Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Baltic Cruise: Helsinki, Part 1

Well, at least I got through the St. Petersburg pictures before Thanksgiving.  We still have a ways to go before I'm done with Baltic cruise pictures, and then I'll have to sort through a couple thousand Wales pictures.  So I need to get to work posting things more regularly.

Ok!  After Russia, our next stop was Helsinki, Finland.  This was actually our least favorite cruise port, mostly because the weather was pretty poor the whole time we were there.


But they do try to welcome you right at the port.


We walked.  A LOT.  This was in a cemetery we walked past, and I'm going to go out on a limb and say it's some kind of Islamic funerary monument?


Found this statue on our ramble, but what we were looking for was that:


That is the Sibelius Monument, erected in honor of Finland's most celebrated composer Jean Sibelius.


I'm slightly better versed in classical music than the average person, but I have to admit that I'm not familiar with Sibelius' work.  The monument is kinda cool-looking though.


Speaking of looking cool.


There were too many people for us to get Lee's coveted random-person-free shot.


I did try to get some interesting pictures of the monument up close.


Hmm.  Sibelius doesn't look too thrilled to be there.  Maybe he was pouting because of the rain too.



Yep, hordes of tourists.  Lee and I walked probably a couple of miles from the cruise ship to get here, but we saw several buses disgorge dozens of tourists, including a couple buses of Japanese tourists.


And there's Lee waiting in line with a bunch of ladies to use the toilet.  Unfortunately I waited too long to take the picture; a few minutes before this, you could see Lee practically head and shoulders above a crowd of tiny Japanese ladies.  Teehee!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 13 (Russian Selfies)

*fake Russian accent*  Come visit the lovely St. Petersburg for your best vacation ever!


Your heart will sing with joy as you view our lovely monuments!


You'll smile so hard your face will hurt!


Experience the wonder of the St. Petersburg public transportation system!


Enjoy our lovely weather, warm and sunny all the time!


You'll never have a vacation that's more fun than this!


Would these smiling faces lie?  St. Petersburg.  Happiest place on Earth...after Disneyland.

Thanks to my friend Jen who gave me the idea to do "Russian selfies".  Hee!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 12 (Peter and Paul Fortress)

Well my friends, we are nearly at the end of the St. Petersburg pictures, and today we're visiting the Peter and Paul Fortress.  Here is the cathedral:


That is the highest Russian Orthodox bell tower in the world.  I'm sad that the Wikipedia picture has beautiful blue skies and all I got was clouds.


There's my hubs messing around with the headset to listen to our tour guide.  And that's me taking pictures that are intentionally crooked since my pictures come out crooked whether I mean to make them that way or not.  Now our photo editing software has a thing where you can correct for crooked though, so that's cool.


That is the mint, where they make all the Russian money.  We didn't get to go in there.  We DID go in the cathedral.


Hey, it's like mood lighting!  I'm going to pretend that's all my photographic jeeenyus.



Actually those two pictures are even better with the lighting.  As per usual, pretty much every square inch of the cathedral was decorated in some way.


The cathedral is the final resting place of most of the emperors and empresses of Imperial Russia, including Peter the Great, Catherine the Great, and lots of others who didn't get "the Great" added on to their names.


This is the separate room (the St. Catherine Chapel) where the remains of the last Imperial family are buried:  Nicholas II, his wife, and five children.  Contrary to popular myth, Anastasia did not survive the massacre at Ekaterinburg.  Robert K. Massie's book about the last days of the family and what happened afterward is pretty fascinating; definitely worth a read if you're interested in Russian history.


There are the tombstones for Maria and Anastasia, the two younger daughters.  They were laid to rest in this cathedral in 1998, though their remains were discovered well before the fall of Communism in Russia.


Proof that we were there!


And there is our tour guide; this is the only picture I took of him.  He was nowhere near as awesome as our tour guide in Tallinn; I found him rather chauvinist (Lee says "He's Russian, of course he's chauvinist!") and somewhat lacking in historical knowledge.  But at least we got to see a lot of things in St. Petersburg : D

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 11 (Peterhof again)

I am almost done with the Russia pictures, I promise!  Only, like, two more posts after this one.  So here's some more fountains from Peterhof.


I think this might be the Eve fountain mentioned on the Wikipedia page.  Very cool photo by Lee, though, am I right?  By the way, Mom, Lee says you totally missed out by not going to the gardens at Versailles.  Good thing you had us there taking pictures for you.


We were on a bridge that goes across the canal here.



Lots more gold statues...



I like this picture.  The only thing I wish I could change is to make the sky blue, but if you believe our tour guide it's gray 355 days out of the year in St. Petersburg.



There's a view from the top.


A little photographic proof that we were there.


And to end your tour of the Peterhof gardens...


One very weird sign.  I mean, I know it's a beware of pickpockets sign, but when I first saw it I was like so the dude on the right is copping a feel and the dude on the left is happy about it?  But then I figured it out.  And I had to take a picture of the sign because it still looks a little bizarre to me.

Cheers, peeps!  And props to me for blogging again so soon :)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Baltic Cruise: St. Petersburg, Part 10 (Peterhof)

My father-in-law totally busted me for not posting over here : )  And I'm still in the midst of Russia pictures!  Man, we got a lotta pictures still to go through.  Anyway, today I'm sharing the photos from Lee's favorite part of our St. Petersburg tour:  Peterhof.  That's the palace complex built for Peter the Great at the insistence of his advisors to impress foreign dignitaries; ol' Pete himself would have preferred to keep on keepin' on in his three-room wooden house.  That is, at least, according to our guide; Wikipedia makes it sound like the giant complex was all Peter's idea.


Gloomy gray weather the whole time we were out in the gardens, but...


The gray skies just seem to make the golden domes that much shinier.


Happily we were able to borrow an umbrella from the driver of our tour van; Lee and I took turns following each other around with the umbrella while the other one took pictures.  Except this one it wasn't sprinkling when Lee took it so that's why the umbrella (and I) are both in the shot.


I had to gigantify this one because I liked it.  Nice job on the photography, Lee.


Proof we were both there : )



Ok wow, I wanted to make *really* sure you saw that fountain, didn't I?


The palace complex was looted by the Germans during World War II and restoration is still ongoing, but the Russians spruced it up pretty good for St. Petersburg's 300th birthday celebration in 2003.


We walked around some of the buildings in the complex but didn't go into any of them; mostly we spent time in the gardens.  That's okay though, because like the ones at Versailles, the Peterhof gardens are definitely worth a visit.


Fountains everywhere!  Not that we needed any, since the sky was bound and determined to rain on us.  Peter had a sense of humor too, quite a few fountains are designed to spray water at unsuspecting passersby when they get too close.


Another gigantified picture because I thought it turned out really well; love the vivid colors.


Lee tried really hard to get a good picture of this fountain; the gray skies kind of made it difficult and then again there were all the tourists with giant umbrellas in the way.



Maybe this is the statue of Nicholas I mentioned on the Wikipedia page?  I don't know, I can't remember.  Maybe it's Peter the Great.  Either way, I'm betting it's some important Russian dude.

Next time:  more Peterhof!