Category Archives: Travel

Christmas in Munich – Day 4: Egyptian Stuff and the Residenz

So here we are, departure day. Thanks to a combination of a later flight time and Munich’s excellent mass transit system, we managed to fit in a few sights before flying back to the UK.

One thing that really needs to be said is just how fantastic Munich is for art museums. It really is of the calibre and quality that you would expect of a capital city, which Munich was a century ago as the capital of Bavaria. So I guess that makes sense.

There is also Ludwig I, the first king of Bavaria, to thank for all these exhibits because his patronage. The size of the complex and the grand architectural design of the buildings are something to behold. Truly I could spend the best part of a week here and still not be done with the exhibits.

So, the first of the two places we visited was the Egyptian Museum (it has a more complex name, but this will do). It’s one of the newer museums, having been moved to this location a few years ago, and this really does show. For one thing, the entire layout of the museum feels remarkably modern with recent sculptures depicting how ancient Egyptians might have looked being mixed in with the ancient artefacts.

The most modern thing about this museum, however, is the audio guide. You see, this audio guide is a tablet containing pictures and audio snippets to give you more information about selected exhibits. This is done thanks to a metal strip on the floor that highlights the suggested walking path, which is not a perfect to do this but it really helps bring this museum to life.

I know from some reviews on TripAdvisor that a common complaint is that there isn’t a ‘big attraction’ in this museum. Whilst this may be true, there are still a large number of interesting things to be seen, including a silver sculpture of Horus and a golden face that was part of a sarcophagus.

Also of note is how this museum went into the encroachment of Christianity onto Egyptian art. It makes sense that this would happen as Christianity reached Egypt in the first century AD, but the idea of Bible stories being sculpted in an Egyptian style had never occurred to me.

The museum ends with a bit of an extra – some artwork from the ancient Middle East. The panels themselves were huge and, thanks to their proximity to a lot of Egyptian art, you could see how these figures might have been influenced. Especially the positioning  of the feet.

We left Munich’s museum district after this with thoughts of returning to see what on Earth a Glyptotek is. Our final destination being one that we should keep definitely have visited when we had more time to spend: the Munich Residence.

If I have my history correct, where Nymphenburg Palace was the summer residence of the electors of Bavaria the Residence was where they actually held court and would go about most of their business. The museum itself consists of a tour around the residence itself and an exhibition of the treasury – regrettably we only had time for the former.

Honestly, I think that there is more to the Munich Residence than Nymphenburg Palace. The only thing missing is the extensive gardens, which would tip the balance in favour of Nymphenburg should I visit again in spring or summer.

The first two rooms of the Residence alone are worth the price of entry (and the apparently obligatory free audio guide). The first room you come to contains a grotto, as was the fashion of the times. What gets me about this grotto is not only is it beautiful sight, but the outside of it is covered in painted shells. The patience required to complete such a work of art is beyond my scope.

The next room was the Antiquarium. It’s the one of the largest rooms in the building and boasts a square footage that could contain my apartment many times over. It was built to house the sculpture collection of the then Elector, but was later modified to become a banqueting hall of sorts. There’s no real way to truly capture this room, it’s one of those things that you just need to see in the flesh.

The rest of the rooms on the short version of the tour vary between your standard palace fare to some extremely lavish and beautiful galleries. It’s worth noting that a lot of this was destroyed in the bombings of World War II, including a court church that would have been spectacular back in the day.

It’s not only rooms on display in this part of the museum, but also the large collection of porcelain that was acquired by the residents of the residence. Originally these were all Japanese or Chinese imitating the Japanese style, but it was interesting to find out how the demand for these decreased thanks to the creation of Meissen porcelain in Germany. After seeing a lot of this on display in Linderhof it was good to learn some of the historical context.

Quick as a flash it was time for us to be headed back to the hotel to pick up the bags and make our way to the airport. Nothing new to add to any of my longer lists, but today was such a day of discovery that I felt keen to write about it.

So here we are at the end of this short break to Munich. I’m glad to have tomorrow off work as all this walking has pretty much destroyed my boots and I need to invest in a new pair. Also, I just like to have days off. Until the next trip away!

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Christmas in Munich – Day 3: Churches and Alte Pinakothek

So here we are already with the last full day in Munich. It’s amazing just how quickly the days go. With that in mind, there’s a lot to talk about so let’s get on it.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 689/751Food item: Schabziger

So, I managed to find some of this yesterday and figured that it would be good to try it as part of breakfast. As cheese goes it does look slightly off-putting as it is a pale green colour. This is because it is flavoured using blue fenugreek, so by virtue of colour addition this cheese becomes green.

On its own this cheese is dry and flaky, which speaks to this being it a cheese grated on top of things. It has a taste that is like a salty, herbal Swiss Parmesan. Nice in small amounts, but not something to chomp on. The web recommends mixing this with butter to have as a spread, and this is the far better option than just having it as it is. The butter tames the acid and helps add a bit of creaminess. It also helps to dilute some of the green colour of the cheese…

With breakfast taken care of, it was time to use and start abusing a group ticket for the public transport (seriously, this is great value compared to London) and went to the first stop of the day: the Asamkirche.

When I first saw this 15 years ago I found the Asamkirche to be incredibly overwhelming. I still have never seen any church that is as over-the-top as this one with its skulls, angel heads and figures of the grim reaper strewn around the place. Also, it’s hard to get to grips with the amount of gold leaf present in such a small space. To think that this was actually built by some rich brothers as a place to be buried. Just ridiculous amounts of money there.

From here we walked a few blocks until we reached the Viktualienmarkt: a sizeable daily food and crafts market that takes place around the corner from Marianplatz. One of the defining features of this market is that it happens in a square surrounding the Munich maypole.

You know me, I am a sucker for markets and want to see all the fresh produce on sale. It’s a real pity to stay in a hotel when there is so much nice looking food on offer. Still there’s one thing I couldn’t resist:

There’s no way that I could be here in Bavaria without having some Weisswurst and a pretzel. Finding this made me glad to have just tried out that cheese for breakfast. I know this sounds weirdly sexual, but I just love dipping the Weisswurst in the sweet mustard and sucking the meat out of the skin.

Anyway, from here we left the market and went to St Peter’s Church. This is one of the largest churches in the city and, whilst not as glamorous as the Asamkirche, is still an impressive building on the inside.

One part of the church caught my attention – the bejewelled skeleton of Saint Munditia. This is not the first time that I have come across one of these catacomb saints, but this is the first one I’ve seen whose placement wasn’t too far out of your field of vision when walking around the church. I have to admit that I really do not understand why you would dig up a skeleton in Italy and have is shipped to Munich in order to be put on display covered in jewels… then again I’m not am 18th century Catholic.

We had a quick break for coffee and poppyseed cheesecake (I had some Schwip Schwap, because I need as much Spezi as possible before I leave the country) is we could be fuelled up for our next stop…

The English Gardens. One of the largest urban parks in Europe and over three times the size of London’s Hyde Park. Considering the amount of snow that we traipsed through yesterday, it is incredible just quickly it can all just melt away.

We only spent a few hours here and we barely scratched the surface of these gardens. In all our walking we didn’t come across the Chinese tower or the Japanese teahouse or any of the interesting buildings that are mentioned on the Wikipedia page. If I ever come back to Munich then this is a place that needs revisiting and a proper explore.

By now our feet were aching, but we marched on to the final sight of the day: Alte Pinakothek. It’s an art gallery that focuses on ‘old art’, so anything that’s not classed a modern. Sadly this museum was under renovation so we only got to see about a quarter of the collection on display, but this was just enough for our now-aching feet to deal with.

Where the museum would usually cover artists from all across Western Europe, the rooms that were not under renovation were mainly Dutch artists, with some Spanish and German ones. Considering that the entry fee was only 4€ and this came with a free audio guide, this was still tremendous value for money.

On previous trips to art galleries in Rotterdam and Vienna, I have been seeing a lot of paintings by Rubens recently. With today’s visit I think I must have seen a substantial cross-section of his life’s work and, now, I am becoming a bit of a fan. The sheer variation in his pictures is astonishing as he goes form a contorted scene of the Last Judgement to an imagining of the scene when Seneca killed himself. So much talent.

It was also interesting to find out how the height of the rooms within this particular museum had been designed with a particular Rubens painting in mind. A painting that is one of the largest canvas painted at around 6 metres in height. As with all the other Rubens paintings on show this was excellent, but to think this dictated the height of ceilings in a museum wing is extraordinary.

The other artist that I saw that stuck out for me was Bartolomé Estéban Murillo with his posed and idealised paintings of street children. There is just something with these pictures that interest me, as does the fact that none of these are on display in his native Spain because only foreigners would buy them from him. Hopefully he was able to carve out a proper living for himself anyway.

Finally it was dinner time and, in stark contrast to the more refined surroundings of the previous day’s meal, we went to Augustiner-Keller for dinner. As with the Weisswurst from earlier in the day… when in Bavaria do as the Bavarians do. It’s a bit loud in the cellar (which is accessed via a long spiral staircase) but a lot of fun.

It was time to overdose on more sausages (again, this is Bavaria), drink a tankard of Spezi and share a starter plate containing local foods including brawn and the restaurant’s own version of obatzda. We were all stuffed by the end of the meal and proceeded to start walking this off with a final walk around the Christmas market in Marianplatz.

Today I brought my decoration count up to four with the purchase of a metal tree hanger of Santa on a steam train as well as a squirrel and a songbird made of something that I’m not currently able to name.

Tomorrow we leave for home, but we have enough time to at least get something done. At the moment I’m not sure what it is, but that’s a worry for tomorrow’s me.

Christmas in Munich – Day 2: Nymphenburg

Well, the snow that was falling last night just did not stop. We woke up in the morning to the sight of bright white streets covered in freshly fallen snow. I honestly cannot remember the last time I woke up to a winter wonderland, especially since I am staying in Lehel – which is one of the oldest suburbs of Munich.

So this was where the day started, a snow covered Munich with yet more snow falling slowly. Apparently this is a cold snap as this is not what you would expect in the first week of December… but this just helps to make everything feel that much more Christmassy.

Continuing yesterday’s theme of Germanic history, today our main attraction was Nymphenburg Palace. Not only is it the birthplace of Ludwig II but it was also the summer residence for the rulers of Bavaria since the late 1600s. So, as someone who enjoys absorbing history during holidays, a visit here was a no brainer.

When you arrive it is difficult to not be impressed by just how expansive Nymphenburg is – it really does put Buckingham Palace to shame. Then again I might be biased because I saw Nymphenburg completely covered in snow, which just helps to make anything feel a bit larger and more other-worldly.

Seeing how yesterday I was walking through Linderhof and Neuschwanstein, it would be expected that I would be a bit ‘palaced out’ or at least that most things in Nymphenburg would just pale in comparison. That is until you enter the Great Hall of Nymphenburg and you remember that since Ludwig grew up here, he would likely have derived at least some influence from his surroundings.

The Great Hall truly is stunning. A bit chilly because of the lack of heating, but artistically it is absolutely beautiful. It reminded me a bit of a Grand Hall that I saw during my visit to a palace in Tallinn, just on a far larger scale. It’s one of those rooms where pictures really do not do it justice, but there’s no harm in trying.

Walking around the many rooms of the palace with the audio guide playing reminded me just how little I know about European history. Especially German history, which must be extra complicated seeing how it was split into so many parts with their own rules for such a long time. I don’t think I am completely up to speed with how it worked for the rulers before Bavaria became a kingdom, so I guess that is some homework for me to do.

One of the rooms that has, weirdly, stayed with me was the Queen’s antechamber which has been decorated with the ‘Gallery of Beauties’ as commissioned by King Ludwig I. The idea of commissioning portraits of 36 beautiful women to be hung in your home sounds a bit creepy. More than that, it is a little bit creepy. However, it is also incredibly fascinating. All of the pictures are pretty chaste and many of them come with very interesting stories (especially those of Lola Montez and Jane Digby, the latter of the two being so interesting that I purchased a biography of her within a few hours of leaving the palace).

After the palace we had a wander through the gardens, which coincided with the snow becoming decidedly heavier. As weirdly magical as it was to be seeing these gardens covered in snow, there’s a part of me that would love to see the gardens in their full glory during the summer.

One benefit of being in the gardens in winter is that you can go for a long time without seeing anyone, so you can walk around and pretend that these gardens belong to you. We also managed to see a doe and fawn bound across the path and graze within the bare trees. That was a pretty cool moment.

We made our way back to the Munich a Central Station for lunch (because nowhere was open in Nymphenburg Palace… which feels like a wasted opportunity). This may sound a bit weird to any Germans reading this, but I am so jealous of the sandwich shops that you can find in German stations. In Britain it’s a bit of a tasteless baguette with some generic filling, here I had a leberkase, pickle and salad sandwich in a role that tasted of pretzels. If a sandwich place like this opened near where I worked, then I would be an incredibly regular patron.

The rest of the afternoon was spent looking around some of the larger shops and department stores in Munich. Just window shopping, for now, but it is always a treat to see how some of these larger stores are when you go to other countries. I tried to use this opportunity to track down the last German sausage on the food list, but nowhere had it. I guess that I’ll have to give up the ghost on finding Thuringer Leberwurst during this trip.

By the time we reached the Christmas Market near the Rathaus it was well past sunset and a choir had just started a half hour set. How Christmassy, right? It’s hard to not get in the spirit and find yourself buying a decoration. For my sins, I purchased an elk carved out of a tree branch. I really love this one because of how unique he is because of the wood itself.

Dinner was at a restaurant called Alter Hof where I found myself demolishing this plate of sausage and sauerkraut with a trusty glass of Spezi. I am not sure if I have mentioned Spezi before on this blog, but this is pretty much the only thing I drink when I find myself in either Germany or Austria. It’s a blend of cola and orange that just makes me incredibly happy.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Progress: 688/751Food item: Basler Leckerli

For dessert is a food item! I managed to find some of these being sold by a gingerbread stall in the main market. These are Swiss-style spice biscuits in the same family as gingerbread, but in these the ginger is in balance with, what tastes like, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. You also have the bitter, sweet and sour influences of the candied citrus peel. In terms of texture, this is more like a dense, sticky and slightly dry cake instead of a biscuit, which would make this like a spiced flapjack. Have to say that I may need to buy another pack of these to take home.

Tomorrow is set to be the warmest day of this break as we reach a maximum of 4 degrees. I’m expecting that all the snow will be gone by the time I wake up tomorrow, which will be a pity in a way but I’ll be happy to not have freezing cold toes and thighs.

Christmas in Munich – Day 1: Palaces of Ludwig

It’s been 13 years, but I’ve finally gone back to my roots and am spending some time in Germany. This will be my fourth time visiting as well as being my fourth time in Munich. Why Munich? Well it’s December and that means one thing: Christmas markets!

More on that later. We arrived late on a Saturday night which meant an early night because, on our first full day, we were doing a palace tour. Why am I mentioning this? Well, I had the weird pleasure of satisfying a goal of being the first person to walk onto a plane. I know it sounds bizarre, but seeing the plane completely empty with my being the first to board made me feel incredibly important.

List item: Be the first person to board a plane
Status: Completed

Anyway, onto more interesting things.


The older I get, the happier I am to do tours. As a bit of a control freak in my everyday life there is something soothing about having an entire day sorted for me. Of course this meant an early start (5:30 when adjusted to British time) so we could get onto the coach.

So there’s me bringing a bunch of things for entertainment for these long coach stretches and then I see it: snow. When we booked ourselves onto this tour of the palaces of Ludwig II, I really hoped there would be a bit of snow for the sake of pictures and atmosphere. I did not expect to be greeted with forests and mountains covered in a blanket of snow.

If seeing this from the coach window didn’t make me feel Christmassy enough, getting out at Linderhof, and feeling that first crunch of snow beneath my feet, was just something else. Then came the walk from the parking lot to the palace itself. Bright sunshine, glistening snow and a whole lot of crunching.

With this visit to Linderhof I have now visited the three palaces of King Ludwig II (the first I visited being Herrenchiemsee back in 1999). Interestingly, Linderhof is the only of his three palaces that ended up being completed and actually lived in by the king. Sadly the grotto and the fountain of Neptune were under restoration work, but we still had a tour inside.

Since no pictures are allowed to be taken I’m going to move on to our next stop after a few thoughts: I want a gilded peacock statue, this may be one of the most consistently ornate palaces I have ever seen and I don’t think I have ever seen so many vases in my life.

After Linderhof was a quick hop to the village of Oberammergau – most famous for their tradition of holding 6-hour long passion plays. It’s also well known for having buildings painted with Germanic frescoes and traditional woodcarvings.

It’s definitely a beautiful village to walk though, and that’s all we could really do. You see, today was the first Sunday in Aadvent… meaning that nothing was open except for cafes and restaurants. I mean there was a weird wood carving place open… but they were selling very offputting crafts of babies for €60 so I kinda want to leave it at that.

From Oberammergau it was time to head to the village of Hohenschwangau – the home of Neuschwanstein Castle. This is my second time here, but my first time inside the actual caste. At least I don’t think I went into the castle 16 years ago. I honestly cannot remember… so let’s just go with this being my first time.

 List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 73/100Sight: Schloss Neuschwanstein
Location: Hohenschwangau, Germany
Position: #159

The walk from the Hohenschwangau to Neuschwanstein should take around half an hour, but that doesn’t take into account just how often we stopped to take pictures. At this point we must have taken nearly 100 pictures of various views of the castle. Kinda wish I was kidding, but the castle is just that magnetic. Little wonder that it is one of the big inspirations for the castle in Disneyland.

As you get higher up the mountain, you also find yourself starting to peak above some of the tree line. With the entire landscape covered in snow, this view you get from near Neuschwanstein is just out of this world. Like something I can imagine Bob Ross painting, just with less mountains.

As with Linderhof there is no pictures allowed inside of Neuschwanstein itself. Considering the number of people that we were being herded around with this makes a lot of sense on the level of just getting people in and out. Still, it’s a pity I couldn’t get anything of the inside. Makes me wish that Google Glass had taken off and been more affordable. There’s so much in both of these castles that I didn’t really get the opportunity to completely digest – like the little grotto room in Neuschwanstein that seemed to make no sense other than being pretty.

The fact that there is so much in Neuschwanstein to see and yet it remains unfinished is absolutely mind-boggling. Then again, there was no way that Ludwig could complete this due to the extreme cost. Same with Herrenchiemsee, another of his unfinished palaces. To think that a man like Ludwig could be so out of touch with reality and had a high enough of a position to actually carry out his fantasies probably goes a long way to explain why few countries have a monarchy. Still, makes for some excellent landmarks.

This was the end of the tour and meant a two hour ride back to Munich. En route we caught a glimpse of a blood red supermoon and it started to snow. King Ludwig would have really been in his element tonight. I only wish I was sitting on the right side of the coach in order to capture this scene on film.

On our way back to the hotel we took out first proper browse through the Munich Christmas Market. Whilst it isn’t as large as the one in Vienna, this holds a special place in my heart because it’s the first one I ever visited.

The falling snow made the walk home so special that I was feeling giddy (or that might have been the hot chocolate). This isn’t the clumpy snow we get in the UK, but proper beautiful powder snow that crunches beneath your feet as you walk through the street.

I’m sure we’ll have a proper go at the market in the next few days when we are less tired from a long day being guided around. I’ve seen a few decorations that I want to purchase, but I’m going to just see where the days take me.

The Great EU Quest: Sweden – Exit Via City Hall

Good news: the rain was basically over and done with by the time we’d finished our breakfast. Bad news: a lot of plane delays meant we are set to get home after 11pm. I’m just going to filter out all airplane related rants, because positivity.


Anyway, with out flight (originally) set to depart at 6pm we had most of a day to say a goodbye to Stockholm. This started with our first breakfast that wasn’t bought in a supermarket, so we ventured back into the Old Town to find somewhere suitable. We settled on a Café Schweizer whose distinguishing features are a near constant smell of oranges and walls that have been scrawled on with permanent marker.

For 89 Krona we got orange juice, coffee and a sandwich. It’s amazing how quickly you get used to prices in a country. In the UK that would be daylight robbery, in Sweden this felt almost reasonable. I did enjoy my salami and brie sandwich, even if the only reason I picked it was because of the sheer number of poppy seeds.

After this we did some light souvenir shopping before crossing over to Riddarholmen. Why? Well, yesterday, when we clambered up to Monteliusvagen, I spotted a place that looked like the ultimate place to take photos of the lake to the west of Stockholm. We would have gotten better views had it not been so cloudy/foggy, but I think we managed to get some cool views.

From here we got to our first and only destination of the day: Stockholm City Hall. This building’s main claim to fame is that it hosts the Nobel Winners’ Banquet on December 10 every year. Also, you can see the top of the City Hall’s tower from pretty much anywhere in Stockholm. So yes, it’s a place to go.

The only way to see inside is via a guided tour, which is given every half hour. With the weather being a bit grey and misty we were very lucky to get the final two tickets on the next tour. We were also very lucky to get Joanna (probably spelt wrong) as a tour guide as that made the 50 minutes just fly by.

The interior of Stockholm City Hall was far more impressive than I could have imagined. From the painted cityscapes in the Hall of the Prince (done so that you would get a view of Stockholm no matter which side of the table you are sat on) to the brickwork and columns in the Blue Hall (which isn’t blue because they thought the red bricks looked nice just the way they were).

So this was all well and good. I was not at all prepared for the Golden Room. The walls are covered in glass mosaic tiles containing a gold leaf. The walls depict famous people and events on Swedish history with the back wall showing a woman (representing Sweden) in the centre of the world inviting countries from the east and the west to broker peace.

There are plenty of other stories about the construction of the City Hall, all of which are entertaining and embody exactly what it is that should be admired about Scandinavians. For the history and the artwork I think I preferred this guided tour to our experience in Fotografiska. Don’t discount this building just because it’s a town hall.

Lunch… well that was meant to be at the airport as a way to keep us going through the flight and into a late arrival. Well, you can see from the picture what we ended up doing. A bagel at the airport Starbucks cost more than breakfast. For something more substantial you are looking at £25-30 per person. So, we just cobbled together our remaining Krona to buy crisps, chocolate and some bottled water. I mean, it’s fine but I am really looking forward to being able to get lunch for under £5 again.

Anyway that’s it for Sweden. I’m writing this on the plane home polishing off the remaining pieces of the (rather nice) salt-fudge chocolate bar. I think we got the timing perfect for our itinerary and I am now thinking about a future weekend away that I want it do in two months time. I’m between Malta and Cyprus right now… so I guess we’ll see where I end up.

The Great EU Quest: Sweden – ABBA, Death and Photographs

Well, this is first. For the first time since starting this blog I have a vacation day where I managed to not tick anything off of any of my lists. I thought about listening to a list album as I typed this up or even shift over the two breads from the first day, but that would be dishonest. In the end, I like writing these little travelogues if only to give me a chance to revisit my holidays when these are published six months later.

So anyway, the day started with us finally finishing off the rest of the limpa and kavring. We managed to make a real saving there with those breads when you consider how many meals we got out of them. After this we took a tram back to the amazing island of Djurgården to visit…


… the ABBA Museum! We almost didn’t come here, but the more I thought about it the more I realised that this had to be done. It’s embarrassing to admit but I had tears in my eyes at the end of the introductory video. Since it feels like ABBA have always been around it’s so easy to forget how great they are.

This is the most expensive museum that I have been to for a long time (with tickets at about £25 each) so it really isn’t a place to go if you have negative or neutral feelings for ABBA. For me, this was an excellent place to spend a morning with the audio guide making it even better as it is actually narrated by the four members themselves. It just helps to make this feel less like a museum and more like an experience.

The amount of memorabilia on display is astonishing. Costumes, gold records and instruments are pretty much a given. However, this also had the helicopter from the Arrival artwork, newspaper clippings about the group members’ pre-ABBA successes and reproductions of many key rooms in their history. One of the more touching ones was a reproduction of Agnetha’s kitchen where the view from the window helped to inspire the touching song ‘Slipping Through My Fingers’.

It would have been so easy to make this museum a cash-grab, but this is something Sweden are legitimately proud of. Also, I can’t image the current King of Sweden ever forgiving the creators of the museum if they half-arsed it. Sure it’s a bit pricey, but I had a brilliant time despite not engaging in any karaoke or dance lessons. I did, however, have a go at the ABBA trivia and song-mixing games long the way… where I completely sucked.


Either side of the ABBA exhibits were two other music based rooms. One about the nearby Gröna Lund music venue (which didn’t interest me) and a room full of Eurovision things. This Eurovision room is the first place you enter and it was the moment I realised that I would really enjoy this museum.

After this we boarded the ferry back to Gröna Lund to make use of the lunch menus. We settled on a place that had Toast Skagen on the menu. It was that or meatballs… and I think the hub has had enough of those for now. Think of Toast Skagen as a posh prawn mayonnaise on toast that is then topped with fish roe. Utterly delicious and especially good if you have decent prawns like this place had.


Fuelled up and raring to go we took the metro a few stops south to Skogskyrkogården – the only place on our itinerary as suggested by the husband – a UNESCO World Heritage recognised cemetery. Yes, I’m worried about him too.


What makes this place unique is how the grave plots are amongst the woodland. None of the gravestones are large or ostentatious, which means that the trees are able to pull focus. It’s a weirdly beautiful place to walk through and brings a meaning to the phrase ‘Forest of the Dead’. Like with all major cemeteries there is a celebrity grave to find: that of screen legend Greta Garbo. The nice thing is how her grave stands out, but not so much that it ruins the ambiance created by the surrounding trees.

We had a beautiful day to walk about Skogskyrkogården with the trees providing a lot of much needed shade from the hot August sun. Before leaving we spent a good amount of time sitting in an area on top of a hill set aside for meditation. Being surrounded by graves the talk did drift towards the morbid. Still, not a bad setting to get a little bit morbid in.


Back on the metro we went feeling a bit refreshed spiritually. The next destination was  Monteliusvagen. It’s a small street on the edge of cliff on Södermalm Island which affords you great views of Gamla Stan and the surrounding area. People aren’t wrong. We had a perfectly clear day for this and got some stunning views from up there. It feels like one of those very open secrets which means there are always people there, but it won’t be heaving.

We finished our day on Södermalm with a visit to Fotografiska – a photography museum. It didn’t get off to a great start as this museum refuses to take cash and instead wants people to buy tickets on their app (which doesn’t work for UK residents) or by card (which incurs fees when used internationally). The ABBA museum is technically cashless as well, but they have a way to pay by cash if you don’t have a card.

So yes, we didn’t start our visit in the best of moods. This was improved by the first of two exhibitions which was centred around horses. Sounds a bit weird but it was so interesting to see how humans and their relationships with horses are depicted. Some were humorous, others tragic, most showed how close the bond can get. This culminated in a room that showed a number of different short films where this theme was continued.

The one we saw was a recent short film in Swedish titled ‘Hingsten’ where a female student stalks a teacher she has a crush on and ends up basically raping him. It was a bit of a hamfisted way to shoehorn in a link between horseriding and sex, but it was interesting to watch this amongst an older crowd of museum patrons.

There was a second exhibition centred around a particular photographer and then a non-existent third exhibition that was to be opened in a few days time. So we essentially payed full price (plus card fees) for two thirds of a museum visit. A bit of a disappointing way to end the day.


Still, that’s nothing that can’t be cured by some fast food. Being in Sweden we got ourselves a burger from Max Burgers – a national fast food chain that managed to chase McDonalds out of a number of Swedish towns. You know what, I can see exactly why. The burgers are cooked to order and the overall quality of everything is far superior (with the exception of the strawberry milkshakes) which means I would happily frequent them if they chose to franchise in Britain. There probably isn’t room for another burger chain…but you never know.

So that’s the last full day in Stockholm. We have a late flight tomorrow which means most of a day tomorrow! Maybe we’ll find something from the food list or just end up crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s as prepare to return to the UK. Hopefully it won’t rain too much!

The Great EU Quest: Sweden – Vasamuseet and Skansen

As is the tradition of my trips abroad, today was a museum day! The itinerary itself crystallised around the second of two Lonely Planet locations and I am very happy with how it turned out.

To begin the day we had more of the food that we purchased for yesterday’s dinner. Although we were still unable to finish off all the remaining kavring and limpa bread… so I know what’ll be for breakfast again tomorrow!

One thing I really love about the city of Stockholm is that it is built on 14 islands. We spent most of today on Djurgården since that appears very much to be the most fun island in Sweden. This island houses many museums, a theme park (sadly closed during our entire trip to Stockholm), a zoo and many other attractions. It’s like the real world equivalent to Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island… just without the weird donkey curse.

Because we are cheapskates we decided to walk from our hotel to Djurgården. It was only 25 minutes away since we’re staying just north of Gamla Stan so we had a nice leisurely walk along the waterfront before reaching our first stop.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 73/100Sight: Vasamuseet
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Position: #206

The Vasa Museum is one of two ship museums on the Lonely Planet list; the other being the Titanic museum in Northern Ireland. It’s one of those things I would have probably missed out otherwise as I’ve never been interested in boats or pirates.

It just takes that first moment of walking into the museum itself to get why this could be on the list. As museums go, Vasa Museum is pretty unique because of the story of the Vasa itself. A 17th century flagship built for great expense and decked out with beautiful carvings and paintings… only to sink less than 30 minutes into its maiden voyage and become the ultimate example of hubris.

What you see in the museum itself is the salvaged ship that has been brilliantly preserved and restored after being underwater for 333 years. All this and get the museum boasts that the boat you see is still 95-98% original. How? Well, because the water and the silt itself were favourable enough to prevent the ship from completely disintegrating.

I’d recommend getting onto one of the free museum introduction tours and making use of the free 17 minute movie that the museum offers. We ended up watching the movie in Japanese with English subtitles… which was interesting in of itself.

After leaving the Vasa Museum we made our way to Skansen – the worlds first open air live museum, which was founded in 1891. It is absolutely massive and I could see us having just spent the entire day here. The entire attraction is split nearly 50/50 between a zoo containing Scandinavian animals and buildings that have been relocated from other areas of Sweden for the sake of education and preservation.

Being a living museum, a lot of the relocated buildings have people inside dressed in traditional garb to explain things to the visitors. You also have onsite blacksmiths, woodcarvers and glassmakers who you can watch as they make their crafts which can, of course, be purchased in the gift shops.

The layout of Skansen really does help to breathe new life and give a new purpose to these buildings that would have been demolished otherwise. The wooden church is one of the more popular as people can actually get married in it. The yard also features some old gravestones… which really gave me the creeps.

For me, I loved the old farmhouses…but that might just be because they housed some of the farm animals from the children zoo. I mean, who wouldn’t be enchanted by a litter of piglets snuffling around looking for food. These piglets pretty much set the tone for the rest of the trip to Skansen (where we ended up skipping lunch because I didn’t feel like spending £17 on a burger).

So yes, the zoo at Skansen. It contains many local animals such as lynx, wolves and wolverines… that is if you are lucky enough to see them, which we did not. We were far luckier with other animals, however. We managed to see the brown bears being fed and got very well acquainted with some moose.

The highlight of the zoo itself was a tie between the reindeer (including an almost pure white one) and the bison/wild boar enclosure (also containing baby animals). I don’t know what it is about the water in Skansen, but it appears to be really good for making baby animals.

After the zoo we engaged in the very Swedish custom of fika… or at least my husband did. I just opted for fizzy water because I don’t really like coffee. I’ll take the pastries though. I’m only human after all and we skipped lunch.

A final farewell tour of Skansen later and we boarded a ferry to get back to Gamla Stan from Djurgården so we could have a quick sit down in the hotel before heading out for dinner. The ferry ride itself went way too quickly at about 7 minutes. Wish I could have had more time to appreciate the views.

Dinner itself was at a restaurant called Nomad. Dinners out are expensive in Stockholm so we searched around for a place that felt reasonable in price but still had a good reputation. I hadn’t expected a fairly hipster restaurant, but there’s a first tome for everything.

Being in Sweden, I wanted to have some fish. To start was herring dressed in three different ways (my favourite was the one on the left, which was actually the plainest and yet was still very flavourful and sweet) whilst the hub had chanterelle mushrooms and cheese on sourdough toast. Both dishes were gorgeous.

For the main I had some salmon (because I keep seeing it everywhere) with dill potatoes and a mustard sauce. Again, this was delicious. The salmon didn’t always need the mustard as it was great just the way it was, but options are always appreciated.

And there we are the end of Day Two. As of writing this I’m not sure what I’ll be doing tomorrow. We have plenty of options; it’s just that we have to round them down. Hopefully we’ll cobble together another great day.

The Great EU Quest: Sweden – Exploring Stockholm

List Item: Visit all EU countriesProgress: 18/28

Välkommen till Sverige!

Country: Sweden
Year first visited: 2017

After my first full day in Stockholm I am just so full of excitement at what I am going to be seeing on my remaining time here. Looking back at my other travel posts, it feels like I fall for cities pretty easily. But hey, rather this than spend money to be disappointed.

So yes, this is the first full day in Stockholm. We only made it to the hotel at about 11pm local time because our easyJet flight was delayed by about an hour. The only thing worth reporting is that the announcement on the shuttle train between Arlanda Airport and Stockholm Central was done by Björn from ABBA. Ain’t that just the coolest!

Having arrived so late the previous day we both basically slept through our alarm and ended up waking around an hour later than we hoped. That made it a bit of a rush job getting ready in the morning as there was a 10am walking tour I wanted to do.

Here’s the thing. If you told me a few years ago that I would be doing walking tours around a city I was visiting… I’d probably think future me was a bit sad. Sod it though, I’m in a new place and I want to learn as much about it as I can. Did I overdo it today by doing two of these walking tours in one day? Obviously, but my head is full of new useless trivia and my feet are glowing – so that’s a day well spent.

Anyway, we started the day doing a 2 hour free walking tour of the city north of the old town with Free Tours Stockholm. It really is one thing to be walking around the city and another to know some of the stories that go along with it.

For example, we walked past the gym where Swedish Crown Princess Victoria met her commoner husband. We also walked past the former bank building (pictured) whose bungled robbing led to the term ‘Stockholm Syndrome’. What can I say, those two hours went by in a flash.

At the end of the tour we were deposited on the border of Gamla Stan (the old town) in time for the changing of the guard. We didn’t stick around for this as we’ve seen it happen once before in Copenhagen and I couldn’t image this one being all that different. Instead we made our way straight to Storkyrkan (Stockholm Cathedral).

There’s been a church on this spot for ~700 years and it has been growing ever since. In the current incarnation the exposed brickwork of the vaults and columns make for a beautifully patterned interior. Unlike the rather sparse cathedral in Helsinki, there were some really notable pieces of ornamentation to see here.

Firstly there’s the alter which is a vision in ebony and silver. It’s very striking and unlike anything I’ve seen before in a church. The colours did make me think of the grim reaper, but I’m not sure that was intentional. You also have some extravagant royal pews and an insanely old statue made of elk antlers and oak which depicted the slaying of the dragon by St George.

List item: Visit 100 of the Lonely Planet’s Ultimate Travelist
Progress: 72/100Sight: Gamla Stan
Location: Stockholm, Sweden
Position: #99

Much like with Tallinn, the Old Town of Stockholm is the big thing to see. The whole thing is on an island and it doesn’t take that long to navigate across. There’s a lot of little alleys and offshoots, which means multiple routes are necessary to appreciate it.

Before we explored, however, there was a desperate need for lunch since we skipped breakfast. Things being what they are with exchange rates (thanks again Brexit), Stockholm is a fairly expensive city. However, if you’re like me and are coming into this being used to prices in London… it isn’t too much of a shock. Also, it’s worth finding ways to make things cheaper. For example, look for lunch deals – some places offer substantially cheaper lunch options.

We found such a restaurant in Gamla Stan. Don’t get me wrong it still felt expensive, but everything is relative. Between us, my husband and I shared some Swedish meatballs and some elk meatloaf in a chanterelle sauce. I am happy that these were suitably Swedish food choices.

So we spent the rest of the afternoon walking around Gamla Stan. With the brightly coloured houses and the sheer sense of history, I can really see how this is the most popular part of Stockholm for tourists. I plan on returning here on later days for some souvenir shopping and maybe breakfast on our final day.

We mooched a bit at the waterfront watching German cruise passengers being ferried onto dry land and made friends with some oddly cute seagulls before looping back to start the next walking tour at 4.

Now, was it a bit weird to have the same tour guide for both tours? Yes. Didn’t it matter? No, because he’s really good at what he does and was fairly easy on the eyes. Two more hours of history and stories passed by in a flash. I still vividly remember how an event in Stockholm led to the coining of the term ‘bloodbath’ and how some of the Americans in the group were getting a bit rankled every time our guide talked about the benefits of living in Sweden (e.g. paternity leave, free university fees, universal healthcare etc).

After this tour broke we walked across to the Southern island to checkout a larger supermarket and to get some good views of the Old Town from a higher vantage point. I don’t know if I am high enough to do the city true justice, but I think it’s a nice enough picture.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Food items: Limpa Bread and Kavring
Progress: 674/751

Coming to Sweden, there were three food items I wanted to look out for. Having read stories about the third I will not be trying surstromming here in Sweden. Instead, I will try this when I get home and can get some proper ventilation going. There would be a fourth if you count moose cheese… but I doubt I have enough in my bank account for some of that.

We did, however, find the other two items. Both of them are types of rye bread that can be found in Sweden. These formed our dinner tonight and breakfast for the next day. Trying to be Swedish we also bought some salami, cream cheesed infused with chanterelle mushrooms and a tub of shrimp salad with surimi and dill.

Starting off with the limpa bread. The name itself conjures up something a bit pappy to the point where I was expecting something akin to the Jamaican hardough. Instead think rye bread, then think malt loaf. Combine these flavours, give it a lighter texture and you have limpa.

It’s a rye bread with the hint of molasses and orange zest. It feels like it’s on the verge of being cakey, but the crumb texture isn’t right for that. We found this went really well with some chanterelle cream cheese. The woodiness of the mushroom really complimenting the bitterness of the zest and molasses.

The other bread from the list is called kavring. The initial whiff as you open the bag and the reassuring heft as you hold it definitely points to this as a rye bread. Darker than the limpa, but lighter and less dense than a lot of rye breads you can get. It’s like they remembered to add yeast to give it a bit of a rise.

Both of these are breads that I would happily buy if they were available in the UK. The fact that these both look near mass produced makes me weep when I think that, back at home, there’s no real equivalent widely available.

We finished off the evening with a cinnamon bun, because they are everywhere in Stockholm and they were on offer. Who can say no to a pastry swirl that moist with cinnamon sugar. I like these better than their American counterpart because they aren’t drowning in icing.

So yes, that’s he first day. Tomorrow will be my ticking off the other Lonely Planet site here in Stockholm: the Vasa Museum. Should be a special day.

The Great EU Quest: Estonia – Happy Museum Day

Last full day in Estonia – just how I got to this position so quickly is beyond me, but that’s always the way when you are on holiday.

I think the best way to off this post would to wish you all a belated Happy International Museum Day. Yes, that is a thing and this year it was on May 18th. In Tallinn this meant that every museum we came across waived the entrance fee for a day. Just to be upfront about this, all the savings that we made today (which amounted to over 40€) happened by sheer fluke. I had no idea about any of this and really cannot believe my luck about any of this.

The day started out with us making the 3km walk from our hotel near the Old Town to Kadriorg Park. Our first destination of the day was the park’s namesake (Kadriorg Palace) but that doesn’t mean that we didn’t take out chance to look around before getting to the first museum of the day.

So this was the point where we learned about this day being International Museum Day and that museums across Tallinn were doing free entry for the day. We still had to visit the ticket office to get a sticker and check our bags, but apart from that we could pretty much stroll in.

As someone who has been feeling in a bit of a Russian history mood after finishing Anna Karenina I looked forward to the chance to stroll around this palace. It was built by Tsar Peter the Great for his wife Catherine (which explains the name) as a small Baroque style palace that would be used as a summer retreat.

As a building this has changed hands a few times (as has country of Estonia) and is now part of the The Art Museum of Estonia where it houses their foreign art collection. The fact that this was an art museum was of lesser concern to us since we were mainly there to have a nose around an imperial summer palace.


If you are to come to this palace there is one room in particular that will grab you and is referred to as the Baltic Pearl of the North. It functioned as a stateroom and, according to the information plaque, is the only room of this type in a Northern Europe to have been preserved as it was back then.

It’s a beautiful room. If it wasn’t for Helsinki’s Rock Church this would be the most impressive single room that I’d seen. Just the ornateness and the extreme whiteness of  the fixtures keep you looking around and finding new things to focus on. For me, it was interesting to note that this was actually quite a small room for its function when you consider the larger residential palaces of royal families. I guess that’s down to this being a ‘summer home’.

Seeing how it was an Estonian May, the garden wasn’t exactly ready for tourist season. It’s a shame as I can imagine it being rather beautiful once everything is in bloom. Hey ho, at least these flowerbeds see the light of day, unlike the statues that this palace has in a storage room next to the toilets. That was weird.


Continuing the theme of Peter the Great: the next stop was a few buildings down the road. It’s the cottage of Peter the Great which he stayed in as the palace was being completed. The idea that a Tsar would stay I’m a small building like this rather than just retiring to one of his other palaces is a bit of an odd thought. I guess it just speaks for the pull of Tallinn.

The museum itself is rather small since the cottage itself was rather small. It made for a more intimate insight into how one of the richest men in the world lived back then. Seeing all these things has really made me realise that I really should try to learn more about European history. After all, knowing about the past can help you know the future.

Before I get too philosophical lets move onto the next museum: the Kumu Museum. Essentially this is the main art museum in Tallinn with a collection split across 3 floors. The main focus of the art in this museum is Art by Estonian artists, but there are pieces by others in here too… even if I hadn’t heard of any of these.


If you start from the top and work down you are pretty much going back in time; something that I would really recommend. The more modern section was focused on art by women and was curated around an Estonian artist of recent years Anu Põder. The work varied from bizarre images of blow-up dolls with parts of their bodies being crushed to a rather sad installation centred around a Polish artist and her cancer diagnosis.


The art of the remaining two floors really helped to fill in a number of gaps surrounding Estonian history and the psyche of the people. For the first thing I didn’t realise just how important music is to this country, I know that they hold a song festival and that this is a major event in the Estonian calendar, but having this out into the context of the rise of Estonian national identity in the early 1900s really helped to cement the importance. I know that Finland went through similar with Sibelius’s work ‘Finlandia’ being an example this.

Also, it was interesting to see a lot of the art that was being created during the Soviet occupation. I mean, it hasn’t even occurred to me that there would be hippies in the Soviet Union during the 1960s, I figured that the cultural wall was so airtight that things like the counter-culture of the USA would have struggled to make it through.

Another thing that this forced me to appreciate is just how hard the job of curating a gallery of Estonian art must be. As a language and as a culture the Estonian people have been around for ages, but as a nation it has only been 100 years. To try and work out if an artist is Estonian or an occupying population (German, Swedish, Russian etc) must be onerous at times. So, full credit where it is due there.


3 km and a sea buckthorn juice later from one of the many shopping centres in Tallinn, we were back in the Old Town for the final museum of the day at St Nicholas Church. This is another example of a building in Tallinn that has been repurposed into an art museum, but at least the work in the church stays on message.

Whilst the interior of the church itself is very beautiful, the thing that has stayed with me  the most as I write at gone midnight (I really need to start these earlier, I blame the latest Trump scandal on CNN) was the depiction of the Danse Macabre. Essentially, this is a long painting depicting members high up in the social hierarchy (e.g. The Pope, an emperor and a king) being led by dancing skeletons. Essentially this a symbol of the plague and about how no one can escape death, no matter their status. I had to take my time to appreciate this one because it was so large and quite unusual. Regrettably the sister piece to this artwork was housed in a church in Lübeck, Germany that was bombed in World War Two.


The rest of the church/museum exhibited pieces from the church and, in what I believe is a temporary exhibition, silver work from one of the old guilds in Tallinn (or Reval as it was known back then).


After some final pieces of souvenir shopping it was time for an early dinner where we returned to Olde Hansa. It made for a nice way to bookmark the trip and allowed us to see inside this surprisingly good touristy medieval themed restaurant.


As a main course I went for the game sausages which is meant to be made from a mixture of wild boar, elk and (you guessed it) bear. I have no idea how much, if any, bear meat there was in these sausages, but they were absolutely gorgeous. As was the sauerkraut and turnips that it was served with. I know that my mum recoiled at the idea of eating bear meat, but I feel that if you are in a country with properly regulated hunting (as is the case with Estonia) then give it a go; else, maybe not.


For dessert it was a rose pudding with edible rose petals that was out of this world. Usually the tourist themed restaurants have something that lets them down such as the quality of food or service, but Olde Hansa really did knock it out of the park both times.

So yes, after a final walk around the Old Town it was packing in the hotel room and getting ready for the…oh wait there’s something else.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Food item: Boysenberry
Progress: 650/751

We bought a jar of boysenberry jam when we were in Helsinki and it only occurred to me as we were packing that I wouldn’t be able to bring this back because of the rules around liquids in carry on bags. I guess this is a downside of not paying to check in a bag. But hey midnight jam is midnight jam and I’ve reached another food list landmark!

Botanically boysenberry is a hybrid of a number of berries including European raspberry and blackberry. You get that from the taste. Usually I am not that much of a jam fan as I find the traditional strawberry and raspberry jams too sweet and blackcurrant jams as a bit too tart. This Finnish boysenberry jam is right on that sweet-spot between sweet and tart, therefore it is gorgeous and there is no way that I will be able to buy this in the UK.

So I’m needing to wind this down because it’s a travel day tomorrow. I’ve really enjoyed my time here in Estonia (and the day trip to Finland). It makes me sad that it is over and it is back to the daily grind. Seeing as how I have now seen Estonia and Lithuania one of the next countries on my list needs to be Latvia so I can complete the set. Maybe the same time next year as I have enjoyed being in Tallinn just before the tourist season hits.

So until then, goodbye Baltics. I’ll miss you.

The Great EU Quest: Estonia – Lahemaa Park

There’s no better way to start the day than coming across a food list item when you are going for breakfast. Especially when it can form part of a hotel buffet breakfast that will need to fuel a nice long bog walk.

List Item: Try three quarters of the 1001 Foods You Must Try Before You Die
Food item: Tallinn Kilud
Progress: 649/751

When I was doing my pre-planning for this trip to Estonia, Tallinn Kilud was the only ‘must find’ food item because of the extreme regional availability. So, colour me pleased when I saw this bowl of the little guys.

Having had rollmops before I kind of knew what to expect with these little fish. In essence these are sprats from the Baltic Sea that have been deboned and and marinated/pickled to the point that these become melt in the mouth.

At this point, where I have tried a number of picked fish like these, I am not sure what makes these little fish distinctive enough to warrant their place on the list. Maybe it’s down to the size, the region or because you can find tins of Tallinn Kilud in many shops as a food souvenir. Still, these with dark rye bread and soured cream made for a nice change of pace for breakfast.

So, the order of the day was a guided tour through the Lahemaa National Park by the company EstAdventures. I’m not one for paying for a guided tour, but since there was no other way for us to get to the park an exception was made. Just going to say this now in advance: I am glad we did as the tour was excellent and the guide was funny and super knowledgeable. If I find myself back in Tallinn I will look them up again.


The first stop was at the Rebala Bronze Age Graves. These were uncovered by the Soviets as they were building a road from Tallinn to St Petersburg – and since these graves were in the way each one was moved a few metre away piece by piece. To look at them now you would have no idea, but it’s an interesting fact.

What was also interesting to see is how the family dog received their own little section, right next to the circle of the master of the family. It goes to show how some things never really change in thousands of years.


From here we hopped into the car and went to Kiiu Tower – which I have seen as being described as Estonia’s smallest castle. Nope, it’s literally just a tower that the local rich family (of German origin as all these rich families seemed to be) used to help to defend their home from the Estonian peasants. We were able to go inside to the top floor (up yet more steep stairs) to find that it now contained a bed and some drawings to make it feel like Rapunzel’s bedroom in Tangled. It was very cute.


Now, for the event I was looking forward to – the Viru Bog Trail. A very large amount of Estonia is formed from mire and bogland, and at the Lahemaa park you are able to walk through it via a specially constructed boardwalk. It’s nothing as glamorous as the name would sound. We are talking about s continuous trail made of perpendicular pairs of planks. For the most part they are absolutely perfect, but despite the fact that these were fairly new a few had already started to break because of the wetness of the bog and the weight of people walking over them.

Truly, walking through this bog was the highlight of the day. Sure the ability to drive through a seemingly endless sea of dead straight trees was one thing, but these bogs really was something else.

At the beginning it was interesting because of how so much plantlife survives in such an acidic and hostile environment. Then you get to the parts of the big where ponds and lakes can develop because the ground is so saturated. It’s like the Dead Marshes from Lord of the Rings in the way that it is so eerily beautiful and int hat you can imagine long dead people just laying there in the big just waiting to be uncovered.


We turned around at an observation tower that allowed for some spectacular aerial views of the bog land and give an indicator of just far we had been walking. I think I must have taken a ludicrous number of panorama photographs on my iPhone and still I don’t think I have grabbed as much as I could have. It was standing up here that also made me thankful that it wasn’t a sunny day. With it being slightly overcast none of us were getting too warm during the track and, at least for me, that made the whole walk all the better.

After lunch we went to the Palmse Manor Estate for a tour around one of the 4 manors within the park. Apparently the owners of this manor was so powerful that he actually was a key fight in the assassination of a Russian Tzar and got off nearly punishment free. It must be awesome to be so powerful.

As part of this section we took a look around the house, the grounds and the orangery where I learned that people would rent watermelons so they could be displayed as status symbols… I mean in the world we live in right now this is a weird idea. To rent fruit to show off to people. I guess watermelons were the fancy watches of their day?

The house itself was nice enough, but all memories of it have faded compared to the sound of this ridiculous wind up musical cabinet that could be found in the music room. It made such a clamour that it could be heard throughout the manor. I loved it.

Between the manor and the final stop we made visits to small coastal villages at Altja and Käsmu. The sea was so calm in these bays that, at the latter place, you could see swans bobbing up and down in the middle of the sea. To be fair to our guide, he gave us so much information about these areas it is just that A lot of it is slipping my mind at midnight on the same day.


It was nice to spend some time by the sea and not seeing your stereotypical sandy beach. The scatterings of rocks, the abundance of grasses and the rather ramshackle fishing shacks just added to the character of the whole place .


Our final stop before heading back to Tallinn was the Jägala Waterfall – Estonia’s tallest waterfall at a mighty 8 metres high. To be fair, Estonia is a flat country so it would make sense that the waterfall wouldn’t be too tall.

The extraordinary thing about these waterfalls is the yellow colour of the water coming over the falls. It looks like industrial runoff, but the colour is actually because the water is coming from the bogs that we visited earlier in the day. Also of note is that this waterfall is retreating fairly quickly for a waterfall, which can be seen by the big piles of rocks at the bottom of the falls.

So yes that’s the tour and after two full excursion days I was definitely in the mood for food. Thanks to TripAdvisor I found a nice little place near Toompea that served, what felt like, Estonian food. You can tell it’s a good food because it was filled with Estonian people, who were surprisingly quiet. I swear that if you got a group of 12 Brits around a table having dinner together there would bite a lot of noise, but not Estonians. I think I am really growing to like these people.


Since I missed the chance to do so in Helsinki – I knew that I had to try some elk stew. Honestly this elk meat tasted a lot like a mix of beef and ostrich rather than venison that I have had before. It was lovely with the sauce (that contained beer) and the vegetables. It just furthers shows to me that it’s important to try local things even if they sound a bit outlandish when compared to what you are used to at home.


For dessert I finally got a chance to sample kama. From the sound of it this is a very Estonian food that can be had for breakfast or as a dessert. It’s made when different grains are ground up until they are very fine and are mixed with soured cream and some sweetener. It sounds a bit weird, but it was a nice mild way to round off a meal. So I would recommend at least trying it when making the journey to Estonia.

So tomorrow is the last full day. I know I say this every time but I can’t believe that the end is coming so soon. Still. One more day to see more of Tallinn and soak up as much of Estonia as possible.