Saturday, June 29, 2013


Evidence of human activity in the place that is now Tallinn, Estonia dates back 5000 years. The fortress walls of Tallinn were constructed in 1050, that's 963 years ago.  Yet, Tallinn has been "free" for only the past 22 years - since Estonia declared independence in 1991 during the break-up of the Soviet Union.  Hard to imagine isn't it?  Tallinn's favorable location on trading routes in the Gulf of Finland made it too desirable.  Danish, Germans, Swedes, Russians, then the Nazis, then the Russians again.  We can't begin to understand what occupation must be like.  But we can appreciate.  Appreciate the beauty of this UNESCO World Heritage site.  Appreciate that we are free, that we've never known such hardship, and that we can come to visit and enjoy Tallinn - one of the most intact, unaltered, medieval cities anywhere.  We hope you enjoy it too.

We began our visit with a climb up to the top of St. Olaf's tower, pictured here.
The spectacular views were worth every steep stone step.

Happy to have reached the top of St. Olaf's tower!

From this vantage point we could look beyond the fortress walls to modern day Tallinn.

In addition to its UNESCO designation, Tallinn was honored
as a European Capital of Culture in 2011.

Tallin's massive fortress walls surround the old city.

Tallinn's Parliament building at Palace Square.

 Russian Orthodox Alexander Nevsky Cathedral

Town Hall Square has a lively cafe scene.

Holy Ghost Church towers over Town Hall Square.

The site of a marketplace since the 1300's, today's Town Hall Square features craft markets
and demonstrations, music events and a Christmas market.

This modest little door leads into one of the oldest continuously operating pharmacies in Europe.

Open since 1422, it is a combination modern
 pharmacy and historic museum.

A pinch of Stallion hooves and a little Absinthe should cure what ails you!

A view of Town Hall Square from the pharmacy.

A last look at lovely Tallinn.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Day in Copenhagen

Nyhavn Canal

Copenhagen is a big city with easily a week's worth of museums and sites to see and we had 24 hours.  We opted for Nyhavn (that water just calls to us...), a walk around the city down the Stroget (a major shopping/restaurant/social scene street) with stops at City Hall Square, Rosenborg Castle, the King's Garden and Orsteds Park before heading to the railway station for our train to the airport.  Here's Copenhagen on the run...

Looking one way...

and then the other along Nyhavn. Lined with bars and restaurants, it's a popular spot for tourists and locals.

Copenhagen's first lightship, constructed in 1895.

Views along the Stroget - the longest car free pedestrian shopping area in Europe.

City Hall Square 

Copenhagen's elegant City Hall was constructed between 1892-1905.

Passageway shopping area in the Latin Quarter.

Latin Quarter Cafe

Rosenborg Castle was built in 1606 and used as the royal residence until 1710.
Today it is a museum housing the Danish Crown Jewels and Regalia.

The Royal Life Guards are charged with guarding Rosenborg Castle.

Views around Rosenborg Castle

The King's Garden

We did say the "kings" garden...

Lake at Orsteds Park

Copenhagen Central Railway Station

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Tale of Two Canal Cities

Saturday afternoon in Amsterdam.

Amsterdam is energy...a whirlwind of activity...with a half million bicyclists, plus cars, trams, tourists, buses, barges, and boats it is exciting but overwhelming.  Bruges is a sleepy little village by comparison.  A fairy tale with floating swans and horse drawn carriages.  Two sides of the same coin, both are canal cities and both are major tourist draws, but as different as night and day.  One shocks, one soothes.  One exhausts, one refreshes.  Both are worth a visit.

Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam's 100 kilometers of canals are lined with stately homes.... 

waterside cafes...

and accommodations ranging from hostels to...

the grand Amstel Hotel.

Busy with all sizes and types of boats,
mirrors and stop lights help control the canal traffic.

There are some 1500 bridges crossing Amsterdam's canals.

There are floating parties and picnics...

old boats living on as sought after canal homes...

and well tended waterside gardens.

There are old classics and...

newer modern structures like Amsterdam's science museum with roof top garden.

Bruges, Belgium

A serene waterside estate on Bruges "Lake of Love"...

wouldn't be complete without swans.

Once upon a time, in the 11th century, Bruges was one of the world's largest cities and busiest ports.
It's a bit quieter now. 

Old St. John's Hospital, built in the 11th century, was one of Europe's first hospitals.
Today it is a museum.

Homes along the canals...

and a canal watch dog.

Bruges is a UNESCO World Heritage site and...

was designated a "European Capital of Culture" in 2002.

The 13th century Church of Our Lady.
At 400 feet tall, this is one of the highest brick towers in the world.

Market Square's Gothic architecture.

Bruges offers a quainter (and greener) alternative to cabs.