Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Holidaying in Scandinavia & Eastern Europe

We flew on an A380 to Singapore with 525 passengers.
April/May 2012 my husband & I travelled to Scandinavia & Europe.
We had booked on a river cruise and planned to take in some of Europe either side of Budapest and Prague. Because we were using Qantas Frequent Flyer points, and it was within 3 months of our travel time, we had to fly into Helsinki. (Our son kindly gave us his points).
Firstly that seemed disappointing but we soon turned it into a positive experience. We purchased a Eurail ticket and booked accomodation in and Helsinki, Turku, Stockholm, Gothenberg, Frederickshavn and Copenhagen. Our 10 days in Scandinavia were fantastic and included two ferry crossings.
We travelled through Scandinavia and Germany with 1st class Eurail tickets.

We took an overnight ferry from Finland to Sweden - arriving in snow.
A 3 hour ferry from Sweden to Denmark.

We flew from Copenhagen to Budapest via Helsinki.  After exploring Budapest for 2 days we joined a 7 day cruise on the Blue Danube with Avalon Waterways.

Boarding Avalon "Imagery" in Budapest.

Our three days in Prague were busy.
Next we travelled by train to Dresden for 2 days.
A long weekend with friends in Bayreuth, visiting Bamberg and Nuremberg and we flew out of Frankfurt for home.
I had done a Google searth on the long range weather report.  It was going to be -2C - 5C in Finland and Sweden and 0C - 8C in Denmark so I was hoping for snow if it was going to be that cold.
In Europe we were expecting 9C - 15C which could be still quite cool for outdoor activities.
We did have snow in Helsinki, Stockholm and Gothenberg.
While cruising and in Prague it ranged from 22C to a record breaking April day in Prague of 32C.
We were not prepared for the high temperatures which made it quite uncomfortable at times. I have vowed to always travel for 4 seasons regardless of what the weather man says!
I hope you will enjoy reading my further blogs about our holiday in Scandinavia and Europe.

If may wish to contact the author Joy Olney via email: joyolney@gmail.com

Sunday, 29 July 2012



10 April 2012
We flew Finnar from Singapore to Helsinki.
I had hoped that we would have snow in Scandinavia and I went prepared clothes wise.
As we flew into Helsinki we could see snow on the ground so the excitement mounted.
It was very cold so made sure we had our hat, gloves and scarf on. We caught the bus at the airport and picked up passengers on their way to work. I was so awe struck as we drove through the suburbs I forgot to take photos which was unusual for me.

Finnar flight to Helsinki with sunrise and moon
Arriving in Helsinki with snow on the ground

We wandered through the city cobblestone streets and finally made it to our Hotel. There was snow in sheltered areas from the last snow fall of a few days ago. During our stay in Helsinki we visited the Lutheran Cathedral built 1830 - 1852 and Senate Square.

Lutheran Cathedral & Senate Square

The impressive Uspenski Russian Orthodox Church built 1868 is the largest Orthodox Cathedral in Western Europe.

Uspenski Russian Orthodox Church, Helsinki
Interior Uspenski Russian Orthodox Church
Presidential Palace, South Harbour, Market Square, Parliament House and Temppeliankio Church.

Parliament House, Helsinki

Presidential Palace & Uspenski Church
Temppeliankio Lutheran  (Church in the Rock)

National Museum designed in national romantic completed 1916

We took a tram ride to the terminus where we found snow on the ground and the sea was still frozen.

Frozen sea in Helsinki

13 April 2012
Our 1st class train trip from Helsinki to Turku was interesting with snow on the ground, poplars, small villages and farms.  Most houses were timber painted rust red or mustard colour.

View from train Helsinki to Turku

It was raining in Turku which was disappointing but we made it to the ferry terminal ready for our overnight crossing to Stockholm on "Europa" with Silja Line.  There were about 3000 passengers - the largest ferry in the world. It was a rat race to get on board and no directions on where to find our cabin. We had been spoilt travelling on "Dawn Princess"!  All passengers have a cabin but many only on the ferry to party.  There were lots of dining options and nightclubs. Most passengers boarded the ferry in Turku and stayed on board to return to Turku 24 hours later.  Our cabin was basic and we had a good sleep.  Snow had been falling in Stockholm for 6 hours, and still falling which was an exciting adventure for us.

"Europa" berthed in Stockholm with snow falling.
"Europa" berthed in Stockholm with snow falling.
Scandic Hotel - just a covered walkway from Dock
Stockholm from our Hotel room

14 April 2012
When we woke heavy wet snow was falling. It had been snowing for about 6 hours so it was white everywhere. Fortunately there was a covered walkway from the ferry terminal to the reception of our hotel. We were given access to a room on the 14th floor so had a great view of the terminal and surroundings.We put our thermals on and ventured out to explore Stockholm while the snow was still falling. By mid afternoon it had stopped snowing and the sun came out - but it was still only 0 degrees. 

With our thermals on we were ready to explore Stockholm
King's Garden, Stockholm
Snow outside Town Hall, Stockholm
Drottingham Palace, Stockholm
We experienced the city streets with snow, the snow plough clearing the roads and footpaths.  The Town Hall where the Nobel Peace Prize is presented each December, Gamla Stan, the old town with its cobblestone streets, Lutheran Cathedral, Market Square, Royal Palace, Opera House, and Drottingham Palace were some of the hightlights of Stockholm.

Stockholm's Town Hall

Stortorget Square, Stockholm
Gamla Stan - the old Town
Opera House, Stockholm

Gamla Stan - the old Town

16 April 2012
Train to Gothenberg and again we woke to snow but it soon melted. Went to the Zoo and old city Haga with its cobblestone strrets.  A 3 hour ferry crossing to Frederickshavn in Denmark was pleasant. Another train journey to Copenhagen, taking 7 hours.  It was flat farming with wild deer, wooly shetlands and some thatched roofed houses.

Bamens Zoo, Gothenberg
Tram in Gothenberg

18 April 2012
Copenhagen has hundreds and hundreds of bikes that share the footpath - quite an experience.
Loved Copenhagen with its Tivoli Gardens, Hans Christian Andersen influence, old canals, Churches, Royal Amalienborg Palace, Marble Church and Pania the Mermaid.

Bikes in Copenhagen
Hans Christian Andersen, Copenhagen
Canal in Copenhagen
Pania the Mermaid in Copenhagen

20 April 2012
We flew from Copenhagen to Helsinki to Budapest to commence our 12 night cruise/tour with Avalon Waterways.

Semi frozen lake in Helsinki

You may wish to contact the author Joy Olney via email: joyolney@gmail.com

Thursday, 26 July 2012



21 April 2012
After breakfast the tour group were shown around Budapest for 3 hours by coach.
We went to Heroes Square, over the Chain Bridge, past the old Palace which is now a Library, Museum & Art Gallery to Matthias Church, Fishermen's Bastion and Parliament House.

Fisherman's Bastion, Budapest
Matthias Church, Budapest
Old Palace - now Art Gallery, Museum & Library

Heroes Square, Budapest

After lunch we took a 4 hour tour "Communist Past of Budapest".  We went to Statue Park where a collection of statues from the Communist rule are found.  Budapest did not want to destroy them as they are part of history. A 1 hour 30 minute visit to "House of Terror" where terrible things happened during WW11. Many were executed there. A walk along the Danube where a bronze shoe memorial representing the shoes of those Jews who were shot and fell into the icy waters of the Danube.

Jewish Shoe Memorial by River Danube

Statue Park at Budapest
We boarded "Imagery" later in the afternoon for our 7 day cruise of the Blue Danube

Peter on board "Imagery"
Joy on board "Imagery"

Peter & Joy on board "Imagery" with Parliament House behind.
You may wish to contact the author Joy Olney via email: joyolney@gmail.com

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

7 day cruising the Blue Danube

22 April 2012
"Imagery" had 140 passengers and 30 crew on board - affectionately called a "space-ship".
There were two decks with cabins for passengers. Each cabin had a full height wide sliding door that opened with a railing.  At the front of the top deck was the Lounge and at the front of the second deck was the Dining Room. There was a lower deck for staff and some passengers but these only had portholes. There was a sky deck where we could relax in the sun or have a BBQ lunch.

Enjoying the sun deck
Atrium on board "Imagery"

Breakfast and lunch was buffet style. Afternoon tea was served.  Dinner was a 4 course meal with unlimited wine served at the table. Seating was open so we were able to meet different people as we wished. Self serve coffee and tea at any time. There was entertainment each night.
We cruised the Blue Danube at night and berthed at a variety of places during the day giving us an opportunity to visit and explore the towns and cities.  There were included tours during the day plus some extras if one wanted to visit other places. One hardly knew we were moving - we just glided through the water and so low!
Leaving from Budapest we cruised to Bratislava, Vienna, Durnstein, Melk, Linz, with an extra tour to Salzburg, back to Passau, Regensburg. Coach to Prague where we spent 3 days.

Avalon "Imagery"
Our cabin - No 204

Peter chatting with the Captain
An entertainer in the Lounge
Relaxing in the Lounge

Buffet where breakfast and lunch was served 

We experienced our first lock early.  We went into the lock and sat there tied up alongside the huge concrete wall.  The gates closed behind us.  It took 15 minutes for the water level to rise, then 10 minutes later we were able to proceed over the top of the barrier. We went through a total of 19 locks.

In a lock waiting for the water level to rise before we could go forward

Our vessel was right up against the lock wall

23 April 2012
Our first stop was at Bratislava, the Capital of Slovakia - a UNESCO World Heritage Site.  A coach took us up the hill to the War Memorial and Castle. We walked through the old city.

Mozart conducted his first public concert in 1762 at age 6 at Palffy Palace. (Creme building far right)
Bratislava Castle
24 April 2012
The next day was spent in Vienna, visiting Hofburg Palace, Spanish Riding School, Opera House, St Stephen's Cathedral. It was getting warm after the cold of Scandinavia. We visited Schoenbrunn Palace and its beautiful grounds. We enjoyed an Apple Strudel demonstration at the Imperial Bakery, followed by Viennese coffee and apple strudel.

Interior St.Stephens Church, Vienna

Ruth & Rob, Peter & Joy enjoying apple strudel and viennese coffee at Imperial Bakery

Hofburg Palace, Vienna

26 April 2012
Visited another UNESCO World Heritage Site - Durnstein. A quaint little village in a wine growing area. King Richard 1 was imprisoned in the Castle high on the hill which is now in ruins.

Durnstein - a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Castle ruins where King Richard 1 was imprisioned

26 April 2012
Melk Benedictine Abbey dwarfed the village of Melk.  It was spectacular.  The Library was enormous with books of many languages. The Chapel was like St Peter's in Rome.

Melk Abbey
Melk Abbey Altar

Former Dining Room at Melk Abbey
27 April 2012
We took a 10 hour day tour to Salzburg, first visiting Modessa and the Cathedral with its elaborate black ebony and gold where Hollywood filmed the wedding of "Sound of Music".
We drove through the Lake District with the snow capped alps closeby.

Modessa Cathedral where "Sound of Music" wedding was filmed
Peter & Joy in Modessa Cathedral

Lake District, Austria
We visited Mirabell Gardens and fountains in Salzburg where "Do-Re-Mi" was sung, where "16 going on 17" was sung and where von Trapp children ran in and out of the trees. We walked through the cloisters where Maria sang "I have confidence" and the Cemetery where von Trapp family hid from the Nazis.

Mirabell Gardens where "Do-Re-Mi" and "Sixteen going on seventeen" was filmed

Cloisters that Maria ran threw singing "I have confidence"

St.Peter's Cemetery where "Sound of Music" was filmed

Salzburg is famous for Mozart's birth place, the family home he grew up in and his statue. The weather was getting hot and we did not have summer clothes!

Mozart's birthplace. His family lived there 1747 - 1773
The home where Mozart grew up 1773 - 1780
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart 17 January 1756 - 5 December 1791

28 April 2012
Regensburg is another UNESCO World Heritage Site and architectually beautiful.  There was much festivity in the Town Square as they celebrated the beginning of the beer season. The Mayor broke open a keg  and the beer steins were filled. We enjoyed a Bavarian lunch of sausages and saurerkrant at a 900 year old Historic Sausage Kitchen.  Walked over the Old Stone Bridge.  It was 28C and we got sunburnt.
Eating sausages & saurerkrant in Regensburg

Historic Sausage Kitchen in Regensburg

Roman, Romanesque & Gothic architecture in Regensburg
 We enjoyed the Farewell Dinner - a reminder that our cruise was about to end.                     

MS Imagery farewell desert
Farewell Dinner