After some major and minor delays, I present a report of the second half of Jane Austen’s cruise around the Baltic Sea, which began way back here.
Jane in Tallinn, Estonia
Tallinn is a port and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site for European Culture. It’s also way overrated. Super super ovverated. Also you can find Nazi stuff in the antique shops.
Soooo history. It started as Templar fortress and for awhile was a pretty important place if you lived in Estonia because I imagine there wasn’t a whole lot else going on in this country with their weird language that is nothing like the other languages around it and nobody can begin to understand it. Seriously, the guide said that. “You’re not going to understand anything. We barely do.” It’s related to Finnish but they’re not understandable to each other.
In Jane Austen’s time, Tallinn was part of Imperial Russia, joining it in 1710. A lot of places were part of Imperial Russia. It’s actually pretty hard to keep track of things in Eastern Europe. As it did not see heavy fighting during World War II even though the Nazis and the Soviets fought over it, most of the Medieval fortifications are still intact, making it a tourist trap. It does have the world’s oldest still-functioning pharmacy (they sell different things now) but it also has a place where you can buy matchbooks with Hitler’s face on them. So whatever. I’m not talking up this disappoint anymore. The cruise really talked it up, otherwise I would go easier on it. Plus they fought for the Nazis in WWII.
Estonia freed itself from the Soviet Union via the Singing Revolution. Actually I think it had more to do with the financial collapse of the USSR, but whatever, they’re really proud of their goyisha singing, and it was a bloodless revolution and if you can possibly pull off a bloodless revolution, you have every right to be proud of yourself.
Jane in St. Petersburg, Russia
In Jane’s time, Russia unintentionally became England’s most important ally in the war against Napoleon. Russia cut its ties with France after the regicide during the French Revolution, when the French revolutionaries put Louis XVI and his wife to death (1793). Tzarina Catherine was rather invested in the idea of monarchies and turned against the Republic. Hostilities did not turn into open warfare until Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812 and sacked Moscow, which was not then the capitol (St. Petersburg was, even though it was a much younger city). Napoleon’s troops were defeated by the Russian winter and it marked the bginning of the end for Napoleon’s first reign. After he was captured and sent to Elba, Tsar Alexander I visited London for a historic celebration. Napoleon escaped Elba and was finally defeated by the Duke of Wellington, then Sir Arthur Wellesley, at the Battle of Waterloo in France.
Because of Wellesley’s importance to the destruction of Napoleon’s second resign, his portrait was painted and placed in the Winter Palace’s Hall of Heroes, where portraits are hung of all the Russian generals who minor officials who participated in the Napoleonic Wars. Wellesley is the only foreigner’s portrait hanging in the gallery, which is now part of the Hermitage Museum.
Jane paid the picture a visit and then relaxed to a disgusting Russian lunch of pork and caviar and vodka. Being kosher, I asked for a vegetarian meal, and they gave me – I kid you not – a giant plate of rice. I wasn’t expecting a four-course meal or anything, but come on.
Jane in Stockholm, Sweden
Sweden was under an absolute monarchy for most of Jane Austen’s life. The Gustavian royalty ruled Sweden. In 1809 they were deposed and there was some complicated business about the Swedish Empire falling apart and losing Finland that I can’t remember now. I can’t really say a lot about Swedish history during Austen’s lifespan, OK? Because I took the “Jewish Stockholm” cruise excursion and we visited synagogues and a Holocaust memorial. It was kind of a bust, but Sweden did save 14,000 Jews during the Holocaust, which is a lot more than I can say for those other countries. I could go more into the modern community but it’s off-topic and I’ll just go into another rant about modern anti-Semitism in the Scandinavian countries. Let’s just say the Jewish Community Center had an INSANE level of security.
Otherwise Stockholm is very nice and I recommend a visit if you are in the area.
Well, that’s it. We flew home from there. The airport sold reindeer meat.
In other news, I have a new book coming out in December, Georgiana and the Wolf. It is the sixth book in my series and it will be available in paperback and on all eBook formats. Watch Austen Authors in December for giveaways!