Tag Archives: Russia

Things to see and do while ashore on a Baltic cruise

Despite the never-ending cold gripping North America and Europe, summer is coming sooner than you think. If you like to travel in luxury and comfort, cruising is an excellent way to discover the world. During the summer months, Europe is a popular place to explore via this mode of exploration.

While you might be tempted to follow everybody to the Mediterranean, know that you can see spectacular scenery on a Baltic cruise as well. With plenty of ports of call at which to dock, you’ll get to see tons of amazing European architecture, eat incredible food, and meet fascinating people.

To save you the detail work of trying to figure out where to go every time you disembark from the boat, here’s what you should see in commonly visited port cities in the Baltic region.

Copenhagen, Denmark

A common first stop on many Baltic cruise itineraries, Copenhagen has no shortage of Scandinavian charm to offer visitors. Once you step off the ship, make a beeline for Nyhavn, a waterfront entertainment district with colourful buildings and plenty of restaurants and bars.

After a hearty lunch, check out either the Rosenborg Castle (dates from the 17th century), The David Collection (an impressive private collection of fine art), or the Christiansborg Palace (home to many royal and government functions).

Riga, Latvia

Of all the cities in the Baltic states, Riga gets some of the best reviews from cruise passengers. Its Old City is well preserved with plenty of charming cafes and restaurants, its central market is the largest in Europe, and its museums will sober those who view them.

When you aren’t busy admiring the numerous examples of Art Nouveau architecture through Latvia’s capital, make time to see the Museum of the Occupation of Latvia. An uncompromising view of the years when this tiny country was occupied by the Nazis and then the Soviets, it will make you appreciate the freedom we enjoy in western countries.

Helsinki, Finland

After Riga, many cruise boats will head across the Baltic Sea to the Finnish capital of Helsinki. After disembarking, hop on a ferry to the Fortress of Suomenlinna. A defensive stalwart which has guarded this city’s harbour for centuries, it is both a military museum and a meeting places for Finns on brilliantly sunny days during the summer months.

Also, make time to check out the Rock Church. Built within a rock outcrop in the 1960s, the solid stone walls give this Christian hall of worship a look that few other churches on Earth have. Combined with great acoustics, try to attend a service if you have the opportunity to do so.

St. Petersburg, Russia

Think you can’t visit Russia without a visa? If you follow along with approved shore excursions, you are allowed to explore St. Petersburg without having to go through the onerous paperwork needed to formally enter this country.

If you go this route, book an excursion which takes you to Catherine Palace, which was the former playground of numerous Russian Tsars. Also try to take in the Hermitage Museum, which is the second-largest museum dedicated to the arts and culture in Europe and the world.

Moscow’s top cultural attractions

photo by CC user valerii-ukraine-kiev on Flickr

Making a trip to Russia in the near future? If you consider yourself to be an avid cultural vulture, then including Moscow’s top cultural attractions will get your trip to the world’s largest nation off to a rousing start. Let’s get started…

1) Red Square

An obvious place to begin, Red Square contains a number of cultural attractions that will make your visit to Moscow worth it all by themselves. From the onion bulbed spires of St. Basil’s Cathedral, to the solemnity of Lenin’s Mausoleum, the heart of the largest nation on Earth can be felt here, so be sure to take your time as you explore through this highly significant public space.

2) Tretyakov Gallery

Lovers of art in the visual medium will want to include the Tretyakov Gallery in their plans, as this world class museum contains the very best portraits, drawings and sculptures that Russian artists have created in the country since the 19th century.

With over 2,000 fine works, and having played host to international chess championships in the recent past, this institution is one that is beloved by the public, so much so, that plans for its demolition for a modern rebuild have been scraped in the face of intense opposition.

3) Bolshoi Theatre

If you favorite mode of artistic expression involves fellow humans in motion, acting out scenes of life, love and loss, then attending a ballet, opera, or theatre production at the Bolshoi Theatre should be a goal that you should attempt to achieve during your time in Moscow.

This institution not only plays host to shows, but it is also home to one of the world’s most highly regarded ballet and opera companies. As such, those with a passion for this art medium will be in for a treat when they plunk down the 1,000 rubles that it costs to see a production in this storied building.

4) Garden of Fallen Monuments

Throughout the reign of the Soviet Union, countless statues and monuments that were erected to the glory of leader like Lenin and Stalin were raised across the expanse of its mighty empire. Once it collapsed in spectacular fashion in the early 1990’s though, many of these were regarded as symbols of oppression by a public that was suddenly free to express their viewpoints, and as such, many of these monoliths were pulled down in a frenzy of mob justice.

While a great number of these were dashed to pieces, some manged to be preserved: the best place to see these symbols of a bygone era in the Moscow area is at the Garden of Fallen Monuments. With these monuments divided by subject and time period, it is an interesting place to contemplate the cult of personality that was built up by the political class in the Soviet Union in the 20th century.