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Christiansø

Today we visited the tiny and very beautiful island of Christiansø, one of a group of islands called Ertholmene. The weather was warm and sunny and the few buildings on the island stood out sharply against the blue sky. Christiansø has a population of about 90, but this is increased by thousands during the summer months, as visitors flood in particularly by ferry from nearby Bornholm. We were lucky as we visited at a relatively quiet time. Our various groups arrived by Zodiacs, and most people wandered around the island absorbing its unique atmosphere—the small town with its terraces of bright yellow buildings, further out other houses tucked away behind trees, and the magnificent old granite walls around the periphery offering glimpses of the sea and even of our ship, the National Geographic Orion, docked securely offshore. Read More>

Aug 22, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

Bornholm, Denmark

The morning was spent at sea in the calm of the Baltic. National Geographic photographer Todd Gipstein gave a talk on the process of arranging our photos to effectively tell a story immediately after breakfast, which served as a fascinating way to pass the time as we approached the island of Bornholm. This was an informative presentation on how to arrange our images in an effective and clear way to tell the story of our trip, which is a much neglected part of the photographic process. We arrived at Bornholm with the sun warming the air and bringing the colours of the island to life, and landed via Zodiacs following a barbecue lunch on deck. Read More>

Aug 20, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

Gdansk, Poland

Today we arrived in Gdansk, Poland and also to weather which was mostly warm, dry, and sunny. The entire group went to visit the Solidarity Center in the morning, a huge and amazing museum which is only two years old. The building itself is a significant architectural achievement, and the exhibition it houses is interactive, full of content, and very moving, telling as it does the story of the Polish people’s journey to freedom and self-determination in the late twentieth century. We all returned to the National Geographic Orion for lunch, and then split into different groups to explore other aspects of this marvelous city. Read More>

Aug 19, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

Klaipėda, Lithuania

Our journey through the Baltic States continued with a stop today in Lithuania. Unlike our focus the last few days on the old, historic cities of the Baltic, today was more about getting out in the countryside and enjoying a more remote aspect of this part of the world. Once again, we divided into different interests and set out in smaller groups to focus on these different aspects. A large group decided it was time for some exercise. Read More>

Aug 18, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

Riga, Latvia

On our second day in lovely Riga, we continued to have a minor challenge with the weather—blustery skies and horizontal rain showers. Nevertheless, the guests and staff made the most of our last morning. Many guests walked into the old city on individual self-guided tours, looking at the medieval churches, specialty Baltic food markets, and upscale linen and jewelry shops. A large segment of the passengers joined a canal cruise along the waterway made from the site of the former medieval walls of the city, and took in the boundary between the 19th century and medieval sections of Riga by small-scale and very human-sized rivercraft. After embarking and leaving Riga at 1:00 p. Read More>

Aug 17, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

Riga, Latvia

Our day in Riga began with a mouthful of jellied pork tongue and ended with a waltz. This charming city, which just 25 years ago was hidden behind the Soviet Union's "Iron Curtain", is now a thriving, colorful, and cosmopolitan metropolis. Riga is blessed with some of the finest examples of Art Nouveau architecture and bustling with the energy of a people cherishing their independence, identity, and access to the world. In a country where being invaded, occupied, and controlled by foreign powers has long been the rule rather then the exception, the people of Riga have shaken off their fear that their current state of independence would be as short-lived as those of the past. They are definitely enjoying their moment in the sun. Not that there was much sun during our day here. Read More>

Aug 16, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

Saaremaa, Estonia

We spent a beautiful day on this lovely natural island off the coast of Estonia. In addition to the natural and folkloric experiences, we also had the challenges of coping with typically Baltic weather—40 mph winds and horizontal sheets of rain. We soldiered on nevertheless! Our first stop was a lunch a Matti’s Farm just outside the island’s capital of Kuressaare. Read More>

Aug 15, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

Turku, Finland

Who would have guessed that the hottest real estate in the Finnish city of Turku can be found in an area called "Loony Bin Hill"? The neighborhood gets its name from the decommissioned mental hospital and prisons that are now being converted into apartments and offices. We drove up Loony Bin Hill on our bus tour of Finland's oldest city, which also took us by the location of the medieval gallows, where countless people lost their heads over offenses as minor as theft and adultery, as well as by a field where 14 people were beheaded in the Åbo Bloodbath of 1599. In a city with a history that stretches back to the 13th century, it should probably be expected that are going to have been some occasional unsavory events. Luckily, modern day Turku is much more mild-mannered place then its medieval antecedent. Read More>

Aug 13, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

Stockholm Archipelago and Mariehamn, Finland

One of the joys of traveling onboard the National Geographic Orion in a region like the Baltic is the amazing opportunities to sample the local cuisine and beverages. After two fun-filled nights in Stockholm, we had an early morning sail out through the thousands of islands of the Stockholm Archipelago. And, of course, to start our day we needed food and drink.  Why not?   Mimosas, coffee, and cardamom buns were the beginning of a long day of eating and drinking, with some exploration thrown in between. Most of the morning we enjoyed stellar weather. Read More>

Aug 12, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

Stockholm, Sweden

We arrived in Stockholm, the capital of Sweden, the evening of August 10. A few guests opted to eat ashore or to explore the old city where we are docked. This morning we began a busy day of tours and activities throughout this varied and beautiful city. We were in luck with the weather, as the clouds burned off by mid-morning and we enjoyed a cool and sunny day. Guests, staff and guides went ashore for various activities.  Some marveled at the intact 17th century Swedish warship, the Vasa, that had sunk in the harbor on its first day afloat, and had been raised from the bottom by a determined group of marine archaeologists in the 1960s. It’s on display at an exceptional museum that was built around the rescued ship. Other groups visited the gorgeous sculpture garden at the former home of Swedish sculptor Carl Mille, and the art museum housing the painting collection of an early 20th century Swedish Crown Prince. In the afternoon, one group did a walking tour along the rooflines of the old city of Stockholm, while a more culinary-oriented group did a tour of confectionary shops and coffee houses. Read More>

Aug 11, 2016 National Geographic Orion in Europe aboard NG Orion

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