In May of this year, I took a 12 night Holland America Baltic cruise on the 1600-passenger ship Rotterdam and it was a great opportunity to visit several cities that have been on my bucket list. The cruise left from Rotterdam, Holland and visited Copenhagen, Tallinn, Berlin, St Petersburg, Helsinki, and Stockholm. I took hundreds of photos and it has taken me this long to whittle them down to one per stop for this blog article.
I will post one representative photo and a short comment about each city.
Copenhagen, Denmark was clean and bright and one thing that struck me as unusual was that people just left their bicycles (and they use them a lot) unlocked without fear of having them stolen. This says a lot about the people who live there, don’t you think?
Tallinn, Estonia was a delightful small city to roam in or climb the streets up to the top of the hill for a great view. It would be an ideal place just to hang out for a week, soaking up the ambiance, reading books and drinking coffee.
Berlin, Germany was a 2 hour drive from where we docked but well worth the effort. A vibrant city with lots of parks and trees and recent history. The city is very open about acknowledging with a certain amount of shame, but more determination not to have it ever happen there again, the horrors and trauma of WW2 and the Nazi regime.
St Petersburg, Russia was certainly interesting visually but the glitz became almost too much. Much of St Petersburg (previously Leningrad) was destroyed during WW2 so, although the buildings like the Palaces and the Hermitage were impressive, they really were reconstructions, not the originals. Ostentatious comes to mind.
Helsinki, Finland seemed a bit drab after St Petersburg. Russians go there to shop. I spent the day there taking a ferry to a nearby island where there were no cars and lots of opportunity to walk near the sea. A refreshing change and I actually walked over 20 kilometres that day, not something you might expect on a cruise vacation.
Stockholm, Sweden was a photographer’s delight. The old town on the island was very wanderable with colorful alleyways and streets at every turn. The city also has a lot of canals and waterways that made a hop-on-hop-off boat trip a must.
Rotterdam, Holland, where the cruise both started and ended, strikes me as a city with a shipping port/industrial past that is gradually gentrifying and becoming an interesting destination, not far from Delft and The Hague as well.
Taking a cruise like this is an excellent way of seeing these spots. It is so good to have all your things in one place for the trip and have a “hotel” room that moves with you.
Where would I return? I would gladly go back to spend a few days in Berlin. Lots of culture, history, museums, parks, restaurants, coffee shops. And Stockholm was also somewhere I could hang out for a few days.