FINLAND, ST. PETERSBURG, VALAAM, SWISS ALPS

JUNE 1999

 

 

Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday

 

 

 

HELSINKI and TALLINN

 

June in Helsinki, Finland

for a geophysical exhibition and equipment installation.

 

I manned the company booth

and gave a technical presentation.

 

 

 

Helsinki was very pleasant,

and is famous as the most wireless city in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Outside Helsinki we visited the Suomenlina fortress in the harbor.

 

The next day I joined friends on a day trip to Tallinn, Estonia.

It is an easy trip from Helsinki on a high-speed catamaran,

and has a very beautiful old town center.

 

 

Estonia is the only country I have visited that does not require a visa for Americans, but does for Canadians!

 

 

 

 

 

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA

 

I took the train from Helsinki to St. Petersburg, Russia, about a six-hour trip across northern taiga and forests.

I last visited it as Leningrad in 1983, and everything has changed.

The homeless people in the streets remind me of USA, not of the old USSR!

The shops are full of everything you could want, if you have dollars.

I visited a Russian Geophysical company. The scientists seemed well versed in western technology, and the old custom of vodka shots and toasts is definitely alive!

 

 

June-July in St. Petersburg is a festival time called "White Nights", since it never gets dark through the night.

 

 

 

It was fun to visit the crazy Russian bars;

everyone was very friendly and polite,

never once mentioning the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia.

 

 

 

 

I visited the island-fortress where the last czars were recently reburied from Siberia so they could be near Peter the Great.

 

 

 

St. Petersburg is famous for museums, and they are in much better shape than in 1983.

A special collection in the Hermitage called the "Gold Room" is now open.

I have never seen so much beautifully crafted gold in one place!

I also enjoyed the special exhibit of impressionist paintings "collected" at the end of WW2.

 

 

 

 

 

LAKE ONEIDA - VAALAAM ISLAND CRUISE

 

 

I then had my second pleasure cruise of the year, this one to the monastic island of Valaam. This island is located in the north of Lake Oneida, reached by going upriver from St. Petersburg.

The boat was quite nice, I had my own cabin, three meals a day, three nights and two days with guided shore excursions, all for $110, due to the ruble devaluation!

Valaam Island had been under Finnish control after WW1, so the monasteries were not destroyed after the Russian Revolution like elsewhere in Russia.

 

 

 

The island became part of Russia after WW2,

but was reoccupied by monks only ten years ago.

Everyone gets around by walking or horse-cart,

and restoration of the major sites is working wonders.

 

 

 

 

Sunset on the cruise back to St. Petersburg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SWITZERLAND

 

I flew to Zurich, and visited a gravity observatory in the Black Forest of Germany.

I then helped install a gravity meter near Bern.

 

Driving along the autobahn, I saw what is called the "Smart Car".

I've never seen such a small car going so fast!

Actually it looked roomy and comfortable inside, but it sure looks silly!

 

 

 

 

 

After work, I joined my friend Patrick on a trip to the

highest Rail Station in Europe, the Jungfraujoch in the Alps.

I had wanted to do this trip for many years.

Despite the $100 train ticket, Ifinally made it.

 

 

 

There is a new hotel/visitor complex on top,

and you can walk through an ice tunnel carved through a glacier.

 

 

 

 

 

Text and Photos Copyright ©2001 Mark E. Halliday