Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Alumni Update: Jackie (Novotny) Nord '04

Jackie (Novotny) Nord '04, Grand Forks, ND, has been awarded North Dakota's "New Dentist of the Year Award, 2016."

Alumni Update: Britta Ruberto '16

Britta Ruberto '16, St. Michael, MN, is an RN, BSN (Medical/Surgical/Neuro ICU) for Abbott Northwestern Hospital: Allina Health in Minneapolis.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cruising the Baltic Sea: Day 8, Helsinki, Finland

Sweden’s King Gustavus Vasa founded Helsinki on the mouth of Vantaanjoki River in 1550 to compete with Tallinn for Baltic Sea trade.  The town grew slowly, and the center of Helsinki was moved to its current location in the 1600s. 
            In 1748, Sweden began the construction of the Suomenlinna Maritime Fortress off the coast of Helsinki to counter the growing threat from Russia.  The massive project brought additional wealth, inhabitants and merchants to the town.  Russia conquered Finland in 1809.  The status of Helsinki was raised to capital of the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland three years later.  A monumental Empire-style city plan was drawn up to reflect the power of Russia and the Tsar.  Finland became independent in 1917, and Helsinki assumed the demanding new role of capital of the young republic.  City planning was characterized by Classicism and Functionalism.
            Recovering from the hardships of war, Helsinki hosted the Summer Olympics in 1952.  The games created an international reputation for Helsinki as an efficient and friendly host city.  The Finlandia Hall has hosted many international summit meetings.  Finland became an EU Member of State in 1995 and held the EU Presidency in 1999 and 2006.  Helsinki was one of nine European Cities of Culture in 2000.

Cruising the Baltic Sea: Day 7, St. Petersburg, Russia

Catherine’s Palace is named after Catherine I, the wife of Peter the Great, who ruled Russia for two years after her husband’s death.  Originally a modest two-story building commissioned by Peter for Catherine in 1717, Catherine Palace owes its awesome grandeur to their daughter, Empress Elizabeth, who chose Tsarskoe Selo as her chief summer residence.  Starting in 1743, the building was reconstructed by four different architects, before Bartholomeo Rastrelli, Chief Architect of the Imperial Court, was instructed to completely redesign the building on a scale to rival Versailles.  The resultant palace, completed in 1756, is over ½ mile in circumference, with elaborately decorated blue-and-white facades featuring gilded atlantes, caryatids and pilasters designed by German sculptor Johann Franz Dunker, who also worked with Rastrelli on the palace’s original interiors.  In Elizabeth’s reign, it took over 200 pounds of gold to decorate the palace exteriors, an excess that was deplored by Catherine the Great when she discovered the state and private funds that had been lavished on the building.
            Petrodovets, one of St. Petersburg’s most famous landmarks, is the palace and park at Peterhof.  The inspiration for Peter the Great’s desire to build an imperial palace in the suburbs of his new city was Versailles, and, after an aborted attempt at Strelna, Peterhof which means “Peter’s Court” in German, became the site for the Tsar’s Monplaisir Palace and then of the original Grand Palace.  The estate was equally popular with Peter’s granddaughter, Empress Elizabeth, who ordered the expansion of the Grand Palace and greatly extended the park and the famous system of fountains, including the truly spectacular Grand Cascade.

Cruising the Baltic Sea: Day 6, St. Petersburg, Russia

During the first few years of St. Petersburg’s history, the banks of the Neva saw an amazing transition from a swampy, scarcely populated area to a fine European capital.  The first structure to be built in the new city was the Peter and Paul fortress.  Although it was originally designed to protect the area from possible attacks by the Swedish army and navy, the fort did not actually take part in any fighting.  Just across the River Neva from the fortress, Peter built the fortified Admiralty complex, where the most powerful ships of Russia’s Baltic Fleet were built.  Many of these vessels were to lead Russia to a great series of naval victories during the course of the Northern War.
            Tsar Peter the Great’s first residence in the city was a small hut, known now as the Cabin of Peter the Great.  As the city developed, the Tsar commissioned a Summer Palace to be built for him in 1714 and later a Winter Palace, just a little further down the river.  Originally, there were no bridges crossing the mighty Neva River, and people had to be ferried between banks by boat, which is one of the reasons why St. Petersburg was given the epithet “the Venice of the North”.  The heart of the city was originally intended to be the area between the Peter and Paul Fortress and the Cabin of Peter the Great, which later became known as Trinity Square (‘Troitskaia Ploschad’).

            Unfortunately, very few of the city’s buildings from the early 18th century have survived, many having been torn down or remodeled.  When Peter the Great died in 1725, his wife Catherine assumed power and the city experienced a short decline while various rulers fought over the throne.  St. Petersburg was only fully revived when Peter’s daughter Elizabeth became Empress in 1741.  It became a lively European capital and its population reached 150,000 people.

Cruising the Baltic Sea: Day 5, Tallinn, Estonia

Tallinn is on a similar latitude to St. Petersburg and shares the city’s summer “white nights” and short, dark winter days.  The city fronts a bay on the Gulf of Finland, dominated by Toompea, the hill over which it has stood since the middle ages.
            The aura of the 14th and 15th centuries survives intact in central Tallinn’s jumble of medieval walls, turrets, spires and winding cobbled hills; it is judiciously restored and fascinating to explore.  The city center, just south of the bay, is essentially two parts: Toompea (or Upper Town), and the Lower Town, which has always been centered, covered in cobbled old streets and protected on the north, south and west by sleep slopes.
            The Lower Town, also medieval, spreads around the eastern foot of Toompea and the New Town.  Toompea is a hill, which is still surrounded by much of its 2 miles long defensive wall.  Its center is Raekoja plats (Town Hall Square).  Toompea and the Lower Town together make up the Old Town.  Around the south and southeast of the Old Town is the New Town centered on Vabaduse väljak.  It hasn’t been “new” for centuries but has lost most traces of its age.
            Tallinn is also the national capital of Estonia with government buildings, a university, entertainment and modern styles on its streets.  Its charms are attracting an increasing number of tourists, especially Finns, many of whom flock over from Helsinki on weekends.

Cruising the Baltic Sea: Day 4 at sea

On this day, the group attended presentations all day on the history of St. Petersburg and the Baltic Sea.  The Baltic Sea is an inland sea in Northern Europe surrounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the islands of Denmark and the European mainland.  The Baltic Sea is said to be the largest expanse of brackish water in the world, meaning that its water has more dissolved salt content than fresh water, but less than seawater.  The basin containing the Baltic Sea was created by glacial erosion during long-term Ice Age periods.  The Baltic Sea is likened to a belt due to the way in which it stretches through land.  The Baltic Sea was named by German chronicler Adam of Bremen in the 11th century, possibly from the Latin equivalent (“balteus”).  In the middle ages, the sea was known by many different names; it was only in the 16th century that the name “Baltic Sea’ became prevalent.
            The Baltic Sea is bordered by many European countries.  The periphery of the Baltic Sea is made up of the coastlines of Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Germany.