Friday, October 03, 2014

Baltic Cruise

3 October 2014

Our Baltic cruise on the P&O ship Adonia was a wonderful holiday. We sailed through the Kiel canal in North Germany and spent a couple of days in Kiel, during which we took a train to the pretty medieval town of Lubeck which I last visited with the Manchester Youth Orchestra nearly 30 years ago. Some parts of the town were familiar but I failed to find the bar in which the orchestra's leader Angela Ceasar wowed the locals, singing 'Summertime' with the house band. From Germany we sailed to Estonia, stopping at the beautiful island of Saaremaa before spending a day in Talinn. Talinn is a fairytale city – like a Disneyland version of a medieval European town. The architecture is reminiscent of Switzerland or Austria but more brightly coloured and with some clear Russian influences. We loved Talinn's narrow cobbled streets, high town walls and stunning central square. Our next port of call was St Petersburg – my first visit to Russia. St Petersburgh is an amazing place – intimidating and austere on the outskirts, with a magnificent city centre. Like Paris, the centre of St Petersburg was designed and built as a single project, giving the streets and buildings a consistency missing from most major cities. There are some incredibly impressive buildings, dominated for me by the Church of Our Saviour over Spilled Blood – an incredibly colourful, extravagant, onion-spired showpiece of a building. We also visited the Hermitage – an enormous museum which reminded me of the Louvre in Paris (and can be similarly crowded, though it wasn't too bad when we were there). We had a guided tour of the Hermitage and saw works by Rembrandt, Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Leonardo da Vinci. Our visit to Stockholm was also dominated by a fantastic museum: the Vasa Museum houses the preserved remains of a warship which sank in 1628. The museum gives a fascinating insight into the history of the period, through a series of displays all linked to the Vasa itself, ever-present as you walk around the four floors which provide a range of views over the huge ship. It's brilliantly done – one of the best museums I have ever visited. We were similarly charmed by the much smaller David Collection in Copenhagen which includes extensive displays of early Islamic art, beautifully presented with lots of background information about the history of much of the Middle East and North Africa. It was great to return to Copenhagen – one of my favourite European cities. Regular readers will be relieved to know that we finally managed to see the Little Mermaid. You can see a selection of my holiday photos at:

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