CRUISING THE NORWEGIAN FJORDS

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DOVER - 24 JUN 2008

Wait a minute - we signed up for a Norwegian cruise but Dover is in England.  I have no idea why the cruise started here and ended in Denmark other than the previous cruise ended here and the next one starts in Copenhagen.  I guess they never reposition an empty ship.  There is nothing much to see in Dover other than the white cliffs, so we spent out pre-cruise days in London.

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We took a public bus from London to Dover that dropped us off at the wrong terminal but a short taxi ride corrected this misadventure.  As can be seen here, the cliffs really are white. 

A decision to leave our bathing suits at home turned out to be a good one.  This was the last warm day.  No one is in the pool yet but a few hardy souls used the pool on some very cold days.

Pat dons her sun glasses for a late afternoon departure.

The cruise ship captains earn their salaries by negotiating busy, narrow ports like Dover.

The liquor larder is well-stocked on this ship.  Your intrepid reporter samples the punch as we head for Norway.

 

BERGEN - 26 JUNE 2008

Our first Norwegian port of call is the former capital and now second largest city Bergen.  Armed with a map we headed out to explore this picturesque place.  After a half hour of not seeing anything interesting, we ask a local resident to show us where we were.  "You are here" she said, pointing to a spot about six inches off the map.  Ooops.  As it was raining we returned to the ship to dry off and eat lunch.  On full stomachs we were much more successful.  We went to the redeveloped harbor and caught a miniature train which gave us a nice city tour. 

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The Bergen harbor area features many nice shops with colorfully painted exteriors as well as an interesting market.

Riding on this little "Tschu-Tschu" train afforded us a good overview of the city.

The tour had a photo-op stop on a hill overlooking Bergen harbor.

Fast food Norwegian style.  Elk burgers, whale burgers and reindeer hot dogs are available in the market.  At a 5K = 1$ exchange rate the burgers are north of $10.  Norway is not cheap.

The weather improved as we sailed out of Bergen. The late afternoon sun cast a warm glow on this church.

 

GEIRANGER - 27 June 2008

This is the first of many ports of call of which we had no prior knowledge.  Calling Geiranger a village probably accurate, but surprisingly there is a sizable hotel here.  Correctly forecasting that there would be no taxis looking for business at the pier, we signed up for an organized tour to Mount Dalsnibba.  We were rewarded with spectacular views of the village and the fjord from a vantage point about one mile above sea level.  

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We hadn't yet reached the Arctic Circle, but the days were getting very long.  This picture was taken at 3:00 AM.

Most of last winter's snow had melted but some patches remain.  This one is shaped like a map of the state of Texas.

The water in the fjord was very calm.  Note the pattern left by our ship as it executed a turn to starboard.

For the most part the cliffs in the valley are too steep for cultivation of habitation.

Our first glimpse of Geiranger.  I was glad we had arranged a bus trip as it appears you can "do" Geiranger in about an hour.

 

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These are vacation bungalows.  The calm water makes a perfect reflection.

We are at anchor as there is no large pier here.  I was amazed to see the size of the hotel.  How do people get here?

A comprehensive view from the summit of Mount Dalsnibba.  Our guide said that we were very lucky to get such clear weather.

This is a close-up of the valley seen in the previous picture.

I used a telephoto lens to get this nice picture of the Seven Seas Voyager at anchor.

 

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We asked a fellow tourist to snap this picture which includes our cruise ship.

This set of waterfalls is known as the Seven Sisters.  We saw it on the sail out of the fjord.

While underway, we were serenaded by a local choir.  It is amazing that they could find this many singers in this lightly populated place.

For obvious reasons, this falls is named The Bottle.

The captain moved our ship as close as possible to the Seven Sisters.

 

Across the Arctic Circle - 28 June 2008 to 29 June 2008

We had two sea days as we headed north to Spitzbergen Island, a distance of almost 1,000 miles from Geiranger.  Crossing the Arctic Circle for the first time we participated in a ceremony which consisted of putting your foot in a bucket of ice water and then downing a glass of very cold aquavit.  A little hokey, but it would have been wimpy not to do it.  The weather continued to be clear so we were treated to some beautiful scenes of the coastline.

 

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This globe officially marks the Arctic Circle.  We won't see any darkness until we cross the circle in the other direction.

Pat dons a Viking helmet and Norwegian flag for the initiation rite.

The Cruise Director verifies that the foot is completely immersed in ice water.

The Captain stopped the ship in front of the Svartisen Glacier and launched a small boat to get a photo of the Voyager in front of the glacier.

Here is a photo of a ship in front of the same glacier 100 years ago.  Note how the ice has receded.

 

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Pictures from the northwest coast of the Norwegian mainland.

 

Spitzbergen - 30 June 2008 to 1 July 2008

Located about halfway between the Norwegian mainland and the North Pole, this is the northernmost destination of our trip.  Our first stop was Ny Alesund, a small research center.  There are no trees here, and it is hard to imagine what it is like in the winter when there are several months of complete darkness.  We sailed north to Magdalena Fjord, just below 80 degrees north.  Our luck with the weather ran out at Longyearbyen where it was cold and miserable.  It is reported that Spitzbergen has 20,000 inhabitants, but I think that figure includes reindeer.

 

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Our first glimpse of Spitzbergen revealed a stark landscape.  These three mountains appear to have come out of a mold.

No trees and very little vegetation of any kind, but still a wondrous sight.

Ny Alesund as seen from our cabin.  This is currently an international research center

This little train is left over from Ny Alesund's coal mining days.

The Voyager extended well beyond the ends of the pier in both fore and aft.  

 

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Who knew arctic terns were camera shy?  This bird attacked my camera after I took it's picture.

That beak looks like it could have inflicted some major damage to my head.

A grazing Svalbard reindeer has slim pickings on the tundra.

Here is the world's northernmost post office.

Cruising in Magdalena Fjord we saw these researchers taking measurements of a chunk of blue ice from the glacier.

 

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The absence of vegetation in the fjord  provides a black and white landscape

The business end of the Magdalena glacier.

Longyearbyen until fairly recently had an active coal mine.

The main drag of Lonyearbyen looks pretty bleak.

Despite the presence of a Radisson hotel, Longyearbyen is not destined to become a tourist mecca.

 

North Cape - 2 July 2008

We disembarked at Honningsvag, a quaint little village known as the gateway to the North Cape.  The North Cape is the northernmost point of mainland Europe.  Many Europeans come here to photograph the midnight sun.  It is cold and windy.  Frankly there is no reason to go to the Cape other than to say that you have done it.

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Our first look at the North Cape was from below as we sailed by.  If you look closely you can see a few people and a world globe.

The brightly colored houses of Honningsvag make a nice mosaic.

We passed through some herds of reindeer on the ride up to the cape.  They were not as scruffy looking as the ones on Spitzbergen

The globe above and to the right of Pat is the one you can see in the first picture of this set.  You may need to use a magnifying glass.

We had hoped to see some polar bears, but this stuffed one in a souvenir store was the closest we came.

 

Tromso - 3 July 2008

Although located well within the Arctic circle, Tromso is a thriving community of more than 60,000 people.  Its most famous landmark is the Arctic Cathedral which boasts the largest stained glass window in Europe.  There is a university here and several museums.  The city is bidding to host the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.  That would be interesting as all the events would be held in the dark.

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This is the Arctic Cathedral as seen from central Tromso.  The church is on the mainland while the city is on an island.

I wonder if the church knew what they were getting when they ordered this window.

The Polaria Museum displays local wildlife. This anemone is eye-catching.

We had planned a ride up a funicular for a view of the city.  The weather did ot cooperate so we cancelled.

The Olympic ski-jumps are ready to go.

 

At Sea - 4 July 2008

The food on the Seven Seas Voyager was excellent from start to finish, but the afternoon spread for U.S. Independence Day was the highlight.  The staff set up shop in the ship's main lobby and put out a spread that was almost (but not quite) too beautiful to eat.  The meal started with caviar and ended with apple pie, but we never got near the dessert table.

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Flam - 5 July 2008

This is the terminus of one of the world's most beautiful train rides, connecting this isolated port  with Myrdal where one can catch a train to Bergen.  We took the first train in the morning.  There is nothing to see in Myrdal so we got off and got right back on.  The ship repositioned to Gudvangen in the afternoon while some of us went overland by bus to visit the Tvinde waterfall, a popular tourist destination.  From there we went up to the Stalheim Hotel for a cup of coffee and a view of the valley.  The bus then brought us to Gudvangen Fjord where we rode a tender to the Voyager.

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This was the tranquil scene from our cabin balcony first thing in the morning.

Here is a car from the Flom-Myrdal railway.  Some people use it to get to a destination, but the majority of passengers just ride up and back.

We were able to get some good shots of the valley from inside the train.

Melting snow feeds the many waterfalls along the train route.

The  train stops at the Kjosfossen Waterfalls.  The mist is strong resulting in drenched clothing.

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The river which runs through the valley can be seen in this village near the Flam end of the rail line.

Our bus ride included a stop at the Tvinde (twin) Waterfalls.  This site attracts hordes of tourists.

Looking at the people standing at the base gives an idea of the size of the falls.

People stay at the Stalheim Hotel to get this view from the back lawn.

The road to Gudvangen contains 13 hairpin turns and is not wide enough for two busses.  This stalemate was resolved when our driver retreated to a wide spot.

 

Stavanger - 6 July 2008

This is the oil capital of Norway.  Not surprisingly there is an outstanding petroleum museum here which has a lot of hands-on exhibits and even has a 3-D story of the origins of petroleum.  Outside the museum there is a children's park that incorporates used drilling equipment.  We arrived on a Sunday and most of the shops were closed.  We docked next to a very nice restored residential area which featured all white houses surrounded by beautiful flowers.

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The streets in Stavanger's main shopping district were deserted.

Harbor side residential areas are usually pretty seedy, but this is an exception.  The houses look like they have just been painted and are well landscaped.

We learned a lot at the Canning museum including the fact that Norwegian sardines are now all canned in Poland.  In fact the sardines are really brisling, a fish with an unappetizing name.

All through Norway people use bright paints to compensate for gloomy weather.

Hair salons are famous for quirky names but this one takes the prize.  

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Pat looks very stylish at the 3-D movie in the petroleum museum.

The Frigg field was shut down in 2004.  Several pieces have been sent to Stavanger for incorporation into a playground.

This beautiful church is in central Stavanger.

These people were leaving the church.  Not sure if this is typical church attire or if there was a special event.

The top of this fire tower is the tallest point in Stavanger.  It has been converted to a crafts shop.

 

Oslo - 7 July 2008 to 8 July 2008

We had two objectives in Oslo - visit the Munch Museum and find a stave church.  Thanks to Oslo's excellent public transport system we were able to do both quite easily.  A visitor pass allows you to use bus, rail, tram, subway and ferry for a fixed daily fee.  We used them all in two days.  At the Munch Museum we learned how The Scream was restored after it was recovered after a robbery, but the story of the recovery is a closely held  secret.  The stave church is at the Cultural History Museum where 150 buildings has been moved from elsewhere and reconstructed.  This was the best museum we saw on the whole trip.  We visited the Viking Museum which was too crowded, although the ferry ride to get there was fun, and the Nobel Peace Museum which would be of interest only to diehard Al Gore fans.  We slipped out of a guided tour about halfway through.

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An Edvard Munch self-portrait reveals an unhappy man.

The Scream was stolen in 2004 and recovered two years later.  The restored painting was put back on display on May 23, 2008.

The two towers behind the harbor are Oslo City Hall, site of the annual Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.

Many sailboats are seen during the ferry ride to the Viking Museum.

This is one of three restored Viking ships on display at the museum.  All were thought to have been burial vessels for Viking royalty.

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The Cultural History museum contains one of 25 stave churches remaining in Norway.  The churches were built without using nails.

With stave churches having no windows, stained glass was not an option.  The Last Supper was painted on an interior wall.

We saw lefse, a kind of Norwegian tortilla, being made the old way.  It was pretty tasty.

Class in session in a restored school house.  The teacher slammed down her yardstick after an apparent wrong answer.

The children were learning some Norwegian folk dances.

 

Copenhagen - 9 July 2008

The Voyager arrived too late for us to catch a flight back to the US so we spent the day in the Danish capital.  We made the obligatory tourist stops (the Little Mermaid, Tivoli Gardens, changing of the guard at the royal palace) mostly on foot.  With gasoline at nearly $15 per gallon, the Scandinavians do a lot of walking and biking.  A harbor tour, which included a ride through Copenhagen's many canals was a pleasant activity. 

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The Little Mermaid gets lots of company when the tour busses discharge their cargo.

The changing of the guard ceremony carries on even though the royal family was away on holiday.

A small boat harbor near city center features wall-to-wall restaurants.  With ideal weather it was hard to find a table.

A nice residential area has been built up along Copenhagen's canal routes.

The rides have been updated, but Tivoli Gardens retains its old charm.