Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Cruising the Baltic with Mickey ~ Part 2

Day 4: St. Petersburg, Russia

One of those places you think you will NEVER, EVER, EVER get to see, and we finally made it! I don't really remember where it started, maybe because Alaska and Russia have such a close history; but I have wanted to go to Russia for as long as I can remember. I just never thought it would actually happen. Once we moved over here and started traveling a lot more it started to look like a possibility. Then once we figured out the easiest way to get there was a cruise, we put it on the list!
Our first photo in Russia!

Driving Around
 The first stop in our tour was Peterhof, the summer palace for Catherine the Great. Here is a (super) short description taken off of St. Petersburg.com

One of St. Petersburg's most famous and popular visitor attractions, the palace and park at Peterhof (also known as Petrodvorets) are often referred to as "the Russian Versaille", although many visitors conclude that the comparison does a disservice to the grandeur and scope of this majestic estate.

Versailles was, however, the inspiration for Peter the Great's desire to build an imperial palace in the suburbs of his new city and, after an aborted attempt at Strelna, Peterhof - which means "Peter's Court" in German - became the site for the Tsar's Monplaisir Palace, and then of the original Grand Palace. The estate was equally popular with Peter's granddaughter, Empress Elizabeth, who ordered the expansion of the Grand Palace and greatly extended the park and the famous system of fountains, including the truly spectacular Grand Cascade. 
Improvements to the park continued throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. Catherine the Great, after leaving her own mark on the park, moved the court to Pushkin, but Peterhof once again became the official Imperial Residence in the reign of Nicholas I, who ordered the building of the modest Cottage Palace in 1826. 
Like almost all St. Petersburg's suburban estates, Peterhof was ravaged by German troops during the Second World War. It was, however, one of the first to be resurrected and, thanks to the work of military engineers and over 1,000 volunteers, most of the estate's major structures had been fully restored by 1947. The name was also de-Germanicized after the war, becoming Petrodvorets, the name under which the surrounding town is still known. The palace and park are once again known as Peterhof.

We were not allowed to take photos inside, only outside, and we barely covered the 250 acres of the lower gardens. We were there pretty early in the morning so there were no crowds, but once we were there a couple of hours it became fairly busy. There are tons of fountains all over the place, the largest being the Grand Cascade that leads to the bay. Before the three bridges were built across this canal, guests came in their boats right up to the palace.

At the end of this tour we took a boat to lunch and the Hermitage. It was probably the slowest boat ride EVER and it didn't help that we were all starving. 

Here we are waiting for the boat and walking down the pier:

For lunch we had a salad, salmon with some kind of seafood/carrot croquette, and some DELICIOUS beef stroganoff (with potatoes, not noodles), and some ice cream.. Apparently we were so hungry we didn't take any photos, but we were happy to finally eat! 

We walked from lunch to the Hermitage, the winter palace of the tzars and an art museum. It has been added to and redecorated multiple times depending on who was ruling and who was living there. You can see pictures of the outside and a brief history here. With the amount of time we had I don't think we even saw a quarter of this place, there is so much here, so we bought a book to bring home and read more about it!

The wood is different parts of the floor. All pieced together by hand. 

These photos were taken with the micro setting on my camera. They are tiny mosaics made of glass that are on a set of tables. The detail in this size is amazing. 

Time to get back on!

When we left the ship we went through Russian customs. They stamped our passports and placed this visa inside of them with our names and information. When we came back through they took these papers out so we snapped photos of them on the bus. We are pretty excited to have the stamps in our passports too!!!

 We were back on the ship by 6:30, in time for the first dinner seating but we decided to wait. Our waiters had no one come to dinner until we showed up for the second seating! So our food was fast and they were entertaining since we were their only guests. They got a little creative with the napkins....

Minnie Mouse

Captain Jack Sparrow

Sporting the earrings!

After many laughs, we finished up the evening taking more photos!

The man who makes all of my dreams come true!!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Cruising the Baltic with Mickey ~ Part 1

After all of the countdown and waiting and, we finally cruised!!! We left The Netherlands Friday June 12th after watching Cody's play. We stopped at a hotel in Flensburg, Germany just on the border of Denmark. Saturday, the next day, we drove the remaining three hours to Copenhagen and went straight to the ship. Once we figured out where to park, we dropped our bags off and checked in. We only had to wait a few minutes before it was our turn to board!

And we're off!

The longest bridge in Europe, 2nd longest in the world. 

We see it!!!
Day 1: Exploring the ship and sailing away!

Waiting our turn

We're on!  It's Meeska!

 Exploring the ship

The first ice cream stop...

I love my brother!

Dinner, night one, in Cariocas

You have to try this!

Sprite and Chocolate Milk at the same time....

Day 2: At Sea ~ Sailing from Copenhagen to Tallinn

Swimming, meeting our Hero's, and of course, more food!

Spiderman Grandpa gets to meet Spiderman!

 Dinner at Lumiere's means escargot! Yummy!!!  If you don't know, Disney Cruise Lines has rotational dining, which means you rotate each night to one of three places. Lumiere's is French, and probably had my favorite food. Of course the best part is that if you can't decide what you want to get, you just get both!

Day 3: Tallinn, Estonia

Can you even find Estonia on the map???   I couldn't until we booked this cruise! This is was probably my favorite city on the tour. We booked an excursion through the ship because we knew nothing about the area, and I am so glad that we did. Our tour guide Annie was amazing, she really made the tour personal and told us about her own life. Estonia governed itself before being occupied by various other countries, most notably the Soviet Union for 50 years before gaining their independence back in 1991 after the Soviet Union broke apart. Communist government apartments were given to the people that were living in them at the time if they chose to keep it. This was a one time opportunity, and once the person decided to keep the apartment, they could do whatever they wanted with it; keep it in the family or sell it and move somewhere else. 

Estonia is a poor country, everything is cheap, and from our perspective it is cheap to live there, but the average wage is just enough to cover a month's rent, so people do not have money left over for anything else. The city of Tallinn relies heavily on tourism, but even this is going down because of everything going on the last few years with Russia and Russian sanctions. It effects the whole region because less and less tourism companies are coming to the area. So, if you need somewhere different to go in Europe, put Tallinn on the list! The place is beautiful and the people are nice. (Super shy according to Annie, but very nice!) There are multiple ferry's every day that go between Tallinn and Helsinki. 

We took the long way around on our tour, stopped at a palace and a church where we listened to some medieval music, ate lunch (delicious chicken) and had a short tour of the old part of the city. It was a busy day but well worth it. 

Have to fit those naps in somewhere!

Tell us how you really feel :) 

Annie, our guide. Super nice and super funny. We lucked out with her!

Mom, come on!

The oldest, continually operating Apoteek in Europe

Dance Macabre. When it was loaned to a museum in Russia it came back two panels shorter. 

Ridiculously windy!!!

The first time I have seen a towel flower :)