A Travellerspoint blog

RUSSIA -ST PETERSBURG

THe Russian Escapade

On the afternoon of Thursday 28th August we crossed over into Russia and traversed the Karelian Plains into St Petersburg for two nights. We travelled through forested country with few towns along the way.
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We had to leave one of our fellow travellers behind in Helsinki as she did not have the right visa for Russia. Her travel agent did know know what they were doing and had given her a letter of introduction. Our Tour Director tried to get the correct visa when we were in Stockholm and Helsinki but to no avail.

We used a visa specialist to get ours back home. It was the most complex documentation and cost us about $550 to get the right stamp in our passports.

Winston Churchill once referred to Russia as a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma.

Saint Petersburg is the second largest city in Russia, politically incorporated as a federal subject (a federal city). It is located on the Neva River at the head of the Gulf of Finland on the Baltic Sea. In 1914 the name of the city was changed from Saint Petersburg to Petrograd and then to Leningrad in 1924 and in 1991, back to Saint Petersburg.

Saint Petersburg was founded by Tsar Peter the Great on May 27 1703. Between 1713–1728 and 1732–1918, Saint Petersburg was the imperial capital of Russia. In 1918, the central government bodies moved from Saint Petersburg (then named Petrograd) to Moscow. It is Russia's 2nd largest city after Moscow with 5 million inhabitants (2012) and the fourth most populated federal subject. Saint Petersburg is a major European cultural center, and also an important Russian port on the Baltic Sea.

On our arrival we visited the Fortress of St Peter and St Paul. The Church here has the remains of the Romanov Tsars.

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The statue below is of the founder of St Petersberg, Peter the Great. The city was founded on 27th May 1703.
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Saint Petersburg is often described as the most Western city of Russia, as well as its cultural capital. The Historic Centre of Saint Petersburg and Related Groups of Monuments constitute a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Saint Petersburg is also home to The Hermitage, one of the largest art museums in the world. A large number of foreign consulates, international corporations, banks, and other businesses.

Three very well known landmarks are St Isaac's Cathedral seen below, The Church of the Spilt Blood (Renaissance Church) and The Palace Square which is four times larger than Red Square in Moscow.

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St Isaac's Cathedral is the fourth highest in the world with a dome height of 101.5 metres.

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The Church of the Spilt Blood was built on th site of the assassination of a very popular Tsar Alexander II.

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Palace Square is surrounded on three sides by The Winter Palace, The Hermitage and the Admiralty.

With a population of 5 million, St Petersburg is the most northern city in the world with a population over 1 million.

Last night, Thursday 28th August, we went to the ballet. Swan Lake was on at Mikharl Square Theatre. This theatre is second only to the Bolshoi Ballet.

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We drove back to our hotel via the Nevsky Prospect, the Main Street of St Petersberg.

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The palace above belonged to the Stroganoffs famous for a dish they invented -Beef Stroganoff.

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This is the Winter Palace taken from the canal boat.
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The Winter Palace is now part of the Hermitage Museum that covers four buildings. This is a magnificent staircase into the Tsar's Palace.

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A view of the hanging garden from the Winter Palace.

Here are a few more scenes from the Hermitage. Catherine the Great was a very determined collector of art from around the world. The Art Collection from the Hermitage is considered to be in the top three in the world.
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We visited the Yusupov Palace famous for being the place where Grigori Rasputin was murdered in September 1916.

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The Yusopov Palace. Nicholas Yusupov was related to the Romanovs.

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Bedroom of the Princess.

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The downstairs office of Nicholas where the four collaborators waited for the poison to take effect on Rasputin who was in the downstairs dining room.

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Rasputin in the small dining room. As the poison didn't work, he was shot by Nicholas. While waiting for him to die he recovered and tried to strangle Nicholas. He was seen leaving through the courtyard and was again shot a number of times. His body was thrown in the River Neva. Later tests on Rasputin's corpse showed he actually drowned as there was water in his lungs.

Tonight, Friday, we went to The Officers Club to see a Folk Lore Concert. This was put on by former members of The Red Army and was excellent. We had champagne and vodka in the intermission. Here are a few photos from the night.

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Today is Saturday morning, 30 August so we have a late start with some major sightseeing at The Fountain Park and the Pushkin Museum on our way
across the vast Russian steppes to the ancient city of Novgorod where you view the Kremlin Fort, Millennium Monument and St Sophia Cathedral.

Posted by Kangatraveller 08:58 Archived in Russia Comments (0)

HELSINKI, FINLAND

Way up north

Helsinki is the capital and largest city of Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. Helsinki has a population of 600,000 and an urban population of 1.2 million and a metropolitan population of 1.4 million, making it the most populous municipality and urban area in Finland. Helsinki is located some 80 kilometres north of Tallinn, Estonia, 400 kilometres east north east of Stockholm, Sweden, and 300 kilometres west of Saint Petersburg, Russia. Helsinki has close historical connections with these three cities.

The Helsinki metropolitan area includes urban core of Helsinki, Espoo, Vantaa, Kauniainen and surrounding commuter towns. It is the world's northernmost metro area of over one million people, and the city is the northernmost capital of an EU member state. After Copenhagen and Stockholm it's the third largest city in the Nordic nations. Finland is the first country we have visited that uses euros.

Helsinki is Finland's major political, educational, financial, cultural and research centre as well as one of northern Europe's major cities. Approximately 70% of foreign companies operating in Finland have settled in the Helsinki region. The nearby municipality of Vantaa is the location of Helsinki Airport, with frequent service to various destinations in Europe and Asia.

We joined two tours of the Helsinki area today. Our hotel was out in the suburbs so we spent most of the day around the city centre and then a drive out to Espoo out in the country.

We docked in Helsinki around 10.00am this morning, Wednesday 27th August. We were up early enough to see a few of the 10 000 Islands in the gulf around Helsinki. Finland has 200 000 lakes so many Finns have a lakeside retreat with their own plot of forest. Boating is very popular but the boats need to be stored for 6 months of the year as the Baltic freezes over. Five ice breakers keep the shipping lanes open all year.

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The statue in this square is of Tsar Alexandr who was shot dead on the fifth attempt on his life. The large building in the background is known as The Cathedral (formerly Nicolay Cathedral under Russian rule).

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We visited Finnish country residents built by some international award winning Finnish architects between 1901 and 1903. It is called Hvittrask. It was quite ground breaking with a modern bathroom and all fittings and furniture designed by the architects.

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We joined two tours of the Helsinki area today. our hotel was out in the suburbs so we spent most of the day around the city centre and then a drive out to Espoo out in the country.
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This is the Parliament of Finland. 200 representatives of which nearly half are women. The president is also elected for a six year term for a total of two terms. The former President was female.

We saw the stadium built in 1938 for the 1940 Olympics which were cancelled due to World War 11. The Olympics were held here in 1952.

Finland has two national languages, Finnish and Swedish, so all street signs etc are in both languages. Both languages have absolutely nothing in common. Finnish is similar in many ways to Hungarian and both languages have no connection at all with any other languages. Finland was under Swedish rule for 600 years and then was ceded to Russia after a war that ended in 1809 until it proclaimed independence in 1917 after the Russian Revolution.

One of the heroes of Finland is the composer, Charles Sibelius who composed Finlandia in 1906. it was banned as a subversive piece until after 1917. Sibelius Park has a sculpture made of 600 stainless steel pipes welded together to represent the forest so loved by Sibelius as he lived in a small house with a large family so ventured into the forest each day to compose his works in a peaceful setting. The sculpture is of Sibelius as a young man.

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This afternoon we visited the Rock Church also know as the Temple Square Church as it is built into solid rock.

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Lastly, here is a view looking from the Marina out to the shipping passage into Helsinki. Near here is an art exhibition. This sculpture is called Bad Boy.

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On Thursday 28 th August we headed east after a very early start for the next stage of our adventure. We have booked to see Swan Lake Ballet at a very famous theatre.

Posted by Kangatraveller 11:57 Archived in Finland Comments (0)

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN

Day 2 of our tour sees us driving through the south of Sweden to the capital, Stockholm.

Stockholm is the capital of Sweden and the most populous city in Scandinavia, with a total population close to 2.2 million in the metropolitan area. The city is spread across 14 distinct islands on the coast in the south-east of Sweden at the mouth of Lake Mälaren, by the Stockholm archipelago and the Baltic sea. The area has been settled since the Stone Age, in the 6th millennium BC, and was founded as a city in 1252 by Birger Jarl.

Monday 25, August saw us taking the ferry from Helsingor to Sweden which is just a 20 minutes ferry ride away. Here is a view from the ferry. The castle you can see in this photo is Kronberg Castle.
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Below is a picture with Denmark in the left and Sweden in the right.
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The castle is situated on the extreme northeastern tip of the island of Zealand at the narrowest point of the Øresund, the sound between Denmark and Sweden. In this part, the sound is only 4 km wide, hence the strategic importance of maintaining a coastal fortification at this location commanding one of the few outlets of the Baltic Sea.

It is a 660km drive from Helsingborg to Stockholm. We travelled most of the day with a stop for lunch at Huskvana, home of Husqvarna, maker of chain saws, mowers and whipper snippers.

Colleen became acquainted with a couple of Moose here.
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We crossed the Oresund into Sweden and travelled north through lush forests and meadows bordering the shores of Lake Vättern. We then continued northwards to Stockholm, Sweden's beautiful capital surrounded by islands.

We took a high speed lift to the 30th floor of the highest building in Stockholm, Kaknastornest, for some magnificent views over Stockholm. Here are a few.

We drove past some magnificent residences and embassy houses to the Tower which is built on an island and once was a hunting ground for the king.
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On Tuesday morning , 26 August, we had the day in Stockholm before boarding our ferry to take our 15 hour cruise to Helsinki, Finland. Stockholm is built on a maze of Islands joined by 50 bridges. There are fifty Museums in the metropolitan area.

In the morning we had a tour of Stockholm. It was a very wet day for the most part. We stopped at The Town Hall, the venue for the Nobel Prize Award Ceremonies.

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Part of our tour was to walk through the Old Town. This area is around 400 plus years old.

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Here are some street scenes taken around Stockholm.

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This picture shows the loch system which joins the freshwater lake with the Baltic Sea.

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The Royal Palace has 609 rooms, one more than Buckingham Palace.

Later, we visited The Vasa Museum. In 1628, the warship, The Vasa was on its maiden voyage when it sank after sailing 1000 metres. The ship was lost until the 1950s when it was discovered and recovered. It was taken to a dry dock and then undertook a long restoration where 98% of the ship is original? The Museum was built over and around the Vasa.

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On the afternoon of the 26th August, we boarded the Silja Symphony for a fourteen hour passage to Helsinki.

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Posted by Kangatraveller 11:35 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

COPENHAGEN

FOUR DAYS IN COPENHAGEN - Castles, good food, fine weather and a safe and clean city Four days in Copenhagen


View CND EUROPE 2014 on Kangatraveller's travel map.

We arrived early at the Brisbane International Airport and were lucky enough to be able to use my squillion Emirates Skywards points to upgrade to Business Class to Dubai. We chose not to do so from Dubai to Copenhagen as it is a six and a half hour flight and we had two seats together at the back of the plane. Here are a few photos. The first one is our Emirates Airbus A380 at Brisbane and the next two were taken from the window as we were preparing for landing in Copenhagen. As you can see there is plenty of farmland surrounding Copenhagen.

Copenhagen (Kobenhavn) is the largest and capital city of Denmark. With a population of 2 million it is the second largest city in Scandinavia. It was a Viking fishing village and was founded in the 10th Century and became the capital of Denmark in the early 15th Century.

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This afternoon we went up to the Sky Bar of the Bella Sky Hotel where we are staying to look at the view. Sweden is off to the east and the city centre of Copenhagen to the right.

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We caught the Metro from the Bella Centre to Kongens Nytorv and then walked the short distance to Nyhavn which is really the old harbour. We enjoyed the passing parade from an outdoor bar.

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Today is Friday and we had a wonderfully relaxed day of people watching. We took the Metro to Kongens Nytor again and walked to Nyhavn to catch the Canal tour. This proved to e a wonderful way of really seeing Copenhagen from a different perspective.

Here are a few of the photos taken from our boat on the canal tour. Here we are leaving Nyhavn.

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This is The Opera House built in 2005 at a cost of 2.5 billion Kroner. The DK is roughly about $0.20 AUD.

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The Danish Royal Yacht is the oldest in service in the world as it was built in 1931.

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We called in to see the Little Mermaid. To preserve her modesty, here is a rear view of her in all her glory.
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The Amalienborg Palace is the winter home of the royal family. They moved there in 1794 as the previous palace was destroyed by fire. The wing on the right with the four chimneys is the residence of the Queen and her husband while that on the left with the five chimneys is the residence of Prince Frederick and Princess Mary and their family.

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These are some homes along the canals built in the time of King Christian IV who gave tax breaks to public servants to encourage development away from the city centre and along the canals.

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The Black Diamond Royal Public Library is a waterfront extension to the old building.

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This new building provides an interesting change to bricks and mortar.

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A view from the canal.

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The famous spire of St Nicholas's Church in Copenhagen.

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The red building in this photo of one of the seven different homes lived in by Hans Christian Anderson in Nyhavn. He lived in this house in 1835.

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Here is David having a chat with Hans Christian Anderson who lived from 1805 to 1875.
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The Tivoli Gardens is a famous amusement park and pleasure garden opened in 1843. It is the second oldest in the world.

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The magnificent Town Hall Building is the headquarters of the municipal council and is close to Central Station.

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The Storget is the longest walking street in the world at 1.1km in length. It features world fashion shopping, eateries and live performances. Colleen and I were siting in the outside area of an Irish Pub when these street performers put on a show of human fitness and balance.

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The Round House was built by King Christian IV between 1637 and 1642. It was the first part of the Trinitatis Complex which combined Church, Library and Conservatory in a single building.

We returned to Nyhavn for dinner at an Italian Restaurant run by Muslims. We were able to practice our rudimentary Arabic. The food was excellent.

On Saturday morning we travelled back to the city centre to walk down Storget towards Christiansborg Castle (Christiansborg Slot). The castle fronts on to canal.

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It now houses the Parliament, official rooms of the Queen as well as the Supreme Court. The original castle was built on this site by Bishop Absalon in 1167. This was demolished in 1369 to make way for the Copenhagen Castle. This castle was demolished in 1731 to make way for the first Christiansborg Castle which burnt to the ground in 1794. The Royal Family then moved to Amalienborg Castle and it has been their winter residence ever since.

The second Christiansborg Castle also burnt down in 1884. The third Christiansborg Castle is the present one built between 1907 and 1928. While building this castle they uncovered the ruins of both the Copenhagen and Absolon's Castle.

We took the tour which first takes us underground to the ruins. Here are some pictures.

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Next we toured the Reception rooms of the Monarchy.
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We took the lift to the Tower for some magnificent views over Copenhagen.

The first picture below shows the Stock Exchange with its twisted tower with the three legs representing the three Scandinavian countries of Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
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Lastly, we visited the Royal Stables which are close to 500 years old. Being away from the castles meant they survived all of the previous fires which destroyed the castles.

This picture below is the carriage used in the wedding of Prince Frederick and Princess Mary (formerly Mary Donaldson of Tasmania).

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Tonight we met our Tour Director for our Trafalgar Cossack Adventure that will take us through Scandinavia and end in Berlin.

On Sunday our local guide took us on a morning sightseeing tour, which included the Little Mermaid, the Renaissance Stock Exchange, Royal Amalienborg Palace and Christiansborg Palace.

We took an optional Castles and North Zealand Tour in the afternoon.
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Here is our chariot with our Tour Director, Ulf Erickson, and our driver, Gena.

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This is Amalienborg Palace, the winter home of the Monarchy in Copenhagen since 1794. The Royal Guards come from an elite commando regiment that served in Afghanistan.

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We went to see the Little Mermaid who turned 100 last year. On the way we had to dodge bike riders as today was the Ironman Marathon which involved 2600 competitors from 25 different countries.

The following three photos show Frederiksborg Castle, built by King Christian IV in 1606. The second and third photos show the Coronation Church in the palace which was also built in 1606.

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We travelled along country roads to reach The Peace Palace, the Summer Palace of the Monarchy. The first photo shows the view of the front of the palace. Prince Frederick and Princess Mary have made their home in the right wing of the palace shown in the second photo. The guard out the front indicates that the royal family were home.

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This next photo was taken near a seaside town and it shows Sweden just 4 km away to the right.

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In the morning we say farewell to Denmark and leave for Sweden.

So, what did we think of Copenhagen? It is a very safe city. The weather was kind to us. It is a very expensive place to stay. Lunch in many of the cafés and restaurants will likely cost around $60AUD for two. We had soup one night in one of the restaurants at the Bella Sky and it cost us 200 DK which is around $40 AUD.

We would highly recommend Copenhagen for atmosphere, history and good living.

Posted by Kangatraveller 10:29 Archived in Denmark Comments (0)

Day 1 - Trying to achieve liftoff at 9.00pm

Spending the day packing and buying a few items we cannot find (even with a woman's look)

Here is entry one. I was in two minds whether to do a blog at all this time but other events have overtaken us and the presumption was that we would.

Last blog, our trip to Tasmania became a weekly event rather than every 24 hours as we did for the USA and Canada. So let's see how this one turns out........

Well to start the blog, here is the first photo showing one of the two suitcases and my new shoes bought just this afternoon as I couldn't find the old ones. This is what happens when you move around and live in other people's houses.

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Posted by Kangatraveller 21:51 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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