, juice, and a roll is not to be sneezed at! We stumbled off the boat in the pre-dawn pitch black, and where greeted with a blast of icy air filled with sleet, rain, hail, and a liberal spraying of grit. So this was the famous Baltic cold! Thankfully the Everest-like conditions cleared up in time for our self guided tour, supervised by the ever-present and not-so effervescent Rick Steves. Tallin was tiny! No Tallin why it was like that! (Be ready for some bad puns. Our trip was overflowing with them, and we haven’t even Finnished.) since Tallin was not so Vasa (an ancient landmark), we where Finnished by 4:00 PM. When we came back to the boat, we decided to become experts at table tennis, so after Russian around the table for a bit, we headed in for a delicious dinner. (I had a beef slider, and a green chicken curry) after that, we headed to our beds.
The next day was St Petersburg, and before we got off the boat we ,are a grim discovery. Russia was corrupt. We where told about 90% of the money we paid for a tour went towards bribes! This was understandably shocked. When we got out, we where greeted by a beautiful day, and the famous Russian security. An hour and a half later, we where officially in Russia. Driving through Russia, we saw stunning Opulence and dreadful poverty. The still existing communist-era buildings where patched in many places, while in contrast the palaces of the old tsars where beautifully gilded, with a stunning amount of GOLD. Two days of ST Petersburg and we where overwhelmed. Highlights included the hermitage, the yousapoff palace, and the canal tours. The Venice of the north was unparalleled in its gap between the rich and the poor. Back at the boat, we saw St Petersburg leave behind us, and headed on to Helsinki.
Helsinki was a relatively untouched city by the horrors of WW2, but they still had not Finnished their war rebuilding. (No, I’m not done with the puns yet. Try to bear it a little longer. I’m almost done) we saw the rock church, a church carved in rock with a glass and copper roof, and the Sibelius monument.
Day 7, Stockholm: Stockholm was a Vasa city. So Vasa in fact, that it took us 45 minutes to get to the city centre. The fast thing we saw was the Vast Vasa. Perfectly preserved from the 17th century, it was a wonder that it was so well preserved. The Vasa has quite the backstory, as well. Built for the Swedish King, it was the most expensive ship ever built at the time. Carrying a heavy payload of SEVENTY FIVE cannons, it also had more guns than any other ship in the world. But sadly, the Swedish shipbuilders failed to make the ship wide enough, deep enough, and made it too high. Too compensate for this, they added an extra two tonnes of ballast and sent the ship off through the harbour amid cheering crowds and an expectant King. All went well, until the wind began. Leaning slightly, the boat encountered it’s first problem. Since it had too much ballast, the cannon holes where too low to the water! When the ship began to list, the holes took in water which, quite literally, opened the floodgates. A rushing maelstrom of water enveloped the ship and revealed its most critical problem. Too high, it was too top heavy to right itself in time. 1.5 kilometres after it began its maiden voyage, the Vasa sank. After hearing about this tragedy, we where given only 20 minutes to see the fabulous Vasa museum, containing the Vasa and six levels of historic information, artefacts, and ship viewing decks. After seeing the Vasa, we saw a garden, had lunch at a typically Swedish restaurant(pizza!) and looked at the Nobel prize museum.
The last day we had was a sea day, and I finally conquered the rock wall, after doing the pool, table tennis, the ropes course, the plank, some reading, breakfast, and lunch. Sitting here this evening, I look back on our cruise. What a wonderful time we’ve had!