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Author: dlbutler

Joined: 7/17/2012
Posts: 1
Trips Taken: 10
Traveler Since: 2006

July 17, 2012

My friend and I will be going on the Russia Revealed River Cruise in July 2013.  We have also signed up for the Post Trip to the Baltic Capitals: Tallinn, Estonia and Helsinki, Finland as well as the Pre-Trip to Kiev, Ukraine.  We just received a letter from Grand Circle that they are now offering two new optional extensions: A  Pre-Trip to Riga, Lativa and a Post Trip to Stockholm, Sweden.  Have any of you GCT or OAT travelers ever been to Riga and/or Stockholm, Sweden.  We are trying to decide whether or not to change the pre and post trips.  We would appreciate any comments regarding the Baltic Capitals Post Trip and the Kiev, Ukraine pre trip as well as any comments on Riga and Stockholm. Any recommendations or thoughts about what pre-post trips you might suggest would be greatly appreciated since neither of us have been to either place.  We would like to make a decision soon.  I look forward to seeing your comments.

Thanks so much,

Donna 

Author: gaynell

Joined: 8/12/2010
Posts: 144
Trips Taken: 12
Traveler Since: 2005

July 17, 2012

Last fall we took the post trip to Estonia and Helsinki, and enjoyed it very much.  The bus trip from St. Petersburg to Tallinn was an eye-opener, since the contrast between the Russian portion of the trip and the Estonian portion of the trip was so great.  We stopped near the border for a delicious lunch on the Estonian side, and an unexpected tour of an old border fortress. Old Tallin is charming and interesting, and we enjoyed our tour time as well as our personal time in that city. The story of the Estonian separation from the Soviet Union, the "singing revoution", is wonderful and inspiring. Instead of taking the optional tour of the pioneer village on the second day, we arranged a delightful private tour to a nearby national park which we had wanted to see.  Both of us would love to return to Estonia to see even more of it, with its beautiful countryside, harmonious music,its food, and its new, exciting successful democracy in action.

We differ on the day in the large city of Helsinki. I enjoyed the time there, riding the streetcars, visiting the cathedral, walking around the marketplace, seeing the cathedral, even though almost our whole day was spent in pouring rain. The morning tour of the city was interesting, to the Rock Church, stadium, etc. The Sibelius memorial was very moving. But my husband thought that it was a grey and gloomy city, and didn't like it at all.......just a matter of personal preference and the weather conditions, I think. 

I can't tell you about Riga, etc., as I haven't been there yet, but I think any GCT traveler would enjoy the Helsinki/Estonia post-trip. Let us know what you decide,and, more important, please tell us about your traveling experiences when your trip is over! 

 

 

 

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 495
Trips Taken: 15
Countries Visited:

Aruba, Austria, Australia, Bermuda, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Rep., Egypt, England, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, St. Marten (fr), St. Martin (nd), Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, Vatican, Zimbabwe

Traveler Since: 2002

July 18, 2012

 We did Russia Revealed 8 years ago without the extensions, and it was a wonderful trip, but we can not directly comment on the extensions. We had previously visited Odessa and Yalta in the Ukraine on a cruise and Stockholm independently. Stockholm is a beautiful city and easy to visit independantly, but I think that you would be better off on a guided trip in Kiev. How many chances will you have to visit Kiev? 

We did Berlin, Stockholm, Oslo, Bergen and Copenhagen entirely by train, 3 of them sleepers, and stayed mostly in hostels about 10 years ago, when we were in our mid-fiifties with our early-twenties son, and although it took a lot of planning, it was fairly easy to do. I don't know if the same could be said of Kiev.

Jack and Ann

Author: nancyf

Joined: 4/26/2010
Posts: 155
Trips Taken: 7
Countries Visited:

43 of the 50 United States, including Hawaii and Alaska, England , France , Italy , Spain, Germany, Netherlands, Africa (Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe. South Africa), Israel, Canada, the Carribbean, Peru, going to Egypt & Jordan in February 2011 ( canceled due to the unrest there, but I will take this trip later!), China, Russia, Kenya, Turkey, Greece, Malta, Sicily.

Traveler Since: 2007

July 18, 2012

I went on the Russia Revealed trip this past October (2011), with the pre-trip to Helsinki and Tallinn. I agree with both Gaynell and her husband about Helsinki. There were interesting things to see, but the weather was rainy and icky, so I was glad when we left and went to Tallinn. Tallinn is a must! We did go on the optional "farm day" and enjoyed it immensely. Going through the Estonia/Russian border was "interesting". The authorities decided that we all needed to get off of the bus, they unloaded our luggage, we walked through the little border building with our luggage, they never opened it or anything. Our PD said that it was just a display of "because we can" by them. Didn't feel intimidating or anything, just sorta funny and sorta irritating. Oh well, part of the trip story to relate to others!! But don't miss out on Tallinn!!! Oh, in Helsinki we did have some delicious salmon soup, so don't miss that. Had it at several places!!

Author: pegheeter1

Joined: 6/28/2010
Posts: 22
Trips Taken: 12
Traveler Since: 2001

July 18, 2012

 Let me vote for Kiev!  When we did the Russia Revealed trip two years ago, only Kiev and the Baltic extensions were available.  Those who did the Baltic extension loved it - but those who did both loved both.  We only did the kiev extension, because we really didn't want to be gone any longer than that schedule.  Plus my husband and I are very much "hobbyists" about anything WWII and Kiev and Ukraine have a lot of history.

 Kiev is a beautiful city and very easy to get around in.  Like both Moscow and St. Petersburg it's on a river.  In addition to all the usual parks and cathedrals and monuments, there is the story of Chernobyl and Babi Yar, both of which a extremely moving.

Indeed, we had such a good experience that the new cruise from Kiev to the Black Sea is high on our wish list -  

Author: piercove

Joined: 6/11/2010
Posts: 24
Trips Taken: 18
Traveler Since: 2003

July 18, 2012

 I was in Riga a year ago, independently, and it has a lot to offer, including a museum that explains the Soviet takeover followed by the Nazi occupation.  The fresh food market is in a series of huge former Zeppelin hangars.  The Cathedral has one of the largest organs in Europe, with a nice short concert most days at mid-day.  On the other hand, Tallinn is perhaps one of the most unspoiled medieval cities in Europe.  As between Helsinki and Stockholm, both are impressive in their own way, but Stockholm probably has more for the first-time tourist.  You have already signed up for Kiev, and that's a worthwhile choice.  Happily, you don't need a visa for Ukraine or any of the Baltic countries.  You will be happy, whatever choice you make.

Author: singsling

Joined: 6/23/2010
Posts: 241
Trips Taken: 11
Traveler Since: 1995

July 18, 2012

First, I would go on line and review all that you can on Latvia,  which I have heard is very unusual and worthwhile.  But, find out what is there that is historical to see, how they have progress since 1991, etc.  Then compare that with the Kiev, or the Baltic countries.

We took the GCT Russia river cruise in 2008, but it was called something else (Volga River xxxx).  Lativia pre-trip was not offered at that time.  The cruise started in St. Petersburg and took the pre trip was Helsinki, Estonia, and 3 extra days in St. Petersburgh. Our travel counselor suggested that trip because you got extra days in St. Petersburg, rather than Moscow to St. Petersburg, where you only get 1 day and a portion.   We really enjoyed Helsinki 2 days in the rain, but the sun came out some.  On the one day it did not rain (Aug) it was pretty hot and humid and we enjoyed getting out on our own.  We will walk in rain, but not stormy, windy rain, and we were prepared for it.  Tallin was exceptionally nice, and the medieval city is not to be missed.  We walked all over that city, up on the higher streets, and level parts as well. 

We also went back in 2010 while we were on a Hol. Amer. Cruise, to both Helsinki and Tallin, and it was great to see things we didn't see the first time.  So, I would  take the Baltic countries pre-trip if Latvia doesn't seem to have as much to offer.  Go on line to other travel web sites and see if any reviews are there for Latvia. 

Hope this helps.

Author: saltaire

Joined: 3/31/2012
Posts: 8
Trips Taken: 2
Traveler Since: 2012

August 09, 2012

Nanandpapa

I am interested on your comment that you did Stockholm and Copenhagen on your own.  Just thinking about that any must sees or things not to miss you can suggest.  How much time in each city?  We have already been to Oslo and  Bergen.

Author: nanaandpapa

Joined: 3/30/2011
Posts: 495
Trips Taken: 15
Countries Visited:

Aruba, Austria, Australia, Bermuda, Belgium, Botswana, Canada, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Rep., Egypt, England, Fiji, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Luxembourg, Mexico, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Russia, South Africa, Spain, St. Marten (fr), St. Martin (nd), Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, USA, Vatican, Zimbabwe

Traveler Since: 2002

August 09, 2012

 Saltaire,

It's been quite few years, but both cities were just great to walk around it, relatively small and different in charater from US cities. Copenhageen of course has Tivoli Gardens, but it was closed for the season when we were there and the little mermaid, which is worth saying that you've seen.

Author: pauline

Joined: 3/9/2010
Posts: 970
Trips Taken: 11
Countries Visited:

England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Finland, Malta, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, China, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Canada, Russia, Ukraine

Traveler Since: 1999

August 09, 2012

Copenhagen.  The Little Mermaid is a lot smaller than you expect it to be.  The city itself is lovely to walk around.  Tivoli is an upscale amusement park with beautiful gardens.

Stockholm, along with St. Petersburg and Amsterdam, is called The Venice of the North.  It seems that any city with a lot of canals and rivers running through it gets that nickname.  But it's another good walking city.  We did see the changing of the guard at the royal palace and stood there while I felt my feet turning into blocks of ice.  Then we went across to a restaurant in the basement of a convent (I think) and had bowls of hot borsch, which were very welcome even for someone who hates beets.

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