London - Berlin - Moscow - Amsterdam - Paris
(Pete Bellis reports on our mid-1994 "Scandinavia Plus" CLUB 44 cruise)

    We found Hamburg to be a bustling Freeport with a lovely lake in the middle of the city. Germany worries about its population as it averages only 0.4 children per family. They say that they have too many "Dinks" (double income, no Kinder families). After a tour of the city, it was off to Lubeck in Schleswig-Holstein. This old city is on an island, much of which is now pedestrian. Thomas Mann’s family home is here. Then it was back to Hamburg for a drive down the Reepersbahn Strasse and its infamous red light district.

    After two days at sea, we docked at Stockholm and took a walking tour of the medieval city where in the five story buildings called "culture houses", only the kitchens and baths are allowed to be modernized. Then to see the VASA warship built in the 1500’s to fight Poland. It sailed for 15 minutes before it sank in the harbor. After a short visit to the small city of Sigtuna, about 40 miles from Stockholm, it was back to the ship and on to Finland.

    We docked at Helsinki in early morning and headed for our first stop at Porvoo, a typical small Finnish town with colorful painted wooden houses and cobblestone streets. While wandering around the town, our guide gave us a short review of Finland’s fractured history. I didn’t realize that Finland didn’t get it’s independence until after WW II.

    Note: Our female guides in both Sweden and Finland were happy with their social, health, and other benefits. Neither complained about their taxes that averaged about 30% for an average person. After lunch at a country estate featuring reindeer stew, it was back to Helsinki to visit two of the most impressive sights of our entire trip. First, there was the spectacular Rock Church, hollowed out of a mound of granite and roofed with a soft copper dome. It is unbelievably simple with its rock walls and plain wooden pews. The other was the Sibelius monument, which in my mind defies description; it simply must be seen.

    With only a day in St. Petersburg, we had a lot of ground to cover. After a ride around to see the city’s landmarks, it was out to the Peterhof Palaces. Some still needed outside restoration, but their gardens were well maintained. The interior of the main palace is completely restored and is something to see,with all its carvings and gold leaf. After a first class lunch at the Hotel Moscow, it was off to the Hermitage winter palace to see the art collection, that included a Da Vinci portrait. You can’t miss the fantastic main entrance and its mosaic tile floor.

    The next day was a sea day and we docked in Copenhagen with enough time for an afternoon of sightseeing and a few hours for dinner and relaxation at the Tivoli Gardens. Copenhagen is a tourist’s city with everything centrally located. Later in the evening, the ship sailed for a day at sea before reaching Amsterdam.

    Amsterdam was another half-day visit, with enough time for us to take a boat trip along the canals, visit a windmill, and take a few pictures. (Note: The Slide Show may show other "Netherlands Tour Options.")

    We reached Le Havre early the next morning in a constant drizzle that lasted until early afternoon. A large contingent of 44’s took off for the Normandy coast to see the WWII landing sites. Others took a short trip to the seacoast village of Honfleur, a pretty town but one that was better to visit in the sunshine.

    On schedule, the 44’s had their final evening gala cocktail party and the great "Made in China" prizes for Art and Dotty’s fun and games were awarded. Early the next morning, the "Royal Princess" docked back at Southampton and our fabulous 14 day adventure came to an end. We really enjoyed this one!

M. "Pete" Bellis, AB 45
Vice President, Southwest Region
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