Saint Petersburg

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    There are, reportedly, some 70 rivers/canals and 500 bridges in St. Petersburg... thus, the Venice of the north


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    formerly Tsarskoye Selo, the summer home of the tsars... palaces, gardens, a little lake or two, all the trappings of royalty

by boat to Moscow

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    from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Moskvarivermap.png

Red Square

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    I think of Red Square like this... probably from watching news programs when I was a kid. Today, it looks like this...

Moscow Metro

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    Apparently, the Moscow Metro is the 2nd busiest in the world, behind only Tokyo. It's huge and busy and magnificent... and probably reflective of Stalin's ego.


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    wiki says: "Vilnius is the capital of Lithuania, and its largest city, with a population of 554,060 as of 2011. It is the second biggest city of the Baltic states, after Riga. As the capital and most populous city of Lithuania, Vilnius has great importance in the national media, art, fashion, research industry, technologies, education, and entertainment.The first known written record of Vilnius as the Lithuanian capital is known from Gediminas' letters in 1323. Vilnius is known for its Old Town of beautiful architecture, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994. Its Jewish influence until the 20th century has led to it being described as the “Jerusalem of Lita" and Napoleon named it "the Jerusalem of the North" as he was passing through in 1812. In the year 2009, Vilnius was the European Capital of Culture, together with the Austrian city of Linz." And it's lovely.


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    Klaipėda is really nothing to write home about. The guidebook says, "Klaipėda came into being in 1252, when the Livonian Order built a fortress here from which to mount attacks on the heathens of Žemaitija." OTOH, is a great place from which to get to Nida and the Curonian Spit (Lithuanian: Kuršių nerija, Russian: Куршская коса, German: Kurische Nehrung, Latvian: Kuršu kāpas). And the hotel was cool... this was taken from the window.

Curonian Spit

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    The Curonian Spit, otoh, is pretty interesting. It was formed about the 3rd millennium BCE, and has been inhabited since about 800 CE. It has the highest moving (drifting) sand dunes in Europe, and some small towns have actually been covered by the sand. Their average height is 35 meters, but some attain the height of 60 meters. It's a center for tourism, including bird watching, as between 10 and 20 million birds fly over during spring and fall migrations, and many pause to rest or breed there.


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    Wiki says: "Riga was founded in 1201 and is a former Hanseatic League member. Riga's historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, noted for its Art Nouveau/Jugendstil architecture and 19th century wooden architecture" I don't know what kind of architecture it is, but it's really impressive... plus, there are lots of nice little restaurants with all sorts of cuisine, little winding streets, and a church steeple (the middle one in the group of 3 on the right) that provides an awesome view of it all.


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    Wiki says: "Perona was founded by the bishop of Ösel-Wiek ca. 1251, suffered heavily under pressure of the concurrent town, and was finally destroyed ca. 1600. Another town, Embeke was founded by the Livonian Order [there's that Livonian Order again!], who began building an Ordensburg nearby in 1265. The latter town, then known by the German name of Pernau, was a member of the Hanseatic League and an important ice-free harbor for Livonia. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth took control of town between 1560–1617; the Poles and Lithuanians fought the Swedes nearby in 1609. Sweden took control of the town during the 16th century Livonian War, but it was subsequently taken by the Russian Empire in the 1710 Capitulation of Estonia and Livonia and the 1721 Treaty of Nystad, following the Great Northern War. It belonged to Imperial Russian Governorate of Livonia then." And now it's an internationally-known spa. I love history.


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    Kuressaare is the capital of the state of Saaremaa, an island off the coast of Estonia... it's also near the site of several small meteorite craters, which is one reason we went there. The other reason is the appeal of all the double letters in Estonian.


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    Kaali (pronounced Caahll lee) is a very small town, with 9 meteorite craters... its only claim to fame, as far as I know.


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    leaving Tallinn... from the deck of the ferry to Helsinki

Helsinki 2011

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    We only spent 24 hours in Helsinki, mostly looking for an ATM... that's a bit longer than we spent there 8 years ago, when we took these pictures. http://omelet.typepad.com/photos/helsinki It's a nice city; maybe, someday, we can spend some more time here, and even see other parts of Finland.