Helsinki – via Jack @ A Son of the Rock

It was May last year – the glory days when we could wander – when we were on a Baltic cruise, how lucky were we that it wasn’t this May! Anyway I am way behind with doing blogposts about the various places we visited. Jack has been far more methodical so if you want to see what our visit to Helsinki looked like have a look here.

My abiding memory of the city is the long walk out to the Sibelius monument and the menu at a posh restaurant in a small park which was charging a lot of money for carrot foam. Truly!

National Library of Russia Reading Rooms, St Petersburg

This time last year we were visiting St Petersburg in Russia, a place I had always wanted to see. Can you believe that our tour bus parked right outside the National Library of Russia Reading Room? It’s situated in a very handsome building.

National Library of Russia reading room

aNational Library of Russia reading room 2

Strangely there’s a fairly old looking sign with the opening hours on it, written in English. I wish we had had time to go in and investigate the place, but there were so many other places to visit in the city and we had to get our skates on.
aNational Library of Russia reading room 3

aNational Library of Russia reading room 5

aNational Library of Russia reading room 4

We were in a rush to see as much as possible inside about five hours.

Below is the Alexandrinsky Theatre, with some very pretty planting in front of it. St Petersburg is a lovely city and the locals were friendly, obviously not too annoyed by tourists.

Planting Ostrovskogo Square, St Petersburg

Armchair Travelling – Summer Garden, St Petersburg, Russia

It’s almost a year since we were in St Petersburg and I realised recently that I hadn’t blogged about our visit to the Summer Garden there. I hadn’t even heard of this place before we got to St Petersburg, but it is the most famous garden in Rusia apparently. It dates from 1704 when Tsar Peter the Great decided he wanted a garden in the European style and drew the initial plans himself.

Summer Gardens, St Petersburg, Russia

I love fountains, we don’t have enough of them in the UK in my opinion, well not anywhere near where I live.
Summer Gardens, St Petersburg, Russia

Summer Garden, St Petersburg, Russia

There are plenty to choose from in the Summer Garden, it’s all very classical. But we were there in early May and there wasn’t an awful lot in bloom at that time of the year in St Petersburg.
Summer Garden, St Petersburg, Russia

I’m not sure how the design differs from the original, but in 1777 there was a huge flood here, it’s close to the River Neva and everything was swept away, including the structures and fountains.
Summer Garden, St Petersburg, Russia

This is a beautiful place for those lucky enough to live in St Petersburg to take their exercise and it is well used by the locals. There were more locals in it than tourists which is always nice when you are in a foreign country. Maybe I’m strange but I hate feeling like a tourist! If you happen to be in St Petesrburg sometime, do check out the Summer Garden.
Summer Garden, St Petersburg, Russia

Stockholm Archipelago, Sweden

Stockholm archipelago, Sweden,

Sailing out of Stockholm and past the Stockholm archipelago was one of the highlights of that Baltic cruise that we went on way back in May. I wonder how many of the population own a boat. If I lived near there I’d definitely have one, what freedom it must be to go sailing along there between the many wee islands, all looking like something out of a story book.

Stockholm Archipelago

By all accounts most families in Sweden have their own teeny summerhouse on an island which they can sail to – to get away from it all. Bliss.

Stockholm Archipelago

Some houses are really large, but I suspect they’re still only used during the summer months as it must be freezing out there – even more so than being on the east coast of Scotland!
Stockholm Archipelago

This serene sail was breathtakingly beautiful and seemed to go on forever with the scenery constantly changing.
Stockholm Archipelago

Later, as the sun went down, we were in our cabin and I was so thankful that we had a window in it and a wide ledge for me to lean on as I couldn’t tear myself away from the view.

Stockholm Archipelago,Sweden

Metro and Railway Stations, Nevsky Prospect, St Petersburg, Russia

Donkey’s years ago I saw a programme on tv about the wonderful interiors of the railway stations in what was then the USSR, so when I realised that the building below was a metro station I had to go in for a look, no doubt getting in the way of the all the genuine travellers.

St Petersburg Metro, Russia

I was aware that the metro workers (I think) in the photo below were looking at us strangely, but reckoned that they couldn’t arrest us for taking photos of the decor – and nothing was said, they definitely thought we were weird foreigners though!
Metro, St Ptersburg, Russia

You could expect to see lights like those below in ballrooms rather than a railway station. They are in what is called the Moskovsky Station. (You catch mainline trains to Moscow from there.) I was thinking that I was so glad that when Communism got the upper hand they didn’t think to sweep away all the glories of Imperial Russian decor.
St Petersburg station

But if you have a closer look at the frieze below you’ll see that this must have been done under that regime as the clothes are fairly modern looking.
St Petersburg station, Russia

It’s only now that I see that what I assumed would be a no smoking sign actually seems to be a no hearts sign – bizarre. Don’t kiss anyone, whatever you do!
St Petersburg station, Russia

Then back out through the doors onto Nevsky Prospekt and the sunshine again.
St Petersburg  station doors, Russia

I must say that all of the Russian people that we cmae into contact with were lovely and friendly.

Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm Gardens, Royal Palace

Back at Stockholm, above is a photo of the royal palace and public gardens nearby.

Below is a statue of what Jack described as a disporting gent but we didn’t find a clue as to who he is.

adisporting gent , statue, Stockholm, Sweden

statue, Stockholm, Sweden

Below is definitely Linnaeus.

Linnaeus

One of a pair of waterfalls at the royal palace.

Royal Palace  waterfall, Stockholm

A church and street.

church, Stockholm

The national museum – below.

national museum, Stockholm

The Riksdag below is I presume the parliament building, I thought the plane flying past would have looked better than it does in the photo.

Riksdag + plane, Stockholm

Riksdag gateway.

Riksdag gateway, Stockholm

Eventually we found Gamla Stan which is the old part of the city and as you can see was stuffed with tourists. Shops selling Dala horses abounded, but we resisted as our old ones look nicer than the ones they sell now. I nearly bought an old children’s book with lovely illustrations but as the shop owner was on the phone all the time we were there – chatting with a friend – she didn’t get the sale. I’m still annoyed, but it happens here too, I just wonder why people have shops if they aren’t willing to serve the potential customers.

Gamla Stan, old Stockholm

Lastly is a photo of the waterfront. I don’t know what it would be like on a cold and grey winter’s day, but certainly in blue sky sunshine Stockholm is a stunningly beautiful city.

Stockholm waterfront

Stockholm, Sweden

When we were on that Baltic cruise back in early May Stockholm was one of the last places we visited. I have to say that it isn’t a place that I had ever yearned to visit, but it turned out to be one of my favourite cities. Of course the sun was shining which always helps, in fact – I was too hot!

Stockholm Bridges
There are lots of great buildings.

Drama Theatre, Stockholm, Sweden
But it wasn’t always obvious what they actually were.

Stockholm building

I really didn’t know too much about Stockholm and had no idea that it is built on a series of islands which are linked by bridges. That’s mainly what makes it so beautiful, it’s lovely to be in a city and to see all sorts of boats right in front of you.

Stockholm waterfront, Sweden

Stockholm,Canal + weir

But there’s plenty of greenery around too.

Stockholm, conifers

The building below is the Riksdag which is I believe their parliament building. What a location!
Rocks , Birds, Riksdag, Stockholm

I have lots more photos, but that’ll do for now. I hope you enjoyed this wee glimpse of Stockholm.

Jean Sibelius – Helsinki, Finland

Helsinki in Finland was one of the destinations on our recent Baltic cruise. We decided to walk out to see the structure which commemorates the composer Sibelius – we walked and walked – and ‘better’ walked as the Scots phrase for too much goes, thinking we would never get there, but we did, just as three bus tours full of Chinese tourists descended on it. They all wanted an individual photo of themselves standing beside the monument for some reason, so it was quite some time before we could get an image of it on its own. Meanwhile I wondered if any of them had even heard of Sibelius, but for all I know they may have been a Chinese branch of his appreciation society!

Sibelius, Helsinki

I’m wondering if the designer got mixed up between Sibelius and Mendelssohn as it really reminds me of Fingal’s Cave which is the cave on the uninhabited Scottish island of Staffa in the Inner Hebrides which inspired Mendelssohn to write his best known piece of music of that name. you can see images of it here.

Below is the man himself and yes they did all have to have their photo taken with him – individually.

Sibelius, Helsinki, Finland

I found the video below on You Tube, it’s his Finlandia, Op. 26.symphonic. Apart from beautiful music it also shows amazing scenery and lots of animals as well as the northern lights.

Copenhagen, Denmark

I’ve been busy with visitors over the past few days – hence no blogging, and I have such a backlog of things to blog about that I’m cheating a bit and directing anyone who is interested in seeing photos of our recent trip to Copenhagen to Jack’s blog. You can see his Copenhagen blogposts here. He tells me a few more posts are still to come.

I hope to be back to whatever is my normal soon!

World War 2 War Memorial – St Petersburg, Russia

WW2 Monument, St Petersburg, Russia

Over the last couple of days we’ve had the commemorations of the D-Day landings which were attended by the leaders of the allies and also by the German leader, Angela Merkel. But there was apparently no invite for President Putin, despite the fact that they were definitely our allies and if Hitler hadn’t taken on more than he could handle when he attacked Russia it’s almost certain that we would all be speaking German now. It was a close run thing.

I’m definitely not a fan of Putin, but given the fact that the Soviets lost more people in the war than anyone else, it seems mean and petty to leave them out of the memorial services. So I thought I’d show you a couple of photos of the War Memorial at the top of Nevsky Prospekt which is St Petersburg’s equivalent of Paris’s Champs Elysees or Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street.

WW2 Monument, St Petersburg, Russia