Showing posts from July, 2016

Tallin, Estonia

My Baltic Adventure Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox Church We were on an offshore excursion in Estonia, heading to the Song Festival Grounds (Lauluvaljak) – the largest open-air entertainment and music festival grounds in the Baltic. As we passed the coastal district of Pirita, our guide pointed to the bay and said, "It's the Gulf of Finland. You can take a boat to Helsinki from here." Helsinki is only 80 kilometers away and shares the Gulf of Finland with Estonia. Tallinn, the largest city and capital of Estonia is on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland.  Our guide told us a little bit of history of Estonia and Finland under Soviet rules for decades and the contrasts between the two countries post-Soviet Union. Although close in proximity, Helsinki, the capital of Finland has remained subdued and Scandinavian, while Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, has transformed itself into a tourist mecca and has adapted a Western European attitude.  Tallinn was named


My Baltic Adventure Our cruise ship was sailing smoothly through the Baltic Sea along the coast of Sweden. I could tell that we were not that far from shore for I saw under the blue skies miles and miles of greenery dotted by a gray structure – a castle, perhaps - and small houses painted in red, something different from what I’d seen in my previous travels. It was quite charming. As we reached Stockholm, the sky became grey and brooding.  It was not charming anymore. Dark clouds hovered above the cityscape consisting of modern Scandinavian buildings juxtaposed with medieval architecture. It looked like a European city, not necessarily the IKEA picture of Stockholm, but the European city of a Kieslowski or a Fincher movie. Coincidentally, Stockholm was one of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” movie locations. After hearing from the ship location guide that Stockholm is a cosmopolitan and diverse city, and after seeing the cityscape with buildings that seemed to float o


My stay in Copenhagen was part of my Baltic Adventure. I booked my flight three days prior to sailing the Baltic but did not book my hotel at the same time. When it was time to book my hotel, I was surprised at the hotel rates going for $450.00 - $700.00 per night. Unfortunately, I could not use my Starwood Hotel points because the company has zero property in Copenhagen. My other option was to stay at a hostel and share a room with four strangers or stay outside the city. I opted for the later. On my first day in Copenhagen, I thought I would take it easy and spend the day just visiting one site. I made plans on going to the Kronborg Castle, the home of Shakespeare Hamlet. When I asked for direction from the hotel reception desk, the clerk looked at his google map app and printed a copy of the direction complete with the number of train stops and estimated time to my destination. The trip would have taken 1 hour by train to Helsingør. But after three metro stops, I changed my mi