View Desktop Version
Howard's Blog
Listing of Previous Blogs

Back from Cruise- and Beginning of a log

Bonnie and I just returned from a 14 day cruise of the Baltic Sea from Amsterdam to Amsterdam on Holland America Lines - Zuiderdam. Great time - Great Cities - Learned a Lot of History.

We started off in Amsterdam where we toured the Van Gogh Museum. It was interesting, lots of his paintings plus paintings from others also. It was kind of disjointed and following the suggested route didn't line up with the audio tour. We were there on a Friday (before high tourist season) and the place was packed. This is real money maker for the Van Gogh Foundation.

The first top on the cruise was Kristiansand Norway, which is a medium sized city in the South. Norway is clean, modern and prosperous. They have certainly reinvested their oil revenues in a smart fashion. The old city burned down years ago and the city wall was razed and wide streets were created in it's stead. Nice Place but not for old world charm.

Next stop was Arrhus Denmark. Booming city... described as the largest container port in Denmark.. which it may have been but there were no ships loading or unloading. Interesting old town, vibrant new town, modern trams, lots of traffic. I don't know why the cruise ship stopped here.

The third stop was Warnemunde Germany which is the closest seaport to Berlin. We were met their by our friend Edith Freiser, from Berlin, who took us to Lubeck. Lubeck was the primary city of the Hanseatic League which was an orgnization of cities and guilds that controlled trade over much of Northern Europe during the middle ages (1356 to 1862). The Hansa cities also included Hamburg, Cologne, Amsterdam and others and which had major trading settlements in London, Bruges, Bergen, Tallinn and Novgorod. Much of the wealth and cities in the Baltic region were developed from the Hanseatic League. It was very interesting to see the Hanseatic Museum in Lubeck and see remainders of the wealth that was created so long ago.

The next stop was Tallinn Estonia...which is a city with a long and troubled past. Estonia is located next to Russia and on German (Hanseatic) trade routes. It has essentially been part of either Russia or Germany forever and until 1991. The Feudal system lasted as long here as anywhere. The nobility were German for hundreds of years and were German speakers. The peasants (serfs or slaves) Estonian local. They spoke Estonian (which is similar to Hungarian and Finnish). It didn't achieve its independence until the fall of the Soviet Union. It is now a NATO member and is only 50 miles from Russia's second largest city...St. Petersburg. This is an old city, with a huge midieval wall and old town. The new parts of the city are modern after many wars. Very interesting place. the population who over the years has been forced to learn German or Russian are now learning English.

Helsinki was next.... a modern, sterile, very prosperous thoroughly European City. Like Estonia it is sandwiched between two historically powerful nations... Sweden and Russia. War after war.. caught in the middle. Historically, Finland was part of Sweden until 1917. Similar to Estonia the nobility were Swedish who spoke Swedish and the peasants were Finnish. Currently Finnish and Swedish are the two national languages... But most everyone speaks English.

Stockholm was our favorite big city... Modern yet historical. A great waterfront, which stretches forever, can only be appreciated from a boat tour. The old city including the Royal Palace is on an island, yet very close to the new city and new government. Security is present everywhere with the officers well armed. Yet it seemed a very safe place. There is a great looking amusement park called Grona Lund which has some really jaw dropping rides. There is a huge zoo and lots of museums, all within an easy walk, ferry, or tram ride.