Rodrigo goes to church
Our top 20 favourite Cathedrals, Basilicas and churches of Baltic Europe and the British Isles (in no particular order) …and a plastic flamingo
Since Rodrigo narrowly escaped death by a plastic compactor, he’s been on something of a religious pilgrimage to give thanks at as many churches as possible. Nah, I’m just kidding. He doesn’t have a soul, I just really like churches and as our Baltic season recently drew to an end, I tried to squeeze in as many as I could. And then there was the British Isles. In the past, Rodrigo and I have been to Westminster Abbey in London, the Vatican (yes, that plastic bird has seen the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel), the Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame in Paris, as well as the Santa Maria Della Salute in Venice, among others.
Having spent the last five months in Europe, here are our top 20 recent favourites …and Rodrigo…obviously.
This church is so the church that people should get married in at the end of a movie. It’s really pretty inside and out, and the people are very friendly and everything. (For any cash you don’t end up donating, there are also amazing crepes available from a street vendor just outside. What more could you ask for? Jesus and Nutella in one convenient location.)
2. “The Marble Church” / Frederikskirke, Copenhagen - 1894
A lot of the churches in the Baltics are more museums than anything else. Like St. Albans, this one also actually felt like a functional place of worship. (Well, except for some tourists and their selfie sticks.)
3. St. Olav’s Church, Tallinn - 12th Century
In the 14th century (I think?), this Gothic church was once believed to be the tallest building in the world. The interior is simple but it actually feels like a real church. Well, now anyway. Before 1991 when the country was under Moscow’s rule, the KGB used the spire as a radio tower and surveillance point. These days, the climb up the 124-metre structure is a great butt workout and completely worth it for the view.
4. Russian Orthodox Cathedral / Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, Tallinn - 1900
I think we went in there at the beginning of my contract. I can’t really remember.
5. Storkyrkan, Stockholm - 13th Century
Possibly the only museum-type place in Stockholm that doesn’t let crew in for free. I wanted to go inside but I didn’t have any Swedish Kroner and although they accepted Euro’s they would only give change in Kroner and it was our last Stockholm and I didn’t want to break a twenty. - Ah, the tragedy when my FOMO and my cheapness collide! Apparently, at one time, more than 1000 people were buried under the church. - And if that doesn’t make you want to shell out the entrance fee, more recently it was the site where the current princess of Stockholm married her personal trainer.
6. Riddarholm Church, Stockholm - 13th Century
I poked my head inside and it looked really cool. It also had an entrance fee so I tried to plan a visit when I had time to have a proper look around, but the next time I went it was closed. This church hasn’t been used as an actual church since 1807. Instead, it functions as a crypt where the tombs of the Swedish monarchs are housed.
7. Helsinki Cathedral / Lutheran Cathedral, Helsinki - 1852
Very plain, but pretty.
8. Uspenski Orthodox Cathedral or the “Russian Church” - 1868
For the Finnish who don’t like ‘plain’. Proving that (as you will soon discover) “Russian” = gilding.
9. Berlin Cathedral / Berliner Dom, Berlin - 1905
We didn’t have time to go into this one but I’m sure it would have been nice.
10. Great or St. Lawrence Church / Grote of Sint-Laurenskerk, Rotterdam - 1525
Rotterdam was carpet bombed in World War II. This is the only remaining medieval building to have survived. It sticks out like a medieval sore thumb in a very trendy modern city.
11. St. Colman’s Cathedral, Cobh - 1879
Pretty much the most exciting thing in Cobh besides the Titanic Experience.
12. St. Patricks Cathedral, Dublin - 1191
Apparently, not everyone is as big a fan of churches as I am. I subjected three of my friends to a visit to this place. Two of them only came in because it was free (for crew). So far we are all still friends.
13. St. Annes / Belfast Cathedral, Belfast - 1904
I went off to find this one on my own. It is the home of the ‘Black Santa’. I thought that would be more exciting than it was, but according to the internet, the ‘Black Santa’ is really just the reverend who sits outside every year the week before Christmas to collect donations for charity. It was started by someone who wore a black outfit to keep warm and that’s how the tradition got its name. In my country, we also have Black Santa’s, but they’re different.
14. St. Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh - 14th Century
“The mother church of Presbyterianism”.
15. St. Mary in Castro / St. Mary in the Castle, Dover - 11th Century
This one’s inside Dover castle. It’s where people should get married at the end of a period film. There are no crepes outside.
And then there’s Russia…
One of the guides on a tour I was on (to the Hermitage, I think - we were driving past it) said it was
was the fourth largest cathedral in the world. I can’t find any proof of that on Wikipedia but it is big (possibly the most recognisable feature in the St. Petersburg skyline) and definitely one of the most ornate cathedrals Rod and I have seen (and, well, I do love kitsch). It became a museum of atheism in the Soviet era ( - A museum of atheism covered in Jesus) and is still considered a museum (no church services are held here and they charge you entrance.) It’s worth paying an extra fee to go to the top of the dome and look out over St. Petersburg.
Rodrigo appreciates that a bird holds such an important position in this church but wishes that the holy spirit was represented by something pinker.
17. St. Nicolas’ Cathedral, St. Petersburg - 1762
Well, there’s no entrance fee which is very Christian (Jesus paid enough) but tourists are made to feel unwelcome there (which is not very Christian.) It was named not after Santa Claus (he would have been more generous) but the patron saint of sailors (not that seafarers are exactly welcome.)
I saw a picture of it in a guide book and went in search of it which should have been easy except that the book was in English and the map was in Russian so it was not. Eventually, when we ended up at the wrong church, we realised we had already visited this one. It’s completely open to the public (which we like), it’s actually a place of worship (which we like), you cannot take pictures inside (which we’re totally okay with) but some people do that anyway (jerks!). The Lady of Kazan in the title is actually an icon that people (mostly women wearing headscarves) were queueing up to pray before because it/she apparently performs miracles. Also a museum of Atheism in the communist era, it has been returned to a place of (icon) worship.
A museum built to honour Tsar Alexander II. His remains are there at the sight of his death which was on a road running along the side of a canal (which now has a massive kink in it. - I’m sure a town planner must have been terribly inconvenienced by this.) The walls inside are very elaborate - covered entirely in mosaic. (That is not painted, friends.)
This one is located in a fort (the fort is free, the church is not) and houses the remains of the Romanov family. Having seen some of their palaces it makes sense that wherever they are (even if they’re deceased), they wouldn’t be caught dead in a place without sufficient gilding. It was the tallest structure in St. Petersburg until they built a TV transmitter in the 60s.
In other news:
I celebrated my bErLiNthday!
Berlin is about a 2.5 - 3-hour train ride from where we docked in Warnemunde so to go there took a little bit of time off, but I’ve wanted to go the whole season and my birthday was a good excuse. It also took some planning. Fortunately, my friend Hannah really likes planning. There were colour coded maps and everything! She made sure the day was packed with the wall, holocaust memorials and birthday fun.
There was a lot to see and do in just five hours and it felt a bit like the amazing race. My team was made up of myself (obviously) ‘the Birthday Princess’, together with our production manager and party planner Hannah (a.k.a Gnome’s human), the Hot Chilean guy (there always has to be some eye candy) and our awesome broadcast lady Storme (who overslept, nearly missed the train, tried to avoid being in front of the camera all day - Haha, fat chance! - but always kept it positive).
There was also the ‘other team’ made up of some of the hot Chileans other band members and some random guy from Peru who I don’t know but it wouldn’t be a party without a crasher. They heard we were going and thought they would tag along, but only sort of, but mostly. We thought we had lost them a few times but they always caught up.
Hannah’s guide to Berlin: A walking tour
In five hours we managed to see:
- The wall memorial.
- The cathedral (from the outside). We saw some little girls doing cartwheels in the park so we thought we’d copy them. We were not as successful.
|The Brandenburg Gate|
- The topography of terror exhibit (about Hitler and World War II in a Gestapo bunker)
- Checkpoint Charlie
- The Holocaust memorial. Never forget the 6 million - not even on your birthday!
- The Brandenburg Gate - Or as I call it “The thing that looks like Berlin” - I really wanted to get a good photo of myself in front of the arch but when we got there the square in front of it was filled with bikers. So instead I got a picture with my new boyfriend. (I’ve been threatening to get me a biker for years.)
|Me and my new boyfriend in front of The Brandenburg Gate|
- And finally The Reichstag building - They tried to burn it down in 1933, we attempted another cartwheel in front of it. Their attempts were a whole lot more successful than ours…well, mine.
We had to speed walk a bit but we made it back to the train station in time only to find our train had been delayed 70 minutes. Fortunately, we had given ourselves a little bit of leeway before crew back-on-board time, so we had ice-cream while we waited. There was a little bit of confusion and by the time we realised our train had arrived, it was about to leave. We had to make a run for it. That was very scary but also very movie-climaxy and awesome. And then I beat everyone at phase 10. We made it back on time so we all still have our jobs and we got a bonus adrenaline rush.
The team including Rod, Gnome and a Mr Giant Cheese Pretzel (he was only a temporary travel companion)
In other other news:
- I survived a blood extraction
- I saw the British Isles and went in search of tea, leprechauns and unicorns.
- I got my arm stuck in the book return box in the library and ended up with a really awesome bruise.
- And finally, I may have reached the epitome of my career - Yes, they are letting me teach actual classes in bad dancing.
Read about all of this and more in my next blog! (Okay, not the story about the arm in the book exchange box.)
Now that we have completed the Baltic run as well as the British Isles cruise and are currently crossing the Atlantic (again) I’m hoping to have some more time to write. *Posting of blogs subject to internet signal from the middle of the ocean which is bad.
Remaining cruises: 1.5
People I’ve seen attempting Tai Chi to uptempo electronic music last cruise: 2 (It might just be the next big thing)