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!!!

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.

 

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!

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!

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!

2 and a Half Days in Munich

Munich

Day 1-3 of the Central European Alps by Train

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As part of an Alps Train Journey, we decided to start our adventure in the beautiful city of München!

Munich is a very vibrant and festive city, with beer halls, picturesque gardens and modern shopping areas.

Day 1 – The city and a Beer Tour

We arrived from the airport right in the heart of Marianplatz. The bells were ringing and a band was umparing away under the spectacular Rathaus.

We stayed just south of the main square in a homestay. It was a quiet neighbourhood in Buttermelkerstraße. We walked through markets with local produce and fresh food, including some fabulous cheese and salami shops!

In the evening we joined a Beer and Brewery Tour, where we learnt about and got to taste some of the popular beer in Munich. My favourites were the dark Augustina beer and the Unfiltered Paulina Hell (lager).

Day 2 – Neuschwanstein Castle

The beautiful castle of Neuschwanstein was built only 150ish years ago by King Ludwig II. He wasn’t really mad- I think he was just an oppressed homosexual. Sad really.

Neuschwanstein is about 2 hours from Munich, and we went with a tour group.

The views are gorgeous and the inside is small but intricate! Complete with its very own Grotto! Haha!

This is an all day event. We left at 9:15 and arrived back at 19:30. I highly recommend going with a tour, as it is hard to navigate to the castle by yourself.

Day 3 – Munich Residence and the English Gardens

With a leisurely start to the day we reached the Munich Residence late morning. I could safely say that there is nothing quite as big or as extravagant as this palace in Europe. It was mostly destroyed in the Second World War, but the restoration is spot on and the palace is vast! The religious relics are a little creepy. Well worth the €7 entry. We didn’t get to the treasury, but I think it would be worth seeing too- maybe next time for us.

The English Gardens are a beautiful display of city woodland, complete with its own surf river!

The Chinese Tower is a great place to grab some lunch and drink beer. We sat listening to a German Band in a Chinese Tower in an English Garden!

As warned by our German teacher in high school, the Germans are not afraid of sunbathing naked. Lots of naked Germans!

The Beauty of Budapest

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Budapest

Possibly even more beautiful than Paris, although some may argue(!), and not a busy as Prague- Budapest is nearly at the top of my most favourite cities in Europe!

This ancient city is rife with history unlike many others in Europe- and as the countries name may suggest: Atilla the Hun makes his entrance into Central Europe!

Buda and Pest line both sides of the Danube river is spectacular fashion. There is the old palace and St Mattias Cathederal on the Buda side, and the iconic Houses of Parliament on the other. Joining these two cities is the famous Chain Bridge.

Things to do and see in Budapest

The Danube

A river cruise, at least by night, is essential. There are many companies offering cruises, some even with dinner.

St Mattias Church and the Fishermans Bastion offer great views over the city as well as freshly restores artwork on the church walls.

The  Széchenyi Thermal Baths are a hike from the centre of town but worth it to experience what the traditional spas are all about in Budapest.

Photo: www.budapest.com
Photo: www.budapest.com

Food and Drink

The Central Markets sell salamis, fresh fruit and veg, fish and also cooked meals such as Goulash Soup and Langos. You have to try the Langos- they are delicious!

Sarajevo

Sarajevo | Ready for Tourists

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Most people think of the Balkans War when they think of Bosnia Herzegovina and Sarajevo. I knew nothing about the city itself apart from the shelling and siege of the city.

Sarajevo has a rich and ancient history running all the way back to the Ilyrian tribes who were conquered by the Romans.

The Ottoman Empire was one of the major influences over the eastern architecture with mosques and baths lining the city streets.

Sarajevo is in the area of Herzegovina- and as a present to the Austro-Hungarian Emperor from the Sultan in Istanbul he gifted Bosnia in the north of the country. But, as a clerical error Herzegovina was added to the paperwork and Sarajevo ‘accidentally’ fell into the hand of the Austro-Hungarians in the 18th century. It was, of course, the location of the assassination that sparked the First World War.

The western part of the city is full of Viennese buildings and Catholic Churches, making Sarajevo one of the most interstates cities we have seen in a religions sense.


The city of Sarajevo is littered with what the locals call ‘Roses’. Createds in the streets filled with red paint as a reminder of where the grenades and shells fell during the siege of Sarajevo between 1992-5. Building still have bullet wounds and shell marks, but slowly slowly the city is being repaired and rebuilt from the disaster of war.

The tunnel of life is situated on the side of the airport. It was a 800m tunnel under the UN controlled international airport that was dug and used to provide the struggling citizens of Sarajevo with food, water and fuel supplies. Today you can visit 25m of the tunnel at the Tunnel of Live museum.

Mostar | Bosnia Herzegovina 

Mostar | Bosnia Herzegovina

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Mostar is in the region of Herzegovina. It is a beautiful old Ottoman town with a bazaar, harram and many mosques. Today it is a tourist hot spot and when I say hot- in the summer time it is roasting!

The most famous icon of Mostar is the beautiful bridge. It is a tradition of the young men to jump from the middle of the bridge as a right of passage into adulthood, they were then able to attract the most beautiful girls in the city to marry. Now days they just do it for the cash! I think they wised up?! It is quite dangerous. The water is freezing from the mountains and not very deep.

Mostar was heavily influenced by the passing trade of the Ottoman Empire exporting their goods to the Venitians in the 15th century. The name Mostar comes from the Turkish ‘bridge keepers’. Later, the Austro-Hungarian Empire rules the city, building larger more western buildings like you can see the facade of above. Most of these buildings were destroyed during the Balkans was between 1992-5. The bridge was hit by both sides but was finally destroyed by the Croatian offensive. It was rebuilt in the same style of white limestone with a very polished surface.

Travel Tips for Mostar

You can day-trip from Dubrovnik. There are many companies that do this- you need your passport and any relevant visas. The boarder crossing is very busy in the summer so be prepared to wait a little.

It gets very hot in the summer and there is not a lot of shade. Sometimes over 40°C. Wear sensible clothes, drink water and footwear should be very considered as the streets are very rounded lumpy stones and the bridge is super slippy!

Try the Cevapi. These are fingers of beef in pitta with onion and paprika sauce. They are cheap and really lovely. I can recommend the restaurant below, it is similar to all the average restaurants in Mostar and very cheap! The local beer Mostarski isn’t bad either.