Spend a Day in Tantalizing TALLINN…

Spend a Day in Tantalizing Tallinn…

Surrounded by medieval walls, the UNESCO old down of Tallinn is a sensational display of the historic Baltic Sea. The capital of Estonia is steeped in Russian, Finnish and even history of the Huns.

There are several points in the wall were you can climb the stone staircases into the turrets. The fort is a museum open to tourists, where you can see the old battlements and even stone drop toilets.

Tallinn’s Churches

Home to 4 major churches and numerous small chapels, Tallinn shows a variety of different denominational places at their most beautiful.

The Alexander Nevsky Cathedral is the most iconic church in Tallinn. It symbolizes the time of the Russian Occupation in the 1800’s.  The architecture is fabulous, and the orthodox icons are spectacular.

St Mary’s Cathedral is a must see, although it is plain and white it is filled with the real coats of arms of the important families in Estonia, dating back to the medieval times.

St Nicholas’ Church at the center of Tallinn is full of ecclesiastical art, and features an amazing museum with artwork dating back to the 13th century.

There are many more old chapels dotted around, some hard to find. They are full of old wooden panels with painted iconography.

The Vibe of the Town is Terrific!!

This is a town where culture, food and drink come together in a market town square. Cobble stones bounce laughter and clinking glasses with the buildings creating a noisy and atmospheric energy, making the afternoon and evening into a really lively event. The beer is cheap, the food is fulling – I tried an Estonian delicacy of bear stew with a beer. Yes there are a few stag nights, but sometimes this adds a good vibe… even if you have to cringe inwardly on occasion!!

Tallinn has so many hidden alleys offering cafe’s and wine bars so you don’t have to stay in the town center. We found an amazing wine bar off an alley that was lined with old tomb stones dating back to 1500’s!!!

Tallinn is a jewel in the Baltic’s crown. It really does offer history and culture!!

 

A Day Trip to Schwerin Palace

Spectacular Schwerin – Palace, Town and See…

Mecklenburg Vorpommern – The North East of Germany

When all the fellow Baltic cruisers are making their 9 hour round trip from Warnemünde to Berlin, why not spend a day in the beautiful surroundings of Schwerin Palace.

The large external was added to the 16th century interior in the 1850, during the time of the Eastern Prussian Empire. It is so imposing alongside one of the largest lakes in Germany, and is featured on the Schweriner See.

The town of Schwerin

Not quite UNESCO – due to a fire in the early 1800s. It was rebuilt in a similar fashion but the roads were widened by meters – therefore it did not meet the strict requirements. Still, the old romantic lanes, with wooden beams make it special.

Inside the Palace and Gardens

Grand enough to rival any of the large castles and palaces of Europe, Schwerin Palace offers parquet floors, wooden inlays, baroque furniture and spectacular paintings.  The internal courtyard displays the original 16th century beginnings of the palace, mirroring the wooden beams and carved eaves of the old town.

Schwerin Palace is situated on a mini island. It is surrounded by beautiful gardens, willows, swans and an orangery. There is also a grotto, which is always fun!!!!

How to get to Schwerin???

If your on a Baltic Cruise, there is more than likely a tour to the Palace. It usually starts with a boat tour on the lake, and a tour of the town. Finally a guided tour of the palace and time to spend in the gardens.

If you want to do it yourself you can catch a train from the Warnemünde docks to the town of Schwerin. There is usually a change, however the travel time is usually similar to that of the coach. Check at the docks if there are other tour operators working independent of the ship. You could save some money. But- like any independent day journeys – make sure you get back to the ship on time!!!

‘TRANSPORTATION TO THE COLONIES’

Celebrating 230 years of My Australian History

10th January 1787 – The day that made me Australian

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Australians are very disappointed when they find they are not from convict stock. But, for those who have the privilege of descending from the founders of the British Colony of Australia (even if it wasn’t by choice) we can celebrate a proud heritage.

At the time Captain Cook claimed the southern land of Terra Australis for King George III in 1770, there were a lot of European noses sniffing around this vast and inspiring land. The French were hovering in Polynesia and Vietnam, the Dutch East Indies Trading Company was stretching their trade into the close by islands of Indonesia, and recently a kangaroo was found in a Portuguese Bible pre-dating the first documented discovery of Australia.

In fact, Encounter Bay in South Australia is named after an interception between Napoleon’s favourite explorer, Captain Baudin and Matthew Finders in 1802. Such a vast and impressive country was prime land for colonisation and domination by powerful European Empires.

A Time to Steal Aprons and Demand Gin…

3rd January 1787 – Soho London, on a Washing Day.

Poland St, London
Poland St, London

It can’t have been a particularly cold day because Mary Hayward was going to hang her washing outside to dry. Mary and Francis Hayward were cheese-mongers at 35 Poland Street, London. Francis Hayward sold their wares at the closely situated John St, Golden Square, which is near Carnaby and Regent Street. My Ancestor Elizabeth Bruce and her mate, Elizabeth Anderson, were having a day ‘up town’ – a far cry from their day job of selling soap on the street in the slums of Spitalfields. They were on an ‘inventory’ hunt, deciding to add to their items ‘for sale’. But…. they got caught!!

'Gin Lane' by William Hogarth
‘Gin Lane’ by William Hogarth

Mr Hayward spied them perusing the offers inside his wife’s washing basket, selecting 2 aprons and 2 tablecloths. I can only imagine how the following events unfolded as it all seems too convenient! According to the sworn testimony of Mr Hayward, Lizzy A knocked on the door (after just nicking the aprons) and ‘Demanded Gin’.

I’m not quite sure how this went down: “Please sir, can I have some Gin?’, ‘Got any Gin Sir?’, ‘Hey! Gimme some Gin!’ or my suspicion – ‘Would you like some Gin? (because I just caught you stealing my wife’s washing and I need to distract you while I call the constable)’ Either way Lizzy A was ecstatic that she was getting Gin and followed Mr Hayward into his parlour! My Ancestor, Lizzy B, wanted a drink too; She demanded beer instead, and having trapped his linen thieves in the front parlour, Mr Hayward fetched the constable.

Trial by Jury at the Old Baileyold-bailey

Justice Wilson was charged with a task: American Independence was won in 1776 and England’s jails were filling up again as they could no longer send their convicts to the Americas. Since 1740, the population of England had increased considerably, with London full of unemployed people and a never-ending supply of gin. The Crown needed a solution to three problems: where to put new criminals when the jails were overcrowded; How to curb the unemployed gin-drinkers pilfering the streets of London; and how to populate, develop and defend the new-founded British Australia.

On the 10th of January 1787, in my opinion, my fortunate ancestor and her best friend, Elizabeth Bruce and Elizabeth Anderson – gin and beer drinking, unemployed petty-criminals – got to participate in an event forever marked in history: they were first passengers on the First Fleet of Convicts, sent to found the colony of New South Wales.

After hearing the sworn testimonies of Mr & Mrs Hayward, the Constable of Poland Street, and the pitiful defence of the Lizzies, Justice Wilson had an easy task… ‘Transportation and 7 years hard labour in the Colonies’.

The First Fleet of 11 ships left Portsmouth on the 13th of May 1787. The Lizzies were on the Lady Penrhyn. 

A Toast – to Elizabeth Bruce

On this day, after 230 years, I am toasting you from the steps of the Old Bailey, London. I am holding up a nip of GIN in your honour.

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A Cruising day in Copenhagen

A Cruising Day in COPENHAGEN

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Get that Hygge Feeling…

Copenhagen is right up there of popular places to visit in Europe – and we can see why. On a sunny day (which are apparently on the rare side) Copenhagen has a warm an vibrant feeling. I’m sure it has the same feeling on a rainy day, but be sure to rug up!! As the first stop of our Baltic Cruise we docked into the port and our first stop was the ‘Little Mermaid’. I think as tourists we are expected to overwhelmed with every national icon and memorial, but I am standing tall and announcing that we were underwhelmed with slightly compact statue that, if it wasn’t on our path into town, we would have been slightly miffed. It is a bit of a schlep along the docks.

Nyhavn

It’s the central focus of the waterways in Copenhagen. With our luck in the weather department on this cruise, we were able to enjoy it at its finest. The colours of the building lining the dock, as well as the old fishing boats create a really cool atmosphere and there is plenty of icecream to be had!!! In fact every second shop along the dock is an icecream parlour. It seems to be a bit of a Copenhagen specialty.

 

Palaces and Gardens

Copenhagen is home to the oldest royal family in Europe. Amelienborg Palace makes one of the main squares in Copenhagen, home to the current day queen, Margrethe II and Prince Henrik. In a similar set up to Buckingham Palace in London, there is a changing of the royal guards at 12pm every day.

The Royal Library and Gardens are a lovely courtyard garden to have lunch or coffee at the cafe. The gardens are situated between the Christianborg Palace and the Royal Library.

The Tivoli Gardens is a famous amusement park situated close to the town hall. It was opened in 1843, making it one of the world’s first amusement parks. This is a great place to visit at Christmas time.

Rosenborg Castle is one of the oldest castles in the town of Copenhagen. It has extensive gardens and art installations. Fortunately, it is on the walk back to the ship, and leads towards the old Fort of Copenhagen, which is worth looking at too. It features windmills and military barracks, dating back to 1664 it was created in the shape of a star with a moat at high earth mounds.

 

Bath Christmas Markets 

Bath Christmas Markets

The magic of Christmas is contagious- and this year it has thoroughly ravished the beautiful regency town of Bath in Somerset, England!

It is exciting and festive! Featuring all the essentials to make this Christmas Market equal to the traditional German scene!

The best thing about these markets is there are local products, gifts and ideas to emmerse yourself! There are some fantastic stalls including Somerset Christmas smellies, Devon Lavender cosmetics, Chocolate wine, Elderberry Port….. the list goes on!!!

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A test of a good Christmas market is the mulled wine… and it is good. Ranging from £3-3.50, some even include a truffle or a mince pie!!!

Two Travel Europe will be back next year!!!!

Luzern

Luzern|  Switzerland

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Day 11 of ‘Central European Alps by Train’

Our journey today took us from Milan through the mountainsides of Switzerland to Luzern, but not without some complications! Out Trenitalia train malfunctioned and terminated its journey at the Lake Lagurno. We were forced to change several times in the mountains to reach our final destination. However, as the scenery was so stunning we where not too fussed!

Luzern was very warm! If there is one recommendation I can make for accommodation in Switzerland in the summer- make sure you have air conditioning!

 

We spent the day wandering the old town, crossing the Chapel Bridge and watching the majestic white swan. The flowers on the Chapel Bridge were in full bloom, making the river so picturesque.

In the evening we found a brilliant local restaurant that specialised in cheese fondue and chicken. Unicum Luzern had super friendly staff who introduced us to the art of eating fondue! It was delicious!

Cooking in Milano

Cook and Dine

An Italian cooking class

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Day 10 – ‘Central European Alps by Train’

We had a wonderful lunch time (usually evening) Italian cooking class through Cook and Dine Milano. Aurora took us through the ingredients and instructions to cook a magnificent 4 course Italian feast!

Tagliatelle Bolognese, Spinach and Ricotta Ravioli, Aubergine Parmegana followed by Tiramisu. Prosecco and Cianti Classico essential!!

Lake Como

Lake Como

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Day 9 of the ‘Central European Alps by Train’

Lake Como has been one of the highlights of our tour and is a must see day trip from Milano.

Situated an hour from Milano, I can recommend visiting as a group tour. Currently Como Train Station is a refugee camp for migrants – and Como itself isn’t the main attraction.

Our group tour took us on a short journey through Como, and gave us an hour to explore the streets of Como ourselves. Como is the old centre for silk production so there is plenty of markets and silk shops. It also has a spectacular Cathederal and great coffee.

We then caugh the scenic cruise that zigzagged its way up one of the branches of the lake, stopping at small towns and passing stunning villas such as Versace, Clooney and others that have features in Hollywood movies.

After a surprising delicious salmon trout meal on the boat, we arrived at the Jewel of the crown of Lake Como: Bellagio. This cruise took 2 hours and it was breathtaking.

Bellagio is famous for its picturesque streets, spaghetti parmigiano, silver and the best gelato in the world at Hotel Splendid.

After two hours of wandering the streets the group met up and caught the small ferry across the lake to meet our bus. We wound through the lakeside streets back to Como and returned to Milano by 1830. A spectacular outing and really not to be missed!

Verona

Verona

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Day 7 & 8 – ‘Central European Alps by Train’

I have to say that the train ride from Innsbruck to Verona was one of the most picturesque of the trip! We wound through mountain valleys, past spectacular waterfalls and emmerged trough the alpine into the Dolomite Mountains with their foothills covered in old grape vines and apple trees.

Verona is a friendly and relaxed city. If you want to get away from the major tourist centres of Italy, this old Roman town offers food, shopping and historic architecture, and a spectacular view from the top of the Castel San Pietro.

Our apartment was in the centre of the old town, and we can highly recommend it. Corte Realdi was contemporary, yet keeping with the renascence these that heavily features in Verona. And what more so than the Casa do Giuletta, inspiring Shakespear’s story of Romeo and Juliet.

The atmosphere at Arena do Venrona is buzzing during the evening. A large crescent of eateries offer traditional Italian food. We dined at Restorante Liston 12 and ate spaghetti di vongle. If you are looking for something slightly off the beaten path, I can recommend Di Trentin Agostino in Via Fratta near the Castelvecchio. They prepare a mean platter di mare!

We are sad to be leaving the land of Aperol Spritz, as I think we could recommend staying and exploring new the region of Verona and its neighbouring countyside full of medieval castles.

Innsbruck

Innsbruck

Day 6 of the Central European Alps Train Journey

To be honest Innsbruck is really only a connection between Salzburg and Verona. However, this charming city in the Tyrol Valley offers spectacular views and a particularly colourful old town. We wandered the old town and picked up some local Tyrolian cheeses to drink with out Austrian Weißburgeren wine, while enjoying the spectacular views from our aDLERS Innsbruck hotel room with floor to ceiling Windows!