Copenhagen and Baltic Cruise 2019-10

Copenhagen and Baltic Cruise 2019-10

Laurie and I spent most of a week in Copenhagen, Denmark, then boarded the Norwegian Getaway for a cruise around the Baltic, visiting Germany, Estonia, Russia, Finland, and Sweden before returning to Copenhagen and home. Her sisters Cindy and Caral went with us, and Ann, a friend of Caral’s.


Copenhagen, Denmark 2019-10-07/10/11

We arrived in Copenhagen the morning of Monday 10/7, and first thing were entertained by the Danish Modern style of the airport. We picked up our Copenhagen Card (great deal, public transit and lots of attractions at one discounted price) at the airport, and were off and running. First stop was the Hotel Danmark, where we expected to leave our bags in a luggage room, but discovered a room was ready and we could check in early. Win!


Then, off to Christianborg Palace, where we visited the Royal Stables, ruins under the castle showing prior buildings on the site, and the Royal Kitchens (amazing collection of copper cookware). Otherwise, some general wandering about, and noticing that rush hour in Copenhagen includes a lot of bicycles.

We went for field trips out of Copenhagen on Tuesday and Wednesday (see below), then met up with Laurie’s sister Caral and friend Ann on Thursday for our first use of the subway (straightforward, simple, clean, safe) headed for Amalienborg Palace. We got distracted on the way by Frederiksstaden (a church clearly following the model of the Pantheon). And roadwork – with all the cobblestones everywhere, roadwork is a bit different than it is in the USA.

After Amalienborg Palace and lunch, Laurie and I headed for the National Museum of Denmark, which had all kinds of things of interest.

On Friday 10/11, we checked out of our hotel, took our bags, and went to visit The Little Mermaid on our way to the cruise ship terminal. Very proud of ourselves that with our carry-on only luggage it was entirely possible to take subway and bus to visit a tourist attraction, and then bus to the cruise ship entirely on our on.  And then we were on the ship.


Roskilde, Denmark 2019-10-08

Roskilde was the medieval capital city of Denmark. Today, there are several nice museums, and scenic walks available in this seaside town.


The Viking Ship Museum has the remains of several Viking ships that had been sunk intentionally to help control a channel. One even has the remains of the rail used to hold shields along the side. And they have many boats they have recreated using historical techniques and materials.

Roskilde Cathedral was a pretty typical cathedral, interesting enough but nothing exceptional.

Roskilde Museum has all kinds of artifacts from the Viking period. I was particularly interested in the bone artifacts – combs, chess pieces, buttons, and musical instruments.

Helsingor, Denmark 2019-10-09

Helsingor, more specifically the Kronborg Castle found there, is the historical inspiration for Shakespeare’s Elsinore, home of Hamlet.


Helsingor is about an hour train ride north of Copenhagen. The train line ends there, in a really interesting 19th Century train station. Kronborg Castle is an easy walk from the station, passing some public art along the way.

Kronborg Castle is mostly late 16th and 17th century construction, which has been nicely preserved and restored. There are some stunning tapestries and a lot of furniture, some as early as 14th century. And then there’s the lower level basements and storage areas, where a statue of Holger Danske (see the tale by Hans Christian Andersen) was donated by the WWII resistance group of the same name.

Back on the grounds of the castle, we realized “evil Sweden” is easily visible across the water. Denmark and Sweden had a long history of “who’s the king?” and taking land back and forth.

Danish smørrebrød sandwiches aren’t like anything you get in the States.

Warnemunde, Germany 2019-10-12

Warnemunde is a seaside resort near Rostock. The cruise ship company uses this port for excursions to Berlin, but we weren’t going to take 3 hour bus rides both directions. So we wandered on our own.


The first thing we found when we walked off the ship and headed toward town was a set of sand sculptures that were really entertaining. I wish I knew what they’d done to stabilize the sand for long term display.

We wandered the town, found an historic lighthouse worth climbing for the views, and got fingers wet in the Baltic Sea. It was too cold to go wading.

Day At Sea 2019-10-13

Lazy day hanging out and reading fiction, and playing with circus toys – spinning plates, juggling scarves and ball, devil stick, chinese yo-yo in a cruise sponsored activity.


Tallinn, Estonia 2019-10-14

On our cruise around the Baltic, we visited Tallinn, Estonia. Its a small city, with the port an easy walk from downtown. On the way, there’s a large and informative sign about Estonia.


Its a very picturesque city, with a lot of buildings remaining from the middle ages. There’s a great plaza in the middle of town. And the town hall there has a cute gargoyle – which was at work with all the rain while we were there.

The highlight of our visit was the KGB Museum in the Hotel Viru, which was built for Western visitors during the height of the cold war. Guest rooms alternated with surveillance rooms. A KGB control center on the top floor was abandoned when the KGB left Estonia, with only the highest priority items removed, the rest remains to today. Direct link telephone to who-knows-where, camera used through pinholes, recording equipment, gas masks, bait purse testing staff who weren’t supposed to have Western currency, and all kinds of other toys. And a fascinating tour guide.

We also spent time walking remnants of the medieval city walls. The stairs the guards had to walk were really narrow and steep. But at least they had comfort facilities available!

St. Petersburg, Russia 2019-10-15/16

For this port, we chose to go ashore only with cruise sponsored excursions. That made the visa situation a lot easier to deal with, even though we still had to go through passport control every time we got on or off the ship.

St. Petersburg Day 1

“Imperial St. Petersburg”, with a bus tour to Peterhof, a palace and grounds built by Peter the Great starting in 1709 as a response to Versailles. The bus tour took us past numerous churches (converted to swimming pools, skating rinks, or storage buildings in the Soviet era) and other buildings of interest. We had terrific weather for visiting the grounds of Peterhof, a little chilly but bright sunshine.


Inside the palace… opulent isn’t a strong enough word. I was particularly fascinated by the floors, and the intricate woodwork they displayed. Separate photo gallery of floors:

According to our guide, we were very lucky to come so late in the season, as the crowds were much smaller. In the garden that seemed to be true. Inside the palace… well, I’m glad there weren’t any more people than there were. After the palace, we went and had lunch at a nearby hotel, and back on the bus to make a quick visit to Palace Square (more tomorrow), St. Peter and St. Paul’s Cathedral (tomb of Nicholas II and family), and other sites in passing.

After returning to the ship for dinner, we went out to a performance of “folk dance and music”, which seemed to me to be “Ballet Folklorico de Russia”. I think I’d have preferred to go to the ballet. Ah, well…

St. Petersburg Day 2

“Pushkin and The Hermitage” expedition was a bus trip to Pushkin, a suburb of St. Petersburg with Catherine Palace (and some Alexander Pushkin sites) and then The Hermitage, one of the great art museums of the world.


Catherine Palace was built by Catherine the Great starting in 1717. Our tour guide described her as “Cinderella Girl”, who went from servant to mistress to Empress of Russia. There are “E” motifs throughout the palace, for Ekaterina. Also the “Nyet, nyet ladies” as our guide called them, grandmother age women in every room to tell the tourists not to touch things, to stay behind ropes, to keep moving, and so on. Most rooms had these huge stoves in them for heat, covered with Delft tiles. And the floors…. take another look at the link to the floor photo gallery above. Wow. And then the formal gardens, not quite as extensive as at Peterhof, but still. The Palace was badly damaged by the Nazis in WWII, but the Soviets considered it a point of cultural pride to restore it, and the current Russian administration continues the restoration work.

Then back on the bus, and return to St. Petersburg for lunch and a visit to The Hermitage. On the way, we passed a monument showing the closest approach of the Nazis to Leningrad during a 900 day siege .

The Hermitage is a terrific museum, formerly Palace. Lots of things to see, and I’m glad we were there “off season”. I’m not sure if I’d have survived “on season” crowds. And more OMG floors. There were some objects I was happy to see in person, having previously made their acquaintance only through books.


Helsinki, Finland 2019-10-17

In Helsinki, we first did a full circle of the city on the Hop On Hop Off bus, listening to the recorded narrative. Then we did another round, hopping off and on again to see things of interest. This was a short day in port, we may need to come back to Helsinki in the future.


Finnish is the language I was least comfortable with on this trip. Russian has a lot of cognates, once you’re past the Cyrillic alphabet. I was glad to find everyone spoke English, and a lot of signage was in English as well. We lucked into an orchestra rehearsing in the Rock Church – a church literally hollowed out of a huge rock. They might even have been playing Sibelius. Then the National Museum of Finland, which had quite a bit of history of Finland that was new to us. The train station was architecturally interesting.


Stockholm, Sweden 2019-10-18

Unfortunately, I had a GI system upset, and slept through the port stop at Stockholm. Laurie went ashore on her own, and apparently had a great time at Skansen, the worlds oldest open air museum.


Day at Sea 2019-10-19

Another lazy day, recovering from stomach issues and preparing to head for home.


Copenhagen, Munich, Chicago 2019-10-20

We disembarked from the ship, and transferred to Copenhagen’s airport, where we waited for our flight to Munich and then back to home. About a 20 hour  travel day, with a 4 feature movie flight  from Munich to Chicago.