The next trip: Shores of the Baltic Sea

29 Apr

The Jordan trip I canceled in March has been replaced by something completely different: 12 days or so visiting the capitals of the Baltic Sea in late May. I’ll save Jordan for next winter — too hot now.

Why the Baltic Sea? I have no idea. It’s just a new corner of the world I’ve never been to yet. And late May might be the best time of year to visit. Click on the map embed to get a better sense of where this is.

I leave Seattle on May 21 and eventually make my way to Helsinki, Finland; St. Petersburg, Russia; Tallinn, Estonia; and Stockholm, Sweden. I get back to Seattle the night of June 2. It’s four countries I’ve never visited before.

Did you know that that part of Baltic is the same latitude as Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula? That’s way north. But since I’ll be there 4 weeks before the summer solstice, the days are gonna be long, with the sun not setting until almost 11 p.m. on the days I’m in St. Petersburg.

As for accommodation, I’m trying something new this trip: I’m using the website to arrange either apartments or guesthouse rooms. Traveling solo like I do makes hotels both expensive and soul-crushing.

Anyway, if you want more detail about my planning for this trip, keep reading on…

Day 1

First flight is Seattle to Frankfurt on Lufthansa. I hear good things about their service, so I’m hoping the 10-hour flight isn’t too horrible.

The Princess Maria, my cruise/ferry to St. Petersburg.

Day 2

I arrive Tuesday morning, May 22,  in Frankfurt, where I catch a connecting flight to Helsinki. I only have a few hours in Helsinki to get to the port for my overnight cruise/ferry to St. Petersburg (leaves 7 p.m.). The main reason I’m taking the ferry is because it’s the only way to avoid the high cost and tedious process of obtaining a visa to visit Russia. If you go by this boat and stay there less than 72 hours, you don’t need the visa. Works for me! (Read more about this.)

I’m booking an entire ‘inside’ cabin with ensuite bathroom. I’ve read reports that the trip can border on being a ‘booze cruise,’ and I’m OK with that. 🙂

Day 3

St. Petersburg, Russia, the Venice of the north.

The boat docks in St. Petersburg at 8 a.m., and from there I’ll make my way into the city center. I haven’t done a lot of research yet, but I’m sure I’ll find plenty to do here. Tops on the list is probably the Hermitage museum. I have a hankering to see a circus too, but we’ll see. The customary thing to do is go to the ballet or opera. I’m not sure I’m civilized enough for that.

For two nights in St. Petersburg, I’m going to stay in this guesthouse. The interior design is cool and the owner is a British transplant who should be able to give me lots of advice for my visit.

Days 4 and 5

Two more days to explore St. Petersburg. Then on Friday evening, May 25, it’s time to head to the dock for the return trip aboard the Princess Maria. Keep your fingers crossed that the seas are calm!

Day 6

The boat from St. Petersburg arrives Helsinki about 9:30 a.m. This day I plan to spend exploring the city, which is the capital of Finland. I haven’t done a lot of research about this city either, but a friend recommends visiting the Temppeliaukio Church. Wow, it looks amazing. By early evening I need to catch a ferry for the two-hour journey across to Tallinn, Estonia.

Tallinn, Estonia

I’ve heard lots of things about Tallinn, most notably that it can be flooded with drunken British tourists. Who am I to judge? I’m booking a tastefully decorated (haha!) private studio apartment that’s fairly close to the city’s Old Town.

Days 7 and 8

Exploring Tallinn.

Day 9

Catching a nonstop flight from Tallinn to Stockholm, Sweden, on Tuesday, May 29. Did you know that the city consists of 14 islands? And there are thousands more islands nearby.

Stockholm is known for its modernist design sensibilities of course. But I’m also interested in visiting because I have some family lineage on my grandmother’s side that can be traced to this area.

One cool place to visit is the Vasa museum, whose claim to fame is a nearly completely intact 17th century Swedish warship.

My accommodation for Stockholm is probably my most daring of the trip. I’m staying in the spare bedroom of a young couple and their 18-month-old son. I’m counting on them for great advice on what to see and eat and drink. Staying with real-life Swedes should give me a better sense of what it’s like to live there. And of course, this a cheaper option than a hotel because Stockholm is outrageously expensive.

Days 10, 11 and 12

Exploring Stockholm and environs.

Day 13

😦 Time to head home. I catch a 6:25 a.m. flight (Saturday, June 2) at Stockholm’s Arlanda airport back to Frankfurt. Then I get to do one of things I’m most excited about on this trip. The flight from Frankfurt to San Francisco employs the Airbus A380-800, the largest plane in all of commercial aviation. There are more than 400 seats in coach on the lower deck (that’s me, in seat 87C) and another 100 seats upstairs in business and first class. What a monster!

In San Francisco I catch a much smaller bird back home to Seattle.

I hope to post occasional updates from the trip on this blog.

Thanks for reading!


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