Page 3 of Laura421 Travel Blog Posts

Europe » Estonia » Tallinn September 29th 2018

This morning we will take a ferry across the Gulf of Finland to end this tour where it began, in Helsinki, Finland. Right now we are in gorgeous Tallinn, Estonia, the last of the three capital cities of the Baltic States. Heading in to this trip, fifteen days sounded like almost enough time to explore this part of the world, but, as usual, and of course, it is not. I especially need to go back to Lithuania, to see more of that little country and to try to find the town that is named after my family (or vice versa). My last name was made up by my father; unfortunately he - or someone else - chose a confusing to spell, abrupt name that sounds as if we are German, but we are not German at ... read more

Europe » Latvia » Riga Region » Riga September 27th 2018

We are in Riga, Latvia now, another pretty Baltic city in whose Old Town I searched and searched for Echinacea tincture since the bottle I brought from home is now almost totally empty. I don't dare stop taking it, as many people on our tour are still quite sick and continue to infect others. No one wants to be sick, either on tour or on our long flights home, so I want to continue taking it prophylactically. I must have asked at ten or even twenty shops, by pointing to a photo of the Echinacea flower on small boxes of loose tea, and saying "tinctura," but had no luck at all. Most shopkeepers spoke no English, and my Latvian only covers "hello" and "thank you," so these were difficult and frustrating interactions. I was also hunting ... read more

Europe » Lithuania » Vilnius September 26th 2018

Yesterday we left Belarus, crossing the border back into the more familiar European Union. We were told that this crossing could be lengthy and difficult, taking up to five hours or more, with again perhaps a border crossing guard asking to go through all our luggage. And this was heading into the EU! But, understandably, those crossing from the EU into Belarus are most carefully checked, and given that once inside the EU one can drive for thousands of miles without ever seeing another checked border point, we prepared to wait and try to gracefully accept whatever happened. The first stop, leaving Belarus, went very quickly and uneventfully. Happy with that part, we reboarded the bus and slowly processed to entering the EU station. What was surprising to see throughout this crossing was the very long ... read more

Europe » Belarus » Minsk Voblast » Minsk September 24th 2018

We are having a break this rainy Monday, which is appreciated since so many on this tour are sick. The coughing and sneezing and various aches and pains spread quickly through the bus, especially since many do not cover their coughs and sneezes, even though all of us are adults. Our immune systems are getting a strong workout anyway, going from sunshine and 80s/28 (Fahrenheit/Celsius) in Moscow (such a gift this time of year!) to chilly rain and 40s/8 (F/C) in the space of one day. Add in three new countries so far, plus sick people on our bus, and everyone's immunity is quite challenged. I've spent this down time packing, trying to catch up on insidiously, continuously accumulating emails, taking Echinacea root tincture prophylactically, and giving my raincoat and boots a chance to dry out, ... read more

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Moscow September 22nd 2018

St. Petersburg is the cultural capital of Russia. What gems it holds for its people and for us visitors! This tour has crammed in so many activities, museums, palaces, magnificent royal residences that I will definitely look to travel with Trafalgar again. To name only a few: we've been to the Hermitage, St. Isaac's Cathedral, summer and winter residences, everywhere that is listed as a highlight or as a must-see. On our last morning in St. Petersburg, before boarding the high speed train to Moscow, we took a boat cruise on the canals to get another perspective on the "Venice of the North." One very funny thing that happened while we were cruising was as our boat was ready to pass under one of the many canal bridges we saw a man standing in the middle ... read more

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Saint Petersburg September 19th 2018

This is our third and final night in St. Petersburg. Our days have been chockfull of activities, our tour trying to cram as much in our three days here as possible. Monday night I slept for four hours straight, and that turned out to be it, my third night in a row without adequate sleep. So on Tuesday I lasted until mid-afternoon, and then had the very unusual (for me) experience of feeling tired. This is a relatively unique occurrence for me, but without enough sleep for several nights even exciting days in a foreign country can feel heavy at times. And on Tuesday we had hardly any down time at all to catch our breath, which is actually the way I prefer to travel. Tuesday morning we visited the Hermitage, Peter the Great's (and other ... read more

Europe » Russia » Northwest » Saint Petersburg September 17th 2018

I am in Russia! St. Petersburg, to be specific. It's been a long and eventful twenty-nine hours since I climbed off the plane in Helsinki, Finland yesterday afternoon. Now it is bedtime; I can read the time on my clock, but my body is very confused and quite tired. This time I am travelling with Trafalgar, and so far I am very relieved that everything has been excellent. After Bill's and my less than pleasant trip with Cosmos this summer, I didn't know what to expect with this company and worried a bit that this might be another mistake. But so far all is very well. Much information is given during our bus travels, and the hotels are located perfectly in city centers. There are 47 of us on this tour, filling a whole bus, but ... read more

Europe » Sweden » Stockholm County » Stockholm July 17th 2018

Stockholm is lovely. An archipelago of fourteen islands, it is a gorgeous city full of wonderful things to do. We had only one day to explore Sweden's capital city, our last day of this trip. Yesterday afternoon as soon as we arrived at our outlier hotel, Bill and I along with two of our adventurous friends spent time at the front desk figuring out the best way to get into the city. The four of us had wanted to take one of the free walking tours of the Old Town part of Stockholm, Gamla Stan, the original city center, and this tour met at 5:30PM so we hoped we could get there in time. From our hotel it was not a clear run into the city; we had to walk several minutes, then take a bus ... read more

Europe » Norway » Eastern Norway » Lillehammer July 15th 2018

At the point that Bill and I were about to leave this Cosmos tour of Scandinavia, I thought it was only fair that we should talk with our program director to let her know about our dissatisfaction with the lack of information and the non-centrally located hotels offered on this trip. This was not a comfortable thing for me to do. She obviously knew about the hotel locations (and may have picked them herself), but seemed surprised when I mentioned that we had expected frequent commentaries during the bus rides; she said she thought no one was interested since no one was asking questions. We were sitting in the back of the bus, so it wasn't possible for her to hear us at all, but I felt it was up to her as the program director ... read more

Europe » Norway » Western Norway » Bergen July 13th 2018

All in all we spent five nights in Norway, travelling from one side of the country to the other and then back again further north. Our first stop was in Oslo, and then we had part of a morning's respite north of the Telemark area where we had a much too short visit to the Vemork Museum, learning about heavy water and the history of the plant that was blown up in WWII. This is an amazing museum; our young guide, Simon, was an exceptional teacher. Most of our group wanted to spend more time here as those who knew about this plant were fascinated by the information offered, and those of us who hadn't known about heavy water wanted to learn more. But on this tour there was never enough time; we always had to ... read more

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