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Explore More - 2018

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North Stars Embark on a

North Stars Embark on a Baltic ocean cruise and discover historic cities that are making their mark in a modern world LANDS OF The skyline of Tallinn, Estonia 38 EXPLORE MORE 2018

VIKING HOMELANDS Life is sweet in Stockholm—especially in the city’s Old Town, where you can follow the scent of cinnamon to one of the cozy cafés tucked away down the cobblestone lanes. Stockholm oozes charm; its storybook 16th- and 17th-century buildings, palaces and museums are immaculate, its tall historic houses are painted in soft subdued colors. No Mediterranean brights here, it is all ochres and mustards, grays, creams and dusty pinks. Very hygge. And I love the small but inviting Berzelii Park in front of the palatial Hallwyl House that looks out across the bay, its manicured trees lined up like lollipops in perfect symmetry. I discovered this on our Viking Homelands cruise, visiting the best of the Baltic cities on the newly launched Viking Sky. Like her sister ships, Viking Star and Viking Sea, the vessel’s decor is light, bright and understated, but with plenty to engage your mind in the form of interesting sculptures, paintings and photography. And everywhere, natural materials such as wood, wool and limestone envelop you in a sense of quality and comfort. That night, we enjoyed our first dinner in Manfredi’s ® , one of the ship’s many restaurants, and soon discovered that dining is one of the highlights on board. Not just because the food is all incredible (and all included, along with wine and beer with lunch and dinner), but because of the sheer variety. Just about every type of cuisine and dining experience is available—from a five-course tasting menu with wine pairings at The Chef’s Table, to sushi and all manner of global delights in the World Café to the daily-changing menu in The Restaurant and poolside burgers. The next day we awoke in Helsinki, the northernmost city on our journey. Finland is all about its bewitching nature. Seventy percent of the country is covered in forest, its wild places even influence its stunning capital, with splendid Art Nouveau buildings on which the Finns’ beloved animals of the forest—foxes, squirrels and bears—are sculpted in the stone facades. The country is also famous for its design, and the first stop on our included tour revealed one of the city’s most distinctive attractions, in the form of the underground Rock Church. The unassuming exterior gives little hint of the magic inside. Elemental and mystical, its curved walls are made of thousands of rocks, like a giant dry stone wall, topped with concrete girders and glass leading to a domed roof covered in miles and miles of copper strips, all of which results in exceptional acoustics. You could be in a cave, or a forest. This avant-garde masterpiece is evidence of the Finns’ deep connection to their land. In contrast, the elegant 19th-century White Cathedral sits serenely in what was once Helsinki’s main square by the harbor. We learned that in winter temperatures fall to -4 degrees Fahrenheit and the sea freezes. These conditions foster a resourcefulness and creativity evident as we strolled through the compact city EXPLORE MORE 2018 39