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

Church on the Spilled Blood, St Petersburg

The Church on the Spilled Blood in St Petersburg is quite something – as you can see. You really couldn’t get further away from the ecclesiastical architecture that prevails in western Europe, in other words – it’s definitely different. Yes that is scaffolding swathing it. It seems that no matter where we are there’s scaffolding hugging whichever building we particularly want to see!

Church of the Spilled Blood 7
And from another angle.

Church of the Spilled Blood 4

This church was built on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II which took place in 1881. A bomb was thrown at him and it went off when it landed at his feet, I believe he lived for a few hours but was never going to survive. You can read about Alexander II here.

Church of the Spilled Blood

Below is the decoration on one of the sides of the church.

Church of the Spilled BloodSpilled Blood

We didn’t go into the church as Nevsky Prospect was calling to us, we aren’t religious and you aren’t allowed to take photos inside anyway. The outside was stunning enough for me.

St Petersburg – part 2

Winter Palace , St Petersburg, Russia
The green/blue palace is the Winter Palace and it’s just part of the entity that is called the Hermitage. There are six palaces which make up the Hermitage complex. There are so many exhibits in the Hermitage that if you spent only one minute in front of each one it would take you seven years to get around it all. We didn’t even get in due to the queues and wanting to viist other parts of St Petersburg in the short time we were there.

Winter Palace, St Petersburghorse-drawn
You can have a ride in a carriage around the square if you’re that way inclined. I watched people in the carriages taking selfies of themselves while they jogged around – not looking at the actual scene at all!

palace , St Petersburg, Russia

There’s a huge square in front of the complex of palaces which make up The Hermitage. Presumably it was designed like that for military purposes. Kings and Queens have always wanted to inspect their troops I suppose. This was the official residence of the Russian Tsars from 1732 until their demise in 1917. You can see more images here.

Palace , St Petersburg, Russia

There’s a massive column of victory over Napoleon in the square which is now edged by loads of tour buses.
victory monument

There are so many palaces around there, it’s difficult to figure out what they are! We discovered later though that the one below is the General Staff building.

Palace , St Petersburg, Russia

palace , horse statue pediment

The square had obviously been the focal point of the recent 1941-1945 Victory celebrations which we had just missed, and they were busy taking down the banners while we were there.
Palace Square  , banners

After years of reading about Russian history I could hardly believe that I was actually standing in front of the Winter Palace and it really didn’t matter to me too much that I didn’t actually get inside. Although I remember my mother telling me that she had seen a train in a station in Holland which had the destination MOSCOW on the front of it – so if we ever do go back (very unlikely) we’ll go by train and have a week there as that is what is needed to do the place justice.
Winter Palace stitch

St Petersburg, Russia

If you know anything about Russian history one thing that you will want to visit in St Petersburg is the Aurora as she fired the blank shot which signalled the start of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. Here she is below, moored in the River Neva and just having been given a bit of a makeover, she’s apparently a darker shade of grey than she was formerly.

Aurora

It was possible to get on her but we didn’t fancy the size of the queue.
Aurora flag

There are lots of bridges over the Neva and as you can see – lots of tramlines too.
green domes ,St Petersburg

The Church on the Spilled Blood below was built on the site of the assassination of Tsar Alexander II. Apparently you can still see the blood stains, but I suspect that it’s a bit like Holyrood Palace and Rizzio’s bloodstains – a bit faked up. As you can see it’s swathed in scaffolding at the moment.
Church on the Spilled Blood

Church on the Spilled Blood

Looking across the Neva again to the Peter and Paul Fortress with the golden spires.
across Neva Peter and Paul

Every direction you look in there are churches or palaces, we believe the one below is the General Staff Building. You can see red banners hanging from posts, very Soviet Union looking. These were to commemorate the anniversary of May, 9th 1945 Victory Day. Unfortunately we just missed the celebrations which were a few days earlier.
Palace , St Petersburg, Russia

Below is a sort of canal which is really part of the Neva I think.
blue bridge canal, St Petersburg, Russia

Below is some sort of government building I think. One thing that I really wish I had done before going to Russia was to at least buff up my knowlede of their alphabet, it might have helped a lot.
government building 2 stitch

Below is a photo of an ordinary street in St Petersburg. One thing that I really liked is that the traffic lights have a countdown so you know how long you will have to wait before the lights change again. The ‘green man’ actually speeds up his walking action as the time to cross begins to run out – so helpful I thought!
street in St Petersburg, Russia

Looking at the huge amount of very grand buildings many of which were palaces in St Petersburg it’s very easy to see why they had a revolution. The difference between the haves and the have nots was enormous
1941-1945 banner