Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Tallinn, Estonia

16 July 2015

Our tour of Tallinn in Estonia started with a one and a half hour bus tour around town. We saw lots of "typical" homes from the coach, and then got out of the coach and walked down to see the Palace in Catherine's Valley (Catherinethal in German, the palace is known as the Kadriorg Palace in Estonian). The palace was built by Peter the Great for his wife Catherine I (who is NOT Catherine the Great - she came later and also happened to be married to a Peter).

Our next stop was the Tallinn Song Festival Grounds.  Every five years a massive crowd attend the Estonia Song Festival here, and in between it is used for concerts by visiting artists, like Rod Stewart and Madonna. The locals are obviously very proud of it, but I thought it was unimpressive - though the pictures of the crowds there make me glad I was not there at those times. The most fun bit of being there was seeing our cruise liner at the dock in the distance. It was one of six there that day, meaning that 10,000 extra tourists were wandering around Tallinn.

Song Festival venue with our cruise ship in background

The coach then dropped us off and our guide walked us into the Upper Town. Tallinn had, even in medieval times, an upper town and a lower town. One of them (I've forgotten which) was part of the Hanseatic League, and the other was governed as part of the normal government in force at that time. Estonia first got it independence in 1918 after the First World War. Before that it had been ruled by Sweden, Denmark and Russia at different times.

The first thing we looked at was the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral. Very Picturesque, but unfortunately covered in scaffolding. Photos were not permitted inside.

Then we walked though more of the upper town until we came to a viewing platform overlooking the lower town.

The Danish King's Garden

The Danish King's Garden

We walked down a steep path to the lower town, where the Town Hall is situated.  In front of that were the markets.  We were given 25 minutes to find somewhere to have lunch, order it, have it delivered and eat it! Miraculously, we managed it.  We actually had lunch in a Russian Restaurant, Troika, which seems to be part of a chain of restaurants.  The food was very good!

Market Square

Bear at Troika Restaurant

Then it was a few more stops before heading back to the boat. One was a pharmacy dating back to 1422 - Europe's oldest.  It currently sells modern medicines as well as having a display of old medicines and ingredients for medicines.

A Garlic Restaurant? Really?

The Pharmacy, or Apteck

Inside the Apteck

Some of the old medicines

Some of the ingredients

Some more ingredients

Handpainting the marzipan sweets

Marizpan sweets in progress

Some of the finished marzipan sweets

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Warnemünde, Rostock and Schwerin

14 July 2015

Our ship docked in Warnemünde earlier than expected, but we did not have to meet our guide til 9:45, so were in no hurry to disembark. We eventually did, and met up with our guide, who was leading a group of about 17 of us that day.  First thing to see was Warnemünde.  This is the port town associated with Rostock.  Not surprisingly, it had once been a fishing town, and after being told the history of the town we were taken to see where the fishermen used to moor their boats, and also to see the house where Edvard Munch had lived for about a year.

Warnemünde Harbour

Munch House

After that we boarded a train which arrived in Rostock after about 20 minutes. From the Rostock Hauptbahnhof (main train station) we took a tram to the Neues Markt (new market).  Most of the buildings we could see surrounding the square appeared to be medieval, but in fact only one of them was.  The rest had been destroyed or damaged in WWII and rebuilt in a cheap way by the Communist Government.  More recently the new German government has added façades that are more in keeping with the buildings that existed prior to the war.

The main church in the town, the Mariankirche, had not been damaged in the war, due to the efforts of the incumbent up on the roof with a bucket of sand. Just like with St Paul's Cathedral in London, he was on the lookout for incendiary bombs and smothered them in the sand before the church could catch fire. Inside the church there was a very interesting astronomical clock and another "clock" which could calculate the day of the week for any date within the last 130 years or so.  


Huge Organ

Day of the week clock

Close up of clock

On top of the astronomical clock was a little balcony where, every day at noon, a little sequence is revealed.  The apostles all come out and Jesus blesses each of them in turn and then they go through a little door representing the gates of heaven.  When the last apostle - Judas - appears Jesus does not bless him and the door slams in his face.  He is left there standing in front of the door until the next performance at noon the following day.

We then walked down a picturesque street to get to the University of Rostock. The main building was very attractive, but the university is spread throughout the town, occupying numerous buildings where they can get space.

Rostock University

We left Rostock by a different train for the one hour trip to Schwerin.  When we arrived in Schwerin and had all disembarked from the train. Then one of our tour group darted back into the train.  The guide had no choice but to follow him. The doors closed and the train took off with errant passenger and guide on board. The rest of us just looked at each other thinking "what do we do now!"  One of our group who I know well looked at me and said "Well, you need to be in charge now Jenny, as you're the only one who can speak German!" Speaking German is one thing, but knowing where to go and what to do is a different matter!  We did go downstairs from the platform to the long tunnel underneath connecting the several platforms that comprise the station.  Here people could use the bathrooms, while I looked at the departure and arrival timetables (in German), to work out how long it would take the guide to get to the next stop and then get the next train back.  It would be 25 minutes, so we all decided to stay put in that area until then.  As it turned out, the guide and wayward tourist were back earlier than that as they'd walked back from the second stop.

We then set off for the walk to our lunch place.  Schwerin is a picturesque little town, and lunch was ready for us when we got there, as we had all made our choice of one of the four dishes while on the train and the guide had phoned the order through to the restaurant.

After lunch we headed to Schwerin Castle, full of golden domes and pinnacles surrounded by a moat and lake, though unfortunately some of it was covered in scaffolding.  We walked around the castle and then went inside, where we looked through all the rooms open to the public.

The fantastic library

The towns we visited were all in the old East Germany.  In these towns there was no sign of the Soviet occupation, they just felt like the rest of Germany. But from the train we could occasionally see horrible old concrete constructions that obviously dated from that era.