Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn was the perfect respite from the opulence and grandeur of St. Petersburg.   We boarded a bus early in the morning for Viking’s included walking tour of the old town. Our ship wasn’t scheduled to depart until 9 PM that evening, so my thinking was that the tour would give us an overview and we would return later to visit the sights that most interested us.   At least that was the initial plan.

I don’t know whether it was the dreary weather, or the lingering effects of sensory overload from St. Petersburg, but after the tour concluded, WE concluded that the afternoon would be best spent partaking in some of the delights aboard our lovely ship.  Still, we have a few photos to share:

Notice the umbrellas in the foreground. It rained off and on during the tour.
Notice the umbrellas in the foreground. It rained off and on during the tour.
View of the medieval "lower town" from a lookout in the "upper town".
View of the medieval “lower town” from a lookout in the “upper town”.

Cars and buses are not allowed inside Tallinn’s old town, so we followed the city wall down the hill to the town square,

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main square
main square

where we found an abundance of shops, cafes, and a medieval pharmacy, which is still in operation today.

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We didn’t need to replenish our supply of wood louse infusions, earthworms in oil, or dried deer penises, so we left the pharmacy empty handed.

The Estonians seem to like three dimensional advertising.  Here are just a few examples.

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I loved the fire breathing dragon with the crown on his head, and the maiden advertising the “super sale”?  She had lots of similarly attired companions scattered throughout the square.

That evening, we had dinner at one of Viking’s specialty restaurants, The Chef’s Table.  This is a five course fixed menu, with wine pairings.  That evening we enjoyed the “Asian Panorama” menu.  The fixed menus change every three days, and we sampled three of them!

We started with chilled king crab made with coconut foam and curry, followed by lobster and chicken shu mai, which was a soft dumpling.  Now ordinarily, I am not a fan of either of those seafood items, but these were delicious.

Next up was a lemongrass and red chili granita with lychee foam (there was a whole lot of foaming in this restaurant), followed by the main course–Peking duck with a mandarin pancake.  Dessert was an Asian trilogy of chocolate banana spring roll, green tea cheesecake and yuzu creme brulee.

Unfortunately, I didn’t photograph the food–I was way too busy eating, drinking and talking, but if I had, you would have seen that the portions weren’t huge.  At the end of the meal we were satisfied, not stuffed!

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Our happy traveling companions, at the end of our dinner, after lots of wine!

Viking Homelands Ocean Cruise

Okay, so initially we were planning to celebrate our 40th anniversary in April by traveling to Bhutan, Nepal and Tibet,  but as my favorite philosopher once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.”

Mike wasn’t able to make that trip, so instead, we will be celebrating with a Viking Ocean Cruise to the Baltic states.  We start in Stockholm and before we end in Bergen, we will have popped into all of the Scandinavian countries, St. Petersburg, Tallinn, Gdansk and Warnemunde.  The Viking brochure provided this visual. vikingIn addition to celebrating both a birthday and an anniversary, this trip will be special because our friends, Tony and Helen (from Oregon) and Jeanne (from New York), will also be on the cruise.

We have been receiving Viking’s river cruise catalogues for many years, but had never traveled with them.  Then, in 2015 they began offering ocean cruises and one had exactly the itinerary we wanted.  We had been thinking that we should save cruising for when we were older and not able to do the more strenuous activities like hiking and biking, but after that week of Tibet’s squat toilets, I was more than ready for a little luxury.

All of the cabins have balconies, so the cruise price varies by size of cabin, amenities, initial boarding time, and priority for tour, spa, and specialty restaurant reservations.  None of the above was all that important to us, so we went for a lower cost cabin.  It just so happens that we prefer a lower deck, toward the center of the ship anyway, because there is less rockin’ and rollin’ in rough seas, and that’s where the less expensive cabins are.

Viking offers one free tour in each port, plus for an additional fee, you can choose among many alternatives.  Those alternatives can be a bit pricy so we decided to either opt for the free tour or venture out on our own.

We will be arriving in Stockholm two days before we board the ship.  Because we made our own flight arrangements (yes, I am more than a little anal about flight arrangements) and chose not to purchase Viking’s pre-trip package, we will have to get ourselves from airport to hotel, and will be exploring Stockholm on our own.  I bought the Kindle edition of Rick Steves’ Northern European Cruise Portsso that we can access the maps and information from my iPhone.  Just the information on Stockholm’s unregulated taxis was probably worth the price of the book!

Cruise Critic’s website had lots of helpful information about several of the ports.  One poster gave such detailed information about the Norway ports we will be visiting that I printed out her review and will be taking it with us.  Thanks to her, we will be riding the scenic train ride from Flam to Myrdal, then instead of taking the train back down the mountain, we will be renting bikes at the Myrdal cafe and riding to town.  Her description of the road down was the deciding factor!

Checking out our ship’s Roll Call on Cruise Critic allowed us to contact others interested in sharing a private tour in St. Petersburg.  We also were able to sign up for a “Welcome Aboard” party offered by Viking crew members for Cruise Critic participants (and you become a Cruise Critic participant simply by signing on to their website).    Don’t you just love the internet?  I hope my upcoming posts will be as helpful to future travelers.