I just got back from cruising the Baltic Sea with the fambam. It was one of the best vacations I’ve ever had. So many new things to see, new experiences to cherish, and the best part of all, I got to spend it with the people that matter most to me.
It was the best time to go. The sun was up till late in the evening, the temperature hovered around 20°C, there were so many people outdoors. Contrast this to their winter months when the temperatures sometimes reach -10°C and sunlight might total only seven hours.
Most of our time was spent in the biggest moving structure I’ve ever been in. It was a pleasure to call the Regal Princess home for the trip. The ship had everything, you could gamble to your hearts delight, go swimming as much as you wanted, there was dancing with live bands every night, plenty of different shows, we even watched a ventriloquist perform, there was a gym, a basketball court, cafes, bars, unlimited buffet. Anything you could ever ask for.
The nature of a cruise means you visit plenty of places, but don’t spent much time in them. All in all we docked in seven different countries within a two week span, we spent about one day in each destination. I would have wanted to spend more time in every place we visited, but glad to have visited them all. What follows is a quick description of what stood out from each visit.
Copenhagen made me wish we had a bike culture in the Philippines. I’ve never seen more bikes in my life. The fact that there were bike lanes all over the city helped foster this environment. You could see Copenhageners heading to work on robust heavy e-bikes or exercising with light road bikes. During one of our walks, we were even approached by a lady with a box bike full of healthy drinks that she was giving away. Back home, we would have called her a promo girl and they would be giving away free coffee in the supermarket or selling cigarettes in bars. In Copenhagen, the promo girls are giving away green juices on bikes.
I can’t hide the coffee nerd inside of me. In Oslo, we got the opportunity to walk around freely. The first thing I looked for was a cool cafe. That’s when we found Fuglen. According to my good friend, the internet, they served a good cup of coffee. It had furniture that could probably have been set in a porn film in the 70’s. The couches were comfy leather, a yellow hue swallowed the interior, and eclectic prints draped the wall. I ordered a cortado. The barista poured the shot in a tall glass, and asked me how much milk I wanted. You have the option to pour as much milk as you want. I had half and half, and dad had milk poured to the top of the glass.
With an area of almost 900 square kilometers and a population of 3.5 million people, Berlin is huge and doesn’t feel like a cramp city. We didn’t spend as much time as we wanted in Berlin, but the timing was right. There was an athletic convention and gymnasts from all over the country were visiting the city. I’ve never seen so many jumping contorting blondes in one place. We got the highlights via a city tour. As we drove through the streets, the guide warned us that we might see nudists, at that exact moment the whole bus saw a butt naked dude sunbathing in a park. Apparently, the German nudist movement was one of the first worldwide. Nudists and gymnasts make for a fine visit.
Talinn is a city which has plenty of what I enjoy most about Europe, cafes. After walking around the main streets filled with tourists, we found a quiet corner that featured artist shops and a little chocolate cafe called Chocolats de Pierre. As we treated ourselves to good chocolate and coffee, a trio of classical musicians set up their instruments and just started playing music. Thank you, Talinn.
St. Petersburg, Russia
Most of our time spent in St. Petersburg was visiting the palaces like the Peterhof and the Winter Palace and museums like the Hermitage. Opulent would be an understatement. The palaces were huge and many of the walls had a layer of gold protected by glass. This is one of the few places that we didn’t get the opportunity to walk around freely. So I spent time looking at the city while on the bus. It was a city of contrast. While the many palaces and museums were indeed impressive , the city was a mix of busy hustle, vibrant city streets and abandoned buildings.
Despite spending only a few hours in Helsinki, the wife fell in love with the city. Something about it spoke to her in the right way. After visiting the Temppeliaukio Church, the 1960’s church excavated into rock, and the Helsinki Senate Square, lots of picture taking, we were able to do what I love doing most when we travel, walk around. The bus dropped us off somewhere around the Esplanadi area and we found ourselves in a tiny toy store called Ombrellino. We bought the little kiddo a toy drum. Then he peed on me.
The visit to the Vasa Museum alone was worth the whole trip. As a kid growing up watching cartoons of pirate ships sailing the ravaging seas, it was more than impressive to see a real live sailing ship preserved in almost its entirety. The story of the ship is just as fascinating as looking at it up close. Everything from how and why it sank, it floundered right after hitting the water the first time, to how they managed to retrieve the whole ship and preserve the wood, some called it Sweden’s Apollo Program.