John Edward Cooper’s Notes

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Sunday 14 May 2017

[Saturday 13 May 2017]

Helsinki, Finland–Tallinn, Estonia

Scandic Grand Marina, Helsinki, Finland
Nordic Hotel Forum, Tallinn, Estonia
Today, we leave Finland in our wake and cross the Gulf from Scandinavia to Estonia. We dock in the port of Tallinn and drive east along the coast until we arrive at picturesque Kadriorg Palace. Built in the 18th century by Russian Emperor Peter the Great as a gift to his wife Catherine, this sweeping confection of a building now houses one of the country’s best art collections. Here, we take a guided tour of its intricate interior, taking in the exquisite and mesmerising ceiling in the main hall, as well as the impressive manicured gardens and fountains that the palace overlooks. After this most regal outing we continue to Tallinn to settle into our hotel before heading out for dinner in a local restaurant.
You will stay for two nights at the four-star Nordic Forum Hotel.

Janet got up at 6.45am; and after she vacated the bathroom I heaved myself a bit painfully out of bed, and shaved and showered. Janet did the remaining packing, and we strapped up the cases. The painfulness subsided after we went down for breakfast a little after 8am. There was only a “continental” selection available just then, but I hadn’t finished my corn flakes when the bacon, etc., started to be put out into the bains-marie. We went up to the room to retrieve suitcases and hand-luggage, then went down in the lifts to the lobby, where I handed the room-key cards in at reception. Alexander told us yesterday that we should be down in the lobby and checked out by 8.50am, so that’s what we did. The cases were loaded on the coach, and we boarded. Initially Alexander’s count fell short of the 51 that comprised our party, but a few minutes later the stragglers arrived and boarded; and we were off just before 9am, heading for the new Terminal 2 in the West Harbour some 2¾ miles to the south-west. There, Alexander handed out tickets. Our names were on them, but because all that mattered was that each of us had a ticket, he didn’t call our names; he just handed out the tickets at random. So it was, that I was “Gillian Stone” for this voyage.

Then we used the tickets to pass through the automatic barriers, and proceeded to the large, new waiting area. There were escalators up to it, but they were rather rapid-moving to step onto while hauling a heavy, bulky suitcase, so Janet and I waited for the lift. The ship, MS Megastar, had its maiden voyage this January; it came into view ca.9.20am.

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 09:22:32
MS Megastar

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 09:22:32 (detail 1)
MS Megastar

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 09:22:32 (detail 2)
MS Megastar

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 09:24:36
Helsinki West Harbour Terminal 2

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 09:27:36
Helsinki West Harbour Terminal 2

Shortly afterwards a procession of departing passengers appeared on the other side of a glass partition near us. Alexander had told us, on the coach, that the gates would open 15–20 minutes before the scheduled sailing time of 10.30am; but in fact they were opened and we boarded the ship ca.9.50am. We went in a lift to an upper deck, where there were bars, and found our way to a cafeteria, with buffet, sandwich bar and salad bar, and seated ourselves nearby. Adjacent was a Burger King outlet. In the cafeteria was beer and wine on tap, so I bought myself a 50cl glass of Karhu III beer for €5.90 (10:10). Janet couldn’t find any diet soft drink there, but did find that the Burger King had Sprite Zero.

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 10:15:58
Aboard the MS Megastar

I was aware that the ship had started to move a little before 10.30am. From our location, the view from which is shown in the photo “10:15:58”, I logged on to the ship’s Wi-Fi, and looked at this and that on the internet (10:26–10:49, 11:45–12:06). In the mean time, I decided I would eat. Where the contents of sandwiches were labelled, it was in Finnish and Swedish; and many of them were “ägg”, which I knew I wouldn’t like; but what were the others, “broiler”? I decided on one in a different location, unlabelled, but evidently cured pork, for €4.50 (not “turkey roll”, as the till receipt said), and I had a 24cl glass of red wine for €3.90 (11:11). Janet wrote: “I’d intended using the salad bar, but most things had oil on them, so I bought a chicken sarnie” (presumably, one of those marked “broiler”). “I went for a wander,” she continued, “and bought two suitcase padlocks, as one of ours went ‘walkabout’ en route to Helsinki” (12:09 on the till receipt). They were brass, and reasonably priced at €5.50 for the pair. We arrived at Tallinn at 12.30pm. Departure from the ship was quickly accomplished, after which we went along an enclosed pier, then descended in the lift to the ground floor. There was a bit of a bottleneck at the customs post (unstaffed since Finland and Estonia are Schengen-area countries). Outside, at the nearby coach park, were two coaches, but ours, as well as having a Riviera sign, had an additional one, as Alexander had told us to expect: “Alex’s coach”. It was sunny, and a lot warmer than it had been.

City centre map (click to enlarge)

Smaller-scale map (click to enlarge

We didn’t go to the hotel at first; we went to the Kadriorg Art Museum (“7” on the smaller-scale map), housed in a “Petrine Baroque” palace built for Catherine I of Russia by Peter the Great.

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:19:08
Entering the Kadriorg Palace grounds

We were introduced to our guide Katrin, who spoke to us about the place, giving us some of its history, before leading us into the building, and through its various levels and rooms. Because I wanted to photograph everything of interest, often having to wait for people to get out of the way in order to do so, I quite often fell behind; but we had our radios, so I was able to hear what was happening and being talked about. There was a grand piano being tuned in one location.

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:20:08
Kadriorg Palace: front façade

day 14 May 2017 — 13:24:42
Kadriorg Palace: entrance hall

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:25:20
“Catherine II, late 18th c.”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:30:08
Great hall: ceiling fresco

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:30:46
Great hall: stucco decoration and initial of Peter the Great (a stylised Cyrillic “П”, I assume)

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:31:10
Great hall

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:33:08
Great hall: stucco decoration and initial of Peter the Great

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:33:28
Great hall: stucco decoration and monogram of Catherine I (Russian: Екатерина)

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:35:20
Kadriorg Palace: corridor

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:36:06
“Grand Duchess Maria Nikolayevna, 1846”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:37:32
One of two porcelain urns

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:38:02
The other of two porcelain urns

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:38:34
“Grand Duchess Olga Nikolayevna, 1846”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:42:54
“Wedding at Cana, first half of the 17th c.”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:45:16
“Isabella Clara Eugenia, the Regent of the Netherlands, 1st quarter of the 17th century”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:46:32
“Lady in Black, ca.1649”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:48:12
“Journey to Noah’s Ark, ca.1650”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:50:58
“Christ Driving the Traders from the Temple, ca.1570”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:54:40
“Friedrich August von Sievers, ca.1795”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:56:06
“Peter I, mid-18th c.”

In a couple of the rooms there were Delft-tiled corner fireplaces, reminiscent of the ones we saw in Catherine Palace, Pushkin, on 14 September 2012.

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 13:57:10
Delft-tiled fireplace

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:00:48
“Empress Catherine I, 1726”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:03:22
“Countess Yekaterina Orlova, after 1779”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:04:52
“Miracle of the Prophet Elisha: Resurrection of a Man, 1st half of the 19th c.”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:06:56
“Soldier’s Tale, 1877”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:07:58
“A Pine Forest, 1878”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:09:06
“St. Petersburg Imperial Porcelain Factory (1744–1917)
1825–1855. Porcelain, gilt and painting on glaze”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:10:14
“Port of Tallinn, Morning, 1853”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:12:10
Delft-tiled fireplace

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:13:16
Cabinet including Soviet-era porcelain

We went through a room with built-in glass-fronted display cabinets on all sides, with marquetry work above them and other inlaid work below, to another room beyond with an exhibition of still life paintings. One was called “Dead Fly Mix”, on first sight a painting of a white rose behind glass — then you noticed the dead fly at the bottom!

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:17:58
Kadriorg Palace

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:19:50
“Still Life with Game, second half of the 17th c.”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:29:24
“B.F.R. Dead Fly Mix, 2012/2014”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:29:58
“B.F.R. Dead Fly Mix, 2012/2014”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:31:12
Kadriorg Palace

The toilets were down a corridor from the entrance hall (to the left as you look at the photo of “13:24:42”), and on the way to them I noticed a collection of classical-style sculptures behind a glass-covered opening.

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:39:54
“The sculpture collection”

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 14:40:52
“The sculpture collection”

On the other side of the entrance hall was a café, and we went in there. They didn’t have any suitable diet soda-pops, though, so it was only I who had a drink, an americano, cheap at €2.10 (14:50:36, on the till receipt). There wasn’t time after that to look around the park, so we made our way back to where the coach was parked. We reboarded the coach ca.3.30pm and were taken to the hotel, just less than 1½ miles from there. The Nordic Forum Hotel (Alexander drew a circle around its location on the city-centre map) is just to the east of the old walled city.

Folder issued with the key-cards

Janet was pleased, when we got to the room, that there was a walk-in shower. She dislikes showers in bath-tubs, especially when these have a clingy shower-curtain (as at the previous hotel)! When we’d got the valuables locked in the safe, we went out. Janet had noticed a hairdresser’s in the hotel lobby, but was told when she enquired that they couldn’t fit her in today. There were three “shopping basket” supermarket or convenience-store symbols shown on the map near the hotel, but the only one we found was the Rimi supermarket in the basement of a large multi-storey building called “Foorum” on the next-but-one block to the east. The only diet soft drinks it stocked were Diet Coke and Pepsi Max, so we left without buying anything. I had a rant and a rage after we left there, because of the shitty lying map and the shitty inadequate supermarket. “Roll on in, Russian tanks!” I said. “Be welcome!” We wandered round the block between there and the hotel, and in and out of alleyways lined with designer-goods shops, cafés and pubs, some of the developments new, and some conversions of industrial premises, finding no further convenience-store. “Would it matter so much if I had Pepsi?” Janet kept asking; for she’d determined never to do so again. I suggested, first, that the connection between cola and calcium loss wasn’t proven, and second, that her consumption of it would only be very short-term; and in the end went back to the Rimi supermarket. Giving in really upset her, though. We bought seven 330ml cans of Pepsi Max and two 1.5ℓ bottles of carbonated water (I couldn’t find uncarbonated). As in Helsinki, there was a charge for the packaging (“purk alumiinium”, aluminium can; and “pudel plast suur”, big plastic bottle). There was a 40-cent discount; and the total was €5.86.

Rimi till receipt, issued “16:53:18”

We got back to our hotel room ca.5pm, and I lay on the bed for an hour or so. Janet did such unpacking as was necessary; and, in the absence of a hairdresser’s appointment, had the bothersome task of washing her hair under the shower — then using one of those annoying hair-dryers you find in hotels, that don’t work unless you keep pressure on the switch. I must have dozed off because something she did woke me up. There’s a kettle in the room, with tea and coffee (rare outside the UK), so I made myself a cup of coffee. …I set up the computer… I connected to the hotel’s Wi-Fi… I was doing some diary update, when it was time to leave the room and go downstairs to meet the others in the hotel lobby (7.30pm). Alexander led the procession to the Peppersack restaurant in the old city. It was raining, but not heavily. In our party was a pleasant German couple, and we sat opposite them. (We never did find out their names, nor they ours; so we dubbed them “Hans” and “Hilde”.) He was the one who did most of the talking; Hilde was fairly taciturn. They had been living near Wimbledon for nearly five years, liked living in England, and although they frequently revisited Germany, had no desire to relocate there. “We had a good laugh,” Janet wrote. When the drinks menu came round, he and I both chose a fairly dark beer. Janet yielded to Diet Coke. First course, which I had but Janet didn’t, was a fairly thick soup. I enjoyed it, even though my preference is usually for more bouillon-like soups. Then I had pork and potatoes and Janet had salmon. (Alexander had issued a sheet with food choices for this and one further occasion on which dinner was included, shortly after our arrival in Helsinki.) I had no complaints about my food; but, although Janet’s salmon was cooked just right, the large cauliflower floret and piece of broccoli with which it was served were somewhat waterlogged and much too salty, and the rice was inedibly undercooked. The sweet was crème brûlée, which Janet had not listed (neither had I, but when it came I ate it). Thinking that her declining it was because she couldn’t have sugar, they very kindly provided her with a sweet paste made from dates (we think) with no added sugar. So although she hadn’t wanted anything, she ate it out of politeness, and enjoyed it. The evening included a noisy mock sword-fight.

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 20:12:28
Swordfight at The Peppersack, Tallinn

Sunday 14 May 2017 — 20:13:46
Swordfight at The Peppersack, Tallinn

“Hans” and “Hilde” left a bit after 9.30pm, and we did the same shortly afterwards. It had stopped raining. Back up in the room, Janet showered, etc., and went to bed ca.10.40pm. I checked e-mail accounts (21:53). Transferred 60 photos, taken during the day, from my camera to the WD Elements HDD (22:08–22:11). Looked through them using Windows Photo Viewer, rotating 24 that needed it (22:13–22:16). Transferred three photos, taken at the restaurant this evening, from Janet’s camera to the WD Elements HDD (22:19).… They were all blurred, but one more so, which I deleted; and I rotated one of the others that needed it (22:27).… Did some diary update, with the help of internet lookups (23:03–00:43), e.g. for the location of the ferry terminal, information about MS Megastar, the meaning of “broiler” in Swedish, and information about Kadriorg Palace. So it was ca.1am before I got to bed.

[Monday 15 May 2017]

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