Custom Tours


To the Food!

You may recall that Debby was my travel companion and fellow survivor on the ill-fated Norwegian Viking Sky in Norway. It is a little ironic that our second cruise was also somewhat “ill-fated”, but, third time lucky! We are intrepid and optimistic travelers who have full faith in Viking, a company that has gone all out to look after its clients and their interests.

I would never have thought of Helsinki (or Finland for that matter,) as a destination on my bucket list. Viking threw it out there as a pre-tour, and now I am hooked on the idea. I want to see why it is known as the “White City of the North” – apparently because of its “neoclassical beauty and Art Nouveau grace.” I imagine that the magnificent Helsinki Cathedral that dominates the town has something to do with that.

I have just browsed through some photos of the local food displays in the Market Square in Helsinki, bordering on the Baltic Sea. I can’t wait to sample these strange names: Karjalanpiirakka (rice pies), Kalakukko (fish pie) Korvapuusti (cinnamon buns) Lihapullat (Finnish meatballs) Graavilohi (cured salmon) and Mustikkapiirakka (blueberry pie)!

The Baltic Sea holds some kind of fascination for me, so, visiting the National Museum of Finland is going to be a must. I want to learn about Finnish history.

On to St. Petersburg – Gateway to the West

On to Russia and its mighty rivers. We embark in St. Petersburg, and of course, we have to visit the Winter Palace, for nearly 200 years the official residence of the Russian Emperors, and now the home of the Hermitage Museum. St. Petersburg is also the city of Baryshnikov and Nureyev, and yes, we do attend a ballet performance. Next on the agenda is the Catherine Palace in Pushkin – a prime example of the Baroque and Rococo periods. What a treat!

Now for some “Russian experiences.”  We will be meeting “real Russians!” at the kitchen table of a Uglich family. The itinerary says that we will “savor Russian caviar with your blini pancakes” – with tea or vodka? I am also very excited to have a glimpse into Russia’s rich musical legacy. A display of Cossack folk songs and dances is on the agenda.

While growing up in South Africa, my dad used to play the Russian folksongs made so famous by the German singer, Ivan Rebroff, who had an amazing four-and-a-half-octave range – from bass to soprano. The Song of the Volga Boatman was one of our favorites. I even taught my recorder students arrangements in three-parts of the song. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3bli2t40pU)! As a result, my heart swells with emotion at the idea of actually sailing on the Volga River.

I don’t know whether I will be whacked by birch branches again while “soaking up the steam in a traditional banya (bathing house) in a riverside Mandrogy village. I had an amazing snow cave sauna and massage experience on the Viking Sky, and now I am looking forward to comparing the two. I loved the ice blocks in the cave, but I am not so sure about plunging into an icy stream!

To Moscow!

Our cruise culminates in Moscow: “See the swirling onion domes and stout towers of Moscow’s Red Square.”  It will be such a treat to see it in real life. And, being an incurable romantic, I can “envision Peter the Great luxuriating in the massive Peterhof Palace”. Debby and I will explore Moscow on our own for a few days after the 13-day voyage ends.

If you are at all interested in joining us on this magnificent journey, please contact me for further details. I highly recommend a Viking cruise for its 5-star service, excellent cuisine, extreme comfort, wonderful entertainment, and professional cultural presentations and experiences.

For further details, pricing, and booking, please email me at elsa@travelswithelsa.com. I would love to have you along on my latest tour! Or contact me here: