Scandinavia! It’s a part of the world that has always fascinated me, with visions of green forests, northern lakes and stunning cities, all shining under the endless sun on Midsummer Night’s Eve.
OK, it’s a romantic picture, I admit, likely the result of one too many Ingmar Bergman movies. But the Scandinavian world does have a culture all its own, European but distinct from the countries to the south. And just next door are the Baltic states of Latvia and Estonia — and of course, Russia, with its own cultural treasures.
It’s a region that deserves to be high on everyone’s travel bucket list, but there’s one thing that keeps many of us from visiting: the cost. Scandinavia is one of the most expensive parts of the world, the land of the $20 hamburger and the $35 club sandwich. Add in the hotel bills, and that’s an expensive trip.
There is one way to see this part of the world without taking out a second mortgage, though: cruising Scandinavia. For one fairly reasonable price, you can take a Baltic cruise that visits most of the Scandinavian countries, as well as their Baltic neighbours. It’s not a full tour, but by cruising Scandinavia you at least get a look at the top of the European world, and you’re still solvent when you get home.
I took a Baltic Sea cruise on the Norwegian Sun in the summer of 2012. It was a great experience: I saw the great cities of the north, toured their castles, walked their medieval streets, saw the Hermitage museum. And on the way, witnessed the famous “white nights” of mid-summer.
In the next few posts, I’m going to present a kind of journal of the cruise, starting from Copenhagen and going all the way to Stockholm, Sweden. Along the way, there will be a little orientation on each port, as well as some recommendations on what to see and how to see it.
This journal is designed help with your planning if you’re thinking of cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic. And if not, it’ll be a look at some destinations that don’t come up too often in the travel section of your newspaper.
Where we’ll go
The cruise starts with a look at Copenhagen, one of the most beautiful and interesting cities I’ve visited in many years. You can follow along in order, or use these links to visit any of the ports along the way:
- Warnemunde, Germany, the quaint seaside town that is the gateway to Berlin — or, much closer, neighbouring Rostock, with its lovely medieval centre;
- Tallin, Estonia, the centuries-old Baltic city that has preserved its beautiful medieval core despite its troubled history;
- St. Petersburg, Russia, the city of Peter the Great, where our two-day stay includes a visit to the extravagant summer palace, the Catherine Palace and the world-famous Hermitage;
- Helsinki, Finland, the lovely, sun-drenched city of the north, with its bustling waterfront, fortress island and a church cut into the living stone; and
- Stockholm, Sweden, the iconic city that was our last stop, with its pedestrian mall and a visit to the city hall where the Nobel laureates are feted.
So pack your bags — we’re cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic!