Tour Scandinavia
by Ronald Bruce Meyer

Page 3 of 5

Scandinavia With Silversea . . .
1 unusual cruise


Located on the northeastern shore of the Baltic Sea, Estonia borders on the Gulf of Finland to the north, the Russian Federation to the east, Latvia to the south, and the Baltic Sea to the west. The Estonians are a Finno-Ugric people, whose language is related to Finnish, and who have lived on the shores of the Baltic since ancient times. Though dominated by Sweden in the 16th and 17th centuries, Estonia was annexed by Russia in 1704, when Tallinn was known as Revel.

* A Bit of History

With the collapse of the Russian Empire in 1918, an independence movement freed Estonia from Russian rule for two decades. But that brief period of freedom ended when Soviet forces occupied the country in 1940, annexing it in 1944. Estonian independence was finally recognized by the USSR in 1991.

The port of Tallinn ("Danish castle"), on the Gulf of Finland, is the capital and largest city in Estonia. The architecture of the old town is medieval and Gothic. One of the originators of Gestalt psychology, Wolfgang Köhler, was born in Tallinn.

Towers of the town wall, Tallinn

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The largest country in the world, what is now Russia was inhabited by Slavic tribes migrating from southern Poland and the Baltic shore during the 5th century AD. These Slavs pursued agriculture, hunting, and fishing along the water route that was used by Viking warrior-traders (the Varangians) to reach Constantinople. But it was Scandinavian chieftains who founded the first Russian state in the 9th century.

* A Bit of History

That state, centered in Novgorod and Kiev, was overrun by Mongols from Central Asia in the 13th century, but recovered under the grand dukes of Muskovy, or Moscow, and by 1480, under Ivan III, had freed itself from the invading tribes. But it was for Ivan's grandson, Ivan IV -- known as Ivan the Terrible -- to take the title of Tsar (a Russian form of "Caesar") in 1547.

Saint Petersburg was founded by Peter the Great in 1703, and he devoted his reign, against much resistance, to bringing Russia into the modern world. Today, the city that bears his name is Russia's second-largest city. It flourished as the center of the Russian economy and culture -- science, education, and innovation -- while serving as the capital of the Russian Empire. Though the seat of Soviet government was moved to Moscow in 1918, Saint Petersburg's luster was undimmed. The name of the city was Leningrad from 1924 until 1991, when the residents voted to have it changed back to Saint Petersburg.

Peter the Great
Peter the Great of Russia

English conductor and composer Albert Coates was born in St. Petersburg, as were composers Dmitry Shostakovich, Aleksandr Borodin, and Igor Stravinsky, goldsmith Peter Carl Fabergé, choreographers Mikhail Fokine and George Balanchine, poet and Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky, ballerina Natalia Makarova, and novelist Vladimir Nabokov.

* * *
Scandinavia With Silversea.
11 Days.

* Day 1: United States; London, England

Magruder Simpson's 11-day cruise begins with our arrival in London from the United States. We are met and transported to our hotel to freshen up. From there, we'll tour the reconstructed Globe Theatre, where we may recall the greatest playwright in the English language. The original structure, the most renowned theater of Elizabethan and Jacobean London, was constructed in 1599 from the recycled timbers of "The Theatre," London's first playhouse, built by Richard Burbage in 1576.

The Globe, managed by the Burbage family, was destroyed by fire in 1613, rebuilt shortly thereafter, then dismantled in 1644. The modern reconstruction was completed, and held its first full season of Shakespeare, in 1997.

While in London, we'll visit the Tate Gallery. Founded in 1897, the Tate houses the national collections of British art from the 16th century to the present day -- including works by Hogarth, Gainsborough, Reynolds, Stubbs, Blake, Palmer, Constable, Whistler, and Sargent -- and of international art of the 20th century.

The Globe

Tate Gallery, London

* Day 2: London; Dover

We depart London and arrive in Dover, on the southern coast of England, by 5:00 PM. Dover Harbour is Northern Europe's busiest ferry port, and from there we board our cruise ship and wave farewell to the white cliff. We part the waves of the North Sea, in the direction of Norway, toward Jutland and the Scandinavian peninsula.

* Day 3: North Sea

We cruise the North Sea, which the Romans called Mare Germanicum, traveling its 600-miles length, while enjoying the amenities aboard our ship. Perhaps we'll glimpse the Flying Dutchman, the haunted ship that, according to legend, was piloted by a Dutch mariner, doomed for uttering a blasphemous oath to sail aimlessly in the North Sea, while playing dice, for his soul, with the devil. Was that music from Richard Wagner's opera Der fliegende Holländer we heard? We'll also pass Denmark, on the Jutland peninsula, site of the 1916 Battle of Jutland, the only major naval engagement in World War I.

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