Silver Blade Tours, Inc. just returned from the 1999 World Figure Skating Championships in Helsinki, Finland. We were there to cheer on our U.S. team and how wonderful it was to see all of the U.S. flags in different areas of the arena. I know how proud we were of our American competitors and with our medal winners, Michelle Kwan and Michael Weiss. Americans and Canadians as usual made up the bulk of the viewing audience and without them the arena audience would have been sparse. Hartwall Arena certainly was a beautiful venue, with plenty of places to eat and stretch in between events. It was a great experience for our tour to eat lunch at the Silver Star Café and overlook the ice.

Our pre tour began for some in Stockholm, Sweden which included a city sight seeing tour of Stockholm and a tour of various museums. We certainly did take the time to shop and experience fine cuisine in Stockholm. Our journey continued on board the Silia Cruise Line Ship to Helsinki where we were able to sample wonderful buffets, the slot machines, and to experience the sights and sounds of the nightclub. We finally got to hear some American music and yes even danced to it.

Our home away from home was the Five Star deluxe Inter-Continental Hotel, where it was a hub of competitors' families, officials, and spectators. A great buffet breakfast each day gave us all the energy we needed for days of serious competition. In free time, some were able to have a massage or relax in the sauna or walk to nearby downtown for souvenirs.

Tour participants got reacquainted at our Welcome Dinner at the Alexander Nevski Restaurant. It was so nice to finally meet people I have corresponded with for almost two years and to welcome back old friends. Everyone was presented with a crystal ornament featuring the Silver Blade Tour Logo as a welcome gift.

Morning sightseeing tours also kept us busy as we tour the city of Helsinki and visited Senate Square City Hall, Temppeliaukio Church (Church in the Rock), and to Russian Orthodox Church with its beautiful icons and Russian architecture. We also traveled to Provoo and visited Ainola, home of the renowned composer Jean Sibelius. On Saturday, we traveled to the Gallen-Kallela Musuem to see a selection of the artist's work and was treated to an impromptu performance on the Grand piano from one of our tour participants. Hvittrask the former studio and home of three architects completed our tour to the countryside.

After a week of exciting skating, St. Petersburg, Russia was the next stop on this whirlwind tour of Europe. There we stayed at the Grand Hotel Europe, a Five-Star deluxe hotel located in the heart of the city on Nevsky Prospect. After an orientation tour of St. Petersburg and visit to St. Isaac's Cathedral, we had dinner at the Kalinka Restaurant. We sampled Vodka and authentic Russian food and listened to a trio featuring folklore music.

Our stay in St. Petersburg was filled with day trips and tours to the Hermitage and Winter Palace which was just overwhelming with art and treasures, including Leonardo Da Vinci;s paintings. The beautiful Russian Orthodox Church, Cathedral on a Spilled Blood was just amazing to see with floor to ceiling art completed in tiles. A visit to Tsarskow Selo/Pushkin, (summer residence of the Russian Tsars) and a visit to Catherine's Palace was truly spectacular. You just can't imagine all the gold and rich splendor of the palace. We were able to have lunch in the Datcha Terem an authentic wooden house and had a three-course lunch complete with vodka, wine, and folklore music. Some of us even danced along to the authentic music.

Our visit to St. Petersburg was special to experience the wonderful performance of the ballet, Giselle at the Mariinsky Theatre. We also toured the Russian Museum and went souvenir shopping at the outside market and shops. Many of us took home Russian nesting dolls, earrings, and wooden boxes. It indeed was a wonderful way to end our skating tour in seeing the wonders and art of Russia.

Silver Blade Tours, Inc.
"The Skating Tour Experts"
Claudyne Cassella Hutchinson
2672 Flowing Well Road, DeLand, FL 32720-8903 USA
Tel. (386) 943-4071 - Fax: (386) 738-2512
Experience the Thrill and Excitement of Live Competition! is owned by Silver Blade Tours, Inc.
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Silver Blade Tours, Inc. - The Skating Tour Experts

© 2000 Silver Blade Tours, Inc., or others, all rights reserved.
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