A lovely passage into Stockholm through all the small islands - fascinating! In the morning we caught the shuttle bus into town and explored on foot. After lunch back on board the Saga Ruby, we took the afternoon excursion by boat seeing Stockholm from the water. Unfortunately the engine noise rather drowned out the commentary of the tour guide, but it was interesting to see the city from a new angle.
A lovely Finnish guide with a great sense of humour and the ability to make us all wish that we lived in Finland! Helsinki is a very attractive city with many modern and beautifully designed buildings. We loved the Sibelius monument and the lovely little marina behind it; we also found the Church of Rock very interesting. In the Lutheran Cathedral, we were lucky enough to hear the organ as the organist was practising - a marvellous sound. We enjoyed strolling round the market and wished that we had brought some euros with us! Some very tempting goods there.
First impressions are quite grim with huge blocks of grey concrete workers' apartments lining the road into the city. Getting through the passport control was slow and tedious, (we were warned that the customs officers were grim-faced, and so that proved to be (and all chewing!) But when I said 'Spassivo', which I think means 'Thank you' the girl came to light and grinned!) The tour was interesting and informative and with plenty of opportunities for photo stops, although given the mobility of the average Saga passenger, these always take longer than planned! There seemed to be police everywhere just stopping cars randomly and checking the drivers' papers. I also noticed that most of the cars seemed unwashed, damaged and rusty! We enjoyed the market and the fantastic displays of Russian dolls everywhere (I even saw one of Osama bin Laden!)but everything seemed very pricey. We went to the ballet in the evening to see Swan Lake - small theatre but with very comfortable seats and an excellent orchestra - some lovely solos from the leader, and the trumpet. Considering the small stage, the dancers were excellent (although slightly fewer swans than one would normally expect.)
We really enjoyed Tallinn - a beautiful, picturesque city and we had a very informative guide, called Karin. We were very pleased to see the Song Festival arena and perhaps one day we'll go back and see the song festival itself The highlight of the morning was a display of Estonian folk dance, whilst we had a coffee/apple cake break. There are many cobbled streets (difficult for some people to walk comfortably on?) and lovely old buildings. We left the tour before the end and wandered around on our own, doing some shopping and exploring, before returning to the ship by shuttle bus.
On our arrival it was evident that we were in a very industrialised dockyard, with plenty going on as Poland is still heavily involved in the shipbuilding industry. We went on a panoramic tour of Gdynia, Sopot and Gdansk and learned a lot from our guide about the recent history of Poland through first the Russian, then the German, and then once again the Russian repression and domination. There was plenty of visual evidence of war damage and areas still waiting to be re-built, but some beautiful buildings nevertheless. We walked on the beach in Sopot in bright, warm sunshine. Gdansk is lovely with lots of houses built in the 'Dutch' style and painted in beautiful colours.
We opted for the Fischland tour which involved a lengthy coach ride and a boat trip on the Bodden lake, which is a nature reserve. The boat was very full, and altogether this trip was a bit disappointing as we didn't really see any wildlife and as we were not next to a window, it was quite difficult to see anything of interest. It was also quite difficult to hear the commentary. A nice short stop on the way back in Born, where we saw some picturesque cottages and had a good walk in the village.
Excellent guide who spoke very good English - we took a boat trip round the city. Unfortunately we were not able to see the Tivoli gardens because of cycle racing about to take place during the coming week.
We spent some time in the square outside the Royal Palace taking photos and mingling with the crowds.
We got a very good impression of Copenhagen in the rush hour with hundreds of cyclists everywhere. It was a lovely sunny day and the best conditions in which to see this lovely city.
A beautiful approach to Oslo as we came into port with mountains and lakes, reminding us of home!
We had an excellent guide called Inge - she spoke very good English, being married to an Englishman.
In Oslo, we especially enjoyed our visit to Vigeland Park and took lots of photos of the wonderful statues there. Our guide had plenty of additional information about the statues and she was able to point out details which we might otherwise have missed. Ths made it all much more interesting.
We had the opportunity to walk ashore during the afternoon and decided to visit the Resistance museum in the fort next to where the boat was docked, - but having climbed the steep cobbled path, we found we did not have enough money to go in. It would have been helpful if the entry charges had been displayed on the board at the entrance!