Sunday, July 8, 2018


July 4, 2018

Here is the famous lady herself, Hans Christian Andersen's The Little Mermaid.  A much smaller figure than most people expect.  But lovely nonetheless.

Bikes parked everywhere at the train station.  All the Scandinavian countries make it a priority to accommodate the bike riders.

Both these photos taken inside Tivoli Gardens.

Saturday, June 30, 2018


Average life expectancy for men today in Russia?  Wait for it..........63!!!!!  This is based on their poor health care system and the fact that Russians are drinkers.  Very few applicants these days into the traditional fields of medicine and teaching.  These are not well paying jobs.  The best paid are the police.  Best apartments, best salaries, best benefits - you name it.

In the city itself, everyone lives in apartments.  There are a few mansions that have been converted to other uses.  But houses are only found in outlying areas.  The buildings are so neat and orderly, at least from the exterior.  Lovely canals.

 Today we visited Catherine's Palace, wife of Peter The Great.  So much extravagance.  The serfs were not allowed anywhere near the grounds.  If the common folk discovered how well the nobles lived, there would have been a revolt!

Check out the ballroom.  Shouldn't every home have one?

Peterhof Park is another former summer Imperial residence.  It was almost destroyed by the Nazis in World War II but has been restored to its full splendour.  The gardens are dotted with countless fountains, charming pavilions and summer houses.

Of course, no tour would be complete without losing a couple of people who failed to return to the bus in time.  All were eventually accounted for but only because our guide contacted the ship to learn that the missing had managed to talk themselves onto other buses to return to the ship!

Oh well, on to Tallinn, Estonia tomorrow!


June 29, 2018

Does it ever get dark here at night?  Late sunsets every night since we've been here.  Today, sunrise was at 3:39 a.m. and sunset was 10:25 p.m.  I don't think parents permit the children to play outside until the streetlights come on!

Amazing!!!  If Russia had not finally opened its borders to the western world, we would never have known about this gem.  This city has invested in maintaining his old buildings and all their charm.  The roads are very wide here.  The timers at intersections are set very high for pedestrians and traffic alike to move.  I saw timers as high as 90 seconds.  Where we are accustomed to seeing the amber light as a warning to stop, here in St. Petersburg, the amber light is a warning to go.  Once the amber light comes on, drivers take their foot off the brake so that they are ready to go on the green!

Today we visited The Hermitage.  With over three million exhibits, it would take a few years to see everything.  Suffice to say even if you're not interested in museums, this is absolutely breathtaking.

The building itself is the former residential Winter Palace of the Romanov rulers.
Beautiful canals everywhere.  Love this city!

Friday, June 29, 2018


June 28, 2018

It's my Birthday!  And I'm celebrating it here in Finland.  How about that?!  Again, the weather has cooperated.  Although we only had a taste of the city, I don't think I will add it to my list of cities to see again.  The streets are narrow and the entire centre city streets are cobblestoned.  We did take a Hop-on-Hop-off bus through the city.  There were a total of 22 stops but I think some of these stops were a stretch as far as offering anything worthwhile seeing.

The Temppeliaukio Church (or Rock Church as it is more commonly known) is an exception.  This unique church is built into the bedrock.  Services are held here regularly and it is a very popular place for weddings.

One of the most photographed sites is the Helsinki Cathedral in Senate Square with its large green dome surrounded by four smaller domes.  The cathedral is unmissable and the main green dome can be viewed from around the city.  It was built during Russian rule as a tribute to Czar Nicholas I.

There was a lovely open air market on the waterfront offering fresh produce and handicrafts.  We certainly enjoyed walking around checking everything out.


June 26, 2018

The ship docked at Rostock and as it would take approximately three hours to travel to Berlin, we mapped out our whole day.  Of course, things went awry and our day was not what we had envisioned.  However, it was not a wasted day by any means.  The weather cooperated and once we reached Berlin, we started out on our hike.  We walked for about two-and-a-half hours before we reached the Victory Column.          

The streets are narrow and heavily congested.  However, this is a bike-friendly city.  Bike lanes are clearly separate from pedestrian and vehicular traffic.

We were exhausted after our long walk but were determined to push on.  We came upon some rickshaw drivers and thought "a-ha, let's give our feet a rest."  For the next half hour, we did enjoy the ride and history lesson from our driver, Michael.

The Reichstag is now just a facade.  The exterior has been restored to its former glory.  However, the interior is fully modernized.
The Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe is a series of concrete slabs of varying height, from just a foot off the ground to probably the height of two adults.  Unfortunately the Visitor Information Centre had quite a lineup and we were not able to visit.  The idea is to wander through the columns and it is suggested that you will get a feel for this memorial.  People were sitting on some of the lower columns sunning themselves, eating lunch or in the case of teens, jumping from one column to another.  It felt sacrilegious.  One visitor admonished the teens to stop and so did one of the staff officials.  It's unfortunate that not everyone understands the significance.

The FIFA fanfest was being set up at the Brandenburg Gate as Germany was playing the next day after our visit.  We weren't able to get any good pictures here as everything was roped off and street vendors were being set up.

All in all, however, Berlin was a lovely city, well worth visiting again when there is more time.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


Our trip is winding down as we head home tomorrow night.  It'll be an overnight flight from Fairbanks to Minneapolis to Toronto.  Our last day was spent driving from Denali to Fairbanks.  We spent the afternoon on a sternwheeler boat taking a leisurely trip down the river and visiting a replica of an old cabin and learning a lot of Athabaskan history.

Ron was pretty happy as we passed the home of Dave Monson whose wife, Susan Butcher, was a four-time winner of the Iditarod.  Sadly Susan passed away a few years ago but their daughters are now mushing.  As we passed their home along the river, we stopped to watch the dogs give a display of mushing.  They are just crazy to pull.  At the village further down the river, we had the opportunity to meet half a dozen of the dogs.  So guess where we spent all our time!

I'll be seeing you soon.  Until then...

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


We disembarked in Whittier on Saturday and travelled by coach to Anchorage.  I'll have to check but I'm sure this is one of the larger (if not the largest) city in Alaska.  Although we did not see too much of the city, we weren't altogether impressed with it.  I did not take one single photo while there.

This photo taken at the Denali Wilderness Lodge.

 On Sunday, we "rode the rails" by taking an eight hour ride into the interior of Alaska.  The next three photos below were taken from the train.  One of the small towns we passed along the way had an interesting story attached to it.  The first TV in town was to be found in the local bar.  As the people crowded in one Saturday night to watch America's Most Wanted, lo and behold, they recognized one of the featured criminals.  It was their very own mayor.  Several people called in to identify this guy trying to make sure they were first in order to receive the reward.  When the FBI arrived a day or so later to arrest the criminal, the gentleman who had first called was front and centre to collect the money.  Unfortunately for him, the FBI recognized him as someone on their Most Wanted list as well.  So the FBI were able to arrest two guys on their list and still kept their money!

The elk are being looked after just now at a conservation centre where abandoned or injured animals are cared for.  The centre is very rustic and most of the animals can't even be seen by us because the centre realy keeps the setting natural for them.  There are no buildings or feeding areas that we see.  There's just a fence to keep us away from them.

Taken at conservation centre.

Taken from train.

A visit to the Denali Wilderness Park reminds us to be respectful of Mother Nature.  This is the largest U.S. protected park of its kind.  There is very little human intervention in the park.  Vehicles are only allowed so far into the park.  Then there is a section where park sanctioned buses may continue.  The animals have become used to the buses.  But humans are not allowed off the bus and we were instructed to remain quiet.  The human voice would be frightening to animals.  Most of the park is not accessible to anyone.  The park rangers do not interfere with nature.  They don't rescue animals, they don't feed them.  They simply allow nature to take its course.  
Until next time...