Tag Archives: Sweeden

Lessons I Learned While Traveling Through Countries Along Baltic Sea

16 Sep

During our two-week cruise of the Baltics, we visited Holland, Denmark, Germany, Russia, Finland and Sweden.   I never realized how close these countries are to each other, just hours away across the Baltic.  And I never realized how intertwined their histories made their peoples and languages and flags!  The architecture repeats itself in every city as influences of Sweden, Denmark, Holland, German and Finland structures can be found in all the cities, and a combination of these styles.

I met many tour guides.  Some were better than others.  But several gave sound advice that I want to remember forever.  In fact, I need to share them.

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Typical steps of unexpected heights!

We spent two days in St. Petersburg and had an excellent guide on our first day.  A retired engineer, she was now guiding tourists through the maze of royal palaces.  Her excellent advice: “Be aware of steps/stairs of unexpected height.”   I think it was her engineering background speaking. But it was so true.  With the cobblestone streets and the old buildings, many times we faced stairs and steps of unexpected height.

Often as we crossed the street or entered a building she would intone, “Be aware of steps of unexpected heights!” Her words resonated through my mind many times during the nine-hour day of touring.  I think, thanks to this lesson, we never fell, we were always aware, no matter what country we were in.

Another day in St. Petersburg, another tour guide with a different message. (She was a retired college professor.) “Don’t demonstrate your water bottle.”   I think what she was really saying is don’t make a big deal out of things.  It was very hot when we were there. Unexpectedly warm.  And many people had water bottles with them.  I kept mine on the bus. But others, especially older adults, needed their water.

However, at certain places, you are not supposed bring a water bottle in.  However, with the heat, they were making exceptions.  So, our guide said.  “Water bottles are not allowed, but don’t demonstrate your bottle. Put it in your back pocket and go through security.”  I guess if the guards wanted to take it away, they could. But not hiding, while at the same time, not making an issue of it, was the best policy. Thus several of our comrades on the tour kept their water bottles with them throughout.

In Denmark, I learned two important lessons.  The guide we had on a day when it was pouring rain, told us that in Denmark the saying is, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothes.”  I concur.  I had packed our Land’s End raincoats and good walking shoes.  We stood in the rain, without getting really wet, as the water skimmed over our coats, while others were drenched.  Meanwhile,  all around us, the Danes walked freely without umbrellas, ignoring the weather and  just strolling through town in the rain.

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He was wearing good clothes as he splashed in the puddles.

I especially enjoyed seeing a young boy dressed in his very good rain clothes and boots splashing through all the puddles in a park as his Mom pushed his stroller as she ambled along next to him.  Good clothes do make a difference!

I will admit, the first tour guides words resonated with me during the rain in Denmark. As we walked the cobblestones and the steps of unexpected heights, I looked down and carefully placed my feet on the wet and slippery walkways.

The Danish tour guide’s other lesson was that umbrellas are not needed because they don’t work. Also true.  I had an umbrella at the beginning of the day. While we walked the streets of the city, it seemed fine.  But by the time I returned to the ship, the only place for that twisted and ragged umbrella was the trash.  You do not need an umbrella in Copenhagen or Arhus.  You just need good clothes!

I loved our tour guide in Stockholm.  She had an attitude that I appreciated.  The problem with most tours is that some people are always late, taking up time from everyone else.   She kept a steady pace wherever we went, shouting back to the slower walkers, “You can’t get lost, there is only one way to go …straight.”

She told us outright, when we left for a short period of time on our own, after she showed us the main square, that if we did not make it back to our bus at the assigned time, she would assume that we were staying in town.   We were adults and we could find our own way back.

And I appreciated that she said that, but then her soft side showed.  We had one woman on our tour who walked slowly using a cane.   When she and her husband were not back at the bus on time, our guide said, “I am just going to check the corner to see if they are coming.”  We all agreed that was a great idea.  And it was, as the couple were slowly moving up the hill and being careful on the steps of unexpected heights.