Fredericia, Denmark

The last stop on our 10-day cruise to Northern Europe was a little town on the eastern shore of Denmark called Fredericia. It was a town of 50,000 and never had a cruise ship dock there. I got up early as usual to go workout. I went outside first to go run on the promenade deck and noticed we had already docked and was greeted with a Danish ‘delegation’ waving little Danish flags on the shore with a 10 piece band included. I was a little surprised, to say the least, but after I thought about it later when you put it all together- a town of 50k, the first time a cruise ship or Disney ship (not sure which) has docked there, it made sense. Did I mention this was just after 6 am? Our tour guide met us at the bus after we disembarked the ship and greeted each and every guest and shook their hand. He did the same thing when we were finished with the tour.

Our tour went to Egeskov Castle about an hour and a quarter outside of Fredericia. The castle was located on a massive piece of property. Whereby they had created a maze where you can walk through made from hedges and also treetop bridges spanning at least 4 trees, a car museum, a motorcycle museum, and a bike museum. So we were free to wander and explore basically until the bus left at 12:15 pm. If you wanted to go inside the castle, we had an appointed time to meet in front of the castle, and we would go in as a group because the castle, in all honesty, was not as big as one would think. They staggered the groups to accommodate everyone due to the small size of the castle. My wife and I had been to the Loire Valley in northwest France and have seen some of the most majestic and awe-inspiring castles that were ever built. This was not one of those castles. Unlike the castles in France, this castle is still owned and lived in by a succession of owners for over one thousand years. Denmark was founded sometime in the 10th century, and this castle was built in the 12th century. The Danes had a small empire at one point in time, but like a lot of the Nordic countries, they at one time were also ruled by the Swedish.

We wound up having a bite of food at a food kiosk on the property along with some coffee, of course. I was interested in the motorcycle museum while the kids and my wife were playing on the playground. I snapped a lot of photos of old classic bikes. We all climbed up a narrow, iron, spiral staircase up into trees. The owners had built chain bridges going from tree to tree. It felt like the bridges were 25 to 30 feet in the air, they were a lot of fun, and a little spooky for some guests we encountered.
The tour of the castle itself was a little underwhelming but nonetheless was very charming. The artifacts inside the castle were of typical fare. When extreme wealth afforded trips to Africa to go hunting so they can hang their trophies on the wall. When we left town, we had to go through passport control again, but unlike Russia, the customs officers were very friendly and a pleasure to deal with. Russia was more like – stern and a little scary. My family and I got back on the boat, and we immediately went to a movie, Aladdin live-action. I was more interested to see the send-off that the town put on as we left the docks. To put it bluntly, it seemed a good portion of the town came down to the pier to bid us goodbye. They had a stage set up with several different singers singing Disney songs. I pretty sure everyone on board was a little shocked and amused because a good portion of the boat was outside on the promenade deck to wave goodbye. I stayed out watching the people until the ship started to leave. As we were leaving, there were 3 cannon shots! I went back to my family in the movie theatre to finish watching Aladdin.

I think this was one of the kids favorite stops because they got to play a little with NO museum tours. We had a really good time and glad we skipped the Lego tour which was an option on this stop in Denmark. It was a little said because we knew this was the end of the cruise. Our next stop we would disembark in Dover, England; take a couple of trains to get to Disneyland Paris and spend the rest of the vacation in our hotel almost inside Disneyland Paris.

Helsinki, Finland

After two amazing full days in St. Petersburg, our next port of call was Helsinki, Finland.  A small city located on the coast of the Baltic Sea in a sparsely populated country but with very friendly people.   Founded at least around 1150 A.D. it was usually under Russian rule and/or Swedish rule. 

My daughter and I had a tour to go out to the countryside as well as see the city and see some horses while my son and wife stayed in the city.  It turned out we visited almost the same places with the exception of the horse farm.  The city itself was like any other Nordic city but, once we hit the countryside, we were treated to a very friendly host with good, healthy food and beautiful views.  Our lady host had two tour buses to feed, around 80 people.  She was not without help as there was plenty of young people to help.  The farmhouse had large ceilings and a huge wide staircase.  The second floor is where my daughter and I ate.  We were served a typical Nordic cod dish, with nettles soup and a yummy side salad.  After lunch, we went out to visit the animals.  She had some very interesting looking chickens.  A miniature horse, which we were able to get up close and pet.  And off in the distance, we could see several other horses.  The weather cooperated and was beautiful the entire time.

After the horse farm, we went to a quaint tiny town north of Helsinki called Porvoo.  My daughter and I  strolled along its narrow cobblestone streets, shopped mainly for licorice and chocolate candy.  We usually buy edible treats and bring them back for everyone to try instead of buying junky souvenirs.  You get to try a little of their culture that way, or at least we feel that way.  Between the gracious host at the horse farm and we had a wonderful tour guide it left us with a warm feeling about Finland

Stockholm, Sweden

I think by this point on our ten-day cruise, everyone on the boat was ready for a day at sea to relax, but it was not to be. The fourth stop was Stockholm, Sweden. We were greeted with partly cloudy skies and beautiful weather when we arrived in port. It was slightly warm in the afternoon, and everyone was out and walking. We met our tour guide who strangely enough didn’t match the stereotypical Swedish looking person. She had dark hair and dark-skinned. Anyways, we promptly went to the royal palace.

We only saw the palace from the outside there were currently no tours offered that day. A king and queen still rule Sweden. We took a tour through the narrow cobblestone streets and eventually got to shop, eat and stroll on our own. Walking through the streets of Stockholm was very quaint, and by far, we enjoyed this part of the tour the most. We stopped for homemade ice cream, and I found the fluffy sweater I wanted (which funny enough is made in Norway, the only Scandinavian country we did not visit). Stockholm, by far, was almost everyone’s favorite city according to a very unscientific poll I took later that afternoon amongst the other tourists on the bus. I have to admit I loved Stockholm. If felt modern European, but anchored in a long history and unique all it’s own.

I have to stop here at this point and say that everywhere in every city we had been to took credit cards- no problem. And thank god because in Helsinki the currency is the Euro, Denmark is the Danish kronor, Sweden is the Swedish kronor and Russia’s currency is the ruble, although Russia commonly took Euros at the tourist shops. We had brought cash with us and some euros, but mostly, we were relying on them taking credit cards, so we didn’t have to lose out on the currency exchange process.
We did take a quick bus tour up to a little town called Sigtuna, Sweden to see some Runestones at an abandoned church which dated back to 1100 A.D. It was a beautiful afternoon and we had time to stop and shop, look around at the little town of Sigtuna.

After the stop in Sweden, we finally had our day at sea. It was glorious, and we took full advantage. We did a lot of relaxing, I did some writing, but we stayed busy as the same time. We saw Toy Story 4 and really liked it. The next stop was a little town in Denmark called Fredericia.

Saint Petersburg Day 2

After a very long first day, we had a bus tour of Saint Petersburg where we could stay on the bus and not have to do anything. Both my son and my daughter were asleep on the bus 10 minutes after we pulled away from the boat. I was not paying attention to whatever the guide was saying on the bus, either. We all were exhausted.
I must have been paying attention at some point because the tour guide was excellent, and we learned a few new things on this tour. We stopped several times, but I honestly don’t remember getting out except once. I know we got out when we visited the Spilled Blood Church, which was amazingly beautiful. I believe I was the only one to get out of the bus on this stop. As usual, you had to be very wary of pick-pockets.

We came back to the ship, had an hour to chill out, and then had to be back off the boat for a cooking class. As we exited our ship for what seemed like the 10th time we were greeted at our tour bus with a familiar face- Katya, who was our private guide the day before, was our guide for the cooking class. We were so excited. The bus dropped us off at a restaurant which was already set up for a bus-load of people.
The menu item was something called pelmeni, which is a typical food amongst the Russian people. A pelmeni is a stuffed dumpling of sorts, usually stuffed with ground beef and seasonings. We had it served with a couple of finger foods, which included caviar on toast and pickles. The chef demonstrated how to make the pelmeni from scratch, and then he invited us up to the tables and made them ourselves. After making the pelmeni, the chef cooked them in boiling water, and we ate them afterward. They were good, but nothing special. After we ate the pelmeni that we made, the kitchen staff brought out pelmeni that the chef made in advance. The difference was noticeable, but I think he cheated because they tasted like they were sauteed in butter. Everything tastes better in butter. Now, throughout this whole time, we were treated to 4 different types of shots of vodka. One was spicy pepper vodka, and several of the others were of different alcohol content. I honestly thought they were all incredible.
Since my wife drinks hardly at all, she barely tasted each one and then gave the rest to me. After a total of 8 shots, needless to say, I couldn’t feel my face. Thankfully I didn’t make a fool out of myself, like falling up the steps of the bus when leaving. I’m not sure, but I think we went back to the ship after that.

After reflecting on it, we had such a wonderful time at the cooking class. I think it was my wife’s favorite excursion. We got back to the ship just in time for our late dinner and were looking to retire to bed early. We had another early morning in Helsinki, Finland.

What are you waiting for?

Can you imagine it? Can you dream it? Can you believe it? These are all questions you may ask yourself if you were in my shoes less than a year ago. I started to dream again after 40 plus years. I began to imagine myself doing things I didn’t dare think about for the last umpteen years, and I loved it. I was filled with hope, purpose, and a sense of being.

Taking your kids to soccer while other dads are still at work

I looked forward to every day and the possibilities. After you are on cloud 9 for a while, you begin to descend to earth and realize that there’s work to be put in….lots of it. But is it worth it? You bet it is! Is it worth it to have your own business you can be proud of so you can spend your mornings with your kids as they go off to school instead of racing around like a madman before the sun gets up to go to work? Or like I was- sleeping all day, seeing your kids for dinner only and then tucking your kids into bed, then kissing your wife goodnight as you truck out into the middle of the night to join your co-workers. Ten to twelve hours later, drag your sorry-ass home exhausted so you can shove some cereal in your mouth then go to bed again. Is all the work you put into owning your own business worth it? Bet your ass it is! It’s better than what I used to do. So tired, I fell asleep mid-sentence reading to my son one evening before his bedtime.

I’ve always been drawn to small business owners

I have been performing jobs that are not precisely fulfilling but pay the bills. Jobs that I don’t exactly bounce out of bed in the morning to go to. Mainly because I have chosen to move around a lot, but also in part, because I never had the guts to open my own business or finish my schooling, I finished high school and had several attempts at college, but I hated it. I hated it with a passion. So really the only course of action for me was to open my own business. I’ve been friendly with business owners since I was a kid when my parents took me downtown in the 1970s. I’ve always been drawn to small business owners because they’re a different breed. Usually a lot friendlier than most people for obvious reasons.

But what you do is your purpose- or at least supposed to be

My motto has always been, “It’s not what you do; it’s who you do it with.” Meaning who you work with is more important than what you do. But what you do is your purpose- or at least supposed to be. I still believe that to be true to some degree. I know a firefighter in New Jersey, a very fulfilling job, but his admission to me was he works with a bunch of assholes. So his career is fulfilling, but at the same time, he doesn’t like it very much because he hates his co-workers. I want my job to matter, don’t you? If it does already to you, then great, you’ve found your niche. But for the rest of us still looking or still getting by with a job that pays the bills. Wake up, pay attention to what your purpose is. Don’t know what your purpose is, great you can work that out while making money online.
Get started through my website by hitting “Start here.” Email me directly at leno7445@gmail.com or contact me through Facebook- Lynn Van Zant. Comments or questions much appreciated.