Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Berlin and Beyond ~ the Baltics

We are back from Berlin and beyond.  
It was an epic trip! 

It's time to sort through photos and document a few things...
before we forget.

Emme was an excellent tour guide during our time in Berlin.

She had been there for six months and definitely knew her way around!

Before she left on her European adventure, she kept asking if we weren't planning to come visit her while she was there.

I'm not sure she really expected us to...
but we decided it was as good an excuse as any to visit a city we had never been to.

Since we were going all that way...
we decided to book a Baltic cruise from Berlin's nearest port.

A 12-day cruise with only one sea-day sounded perfect...
and our long time friends and travel mates (Dave and Janet) thought so too!

Emme had reserved tickets for us to tour the Reichstag dome...
a large glass dome that sits at the very top of the government buildings.

The Reichstag is the historic government building...
built on the banks of the Spree River in 1894.

Brandenburg Gate...
one of Germany's best-known landmarks.

It was built in the 18th Century under orders of King Frederick William ll...
and has played a role in Germany's tumultuous past.

Emme's friend Katelyn joined us as we played tourist together.

Apparently one can not visit Berlin without having a doner kebab.
They are a flatbread sandwich of Turkish origin made famous in West Berlin in the 1970's.
I agree.
They were amazing!

We walked what remains of the Berlin wall..
a 1.3 kilometer section along the Spree River.

After the wall came down in 1989...
it was decided to keep one section as an art gallery.
Artists from around the world were commissioned to paint a section.

This is one of the iconic paintings...
depicting a Trabant (popular East German car) breaking through the East Side Wall.

So much recent history...
I have a hard time wrapping my mind around it all.

We took a sightseeing cruise on the River Spree...

...and then enjoyed coffee and a free concert on riverbank.

We learned to take the train without our trusty tour guide...
and visited the Berlin Zoo one day.

From kebabs to pretzels...
and all other things that remind us of Berlin...
it was time to say good-bye to Emme and set sail on the Baltic. 

We boarded the MSC Poesia in Warnemunde and set sail for Visby, Sweden.

Visby is a town on the island of Gotland in the Baltic Sea.

It has a well-preserved medieval town wall...
complete with towers.

Visby is a UNESCO world heritage site...
and has been dubbed 'the city of roses and ruins'.

We strolled the narrow cobblestone streets...

...and checked out the ruins of several old churches.
This 13th Century church is the site of weddings today.

Gdansk, Poland was one of our favorite stops on our cruise.

Our taxi-driver was the best tour guide...
a storehouse of information!

Gdansk is where World War 11 began...
and it was the worker's movement of Gdansk that brought about the end of the Cold War. 

The Upland Gate...
built in the 16th century at the entrance to the old town.

Gdańsk has been a link to the waterways of Europe for centuries ...
it's where Poland's main river, the Vistula, meets the Baltic Sea.

Our well-informed taxi driver / tour guide also knew that the Mennonites once lived on the Vistula Delta. 

Old world charm...

...we loved Gdansk.

And then we moved on to another historic old town...

the capital of Latvia.

Beautiful old cathedrals...
with fresh live cut flowers.

Riga is the largest city in the Baltics…

…with cobblestone streets and beautiful old buildings. 

The golden domed cathedral of Riga. 

The Corner House is an historic building in the city centre that served as the headquarters of the KGB in Latvia until 1991.  We toured the KGB museum housed here. Very sobering. 

Our next port was Tallinn, Estonia...where we had a short walk from the pier to the old town.

The walls and towers were built in the 13th Century.

One of the best preserved medieval cities of Europe... is a bit of a hidden gem.

We discovered that the people of Estonia are very wary of Putin / Russia...
with a makeshift wall of artwork along a cobblestone street expressing that sentiment.

The Town Hall Square has been the centre of the town since the Middle Ages.

Their bookstore had the most unique window boxes.

We checked out the coffee and pastries in every port.
We weren't ever disappointed.

Stockholm, Sweden.

Parliament House.

We arrived in Stockholm along with the thousands who were there for the half-marathon taking place right then.

It also happened to be the week of the Golden Jubilee celebrations for King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden who is Sweden's longest reigning monarch.

We watched the changing of the guard ceremony at the King's Palace.

And after all the pomp and ceremony...
the band played a little ABBA for our enjoyment!

Sidewalk cafes...

...and afternoon coffee breaks.

Mårten Trotzigs Gränd is an alley in old town...
Stockholm's narrowest street.

Thirty-seven stairs and just 35" wide.

We walked everywhere.
Others scooted.

Strolling Gamla Stan...

...or the seawall on our way to the maritime museum.  

Vasa Museum. 

The Vasa ship capsized and sank in Stockholm in 1628 just 1300 meters into her maiden voyage. 

After 333 years on the seabed the warship was salvaged. It is the world's only preserved 17th century ship.

It was well worth the visit! 

Our next stop was the ABBA museum.
'When in Sweden...'

Farewell to Stockholm...
a city built on fourteen islands.

Our one and only sea day was September 11th...
as we sailed toward Denmark.

We sailed through the fog and the mist that day.

...and celebrated Elmer's birthday on the Baltic Sea.

and the colourful buildings of Ny Havn.

 Christiansborg Palace...
Danish government building.

We took a boat tour  on the canal...
and learned a lot about this city.

We saw the famous mermaid statue from the boat...
and found it rather disappointing.

Many of Copenhagen's most impressive buildings are visible from the water a canal cruise was the perfect way to see and learn about them.

King's New Square.

We left Copenhagen...

...and awoke to rain in Karlskrona, Sweden.

It was our only rainy day on our entire trip.

We walked in the rain...

...and found a warm and cozy Swedish cafe.  

Karlskrona is Sweden's only baroque city and has Sweden's largest naval base as well as the headquarters of the Coast Guard. 

It is another UNESCO World Heritage city...with amazing old buildings.

And that was the last port of call on our Baltic cruise.

We woke up back in Warenmunde...
where we began.

Now it was a simple matter of getting back to the Berlin Airport and flying home.

It turned out not to be so simple!

We had booked only one shore excursion through the cruise ship...and that was on our final day. It was a tour that would take us from the pier in Warnemunde, through Berlin and end at the Berlin airport. It was an easy way to get back to the airport before flying home the following day. Or so we thought! A few days before the end of the cruise we were notified that our pre-booked shore excursion was cancelled. 'Sorry for the inconvenience.' We scrambled to find a way back to the airport and were able to book first class train tickets with a direct train from the port to the airport. We had our tickets but when we tried to reserve seats, we got the message that there were 'no seats available'. There was not much we could do until we arrived at the train station that morning. The ticket agent confirmed that there were no unreserved seats. We might just have to stand for the 3.5 hours! We boarded the train at noon...found a few unoccupied seats and made ourselves at home. And then we sat on the tracks for a long time until we were told there had been an accident up ahead and the tracks were closed. After a long delay, we got underway but on a different route and we would now have to switch trains at Berlin Central station. That proved to be a bit of a challenge, as we had to run with all our luggage to a train departing on a different platform.  We breathed a sigh of relief when we arrived at the airport and made our way to the hotel where we would be spending the night. We thought. They had no record of our reservation and then informed us that we were booked at the other airport hotel with the same name...but 8 kms away. We were done with trains and took a taxi to the other hotel. It was rather a stressful way to end our vacation...but it all worked out in the end. And we even had seats on our long train ride!  

It was a fun and memorable trip.  And this is a very long post!

I'll re-cap the rest of the month in a few days time.


  1. Wow! I'm happy to see more about this amazing cruise! I love the colorful buildings, cobblestones, coffee shops, the unique library window boxes! Copenhagen reminds me of Venice! The KGB Museum would have been interesting. Very sobering, for sure!
    I hope that we can do this trip one day.

  2. I loved every photo and every word!!! Every adventure must have at least one snag and yours was a doozy!! Welcome home!!

  3. Oh wow - what an adventure indeed! You saw and experienced the most amazing things. I can imagine how proud Emme was to tour you around - the best excuse to go there ever! The Baltic Cruise was on our bucket list - I wonder if perhaps I might still do it someday? You did such a great job of "journaling" this trip. Did you do a lot of research and prebooking of tours? I always depended on my Jim to do that and he was so good at it. Can you recommend tour books to do the research? You and Elmer are amazing and what a trip to remember!

    1. Rosella, we really never pre-booked anything. We checked out the 'best things to see at each stop' via Google before we went, and then decided what we wanted to see. At several of the stops we could walk to the 'old town' from the pier. At others we took a shuttle bus or the taxi, which worked out so much better than being on a tour with a large group. In Helsinki we did the 'hop-on, hop-off' bus. We really enjoyed all our ports of call!

  4. Such an epic and amazing trip with so many beautiful buildings and streets and squares. Love the church with the fresh flowers. Oh and I should also mention the lovely pastries! :) So sweet that Emme could be your personal guide in Berlin when she was free. Great job in documenting your time in Europe. Oye about your last day.


'The ornament of a house is the friends who frequent it.'
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson