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Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Day 9 of 40 - Visby on Gotland Island - The Sunniest Place in Sweden

The walled city of Visby

The Island of Gotland

We just had a glorious beautiful 66 degree day in Visby - the sunniest place in Sweden. Our ship pulled in around 7 am - we had breakfast - and prepared for our 1.5 mile walk into downtown. It was a mild climb and soon we were winding through the narrow meandering streets. Visby is a hot summer destination for the mainland Swedes. 

We had lunch in the modern downtown - which was above and and outside of the old medieval walled city. It took over 100 years to complete the roughly 50 foot high walls. It was to protect the people from their enemies. It doesn't make sense by today's standard. After spend 40 years building a wall - and no one attacks you - how do you keep the workers building for another 60 years? I don't know - but they did. Today - thanks to modern weapons and airplanes - the wall is virtually worthless except for tourists to gawk at. Since only a small portion of the modern town is inside this wall - that area has become and exclusive place for summer tourists to live. The city and island have all the modern conveniences - shopping center - airports - highways - cars - universities. 

On this cruise - it is hard to pick places you liked the best. If you like isolation - this place is for you - if you don't mind about 100 cruise ships a year stopping and gawking. Most of the passengers do not go farther than 2 to 3 miles in any direction. The island it over 100 miles long. 

From here - we got to Gdansk Poland - Hamburg Germany - Copenhagen Denmark - and then we fly to London - England. 

We will pull out of here around 5 pm. We are safely back on the ship - one hour early. 

Shopping in modern Visby

Max Burgers

Lovely high pitched homes

Visby city gate

Wood Hewn Homes

Limestone Visby Cathedral

Altar art

Tulips at 57 degrees north

Hundreds of the bunkers defended
against the Nazis and Russians

This tiny Austin of England caught my eye. 
Tiny cars were built after the war
due to rationed gasoline. 

Monday, May 23, 2022

Day 8 of 40 - Two Days in Lovely Sunny Stockholm Sweden

Yesterday - we cruised across the Baltic Sea from Estonia to Sweden. We were not ready for the lovely cruise through the Stockholm Islands. It must have gone on for the last 6 hours. Along the islands and the main coast - it was just endless beautiful scenery of homes - towns - ferries - estates - and boats. We were going very slowly - maybe 5 to 10 miles per hour. It was an excellent preview of the splendid city. 

Stockholm has about 1 million people - 2.5 million in the metropolitan area. It is the flagship of Scandinavia.  Its organized roots trace back to the 1200s and the Vikings. It has a harbor that meanders through the city. Last night - we took a cab into town. It is about 1.5 miles to the downtown from our ship. Lulu realized she was missing a very important prescription. So we found a doctor open on Sunday night at 8 pm - he did a consolation - prescribed her the meds - and then we went to a 24 hours pharmacy. Lulu is also now registered in the Sweden National Health Program. They gave her a card. 

We bought a 24 hour bus pass on the way back - a bus dropped us off right by the ship. 

Monday morning Lulu had a list of things to see. First we took the bus and tram to city hall. This is where they award the Nobel Prizes every year. The city hall is a really old all brick building. Inside is the blue hall where the awards dinner takes place. Several American Nobel Peace Prize winners are Barack Obama - Jimmy Carter - Al Gore - Henry Kissinger. It is over $1 million now. Ironically - Alfred Nobel earned his money making dynamite. His fortune grows after his death and awards the prizes. 

After that we had lunch downtown in a park - and did some shopping. Sweden is a very progressive country. It could be called a socialistic democracy. They also have a monarch. There are lots of electric cars. They make much of their power with falling water. They have national medicine - and one of the highest standards of living in the world. Their money is the Krona worth about 10 cents. 

We were lucky to have bright sunny days with highs in the 60s. Since we are 60 degrees north latitude - the days in the summer are very long - and the winters are cold and bleak. You can tell their architecture is designed toward frigid climate. 

Next - was the ABBA Museum. Everyone remembers this pop music groups from the 70s and 80s. It is made of two married couples - that set records for selling their music - they dressed in flamboyant costumes - and had a very strong cult following. They are in the their 70s now - and still produce music and video - but no longer tour or perform. Lulu was dead set on seeing the museum - she even had purchased ticket online ahead fo time because in the summer the museum sells out. It is not designed to handle big crowds. 

Lastly - we visited the wooden ship Vasa. In 1628 - around the time of the Pilgrims - the king ordered a giant war ship to be built - 220 feet long - with 60 cannons. It was built in the harbor in Stockholm. They were fighting Poland and Estonia at the time - so the king ordered the ship to the front. Unfortunately - the cannons made it top heavy - and at first wind it did not clear the harbor. It tilted over - and water started running into the cannon ports - and down it went in 100 feet of water. It sat there almost 400 years - the cold water preserved the wooden ship and even several skeletons of the crew. In the 1950s - they started bringing it to the surface. They built a giant museum to house the ship - and are continuing working on it. It has become one of the main symbols of Sweden. It reminds me of the Neo-confederates in America worshipping the side that lost the war. Why celebrate a ship that cost a fortune - and only made it one mile. - and sank. In the information film - they ended with the quip - "if the ship hadn't sunk when it did - we would not have it today."

After - we toured the ship museum - we had to get back to our ship by 4:30 pm. We were cutting it close. We noticed a water taxis - and said we had to get to our ship right away. What a nice ride that was! In minutes he stopped by our ship - dumped us off - no charge - plenty of time to spare. 

I am quickly typing this up - to post it before we lose Internet. 

Saturday, May 21, 2022

Day 6 of 40 - A Warm Sunny But Windy Day In Tallinn - Estonia

Pretty flowers in the downtown markets

Tallinn Russian Orthodox Cathedral 

A 57 degree sunny day - add a stiff breeze - and one can easily get a sunburn walking the streets of this former communist capital. 59 degree north latitude is getting pretty close to the Arctic Circle so on spring days like today - one enjoys sunrises at 4:30 am and sunsets at 10 pm. It is also unusual for me to see moon phases that points almost due east. Where we live the moon is much higher in the sky and the points are angled at almost a 45 degree angle. 

I was up at 4:30 for the sunset - but also to catch the first sign of civilization - our cell phones lighting up with email and texts when we finally are within range of a land cell tower. We do not buy the very expensive Internet from the ship. They have a package for a family of 4 phones - iPads - laptops for $750 for unlimited service. We anxiously await that signal when cruising to port. Sometimes we cruise close enough to land to pick it up for hours. We use our iPhones as hotspots - that is how I am sending this story from my laptop. 

Estonia has a history of being overrun by other countries. Since World War I - they have been occupied by Russia twice and Germany twice. Finally in 1991 - they got freedom when the Soviet Union collapsed. They quickly joined NATO and the EU. If decorations are any indication - there are tons of flags downtown showing support of the Ukraine. Now two more of their neighbors have decided to join NATO - Sweden and Finland. 

Estonians value their education system. Among OECD countries - they rank 1st in Reading - 1st in Science - and 3rd in Math. This test is similar to an SAT test. 

Today we departed the ship at about 9 am. We took a cab to the cathedral up on a hill overlooking the old downtown. Right next to the cathedral is the Parliament. The people do elect a president through the Parliament. The country has only 1.3 million people - and they share a long border with Russia. Normally this cruise goes to St Petersburg - Russia. I guess we will never see that - because tensions between our countries will probably remain tense for a long time. 

We went to a museum that reviewed all of the Occupations of the country. It reminds one of the Holocaust museums - telling horrible tales of oppression. After shopping in the old downtown areas - we walked back to the ship. Of course we walked to the wrong pier - and shared a cab with another couple from Canada - who did the same thing. 

Since we pull out of Estonia at 8:30 pm - I figured I could post my story and pictures while we still had cellular. We already had supper - and may take in another show. Our next stop is Stockholm Sweden - tomorrow evening around 6 pm. We will stay there 2 nights. 

The moon circled horizontally on there elliptical plane

The sunny south side

Part of the city wall

The cathedral had no seats

Parliament from the Cathedral

Parliament picks the president

It was once a palace

Pitka - famous admiral WWII

In the Occupation Museum

Typical communist apartment

Occupation Museum

Ukraine flag next to Estonia flag

Memorial to victory over occupations

Jaan Kross - write that wrote against 
Nazi and Soviet occupation

Main city gate

Roses 1 euro

Old town Tallinn