The Christmas Season Begins!

The Christmas season begins in Aachen, Germany, with Weihnachtsmarkt – the annual Christmas Market.The Christmas Season Begins

Visiting this ancient town during Weihnactsmarkt is the perfect way to get into the Christmas Spirit!

This year, a quiet walk through town before crowds arrive for the market provides a peaceful visit to some parts of town previously unseen or possibly overlooked in the hustle and bustle of the the shops. The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

 

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

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The Christmas Season Begins

The Christmas Season Begins

One of my favorite ancient towns in a lovely part of Europe, Aachen is the westernmost city of Germany, located along its borders with Belgium and the Netherlands. It was a favoured residence of Charlemagne, is associated with first emperors of the Holy Roman Empire (of the German Nation)and was later the place of coronation of the German kings.

Aachen’s charming historic old town provides the perfect backdrop to the German Christmas market (Weihnachtsmarkt) which is concentrated on the large public squares around the cathedral (Dom) and Rathaus in the old town area.

The Christmas Season Begins

Special thanks to my friend, Agnes, who takes me back to this special place and helps begin the Christmas season with her photos and visits to this delightful market.

Other photo credits: http://aachenweihnachtsmarkt.de

 

 

 

 

Castle in the Trees

Tree Top Tree House Castle

Castle in the Trees

Castle in the Trees

Always a symbol of creativity and imagination, Tree Houses are traditionally a few planks of wood secured in the branches of a tree. Now, they are being elevated to new heights of luxurious accommodations and designed as Castles.

Castle in the Trees

These delightful Tree House Castles, are complete with turrets and towers, suspension bridges, secret trap doors  and climbing walls.

Castle in the Trees

Castle in the Trees

 

 

 

 

 

 

Castle in the Trees

 

 

A Castle in the Trees offer a place where you can enjoy the freedom of space and proximity to nature without sacrificing the comforts of home –a luxurious home!

 

Castle in the Trees

Castle in the Trees

BlueForest Tree House and Design is leading the way creating fantasy play areas, romantic hideaways, exclusive accommodations for hotels, and inspiring eco-classrooms. You can have one built or find one for a vacation stay! Contact BlueForest

Sleep under the Northern Lights!

More beauty from the North – Aurora Borealis – the Northern Lights

Sleep Under the Northern LightsYou can view the Northern Lights from the comfort of a bed in a rented Glass Igloo at Kakslauttanen, Finland.

The Northern Lights are one of the most magnificent natural phenomena and are visible in the night sky between late August and late April.Sleep Under the Northern Lights

An Arctic Resort in the wilderness of Lapland Finland, Kakslauttanen is a family hotel offers unique accommodations such as the Glass Igloos, as well as Snow Igloos, Log Cabins, Gold Diggers Cabin, a Traditional House and even Santa’s Home!

Sleep Under the Northern Lights

In addition to viewing the Northern Lights at Kakslauttanen, a variety of other experiences include winter and summer activities such as reindeer safaris, husky safaris, ice fishing, gold panning, mountain biking and skiing and snow boarding.

Located about 250 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, Kakslauttanen is easy to reach. It is only a 30 minute bus ride from the nearest airport at Ivalo, Finland  and not far from northern Norway or Murmansk, Russia.

 

 

Images from Kakslauttanen

 

Last Stop: Belgium -Cruising Scandinavia

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise

Belgium  – Our Last Stop   

 

Our Scandinavian-Baltic cruise concluded with a stop in Belgium.

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

 Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium We spent the morning of our final destination, Belgium, visiting Flanders Field, near Eiper (or Ypres in French). This town is so old it was destroyed by the Romans in the 1st century AD. It was again reduced to rubble during WWI. This area was a crucial battle sight between Germany and France. Almost 12,000 soldiers are buried in Tyne Cot (just one of many cemeteries here).

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

The afternoon was spent in Bruges – probably my favorite of the medieval towns. Even the rainy day couldn’t spoil this treasure! The chocolate we purchased did not make it back home -we knew it would melt!

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

Scandinavia & Baltic Cruise: Belgium

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Author: Vicki L

Copenhagen Denmark – Cruising Scandinavia

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

Copenhagen, Denmark

 

Our trip was winding down by the time we got to Copenhagen, Denmark.

Copenhagen Denmark - Cruising Scandinavia

What a beautiful city. It was so clean.  I think the reason is that there is such a huge tax (50-100%) on private vehicles, so most people walk or ride bicycles. There are around 550,000 people in Copenhagen and over 680,000 registered bicycles!!

 We passed the 370 year old Stock Exchange building on our river cruise and saw some other beautiful buildings and fountains.

Copenhagen Denmark - Cruising Scandinavia

Copenhagen Denmark - Cruising Scandinavia

On our city tour, we saw Amalienborg – the quartet of palaces (really fairly small ones) that house the Queen, her 2 sons and their families and the guest palace.

Copenhagen Denmark - Cruising Scandinavia

 And, no visit would be complete without seeing the statue of the Little Mermaid in the harbor.

Copenhagen Denmark - Cruising Scandinavia

        Guest Author: Vicki L

Stockholm, Sweden – Cruising Scandinavia

 

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

 Stockholm, Sweden – Water Tour

After the tours over the previous few days, we were tired of seeing museums and churches;  so in Stockholm, Sweden, we enjoyed a leisurely boat cruise through the harbor area and the adjacent lake —  Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia

 — which involved trips through the locks Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia – my first time doing something like that.  Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia
Beautiful waterfront views surrounded the area.
We passed by the Parliament and where the Nobel Prizes are awarded – both right on the water!
Stockholm, Sweden - Cruising Scandinavia
Guest Author: Vicki L

Helsinki, Finland – on the Scandinavia Cruise

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

Helsinki, Finland

After St. Petersburg, we went to Helsinki, Finland. What a difference!

We had an opportunity to take a drive around the city of Helsinki and stopped at a beautiful Lutheran church that almost looked Russian.

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

  And another church, built in 1969, was blasted out of solid rock

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We took an unusual tour to a Finnish horse farm that’s been in the family for centuries – not just decades!

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

Currently, four generations with 26 family members run the farm. We had a lovely lunch in the house (never thought I would enjoy a fish casserole…but I did. Sorry, no pictures).

And we got to see preparations for an international horse and carriage competition.Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

Helsinki, Finland - on the Scandinavia Cruise

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guest Author: Vicki L

St Petersburg-Day 2

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

St Petersburg Part 3

 

Day 2 in St Petersburg

Our second day in St. Petersburg was spent at the Hermitage –the Winter Palace – Peter and Paul Fortress –
and the Russian Orthodox Cathedral where the tsars are buried.St Petersburg-Day 2 of Scandinavia Cruise

St Petersburg-Day 2 of Scandinavia Cruise

St Petersburg-Day 2 of Scandinavia Cruise

We heard a very different version regarding the deaths of Tsar Nicholas II and his family (the Romanovs) deaths before the Communist takeover. During the Communist era religion was banned. Churches and cathedrals were turned into libraries, offices and even an ice rink or two. Most of the icons and other religious artifacts were stolen or sold off.

Vladamir Putin is from St. Petersburg and has been instrumental in getting many of the buildings renovated (even though I abhor what he has done elsewhere).

St. Petersburg really is the Venice of the North.

St Petersburg-Day 2 of Scandinavia Cruise
St Petersburg-Day 2 of Scandinavia Cruise

Guest Author: Vicki L.

Peterhof Palace – St Petersburg

 Cruising Scandinavia &  the Baltic

St Petersburg Part 2

 

Peterhof Palace

Part of our first day in St. Petersburg was taking an 1 1/2 hour trip through the suburbs and rural areas to Peterhof Palace – the summer home of Peter the Great. OMG!! The pictures just can’t do it justice. There were massive lawns, gardens and fountains everywhere.

Peterhof Palace - St Petersburg

St P5 Peterhof Palace - St Petersburg

Peterhof Palace - St Petersburg

Inside and out, gold gilt was used extensively. Peter was able to take a boat from St. Petersburg right up to his summer palace. It was good to be the tsar!

Peterhof Palace - St Petersburg

Peterhof Palace - St Petersburg

Peterhof Palace - St Petersburg

Guest Author: Vicki L

St Petersburg – Scandinavia Cruise

 Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

 

On to  St. Petersburg, Russia, for two days!   

Part 1

St Petersburg- Scandinavia Cruise

This city has been on my bucket list for at least 15 years.

After our visit,  I’ve decided it was good to be the Tsar (or Tsarina) because life was miserable for everyone else. I would have had to be a Tsarina!  The difference between the royalty and everyone else was staggering. One can easily see how the peasants decided to overthrow the Tsars but I don’t think they realized that communism would be even more oppressive.

I’m splitting this into 3 different posts – this first one is just scenes around St. Petersburg. Some are views from our river cruise on the Neva River in the heart of the city.

St Petersburg- Scandinavia Cruise

St Petersburg- Scandinavia Cruise

St Petersburg- Scandinavia Cruise

St Petersburg- Scandinavia Cruise

St Petersburg- Scandinavia Cruise

St Petersburg- Scandinavia Cruise

Guest Author: Vicki L