Friday, March 30, 2018

Momboisse Family Adventures Baltic Sea - Helsinki, Finland (June 7, 2011)

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Momboisse Family Adventures Baltic Sea
Norwegian Cruise Tour
Sunny 74 F 

Sunrise 4:05 am - Sunset 10:32 pm 
Self-guided Walking Tour Helsinki, Finland
June 7, 2011

We arrived in Helsinki with unusually perfect weather, clear blue sky and a warm gentle breeze. 

The Port of Helsinki is very busy with seven ferry companies and numerous cruise lines vying for two harbors with eight quays. Ships line up early waiting for docking instructions.  Tugs, dredges and barges work at their respective tasks around our ship.  

Our first impression of Helsinki, it is full of birds; loud, wonderful, swooping, graceful, hungry, birds. Though tempting it maybe, we are warned not to enter into any interaction with these creatures - killjoy!

With only eight hours on shore, we had "Googled" directions to town from each of the eight quays.  Okay, I'm obsessed.  Today Norwegian Sun docked at quay LHB Hernsesaari. Always a good idea to know where your ship is docked, just in case there is a frantic taxi ride to meet the all important all aboard time. 

Setting off confident after 20 hours of sleep we were looking for a street called Hernematalankatu/Ärtholmsstranden, then turn right at Eiranranta/Eirastranden, and left at Docksgatan/Telakkakatu to Tram.  Our plan was to first take the 3B tram around the city proper to understand the layout of Helsinki. 

Finland was part of Sweden until 1800, consequently every street sign in Helsinki is written in Swedish and Finnish.  This makes for very looooooooong street signs.  The two names don't even look like each other, i.e. start with the same letter or similar in sound.

We walk 3/4 mile from the port to the tram matching the street names from Google Maps to the street names on the sides of the buildings.  

After making it all the way to Docksgatan/Telakkakatu, we lost our bearings.  A very kind English speaking Finn noticed our puzzled looks and asked if he could help.  He knew exactly where to catch the 3B Tram, and was happy to walk us there.  We caught the tram at Båtsmansgatan/Pursimiehenkatu.

For 6.80 Euros (June 2011) each we had full day passes on the public tram system.  The T3 line makes a figure eight through the city of Helsinki, intersecting at the main train station, passing every sight we wanted to see or eventually visit.  

After one hour we exited the tram at Sammonkatu and walked to the Temppeliaukio Church (Lutheran).  It is also called the Church of the Rock because it was blasted out of solid granite and is topped with a copper dome.  We almost walked right past it as the church blends in completely with its surroundings.  

Adjusting to the street names a bit better, we quickly found the National Museum of Finland.  Unfortunately it did not open until 11AM.  We were too early and did not have the time to come back later.  Would have enjoyed touring this museum, which houses the history of Finland from "Prehistory to Present." 

Noticeably missing from the streets of Helsinki, graffiti and litter! 

Most of the streets are cobbled with a mixture of old and new architecture. 

From the National Museum head down Mannerheimintie/Mannerheimvågen, to the Finland Parliament Building, this is free and open to the public -- when Parliament is in session.  Today Parliament is in session, but not until 2:45pm. Strike two! 

Pehr Evid Svinhufvud the third president of Finland and Kyösti Kallio the fourth president of Finland have statues nearby.  But the most famous of all is Carl Mannerheim the sixth president.  How famous?  Famous enough to have the street we are on named after him. 

A wee bit of Finnish history:  Carl Mannerheim was born in a Finnish territory of Imperial Russia. He made his career in the Russian Army, raising to a General.  When Finland declared its independence from Russia, after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, Mannerheim went with Finland.  

Newly liberated Finland was thrust into a civil war one side favoring socialism (The Reds) the other capitalism (The Whites).  Mannerheim was appointed military chief of The Whites, and led capitalism to victory.  During World War II, Mannerheim became commander of Finland's armed forces and in 1944 he became Finland's sixth president.  

Next we find ourselves at the Central Railway Station which is distinguished by its clock tower and two pair of giant statues holding globe lamps flanking the front entrance.

These statues are famous in Helsinki.  Their mugs are featured in advertising throughout the city.  

Across the street from Central Station are the Three Blacksmiths Statue (very Soviet looking), which stands in front of Stockmann's Department store, perpetually pounding their anvil while naked.  

Not being much for shopping we walked through the bottom floor of Stockmann's and out the other side to the Esplanade a long park that we followed across town to Senate Square.  The Esplanade park is just as clean and well kept as the rest of the city.  A joy to explore and experience.  

At the end of the Esplanade, turn left to arrive at Senate Square. 

A wee bit more of Finish history:  In 1809 Finland was annexed to Imperial Russia as an Autonomous Grand Duchy.  In 1812, Helsinki became the capital of Finland the Autonomous Grand Duchy a territory of Imperial Russia.  Since most of Helsinki had been destroyed by the Russians during its annexation, the city needed to be rebuilt. The town plan centered around Senate Square was drawn by Johan Albrecht Ehrenström. The buildings, which were patterned after Saint Petersburg, Russia, were designed by Carl Luwig Engel. 

The cathedral on Senate Square was built for Nicholas I, the Tsar of Russia and was originally called St. Nicholas Church until Finland declared independence from Russia in 1917.  The Cathedral is now called the Lutheran Cathedral.  

Having the same kind of luck we had all morning with places being closed, we climbed the stairs to the entrance of the Lutheran Cathedral just in time to get inside the door, snap a few pictures and be immediately corralled out by ushers.  Strike Three - So time for lunch.

We stumbled upon the restaurant Sunn Senaatitori which had great food and an unobstructed panorama view of Senate Square.  

In the center of Senate Square is a statue of Russian Tsar Alexander II on a pedestal surrounded by figures representing the law (Lex), light (Lux), work (Labor) and peace (Pax).  

After lunch we walked past the Presidential Palace on our way to Uspenski Cathedral.  Tarja Halone the 11th and current president of Finland is the first female to hold the office.  

The Uspenski Cathedral sits on a hillside on the Katainokka peninsula overlooking Market Square and Senate Square.  Built in the Russian Byzantine style in 1862-1868, this is the largest Orthodox Church in Western Europe, the main church of the Archdiocese of Helsinki in the Finnish Orthodox Church and falls under the umbrella of Eastern Orthodoxy.  

While the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Church are still separate, we share much in common; both have valid holy orders, apostolic succession, and celebrate the same sacraments.  There is hope that we will once again be united and Jesus' prayer to His Father in the Garden of Gethsemane, "that they may be one just as we are," (John 17:11) will be fulfilled. 

The Uspenski Cathedral is built with red brick topped with 13 green and gold onion domes which represent Christ and the twelve apostles.  Inside, the church is void of pews.  The people of this parish stand for the most part during their service.  The walls and ceiling are covered with icons either mosaic or painted.  An icon is a "window to the eternal."  In Eastern Orthodoxy when you gaze upon an icon you are believed to be in the actual presence  of the image depicted. 

At the front of the church is a magnificent  iconostasis -- wall of icons which consists of one or more tiers of icons.  

The Uspenski iconostasis has two tiers (unless you count the icons on the podiums, then it would be three).  The doors in the center are called the Holy Doors.  This is where the clergy enter processing with the sacred vessels that are kept behind the doors.  To the right of the door is an icon of the Pantocrator (Jesus) and to the left is the Theotokos (Mary). 

The Uspenski is dedicated to the Dormition of the Theotokos.  Dormition is the "falling asleep" or death of the Theotokos, and her bodily resurrection before being taken up (Assumption) into heaven. Theotokos which literally translated from the Greek is God-bearer, referring to Mary. 

We lit candles for all of our prayers and petitions that we hold and for members of our family living and deceased.  

Before catching the tram back to the ship, we walked through the Market Square filled with vendors selling fresh fish, and vegetables and outdoor cafes and BIRDS.  Lots and lots of birds.  

If time was not an issue a visit to Seurasaari, Helsinki's open air historic museum and a walk around the Suomenlinna Fortress would have added the cherry to the top of a perfect day in Helsinki. 

Tomorrow, Saint Petersburg, Russia


For an interactive map and guided walking tour covering many of our tours please be sure to download the GPSmyCity App from the iTunes store. The App covers an extensive library of articles and walking tours from over 470 cities worldwide, and now features articles from Adventures of a Home Town Tourist covering Carmel and Monterey (with more cities on the way).

All photography or video by L A Momboisse and R M Momboisse unless listed below: 

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Momboisse Family Adventures Baltic Sea - Berlin and Potsdam, Germany (June 5, 2011)

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Momboisse Family Adventures Baltic Sea
Norwegian Cruise Tour
Weather - Sunny 68 F
Sunrise 4:44 am - Sunset 9:35 pm
Panoramic Berlin & Historic Potsdam
June 5, 2011

After a smooth overnight sail we arrived in Warnemunde, Germany at the industrial Port of Rostock.  Our ship docked across from the cooling tower at the Rostock bituminous coal power station. 

Though Warnemunde is considered a seaside resort, it is better known as the jumping-off point for Berlin, which is where we were headed.

Our Norwegian Cruise Panoramic Berlin and Historic Potsdam Tour began with a bus ride to the Rostock train station.  There we boarded a chartered train for a scenic three hour ride to Berlin.  

Though the train was not air conditioned, opening the cabin window and the outer hall window allowed for a perfect cross breeze.  

We passed fields of poppies and graffiti covered buildings, an interesting contrast, before arriving at the Berlin-Lichtenberg Station in former East Berlin.  

Here we met our guide, a lovely German woman who was so proud to be showing us her unified city. So proud in fact that many of her statements started with "so proud."  "Berliner's are so proud" she said, "that they can now speak truthfully about their city, and that they can even freely protest."  

The day we were in East Berlin, Berliner's were protesting about wanting more bikes to be allowed on the streets.  So that meant everyone who was not working was to take to the street on their bicycle and protest!

"Berliners remember when they were not free to come, go, speak, worship or protest.  20 years ago riding your bike between East and West Berlin was verboten.  So today we are so proud to peacefully protest," our guide remarked.

First stop, the East-Side Gallery, a section of the original Berlin Wall.  Artists from all over the world were commissioned to paint murals

on the east side of the wall depicting their idea of freedom.  The west side of this section of the wall is generously littered with black graffiti.  

The following (in text and video) is a really abbreviated history of the Berlin Wall.  

On May 8, 1945 Germany surrenders.  Between July 16, and August 2, 1945 Allied leaders, Truman, Churchill, and Stalin meet in Potsdam at the Cecilienhof Palace.

One of the outcomes of this conference was to divide Germany into four zones (one zone for France, United Kingdom, United States, and Soviet Union).  Berlin which sat in the middle of the Soviet zone was divided into four the same way. 

On May 26, 1952 the border between East and West Germany and East Germany and West Berlin closed.  Only the border between East and West Berlin remained open at the time.  

East German's would be charged with treason if they tried to leave East Germany.  They could however "escape" by crossing the open border from East Berlin into West Berlin and then fly out under the protection of the Allied air corridor. 

Next the Soviet's formed a line of demarcation between East and West Berlin by painting a white line on the ground and placing signs near the line stating that by crossing the line you were leaving Soviet area.  East and West Berliners were prohibited from crossing the line.   

On August 13, 1961, East Berliners woke up to find the border between East and West Berlin closed.  Families and friends separated initially by wire, then a wall built so tall relatives would stand on ladders to get a glimpse and wave to their family member on the other side.  A wall built to keep its own people in, not to keep their enemy out.

East Berliners were not the only ones effected by the barrier.  The Berlin Wall ran completely around West Berlin.  West Berlin was walled in on its own island.  In order for West Berliners to pass through East Germany to West Germany, formal documents were needed to enter and leave East Germany. 

The Wall was not completed all at once.  First barbed wire fencing went up.  This was replaced with 12 to 15 foot concrete walls.  These walls were then topped with a round edge intended to make it difficult to get a handhold.  

In some areas, apartments or buildings were used as part of The Wall.  On Bernauer Straße you could enter your front door in East Berlin then jump out your back window into West Berlin.  And many did.  Well, the Soviets caught on to this and these "open features" were boarded up. 

The Berlin Wall System evolved over time as new means of escape were addressed and thwarted.  To escape over The Wall  from the Eastern side, one had to cross the Death Strip, or Now Man's Land.  This area started with a "back-up wall," cross this and you faced the border signal electric fence, survive this then face sharp hump barriers (intended to stop tanks), then pass the watchtower area illuminated at night by large search lights, cross the lighted convoy path, cross the sand control strip (which was examined for footprints regularly), hop the motor vehicle blocking trench an you are AT the East Berlin side of The Wall.  If you are still alive, all you have to do is scale The Wall before the attack dogs arrive.  

Twenty nine years after the border was closed between East and West Berlin, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened.  In areas where The Wall was taken down, the street has been repaved with a cobble stone line. Our tour bus symbolically parked with half of the bus in the former East and half in the former West, because they could.  East and West Berliners are united again, and they are very proud.  

We spent time at the East Side Gallery going from East to West.  From the west side of the wall the view is across the River Spree to the Oberbaum Bridge.  This links two areas formerly divided by The Wall. 

Back on the bus, we ride through the former eastern section, pass Saint Mary's Church (originally Catholic until 1539, then Protestant), the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall), the town hall of Berlin, the modern TV Tower, the Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral of the Evangelical Church),  Gendarmenmarkt Square, to the boulevard Unter den Linden.  At one of the numerous restaurants on this street, we are treated to a huge German lunch.

After lunch we walked down the Unter den Linden to the Brandenburg Gate. 

Back on the bus, our tour passes the German Parliament, Reichstag, the Memorial to Murdered Jews of Europe, to our next stop, Checkpoint Charlie.  This was one of the points of division between East and West Berlin (the American Sector).  The name Charlie is for the letter C.  Alpha (A) Checkpoint is at Helmstedt and Bravo (B) at Dreilinden.  

In 1961 Soviet and US tanks faced off at Checkpoint Charlie.  Today it is a tourist attraction with actors posing at the site.  They shake their finger at you and hide their face if you do not pay them for taking a picture.  

Our tour leaves West Berlin passing the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church and crosses the Glienicke Bridge.

Before East and West Germany reunited, the middle of Glienicke Bridge divided East and West Germany, and it was a place where the United States and the Soviets met to exchange spies. The bridge became known as the Bridge of Spies.  

Today anyone can freely drive, walk or ride across this bridge.  

A short drive out of Berlin and we have arrived in Potsdam, the capital city of the German state of Brandenburg, a city dotted with Prussian palaces and framed by lakes connected by rivers and parks.  

Our first stop is Sanssouci Palace.  The name is derived from the French and roughly translates to "no worries." This palace sits in the middle of a huge park on top of a steep carriage path, surrounded by tall colonnades and flanked by terraced vineyards, gazebos, and fountains. 

This palace was designed between 1745 and 1747 to fulfill King Frederick II's (Frederick the Great) need for a private residence where he could relax and have, you guessed it, no worries.  

Frederick enjoyed when people came to visit him at Sanssouci, but he rather that they stay only a few days.  So he didn't make this palace as comfortable as it could have been for guests.  But being a good Prussian King, he had another palace (more comfortable for guests) built on the WAY other side of Sanssouci Park called Neues Palace where guests were welcome to stay as long as they wanted.  

Frederick the Great is buried on the grounds of Sanssouci next to his best friend, his favorite dog.  He was also known as the Potato King because he introduced potato farming in Germany.  To this day people put potatoes on his grave, odd, but apparently endearing. 

Sanssouci was designed in rococo style, which is whimsical, playful and lighthearted (makes sense with the "no worries" theme).  Corinthian columns curve outward from the palace in a semicircle are decorated with carved figures such as Bacchus.  Frederick's Neues Palace is much more elaborate, completed in 1769, in the baroque style. 

Our final stop on this eight hour bus trek across Berlin and Potsdam, was Cecilienhof, built between 1914 and 1917 in Neuer Garten park in Potsdam for Prince Wilhelm of Germany and his wife Cecilie.  The home was designed like an English Tudor country house and in 1990 was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

Cecilienhof was the location of the Potsdam Conference between July 16, and August 2, 1945.  At this conference, Winston Churchill, Joseph Stalin, and Harry S. Truman met to, among other things, define the borders of Germany. 

From here, we were dropped at the Potsdam train station for a three hour ride back to Warnemunde, Germany.

A great day in an area we never thought we would visit.  Tomorrow we are at sea for a well deserved day of rest before arriving in Helsinki, Finland.  

For an interactive map and guided walking tour covering many of our tours please be sure to download the GPSmyCity App from the iTunes store. The App covers an extensive library of articles and walking tours from over 470 cities worldwide, and now features articles from Adventures of a Home Town Tourist covering Carmel and Monterey (with more cities on the way).
All photography or video by L A Momboisse and R M Momboisse unless listed below: 

Allied Occupied Germany after WWII - Wikipedia 
The Wall August 1961 - AP Photo PA 3389209
Second Video on Berlin Wall - from Public Domain 

Monday, March 12, 2018

Momboisse Family Adventures Baltic Sea - Copenhagen, Denmark (June 4, 2011)

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We took this 9-Day Baltic Sea cruise of  Scandinavia and Russia in 2011. Originally this information was part of a travel blog.  The travel blog was discontinued.  As this was my original writing, I have taken my information and uploaded it to my blog site.  Though the information is almost seven years old, Norwegian is still offering the same cruise we took, so I am sure this information is still pertinent.  

Momboisse Family Adventures Baltic Sea
Free Day in Copenhagen
Weather - Sunny 68 F
Sunrise 4:30am - Sunset 9:47pm
June 4, 2011

We arrived at the Freeport Cruise Terminal very early in the morning and had seven hours before we were due back to embark on our cruise.  Of course we used this time to explore Copenhagen. Our self-guided tour starts at Freeport Cruise Terminal.  Note though, there are other cruise terminals now. 

From Freeport Cruise Terminal follow the "Blue Line" (about 4 miles) to the S-tog at Nordhavn Station.  Purchase S-tog ticket from the clerk at the convenience store across from the station or at automated kiosks.  Ride two stops to Nørreport Station and exit to a sea of colorful bicycles. Everyone rides bikes here.  Not sure if they are actually owned by anyone, or provided by the government and just ridden and discarded.  

We are headed to the center of Copenhagen, the old town, colorful, cobbled, and quaint.  Our walk to this section took us from Nørreport down Købmagergade past some rather ugly tagging.  

Tagging was an unfortunate sight we would witness throughout this beautiful city, an unnecessary addition we eventually chose to ignore.  

Even works of art were tagged.  Possible artists signature?? 

Our first stop, the Rundetårn Round Tower and Trinitatis Kirke (church).  Built in 1642 by Christian IV, the tower is still used today as an observatory and connects to the church which is now used as a Common National Church.

The second King of Denmark, Harald I was baptized Catholic in 960. The country remained Catholic until King Christian III made Lutheranism the state religion in 1534.  Churches built before 1534 were stripped of their statues and many paintings were painted over.  

It was well worth the 25 kroner fee (6/2011) to climb the Round Tower.  The long spiral ramp is wide enough to drive all the kings horses (and his carriage) and all the kings men to the top.

We wound our way seven times around the tower glancing out a window at each level.  The final assent to the roof top and observatory require a few dozen steps up a narrow spiral staircase.  The view, a breathtaking 360 degrees around.  

Our "spin tour" from the top of Round Tower starts with looking out over the nave of Trinitatis Kirke to the green garden of Rosenborg Slot (castle) with its green roof and spire topped towers.  Rosenborg was built in 1606 as a summer residence for Christian IV.  

From this vantage point we also see Radhuset (Town Hall), and Vor Frue Kirk (Church of Our Lady) which is the National Cathedral of Denmark.  This church was first constructed as St. Mary's under the direction of Bishop Absalom in 1187, a Catholic bishop who spent much of his life securing Denmark from foreign attacks, and is considered the founder of Copenhagen as Denmark's Baltic port.  The building of St. Mary's was finished and consecrated by Absalon's successor Bishop Peder Sunesen on Ascension Sunday in 1209, then destroyed by fire in 1314 then rebuilt.  Fire was a major factor in leveling much of medieval Copenhagen.  

The Protestant Reformation of 1517 reached Denmark in the 1520's with the support of King Christian II.  Christian III officially introduced Lutheranism to all his possessions in 1528.  The church of St. Mary's tried to maintain a Catholic resistance and by royal decree both Catholic priests and Lutheran preachers were commanded to use the church jointly. 

On December 27, 1530, backed by the majority of Copenhagen's population, a  crowd entered St. Mary's and destroyed the statues, and stripped the altars, vestments, and reliquaries - anything of value.   The name was changed from St. Mary's to Vor Frue Kirke, Our Lady's Church.  

Today Our Lady's Church is the National Cathedral of Denmark but you will find nothing related to Our Lady in this church.  

Finally we view the Vor Frelsers Kirke (Our Saviors Church), Øresund Bridge, and the clock tower of the Rådhuset which shows 11:30am and we are starving.  

After descending the tower we head back out on Købmagergade and turn left on Strøget, the heart of Copenhagen and one of Europe's longest pedestrian malls.

Now a few fundamentals of the Danish language: ny means new, torv means square, gade means street, havn means harbor, borg means castle/palace, strøget  means shop, slut means end, and fart means speed. So as we enjoy our stroll along the streets of Copenhagen we can't help but chuckle at the signs. 

At the end of the Strøget we find Kongens Nytorv (King's New Square).  Established by King Christian V who ruled Denmark and Norway from 1670 to 1699.  The original statue was made in 1688 out of lead. But this sadly sagged over time and had to be recast in 1946 in bronze.

On the other side of Kongens Nytorv is Nyhavn (New Harbor).  The huge anchor commemorates the Danish sailors who died in World War II.  Past the anchor, Nyhavn is filled with quaint places to eat with inviting outdoor patios.  Nyhavn is lined with colorful buildings built between 1600 and 1700 and the harbor is filled with historic wooden ships.

We stopped for lunch at Nyhavn 17 and enjoyed a Nyhavns Platter: herring, salmon, roast beef, pickles, cheese, bread, and beer.

After lunch we take the Lille Stradstræde to Amalienborg Slotsplade the center square of the Amalienborg Palace the home of Queen Margrethe II and the Danish royal family.

From center square follow Frederiksgade and turn right on Bredgade past Alexander Nevsky Church (Russian Orthodox), and Saint Ansgars (Catholic). 

Turn right on Esplanade and pass the Fridedsmuseet (Museum of Danish Resistance) and left on Churchillparken past Saint Alban's Church (Anglican) to Gefion Fountain. 

According to legend, the king of Sweden promised to give the goddess Gefion (some mythical Scandinavian) as much land as she could plough in one night.  Gefion took the king at his word and turned her four sons into oxen and harnessed them to a plow.  Gefion then picked up the land she had plowed and threw it into the sea.  This became the island of Zealand on which Copenhagen sits on the Northeastern corner.  

Just a little backtracking as we cross over the moat and hike through the center of the Kastellet.  King Christian IV of Denmark initiated the construction of this fort in 1626.  After the Swedish siege on Copenhagen in 1658 the fort was extended and named Citadellet Frederikshavn. During World War II the German's used this as a headquarters.   If there was more time, it would have been a great place to explore!!!!  

Taking the direct route across the Kastellet turn right on Langelinie to a bronze statue by Edward Eriksen, Den Lille Havfrue (The Little Mermaid).  One of the more popular tourist stops, this statue was a gift to the City of Copenhagen in 1909 by Carl Jacobsen, the son of the founder of Carlsberg Brewery. 

During her stoic lifetime she has lost her head (twice), her arm, she was knocked off her base with explosives, and drenched with paint many times.  Still she remains...

From this point it is a little over one mile along Kalkbrænderihavnsgade (where do they get these names) to our ship the Norwegian Sun.  

Here is a video of our adventure on our Free Day in Copenhagen.  

Tonight we cruise under 
 the Øresund Bridge as we begin 
our 9-Day Baltic Sea adventure. 

Tomorrow Wamenude and Berlin, Germany

For an interactive map and guided walking tour covering many of our tours please be sure to download the GPSmyCity App from the iTunes store. The App covers an extensive library of articles and walking tours from over 470 cities worldwide, and now features articles from Adventures of a Home Town Tourist covering Carmel and Monterey (with more cities on the way).
All photography or video by L A Momboisse and R M Momboisse unless listed below: 

Picture of Alexander Nevsky Church -  Wikipedia
Picture of front of Saint Ansgars - Wikipedia