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Old Jun 30 2019, 06:47 AM   #4972
granath
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Join Date: Nov 2004
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P'ter, I hope you're feeling better after your therapy session.

Great progress on the Invacar, Z!

Sorry for the long absence but we went on our vacation trip, see below:

It was a great trip, but exhausting, and as always, I'm glad to be home. I'll add some pix later, when I get them stored online.

We started on Friday, June 21 at 5 a.m. We're pretty early birds anyway, so it wasn't a problem. Especially not at this time of year, as the sun was well up by then and it was almost broad daylight. We drove for about two hours to Turku, where we were in plenty of time to board the ferry to Stockholm. Luckily it wasn't too hot, so sitting in the car waiting to board wasn't too bad.

On the trip over, we sat on the sun deck to start with, but unfortunately our son had forgotten to pack his sunshades, and we had forgotten to remind him, so he complained of a headache (sun, sea and no shades is bad news) and we had to go to our cabin. They were selling hideously overpriced sunshades on board, but they were a lot too expensive for our budget. The trip was 11 hours, so we had a cabin even though it wasn't an overnight trip. He tried to get some sleep but his headache pill didn't help and he threw up on the cabin floor (common in glare-induced migraines). Luckily my husband managed to clean the mess while I tended to our son. Still the puking helped and he managed to take a nap and felt much better afterwards. We had lunch and dinner on the ferry and drove from Stockholm to Uppsala, a lovely university city probably best known for botanist Carl Linnaeus (or Carolus Linnaeus or Carl von Linné). We got there around 9 p.m. (10 p.m. Eastern European DST) and just checked in to our hotel and took an early night, as our day started so early. Because it was the midsummer weekend, most places were shut.

The next day (June 22) we got up early enough to be the first guests in the breakfast room. We headed out to the University botanical garden and walked around the old city. The morning was sunny and warm, with temps hitting 25 C at lunchtime. So after a quick lunch, we were happy enough to sit in our air-conditioned car for the next leg of our trip to Gothenburg. When we got there, we checked in to our hotel, which was across the river from Ullevi Stadium. We took a quick walk and had some dinner and then bed.

The next morning (June 23) we walked some more, had lunch at KFC and visited the Volvo museum. In the afternoon we took the ferry to Frederikshavn in Denmark. First we visited Skagen, although we didn't walk to the tip of the cape, drove through a couple of idyllic small towns on the way and checked in to our hotel in Aalborg. There we had a drink each in the hotel bar. The waitress took to our son so much that she brought him some candy on the house.

From Aalborg (June 24) we drove to Lübeck in Germany, it's a nice Hanseatic town. We had a great view from our hotel room on the 7th storey. We walked around in the old city for a bit. By this time the European heatwave was making itself felt, we had temperatures around 30 C that afternoon. At 10 p.m. we sat in shirtsleeves on the roof terrace.

The next day (June 25) we drove to Berlin, and when we got there, checked in for two nights at our hotel as early as it was possible to do so and spent much of the day walking around in the city, in spite of the heat. My husband and I must have drunk around 5 liters of water each, our son with his smaller body size about 3). In the afternoon, it was 36 C in the shade. Luckily there was a bit of wind or else I wouldn't have wanted to get out of our air-conditioned hotel room! And we stuck to the shade wherever we found it... It was my first time in Germany and Berlin, and it was quite interesting to walk around and seeing places of historical significance, such as Alexanderplatz (the main square in East Berlin) and Potsdamerplatz (the central square in West Berlin), Brandenburger Tor (which was a lot smaller than I expected) and Unter den Linden (the main street of the city, literally Under the linden trees (lime tree or basswood)). The linden trees were in bloom and the scent was sometimes overpowering, certainly stronger than traffic exhaust fumes. Another, much less pleasant smell was sewage. I'd been warned that Berlin smelled bad, but I hadn't expected quite this. Of course, the heat didn't improve things at all... We had dinner at an outdoor restaurant serving Bavarian cuisine. It was the closest thing you could get to Oktoberfest without attending the event in Munich in October. It was loud, but people weren't rowdy, and there were lots of families with school-age children.

Our hotel was quite close to Checkpoint Charlie, so we went there first thing following breakfast on June 26. I'm old enough to remember the fall of the Berlin Wall quite vividly, it was rather awesome at times to just step across a former border. They had forecast daytime highs of 37 C (99 F), so during the hottest part of the day, we visited the German Museum of Technology. Interesting, if rather exhausting because the air conditioning couldn't keep up with the demand. We had eaten a reasonably filling lunch at the museum, and when we finally got to our hotel around 7 p.m. after an exhausting walk in the late afternoon heat, both my son and I refused to go further than the grocery store on the other side of the street from our hotel to get a snack before bed and to buy more bottles of water.

The next morning (June 27) we had a long drive ahead of us, as we went from Berlin through Poland to Kaunas, Lithuania (nearly 1,000 kilometers). There we had a room in a tiny hotel (20 rooms), which was very difficult to find, because our satnav kept trying to get us to use streets that were blocked for repairs, in spite of us having updated the software just before we left for our trip. Well, finally we got there with the help of Google Maps and a bit of luck. Fortunately temperatures were much more reasonable, around 22 C during the day. But we took a fairly early start the next day as well, so I mostly got to see Kaunas through the windscreen of our car...

The next morning (June 28) we left right after breakfast for our final long drive to Tallinn. We paused for lunch in Latvia, and at the border with Estonia, we stopped at a liquor store catering mainly to tourists. Latvia has a lower alcohol tax than even Estonia, so booze was cheap. We had to put our suitcases on the back seat, because the trunk of our car was full of beer and cider. :P/> Once we'd arrived in Tallinn, we checked in to our hotel and went for a walk in Old Town. It's been wonderfully restored following the end of the Soviet era, some of the houses look like they're made of candy. We had pizza in an outdoor restaurant in the central square. It was quite chilly, really, but that didn't bother me following the heat of Berlin.

This morning (June 29), we had a banana each for breakfast and headed for the ferry home... The trip was uneventful, although we had to take a circuitous route home, because the city center of Helsinki was pretty much blocked by the Helsinki Pride parade, with 100,000 attendees expected.

My Impressions

This was just a taste of most of the countries surrounding the Baltic Sea. I'd definitely like to go back, certainly Latvia and Poland deserve a second look, as we barely stopped there.

We've visited Denmark once before, three years ago, and Sweden, mainly Stockholm, several times, and my son and husband visited Tallinn last year without me. Of course, I've also traveled in Europe in my youth before meeting my husband. But Latvia Lithuania, Poland, and Germany were new places for me. I'd like to go again when our son is a bit older, and hopefully willing to try more exotic foods. For me, half the fun of visiting a new place is discovering its cuisine, but you can't do that if you stick to hamburgers, chicken nuggets and pizza for most of the trip...

I liked traveling this early in the season, when the crowds aren't overwhelming and you can easily book a hotel room at a day's notice. We literally decided our itinerary during our trip. Thank goodness for a portable computer and complementary Wi-fi in pretty much all hotels!

One thing that really struck me is the almost complete absence of English on signs and even ads in the Baltic states and Poland. I've heard foreigners say that English is just about the third official language of Finland (and Sweden, Norway and Denmark), and now I believe it. You see lots of English ads in the streets here, and even some official bulletins and signs, say when a street or popular tourist attraction has been closed for repairs.

I love, love, love the freedom of travel in the Schengen area. Driving from one country to the next was just as easy as crossing a state line in the US, no formalities at all. They only wanted to see my husband's passport at each hotel (because the rooms were booked in his name), and all of our travel documentation before boarding each ferry.
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