Talinn, Estonia – Cruising Scandinavia

Cruising Scandinavia – Next stop: Talinn, Estonia

Next stop: Talinn, Estonia - Cruising Scandinavia  Talinn, Estonia, is another place I really didn’t know much about.  The thing that I will remember most is how thankful they are to have become a democracy in the last 25 years after decades of Communist rule and centuries under the Russian Tsars.

We got to see the marina and village that was built for the 1980 Olympics and are still used today. Then, a tour of Toompea Hill – the fortressed Old Town.

Next stop: Talinn, Estonia - Cruising Scandinavia Next stop: Talinn, Estonia - Cruising Scandinavia

Next stop: Talinn, Estonia - Cruising Scandinavia












More gorgeous buildings – the pink Parliament building and the Alexander Nevsky Russian Orthodox church were standouts.

But my favorite was St. Mary’s Cathedral, a Gothic 15th century church where the old medieval coats of arms are displayed and the tombs of the nobility are located. I felt transported back to the Middle Ages!

Next stop: Talinn, Estonia - Cruising Scandinavia

Guest Author: Vicki L

Gothenburg, Sweden- Cruising Scandinavia

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic


Second Port of Call: Gothenburg, Sweden

Gothenburg, Sweden is a place I had never heard of. Building began in this area in 1308 when the Norwegian king built a huge fortress to hold Sweden back (must not have worked – it’s Sweden now).

 This church was built in 1914 to resemble the medieval churches.

Cruising Scandinavia: Gothenburg, Sweden   Cruising Scandinavia: Gothenburg, Sweden

There are adorable villages throughout the islands that are on the west coast of the country.

Cruising Scandinavia: Gothenburg, Sweden

Cruising Scandinavia: Gothenburg, Sweden

Cruising Scandinavia: Gothenburg, Sweden

 We had pickled herring with onion for breakfast – I think that will be the one and only time I ever do that.

Guest Author: Vicki L

Oslo, Norway – Cruising Scandinavia

The Cruise Begins!

First Port of Call:  Oslo, Norway

Our Scandinavia and Baltic cruise officially begins in Oslo, Norway.Cruising Scandinavia - Oslo, Norway

Since Chuck is half Norwegian, this was to be a highlight of our trip! Things work out the way they should, but sometimes don’t go as planned. . . the tour we REALLY wanted was sold out by the time we arrived at the ship. . . there was a “high terror” alert in Oslo. . .the temperatures were in the mid 90’s (record heat!), it was humid and tour busses and museums aren’t air conditioned. . . 

BUT we got to berth right next to a Viking fortress – complete with cannons!

Cruising Scandinavia - Oslo, Norway Cruising Scandinavia - Oslo, Norway

 We saw the KonTiki, Fram and Viking Museums

Cruising Scandinavia - Oslo, Norway

Cruising Scandinavia - Oslo, Norway

 and we do have a better insight into Chuck’s Norwegian ancestors!

Next Stop:  Gothenburg, Sweden

Guest Author: Vicki L


Cruising Scandinavia & the Baltic

Cruising Scandinavia & the Baltic


 But First:  A Big Red Bus Tour of London


An amazing adventure cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic gives us visits to Oslo, Gothenburg, Talinn, St Petersburg, & Helsinki.  It begins with a flight into London and a brief but fun tour of London on a Big Red Bus. And, yes, it rained!

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic

Cruising Scandinavia and the Baltic



Thanks Vicki for sharing your amazing adventure!

Story and photos: Vicki L


Summer Solstice

Summer Solstice – a traditional time for celebrating

For those in the the Northern Hemisphere, today, (Saturday, June 21) marks the Summer Solstice — the  first official day of summer — when the sun appears highest in the sky, reaching its northernmost point.

Summer Solstice

 Longest Day – Shortest Shadow

This day is also recognized and celebrated as the longest day of year  – the longest hours of daylight for the Northern Hemisphere.

 In ancient China, the summer solstice was observed by a ceremony to celebrate the Earth, femininity, and the “yin” forces (complementing the winter solstice that celebrated the heavens, masculinity and “yang” forces.) According to Chinese tradition, the shortest shadow is found on the day of  summer solstice – also known as the longest day.

Summer Solstice The Summer Solstice in the northern hemisphere is a traditional time for celebrating Nature’s bountifulness. Fruits are swelling with growth and flowers are blooming.  Twilight  lingers late  into the summer evening. If you can, get in touch with Gaia’s nurture by spending some outdoor time and breathing in her beauty.  If you have a celebration planned with friends, more’s the better!  What does the Solstice chart say about this summer quarter? — read more at Mind Body Spirit Astrology.)

In some parts of the United States, events that focus on the theme of the summer solstice are held:  local festivals featuring art or music; environmental awareness activities that focus on using natural sunlight as a source of energy; and family gatherings (especially pool parties and cookouts)

In the north, it is the time of the midnight sun – when the sun never dips below the horizon. Midsummer festivals with bonfires and feasts celebrate the summer and the fertility of the Earth.

In Poland, thousands of lanterns are launched Summer Solstice  for a Magical Midsummer celebration.





Summer Solstice



In southern England, thousands flock to Stonehenge, a 5,000-year-old site on the Salisbury Plain  to celebrate the the June solstice. Some people believe that Stonehenge was built to help ancient people know when the solstice arrived.. Interestingly, the sun rises at a particular point on the horizon as viewed from the centre of the stone circle on day of the June solstice.


At the ancient megalithic observatory  of Kokino, the sun rises from a rocky crest filled with astronomical stone markers.  This 3,800-year-old observatory  in the northwestern town of Kumanovov 70 km (43 miles) north of Skopje, Macedonia, is ranked the 4th oldest observatory in the world according to NASA

Summer Solstice

 How do you celebrate?





















A Bachelor lands in Christchurch (New Zealand)

. . . doing OK here so far . . . I found a good one bedroom place  for a fairly reasonable amount (by Christchurch standards — everything is outrageously high here due to supply and demand). A Bachelor in Christchurch

The great thing about it is the location..literally five minutes to work walking, two blocks from a giant, gorgeous urban park and botanical gardens, many cool bars and cafés within close walking (staggering) distance.  Central city, art museum and major hospital only two blocks away.

 And across the street from a small urban river that people actually canoe/kayak in (kind of like Boulder, Colorado)…A Bachelor in Christchurch   A Bachelor in Christchurch

Very active outdoor lifestyle and fabulous, always changing weather systems off the ocean..many people jogging, walking, running, biking, skating etc everywhere…giant green trees, grass, ferns, flowers etc all over (Charlotte would love it!).

Haven’t felt any earthquakes yet but that is a serious possibility, almost certainty since this is a very active seismic zone!

People are friendly and outgoing and I’m having a completely different experience this time, so far..not making enough money but making enough to do this, I guess, so it’s all good so far!
The Antigua Boatshed Cafe is a quaint little cafe that has great food and riverside seating and is right across a little parking lot from my apartment …now you get a sense of where I landed and live…I think I did luck out on the bachelor pad!
OK, have to get going and get ready for work!! haha, not used to this kind of schedule!
Take care, best regards to everyone  and especially Charlotte..


Photo credits: Christchurch Chamber of Commerce








Mosaiculture in Montreal

“Passing this along,  wish I was there to see it.
I thought you might enjoy this!”
Montreal Mosaiculture
Montreal Mosaiculture
Once every three years, in a major city somewhere in the world, there is an international competition in horticultural sculpture, called “mosaiculture”.  This year it was Montreal.
This is not topiary  but rather creating sculptures out of living plants. A year in advance, the greatest horticulturalists in the world – from 20 different countries – submitted plans.  Steel armatures were created to support the works (some are 40 feet high); they were then wrapped in steel mesh and filled with dirt and moss and watering hoses. Then they ordered 3  million plants of different shades of green and brown and tan, and these were grown in greenhouses all over Quebec.
In late May, the horticulturalists arrived at the Montreal Botanic Gardens and planted all of their plants into the forms.  These sculptures stood on display through the summer until September 29.  There were 50 major sculptures along a path two miles long.
Montreal Mosaiculture
Truly  incredible!
See more sculptures (33 photos!) and read more about the Montreal Mosaiculture Exhibition 2013, at My Virtual Garden 

Celebrate Summer the Swedish Way!

Ikea Swedish Crayfish Party The “kräftskiva” (crayfish party) is one of the most important social events of the year in Sweden. It is usually held in August during the height of the crayfish season, and it’s a time for friends to gather together and celebrate the warm weather, warm company and heaping piles of fresh crayfish.

Participants often wear funny hats and enjoy “singing drinking,” songs while taking snaps (or shots, as we call them.) The parties continue well into the night, when the unmistakable sounds of laughter and singing can be heard from the balconies, verandas and gardens all across the country

If you live close to an IKEA store, join their celebration! Or follow their lead and host your own.

Their menu is mouthwatering:

Ikea Crayfish Party




Dining is traditionally outdoors, but in some areas the party is often driven indoors by summer storms, or heat (as in the southwest), or  by aggressive mosquitoes!

Customary party accessories are comical paper hats, paper tablecloths, paper lanterns (often depicting the Man in the Moon) and bibs.

Ikea Swedish Crayfish PartyThe crayfish are boiled in salt water and seasoned with fresh dill  – preferably “crown dill” harvested after the plant has flowered – then served cold and eaten with one’s fingers.Ikea Summer Crayfish Party




Ikea Summer Crayfish Party


The Ultimate Train – Chocolate!

From fun (and healthy) Fruity and Veggie Trains to the ultimate: A CHOCOLATE Train! (But, hey – chocolate is healthy too, right?).

Chocolate Train

Not only is this decadent chocolate train an amazing piece of artwork and sculpting, and a tribute to chocolate sculpting (read:  JOY TO CHOCOLATE).…..it might also be considered by some chocoholics as a waste of good chocolate – especially if no one is ever going to get to eat any of it!

Confirmed to be pure chocolate (no other materials used) and weighing over 2,755 pounds, nothing is said of the value of the chocolate used!  However, the talent, hours and chocolate invested, and overall size of this train is truly astounding.

Chocolate TrainUnveiled last November at a train station in Brussels, Belgium,  this train, made entirely of chocolate, set a new Guinness World Record as the longest chocolate structure in the world.

Originally on display at the busy Brussels South station, the sculpture is 112-feet (34.05 meters) long and weighs over 2,755 pounds (1250 kilos).Chocolate Train

Chocolate TrainMaltese chocolate artist, Andrew Farrugia, spent over 700 hours constructing this masterpiece.

He was inspired last year after visiting the Belgian Chocolate Festival in Bruge: “I had this idea for a while, and I said,  ‘what do you think if we do this realization of a long chocolate train’, you know, because a train you can make it as long as you like.  Actually it was going to be much smaller than it was, but I kept on adding another wagon, and another wagon, and it’s the size it is today.”  Farrugia had previously built a smaller train of 12 feet for an event in Malta, which he said gave him insight about how to build this much larger version.

The train’s many components include seven wagons modeled after

Chocolate Train

Chocolate Trainmodern Belgian trains. The remaining trains recall Belgium’s older train wagons, including one with a bar and restaurant.

Chocolate Train

Most of the structure was constructed in Farrugia’s home country, but the world record almost wasn’t — many pieces were damaged in transit to Brussels.  Three days before the event, Farrugia transported the chocolate train by truck in 25 wooden boxes from Malta to Belgium.

Farrugia said the train incurred considerable damage during the drive and several of the train’s walls had completely collapsed. Luckily, with hard work and little sleep, the chocolate artist was able to fix all the damages before presenting the train to the public on Monday.

After measuring the length of the train and confirming no material other than chocolate was used, officials from the Guinness Book of World Records added a new category to the collection of world records and declared the train to be the longest chocolate structure in the world.  The train will be on display at various chocolate museums in Belgium as well as at the Brussels’ train museum.


A VIDEO (From NTDTV):Video: Chocolate Train

MORE INSIGHTS (From The Telegraph):

(Contains video from AP)

The train, which is on show near the Eurostar train platform at Brussels’ Gare du Midi, was created to promote the country’s chocolate industry in the face of shrinking European market.

Belgium’s three hundred chocolate companies produce some £2 billion worth of chocolate every year.

Global trends suggest that demand for luxury chocolate is growing in emerging economies, but slowly shrinking in richer countries, with production slowly shifting to new markets where labour costs are low and the beans do not have to be shipped to Europe to be processed.

Since the recession, Belgian chocolatiers have been shielded from a dip in local demand by growing demand in eastern Europe and emerging markets Brazil, Russia, India and China.

The Belgian tourist minister Christos Doulkeridis said the industry was well able to withstand the growing international competition.

“We have the science and artisans to do it. We promote the chocolate of quality,” he said.

Chocolate Train Video

MORE PHOTOGRAPHS (From The Huffington Post)

World News - Nov. 19, 2012

World News - Nov. 19, 2012

World News - Nov. 19, 2012



Indoor Tropical Islands Resort

      An ingenious concept and use of an obsolete structure – the Tropical Islands Resort appears to provide all the fun and enjoyment of  a true tropical paradise and luxury resort.     

 I am intrigued.        Anyone out there have first-hand experience to share? 

Indoor Tropical Island Resort

No chance for a tropical storm in here!

Incredible pictures show luxury resort complete with sandy beaches,

palm trees and clear blue water…

Indoor Tropical Island Resort

inside an enormous German hangar surrounded by snow…

Indoor Tropical Island Resort

 With sandy beaches, clear blue water and palm trees, this looks like a spectacular and luxurious sun-kissed resort.   Holiday makers can be seen relaxing in swimming shorts and bikinis. Even the occasional flamingo can be spotted.

Indoor Tropical Island Resort
But, not everything is as it seems at The Tropical Islands.     
 The ‘resort’ is actually located on the site of a former Soviet military air base in Krausnick, Germany, inside a hangar built originally to house airships designed to haul long-distance cargo.  
And despite it looking like temperatures are through the roof – outside the giant hanger it is actually snowing.

Indoor Tropical Island Resort

As these incredible pictures show, the resort contains a beach, a lagoon, water slides with adventure park.

Indoor Tropical Island Resort
Indoor Tropical Island Resort
Indoor Tropical Island Resort
Guests can enjoy numerous restaurants, evening shows and can also relax in a sauna.

Indoor Tropical Island Resort

 Indoor Tropical Island Resort

Indoor Tropical Island Resort

Indoor Tropical Island Resort

 Indoor Tropical Island RE\esortThis article came to me via email. I apologize for not being able to give proper credit to the original source. Researching this fascinating destination resort, uncovers several informational references, including the Tropical Islands Resort website. You are encouraged to read through some of these sites for the history, construction, and various perspectives of it, such as this excerpt from a Germany Travel  site:

      The Tropical Islands resort, 60km south of Berlin, is a fascinating tropical world that stretches across an area of 66,000m² and features the world’s largest indoor rain forest, a tropical village with traditional buildings from countries such as Bali and Borneo, Europe’s biggest tropical sauna suite and Germany’s highest water slide. Every day there’s a programme of shows and evening entertainment.