Pegontheroad in eastern Europe

Old Jul 4th, 2015, 06:05 PM
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Am enjoying your trip report and looking forward to more.
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Old Jul 4th, 2015, 06:47 PM
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I figured it was all BS including the " invitation" I just purchased online.
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Old Jul 4th, 2015, 07:14 PM
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I am along for the ride also, since I followed your planning of this trip.

I is unfortunate that you did not see much of Helsinki or getting inside those Palaces and Church in St. Petersburg.

I get a guide for almost all places I go.

Not for the whole trip but for a day to cover those places where one is really needed.

When I went to St.Petersburg I had a guide for two full days from 8AM to 7 PM.. it was worth every penny.

I got into all the Palaces, Churches and Cathedrals and Fortesses.

There were some line up but I did not wait in line.

I made a list of all the places I wanted to see ( like I usually do), to make sure I do not miss anything that I wanted to see when I was back home planning the trip.

I email the list to my guide so that when I arrive we are both n the same page.

I toured inside the Hermitage ( 4.5 hours) Catherine's Palace, Peterhof ( both the grounds and inside the Palace as well inside Monplaisir ( Peter the Great's favourite place at Peterhof)

plus Konstantinovsky Palace ( just before Peterhof, it takes a little pull getting inside here)

Also inside and outside of Peter and Paul Fortess, Church of the Spilled Blood, St. Isaac's Cathedral Yusupov Palace ( in fact our group was the only one at Yusupov Place at the time).

I had a two page list, maybe many places that are not of interest to other like
Filed of Mars ( with eternal flames)
Summer Gardens
Russian Museum
Peter the Great's original Log Cabin
The Aurora Cruiser ...etc.

I could have never done this without a guide (with our small group) all the time..not to mention the excellent commentary along the way.

We all travel differently, we plan our vacations to suit our interests, but I do not want to fly all the way to my destination and then miss out on things that interest me.

I have the philosophy that " I do not mind paying more IF I am seeing more. "

I spent five days in Madrid last month.

I had a guide for one full day. Madrid is easy walking but there is no way I would have seen the places that my guide took me to if I was on my own, which I was for four days.

I am very interestly following your trip report Pegontheroad.

You are now in Tallin, I am waiting for your adventures here.

danon good luck on your trip and do let us know how everything goes. Best of luck to you. ( yes I am jealous )

Hi annhig, thursdaysd and Florida1 (
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Old Jul 4th, 2015, 08:24 PM
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thanks, Percy
I seldom join tours but I might if necessary.
Russian Museum is on " my list" and some similar museums in Moscow,
but I am not much for planning.
If I like places, I tend to return ..
been to Madrid six times!
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 02:20 AM
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Hi Percy,

we have rarely had guides but as i get older, I begin to see the point. on our recent visit to Germany, our hosts had organised a guide of us for particular monument and she really helped us to understand what we were seeing.

How did you find your guide for Helsinki and St P'burg? and generally how do you set about finding one?

and how is Tallin?
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 08:52 AM
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Good morning danon:
No I do not join tours, the tour guide I had in St.Petersburg was our group's (4 of us) private guide.
When you have your own tour guide you can make changes at the drop of a hat almost.

Besides seeing all I wanted to see in St. Petersburg, I had the guide drive me to many places , if even only for a photo op. like for example to the Faberge Building..

no not the Museum but the original building where Faberge used to make those eggs.

( In Madrid last month I had a terrific guide for one day just for the two of us, I also asked our guide if he would pick us up at the Madrid Airport ....he was cheaper than a taxi !

Yes danon Madrid is lovely and east to walk about.

Hi annhig:
Whenever I am going on a (say ) River Cruise or a small group tour ( less than 12) then I always come 2-3 full days earlier to my destination.

This gives me the option to recover from any jet lag and to see places before I board the Riverboat.

I do my research very well and many times do not need a guide, even for a half day BUT I get one to get me from place A to palace B quickly and with good commentary.

I have to say that many times the guide I got, like Clint Eastwood, "Made My Day " !!

How do I find my guides.!?

Well it is not easy but once you get a good one, I hang onto him like glue!

I get his business card and stay in touch via e-mail about twice a year.

We exchange greetings at Christmas time also.

annhig : for St. Petersburg I had Alla, to say she was terrific would be an understatement.

I sent her some picture of our tour and she asked me if she could put them on her Facebook for a few months!

Sure ...Ok Alla.

I have had friends go to St.Petersbug and I had them contact Alla.

Alla sent me an e mail and said if I ever come back to St. Petersburg, she will tour me FREE!!

I am saving that e-mail Alla, you may get your wish next year

For Helsinki , annhig, I found a good tour guide from Tallin .

He took the ferry from Tallin to Helsinki to tour our group of 4 how good is that.

When I visited Tallinn he of course took me around everywhere.

I had time on my own and time with Ahti ( my guide).

I remember one morning we statted out about 7:15 AM.

He said let's go to Kadriorg Palace and grounds, President's Palace, Peter the Great Museum.

Hey, I saw the changing of the guards her at 8 guard !!

Kadriorg Palace was Peter the Great's place when he came here.

He once said "Why do I need St. Petersburg when I have Tallinn"

He was married to Catherine at the time and Kadriorg means "Catherine's Valley."

then to Swan Lake and park walk on the grounds of the Palace.

then we went to KUMU Museum, Russalka Monument, Song Festival Grounds ( where Sing Revolution was), then to Maarjamae Castle, St. Bridge Convent and the TV Tower.

Finally to Russian soldier Memorial and to Rocca al Mare Air Museum.

You see the reason I am mentioning this is because Ahti took me to all these places outside of the central core of Tallin....before any crowds had a chance to even come,

and before the stores in Old Tallin even opened.

Yep.... I don't mind paying more if I am seeing more.

There are two lookout point in Tallin that no one should miss.

When you see those red roof topped aerial views of Tallin, most of them are from these lookout points.

I am waiting to read Pegontheroad's Tallinn.
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 09:51 AM
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wow Percy - you must have a magic touch.
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 10:54 AM
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Hi annhig:
No I do not have any magic touch.
But what I do have is a photographic memory.

( How do you think I got through University, it was not on brains alone ).

I remember all my trips in detail, while other I have gone with barely remember the names of cities they visited.

Like my sister Dixie once said when we went to Athens:
" I go ,I see , I come home , I foget."

I like to tease my sister and friends who have gone with me on a trip.

Over coffee, when we talk about a trip, I will say:

"Gee, remember in Tallinn a couple years ago when we walked through Fat Margart Arch and then Pikk street past the Three Sisters Hotel and then

down the next block you all waited outside while I climbed St. Olaf's Church to the top Lookout Steeple.!!...

another block down I pointed out the boarded up basement windows on the Old Former KGB building !"

My friends/sister answer back, "Hell Percy I do not even know what Fat Margaret is, but if you say it's in Tallinn ,okay" !

I am very very thankful that my memory is the way it is.

I am NOT smarter but my memory is better.

Same thing when I was in Grasmere England annnhig, while everyone had lunch and then shopped in this lovely quaint village,

I made a bee-line for the old stone bridge, St. Oswald's Church , but mainly to the graves of William Wordsworth and his wife Mary... because I remembered where they were.
I walk the Daffodil Gardens by the Cemetery

Like I said we all plan differently, and this way works best for me.
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 12:52 PM
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I'm joining your group, Peg, and looking forward to more of your report!
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 01:21 PM
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lol, Percy, I have that sort of memory too, but strictly for food!
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 01:51 PM
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Peg, looking forward to hearing more about your trip.
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 02:54 PM
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Hello, Peg. I also look forward to reading more about your travels. I wonder if we were in St. Petersburg at the same time (on a cruise) - we were there June 23-25 and it was PACKED.

I do think the cruises have a lot to do with the crowds - for our first 2 days our docking area was filled with large cruise ships and every venue we went to was overflowing with people. On our last day, 2 of the ships had departed (yay) and during our early admission to the Hermitage on Day 3, we had the museum to ourselves!

Not having a visa, we arranged to be part of a tour with TJ Travel. I would highly recommend them - our guide was amazing at navigating the crowds. She had an exhausting job!
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 03:14 PM
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Percy, I'm impressed. My memory is phenomenally bad!

I've hesitated to continue with the Tallinn part of my trip because I have to refresh my memory by looking at my pictures, listening to the comments I made on my little digital recorder, reviewing my guidebook, gathering up the scattered images in my mind and then girding my loins to actually begin the writing.

And it's only been a month since this part of my trip!

So anyway, I was on the bus and experienced both Russian and Estonian border control. It took a good hour to get through both. When we crossed into Estonia, I immediately noticed how much better it looked, with the buildings better cared-for, painted and prosperous-looking.

In Tallinn, my first impressions were confirmed. I thought the people were better dressed and better looking than in St. Petersburg, and what I saw of the town was modern and clean. My understanding is that the outskirts of the city aren't in as good nick, but the parts that I saw were encouraging.

One of my reasons for the trip to the Baltics and Poland was my interest in WWII and the Cold War, so my first stop after arriving at the Palace Hotel was the nearby Museum of Occupations, which had fascinating displays from both WWII and the much longer Soviet Occupation.

I talked with the woman who was working at the museum, and she told me about the "Singing Revolution," the name given to the events which took place between 1987 and 1991 and which led to the restoration of independence for Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia.

I bought a book ("The Singing Revolution") about the events that led up to independence. Even though I am fascinated with this time period and these changes and have learned a good deal about the changes in Germany, I really knew nothing how independence came about in the Baltics.

I will talk to anyone who's willing about these changes, so I pounced on the receptionists at the hotel and asked them what it was like under Soviet rule. I don't think they were old enough that they remembered specifics, but my little recorder assures me that they said it was pretty bad.

More later.
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 04:09 PM
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Very interesting. I think the guide is needed so am bookmarking the one phillyfan got.
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 04:26 PM
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We visited St. Petersburg twice… in 1983 and in 2000. In '83 visitors were shepherded around by Intourist guides… so we saw everything. Even so, there were long lines at the most famous sites. I often wondered who were the people in those lines. In 2000 we were on a small ship… about 100 people…
and all the tours were prearranged and no hassle. Again, the lines were enormous every where we went.
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 04:48 PM
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PEG, hanging in with you and admiring your fortitude.

A friend of mine took a Baltic tour around 1999. I don't think that people on cruise ships needed visas then if they stayed with the group.

You were brave to go independently...
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 08:13 PM
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Thanks for some of your Tallinn adventure.

Yes you are very brave, I would not have gone all.

latedaytraveler: People who go on the Baltic Cruise do
need a Visa for Russia, BUT if you go with the ship's tour, then the ship IS your Visa and they are responsible for you.

If you book a private tour guide ( in advance), then the Tour Guide IS your Visa, so stick with him/her, you cannot go wondering off on your own.

Can you go the Russian Ballet in the evening with a private tour guide off a Cruise Ship. ?

Yes, but he/she will pick you up from the cruise ship....take you to the Ballet and then pick you up after the Ballet and drive you to the ship.

Again , no wondering around on your own. The guides are responsible for you as they are your Visa.
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Old Jul 5th, 2015, 08:22 PM
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I mean I would not have gone alone.

My hat is off to you Pegontheroad

( Ahti,the Tallinn tour guide and I have become friends and he has asked me ( and wife Vi) more than once to come again to Tallin and he will plan a tour through Latvia and Lithuania also and hit all the best places.

We were sort of thinking about it in October 2013, to go in May or June 2014....but then those of you that know me, know that my wife passed away in October 2013, while we were thinking about going.)

Looking forward to more Pegontheroad.
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Old Jul 6th, 2015, 09:15 AM
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On the way up to the Occupations museum, I saw a little old lady that I thought was sweet and funny. She was short and stocky, wearing a long kelly green coat and matching hat, and her little feet were sticking out of the bottom of that coat barely eight or nine inches. She was just chugging along on those little feet. It makes me smile when I remember her hurrying along.

Back to the trip report. I took a taxi out to the open air museum, which I really enjoyed. It's one of those places with old buildings from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th century, many of them quite primitive. Apparently the people who lived and worked in the earliest of these structures were serfs or tenant farmers. The museum includes farm buildings, a windmill, a school, tavern, and a chapel.

I stopped to rest in the little Lutheran chapel and saw various dates--when it was built, when it was moved to the museum area, and when it was re-consecrated--in 1989.It always touches me when I see significant dates like 1989 on a church, or like the placques on houses in Goettingen which state the names of people who lived in a given house until 1933. Those dates remind us of such significant events of our time.

There was a much more modern house, from about the 1930's, that reminded me of my grandmother's house in 1940, right down to the jars of canned fruits and vegetables in the pantry, the patchwork quilt on the bed, the Singer sewing machine, and the parlor.

The area in which the buildings are located is partially wooded and is very pleasant for walking. The roads are naturally not paved, and walking for a couple of hours was hard on my feet and legs, so that I didn't stay there as long as I wanted. The story of my life.

I saw pictures on the internet of people in Estonian dress at some of the venue, but I saw nobody like that when I visited. It would have been lovely to see some type of folk music or dancing and undoubtedly would have been worthwhile to go with a guide. But I just don't travel like that. I see what I can see, and I enjoy myself in a laid-back way. I'm not intense, so I don't organize a lot, sometimes to my regret. I'll hear how someone else traveled, how much they saw, and I'll think I missed a good deal, but I know that I will just continue to travel my way.

On the taxi-ride back, I saw all these old wooden houses with lap siding and some very interesting architectural details. Nice old places, but very run-down and dilapidated. Some of them have been gentrified to some degree, but I think it would be wonderful if there were a movement to restore more of these places.

I had hoped to take a taxi ride specifically to find more of these places, but I ran out of time.

I did much of my exploring on foot, strolling down to the walled old town, gawking at the wonderful architecture and doing a bit of window shopping.I just found a picture I took of a girl dressed in medieval costume who was standing on the steps of a restaurant and reading a proclamation of some sort. I took her pic because she had a really impressive voice, able to project over the noise of all the tourist crowds. She was as good as a loud-speaker.
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Old Jul 6th, 2015, 09:43 AM
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Percy, I knew that your wife had passed away. I know that it would be very hard to continue traveling without her. It's different for me because I've always been single, so I'm used to doing things on my own.

My sister and I took seven trips together before travel became difficult for her. Those were such great fun. I'd love to have a friend with whom I could travel, but it's hard to find someone (my age) who's in good enough shape and who can afford to travel.

I went to Spain with my best friend from college, who was just as much fun at 75 as she was at 21. We have only to look at each other and we start to laugh. But she couldn't walk well, which affected how much we saw. I could have gone on alone, of course, but that would have defeated the purpose.

I'm very independent, so I just decide where I want to go and then I go there.
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