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Sunday, August 09, 2009

I Saw A Viking!

I saw a viking while at Tivoli, or at least a guy who fit the image - tall, lean, long blond hair, blue eyes... the complete package, so to speak. He was eating blue cotton candy, which made him perfect in my absurdist's view.

Summer in the Baltic states is apparently berry season. The farmer's markets were overflowing with real blueberries (as opposed to the huge huckleberries we get here that pretend to be blueberries) and tiny, flavor-packed alpine strawberries that are another world compared to the huge, flavorless things we get here. While I passed on the reindeer chili in Helsinki, I couldn't resist the raspberries, cloudberries, and blueberries. Only the apple was a disappointment.

Stockholm was flying their Pride flags on the bridge next to the palace. We watched some of the changing of the guard ritual. The part that will stay with me is the sound of fifty horses passing by on a cobblestone street bouncing off the buildings around us. I can imagine a hundred years ago that sound striking dread in your heart, because it was a bit ominous even in current times. The Nobel museum wasn't worth the price of admission, but sailing through the archipelago to the city was incredible. Some islands were only big enough for one of two houses. Some were much bigger. We could see small marinas tucked away in hidden harbors. A falcon landed on one of our balcony railings for a while.

Last time we were in Italy, we overdosed on churches, so we made a real effort to keep it to a minimum this time. The Church of the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg was amazing. Every surface was covered in mosaics, as art form I truly enjoy, and the exterior is wild. We also went to a church that I don't remember the name of, but it was in the Peter and Paul fortress in St. Petersburg and featured tombs of the entire Romanov dynasty from Peter the Great to Nicolas, Alexandra, and their children and those who died with them.

The Hermitage is probably great, but it felt as if we were on a forced death march through it. I get opulence burn-out pretty quickly, so between the baroque interiors and the sumptuous art, I was ready to leave an hour before we did. Weirdest juxtaposition - watching people set up the stage for Madonna's concert outside the Winter Palace as we were listening to our tour guide talk about the Siege of Leningrad. BTW, the Russian sense of humor rocks.


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