Sunday, June 29, 2008

Kirkko, Kirkja, Kirke, Kyrka, Kyrkan (Churches)

Someone asked if we got to visit any churches on our trip. Let's see, here is a list of all the churches we visited:

  1. Hallgrímskirkja, Reykjavik Iceland (Lutheran). Completed in 1986 it is the tallest church in Iceland. It was under scaffolding when we visited.
  2. Domkirkja, Reykjavik Iceland (Lutheran) Built in 1796, It was here that sovereignty and independence were first blessed and endorsed by the church, and where Iceland's national anthem (actually a hymn) was first sung in 1874.
  3. Skalhst Church, Reykjavik Iceland (Lutheran). I couldn’t find much history on this small church on the lake.
  4. Frederik's Church (The Marble Church) Copenhagen Denmark (Lutheran). This Church has the largest church dome in all of Scandinavia with a span of 102 feet by 315 feet high.
  5. Church of Our Saviour, Copenhagen Denmark (Lutheran). Built in the late 1600s, the golden church spire has a spiral staircase on the outside, where visitors can climb to the top. It was closed for repairs when we visited.
  6. St. Alban's Church, Copenhagen Denmark (Anglican). The present church was completed in 1887 and is very near the Little Mermaid and the Resistance Museum.
  7. Nikolaj Kirke, Copenhagen Denmark (Lutheran). This church was a museum and was partially occupied by a coffee shop.
  8. Ravlunda Church, Skane Sweden (Lutheran). A church of our ancestors that dates back at least to the mid-18th century.
  9. Domkyrkan, Lund Sweden (Catholic > Lutheran > Ecumenical). Sweden’s oldest cathedral with construction beginning in 1080 and completed in 1145.
  10. Onslunda Church, Skane Sweden (Lutheran). The church of our ancestor Nels Andersson.
  11. Sodra Melby Church, Skane Sweden (Lutheran). A landmark church on the coast near Kivik.
  12. Rävemåla Church, Småland Sweden (Lutheran). Completed in the late 19th century, it was the replacement church for the original church of the Broberg, (Magnusson) and Bloom families in Älmeboda.
  13. Eljaröd Church, Smaland Sweden (Lutheran). Another ancestral church on the Anderson family line.
  14. Växjö Cathedral, Småland Sweden (Catholic > Lutheran). A 12th century cathedral with a distinctive double spire, it was the seat of a bishop. With the reformation, this became a Lutheran church.
  15. Storkyrkan (Coronation Church), Stockholm Sweden (Lutheran). Dating back to at least 1279, it is where the king and queens of Sweden were crowned until 1873.
  16. St. Gertrude’s (Tyska kyrkan or German Church), Stockholm Sweden (Lutheran). A 14th century church in Gamla Stan.
  17. Tuomiokirkko Church, Helsinki Finland (Lutheran) The church was built in 1830-1852 as a tribute to Russian Czar Nicholas I. Until Finish independence in 1917, it was called St. Nicholas church
  18. Uspenski Cathederal, Helsinki Finland (Orthodox). The distinctive red-brick church on the top of a hill makes it a landmark of Helsinki. It was built in 1862-1868 and is claimed to be the largest Orthodox church in Western Europe.
  19. Cathedral at Peter Paul Fortress, St. Petersburg Russia (Orthodox). Built between 1712 and 1733, it is the final resting place of many Russian Czars.
  20. St Isaacs Cathedral, St. Petersburg Russia (Orthodox). Completed in 1858 as the largest church in Russia, it was closed by the Soviets and turned to a museum of atheism. The famous Bronze Horseman statue stands in the square out front.
  21. Church of our Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg Russia (Orthodox). An iconic symbol of St. Petersburg, it was built as a memorial to Czar Alexander II at the exact location where he was assassinated. It was completed in 1907 by Nicholas II.
  22. Cathedral of St Peter & Pavel, Petrodvorets Russia (Orthodox). This cathedral looks much like the Church on Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, but is located near the Peterhoff Palace.
  23. Peter-Paul Church at Peterhoff Russia (Orthodox). The gold domes are impressive.
  24. Alexander Nevsky Cathederal, Tallinn Estonia (Orthodox). Completed in 1900, when Estonia was part of the Russian empire and meticulously restored after Estonia regained independence in 1991.
  25. St. Nicholas' Church, Tallinn Estonia (Catholic) Built in the 13th century.
  26. St. Olov’s Chruch, Tallinn Estonia (Lutheran) first built in the 12th century, its spire was the tallest in the former Soviet Union, once reaching 522 feet.
  27. St. Mary's Cathedral, Gdansk Poland (Catholic) The 14th century church is the largest brick cathedral in the world. We climbed the 400 steps to the top to view the city.
  28. Akershus fortress church (a wedding was in progress), Oslo Norway (Lutheran)
  29. Oslo Cathedral (under construction) Oslo Norway (Catholic)

You can see pictures of most of them in a slide show here:

Or you can look at them individually here:

(The folder and slide-show also contain churches from our previous trip to Europe. )

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Scandinavian Treats

When we travel, we often seek out the best local treats. We visit bakeries and chocolate shops in search of a taste of the local flavors. Sometimes you have to ask what items are local and which are imported. We stopped in one candy store in Reykjavik and the kind storekeeper explained that all the chocolates in the display were Belgian chocolates:

She probably thought we were strange when we asked what local items she had. Probably most shoppers are looking for the famous imported Belgian chocolates, but we thought, you can get those most anywhere, we’re only in Iceland this one day, so we better taste something from here. Anyway, she kindly directed us to one small shelf in the back where the local items were. Most of the local stuff was Licorice and just one brand of chocolate bars called Sirius. Strange as it may sound, one of the Sirius chocolate bars included licorice bits. We were fascinated by the combination and had to try it. It turned out to be great, but now I can’t find it anywhere on the web where I can order more.

The local licorice was also excellent and we had some great black-licorice ropes with a coconut cream center – yum! As we went on to Denmark and Sweden, we continued to see more varieties of licorice. Licorice mints, licorice candy, and licorice ropes sold by street vendors in Stockholm.
Licorice Vendor

We did try a variety of local chocolate bars too. Some from Iceland, Denmark and Russia seemed to have the best, but even so, it really didn’t compare to Swiss or Belgian chocolate.

When we were on our own in Sweden, we visited many bakeries and frequently saw some of the same wonderful looking confections. There seemed to be several staples of the Swedish bakeries, one was the chokoladball, which was a small chocolate confection usually with coconut shavings on the outside.

One day we let the kids pick out a treat for after dinner and they chose a package of these chocolate balls. To their great surprise they were filled with some kind of rum or cognac based marzipan filling. The boys turned up their noses and were quite disappointed.

The very next night, they decided to try the chocolate logs. Again they found a marzipan filling with some rum flavoring. They asked: “What is it with this marzipan stuff!” and gave up on the Swedish bakery treats.

Finally, I must document the most wonderful form of licorice candy I've every tasted. On our way back through Copenhagen airport, we visited one of the airport duty-free shops and found this Anthon Berg Licorice Fudge, made in Denmark. There is nothing else like this in the world. It has the rich creamy texture of fudge, with the delicate taste of real licorice. This stuff is so good you may be tempted to each too much at once. Be aware that licorice has many health benefits, but one side effect is that it can act as a laxative. It should also be avoided by people with high-blood pressure or diabetes, otherwise enjoy!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Where in the world have we been?

This is geographic summary of our recent trip. First, the map below shows the course of our cruise on the Baltic (click to see enlarged image):

I have also uploaded GPS track-files that show a sort of "cookie-crumb" trail of places we walked along the way. The map below shows the cities where a few of these track files are located (click to enlarge):
To view any of the individual walking tours, use the links below:

Saturday, June 21, 2008

More on Broberg roots in Småland

We visited both farms of the Magnus Magnusson family in the Älmeboda area. The first was his parent’s Magnus Nilsson (b. Aug 9, 1793) and Anna Kajsa Dunberg’s (b. July 2, 1797) farm of Skräddaremåla Norregård in Älmeboda, Kronoberg, Småland Sweden. The photo above shows the home presently on this farm.
See in Google Earth

Boamala Ostergard
We also located the boyhood home of Magnus Magnusson, which is Boamåla Östergård farm in Rävemåla, Kronoberg, Småland Sweden. If you look closely (or go to the enlarged picture on Flickr) you can see the farm name on the sign out front. Again the photo above shows the present day house on this farm. I have no idea if this house is old or new, but the style seems to by typical of the area.
See in Google Earth

Magnus left this farm to emigrate to America when he was only 17 years old (May 1853). The photo below shows Magnus much older, probably in the early 1900s.

The photos below show the outside and inside of the local family church in nearby Rävemåla.
Ravemala Church
Ravemala Church interior

We saw many grave stones with Magnusson indicated, some of which were simply marked as “familjegrav”. An example is also shown below.

See additional photos and details on this area in the previous post.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Churches of Skäne Sweden

Eljaröd Church Front
Eljaröd Church was the childhood home church of Metta Hansdotter (wife of Anders Olsson), fraternal grandmother of Florence Anderson Broberg. Metta was born Oct 11, 1826 in Onslunda Sweden. Her son Nels Anderson (9 of 11) immigrated to Minnesota in the late 1800s and became Florence’s father.

Onslunda Church

Onslunda Church
is the home church and in the birthplace of Nels Anderson, father of Florence Anderson Broberg and Nels' parents Anders Olsson & Metta Hansdotter. Nels was born Oct 25, 1867.

Heingetorp and Lövestad are the childhood home of Anders Olsson (b. May 21, 1821 grandfather of Florence) and his ancestors before him who were tenant farmers.

Ravlunda Church -2
Ravlunda Church was the home church of Hanna Larsdotter Person (wife of Nels Person). She was born in Ravlunda on Nov 8, 1836. They immigrated to Minnesota around 1870. She was the maternal grandmother of Florence Anderson Broberg.

Ravlunda Church
Ravlunda Church history from local sign:
On 29 May 1749, Carl von Linné and his secretary Olof Söderberg visited Ravlunda, where they spent the night with the Rev. Anders Thornaeus in the latter’s vicarage. Describing the 13th century church at Ravlunda, Linné wrote that it is “situated on a very high ground, surrounded by the most delightful fields sloping down from it on all sides”. All that is left of the 18th-century vicarage is the mid-18th century granite base on which the present building stands. Linné went on to the water’s edge and inspected the “lund” or grove which he noted, “gave Raflunda its name”. Centuries old oaks still shelter this beautiful spot, and you may as Linné did, find pieces of amber on the shore, “hurled up by the sea”.

The GPS tracks can be seen here:

The Flickr Map marked with these photos can be seen here:

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sweden's West Coast (June 15, 2008)

Helsingborg, Lund and Malmo (updated)

This was our last full day in Sweden and essentially began our long journey home. We drove south and toward the west coast, bypassing Goteborg for a more express route to the southern cities along the coast. Our first stop was the quaint seaside village of Helsingborg. This town is located on the tip of a small peninsula that reaches out toward Denmark. This distance to the twin city of Helsingør on the other side of the straight is only two miles. It is easy to sea this area has had close ties to Denmark for ages.

Another thing that stuck us about these three towns of Helsingborg, Lund and Malmo is the apparent old English influence in the architecture. There were many Tudor style buildings in all three towns that were not seen in the other parts of Sweden we have visited. In Helsingborg, we needed a break from the long car ride and found a tower to climb, not as tall as some of the others, but enough to give our legs a nice work out as we spiraled up the narrow stairway.
Helsingborg view
The view of Helsingborg from the castle tower

The view from the top was worth it and we could easily see prominent features in Denmark on the other side and ferry boats crossing back and forth. Also in Helsingborg, we found an excellent authentic Indian-food restaurant for lunch and it was a welcome change for everyone. We made this our big meal of the day and enjoyed all of our favorites.

In the town of Lund, we found the Domkyrkan, which is the oldest cathedral in all of Sweden and was founded in the 12th century. This cathedral was also very large, and I would say that for interior space rivals the St Mary’s Cathedral in Gdansk, which was said to hold 25,000 people. This is one of the original cathedrals in Sweden that was still being used for regular services. It was Sunday when we visited, but we were a bit too late in the afternoon to attend one of the protestant services that was held there. The art work inside was quite amazing and the photos can not capture the detail.

The oldest cathedral in Sweden, located in Lund

Right around the corner from the church was the Lund University and to our surprise, they were having a renaissance festival today in a very old English part of town. We walked around and enjoyed some reenactments of life in the middle ages and heard some old English music being sung in Swedish.

Lund Festival musicians

We found the hotel Rica for our last night in Malmo right on the center town square. The hotel was first-rate in every way and being right in the center of town gave us quite a different experience than our previous farmstays and B&Bs. That night in Malmo was the final game of the quarter finals of the Euro-2008 (soccer championships). Sweden had been eliminated in the game the day before, so we weren’t expecting the attention the games had to the local crowds.

On the town square there were many sidewalks bars and coffee shops that had quite a crowd as we retired for the evening. Periodically we would hear the crowds break out into cheers or jeers until the game ended about midnight. Then it seemed the entire town brook loose in a huge party with singing, chanting, car-horns and people marching and banging on drums. This was on a Sunday night after midnight. We were quite surprised at the reaction and could never really understand the reaction to what we learned was a victory for Turkey. Why would Swedish soccer fans be so enthusiastic over a Turkish victory?
Malmo Square
Malmo Square

We all had a very enjoyable vacation and the range of experiences of the past three weeks will stick with us forever. The boys really enjoyed some of the independence we extended to them on this trip and were always willing to take on the next adventure. We spent many evenings just talking and getting to know one another in ways that we seldom have a chance for at home. I think there remains an urge in each one of us to come back and visit some of these areas again.

More photos are available here:

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Exploring Vastergötland (June 14, 2008)

We went further north today to explore the “Great Lakes” district of central Sweden. This area is known as Vastergötland. Compared to Smäland, large sections of forests have been cleared with rolling hills of farm land that is often planted with wheat, corn and other grains. There are also many farms with Holstein cows on dairy farms and it ends up looking an awful lot like parts of Wisconsin. Like Skäne to the south, we again saw many modern windmills generating electricity on hilltops. We also saw a few of the older windmills from more than 100 years ago.
Västergötland windmill
Antique Windmill in Västergötland

On the way we came across the ruins of the Gudhem convent built just near the end of the Viking era in 1160. This was one of the first eleven convents built in Sweden in the 12th century. It was used by the sisters of the Cisterician order. There was a hidden sanctuary below ground level where they gave refuge to pilgrims who were traveling through. The boys got their flashlights and went spelunking in the subterranean rooms.
Gudhem convent ruins
Gudhem convent ruins

We also visited the historic town of Lidköping and toured the Rörstrand porcelain factory museum and store. We walked around town and explored the gardens and the flea market in the town square. We’ve found that food choices for lunch in most of these small Swedish towns are very limited. You can always find a Konditori or Bageri that sell wonderful pastries and sweets, but in Sweden, these are for an afternoon coffee break not for consumption in the morning when they eat plain breads and rolls. The second choice you find is the Pizzeria & Kebobs restaurants. That’s about it. You can have sweets or you can have Pizza for lunch. Today we found about 4 or 5 of each style in Lidköping and went with the Pizza Kebob choice. Of course the pizzas always come on many varieties that you won’t find in the USA. Today Kenny and I both ordered the banana-curry pizza. Surprisingly it was quite yummy!
Swedish Pizza
Swedish Pizza

Out on the end of a long peninsula, surrounded by Sweden’s largest lake Vänern, which is more than 2,100 square miles, we found the historic Läckö castle. This baroque style castle has a history going back to 1298 and was originally a bishop’s castle, but reverted to the state at the reformation. I have some pictures of the outside, but the inside was off-limits to cameras. Compared to any of the Russian palaces, this one was quite humble.
Läckö Slott
Läckö Castle

The photos for Vastergötland are located here:

Växjö to Ulricehamn (June 13, 2008)

Today was a day of struggles with our limited knowledge of Swedish. Once again we’ve proved that if you look hard enough you can always find insufficient English in a foreign country. First we had some driving struggles after being misdirected by the GPS in Växjö, not understanding some of the signs. Next, we scratched our heads over how to pay for parking in the automatic parking ticket machines. At the gas station, I looked like another dummy who didn’t have a clue how to operate the pay-at-the-pump machine. In a grocery, we picked what looked like a tasty chocolate confection and it turned out to be flavored with strong liqueurs and no one liked the taste. In the B&B we struggled with how to get the washing machine to work. At the end of the day we can laugh at ourselves, and continue to enjoy the adventure.

Teleborg Slott
Teleborg Castle

This morning we moved to our next location, which is further north and further west. We started by visiting the town of Växjö. We had a few laughs as the GPS routed us to our first destination (Teleborg Castle). The roads kept getting smaller and smaller and we finally ended up on a narrow brick road that looked more like a bike path. We finally concluded that the car probably didn’t belong on this “road” and turned it around and went back out of what was a university campus the same way we came in. Too bad we couldn’t read the signs and figured it out before we scared anyone.

Växjö is a city that is spread through the land bridges that separate six large lakes that surround it on three of four sides. The Teleborg Castle seemed to be hosting some type of formal event when we attempted to enter, so we bypassed the tour and just admired it from the outside.

We moved on to the Centrum (city center) and after struggling with the parking meter machines, we visited the Emigrants Museum. There was a lot of history about the early Swedish emigrants who came from the areas here in Sweden where our ancestors came from and migrated to the same region in Minnesota originally.
Emigrants Museum
Emigrants Museum

Växjö was the first city we’ve been in since Copenhagen and they had a store called Media Markt (similar to Best Buy) and Becky found an Abba CD to buy so we could listen to something appropriate in the car as we drove around. (You do remember that Swedish group from the 80’s don’t you?) We also saw the first “fast-food” place since leaving the Copenhagen, called “Max” which is similar to McDonald’s. We took advantage of the chance to feed the hungry boys and found the teenagers working inside better with their English than most folks around, so there were no communication problems there.

The roads north began to get hillier and the thick forests persisted. The highways also got more crowded as we got into civilization and there more than just timber trucks now. While our route took us through Jönköping, we didn’t stop there since this big city seemed to be quite an industrial center and our tour books didn’t have any sights identified other than the Husqvarna factory. We continued west and arrived in Ulrichamn in late afternoon. After walking around the shopping district we drove to the other side of lake and settled into our guesthouse at Brunnsnäs Sätari Bed & Breakfast. This is a wonderful country estate on a large farm with goats and cattle, right on the lake overlooking the town on the opposite side. Once again we have a separate small guesthouse just to ourselves.
Ulricehamn shopping
Shopping in Ulricehamn

The weather was cooler today with some intermittent sprinkles and a maximum temperature of only about 14°-15° C. This was great for us and it means great sleeping weather with the cooler air. Now if we could just get some darkness during the night….

The pictures from Växjö to Ulricehamn are at this link:

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Exploring Broberg roots in Småland (June 12, 2008)

We programmed key Broberg family historical sights into the GPS and set out to explore the locations today. We had good success and were able to verify the locations by local signs in every case.

This region of Småland is heavily forested and it seems the main industry here is logging. I guess we must have some lumberjack blood. The farms in the area are few and often very small and simply cut out of a forest. The ground is very rocky and includes moss-covered boulders ranging from watermelon-size to volkswagon-size. Most of the farms are divided by ancient stone walls apparently made from clearing these stones from fields.
The Bridge in Bro Sweden (bro=bridge)

We visited two farms of the Magnus Magnusson family in the Älmeboda area. Recall the son who emigrated was named Magnus Magnusson and changed it to Broberg and his father was named Magnus Nilsson. We also explored the local family church in nearby Rävemåla and saw many grave stones with Magnusson indicated, some of which were simply marked as “familjegrav”.
Boamala Ostergard
The present day home at the farm of Boamala Ostergard (Magnus Broberg's birthplace)

We explored other sites including Gustaf Collin’s mill (Källerström), and the Gustaf Bloom & Carl Bloom farms at Askeberga. I embarrassed myself several times and knocked on the doors of the homes in these places to see if anyone spoke English or knew of the history, but in most cases no one answered the doors, even though sometimes we saw faces in the windows as we departed. The few people I did speak to, who knew English were knew to the area themselves and did not know much of any local history.

A primary industry of this area is the glasricket or crystal making and glass-blowing. While we didn’t see any banjos today, we did see some glass trumpets at the Kosta glass works. We had a great time watching the craftsman (and ladies) blowing glass and making spectacular crystal items. After a few hours exploring all the offerings we settled on a few pieces and arranged to have them shipped home.
Kosta Glass
At Kosta Glass Factory Store

Everyone is still well and tomorrow we move on again to our next location, further north.

The Småland photos are located here:

The most recent photos have also been geotagged, so they will show up on the Flickr Map located here:

June 11, 2008 From Skåne to Småland Sweden

We explored some more around Kivik this morning, visiting the apple processing plant and factory store. We learned that in Sweden apple cider is required by law to have a certain percentage of alcohol or it can not be called “cider”. We enjoyed some of the wonderful juice produced in this factory and discovered the world’s best chocolate covered almonds there too. These even beat the ones we found in Switzerland three years ago, because they were dusted in a delicate cinnamon over the chocolate. Even some of the boys who don’t like nuts of any kind fell in love with these. I’m sorry to report that we will not be able to bring any back with us, since they seemed to disappear mysteriously.
Elm Driveway

We stopped for lunch at the Elmvik’s farm near Degeberga. They prepared some really wonderful fish, potatoes and salad and we finished later in the afternoon with a chocolate torte. I was waiting to get a good capture of one of the modern windmills and learned that Bertil manages an electric generating wind mill near his farm. Today was rather windy and cooler with some intermittent sprinkles and the windmill was producing efficiently.

We were all struck by the antique clock of the Elmvik farm. Bertil told us some of the history about it being one of the only items from the original farmhouse that survived a fire many years ago. The best guess is that this clock is over 250 years old, making it older than the United States! This farm has been in the Elmvik’s family longer than that and the driveway was lined with rows of mature elm trees, creating a great tunnel effect. The Elviks were wonderful hosts and gave us a brief tour of the farm after lunch.

We continued our journey to Småland in the late afternoon and found our next accommodations quite comfortable. The landscape seemed to change dramatically from Skåne to Småland as the flat open pastures and orchards were replaced by forests of tall pines and oaks with rocky soil and rolling hills and lakes. The homes also changed as we saw the first homes painted yellow as we went further north. In Skåne virtually all the homes were the rusty-red color, white or a dull concrete. The yellow looks quite inviting as you can see from the picture of our guesthouse.

In some ways this area looks a bit like northern Minnesota with the plentiful lakes and the tall pine forests, but we found it to be a bit more like Alabama or Arkansas if you know what I mean. The people here seem a bit more “country” and surprisingly we found few who spoke English. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I could hear dueling banjos, but this was just our first encounters tonight for dinner in a small town. Overall it is an interesting contrast with the farmlands further south.

I will upload photos from Småland next time.

June 10, 2008 Touring Skåne Sweden

While we don’t quite have “midnight sun” where we are located, we did have a dusk that blended right through to dawn and it never got completely dark during the night. Since we didn’t have windows from our cabins on the ship, we don’t know if this has been the case before.

Some may wonder why we chose to spend time out in the country in this part of Sweden. First it is a very beautiful country setting with ocean views, orchards and sea breezes. We also chose this area because this is where the towns are located where my grandmother’s side of the family emigrated. Nels Anderson from Onslunda, Anders Olson from Heingetorp and Eljaröd and Hanna Larsdotter and Hanna Person from Ravlunda. I thought it would be interesting to see the type of area they came from (plus we needed a break from all the big city tourism stuff).

Today we did some sight seeing and exploration of this area and visited each of these towns and villages. They all had a single church and I managed to take pictures of most of them. While they all have graveyards near the church, it is a typical Swedish custom to re-use grave sites from generation to generation, so most had very few remaining tomb stones from more than 50 years ago. If they did, they were often piled up in one corner or lined up under a tree on the side of the yard. Of course the names on this side of the family are quite common and we saw dozens of more modern grave stones with the same or similar names.

We had some dark clouds and some intermittent sprinkles today, but nothing that upset our plans. We also visited a few of the local palaces in this area including Kristinehof and Kronovall Slott. The countryside also has some very scenic vistas overlooking both historical and modern wind mills. Like Denmark, Sweden has made a large investment in wind energy and modern wind turbines sprout from hillsides or from shallow bays in the ocean. But there are also many historical wind mills that were used to grind various grains from the 19th century. These old wind mills have a very Dutch looking design and form an interesting contrast with the modern electric generators.

Not far here in Kivik is a mysterious site that is believed to be the burial site of an ancient bronze-age king. What’s left is a 150 foot circular mound of stones that has a subterranean entrance way to a tomb below that contains carved stones with unknown markings. This is called the Kungagraven.

Becky wanted to make use of the kitchen tonight so we went to get a few things from the grocery for dinner. We were going to make one of the family favorites: Chicken Tika-Masala, but the store was out of chicken. We had to improvise and ended up substituting some Swedish meatballs for the chicken. While it may have been a cultural abomination (Swedish/Indian mix) the Swedish meatball tika masala was yummy!

The slide show for Skåne Sweden is located here:

June 9, 2008 Copenhagen to Skåne Sweden

Since leaving Norway, most of us have been suffering from allergies or fighting off a cold. To make matters worse, the seas of the north Atlantic were not as calm as the Baltic when returning from Oslo. Once we left the protection of the fjords, the seas were 1.5 – 4 feet and this was the most unsettling part of the trip. Becky was hit the hardest and this was during the time while we needed to pack up our bags. Thankfully, the seas calmed down as we reentered the protection between Denmark and Sweden sometime during the night. We left the Crown Princess this morning after our last breakfast aboard the ship.

There was some stress about whether the rental car we reserved would have enough space for all five of us and our big luggage. This has always been the hardest part of traveling with the family when renting a car, since they don’t guarantee a certain model. The last time we did this, the boys were much smaller and we didn’t need to pack for a cruise. We reserved an Opel Sophia, which is a car that is not available in the USA, but is a sort of cross-over mini-van stationwagon. We judged that it would just barely have sufficient room and may require some juggling to make it work. The next larger size was actually a regular sedan and would not have worked. To go even larger would have required the VW Mini-bus with that holds 9 passengers – not so easy to park or maneuver.

After some juggling of the bags, and putting one of the third row seats down and one up, we were just barely able to get all the bags in, with someplace left for everyone to sit. We had to beg with the rental counter to leave the retractable cargo cover behind so the bags could stand upright.

Driving in foreign countries is always difficult too. The basic signs are understandable, but there are too often signs with words that can’t be read and you just have to guess or try to have someone descramble them from the dictionary while you’re driving. I did get some nasty remarks in Copenhagen after doing a right-turn-on-red; something that is apparently verboten. But this is all part of the more immersive travel experience we wanted.

After crossing the bridge to Malmö, we picked up some local currency and headed east along the southern coast of Sweden. Our first stop was the ancient Viking fortress at Trelleborg. This is the excavation sight of one of the largest wooden structures recovered from the Viking era. The museum is brand new and only just opened a few months ago. The outside exhibits have been in place for many years and include reproductions of the ancient city wall and some of the buildings.

After stopping along the coast to look at beaches and speculate on the concrete bunkers that remain along the south coast, probably from WWII we passed through several small towns and villages. Most of the countryside was fields of grain and wild flowers with red poppies, purple lupines, and white daisies blooming. The further east we progressed the more wooded the areas became.

This experience was such a contrast to the more Disneyland-type experience on the cruise ship. By that I mean when we’re on our own we are immersed into the culture. For example while on the cruise, we only get to see major cities, and only for short periods of time and with limited need to communicate other than to purchase basic purchases. On the other hand, after our visit to the Trelleborg museum we asked the museum attendant for some suggestions for lunch. She pointed us to a local place that was on the second floor above a local car dealership. We never would have recognized this as a restaurant without her guidance. When we went in, we found a very nice lunch place that was clearly a favorite among the locals. We enjoyed roasted Ox, with cream gravy and other local fixings in a smorgasbord setting. Everyone agreed this was by far the most regionally typical meal we’d had on our trip.

The GPS guided us precisely to our First farm-stay, but since the hedgerows along the roadway were so tall, we drove right past and kept searching, thinking we’d missed it. After circling around a few times and re-reading her written instructions we concluded the GPS was right all along and we went down the driveway to find we were in the right place. The guest house was once a barn and has been very nicely remodeled to be just perfect for our visit. The boys have three beds in an upstairs loft area and Becky & I have a separate room on the ground floor. There is also a sitting area and a small kitchen.

The house overlooks the Baltic sea to the east and is surrounded by orchards with seem to be mostly apple trees. The two closest towns are Kivik (pronounced as ‘she-vik’) and Sodra Melby. Both are very small villages along the far eastern tip of Skane. We went to Simrishamn for dinner last night and after struggling with the Swedish menu, had a very nice meal at a sidewalk café.

The photos from Skåne Sweden are located here:

Monday, June 09, 2008

Last Cruise Stop: Oslo Norway (June 8, 2008)

Someone once described the city of Oslo as “aggressively ugly”. After the other cities we’ve recently visited, I have to agree. Not that it is a bad place to visit, just architecturally ugly by comparison. By contrast coming in and out of Oslo by boat through the fjords makes it beautiful. There were many sailboats, beaches and beautiful homes dotting the coast and the islands, which more than compensated.
Oslo Town Hall

We did take the ferry boat across the fjord and see the famous Viking Ship Museum. The condition of these 1,000 year-old ships and artifacts are amazing. What is surprising is the level of detailed carving work done on all of the wood items. The museum has more than just the original ships, but also houses artifacts found in the ship-graves including carved wood sleds, wagons, cooking tools and other domestic items.

Walking around within Oslo, is a bit like walking around Des Moines. Other than the one Askershus fortress, and the many statues of naked people there isn’t much that would place you in Europe if you woke up here. However the many old ships, the harbor and the fjords make it interesting. It’s too bad we couldn’t spend more time to explore Norway, I’d love to go north and see Bergen and beyond. We heard that Oslo is also a very expensive city. It was recently voted as the most expensive city in all the word, surpassing even Tokyo and London on the recent survey. But with all the shops closed on Sunday, we really never noticed.

The pictures of Oslo, Norway can be found here:

Saturday, June 07, 2008

G’Day from Gdansk Poland (June 6, 2008)

We opted for the self-guided exploration today in Gdansk. We really didn’t know much about this city before coming here, but once again the ship provides a nice introduction to each location prior to going ashore. Gdansk like Tallinn has a very rich history going back more than 1,000 years. However Gdansk was nearly destroyed in WWII leaving the historic old town in ruins. While Tallinn was mostly original, Gdansk has been restored based on old photographs and historic records at great expense. Some of that restoration is still underway but most of the old town is beautifully restored.

Gdansk is also a much larger and more modern city and includes suburbs that run up the coast continuously all the way to our port city in Gdynia which was about 40 miles north. The traffic was heavy, but no where as bad as St. Petersburg.

On our way into town, we drove past Lech Welesa’s present home and the church where he attends, but weren’t able to take pictures from the bus. We found a great little Pierogarnia (restaurant that specializes in Polish pierogies) for lunch and shared a wide variety of the stuffed dumplings.

We learned the origin of the American slang word: “doozy” as it was used in polish to describe the extra large soft-serve ice-cream cones, spelled “duzy”. We saw these little “Lody” ice cream stands were everywhere and finally decided the smaller size was just right for us. That duzy might end up on our lap before we could finish it.

Since we were on our own, we could afford to take some side-trips to explore some of the areas the organized tours won’t go. Today we climbed the 400 steps to the top of the highest tower in town at the Church of our Lady (St Mary’s) built in 1343. This church is supposed to be the largest brick church in the world and supposedly holds 25,000 people (standing). The view from the top was spectacular.

Since Poland is the first area we’ve been that is predominately Catholic, the churches have a different feel inside than the Orthodox churches we’ve visited and very different from the Lutheran churches. This church had an amazing amount of skulls and other gruesome decorations. Some of the tomb stones on the floor even included what looks like the skull & crossbones typically used by pirates.

Once again you can see from the photos that we were blessed with perfect weather and clear blue skies. Finally as we were pulling out of the Polish harbor, we saw what looked like the makings of a new Polack joke as a large navy cruiser was being towed back to the harbor – it looked quite embarrassing for the crew. As we came around we saw that it was sailing under an American flag!

You can see the Gdansk pictures here:

I've also updated the map to include Gdansk and Tallin photos here:

Thursday, June 05, 2008

3.5 hours in Tallinn, Estonia (June 5, 2005)

Who ever said travelling by cruise ship was slow and relaxing hasn’t been on this Baltic Cruise. The pace has been anything but slow, with start times to go ashore sometimes before 7 AM. Today’s stop was no exception, but since we were exploring on our own today, we slept in and left the ship a full two hours after the first opportunity.

We had more wonderfully fair weather again today and calm seas last night. We woke up while docking in the Baltic Republic of Estonia this morning. After a more leisurely breakfast, we packed our cameras and walked into old-town Tallinn, which was only about a mile from the harbor.

Tallinn is a fascinating city with a very rich history and culture. The region has been ruled under the Danish, the Germans, the Swedes, the Finns and the Russians most recently, but the people have their own language and have managed to preserve their own unique culture through the ages and various rules. Tallinn is perhaps the most well preserved medieval town in Northern Europe, but one of the least known. I tried to capture some candid shots including some of the local people, showing how Scandinavian they appear.

When we stopped at the Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in the upper town, there was an orthodox service underway at 10 this morning. I’m not sure if this was something that occurred daily, or it was some special orthodox holiday, but we listened to the choir sing for a while and tried not to disturb the worshipers, so there are no pictures inside.

Just after enjoying some of the local pastries in a town square cafe, Austin and I climbed up the 12th century bell tower of the historic Town Hall building. The very high steps of the spiral stone steps led to a great view over the city.

The pictures of Tallinn can be found here:

The GPS track log is located here:

St. Petersburg warms up to us (June 4, 2008)

The weather for today was clear and warmer. Considering that St Petersburg receives only an average of 76 sunny days per year, we were sure blessed with one of the best days of the year today.

Our tour took us first to Catherine’s Palace. We arrived before the museum was open to the public, but since many tours arrived along with us, it was still quite crowded. Catherine’s Palace was severely damaged during WWII and only recently has been restored. One of the last items to be completed, just 4 years ago was the restoration of the Amber Room. This was a 400 year old room within the palace that is completely lined with panels made from Baltic Amber. Unfortunately, they don’t allow any photos in that room, but some of the other pictures will give you an idea of the magnificence of the baroque style and the extensive gold plating.

We enjoyed another lunch today in the small town of Pushkin where Catherine’s Palace is located. We had more traditional music and caviar with our lunch.

The afternoon was spent at the Peterhoff Palace located Southwest of St. Petersburg on the Finish Sea. This palace was used as the Summer Palace and it enjoys a milder climate and has wonderful gardens and fountains. The gardens were blooming with lilacs, apple blossoms, and tulips of many colors. The fountains were a highlight of the gardens and each one was adorned with gold leaf and had some unique feature or style. I have included photos showing a few examples.

At this point in the tour, the castles start to all look alike on the inside. They all use the baroque style extensively and have unbelievable amounts of gold throughout. Peterhoff was almost completely destroyed during the Nazi occupation of WWII and has been extensively restored just recently to the original glory and style.

Our bus trip back to the harbor was an exercise in traffic brutality. We were supposed to return to the ship by 5PM, but since we were running a bit behind schedule, we ended up in the middle of town at 5PM when the rush hour traffic was at its worst. There was one intersection near the entrance to the harbor that was totally grid-locked with cars and trucks coming the other way. There were so many cars coming the other way, they filled all the lanes of the road we needed to enter the harbor. Our bus driver carefully moved in behind a large truck that forced his way down the road, actually making some of the cars back-up to clear the way. Since we were on a guided tour, the ship was required to wait for us, but we later learned that about 6 passengers who were on their own exploring the city did not make it back before the ship sailed for Tallinn – leaving them stranded in Russia!

All of the Russia Pictures can be found here:

St. Petersburg, Russia - June 3, 2008

This morning we awoke in Russia! After such perfect weather, it seemed almost fitting that we were greeted with the traditional Russian cold, damp and cloudy weather. This properly set the mood for our first day to explore St. Petersburg. We were on a formal organized bus tour today. We had a very nice Russian guide who was born in this area, but may have benefited from some deodorant.

The security was tight leaving the ship and we were required to maintain close contact with the guide at all times. We hit several major sights throughout the city today, but many of those were simply drive-by sightings. From a moving bus it is very difficult to take any good pictures.

Our first brief stop for pictures was St. Isaac’s Cathedral, we stopped once more briefly near the Navel Museum before parking at the St Peter and Paul fortress. The traffic in town was very heavy as St Petersburg is the most populous city we’ve visited thus far. The tourist stops were also made worse by the several thousand extra visitors from the four very large cruise ships that were ported for a visit today. Our own cruise ship had no less than 9 full-sized tour busses operating on the same route as our own.

We had a very brief stop at the Church of our Savior of Spilled Blood and a small market plaza and didn’t realize it would be our only shopping excursion. We ran out of time before we could haggle with the vendors for the best trinkets. We enjoyed a lunch in town at the Academy restaurant and had live entertainment with lunch by traditional Russian folk musicians. Everyone tried the caviar, but not everyone enjoyed it.

Most of the afternoon was spent at the Hermitage Museum (Winter Palace). Neither the words on a blog nor a few snap shots can properly describe this place. The opulence and grandeur of the palace was amazing and the very small portion of the art work we could see in a few hours was stunning. This included Picasso, Monet, Michelangelo, Leonardo Divinci, Renoir and many others. They told us if you were to just look at each piece of artwork for only 10 seconds for 24 hours a day, the collection is so large, that it would take ten years to see everything!

All of the Russia Pictures can be found here:

A Day in Helsinki, Finland (June 2, 2008)

Everyone seems to be enjoying the cruise vacation. There are definitely things to like about this mode of transport – like waking up to a new city every day and never having to unpack. Austin gave us this quote: “What could be better than sitting around a pool, with pizza and ice cream, while watching an outdoor movie on a big screen, on cruise ship in Sweden!” The calm seas of the Baltic have also helped everyone avoid any symptoms of sea-sickness. Praise the Lord we are all in good health.

It was another near perfect day in Finland with temperatures in the high 60s maybe reaching low 70s by mid-afternoon. The boys chose to stay on the ship in the morning while Becky and I went exploring in town. We took a shuttle bus the few miles into town to save some time and explored churches, the palace and the market square.

Helsinki is a very clean town and not as large as Stockholm or Copenhagen. The fragrance of fresh lilac flowers permeated the city. Everywhere we turned there were fresh lilacs and other fruit trees blooming. The locals seemed warm and friendly and eagerly spoke English.

For the afternoon, we signed up for a “Jopo Bike” tour. Jopo bikes are bicycles made locally and are easy to ride single speed with wide tires and tall handle bars. The city was mostly flat and it made the 10 mile ride around town quite leisurely.

In order to streamline the on-line time I’ve simplified the blog entries to just text, but the photos will be still available on Flickr. I will also suspend the geotagging of the photos until I can get more bandwidth. I’ll give a link location to each new slide show.

The Helsinki photos can be found here:

The Helsinki GPS track-log for our walking tour can be seen here:

The Jobo bike tour GPS track-log can be seen here:

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Whirlwind tour of Stockholm

We had just over 5 hours to explore Stockholm today. After all the heavy food, we decided to hoof it and try to keep a faster pace. We managed about the same distance again as we have been doing in Copenhagen and Reykjavik but in less time.

Here are some of the photo highlights with a few more located on Flickr in the Stockholm slideshow.
Or you can look at the GPS Track-Log here.

Approaching Stockholm
Approaching Stockholm from the harbor.

Royal Palace Court
The court of the Royal Palace

Royal Guards
The Royal Guards

Coronation Church Door
A door of the Coronation Church (The Great Cathedral)

Gamla Stan street
A street scene in Gamla Stan

Stortorget Square
Stortorget Square in Gamla Stan

Prison Lunch
Lunch in an ancient prison below the streets of Gamla Stan

Strandvagen Street
A view of Strandvagen Street

Licorice Vendor
A street vendor selling licorice!

Royal Rest Stop
A royal rest stop at the palace.

At Sea

Saturday was a full day at sea on our way to Stockholm. There are two reasons it takes so long to go from Copenhagen to Stockholm. First we're told the water is too shallow for the large ships to go directly under the Malmo bridge and the alternative is to go all the way around the west side of Denmark. The second reason is that the journey up the archipelago to Stockholm is quite narrow and very long, and a slower speed is needed to navigate the islands and obstacles. This part of the journey takes about 4 hours each way.

Here are a few of the photos taken from the ship while at sea.
Sunset over the Baltic on Saturday night.

Formal dinner in the dinning room.

Royal Princess at Stockholm harbor
The Crown Princess docked at Stockholm.

calm waters
The stillness of the reflection off the swimming pool that shows how calm the seas were.

Sailing in the Archipelago
Sunday evening outside Stockholm.