Baltic Marvels: Part 2

IMG-0272I am finally back again to share the second part of our amazing Baltic cruise. I know you have been waiting on the edge of your seat!

With this COVID time period, I decided it was time to finally finish this up but also hopefully allow us to all virtually travel during this strange time. 🙂

I will pick up right where I left off on my last post, which is to tell you about our time in St. Petersburg, Russia.

After we got off of the ship and went through customs, we met our tour guide, Sergey, and visited the Hermitage museum for a private tour. Sergey is one of the most high-level tour guides I have ever met. Fun fact: he actually led the Clintons and Bushes around St. Petersburg! He has his PHD in Russian history, so he gave us the deep contextual background and detailed knowledge of everything we saw. It was almost too much information to digest!

I think you spend at least a week only touring the Hermitage because of the insane volume of art and architecture. Sergey gave us the highlights of the highlights!

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Sergey!

I was completely struck by the sharp contrast of St. Petersburg throughout our time, it is interesting to see the gilded palaces hidden among the dilapidated buildings. It was definitely a different vibe throughout our entire time there. We all knew Sergey was guarded in what he was able to say to us.

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After the hermitage, we visited one of St.-Petersburg’s most renowned architectural and immediately recognizable churches, the Church of Spilled Blood. It is famous because of the multi-colored onion domes and the stunning mosaic icons. Built in the traditional Russian architectural style, the cathedral is different than the the classical buildings that surround it.

The church narrowly escaped being demolished during the early Soviet years, then suffered neglect for decades, and was only recently restored to all of its glory.

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After our first day in Russia we were exhausted! We went to sleep early ready for the next day ahead.

We met Sergey and drove to the Grand Summer Palace of Peter the Great, Peterhof. I do have to say, Sergey was ruthless with the lines…we cut a bunch of people waiting…it was funny but a bit uncomfortable!

We toured both the palace and the grounds of the Palace and it the beauty was astounding.  From the grounds you could see the Gulf of Finland in the distance.

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The formal halls and the chambers provided a glimpse into the daily lives of palace’s former residents. Sergey gave us a TON of details on the history of the Romanov family and all of the drama surrounding Russian royalty.

We also visited Catherine’s palace that afternoon, which was equally as jaw-dropping. Each room stood more opulent than the last.  My favorite room was the Amber Room, which was actually the subject of international intrigue surrounding its disappearance during World War II and often referred to as “the eighth wonder of the world.”

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After the two palaces, we visited  Peter and Paul’s cathedral and it was gorgeous as well.

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Our last stop of the day (the stop my mom was most excited about seeing) was to visit the famous Faberge eggs. The Eggs are the most valuable items in the Museum’s collection created by FabergĂ© for the last two Russian emperors. Each of them was a masterpiece of jewelry and art, as well as a unique historical monument to the reign and personal life of Alexander III and Nicholas II. They were amazing to see!

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Overall, our time in Russia was wonderful and absolutely packed to the brim with history and cultural context. We definitely needed more time there.

Next up:  Helsinki, Finland!

In Finland, we went kayaking on the fresh archipelago with other cruise passengers. As we drove to the kayaking center, we passed by some of the famous city landmarks like the Presidential palace, the market square and the Uspenski cathedral.

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The whole kayaking experience was special. Extremely peaceful and serene, I felt like I was in a dream.

The landscape was gorgeous!

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The funniest part of the experience was my dad FELL IN THE WATER! His kayak tipped over! I do not know if I have every laughed so hard in my life.

Thankfully, he was completely fine and we all still laugh about that moment to this day.

We came back to the boat and ate a delicious meal at the Polo grill steak house that evening.

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The last day of the cruise was my favorite city, Stockholm. Stockholm is a magnificent city. From the beautiful architecture to the gorgeous water ways, it truly sparkles. It helped that we had perfect weather.

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Our tour guide showed us the old part of the city, the Gamla Stan and we walked around and explored.

Next, we visited the Vasa Museum on the island of DjurgĂĄrden. The museum has the only almost fully intact 17th century ship that has ever been salvaged, a 64-gun warship Vasa that sank on her maiden voyage in 1628. It was so neat to see!

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More beautiful water views!

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Later in the afternoon, we all got Swedish massages in the hotel! When in Stockholm, am I right? It was so lovely and an absolute treat to get Sweedish massages in the place they were invented.

That evening we finished the trip by eating dinner at a local restaurant called Adam and Albin. I loved being the only tourists in the restaurant.

I am thankful we were able to go on this special trip. Especially now, as I think about how the cruise industry is deeply affected by COVID 19.

Thank you for following along my travel journey! Next up, Indonesia.

 

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