Category Archives: The Romance of Northern Europe

Photos, information, and thoughts from our cruise through the Baltic Sea

Why Finns Love da Yoop (and Vice Versa)

Sitting on the porchAlan was born and bred in da Yoop (translation into English:
“the Upper Peninsula of Michigan”). Sitting on Porch I was a transplant who spent her teen years in Michigan’s gorgeous upper peninsula…long enough to fall in love with both da Yoop and da husband! Yellow buttercups In the spring, buttercups and other flowers popped up here and there, Geraniumsand in the summer, Alan’s mom planted red geraniums in flower boxes. IMG_2502Da Yoop is largely rural and wooded, a place of quiet industry IMG_2546 where they say “people work to live, not live to work.” Out houseIn da Yoop, people love the great outdoors and are content with simplicity. IMG_2497Historically, many Finnish immigrants settled in Michigan’s upper peninsula  because they felt at home with both the climate and the culture.   IMG_2629During my years in da Yoop, I had 2 spiritual moms who were sisters…100% Finnish, 100% beautiful, and 100% devoted to the Lord.  Ancient BooksThey (and their husbands) would be nearly 100 if they were still alive, but they’ve all gone on to be with the Lord. I still miss them…a lot! Bible on nightstandThey taught me (and modeled) so much of what I know about how to be a wife and mom that I always say I have a Finnish heart. Birch Tree Mommu (Mother Anita) loved birches…and by some miracle the Lord allowed a clump of birches to survive in her front yard, even though she lived too far south for paper birches to flourish after she was married. Switches for SaunaShe used to tell about getting all cleaned up in their sauna, using birch switches. IMG_2602I still think of Mommu whenever I see anything made from birch! IMG_2507When we lived in da Yoop, we had a sauna too…and loved getting cleaned up as a family Saturday nights…even rolling in the snow the way Finns do! (Did you know there are 5 million inhabitants and over 3 million saunas in Finland??) Wooden baby shoesI also grew up spiritually at the feet of Mother Linda, who was Mommu’s sister. Shipwreck at seaTheir father’s first wife and children died in a storm at sea trying to cross the Atlantic Ocean, and the two sisters’ own mother (married to their father 10 years later) died in childbirth with twins when Anita was 3 and Linda only 18 months. Cottage by streamTheir father gave the twins to two childless couples but bravely reared the other 5 (the oldest was only 8) on his own. Amazingly, both women remember their childhood as a time of contentment and joy. Beds in wallDespite their humble childhood, both girls worked extremely hard during the depression to achieve excellent educations. Beautiful DenOn top of that, they ended up marrying highly educated men, one an orthopedic surgeon and the other a dentist. Living RoomSo, in their later years, all their hard work made them both amply wealthy. Tea party hostessBoth of these lovely Finnish ladies were wonderful hostesses, IMG_2523and whenever I visited, we would always share tea…and often other treats too. IMG_2524So, it’s no surprise that when Alan and I went to Finland, we delighted in the opportunity of spending an afternoon visiting a Finnish family near Helsinki. IMG_2589That’s right! Helsinki, Finland. But, at their home, Alan and I both felt like we were back home in da Yoop! IMG_2586In fact, don’t these pictures look familiar? This could be our lake! Our Dock on Misty Fall Morning copy(Here’s our lake for real, but all the rest of the pictures were taken in Finland during our spring visit!)IMG_2547No wonder Finns love da Yoop, and Yoopers love Finland! Finnish kitchenI often think that heaven will seem wonderfully comforting when we get there —even though we’ve never been there before—Trophiesbecause of all we’ve experienced here on this earth…the love and lessons passed down to us by our spiritual mentors, the accounts from Scripture about those who’ve gone before us, and the daily opportunities of living.Finnish peopleAre you looking forward to an eternity in heaven? I am, and I hope you are too!

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Hebrews 11:13).

The Romance of Northern Europe (14): Russia’s Glorious Hermitage

Hermitage EdifaceThe Hermitage in Saint Peterburg, Russia Hermitage Grand Entryway is one of the largest, oldest, and most magnificent museums in the world.Hermitage CandalabraThe Hermitage houses over three millions items Hermitage Jacob's Dream and includes the largest collection of paintings anywhere in the world. DSCN8924 This extraordinary palace was founded by Catherine the Great in 1764 Hermitage Courtyard as her personal residence and private collection of treasures, Grand Hallway  but since 1852 it’s has been open to the public. Wiki. Attribution: A.Savin(Picture above from Wikipedia. Attribution: A. Savin.) The collections occupy a large complex of six historic buildings along Palace Embankment on the River HermitageNeva and include the Winter Palace, which was a former residence of Russian Hermitage Theatreemperors. It was our great privilege to enjoy a performance at their theater Golden PIllarsand tour this monumental complex during our Northern European cruise, Hermitage Splendor  and I wanted to share some of the Hermitage’s mind-boggling beauty with you.Hermitage Magnificent CeilingsI think one of the major differences between The Hermitage and other of the Hermitage Tapestryworld’s greatest art museums that I’ve visited—such as the Louvre in Paris, Hermitage Statue the British Museum in London, the Smithsonian Institution, and Metropolitan Hermitage Malachite vaseMuseum in the U.S. and the Uffizi in Italy—all of these were built as museums. Hermitage HallThe Hermitage was built as a palace, and for this very reason, Hermitage Golden wall design even the intricate details of each wall are gold-encrusted displays of opulence. Golden PIllar CapitalsCatherine wasn’t showcasing world treasures, she was showcasing her home, Hermitage Door Handleand she wanted it to be unsurpassed for beauty apart from any furnishings.Hermitage Floor DetailAs in the Catherine Palace, every detail in each room is artistically crafted, Hermitage Parquet Flooringright down to the colors and designs in their elaborately parqueted floors. Hermitage Chandelier and CelingBut don’t look down for long. Looking up takes your breath away!Hermitage ChandelierThere are massive chandeliers in every room, Hermitage Ceiling 2and every ceiling is a masterpiece of art. Hermitage Window VaseThe windows are dressed with richly embroidered draperies, silk, Hermitage Draperies and velvet (note the marble window sills inlaid with gold-plated duct work)! Hermitage Window Vase Detailand a closer inspection of things only leaves one more and more enthralled! 🙂 Hermitage Sitting Room RoseFor instance, notice the balance and beauty in this rose sitting room. Hermitage Gold and Satin furniture detailsNow notice the gold and satin! Imagine reclining on one of these chairs! Hermitage FireplaceOh, and have I mentioned that each room has its own hand-crafted fireplace? Hermitage Harp by FireplaceCan you imagine sitting by a snug fire playing the harp in this room? Hermitage BedroomFrankly, it’s hard to imagine trying to sleep in a room this huge and grand…Hermitage Sitting Room Bluebut I could get used to eating at a silver table inlaid with mother of pearl. Hermitage Glowing ChandelierBesides being palatial, The Hermitage is one of the world’s greatest museums.Victor Hugo Hermitage There are rooms filled with “first editions” and original works by famous authors Chopin's Music. Hermitageand composers, ETC. Also, the Hermitage holds the world’s largest art collection, Hermitage Portrait Galleryincluding a phenomenal portrait gallery…Raphael Loggiasand my personal favorite: The Raphael Loggias, a long corridor filled with Angel Appearing to Mary. Hermitagepictures depicting the Biblical narrative from Genesis through Revelation. Abraham's Sacrifice. RembrandtThere are also entire rooms dedicated to the artwork of Rembrandt and other of Hermitage Ceilingthe world’s greatest artists. Even if you couldn’t read, I think by the time you’d Hermitage. Rembrandtfinished studying the pictures, you’d have some conception of God’s great love Alonso CANO. Crucifixionfor us through the life and sacrificial death of Christ, making a way for all of us to Hermitage. Satan cast out of Heavenbe reconciled to God through repentance and faith in the atoning work of Jesus.IMG_2014 Furthermore, God is preparing a home for his children in heaven that is far more Hermitage Sitting Room marvelous than we can even imagine—even more beautiful than the Hermitage! Storm tossed ship in stormIt is my prayer that everyone who reads this post will find refuge in God Hermitage. Leavingand that—before you exit this life, you will have peace in the assurance Hermitage Marble Pillars and Parquet Floorsthat God is preparing a special abiding place just perfect for you in heaven!

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”

(Spoken by Jesus Christ in the Bible:  John 14:1-3)

The Romance of Northern Europe (13): The Magnificent Catherine Palace

Catherine PalaceSomeone asked me if I actually saw the Catherine Palace or just promised to Grand Stairwaywrite about it. If you’ve ever seen Disney’s Condor Man (which is a ridiculous IMG_1825spoof on From Russia with Love…but our family all thought it was very funny),Catherine Palace front gate then I’d like you to know that, like Woody, I test out everything before writing Apple Blossoms about it in the comics (or this blog, whichever comes first).Spring at the Catherine PalaceYes, we really did go on a marvelous cruise of Northern Europe in the springtimeCatherine Palace Complex. Royal Russia. News and although this one picture (showing the magnitude of the palace complex) was taken by “Royal Russia,” all the rest of these pictures were taken by Alan and Kathi at Catherine Palace yours truly and my trusty husband of 41+ years,  Harpsichordwho has endured and enjoyed world travels and cultural experiences with me! Carriage at the Catherine Palace The Catherine Palace was originally commissioned by Catherine I in 1717 Eighteenth Century Palace Dress as the summer residence of the Russian tsars. Catherine the GreatThrough the years, it changed in style and grew in magnitude and opulence, Palace Guard but in January of 1944, the palace was totally destroyed by the German army Catherine the Great Portrait as they left after the bloody 872-day siege of Leningrad during World War 2.Rococo Decorations at Catherine Palace Today, much of the Catherine’s Palace has been restored to its former Rococo IMG_1821grandeur, but in order to raise funds for completing their renovations,Great Hall the Catherine Palace now rents out its dazzling “Great Hall” for special events, &Entertainment at Catherine Palace we enjoyed being beneficiaries of one of their magical evenings of entertainment!The gates of Catherine Palace Alan and I were part of a group who arrived at the front gates early enough to Music at Catherine Palacetour the palace before the concert, but even then we were welcomed with music!Spires of Catherine PalaceIt is said that more than 100 kilograms of gold have been used to guild the Front of Catherine Palaceglorious rooftop and intricate stucco facade of the Catherine Palace, Dining Room at Catherine Palacebut I think the complete value of this treasure house is beyond estimation.Gold GuildingFor example, the walls in every room are enhanced with gold-guilding, Beautiful Seteeand artfully adorned with exquisite furniture and statuary. Palace CurtainsStunning curtains line the windows.Parquet floor in Catherine PalaceThe floors are crafted with intricate parquet inlays; Ceiling Mural at Catherine Palace the ceilings are graced with ethereal scenes from the world’s great artists;Porcelain Fireplaceand each room has a gigantic, blue and white porcelain heat radiator. Portrait Hall. Catherine Palace The Portrait Hall covers 100 sq. meters and is filled with superb oil paintings. IMG_1771 In the Light Gallery (and on the evening we were there) over 696 lamps are lit Lights at Catherine Palacenear the mirrored walls and windows and hanging from the chandeliers, Hall of Mirrors giving the room a magnificent, golden glow. Lumiere. Be My Guest(Does this look like Lumière from Beauty and the Beast, or what??!) Royal Carriage Well, besides touring the palace and the Royal Carriage House, Chamber Music at the Great Hall we were treated to an evening of classical music Royal Dining Table and a royal reception (not really at this table) to try some of Russia’s famous Caviarchampagne (which I opted out of) and caviar (which was exotic but excellent). Catherine Palace GardensThe evening ended with a stroll through the perfectly manicured palace gardens IMG_1849while enjoying even more musical entertainment! Catherine Palace BandI couldn’t help but be impressed with all the music, and I believe it’s really true Russian Dancersthat Russians (and probably all of us) love beauty, music and dancing. Catherine Palace SpiresIt’s hard to even imagine the beauty and joy that awaits us in heaven!

“But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”
(1 Corinthians 2:9)

The Romance of Northern Europe (12): St. Petersburg

IMG_2183St. Petersburg is the world’s most northern city with a population of over 5 St. Isaac's Cathedralmillion. It is also Russia’s second largest and most western city. DSCN8953St. Petersburg was named for St. Peter, the Apostle of Christ, and  it’s filled withChurch of the Savior on Bloodfantastically ornate, colorful and unique churches and cathedrals. Peter and Paul Fortress The historic city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site IMG_1326 and hosts one of the world’s largest and most impressive art museums,Neva River  The Hermitage (which I’ll write about in an upcoming post). DSCN8943 Tsar Peter the Great founded St. Petersburg in 1703 at the intersection of the IMG_1715Neva River delta and the marshlands at the Eastern shore of the Baltic Sea in the IMG_2228Gulf of Finland. Tens of thousands of workers died building the intricate grid Trinity Bridgeof canals and (eventually) the 342 bridges that interconnect this beautiful city. IMG_2175St. Petersburg has earned such nicknames as “Venice of the North” Hydrofoil and  “The City of 101 Islands.” IMG_1914Personally, I would call her the Amsterdam of the North, IMG_1204since the canals are lined with colorful buildings IMG_2260 and alive with boats IMG_1522of every size and description. Western High Speed DiameterThere is the ultramodern “Western High Speed Diameter” for road vehicles, IMG_2215but I would say that—in St. Petersburg—ships rule! Unlike most cities, St. IMG_1401Petersburg has gone through a series of name changes that reflect the political IMG_2214upheaval of this great nation. During World War 1, Lenin changed the name to IMG_2223Petrograd, and after his death in 1924, the city was named Leningrad in his The Bronze Horseman (monument to Peter the Great)honor. It wasn’t until 67 years later when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 that DSCN8937St. Petersburg was again called by her first (and—to me—best) name. IMG_2190Do you know what your name means? Mine means “pure battle maiden,”  IMG_1222and I’ve tried to live up to that name, but over the course of my life, IMG_1711—in troubled times—someone might have called me something less. 😦 IMG_1517None of us are always consistently what we aspire to be, nor is life as idyllic as we IMG_2282wish it to be, but it is our “name” and aspirations that make us truly unique.IMG_1375No matter what your name is, or if  you’ve changed it several times or failed to IMG_2208live up to it, there is a “name above all names.” We don’t have to die for our God; IMG_1722He died for us! All He asks is that we repent of our sins, believe in Christ and trust Him to save us. He will help us grow in our ability to love and be kind.IMG_1718It’s true we’ll never be as flawless as we’d like to be, but God loves us anyway! IMG_1903“Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.”

~Naida Hearn

“Let them praise the name of the Lord: for his name alone is excellent; his glory is above the earth and heaven” (Psalm 148:13).

The Romance of Northern Europe (11): Peterhof Palace

 

IMG_1253There have been many palaces in Western Europe that have taken my breath IMG_1237away, but the stunning opulence of St. Petersburg’s Grand Palace at “Peterhof” IMG_1291caught both Alan and me by surprise. Peterhof has been called the “Versailles of IMG_6455Russia,” and I think it’s a well deserved title! The 30 great rooms of this baroque IMG_6457mansion are exquisitely decorated with lavish chandeliers, inlaid parquet floors,IMG_6452magnificent murals by masters, and decorative artwork embossed in gold. IMG_1321In fact, in 1717 Peter the Great resided at Versailles’ Grand Trianon, and many ofIMG_1244 the features of Peterhof (like this flooring) are almost exact replications. IMG_1247There are both upper and lower gardens at Peterhof and a brilliant system of IMG_1294water reservoirs and storage pools to provide for spectacular water fountains.IMG_1267If you have a chance to visit, be sure to take time to stroll through all the lovely IMG_1270formal gardens. (Yes, the fountains and gardens are also a bit Versailles-like!) IMG_1317Peterhof was built on a 200-foot bluff with sweeping views down IMG_1280to the Gulf of Finland along the  shore of the Baltic Sea, IMG_1275 and there are delightful pathways through the woods  leading to other retreats IMG_1281and royal residences along the shoreline. It’s definitely worth taking the time to IMG_1303 explore the grounds, and you never know whom you might meet along the way! IMG_1305Of course, if you can’t jaunt over to Russia just now and are wishing for a IMG_1307 beautiful stroll through some gardens filled with  spring flowers and tulips, IMG_1313you can always join me here (see below) in Holland (MI) for the Tulip Festival!Holland Tulip Festival copy

Have you ever thought about the way to try to imitate what we admire, no matter who we are? Not only do we try to imitate the gorgeous gardens of Holland here in Michigan, even someone as “great” as Peter the Great studied the palace of Louis XIV and incorporated many of the French king’s ideas when planning his own “yard and garden” show…which has lasted as a stunning spectacle for almost 300 years and has become a UNESCO World Heritage site. Way to go, Peter! I do admire your style! However, I have to confess, I admire the Apostle Peter even more (for whom the entire city of St. Petersburg was named)…who worshiped and imitated Jesus Christ. Although Jesus never built a monument, He has influenced more people than anyone else throughout history, and I study Him every day, trying to become like him…his grace, his love, and his goodness. Whom do you admire and imitate? I hope Someone GOOD!

                “Ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.”           (1 Thessalonians 5:15)
 “There is none good but one, that is, God.” (Matthew 19:17)
(Credit for the three pictures from inside Peterhof goes to their official literature, since no one is allowed to film inside the palace.)

 

The Romance of Northern Europe (10): Exploring Tallinn, Estonia

IMG_1137Although Tallinn is the birthplace of Skype, one of the world’s top ten digital IMG_1060cities, a UNESCO World Heritage Site dating back 5,000 years, has a population Tallin Old Town Wikiof 430,000,* and is the capital and largest city in Estonia, I had virtually never IMG_1044heard of it until we went on our Northern European Cruise last spring. We came IMG_1155into the city via the Tallinn Passenger Port, which is one of the busiest cruise Toompea Castledestinations in the Baltic Sea. We docked very close to Toompea Castle, part of Shipthe fortification system for “Old Town,” the ancient city center, IMG_1089and commenced with a delightful walking tour of the city. St. Olaf's ChurchSt. Olaf’s church (far right) was the tallest building in the world IMG_0907 from 1549 to 1625 and is still an impressive landmark today, IMG_0921although there are many beautiful churches! (Lutheran, St. Mary’s Cathedral)Alexander Nevsky Cathedral(Russian Orthodox, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral) IMG_0936(St. Nicolas Church, was dedicated to the patron of fishermen and sailors in 1275, but today it’s a concert hall and houses a museum of ecclesiastical art.) St. Catherines PassageIn many ways, Tallinn has never lost its Medieval look and charm, IMG_1099 although now everything has a touch of modern class added! IMG_0929Ancient walls are adorned with modern art for sale, IMG_0941and the town center is flanked with inviting open air cafes,IMG_0961some with snuggly sheep skins adorning the chairs. Talk about warm and plush!IMG_1093We visited in May—a great time to travel!—and there were flowers blooming IMG_1018everywhere. IMG_1141The markets were also bursting with colorful bouquets for sale. Town Hall Square Raekoja platsThe Town Hall Square (aka “Raekoja plats”) is home to “Raeapteek,” founded Raeapteek Pharmacy  in 1422 and one of the world’s oldest continuously operating pharmacies! IMG_0951Of course, not all the attractions on the square are quite so ancient. 🙂 IMG_0985After a long morning of trekking all over Old Town IMG_0959 learning about Tallinn’s heritage IMG_0960and taking in the sites, IMG_0966 we were treated to a traditional tea IMG_0967 featuring both savory and sweet, stuffed croissants IMG_0969 in a historic restaurant. (This fresco was painted on the ladies’ bathroom door!)IMG_0963I mean, this was a seriously, authentically ancient building! IMG_0989After a chance to rest and relax, IMG_1016we made our way past some lovely lassies in traditional garb Fat Margaret Towerto the “Fat Margaret” Tower and city gate, IMG_1071 which now houses a fascinating little “Estonian Maritime Museum.”IMG_0906There’s also an excellent open air museum in Tallinn, which we didn’t see, IMG_0890because we just didn’t have time to see it all, hear it, taste it, or experience it all.IMG_0938But, I think that’s just the way it is! My dad used to always paraphrase Huckleberry Finn: “You pays your nickel, and you takes your choice.” IMG_1154No matter how hard we try, we’re only going to experience bits and pieces of life. IMG_0925We’ll notice certain things, but we may never really understand them. Ship LightWe’ll figure out some things…but there will be all sorts of things we miss. IMG_1162      That’s why I’ve chosen to put my trust in God, who alone is omniscient! On this wonderful “cruise” called life, we’ll never get it all figured out, but God knows and understands everything, and He can lead us into the ways of peace.1 Cor 13 We See Through a Glass Darkly“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

(*The above aerial view of Tallinn was taken from Wiki Commons)

The Romance of Northern Europe (9): Berlin: Bustling and Hopeful

IMG_0496Berlin, Germany,  built along the Spree River, IMG_0652 is the largest city in continental Europe, IMG_0424 and second only to London in the European Union. IMG_0482 During World War II, it was the third most populous city in the entire world, IMG_0359 and still today, its metro area hosts nearly 4.5 million people IMG_0353from 180 nations around the world. Checkpoint Charlie Before Alan and I visited last spring, Checkpoint CharlieI envisioned Berlin as a city still in recovery IMG_0372  from the massive destruction of World War II, IMG_0414 but I was truly delighted with what I saw.IMG_0452 It looks to me like Berlin has overcome Memorial to Murdered Jews —but not forgotten, and I hope will never forget—her past. IMG_0423  I believe Berlin is passionately pursuing the present O2 Worldand working toward a hopeful future. Museum Island The city is full of beautifully restored historic landmarks, IMG_0468 like the Brandenburg Gate IMG_0677 and the Berlin Cathedral (Dom), IMG_0402but the downtown area is filled with dazzling, new architecture, Spree River Downtownand everywhere you look, Berlin is still very much under construction. Banhof Posdamer PlatzIf you ever want to visit Berlin, know that it houses Europe’s largest grade- Train Stationseparated train station, the Hauptbahnhof, which has free internet, luggage Inside Train Stationlockers, some 80 shops, and provides excellent service to around 300,000 IMG_0412passengers every day! Also, if you’re downtown and looking for a good lunch IMG_0305 spot, I can definitely recommend Reinhard’s in the Kempinski Hotel! IMG_0388 Although many things have changed about Germany since World War II, IMG_0389some things haven’t changed…like their scrumptious traditional dishes IMG_0390and their world-famous apple strudel. (Altho, Jon’s Gerlinde makes the best!)IMG_0308Well, there’s no end to the fun things I could share about Berlin, but I want to IMG_0466leave you with a thought shared with us by our charming tour guide. IMG_0511The tallest building in Berlin is the TV tower, the Fernsehturm, which dominatesIMG_0521 the skyline. (Photo bombs in fact…look back at the museum & cathedral pix.) IMG_0621Our tour guide called this “the Christian’s Revenge,” because no matter where Berlin TV Tower (Fernsehturm)you are, the sunshine reflects so that you see a cross shining over Berlin, Crosses in Windowsrather like the crosses you can see in this hospital window, reminding us that Berliner Domthrough Christ there is forgiveness, healing, and hope for all nations and people.

“And be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).